Ron Fuller’s Workshop

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Ron Fuller died in July 2017. At his farewell party in Suffolk his workshop was open for everyone to look around. Tim Hunkin was inspired to write the following piece about “organised chaos” in reaction to the visit; although it should be noted that as Ron became unwell, the workshop had got messier. Photography by Gary Alexander.

Ron Fuller’s Workshop

At first sight it appeared chaotic. Most of the tools were missing from their outlines on the wall, there were piles of stuff everywhere and hardly room to move. Up high there were cobwebs everywhere which Ron was careful not to disturb.

It’s exactly as he left it with tools about to be used and a few part-finished projects. It will soon gather dust or generally get disturbed or turned into a museum. I felt very privileged to see it intact. Look a bit closer and its not chaotic at all – it’s actually all very logical and a masterful use of space.

First the missing tools. Ron always said he worked away until he couldn’t find something and then tidied up until he found it. He would usually find what he was looking for long before the tidy up was finished so the tools were very rarely all in place on their marks on the walls.

Next the piles of stuff. Piles of stuff are completely essential for making anything. School workshops usually have expensive machines but not enough materials to make much. Industrial workshops have little spare stuff because accountants claim it’s an idle asset and force the engineers sell it off.

Ron not only had lots of stuff but it’s very well organised. His work required a lot of different things – woods, metals, paints, electronics, etc., and it’s all logically arranged and easy to find. I particularly envied his large selection of brazing rods, all stacked together.

Then the tools. Firstly everything is at the right height. For example his Myford lathe is high off the ground but for small work it needs to be not far below eye level. Tools like the vice needs space below and to the sides to fit long and awkward things. Tools like the mini mill, which don’t need space around them, are jammed together. His brazing bench fascinated me – I’ve never done much brazing or silver soldering because I usually weld everything – so I wish I’d asked Ron more about it.

Finally the use of space. Somehow Ron managed to fit a tiny spray shop at one end of his workshop and an office combined with an electronics bench at the other. His photocopier and aging computer were jammed under the electronics bench with all his files and books on the walls. Not an inch of space was wasted. His overstuffed main workshop managed to include a central bench that you could walk all the way round.

I’ve also long preferred to work at a central bench so I can get at the thing I’m working on from all sides. We had obviously reached the same conclusion independently because we had never discussed it. Many other details were identical to my own workshop.

I generally work on a larger scale so my tools are all bigger and also my workshop and stores have more space. But I so admired the way Ron had packed everything into such a compact space.

Tim Hunkin – July 2017

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