That pile of split red oak I wrote about in previous posts has shrunk considerably. Don and I have put in several half days on the big Hitachi resaw. In one morning we cut the spindle stock for more than 60 sack backs. We are down to two piles of splits and hope to have them all cut into stock by the July 11 sack back class. One of the remaining piles is the three footers that are intended for the 2 Kids Chairs class this fall. The other pile is the six footers we will use in the settee class. There is a lot more in both piles than we need, but the surplus gets sold through the catalog.
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Sir Ken Neiswender and his chairmaking family were featured in Ron Hock’s newsletter this month. The article is titled “Ken Neiswender: Why We Love Hobbyists.” The article begins with the quote below by Ken. The article itself then follows. If you want to subscribe to Ron’s newsletter send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
“When I looked for recommendations about hand planes, the first thing I learned was to put a good blade in the plane to make it cut better. Hock blades are always suggested. The shaves I bought came with Hock blades and I love them. So, when I wanted more shaves, it seemed natural to get Hock blades.”
– Ken Neiswender
“What a treat to see Ken Neiswender’s spokeshaves, each with a Hock Tools’ blade. Ken is one of those generous-of-heart hobbyists who always has a project to finish, and a long list of waiting loved-ones. Just a hobbyist? With woodworkers such as Ken, the phrase lacks depth.
“Ken explains that at some point in 2003, ‘I wanted to make a Windsor chair and liked the idea of learning woodworking from somebody who knows what they were doing. I convinced my wife that taking our then 13 year old son to The Windsor Institute on a man-vacation could be a great father-son bonding experience, and therefore worth the expense.’”
“Happily, that class exceeded all of Ken’s hopes. He and Michael learned to cooperate as a father-son team (and many of us know how elusive that state of grace can be) and had a lot of fun that summer building their first Windsor chair. They went back to The Windsor Institute two years later to build rocking chairs together; but only after Ken took his youngest daughter, Lizzie, to build a chair with him in 2004. No more a man-vacation, this was father-child bonding at its best, and Michael was already hooked.
“Chair class at The Windsor Institute requires spoke shaves and I bought a fancy figured set of three spoke shaves for me and a plain cherry one for Michael. I bought them from Dave’s Shaves which sends the shaves with Hock blades.
“Ken has made 16 Windsor Chairs so far, helped Michael build three and Lizzie build one. His builds other things, too, and he and eldest daughter Katie turn pens together.
“Ken kept going back to learn more about making chairs and has only himself to blame for passing on the right genetic material to Michael and Lizzie who naturally needed spokeshaves made by their remarkable father.
“’Now that we had three chair makers, we needed more spokeshaves and I figured out that for the price of a blade, I could make shaves for everybody. I made Michael a flat, brassed shave and a curved bloodwood shave. I made Lizzie a similar set in purpleheart. As I made more chairs, I realized the value in having more spokeshaves set to different cutting angles.’
“Ken learned to make the shaves from an American Wookworker article by Dave Wachnicki of Dave’s Shaves. He still uses his Dave’s Shave Flat Sole in highly figured birdseye maple for a fine cut, as well as its mates with a curved sole and a smaller detail shave. They all use 2 3/4 inch blades, except for the Dave’s Shave Detail Shave that uses a 1 1/2 inch blade. So, Ken’s birdseye shaves are set for fine work, the bloodwood for medium and the padauk for coarse.
“At Hock Tools, we just love it when we hear, ‘I’m just a hobbyist woodworker.’ In our experience such words are usually filled with an authentic ‘aw shucks’ type of self-effacement. We work with professionals; students, hobbyists, the gamut of woodworkers in a variety of very specific niches. The craft and productivity of woodworkers such as Ken Neiswender are a true marvel in this world, and the results a point of pride for everyone, including Hock Tools.”
The article ends with this quote from Ken. “Woodworking has become my passion and my hobby, so when I find a chance to share it with somebody, I do. I am just a hobbyist woodworker who makes what my family wants and what seems like fun to me.”
If you want to see pictures of Ken’s shaves and chairs, follow these links:
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It has been a while since we had a good Windsor Chairmaker joke. Enjoy.
Four Windsor chairmares are walking down a street in Hampton, NH. They turn a corner and see a sign that says, ‘Chairmakers Bar - all drinks 10 cents’. They look at each other, and then go in, thinking this is too good to be true.
The old bartender says in a voice that carries across the room, “You look like chairmakers. Come on in and let me pour one for you! What’ll it be, Gentlemen?”
There seemed to be a fully-stocked bar, so each of the chairmakers ask for a martini. In short order, the bartender serves up four iced martinis. Stirred, not shaken, the way chairmakers like them and says, “That’ll be 10 cents each, please.”
The four Windsor chairmakers stare at the bartender for a moment. Then look at each other they can’t believe their good luck. They pay the 40 cents, finish their martinis, and order another round. Again, four excellent martinis are produced with the bartender again saying, ‘That’s 40 cents, please.’ They pay the 40 cents, but their curiosity is more than they can stand.
They have each had two martinis and so far they’ve spent less than a dollar. Finally one of the Windsor men says, ‘How can you afford to serve martinis as good as these for a dime a piece?’
“I’m a retired chairmaker from Portsmouth,” the bartender said, “and I always wanted to own a bar. Last year I hit the Lottery for $25 million and decided to open this place. Every drink costs a dime - wine, liquor, beer, it’s all the same.”
“Wow!!!! That’s quite a story,” says one of the Windsor chairmakers.
The four of them sipped at their martinis and couldn’t help but notice seven other people at the end of the bar who didn’t have drinks in front of them, and hadn’t ordered anything the whole time they were there. One Windsor chairmakers gestures at the seven at the end of the bar without drinks and asks the bartender, “What’s with them?”
The bartender says, “Oh, they’re all Shaker chairmakers from Canterbury, waiting for happy hour when drinks are half price.”
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