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Alistair Allen’s Kiwiana sheds in Oamaru

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Kaizen in wood

Kaizen is Japanese for a philosophy of continuous improvement, or working methodically seeking to achieve small, incremental changes in the process of improving. This term has been particularly championed by Toyota Motor Corporation as a process to facilitate change within that organisation.
For me, it epitomises my woodworking journey since retirement. I had dabbled in bigger stuff—from building and construction to boat-building (three launches) and fitting out—as sidelines and sanity savers during my years in corporate life.
But when I turned to small and delicate it necessitated a rethink. Thus “kaizen,” which seems to have been driving incremental changes in what and how my projects have evolved.

New life for old stuff

Broken blades, tired tools, worn washers, grimy gears. These are sorry sights for most sheddies, but for Bruce Derrett they are the treasures of his trade. The Motueka metal artist combines his skill wielding a MIG welder with a highly fertile imagination to turn other people’s junk into quirky creatures, funky furniture, and striking sculptures.
Bruce, who ironically failed metal work at school, has always had an eye for mechanical bits and pieces. “As a kid I was always pulling things apart, like clocks and radios. It used to really frustrate my mum,” he says. Now he puts things back together again, albeit it in a very different form.

Ponoko—a cut above the rest

While laser cutters are now practical for home-build projects, they are not something that everyone will want to run. They take up bench space, need care and feeding, get expensive in large calibres, and if you don’t use one that often you might well be better off letting a company like Wellington-based Ponoko cut things for you.
Ponoko stock a wide range of materials and are experienced with using their laser cutters on them. Handy, but scarcely unique given the number of engineering outfits that are out there that’ll do pretty much the same thing.