Tuesday, November 24, 2015

A Little Extra Support

I'm in the midst of turning a bunch of legs for 3 kid's comb backs. They are a bit longer than the legs on adult chairs and a bit thinner.

This means that vibration tends to creep in and slow down the process. I can turn them reasonably well by holding my hand at the back of the piece, but still, at some point, the piece will flex a bit and the chatter starts. I use the skew to shave away the chatter in most instances, which works great, but does take some care.

A couple of years back, I gave my shop made steady rest to Tim Manney for the use on the reamers that he produces. It's the one featured in my book. I wasn't doing a lot of turning that required it and up until recently, a little slow down in turning time didn't bother me compared to stopping to make another. But I happen to have some nice plywood on hand so the other day I made a new steady rest.

I covered this jig for the first time about 6 or 7 years ago, you can see the original post and plans here. I've learned a few things that I think make it worth revisiting, plus my own rediscovery of it's usefulness makes me think that you might feel the same. The plan dimensions in the original post are still good, but with this one, I made the notch in the support block 45 degrees on both sides.

It's a very simple affair, basically a weighted wedge (the c clamp is perfect for added weight) pushes a block with a notch against the back of the workpiece, effectively cutting the turning in half, vibration wise. Even on a 23 inch leg, you are never more than 6 inches from a support, which means I can turn more aggressively and not risk chatter. This is especially helpful if you are focusing on developing technique or design.
One of my favorite parts of this design is that you can cut right across the front of where the steady rest supports the work. The weighted wedge simply drops, pushing the block up against the smaller diameter.

I position the rest directly behind the largest part of the vase.

To set the steady for best results, turn the part to round, about 1/16" larger than the largest diameter, then place the steady block and wedge in position. Get the round spinning again and with the steady rest in place, take a very light pass across workpiece opposite of the steady block. This allows the block to seat on the piece and ensures that it's spinning true with the pressure of the block at the back.

Using the same concept as my Galbert Caliper, if you place a piece of tape at the right spot on the steady block, you will know that your dimension near the steady rest is perfect when it just about touches the tape. Of course, something more permanent could do the job, like a stick on a pivot, but I just did this on the fly, so you get the concept.


Then use some wax to lubricate the workpiece. I've found that there's no need for bearing guides if you just add some wax.

Turning is fun, or it should be. I know that there is a conversation around certain jigs or techniques being crutches. I get it, but I'm having more fun at the lathe and thinking more about the shapes that I am making rather than the ways of avoiding vibration, which is a way better way to spend my day.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The other side of the Bench

I do have photos that I want to post, but my new Iphone is not playing well with my old computer!

As part of my birthday present, I took a Thai cooking class with the lovely Stephanie H. I love to cook, but with most things, I am untrained, which means that I am deeply committed to screwing things up. Such as the time that I spent three months learning to cook the (almost) perfect poached egg.
In the class, it was  fascinating to observe the instructor's efforts to turn knowledge into information and experience, in hopes that it would become knowledge to the students. It's a problem that I've faced often from the instructors side, but standing there with no experience cooking Thai food gave me an insight into the view that so many students probably have when they enter my class.

I have a huge amount of respect for students, especially adult students. These are generally people who are in some form of mastery in their lives and occupations, who give up the skill and control that they've spend countless hours acquiring while risking failure at something new. This takes great courage and elicits a lot of empathy from me.
I also got to see the instructor struggle to forget what he knows in order to present it to the students without assumptions. I've heard it referred to as "the curse of knowledge", where you can't remember what it's like not to know something. As a teacher, it's a tough thing to be mindful of and it lurks around every corner.
Teaching is the toughest and most rewarding thing that I do, however, my teaching schedule for the next year is rather sparse, and already mostly filled up. I've accepted a residency grant from the State University of New York in Purchase for 4 months at the end 2016 and that eats up just about all the time that I'm willing to stay away from home. It's basically a get paid to make what you want opportunity, and with the book behind me, I feel the call of the shop and new ideas beckoning.

 I will be at North Bennet Street School teaching continuing ed (open to all) in December, but the class is full (you can wait list it) and then again in January, but that's for the cabinet/ furniture program students. I'll then be at Highland in Atlanta in March, but again, I think that it's full, but you can check with them. The final option is a class in May at North Bennet street, you can contact their Continuing Ed program to inquire and maybe even get on a list before the class is officially offered (I shoulda checked with them first, but you never know). I have had a chat with Deneb about a weekend course up at Lie-Nielsen, perhaps a perch, next summer, but we haven't gotten any further. Thanks for your patience, I will be teaching more in 2017 at the some of the schools where you've seen me in the past.

And I must thank those of you who wrote in comments and emails about my loss of Lil, it meant a lot to me. I've loved sharing my time with her on Chairnotes and your support is much appreciated. 

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Back Home, sort of

Yes it's been quiet here, largely because I've been in Australia for the last 6 weeks teaching and traveling. I taught 3 courses at Rundell and Rundell in Kyneton just north of Melbourne about an hour. Everything went well and then I was joined by the lovely Stephanie H. for a couple of weeks of travel, including an amazing trip to the Great Barrier Reef.

Coming back from vacation is always a bit jarring but this time is even more so because of the passing of our sweet pup Lily. She died unexpectedly while we were away, and while we did our best to make the best of our time in Australia, I'm finding myself struggling now that I'm back home. Solitary shop life suits my temperament, but I've never truly been alone out there, she was my constant companion for the last 11 years and it seems that there is hardly a move that I make that doesn't instinctively include reaching for her, spotting her out of the corner of my eye or calling for her to join me. Many of you know this feeling and I know better days will come, but the transition from being someone with a great dog, to someone with great memories takes time.

I will be posting my teaching schedule for the next year soon, it's sparse, as I am focusing more on building chairs, but there are a few openings.

Below is a little information about the condition that resulted in Lily's death, I hope that posting it might be helpful to others whose animals are at similar risk.

Lily was staying with a local Vet that also boards dogs. She had a check up before the stay and even though she was 12, she was in excellent health. On her 8th day there, she vomited and collapsed while being walked, she died quickly. The vet said that she thought it was from a twisted bowel, which I'd never heard about. I new about bloat in goats and the dangers it poses, but not in dogs. Apparently it's a common killer in dogs and little can be done once it starts. Basically, for unknown reasons, the stomach flips, cutting off circulation to the intestine which also impairs blood flow to the heart, resulting in cardiac arrest. There are some factors that make dogs more susceptible. Dogs with large chests and narrow waists, like Lil, as well as dogs prone to anxiety, Lil too, are more likely to have the problem. Changes in routine, such as boarding or having a new dog in the house can also stress dogs as well, leaving them susceptible to the condition. There are early signs of the problem and steps that you can take to help prevent it if you think your animal is at risk. If you want to know more about this condition just google "Dog Twisted Intestine" and you will have reading for days.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

First you build the chair, then you build the finish

Recently a client asked me to take process shots of his chair being finished, so here they are.
Painting chairs has long been a sore spot as a maker and teacher. Yes, I agree wood is pretty on it's own, but in the service of furniture, sometimes there can be more done with it than swooning at the "figure". Part of what forms the aversion to painting chairs among new makers is the fear that the extra process will lead into unknown territory and problems, which is a legitimate concern, especially because the process is yet another that requires real effort to master.

Here you can see the stained chair in all of it's dull glory.
This chair needs paint!
 I covered this in my book, but it is worth restating, you can't expect a finish to look right until it's done. Just like a single spindle doesn't look like a finished chair. But you can learn to recognize when each step is complete and looks "right" even when "right" is truly homely.
yes, the pine stains terribly
Here are the steps to completing the finish, first the stain, a mix of alcohol soluble dyes from Lockwoods. I change the mix depending on the topcoat of color. For more bluish colors I shift the stain to a complimentary orange and for black over red I keep it relatively brownish.
first coat of red

The first coat of red is knocked back with burlap, steel wool and sandpaper, each used where called for. I want to keep the paint layer thin and smooth but still fully covering, so if the smoothing process makes it too translucent, I paint and smooth it again, usually just using burlap or mirka mirlon gold pads.
The red burnished

Then the black coats, smoothing inbetween again and then finally multiple coats of oil. I start with a penetrating thin oil and then subsequent coats of thicker oil to build the finish.
First coat of black paint
Smoothing the first coat of black with burlap
Oil on the seat after the second coat of paint and burnishing
The warmth of the red helps draw attention to the lower parts that are usually in shadow

Now here's where I might go too far for some gentle readers. Lately, I've been making chairs with butternut seats intended for paint. Now hear me out. I know it is beautiful, somewhat rare and certainly expensive, but it has some qualities that I want in some chairs for strength and scratch resistance. The seats below are destined for continuous armchairs that will live in the Lie-Nielsen showroom and, as public seating they will take a beating from the every joker who carries their keys in their back pockets, you know who you are....
That's right, a butternut c arm
I've used poplar in the past for this role, but it is a dull homely wood even under the paint. I really like  the lovely grain pattern visible when using the white pine, and was concerned that the subtle grain of the butternut as well as the rich color wouldn't shine through. But after making some samples I can see that it does! So no, I have no problem painting butternut and if I wasn't allergic to working with walnut, I'd paint it too.
Maybe paint could even make me want to use some of that horrendous curly maple that I've been meaning to get rid of.

Monday, August 3, 2015

It's a Two-fer...plus Letter to a Woodworker, conclusion...for now

I just found out that a student for the August class at North Bennet Street had to cancel and even though the class has plenty enrolled to run, I thought that I might entice someone to jump on the spot with some news. Tim Manney has offered to teach the class along with me. If you aren't familiar with Tim, you should visit his blog. You will soon know more about Tim as he has a number of articles in the pipeline and as far as I'm concerned is one of the best woodworkers around. Tim and I taught together recently in Washington state and I am positive that the students benefited from his keen insights and skills.

Here is the final installment of the Letter to a Woodworker Series. Thanks for all the feedback that you've sent, it's been an interesting time of reflection for me and I certainly hope that some of it has been useful.

So many times as I've met woodworkers, they've expressed interest in transitioning their craft into a business, either in retirement, where it will be a fun endeavor, or in full blown lifelong pursuit of income. I can see in their eyes as they look at me that they think that I'm "livin the dream". There is one factor I suspect that they miss, which is that woodworking is, and always has been a blue collar trade. To me, this means that the making of the objects is what I get paid for.
If I'm not working, I'm not earning.

Of course, this is obvious, but what is tough to predict is how you will feel when the thrill of learning is replaced by the need to quickly and repetitively perform a task. I try not to dwell on it, but it is a job that bills hourly and the pay rate is tied to market value of what you produce in that time.

 So much of what I enjoy about woodworking is constantly learning new tasks and techniques, but developing a business where constant learning is in the plan is not a good bet. To create an object at a reasonable price point while actually getting reasonably paid requires a predictable means of production and well developed skills, which in most cases means that the joy of discovery must sometimes take a back seat. This is the battle between jigging up to make objects with a market value versus residing on the more risky end of things where you can "find" solutions as you go. Looking back, I personally found that chairmaking is engaging enough in the means of production and design potential that I can always find a place to keep myself challenged even while producing certain designs that I've made hundreds of times. Meanwhile, I am always cooking up some new design, process or understanding.

This doesn't mean that chairs are the be all end all, just that they have provided me with a happy medium to exercise my mind as well as body. Why do I hang on this point? Because I've never had an employer paid holiday,  sick day or insurance since I started and the rewards of showing up every day start to wear thin if you don't consider a ways to take the joy of discovery and keep it alive in your day to day. Sure, sometimes you just have to crank it out, and that has it's rewards too, but don't be too shocked when your motivation is waning and you are faced with a task, or hundreds of them that don't carry the luster of the first time you learned or performed them.

 So I finish this series with where I started, which is urging a deep honest look into yourself to find what it is about this pursuit rings your bell. I believe that there are many paths to success, but there are usually a number or failures along the way and it's vital to have an understanding of your interests and expectations and a good plan for keeping them alive...one hour at a time.

Monday, July 20, 2015

The Shop is Hummin' Now

In case you missed the Lie-Nielsen open house, here are a couple of pics.

The folks who run the show at Lie-Nielsen are fantastic hosts and make spending a weekend in Warren a great time!
Here's Tim Manney throwing an axe, of course this kind of fun happens after the kegs come out!

I'm back in the shop and working on chairs for clients, as well as working out some ideas that have be stewing for some time. Here is a rocker that is nearly done.

I've been lucky to work with some white oak armbow blanks that I got from Dan Monsees recently. You may have seen this already on my Instagram account (you can follow me at petergalbert). I've been helping Dan get logs recently and he is letting store my own supply and dip into them when I need. It's a great arrangement as I don't have the space and he gets to use and sell some super stuff.
I've updated my website teaching schedule so that you can see where to find me at the end of this year and into the next!

Friday, June 26, 2015

Humble Home

I'm back from a great trip to the Port Townsend School of Woodworking and I'm finally settling in to my new shop space here in Boston. This is going to be my first shop in 12 years that hasn't had to do double duty as a teaching shop and tool factory. Speaking of teaching, there are only two slots still open for my August 17th chair class at North Bennet Street School, so if you're interested please check it out soon.
Here are some shot of the space, lots of air and light.

 It's the same size as my other shop, but with a storeroom in the back and higher ceilings.

Working by the front door gives a great natural raking light.

Being a lefty, the lathe is strategically placed to gather the shavings into the corner to contain the mess.
 The sharpening station  has lots of real estate and light.

 Here is the view from the storeroom and workbench area.

 I've been really enjoying making spindles in this space, as you can see.

 Here is a shot of the majestic Rhodesian Ridgeback Kobe, who I am teaching to be a shop dog, but he seems to think it's a bit beneath him.
He needs to take lessons from Lil, she's a pro.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Letter to a Woodworker Pt. 3

The subtitle of this entry should be " A Party of One". As I've reached out over the years and met so many other makers, there is one constant that seems to transcend ability or interest. It's the characteristics of introversion that nearly all of us exhibit. It's especially noticable during a big show like Handworks, wherein exhibitors and attendees alike seem to share this trait. It's like a loner convention.

I suppose it's worth defining what I mean by introvert. A book that I recently read called "Quiet" by  Susan Cain does a great job of describing it. I only realized the extent of my own traits upon reading it and felt a huge sigh of relief to learn that I wasn't the only one. Basically there is a spectrum of introvert extrovert and everyone falls somewhere along it. Perhaps the greatest sign of introversion is that social interaction is draining and alone time is very necessary to "recharge". I am a bit jealous of people that gain energy at social interaction, for me, it is hugely desirable, but leaves me drained.

This may come as a bit of a surprise to those who have only seen be in my role as a teacher or public speaking. But in those moments I am excited and engaged by the challenge of communicating and sharing my love of the craft. Take note of my whereabouts after the talk, I usually slip away to a quiet corner to gather my energy.

What has this got to do with starting a business as a woodworker? Woodworking is a solitary sport and starting a business is a very personal challenge, pitting your abilities and desires against the world at large. If you are uncomfortable with intense periods of alone time or self motivation without external influence or support, you might find starting an operation that stems from a single operator a tough road. Of course the extrovert might find the sales and marketing of their work much easier as they  naturally gravitate towards interaction, whereas the more introverted might prefer to stay in the shop making stuff. Cultivating both abilities, public presentation and private achievement are both essential to making a go of it as a woodworker.

It is worth stating that there will most certainly be periods, probably extended ones in which it's just you, the work and the voices in your head. This should be considered and expected, especially if you are prone to depression or as many creatives are, self doubt. Reaching out to others in the field, such as I do often through shows like Handworks or WIA is a good idea.

I don't have any great words of wisdom on this subject, it's so very personal. I've spent many years both indulging my introvert tendencies and fighting them. If you haven't paid much attention to your own tendencies, starting down this road will likely bring them into focus.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Letter to a Woodworker Part 2

Once you are well on your way to establishing your motivations and interest, what about your clients? Understanding their desires and spending habits is just as important and potentially elusive. The purchasing public fickle and they have a lot of competition for their dollars. Establishing the value of your work relative to their money can take some mental exercise and time to develop.
Who are these people that you hope will consistently purchase your woodwork at a price that will support your business (and hopefully family)? Again, I think that the best place to start is with yourself. When did you last spend money on a product similar to the ones that you hope to produce and at the cost you hope to charge? Usually the answer for the budding woodworker is "never". 

It's important to remember that folks operate with much of the sensibilities that guide your own purchasing habits. Try putting yourself in their shoes. I'd advise looking into the buying habits and interest of your peers, friends, parents and neighbors. What would your plumber realistically pay for that? He probably has more money than you think, but how do you connect him to the value of the work? I recall a relative saying "Who would spend $1000 on a wooden chair?" and while it was crass to state, it was the right question. 

It's easy to imagine a wealthy clientele for whom the costs of your product won't be noticed while it's value is obvious. But aiming squarely at a "wealthy" clientele has some inherent risk. Only a small portion of society has such deep pockets and the competition for their dollars is high. As the maker, it’s all too easy to equate your assessment of the value of the time, skill and materials in a piece and imagine that you can think like a “rich” person “ who will have no problem dropping their cash in response. This is not a business plan that I would bet on personally.
To state it plainly, what you make is not valuable until you establish it as such in the mind of your clients.
I’ve sold chairs to library clerks and traded them, at full price for firewood. What is it that connects those folks to the work enough for them to surrender their hard won cash?

As an example, here is an approach that I've taken with my chairs. It's sort of a one act play that I've done a thousand times. 
Know it or not, we all have a deep connection to chairs. My goal is to expose folks to the choices that I’ve made in materials, construction, design and tooling and the ways that this affects the result. 
Usually, interested people see the chairs from across the room and notice the overall impact of the design. The gesture of the chair, the lightness, something different from the norm. As they approach the chair, they begin to notice the shapeliness, the subtle tool marks and the thinness of the parts. Then they touch it, contacting the smooth surfaces and the tooling, noting that not every surface has been treated the same. Upon sitting they smile, never having sat in a wooden chair that flexes and feels comfortable. While they sit I can take a moment to demonstrate the role of hand tools and split wood in the production of the chair, not as a romantic gesture but as a means of gaining strength, comfort and durability.
When they stand, I ask them to pick the chair up. It never fails that they laugh as the chair is much is so much lighter than expected. Then I demonstrate the flexibility of the spindles, which usually elicits an audible gasp, and my job is complete. I’ve replaced their previously held assumptions about wooden chairs and as such built a connection. This may not result in a sale, but their engagement is gratifying for both of us and assures me that I am on the right track. Of course this depends on some deliberate choices in the type of product that is made and the quality of the results, which I'll look at in the next post.

Testing your market and educating your community is essential to guiding your production. I spent many weekends at local Farm market craft shows building my awareness of the buying public and my reputation amongst them. After a few years, folks felt like they knew me and had watched my skills grow while they coveted the work, that's when the sales became more consistent and I started to gain a footing. Small time craft shows may not be where you envision your high end products selling, but I've sold lots of chairs there and more importantly, gained a sensitivity to how the public assigns value.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Letter to a Woodworker Part 1

I recently received a letter from a woodworker looking to make a stab at a business in woodworking. Over the years, I've had lots of contact with folks doing this and have tried to share thoughts that I might have benefited from hearing earlier in my career. I touch on my experience in my book, but I thought that the topic warrants a more thorough look. Of course, any time that one addresses this topic it will be through their own lens, so I will describe a bit about my path in later. For the record, I don't consider myself a great businessman, actually not at all, but after many years in the ring, I'm still swinging, so take my comments for what they are worth to you.

For this first stab at a response to his letter, I want to go right to the heart of what I think is the first order of "business" which is figuring out why you want to do it. Quite frankly, woodworking on the small scale is a tough business, so folks jumping into it usually have personal reasons for taking on the challenge. Over the years I met lots of different folks with many interests and sensibilities. The common theme amongst the successful ones is that they hold true to their interests and are very aware to nurture them, while keeping an honest assessment of how the results translate to the buying public. 
So what drives you to want to make a living in woodworking?

Are you an artist bent on self expression?
Do you see money growing in the trees and spread sheets thrill you?
Do you love wood as a material and just want to be around it?
Does furniture of all sorts fascinate you?
Does the curl of a shaving from a handplane fill you with a sense of wonder and accomplishment?
Does the hum of a well tuned jointer make you swoon?

It's usually some sort of mix of all of the above. The nature of your interest must be the first question you address, because the job of mastering your process and contending with the buying public won't mean a thing if it isn't in line with how you want to spend your time and effort.

If you are a businessman at heart, you have a good chance of doing well because you can quantify the public desire for a product with cool detachment, price out the tooling, materials, labor and competition and create a viable business plan. The problem is that I have yet to meet the woodworking enthusiast who wants to trade the workbench for the front office. We are a notoriously romantic lot. Besides, a person capable of detaching their passion that way would quickly assess that carpet cleaning and home meat delivery have much more growth potential.

For the artist, I have bad news, but you probably already know this. For most folks bent on self expression, the market is fickle and a life of fulfillment will most likely come from your deep and lasting connection to your creations and process. Good marketing and extraordinary talent can overcome this, but if you are looking to quit your day job, beware, it’s a tough transition.

If you are a furniture nut, you have a leg up on getting started because you, more than most, can already relate to the viewpoint of your potential client base. It’s a very different person that covets a piece of furniture than one that admires the construction and wants to build one, but it’s easy to confuse the two. I admire the skill and achievement of lots of furniture, but it mostly sends me reaching for my sketchbook, not my wallet. It takes discipline to not confuse the two.

If you think that anything made would be better made of wood, you might have a tough time understanding why the exquisite bubinga toothbrushes you make aren’t flying off the shelf, “don’t they see the figure? Most humans find the warmth and beauty of wood to be pleasing, but inappropriate use and overuse is as much of a turnoff as eating a dinner of all starch. For most folks, wood will be a welcome accent and they will never rise to your level of attachment, or at least not enough to detach them from their money.

If you are a confirmed shop monkey, you might find yourself in the most tricked out shop of lovingly restored machines and elaborate dust collection with no real driving passion to make anything but a better crosscut sled and mirror polish on handplane soles. This is a tough one, because you have to sell something to pay for all that stuff. Lots of machinery can be bought at a bargain price and be brought to life, but you aren’t creating value unless you make something with it or sell the machine. Selling the machines might be better business plan for you if you love the tools. Of course, parting with your “babies” might cause some post partem depression.

If you are a hand tool and old technology lover, you are probably comfortable with the notion that you aren’t going to be the fastest, but in your mind the most genuine. This is a tough sell for the public who might admire your skill and passion, but refuse to subsidize your quaint ways. Hand tools are indeed fast and effective, and have many advantages when it comes to expense, storage, power and maintenance. But to be a viable path to production, you will need to make choices about the product and materials that bring them up to speed with the value that the public puts on the end result.

Defining your interest and relating it to the buying public is the first step in assessing your potential for supporting yourself from your woodworking. It's tough, because let's face it, woodworking fascinates you and it's easy to mistake this for value in the minds of potential clients. The other honest assessment that you will need to consider is about your needs. You will most likely have to "need" less for a while as you sort out your skills, product and market. So the first step isn't buying the tools or mastering dovetails, nope it's harder than that, it's a long hard look at how you want to spend your time and what kind of life you hope it will bring you.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Studley I ain't

Yep, I was one of the lucky ones who got to get up close and personal with the toolchest of H.O. Studley in Iowa a couple of weeks ago.
Yes, it verges on woodworker porn, but as a composition and tribute to a lifes work, it is spectacular. Of course you can get the new book "Virtuoso" from my friends at Lost Art Press if you want more.

Here is my current version.
Not quite the tribute that I'd want to be remembered by! I'm in the process of moving my shop to my new home in Roslindale which is just on the southern end of Boston proper. I've been weeding out possessions and categorizing them by which are most used and which can be stored.

I just returned from a month on the road where I taught a class at Caleb James' shop and also in Rio Grande, Ohio. Both classes went swimmingly. I especially loved getting to watch Caleb at work making planes. Below is a detail of the seat that I carved during class at Calebs.

Here is an especially cool shavehorse that a student brought into class in Ohio.
The horses that I brought (built from the plans in the book) performed great and stacked nicely for transportation, but I must admit that they can't hold a candle to their ancestor in the beauty department.

Here is a shot of the finished seat. I have always wanted to carve a seat like this. I made the mistake of leaving the top dry fit when I went to humid Ohio and the parts locked tight. I figured that I could wait til winter and try to get it apart, but instead I just wedged it and painted it.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Added Classes and Fresh Materials!!

 I am sensitive the fact that acquiring high quality green wood is one of the earliest and most daunting hurdles in getting started in green wood chairmaking. I cover many ways to work around this in my book, but there really is no substitute for the experience of working the stuff green. So I'm happy to say that I'm working with my friend, former student and chairmaker Dan Monsees to offer green splits of white oak and hard maple turning blanks for sale. I have absolutely no financial stake in this, I am just working with Dan to make sure that he gets the best material that I would want to work with and from there, I know he can offer it to you. You can see his offerings here. I hope you'll check it out.

Big Dan cheesing it up with his chair in my NY shop
The classes that I'm teaching in South Carolina, Washington and Ohio are filled up, so I decided to add a 6 student summer class in Boston at The North Bennet Street School. I like the 6 student format, it's plenty to create a great class dynamic but few enough that me and my assistant can give all the personal attention needed. It starts Monday August 17th and runs through Saturday. For information and registration details you can contact the school or click through their website. We will be building the Balloon back featured in my book and for those who prefer it, we can make a Fan Back instead. I'm very excited to have the book as a companion to teaching, I think it will add a lot to the class and certainly make it easier to build more chairs afterward.

It's been great getting feedback from folks reading "Chairmaker's Notebook". After some mailing glitches that kept me waiting to see the final print copy (it was torture watching others announce that they'd seen it!), I finally got my hands on it and am very happy with the results. Once again, thanks to Chris, John, Linda, Megan and all the folks behind the scenes who helped make one man's mania into an actual book!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

The Eagle has Landed

OK, maybe a bit of overkill, but I am proud to say that the final print edition of "Chairmaker's Notebook" is shipping to all the folks who pre ordered and who are currently placing orders. You can order it from Lostartpress.com.
I've been spending time getting ready for my trip around the country. I will be in South Carolina teaching at Caleb James' shop and then on to Iowa for Handworks and then to University of the Rio Grande in Ohio to teach a class to a Sapfm chapter. There are a couple of spots that have opened in the class in Ohio that are available if you are interested. You can contact me and I'll forward your email to Eric Matson who will give you the lowdown.

I have managed to sneak away for a proper vacation, which was a welcome and needed break. I was in Costa Rica with my lovely companion Stephanie Hubbard. Here we are in La Amistad International Park. It's the largest protected area in Central America.
We hiked three hours up this riverbed to get to a waterfall and saw a deadly bushmaster snake, bullet ants and poisonous spiders the size of your face. A great time to be sure.

Here is a quick plug for the lodge we stayed at. It's called Selva Bananito and is off the grid and nestled in the rainforest. The owner was very generous with us and is obsessive about keeping his land as habitat for all the pumas, jaguars and other large cats and wildlife that roam around. Knowing that our vacation dollars were going to help made a beautiful place all the better.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Jo got Schwarzed

I have a whole post written to announce the availability of the hand bound editions of "Chairmaker's Notebook" the Johanna Smick is producing. But I'm away from the office and Chris already posted on it, reducing the number of available copies from 45 to 15, so I figured I should post quick to give Chairnotes readers the chance that I promised them! Visit www.monkfishbindery.com to order yours and check back in for a proper post about the book (although Johanna has great posts on her site all about it)

Friday, February 27, 2015

I will not be intimidated...much

My toolbox build is progressing in tiny bits between other work and chipping ice off my roof. I've decided to focus on putting the chairmaking essentials in this box and then to make another for jigs and common tools. I want to be so comfortable working out of these boxes that I can stop the tedious packing and unpacking cycle that constantly invades my world.

 I'm following much of Jim Tolpin's advice and creating organization of the tools first and then designing to fit them. I mocked up a few boards and loaded it with weight and found that at 25" tall X 26" wide and 12" deep that it was just a bit unwieldy. I plan on moving this thing around a lot, so while cramming in 80lbs of tools sounds great, I know that one wrong move will be enough to ruin my day (week).

Now the box is 9-3/4" deep X 22-3/4" tall and 24-3/4" wide. It's a similar dimension to a box that I used for years, just a bit taller.
The hardest part so far is not actually cutting dovetails for the first time in 15 years. It's the two North Bennet Street toolboxes in the shop mocking me while I cut my joints.
This is Charlie Ryland's box. So you can imagine that when I reached for my trusty dovetail saw, I felt a pang of self consciousness.
Yes, this is my weapon, Stanley's finest $7 saw. I filed the teeth off and cut new teeth with zero set. The handle is no joy, but it tracks beautifully and cuts a laser thin kerf, which is helpful when you are as rusty as I am at this. Of course, unlike Charlie and his white oak, I am cutting my joints in pine... lovely forgiving pine.

My mock up box gave me some practice, and after making some rookie mistakes, I got back in the groove. No, I will not be showing the mistakes, those toolboxes are still staring at me.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Planes, Trains and Automobiles

The past decade has seen me running all over the map. I've taken lots of trips to teach and it's always a challenge to get all the tools packed and figure out how to transport them and work with them once I've arrived. Now that the book is off my plate, I am turning my attention to the next few months of traveling and teaching. I will be in South Carolina, Iowa and Ohio, followed very closely by Washington state.
When I fly, I pack up a bag and check it as luggage, but for lots of these classes, I will be driving, so I've decided to finally put in the time to design and build my ultimate chairmakers toolbox. I've worked out the list of tools that need to fit in it for years and have jumped back and forth with design ideas. With the help of Jim Tolpin's wonderful 'The Toolbox Book', I am ready to take the plunge. I'll post the process and design as I go. For me, building a box takes a bit of a shift in mindset, but after the hiatus caused by the book, any shop time is welcome and exciting!

On the personal note, I've gotten lots of questions about my plans and destination in the coming year. I was headed south to Asheville, but a couple of events have change my thinking and I plan on sticking in New England to see them out.
One, is that I have developed a close relationship that I am thoroughly enjoying and wish to continue and the other is that I am partnering with the North Bennet Street School to host chairmaking classes at their wonderful new facility in the Boston's historic North End. I've taught at the school for years and have secretly wished to deepen my connection there. I will post more on the dates and details as they become solid.
Boy does it feel good to post here again. Writing the book was an incredible process, but this is home.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Now I Sleep

For visitors to Chairnotes, it's been a tough year. The blog posts are few and far between and when they do come, they are full of empty promises and excuses. Well, I'm still full of both, but I am very pleased to announce that "The Chairmaker's Notebook" is finally available in digital form and preordering for the print edition (shipping March 20). This is the biggest project that I've undertaken and I will tell a little more of the story later. But for now, I want to thank Chris Schwarz, John Hoffman, Linda Watts and Megan Fitzpatrick for joining me as I slid down the rabbit hole. Anyone who knows me is familiar with my approach...
start something and then follow it regardless of rationality until it somehow screams uncle. And this book was no different. Honestly, there have been times that I've looked back at it with a bit of embarrasment as it's the perfect portrait of a man obsessed. But while I will apologize for the delays, I won't for my obsession. Chairmaking has been and will be my guiding light in woodworking and for me, has delivered all the promise of joy that I wanted from a life in woodworking. I hope you'll join Chris, John, Linda and Megan and jump down the rabbit hole with me. You can order the book at Lostartpress.com

Monday, January 5, 2015

Getting a Jump on 2015

I hope that you had a great holiday season and are as ready as I am to embrace a new year. I am sending off the last of my images for the book tomorrow and Chris and Linda at Lost Art Press are working hard on getting it all put together. I'm thrilled to see it all coming together and look forward to starting this year with such a big project off my roster.

With that in mind, here is my teaching schedule as it stands now. There won't be a lot of classes for me this year, frankly, I feel like I've kinda earned a break. But, I am excited for the classes that I am teaching so here are the details. You can contact me at peter@petergalbertchairmaker.com or 978-563-1425 to register or if you have any questions.

Early March (exact date to be set) THIS CLASS IS FULL
Balloon Back side chair

3 student class taught at my shop in Sterling
6 day class, tuition $1400
Don't be fooled by the simple looking side chair, it has plenty to challenge new and even seasoned makers looking to raise their skill level. I have taught this class a number of times recently and am convinced that the students learn more, make a better chair and have more fun doing it rather than tackling an armchair. For a 6 day class, armchairs are alright, but the extra time producing twice as many spindles eats into the time for indepth instruction and skill building
All classes that I host require a $250 deposit to hold the spot. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions about the classes.

I'm very excited to team up with Caleb who will be hosting this class and hopefully many others in the future. I will be teaching the class with the help of Charlie Ryland who has been helping me in the shop and teaching with me for the last year.

May 4th in Greenville, SC at the shop of Caleb James This Class is Full!
Balloon Back Side Chair
6 students/ 6 day class, tuition $1300

I will be back at the Port Townsend School of Woodworking June 15th for a class building the Balloon Back side chair. You can find more info on their website.

I will also be teaching more in house classes at the North Bennet Street School, The Sapfm in Ohio and a series of classes down under in Australia. I might schedule more as the year marches on, but as I said, a little breathing room, and chairmaking/ blogging time seems like just the thing for 2015!