Odds ‘n Ends VI

            The September 22 c-arm class is in session this week.  I have written before that I think this is the greatest of the Windsor styles.  For me, it is a shibboleth.  When sizing up another chairmaker, I look at his c-arm. If he doesn’t get this chair right, I dismiss his work.  It’s not a chair you can get right on your own.  You have to be taught the chair. That of course assumes that your teacher gets it right.  The other option is to do what I did.  I learned from an antique chair I bought the first year I was making chairs. That was 1971. Anyone who has studied here knows the chair.  It is in a place of honor in the showroom.

            The problem with learning this way is you have to discover most of the fine points. They don’t stand up and announce themselves.  In fact, if they did the chair would be a bad chair.  The details are supposed to be subtle.  I eventually mined the antique chair for all its fine points.  I owned it at least a decade before I discovered the last one.  That detail is the reflection of the back in the spindles. We teach how to proportion the spindles to create this. Without having someone point this out to you, you will make a lot of half baked c-arms before you discover it yourself.   

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            We added a member to the Royal Orders this week.  Sir Ken Neiswender became the 143rd Knight of Windsor.  Ken is the head of a chairmaking family.  Both his son Mike and his daughter Lizzie have taken classes here with him.  At one point, Lizzie held the record for the youngest girl to take a class. She was 14 at the time. The record was eventually broken and now stands at 12 years old.

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            I corresponded through email this past week with a woman who is a direct descendant of  New York City chairmaker Abraham D. Montanye. The Institute owns two original newspaper advertisements placed by Montanye.  I wrote about them in this blog. One of the advertisements was really unique.  You can find it in the archives. The woman stumbled on the blog while researching her great-great grandfather. I sent her copies of the ads for her records.

            That experience got me thinking that most of the old chairmakers must have descendants kicking around. I was surprised that I could not remember meeting any others.  Duhh…. Sir Fred Chellis is a great-great-great grandson of Freeman Samuel Chellis. Freeman made chairs in Newport, NH and Fred still owns some of his work.

 

            My great-grand father Richard Dunbar emigrated from County Tyrone and settled in Hubbardston, MA. My family tradition is that he worked in a chair factory in Gardner, an adjacent town.  I wrote about  Gardner in my September email newsletter. It is known as  “Chair City.”  The tradition says that Richard brought home unfinished chairs from work and that my grandfather Richard and my great uncle John had to cane a chair every day after school. Their labor was used to help support the family.

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            I heard from Milt Scott in Texas. Milt had just been at The Institute. He and his wife Sharon had spent a week with friends up on the coast of  Maine.  They dropped by on the way back to the airport. That day, we had just received a truck load of red oak logs. Fred, Don, Kevin and I had gathered for a Splitting Party.  Milt got to see old Bessy tear logs apart in seconds.  Old Bessy is what I call Kevin’s tractor with the four foot splitter on it. He agreed this is the only sane way for aging chairmakers to split logs.

 

            Anyway, Milt and Sharon arrived home to Texas just in time for Hurricane Ike.  He wrote, “Just a note to all that we made through Ike ok.  We had a lot of tree damage but no damage to the houses or us.  Days without power, but that is back on now.  Many friends still without power.  We were about 40 miles west of the eye and still had hurricane force winds. We are 100+ miles inland.  Please pray for the people in Galveston and the Houston area. It will be a long road to recovery.”

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            I had a pleasant conversation with Roy Underhill this week.  Roy, Frank Klaus, and I will be talking about cutting mortise and tenon joints by hand this November in  Berea, KY. The event is the conference being sponsored by “Popular Woodworking.” Lots of my old cronies will be there.  It will be like a reunion.  I was distressed to hear that Berea is in a dry county. However, Roy assures me we won’t be tee totaling. It seems “the pure” is readily available.

 

            If you have never met Roy you may not know that he is a very  funny guy. He shot a television show here several years ago.  Television is boring.  In between takes, you do a lot of standing and waiting.  Roy amused us with his improvisations.  He would suddenly become a British colonel in India or some other bizarre character.  He reminds me of Robin Williams and Jonathan Winters.  I think being in front of a group of woodworkers with him will be a real hoot.

 

            I understand there is only way to get into that conference.  That is to buy tickets from a scalper. The other magazines must be gnashing their teeth. All their other conferences were a bust. Who would have thought a conference on using hand tools would sell out?  Who would have thought a conference on using hand tools would sell out in times as tough as these!!? Maybe the other magazines will get the message. We can learn about machines anywhere. Woodworkers want to learn what we do not know, not rehash old information. That is why they read “Popular Woodworking.”

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            Sir Jim Stevens demonstrated Windsor chairmaking in 18th century costume at Chadds Ford Days in the

Brandywine  Valley. He sent  us some pictures. At first glance, Sir Jim certainly looks authentic.  In fact, he could be a craftsman at Williamsburg. That’s first glance. Second glance I spotted his sneakers. I guess his secret is, when talking with the visitors maintain eye contact so they don’t look at your feet.

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            Last year, I told you about some authors who had interviewed me for the books they were writing.  One of them was published last week.  The title is  IMMERSION TRAVEL USA: THE BEST AND MOST MEANINGFUL VOLUNTEERING, LIVING AND LEARNING EXCURSIONS  by Sheryl Kayne.  She says that the book is “for every age and stage of life, with over 200 opportunities in the USA to not just visit but really get involved.”  The Windsor Institute is one of those places and opportunities.  Pick up a copy. It’s only $13.57 on Amazon.

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