Odds ‘n Ends

I have been busy this week writing another article for Popular Woodworking. You’ll read it in the November issue. I have finished the project and emailed the text to the editor. That job combined with Memorial Day, has left me behind schedule this week. I have decided to take advantage of the little time left today to post a lot of small items I have been keeping on my desk.

Speaking of Popular Woodworking, are you aware of the conference they are hosting in Berea, KY this November? I feel real good about this one. Its title is Woodworking in America. Sounds like any other conference, right? See someone use a router. Learn 10 great table saw techniques. No. This conference is unique in that it focuses on hand tool use.

Needless to say, I am ecstatic. Like every other woodworker, I own and use machines. I have no problem with them. My beef is that machines have been the magazines’ sole focus since the beginning of the woodworking revival in the mid-1970s. The result is that hand tool skills have just about disappeared. Since 1980 when I became a woodworking writer and teacher I have lobbied the magazines to give hand tool skills the same space as machines. They chose to follow their reader questionnaires, which indicated readers wanted articles about machines. I tried to show the folly of this approach.

“Dear Reader what articles would you like us to publish?”

“I don’t know. Let me think. Gee, I have a router. How about a router article? Come to think of it, I have a table saw, too. Write a table saw article.”

“Would you like an article on how to use a hand plane?”

“No. I don’t have a plane.”

With this conference Pop Wood is breaking the mould. We should support them. If we don’t and we return to the old days of “Ultimate Router Table” articles, it will be our own fault.

By the way, I will be one of the speakers. I’m excited because I will get to rub elbows with a bunch of famous woodworkers. If you want to see a list of the celebrities I’ll be hanging with and getting my picture taken with, visit the conference web site www.woodworkinginamerica. Note to self: remember the autograph book.

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We heard some encouraging news from His Grace Ralph Quick who writes:

“We just returned from our show in Newport News, VA and we did really well there this year. A lot better than we expected, since we almost decided not to go due to high gas prices. We found out though, that gas was a lot cheaper in Williamsburg than here by almost 10 to 12 cents a gallon.

“We got a few orders from the show, and we got another three orders from it right after returning home. It is all we can do to stay ahead of ourselves right now. Busier than ever and it just keeps getting better. Tell every one we said hello and we can’t wait to see you all again.”

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Hi Grace also referred us to a question asked on snopes.com that will be of interest to chairmakers who use propane to fire their steam boxes. It appears meth labs are buying propane bottles from local dealers. They empty the bottles and use them to store anhydrous ammonia that they use in making a drug called “crank.” The anhydrous ammonia will deteriorate the bottle’s brass valve and lead to cracking. The telltale sign that the bottle was used for this purpose is a blue-green stain on the valve, coupled with the smell of ammonia.

The National Propane Gas Association warns this can “ultimately result in a violent unexpected explosion of the valve, causing personal injury or death.” The warning went on to explain that these “cylinders have been found in many states and refilling locations.” The advisory urges anyone finding such a bottle to not touch it, but to immediately contact the local fire department. Just think, Sir Joel thought that snakes were the most dangerous part of chairmaking.

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I received this note from Jeff Wynia in response to my monthly email newsletter. The May issue he refers to was titled “Where Windsors Went Wrong.”

“If you want to see crazy Windsor designs, go into a WoodCraft store. We have one in Atlanta and there’s a guy who teaches a c-arm class. The arm stumps have an incredible slope and flare to them. And the seat has a very deep saddle, but no pommel; it comes straight out. It’s fun to question to the clerk about the chair. Obviously I don’t reveal to him that I know how to really make a Windsor.

Jeff added this. “I love that last sack back I made. I donated it to my wife, Teri’s, breast cancer walk. We raffled it off to help raise over $2,400.00. The unfortunate thing about that is my mother-in-law won the raffle.”

I had the same experience. I once donated a rocking chair to my son’s grade school to be raffled. My mother-in-law also won. It looked like collusion, but she bought a ticket and it was the one drawn. The chair now sits in her living room.

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We had some Royals Orders activity during the last two classes. Both Lords Mike Borgeest and Mike Speck were earled during the rocking chair class. Lord Mike Borgeest returned two weeks later to the May 19 sack back class to do his teaching stint. This is the requirement for dukedom. The earl has to help teach a sack back class.

The guys in the May 19 sack back witnessed a duking, something that has only happened 18 times previously. This is the rarest of all ceremonies in the world of Windsor chairmaking. As the duking happened more than a week ago I am sure most of the students in that class have recovered. After the ceremony they complained of pains in the rib cage from uncontrolled laughter.

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I need a little help from you the readers. I started this blog at the end of June last year. As chairmakers and woodworkers discovered it, readership grew steadily for the next six months. In January it peaked. Although it holds steady, I would like it to continue to grow. After all, this is the root and branch of Windsor chairmaking.

I’m asking that when you visit woodworking chat rooms, message boards, etc. you tell other woodworkers about the blog. Ask the editor of your woodworking club’s newsletter to post a notice. Ask the local woodworking store to do the same. In general, chat up the blog. I appreciate your help. Let’s keep Windsor chairmaking growing.

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I always like to leave them laughing. So…..

A Japanese carpenter finally realized his lifelong dream. He relocated to America. He took Shaker chair classes, and opened a Shaker chair shop in Williamsburg.

A half year later, he had lots of inventory, but not a single buyer. Even a fire sale didn’t help the bottom line.

By chance, the carpenter befriended a very busy and successful Windsor chairmaker who needed an apprentice to help him manage his heavy work load.

Unwilling to close his Shaker chair shop, and help make Windsors the Japanese guy blurted out the cold hard fact:

“Nobody here has the Yen for Shaker chairs.”

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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 mike@thewindsorinstitute.com