Health & Safety

I enjoyed my one term of school metalwork. Wielding a rasp as long as my 11 year old arm, I made a wobbly spinner, an enamelled copper pendant and a tiny tin man to balance on your outstretched finger. It’s been a long while since the teacher, Mr Russell, set up a solder-blistered portable tv in the workshop for us to watch the lifting of the Mary Rose in a morning lesson, and my metalwork skills have rusted since. Working in the Paekakariki studio polishes up memories of the wary respect necessary for operating equipment with the power to burn, crush or amputate the careless user. I listen to Matt’s health and safety chat. I approach his plate cutter with reverence. It’s a sharp and weighty machine, and one dizzy twitch on its perfectly balanced handle would leave me with no outstretched fingers whatsoever. Linda Hughes’ beautiful line illustrations for A Joy Forever have been made into individual magnesium plates, and I need to trim their edges before they can be fixed to their blocks alongside the text, ready for printing. The slightest pressure on the cutter’s blades shears ringlets of excess metal from the plates, but I complete the task with all my extremities thankfully still intact.

metal plates of illustrations reasy for printingMr Russell was married to Mrs Russell, my English teacher. I hope they’d both enjoy a book made from poems, magnesium and hot lead.

JB Feb 22

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