Monthly Archives: November 2007

Mistakes are Costly

A lot of people who study at The Windsor Institute have met our friend Jim.  He is the fellow with MS.  He is  confined to a wheel chair and lives in an assisted living facility.  Susanna takes care of Jim’s personal affairs. That is one of the obligations she has assumed and that prevents her from any longer being able to tutor people who plan to go pro. 

Susanna recently renovated Jim’s condo to prepare it for sale.  After the renovation she staged the unit  so it looks like it came right out of a decorator magazine.  She will list it this spring when things come alive again in the New Hampshire seacoast.   

Readers who have employed tradesmen have probably had similar experiences to the one I am about to describe.  Susanna put  a new kitchen in the condo.  She ordered the cabinets through a local company.  They recommended she use the tradesmen they usually work with. The cabinet company gave all these guys glowing recommendations. Susanna figured she would be taking  a minimum risk using them. 

 Besides new cabinets and appliances,  the kitchen was to have a tile floor and granite counter tops.  The cabinet guy took on the job of coordinating with the other tradesmen.  He installed the cabinets first.  Next, came the countertops. Everything looked really good. Susanna, who was separated from Martha Stewart at birth, was very happy with the way the kitchen was coming together.  The tile guys did a great job on the floors, and on the walls above the granite counter top.   The colors Susanna had selected blended perfectly with the floor and the granite.

The plumber was the last guy into the kitchen. He hooked up the faucets and drains. Finally, he installed the new dishwasher. He spent much of an afternoon fussing with it and expressing his frustration with colorful language.  The next day, as Susanna inspected the kitchen she was horrified to find that the joint where the granite tops butted together had opened.  The grout in the tiles above the joint had pulled away, as well. 

Susanna called the granite counter installers to have them come back and fix their work.  She also made another call to the tile guy.  When the granite guys returned, they discovered that the plumber had jacked the dishwasher so high it had actually lifted the slab of granite above it.  This had broken the joint.  They also pointed out that this movement had disturbed the tile grout.  

After the granite guys  had repaired the joint, Susanna ran the dish washer to try it out.  She was concerned that the interior remained wet, even after the dry cycle, and that the drain well remained full of water.  No longer trusting the plumber, her next phone call was to the factory. They gave her the name of an authorized service company in Massachusetts. 

The service representative was very familiar with the brand dish washer and eventually  solved the problem.  The dishwasher was not level.  Furthermore, it could not be leveled because of a real bone headed mistake.  When the cabinet guy put in the counters, he rested them directly on the sub floor, even though he knew the kitchen was going to be tiled.  Once the tile guy laid down the floor, there was no longer sufficient height for the dishwasher between the upper surface of the tile and the bottom of the granite counter tops.  Although the appliance could be pushed into the space, there was not enough clearance for it to be leveled.  When the plumber tried, he actually lifted up the granite.  

The appliance guy spent about an hour. He removed some parts from the top of the new appliance and was able to reduce its height so he could level it.  

The cabinet guy’s mistake  set off a cascade of problems.  Had he laid down a layer of ¼ inch plywood before installing the counters, he would raised them up to the level of the tile.  Then, there would have been sufficient height for the dish washer, and to level it.  

Susanna bore  the burden of his mistake.  She made all the phone calls trying to find the problem and a solution.  She rearranged her schedule so she could meet the tradesmen at the condo. She had to pay for them to return, and pay the appliance guy to solve the problem.

For her, that mistake was costly.  It was also costly for the cabinet guy, although he doesn’t yet (and may never) know it.  Lots of people around Hampton know and respect Susanna.  She is regularly contacted by people looking for tradesmen, etc.     She will never recommend either the cabinet guy, or the plumber. In fact, she will  most likely tell people to avoid them like the plague.

There is no doubt, mistakes are part of life.  We all make them. Mistakes are also costly.  They cost us time, money, productivity, and self esteem.  In 27 years of teaching Windsor chairmaking,  I have seen just about every mistake that can be made in a chair, and  long ago we worked out a fix for just about all of them.  I tell classes that we, The Institute’s teaching staff, are Windsor EMTs. 

While we have seen and can fix most possible mistakes, we don’t see as many of them as we used to.  There is a reason.  Around here, we focus on mistake avoidance, rather than mistake fixing.  Why?  If we can avoid a mistake we avoid all the negatives that come with it; loss of time, money, productivity, and self esteem.  While the first three problems accrue to us, the guy  who made the mistake suffers the hit to his self esteem. As a result, the self satisfaction he should obtain from his chairmaking experience is diminished.  He is less likely to stick with the craft.

That is why The Windsor Institute developed a culture of mistake avoidance, and why how not to make mistakes is part of our teaching.  Just as work places that stress injury prevention tend to have less injuries, so a school that stresses mistake avoidance gets less mistakes.  When our students go home, they take those techniques with them and apply them not just to their chairmaking, but the rest of their woodworking, as well. 

Last year I published in Popular Woodworking one of the most important and helpful articles I have ever written.  In it, I outlined our mistake avoidance techniques.  A fellow named Joe Jordan, who is Director of Business Development at Action Management Associates, Inc. in  Dallas, TX,  read the article. Joe was impressed with how much our mistake avoidance techniques overlap with what his company teaches its corporate clients.  Joe emailed me and asked if we could talk.  His goal was to do an interview and post an account of our conversation on his company’s web site.

He called and we spoke together for about an hour.  It was a very pleasant conversation and I hope, as informative for him as it was for me.  I got a kick out of the thought that what we do here might be useful elsewhere.  If you want to read Joe’s interview with me use this link.

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I have done two other interesting interviews lately.  The first was for a high school text book.  It was a sidebar about someone (me) who had found success working with his hands.  I am particularly pleased to have been asked, as I am acutely aware that keeping woodworking alive into the mid-21st century   will require new blood. Otherwise, those of us who started the revival in  the early 1970s will take it to the grave with us.  If we don’t want (in the bard’s words) to have the good we did buried with us, we have to get young people working wood.  I hope this interview will help, and will encourage high schoolers to follow us.

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The second interview was for a book on immersion vacations. Apparently this is a current trend.  More and more, people are looking for vacations that give them an enrichment experience.  The Windsor Institute fits that description perfectly.  People who take a class with us not only go home with a chair that they have made, they go home able to make that chair over and over again.  You don’t get that on a beach in Aruba.  Also, featured in the section on The Institute is student Sir Don Pitts, who makes chairs in Washington state. 

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Brian Offut is here this week taking the Philadelphia high back class with his friend Mark Scanzello. Brian and his wife Anna Stacer are the proud parents of identical twin baby girls.  Marisa Kay and Meagan Joy were born last March one minute apart.  Proud papa brought us pictures of the girls sitting together in a sack back he had made.

Brian is a teacher and gave us a copy of a poster his school had produced to promote reading. The poster shows a smiling Mr. Offut with his sack back, reading a copy of my first book  Windsor Chairmaking. We wanted everyone who comes here to see the poster and appreciate Brian’s new-found fame.  We hung it over the toilet, so it could not be missed.  As a result, you men who have studied here recently all recognize Brian. He was the guy smiling at you every time you were in there.  One wag prompted a lot of laughter when he placed a strip  of blue painters tape over Brian’s eyes.

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Leon Robbins — Planemaker

Thursday afternoon last week Jimmy White of Crown Plane called to inform me that only a few hours before, Leon Robbins had died.  While most chairmakers who have studied at The Institute know Jimmy White, only the old timers remember Leon.  However, I knew Leon for many decades, and I am very sorry he is gone. 

I first met Leon Robbins in the mid 1970s.  He was one of the premier antique tool dealers of the time, and had a shop just off Route 1 in South Portland, Me.  His shop was a must stop for anyone looking for early woodworking tools.  One was always assured of a good selection, and I still own many tools I bought from Leon. 

After he retired from his day job,  Leon started making wooden planes to supplement his income. He called his business Crown Plane, and he used a crown stamp to mark his work. Even without the mark, his planes were distinctive and easy to identify.   Their stocks were segmented,  with a thick veneer of curly maple on the sides.  They were also stained a distinctive reddish brown which accentuated the curl.    

Not having a retail outlet for his planes, Leon wholesaled to catalogs, primarily Garrett Wade.  The upshot was that Leon worked very hard, and made a lot of planes, but made very little money.  When Susanna and I began The Windsor Institute, providing tools for a large number students was a problem for us.  All the sources for chairmaking tools that I have since developed did not yet exist at that time.  For students to complete their chairs, I had to let them use my tools, and these were taking a beating.  

When Leon heard that we had established a school and that I was teaching full time, he sent me a picture of a flat bottomed compass plane he made.  He asked whether or not it would be useful to our students.  I told him it was far too large, and that we used  a plane that was curved both along and across the sole.   I did tell  him however, that I would be more than happy to help him develop a compass plane that would meet our needs.  

I sent Leon sketches and other necessary criteria.  He made a prototype and brought it to a class for me to try.  I suggested several changes, many of which Leon made on the spot, quite brutally.  He used the band saw to hack off some of the prototype’s stock to make it shorter, and to cut out finger grooves.   He broke off an awkwardly placed knob with a hammer.  As funny as it was to see him desecrate the prototype, he made it more suitable to our needs.  The compass plane we all know  and use, was taking shape before our eyes.   

Two more prototypes, two more visits, and Leon had created the finished product.  Outfitted with an inventory of freshly made planes, Leon  began to visit each class on the second day when we made seats.  Students snapped them up.  These planes became Leon’s bread and butter. As he was now retailing, rather than wholesaling, the total sales price went into his pocket. 

Having a steady and reliable source of very high quality compass planes available to me, I next suggested to Leon that he  develop a travisher.  Again, I gave him mine as a model.  He felt very comfortable making the wooden body.  The cutter was the problem.  Leon produced his own plane irons, but did not have the ability to make a travisher blade.  I referred Leon to another acquaintance of mine, Charles Sterling in England.  Sterling produced  a curved blade, which he began to provide in quantity to Leon.  

We went through the same process of prototype-to-finished-product with the travisher.  I tested each and gave Leon the feed back he needed to produce a first class tool.  He now had a second tool to sell directly to the user, and he was on a better financial footing.  You can see why the Crown Plane compass plane and travisher are so good.  They were developed in a very different way than most tools. 

Usually, someone develops a tool, and then sends it to users to try and to comment.  If the tool maker erred, it is too late to make changes. The tool is already in production. That happened with a brand of wooden spoke shave and travisher that you see in some catalogs.  After they had been through development and gone into production the company sent me a couple of each to try.  I commented  on the problems and made suggestions as to how to fix them.  It was too late.  I was ignored, and if you buy those tools, you still get all their problems.  

Crown on the other hand, began with my specifications, and the first prototype was based on these. The tools developed  in response to my comments made directly to Leon while he  watched me use them.   Before Leon ever put his travisher and compass plane into production, all the  possible improvements had been made, and all the bugs taken out.   That is why these are such good tools. 

Students always express surprise that I can pick up their brand new Crown travisher or compass plane  and fix the most unruly patch of grain.  The reason is that these tools are part of me, and I am part of them.  

Chairmakers who have recently come to the craft assume that sources like Crown have always been there and that we here, like everyone else making chairs, just buy from an established source.  Not at all.  I sought out the toolmakers everyone uses, and I worked with them in developing their products.   As I have written before, all paths involving  Windsor chairs, lead back here.  Those who don’t know that weren’t here at the beginning, or are ignoring the facts.  The Windsor Institute started the Windsor Revival, and remains its brain and heart.  

Leon visited every class to sell his tools.  As he aged, he became less comfortable driving, and his son-in-law Richard began bringing Leon here.  We all became good friends.  Leon and Richard were part of The Institute’s extended family.  At the time,  Dave Wachnicki (now of Dave’s Shaves) worked with me.  Besides being an accomplished chairmaker and a great spoke shave maker, Dave is also a pretty good chef.  I still have in the showroom a framed picture of Dave and me  presenting  Leon with a chocolate birthday cake Dave had baked.  It was in the shape of a bench plane.  

Time passed, and Leon continued to age. He eventually reached a point where he could not physically keep up with the demand of producing all those tools.  His Grace Jim White, Sr. Duke of Windsor and son Jimmy, Jr. were looking for a business to start, or buy.  Both love to work with their hands, so  I suggested they approach Leon.  The sale of Crown Plane from Leon to the Whites was negotiated in The Institute’s library.  

Jimmy worked side by side with Leon long enough for Leon to teach him the business.  Gradually, Leon stepped aside and Jimmy took over.  Jimmy proved to be a good student and continues to produce Leon’s compass plane and travisher with the same high quality.   Jimmy keeps up Leon’s tradition of visiting every sack back class on Tuesday, the day we make seats.   Once students have seen these tools in use, they clamor to buy  any inventory  Jimmy has brought with him.  

I am sad Leon is gone.  A number of years ago, he had lost Alice, his dear wife.  As of late, his health had been poor, and I suspect he did not have a high quality of life.   I do regret that it required his passing for me to sit down and write his story.   

I do have one other regret when it comes to Leon. It is the injustice the woodworking magazines did to him.  About a decade ago one of the magazines discovered an elderly fellow in Maine  making a limited number of expensive planes for well heeled woodworkers.  His name was Cecil Pierce.  The magazine  did a profile on Cecil, and in lemming fashion, all the other magazines did the same.  Cecil became an instant celebrity.  

I called editors at every one of the magazines and told them they were over looking Leon.  I guess there can only be one celebrity plane maker in Maine at a time. The magazines all ignored Leon.  That is too bad. Cecil made a small number of expensive planes for a small number of  elites.  Leon made large numbers of tools for a large number of regular Joe woodworkers and chairmakers.  In my book, he is the celebrity, and he deserved better.  I am glad to set the record straight.  

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On December 13 I am having extensive work done on my left shoulder — rotator cuff and bicep tendon repaired, arthritis removed, etc. I will be out of commission for quite a while, and then, will be doing a lot of physical therapy.   I am not expecting to spend a lot of time in the office, and will be hard to contact.  As the operation is scheduled during our winter break, there is not likely to be anyone else here, either.  

If you try to contact me I ask you to be patient.  People are used to me responding very quickly, but it may be a while before I can get back to you during this period.  Also, if you have anything you know you will need, such as catalog materials, gift certificates, etc., it would be best to take care of those matters before December 13.  

If you would like to receive periodic updates, tips, tool reviews, and new sources, that are outside the scope of this blog, join our mailing list by emailing me at   

Knightly News — The Immortal Black Duke

The November 5 settee class witnessed a pair of unusual events.   On Thursday afternoon two knights were earled and then, one of them was duked.  To be earled a knight must have completed all courses taught at The Institute.  It was no more than an unusual coincidence  that the November 5 settee class was the final one for both Sirs Tony Passarelli and Gordon Keller.  That Lord Gordon would go on after to be duked was truly exceptional. 

As regular readers remember from my October 31 posting,  dukes have to help teach a sack back class.  Therefore, sack back classes typically witness dukings, not advanced classes.  His Grace Gordon was able to accomplish a duel earling/duking by virtue of a special dispensation granted by the College of Dukes.  The college granted that he could teach prior to his duking, as this would spare him an additional cross country flight. H.G. Gordon lives on the west coast. He  was here early last summer for the rocking chair class and  stayed on in Hampton for an additional week to help teach the first July sack back. 

The ceremony began with the candidates, the Honor Cordon, and the court assembling upstairs in The Institute’s library.  Dressed in full piper regalia and playing The Institute’s hymn “All Hail to Thee Windsor,” Sir Fred Chellis led the  Cordon down the staircase.  Headed by His Grace Don Harper, the Cordon formed at the band saw, while Sir Fred advanced to his place at the left of the throne.  

Dressed as the King of Windsor I descended next, while the Keeper of the Privy Seal played my theme music “If I Were King of the Forest.”   When  I came into view on the stairs I greeted the assembled multitude of peasants with the special wave taught to me by the crowned heads of Europe.  The peasants (who up to then had been the settee class) began to guffaw at seeing me dressed in my purple cape and glitter covered cardboard crown, carrying my scepter and the Royal Curly Maple Spoke shave crossed over my chest.    However, a stern glance returned them to proper decorum.

I assumed the throne (the Nantucket fan back from the showroom) and signaled for the Keeper to play the earls theme, Speedo by the Cadillacs.   Earl candidate Tony descended to this lively dance tune.  As he approached the throne he was carried away by the music and began to dance.  After a bit, he beckoned to his wife Yvonne, who joined him.  The couple was having so much fun I arose from the throne, and in an activity admittedly undignified for a king, joined them in bopping to the song.

Meanwhile, Candidate Gordon remained on the landing waiting for Speedo to begin a second time, as this was his cue to descend.  He certainly must have wondered what had tied up the ceremony.  At last, his time came and he too descended.  He joined Tony in kneeling before their liege, the King of Windsor.

At this juncture I called the court and the assembled  multitude to attention by loudly declaring “A Royal Proclamation.”  I then read the proclamation which elevated Lord Gordon as the 27th Earl of Windsor and Lord Tony the 28th.   The proclamations bestowed “upon said Earl all the rights, privileges, dignities, and honors appertaining to this  rank.”   I further placed said Earl “in dominion over, and in command of  any and all Knights of Windsor who are, or may come under his protection and suzerainty.”  I further pledged said Earl “to protect, sustain, and defend all and any said Knights.”  Then, I did “instruct, commend, and obligate all said Knights to pledge to said Earl their loyalty, fief, and devotion.” 

Next, I dubbed Lords Gordon and Tony with the Giant Spoke Shave,  a huge ceremonial wooden shave  25 inches long and 3 ¼ inches wide.  I always pretend to test the wooden blade with my thumb and comment that if provoked, I could position that shave so as to remove  most of an ear.  As I dubbed the two earls I invoked the blessing, “May your chairs stand forever, and may Shaker chairmakers always tremble at the sound of your name.” 

Next, I placed on them the badge of honor, suspended around the neck by a red ribbon.  The badge is the same as the Wizard of Oz gave the Cowardly Lion.  It bears in bold letters the word “COURAGE.”  I then gave them the final accoutrement, the plastic shield of an Earl of Windsor.  

This brought us to the moment so favored and anticipated by the Assembled Multitude.  Being mere peasants, they love crude sport.  The Long Kiss gives them one last  opportunity to torment their betters before they are elevated to a new level of dignity.  To perform the Long Kiss the candidate places his lips on the gaudy red bauble – the big glass ring on my left hand.  The rules are that the candidate’s lips must maintain contact with the bauble until all present have taken as many photos as they wish.   

Lord Gordon’s Long Kiss was reasonably uneventful.  However, Lord Tony’s wife is a photographer.  She was prepared to get lots of pictures, and drew out the ceremony’s conclusion. To top it off, a wag in the Assembled Multitude had hidden an electronic whoopee cushion somewhere under the bench nearest the kneeling Lord Tony, and activated the remote during his Long Kiss.   The sound of a loud imitation flatus sent Lord Tony into a fit of giggles.  This caused him for the first time in Royal Orders history, to break contact with the bauble.   According to the rubric, he started all over again, only to have our anonymous comedian again activate his hidden device.  Before he was done, Lord Tony broke contact five times.  When I called for the thumbs up vote for mercy all thumbs turned immediately up.  Everyone wanted to beat the wag’s finger, and bring the long and torturous Kiss to an end.   

Following the earling, Lord Tony joined the Cordon. Meanwhile, Lord Gordon went upstairs to prepare for his duking.  As a duke candidate, he descended to the dukes theme Duke of Earl by Gene Chandler.  When I read the proclamation, I not only proclaimed him His Grace Gordon, I bestowed on him the additional title of the “Immortal Black Duke.  His Grace Ed Fisher is the only other duke to be honored with a title. 

 Like everything else at The Windsor Institute, H. G. Gordon’s title has a story.  At his knighthood class His Grace was knighted along with a fellow chairmaker.  This man is the most kind, the most gentle, most pure of all the knights.  In his purity, we have to compare him to Sir Galahad of Arthur’s Court and the Round Table.  In fact, to protect his identity from the shame associated with this story, we shall call him Galahad.  

The only clue I shall give is that besides being a Knight of Windsor, Sir Galahad is one of the two living members of the Royal Orders also in the Chairmakers Hall of Fame.  The select group in the Hall are known as the Immortals, and we honor them for their innovations, which make chairmaking easier.  We recognize each of them as “a humanitarian, a philanthropist, and a chairmaker concerned with the well being of his/her fellow chairmakers.”  This is the exalted nature of Sir Galahad’s noble, and  unsullied character.   

The evening after their knighting, Sir Gordon invited Sir Galahad to Widow Fletcher’s restaurant to share a celebratory dinner together. There, Sir Gordon introduced the noble and pure Galahad to single malt scotch.  Like W.C. Field’s son Chester in The Fatal Glass of Beer, the taste of single malt scotch pleased Galahad’s  palate.  As the fiendish Sir Gordon twirled his mustache in ignoble delight, Galahad was unable to stop, and consumed more than prudent.  He certainly consumed more than a spirit and character so pure and so unsullied could tolerate.    

The next day, our beloved Sir Galahad suffered terribly from the affects of his night on the town with Sir Gordon.  His youthful and ruddy complexion was pallid, and even a bit gray. On Friday, he struggled to stay awake and to complete his chair. Sir Gordon, long ago having built up an immunity to the effects of strong drink, remained his normal self.  

Sir Gordon came to be called the “Black Knight” by those who had witnessed his shameless corruption of the pure and decent Galahad.  His classmates probably would have called him Voldermort, but the name was already taken.  As for Galahad, someone matching his description was recently spotted sprawled in a gutter in Richmond, VA clutching a nearly empty bottle of Ripple.  

However much of a blaggard Sir Gordon may have revealed himself to be in his corruption of Galahad, like Severus Snape, he has an heroic side.  This past summer Sir Gordon, the Black Knight was also inducted as a member of the Chairmakers Hall of Fame for his innovation Keller’s Colors.  By inducting him, The Board of Trustees recognized him too, as “a humanitarian, a philanthropist, and a chairmaker concerned with the well being of his/her fellow chairmakers.” The Trustees tacitly recommended all chairmakers to emulate Sir Gordon.  

His Grace’s complex personality incorporates  this impenetrable conflict, and it is  this contradiction that is recognized by his title.  For being capable of corrupting a noble and pure knight and fellow Immortal,  he is called the Black Duke.  For being so noble as to make chairmaking easier for his fellow chairmakers, he is in the Hall of Fame and one of the Immortals.  Thus, His Grace is now, and forever to be known, as the Immortal Black Duke.  

Following His Grace’s duking he posed for the official photos of him with his sovereign, and together with the entire court.  Finally,   His Grace Gordon Keller, the Immortal Black Duke of Windsor joined Lord Tony in sharing his cake with the assembled multitude.  The ceremony was indeed a rare and noteworthy event.

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A Duck Walks into a Chair Shop…..

The November 5 settee class occurred this week, and I have been too busy to write a weekly post.  So, I decided to treat readers to some Windsor chair jokes.  We call this the “best of Windsor chair humor.” The joke about our humor is that it is  lame, reworked  jokes.  Have a chuckle.  Next, week I be reporting about the doings in this class.  We had a lot of fun together.    

Mid-month I will be emailing our monthly newsletter.  If you are not receiving it, drop me an email at and I will put you on the list.  Last month’s mailing was a copy of a 1786 chairmaker advertisement from a Boston newspaper.  The month before was a tool review of Woodjoy’s new hollow ground spoke shave cutter.    

* * * *  

  One day His Grace Don, an instructor at The Windsor Institute was having a drink with some fellow Windsor chairmakers down at the local pub, The Silver Spoon Bit.   The drinking spot  is also favored by the vile and treacherous Shaker chairmakers who attend their school,  Shakermaker U.

 H. G. Don began to tell a Shaker chairmaker joke to his fellow Windsor chairmakers.  Sitting at another table was the captain of the Shakermaker U football team, who  overheard His Grace.  The very large Shaker chairmaker   rose  out of his chair and stood next to H. G. Don.  “So, you were going to tell a Shaker chairmaker joke, were you?” said the captain.  “I dare you.  Go ahead and tell it with me standing here.”           

Not content to be alone in his intimidation, he also summoned  the Shakermaker U fullbacks, “Hey, Hezekiah,  Isaiah,  come over here.”  The three huge players loomed over  H. G. Don and his friends.  Next, the captain called to the two gigantic  tackles who were still seated at his table, “Hey Jeremiah, Zechariah (Shaker chairmakers all have names like this,) come here.”   Now, five enormous Shaker chairmakers stood menacingly around  H. G. Don and his companions. 

“You still  want to tell that joke?” the captain growled.           

“No,” answered His Grace.              

 What are you, chicken?” asked the Shaker chairmaker.           

“No,” replied His Grace.  “I just don’t want to explain it five times.” 

*  *  *  *               

Here is the joke His Grace was about to tell.           

 “How many Shaker chairmakers does it take to drill a hole?  

“Five.  One to hold the brace and four to turn the bench.”  

 * * * *

The phone rings at the Drug Enforcement Agency office in Portsmouth, NH.  An anonymous tipster, obviously disguising his voice says, “The Windsor Institute is involved in drug smuggling.  They just received a pile of oak logs that are hollowed out and full of drugs.”

Minutes later, a squad of strong, young DEA agents arrives at The Institute equipped with splitting mauls and wedges. After an hour of furious work, they leave empty handed.            

Next, the phone rings at The Institute.  Mike, still in a state of shock after the DEA invasion, answers. 

“Mike?”  asks a voice easily recognized as Sir Fred’s, another instructor at The Institute.     


“Did the DEA show up today? ”         

“Yes,” responds the puzzled Mike.          

 “See,” says Sir Fred.  “ I told you I could find and easier way to get those logs split.”