Levin's Menz Shed is buzzing with activity at least three days a week.

Their digs, underneath an old grandstand on Mako Mako Rd, is stocked to the ceiling with product and materials. Reuse and recycle is a major theme for them, even their shed is a repurposed building.

Outside the building, in the sunshine, the table saws are running cutting large timbers to size to make rafts for the tramping track up to the Waiopehu Hut in the Tararua Ranges.
Existing mudholes there have been getting wider and longer to the point of making certain areas almost impassable. The timbers are meticulously stacked into a round frame, so they can easily be tanalised by Mitchpine.

Upon return to the Menz Shed the timbers will be assembled into rafts that will eventually be helicoptered on to the track by DoC, said project leader Noel Bigwood.

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Noel Bigwood is stacking timber ready for transport to Mitchpine where it will be treated for use as part of new sections of the track to the Waiopehu Hut.
Noel Bigwood is stacking timber ready for transport to Mitchpine where it will be treated for use as part of new sections of the track to the Waiopehu Hut.

Another ongoing project for the men is toy making and last week they handed 100-plus handmade toys of different sizes over to the annual Christmas Shoebox Appeal.
"It started three years ago," said chairman Paul, who estimates that the men have made 100-120 toys this year.

Other community projects the Menz Shed had a hand in over the years are making shelves for Te Takere, producing outside bookcases, and making nesting boxes for the Foxton Wildlife Trust. They also collect tools for use in the Pacific Islands.

"We get a lot of material donated and recycle as much as possible. Any leftover timber becomes firewood and we will be reusing metal shelving salvaged from St Mary's church."

Levin's Menz shed has over 50 members, 20 to 30 of whom turn up weekly to work on joint projects or make their own things.

They also do simple furniture repairs for a donation.

"We do not want to compete with the tradies, so we only do projects they cannot be bothered with. It also helps people with little money get more mileage out their furniture."

One simple job they do is stripping paint from furniture and re-staining for a suggested donation plus the price of materials used.

The Menz Shed is a phenomenon that began in Australia, said Paul.

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"Given men's suicide rates at the time their health department funded Menz Sheds to help combat this."

It is a place where guys can do stuff together and find friendship, learn new skills and make useful things helping others. The men not only enjoy making things and finding camaraderie, they also take time to discuss serious issues such as men's health.

Scores of toys will make happy faces around Levin thanks to the Menz Shed.
Scores of toys will make happy faces around Levin thanks to the Menz Shed.

"There are amazing skills among these men," said Paul. "And most are willing to show others how to do something, so they can do it themselves."

The Levin Menz Shed began in 2010 and has been at the current site under the old Mako Mako Rd grandstand for the past five years. "This is another way we repurpose something existing that is no longer used."

There are 108 Menz Sheds around the country and in 30 other places one is being set up.

The Menz Shed gives retired tradies the option of still doing the odd job and it gives them and others access to a plethora of tools and gadgets to do any job imaginable and they are allowed to work on their own personal projects too.

Organisers of the Christmas Shoeboxes with members of the Menz Shed and some of the toys the men made.

Scores of toys will make happy faces around Levin thanks to the Menz Shed.

Noel Bigwood is stacking timber ready for transport to Mitchpine where it will be treated for use as part of new sections of the track to the Waiopehu Hut.