Wednesday, November 19, 2014

My Dearest Friend....

As many of you know, Jamie battled with Stage IV Peritoneal Carcinomatosis since being diagnosed in March of 2010.  His battled ended Tuesday morning, November 18th, while at home surrounded by so much love.  From the first day of diagnosis to the last moment he drew breath, Jamie showed the strength and courage that has become an inspiration to myself and all of those who knew him.  He never gave up hope or stopped living his life.  His biggest dreams were accomplished after cancer came into our lives and he created a bond so strong with his daughters that his passing will not break.

From the posts I have read before and since his passing, Jamie has an extended family beyond us.  The thoughts and kind words have deeply touched me.  He is one of the most talented, passionate men I have met and he has left his mark on us all.  Thank you from all the parts of my soul for being in his life, even if it was a text message, an email, a blog comment, a facebook voice, or an Instagram follower.  Jamie will forever live in our hearts and he will be missed more than words can convey.  I am so proud of the man he was and the fight he gave.  His journey is just beginning, but his battle is over.  Please keep him in your thoughts as the days move forward and keep him close.

God bless you all for being his family...


Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Another New Hobby/Obsession

In a recent blog post back in July, I'd hinted about a new form of woodworking I'd recently become excited about that wasn't as physically taxing on my body, yet was every bit as challenging and rewarding as furniture making. And that new obsession is spoon carving.

I'd actually done a blog about it once before, back in January, where I chronicled my very first spoon; an anniversary gift for my wife Jen. I pretty much knew after that spoon that it was something I wanted to pursue further. I've carved quite a few spoons since then; some out of Cherry, Apple, Beech, and Sycamore. I've found my favorite wood so far to be Beech, although I'd like to try some Apple spoons with wood that is freshly cut from the tree. The Apple I used had been cut about 6-8 months earlier and had dried to the point where it was really hard to carve. Spoon carving wants to be a green woodworking endeavor as it carves much easier when freshly cut. The older I get, the more I seem to be drawn to green woodworking of all sorts. I think there's just a closeness to the wood that you get building or carving something that you rived out of a log and worked into a useful object, like a spoon, or a joint stool, or a ladder back chair, that you just don't get from a piece of kiln dried lumber you buy from the hardwood store.

So anyway, this has proven to be a very relaxing and satisfying form of woodworking for me given my decreased strength and stamina of late. And I had no idea just how popular spoon carving is worldwide until I got researching and delving into it. There are some people out there that do some absolutely phenomenal work. I also found that they have a huge gathering in Britain each year called Spoon Fest and one in Milan, Minnesota also. Not sure I'll ever get to the  one in England, but I've got the one in Minnesota in my sites.

So with that new avenue of mine revealed I'll leave you with some pictures and a promise of another blog post real soon chronicling some shop expansion and the start of something COMPLETELY different for me. It's off to bed for now though. Leaving early tomorrow morning for Winston-Salem, North Carolina and my first ever Woodworking in America Conference and Show. Should be a great time. I feel like a kid on Christmas Eve tonight. :-)


Ordered this spoon from one of my spoon carving inspirations, Peter
Follansbee. Made a big difference to be able to actually hold and see
first hand what a properly made spoon was supposed to look like.

My first "successful" spoon. I liked it at the time. Now it's relegated to the
didn't make the cut pile.

One great thing about spoon carving; this is really all the tools you need
to get going.

My first serving/mixing spoon. Not the greatest, but I find it very useful
for mixing brownie mix and scooping potato salad and such.

The first spoon that I was and have remained pleased with. An eating
spoon for my youngest daughter. She uses hers quite a bit.  :-)

My first attempt at a painted and carved spoon handle. I like this look.

My first spoon commission. A lady Jen works with ordered four to give
to her family as gifts.

Made little custom cards for them for a little personalized touch.

Made this spoon rack the other day to make the spoons more accessible to
get to and use. Carved oak with a couple coats of Soldier Blue milk paint.

Everyone in the house has there own eating spoon now.
Some have two.  :-)

Friday, August 29, 2014

Time to Replenish the Tool Fund - I'll Have Some Eccentric Saws for Sale at WIA This Year

Never really used this blog to sell anything before, but my tool fund is low and with me not able to work for a while now, I think it's best to sell off some of the tools that I just  don't use to get money for some tools that I "need". So, with that being said, I'm going to be bringing 4 Andrew Lunn saws and one Ron Bontz saw with me to WIA this year to sell if anyone is interested. The Bontz saw was bought by me brand new and has made less than half a dozen cross-cuts. It's a half back filed in a hybrid tooth pattern. The Eccentric saws I bought only 3 or 4 months ago because I always wanted some and could never find them, so when I saw these, I jumped on them. Anyone who has been in the hand tool loop for at least 4 or 5 years probably knows of Andrews saws and how they were the finest around when he was still making saws. To my knowledge, he hasn't made saws in 3 or 4 years. I bought these off a woodworking forum site with no intention of re-selling them, but finances now dictate that I do. I have never made the first cut with any of the four. Not sure how much use they got before me, but they are all very sharp. For some reason, every one of them has some staining on the left side of the saw plate as the pictures show. The right side on each one is clean. Weird. Anyway, other than this they are pretty flawless with nice etching on all the brass backs. Not sure what to ask for these yet but obviously, I'd like to add as much as possible to the tool fund. Anyway,  just giving a heads up to anyone who may be at WIA and would like the chance to own one or four of these hard to find saws of Andrews. And I don't mean to slight Ron's half-back in any way. It's a  fine looking saw in it's own right. Ok, here's some pictures.

The Collection. They sure do look purty hanging in the shop.

The  Bontz Tools half-back, 18" saw plate.

Bontz Tools half-back

Dated 2008 on the saw plate.

Eccentric Tenon Saw. 15" saw plate. 4 1/16" under brass at handle, 3 13/16
under brass at toe.

Eccentric Rip Carcass Saw

Eccentric Rip Carcass Saw. 11 1/2" saw plate. 2" under brass at handle,
1 13/16" under brass at toe.

Eccentric Cross Cut Carcass Saw

Eccentric Saw Cross Cut Carcass Saw. 11 1/2" saw Plate.
1 3/4" under brass at handle, 1 9/16" under brass at toe.

Eccentric Dovetail Saw

Eccentric Saw Dovetail Saw. 9 1/4" saw plate. 1 5/16" under brass at handle,
1 1/8" under brass at toe.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

My Long, Strange Journey to a Windsor Chair Class

Building a Windsor chair had been on my list of things I've wanted to do for many years. I've always loved the form from the first time I ever saw a sack back Windsor and have since come to develop an affinity for many other styles; the comb back and the continuous arm, as well as the less conventional, like the writing arm chair and the Windsor fan chair.

After considering taking classes at Mike Dunbar's Windsor Chair Institute in Maine (too far away and too much of a "chair factory" type setting for me) and one of Elia Bizzarri's classes at Roy's place (the dates just never lined up for me) I got the nerve to approach Charles Boland of Storybook Joinery when he was demonstrating at the Mount Vernon Colonial Craft Fair about taking one of his classes. Well, a couple more years went by and in that time I got to know Charles a little better from seeing him at other colonial market fairs and through the new Chesapeake chapter of the Society of American Period Furniture Makers (SAPFM). We developed a bit of a friendship and between his knowledge of Windsor chairs and learning how much he researched and knew about the history of Windsors and history in general, I decided that he was the teacher for me. It was time to try to set a date for a class and make this happen.

We decided on the second week of February, 2014 for a sack back chair class in Charles' beautiful shop in Springfield, WV. I was so excited. I'd  check in with Charles once a week or so to let him know how much I was looking forward to it and to just keep in touch. Then, on the morning of January 7th, after sending Charles an e-mail the night before, once again expressing my excitement of the quickly approaching class, I got an e-mail back from Charles saying he needed to talk to me, could he call. Well, it wasn't a good phone call. In the early morning hours of the 7th, a very large truck lost control on icy road conditions and plowed into Charles' shop, knocking it 3 feet off the foundation and doing extensive damage. I was heartbroken about the prospects of my class being cancelled, but felt even worse obviously for Charles losing his shop like that. Building and selling Windsor chairs and fine period furniture is Charles' livelihood and now suddenly he had no place to work. Not surprisingly I got an e-mail two days later saying that he had tried to find other accommodations where he could teach my class, but to no avail. I was extremely disappointed but obviously I fully understood.

Fast forward a few months and a 3 1/2 week stay in the hospital in March/April. By this time, Charles had learned that his shop was salvageable and was well on his way to getting it back in shape. I contacted him about possibly rescheduling the class and he said possibly in October. Well, Jen wasn't too excited about the prospect of me making that kind of drive and being alone away from home for that long with the health issues I was having. So, unbeknownst to me, she called Charles, explained the situation of my health and my subsequent diminished strength and stamina, and asked if he thought I could handle the physical demands of building a chair and if there was any chance he would consider coming to my shop to teach me. He graciously agreed to do just that and tailored the class to fit what he thought I could physically handle. Needless to say I was thrilled and very touched that he'd agreed to do such a thing to help me out. We talked back and forth about it several times and settled on the first week of June for him to come and teach me to build a chair. I was SO excited and at the same time, so fearful something would go wrong to derail the plan. Well, nothing went wrong, Charles made it here, and I had one of the most enjoyable woodworking experiences of my life. The rest of the story can be told in pictures. Thank you Charles for helping me to attain one of my woodworking goals. And thanks for being a good friend.

Day one. Shaving spindles on the shave horse with the spoke shave, in
period clothing.

Leg holes drilled. Now for the spindle holes.

Day two was mostly about shaping the seat. Here,
beveling the bottom of  the seat with a draw knife.

After some adze work, continuing to shape and refine the
seat with an inshave.

Smoothing out some of the marks left by the inshave
with a compass plane.

Reaming the holes to accept the tapered legs. The reamer
and I were not on very good terms. I couldn't seem to get
this part right no matter how hard I tried. Oddly, my
struggle with the reamer seemed to amuse Charles. :-)

Legged up at the end of day two. Still a long way to go
with but one day left.

Drilling holes in the arm with a brace and a spoon bit.
LOTS of holes to drill on a sack back. This was the most
physically taxing part of the whole build for me.

Seating the spindles with a brass mallet and listening for
the dead thud sound that lets you know you're there.

Chiseling a split to accept a wedge in the top of one of
the spindles.

Worn out at the end of the class but some kind of happy
with my chair.

The Master and the aspiring student during day two. Mr. Charles Boland,
who came dressed in great period outfits every day of class, adding to the
experience for me. 

A week or so after the end of class with three coats of
Salem Red milk paint. I was tempted to stop here and
have a red chair. I'm glad I didn't.

And after a couple coats of Pitch Black milk paint.
Again, I was tempted to call it finished here.
Again, I'm glad I didn't.

The pretty much finished chair, after rubbing down with
0000 steel wool to let some red show through the black
and then coating with several coats of danish oil. THIS is
the finish I was looking for.

Signed, sealed, and ready to be delivered. (To my wife and the living room)

The sack back Windsor in it's ultimate resting place after a few coats of
paste wax. So very pleased with the way this came out.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

More Details Coming Soon!

I know the blog has been awfully quiet with no new post for quite a while now, and for that I apologize. It's not because there has been no action in the shop the past two months, it's actually been quite the contrary, it's been a hive of activity out there.

Since my last post, I have had visits to the shop from some pretty major players in the woodworking community. People I feel lucky to call my friends and that have taken time from their busy schedules to make the trip to visit me on my home turf.

One of the giants and innovators of furniture finishing, author/translator of great woodworking books, present and future, and one of the smartest men I've ever met, Don Williams, came by for a visit and spent a few hours conversing. It was fun to get an inside peak of all the things he has planned, from books to classes to barn renovations. Don is one hell of a nice guy and has a great blog over at Don's Barn. Oh, and did I mention he is super smart? But he is smart without making you feel dumb; just a real down to earth guy. This was actually Don's second trip down to the shop to visit; he came back in 2012 before I had even finished and moved in. Thanks Don for taking time out of what has got to be one of the busiest schedules of anyone I know to come visit me. It means a lot to me and I sure do appreciate it. OH, AND he bought me gifts of Pollissiors and a chunk of bees wax. So cool!

My next visitor was here at the shop for three days; Master Windsor chair maker Charles Boland. I've gotten to know Charles through SAPFM and from picking his brain at various colonial craft fairs where he exhibits his skills and knowledge. I have always loved and been fascinated by the Windsor chair in it's many forms. Partly because they were ever-present at so many of the events that created our nation in the 18th century, but mainly just because I find them absolutely beautiful. They were the predominant chair in use at the Pennsylvania State House (later named Independence Hall) during the Second Continental Congress, where the 13 colonies voted for separation from Great Britain and ultimately signed the Declaration of Independence. Thomas Jefferson actually penned the words to that famous document in a revolving Windsor chair of his design that he had a Philadelphia chair maker build for him. The name of that chair maker escapes me, but I can guarantee you that Charles knows who it was. That's one of the things that makes Charles so special, not only is he a master chair maker and fantastic at his craft, but he is extremely knowledgable on 18th century history in general and has done extensive research on the chairs he has built which adds so much to the authenticity of his chairs.

Anyway, the reason that Charles was at my shop for 3 days was one of the other things that makes him so special, his generosity and kindness. As some of you who follow the blog know, I've been dealing with cancer since March of 2010 and this sometimes leaves me with not as much strength and energy as I used to have. It had always been one of my dreams to build an authentic reproduction of an 18th century Windsor using the traditional methods and, obviously, entirely with had tools. Well, my health had gotten to the point, after a 24 day stay in the hospital, where my wife Jen didn't feel comfortable with me making the 3 hour trek to Springfield, West Virginia and being away from home for a week without her to attend a chair making class at Charles shop. So, unbeknownst to me, this wonderful woman contacted Charles and explained who she was and my situation and asked Charles if there were any way he'd consider coming to MY shop to teach me to build a chair. Well, Charles being the person that he is not only agreed to teach the class at my shop for no additional charge than his normal class fee, but also custom tailored the class to shrink it from 5 days to 3 and take a couple of the more physically taxing processes out of the equation so that my body could handle the class. It worked out great and it was one of the greatest experiences of my life. Thanks Charles! More details on the build and the finished results coming here soon.

My third visit, a few weeks ago, was from Jerome Bias, author, passionate woodworker, avid historical researcher, joiner at Old Salem Village in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and all around nice guy! I had learned about Jerome by seeing him on an episode of the Woodwright's Shop with Roy Underhill and by reading an article he did for Popular Woodworking Magazine about Thomas Day, a cabinetmaker and free man of color in North Carolina in the 19th century. Mr. Day was one of the premier cabinetmakers in North Carolina at this time and Jerome portrays him at events and talks that he gives sometimes. Thomas Day was quite the success and has a very interesting story. I highly recommend googling him. But back to Jerome. After knowing about him through the various woodworking outlets I mentioned, I actually got the pleasure to meet him in July of 2013 when I took a week long class at Roy's Place on making a joint stool from instructor Peter Follansbee. We talked quite a bit that week and I instantly knew that he was someone I could hang out with for hours talking woodworking, history, or anything else for that matter. Just a really cool guy to hang out with in general, so I was thrilled a month or so ago when I got an e-mail from him saying he would be in the general area if I was up for a visit. Heck yeah, come by anytime! Well, he did and we hung out in the shop, having lunch and talking woodworking for 3 or 4 hours. I was really sorry he couldn't stay longer. As I said, he's someone I'd never tire of talking to. One of those people were there's never those long periods of silence. Thanks for taking the time Jerome. Hope  to see you in September at WIA!

In addition to all the cool visiting woodworking luminaries, I've become rather passionate about another form of woodworking recently; one that isn't so physically taxing. As a matter of fact, I can sit on my arse on my joint stool with a hewing log in front of me for 95% of it. And I'm REALLY enjoying the new challenge. More details on this coming soon to this very blog. :-)

Also, the shop is in the process of PHYSICALLY expanding a bit to make room for some open air, but under the cover of shade work. This expansion will make it possible and give me the space to delve into my latest passion, the pursuit of the dark arts. Muah ha ha!!! And, as you may have guessed by now, more details to come about this in the near future. And yes, to this very website! :-)

Whew, feels good to blog again. Hopefully you guys will be hearing from me again real soon, expanding on the three subjects I spoke of. Until then, take care everyone!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Colonial Williamsburg Trip Report

Welcome to the Plane Shavings Woodworking Blog / Travel Blog. :-)

This past weekend, my wife Jen and I traveled to Colonial Williamsburg for a weekend at my favorite destination. No different than the many weekends I'd traveled here before except for one major difference; this time we would be staying right in the historic area in a room at the Brick House Tavern. The Brick House is one of two taverns renting individual rooms in Colonial Williamsburg, Market Square Tavern being the other. Both are located on Duke of Gloucester Street about a block and a half apart. The Brick House is right next to the armory complex.

We left our house Friday morning and got into town around noon. We caught a movie at Movie Tavern to kill a little time until our 4 o'clock check in. After the movie, we decided to ride over to the Williamsburg Inn where all check-ins for historic area lodging are handled. The Inn is a first class hotel in every way. The doors to the lobby are opened for you and when we stepped through we were greeted by the sound of a harpist playing in the large sitting area of the luxuriously furnished lobby. Although it was only 2:30, we were able to check in early. After getting some paperwork straight with the friendly woman at the front desk, we met with the concierge to get a few other things situated, mainly confirming our dinner reservations and program reservations. The concierge was also very pleasant and helpful. When it was time to be shown the way to the tavern we were instructed to follow a bell hop in a van who carried our luggage to our room for us after showing us where to park, which was very conveniently directly behind the tavern.

Upon entering our room, I can't say I was blown away by the size or luxury appointments in the room; it was small, no more than 140 sq. ft. not including the bathroom. We were on the second floor in a corner room facing Duke of Gloucester Street. Being it was a corner room, we also had a window on the side of the room which overlooked the armory complex. The bathroom was also not large, and being on the second floor, the front wall of the room followed the roof line of the tavern. The only place this was really a problem was in the shower, where you had about 2 feet of full height shower and then it tapered down with the roof line until it ended at about 3 1/2 feet of height. Not ideal, but manageable. The room was furnished in 18th century style furniture with a queen bed, dresser, two night stands and a small occasional table, and a desk with a windsor chair. There was also an upholstered wing chair in the corner. Where the room really proved it worth was it's location. For me at least, there is nothing like being able to walk out your door at any time and be right in the heart of the historic area. It was also pretty cool to hear the clip-clop of horses go by all day carrying tourist on carriage rides. We definitely took advantage of the location. After going out for another amazing dinner at Aberdeen Barn ( both Jen and I's favorite restaurant in the world ), it was back to our room and our 18th century world. Friday night I walked the historic area til almost midnight taking pictures that I wouldn't normally get and Saturday morning Jen got up and went for a brisk exercise paced walk while I chose a more casual pace armed with my camera again. So nice taking pictures early in the morning before the crowd gets there.

Saturday was our busy day there. I spent most of the day in 18th century dress, which made me pretty happy ( I know, what a weirdo ). I did get asked several times when buying things in the historic area if I had my CW employee card so they could give me my employee discount. :-) We booked a free 2 o'clock program a Great Hopes Plantation called Working the Soil, Healing the Soul. This was about being a slave in the 18th century and the hardships of slavery and the bonds slaves formed with each other to make it through each day. The program was very well presented. Extremely informative and enjoyable. After that hour long program was over, we walked back to our room ( such a nice option rather than having to drive to a hotel in town ) and relaxed a little until our dinner reservation at Kings Arms Tavern at 5:45. We were seated upstairs in a nice room with about 6 tables, authentically furnished for the period. My meal was better that I expected, prime rib with roasted red skinned potatoes and rice. Jen got a seafood macaroni dish and I don't believe she was very impressed with her meal. We both got the soup of the day before our meal, which was a chicken corn chowder with bacon. We both agreed that this was delicious. No room for dessert.

After dinner we walked our food off a little and then met at the Greenhow Lumberhouse for our 8:30 evening program, Ghost Amongst Us. This was fun. It was a candlelit tour that took us inside the governors palace, the Wythe house, and the Geddy house for stories told and acted out by actresses portraying 18th century characters from their stories. The stories were fun, but I enjoyed just being in the building after dark with just the light of a lantern; a much different feel than visiting during daylight hours.

Sunday we got up, did our walks around the nearly empty historic area again, and then toured the Capitol building and checked out the armory complex before having to check out and head home. It was an amazing weekend and being able to stay in the historic area really enhanced my enjoyment of it all. It's a weekend I'll always remember. 

A Friday night picture taken from beside the Post Office

Prentis Store at night

Our Tavern

Beautifully quiet and peaceful in the early morning light

Lathe behind the Wheelwright's Shop

Early morning at the Hay Shop

A different angle of the Hay Shop

Jen and I's favorite tree. A beautiful, sprawling Compton Oak across
from the St. George Tucker house

Me waiting for the Great Hopes program to start. Imagining that I am
looking over my freshly planted tobacco fields at my Williamsburg

Jen staying cool in the shade waiting for the program to start

A picture in our room after changing into my dinner

At Kings Arms Tavern waiting for the meal
Getting a little goofy waiting for our meal. Must've been food deprivation. 

My beautiful bride at Kings Arms Tavern