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Craftsmanship: A Word to Start an Argument With

  When I wrote the previous post titled “Thoughts on Real Craft”, I wasn’t anticipating such an active interaction with readers. (If you missed that last post, you might want to go back and read it to make sense of the clarifications here.) The post was written as a way to think out loud and get feedback. Boy, did I get feedback! I am grateful for such passionate and thoughtful readers who are willing to invest time into this discussion. Thank you for your comments! I appreciate your participation so much, in fact, that I am looking into upgrading the commenting system to a platform that is easier to use and read in the future. The conversations I’ve been having...

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Thoughts on "Real Craft"

  I’ve been interested that the term “Real Craft” has been thrown around a bit the last couple years in green woodworking circles. The hash tag is full of spoon carving, pole lathes, and the like. After doing some digging to try to figure out the origins of this phrase, I realized I should talk with Jarrod Stone Dahl. Jarrod is a spooncarver/bowlturner from the Wisconsin woods who has been using the term more than anyone else so I thought I’d pick his brain about it. Jarrod sent me to Robin Wood’s commentary on Chris Eckersly’s 2014 “Real Craft” exhibition. Reading Eckersley’s essay and Wood’s critique hit me in just the right spot as I’ve been thinking a lot lately...

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First Impressions

The 2016 Lie-Nielsen Open House was the first show I’ve attended as a vendor. Consequently, the experience was entirely new and exciting and even a bit surreal for me. Joshua and I arrived early Friday so we could get our fairly elaborate display set up before the tent filled in with other demonstrators. We’d worked out the most efficient method of setup back at the studio, but here I found myself distracted by everyone else trickling in with their wares. Whoa, look at those planes! How much for that saw?  I just spotted Peter Follansbee (the legend)! Tom Lie-Nielsen  shook my hand. I may never wash it again.     Focus, Mike. We have work to do. I don’t want to...

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The Weekend at Tom’s

Mike and I had a wonderful weekend at Lie-Nielsen. He and I have had many conversations since about how much we appreciated the culture of creativity there. I am always blown away at how, even though it’s been a year since the last one, we can pick up right where we left off. These folks are down-to-earth awesome people. Tom’s business model is groundbreaking in its generosity to other vendors. Think about it: The guy invites all his competition (i.e. friends) to come and sell their goods without charging them a fee, he buys them dinner, and then genuinely thanks them for coming to the party. What a class act. In most markets you expect fierce competition, belittling other makers,...

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Miscellany Monday

For me, the beginning of the work week is always about picking up the pieces from the week before, returning phone calls, and planning the week’s work. Today has been another miscellany Monday with the main order of business being unpacking from the Lie-Nielsen Open House. We decided to leave the van loaded when we got back late Saturday night so when I opened the van door the first time this morning, the glorious aroma of pine was almost intoxicating. Between the two knockdown benches and “barn” backdrop there was a lot of pine in there. The smell of pine is one of the reasons I love working wood. I warned Mike that today would be very broken up with...

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See you at Lie-Nielsen Tomorrow!

Mike and I did the final packing of the van today for the Lie-Nielsen Open House tomorrow and Saturday. Early tomorrow morning we’ll be heading down to Warren to setup in time for all the visitors. Last week, we worked pretty hard building an easily transportable but respectable display for shows. We wanted the look of a preindustrial cabinetmaker’s shop but relatively lightweight and easily assembled. After we built a 9’ knockdown Nicholson bench, we ripped 1.5” off the top of a partially rotten 8x8 hewn timber frame sill I had left over from my house project. With these “posts”  screwed to the back apron, we could attach horizontal sash sawn wide pine boards for “sheathing”. Topped off with “braces”...

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Still Haven't Seen Issue One in Person?

  Even though I’ve done my best to convey what M&T is on the web, when people first hold a copy of Issue One in their hands they say, “Oh, wow. Now I get it. This is amazing!” The overall heft, the tactile quality of the paper, and the photography all seem to grab folks right out of the gate. In order to help convey that experience to those that haven’t seen a copy in person, I’ve put together this short video for a close-up look at Issue One. If you know someone who would be interested, please pass this video along. Thanks!!! Music credit: Steuart Pincombe and Rebecca Landell Reed

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'10 Essential Furniture Repairs' Released!

I have long been an advocate for teaching the basics of furniture conservation to woodworkers. Too often conservators hold their hard-earned techniques for repairing antique furniture tight to their chest. Often this secrecy is not due to an elitism but rather a concern that important objects of our cultural heritage are preserved in the hands of experienced individuals. While I sympathize with this desire in theory, I find that, in practice, woodworkers are going to fix old furniture with or without a professional’s help. It seems better to me to teach value assessment, preservation principals, and safe repair techniques. I've been blogging about these things for a number of years now but sometimes you just got to see this stuff...

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The Reassembled Jonathan Fisher Workshop

  I have been looking forward to this moment for three years now. When I began researching the furniture making of Jonathan Fisher, I had no idea just how much surviving material there was. The house he built is filled with furniture he made with a collection of tools he used to build them all recorded in his surviving diary entries. That’s amazing for any period cabinet or chair maker but especially for a rural one. Back in the 1950s and 60s, when his house was being turned into a museum, many of the objects were sold to a sister institution to ensure reliable preservation. Although the Farnsworth Art Museum in Rockland, ME owns the majority of the furniture and...

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Banister-back Chair: A Yale Commission

When I got back from vacation a while back, I hit the ground running. In the past two months, I’ve written two articles, built a grain-painted chest over drawers, a white oak spring pole lathe, and an 18th-century Rhode Island banister-back chair. It’s been enjoyable concentrating all my effort on making rather than my customary conservation work. I’ve learned a lot through these projects because I am not a production furniture maker. When I build, it’s always a one-off of something that piques my interest. This recent banister-back chair build was no exception to that. When curator Pat Kane from the Yale University Art Gallery contacted me to discuss this commission for the upcoming Rhode Island Furniture exhibition, I leapt...

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