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!
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.
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.
Tobias: Which are your favourite hand tools?
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?
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.
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.
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
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: