About 4 years ago I saw a flyer advertising the local Men’s Shed, which to those who have never heard of them are places where men (and women) can meet for comradeship and friendship under the guise of working on wooden projects, either your own or for the community. As I was retired and new to the area I thought it would be an ideal opportunity to meet new people and get involved with community projects. As the National Association of Men’s Sheds says:
Why are they needed?
For a long time research has shown the negative impact of loneliness and isolation on a person’s health and wellbeing, especially during the current pandemic. Recently we have seen more evidence come to light that shows loneliness and isolation can be as hazardous to our health as obesity and excessive smoking. Surveys from mental health charities are finding that millions of people report feeling lonely on a daily basis.
Men typically find it more difficult to build social connections than women, and unlike women of a similar age, less older men have networks of friends and rarely share personal concerns about health and personal worries. It is not the case for all men, but for some, when retirement comes, it can feel like personal identity and purpose is lost. Men’s Sheds can change all of that. As a by-product of all of that they reduce isolation and feelings of loneliness, they allow men to deal with mental health challenges more easily and remain independent, they rebuild communities and in many cases, they save men’s lives. The Men’s Shed is part of a Nationwide, indeed worldwide movement whose main aim: Men’s Sheds (or Sheds) are similar to garden sheds – a place to pursue practical interests at leisure, to practice skills and enjoy making and mending. The difference is that garden sheds and their activities are often solitary in nature while Men’s Sheds are the opposite. They’re about social connections and friendship building, sharing skills and knowledge, and of course a lot of laughter.
The Bordon Men’s Shed was located in the old Military Police HQ in the military town, since vacated by the army a couple of years before.
It was a useable building of which we only occupied a small part. It was successful in refurbishing furniture and creating the members own projects. We exhibited at the Men’s Shed stall at a craft fair at the Wield and Downland Museum (where the Repair Shop is filmed) and were able to see some of our creations and show them off.
All was going well, until last year when the building we were in (Hampshire House) was to be torn down to build houses on the site. We are co-located with the Furniture Helpline (FHL) who are our governing body and bank. They collect and distribute furniture and white goods to needy families and is very successful. The managed to secure a building on what was Prince Philip Park in the town, now to be called Bordon Enterprise Park. They were allocated a large hangar type building (64) which we were given a small part of:
As a blank canvas was presented and we wanted the Mens Shed to carry on, we needed to build our own workshops internally. These were to be of wooden construction. I requested the opportunity to apply for a grant from Whitehill and Bordon Town town council and went on a Zoom call to put forward my pitch for a grant of £3000, the maximum I could apply for. The committee were unanimous and we were granted the money. We started spending it straight away on materials for the build. About the same time we were given the opportunity for a huge amount of hoarding put up by a building company around a new estate in the town who were getting rid of it. It included long lengths of 6×2 and 4×4 posts which would come in very useful:
Also included was many 8×4 sheets of OSB (oriented strand board), which we were going to use as walls on the new structure but instead decided with the grant to buy new sheets of 8×4 ply for that purpose and use the OSB as flooring over the existing concrete floor. We have got on fairly well with building partitions and walls of our new workshops, considering all the build party are over 70 (one of us is over 80) and not being in the first flush of youth makes everything take much longer. Luckily the hangar had metal stanchions which form part of the structure and which we were able to fix our walls to. So we started the build in January, all of our equipment and tools were moved from Hampshire House first by us and with some help from the FHL staff. The whole place looks a bit of a mess at the moment, but a lot of the stuff that FHL have bought in is to be moved to the dump. This is the area we are working in before the partitions were erected with a lot of our stuff.
We started by building an end wall out of 6×2 posts which were 20 feet long and we loads of them so cut them down to make frameworks. Then we attached ply sheets to create walls:
Finally the walls were erected and secured to the hangar walls with rawl plugs and battens and in some cases metal plates and nuts and bolts.
and so on until we have created two workshops, a ‘clean’ one and a ‘dirty’ one. The clean one will be for quiet assembly and non machinery work and the dirty will be for lathes, sliding saw, drilling and the like. When we get some more materials the ceiling will be compressed hardboard called Tentest and this provides insulation and keeps the dust in. We will have to put in multiple sockets on trailing leads as the landlords won’t let us put in anything permanent. There is a plan to completely revamp the whole of the Bordon Enterprise Park which has many other businesses on it, in about 4 years time and our building will be one of the ones got rid of, so we may have to find another home again.
Of course while all this rebuild has been going on, the Men’s shed as was has been unable to meet, which we used to do on Tuesday and Fridays because we haven’t got a workshop. When it’s all finished and we can meet again, we hope to recruit more (younger) members to be able to enjoy the marvellous facilities we will have. There is also a plan to involve improvers who have finished their apprenticeship but haven’t got anywhere to practice their skills, and our workshops might be the ideal place. Watch this space though and we hope to have all singing all dancing wood workshop open sometime this year.
Huge thanks to all who have been involved so far, including David G, Peter, John, Jim, Ted, Miles and Fran. Onwards and upwards!