Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Preparing for Another Course

Saturday wrapped another fine Practical Woodworking class. The Victors, Scott, Don, Esther, Andrew, Suzi, Jim, Sam, Ashley, and Dave should be proud of themselves for all that they learned and accomplished in just six days! I hope they sit back and admire their new hall tables with a smile remembering that that piece of furniture was merely a stack of three rough boards just 9 days ago. It's not surprise to me that the classmates made friends, carried such a pleasant attitude, and showed immense drive and creativity over the course of the week!

Since Saturday, we have been hard at work getting a jump on the next class that will fill the shop. Our advanced class is offered to Practical Woodworking alumni and the next one will start in just two weeks. What have I learned this week at the shop? Preparing for the start of the advanced class is no piece of cake.

Since yesterday morning, Rob and I have been pulling down rough lumber and beginning to set the stage for the advanced student's projects. Because this particular project requires a lot more time and special attention to detail, we take the liberty of milling a lot of the main parts that compose the piece.

These projects are composed of walnut, cherry, and poplar pieces. Early yesterday morning, all of the nicely shaped pieces you see to the right were just parts of long, rough boards. Needless to say, the table saw, jointer, planer, and I have become quite good friends (with only a hint of mutual frustration at times). We now have the start of 10 table tops, 40 legs, and 30 side/back boards as well as 30 drawer sides and then some.

With only a few moments left in the work day, it's nice to see the piles of milled wood and thus the fruits of our labors. I must admit though, I will be happiest to see them put together by students as we learn together how to do all the intricate and beautiful details that are found in so many Lohr Furniture originals! (I think I am most excited about buttons... or breadboard ends... or drawer-making... oh, who am I kidding, I can't decide, I want to learn it all.)

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Days 4 & 5 of Practical Woodworking

Another Practical Woodworking class comes to a close today but not before they learned all about routers and sanding (and today, finishing)! As I mentioned in my last update, Rob holds a "Router University" on Day 4 of the class. This is when the details of the table begin to take on the shape, design, and uniqueness of it's maker. He tells them how to use the plunge router to add detail to the edges of table tops and how  to create templates and cut out designs from the edge of the skirt boards or into the face of the skirt boards. It's amazing all the things that this one tool can really accomplish.

We teach students to use batten strips, a nail, and clamped sanding blocks to create a natural and symmetrical curve wherever it is desired. For the table made in this class, curves are commonly cut along the bottom edge of skirt boards. After the curve is traced, they use the band saw to cut out the curve and then go on to the sanders and block planes to smooth it out. It's just one of the many detail options we introduce to students for their skirt boards. We also have a router table with a beading bit as well as the option to draw your own design to trace and cut out!

Cooped with router day is sanding day. I find that sanding day is a day of relief for students as they have fitted their mortises and tenons, assembled their tables without glue, and are pleased to see the project coming together. From there, they can take to the sanding pavilion. Here, they get the run down on sanding machines, paper, and technique. Then, they are turned lose to tackle one of the final stages of their table completion. We use random orbit sanders and four stages of sanding with 80, 120, 180, and 220 grit paper for a nice, smooth surface ready for finish.

Another detail that is introduced during the 4th and 5th days is leg treatment. Naturally, another set of Jeff original jigs comes into play to cut tapered legs or to router subtle rectangular detail near the feet of the legs. We also introduce the option of using the beading bit on the router table to add a bead to the corners of the legs. Here, you can see Andrew using Jeff's leg-tapering jig on the table saw.

As the final demos begin in the shop as I type, I am proud to know that by the afternoon today, we will have a room full of nearly finished tables and eleven new, happy Lohr School of Woodworking graduates! I will do my best to capture some photos of the tables and their new, fancy looks so you can see what Lohr students are capable of! For now, we are onto the last 8 hours of table construction, gluing, and finishing.

And, on this chilly Friday, I bring you Joie, the ever-entertaining shop dog. She is here to wish our students a very smooth and accomplished final day here at the school. She says, "You guys learned all about the basics of practical woodworking for furniture building in just 6 days?!" Yes, Joie, they did and they did it amazingly well!

For the rest, she is here to wish you a lovely weekend and say, "We haven't seen you at the shop yet. You want to learn about woodworking? Didn't you know that our school is the perfect environment for any type of learner/level of experience?" And on that note, I will return to the group to enjoy our last day of class.

Current students, you have done a wonderful job and we hope you return to the shop in the future! Future students, I hope these entries give you an idea of what to expect and heightens your excitement for your class to begin. Potential students, we hope to see your name on our roster some day soon. And, to the rest, thank you for reading and look out for a new post early next week!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Class is (still) in Session!

Today is Day 4 of the Practical Woodworking course for April! My how time flies, right? The students haven't wavered in their eagerness and determination and it shows. In the past two days, all the students have managed to take three rough FAS red oak boards and turn them into table legs, tops, and today, skirt boards!

Day 2 primarily focused on leg creation. Students ripped, jointed, and planed boards to their designated thickness, width, and lengths. Because the rough boards weren't 2" thick like we would need them to be for the legs' final
thickness of 1 3/4", students needed to take their milled thickness (usually around 1") and glue two leg lengths together. Although we could have provided them with 2" stock, Jeff has arranged the course so that students are learning as much as possible about procedure and problem-solving in the six days they are here. Cutting 2" thick boards into the correct lengths and squaring them would be to easy and where is the challenge in that? Now, eleven more people know how to create seamless glue joints in order to create a desired thickness!

From there, the students jointed, ripped, and planed their legs to be square. This is a task that isn't as easy as we hope it might be so I am proud of the students for accepting such a challenge and succeeding as they did. After the legs are milled, squared, and cut to length, they need a bit of planning.

After each person decided which way they wanted their legs facing and placed with respect to the front/back/sides of the table, they labeled them with corresponding numbers as to not lose sight of their plan as they moved on to the next step. What is the next step? Mortising! I am in charge of the mortising jig station these days and it's one of my favorites. Jeff made a jig that allows for the router to cut two perfect mortises into four legs in a matter of 4-6 minutes and, thus, the master is the master for a reason.

Whilst legs were drying and/or in production, students tackled their tabletops. Because the weather has managed to linger around 65-72 degrees lately, we were able to set up the infamous router table outside. With a choice between ripping the width of the boards (so the widths will fit on the jointers), milling and gluing back together or taking to the router sled table, students made a working face on their table tops. With a working face, they were able to send their tops through the planer with a flat surface to mimic for a parallel side.

I must admit that I love class because I get to play with so many of the impressive jigs around this shop all in one week. Lucky for students, they get the same luxury. Jeff always says that photos, videos, questions, and notes are highly encouraged so if a student doesn't take everything not nailed down over the course of the week, they are missing out on the full potential of the class offerings. That means it requires only the labor and parts for students to replicate these tools for their own shops; the concept, plans, and assembly are described in full detail during class!

The final stages of the past couple of days means gluing together any ripped table tops, cutting mortises into the nicely squared legs, and the beginning stages of milling the skirt boards.

Today has been a day full of routers and tenons, although relatively unrelated. Students were introduced to dado heads for the table saw to make tenon creation worlds easier. "Router University" taught by professor Rob is always informative and, as I hear a room full of laughter erupt in the next room, I know it is also full of quips. The students will walk away knowing how to create all sorts of fun shapes and decorative edges to their table tops, skirt boards, and legs. And, thus beginning my favorite day(s) of the course, when students begin to add their own imaginative details to their tables and they take their unique forms.

A temporary goodbye from another rainy spring day from Pennsylvania and happy almost-weekend to you all!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Practical Woodworking Begins Again

We find ourselves at the close of another first day of Practical Woodworking. Today, we had the pleasure of meeting and spending the day with eleven new and eager past, present, and aspiring woodworkers.

As per usual, the first day was a huge dose of information. Jeff delivered another riveting and informative morning lecture on trees; beginning with the seeds and ending with how they end up dried, cut, and on our tables as rough boards.

These students, although they may not know yet, are lucky ones because they are the first to enjoy our new, cushioned, rolling seats/stools! I like to think of this as learning in luxury.

The afternoon progressed into a walk-through of how to cut, joint, plane, and glue up the legs of their future tables. After a day of demos and lectures, the students were finally awarded their benches and sets of rough boards. From this moment, they will be taking nothing but steps toward a handcrafted hall table and a new and useful set of skills to take home with them.

And, possibly my favorite part of today's morning tour of the house/showroom, was watching these cuties chirp and climb all over one another. The chicks arrived yesterday and are currently living in the safety of a warmed, lit box in the house. I plan on visiting the feathered creatures as often as I will be allowed to.

Look out for more updates on this weeks class! Until then, enjoy your Monday and, if you're like me, patiently await the sunshine and 70s that are predicted to flood Pennsylvania tomorrow.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Class Prep

Another Practical Woodworking course starts at the shop bright and early on Monday morning!

As we anticipated the arrival of our eager students, the usual preparations were made. As you know, we are a fully-functioning, furniture-producing shop for the weeks that we aren't holding classes. Because of that, as much as we might like it to be so, getting the shop ready for the class isn't exactly a breeze.

The shop usually looks something like what is pictured to the left. Because there are at least three of us working on whatever project is at hand that week, the tools and materials we need are out and tidiness isn't our first priority. Naturally, when we welcome our new batch of students for each class, we want them to experience the course in the cleanest, most organized environment possible. Therefore, this week (like all weeks just before a class), we have been on a mission to work on our project(s) whilst cleaning the shop from floor to ceiling.

And, now, the shop looks like this! It always impresses me how lovely it looks after some thorough cleaning.

The class doesn't just require putting away tools, storing current projects, and de-sawdusting a massive space; It requires a lot of heavy lifting. After a lumber delivery, we sort the boards for the upcoming classes. Given that each class is 11 people, we ultimately sort and stack 33 8' white oak boards on shelves high on the shop walls. Yesterday, we took those boards down from their high shelves and packaged them in sets of three. So, future students, know that careful consideration was taken when choosing and sorting your boards before class day one!
After the board are chosen, sorted, and packaged, they were moved to the back of the room to await their new, happy owners.

Now, the shop is clean, the tools are in their homes, the boards are packaged and stacked, and the 'classroom' is assembled. We are ready for another class to come and share a wonderful six days with us at the shop!

Day one will be a lot of information delivery so I hope students are eager and ready to learn. I am excited to meet the new group and be able to help them through the course.

 To all past, current, and future students, know that we are grateful and always excited to meet, talk, and learn with you during the courses! To the rest, have a great weekend!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Philadelphia Furniture Show 2013

I am happy to report that I, not only survived, but thoroughly enjoyed my first furniture show. A beautiful affair all around; So many talented artists, creative minds, and stunning pieces all under one roof.

Held in the 23rd Street Armory in Philadelphia, it was amidst the hustle and bustle of Center City but, it wasn't just city folk that came out to the event. I was excited to meet and chat with people from New Jersey, Delaware, New York, and Pennsylvania.
I must say, I loved to spend the weekend surrounded by fellow furniture makers and admirers.

As you can see, Rob brought along quite an array! I am inclined to say that the wine and spirits cabinet was my favorite of the pieces he showed but, the decanter of whiskey inside may have shifted my bias. Oak accessory tables, a ghost maple/walnut coffee table, the infamous dining table with newly crafted chairs and bench; these are just a couple of the pieces that filled our booth and I was excited to sit amongst it all.
I was lucky to get the chance to meet and chat with so many talented individuals showing their work this weekend. There were 60 booths to admire and learn from. So much of the work I saw was so unique and stunning, I feel like it was a crash course in types of furniture in all realms of design.

A big thank you to Rob for inviting me to spend the weekend at the show. And, thank you to all the additional exhibitors for being so talented, inspirational, and incredibly friendly!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Philly Furniture Show!

The 2013 Philadelphia Furniture Show is upon us!

What does that mean for us? A couple of days worth of wrapping, packing, and loading Rob's furniture into the truck to tote into the city where it will be proudly displayed as it waits for you to come and give it a new home.

What does that mean for you? Clearing some room in your weekend schedule to head down to the Armory and surround yourself with some seriously beautiful furniture.

Rob, Eoin, and myself have been hard at work today putting the finishing touches on the pieces that will be shown. The men are now packing up each piece as we prep for truck loading.

It's spring! Spring means spring cleaning. Spring cleaning means finally getting rid of that piece of fiberboard furniture you bought at Target four years ago and swore to yourself was "just for now until I find something better". Consider this your chance to choose from all things better. Think of how pleased you'll be replacing it with a handcrafted, real wood, one-of-a-kind piece as you chat with the designer and builder himself.
Rob has quite a selection ranging from tables, a blanket chest, and night stands to a massive live edge dining table with chairs and a bench. The past few days have been my first gander at a lot of his pieces and they are stunning.

This will be my first furniture show and I am eager to see what is in store. Just taking part in helping Rob prepare has shown me all that goes into an event like this for each exhibitor. Knowing all the hard work that goes into creating such beautiful pieces as these, I am even more excited to be surrounded by the artists and absorbing as much as I can from the environment.

The show will be Saturday 10am-7pm and Sunday 10am-5pm this weekend. You'll find us under the Robert Spiece Furniture sign awaiting your visit!

And, side note, for those who may travel with furniture in the near or distant future; there is a proper way to fold a moving blanket and it is the Jeffry Lohr way. It goes something like this:

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Letter Stamps

A short entry for the mid-week.

Today, I got my hands on some letter stamps. I have purchased enough mass-produced, assembly-required furniture in my day to have seen pieces labeled with letters or numbers so that the little people in the poorly-written assembly instruction booklet can show me which one of the many planks in the box serves as the bottom of my bookcase. In this case, however, I was really excited to me making the label letters myself. It's the little things, right?

Naturally, the shop is equipped with a fancy set of metal letter and number stamps. Now that I am taking part in building many things at once and knowing that each of those 'things' has a growing number of pieces every day, it is only logical to keep track of the parts of the wholes.

In this case, I was labeling the side of a portion of the Zelli Bar. The top surface of the bar has had five pieces so far and that number will only grow. It is essential that we know which sides fit with others so that no mistakes are made when cutting and gluing. Side "B" fits perfectly into one of the lengths of the bar so, to ensure we never have to wonder which side it is, I took a hammer to one of the stamps and, thus, we have a "B". And, now that I have played with letter stamps, don't be surprised to find a poem stamped out into a piece of wood some day in the future. It's like working with a typewriter that prints into wood which is, well, awesome.

Look out for an update tomorrow about making bones, the Zelli Bar, and/or a lovely coffee table soon to be on it's way to Chile!