Yes, I mean yesterday was a really superb day!
I watched the rockers go onto three rocking chairs yesterday, and several others were in the process of being fitted to the tenons at the ends of the posts. today I will see those parts fitted and also the arms fitted, which completes the joinery of a fairly complex project.
Our task then will be to tackle the leather upholstery for the seat and then that concludes the chairmaking aspect of our course and of course the month-long course itself.
We’ve all changed. I see it. They see it and of course those who know them best will see it. Transforming people from being one thing into another is in many ways the same as taking beautiful wood from a tree and making it into something else that has beauty in its functionality and of course its usefulness and art.
If the benches are too high…
As tables and tool chests stack alongside rocking chairs I see the byproduct of my own work and that is transforming the people I work with to transition them from the more mundane levels of working with machines to actually work the substance of the fibres through the extension hand tools give to their hands.
Watching this transformation thrills me, yes, but it’s not and never has been just a buzz. I think that what they have exceeds by far what I had as an apprenticed woodworker. What they have is more pure and distilled. They have their goal once dreamed of become a reality and now own skills they will possess throughout their lifetime. I transferred my knowledge, skills and abilities to them through a rite of passage they earned through their own investment of energy and time. To do that cost them greatly. Yes they gained, but at what cost?
They had to exchange many things for the process of becoming. Just as my apprenticeship took many years of exchange for me to establish my right to become the master I am, so too these students who came gave up many things in their becoming. It’s no small thing to take four weeks out of your life, live away from home, perhaps in a hotel room, perhaps a tent ( as some here have). It costs in time, effort and finances, but when I see skilled hands performing tasks with new accuracy and precision I feel awestruck!
Today I finished off a walking cane I had started yesterday. This is Bolivian rosewood. I have made one similar from ebony too. I made this cane as a replica of my very first cane I made in 1988 for a woman who had just been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS). She and her husband walked into my workshop in Reagan Wells, Texas and saw my work. They asked if I could make a cane for her. She said, “When you have something incurable like this at my age, you want something pretty and of quality.” I put my heart and soul into designing this cane 25 years ago. When they came back and saw the cane she stood and stared at it for the longest time. The twisted cocobolo had dark hues of every shade accentuated by black stripes running from tip to top in rippling eddies I could never have made and the handle fit her small hands so perfectly. Watching her walk from my shop along the dusty path to their car I though of where the beautiful wood had come from. Just one week before I made the cane, a trucker I knew dropped off a skid he had been using for putting under his pallets before the forklift lifted them from his truck. He had asked me if I could “use some of these old two-by-fours for anything.” I said I could. They were cocobolo and rosewood he’d picked up on his journeys from different parts of South America back to the US.
The only machine I used to make this cane was a tablesaw to rough cut the dimensions. The rest came from hand tools only. All the surfaces were hand planed. The twisted stem came from the Auriou rasps I got from Highland Hardware three weeks ago, some Veritas scrapers (the best in the world in my book), four Narex chisels and a Thorex hammer. I used my own old dovetail saw as well as a Veritas gent’s saw, my UK Stanley folding pocket knife and a Starrett square. Making this cane took me back to the Dry Frio river where I sat on the banks and carved the shaft with my feet dipped in the cool clear water and the summer sun beating down from above. No one will know what I felt that day.
Soon I will be posting on the spoon making and the cane making. I want the films to be ready for this to help show the techniques I used so that will be quite soon now. Also, aside from the training I have been giving, I will be posting on the things that I have made in the last three weeks which include a tool carrier, a tool chest, a personal writing/dining/drawing/laptop table/desk, four walking canes and staffs, a pair of traditional saw horses and more. So, please stay with me. This is the best way to learn from me if you just cannot make it to my classes. Combining my blog with woodworkingmasterclasses.com means you can learn alongside thousands of your fellow enthusiasts worldwide.