Saturn is the second-largest planet in our solar system, and is most famous for the rings that have formed around it. These rings are made of ice and dust. Inspired by the planet, the Saturn Wood Workshop, founded by two Academy of Visual Arts graduates from Hong Kong Baptist University, focuses on helping people make things that are related to the planet in some way.
How their business began
The Saturn Wood Workshop teaches people how to make different kinds of spectacular decorations based on the sixth planet from the sun. Joyce Chan Hiu-tung, one of the founders of the workshop, recalls how the business started. Joyce had wanted to buy a cajón, which is a wooden box that’s played like a drum. When she found out how expensive it was, she decided to make her own – and after that, she realised that she had a great business in the making. Knowing that she’d need a studio to keep all the materials for making wood art, she joined forces with fellow student Minnie Poon Ying-tung, and they decided to hold workshops so that other people could enjoy the craft, too.
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To start, we had to choose what kind of wood we wanted to work with, and we were offered a choice of teak or walnut. I chose walnut, and took five pieces to make a box, leaving the bottom of the box open. As the wood has different textures on either side, I decided to have the smoother, nicer- looking side on the outside. I stuck the pieces of wood together with glue, and put some tape around them to hold them all in place as the glue slowly dried. We could personalise our boxes with a brass label – but before we could engrave anything, we had to use sandpaper to polish them and drill holes on either end for the nails that go into the box.
The label doesn’t have room for a word that’s longer than 10 characters, and you have to be very careful and take lots of time to make it look nice. The engraving process isn’t done by carving letters onto the metal – you have to hammer them into it. Small iron stamping sticks are used in the process, and you have to select a letter or stamp and hammer it into the label until a deep impression is made. You have to hold the stamp as still as possible, otherwise your letters may look blurry and as if they have a shadow under them. To make sure you get a perfect-looking label, you can draw on the metal before you stamp them so you know where exactly to stamp them. Don’t worry about marks either – you can use sandpaper to get rid of any pencil marks afterwards.
Back to the box
After the glue dried, we were told we could remove the tape holding the box together, and we sand-papered the surface until it was smooth to the touch. We then treated the wood with oil – this helps make the box last longer and gives it a nicer finish. Then we nailed our engraved labels down and stuck a large glass ball onto the top of the box – the side with a hole in the middle. The glass ball looked like a miniature planet. Then we put the battery pack of a string of fairy lights into the box, and threaded the lights into the glass ball.
One of the difficult things was making sure that everything was just right before glueing or nailing them down. Otherwise, we could end up with a wonky box. Even threading the lights into the glass was hard, because we couldn’t control the position of the lights when they were inside.
When you think of woodworking, you tend to think of things like chairs or cabinets. This workshop was really interesting and showed what you could do with woodworking, and how much fun it can be. Our lighted-up planet-shaped boxes are functional and ornamental, and can be used by anyone – men, women, old or young. We left the Saturn Wood Workshop feeling like we’d really accomplished something. Just like how Saturn is an amazing planet, we thought this was an amazing workshop.