Member profile: Reg Cooke

Reg is the clubs resident Luthier or “man who makes musical instruments”. A respected member of the club and a meticulous craftsman with a sharp wit, he also a member of an instrument makers club. His Viola’s are played by the best but you won’t see them on stage in the symphony orchestra because they aren’t the traditional colour. Reg also occasionally writes for the Australian Woodworker magazine. ”

Guitar by Reg Cooke

1. What is your woodcraft discipline/s?

One word is enough – Handcrafter. A Handcrafter who happens to make musical instruments of the stringed type.

2. How long have you been working with wood?

After the preliminaries at school, round one started seriously in 1950 (half way through last century) when I began my apprenticeship as a carriage builder at North Ipswich, that lasted 7 years while I studied mechanical engineering at night (Tech College) and led to my woodworking tools being put aside and being the one track minded person I am they rarely saw the light of day until I retired from engineering, drafting, design, sales, management and new business development. That was Jan 1999 and for a change I had a plan (actually six plans of activities to occupy all that free time). Having demolished the long list of house maintenance jobs I finally cracked out the 1950 tools and pursued my long held aspiration to build a violin. So round two started with the new millennium.

3. What is your favourite wood?

It’s difficult to isolate one, so there’s two in combination. Silver Quandong and Maple Silkwood are my favourite woods for musical instruments. Not a popular choice with the violin fraternity who only recognise European Spruce and European Maple (bland stuff requiring lots of stain to produce acceptable colour).

4. What is your favourite wood to work with?

When it comes to generating a good finish, my best experience has been with Black Heart Sassafras from Tassie.

5. What other woodworking discipline would you like to explore?

That will be round three if I don’t suffer a KO blow in round two. Perhaps some small detail carving??

6. At some stage all experienced woodcrafters will accidentally hurt themselves. What was your worst injury and what did you learn from it?

Fortunately very few but (there’s always a butt), I inherited this beaut handmade pocket knife with a solid brass body (heavy) and two wickedly sharp, pointy blades. My focus at the time was on an intricate glueing/clamping operation so when something fell on my foot I ignored it. Task completed and I find a shoe full of blood, that knife had landed point down, speared my big toe and only stopped when it hit the nail. Lessons?? Don’t cut your toenails too short??? Put sharps away as soon as you have finished with them. WH&S would insist on steel capped shoes.

7. Do you have a favourite artist? Who is it and why?

Reasonable to expect a musician so I will go with Paul McCartney and Yesterday ay ay. I do envy those who can sketch and paint in perfect proportion.

8. Tell us your best tip or trick.

F Sharp is not a musical note, it’s a necessary condition of your tools. They work better, easier and safer.

9. What is the one tool you can’t live without?

I’m a Handcrafter, hooked on shavings and there’s a visual and audible pleasure making them with a sharp hand plane.

Guitar by Reg Cooke

10. What was the last tool / equipment you bought?

Air Compressor and spray gear may not qualify as ww (woodworking) tools so I nominate a couple of gouges.

11. If money was no object, what tool or piece of equipment would you buy?

Ohhh! I don’t allow myself to go there but there is a plan to replace my bench drill.

12. What is your vision for the future of the club?

Members are quite open in sharing knowledge and skills and I see more younger faces in our midst. Therein lies a good direction, younger membership and free skills sharing, and don’t forget many of the new members might be able to show some of the old dogs a trick or two.