Sunday, May 22, 2016

New Toolbox!

I've definitely noticed that I have had trouble transporting and organizing my tools when teaching. My bench is always jammed with tools as students return them and I usually spend a great deal of my time stowing and retrieving them from an array of boxes and bins that travel with me. In a moment of frustration, I decided to have my friend Eli Cleveland build a traveling toolbox for me.
Here's the end result. There are three components that stack and the top one fits in front of the middle one when rolling it around on the wheels. There is room for all the tools I need for a class, including multiples of reamers, travishers, drawknives, drill bits, carving tools, spokeshaves, layout tools, mirror jigs, bevel squares, sharpening gear, glues, saws etc...
It changed my teaching experience more than I expected. Not only was my bench clear for the entire class, but every tool was accessible for both me and my students. Dan, who was in his third class taught by me, mentioned repeatedly that it was making a difference in not only the organization, but the tone of the class. I have to agree. Every time a student just walked up the the box and grabbed the tool they needed, or returned a tool to the box, instead of on my bench, it felt like a little victory.

I know that tool storage and use has been a topic of discussion for a long time, one of my favorite books is Tolpins toolbox book, not to mention the Anarchists Toolchest, but I must admit that I never thought that it would make such a profound difference in the way I worked. When I got the box home, I rearranged my shop and organized it so that I could work out of the box myself. I have even taken the time to paint it!
Only the saw drawer has been oiled. I recall that sad feeling that came over me when I realized that I didn't need any more tools and that the types of tools that I wanted to work with were very much settled. But on the bright side, it made investing in a tailored toolbox and tricking it out with dividers a lot of fun. Of course, I still dream of taking the time to build a lovingly crafted unit like Greg Penningtons, but, for now, I'm still an itinerant teacher and utility is the name of the game.

One funny realization came after posting the pic of the chest on Instagram, it got 1785 "likes", which is about 4 times as many as I've ever gotten showing my chair work...hmmmm

Thursday, April 28, 2016

The Shavehorse

I realized recently that while I had published my book with shavehorse plans in "Chairmaker's Notebook", that I'd never "shown" the advantages of it. There are as many plans and ideas about shavehorses out there as there are users and I've had a lot of fun thinking about the tool, especially as I've traveled and seen so many in action. When I sat down to put a design in my book, I felt that I should revisit the idea with the priority of making an easy to build, bullet proof and simple to use shavehorse.

 I thought long and hard and got some design influence for the body of the horse and the materials from Tim Manney and Brian Boggs. I had realized a while back that the narrow body of the two rail style is comfortable and that it also resists vibration in the direction that I pull the drawknife, which gives smoother cuts. There's nothing terribly new in the body design, but I think the adjuster that I made has proven to be a worthwhile addition.

 Of course, pulling the pin to raise and lower the head is not a huge deal, but as you'll see in the video, the toothed adjuster is very simple to use and fast as can be to adjust.

I chose this over my earlier design for the ratcheting head that I made because it's easier to make, and it can be retrofit to any dumbhead shavehorse just by cutting the mortise, drilling a few holes and filing the wood (or on my horse, aluminum) pins to ride smoothly around the pivot pin.  I have 9 of these that I use when teaching at North Bennet Street, and to me the true sign of success is that there is never any conversation about them, they just hold the work solidly and let the users focus on the real job, which is shaving the wood.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Empty Nest...soon

I've been finishing up these three little youth chairs lately. They have a presence that's hard to ignore, something about the fine details and scale makes them stand out. Soon they'll all be gone, and as much as I look forward to the extra space in the shop and less risk of damaging finished pieces while working, I"ll miss em.
I've been posting pics to instagram for a while, frankly it's much more of a hit and run easy way to post, but I just got a new laptop, so here I am in the shop, sitting in my new rocker typing away, hopefully the ease will help get me back in the blog game. Here are the ears before and after burnishing and oiling.
 Besides lots of chairs, I've been working on making a shop dog of Kobe. He's no scruffy shop dog, but as long as I keep a space heater on him and give him a bed, he's good company.
I'll be teaching in a couple of weeks at North Bennet Street, so you can see the mess I'm making doing the turnings.
We've added a class in August, which is my last one this year. I"ll spend the fall at Suny Purchase on an artist residency. This summer I'll be teaching for the first time at Lie Nielsen and shooting a video to boot. If you are going to their open house, I'll see you there!