Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Recent Students

     This year has started out with several students which has been fun.  I've had a flyer at Woodworker's Emporium by their plane and chisel displays that has proven to be a real good location.  Seems as if there are enough people out there, interested in using these tools that buy them but need some one on one instruction to get them started.  I've enjoyed doing this, still the teaching part I've made a career out of but on a different level.
     One of my recent students was a lady who called me up and wanted to start working with wood but had no idea of how to go about it.  She went to one of the big box stores thinking she'd buy a workbench to start that endeavor.  The salesman sold her, what he said, was enough materials to build a bench of her own. It was a bit of a challenge but here she is, proudly standing by the bench we came up with:

Marie's Workbench
     The top is one of those 23" wide, laminated knotty Pine boards available at those stores.  Hopefully it'll be strong enough for her purposes.  They also sold her a 4' length of 1" x 12" which I decided to rip into 2" wide pieces and nail/glue to the long edges.  Throw in some miscellaneous pieces of 2x3 and 2x4 and we had a bench in the making!  Since she's in the student stage I was able to explain about how wood expands and the things we need to take into consideration when we join them.  The pieces on the end (battens?) are screwed into over-sized holes to allow some movement.

Really Getting Into The Work

     In my instruction I only use hand tools because of the liability factor and also expect my students to bring their own.  She had purchased a battery operated set that included a small skill saw and drill so I checked her out on those as well.  The first time we met she learned how to make a lap joint with her skill saw and chisels but we decided making all of them for the workbench would be a bit much!  Those were all cut by me with a dado head, quicker and more accurate.  The goal was for her to have a stable and strong workbench so she could pursue woodworking -- I think we accomplished that!
     On Saturday I had a father and son for students.  They had purchased a number of planes (Wood River) from Woodworker's Emporium and also chisels and a dovetail saw.  We were pretty ambitious in trying to do plane set up and use and dovetails.  I must admit that I was pretty impressed with the planes, right out of the box they were able to take some pretty decent cuts with them so we didn't have to spend a lot of time honing and flattening the blade.  At least now they've experienced my system of setting the tool up to use.  Our main focus was how to lay out and cut dovetails.  I've found that a single one cut out of a piece of Alder about 3" wide is a good starting point.  I have to credit Gary Rogowski and his 3 minute dovetail for the inspiration but it works as you can see here:

A Tale of Two Tails
  I won't point out which was the Dads and which was the sons but I did sense a little competition!  Their chisels need a lot more sharpening and honing to make this task easier.  I had them use my Lie-Nielson chisels as a comparison and they quickly saw the importance of having a sharp chisel.  I always stress to students though that they don't need top of the line tools, just finely sharpened ones to make the cutting as easy and precise as possible.  I still use my Stanley chisels I bought in the 70's as a carpenter for bench work.
     All in all, having students keeps me on my toes and is a good way to keep the craft going.  Now it's back to the chess case.  This is where patience comes in, hand rub a finish coat, wait over-night, and repeat!  May take some time but sure like the results better than a quick spray of lacquer!

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