Leeds Wood Recycling – More Than It Seems

Leeds Wood Recycling is a social enterprise based in Hunslet, South Leeds. It offers an ethical, cost effective and convenient wood collection service as well as volunteer training opportunities, support for marginalised people and a wood shop. I cycled over to the Leeds Wood Recycling workshop this weekend for an introductory planter making workshop.

I arrived at 10am on Sunday morning, ready to learn new skills and get to work recycling some wood. I was first to arrive, which isn’t unusual, so I had a bit of time to explore the space before the 3 other students arrived. All of us were woodwork newbies, ready to be instructed by Zac, who was our tutor for the day. Zac was supported by Angharad, a volunteer who works ts the centre on a weekly basis. Angharad helped Zac prepare the materials for the session and also helped us with our projects whilst also learning new skills herself.

At a couple of minutes past 10, after we had all had a chance to put away our bags and grab a drink, Zac started the session off by showing us around the wood shop. We learned about the different types of wood on sale, how all the wood had been reclaimed and recycled, and what to look out for when purchasing wood for our own projects.

We then headed into the workshop, where we each had our own workstation and box of tools. We talked through the tools that we would be using in the session, with Zac explaining how and when to use each type. I enjoyed learning about the different types of drill and why you would choose certain torques and drill bits.

Once we were all equipped with our newly acquired knowledge of woodworking tools, we moved on to making our planters. To get this kicked off, we had to pick our wood. As we wanted to be using softer wood that would be able to withstand the elements and would be relatively easy to work with, we opted for wood recycled from pallets. We were told to look out for wood that wasn’t grey or green and didn’t have any large cracks or nail holes. I found 4 pieces that were just right and headed back over to my workstation.

The next step was measuring our wood and preparing it to be cut for the planters. We needed four longer pieces and four shorter pieces and we needed them to be just long enough to fit our pre-cut pieces of sleeper wood. We used our tape measures and set squares to do this. Measuring the wood was the easy part – cutting it was another matter. We were using tenon saws, which are designed so that the blade stays straight and rigid to help with precision cutting, but they also have lots of teeth and are relatively short, so it took us all quite a long time to cut the wood. However, we got there. And when we did, it was time for lunch.

Lunch passed quickly and up next was putting together our planters, which meant that we had to make use of our hammers and electric screwdrivers. Some parts of the building were pretty finickity, but I enjoyed the challenge. It took us most of the afternoon figuring out how to get the wood together, but once we’d completed the build, I think we were all proud of our handywork. Just before packing up for the day, we had a chance to sandpaper down our planters to smooth out the surface.

I really enjoyed the woodworking day and feel like I learned a lot of important skills. I am looking forward to putting some of these skills to good use over the summer when I build some planter furniture. I am also looking forward to planting up my planter and putting it in pride of place in my garden.

If you would like to learn key woodwork skills, then I would certainly recommend the workshop. Leeds Wood Recycling also offers 6 to 8 week introductory courses which would equip you with even more skills. Check out their website for more information and all the latest updates from the social enterprise.

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