Plymouth CRAFT’s class making the JA chair

Sorted some photos from Plymouth CRAFT’s recent class in making the Jennie Alexander chair. We held this class at the wonderful Wildlands Trust property in Plymouth, Massachusetts; great venue for us. https://wildlandstrust.org/

Pret & I brought the red oak to the site in eighths of a log, 5′ long. Then the students took it from there. Here is some froe/riving brake work.

I think we based this brake on one in Pete Galbert’s book Chairmaker’s Notebook https://lostartpress.com/products/chairmakers-notebook 

Might be an adaptation from the whole bunch of those Windsor chairmakers; Sawyer, Curtis Buchanan & Pete…maybe Elia too?

6 students, 6 days, 6 shaving horses. Here’s three of them anyway. We made a lot of shavings. They started with the front posts, then moved onto shaving the rear posts.

After shaving the rear posts, they go in a steambox to soften them for bending on the forms. Here’s Nathan limbering a post prior to bending it for real.

Image may contain: 1 person, standing, shoes and indoor

The posts bent on forms, they’ll stay in the form for a couple of weeks. The students were then issued a set made by the previous class.

And rungs. Dozens of them.

Nathan & Elijah hunkered over slat-mortising.


Despite my near-constant ridicule, this “mortise-cleanout tool” from Jennie Alexander proved popular. Rubbish, I say.

Jon, Job & Nathan boring their posts in preparation for the first sub-assembly.

and here is the final bit of that assembly – stubborn joints get driven the last bit by a clamp. Job & Nathan.

One day Daniel came with me, I got him involved prepping rungs with the spokeshave. I think he did 3, then focused on eating biscuits.

Then onto boring for the front & rear rungs.

What we don’t see here is forming the tenons, we used a spokeshave to get them to size. Then more assembly.

Part of  any class like this is being ready to tackle problems. Let’s say for example, someone’s front rung breaks under pressure from the clamp (next time make the tenons tight, but not TOO tight…) There ain’t no getting it out, that’s for sure. So cut it off. Pare the posts smooth again. Transfer the center of that mortise around to the outside of the post – bore an 11/16″ mortise from outside – right through the tenon that’s stuck in there. Then in the other post do the same, only 5/8″ like the original joint. Then shave a long, tapered rung from dry hardwood and tap it in from outside the wider mortise. Glue the 5/8″ mortise if you like (I did, we glued all the joints. Belt & suspenders.) Trim the rung a 1/2″ or so beyond both ends outside the chair. Split the tenons, drive a dry wedge in there, & trim. Done, chair saved. I had done this once before, and was pretty sure it would work. Takes some careful alignment to get it right.

Marie Pelletier always says we have to have a class photo – she took it just after lunch, so a few slats short still, but here it is. The chair I have is an oldie I made for Daniel when he was little.

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I was trying to make a chair for my demos, but along about day 4 I abandoned it. Daniel & I finished assembling it the other day, after unpacking. I got the slats & seat in it today, but no photos. Next time.

I’m sure we’ll do this class again next year – this was the 2nd one we did this year and it seems to be a hit. I’ll be sure to post about it here, but for the belt & suspenders approach to hearing about it, sign up for Plymouth CRAFT’s newsletter. We only send out stuff when we mean it, so it’s not like we’ll assault your inbox. https://www.plymouthcraft.org/contact 

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Roy tells a story

I thought for sure I put this amazing performance on the blog here before. A search I just made didn’t find it; and without the time or mental energy to be sure, I decided to just post it now…here’s Roy, after one of our Greenwood Fests; story telling for audiences of all ages.

where do I get logs?

It’s a very common question. I usually suggest small sawmills, firewood dealers, tree-cutters, etc. For many years, my friends & I have worked with the folks at Gurney’s Sawmill in East Freetown, Massachusetts. They’re very patient with us, I am extremely picky when it comes to oak logs, and am never buying more than one at a time…

Pret & I went there yesterday to shop for Plymouth CRAFT’s ladderback chair class coming up in August. Here’s the first pile we saw; but there was another pile just before it.

 

 

For once, I’m not looking for the largest diameter log I can find; for many reasons. The heaviest parts of the JA chair are just 1 3/4″ or less in diameter when we split them. So straight & clear were more of a priority than wide. Straight & clear is always a priority. The logs in this pile were 12-footers (over 3.5 meters for some of you). I didn’t think to take the camera out until after they plucked our log off this pile, but it was near the front, on top. That NEVER happens. They’re usually buried under lots of other logs.

 

The crew at Gurney’s moved the log to a spot where we could split it into pieces we could manage. Here’s a clean cut on the end; showing just how centered this log is, nicely round. Even growth rings – looks great.

The log was 12 feet long, about 20″ in diameter. Pret cut it into two five-foot sections, with the remaining 2 feet in the swelled butt of the log. Here’s the wedges driven into the end of that first cut.

 

Honestly, I did work at splitting too – he just doesn’t work the camera. It’s OK, I don’t like to work the chainsaw, so we’re even. Using a peavey to lever apart the first split.

Hard to read in this photo, but Pret’s using a slick to get in there & snip the crossed fibers in the red oak. I’m sorry I didn’t get a better shot of this. It’s quite an innovation to use that wide chisel this way. We’ve always used a hatchet or small axe for this, but he came up with the slick for it. The cutting edge is just where you want it for this job. The hatchet can bounce around in there, the slick doesn’t.

We first thought we’d load the quarters in the car. Then came to our senses and split them into eighths. Took one five-foot section in this load. Will return for the rest later. Total time splitting was just under an hour probably. 165 board feet in the log and I paid .75 per board foot. I hope this section will make the six chairs we need for the class, with a few extras. We’ll see in August. But first, I’m off to Lost Art Press for box-making.

This one’s for McKee – when I’m back 2nd week of August. If you can handle the program….

“Such a long, long time to be gone…

And a short time to be there…”

[I wrote this & forgot to post it. Re-phrased a little bit today. I boosted a number of photos from Marie Pelletier and Rick McKee – and Paula Marcoux did too, but that’s what they shoot them for. So more are on Plymouth CRAFT’s facebook page. https://www.facebook.com/PlymouthCRAFT/

Last week we finished up several woodworking classes and our first-ever “Spoon Day.” Plymouth CRAFT is really lucky. We have a very receptive and generous audience. We didn’t even know what Spoon Day would be & we knew it they’d flip out over it. The one-day event was wedged in between two 2-day courses taught by Dave Fisher and JoJo Wood. The venue for Spoon Day was Bay End Farm; http://www.overbrookhouse.com/bay-end-farm an idyllic spot down in Bourne, Massachusetts. As far as I we can tell, it all went swimmingly. The responses that we’ve heard were glowingly positive.

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Here’s the class photo from JoJo’s class for women

Tim Manney did his sharpening scene at Spoon day; they were lined up all day to work their edges with him.

Some of the spoon carvers…

I worked with some folks on knife grips at one point –

JoJo beaming during one of her classes.

And with one of her students.

An overview of the tent for spoon day.

Dave Fisher showing his adze work.

 

I wish my first bowl looked that good…

Group photo for bowl class # 2.

Running even a smaller-scale event like this – one day instead of three, about 75 attendees instead of 125 – still requires a lot of setup and breakdown. One by one our instructors trickled in; and it’s always a highlight of our year when we get to spend so much time with our far-flung friends. Tim Manney arrived and he & I immediately launched into a long discussion about chairs, chairmaking friends, and all things related. We could have gone on for hours, and in fact picked right up again a day later and did. And we all had multiple interactions like this over & over during our days together. Some were here longer or shorter; and one-by-one they trickled out as they had come in. Many thanks to all the volunteers who helped us set up & break down.

And just like that, it was over. Thanks all, for a great time.

 

Making Chairs from a Tree with Plymouth CRAFT

That was quite a week-plus. Plymouth CRAFT hosted its first-ever 6-day workshop; 6 students came to Massachusetts to learn how to make a chair from a tree, as JA’s book proclaimed all those years ago. For me, it was an overwhelming experience – to see all these new chairs, following Alexander’s steps, and in many cases using tools and equipment from her workshop…I can’t tell you how many sentences I started with “I remember Alexander saying/doing…”

Image may contain: 7 people, including Peter Follansbee, people smiling, people standing, tree, outdoor and nature

Here’s some photos, a couple I clipped from Marie Pelletier’s FB thread (the group shot above for example) – she shoots all our Plymouth CRAFT events. Most of these were mine, but I often forgot to shoot stuff.

Day one, after the first riving session, students begin shaving front posts.

A lineup of chairs; from left – antique New Jersey chair, PF 2019 chair, JA one of the last batch, PF 2018, JA stool, pre-1978, JA one-slat, c. 1975, PF kid’s chair, c. 2008.

Some layout of rungs, to be split. Ash, dead-straight. We lost very few pieces.

Andy splitting some of the rungs with a froe.

Arizona Sam shaving a rear post.

 

 

Kurt helping Andy bend some hot posts.

 

They worked green wood for the first couple of days, then following the format employed for decades by Drew Langsner, after they shaved & bent stuff for the next class, I issued air-dried stock I prepped ahead of time. That’s what they made their chairs from…here’s Andy & David chopping slat mortises.

Then it’s time to bore them. Here, Kurt & Warren are boring a front post. We teamed up, at least for the first sections, good to have an extra set of eyes on the progress.

It’s a JA-innovation to assemble the side sections first. Probably overkill, but it’s how I do it still. Here, Kurt has done a mock-up once his side sections are assembled. I get it, I want to know what it’s going to look like too.

 

Then bore for the front & rear rungs.

I showed them how I size tenons by jamming them in a test-hole in dry hardwood. Spokeshave work.

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Then assembly. Make sure the shorter rear rungs are in the rear. That way the longer front rungs go in front.

 

After a short steaming, the slats are popped into the mortises. Here, I’m making a slight adjustment.

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Some student’s first chair – (that’s a joke – it’s Brian Chin’s – he became “some student” through an innocent remark I made…)

He & Arizona Sam scored some hickory bark and had time to weave the seats on the last afternoon.

Thanks to the usual Plymouth CRAFT crowd, especially Pret & Paula, the great students who put up with me, and to JA & Drew Langsner, who all those years ago showed me what to do.

Chairs are next

I’m back home now; earlier this week I was one of the presenters at Winterthur Museum’s “Furniture Up Close” – it was a great time there; I love re-connecting with the museum world; it’s where I learned so much about furniture. Got a preview of spring while I was down in Delaware, back here it’s still the future. Spring is an amazing time at Winterthur – the full name is Winterthur Museum & Gardens for a reason.

But after a month of near-constant travel or preparation for travel, I’m glad to be here for a while. A long string of large projects; the queen-sized bed, the dresser and settle; is now behind me. Now I’m going to make small stuff; carved boxes and ladderback chairs. I shot almost nothing at Winterthur and did shoot nothing at Cutchogue when Pret & I installed the dresser and settle…

Next up is the chair-making class with Plymouth CRAFT. My latest JA chair, with a bark seat mostly done by Rose – I’ll add the last filler strips this week.

 

I started in yesterday on either making or gathering a few of the bits & pieces we’ll need for 6 of us to be working on this stuff. I use a gauge like this for sizing the rough-shaved posts and rungs. 1 3/8″ on one notch, 3/4″ on the other.

These V-blocks we use when boring the posts; the thick ones came from JA’s shop, I made a set yesterday, but had no thick stuff. Should work fine anyway. The other little frames on the right are for temporary mock-up of the rear posts, for alignment purposes. And some various bits; 20th & 21st century-style.

I shaved these rungs here & there – these will be issued AFTER the students split & shave replacements for them.

 

Same is true of these posts. In practice, each class prepares the material for the next class. Thus I started it off, now it’s on them.

I was taking these shots this morning; and thought of Rick McKee and his chicken-scratching obsession recently. https://www.instagram.com/medullary_rick/

I see those pinwheels/daisy wheels and just think it’s someone too scared to finish carving it. This is the door to the axe-cupboard.

And this a box with gouges – someday I’ll finish it.

 

I’m going to make another few chairs – the Shaker tape one here is available, the bark seated ones sold; but can be ordered. Here’s a slightly out-dated page about the chair project – https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/pf-ladderback-chairs/

Plymouth CRAFT’s Spoon Day June 9, 2019 – the Lineup

There’s still some tickets available for Plymouth CRAFT’s first-ever one-day Spoon event. https://www.plymouthcraft.org/spoon-day   Our plan is to have a big woodpile, a host of participants, and then we’ll add a bunch of our spoon carving friends to help everyone learn/have fun/explore.

Usually all the Dave Fisher https://davidffisherblog.wordpress.com/ hype is about his bowls, but on this day his attention will be on helping you carve spoons, his are the top three in the photo above; below is the spoon Dave gave me the day we met; 2009.

Below his is a classic quilt-pattern spoon by globe-trotting Amy Umbel, https://www.instagram.com/amy_umbel/?hl=en   We’re happy to have roped her into Massachusetts for this event.

The large painted one in that top photo is new to me, from Jay Ketner. Jay’s work has really taken off – by June who knows what it’ll be up to.  Here’s the spoon and the notebook when Jay was cooking up its decoration. No photo description available.https://www.instagram.com/jayketnerwoodcraft/?hl=en

Of course, the spoon on the right is by JoJo Wood. I don’t need to say anything I haven’t already said, do I?

IMG_2878.jpg  https://www.instagram.com/jojowoodcraft/?hl=en 

Tim Manney will be there, maybe he’ll steam-bend some stuff, or help you sharpen things. Just ask him. https://www.instagram.com/tim.manney/?hl=en

Reid Schwartz probably should be home making knives, but we’ve convinced him to take a day off & come down to Plymouth. https://www.instagram.com/reidschwartz/?hl=en

Oliver Pratt is drifting down from Maine – putting down his bowls for the day, and carving spoons with us. He & JoJo will be the barefoot segment of the population. I’ll look the other way.  https://www.instagram.com/oliverpratt_handcraft/?hl=en 

We’ve not yet met Jessica Hirsch, but we’re looking forward to. We’ve heard great things about the work she does through Women’s Woodshop. https://www.instagram.com/joshahirschfeldt/?hl=en

And the usual from Plymouth CRAFT; me & Pret Woodburn, with the addition of Rick McKee https://www.instagram.com/medullary_rick/?hl=en