Saturday, June 24, 2017

Quick Carving Tip!

Carvings have absolutely nothing to do with the structural integrity of the chair, but they do stand out as the most visually "loud" elements. As such, I am always very sensitive to the role of the carvings because they give a distinct impression of the quality of the rest of the piece.  Here is just one part that I find adds a great deal of interest and beauty to a volute on a comb back ear.

I alway think about a volute in terms of the negative space, that's where I do my work after all. I think of the shape as a long taper that's been bent to a round shape. It helps me to focus on the evenness of the curves if I think of it as a straight taper first. I do the same for the depth of the carving, keeping a close eye on the stop cut/ side wall in the volute so that it tapers evenly as well. The combo of the two make the carving visually flow.

Monday, May 22, 2017

The Galbert School of Craft

That's right, the time has come, I am beginning to scout out locations and facilities in southern Maine for a school. After a couple of years of transition and quiet following my move and book release, I am ready to put together a school dedicated to teaching small groups of people chair making and also roping in some of my most gifted friends to share their talent and energy as well.  My goal is to keep things intimate and relaxed, just a great place, in a great place to do what we all love.
I welcome any input and advice as I enter this endeavor as well as any tips from folks who know the area that I'm considering. I want to be within a couple hours of Boston (I still have my roots there) and also close enough to some great towns and sights that can be a part of the experience. I've learned a lot from my friend Kelly Mehler and the good folks at The Port Townsend School of Woodworking and Highland Woodworking about how to create an environment that puts the craft and the students first and I look forward to seeing you there!
I will be posting progress reports as things develop and a schedule at the earliest possible date. I hope to start in the spring of 2018 and offer classes through the fall.

I just got back from a great trip to Iowa for the third Handworks, and I assume, like many of the exhibitors, I've spent most of the day asleep on the floor with my dogs. I find that following their nap rhythm is the only plan that makes sense after such and active and exciting few days.

Here I am in the Greenwood barn, where all us rugged outdoorsy types showed our wares in the rain and cold! I'm "rugged", but apparently not so much so that I would drive out...I flew, so here is the chair in progress that I disassembled and packed in a box.
 This chair is fast becoming one of my favorites, lots of design choices and influences feel like they are starting to gel. Plus it's a ball to build, but more on this one later once I can show the finished piece.

Here are some of Claire Minihan's travishers in exotics Australian woods. Claire has achieved so much with this tool and while I gave her a nudge in the beginning, this baby is all hers now. I have a knack for inserting myself in the picture with people that are already on their way to great things.

Here is a beautiful Japanese shavehorse that Russ Filbeck brought by to show me, it had a surprisingly powerful grip!
Well that's it for today, I have other business to attend

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Outside of a Dog...

Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend, inside of a dog, it's too dark to read.
Groucho Marx

I think woodworkers take the cake as far as dog obsession (sorry Megan). In my case at least, I'm comfortable admitting that making a life in woodworking is basically an attempt to recreate and extend my favorite childhood moments. Dogs and sticks...what more do I have to say...Rosebud?

Here is my latest shop mate Georgie, taking in the morning sun while I cook breakfast. One of the reasons that I want to share this experience (besides the obvious cute as hell factor) is how much this little gal is teaching me about, well everything. Anyone who has ever had a shy or nervous dog will relate to this. Georgie is the easiest dog that I've adopted, until she sees something new. She was raised without much exposure to people and certainly no exposure to city life. Around home, she is housebroken, a snap to train and always eager to please. But when new people come around or someone on the street makes eye contact, she goes in full flight mode.

I'll cut right to the chase with what I've learned, and believe it or not, relate it back to woodworking and chairmaking. Anyone with expertise or years of experience knows how tough it can be to explain the process to a newcomer. How can they not understand that their tools are dull or their technique is wrong, it's so obvious?! This brings me to my second quote

Patience is a mild form of despair, disguised as a virtue
Ambrose Bierce

When I finally taught Georgie that jumping in the truck could be fun (there's safety and treats in there), I thought that I'd opened up a whole new world of adventure, we can go anywhere now!
But then how do I get her out?
If my other dog Kobe is there, she follows him out, but otherwise, no deal. So my first inclination was to grab the dog, put her on the ground, give her a treat and then expect that now she knows that it's all good. I did this a couple of times, but the fear instilled by my reaching for her was worse than any promise of a treat. To her, the truck ride is still novel, and that door opens to a great swirling abyss. Reaching in to grab her is akin to the disembodied arm reaching out of the darkness!

Thinking from her perspective is one of the most challenging mental games that I've come across, there is so much that we take for granted. So here's what I did. We went to the truck in the driveway, I opened the door and she hopped in happily. Then I held a treat so that she'd have to stick her head out just a bit to get it. Then she retreated. The next one was a little further out and finally, she hopped down to get one on the ground, this is the driveway that she knows after all. Multiple treats and then a well earned retreat to the truck.
Then we repeated the process about 4 times until she hopped down willingly. Throughout the day, I walked her to the truck about 3 more times to repeat this process. At the end of the day, I leashed her up, drove her to the park, crouched next to the car and called her out, and she hopped down and off we went. Not all our work is this fast. New people and experiences are still a challenge.

I think that extending this kind of patience with students, or even better, ourselves, while learning is essential. I recall wanting to learn woodworking, but I had such trouble letting myself take a little at a time, I wanted to master is all, get to that end ability. But like it or not, I think we all learn more like Georgie. Finding out what parts you are comfortable with and stepping into risk with some safety is essential.
Students often remark that I am very effusive in my support during class. It isn't false praise, what I see is a bunch of adults, experts in things that I probably know nothing about, putting themselves out there and trusting me to guide them through uncharted territory. It's a leap of faith and act of bravery that I've rarely risked.

Moral of the story, besides get a dog? Give yourself a break, take a moment to think of your goals as well as your achievements and remember, even though the piece that you are working on will be finished, your process marches on. What kicks your butt today, you will soon take for granted.