The Labrador Shed

Monday morning at 7.30am Len Thomson and Graham left to be at Len’s Shed on the Gold Coast. It was winter, but with a morning temperature respectably matching anything we’d see in Whitby on a summer’s morning!

We take a look into the see a) what’s there, b) who’s there and c) lessons for us. 

The first bunch of photos is more about the materials, machines, workshop layout and storage. The infrastructure for the Labrador Shed. The ply Ken is touching is marine ply coming as “scrap” from a local luxury yacht maker. So is the pile of hardwood lengths in the second. They take a “Ute” (an open truck) to collect it (in background of first photo) and they are making two collections this week alone! They get more than they can use and distribute  to Sheds in other places in the region.

Storage even in their large Shed (not in fact large by their standards) is set on a mezzanine floor above or in niches in different places. 

The machinery is extensive and of a professional standard rather than DIY. It tends to be large. Dust is extracted by a central system that transport sawdust from the machines to a collection point. You can see the circular ductwork in the 8th and 9th photo and others.

There are two back to back large wood lathes and a “nest” of three .smaller lathes of “Littlebeck” size used for smaller items including turning pen cases. In the metal shop there is a metal lathe and air lines from a compressor used for clearing metal waste from crevices. There is a large bench saw with an automatic instant brake mechanism to prevent amputations. The sign says two man operation which is also part of the safety procedure (one checking the other). It is great to slice wood accurately and fast but not if fingers are lost in doing that!

You will see Len (who visited us in Whitby this Easter) holding a bed tray (one of several they have made on request). Our Shedder Brian made one at the Whitby Shed. Brian’s surname is Holliday and that is the same surname as Mervyn the Shed’s President.

You can see a wide range of products in the making and on display as samples. Children’s chairs, a rocker boat, cabinets, birds, a toilet assist (handrails) for a local school for children with walking difficulties, a children’s kitchen for a school and many other items.

And there’s the banter, of course.

In Len’s view the most important space of the Shed is outside, though under cover, where the group has a 20 minute “smoko” or tea break together, They solve the problems of the world!

You will see in the final photograph Len and Graham with a copy of the Whitby Gazette from two weeks ago. It featured the arrival in Whitby of the steel hulled replica of Cooke’s barque, the Endeavour. But notice also what is in the glass case in the background. It is a model of the Endeavour made by a couple of the Aussie Shedders. This new photograph is on its way to the Gazette right now, with hoped for inclusion on Friday 13th!!

The range of men’s “problems” are much the same as in our men’s and women’s Sheds though the nature of the equipment and Shed focus does not cover some of the needs we cater for.


Len’s take is that first and foremost it is about people. People sharing, cooperating, understanding and supporting one another. In the Shed there have been two Shedders who have become widowers in the past fortnight and the Shed is helping both to cope in the immediate circumstances.  Len points to a book by Prof.  Barry Goldring on the Shed movement. It has the sub-title “The Company of Men”. Therein is the evidence from Sheds worldwide that Sheds help men’s wellbeing.

In Australia, in particular,the Government has invested in Shed construction with significant sums. More than £100K would not be unusual, plus other grants coming from more local civic and business sources. Just today an announcement has been made that the Federal Government is investing a further £2.6m in Sheds over the next 3 years through a grant process administered by the Australian Men’s Shed Association. 

Len says that the  key to success of a Shed is not only hard work by those involved in leadership but also in the Shedders appreciating what has been provided and being willing to build upon it by constructive engagement seeking to benefit others not just themselves.

Len Thomson

President Mervyn Holliday



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