Monthly Archives: April 2011

What Makes H.G. #23 Run?

            The April 11 sack back class wrapped up at about 2:30 last Friday. Today — the following Monday — I am happy to take some time to recover. However, I am aware that I sit here, our 23rd Duke of Windsor and his daughter Liz, who were part of last week’s class, are about to run the Boston Marathon. Their dedication recalls the words from The Windsor Institute’s fight song, sung by our band and pep squad at every athletic contest. Liz and Stewart so epitomize those words that it only proper to quote them. “Ever onward, ever onward, go the Windsor men (and women). Nothing can stop these men (and women) of steel. Each has grit and sex appeal.  Hearts of courage, wills of iron, that’s the

Windsor way…..” 

            H. G. Stewart came to class with both his daughters; Liz and Sarah. Although Sarah is not running in Boston today, she has run the marathon in the past. You can read about the marathoning sisters at the following link.  http://www.seacoastonline.com/articles/20090401-SPORTS-904010305

            We duked His Grace on Thursday afternoon. His wife dropped by to attend the ceremony. A duking is so glorious it has been compared to the upcoming royal wedding in England. H.G. Stewart’s daughters videotaped the duking, so I would be surprised if it’s not already up on Youtube. Duking’s only happen at sack back classes, as that is the requirement for dukedom; to help teach a sack back class.  The shop full of new chairmakers were also new to The Institute’s solemn Royal Orders ceremonies. Those ceremonies are so steeped in tradition and symbolism, those attending for the first time were overwhelmed by the pomp and dignity.

            Another of our traditions is that the new duke demonstrates mounting the bow on the chair; the last demonstration of the class. H. G, Stewart accomplished this with predictable ease, earning himself a round of applause from the students.

 

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Got a toothache? You should be here.

             The April 11 sack back is in session as I write. Don Harper has just show them how to attach their hand blocks and they are doing that operation. As soon as they are done, I will complete legging up.

            The class is in for a treat tomorrow when we make Lord Stewart Turner the 23rd Duke of Windsor. At that point I will have three dukes on the floor with me, following six last class. I suspect something nefarious is afoot, as I have never had that many dukes here in such a short time. I have noticed that the common element is His Grace Don Harper, who teaches with me.  He has developed a lean and hungry look, and I am keeping an eye on him.

            This class has a decidedly dental theme. Lord Stewart brought his two daughters Elizabeth and Sarah to the class to make chairs. They will also witness his humiliation…. ahhh, duking. H.G. Kurt Rothermel attended with his daughter Kate. Both Kate and Elizabeth are completeing dental school this year and are about to go out into the world to practice. H.G. Kurt is also a dentist, and Don Johnson on vise #3 is a retired dentist. If you have a toothache, this is the class to attend. 

            Yesterday, as I began the legging up process, I made the class Entered Apprentice chairmakers. H.G. Don, Donnie Chesser, Lord Stewart, and H.G. Kurt all watched with grins on their faces. I love the expression in they eyes of sack back students when they experience their first taste of the nuttiness that goes on in our “solemn” ceremonies. Until they catch on that the whoe thing is a spoof, they look stunned; unsure of how the class just took this weird turn. Once they catch on, they join in and the jokes start flying.

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Where’s da Book?

                    I’ve gotten a lot of emails asking “Where is the book?” I had told you last fall I was working on a new edition of Make a Windsor Chair and that I expected to have it done early this year. Well… You know the old line about the best laid plans of mice and men?

 

            This is what happened. Out of the blue, I was contacted by a woman who works for a major publisher. She was interested of all things, in the series of young teen fantasy adventure novels I have been writing. I had set that project aside, as I have had no luck securing an agent. Most publishers won’t deal with an author directly and due to the economy, most agents have their backs to the wall. So, I have been trapped in a Catch 22.

 

             The woman had heard about my series from a fellow woodworker. I do wonder if he is someone who drops by here once in a while. Anyway, I sent her the first manuscript, synopses of the next three, and a series overview. She liked the project and referred it to the woman who runs the publisher’s children’s imprint.  That is where it is now.

 

            Meanwhile, I have a friend who for years was CEO of a major NYC publishing house. He had left that job to form his own company. During the fall he sold his start-up to another children’s publisher, and along with the sale, he ended up working for that company. He wrote to me suggesting I send the project to him.

 

            So, right now, I have two publishers looking at the series. I had the fifth book in the series (of eight) all mapped out in my mind, and just in case one of the publishers expressed interest, I felt I should be able to show more recent progress. If they reject me, (that is the most frequent outcome for all authors) I have been encouraged by my recent ability to bypass agents. I plan to continue using personal contacts to get my foot in the door. That decision too, made me feel I needed to show more recent progress on the series.  Consequently, during my winter break I wrote the fifth book. I know it sounds immodest, but it is a corker.

 

            Wait! That’s not all. Last September I began writing an adult adventure novel for my Facebook friends. I reserve Facebook for family, or life-long buddies. I limit my number of friends as I don’t want to talk about woodworking or chairs on Facebook. I do that here. Anyway, to amuse my small list of friends, I write stories with them as the characters. I post a chapter every Sunday and after my characters read that installment they spend the week hurling brickbats at me. We have a lot of fun joshing back and forth. The story I started in September caught fire and ended up becoming a full-length manuscript that I will someday polish up and try to publish. 

            The result of all this writing is that I did not complete my reworking of Make a Windsor Chair. I have not abandoned it and hope to get back to it soon. I still expect you will see it this year. That is my plan, unless one of the publishers comes through.  Then, all bets are off.

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More Recamier News

             The Recamier class wraps up today. Mother Nature pulled an April Fool’s joke on us by dumping six inches of spring snow. We lost two people yesterday. They had long drives and needed to be home by the weekend. They couldn’t afford to get trapped by the snow. Before they left H.G. Woody Leland took them out next to the log area and snapped their pictures. He is a photographer and promised he will PhotoShop them into the class picture.           

            I walked through the door to a situation that will give you a kick.  A blood stained towel was hanging on the wall next to H.G. Lyndon Gallagher.  Shortly before my arrival Lyndon had been working on his arm. This part is J-shaped and heavy.  Lyndon had gripped it in his vise while he worked on a scroll. As he applied pressure, the arm pivoted in the vise and the top came down and whacked him on the head. It broke skin and Lyndon began to bleed profusely.

            Here is another vignette. You can imagine what was going on when H. G. Woody exclaimed triumphantly, “I did it right by making a mistake!”

            Never have I been razzed as much as this week. My wife Susanna informed the class that I had joined a cult. I have – The Shaggs Cult. The Shaggs were a self-taught, all-girl band of three sisters from Freemont, NH.  They cut their album “Philosophy of the World” in 1968. Although they lived in obscurity they have attracted a group of loyal aficionados who love their music.

             Most people think they are hopelessly bad. Being a cult member, I consider their music raw and primitive, but very good. H.G. Dave Watson went to Youtube on his cell phone and played their song “My Pal Foot Foot” for the class. The room broke into a chaos of laughter. The Shaggs jokes have not stopped yet.

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To receive my monthly  eLetter of essays about chairs and chairmaking, that are in addition to this blog, join our mailing list by emailing me at mike@thewindsorinstitute.com Help us spread the word about this blog. Tell others.