Monday, March 30, 2009

Show's Over Folks

Here I am turning and talking at the NWA Showcase this past weekend. It was a great show. We sold a slew of my calipers and met lots of nice folks. Most of my showing experience has been with a less focused group of onlookers, so talking and demonstrating to a group of woodworkers and enthusiasts proved to be a real pleasure.

Below is Mike Czaja (on the left) who's been reading the blog since its inception. I'd like to thank all the folks who read the blog for coming up and talking to me, it helps me explain to Sue why I am up until Midnight editing videos or writing posts!

I also got to meet some folks whose work I've admired such as Michael Mocho, Jim Tolpin and Thomas Wetzel. I also spoke with Don Flaws of Berne, New York who sells antique tools. He had some lovely straight drawknives (save yourself the trouble and only buy straight knives!) You can reach him at (518) 872- 1615.

I hope to see you there next year, they've asked me to return as a presenter at the Totally Turning Symposium which runs along with the showcase.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Off Again

It seems like I just got back, and now I'm off again, this time to the
Northeastern Woodworkers Association Showcase in Saratoga Springs, New York. The show runs this Saturday and Sunday.
I attended the showcase last year and was very impressed by the scale, variety and quality of the exhibits. This year, I'll be one of those exhibits, demonstrating turning while showing off my Galbert Caliper. I'm also bringing along some chairs and the Chair Notes Covergirl!
I hope you can make, perhaps you'll see why Chris Schwarz calls it "My Favorite Woodworking Show"

Monday, March 23, 2009

Spring Things

I worried all winter. Worried that I wouldn't make it back in time from Arrowmont to fully enjoy sugaring season. This may seem like a small concern, but for me, it's the one ray of hope that gets me through those last long months of winter. Luckily, I came home right on time. I won't be making as much as last year, but I'll stock Sue and I for the year. The photo is of my pal Andrew manning the rig. He came up from the city to brave the dawn cold and watch the sunrise over the boiling pans.

As the day wore on, it warmed up nicely, giving Lily a chance to lay in the sun and dream of chickens.

With spring so heavy in the air, we decided to expand our little enterprise to include goats. Below you see the chairnotes covergirl and interspecies peacemaker introducing our new additions to our dogs. We were lucky to find a wonderful local goat farmer who bottle feeds his goats to make them very human friendly. They like nothing more that to hang out and walk around with you, while tending to the lawn. I hope Mark from Jericho Farms is reading this. It was under his tutelage (and he thought he was taking a class from me!) that I started to understand the concept of living with the land, not just on top of it.

We hope to breed the female this winter for some spring kids and milk for yogurt and cheese. I guess I have another reason to look forward to spring.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Leg Marking Jig

Designing a project that a whole class of folks can make in 5 days, while making most of the parts themselves isn't as easy as it sounds. Besides the simplification of the drilling techniques that I've already incorporated into my own process, the class at Arrowmont used a new jig that also helped move things along.

Normally, the stretchers in a chair meet the legs wherever the predetermined spot on the leg ends up. Because of varying angles and depth of reaming, the axis of the stretcher is usually somewhere not quite parallel to the floor or seat, and usually, I like it that way. But in the name of simplicity, and because the legs that we used had no such predetermined mortise locations, I decided to use this jig to mark the mortise locations so that they'd all be the same and parallel to the seat bottom. The top notch is for the front stretcher, the next one down is for the rear and the bottom one is for the sides.

Besides relieving the students of having to measure each location (I still recall the issue from last year at Peter's Valley!) the jig ensures that the stretcher axis is always parallel to the seat bottom. This enabled us to use the seat bottom to mark (or measure) the leg angles for drilling. We used my new angled block method for marking a new axis on each leg. You can see this in action in the perch videos. The differents here is that we didn't have to level the mortises to the table top, we just used the bottom of the seat.

This may see like a small point, but in my estimation, it helped the class of 8 eliminate 128 measurements. Not bad.

I have been talking to Bill Griffith, the program Director at Arrowmont, about booking their 2 week session next summer to host an all out Windsor chair making class. I'd like to get some feedback. What would you like to make? Would a group of more intermediate or advanced chairmakers like to direct the content and book the class? Most of the time, it serves enrollment to keep the class open to all levels, but I'm open to discussion. Thanks

Monday, March 16, 2009

Return from Arrowmont

Here are the results of my recent trip to Arrowmont Craft School in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. I taught the class with Brent Skidmore (shown sitting in the blue shirt) and a lot of help from Elia Bizzarri. We had a fantastic group of students with a wide range of ages and experience, which made for a cooperative and engaging class. The curve legged stool was designed specifically for this class. Soon, I'll have some good photos of the one that Brent and I made together and donated to the school auction (bid early and often!). When planning a class, it's always a balance between the amount of information to transmit, the amount of hands on experience to offer and the quality of the finished product. All in all, I was very pleased with the results, mostly that the students had their hands in the work for a majority of the time.

Above you see JC splitting out parts for his undercarraige, with moral support from Clarence. I like to have students split out their own parts to help make that vital connection between the logs and the wood.

The first day was so lovely that we couldn't help but work outside.

Here is the benchroom. I can say without reservation that Arrowmont has the most well equiped and maintained facilities that I've had the pleasure in which to teach. Not only did the shop managers stop by often to ensure that we had all that we required, but we had frequent visits from the school administrators as well.

Here is the machine room. I didn't take enough photos to show the extent of the facilities. There is also a full shop for the turning classes, a beautiful gallery, a small media room for lectures and even a hot pot of coffee running all day (essential for good teaching!). Oh yeah, and the food and housing was great.

The school is a real gem. I spoke with the Bill Griffith, the assistant Director and class programmer, about a new program that they have begun where groups can rent the facilities for special classes or meetings. For instance, if you have a woodworking group that has a yearly conference or wants to host a specific class (such as bringing in a New York chairmaker to teach), Arrowmont can help facilitate it.

Please check out their site. And thanks to everyone who made the trip possible (especially Brent Skidmore and the t-shirt airbrush artist who made the perfect gift for my wife)

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Spindle Bending

I'm taking a break from cataloging the archives to show off my new spindle bending forms. Lately, most of my designs have been incorporating curved spindles. Once I became satisfied with the specific bend, it was time to come up with a means to achieving it with ease and consistency.

My early methods for making the curves generally took a lot of clamps, awkward wrestling and too much space eaten up in the kiln. The early forms were the negative shape of the curve that I wanted on the inside of the spindles. I chose that, versus shaping via the back of the spindles, because that is the part that actually touches the sitter and I wanted the most consistency I could get.

I decided to make a form that captures both sides of the spindle both for consistency, but mainly to be easy to use and fit in the kiln. Of course, making each spindle a consistent (that word is getting thrown around a lot here!) thickness is vital to ensuring that the form can do it's job.
I shape my spindles 9/16" thick and later relieve the back so that all but the bottom tenon is 3/8" thick. It has a nice flex that helps the gentle curve custom fit to the sitter.

The new forms offer some surprising benefits. Because the spindles are captured front and back, they take longer to dry (I bend them fresh from the steamer), but because the spindles lose their moisture evenly from the two compressed sides, there is no problem with them shifting after coming out of the form. Perhaps I'm imagining this, but it seems that when I pull a piece off a one sided form, that the piece could shift due to differing moisture contents between the exposed side and the covered side. I've seen something like this with continuous arm bends that actually close tighter than the form once removed from it.

Another benefit of the forms is that I can used the edge of the forms to line up the spindles and straighten them side to side at the same time that I bend them front to back. This saves me a lot of time with this wily white oak. But I think that my favorite part of these forms is the ease of loading them and moving the around. I can also easily fit 4 forms with 8 spindles (one extra for shaving mishaps later) in the kiln.

I like to let the spindles air dry in their forms for a few days and then keep them in the kiln to "set" the bend until there is little or no springback.

Of course the final judgement is how they perform in the chair. The consistency is definitely at a new level for my work. Even sitting in a thin shirt, the back feels like a "solid" shape.
Boy, it sure is easier cataloging these posts as I write them, I'm still lost somewhere in 2007!