Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Good and Better

Here is Wayne Grove making spindles last week. Wayne was in my class at Peters Valley last year and made good on the promise to come up and make a chair with me. He has already made a slew of chairs in his time, so we spent a lot of the week discussing the finer points and trying to raise the bar in quality, technique and focus.

I've heard it said that "better is the enemy of good", and if I understand the quote, I am not much of an adherent to it. To me, a huge part of my interest lies in looking deeper beyond the skills that I already possess, even if it means the occasional (or often) ruined workpiece. I find trying irresistible and the consequence of failure tolerable. This is definitely evident in my turning. I can't tell you how many times I've gone back for "one more clean up pass with the skew" and blown off an entire detail!

But thanks to those efforts, I've gotten to control my skew.
Below on the left is one of the legs that I turned at the NWA showcase out of soft maple next to one that I did in the shop in hard maple.

Of course, standing in front of a crowd full of observers and questions while trying to explain my caliper is bound to lead to a drop in focus and quality. When I got back to the shop and set out to turn more legs, with a slightly more robust pattern, the time and quiet let me shoot for "better".

Hopefully you can see the sharper edges and more delicate shaping in the leg on the right.
Perhaps viewed under the paint and from across the room there wouldn't seem to be much of a difference, but by making the details more refined and challenging there was a huge pay off,
I had fun.

Here's Wayne gluing up his undercarraige. We used my new marking method and it worked out great.

Today is one of those days. All errands, paperwork and computer work (why should I be any different, right?!" I started by getting photos taken of the chair that's heading to Maine for the faculty exhibit at the Center for Furniture Craftsmanship. The chair is cherry (remember me cutting it down last fall), white oak and butternut, with walnut wedges.

Here's a detail of the arm joint. For a diseased tree, it sure had some lovely wood.

I am close to loading up the next video on skew technique. We are getting closer to actually cutting wood, but not quite!


jericho farmer said...


I thought - Maloofian Windsor when i first saw the full picture.


David said...

It sure is a beautifull chair, and you are right when you say that geting the little details right is a plus vallue, even if tou are the only one to know about it. Like having the dovetails right on a drawer back...
thank you for a great blog to follow!

David said...

Ho, one more thing, if you want to get rid of some desiesed wood, like that cherry, send it my way... I just love working with cherry and also black walnut!
Thank you again for your blog!

Steve in Kansas said...

Awesome chair. I wish I weren't half a continent away . . . I'd like to see it in person. And thanks for the continual challenge to go deeper and get better on technique and tools. I really agree that it's worth pushing one's skills to the next level - whatever that might be. I've learned a tremendous amount from your posts that have been an upgrade from what I've been doing. Thanks!

Peter Galbert said...

Thanks everyone, and sorry for the delay in response, for some reason my email wasn't notified of the comments. There is definitely no denying the influence of Sam Maloof on the arms. He is a windsor chair maker in so many ways!

Anonymous said...

How much of the difference in the two turnings would you attribute to the difference between soft and hard maple?


Peter Galbert said...

great question! The difference in turning hard and soft maple is distinct. It's much tougher to get the crispness in the soft maple, it likes to crumble if you turn edges too thin. But the over shaping should be the same. I'm afraid that most of the difference has to be attributed to the maker! It's quite a difference between the noisy chaos of a show and the quiet in my shop, plus, I sure got in a lot of practice turning all those legs. Thanks for the question.