I've just returned from 2 weeks at Kelly Mehler's School in Berea Kentucky, where I taught back to back fan back side chair classes with the help of Greg Pennington. As usual, the classes proved to be fertile ground for innovating new techniques and streamlining the ones already in play.
We spent 6 days in each class making the side chair, which gave us ample time to go into depth on the fundamentals, plus address some peripheral chairmaking issues. I enjoyed the extra time and pacing of the class and I think it was also reflected in the high quality of the finished chairs. I am teaching the continuous arm in two classes this year, one at Highland Woodworking in the fall and one at North Bennet Street in the summer, and I scheduled them as 7 day classes to keep the same pace, with a slightly more complex chair.
Here is the chair that I brought as parts and assembled and painted during the course of the two classes. I know from experience, that demonstrating milk painting can save years of torment.
He is Greg demonstrating his stroke of genius with simple lasers. He uses them to help align during reaming and drilling. We gave them a try and I was very pleased with the results and possibilities.
There were some times where the set up seemed slower, and therefore I wouldn't say that they are always the best tool for the job, but it sure is nice when you need an easy to see reference.
This laser was self plumbing, which made set up for the vertical element super quick.
Another tool that Greg and I had time to think about was the grinding jig that I showed a while back. It's a simple notch that you cut out of a piece of hardwood and ride the back of the drawknife blade in while grinding. This is based on an idea sent to me by Steve Kinnane from North Bennet Street.
But we noticed that it would be advantageous to have a subtle adjuster for it. So Greg made this little jem with a bolt for adjusting the notch. The hardened steel pins form the notch and made the motion of the knife smoother. I am on my way to the hardware store to make my own version which I'll post in step by step detail. The students in the class used this, and the simple notch version to get near perfect results.
I also have some ideas for making our tenon rounders easier to adjust, but more on that later.
And what would a class be without a photo of the conquering hero!
Here is Wallis from week one with his assembled chair. As usual, Kelly was a gracious host and the two weeks flew by, and now that I'm home, I have a list a mile long of moving tasks still to complete, so off I go to the DMV, ah, livin' the dream...