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July 13, 2020

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Ukulele or wooden pen? Try making them yourself

TANG Zhiqiang, 24, who studied furniture design at university, left a sales job in his native Inner Mongolia to seek a more creative life in Shanghai.

He is now a craftsman and instrument maker at Luer King, a do-it-yourself workshop founded last year by 28-year-old entrepreneur Wu Xionglang and Wang Tianlun, a former piano teacher who once ran an art school.

Tang, who had been trying to make guitars and ukuleles of his own for more than one year, said he was looking for such a workshop in his hometown but failed to find one.

“I enjoy creating things by hand because it’s balm for the soul,” he told Shanghai Daily when we visited the workshop in mid-June. “It feels good to help others do the same.”

DIY workshops are not rare in Shanghai, but many only offer kits of parts for people to assemble and compete for customers with low prices. Wu and Wang wanted to take the concept up a notch.

At their workshop, people are challenged to learn one of the hardest do-it-yourself skills — carpentry. Customers come with their own design dreams, and professional carpenters like Tang help them.

Some customers make easier instruments like the ukulele or the mbira, a traditional African instrument, and with their friends or colleagues they can be instructed to play the instruments together — even though they had never touched them before.

“DIY is still not popular among the public at large, but for potential customers, we aim to offer something different,” Wu said.

The idea also attracted Fan Kai, 23, a former carpenter who worked for a villa developer before joining the team. He said he loves making things with his own hands and was bored by standard carpentry jobs.

Fan helps five to six people a day create their own handcrafts. He once assisted a customer make a mobile phone stand with a three-dimensional wooden logo with a pointed tip at the bottom. Nails and glue couldn’t do the job. Fan ended up using a small mortise-and-tenon part.

“I have learned a lot of new skills while working here, like using machines to work on small wooden objects and playing the ukulele,” he said.

At this workshop, located at a bookstore in Wujiaochang, Yangpu District, Fan built a small sound-proof wooden house where customers can use machines to create their own DIY objects.

On the day Shanghai Daily visited, a 25-year-old woman surnamed Yan said she found the workshop on a website and came to make a wooden pen by hand to give to her boyfriend as a birthday gift.

“When I was first introduced to the machines, the saw blades, the noise from the machinery and the flying sawdust, it all scared me a bit, but soon I got used to it,” she said.




 

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