Workshopping for men

Written by Kerrie Alexander

Hearing hammering, grinding, sanding and welding is common in most workshops but there’s one aspect of this particular shed that you won’t find anywhere else.

And that is camaraderie!

As soon as you walk into the Hervey Bay Men’s Shed site in Nikenbah you can hear the blokes having a chat and a laugh while working on the day’s projects.

Men’s Shed is an Australia-wide community-based, non-commercial organisation that is open to predominately retired men of all ages.

It’s a place where men can feel included, safe and if they feel the need, improve their health and well-being by letting loose in this version of a backyard shed – just much bigger!

They can just have a cuppa and a yarn if that’s all they’re looking for.

After sitting down to have a chat with member Alun Rogers and Vice President Ray Scarlett it was very clear the organisation is making a major difference in the lives of the 70 members.

They tell bad jokes, enjoy a light-hearted ribbing without anyone getting upset and can be themselves and work on whatever takes their fancy.

“We don’t have any political correctness, we tell dirty jokes and that’s okay for us to do that here,” Ray said.

“No one gets offended and everyone can let their guard down.”

The friendships formed and the bonds made also go a long way towards alleviating or avoiding mental health issues that affect men.

The members are from all walks of life from retired tradesmen like carpenters, metal workers, machine workers, welders, and retired managers and senior executives, to others who have downsized their homes and no longer have a shed of their own to keep tools or fix and build furniture.

Others just love coming along for the social aspect.

“My wife goes out at least two to three times a week for breakfast, morning tea or lunches and she’s in all these groups; women are really good at doing things like that, but most men aren’t,” Alun said.
“What we do here isn’t just about welding, sanding and building, it’s about comradeship.

“There are many men out there who aren’t leading very fulfilling lives and this could make a big difference,” Ray added.

“When you come here, we talk about things that are happening in our lives and if people need help, these guys turn up to help if needed.

“We form very strong bonds. Sometime all you need is a chat.

“The wives are often very appreciative as well,” he said with a laugh.

Ray came from a career in education and is a qualified chef who had never touched a wood lathe until he joined the men’s shed 18 months ago.

His late parents bequeathed him an old silky oak wood table that needed a full refurbishment and all the members with wood working skills were more than happy to teach Ray how to do it.

The table and chairs are now meticulously restored.

Alun gave welding a go for the first time on his arrival to the club but made a red-hot mess of it, but that’s okay.

You can come, try, mess up then be guided with support and no judgement.

“I made a mess of it but next minute I had all the teachers in the world telling me how to do it,” he said with a laugh.

“We have some very skilled people.”

Ray was kind enough to take us on a tour of the three massive sheds where the men were working on various projects.

The set-up of machinery and equipment is second to none with every tool imaginable, some bought and some donated, to get the job done. They could build just about anything!

There were plenty of projects that members of the public had dropped off to be repaired or restored for a small fee, which goes back into the Men’s Shed operations.

There were also little treasures at every turn with some being made for not-for-profit organisations and charities and others as “freebies” for those who need it most.

Customers also arrived to collect a hand-made wooden toilet roll holder and wine rack that had been ordered, and also to have a quote prepared to build racks for their 4X4.

It seems there’s no skill these guys don’t have.

Another invaluable service the members offer to the community is a free shed clean out for people who have lost their partner and have no clue what to do with their belongings.

“The lady over the road from me lost her husband and she rang the men’s shed to come out,” Alun said.

“There will be 4-6 guys turn up and clean out the whole lot.

“Some we will keep; some go to the tip and some we’ll keep for our big annual garage sale.

“It’s a great service and a win-win for everyone.”

If you are a bloke who has some time on his hands, is looking for some company with like-minded people instead of sitting at home alone on the couch, then pick up the phone and call the Hervey Bay Men’s Shed on 4325 3471.

You won’t regret it!

The Hervey Bay Men’s Shed is open Monday, Wednesday and Thursday from 8am to noon.