Thursday, November 29, 2012

Tackling Day 2

Our day is winding down here at the shop. Since my fire building this morning, I have been introduced to what seems like hundreds of new concepts (but, is actually probably closer to ten).

Naturally, I got a lesson in "what belongs where" which doubled as a lesson in "I now know the name of that one thing I saw laying around Grandpa's bench when I was 7 years old". Needless to say, my woodworking vocabulary is building by the second.

As you can see, with the help of our shop pup, I learned to work with a variety of handsaws. After Rob shared his knowledge of the differences between Japanese and Western designed saws, I was put to work to cut off small excess pieces so that the puzzle-like sides would fit snug into their respective holes (as you can see in the picture). We are working to construct models of a furniture piece that students will build on their own in one of the advanced courses held here. I was proud to be the guinea pig to test which methods of cutting were quickest and easiest for a new learner.

Collectively we seemed to have decided that a combination of a Japanese handsaw (to cut straight lines), a coping saw (to cut at angles and squeeze into tougher places), and a chisel (to even out anything left that would prevent the puzzle pieces from fitting tightly and flush to the legs) was just the right combination to get the job done. Six side pieces, eight legs, and some exhausted hand/wrist muscles later and we have two basically constructed models! If you would have asked me yesterday what a coping saw was, I would look at you as if you had three heads so, there goes my woodworking vocab skills, again.

As it turns out, I am a big fan of chiseling wood. I can't decide if it's because of the awesome pile of wood flakes it produces or the wide variety of things that can be done with such a simple, almost primal, tool. Either way, I had a great time chiseling away.

Jeffry has an order for a bench for a resort in Chile. Because the wood he will be using has been housed in the cold barn, when it was brought into the warmer shop climate, we needed to be sure the change in humidity didn't cause the wood to warp. This task had me using an electric drill (which surprisingly, I am no stranger to) to drill smaller pieces of wood to hold the bench seat pieces to the beams in the ceiling. This way, the wood would be held flat as it dries and the bench can be level.

As we wind down, my arm muscles are grateful to know they can rest for the next 16 hours but my mind is eager and ready to start a new day tomorrow. Expect that each day, I will be able to woo you more and more with my increasingly advanced woodworking vocabulary paired with my ability to (more) accurately describe these new, foreign tasks. Until tomorrow, ladies and gentlemen.

The Beginning

Today marks my first day as an apprentice at J.D. Lohr's School of Woodworking. Tucked away in the hills of Pennsylvania, I find myself in the shop surrounded by seemingly infinite stacks of varying wood types and tools I couldn't even begin to call by name. I am writing to document the daily events and lessons of woodworking apprenticeship from the perspective as a 20-something young woman learning the ins and outs of the craft from the ground floor.

Aside from sitting atop the cellar stairs for the first ten years of my life watching my grandfather work on his carpentry bench, I have no training or background knowledge of woodworking. After applying for a job titled "Woodworking Apprentice/Teacher's Assistant", I am excited to have the opportunity to be a part of such a positive and unique environment. On the property, Jeffry and Rob host a Practical Woodworking course roughly once a month for any and all students around the nation. Beyond that, they are masters of the craft as they design and build arts & crafts furniture to sell to the public.

My day began with the construction of my very first fire. It is, after all, almost December in the north east and the light layer of snow on the ground outside says we need to keep the shop a little warmer than it is outside. I recently moved to Pennsylvania from south west Florida which might explain why this morning was the first time I have started a fire for warmth. I even got to chop a piece of scrap wood with a hatchet thus completing my first wood-related task on the job.

After the fire, I was moved along to the coal stove. Shovel coal into a bucket, fill the back of the coal stove, empty the ashes from underneath. Repeat at the beginning and end of each day. Another task that keeps us warm in these winter months. I have already been warned that I will be more than pleased when the Spring comes and nature is kind enough to warm the outside enough that I don't have to shower myself in ashes daily.
You should know that I am a math teacher by trade and living among the hustle and bustle of city life in Philadelphia. Each lesson, day, and picture that I document is all new to me. There will be photos galore and probably some laughs at my inevitable niave mishaps. I will be sharing tips and tricks, lessons, anecdotes, recaps of classes, and student profiles. These coming years are sure to be a one-of-a-kind experience and I look forward to sharing it with you.