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