Monday, July 29, 2013

A Great Week of Woodworking and Fellowship

July 13th thru the 19th was as enjoyable a seven day stretch as I can remember ever having. I spent those seven days in tiny Pittsboro, North Carolina at The Woodwright's School. My wife, Jen, had gotten me the trip as a Christmas gift for the Saturday and Sunday Restoring Wooden Planes class. Then, about two months ago when I told her that Peter Follansbee's Joint Stool class started the day after the plane class ended, she told me to go ahead and book that one also. How cool is that?! She's so good to me. :-) She rode down with me on Friday and stayed with me thru Monday morning, when she had to head back home. We stayed in a nice little bed and breakfast, the Rosemary Inn, that was within easy walking distance to the school. It was a nice little get-away but unfortunately Jen spent most of the weekend battling sinus issues and working in the room. Probably not quite as fun for her as it was  for me. :-(

Saturday morning I headed to my Restoring Wooden Planes class with Bill  Anderson as the teacher. Bill's a great guy and a great teacher. He explains things well and is very helpful with diagnosing problems. I was glad to get my large Clark and Williams smoother operating properly. Ever since I'd bought it, I could never get the wedge to hold. After trying a couple different things with no luck, Bill checked the iron and sure enough, there was a hump on the back side of the iron. A little time at the grinding wheel to hollow out that hump a little and I had a functional premium wooden smoother! I was also able to rehab two dado planes and patched the throat on a vintage smoothing plane. I learned a lot and was glad to get these 4 planes functioning properly. It was a productive weekend for sure.

Sunday night I was like a kid on Christmas Eve waiting for Monday morning and the Joint Stool class with my co-favorite woodworker, Peter Follansbee. Making it even more exciting for me was the fact that Monday morning was to be spent busting open oak logs at the home of my OTHER co-favorite woodworker, Roy Underhill. Monday morning started out with Roy showing us around his place and getting to know the other students in the class. We had a great bunch of guys! The first person I met was Jerome Bias, the joiner at Old Salem historic sight. I was familiar with Jerome from seeing him on an episode of The Woodwrights Shop and from the internet but it was great to actually meet him. There were a couple people who traveled a pretty far distance to attend, Kelly from Dallas and significantly further, Dave all the way from New Zealand! Roy spent most of the week trying to get Dave to try distinctly American/southern dishes ( Chicken and Dumplings, Pecan Pie, etc. ). There was Luke from Virginia who worked as a historical interpreter at a living history museum in the Richmond suburbs, Bill and John, both great guys who were fairly local to Pittsboro, and Tony, who it turns out lives less than 5 miles from me! Small world. Bill Anderson rounded out the class, finishing up a stool he'd started the last time Peter was in town. After some donuts for fuel in Roy's kitchen, we were off the rive some oak. Turns out we had some primo, straight grained oak logs that Elia Bizzarri had sent to Roy. After getting about 40 stiles, 40 stretchers, and 20 aprons ( 1 long and 1 short apron out of each apron blank ) it was back to town for lunch and some hewing and planing at the school. I never had a bad meal all week by the way. Pittsboro's restaurants are all very good! After lunch, we started on the stiles. Green oak planes SO easily and before long we had barrels of shavings all over the place. We also found out the importance of cleaning your tools at the end of every day. The tanic acid from the wet oak will rust out plane irons and chisels in a hurry.

Day two and three were a lot more hewing and planing with I believe some cutting of tenons and chopping of mortices mixed in along with chamfering the stiles and adding lambs tongues. I really enjoyed the new experience of green woodworking. And Peter's method of chopping mortices was better than any I'd ever tried before. He starts in the middle of the mortice and alternately works his way toward both ends. Works great. Thursday I got to do some carving, which was a lot of fun. I used Peter's scratch stock and then found a nice SJ Addis gouge upstairs at Ed's amazing tool store that was just the right size and sweep that I needed to complete the carving on the  aprons.

Friday was the moment of truth when we got to assemble our stools, drilling and drawboring everything together with bone dry oak pegs that Peter had brought with him. A draw bored joint is a powerful strong joint; no glue necessary. I hated to see the week end, but it was very satisfying to see a stool come together from what was a log a few days before. I didn't have time to get the seat board finished and attached before I left, but I got that finished up earlier today, applying a thumbnail profile on the edges using a rabbet plane, a fore plane, and a smoother. All that's left now is to apply some sort of clear finish to the stool and enjoy 400 years of comfortable seating. ( Peter says that they're guaranteed for 400 years, after that you're on your own. )

I can't say enough about how enjoyable  and educational this class was. Peter is a first rate teacher and one hell of a nice guy to boot. He kept the class fun and entertaining all week. I'm really hoping he comes back next year for a carved box or joined chest class. I'll be first in line to sign up for one of those. And God bless Roy Underhill for all he's done and continues to do to promote the craft of hand tool woodworking. He is a tireless champion for the cause. I'm very lucky to have learned from both these men as well as from Bill. Can't wait to get back down there next year!

One of our three prime oak logs.

So this is what we're supposed to end up with?

Our Motley Crew.

Splitting very nicely.

A stack of stretchers and a stack of aprons.

Back at the school squaring up a stile.

Draw boring it all together. That's Kelly in the background.

Getting a little silly. The victory pose after draw boring it all together and weight testing.

Roy, Peter, and myself with my almost completed stool. Doesn't get much cooler than that for me.

Back at my shop, seat board with the edge profiled and pegged onto the stiles.

In the light and shadows.

A little closer look at the carving.


Kelly Scroggins said...

Nice write up Jamie. You're stool turned out really nice.

Did you make the seat out of one solid piece? Or did you glue two pieces together? I'm trying to decide if I want to glue my two pieces together or not.

Jamie Bacon said...

Thanks Kelly!
My seat is two pieces glued together. I decided to glue mine because I wanted to peg it into the stiles and if I remember correctly, Peter said that if you have a two piece seat and you don't glue it, you peg it into the aprons. I will warn you though, if you decide to glue it, let it dry for a few days after you joint the edges before you glue it up or the joint will fail. Don't ask me how I know. ;-)

Anonymous said...

So glad you were up to the trip to Pittsboro (tho I doubt if anything could have kept you away:)) Your stool looks absolutely "amazing". I'm gonna have to get over very soon to check it out.


Anonymous said...

Very nice looking stool and nice blog entry. I would love to take one of those classes. Unfortunately it is not in my budget right now. I guess the DVD is the next best thing.

Frontier Carpenter said...

Nice looking stool!

Bob Rozaieski said...

Awesome job Jamie! What a way to spend a week; Roy & Peter! It's great to hear from you and I'm really glad to hear that you're doing well.

Kelly Scroggins said...


Two of my styles are splitting at the top where the front apron's tenon joins. One of them is splitting down below the mortise. I'm not sure if I should try to peg it or not.

Jamie Bacon said...

Hey Kelly,

I noticed one of my stiles had a crack at one of the holes on the apron and at the hole on the stretcher. I think mine may have happened while driving in the peg though. If it were me, I'd try to peg them but keep an eye on them and re-evaluate after each blow with a hammer. If the crack looks like it wants to spread, stop. You may also want to try to get in touch with Peter and see what he has to say.

Jamie Bacon said...

Thanks Bob. I've been following along with you blogs about riving here recently. This green woodworking is kinda fun. :-)

WA said...

Jamie - great write-up on the class and just a terrific job on your joined stool! Loved the carving you did and it was fun watching it happen.

It was a real pleasure getting to meet and talk with you over the week. And I agree - it was a very special time for us all.

Hope your trip to Wmburg after the class was a good one - perhaps will see you there one day soon.

If you've not seen it yet, check out the book entitled The Chesapeake House" - think you'll find it of interest. Finally picked up a copy myself this weekend at Old Salem (no Jerome in sight that day!).

Bill Auld

Kelly Scroggins said...

Hey Bill! It's like a class reunion here! :)

Jamie Bacon said...

Thanks Bill! It was great meeting you also. I really enjoyed that class, and the people we had in it was a big part of that.
Williamsburg was nice. A bit hot and humid, but nice none the less. Actually going this weekend with my wife for an overnighter. Gonna catch a movie at Movie Tavern and maybe hit one of the plantations along 5.
I had read about Chesapeake House in the CW Journal a few months back. If my tool budget ever gives way to my book budget, I'll have to check into picking that one up.

WA said...

5 is a very cool route to take as we discussed - our standard way to go now - hope you folks have a great time!

And hey Kelly! Are reunion indeed!


Joshua Klein said...

Jamie, I'm glad to hear you had such an awesome week. The stool looks great, my friend. Where did you get that hammer in the picture of squaring up the stile? It looks really nice.

Jonathan Szczepanski said...

Great work Jamie! I have three logs myself waiting for me to work on my stools. It looks like you had fun, and I can't imagine what it was like having both Peter and St. Roy to guide you. That first step onto the stool would have made me nervous. :-) Well done!

Jamie Bacon said...

Thanks Joshua. It was an incredible week for me. The hammer is one I got off eBay a few years back. I believe it's an upholster's hammer, but I find it works great for adjusting plane irons. I'm a sucker for strap hammers.

Jamie Bacon said...

Hey Jonathon. It was a dream week for me, spending an entire week with my two favorite woodworkers. The stool was a lot of fun. It won't be my last one. It's a very liberating way to work. As Peter says, it's the kind of woodworking that'll drive engineer types crazy. :-)

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