Saturday, January 31, 2009

Back to the Arctic

Here's the Chair Notes covergirl and chicken defender soaking up the sun during our brief visit to Florida this week. We went to see my grandfather on his 94th birthday. We had a great time, warming our bones and missing a huge storm in New York.

So now I'm shoveling the path to the workshop and burning the woodstove to get the chilled building back in business. This is turning out to be a very active year with lots of students in the shop and lots of traveling. If anyone is interested, my openings for students in the shop are full until the fall, and I recommend that you contact me as early as possible to reserve dates. These things tend to come in waves.

This week should see the completion of at least four projects that I have in the works. I'm sure that I'm not alone in having multiple unfinished pieces kicking around, but I'm committed to clearing the deck this week. And with a little sun on my face, I think I might just get there.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Trimming the Perch

Here is the final video in the Perch series. Thanks for your patience and keep sending me the photos of the perches you've made!

Last week, I had a great time working with Elia Bizzarri. He is a talented chairmaker and we had a fine time comparing notes. I am looking forward to the class that we are teaching at Arrowmont in March. There are a few spots open for the class (including potential scholarship positions) so check it out or spread the word.

The perch is a bit awkward to hold steady at this point in the process. Usually I use a combination of wrestling holds and clamps. To get clear shots of the cutting, I had to use less steadying force, so please forgive the shaky action.

Here's a link to view the video directly on or just watch it below.

Monday, January 19, 2009

A Brief Diversion

I will be making a video soon of the completion of the perch, but this week I have Elia Bizzarri of Handtool Woodworking visiting and helping me out in the shop.
Here is Elia shaving out some spindles, he's smiling because he just made a joke about me being short, I bet Sam Maloof doesn't have to put up with this! (I know, I'm not Sam)

I'm enjoying the hard working assistance and company in the shop, plus the opportunity to discuss the fine details of technique and design with another chairmaker. We should get a lot done this week (Elia already roughed 60 legs in a day), and hopefully find the time to finish the perch series.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Knockin' it Together

Here is the video of the assembly of the perch. It went smoothly which is encouraging news for the new measuring and drilling method.
You'll notice in the video that the joints are more than a tight fit. They are what I call a hammer fit. I aim to make the tolerance between the mortise and the tenon between 1 or 2 thousandths of an inch. It may take some getting used to driving such tight joints and learning to make corrections while doing so (once driven even partially home, the joints are near impossible to twist), but I feel that the results warrant the extra attention.

Here is the link to see the video direct on

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Drilling Simplified (even more)

Here is the installment of the "Making a Perch" series that covers drilling the undercarraige mortises. I've built on some previous techniques that I've adopted to make it even simpler. I use one angle for all of the mortises into the legs. If you didn't get a chance to see the series on my new method for drilling out the undercarraige, you might want to check it out. Here is the first part of the series entitled "A New Way". The other postings are available in the June 2008 archive to the right, just click on the arrows to access the next in the series.

Now I've eliminated the need to use string and a straight edge to locate the axis of the stretcher and simply raise the mortises to the same height off of the table and then use the table as my axis reference. I literally woke up in the middle of the night with this one, and it still sounded good in the morning so I gave it a shot!

Once the mortise locations are parallel to the table top, I use a board with an average angle to mark an axis on the legs (I don't even know the number of degrees, I simply set a bevel next to each leg and tweaked it until it seemed reasonably close to all of them and then cut the board to match).

The marked axis will diverge from the actual axis of each leg, but this doesn't matter. The marked axis is held parallel to the benchtop in V blocks and then drilled using the same board and angle as a guide. It may seem complex at first, but soon you'll see that the method eliminates the confusion and slop of multiple readings, numbers and settings and uses only solid, exact references, the benchtop and the board.

To state it in steps:

1. Level the mortises to the benchtop

2. Mark the legs with the angled board

3. Mount the leg in V blocks and level the mark on the leg to the benchtop

4. Drill using the angled board

If you are new to this idea, or the drilling of undercarraige joints, you might mistake this method for using a "close enough" approach. It's actually just the opposite, if the process is followed, it is the most exact way I know to drill these holes.

Here is the video, I hope that it looks as simple as it is!

and here is a link to the video on so that you can view it in high quality

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Carving the Perch Seat (video)

Whenever a student leaves my shop and heads home to build another chair, almost invariably, the first thing they do is carve a seat. Seat carving holds a magical draw. Perhaps its because it is so rare that a modern woodworker gets to step so deeply into the organic world of shaping wood. It's kind of odd when you think about it. Wood is an easily shaped material that is happy to take on just about any form, yet we spend most of our time trying to get it "in line".

The perch seat is small enough that just about any solid wood that one is willing to carve will do the job, but for reasons that I think become clear in the video, I chose white pine for my seat. I hope the video demonstrates the ease and fun to be had in making the seat and invite any questions that it may arouse.

On a technical note, I've had comments from some folks that the volume is too low on the video. I haven't found any way on my end to boost it any higher but have found a volume adjustment on the bottom of the video box. Just click on the speaker icon and turn it up. I've also found that going directly to and using the "view in high quality" option at the bottom of the video box is worth the effort. Try this link to get there.
To see all my videos just search my name and then click on it in the line beneath the title of any video that comes up .