He’s Woody by name, woody by nature. Carpenter Brian Burgess can’t get enough of the stuff.
And he says helping out on the project to restore the Medway Queen paddle steamer to its former glory is his dream hobby.
Mr Burgess, 80, goes to the workshop at Gillingham Pier where the ship is being repaired three times a week to recreate some of the original intricate timber fixtures and fittings.
He is now working on 12 pews donated by St Barnabas Church in Gillingham which he is carving into seating. He has also crafted a wooden bell and ship’s whistle using drawings of the original designs of the vessel which was launched in 1924.
Mr Burgess, a father of five who lives in Strood, was nicknamed Woody by his family. He said: “It started off as a joke because after using a saw all day long, sawdust gets into your overalls and I tend to leave a trail of sawdust everywhere I go. I have always loved wood and the smell and feel of it. While some talk religion and others politics, I talk wood.”
He learned his trade as a teenager from his dad Ted Burgess, a carpenter who ran a workshop in Seaford, East Sussex. When he left school he did a five-year apprenticeship at a furniture shop.
When the business folded he got a job as a power station rigger.
His work took him to Kingsnorth Power Station where he worked for 34 years spending many lunchtimes strolling along to the Medway Queen when it was moored at Damhead Creek.
Mr Burgess followed the vessel’s progress, spearheaded by a band of enthusiasts who formed the Medway Queen Preservation Society 30 years ago.
When she returned three years ago from dry dock in Bristol where specialists rebuilt the hull, Woody was keen to volunteer. He is also a visitor guide on Saturdays.
Since his wife Marie died last year, Mr Burgess has spent more time at his second home along the pier.
He said: “At her funeral I sprinkled sawdust over her coffin. I think she would have appreciated that.”