The Power of the Band Saw

No machine in the shop is more important than your band saw. It’s as simple as that if you build furniture. If you’re a cabinet maker, then you’ll pick your table saw or router. But for furniture, no machine can do all the jobs that a good band saw can do.

Notice I said good. A bad band saw is not worth the steel it was stamped out of. But a good one can rip lumber safely and with a smaller kerf. It can do joinery work, it obviously can cut curves and shapes all day long. It can also saw up logs, resaw lumber into veneer or laminations. It is as versatile a machine as we have.

Join us this Wednesday at 6pm for a lecture on setting up and tuning your band saw for use. It’s a must if you want to experience the joy that sawing with a band saw offers.

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I’ve Had it with Chairs

I’ve had it with chairs. They’re supposed to be pretty, and functional, and hold up to big butts scooting them around on the floor. They have to be inviting, look like the human body, or the lap of a human body, and feel comfortable sitting in them for an hour. Too many requirements.

Go sit on a stump.

Okay. I’m over it now. My rant on chairs is only half made up. Chairs are one of the most difficult design problems to solve. They’re mostly air first of all. Describe a rectangular box around the corners of a chair and you have mostly space inside this box. So where do you remove the material to come up with the chair shape?

We, of course, as joiners build our chairs from the ground up, not grinding them from the stump down. We do this for purposes of strength, for weight considerations, and finally for reasons of beauty, real or imagined. It is one of the most challenging of furniture designs and great fun if sometimes irksome.

Join us at the Studio for our DESIGN: Open House Jan. 20th, 2016 at 6-7:30pm for a discussion on and about chairs. We’ll talk a little history, a little design, a little engineering and lay out the challenges one faces in designing the perfect chair.

Or stump.

 

 

 

Horseman side (2)

 

 

 

 

 

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Fed up with Finishes

Finishing is done by finishers. Finishers sniff fumes. Finishers teaching finishing forget fundamentals.

So I’ve heard.

Solvents are the key to understanding finishing techniques. Or at least an understanding of them will give you options for the finish that you apply. Come and learn how to apply simple finishes in our two day weekend courses, Jan. 30-31 from 10-5pm.

We will cover surface prep, sharpening scrapers [the key is the filing], chemical coloring, and then topcoats like waxes, oils and oil mixes, varnishes, and shellac, the miracle finish. Finally we finish the finish with rubbing out options, the key to successful finishing.

Come in to the Studio ignorant of all those mysterious cans of finish on the shelves and leave armed with knowledge, some practice, and a slew of sample boards for your shop. Never fear finishes again.

 

GR finishing

 

 

 

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What If?

What if we tried this again?

What if is a fascinating phrase.

What if our timing was a bit off?

What if our assumptions were wrong?

What if I hadn’t become a woodworker. Would my St. Vitus dance have taken me out?

What if I thought it was time for a change? Would I make the right choice?

What if I did this work only for myself, to please some interior motivation, some unconscious or semi-conscious need for symmetry or perfection or an attempt at perfection? Is that wrong?

What if I paid attention to that interior sense I have of what’s right or good for me? That sense that immediately knows when something, or someone, is off, not quite right, standing crooked but promising straightness?

What if I listened to my gut instead of my head? What if I listened to my heart instead of my head?

What if I learned from my mistakes? Wow, what if I learned from my mistakes? I had to write this twice it was so stunning a thought.

What if I needed to practice more?

What if I needed to presume my ignorance instead of my sure knowledge?

What if you came to the DESIGN: Open House Wednesday, December 16th from 6-7:30 pm to talk about possibility, choices, and what if ideas?

Hmm. What if?

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What If

What if is a fascinating phrase.

What if I hadn’t become a woodworker. Would my St. Vitus dance have taken me out?

What if I thought it was time for a change? Would I make the right choice?

What if I did this work only for myself, to please some interior motivation, some unconscious or semi-conscious need for symmetry or perfection or an attempt at perfection? Is that wrong?

What if I paid attention to that interior sense I have of what’s right or good for me? That sense that immediately knows when something, or someone, is off, not quite right, standing crooked but promising straightness?

What if I listened to my gut instead of my head? What if I listened to my heart instead of my head?

What if I learned from my mistakes? Wow, what if I learned from my mistakes? I had to write this twice it was so stunning a thought.

What if I needed to practice more?

What if I needed to presume my ignorance instead of my sure knowledge?

What if you came to the DESIGN: Open House tomorrow night, Wednesday from 6-7:30 pm to talk about possibility, choices, what if ideas?

Hmm.

 

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Humble Pie

Let me point out that in this age of digital professorship, not everyone who gets in front of a video camera knows what they’re talking about or can teach. They may know a lot about cameras.

Not everyone who picks up a chisel or a guitar can teach you how to use it. Even the best woodworker or musician may not be a teacher. A teacher remembers what it was like to be new at this skill. To be unsure and tentative and yet to be excited by the possibilities of their new vast world.

I remember being new. I remember being astonished by what I could do and yet how much there was still to know. I remember making mistake after mistake in my feeble attempts to make something work at the bench.

It’s one of the lessons that teachers have to learn, that I had to learn as a teacher. That being superior to someone else in knowledge has nothing to do with your superior skill or your pedigree or your innate talent. It is study and persistence and experience that gets you to that place. It isn’t just skill. It is practice. And if you don’t understand that everyone starts from a place of ignorance, if you forget your beginnings, if you forget how many mistakes you had to make in order to become who you are, you will forget that the master needs the greatest dose of one trait in order to be able to train others. If the master has learned well, he or she will emanate this quality. It is humility.

The work will teach you to eat pie, humble pie. Accept its lesson.

Making sure the plane bottom is flat and true with a flat and true hand plane.

 

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Classic Vs. Romantic

One of the interesting arguments in Robert Pirsig’s great book, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, is about the separation between the classical and the romantic point of view. Simply put, looking at a motorcycle and seeing it as an assembly of systems, ignition, fuel/ air system, etc. is a classical view. Looking at a cycle and imagining the wind in your hair as you ride is romantic. Pirsig’s philosophic goal is to bring these two points of view together to find the essence of Quality. Pre-intellectual awareness is his way of putting it. Trying to combine form and style together.

Not just the tool and your knowledge of what it can do, but the feel of it in your hand. Combine these two senses together and you get his Zen approach to living.

Join us this Wednesday, October 21st, as Elizabeth Rosner and I discuss the nature of Quality and some things Zen and Classical and Romantic. It’s sure to be an intriguing evening of chat.

DESIGN: Open House at the Studio, 6-7:30pm, Wednesday, Oct. 21.

Base Camp Brewing always sponsors our events. Thanks to them.

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DESIGN: Open House on Quality

Join us October 21st for a fascinating discussion on Quality. From 6-7:30pm, Elizabeth Rosner, author, poet, and teacher, and Gary Rogowski, Director of The Northwest Woodworking Studio will chat about the idea of Quality.

Who decides the standards? Is there one arbiter or many? Does the crowd know Quality or is Quality driven by marketing? There is a wealth of information up for discussion this evening. Please join us for this free Open House at the Studio, 1002 SE 8th.

Elizabeth Rosner‘s third novel, ELECTRIC CITY, was published by Counterpoint Press in October 2014, and named one of the best books of the year by National Public Radio.  It’s a coming-of-age love story set against the historical backdrop of a company town in upstate New York that once called itself “the city that lights the world.”  Featuring Charles Proteus Steinmetz, the protégé of Edison who electrified the early 20th century, and a love triangle among the children of Electric City in the late 1960s, the novel interweaves past and present to explore the way inventions transform cities, heart and lives.

http://elizabethrosner.com

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Without a Song

No one will see it you say. No one will see all the effort I put into this work. Why should I do it then? What’s the point of doing work that no one will appreciate, no one will recognize, even if I point it out to them and show them the dexterity of my hand tool work, the brilliance of my hidden design, who will care? Why do it?

The answer is simple. You will see. You will know. It will be you who knows that you did your best work, imperfect as it usually is. You will know. Let go of the desire to be rich, let go of the desire to be famous. Do the work for yourself.

Sonny Rollins, the post bop saxophonist, practiced on the Williamsburg Bridge in New York City for months in the early 1960’s to perfect his sound. He did this without accolade, without compensation certainly. He went out on the bridge to practice because he knew he had to be better. He knew that this practice would make a difference. Who would know? He would know. And now late in his life he can think back with no regrets and say to himself, I did this. I made this happen. I did it for me and it made me who I am this day.

There is no price that can be placed on knowledge. No cash value for satisfaction can be counted out in your hands. You do this work because you have to do it for yourself. Because, as my friend Bogy said to me, you don’t make the work, the work makes you. Practice this and good things will come from it.

 

Bruce Petersen, Mastery Student, Inlay

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Mastery Show

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Katerina Minola         Signature Credenza                    Mastery Program Local #11

Mastery Show              Oct. 1, Thursday, 5-8PM            Studio, 1002 SE 8th

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