Drilling of the First Hole

Human beings need celebrations. Celebrations are the way we mark out the rhythms and patterns of our lives. We celebrate joyful events like weddings and births, and we celebrate the painful ones such as death. Here at The Windsor Institute, we deal with lots and lots of people and so, we celebrate all the time. We had a joyful celebration this week and two that were sorrowful.

In an earlier post I described the ceremony we use to wrap up our school year. We call it the Burning of the Back Boards. At the end of the last day of the last class of the year, the staff and the students take the back boards we have used all year—full of holes like Swiss cheese – and we burn them.

Just as we have a ceremony that ends our school year, so we have one that begins the year. We call this ceremony the Drilling of the First Hole and it occurred this week with the first class of the year (the February 18 Balloon back.) We use the back boards in both ceremonies. That way the beginning and end of our school year are linked together by the back boards.

We begin each year with a fresh supply of brand new, unblemished back boards. They are 1 X 6 X 24 inch strips of pine. Their purpose is to protect the bench tops when we are drilling through holes in Windsor seats and arms. When the bit passes through a chair part, it enters the back board, rather than the bench.

On Tuesday of every class, we begin to assemble the chairs. The seats have just been completed, and it is time to start legging up. In every class we demonstrate the legging up process and then, everyone else does it under our supervision. So, the first hole drilled every year is done by the person doing the demonstration. In the past, I have always been the one to demonstrate legging up. Because my left arm is in a sling, H.G. Don Harper did the demonstration this class.

As soon as His Grace had finished the first hole, he paused and removed the back board under the hole. I wrote the date February 19, 2008 on the top of the board. Then, we clustered the entire class and staff at the end of the red bench to record the event with a camera. While so posed, everyone present signed the board with a permanent marker.

When His Grace was finished drilling the legs holes, he was also done with the back board bearing all those signatures. It was then attached to the classroom wall next to the white board. We pinned a print of the picture of the class doing the signing, to the board. The board and the accompanying photo will hang on the wall until December 5, the last day of the last class of the year. Then, that board will be the first one into the fire.

During the year, every student here will be asked to take a moment and sign a back board. By the end of the year, the fresh supply of back boards (now stacked end-up in a plastic storage tote) will be riddled with holes and covered with signatures. This is the condition of the boards when they are consigned to the fire.

While beginning a new teaching year is joyful event, we also had a sad ceremony at The Institute this week. Regular readers know that in early January the Royal Orders lost one of their members — Sir John Clark. Thursday afternoon, the time we normally schedule Royal Orders ceremonies, we took time to celebrate Sir John Clark Windsor Chairmaker and to remember the time he spent with us. We assembled the class in the library. Then, His Grace Don Harper and His Grace Ralph Quick, both Dukes of Windsor, and The Orders’ ranking members, attached Sir John’s name to the memorial plaque which hangs in the library. The plaque hangs under a memorial trophy of a Knight’s helmet and an Earl’s shield. The plaque bears the names of our fallen Knights of Windsor. While H. G. Don and H.G. Ralph attached Sir John’s name, we also displayed a picture taken of Sir John at his Knighting.

While there was no real celebration involved, we did have another sad event. Many students know Lance Silvestris, because he often helps us out with classes. I usually introduce Lance my cousin, as it is easier than explaining our real relationship. My wife Susanna and Lance’s wife Bonnie are first cousins. So, I guess that makes Lance and me cousins by marriage. See why I don’t try to explain this too often?

Lance was taking a c-arm class August, 1997and Bonnie just happened to be visiting her cousin that same week. As they say, the rest is history. Lance and Bonnie chose to marry in Hampton, where they had met.

Students who have met Lance have also met his dog Maxie Mae. She always came to work here with him. Maxie was a beautiful dog – a cross between a golden retriever and perhaps a husky. She had long, thick blonde coat that would have made Farrah Fawcett envious.

When Lance was teaching with us, Maxie always kept a close eye on him. She would sleep at one end of the shop, but always with one eye open so she knew where Lance was. Maxie was also a very friendly and gentle dog, more than happy to have any student pat her, if the student was so inclined. She did not impose herself on anyone.

This Sunday past Lance and Bonnie had to put Maxie down. She had developed a debilitating illness, and she could not be saved. As every dog lover understands, the couple were devastated. Susanna invited them to come and visit us when they felt a bit stronger. They arrived on Wednesday and Lance spent the next several days with the people he enjoys most – fellow chairmakers. We are pleased that in a time of grief, the couple seemed to find solace in returning to The Institute; the place where they had met, married, and had so many good memories of Maxie.

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On another note, the June 23 c-arm class has filled. We have not yet taught our first sack back class of the year and the chair so many people do as a second chair would not be available again until 2009. We could not let that happen, and we could not let that many people be disappointed. So, to remedy the matter, we have scheduled a second c-arm class for September 22.

Right now, this new class is wide open. However, I do not expect that to last long. If you have been wanting to take c-arm this year, this will be your only opportunity. I won’t be able to schedule a third class. If you delay too long, you will have to wait until 2009.

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