Update

I have been lax.  We have been through two classes this year and I have not updated you. There is a reason. I have been tied up with the addition to our house. I expect to have the Certificate of Occupancy in hand as early as Monday. Meanwhile, I have been busy filling in for the useless, incompetent builder I am paying 20%. Just before final inspection he went on vacation without telling me. He left no one in charge of the project. That’s why I had to take over.

 

I could write a book about this addition, but no one would publish it.  They would think it was fiction. No publisher could believe that a builder could be so incompetent and inattentive. Nothing has gone right.

 

* * * *

 

Let’s talk about some happy things. We led off 2009 with the March 9 Nantucket fan back.  Along with C-arm, this is my favorite chair. Tuesday morning we held the Drilling of the First Hole ceremony.  This was our official start of the new school year. The backboard signed by everyone present hangs on the wall next to the dry erase board. A photograph of the class is pinned to it. The Board will hang there until late afternoon December 11. Then, at the Burning of the Backboards, it will be the first board into the fire.

 

The class was witness to a double knighting. Sirs Brian Offut and Jim Janicki became the 151st and 152nd Knights of Windsor. Brian’s wife attended the ceremony.  She brought Brian’s two year-old, identical twin daughters so they could see Daddy act silly with all his friends. The two girls are so cute you just want to pick them up and squeeze them. I now understand the old actor wisdom about “never work with dogs or kids.”  The twins stole the show. Even as the goofy King of Windsor I couldn’t get the Assembled Multitude to pay any attention to me.

 

By the way, Sir Brian is a school teacher. A poster created by his school library showing Brian with a sack back chair and holding a copy of one of my books hangs over the toilet in the shop bathroom. So, everyone who has studied here knows Brian.  Guys, he’s the one staring you in the eye. Ladies, he’s the one looking over your shoulder.

 

We held our first 2009 sack back class two weeks later. This class was noteworthy for a couple of reasons.  The most important is that the record for the youngest person to ever take a sack back class was blown out of the water.  It sank like the Titanic.  It fell out the sky in flames and crashed and burned. My son set the record when he was 12 years, six months old. Until now he was the youngest person – boy or girl – to ever take our sack back class. Not anymore. Sara Lewis was 12 years 20 days old when she began the March 23 class. She shaved more than five months off his record.

 

Sara is now famous, but soon will be known to more than just you chairmakers reading this blog. The March 23 class was covered by WCSH Channel Six, the NBC affiliate in Portland, Maine. The program was supposed to be about me and The Institute. Once again, I was upstaged by a kid. (Take my advice. Don’t work with dogs or kids.) The interviewer was very anxious to talk with Sara (even though she’s from Washington State, and I’m from neighboring NH) The segment will air on the station’s magazine named 207 (That’s the Maine area code. I didn’t get it either until Fred explained it to me. He lives in

Maine and knows those things.) You will be able to watch it through the station’s website WCSH6.com.  I’ll give you a heads up when it airs.

 

This Monday morning, we begin the April 6 R.I. Low back class. I am excited.  I really like this chair. Also, the class is made up of all the old regulars. The class contains two Dukes of Windsor, three Earls, and eight Knights. There are also a handful of peasants. Someone has to do the bidding of all that royalty.  There has to be someone to flog if anything goes wrong with a Duke’s chair.

 

His Grace Ralph Quick, Lord Woody Leland, and Sir Bruce Mosher reserved the other three vises on my bench. I will have to move elsewhere if I want to get any work done. This group will keep me rolling on the floor laughing.

 

Next post, I’ll give you a report on the week. Meanwhile, a lot of you missed out on this class, and grumbled when I told you it was full. To sooth your hurt feelings, I have scheduled another R.I low back for September 14. If you don’t get into that one right away, I will have no patience with your complaints.  I have given you fair room and fair warning.

 

* * * *

We heard from Sir Ron Tatman today. He emailed:  “I just returned from my two week R&R rotation. It was a welcome break, but much too short.  Jill and I managed to find the time to tour the Winterthur exhibit of eastern

Massachusetts furniture. There were several types of Windsor chairs in the exhibit, including several

Nantucket fan backs. One example was duplicated by Sir Dan Santos, who I have taken a chair class with. There is a video of Sir Dan demonstrating some of the period tools that he uses. There is also an example of an unfinished fan back and examples of some of the joints used. The video and the chair were outstanding and added much to the entire exhibit.

“The fan back Sir Dan replicated was smaller than one we build. It took a while to get used to. The seat is much smaller. The chair looks lower in height even though the other features seemed to compensate for the smallness. Some fan backs end up with stocky stretchers which take away from the design. The example that most resembled the fan back that we make stood out from the others because of its size and simplicity of ornamentation.

“As interesting as everything was it was also torture. I did not get to work on any chairs while at home. My only shop time was band sawing out enough carving blanks for me and another soldier to carve for our remaining time here. Carving makes the time pass as does looking forward to the blog and the emails. It is good to hear that many of my fellow chairmakers are doing well.”

****

After my March 15 eNewsletter I heard from Sir Ron’s wife Jill. She noticed the chair first. Ditto Sir Joel Jackson’s wife. Kind of embarrassing if you call yourself a chairmaker but saw a guy threading a needle, or a Saturday Evening Post cover.

* * * *

 

It has been a while since I heard from Sir Croxton Gordon. Croxton is one of four people (three living) both in the Royal Orders and the Chairmaker Hall of Fame.  There have been exciting things going on in his life. It looks like we now have to call him Your Immortal Honor, Sir.

 

“Master, I hope you will forgive my lack of communication.  Executive summary: life is great, I’m the luckiest guy alive, and I still enjoy making Windsors as you taught me.

 

“More than three years ago two judgeships opened up in my area.  I threw my hat in the ring for the Juvenile & Domestic Relations court, and after a year and a half of political wrangling, I got the job.  It’s exhausting and rewarding.  Most nights I don’t have the energy to go to the shop and play, however.  I’m averaging about four chairs a year these days, and am in the middle of #121.  That’s a lot of spindles since that week in Atlanta!

“Ellie is active in school and community affairs, and continues to search titles for a local title insurance company.  The real estate business has, of course, taken a hit, so she’s not as busy as several years ago.  My daughter, Laura, is married, living in

Fredericksburg, and works with battered women in the courts. We can talk shop!

“John is 11 and excels at everything he tries, including sports, guitar, and academics. He’s the one we nearly named Emhof or Travisher, thanks to your martinis with Ellie at the beginning of the fan back class. 

“Christian, 13, is as big as I am, and stronger, rowing with the crew team, and reading and thinking.

“The Immortal Paul Schutz has taken a job with Hawaii Telecom managing their IT budget and vendors, or something like that.  High pressure, but great company and setting.  

“I see John Robinson occasionally, and speak to him often. He’s still making lots of chairs, but is also raising horses–show jumpers. Crazy.

“I just discovered your blog–good job!  It’s nice to hear news from Camelot.  Could you add me to your email list?  Please give Sue my warm regards.  Cheers, Croxton 87th Knight of Windsor”

* * * *

If the (dep)recession is pinching you, here is an offer.  We want to buy back any of the following tools you may have bought from us – drawknife, scorp, pommel knife and Smart Reamer. We only want these tools and they have to be our manufacture. Drop me an email.

* * * *

To receive my eNewsletter of periodic updates, tips, tool reviews, and new sources, 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