MAKING SPACE FOR TRADESWOMEN, AND INSPIRING THE NEXT GENERATION

Alana Madden joined the Falkus Family in 2018 as a bench hand. Having previously worked as an interior designer she later made the decision to retrain and pursue a career in joinery.  Outside of the workshop Alana possesses an unrelenting passion for social change and activism and spent five-months interviewing tradeswomen from around the world. Alana sits among the new wave generation of joiners and we were impressed with her yearning for change so caught up with her to discover what we could learn.

How did you first get into joinery?

I previously worked as an interior designer and it was through this that I developed a curiosity for woodworking. I started working on a few personal projects but lacked the skill set to build anything well. After a lot of soul searching, I made the decision to retrain and enrolled on to a bench joinery course. I learned the basics from the course and later took on an apprenticeship with a joinery firm.

Joinery-work-bench

Over the years you’ve devoted your time to connecting with trade’s women, what was the motivation for this?

During my time at that workshop, it became alarmingly apparent that there was a real lack of female woodworkers. I wanted to know what could be done to change this so I desperately began to seek them out. I didn’t know it then but this curiosity would later take me on a five-month journey to America and Japan to meet tradeswomen from a variety of backgrounds. It was an amazing opportunity and I was able to interview them, share their stories, and celebrate their work.

Describe the process and the inspiration for setting up the WMWOH website

When I began my mission I had it in mind that I wanted to set up a women’s group. I started doing a lot of research into funding for training and read lots of oral history books. These were all set in America and it made me want to interview them and get their view on things. This became a great way to connect with other women and I started hosting interviews about their lives and motivations. There’s a real lack of female trade workers worldwide and I wanted to discover what could be done to instigate change.

After a rigorous application process I was sponsored to go to America and later Japan and conducted another 60 interviews. Today these interviews exist as an archive that available online, Women in Manual Work Oral Histories (WMWOH). It’s very niche but I think they’re really important and interesting and will help us develop solutions to encourage more women into the trades.

Some inspirational interviews from trades women. Archived on the Women in Manual Work, Oral Histories website. 

What were the stories that inspired you?

During this journey, I met so many inspiring women so it’s hard to choose. One that comes to mind is the carpenter I met who set up a group called Black Women Build Baltimore.

This group promotes social and economic freedom for black women through a home ownership initiative that provides trade-related training, comprehensive life-skills support, and a guided opportunity for home ownership. It facilitates the community in building and renovating properties. Once a project is completed and the women have built up a kind of ‘sweat equity’ they can take ownership of the house. It was humbling see how these women had all come together to inspire community and social change. I became a committed listener and sharer of their stories to help inspire the next generation of women to take up tools and help build a better more sustainable and diverse future together. I found it inspiring to hear of their achievements and it subsequently helped guide my career.  

From everything you’ve learned what could the industry do to encourage more women to get into joinery and construction?

We need to reshape social views and present this career path as an option to women at an earlier stage. Due to industry biases, there’s not enough access, which is reflected in the dramatically low entry numbers. 15-18 is such a crucial age when choosing your career so we need to make this a viable option. We need to get into schools and speak to the teachers and incentivise them to prioritise this. Specialist trades are suffering from a skills shortage, and it doesn’t help that 50% of the population feel excluded.

I hope we get to a point where more women are being recognised and celebrated for their work.

Do you think that some women might feel that physical capacity could hold them back?

I think that anyone can be a joiner and that as people we have more similarities than differences. One person’s strength could be overshadowed by another’s creativity.

Often there’s a view that if you’re physically strong than that automatically qualifies you as the right person for the job. However, everyone has their limits; it’s more the case that if you look the part then often your limits are viewed as being acceptable. If you stand out or don’t fit the mould then more often than not you’re met with scrutiny.   

In joinery, I think you need to use every tool in your belt. If you’re lacking in physical strength, you might find that you’re quicker in other areas so use what you have. I appreciate that that’s very general and it’s a complex topic, but overall I think any obstacles can be overcome.

Bench-joiner-at-work

What do you think the future holds for joinery?

Ultimately I think bespoke joinery will be phased out as we become more of an IKEA nation. The throwaway culture is as prominent as ever and building things to last seem less important. On one hand machines are more accurate and faster. However, the industry is slow moving and the technology that exists will take longer to develop. This lack of innovation in joinery technology could be our saving grace.

It takes decades to develop new joinery machinery, with the CNC being a prime example. New machinery still requires a level of skill to operate so we’re possibly a long way off from automation. When that happens the industry will hopefully have evolved or and we up skilled and moved on to the next tool. A lot of joiners struggle to afford new machinery so the process of buying and up-skilling could be problematic.

Where do you see yourself in the future?

In the future I hope to find a way to combine my two passions, the first being joinery, the second, grassroots community organising. I’d love to have my own workshop or COOP aimed at offering accessible training to communities, particularly women.

I want to help people who are often overlooked by society and those who are fighting for an alternative society. There’s always room for growth so I’m looking to develop outreach in those areas and hoping for positive change. I have experienced success when working with 18-24-year-olds; these can often be the most defining years of a person’s life, so I want to help guide and support.

We hope you enjoyed reading this article. Continue for more joinery news. 

TOUR DE FORCE: MONTPELIER TO MONACO

Berkeley Bike Ride

This week, clients Pantera Carpentry embarked on the Berkeley bike ride and cycled a whopping 305 miles from Montpelier-to-Monaco. Comprised of 15 cyclists and two support vans, the group’s sole aim was raising money for charity partner, Home-Start London.

Home-Start is a local community network who delivers effective support to vulnerable families with young children through challenging times. Last year Home-Start supported 56,000 children in 27,000 families, in communities across the UK.

Inspired by the riders’ determination to raise money for such a worthwhile cause we too wanted to do our bit and so pledged to sponsor the rides with custom made water bottles to help keep them hydrated. 

BERKELEY-BIKE-WATER-BOTTLES
Falkus-Joinery-custom-water-bottles

On day two the riders met their match and were challenged by the rough terrains and steep ascents of the legendary Mont Ventoux (Part of the Tour De France). It was an incredible feat and the team celebrated their success with some very well deserved local wine.  

Despite aches and general fatigue the team showed incredible resilience throughout the trip and despise the rain spirits remained high. The collective group have stated that this was one of the best experiences of their lives are already potting their next adventure.

Berkeley-Bike-riders-group-picture

We’re incredibly proud of the impressive achievements of the group and would like to congratulate them on their success. It’s not every day that you meet a group of people who are crazy enough to take on Mont Ventoux. Collectively the team raised a staggering £140K for a great cause. For the fully story and images check out the official Berkeley Cycle website, and for more information on how you could get involved and fundraise for a great case check out this link.   

Berkeley-Homes-bike-ride

We hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as we enjoyed writing it. Continue reading for more news and views. 

A MUSICAL TRIBUTE TO THE CARPENTERS

On Monday 25 March, the joiners made their singing debut on the BBC’s popular current affairs programme, The One Show.

The shows production team approached the workshop and asked the team to feature in a short film sequence. The clip shows the joiners, singing one of The Carpenters best-loved songs ‘Top of the world’.

The purpose of the song was to pay homage to the American music icon, singer songwriter, Richard Carpenter. Richard recently released a new album featuring The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, which has already gone silver.

The film features a medley of The Carpenter songs, performed by various companies across London, including: the London Zoo keepers, Wandsworth Town Library librarians, New Broadcasting House postal workers, and lastly, the Falkus Joinery joiners.

When scouting for locations, the production team were searching for unique locations that captured the essence of London. The shows producers stated they ‘when they came across the joinery workshops brightly coloured graffiti wall, they felt that a group of joiners/carpenter, performing to Richard Carpenter, would be an ideal way to end the clip.   

Although our joinery talents, are predominantly in woodworking, and should probably remain that way, we were thrilled to be a part of the fun. You can catch our performance, along with the full interview with Richard here.

If you would like to discuss bookings for future musical performances, we’re now available for birthdays, weddings, and bar mitzvahs. Only joking, we’ll stick to the woodworking for now.

BEST COMPUTER ASSISTED DRAWING (CAD) PROGRAMS FOR JOINERY

Advancements in computer-aided drawings have come a long way in recent years and have increasingly rendered hand-drawn design obsolete. Being able to create 3D visualisations of a product before manufacture allows the designer to analyse every aspect and component of the design. This offers both an accurate and holistic view of the product/design and helps identify its relationship to its surroundings.

CAD-design-at-work

As drawings go digital, this overview and increased accuracy have helped reduce potential errors, saving companies both time and money.

For much larger commercial joinery, investing in software and an experienced design team has become a necessity. This can raise the company’s profile and credibility, as well as increase their chances of winning larger jobs.

With so many new software options with varying functionality on the market, choosing the right software might seem daunting. To help create more clarity around the matter, we’ve taken a look at some of the most popular software options and reviewed some of their pros and cons.

Is an advanced engineering software allows teams to quickly create 3D product visualisations ready for manufacture. It offers a powerful toolset that can support multiple design and manufacturing tools by implementing one seamlessly integrated solution. As well as having an estimation feature that can monitor project cost, helping you keep within budget.

For those operating in the construction industry, another benefit is that it can export IFC files. This makes it compliant with new Building Information Modelling (BIM) regulations, making it a sound investment for the joinery.  

It does however, come with a hefty price tag that could far exceed the budgets of small or specialist sub-contractors. Justifying the cost could be tricky; however, help is at hand, as recently discussed in our BIM for sub-contractors article.

Another challenge you could be faced with is that this software requires a lot of learning. If you don’t have a designer that’s familiar with the product, you could find yourself shelling out more for training.

Overall, cost and learning curve aside, this heavyweight program has a seemingly endless scope for possibility and is suitable for any industry or trade.  

Falkus Joinery SolidWorks 3D animation of the Cannock Mill staircase, produced by the in house design team.

Developed by Autodesk, this easy to use, computer-aided software drafting program has an intuitive interface. This allows the user to type search for commands, enabling them to seamlessly create 2D or 3D designs.

Despise being user-friendly, this product requires each element of the design to be drawn and placed specifically. A lack of automation means that any changes that impact the whole drawing, could make editing a timely affair.

With the software’s regular updates, the user can expect to see continued improvements. Although this is certainly a positive, it can lead to the odd bug and glitch here and there.     

Overall this product is a popular tool that can be used across industries and is compliant with industry standards. There are slight limitations with its compatibility with other software, but for small to medium projects it proves to be a heavy hitter.

This free and easy-to-use program is an extremely popular tool for students, hobbyist, and freelancers looking to keep costs down. It’s a simple lightweight tool that allows the user to quickly create 3D renders of products.

Although it doesn’t come with all the fancy bells and whistles, it packs a punch and has a huge community and an endless stream of online resources.

We won’t go into too much detail on this, as its accessibility makes it easy to test it out yourself. Overall it’s a great product for simple quick jobs, and an ideal choice if you’re just starting out.

Dubbed as the all-rounder, and much like AutoCAD, has the functionality to type your command, making it user-friendly. Rhino cleverly offers students a free subscription, making it a prime contender in the market after graduation.

This lightweight program comes fully stocked with a wide range of plugins and can be used for automation. It also offers great programming and scripting features and comes with the support of a large community and free online tutorials.

Overall there are a lot of benefits, however, much like AutoCAD there are a handful of issues that can arise. This is mainly to do with editing and placing items one-by-one, making it a slow process for making changes. Another issue is that the software is only updated every 3-5 years, meaning that you could be missing out on the latest developments.

The learning curve for Rhino is moderate and sits in between SketchUp, being easier and SolidWorks, which is more advanced. Like all programs each product has its individual quirks that will be best suited to varying people and practices.

Summary

We hope this helped shed some light on some of the major players in the computer-aided drawings space. Overall we believe that with all features and cost considered, personal preference will have its part to play.

If you have the time we recommend that you take advantage of as many free trials as you can, to offer you a comparison between products. These products are hefty investments and could prove to be a key factor in the growth of your business, so research is vital.
If you have any joinery or design related questions and would like to speak to a member of our design team, just get in touch.

THE JOINERY MAKES MACMILLAN CANCER SUPPORT OUR PRINCIPLE CHARITY

Macmillan logo

This September our amazing staff baked up a storm in order to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support. This incredible charity remains close to our hearts and we were thrilled to be part of World’s Biggest Coffee Morning.

Sadly, each year almost 120,000 people of working age are diagnosed with cancer. Many of our employees had a personal connection to the cause and felt passionately doing their bit to kick cancer once and for all.

With this motivation in mind, the Jerram Group have named Macmillan as our principle charity of choice. Going forward, the Group has made a pledge to host future fundraising events to support of the charity’s cause.

Falkus Joinery Macmillan Coffee-morning

The day was a success, and we were proud to present a cheque to Macmillan and help the cause. Together with our sister company we were able to raise £593.96 for this amazing charity.

We want to thank everyone who baked, bought, and donated to the event, because no matter how big or small the donation, every penny counts.