Click here to read my article in Furniture and Cabinetmaking Magazine about a weekend workbench featuring my favorite knockdown joint, the Tusk joint. This was one of my favorite builds to date, because it was a project with one of my favorite instructors at Pratt. Steve brings a whole lot of laughter and knowledge into the shop, and I love designing projects and building with him.
I'm super excited to announce that I've been asked to start contributing to Marc Spagnuolo's Wood Whisperer Guild. The plans for my first guild project are on pre-sale now. This is an expansion of the Oak Writing Desk project I built with Jonathan Schwennessen at Homestead Heritage in Texas for Furniture and Cabinet Making Magazine Issue 248 last year. Click here to view and purchase: https://thewoodwhispererguild.com/product/writing-desk/ Marc will be flying up to the farm to document our first video plan project together, and it promises to be a fantastic time and a wonderful build. I'm really excited to share in an in-depth, detailed, well-documented manner more about the projects I take on.
Building a Windsor-style rocking chair with Greg Pennington at Pennington Windsor Chairs was, to date, my favorite woodworking project. It opened up a new, very physical, very engaging side of woodworking I hadn’t before experienced. I loved using a wedge and sledge hammer to split the tree. Not only did it make me feel strong, it also helped me to better understand how wood works and how to get the most strength possible out of a single piece of wood.
Making a chair is, I think for most woodworkers, a major benchmark for progression in their craft. Having seen the Patriot, and being quite comfortable in the realms of square furniture, I really had no intention of ever making a chair. It seemed like it was a whole other skill and toolset than I currently possessed, and I am always wary of casting my net too widely and bringing no genuine knowledge or practiced skill to a craft. As they say, a jack of all trades is a master of none! That is- until I was offered the chance to take a class with some of my dearest friends in the shop of renown chairmaking instructor Greg Pennington.
For me, woodwork has always been motivated far more by relationship than by finished projects. I’ve found the best way to get to know people deeply is by joining them doing something they truly love. My journey as a woodworker started at my grandfather’s workbench. He was a pretty quiet guy most of the time, but he came alive in his woodworking shop. I loved my grandpa, and spending time with him meant spending time pulling and straightening nails, sweeping sweet cedar shavings off his shop floor, or just watching him work. After my grandfather’s passing, when I was twelve my love for woodworking was re-awakened just a six years ago as a way to spend time hanging out at my sister’s house and getting to know my new brother-in-law as he taught me about using handtools to build furniture. Woodworking then became the connection point for another precious older gentleman, 97 years young, who would go on to become an adopted grandpa of sorts and mentor me further. Then I found the maker community on Instagram, which opened up a whole other world of deep frienships with other folks passionate about making things with their hands. I met leather workers, farmers, musicians and blacksmiths, and my desire to see their eyes light up when talking about something they truly loved led me to start tinkering in those crafts as well.
I mention all this because yes, I built a chair, and yes, sitting and rocking in a chair I quite literally found within a tree stump in just a matter of weeks with a few handtools feels pretty awesome, but far more awesome was spending a week learning from a master. Greg loves what he does, and his eyes sparkle when he talks about every step and technique that bring an heirloom quality chair out of a fallen oak tree. The week I spent in Nashville at Greg’s school was quite literally one of the best weeks of my life. Greg was an incredibly patient and skilled instructor. We worked hard with our hands, we talked about everything under the sun, we drank beer, and we laughed until our ribs were sore. And, at the end of it all, somehow, I’d become a better woodworker with a greater understanding of how wood works, and I got to bring home a chair.
This project involved a lot of firsts for me, first time using a shavehorse for it’s intended purpose, which was especially helpful a few weeks later when it came time to build several for the woodworking school I work at. It was my first time riving wood, and I learned about how to predict and correct for grain runout. I learned how to properly use a spokeshave, how to be braver when roughing out stock because it results in so much LESS work later, how to turn square stock into an octagon and then round, and how to drill compound angles with space lasers. I got way more creative with securing round stock in vises designed to hold square stock, I learned how to make and use wedges effectively, and I confirmed that the sanding and finishing process of a chair is just as miserable and loathsome a task with chairmaking as it is with every other woodworking I’ve done in the past.
One thing I really liked about chairmaking is how many of the tools can be made with some rudimentary knowledge of blacksmithing. So, of course, as is always the case for me, In completing this project, I somehow added about fifteen others to the “someday” list, so look for those in the coming months and weeks.
Check out my new YouTube video on my chairmaking experience by clicking below!
**Photos in this article are by Fell Merwin, and by Melissa Morrison**
My video on sharpening curved blades is now live on YouTube! If you've got any questions, comments, or suggestions for other videos let me know in the comments below!
Click here to read my article published in Furniture & Cabinetmaking magazine on block planes- which every woodworker, power or hand tool focused, should have. It is a handy little plane capable of a myriad of tasks.
Click here to read my article published in Furniture & Cabinetmaking Magazine about striking tools. Get tips on which kinds of mallets and hammers to use where for the best results. Thanks for looking!
Click here to read my Handworks 2015 roundup in Furniture & Cabinetmaking Magazine. For a handtool woodworker in need of a little more camaraderie and community in their life, this was the show of a lifetime, and future installments are MUST NOT MISS events.
Click here to read my article published in Furniture & Cabinetmaking Magazine about introducing files and rasps into your woodwork to add all sorts of interesting dimension and shaping into your woodwork.
Click here to read it. This is probably my favorite article I've submitted to F&C mag. The router plane is one of my very favorite tools and has opened up a whole new world of creating and tuning joinery for me in the past three years, so I was excited to share that with other beginner woodworkers.
Click here to read my article in Furniture & Cabinetmaking Magazine exploring the available options with regard to marking gauges in the shop- and, learn how to get the most of what you've already got. Also of great importance, I got a Twilight shirt into a woodworking magazine with this one which, as far as I'm concerned, is a #megawin