It’s five in the morning and my cup of freshly made ‘English’ tea always tastes so good first thing. I love waiting for the new sunrise that sparkles like a diamond as it rises over the trees beyond the river.
This is one of the completed tool boxes. I am about to milk paint mine so will post pictures later with the result. Remember that the tool box at left is only the second dovetailed project this man has made and that the drawers have perfect half-laps too.
My chair was glued up last night as I left the workshop, so I felt contented as I tightened the last clamp and made certain for the last time that the joints were all unhindered and uncompromised in their seating. everyone is at a different level now bit mostly they have the two main front and back frames fully fitted so now its just a question of planing the surfaces with the #4 plane and then roughening the surface with #240-grit sandpaper ready for finish to be applied. many of the students find their hands and the oak turning black from the tannic acid reaction so for them I suggest they leave final planing until after the joints are made. Of course the only reason they need to sand in the first place is because of the marks in the surfaces left from the planers and tabesaws.
My chair came together quickly with no mistakes, which can happen in a heartbeat and do slow you down. I cannot recall how many chairs I have made and of course I have trained dozens of classes over the past two decades with sixteen people in them to make this specific chair and so I always make one alongside them to encourage them and to set the standard. Oak is such a pleasing and easy wood to work with hand tools. Split-cutting tenons and shaving them to dead size takes only a minute or two and so being advantage by its intrinsic properties means it works fast.
We have only one incomplete coffee table, so that will be concluded soon I think, but everyone started their Craftsman-style rocking chair regardless. We should have all of the projects finished on time, which I think is remarkable. I don’t think that there is another course in the US or Europe that produces such high standards in such advanced pieces in so short a time using only hand tools. I am grateful for the investment of time and effort taken by my students who constantly surprise me with quality work.
Today we will be as busy as ever. Most of the chairs will be glued up by this evening, but there is still much work to do as we shape the rockers and arms, prepare for the leather upholstery and so on. It’s a demanding project, but because of the groundwork we do in edge tool sharpening and tool techniques around my bench every day we quickly develop the skills I learned as an apprentice and it’s this that makes the difference. We have a another month long class proposed following the same plan as this one for next year and also another month long which follows a different path and covers carving and inlaying, concepts of design and again using projects as the vehicle for imparting skill. I must often remind my students that the projects they make are of secondary value to the skills they must master. Not one of them now hesitates to sharpen their tools or adjust them to task. Combining these missing ingredients with a working knowledge of hand tools has made them into workmen capable of creative work working with an wood and all of that within about five weeks around the bench.