We caught up with Jon Paul Mountford online. We were particularly impressed by the volume of requests to help them upcycle, make and restore that members of the public were sending to Penge Shed!
Q: Tell us about your Shed
A: Our Shed is an old school building which used to be a grammar school. 14 square feet with two other rooms attached. It’s a wood workshop – chop saws, lathes, table saws, pillar drills, metalwork, plastics; we fix small electronics like radios and Christmas lights. We try to fix everything that comes our way.
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We have 40- 50 members, but the core of those who come in regularly is about 30 with as many men as women. We had different days for them initially, but we did away with that and everybody comes in when they want to. We are part of Age UK so everybody is over 50; our oldest member was 93 but unfortunately passed away recently.
Q: We noticed on Facebook that the public were asking you to make all sorts of things, is this a big part of how your Shed works?
A: Facebook and social media is great, I would recommend it for any Shed. Not only for Commissions – we get donations, offers of paint and materials, we’ve also been offered a couple of Sheds. That’s just the stuff that comes in, but there’s also stuff that goes out when we’ve made it. One Christmas we made Christmas trees, put them up on Facebook, and people were giving us commissions just from the pictures.
Q: You have a mixed Shed how does that work?
The women tend to like crafty stuff and more detailed things, whereas the men tend to like to build big chunky things like garden benches and wooden planters. But it all works together because the women have a better eye for finish which means if the guys have built something and it needs a bit more of a finesse the women will often finish it off for them. The jobs are often shared around, everyone shares the tasks, the jobs get done as a team.
Q: Tell us a bit about yourself are you the Shed Leader?
A: My title is Project Coordinator – I am machine-fixer, I organise materials, oversee commissions, and help if people need directions on a job. I sort out everything that comes through the door.
Working with the community and within the community, I ask the members what they like doing; you can only build so much for yourself and your family. It’s part of my role to bring in work from other places – things they can fix and and make so there’s more to do, otherwise eventually you run out of things to do for yourself. It makes it more interesting if, for example, people bring in a chair you haven’t seen before, or some odd table construction. And if someone wants something bespoke that tends to be a winner.
The money we make goes back into running the Shed and covering overheads like rent and electricity. I am a paid employee and that has to come from somewhere as well.
Q: You seem very good at networking, any tips for Sheds that might be struggling in this area?
A: Every Shed will have some form of community around it. There will be churches, schools, community groups. You want those connections but you don’t want to give stuff away for free because, if you do, that’s what people will keep on expecting. Try to charge realistic prices. You just need to go to community events even if you’re not going to get anything from it. You get to know people, and people get to know you, you start spreading your spiderweb of links and eventually people will come to you with requests. Doing fairs is great because it sells your goods and it puts your reputation out there.
Thanks to Jon Paul Mountford. Connect with Men in Sheds Penge www.facebook.com/groups/meninshedspenge/