Yellow Poplar is Heavy

            Things are not as hectic at The Institute now that we have concluded the class year. However, we have a mountain of work ahead of us. Most of that work will be centered on preparing for the first couple of classes in the spring.  

Preparation for the April sack back will be straight forward, as we teach that class numerous times each year. I will begin by buying the red oak logs and having them trucked to the our log yard beside the main building. While we are well acquainted with the work that comes next, and could do it blindfolded, the work is back breaking. The logs have to be bucked to lengths of either two, four, or six feet and then, split into billets. It is easy to say, but it will take all day and will leave the three of us exhausted. What I could do easily at 35, I find grueling at 65.

After we have reduced the logs to billets, we will begin the job of cutting them into bending and spindle blanks. We also have to glue the sack back seat blanks and count and bag turnings. All those jobs are routine and repetitious. At least we can listen to the radio or talk to each other when doing seats and turnings. When we are making the red oak bending blanks and spindle blanks, we work at a screaming machine. Our ears are protected and our conversation is limited to hand signals.

The first class of the year – the Square backed chairs that you saw in the November email – will occupy most of our time this winter. I have made the prototypes. As I have already written, that took much of my spare time during the late summer and fall. That work was the tip of the iceberg –what people see. Far more of the Square backed iceberg is out of sight and reamins to be done.

As I turned the parts for the two prototype chairs, I turned one extra of each part to serve as the masters. Those will go to the turner to be copied. I broke a spindle while assembling the arm chair’s back and had to use the master. So, I still need to turn another of those. That is all that is holding me up. As soon as I have made a replacement spindle I will place my order.

Each student in the Square backed class will need two seat blanks. We will glue those this winter as well. The side and the arm use different dimensioned blanks. So, we will have to pay more attention that usual.

Each student in the class will need four bending forms; one for the spindles, the stiles, the crest rails, and the arms. The parts are bent in gangs, and this require some other fixtures, used with the forms. These fixtures are small, but have to be made. An arm chair and a side chair is the beginning of a set. We are anticipating that students will want to complete a set of Square backs at home and will purchase the equipment they used in class. So, we will make lots of extra bending form sets for our catalog. These forms will be in yellow poplar, ; a wood that works easily, but will hold up to repeated use.

The wood for all those seats and forms arrived yesterday. Don wasn’t able to come in, as he has a stomach bug. That meant I had to carry all those planks by myself. Either I had forgotten how heavy a rough sawn, 2″ X 12” 14′ yellow poplar plank is, or I am getting old. I hauled each from the back of the truck into the catalog building.  Oh, did I mention the two dozen the pine planks that arrived as well? When the truck finally left, I was panting for breath.

Today is warm; mid-50s. I won’t get many more days like this, so I plan on hauling the yellow poplar back out and placing it on saw horses. There, I will buck it into manageable lengths and rip it to dimension.  My consolation is that I can do it one plank at a time. The next step will be to plane and joint the poplar and begin a lot of glue ups. I bought  new gallon of yellow glue and don’t expect much will be left when we are done.

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