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This is an excerpt from “The Woodworker: The Charles H. Hayward Years: Volume IV” published by Lost Art Press.
Anyone using the Stanley or Record combination and multiplanes, or indeed any form of rebate or grooving plane, will no doubt have experienced difficulty in holding the work in position when it is too small or too awkward to be held in the vice. Here is a gadget that is extremely useful in overcoming that difficulty.
Made of hardwood, it is capable of accommodating material of almost any length, up to 15 ins. in width, and of thicknesses varying by sixteenths of an inch from 1/4 in. to 1-1/16 in. The one side of arm “A” (see Fig. 2) takes pieces 1/4 in., 1/2 in., 3/4 in., 1 in., thick, the other 3/8 in., 5/8 in., 7/8 in. Intermediate measurements from 5/16 in. to 1-1/16 in. can be obtained by inserting a 1/16 in. thick washer under arm A. Other measurements can be arrived at by using thicker washers, though 1 in. is normally ample, anything thicker being suitable for the vice.
The diagrams show the construction of the device and call for little comment. Arm A is attached to slides E by 2-1/2 in. bolts, the heads of which are sunk. Note also that the head of bolt X is sunk below the level of pieces B and D (see Fig. 3).
To attach the device to the bench it is necessary to cut a number of mortises, 1-1/4 in. by 1/2 in., 6 ins. apart along the edge of the bench. Where the vice is flush with the edge of the bench the mortises will have to be cut in the bench top, but where the vice projects any distance an extra fitment can be screwed in position. The mortises in no way interfere with normal work, and once cut require no further attention. Two hardwood stops are then all that are necessary to hold the device rigid on the bench. These should be about 4 ins. long and a tight fit in the mortises.
The method of use is as follows. Attach the device to the bench by means of bolt X passed through one of the mortises. Now drive the stops into the adjacent mortises, allowing the one towards which the planing is to be done to project above pieces B and D. This will act as a planing stop. The rear stop is driven below the level of B and D and serves merely to prevent the device swivelling due to lateral pressure. Here it may be noted that the outer edge of piece B projects a little over the edge of the bench as in some cases it may be required to act as a guide to the plane. Where a long strip is being rebated, for example, the front stop may be driven below the level of B and D and, the device being fixed in the middle of the bench, the bench stop used as the planing stop.
The work is placed on top of the device, its near edge projecting slightly beyond the edge of B and its end against the planing stop or the bench stop. Arm A is slid up to the far edge of the work and bolts Y tightened. Fig. 1 illustrates the method. By this means the work is held rigid.
In some cases, when the work is narrow, the construction of arm A does not permit of the work being clamped down, as the projection of A interferes with the plane. The method then is to reverse arm A, as in Fig. 4 in which case it serves merely as a lateral stop and not as a cramp.
— Meghan Bates
Filed under: Charles H. Hayward at The Woodworker
For a number of reasons, I was looking through some photo files here tonight. During the past year I have had a couple of chances to revisit some old favorite piece of oak furniture, and saw a couple related fragments for the first time. There is a group of chests and boxes made in Dedham and Medfield, Massachusetts during the 17th century. Years ago they were the focus of a study by Robert St. George, culminating in his article “Style and Structure in the Joinery of Dedham and Medfield, Massachusetts, 1635-1685” Winterthur Portfolio; vol. 13, American Furniture and Its Makers (1979), pp. 1-46. You can join JSTOR and read it here – https://www.jstor.org/stable/1180600?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents
But like all oak of the period, our friend Robert Trent was all over them too – thus several examples were featured in the exhibition New England Begins at the Museum of Fine Arts too. (Boy, did that set come down in price – https://www.amazon.com/New-England-Begins-Seventeenth-Century/dp/0878462104 -If you don’t have it, and you like the furniture and decorative arts of the period, get it. Used to be way more than $90…)
This chest is in a private collection, I had it years ago to make a new oak lid for it. Typical for this group, 3 carved panels, moldings on the framing parts. Not great work, but real nice. Black paint in the backgrounds, originally bright red on the oak, dyed with logwood or brazilwood dye.
This one was made for the Fairbanks house in Dedham, was illustrated in a late 19th/early 20th century article about that house. For many years it was MIA – then the Fairbanks Family was able to buy it at auction either late 1990s or early 2000s…I forget which. Has the only oddball center panel. (see the detail, top of the blog post) Refinished.
A reader sent me these photos once, shot at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NY. These boxes are often pretty tall – maybe 9″ high. Pine lids and bottom, oak box. I made a copy of this one for a descendant of one of the joiners credited with this work, John Thurston of Dedham and elsewhere.
Now it gets really wiggy. I cropped this shot from an overall of a chest in a museum collection. Notice the panels on the left & right. They look good, right?
Here’s one – then compare it to its cousin below…
The other. Amazing what your eyes & brain can tolerate and still accept as a repeating pattern. I’ve carved this design a lot, and I can carve a panel about 10″ x 14″ or so in under an hour. I bet this guy was flying right along. Or old and infirm. Or somehow incapacitated, or compromised. Or something. Notice too the holes in the corners where I presume the panel was nailed down to hold it still for carving. I nail mine to a back board, and fasten that to the bench with holdfasts. That way I don’t have to move the holdfasts – they’re out of the way.
A related, but dead-simple version. Why all that blank margin? No applied molding, the framing is beveled around the panel. Ahh, everyone who knows why is dead.
These next two are the lynch pins for the attribution to John Houghton, joiner. These are fragments from a meetinghouse in Medfield from 1655/6. The town records cite a payment made to Houghton for work on the desk, a table and more. The “deske” in the records is the pulpit. These panels are believed to be part of that pulpit. This panel is about 6 5/8″ x 14″.
a detail of the rectangular panel.
This diamond-shaped panel is nailed to a piece of oak that looks like some framing stock – but it tapers in width. Tradition says that these pieces were saved when the 1655/6 meeting house was demolished in 1706.
One more – this one’s in Nutting’s books, now at Wadsworth Atheneum. “Refreshed” paint, or completely re-painted. I forget which. Really nicely carved.
This is the last call for the three stickers designs shown above. I’m busy designing three new stickers for my daughter Maddy’s sticker empire – these new designs should be ready in August.
You can order a set of three stickers from her etsy store for $6 (which includes shipping) here. Yes, she accepts international orders with a small upcharge.
Or, for customers in the United States, you can send a $5 bill and a SASE (self-addressed stamped envelope) to Maddy at:
Stick it to the Man
P.O. Box 3284
Columbus, OH 43210
She’ll put the three current sticker designs in your envelope and mail them back to you. These are nice, 100-percent vinyl weatherproof stickers.
Maddy turned 21 this year, so I always wonder how much of her sticker profits go to food and how much goes to, ahem, “liquid food.” She assures me she is buying a lot of turkey sandwiches with the sticker money. Can you ferment a turkey?
— Christopher Schwarz
Filed under: Uncategorized
"Essential Human Work: Reimagining a Legendary School on the Coast of Maine" by: James McConnell and Michael Updegraff featured in Issue Three.
After nearly 40 years of teaching traditional hand skills, chairmaking, and green woodworking, Country Workshops is closing its doors. Started deep in the mountains of North Carolina in 1978 by Drew and Louise Langsner, the school has become an iconic epicenter of handcraft, and countless creative journeys have begun by venturing down the narrow gravel driveway.
This is not a lament or eulogy to the passing of an era, however. Kenneth Kortemeier and his wife Angela share the passion of the Langsners to teach these skills of "essential human work". Kenneth learned primitive skills from a Cherokee elder in North Carolina, worked as an intern at Country Workshops, apprenticed under legendary Welsh chairmaker John Brown, taught wooden boat building and seamanship, and built furniture and cabinets on commission, but his biggest undertaking lies ahead. The spirit of Country Workshops is being handed on by the Langsners to be replanted in a rural town on the Maine coast. The old Workshop's tools and benches have been transported north to be put back to work in the new Maine Coast Craft School, where the exclusive distribution of several top-quality Swedish toolmakers will continue.
Through interviews and narrative from North Carolina and Maine, we knew we had to share this compelling story. This kind of graceful, thoughtful transition is almost unheard of in the business world today. It clearly reflects the shared philosophy of Drew and Kenneth that asserts there is lasting value in teaching how to create objects that are simple, functional, and beautiful.
- Mike Updegraff
Stay tuned tomorrow for the next article upcoming in M&T Issue Three...
The dovetail is the drawer joint of choice in many a classic drawer, but for a more mechanized world, the drawer joint of choice is often the half-blind tongue-in-groove. Sturdy, interlocking, mechanical without the need of nails, and quickly made on a table saw this joint often appears in commercial cabinetry (in a good way). This drawer joint can be used for inset drawers (as shown in the video excerpt below […]
Although I currently use a Fuji X-Pro 1 as my main camera, I learned photography on a Nikon F. I still have that camera and the 50/1.8 lens it came with.
Molly Bagby is an employee at Highland Woodworking who is taking the 2 Week Basic Woodworking course at Center for Furniture Furniture Craftsmanship. Although she grew up at Highland Woodworking from a mere 1 week old, her knowledge of woodworking skills is limited. With this class, she intends to change that.
Since this is a 2 week class, the school sets up housing hosts for those who come in from out of town. I arrived in Hope, Maine around 10:30pm the day before my class started after a brief detour visiting my sister Kelley, a fellow author on this blog. I was easily able to find the house and my room, and my host was gracious enough to leave handwritten notes everywhere to tell me where everything was located. The next morning, she was in the kitchen when I came downstairs and she and I chatted a bit. Her name is Deb and she is active in the local arts community.
Each 2 week class at Center for Furniture Craftsmanship (CFC) accommodates 12 people (i.e there are 12 workbenches plus 1 for the instructor). When I entered the Workshop Building (1 of 5 buildings on campus), all but 2 of the workbenches were occupied with students ready and raring to go! I found an empty workbench at the back of the room and 5 minutes later, a guy named Mike Z from NYC showed up and took the last bench (and became my bench mate since our benches were butted up next to each other, as every 2 benches were situated in the classroom). Mike has been a really cool guy to get to know and we both have several things in common (being the 2 youngest people in the class and both having lived in NYC, among other things).
Class started promptly at 9am when Peter Korn walked into the classroom and called everyone over to his workbench. He gave a brief overview of the school and then explained what would be happening over the next 2 weeks. He introduced us to Mary Ellen Hitt, the co-instructor for the class, and Eddie Orellana, who has the all-encompassing role of Shop Assistant. Then everyone taking the class introduced themselves. After I introduced myself, Peter noted that Highland Woodworking had donated many of the workbenches found throughout the school.
After introductions, Peter told us one of the most important things to know in woodworking safety: “Oily rags will spontaneously combust.” We haven’t even had our finishing talk yet, but already, this phrase has been repeated multiple times.
The rest of the morning included a basic overview of wood: “We’re going to start with wood…wood comes from trees…” This discussion included types of wood, types of grain, wood thickness, and wood grades. Next, he went right into discussing steel and chisels, which quickly led to the most important aspect of woodworking, sharpening.
I have quickly learned why sharpening is many woodworkers least favorite parts of the trade, but at the same time, I have also learned how important it is to have a sharp tool at hand. Peter went through a detailed step-by-step demonstration of his preferred sharpening process, which I will go into further detail about in an upcoming blog entry dedicated to sharpening and how much I hate love it. For now I will just say that Peter makes everything look really easy.
The last part of the day was spent touring the Machine Room and learning what each machine was used for, as well as safety measures for each machine. While I’ve grown up around power tools and machinery, I’ve never actually used any of it. I am excited to learn, but I am happy that the school likes to focus more on hand tool usage…
The Machine Room consists of the following: a 10″ SawStop tablesaw, a 12″ sliding tablesaw, 8″ and 12″ jointers, 12″ and 15″ thickness planers, 14″ and 20″ bandsaws, drill presses, a lathe, a shaper, a chopsaw, a scrollsaw, a slot mortiser, grinders, a stationary disc/belt sander, and an oscillating spindle sander. There is also full dust-collection.
Every workday ends at 4:30pm with a class meeting to go over the next day’s schedule and then it’s time for shop and workstation clean-up. Peter made sure to note that according to OSHA standards, it is “illegal” to sweep a woodshop. Vacuuming it is!
The post My First Day at Center for Furniture Craftsmanship appeared first on Woodworking Blog.
In this episode of 360 with 360WoodWorking, Matt Furjanic of inlaybanding.com returns to talk more about his company and other inlay topics. The discussion travels along topics such as how important dry woods are to making bandings, and how he slices his loafs into strips, which includes setting the fence to the right of the workpiece.
Join 360 Woodworking every Thursday for a lively discussion on everything from tools to techniques to wood selection (and more).
A series of thunder boomers just passed through my area and I didn't lose power. Knocking on wood. It did absolutely nothing to make the H&H calm down. It is not supposed to be dry until friday and tomorrow is also supposed to be more humid then today. Needless to say, my decompression time in the shop tonight was short.
|road testing the bead in spite of the H&H|
|good looking bead for an as is iron|
|the astragal is batting cleanup|
|rabbet laid out|
|need to go deeper on the rabbet|
|had to straighten out the wall|
|having some problems|
|checked the rabbet|
|tried it without a rabbet|
|the before pic|
Who was Ray Harroun?
answer - he won the first Indy 500 race in 1911
So I would like to thank all my customers and friends who have supported me and encouraged me over the years - thank you, for I could never have done this without you!
To celebrate this anniversary all planes made over the next year will feature a secret mark stamped on the stock :)
So my thanks again - if you need me I will be in the workshop. Amen!
One of the books I am most excited about publishing is David Savage’s “The Intelligent Hand,” which is supposed to be in my hands for editing by the end of the year. As many North American woodworkers are unfamiliar with David and his work, I asked Kara Gebhart Uhl to write this profile, which covers David’s life and work in both art and furniture. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
— Christopher Schwarz
“The story of my life is a whole series of failures in lots of ways,” says David Savage, an artist, designer, maker and founder of Rowden Atelier, a furniture design school and workshop in North Devon, England. “You don’t look at how you fall over, but it’s kind of how you get up again, the whole process.”
And David did get up, again and again. Some may call that a solid work ethic, perseverance, moxie. Or, when a young family is in the picture, survival. Perhaps, though, the getting up again is simply the root of being a maker.
David says it took a visit from Christopher Schwarz in 2015 to define the culture of Rowden. It was then that Chris noted a strong line of identity coming from the Arts and Crafts Movement to Rowden students.
That, says David, is what Rowden is. “It’s not the celebration of the flowery wallpaper of Arts and Crafts, but the celebration of who a craftsperson is — the treatment of a maker not just as a pair of hands to manufacture stuff but as a genuine contributing human being making something that’s worth having. The celebration of that is what we do here at Rowden.”
Every time David faced a challenge or failed in some way, the act of starting over came from an acknowledgement of worth. Sometimes it took an outsider. Sometimes the realization came from within. But it was the title of maker, with all its history and meaning, and the innate desire to make something worth having, that pushed David to get up and create, not just a piece of furniture, but a life, and one he deemed worth living.
Art in the Place of Speech
Born David Binnington in 1949, David grew up on the Yorkshire coast in post-war Bridlington. Both his parents were entrepreneurial and relatively prosperous. His mother, a hairdresser, owned several shops in town. And his father, an importer and manufacturer of soft drinks, owned a small factory.
“My childhood and youth were afflicted by a stammer,” David says. “Have you seen that movie, ‘The King’s Speech?’ Then you appreciate a little bit of what it’s like to have a stammer. Being inside that person with a stammer is awful in that you know where the problem lies, you know that words beginning with ‘b’ are a nightmare because you’re blocked with those. You can see those words coming up in the sentence ahead of you so the tension gets even worse. I describe it as being like trying to talk and eat a very droob-ly bacon sandwich at the same time. It’s just awful.”
David grew up quietly, rarely speaking but always listening — a skill that has served him well. “One of the great arts of being a designer is to be a very good listener so you hear what the client is actually telling you,” he says. “Most of us don’t hear. We only perceive a certain proportion of anything. I was a good listener because I didn’t say anything.”
With conversing being nearly impossible, David was drawn to art, which required little to no speech. His dedication and strong portfolio earned him a spot at The Ruskin School of Art at the University of Oxford in 1968.
“It was unlike a lot of the current art schools in that it was very requiring of you to gain skill in drawing, especially,” David says. “Mid-Atlantic expressionism was the happening thing. So you have studios filled with dry ice and naked bodies. This is the liberated 60’s and everybody is having a gas. They’re all on acid and weed and it’s a blast. But I didn’t go that way. I wanted to learn. Something told me I needed to learn how to do this. I needed to have a skill in order to be expressive. What was being thrown out at that time was the very idea that you needed a skill to be expressive, that skill was an inhibition to expression. I think that’s nonsense.”
The school, originally called the Ruskin School of Drawing, was founded by John Ruskin in what is now the Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology. (In 1975 the school moved to its current location on High Street.)
“So I went to this very fussy old art school, which was in a brilliant place,” David says. “It was in a few rooms in this fabulous museum. … It has all kinds of things from Egyptian sarcophagi to Samurai armor to Greek sculpture. Fantastic Greek sculpture. So if you’re me and 19 from Yorkshire, this is a mind-blowing experience.”
Much of what David learned wasn’t necessarily taught, but rather absorbed through the skin. “If you want to go out for a cigarette you have to walk from the studios through the Greek sculpture collection to sit right outside the door so it just becomes a part of your day, looking at genuine Greek sculpture from 400 BC carvings.”
David describes the school’s teaching methodologies as old-fashioned: You couldn’t draw the life model until you spent the better part of three months drawing Greek casts. “You were asked to use your eyes,” he says. “You used drawing as a means of looking very hard, because that’s really what drawing is: It’s looking very hard and exercising your eyes and your hands and actually coordinating them.”
Learning how to draw this way has allowed David to see better and that, he says, is the key to becoming a good maker.
“The thing I teach my students now is if you want to be a really good maker you really need good eyes and you need a hand that draws well enough. You don’t have to draw like an artist. You just have to draw well enough.” This, his says, provides you with another tool. “Drawing enables you to work out the inside of that joint and how those two parts come together. You can sketch it out, you can draw it, you can think it out, you can X-ray the joint in your head and sketch it out immediately. It’s a tool.”
This tool allows makers to create their own visual vocabulary, outside of images found online. And this, David says, he learned way back in the 1960s.
“When you sit down and you draw something, some of it you like the shape of it,” David says. “It may be a seashell or a bit of a twig or maybe the shape of a woman’s leg. You sit down and you draw it and you put down five or six well-observed honest lines. You don’t need to draw it anymore. That image goes into the back of your head, into your visual vocabulary. It becomes part of your visual vocabulary and you build up that visual vocabulary in your lifetime. And so you sit down 30 years later to draw a table leg and what pops off on the end of your pencil in your complete unconsciousness is something observed maybe 30 years ago. This is part of your visual vocabulary, it’s the stuff you internalized. This is very different from Pinterest or Instagram, which is external, not internal. So I learned to draw, which is a very powerful thing.”
After earning his undergraduate degree David says he had another amazing stroke of fortune: He won a postgraduate place at the Royal Academy Schools in London. Centered smack-dab in the middle of the art world on Cork Street and Bond Street, among all the galleries, was David, “this guy from Yorkshire who stammered a lot,” he says. He was given a grant, a studio and the pick of teachers for three years. “Crikey,” he says. “It was a wonderful experience.”
After graduating from the Royal Academy of Schools in 1974, David teamed up with a fellow student, Desmond Rochefort, and together they created The Public Arts Workshop. It was after living in, what David calls, “the guts of the art world,” he became more interested in something that didn’t exist in Britain at the time — public art. “I didn’t want to get involved with the galleries or selling the commodities of paintings,” he says. “But I wanted to be a painter.”
“In 1939, an organization called the British Blackshirts tried to march through a very largely Jewish area in East London,” David says. “They tried to have this march down Cable Street, and there was a huge riot. They were stopped from marching — the local uprising actually prevented them from doing that march and it became very famous. It was called The Battle of Cable Street. And it was one of those events that prevented the growth of fascism in Britain in the 1930s.”
Beginning in 1977, David raised money and worked on designs for a 70-foot-high mural depicting the battle on an old wall of what used to be Stepney town hall on Cable Street. He had hoped to have two assistants, but there was never enough money for that. So for three years David ran up and down the scaffolding that covered the wall, drawing and painting.
And then, a right-wing organization vandalized it.
“I crashed and burned,” David says. “I was left damaged and with no confidence and thinking, I don’t want to be a mural painter anymore. If I go back to Oxford on a scaffold, it’s going to kill me. So I pulled out. And I’m not greatly proud of that, but I knew that I had to, to stay alive.”
The project was picked up by someone else and completed, as David says he knew it would be. But then he wondered, What next?
The Origins of a Furniture Maker, in the Style of Gimson
David liked being physical. He didn’t mind running up and down that scaffolding — he knew it was good for him. He wanted to use his brain. He wanted to use his hands. “I wanted to use all of me and I was fed up of not making a living out of this.”
In the meantime, he made some furniture. “When I say ‘furniture,’ this is just four bits of wood held up with screws,” he says. He made something for the garden, using pine, screws and glue. This led to a new train of thought: “Maybe I could make things,” he says. “Maybe I could use my hands and my knowledge. I wanted something to use my aesthetic sense and what became particularly inspiring for me was the Arts and Crafts Movement.”
Particularly, Ernest Gimson — trained as an architect he set up a workshop in the Cotswolds countryside where he made what was at the time (he died in 1919) modern English furniture. “I thought that was a role model that I could follow,” David says.
David also looked to Edward Barnsley, another key figure in the Arts and Crafts movement, along with The Edward Barnsley Workshop. And then came Alan Peters, author of “Cabinetmaking: The Professional Approach” and former apprentice of Barnsley. David visited Alan and enrolled in a short, two-week course with him.
“He was instrumental in turning me into a functioning furniture maker,” David says. “It was his example that I very much took to heart. I wanted a workshop like Alan’s. And I wanted to be a craftsman.”
There were other influences. David was inspired by James Krenov’s aesthetic. And John Makepeace’s clear idea on how to run a business. “His example was you needed three legs to stand on and I thought that was interesting,” David says. The legs? Technique, design and business. “And I thought, Hey, that makes sense.”
At this point David was still living in London, living on social security. “They didn’t think very much of my retraining myself but they had a kind of tolerance of it for a little while,” he says. That tolerance, along with the bit of money people began giving him to make pieces, allowed David to learn.
“I read a lot of books,” he says. “I read Charles Hayward, anything by Hayward I could get a hold of. I read back copies of The Woodworker magazine. I was very good at using the library. My local librarian was my best friend and she would get me books from all over the country.”
Around this time David also met someone, a friend of his first wife. “He was a wonderful craftsman and he didn’t want to teach me anything,” David says. “So I said, ‘I’ll come work for you. You don’t have to pay me anything.’ And he thought that was very unusual. So I’d go and spend time in his workshop when I could and he had a very Japanese way of teaching in that he would completely ignore me. And then when he saw me in a desperate trouble he’d throw a scraper blade at me and say, ‘No! No. You do it this way’ and walk away again. But his example was very powerful.”
Upstairs in David’s house was a small studio, which David turned into his workshop. He struck deals. He told family and friends that if they bought materials and paid him enough to buy a new tool, such as a router, he’d make them a piece of furniture. “It was a step,” David says.
His client list, and reputation, grew.
Then, the Irish bombed London. David’s wife at the time had just finished training to become a teacher and was looking for a job. So they looked outside of London and ended up in Bideford, a port town in north Devon.
“Everybody that spoke to us said you’re crazy moving out of London,” David says. “You’re crazy moving away from anybody who might want to buy anything you want to make. And that was true. But it also made some kind of sense. We actually needed to get out of the bloody city and now I know why. It was actually the requirement to be in the countryside.”
(We’re skipping ahead now, just for a moment.) Rowden overlooks a meadow, a lake and trees. It’s not far from the beach, shells and water. David needed to be rooted in the countryside, in the same way Ernest Gimson did. It wasn’t until years later that David made this connection of craft and place — of what’s required, for some, to be a maker.
A Change in Name, Success and Failure
In Bideford, David says a very curious thing happened. His first wife’s surname was Savage. Although not married at the time, they had lived together nearly 20 years and in Devon, while looking for a property to buy, David would tell agents his last name was Savage. “I couldn’t say my own name, because it began with a ‘B.’ Binnington is still a word I would rather not say if I could.”
That was a name he could say with confidence. For the first time in his life, David could finally introduce himself. “And it was a new town so no one knew us,” he says. “And curiously, it kind of unlocked things. If you can say who you are, if you can introduce yourself, then it kind of became slightly easier. So that rather changed things.”
David legally changed his name to David Binnington Savage. And with his new name, his stammer began to lessen.
In 1983 David established David Savage Furniture Makers in Bideford. He found a big building that needed a lot of work, and he rented it. He also began writing for magazines. He would teach himself how to sharpen a scraper or use a hand plane and then, he’d write about it. Between 1983 and 1990 he wrote a monthly column in The Woodworker magazine called “The Craft of Cabinet Making.”
He made furniture for clients in London and assembled kitchen furniture for a builder on a monthly basis. Then a local furniture maker who was teaching students wanted to stop teaching. He asked David if he would take on two students who still needed to finish out their course. David said, “No.”
“And then I went back and started assembling these kitchen cabinets and I thought, Maybe it would be easier than actually doing this.” So he agreed to take on the students, who had only made a bench and an oilstone box in their first six months. “They came and they started to pay me money,” David says. And he taught them things he, himself, had only just learned how to do.
This, too, David realized, tied back to the Arts and Crafts Movement. Over the next few years he established a system where he allowed students, but always had more craftsmen than students in the workshop. This resulted in him being able to choose his best students as employees. “None of this was my great plan,” he says. “It just evolved that way.”
By now David was making pieces every day, and every single piece coming out of his shop was his design, his imagery.
One of his early students and a former PR executive, Malcolm Vaughan, taught David the art of writing a press release and the importance of nice photographs. “It was almost that not a month wouldn’t go by when a piece made by David Savage wasn’t in the magazines,” he says. “One of them went viral and boom! We were making Camelot chairs for everybody and everyone.”
The first Camelot chair was for now longtime clients Mary and Derek Parks.
David had made a large walnut reception desk for a corporate client in London. “A few weeks later I got a phone call saying they’ve sold the building [what was then the new Covent Garden site] and I said, ‘Horray!’ But they didn’t want one of my desks.” The new owners wanted a different desk, and David says he was heartbroken. And then mad, when he learned that the desk had gone to the managing director’s country house in Dorset.
“I tried ringing up this woman and I was not happy that it had all gone wrong,” David says. He finally got a hold of the managing director’s wife, Mary Parks. She loved the desk and wanted David to build more furniture.
David was bitter. But a few days later he drove to the Parks’ residence in Chelsey. “Money was pouring out of the whole place, you could see it,” he says. David met Mary and the two discussed design options for a dining room table and chairs. “And then her husband, Derek, walks in and he’s three sheets to the wind, totally pissed,” David says. Derek invites David to his house in Dorset. “And I was thinking, Christ. These people are going to be my clients and I hate it.”
Two weeks later David met Derek at his 15th-century Dorset manner house. “Derek was then a totally different person,” David says. “He was in the process of restoring [the house] in the most exquisitely sensitive way.” But more inspiring to David was this: “He took me around and he introduced me to all his gardeners and his chauffeur and the guy who polished his shoes, and he’s speaking to them, telling me about their children and about who they are and what they were doing. And he blew me away because I got the sense that this guy was operating on a totally different plane from me. He was an extremely high-functioning man. He was able to deal with people in a way that I couldn’t conceive of dealing and I was blown away by that.”
Derek and Mary spoke to David about their wants and needs, and David listened. And that, David says, was the first time he thought, “I can actually do this.”
“If I can find people that want to have really good furniture, I can do this,” he says. “I can do this and I can make a profit out of it.”
David hired a photographer to take a picture of one of the Parks’ dining room chairs and it struck a chord: “That photograph of that chair was in every color supplement of every glossy magazine for the next two years,” he says.
David had made it.
“It’s those kind of steps which are invisible, in that you don’t know you’re going to do that but then you do,” he says. David didn’t intend to build a furniture business, but he did. In 1984 David became a member of the Devon Guild of Craftsmen followed by the Fellowship of the Society of Designer Craftsmen in 1992.
He was happy. “Happy as a clam!” he says. “Totally involved. Totally engaged. I didn’t know where we were going but I was making furniture and getting more confidence in dealing with people.”
“Things are flying along really well,” David says. “I made a great mistake in buying another workshop.” At the time David and his employees were in a 2,000-square-foot workshop and they were simply out of space. Fifty yards down the road was a 3,000-square-foot workshop — well insulated with three-phase electric. For years it was for sale but David could never afford it. Eventually the price came down to a point where he could no longer resist. He bought it.
“And that was a disaster in that you no longer have one workshop, you have two,” he says. Employees argued over who got to work in the new shop. “It was not a cohesive unit in that everybody could sit around the fire at lunchtime and they could have a conversation. They could have two conversations and that was a nightmare. That was a big mistake.”
Around this time David was coming out of the recession. He had laid off staff, but things seemed OK. Until, “I got in another classic mistake,” David says. “I got a big customer. A big customer that wanted a lot of furniture, really liked my work, his wife really liked my work.”
The customer was a city trader for Merrill Lynch. He had just come from the United States and bought a house in London. “I did a load of drawings and made the mistake of saying, ‘Yes, we can do all of that,’ which mean that I pretty much had one customer for a period.”
The work, which was spread over four or five benches, was intended to be done in three stages. David and his employees completed the first stage and they were paid. “It was the second stage that got me,” David says. “I went up there and he wasn’t there. The house was closed up and he had gone back to America. I couldn’t get a hold of him in any way. I couldn’t get a hold of him through his company. They wouldn’t let me speak with him. So I was left with a pile of furniture I couldn’t sell. No money coming in and bills to pay. My only option was to go bankrupt, which I did, which is a bit of a life-changing experience.”
David closed the Bideford workshop. “I was thinking, What the hell am I going to do now? I’ve got a young family, a baby of 18 months, and what am I going to do now?”
He says the experience was akin to stepping off the conveyor belt of life. “When you’re on the conveyor belt of life you’re moving and this time you can take a step off it and you can observe the conveyor belt and see what is happening.”
Sometimes, though, it takes someone else to push you back on the conveyor belt. And for David, one of those people was a client, Maggie Rose.
The Value of a Craftsperson, Both as Maker and Human Being
David’s tools, benches and furniture in process were all slated to be sold at auction. Maggie called and asked if she could buy the unfinished pieces of furniture and then give them back to David for finishing.
“Then someone rings up and says, ‘I really like those chairs you made for me and I’d really like a desk,’” David says. “And I knew all these craftsmen in all these workshops so I was all set up doing drawings for clients and selling furniture and having it made in various workshops around me.”
This worked for 18 months.
“That was really quite good,” David says. “I hadn’t a workshop but we were actually functioning. We were doing the jobs of meeting clients, doing drawings, taking orders, getting furniture made, getting paid. Everybody was happy. Until my second wife, Carol, said, ‘David, you know that room you’re in in your office?’ I said, ‘Yeah.’ She said, ‘Well, you can’t have it anymore.’ And I said, ‘Why?’ And she said, ‘Because I’m pregnant. I’m going to have a baby.’”
So then David was faced with putting his foot back on the conveyor belt, the one that required a workshop. He was tentative, but knew he had to take the plunge. He wrote an advertisement for the local paper: “furniture maker looking for barns to convert.”
“I wanted to be out in the countryside,” he says. “I wanted the green fields around me. So I found myself at Rowden.”
David met a maker, Nick Chandler, who he employed. For four or five years the two of them worked together, and David calls that time a period of great liberation. Without having many employees to support, David was able to take more risks with his designs.
“My wife encouraged me to be more free,” David says. “She was saying, ‘Go on. You can do all sorts of stuff. You’re a crazy artist. That’s what you should be doing.’ And we did all sorts of pieces that are important now, things that are central pieces.”
In the end, bankruptcy, David says, was “an enormous blessing.”
“Change is a wonderful thing,” he says. “It’s always energizing. It’s always a great thing to embrace. Moving out here and working with Nick was a great thing. He was a wonderful guy to spend time with.”
With time, Rowden developed into what it is today: a furniture design school that offers classes in drawing, design, woodworking and business. David is mostly retired, having delegated teaching to former students (with the exception of head craftsman Daren Milman). Fellow furniture designers and makers now on staff include Ed Wild, Jon Greenwood, Jonathan Walter and Lakshmi Bhaskaran.
Although Rowden’s focus is almost primarily on education, David will occasionally make a piece of furniture for someone he knows and cares about — currently that’s a desk and chair in pear wood.
“It’s great,” David says. “It’s a great thing now.”
David and his wife, Carol, live in the oldest continually inhabited house in the county. It’s since been split into 13 units, and they live around the back “in a courtyard and I think cows probably lived where lived or it was a dung heap,” he says, adding that it’s great fun.
He has two children, a daughter who recently earned a degree in psychology and a son who is in his second year of university. For now, they’re not interested in making.
“When I was quite young it was kind of expected of me that I might follow my father’s direction and I didn’t want to do that,” David says. “So I’ve never in any way laid this on them. I want them to do what they want t to do. So it will be here, hopefully for them when they need it, or hopefully it will provide them income after I’m long gone. But we’ll see.”
And so Rowden exists, not as a factory for employment or as a means to an end, but in celebration of craftsmanship and making things, and a testament to the life David lives.
“I feel extremely fortunate that I’ve lived a varied and challenging life,” he says. “It’s been great. I’ve been having a great time. Yeah, very fortunate indeed. Very fortunate.”
— Kara Gebhart Uhl
Filed under: The Intelligent Hand, Uncategorized
I’ve gotten to know Chad Stanton over the past few years while filming almost three seasons of I Can Do That. In that time, I’ve seen Chad build an abundance of appealing projects, and learned woodworking techniques that have helped me in my own builds. It has never occurred to me to ask Chad why he does what he does though. Honestly, I’ve never thought to ask myself the ambitious […]
Issue Three T.O.C. - On the Trail of Two Cabinetmakers: Reconstructing the Careers of Samuel Wing and Tilly Mead
Editor’s Note: This post is written by Shelley Cathcart, Assistant Curator at Old Sturbridge Village. Shelley and her co-author, Amy Griffin (American Foundation Curatorial Fellow), have been researching the cabinet and chair making of two New England craftsmen. We are excited to publish this fresh research in M&T Issue Three, titled "On the Trail of Two Cabinetmakers: Reconstructing the Careers of Samuel Wing and Tilly Mead". We are confident this essay will help to advance our understanding of rural American cabinetmaking before the Industrial Revolution.
Interior of Samuel Wing’s Workshop, Sandwich, Massachusetts. November 1964
A new exhibition at Old Sturbridge Village, Planed, Grained, & Dovetailed: Cabinetmaking in Rural New England, explores the tools, products and livelihoods of rural cabinetmakers in the early 19th century. Stories of individual craftsmen or local partnerships are examined to reveal the man behind the workbench, his processes, products, and clientele. Inside the gallery the careers of two rural Massachusetts craftsmen – Samuel Wing (1774-1854) of Sandwich and Tilly Mead (1794-1849) of Hardwick – are compared through surviving material and physical evidence to situate the men in the canon of New England furniture makers. Both navigated the trade in ways that were typical during the first half of the 19th century. Like most rural craftsmen, they were primarily farmers with diverse sources of income, facing pressures of increased factory production with the advent of the Industrial Revolution. By exploring the narrative through a comparison of source material they left behind, it reveals unique approaches to the creation and maintenance of professional identity as a rural cabinetmaker.
Over fifty years ago Old Sturbridge Village was gifted the contents of Samuel Wing’s workshop, unveiling a vast material record of pre-industrial tools, patterns, furniture parts, and finished products. Account books, letters, and receipts reveal the versatility and entrepreneurial spirit of this coastal craftsman and chronicle the demands of his clientele. Interior images taken upon donation of Wing’s shop invite scholars to explore the interior and mechanics of an early 19th-century rural craftsman’s workshop. Even though Wing only practiced the trade for about 15 years, he left sufficient physical evidence to determine his production methods, style preferences, and technical strengths. Yet, the artifacts reveal few details about Wing’s personal life. The synthesis of documentary and material resources demonstrates his superior ability as a craftsman, but fails to reveal it as a means of self-definition.
The story of Hardwick’s Tilly Mead, depicted in a portrait by eminent decorative painter John Ritto Penniman, challenges researchers to recognize the contributions of a cabinetmaker whose surviving work is scarce. In lieu of a body of furniture, Mead left a trail of land transactions, patterns and graphic materials, some papers, architectural resources, and significant social connections. This evidence supports vivid conclusions about Mead’s personality and his aspirations in the thriving but competitive field of fancy painted furniture, but offer only hints of his actual products. Mead’s lively but meager career represents one cabinetmaker’s response to the fluid but unstable state of the trade in mid-19th century New England.
Letter from Ebenezer Swift, dated May 18, 1799, cites the demands of local clientele, imploring Mr. Wing to “give them chairs a good Green coler [sic]…& do get them dun [sic] as soon as you can…”
Juxtaposing the evidence available on these two craftsmen introduces specificity and nuance to general characterizations of New England cabinetmakers. In bringing their careers into the light, we find cause to re-evaluate assumptions about the knowledge, aspirations, and resourcefulness of rural artisans. At the same time, both men confronted industrial and economic changes that transformed the trade, forcing all cabinetmakers to reconsider their status. Adding unconventional sources to traditional furniture study enriches and refines our ever-evolving understanding of the cabinetmaking tradition in Massachusetts and the individuals who shaped it.
- Shelley Cathcart, Assistant Curator, Old Sturbridge Village
Stay tuned for the next Issue Three article announcement tomorrow….
Just a reminder that Yann Giguère is hosting the 4th annual NYC KEZ. It’s a full day of Japanese tool fun, with plenty of opportunity to try these tools hands on. There is a planing contest for those who are interested, and classes throughout that week as well as a one day workshop on Friday. Click on the link above for the full schedule.
Tickets are limited, but still available. I’ll be there Friday and Saturday, and hope to see you there, too.
My mother bought this bookcase sometime in the 1940's, I think. It was sitting in my parents living room for over 40 years before they downsized and gave it to me. I brought it to the shop because my apartment already has too much stuff but I liked having it around. In our former location I had an office and had room for the bookshelf and a need for a place for my tool books, but at our current location I've struggled to put it to good use.
I still love the bookcase but I admit it's now in the way.
What continues to charm me about the bookshelf? I'm old enough to remember Scandinavian modern BI -- that is, Before Ikea. I had a Wim & Karen bed. Blond wood, simple and elegant lines. Nowadays the Scandinavian look has been co-opted by Ikea - though to be fair Ikea has also rummaged extensively in Japanese and other nationalities' aesthetics - so much so that some people assumed that the pricey Wim & Karen furniture was Ikea's. But Ikea stuff never had the details of this bookcase.
I love the carved in recessed handles of the glass doors.
I love the glass top. Were the mod-century owners expected to put a highball glass on their bookcases? Of course. No wonder they needed a glass top.
Historically, this piece dates from the early days of "modern furniture". Unlike a modern piece, everything is solid. The shelves are pretty thick but chamfered at the bottom to give the appearance of a lighter design. That's a good trick and worth remembering. Since this is the early days the shelves, pins are turned metal, not stamped out.
I find the details at the bottom - a base that mimics the main carcass but is upside down, very interesting, and the large miters at the corners perfect for a peice that is modern in look but not really in construction.
The bookcase is in pretty good shape, albeit with a lot of nicks and dents. So it might need some refinishing. The glass is in very good shape and moves smoothly on its track, which of course is the key. If you are interested in having it for yourself, $199 or Best Offer takes it away. (Actually, you will need to take it away. We will not ship it though we will help you pack the glass for safe transit.) If it doesn't move in a week or two, off it goes to a charity thrift store and later into a new home of admirers.
In other news - this Saturday is my free sharpening class and on Saturday July 29th master luthier Ian Kelly has volunteered to come to the shop and Carving a Guitar Neck for us and anyone who want to see how it's done. Lutherie is one of the most interesting branches of woodworking where everything is a combination of science, craft, & sculpture. So that's going to be real exciting and it's free.
Wednesday 21st June 2017 So, there I was in Israel. It’s cool and rain fell. That never happens in June, every one said at once in English. A full class of people smiling and welcoming one another and me. There was as usual that heightened sense of enthusiasm that permeates the whole atmosphere before classes …
|first step tonight is take this|
|and attach it on top of this|
|got it centered and marked on the back|
I think I got lucky in that the weather is lending a helping hand. The top is sticking to the bookcase. Not like it was glued but enough that it takes a good bump to get it to move. The plan is to drill the holes and then get two screws in place, one at the back and one at the front. And try my hardest to keep the top from moving as I do all these dance steps.
I had thought of positioning the top and putting a couple of nails in it to hold it. Then I could get the screws installed but then I would have to deal with the nail holes. Another step and potentially another day added to getting the bookcase finished.
|picking the right screw|
|I'll start the holes from underneath going into the top|
|I think this will work|
|cove molding is last|
|love them ribs|
|shooting it clean and smooth|
|the back heel needs to be trimmed a wee bit|
|shaved with the block plane|
|left them long|
|rough sawn and left proud|
|taped off the inside on all four edges|
|painted the front of these yesterday|
What was the highest scoring College football game?
answer - Georgia Tech beating up Cumberland 222-0 in 1916. Ouch.
Today, we begin releasing the table of contents for Issue Three. Each day we will describe one article from the upcoming issue to give you all taste of what’s to come. On Friday at Lie-Nielsen, we released the list of articles and heard lots of excited feedback about this upcoming issue. Mike and I keep pinching ourselves as we continue to get such talented and passionate authors. Stay tuned here at the blog as we announce each of the 12 articles that will be in Issue Three.
Without further ado… here is the first article:
“The Spring Pole Lathe: Design, Construction, and Use” by: Joshua Klein
Of all the work that I’ve demonstrated over the years there’s one thing that never fails to captivate an audience: the spring pole lathe. Every time I am working at this foot-powered lathe, people seem genuinely astonished that such a simple device can produce elegant craftsmanship. I’m usually asked if I invented the idea. The answer is, of course, “Absolutely not”. This reciprocal lathe using a cord wrapped around the workpiece has been in use for many centuries.
This is my second spring pole lathe. The first was a softwood lathe I built from the wonderful design by Roy Underhill. It worked for most smaller projects but I eventually wanted longer rails and more mass. When designing this new lathe, I combed through numerous resources. I relied primarily on Roubo’s discussion (translated by Don McConnell) as well as the Dominy example at Winterthur in combination with many other historic paintings and images.
This lathe is built of white oak and features drawbore mortise-and-tenon joinery. This build is more like timber framing than furniture making. Even though I prefer meat-powered tools for my furniture making, I show in this article how a cordless drill with Forstner bits made quick work of the large mortises.
If you have been interested in trying out a spring pole lathe but haven’t known where to start, this article was written for you. There is a wonderful satisfaction in turning beautiful beads, coves, and balusters all powered with the pump of your foot. This article also addresses common myths about pole lathes such as how exhausting it must be to pump the treadle and how it is only good for green wood. Neither of those things are true.
I hope this build gives you the final bit of confidence it takes to build your own spring pole lathe. There is nothing quite like hearing the wind in the trees carrying the “SCRIT, SCRIT” of the bevel engaging at each rotation. On top of that, the refreshingly humane surface it creates is nothing like the 10 million RPM electric sandpapered perfection machines offer us.
Stay tuned for tomorrow’s Issue Three article announcement…
Last December when I started this series on the Maslow CNC, my goal was to evaluate the $350 kit with a focus on how it might fit into a hobbyist woodworker’s world — the kind of machine a woodworker in a home shop who might want to try a bit of digital woodworking at a low price. With that in mind, I look at the Maslow CNC and come up […]
The post How does the Maslow CNC fit in the Woodworking World? appeared first on Popular Woodworking Magazine.