Woodwork! The very word was sure to strike fear into a the heart of an early teen. There was nothing that could be more terrifying except maybe... metalwork! You see, I wasn't very good it. I made a wooden box and a coat hanger once but that was the extent of my abilities - though I still have the box and was very proud of it at the time - sad really! However as well the three R's of sofrut, ‘riting, ‘reading (the laws) and repairing comes a need to understand some woodwork basics in order to fix, design, or even make from scratch, atsey chayim.
Fortunately for me, my teacher Vivian was an expert wood turner and craftsman and I conquered my childhood fear and went to visit him bearing two atsey chayim which I had removed from a scroll I was then working on. Aside from the revelation that they had been
affixed with mere string as opposed to giddin (sinew) they were very damaged with one disc completely snapped off.
Technically I don't really have to know, as the making of atsey chayim is one of the few things connected with the sefer torah (and megillah) that is permitted to a non-Jew and as such as long as I can brief in the requirement any competent craftsmen could do it. However, this is one of those cases where I feel that you should have a go at it before you can talk about with any sense.
With some centred drilling, a dowel and the right kind of epoxy resin the repair was done, but that was not the end, as the discussion turned to Vivian’s lathe. I had never worked one before but I was determined to have a go. An ets chayim was too adventurous to begin with, so starting with a branch of yew wood the aim for the afternoon was to make a yad (a pointer). I gave it a go and did some lathing (probably not a verb but I don't know the technical term), sanding, polishing and carving, grateful for Vivian’s ever present guidance.