Odds ‘n Ends

Sir Ron Tatman attended the February 18 Balloon back chair class. He brought us a copy of a newspaper article about him and his chairmaking that was printed in the Sunday edition of The Downstate (DE) Daily. The piece ran on the front page of the “@home” section, above the fold. It included three color photos. Two of the pictures were of Sir Ron working on a settee seat. The other was a portrait of his Nantucket fan back and Philadelphia high back chairs.

By the way, Sir Ron is a member of the Delaware National Guard and expects to be deployed to Iraq later in the year. He will be leaving behind his wife Jill and two teenage daughters. The only good news is that Sir Ron has promised to stay in touch with us. He said he will be curious to see what sort of woodworking is done in Iraq, and what sorts of trees are available. It’s not likely that there are suitable trees in the desert, but I have no idea what species grow along the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. Wouldn’t be a hoot if Sir Ron found native trees that he could use to built the first Windsor chair ever made in Iraq?

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Another old friend attended the Balloon back class. Jim Van Hoven returned for his first class in several years. It was good to share his company again. Jim is one of the Immortals, that very small and elite group that make up the Chairmakers Hall of Fame. Anyone who has taken sack back knows of him. This is his intro. “In the old days reamed leg holes used to be all over the place. It was a nightmare. But, not any more thanks to a humanitarian, a philanthropist, and a chairmaker concerned with the well-being of his fellow chairs makers – the very eccentric, but truly genius Dr. James Van Hoven (he’s not really a doctor, but it sounds better) who gave us his innovation the Vanhovenometer.” At that point in the class I always show the class how to properly use the Vanhovenometer.

Through Jim’s generosity The Institute has received a treasured object for its permanent collection. When he returned home Jim sent us the original Vanhoveometer. It is the one he brought to class in 1994. It was the one that inspired me to add the concept to our teaching method. We have found a suitable place for it to hang on the classroom wall. It is where I can easily point it out to everyone when I introduce the Vanhovenometer. However, it is high enough that it cannot be easily reached by curious hands. A Vanhovenometer is a delicate instrument and if dropped or bumped, it can be knocked out of calibration.

Jim also gave us a copy of an article about him and his chairmaking that appeared in the local newspaper the Country Messenger. The full page article was accompanied by two color photos of Jim working. He made sure a slew of other chairs appeared in the background.

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The March 3 Nantucket fan back class witnessed a quadruple knighting as Sir George Wright, Sir Joel Barker, Sir John Robillard, and Sir Mike Shelton were inducted into the Royal Orders. They became in that order the 139th, 140th, 141st, and 142nd Knights of Windsor.

Sir Bob Longstreet played a really mean trick on his friend Sir George. Bob could not attend the knighting, so he sent us a bunch of disposable cameras to hand out to the Assembled Multitude before the ceremony. We passed them out before Sir George’s Long Kiss, knowing each guy with a camera would want to get lots of pictures of George’s most memorable moment. Sir Bob succeeded in making it one of the longest in recent memory. It went on so long my arm fatigued. To rest my arm, I had to stand up with Sir George’s lips still applied to the gaudy red bauble.

The class decided to change Sir Bob’s name from Longstreet to Longkiss. By the way, yes Sir Bob is a direct descendent of the famous Civil War general of the same name.

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The Nantucket fan back class also witnessed our first Raising of 2008. Since everyone in the February 18 class had been here numerous times, we did not have a Raising. A Raising is a spoof on the Masonic ceremony of the same name. In a Masonic raising, a Fellow Craft is raised to a Master Mason. We skip a step and raise our Entered Apprentice chairmakers directly to Master Chairmaker. We do so in an over-the-top spoof that is one long joke. We teach our newly made “masters” the secret distress call of the master chairmaker. We also show them the secret handshake master chairmakers use to identify and to greet each other.

There is not a straight face in the room during a Raising. The ceremony is obviously a favorite, as during every advanced class I am always asked several times, “When’s the Raising?”

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Spouses often tip me off when someone in a class is having a birthday. We love to surprise a student with a cake and with the rest of the class singing Happy Birthday to You.” I had the tables turned on me during the Nantucket fan back class. I turned 61 years old on March 5.

I was working in the office when I received a phone call on my cell. It was Susanna asking me to come down to the classroom. As I got near the bottom of the stairs the class broke into Happy Birthday. A cake with lighted candles was on the bench near the kitchen. After being so nice to me, I felt it would have been rude not to share my cake with the class.

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We have started to plan our 2009 class schedule. We do have to include the two settees next year — the sack back settee and the low back. Both were left out the schedule this year to make room for two Balloon back classes. Adding both settees back in will require leaving out two classes in 2009, as well. We have already decided that those two classes will be Boston fan back and NYC bow back. Both are side chairs.

These classes will return to the schedule in 2010, but if you were planning on taking them sooner, the 2008 classes will be your last chance for a couple of years. The Boston fan back is April 7, and the NYC November 17. We still have space in both classes.

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Under threat of having to sleep in my car, I have surrendered to my wife’s insistence that I clean out the clutter I have accumulated over 37 years. It all came to a head when she went up to the second floor of the new building. I have it so full of stuff that nothing more can be stored there. She has long argued that I have so many woodworking tools and items that I will never use most of them again if I live to be 100. I was ordered to start cleaning out on my own, or she was going to do it for me.

I would rather have control of the process. So, I have started Mike’s Garage Sale. I will pull items out of my hoard and put a price tag on them. When an item sells, I will replace it with another. When you are here you can check out my sale. The first two items are one of my work benches and my 12 inch planer. Items are cash and carry. I cannot get into shipping.

Susanna has been yelling at me about my piles of walnut and cherry because they take up a whole corner of the new building. They contain lots of wide stuff, as well as 8/4, 12/4, and 16/4. All I can say to the guys who have seen this wood and coveted it is drool on. Talk to Susanna after my funeral. She has threatened to get rid of everything I own at that time, and will probably cut you a sweet deal.

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