During our school year I schedule all my appointments and obligations for the first couple of weeks after the last class. Doctor’s office wants to schedule an annual physical? Let’s see. How about the third week in November? I’ll be free then. Appointment with our health insurance broker? Yeah, third week of November. I’ll be done by then. Guidance counselor, dentist, you name it. The answer is always the same – third or fourth week of November. The result is that I am busier at the beginning of my winter break than any time during the year. You who have tried to contact me are aware of this. However, the point of this posting is not to tell you about my schedule, but to explain why I am so late in telling you that we have wrapped up 2010.
Our last class was the Boston fan back. The class was notable for several things. Some of these things happen at the end every of every year, while some were unique. For example, the guys in the BFB also accomplished something that has never occurred before. They finished the chair in three days. Don and I were surprised at the group’s skill level. All three days, it seemed that I no sooner put my tools away after a demo than everyone was staring at me asking “Okay. What’s next?” These guys had so many classes under their collective belts that we only raised one guy at the Raising. Can you inagine how he felt standing there all by himself through that long, and silly ceremony.
During the week we also found time to knight Sir Sid Eudy the 163rd Knight of Windsor. More than half the class was already in the Royal Orders, so Sir Sid had an unusually large Honor Cordon. Lots of Knights present at a knighting usually draws out the Long Kiss, as those guys love to torment an initiate. Sir Sid’s wife also attended and got right in with the fun, extending the time he spent with his lips locked to the gaudy red bauble.
After the knighting, Sir Mark Penacho was inducted into the Alpha and Omega Society. This group honors people who attended both the first and last class of the year. Sir Mark was in the Tete-a-tete class that began 2010, and the BFB class that ended it. He was given a certificate, an engraved pewter mug, and his name will be added to the Alpha and Omega plaque that hangs in the hallway.
Prior to graduation, we took the backboards out to the incinerator and held our annual Burning of the Backboards. This is the ceremony that closes our school year. The first board into the fire is the board I had under my seat when I drilled the first hole, back in March. All year, that board had hung on the wall along with a photo of everyone attending the event tacked to it. Everyone who took a class during the year was invited to sign a backboard as a way of vicariously being part of our ceremony.
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Anyone who has participated in a Royal Orders ceremony has seen me dressed up as the King of Windsor. If you think that is funny, you need to see the picture His Grace Ralph Quick sent of himself in costume, attending a Halloween party. First, you have to be able to envision Ralph in your mind. Think about the barbarians in the Capital One credit card advertisements – (what’s in your wallet?). Remember the guy who yells in the Grand Canyon and half a mesa falls away? That’s Ralph. Now, imagine that guy dressed in a tooth fairy’s pink gauze tutu. Next, imagine a very large, bald tooth fairy, with unshaved legs and unshaved arms. Finally, put a cigar in the tooth fairy’s hand. That’s the picture. It is so outlandish I posted on the shop refrigerator. If you know His Grace, have him email you a copy.
Here’s what Ralph had to say about the costume in his accompanying email. “Caron and I went to a Halloween party and I won first place with my costume. I can tell you one thing for sure, show a small child the photo of me in the Tooth Fairy costume and tell him this is what sneaks into your room at night to get that tooth from underneath your pillow. I am pretty sure the kid will never eat another sweet or piece of candy, just to make sure he never has any teeth fall out. Ha! Ha! Caron was dressed as a Swiss milking maid and Windsor was a Maine lobster.”
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His Grace’s email also included this story, guarenteed to make all Windsor chairmakers burn with envy. “I have a friend whose father loves coming to our shop to hang out. He loves the fact that we make the chairs all by hand. I have gotten to where when he comes to visit, I let him make spindles or do some turnings.
“A few weeks ago, my friend called and said he had a load of lumber for me. I told him that I did not order any lumber and besides, I could not afford any right now. He told me that his Dad has two-hundred thousand acres of forest in Georgia and that he recently went down to harvest some downed trees. He had over 4000 bf of white pine for me. There was no way I could afford that much pine. Up here it is going for $4.86 a bf. My firend delivered the wood a few weeks ago and told me that his Dad said to pay him for it as I used it. The pine boards he brought me were 2 1/4 to 2 1/2 inches thick. Really clear. Each board was approx. 30 to 35 foot long and the smallest width was 19 1/2
inches wide. The widest pieces were just under 47 inches. I will not have to glue up any chair seats for some time to come.”
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I received this letter from Bim Clifford concerning a project he was involved in. “Last time we were together we talked about The Herbie Project which came to a climax on November 13. Herbie was New England‘s largest American elm tree – and was located in
Yarmouth, Maine. Herbie finally succumbed to Dutch elm disease, a fungus spread by bark beetles. A gentleman by the name of Frank Knight (now 102 years old) was
Yarmouth‘s volunteer Tree Warden for over fifty years. After many years of diligent effort by Mr. Knight, Herbie was finally cut down in January 2010.
“A committee was formed to continue Herbie’s legacy and fund the annual plantings of new disease-resistant elms. The Yarmouth Tree Trust was created, and the committee decided to divide the 15-ton tree trunk and massive limbs among various woodworkers and artisans, who were to find a way to give Herbie a new life. Over 70 artists participated, crafting clocks, lamps, guitars, music stands, baseball bats, tables, benches, bowls, desks, jewelry boxes and a Windsor chair. The tree measured 110 feet high and was 217 years old and provided 7,000 board feet of lumber.
“An auction was held on Saturday, November 13. The artisans received 60 percent of the sale price and the trust 40 percent. The proceeds from the sale were slightly less that $30,000. The only Windsor in the auction was a sack back which I made. All parts of the chair came from Herbie with the exception of the seat (pine). The bow and arm came from a fairly straight grained piece of the elm and bent very nicely, but were still difficult to cut into shape. The spindles were turned on a lathe with the help of a steady rest. The interlocking grain made them impossible to shape with a drawknife or spokeshave. However, I was able to take a very fine shaving after I took them off the lathe. The legs and stretchers were more difficult to turn than the hard maple which I usually use. I did the vase and ring rather than the bamboo turnings. Overall, the chair came out quite well, and I was optimistic that the chair would bring a good price. My optimism was unfounded, and the chair sold for $325.00, or at least I thought it did.
“I found out later that it did not sell because I had put a reserve of $600.00. I left the auction thinking the auctioneer failed to invoke the reserve, but found out later he had. My daughter who lives in Freeport (next door to Yarmouth) desperately wanted the chair, so it looks like she will be the beneficiary of the mix up. Overall, the experience was a positive one in that I met some very nice people and gained experience in chairmaking.”
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Sieur Vincent Lavarenne’s article on sandpaper sharpening was published in the French woodworking magazine Le Bouvet. Sieur Vincent has since taught a sharpening class to his woodworking club. Here is the account he sent me of the experience.
“Hi Mike! My first sharpening class was very successful. Ten more French people now are familiar with the Dunbar method. They went home with a sharpening board, a sharpening file, a copy of my article in Le Bouvet and a list of web sites. Some experienced woodworkers were there and said they had learned something really new and useful. Another class is scheduled in January 2011 and is already half full.
“In some cases however, the tools that the students had brought with them to the class couldn’t be sharpened: they seemed to have been recently unearthed and couldn’t be definitely identified as either Gallo-Roman or Viking. We decided to leave them alone so as not to ruin their potential historic or commercial value by modifying their patinas and finishes.
“Also, I wrote a paper about my little fan-back child’s armchair for the Association journal. I will send it to you when it is published. I hope
you’ll appreciate my short history of the Windsor chair with my personal explanation why they sailed so fast across the Atlantic and (almost) never sailed across the
English Channel. You used to demonstrate that humor is compatible with historical accuracy. I hope I have learned well.”
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