9-day Class Progress – Day 1

We started class on time and soon a peace settled amidst us as joints began to emerge from squared pieces of pine cut with saws and chisels. Some joints were tight and some slack, soon they will all be tight and the box will stand square on the bench.

DSC_0207The classes are different than machine classes because we are focussing on a range of support techniques not required in machine woodworking. Machines are important, not for skilled work but dimensioning stock, which they do brilliantly. To work with hand tools the most important skill you must understand and develop is how to sharpen planes and chisels. Without this skill you will not become effective in real woodworking. We always spend an hour trying to dismantle much of the misinformation surrounding the essentials. Which stones really work the best? Which of all the silly methods do we discard and just what is ‘sharp’ anyway? DSC_0140By presenting methods that work right there at the bench we know clearly which direction to take. A £3 chisel works as well as a £30 one and an eBay #4 is a superbly effective tool when it’s finely tuned and sharp. Does that mean you shouldn’t buy a good saw or an expensive plane? Not at all.  Just that you can spend a lot or a little, but in the mix of it all, whatever you buy, you must learn to master sharpening.

DSC_0046Today seemed filled with ease and I put this down to the fact that everyone wanted to be there and they wanted to learn. Two key ingredients in the psyche of achieving anything worth achieving. We talked throughout the day about different things but one other ingredient in all of this is the sense that somehow everyone present wanted become more deeply committed to the ambition of becoming a good woodworkers. No one wanted second best but simply good woodworking. That’s what will happen over the next 8 days. yes, I know, it seems impossible, but one thing I have learned is that 99% of doing anything is a made up mind. These people all have a made up mind so that makes them unstoppable.

DSC_0155The rearranged benches and creative workspaces worked well too. New lighting doubled the quality at each bench with one person asking for less light. The shop is not really that big, but it gives me the feeling of reality I want. Other shops I have seen and worked in sometimes feel more like a lab or a kitchen. The floor is plywood. which gives a bit of spring – good for the feet and legs. Underneath is a solid on-edge slate floor that we had to span with joists when we established the school. DSC_0217This gives us a solidity across the whole area. Visitors drop in to see what we are up to, but they respect the ‘Please enter quietly’ signs and we get on with the work. It has been nice to catch up with members of the Woodworking Masterclasses who are in the class. It’s as if I know them and often they comment on how surreal it feels to be in the castle with me after watching our efforts on YouTube and such.

Tomorrow there will be more to show and tell you.