The Woodworker Sessions #6 - 10 Questions with Dr. Gert du Toit of Durban

Posted by Tobias Lochner on

This week in the Woodworkers Sessions,  I chat to Dr. Gert du Toit, Specialist Bariatric Surgeon and passionate worker of wood. Due to his extreme time constraints, Gert answered my questions via audio recordings, which I then transcribed. I wish to profusely thank Gert for taking the time to share his workshop, his knowledge and his infectious enthusiasm with us.

Gert in his well appointed Woodworking Shop! 

Question #1

Tobias: How, why and when did you become interested in woodworking?

Gert:  I think that woodworking must definitely be in my genes. I love working with my hands.  My dad was an engineer and an all round handyman and he taught me the basics including precision, patience and technique.

I was blown away when my dad bought a De Walt radial arm saw in 1977, I was thirteen years old at the time.

I have always built basic furniture as needed, for example, a baby cot!

I neglected my woodworking somewhat, due to my surgical career. From when I started in private practice in Durban in 1996,  I was stimulated to use my hand skills in my surgical career.

Eventually in 2011, I decided to begin with an extensive renovation and upgrade of a dedicated workshop. Thanks in part to the excellence of Fine Woodworking magazine, I have constantly developed and honed my craft to where it is today. This is always an ongoing evolution.

 Question #2

Tobias:    What aspects of your craft do you find the most and the least enjoyable?

Gert: Somewhat tongue in cheek, I refer to my hobby and workshop as "Vent Craft - A craft where I can vent from my daily career"! 

You can follow me on Instagram at gert_du_toit

Absolutely every aspect of fine woodworking is an adventure, even the final finishing where one sees the wonders of the wood come to life!

Most of what I have been creating since 2013 are prototypes, exploring different techniques.

Question #3

Tobias:   Which are your favourite hand tools?

Gert:  When I was younger and with a smaller budget, I was satisfied with the very basic of tools.
Since 2014, having discovered the finesse of heirloom quality hand tools such as chisels, hand planes and saws, I cannot choose between them. The uniqueness and absolute fun of these tools is to discover how each one has it's specific application and place. How thrilling it is to be able to work with all these tools.
It is a pity that I have only fairly recently discovered BPM Toolcraft, because I have imported the majority of my hand tools directly from North America.

Question #4

Tobias:   What are your favourite power tools and stationary machines?
Gert:  My favourite stationary machine is my Felder 531 Combination Machine. The absolute quality, precision and design has certainly raised the bar for me. My other favourite is my Hammer N4400 bandsaw, which is a superb machine.

Question #5

Tobias:   What machines, power tools or hand tools could you not do without?
Gert:    In addition to the above, I add my drill press, woodturning lathe, my routers and all of my hand tools.
Gert's ingenious multi-purpose usage of his Lathe bed, doubling up as his Moxon Vise Jointing Table!

Question #6

Tobias:   Do you use a dedicated space for your craft, what floor area do you have available and how much time do you manage to spend on woodworking per week?

Gert:   My workshop has gone through approximately six upgrades since 2011, to make it as ergonomically friendly as possible.
Basically, I converted an outdoor bedroom adjacent to a single garage. With access via two barn doors, I have opened up extra space. Every power tool, stationary machine and workbench is mobile within the workshop.
Every cubic centimetre of space is precious, especially footprints. The available time that I have in the workshop varies from week to week, depending on my patient workload. However, ever since we lost against Japan, I have stopped biting my nails on Saturday afternoons and much prefer the challenges and joys of woodworking. By having a dedicated workspace for woodworking, it is easy to find the odd hour or two early in the mornings, or when I finish work in the afternoons.

Question #7

Tobias:   What was the first piece you ever made, what is your favourite piece and what is the next piece you wish to build?

Gert:   My first piece of furniture was a Tomato Box table that I built at the tender age of five.

Because of my journey exploring different techniques, there are many favourites that I have built, especially since 2014. I will definitely build a Maloof Rocking Chair soon.

Question #8

Tobias:   What are your favourite timbers to work with, what timbers do you avoid and why?

Gert:  Once again, almost every timber is an adventure to work with. The last timbers that I have used for projects were Ash and American Black Walnut. Due to the scarcity of South African Blackwood, I have had to resort to Australian Blackwood as a backup. I have discovered that this timber has an extremely unfriendly grain to work with.

Question #9

Tobias: What is your standard finishing process for your pieces?

Gert:   I almost always finish by creating a gradual surface build with Danish Oil.

Sheraton style Table in Imbuia and Tiger Maple 

Question #10

Tobias:   If you could add another discipline to your woodworking arsenal, what would it be?

Gert: I would love to be able to mill my own lumber and air dry it. I would also really like to learn to do steam bending as Michael Fortune does.

Tobias: Once again, many thanks to Gert for sharing his woodworking journey with us.

You can also view a variety of Gert's build videos on YouTube:

Maple Kitchen Island

Sheraton Table

Eucalyptus Garden Bench

Contemporary Desk

 

 


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6 comments

  • Hi Anton. Belated compliments of the season to you and your family. Thank you for your wonderful comments, much appreciated. Very glad that you are enjoying The Woodworker Sessions. Plenty of talented woodworkers will be interviewed this year.

    Tobias Lochner on
  • Compliment of the season to all, Love the machines and detail in legs. Excellent blog, relly great to see what other Wood working gents are up to in Durban.

    Anton Welgemoed on
  • I agree with you on the standard of Gert’s furniture pieces. Building beautiful furniture is something 99% of us can do, like most things it is about 5% creativity, 5% technique and 90% hard, patient and perseverant work! Thanks very much for your input, Fred and good luck with your woodcraft.

    Tobias Lochner on
  • some beautiful pieces, maybe one day I will get to this quality of detail and expertise

    Fred on
  • Thanks for your input, Brandon. Let’s hope more woodworkers join the comments section soon.

    Tobias Lochner on

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