Ron’s passion for woodwork continues

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Ron Cresswell in his workshop and working on the restoration of a base from a Victorian table.

Ashburton College deputy principal Ron Cresswell is a woodworker from way back and has a passion for furniture restoration.

The 70-year-old is a skilled operator who uses traditional methods and materials.

He’s worked with wood and on projects since his teens and spends much of his spare time in his ordered, spacious workshop at home.

“Woodworking is a bit of a dying game, but I’m trying to keep it alive,” said Ron.

“I didn’t do too much in the workshop with my two daughters when they were younger, but my grandson Archie, who is eight, is always keen to investigate and get involved.”

Ron, who hails from Wakefield, West Yorkshire, did his woodwork teacher training at prestigious Loughborough College in central England and among his teachers was renowned designer and furniture maker Edward Barnsley.

“Barnsley was an important figure in the 20th-century British craft movement.

“He was very knowledgeable, but also a real task master and against using machinery too much.”

Ron said his studies started a big interest in furniture making and restoration.

He made furniture and other items from scratch.

Chairs were not his favourite because they were “fiddly”.

He enjoyed restoration in particular because he was able to give worn or damaged items a new lease of life.

China cabinets, tables, chairs and grandfather clocks have all been worked on over the years, as well as guitars.

“There’s not much that frightens me when it comes to working with wood and doing some basic engineering.”

Ron unashamedly charges for his time and materials.

“It’s not always financially viable for people to get things repaired in this day and age, but if something has sentimental value, they are usually happy to do it.”

Ron’s workshop contains jars of older slotted screws, countless cuts of veneer, scotch glue and other recycled items used for projects.

“Using old timber makes such as difference to restoration projects.

“I can match up stains and veneers and can get better results.”

Ron arrived in New Zealand 25 years ago with wife Angie and has taught at Ashburton College for much of that time.

He has enjoyed stints away from teaching since entering the profession in 1973, including 12 years as a builder.

These days he takes just one Year 12 technology class and is focused on student pastoral care.

“Teaching and my current role is such a different beast to working on my own in the workshop.

“In the workshop I’ve got free rein, there’s less pressure and no bell ringing, and it helps keep me sane.”

Ron said he was involved in teaching “because he liked the kids”.

His role was often that of a problem solver who needed to think on his feet.

“It’s different with woodwork. If I’ve got a problem, I can go away, mull it over and a solution might come to me in the middle of the night.”

-By Mick Jensen