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101 Things To Make

My first carpentry set had handles that were painted cobalt blue. I was probably eight or nine years old then, and had asked for it as a birthday present. I appropriated my father’s old VIP briefcase and made it my tool chest. I had a hammer, saw, metal chisel, screwdriver, pliers, spirit level and a few other things, maybe a tape measure, a spanner, some screws and nails. I wanted to do a lot with that set, but I couldn’t get hold of much wood to experiment with- just a few odd pieces now and then, usually a broken piece of furniture or wood salvaged from a crate of mangoes. I used my screwdriver the most. I enjoyed taking things apart and putting them back together- toys, door latches, handles and hinges were my go-to things.

I inherited my love for craft from my mother. Several afternoons during our summer holidays were spent on projects picked from books with colourful covers and titles like: “101 Things To Make” or “What Shall I Do Today?” or “The Big Book of Origami”. Most of these activities were simple but inventive. We could use stuff lying around the house to make interesting things (like an airplane out of empty matchboxes, or a phone out of empty tin cans). I think these activities helped me look at objects differently from an early age- odds and ends around the house looked less like waste and more like potential ideas. The challenge and excitement lay in finding unconventional uses for everyday things.


By the time I was 12 or 13, I was tinkering with plugs, wires, switches, and bulbs- trying to figure out how these work. I discovered the joy of putting things together from scratch and making something new. I also made several mistakes. The first time I wired a bed switch and turned it on, the bulb fused with a loud and startling clap. Sitting amidst wisps of smoke, I learned that only one of the wires in a two-core cable should be connected to the switch. This curiosity and doggedness to figure out how things worked has served me well over the years.

I made my first original creations soon after I graduated from college. I loved making things out of junk, and would often rummage through junk shops to find hidden treasures like discarded four-litre whiskey bottles, a rusted old table fan, and old laboratory jars. I made a series of glass bottle lamps, filling them with things like colourful yarn and wood shavings. I made lamp shades by wrapping metal containers with coloured cord and having aluminium containers powder-coated. I made a Lazy Susan using an old table fan- I had the blades flattened, had a lathe shop fashion me a round wooden base, fitted it with a ball-bearing kit, and had the fan powder-coated an antique bronze.

I displayed all of these at a small exhibition that a friend and I organised. I remember under-pricing everything, assuming that I wouldn’t find any takers, but I sold nearly all the pieces I made. The ones that were left I gifted to family and friends. I didn’t realise it back then, but these early adventures paved the way for my journey into woodworking and I am very thankful for them.

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