Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The Cauldron

I returned recently from 2 weeks of teaching with Curtis at the North Bennet Street School, and now that I've had a few days to acclimate to the different atmospheric pressure, I'm ready to share some photos. The class went great, and as Curtis will agree, it's the hardest either of us works all year!
But there is something that happens in the group classes that rarely occurs in the more mellow and controlled environment of the one on one courses that we both host in our shops. Given the range of skills and scope of material to cover, new methods of teaching and chairmaking bubble to the surface. Techniques that work just fine for Curtis and I in our own shops can fall short when pulling along a large group and between us, we came up with some solutions that will continue on in both of our shops.

The means of achieving a chair can reflect the individuals preferences and prejudices. I enjoyed the interplay with Curtis of comparing our approaches and explaining and compromising on the techniques that best suited the class and the chair. I think that watching the conversation between us also gave the students a chance to see inside the process, not just of chairmaking, but decision making, and the idea that in the end, it's up to them to choose the means that best suit their temperament and goals.

Here is Peter Mich bending his arm bow (remember Peter from my shop last year?).
I brought along the white oak and it performed admirably (not a single break).

Unlike most classes, we decided to go to the lathe room and let the students turn their legs. To our surprise, it went smoothly and wrapped in about a day and a half, with a little help on the arm posts and stretchers. My mother can't say when that pencil appeared behind my ear, but I suspect it was around my late teens.

Here are Seth and Chris, the two students who followed Curtis down the rabbit hole and made their chairs almost entirely with the bit and brace. Curtis started chairmaking with very little, and the bit and brace served him exclusively for many years, I on the other hand had a cordless drill and some old bits that I could grind. We each made it work.

Here's Curtis inspecting the center of an armbow.

I was surprised that such a large steambox could hold enough heat to steam all ten arms at once.
The two wallpaper steamers, like the one I use now, really cranked it out.

Below, I'm showing the technique for drilling the blind holes in the arm. No one blew out the top of their arms while drilling it (whew!) although on one students arm, you could see light when you looked into the mortise!

Curtis and I took a trip up to Essex for some lobster and tool scrounging. Alas, we are both in the unenviable position of not needing any tools, that's right, it does happen.

The room we were in was small, but lent itself to easy communication and the whole class focussed beautifully in it. I've taught at shops that were so big that they had the intimacy of an airport terminal!

Here is Rob practicing drilling by eye. The tape on the floor represents the spindle deck. I've found that a few practice holes drilled, without the pressure of ploughing into an actual arm, can smooth the learning curve.

Here are father and son, Rob and Drew, with their finished chairs.

Here is Curtis talking to Anita. I like this photo, I think it captures Curtis' great rapport with the students.

Here is Jan sawing away on her armpost. I learned a great deal working with her. She is added to the list of school teachers that I am privileged to have worked with.

Thanks to Herb Harris for the extra photos.

Curtis and I are teaching again at The Center for Furniture Craftsmanship in Maine in August, but I believe the class is full. However, there are openings for our class in September at Highland Woodworking in Atlanta.

On the short notice side, I'll be demonstrating turning techniques Wednesday July 1 at the Watergap Woodturners meeting at Peters Valley Craft School woodshop.


Anonymous said...

Hi Peter , Irish man in Oz (Australia) here , are you going to share those solutions ,every little bit helps in my chair making ventures ? , good to have you back , thanks .
PS sorry I don't understand this identity stuff so I will click anonymous .

Anonymous said...

Hi, me again , I,m still reading old blogs and was wondering what was the result or outcome of the book yourself and Curtis was working on last year ?

R Francis said...

Please explain wallpaper steamer and how it attaches to your box.

Peter Galbert said...

Curtis and I are working on working on our Book! Actually, it was a big topic of our conversations over lunch etc.. in Boston. I've kept my winter schedule light to focus on it. Curtis has been busy getting his daughter married off and I've been swamped with the caliper, but we are committed to getting it off the ground.
The wallpaper steamer has a tube that I simply ran to the same hole where my kettle style steamer (burnt out) used to go. I got mine from Highland Woodworking for about 50 bucks.

Tee said...

Got my new galiper and just bought a new litte Jet Midi 3/4 hp lathe with the ext. bed making up to 40" between centers.
Hope this lathe will work.Hard to find good old simple lathes. Thanks for all your great chair info.