Knightly News and Other Items

I received an email recently from Sieur Jean-Francois Theoret, who is also a professional Windsor chairmaker.  His business is called Mount Royal Windsors.  Sieur J-F, (pronounced Gee-Eff) as he is known at The Institute, informed me that he has been accepted as a member of the Quebec Arts Council.  He will be exhibiting at the council’s prestigious show Salon des Métiers d’Art in December.  

Sieur J-F has also become an amateur distiller.  He promised to bring the staff some product when he next visits.  We hope it is before December, as after that he will probably have a significant back order of chairs.

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Sir Mark Cummins is here this week attending the 2 Kids Chairs class.  He tells us that his daughter Corryn  will be appearing in a movie with Danny DeVito.  In the past, we have reported that  Corryn  has appeared in Dell computer commercials.  Although she has been active in theater since she was a young girl, this is her first part in a movie.

Sir Mark’s son Shane participated in my friend Ernie Conover’s apprenticeship program.  He caught the bug and intends to make woodworking a career.  Shane is currently teaching basic woodworking at the Bauhaus School in Chicago.

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Every year, the Guild of New Hampshire Woodworkers takes a booth at the Annual New Hampshire League of Craftsmen’s Fair held at Mount Sunapee State Park.  The members do demonstrations and talk up woodworking to the attendees.   To raise money for its scholarship fund, the Guild also raffles off projects donated by its members.  This year 25 items were donated and the take was a little under $6,000.  A sack back by Sir Bob St. Laurent accounted for a third of that money.  It was by far and away the most popular item.

Everyone attending a chair class at The Institute gets to meet Sir Bob.  He works at the Portsmouth Woodcraft Supply store and delivers to students the tools they have ordered in advance.   He also brings a supply of tools with him for those who wanted to touch and feel them before buying.  Sir Bob also frequently offers some incredible deals on non-chairmaking tools to our students.

Sir Bob is the reason our tool list so emphatically urges people not to buy their tools at their local store, but to instead call the Portsmouth Woodcraft.  A lot of the tools we use are very specific.  Sir Bob knows these tools and will make sure you get exactly what you need.   If you buy locally, the clerk will be guessing, and you will very likely end up with the wrong item.  Also, Sir Bob stocks some specialty chairmaking tools specifically for our students, and these tools will not be available elsewhere.

So you won’t have to go looking,  the Portsmouth Woodcraft’s phone number is 603-433-6116.  Ask for Sir Bob, Knight of Windsor.  If someone else at the store answers the phone, they will get a real kick out of it, and Bob will get teased. 

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Mindy Judd and her father Lawrence Judd  and their chairmaking were the subject of an article in the McMinnville (OR) News Register.  The article with four accompanying photographs, appeared on the front page of the Home & Garden section. 

When Mindy and Lawrence had attended the April 16 sack back class together,   Mindy had just graduated from dental school in Boston.  Her father flew out to join her here.  Making furniture together is not a new experience for the two.  Lawrence is a retired shop teacher, and Mindy has been working with him since she was 5 years old. 

Lawrence has six other children and plans to make a Windsor for each.   He figures Mindy has already made her own.  Mindy says she hopes to someday fill her house with Windsors.  As for Lawrence, when he  completes the chairs for his children, he plans on making them for sale.

He has gotten off on the right foot with this article.  The marketing techniques we teach at The Institute explain how to obtain free publicity.  While such an article is a fun experience for all Windsor chairmakers, for those going pro we describe this in lawyer talk as a “Herein, Fail Not.”

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While most people have articles written about them, Chuck Pezeshki wrote his own.  Besides being a professor of  mechanical engineering at Washington State University, Chuck is also a columnist for the Moscow-Pullman Daily News.  Chuck’s article appeared on the front page of the Travel section and included three full-color pictures.  While reporters frequently get details wrong, having written his own piece, Chuck got it all right.

Chuck writes that he expected to attend a class full of dedicated and experienced woodworkers, and was surprised at the mix.  He notes that about half the people who took the August 6 sack back class with him had little or no woodworking experience.  These included a retired pediatrician and his wife, and a woman who was a high school principal’s secretary.  There was also  a mother and daughter from Alaska.  The daughter had just graduated from high school, and her mother gave her the class as a graduation gift.  Despite the mix of experience and skill, everyone had completed his or her sack back by mid-afternoon Friday. 

Being a gourmet, Chuck made note of the great seafood served in Hampton restaurants. Being a mechanical engineer, he was fascinated by Windsor engineering and construction.  Being a professor, he appreciated our teaching method, which he observed is  “pedagogically focused.”  He particular liked our emphasis on mistake prevention, and the techniques we have developed to avoid  problems. 

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In an earlier post I wrote that in 36 years of making chairs the only improvement I had been able to add to the traditional Windsor joinery was the Brother-in-Law Joint.  That is true.  However, today during the 2 Kids Chairs class, I remembered that while I have not been able to improve the joinery, I did add a joint to our lexicon.  

In the period, youth chairs, designed so a child could sit at the table, did not include a foot rest.  When you find a foot rest on an 18th or early 19th century Windsor  youth chair, it is invariably a later addition.  On late 19th century and 20th century high chairs, the foot rest such a common feature, that today, customers demand it.  So, when I developed the youth chair we make in the 2 Kids Chairs class, I too, included a foot rest.

Foot rests added to period chairs are often make-do, and sloppily applied.  Being part of my chair’s original construction, I wanted to attach mine in a workman like manner.  I chose blind dowels, as they are neat, invisible, and socket construction —  consistent with the rest of the chair. 

As any chairmaker knows, trying to fasten a round tenon in a round hole with just glue is doomed to fail.  That’s why you are always being asked by friends and relatives to glue their kitchen chairs.  Mechanical features are what hold Windsor joints together for centuries. 

The problem I faced  was developing a mechanical feature to hold the footrest on my chair.  Forgive me if I pat myself on the back, but I think my solution is a thing of beauty.  So do all the students who learned it this afternoon, or in past classes.  When I released the clamp and the foot rest snapped into place, it sure elicited  a lot of ooos and ahhhs.  I took a bow with a feeling of self-satisfaction.  I suspect the old guys would also have approved.

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