Friday, October 28, 2011

What you might not know about this Blog.

I get a lot of emails and calls with questions, and I welcome them. After all, I'm just another guy in his shop, scratching his head and looking for answers. The blog technology has proven to be a great way to share information, and in recent times, I've found myself searching for things that I've covered in it.

My other workshop
Here's what you may not know. The little white box in the upper left corner is a search box. Besides using the catalog of titles on the right to access info by category, you can just put a key word in the box and every post that is relevant will pop up. It's a great way to cut through to just the info you want.

Give it a try! But rest assured, I still welcome the calls and emails,

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Tool Junkie Heaven

Last week, I had Glen Rundell from Australia here to build a Crested Rocker, like the one in last years Fine Woodworking (shameless plug). Glen is also hosting me in Melbourne as I teach 3 classes and give a lecture this winter. You can see more about this at the Melbourne Guild of Fine Woodworking (shameless plug #2).

Here is Glen in the new shop. Technically, he is the first person to build a chair inside these walls in 150 years or so!

Here is his chair in progress. Note how perfectly the spindles are sitting, even though they are only drilled into the seat, nice drilling Glen!

Here is the finished, though not glued (shipping you know) chair. The blue tape is a new aesthetic that I've been working with!

and here is Glen, hamming it up with his new tool chest.

He bought this patternmakers chest, full of the tools of the craftsman, including his brand and glasses (see Glen's face) from Patrick Leach. I first stumbled upon Patrick's website about 13 years ago while learning more about handplanes. It is the most exhaustive source of handplane and tool knowledge that I've come across. What I didn't know, was that he lives about 30 minutes from my new house.

So I went with Glen to pick up some tools that he'd ordered.

Now, we've all stood at a dealers table full of tools that we've only seen in pictures in complete awe. Well, this is where those tools live. Unbelievable.

Patrick was generous to let us take photos of his tool crazed man cave.

When you keep your Stanleys like this, then you are either a dealer, or have hoarding issues, or both!

Frankly, I think that keeping these moulding planes in an original Starret display case is just rubbing it in.

Then Patrick took us on a tour of the inner sanctum. His private collection.

One could spend weeks in here. Patrick has a variety of old chests and collections that he refuses to break up. Good on you Patrick.

He pointed out with pride these salesman sample books of ivory rules.

I left Patrick's with a simple froe blade, secure in the knowledge that if I ever need a tool, any tool, I know where I can get it.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Rocky Brook Chair Shop

I've taken some field trips recently and have learned more about the chairmaking that took place on our property. The original builder, in 1800 was named Newton Burpee, and he built chairs in the Rocky Brook Chair Shop across from the house. It was a stream powered operation. The part of the land with the stream was later sold into conservancy.

Here is a painting of the chair shop that I came across at the local historical society.

You can see the tree and wall on the left side of the painting are still quite clearly visible. The foundation is still quite intact, but is more difficult to see in the photo.

Here is another painting from the other side, showing the dammed up pond.

And here is the pond now.

This wheel was in the shed behind the house and came from either the chairshop or the mill next to the house.

As you can see, Sterling was quite the hub for chairmaking. Here is the chair room at the historical society. It was a delight to walk in this room.


The curator was clearly excited to have a chairmaker back in town and offered to let me take the chairs to my shop to study etc...very kind.

The chairs below were produced by Newton Burpee in the shop.

Here is his brand.

They also had some lovely Birdcages in the display.

I love seeing the slenderness of the parts. Below is a map of all the chairshops in Sterling in the 19th century. Each shop is a red dot. The curator of the museum  said that wherever there was a stream, there was a shop.

Usually, I'm not one to revel in the history of the chairmaking, preferring to think that my role is about the future of the craft, but living in this house and this town has certainly brought the continuum of it all into focus.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Shop Vac Turning

Here is a short video of Glen Rundell roughing out some blanks using my shop vac and a large gouge. I started roughing this way a while back, and besides the noise of the shop vac, I can't find a reason not to do this. Besides the heavy shavings that get sucked away, the fine dust never makes it airborn!

I have new contact info for anyone trying to call or write me.
You can reach me at
127 Beaman Rd.
Sterling, MA

(978) 563-1425

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Field Trip, Part1

After moving, I finally have internet and phone access again, so it's time to catch up on all the goings on here. Seth and I recently traveled to Irion Lumber out in Pennsylvania to get some wood. I needed some air dried walnut for some chairs and Seth was in the market for the wide butternut that Lou Irion had in stock. We were not disappointed. Here is Seth inspecting one of the 20" plus board that Lou had set aside for chair seats. Look at these monsters!

The field trips that I've been on recently have been helpful in calming all the chaos that goes with moving again. Irion is a paradise for the wood lover. Lou comes from a furniture making background and not only knows what we are looking for, but is helpful in meeting our specific needs. It didn't hurt that he knew that we were 8 hours from home.

Below is Seth in the air drying shed. There are many buildings on the property that hold the dried stuff, and when the doors slid, my jaw nearly hit the ground.

Usually, I am not a typical "woody" swooning over figure and exotic colors and widths, but this place is simply amazing.

Thanks Lou, for letting us look through the stacks and hanging out in the rain!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Sneak Peek

I am planning on shooting a video of all the interesting woodworking that's gone on behind the scenes in our new house. There is some great timberframing and some fantastic wood. But for now, I figured I'd show some partial shop shots.

And yes, I know that that this is the cleanest it will ever be. I can't wait to get in there and chew up some wood!

You can click on the photos to see larger versions.

Sunday, October 9, 2011


Those of you who have followed the blog for a while know how much work Sue and I put into our old house and workshop. I'm sure it came as a surprise that we left it, and yes, it was in many ways difficult. So I'm very happy to report that we've bought a house and if ever there was a nod towards destiny, here it is.

The house caught my eye because the photos of the interior were so reminiscent of our old place, and sure enough, it is exactly the same layout, only the new house was built in 1800. Basically, it was the house I was trying to build. Plus, it has an attached carriage house and garage that will finally give me that separate space for my dusty tools that I've always wanted.

But here is where it gets weird. This house was part of a chair making operation in the 19th century. There was a mill in the nearby pond and a chair shop across the street. The chair maker lived in the house and to commemorate this, the carriage house walls are lined with the boards from the old chair shop.

Here is the carriage house, as I'm putting down a new floor. The timberframing is done with hand hewn chestnut beams.

And who better to help me finish the floor than Chairnotes pal Seth Weizenecker! Seth came for a visit just in time to help me with the floor and move my shop over. Thanks and sorry Seth!

And yes, this is the last time this floor will look so clean.

Here is the Chairnotes covergirl with the maple in the front yard.

Besides being surrounded by conservation land on all sides, the property has maple for sugaring and of course, room for the goats and chickens.

Here is the new portable goat shed.

While we don't have a pond here, there is a brook that runs across the street where the chair shop was.

We set up the shop and I'll be posting shots soon. Ok, perhaps it's not fate, but it sure feels like home.

Monday, October 3, 2011

The Other Side of the Coin

A former student of mine, Pat Tipton, who has become a great friend has started a blog of his own. In this entry, he talks about taking a class with me many years ago. Pat was in the old basement shop of mine with a pal of his from Texas (that made three Texans in the shop) and they squeezed me for every dime. They stayed every night until 9 pm and on the last night of the class, I finally just went to bed and told them to shut out the lights. They left around midnight. But that's Pat, every day an adventure.

Pat is the guy you'd love to hate. He's good at everything. He's a highly educated and successful professional, has a beautiful family, plus he's a virtuoso musician, a stunt pilot, a farmer, a mechanic and an outstanding craftsman, just to name a few. The problem is that he's so humble and his enthusiasm is so boundless that he's just plain fun to be around. I often say that teaching is the hardest work that I do, but the mere fact that it brings fascinating folks like Pat into my world means that I'll always do more of it. So, lend him an ear, it's good stuff.

If this peaks your interest, there are still openings in the course that I'll be teaching at Highland Woodworking in early November.