Learning the trade

2008-04-15 00:00

INNOCENT Ndlela first thought of making a double bed out of yellowwood around three years ago, but he only began to work on the idea seriously in the second half of last year.

It might seem a long time to take to make a bed, but Ndlela has only his spare time for bedmaking, working after hours in the restorer’s workshop at the Museum Service in Prince Alfred Street.

Ndlela is general assistant to Rob Scott, the Museum Service restorer. Scott is a very fine cabinet-maker who had an exhibition of his furniture in the Tatham Art Gallery last year. Ndlela was inspired by watching Scott to create something for himself. He has worked at the Museum Service since 1991 — longer than Scott.

“I still have to finish the sanding and spraying,” says Ndlela, explaining that he has made the bed so that it can be taken to pieces — important if he is going to be able to get it through doors and around corners when he finally takes it home. “And I’ll have to buy a mattress,” he says, sitting on the slats and running his hand over the swan-neck pediment on the headboard. Even unfinished, the satiny appeal of yellowwood is there.

Scott and Ndlela show me the pile of timber the wood came from — pieces saved from old buildings, often with handmade nails sticking out, each of which has to be carefully removed by Ndlela. The telltale angled sawmarks on the beams show that it was pit sawn — cut into planks in the forest where the trees were felled. “You can still see the pits in parts of the Karkloof — the timber may well have come from there originally,” says Scott, who reckons the wood was probably felled around the 1870s.

Before Ndlela came to the Museum Service, he worked as a gardener. But now he helps Scott and is currently busy with finishing and sanding his work — he shows me a beautifully finished wooden frame from a large tapestry that he has been working on.

He also goes with Scott to buy timber, and buys wood for himself so that he can carry on with his cabinet making. I watch the two of them looking at two old Burmese teak newel posts, and discussing where they came from. “Innocent recognises wood species — and he knows more than he is letting on,” says Scott.

“The bed is practice — I am doing this one for myself,” says Ndlela. “Then maybe I’ll make other things to sell. But first, I’ll make two bedside cabinets — and maybe a wardrobe.”

He may not be a trained cabinet-maker, but he has worked out the technical aspects of what he is doing and he has the love for wood that a craftsman needs if he is to succeed.

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.