Thursday, February 28, 2013

Brown Oak Burl Wall Installation Part II

We have been hard at work on Brian's wall installation and I am here to update you on it's progress! 

Yesterday began with bone-making. The oak slab has a very obscure shape to it and one of it's features is that there is an almost spiral shaped portion arm out from the side. In order to keep that spiral piece strong enough as well as at the same level as the rest of the slab, we decided a bone was necessary. As you can see, each bone is unique in that Rob drew a few before picking the one he thought had the best shape and size to fit with the piece. Once he decided on his favorite, he traced it onto a piece of thick wood that would be cut into the bone. I asked Rob how he went about choosing the piece of wood he would use for the bone and he told me that although bones are a beautiful and function detail to add to a piece, he didn't want to choose a dark, contrasting color to take away from the natural color and detail of the wood. Then, he cut the traced shape out on the band saw and smoothed it's edges and curves. From there, he traced the cut bone onto the slab using a knife. This way, he would know precisely what to router out so the bone would fit tightly. In the photos, you can see the spiral-esque arm and where Rob decided to place the bone to keep it stable.

Now it was onto the plunge router. As you can see, Rob made a template so that the base of the router would have something to ride on for stability. He did three plunges, progressively getting deeper with each cut. He was watching the router bit closely and made sure it was directly lit so that he could see exactly what he was cutting. Rob was explaining to me that he would get as close to the knife trace marks as he could for the three cuts and then during the last cut he would run the router right up to the knife line. It was interesting to see how the router fell in sync with the knife cuts as it just flaked away the little slivers that were left. This made a perfect, clean routered-out space exactly the size of the bone.

Notice, he didn't cut through the slab; there is still some thickness of wood to serve as a shelf or base to glue the bone to. This way, the spiral arm will be pulled up to the same level as the rest of the slab when the bone is glued into place.

Now it was time to glue the bone in it's new fitted home. You can see the West System materials Rob used to make the epoxy resin concoction that he used to hold the bone in place. He smeared it into the routered hole as well as on the base of the bone. I noticed he was careful to make sure to use the right amount; thus avoiding the potential oozing factor. He taped around the hole in order to keep the resin from getting on the surface of the slab.

In order to fit this thick piece of wood into it's tightly-cut hole, we needed forced stronger than what our human muscles could provide. So, using two C-clamps, Rob slowly pushed the bone into the hole. He made sure to tighten the clamps at the same rate so that it lowered into the hole at the same angle on both sides. It's not pictured but, he also made sure to put a piece of wax paper and a caul between the clamp and the bone itself. This way, there would be no chance of a mark being left from the small circular pad on the clamp and/or any issues with resin squeezing out onto a place it shouldn't be. It was a tight fit and you could see the spiral arm slowly pull upwards to match the level of the rest of the slab. That is what I call a successful, functional, and class looking bone.
While the resin dried, I took a Dremel 200 series rotary tool with a felt tip to the edges of the slab. As I previously blogged, I spent a good portion of a day last week carefully removing the bark to expose the shapes of the natural edge. Now, I spent some time taking away any remaining fiber hairs and breaking sharp edges and corners. This way, when it hangs happily on the wall, Brian and his wife can touch it without any sharp protrusions. I have a good time working with the finest details of things so this was a great job for me to tackle.
Over night, the resin dried and the bone was successfully locked into place. Rob used a handsaw to cut off the excess thickness of the bone. Cooped with some hand planing and sanding, the bone was level with the surface of the slab.

As you can see in the photo below, now that it has been leveled, the bone looks so nice and natural holding the gap together. I think the tone of the wood is subtle but adds such an interesting detail. Kudos to Rob on a job well done!

The rest of the morning was a lot of quality time with the sanding machines. Starting with 80 grit and working our way through 120, 180, 220, and finally 320, we made sure any tear out or marks left behind from the belt sander were gone.

Since this slab will be a wall hanging, we want the surface to be free of marks so it can be admired. Furthermore, we want to make sure the surface is smooth so that the finishing materials dry evenly and cleanly. Man oh man, when we were done, the wood surface felt like marble.
Now, we are onto the final stages. I helped Rob lay the groundwork for mounting yesterday and then quickly set to work on beginning the finishing process! Because the natural color and patterns of this burl oak are so stunning, we didn't want to taint it with stain. In order to make sure it maintains it's color, we decided to use boiled linseed oil. I had a great time watching those natural colors pop. I was careful to make sure the oil covered every inch of the slab. Now, it will dry for a week before we begin to apply the protective coats of finish. I will be sure to keep you posted on the finishing and completion of Brian's wall installation. I am so anxious to see how it looks mounting on the wall!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Big Delivery Day

During my training for the apprentice position, I took the six-day practical woodworking course offered here at the shop. I was lucky enough to find myself assigned to the bench adjacent to fellow student, Steve Shreiner.

Steve was an excited student, an ambitious and creative table-maker, and (I can vouch) a really excellent glue-up partner. When he isn't taking the time to learn about making fine furniture with us at the Lohr School of Woodworking, he is the man in charge at Shreiner Tree Care. He introduced his professional arborist career during the class. He had started a tree and lawn care business in his younger days that has grown the past 27+ years into a huge and successful operation.

You can read about their history and services but, it seems as though they can perform pretty much any lawn, tree, or plant health task you could imagine. Better yet, they'll do it with a pleasant attitude and a genuine smile. Beyond that, Steve is just an incredibly generous guy. And, generous doesn't begin to describe what Steve had dropped off at our doorstep this morning. Excitement flooded the shop as a massive trucked pulled up loaded with four enormous walnut logs and two equally as enormous cherry logs.

My mind was blown as Rich eagerly perched atop this incredible truck, maneuvering the giant claw around like it was his third arm. With ease, he hoisted these massive logs up off the bed of the truck and onto the ground. What's more incredible is that he placed them as precisely on ground as you could place a pencil on a table top. It seemed like no time at all before these six logs (that could easily crush my car) were placed in a nice, neat row next to our saw mill. What took one skilled man and a truck to do in 20 minutes would have easily taken us 3 days. Discussion of how we are going to tackle these monstrous, beautiful logs has already ensued.
One of the logs had a piece of a metal hook embedded into it and could be seen from the outside which prompted a fascinating discussion of what kinds of things trees grow around. Apparently bullets are a common find embedded in a tree trunk. Common yard hand tools are often left to sit in the crotch of the tree and are swallowed up over time. And, most interestingly, we were told a story about a headstone that had been completely absorbed by a 6ft diameter cemetery tree. How insane! I am quickly learning that there is never a dull moment in the woodworking/arbor industry.

After a quick, easy, and fun delivery cooped with some awesome "I once found this in a tree" stories, the Shreiner truck drove away and we marveled at the latest addition to our wood collection.
Many, many thanks to Steve and his crew at Shreiner Tree Care. We are proud to call you an alumni of the Lohr School of Woodworking and forever thankful for your contribution to our shop. I can't even imagine what beautiful pieces of furniture are going to come from these logs. It seems to me a day or four at the saw mill are in our very near future. I'll be sure to keep a running record of these logs over time so we can read back and appreciate their lives from start to finish.

Thanks again, Steve! We hope to see you around the shop again soon!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Brown Oak Burl Wall Installation

Recently, we had a client inquire about what we could do regarding a wall installation. Naturally, that quickly led Jeff to a slab from the infamous 300 year English Brown Oak burl log. If you aren't familiar with Lohr Woodworking's past creations from this tree, you should do yourself a favor and read about it immediately at: Jeff's Live Edge Gallery. The tree grew on the grounds of a castle in England for over 350 years as it fought against the acid of a beefsteak mushroom. Lucky for us , the result of this mushroom poison was a tree truck composed completely of burl. And if burl is nothing else, it is incredibly interesting and beautiful with it's intricate, detailed texture and color patterns.

Our big plan for this slab is for it to end up looking something like the photo to the left. Mounted vertically, the installation will maintain it's live edge, shape, and color. Honestly, what is better than when nature makes such a beautiful piece of art on it's own, grown canvas? It will be leveled off a bit so that it hangs straight and flat but, as usual, our goal is to maintain as much thickness as possible.


Day one of tackling the brown oak burl slab was to take to the edges with a selection of chisels. With about 50+ different chisels laid out in front of me and a protective glove on my left hand, I carefully chipped away at the bark around the edges of the piece. Because the bark grows at such an uneven and varying texture, I was very careful to avoid chipping away any of the wood behind it. We took away the outer layer of bark because over time, that layer would lose it's strength and flake off onto the floor. Also, the natural live edge of the wood as it aged and grew can be clearly seen with the flaking, loose bark removed.
After hours of careful bark removal, our next move was to begin to router down the uneven surface so the slab would be flat and level for hanging. We brought in the big guns for this router job; the biggest router sled you'll ever see. In past entries, I have shown photos and written of the router sled jig that allows for us and our students to level off pieces that won't fit through the planer (like table tops). In this case, we are dealing with a router sled jig that is 5x as big. The sled works the same way, it slides up and down the rails and we move the router back and forth taking off small layers until the surface is level.
To prep for this task, we have a wedge labeled with numbers to slide between the sled and the piece of wood so we can gauge how high or low the surface is with respect to the sled. As you can see by my number labels, this piece has some serious waves and varying thicknesses along it.

Starting with the highest thickness, we set the router and Rob began the job of running it back and forth along the slab. He did this for a good portion of the day today as he adjusted the router to be slightly lower each for each pass. This photo was snapped during the fourth or fifth pass and you can see the leveled areas versus the lower levels. In order to maintain maximum thickness, he won't router all the way down to match the lowest thickness but, he will get low enough that when we sand it, we have a reference point to work from.
And, at the end of today, the slab has made some significant progress! As you can see, the interesting, natural live edges are see clearly and the majority of the surface has been made level. With the removal of the top layers, you can really see the burl patterns and shapes.

I am extremely excited to see the progression of this piece as we ready it to be mounted on the wall. All the processes we use to work with this is completely new to me so I will be sure to document it to the fullest. I know that Jeff's live edge creations are some of the most interesting pieces in his collection so I am eager to see how they come about. I credit Brian and his wife for having such a marvelous idea requesting a wall installation of natural wood because this is going to be beautiful!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Changing Jointer Blades

Do you remember when the weather in Pennsylvania was nearly perfect with it's 60 degrees, sun, and a nice breeze? No? That's probably because it only lasted for four hours one day last week and it likely not to be seen again until April. But, on such a lovely day, the windows and doors to the shop were thrown open and we were happy to welcome a moment of springtime. During this breezy afternoon, I learned to chance the knives in a jointer!

As tedious as the process as it may be, I am most certain that this won't be the last time I will need to change out the knives of a jointer (considering there are 3 jointers here in the shop) so, I am happy to know how to do it.

After removing the power, all the guards, and fence, you can actually get to the knives safely which seemed to me to be a good first step. From there, a little wrench will do the trick to loosen the bolts that hold the knives tight into place. Depending on the jointer, the knife may have springs behind it, in which case it will raise up as the pressure is released. Now, we take out the old, presumably dull blade out and put the new, sharp one in it's place. My simple-minded logic said, "alright, tighten up those bolts again and let's move it along." If only it were so simple.

Again, depending on the jointer and the lack or presence of springs will determine whether I reach for the Jointer Pal. The jointers with springs pushing those blades up need the aid of something to hold them down and even with the jointer table. To do that, the Jointer Pal and it's strong magnets stick to the jointer table and thus it pushes the blade down onto the springs to the 'correct' height. I use the term 'correct' loosely because, again, if only it were so simple.

It's time to whip out the dial indicator. Now, I don't mean to brag, but we are pretty serious about woodworking over here so we have the most sophisticated of jointer blade changing tools. You can see me using the dial indicator in the photo, but what it does it tell you exactly how high or low the blade it with respect to the height of the table. The key to this process is making sure that the blade is at an equal height across the whole thing. The dial indicator needs to read zero all along the entire blade.The Jointer Pal did a sufficient job of lowering the blade onto the springs so I didn't have to slice up my hands doing it but it won't make the blade height as concise as we need it to be. Therefore, I would spend the next hour reading the dial indicator and raising/lowering the blade ever-so-slightly at either end until it was perfect.

This is where things get tedious so, I will spare you the details as I spent a good portion of an hour tweaking the blades to be the correct and even height. But, finally I managed to get a blade even all the way across and just as I was about to pat myself on the back, Rob was kind enough to remind me that there were three knives in each jointer. And thus, the process began again. And again.

The moral of this story is that changing knives in a jointer may not be the most fun task in the world but, if I can do it, you can do it. Put on some calming tunes, settle in for a while (because it will take a while), and know that when you joint that first board with your new, sharp blades, it'll all be worth it.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

How I Became an Apprentice

One upon a time I wasn't a woodworking apprentice. Once upon a time, I was a nervous gal prepping for an interview to be a woodworking apprentice. Just in case you ever wondered to yourself, "How does a recent college grad math teacher land a job as a woodworking apprentice in such a small unique environment as the one at Lohr Woodworking?" The answer is: teach grown, professional woodworking men about pi.

My internet job hunt was in full swing. I was/am teaching part time in the evenings and looking for something awesome to do during the day. Boom, an ad reads "Woodworking Apprentice/Teaching Assistant". Sold. I tweak my digital art portfolio and my resume and send it along.

A month or so later, I had made the cut to come in for an interview and am perched on a stool at a work bench in the shop. The interview required a 5 minute lesson on anything I wanted to teach about. With me is my bag filled with a spray paint can, my best friend's lucky coin (I believe it was a pound), a foot of yarn, and a chart I had made with only the circumference and diameter of the Earth written in. At this point, I have just taken a tour of the property and seen the show room of furniture pieces more beautiful than any I had ever seen before so the level of intimidation has hit the roof as I proceed to carry out my favorite math lesson to teach and it goes like this:

1.) I choose a selection of various sized circular objects (hence the spray paint can, coin, and Earth), a piece of string or yarn that is long enough to wrap around the largest object, a ruler, and a chart. The chart is arranged with a column for the object's name, it's diameter, it's circumference, and the calculation of circumference divided by diameter.

2.) The student/woodworker uses the yarn to measure each object's circumference, the ruler to measure it's diameter, and a quick calculator operation to divide the two measurements. They use the chart to keep the measurements and calculations organized and easier to compare at the end.

3.) As it turns out, the final division calculation for each object will leave the learner with a value roughly equal to 3.14. Taking into account the fact that I bought yarn and yarn extends when you pull on it and retracts when you let go, the circumference measurements were never going to be exact. Also, without taking the time to find the exact center point of each object to measure the diameter, there was no avoiding a bit of human error. So, the ratios we ended up with ranged from ~2.9 to ~3.3 but, the point was made and the lesson wrapped up.

Most people know that pi is 3.141592... but, I have found that there are very few adults that were taught why. I find that, although pi seems like an elementary concept, it is something that is incredibly relevant to our daily lives and when people understand why it is a constant, they find it relatively interesting. So, moral of the story, the ratio between the diameter and circumference of any circle will always yield 3.14. I like to throw the Earth in there just to drive the point home; no matter how big or small (Earth or coin) the relationship between a circle's parts will remain constant.

I am proud to say that if you waltz into an interview ready to prove to people why math is cool, you may get a job. In my case, I was lucky to have peaked the interest of the two gentlemen that now employ me. Thank you, men of Lohr Woodworking, for appreciating how to discover pi! And, in return, I have been taught how to quickly and easily read a ruler. I'd say it was a fair trade.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Loading the Solar Kiln

Earlier this week, we embarked on the task of loading the solar kiln. On the property, we cut and dry a lot of our own wood. In past entries, I have written about our adventure cutting apart a maple tree that had fallen in a nearby cemetery. Well, now it was time to stack those cut boards on the drying piles for the couple of years it will take for them to dry naturally. Since the weather was spring-like ("spring-like" just meaning there wasn't snow on the ground), we took advantage and set to work outside.
Before we could stack the freshly cut boards, we had to take some of the dried boards and move them into the kiln for the final stage of drying. We loaded up the truck with the older boards and stacked the new boards, covered and weighed down to ensure flatness, on the drying pile.

Then, it was time to stack the [mostly] dried boards on rolling carts that slide into the solar kiln. Keeping in mind that between each layer, there are evenly spaced and sized sticks that must be placed to keep the boards elevated and allow the air to circulate between them. Each board was strategically placed to accommodate for the narrowness of the kiln and the thickness and shape of the boards.

The boards were weighed down with cement blocks (just like the drying pile outside) and then covered with a large black rug. As you can see, the kiln is painted black and the black tarp is drawn over the stack as well. The panels on the top of the kiln allow for the sunlight shine through as it is attracted to the dark color and thus, it dries the boards.

This kiln allows for the power of the sun to dry the wood instead of electricity. It also nearly eliminates the possibility of the wood drying too quickly. Soon enough, these boards will be dried to a moisture percentage that allows them to be worked with indoors. And, all the while, the process is beginning again as the newly cut maple boards start their drying cycle outside.

The kiln is loaded, the new boards are stacked, and we are working diligently to finish a cabinet for the shop. Always new and interesting things happening at the shop! Until next time, Happy Friday!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Wrapping up the course

Greetings from another snowy day in Pennsylvania!

Congrats to our latest Practical Woodworking course graduates! Last weekend, eleven eager and talented students completed the course as well as their own hall tables. A quick recap of our last days:

After finishing up the legs the previous weekend, students returned to class to work on the skirt boards, table tops, and the mortise & tenon joints that would hold it all together. I love this part of the course because it's the chance for students to add their own creative flair to their tables!To the left, you can see that Dave took advantage of the creative options to add detail to his skirt boards. Using a router and a jig, he was able to cut out the squares you can see there. This detail is one of many that students were able to add to their skirt boards.

Jeff gives a short lesson on how to read a ruler properly and easily (that I took full advantage of during my first few days here). Catherine shows off her awesome measuring skills. She is finding the center of her skirt boards so she could mark and cut a nice curve into them.You can also notice her perfectly square legs complete with mortises! It's really incredible to see these students work so hard for 6 days and how much is accomplished during each one. It wasn't three or four days prior that they were handed three rough boards and look at the progress!

After skirt boards and legs were [mostly] complete, students were set free to router detail onto the edge of their table tops! Rob hosts a lesson often referred to as "Router University" and let's students see what the plunge routers can do.With an assortment of router bits to choose from, students are, again, given the chance to add whatever detail they choose.

It's rewarding for students to have the chance to make their tables into something that they are proud of; something that represents their personality and style. Beyond that, as a soon-to-be instructor, I was so excited to walk around the room and see these tables begin to develop into eleven unique pieces.

At this point in the course, the pieces are starting to look like complete tables and I find that student's confidence is climbing as they see the fruits of their labor.

And then, finally, assembly. Smiles all around for students as they fit each tenon into it's mortise and fit the puzzle pieces together into a real piece of furniture! Allen stands proudly next to his assembled table, as he should after 4 or 5 days of hard work and learning!

We all walk around and admire the efforts and originality that fills the room. By the last day, the class has morphed into a group of friends that has accomplished something to be proud of. Swapping life stories and anecdotes as the nerves have calmed and the comfort has settled in. Everyone has something in common at this point, they/we are all woodworkers!

The final stages of the class allow for students to glue up those perfectly fitted tables. If you haven't made a friend yet, glue up is your chance as it is a partner activity. Lucky for me, I was paired with Mindy and Kristen. Between the laughter, table climbing, and only one moment of panic, we got Mindy's table glued together and held with clamps.

The course wrapped up with a lesson on finishing from Rob and a few parting words. I was more than pleased to have the pleasure of meeting all eleven of these wonderful people! And, I am ecstatic to have had my first chance to be an instructor of sorts for them. I hope they send along photos of their finished tables and any other wooden projects so I can share their successes with you.

Until next time, I bid you all the happiest of Valentine's days.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Tool of the Day

Greetings from another frigid Saturday in the hills of Pennsylvania. Today, my chronicles adopt a new tradition in the form of a "Tool of the Day" updaes. As I slowly learn the ins, outs, and upside downs of the shop, it's only natural that I come across obscure devices. When I learn about one of the many obscure devices (known to the common man as 'tools'), I will write about it. So, let's learn together about scorps!

Whilst scanning the shop for a foreign tool to inquire about, I was faced with quite a few options. You can only imagine how many tools Jeff has amassed over the course of his 40+ years working with wood. I will admit that my ability to name tools has increased tenfold in the past few months but, when I looked at the wall of hand tools I couldn't even begin to guess what this two handled sharp contraption was called and/or what it was used for.

A dangerous version of one of those fancy eye masks on a stick that people wear to formal costume parties? Or, more logically, some sort of scraper? But, why is it shaped like that? What is it used for?

Turns out, this is a scorp. Deemed Rob's favorite tool name in the shop, it is used to carve/shave/scrape out wood for things like seats (like the bench seat pictured here). Upon further research, I have learned that they can be found in various forms, some of which are on a long handle and used for bigger surfaces that need carving, like the insides of canoes. The scorp in the shop is easily hand-held and when put to work, can do a mean job carving out a nice curved surface from a flat piece of wood.

I'll go ahead and chalk this up as another +1 for my woodworking vocab as well as the expansion of internal tool  name database.

Stay tuned tomorrow for another update on the close of our latest Practical Woodworking class as well as additional woodworking vocab, tool descriptions, and anecdotes!

Friday, February 1, 2013

Back at it!

Good afternoon from Lohr's School of Woodworking! I apologize for my absence but, I hope that a lengthy new post about the most recent class at the shop will encourage you to look past my neglect.

First, as a Florida girl, I must begin this post with a photo and accompanying exclamation, "It snowed!" Not much but, there were snowflakes and they made the ground white and that's all I can really ask for. While the shop looked regal (if an inanimate object can own that adjective) from the outside, I was pleased to light the fire stove inside and dive into another Practical Woodworking class, this time from the perspective of an employee/teacher.

Those of you that have read my blog since the start will know that I started my apprenticeship at Lohr's School of Woodworking about two months ago and my 'training' was to take the week-long Practical Woodworking course that is offered here at the shop. Refer to my earlier posts for detailed accounts of the lessons and skills I learned during that week. On Friday last week, we started in on another class. This time, I am writing to you through the eyes of a teacher/instructor/novice woodworker.

As all Practical Woodworking courses begin here at the Lohr woodshop, the class takes a tour of the house/showroom. I have seen the furniture and interior of this house for months now and it still leaves me in awe. All the pieces are just so stunning that they can't be done justice in photographs. As per usual, the live edge dining table is a fan favorite because it is so uniquely beautiful. But, every piece of furniture, as well as the house itself, was build by the man himself and it's work that will never be matched any other. He takes the time to explain how each piece is constructed and why. Whether or not you are a new-comer to the woodworking world or just here to tack on some additional knowledge to a field you already know, his explanations are logical and clear enough that the design and building blocks of these pieces begin to make sense. No worries though, even if the terms he uses sound like a foreign language on the morning of day 1, that will quickly change throughout the course.

Here is some detail of the live edge dining table I wanted to share with readers. As you can see, he used bones to hold together fragmenting pieces of the live edge; you can find these bones in a number of Lohr pieces as he uses them to repair natural splits and checks in a beautifully simple-looking way. He and Rob will tell you that filling those negative spaces with the clear substance you see here was more than a slight pain in the side. But, honestly, what I would do to sit down at a dining room table and admire this detail next to my plate every night.

And then, class was in session. As a certified math teacher, I have observed a few fellow teachers in my day in order to learn new techniques and admire a seasoned teacher's organization and strategies. Jeff spent a fair number of years teaching high school wood shop so as I observe the class I just took last month, I notice a whole new world of teacher techniques and information being used to educate a room full of varying skill levels. I must commend Jeff on his ability to teach a course to 11 students with entirely different woodworking backgrounds by covering every detail between the way trees begin their lives right up until we are faced with the stacks of their parts at the lumber mill. Day 1 is always incredibly tiring just because of the sheer amount of [new] information the students receive but, no where else are you going to get this kind of expertise eagerly passed on to you by a master. A large wooden sign hung high in the shop reads, "All things will be revealed" and, boy, is it the truth.
At the end of the first day, the students got their three boards. Here Kristen poses with her rough cut FAS oak boards. Through the eyes of a teacher/woodworker here, I now smile at this point in the first day because I know how terrifyingly intimidating looking at these rough boards can be. I was there so recently. I didn't even know where to begin. But, have no fear students of the present and future, we are here to ease your worries. We allow students to take their new plethora of wood knowledge to sight the boards, study their grain patterns, and consider their lengths/widths/heights. There are 4 to 5 instructors eager to help you decide which boards are best for each part of your soon-to-be table. I can promise you will sleep soundly the night to follow day 1 knowing that you just expanded your mental hard drive threefold and the following day you get to use some power tools to go to town on the boards you now call your own.

Day 2 means learning to use table saws, jointers, planers, and radial arm saws. We know that using power tools is exciting, terrifying, comfortable, confusing, and second nature depending on the student. I'd say that on day 1 of the course, I was experiencing the first, second, and fourth emotions in a big way. Because woodworking is still a new world for me, I was always ready to ease the nerves of the newcomers while Rob, Jeff, and Suzanne were ready to do the same while also giving the go-ahead to the more experienced students.

Here, Mike and Catherine are conquering the table saw and the jointer respectively. The shop is full of tools so students can work simultaneously on different tasks. Each day, they are taught several lessons/demonstrations that they will be responsible for completing before the end of the day. Students share the massive shop to tackle each task of the day one at a time a their own pace.

The beauty of this course is that, for the most part, it can be done at the individuals chosen pace. Certain tasks need to be completed by the close of each day but, it is designed so that each student can take each task at their own speed with the close assistance of one of us if desired. As I mentioned, there is a lesson/demonstration to preface each task and a teacher ready to walk you through it when it comes time for you to jump into the hands-on. You will almost always walk into a room of busy workers on any day of class. Because of that, as a student, you are always surrounded by peers and teachers ready to figure things out with you. Students definitely get their monies worth of hands-on experience. Here is Mindy, a fellow woodworking newcomer, ripping her legs from her rough board. The hand placement and the need to keep her eye on the fence were demonstrated in the lesson beforehand and now she is nailing it on her own!

Amongst the power tool-ing in day 2, students are also given their chance to get their hands sticky with glue. Here Rob is giving the formal lesson on how to glue up table legs. Joie the shop dog doesn't seem too interested in the glue lesson but, everyone else gets to see a pro tackle a task they will be left to tackle themselves shorty. We have a glue table that is fully equipped for clamping and gluing of any sort. Although I have heard these lessons before and performed these tasks on my own several times over in the past couple months, I find myself listening intently regardless. It's so hard not to pay close attention to these masters of the craft. Because they are so comfortable and knowledgeable, my brain is telling me to absorb everything I can so that I can make it seem so easy and effortless when I am left to teach it in the coming classes.
After the glue on the legs have dried, students are quickly on to jointing and planing the legs down to be perfectly square. This task is not the easiest of those you will learn here during the course but, it is one that is of great importance. This is one lesson I can probably never see too many times. Throughout the course students learn the importance of labeling and marking the pieces as you move along in order to keep track of measurements, orientation, placement, etc. Labeling with chalk is a necessity when it comes to squaring anything on the jointer/planer/table saw. And, as you can see here, Ron and Brian exhibit how crucial teamwork can be in the course. I can assure you that you will walk away from the shop at the end of the week with a few new friends and an incredible amount of new information along with a hall table and probably the need for a nap.

Day 3 begins student's new appreciation for jigs. I have dubbed this shop as a place of jig geniuses because their incredible logic and problem-solving give birth to jigs that I can't even begin to fathom yet. Here Rob is demonstrating for the class how to use the sled jig for the plunge router used to level out one side of a large piece of wood, in this case the table top. Some pieces of wood will be too big to fit through the planer without ripping it into pieces and gluing it back together. Naturally, Rob and Jeff have created a solution in the form of this jig.
The end of day 3 brings us to the mortise jig. What a feat of problem-solving engineering this creation is. And, this was my first go at teaching woodworking. Jeff gives students the breakdown of how the jig works and anything/everything about the mortises. With the help of the plunge router, some pre-drawn squiggles, a wedge, and the fancy jig, I was left to walk students through cutting mortises into their table legs. 44 legs, 88 mortises, and 11 students later, I am ready and eager to teach as many lessons as they will trust me with!

I shall cease my wordiness and bid you all a fine evening. Expect regular entries in the future. After this course ends, I will fill the working weeks with small bits of woodworking tips, my slowly strengthening vocab, photos, student profiles, and soon enough, the steps towards my own original creations! Happy Friday!