Saturday, July 26, 2014
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!