“I got it second-hand…”

I keep showing up on the second-hand market! I started making furniture between 1978-80. That’s closing in on 40 years…which is a lot of furniture. During the past few years, I have heard of/seen a number of chairs I made showing up in antique/collectibles shops, auctions, and even one at…well, you’ll see. Here’s a couple examples –

This continuous arm settee I made back in 1992. A friend bought it not too many years ago, along with a windsor rocking chair, in a house-moving/divorce sale (I think). I wish I had known, I’d love to have this settee – I doubt I could make it again…but I know it’s appreciated where it now resides.

 

This next one I did buy, and sold again. I had it in my shop for years, a fellow called me up one day asking if he could buy it & he did. Then a couple years later, another friend called me to say one of my carved chairs was in an auction in Maine. I eventually got it through the auction, and called a couple who has collected several of my carved pieces. I offered them this chair at a reduced price, and they said they’d love to, but were out of room. An hour later, they called back & said they made space.

wainscot chair

 

Another wainscot had a slightly sad story to it. I made it at the museum as an award (I was the awards department for quite a while) – for our former co-worker Karin Goldstein. Sadly, Karin died quite young, from cancer. Just shy of 50 maybe. When she died, she had no local family, and some of her stuff ended up in a local shop. Another friend saw this, called to confirm it was my work, and ended up buying it for his wife, a good friend of ours, and of Karin’s. So a semi-happy ending.

This week I got a note from another friend who found a chair “made by the guy at Plimoth Plantation” – well, sort of. I was there for 20 years, but I made this chair well before that – I’d say late 1980s, maybe into 1990/91. She got it for $45. Even I could afford that!

The last one in this batch has the best story. Found at the swap shop in the Hingham, Massachusetts town dump! $5.00. A friend got it after some tussling with other dump-shoppers, and gave it to us.

I made a lot of chairs, but way more carved boxes – where are my carved boxes? Maybe they’ll be out on the 2nd-hand market in a few more years…

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They’re so 20th century…

I have been trying my hand at some at 20th-century woodworking. Going back to where I started, making a ladderback chair like the ones I learned from Jennie Alexander and Drew Langsner. I made them quite often back in the 1980s, but by 1992 I probably made my “last” one. The only ones I made since then were two small ones for the kids when they were little, December 2009. Here’s Daniel showing how much they have outgrown them.

This is one of the late-period chairs Alexander made with our friend Nathaniel Krause. Slender, light, but strong. Very deceptive chair.

But for years, I was swept up in the 17th century – and chairs, turned or shaved, were HEAVY. Here’s one of my favorites I made back then, maple, with oak slats. The posts for this are probably almost 2″ square. The rungs are 1″ in diameter (same as JA’s posts!) with mortises bored 3/4″ in diameter.

 

Some of the turned ones are even heavier, and this is not the biggest. All ash.

So today I shaved the rungs down to size, with 5/8″ tenons. The rungs are not much heavier than that – they don’t need to be. The rungs have been dried after rough-shaving, in the oven until the batch of them stopped losing weight. Then shaved down to size.

I bored a test hole in some dry hardwood, then jam the tenon into that hole to burnish it. then spokeshave down to the burnished marks. I skew the spokeshave a lot, to keep from rounding over the end of the tenon.

Long ago, I learned to bore the mortises at a low bench, leaning over the posts to bore them. Later, Alexander and Langsner started doing the boring horizontally. Use a bit extender to help sight the angle, and a level taped to the extender too. It’s so sophisticated. I’m sure today’s ladderback chairmakers have passed me & my brace by…

it’s a Power Bore bit. Was made by Stanley, I guess out of production now. I have an extra if something happens to this one. 

Then knock the side sections together, check the angles, and bore for the front & rear rungs.

Still needs to go a little to our right..that’s a level in my hand, checking to get the side frame oriented so the boring is level.

Then more of the same.

Then I knocked it together. Yes, I used glue. Probably not necessary, the oven-dry rungs will swell inside the somewhat-moist posts. but the glue doesn’t hurt anything. I never glued the larger chairs pictured above.

I got the frame done. Next time I work on it, I’ll make the slats from riven white oak. I’ll steam them & pop them in place. then weave a seat. Either hickory bark or rush. Bark is best.

Small tool kit – those pictured here, plus riving tools, a mortise chisel. Saws for trimming things to length. Not much else. Oh, a pencil. Yikes.

Greenwood Fest Instructor: Pete Galbert

I’ll just do two of these today, then registration opens this morning at 10 am eastern time. http://www.greenwoodfest.org/  – then it will be back to actual pictures of woodworking on the blog, some joinery & carving. wait til you see it…

I’ve got a lot of mileage out of a remark that I make in classes, and I’ll get it over with here. “I hate Pete Galbert” I tell students all the time. They are shocked, and lean in so to not miss some juicy rant…but in the end they are disappointed. It’s just that he’s written the best woodworking book I know, & illustrated it himself. Makes it hard for those of us with books in the works. There, that’s out in the open, now we know how I feel.

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Pete, in case you have somehow avoided his work – is right up at the top tier of American chairmakers. He & I have  known each other for several years now, travelling on the same circuit/circus – Lie-Nielsen, Lost Art Press, etc. So we’d bump into each other once or twice a year, but it’s always brief, then we each go off to our demonstrations & classes. He’s moved to Massachusetts now, but we still haven’t got together – he’s always off somewhere, teaching people to make chairs.

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two views of crest carvings; before & after burnishing & oiling

Pete’s one of those woodworkers who is always improving. He does not just keep repeating what he does, but tinkers with techniques, tools (he’s developed some great chairmaking tools) construction – his work is always evolving. He & I have not sat down & figured out exactly what he’s doing in the festival, but I know it’s worth seeing. A great teacher & chairmaker, this will be his first time with Plymouth CRAFT, we hope it’s the beginning of something. Oh, & he’ll probably bring that great book of his too. You should get it if you haven’t already. Every time I look at it, I’m itching to make a Windsor chair again.

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I swiped all these photos from his website (the top one is old, not sure he keeps goats in Boston)  – http://www.petergalbertchairmaker.com/  and here is Instagram https://www.instagram.com/petergalbert/

the book https://lostartpress.com/collections/books/products/chairmakers-notebook

Stupid me – I forgot Tim Manney!

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he’s not holding a cricket, he’s carving a spoon!

Sorta. Tim will be an integral part of our Greenwood Fest next month, and way back when I was posting bios about the presenters, I asked Tim for a blurb. One thing he stinks at is self-promotion. So I asked for more info, and somehow it got past me & I once in a while kept thinking “I gotta write up Tim…” – So sorry, Tim, it took so long. Look forward to seeing you in Plymouth next month. 

Tim makes excellent chairs, tools, and spoons. He’s particularly passionate about spoon-carving.

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I’ve written before about one approach he uses, which is to steam-bend blanks for spoon carving. Don’t dismiss this as some whacky notion – it’s another example of using spoon carving to learn some further-flung techniques applicable to many woodworking tasks. Tim knows wood technology very well, his chair-making is top-notch. https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/2014/10/08/what-if-a-chairmaker-made-spoons/

At the Festival Tim will lead some students through the process he uses for steam-bending spoon blanks, and demonstrating some ladderback chairmaking techniques. Make sure you get to see Tim in action.

Here’s what he wrote:

“I started carving spoons on a stump behind my college dorm, quickly got obsessed, and started tracking down everyone that I could learn anything about spooncarving from.  After meeting Curtis Buchanan at Country Workshops, he invited me to live and work with him in Tennessee and learn to make Windsor chairs.  Working with Curtis in his small chair shop gave me a model of how to run a small production workshop and I’ve been building my life around that model ever since.

After leaving Tennessee and moving to Maine I started making chairs, but with the help of another Windsor chairmaker, Pete Galbert, I found a niche for myself making hand tools.  Pete and I collaborated on the design of a reamer and an adze and I have spent the last four years producing those tools to order.  The tools are a product of the combination of our experience in building chairs, prolific prototyping, and endless experimentation.  It’s a fun process.  The results are tools that are easy to control and, we hope, intuitive to use.

I currently work out of a small workshop in Maine where I produce the tools that Pete and I designed, make Windsor and ladderback chairs, and continue to obsessively carve spoons.  Spoon carving is the foundation of all of my woodworking and it continues to provide a playground for shape, form, function, and aesthetics that informs everything else.”

a gallery of some of Tim’s work:

His Instagram page is here: https://www.instagram.com/tim.manney/ 

Huck Finn is just ignorant, that’s all

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kid’s ladderback chair

Back when I started green woodworking, chairs were my thing. I learned them first from John (Jennie) Alexander’s book Make a Chair from a Tree, then slightly later from Alexander first-hand. In that book is the incredibly amazing technique of stripping hickory saplings for the inner bark, to be used as a seat-weaving material. To me, the best seating material going – looks and feels better the more you use it. (the notion for this photo came from one Tim Manney did a few weeks ago – thanks, Tim)

 

bark seat

Like pounding ash splints for basket-making, peeling hickory for the inner bark is a concept that amazes me every time I do it. I rarely get to harvest any hickory bark these days, but keep a stash of strips for basket work. I was lashing the rims onto some baskets the other day, and although I have some very fine smooth ash splints that are ideal for this work, I also have some leftover hickory bark. Unbeatable.

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Working with it reminded me of two references to it in Mark Twain’s work – the first one I remembered is from the Autobiography, (the modern vol 1; for that matter the old volume 1 too) When describing his uncle’s farm in Missouri, he mentioned:

“Down the forest slopes to the left were the swings. They were made of bark stripped from hickory saplings. When they became dry they were dangerous. They usually broke when a child was forty feet in the air, and this was why so many bones had to be mended every year.”

In the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Tom Sawyer is advising Huck Finn to get a sheet with which Jim will make a rope ladder in planning his escape. Huck has other ideas:

“Why, Tom Sawyer, how you talk,” I says; “Jim ain’t got no use for a rope ladder.”

“He has got use for it.  How you talk, you better say; you don’t know nothing about it.  He’s got to have a rope ladder; they all do.”

“What in the nation can he do with it?”

Do with it?  He can hide it in his bed, can’t he?”  That’s what they all do; and he’s got to, too.  Huck, you don’t ever seem to want to do anything that’s regular; you want to be starting something fresh all the time. S’pose he don’t do nothing with it? ain’t it there in his bed, for a clew, after he’s gone? and don’t you reckon they’ll want clews?  Of course they will.  And you wouldn’t leave them any?  That would be a pretty howdy-do, wouldn’tit!  I never heard of such a thing.”

“Well,” I says, “if it’s in the regulations, and he’s got to have it, all right, let him have it; because I don’t wish to go back on no regulations; but there’s one thing, Tom Sawyer—if we go to tearing up our sheets to make Jim a rope ladder, we’re going to get into trouble with Aunt Sally, just as sure as you’re born.  Now, the way I look at it, a hickry-bark ladder don’t cost nothing, and don’t waste nothing, and is just as good to load up a pie with, and hide in a straw tick, as any rag ladder you can start; and as for Jim, he ain’t had no experience, and so he don’t care what kind of a—”

“Oh, shucks, Huck Finn, if I was as ignorant as you I’d keep still—that’s what I’d do.  Who ever heard of a state prisoner escaping by a hickry-bark ladder?  Why, it’s perfectly ridiculous.”

————-

It’s November here now, no time for harvesting any bark. But come spring, I’m going to keep my eyes out for a good hickory sapling. My stash is getting low.

stash

the happiest woodworker I know

I followed a link tonight and got to the happiest woodworker I know. Great to hear Curtis’ views, he’s the real thing. I haven’t seen him in a while, it was nice to hear him twang. One thing he’s wrong about – he claims he’s not the best. Nonsense. He’s the best.

http://www.finewoodworking.com/item/114435/curtis-buchanan-windsor-master

 

His website: http://www.curtisbuchananchairmaker.com/

Greenwood Fest June 2016

I’m home. For a good long while now. I have lots of sorting to do, so I can get ready for some woodworking, and some local workshops with Plymouth CRAFT. http://plymouthcraft.org/?post_type=tribe_events

While trying to catch up on a few things, I noticed this on their Facebook page:

 

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Plymouth CRAFT created an event: June 10-12, 2016:  Greenwood Fest

Paula Marcoux included a little snippet, in effect just trying to get you aware of the dates. Then meanwhile, you’ll have to take our word for it that it will be worth your time.

“Three days of hands-on learning, with a dreamteam of international instructors, in a beautiful piney woods camp setting. Okay, so we don’t even have a website up for this event yet, but it’s time to mark your calendars. Much more coming soon.”

 

I’ll let you know more when things are ready, should be pretty soon. Worth the wait…

http://plymouthcraft.org/

https://www.facebook.com/CRAFTPlymouth