Today, Monday, we start a Part I Foundational Workshop in the New Legacy New York School. Over the weekend I was sharpening saws ready for the class but I left a couple for teaching with. Saw sharpening begins with tooth shaping and then setting the teeth. Sharpening quickly follows and after about ten minutes the saw is usually done. Handsaws is the general category name for long saws of 20-26” long. I have a couple of shorter ones and a couple of longer ones but the popular sizes are 20-24”. This is the plate alone and not the handle included. We tend to call shorter versions panel saws after their common usage in cutting panels both with and across the grain: That’s ripcut and crosscut saws.
I brought saws with me from the UK and then a friend brought in a plastic storage box to see if we wanted them. Another half a dozen saws that need de-rusting and sharpening. It is no wonder there are so many saws around in bad shape when you think that most woodworkers never master this important but most basic skill. Today we change that in many lives and so too on Friday when we have another Foundational I class that’s almost but not quite full, so if you want to sign in for that go to the schedule page.
I sometimes think that woodworking keeps me sane, especially teaching my craft. John Winter posted pictures of his recent accomplishments in making a rocking chair and coffee table. Beautiful stuff. He was my last apprentice before Phil Adams who is with me currently in the UK and of course we have a training program going on here in New York for several men most of whom have completed the rocking chair and the coffee table levels as well as the whole foundational course. Seeing them grow in skill is my greatest joy and now that they are moving to higher levels my hope is that soon they will start making pieces that develop even more skill before they have pieces for sale in their own right. No matter what, the most important skill that must be mastered is how to sharpen. This all begins with a short but definitive session on sharpening of course and so the first hour of any class begins with the fundamentals of sharpening chisels, planes and saws, setting up the bench planes, starting with the #4 of course and then really looking at other planes critical to good work. Today they will start cutting dovetails, some if not most for the first time. The Shaker candle box is an ideal starter/training project as are many Shaker pieces. Hence my interest in the Shaker hand work and visiting the Hancock Shaker Museum last week. We focus on the three joints in our three foundational workshops and from there on the world is your oyster as far as hand tool woodworking goes.
Watching their faces as we sharpen my chisels is a bit like looking into the eyes of a child when they see something amazing and the sockets suddenly seem too small. But it’s far beyond being amazed that hits me because I realize that within that exaggerated expression something takes place we often cannot see. Absorption. The sponge syndrome, call it what you will, standing around my bench they suddenly get what is happening. A symbiosis of all component parts in hands and eyes and arms and brains absorbs this critical information to say, I know I can do what Paul is showing me.” That’s the melt down of every obstacle that once barred them from sharpening and messing up. Once that happens we start building the skills and with that comes the confidence and more woodworkers become competent to sharpen the tools that once lay dead and helpless and dull.
I will be keeping you posted on developments over the next two weeks.