Tuesday, April 30, 2013

For the Sake of Clarity

I've been turning my thoughts towards the class that I'll be teaching at Kelly Mehlers School in a few weeks. I thought it might be worth highlighting some recent thoughts and plans for the class.

Let's face it, there are enough chairs in the out there. I don't rush to the shop concerned that someone is lacking a place to sit. I go for the joy and challenge of making. For the most part, the chairs that I make leave my shop  and I am left pondering the next chair, my tools and my process. As I assume it is with most folks, it's about exploring the limits of my tools and my ability.
And as do most folks, I've looked for help. The magazines and books guided and inspired me, but in the end, I was left guessing whether my results were hitting the mark. The funny thing is, even after all these years, the desire to get more from my tools and process has only deepened.

A case in point just pulled up as I was writing this. My friend Scott came over last week and I helped him reshape his turning tools. This time he came over for a couple of chunks of maple to try them out on. He was remarking how excited he was to get back to the lathe now that his tools were better shaped. I know well the frustration he must have felt turning before.

In a broad sense, this is what the class at Kelly's is about. We will investigate the geometry and function of tools we have and ones that we are making to get the most out of our woodworking experience.Whether it's the holding power of our shave horse or the angle of the handles of our drawknives, we'll be  addressing our expectations head on.

One project that I am excited about is making adzes.
Tim Manney and I have turned our attention to designing a new adze.
Tim had great experience in Peru watching the folks use adzes and I've always made my own adzes, first for financial reasons and lately because I haven't been impressed by the ones available. And, oh yeah, did I mention financial reasons?

Grinding the Blade
We've been asking the basic question "What is a proper chairmakers adze and how does it work?" I've come up with a good prototype and Tim and I made up some variations hoping to advance the design and better understand its use. As expected, our initial efforts raised more questions than answers, but we have gotten some great results and are looking forward to the next versions. Greg is bringing along his forge and anvil to Kelly's so we can make some tools, including adzes and start at the beginning of our craft, the steel.
A Rough Prototype

On the process of chairmaking, we'll start with my basic goal as a chairmaker.
I don't want to make a chair, I want to make any chair. That means that I am not satisfied to have a single design, instead, I want a process that functions to bring to life whatever I can imagine. The Windsor technology is a perfect framework for this, as the limitations that it offers have led me to come up with some simple landmarks and techniques for connecting the dots.
Chairs can be mysterious, even to experienced makers, but I think that with a little focus on design and process, you can understand the variables and their meaning.
A Chair Near Completion
I won't ramble on any more, suffice it to say, this is going to be an exciting week and I hope to see you there.


Unknown said...

Sounds like an awesome week. I would be there if I weren't leaving the country. Oh yeah and I probably would have to of paid for the class.

Look forward to seeing the iron work. Keep it up!

Peter Galbert said...

Thanks Caleb,
I wish you could be there, lots to share. Be safe,

Anonymous said...

Hi Peter,
'Rough' sure is, but nice to see you working your toward a toki (stone adze). FYI, I'm told the method for selecting the wood for a toki handle is to match the angle between a branch and trunk with the angle between index finger and thumb when the thumb is stretched out to where you can just feel the tension approx. 70degrees. My source says that leaf springs are being substituted for stone when hollowing canoes and such but the handles are much the same.