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The Woodworking Blogs Aggregator
This "aggregator" collects all of the woodworking blogs I read every day - or try to anyway! Enjoy!
Thank you to everyone who contributed towards Walt Quadrato's battle against cancer! Their fundraising goal was met. Our prayers are with you, Walt!
I just finished breakfast and, as I was washing the dishes, looking out the kitchen window, and drinking the last of the coffee, my attention was focused on the old apple tree that Kristen and I planted so many years ago, with the help of our sons. Now our sons are grown men and the apple tree is hanging on, each year struggling to survive.
We had to amputate a large portion of the tree this year as it just died unexpectedly. One of the remaining branches then started leaking a clear fluid which ran down the trunk for months. Each day the finches would fly by and drink this fluid, right in front of the kitchen window. One day, as we watched them feast, Kristen asked me, "what do you think that fluid is?"
"Apple juice" was my instant reply, without really thinking.
Now the fluid has stopped, and the branch has seemed to heal itself. The leaves are nearly gone and the tree is resting, waiting, and probably thinking to itself, "what season is this?" After all, next week is predicted to be nearly 80 degrees and clear. Perfect beach weather.
Then it hit me. Today I expect a lot of "happy birthday" comments (thanks to Facebook). Instead, I came up with this "happy haiku" which expresses more perfectly my emotions. I hope you find some meaning in it, too.
Apple tree in snow:
waiting for Spring to reveal
its fruit of knowledge.
|Patrice Lejeune shows the inside of the top|
As I work my way to the end of each year, I tend to reflect on the past. I started my business in June of 1969 so each summer I pass that milestone, marking another year of self employment. However, the end of each year means I am another year older, and that is a more sobering thought.
At this stage in my life, many of my friends have retired. They often ask me "if" and "when" I expect to do the same. That thought never crosses my mind. My usual response is something like "When they pry the chisel from my cold dead hands." or something equally dramatic.
Why should I retire? I have a 5000 square foot "playground" which contains all the materials and tools I need to create anything I can dream up. All I need to do is find a photo or see an object and I can have it. I used to lecture a lot on antiques and fakes and one of points I would always make about fakes is that "if someone made it in the past, then it is possible for someone to make it again." Kind of like counterfeit money. No matter how clever they try to be, someone will be able to copy it.
Most professional woodworkers struggle to create original designs. I find that goal very difficult. I really don't think I have an original idea in my head about design. The problem with me is that I have worked on tens of thousands of antiques, visited hundreds of museums and read countless books, and my mind is packed with images. No matter how hard I try to create something, there is always an element of historical precedent which begins to appear.
I have the same problem trying to imagine creating an original piece of music. I mean, after all, there are only so many notes, chords and key signatures that exist. How in the world can you sit down and write something completely new without including some rhythm or sound that you heard before? I have the deepest respect for those who can do this. I spent many years of my life playing chamber music and sitting in orchestras, performing classical music. The best I could do was to play the notes well, and try to make some kind of music.
That is the same for me with my woodworking. The best I can do is to perform the piece well, and pay respect to the masters of the craft from the past centuries. I must admit that, after 45 years of practice, I have been able to achieve a modicum of success in that goal.
One aspect of my professional life which has been very helpful has been my relationship with ecole Boulle and Dr. Pierre Ramond, among others in Europe. Leaving San Diego and spending time and money in Paris really paid off, giving me the experience and confidence to take my work to the next level.
It also provided me with an opportunity to partner with Patrice Lejeune, who has worked with me for over 7 years now. We have a good working relationship, and each day we share the load, dividing up the activities according to each person's schedule. I am fortunate to have a business partner who completely understands both the operation of the business and the school and can contribute in areas which I am not as strong. Not to mention giving me a hand when the furniture needs to be put on the bench or in the truck.
The success of the Treasure Box series is a direct result of this partnership. The work we put into these boxes is as good as it gets and I am sure they will be regarded with deep appreciation and respect for many years to come.
As I have rather busy lately with other projects and not able to post on my blog much, I would like to direct you to visit the recent post by Patrice on Lumberjocks. His posts, which detail the actual work on the boxes, is more complete and includes photos of each stage of the work.
You can see that post here:Treasure Box II Progress (Use search box and type "inside of the box.")
We expect to be able to finish and deliver all 4 of these boxes early next year. At that time our cat, Gigi, will need to find another place to rest. She always seems to appreciate our work as well.
Then I was invited to speak at the Woodworking in America Show in Winston Salem and had a great time with all those woodworking professionals and enthusiasts. I am always excited to spend any time with Roy Underhill, who is a hero to all of us.
Business has picked up quite a bit here and some really nice pieces are showing up in the shop for work. I look back on my career and realize that I have been fortunate indeed to have touched so many great objects and satisfied the needs and expectations of so many clients. Work is rewarding when it is so satisfying.
I look forward to my birthday next week, and turning 66. It seems like such a nice round number. I wonder what next year will bring? Always the optimist. I am excited to return to Marc Adam's School next year, and look forward to making another clock among other things.
In any event, last night I received the pdf files for the 2014 SAPFM Journal, which is now in the mail, and I would like to thank Carl Voss and others for their professional assistance. I realize not all the people who read this blog are members of SAPFM or perhaps even know about the group. It is a fantastic group of dedicated and highly skillful woodworkers, which was created in 2000. I joined immediately and have participated in past events with pleasure, contributing articles to the first three Journals. If you want more information or wish to join or purchase a copy of the Journal, here is the link: Society of American Period Furniture Makers
In the past decade the Journal has become one of the most important publications in the field of American furniture. However, there have also been some articles which included European furniture influences and these are important. That is why I wrote an article for this issue focusing on the diversity and importance of European furniture designs, "European Influences on American and Colonial Designs."
My goal with this article was to encourage more research into the wonderful ethnic contributions to style and construction which evolved into the American form of furniture. With all the news today about immigration we tend to forget that we are all immigrants and that is what is great about this country.
I am deeply honored to be recognized by this group and want to thank them for their tribute.
I cannot imagine two sports more different than chess and racing the most complex automobiles on the planet. In chess two men sit a few feet apart in absolute silence, sometimes for minutes and sometimes for a half hour, without moving a muscle. Thinking. Pure thought. Anticipating the future moves and working out in your head all the options for victory. The two who are playing what will be probably their last match tomorrow are two of the most talented individuals in their sport the world has ever seen.
At the same time that they are playing chess, two other men will be racing the last race of the season in F1. They are nearly equal in points after 18 races, and whoever crosses the line first will be champion. Their sport involves split second decisions, the highest degree of technology, a large team of skilled helpers and tons of money. They sit in the cockpit of a machine which is moving at 200 miles an hour, sweating in 140 degree heat, with an engine a few inches behind their head screaming at many thousands of revolutions per minute. For two hours they must focus on the race, where a second gained or lost will determine if they finish first or perhaps last.
I will be watching the chess match on my computer and the race on the television. I can tell you that it will take more than a little bit of concentration on my part to keep up.
I have been thinking lately about what makes a "master" of any craft, whether it's playing chess, racing a car, or just restoring a valuable object from centuries ago. Of course, while I do play chess often, and like to drive my car fast, I am not a "master" of either of these skills. That doesn't mean I can not appreciate the subtleties of those professions. In the same way, I regard the methods I use in my profession with my full attention and experience to guarantee a professional result.
I enjoy working on early furniture since all the experience you need to do the job properly is right in front of you. All you need is a keen sense of observation. Basically it is a question of simple forensics. Look for the clues and you will understand what you need to do. Traditional construction methods, hand tool marks, layout lines, hardware decisions and everything else is important and must be analyzed. In the same way traditional upholstery is predictable and you can learn this skill by carefully taking apart the work and putting it back together using the same process.
I recently completed a large amount of traditional upholstery projects and was thinking about what makes a good upholsterer. One word came to mind: tension. When stretching the webbing, or tying the springs, or stitching the horsehair or tacking the silk cover, the single constant was understand the proper tension. This is why it helps to have large "meathook" hands, like I have. (They also are "handy" for sanding!)
In applying a "period" finish or making repairs, there is another rule I follow: natural wood is not one color. Many refinishers make the mistake of using only one color for wood. The only way I have found to fool the eye into thinking that the finish was original is to use several colors, carefully layered or in different areas on the object. Natural sunlight fades wood, and the surfaces fade differently. Nothing makes a piece look "new" than having a uniform finish on all surfaces. I know this sounds counter intuitive, but trust me, it really makes a difference.
The same concept works with making hand made furniture. I do not think that there is anything sacred about 90 degrees or straight lines. If the door opens and closes, or the drawer slides in and out, fine. I am not saying I am careless. I am saying that there is a priority to decision making when putting a piece of furniture together. It needs to function and be sturdy and attractive. It does not need to be perfect. A drawer is not a piston in a cylinder. It does not need to hold compression during an explosion. It just needs to open and close.
Look at the Parthenon in Greece. The columns are not exactly vertical. If they were, they would be predictable and boring. Would we be as interested in the tower in Pisa if it wasn't leaning? (Perhaps not the best example, but I couldn't resist.)
I guess what I am trying to get at is that you spend your life observing phenomena and, if you are intelligent, constantly learn from that experience, gaining a proficiency in some form of activity. By learning what is important and what is not critical, you can do a job quickly and effectively and with a high degree of satisfaction. In fact, others will pay you to do that job, once you have proven your talents in that field.
I have been fortunate to have had people pay me to restore furniture for over 45 years. Now if I could only get Mercedes to sponsor me.......