Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Shot Heard 'round the World

I got an email from Glen Rundel from the Melbourne Guild of Fine Woodworking in Australia with this image of their fleet of lasers ready to do battle! I love the Star Wars quality of their holding jigs.

I guess that once Greg Pennington's great laser idea got out into the ether, there was no stopping it from becoming a new standard. This photo even inspired me to get a couple myself, especially because I'll be teaching there later this year and don't want to look like a newbie!

This image really shows the benefit of using the laser for reaming. While you can do just a well with bevel squares and sightlines, let's face it, reaming a seat for the first time is challenging enough, and if this helps, great!

Glen, thanks for the pics


Greg Pennington said...

Those are cool looking lasers. I may have to change the bases on the originals! I used your idea with the up spiral router bit and built a traditional comb back rocker. The laser works well finding the center axis for the rocker across the legs. The router method is awesome( I never thought I would say that), very cool, clean, and quick. That bit was expensive but beats chopping those out by hand. "livin the dream"

Anonymous said...

Pete, lasers, router bits etc. I have been part of your blog and attended a class and in my opinion if you continue down this path you will be supporting a factory based process versus an indivdual craftsmen tradition of Windsor Chairmaking. Please get back to the tradition and not let the greed of the corporate dollar get in your way. Your students desirve better.

Harry said...

Mr. Anon,
I think you should sign your post.
At any rate I'm pretty sure Pete and Greg hold those router bits with their teeth.
When I first saw the lasers I thought "What would Ebebezer Tracy think?" Now I'm using them to line up my spoke pointer and My A.A. Woods hollow auger with my North Bros. brace to center the tenons on my stretchers. I think Mr. Tracy would love them. Maybe I'll take some photos.
Harry Miller

Peter Galbert said...

Thanks for the comments. I believe that I understand where the anonymous reader is coming from, concern for the craft and protecting it from automation. I agree that every technique should be evaluated with a number of criteria in mind and by each individual user.
I make chairs for a living and my own criteria center around making the very best possible chair with the most time spent enjoying the process. I tell my clients that I don't choose my tools and techniques in slavish reverence for the past but because they are the best tools for the job.
The simple fact that splitting a log and shaving the pieces yields stronger parts is why I use a drawknife and greenwood. Every maker must come to terms with the tools and techniques that he wishes to employ.
If there is a part of the past that I most want to keep alive, it's the desire to innovate and explore new frontiers. Sometimes, this may lead to dead ends, but it also lead inquisitive makers to the continuous arm and the birdcage, which are two of the reasons that I became a chairmaker in the first place.

Lastly, on the topic of corporate greed, there are also plenty of tool makers out there looking to capitalize on the hand tool market, after all, my two lasers cost less than one Hock replacement blade for my antique Stanley 151 spokeshave (which I love).
I hope you keep coming back to the blog and recognize that there is potential on all fronts, and maybe only some are of interest to you.

ps. the first person to teach me to use a router for rockers, a bandsaw for cutting greenwood parts, a power drill for drilling and lasers for that matter was Dave Sawyer!

Herman Veenendaal said...

Um, isn't that reamer tilted in the wrong direction, assuming I'm looking at the top of the seat?

Robert from Stow Oh said...

Hey Pete- Robert from Stow Oh. I just happen to be at the local store that had the lasers and noticed several brands with different ranges and costs some for the building industry etc. Will the low cost ones be sufficent to use or do you go by the infred range.

Thanks Robert

Anonymous said...

Hi Pete
Fair comments
Excited to hear about your planned trip to Melbourne
I will be trying to get a place in one of the classes you will be teaching, but failing that I think we will catch up anyway, you might even fit in a visit and or stay at our wee hobby farm (we dont have any goats)and knock up a perch if you like
Great news

Peter Galbert said...

don't forget that they are below the equator, I'm sure that has something to do with it!

I bought the simple low price ones from Black and Decker, good luck

I hope you make one of the classes, but anyway, be sure to visit!

Glen Rundell said...

G'day Pete,
good to see that the lasers are creating some interesting debate and thanks Greg for the compliments on the jigs.... perhaps I went overboard hand mortise & tenoning and draw boring them! My 2cents worth is that lasers help turn what can be a very challenging technique for new students into a pleasant and effective one and gives them confidence to focus on the other facets of the chair. The lasers are great but my favourite tool is still my razor sharp french drawknife. Harry I reckon your spot on, not only with Mr.Tracy, but The Shakers would have jumped at the technology too and they were brilliant traditional craftsmen. Get in quick to those wanting a spot on Pete's Melbourne classes- they're booking fast!
Glen Rundell

Dean said...


I understand the comments (and concerns) about the lasers. I thought about lasers as you taught me to line up the drill with the two mirrors. The potential usefulness of lasers can't be denied.

For myself, however, I will be sticking with mirrors. They are still a newfangled idea, but I can still imagine that someone, somewhere back in time possibly used a mirror or two.

The chairmakers of the past didn't have 18 volt DeWalt drills either, but unless you enjoy twisting a brace (and some people do), using new technology can make the process easier.

I like your philosophy - "to each his own" where the only "right" tools to be use are the ones that maximize your enjoyment of the process. These will be different for each chairmaker.

Peter Galbert said...

thanks for the thoughtful remarks. I agree, we all have our own priorities and interests, it would be a shame to let the small differences cloud the fact that we are just trying to make the best chairs, the best way we know how.