Yesterday’s announcement of the ladderback chair class was a hit. Filled up quickly. We’re toying with the idea of adding a 2nd session some time in 2019. We’ll need to look at schedules to see if Paula, Pret & I have spaces in ours that align with some in the venue. I think Paula will make a waiting list in the mean time.
Right now, I don’t have a lot of classes scheduled for 2019; there’s a couple to be announced in January. And I’ll add some here and there as holes get filled in various schedules. But yesterday I completely forgot to mention we’ve got a spoon carving class coming right up in January. Saturday & Sunday January 19 & 20, with an optional third day on Monday January 21.
That third day is available as a stand-alone; we’re calling it “advanced” but in this case all that means is you’ve gone through the bits about learning knife grips, hatchet work, etc and for this one-day session we’ll be able to concentrate further on spoon shape and design. Most of the work that day will feature natural crooks.
Well. Here goes. 2019 marks my maiden solo voyage in teaching students how to make Jennie Alexander’s ladderback chair. My version of it anyway. We’ll be following the general format I learned from JA and Drew Langsner, who together and separately taught this class for decades. I learned a lot from both of them about this chair; and assisted in classes at both Country Workshops and Alexander’s shop in Baltimore. In the early 1990s I worked with JA on the 2nd edition of the book Make a Chair from a Tree.
Riving, drawknife work, boring with a brace & bit, mortise & tenon joinery, steam-bending. Lots to cover in this class, it’s where I began as a woodworker in 1978.
We’re going to do it as a 6-day class with Plymouth CRAFT, just 6 students in the class. Dates are Friday May 3- Wed May 8th. 6 spots, so if you think you’d like to tackle this (and 6 days of Paula’s lunches) best sign up early.
(Two things – I wrote “solo” but Pret Woodburn will be there to assist much of the time. He just never wants credit for all his helpfulness. And May? – what was I thinking? It’s the pinnacle of the birding year – right after this class, I’m going to Mt Auburn Cemetery to see warblers during their spring migration.)
The 2nd half of my Australia trip was with Glen Rundell, chairmaker in Kyneton, Victoria. Glen kindly hosted a class on making carved oak boxes. Here’s Glen & his son Tom working at carving during one of our lunch breaks.
He just happened to have some English oak he milled years ago, so we dove into carving; filling spaces as much as we could.
Nine students worked all week; learning the carving patterns, then sizing the oak for each box. Working out the wooden hinge; fitting a till – it’s a deceptive project. Lots has to happen just right.
The corners were glued and pegged, Glen made short work of shaving enough pegs for everyone…
We used Peter Ross’ hand-made nails (a bag of nails in your luggage gives the folks in the X-ray area at the airport something to look at…) to attach the bottoms, and the cleats under the lids.
The students did great work. Here’s a shot of 7 boxes – one got away before the photo, one student took his box home to assemble.
It’s calendar time again. Plan ahead and get yours for 2019, 2030 and 2041. Support the folks who are stewards of Bill Coperthwaite’s legacy – details here for the Dickinsons Reach Community – http://www.insearchofsimplicity.net/
I’ve been re-adjusting to life in the Northern Hemisphere after my trip to Australia. When I was in the airports and planes (almost 30 hours of “dead time” each way) – I had some good reading, including a draft of Jennie Alexander’s Make a Chair from a Tree, version 3. This book will be published next year by Lost Art Press.
When I got back up & running in the shop here at home, I assembled one of my JA chairs as my warm-up. After having read so much MACFAT it seemed the thing to do. Now I plan to get back into a rhythm and work on one of these each weekend; either seating, shaving & bending posts or assembly. Next weekend, it’s slats in this new frame.
The first ones I made this year sold, and now I’ve got 5 more underway.
I’m going to begin taking orders for them now, and will begin shipping/delivering starting in late January. If you’d like to order one, I’m offering them for $1,200 each. I’ll take orders up to 10 chairs, beyond that I’ll start a waiting list. I’ll collect a deposit of $200 for each of the first 10 chairs. They are made of either oak (usually red, some white oak rungs or slats) and ash. It all depends on what’s on hand. Right now, it’s red oak and ash. Seating materials will vary between hickory bark (as long as I can get it), and natural rush seats. Optional seating is woven tape seats like Shaker tape. There’s a hemp version of a tape seat that JA really liked, I have yet to use it.
The chair is about 34” high, 18” wide (across the front) and 14” deep. Seat height is 18”.
It’s a medium-sized Spoon Fest – just as you would expect. This year it took place in Pambula Beach, New South Wales. I read about the area on the web, and thought it all sounded like travel/tourist hype, but it actually was more beautiful than the web said. In a rugged/prehistoric way…
The event started off with two 2-day classes, me with spoons carved from (intractable) crooks; and the Wayfaring Stranger Alex Yerks https://www.instagram.com/alex_yerks/?hl=en carving kuksas. If you’re new to Alex’s scene; he’s a wanderer. New York, Minnesota, London – now Australia and New Zealand.
The site was about a 5-10 minute walk from an astoundingly beautiful Pacific beach called Merimbula Bay that stretched for quite a ways. The couple of times I was there, other than the spoon carvers, 3 people meant it was crowded.
We started out under a large marquee (think circus tent if you’re in America) – Alex at one end me at the other.
I had a great group of willing students working their way through some unusual woods as far as I was concerned. I had to preface all my concepts with “Let’s see if this will work in ______.” Some of the woods we tried included Banksia, Casuarina (aka She-oak), Black Wattle, Native cherry (Exocarpos cupressiformis), and I forget what else. They flip around from local names, Latin names and other trees they call by names you’d recognize, but the trees are nothing like what they’re named for. Some of them worked. The black wattle showed promise to me – but then mine checked after a couple of days. I thought I had got it past the critical stage – but then the weather turned warmer and it cracked along the back of the bowl. Here in the more humid (most every place is more humid than southeastern Australia) it looks better.
My students were very patient while I was distracted by every song/flit/swoop/screech of the native birds. This eastern Yellow Robin sat on this tree right in front of one of my sessions, as if to say “get your camera…”
That was a happening two days; filled with ideas, techniques, stories, ant-holes that could engulf a person, a goanna, some kangaroos and spoons galore. One morning, I was hanging around chatting with Spoon Jam regular Annie and she spotted this kangaroo and its youngster –
Alex gave a presentation to the whole group of how he carves his kuksas. Later, he kept exclaiming “I was surprised how many people were carving them!” – we had to remind him that he showed everyone how to do it.
One of my favorite stories of the event involved Alex. I arrived at Jeff & Jules’ place ahead of him by a few hours. I was hanging around, learning about parrots, cockatoos and more from them and their kids Misty (age 9) and Isaac (age 7). Isaac was asking me if I knew Alex.
Isaac Donne: Do you know Alex?
PF: Yea, a bit.
ID: What’s he like? PF: Well, he has glasses, long hair and a beard, he’s much younger than me. He might be wearing a vest, and he will definitely be wearing a hat. He travels all over and loves to carve.
ID: what else?
PF: Oh, I don’t know. He’s a musician. Oh, and he’s from New York.
ID: Oh – is he fancy?
I didn’t answer that one. Told him he’d have to get to know Alex, then decide for himself if he’s fancy.