The Virtual Apprentice Goes to School

Well, it’s taken me a bit longer than I expected to write my second blog, but better a late second than no second entry.

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Having spent an inordinate amount of time watching “how to” videos and combing the internet for inspiration, I knew I needed something to help me shift my time from observing to making.  I’m fortunate to live near Red Rocks School of Fine Woodworking and Lutherie.  It’s a community college with a very affordable and rather well known woodworking school.  I signed up for their intro to woodworking.  It is a 2 semester commitment – the first semester focuses on hand tool work and the second semester introduces machine.  The hand tool semester teaches about the use and care (sharpening) of planes, chisels, layout and marking devices, etc.  The picture above is my M&T example assignment.  Thankfully I was well versed in the Paul Sellers method for chopping mortises. I used the method Paul teaches for all my mortise work.  I tried other approaches – namely using the drill press to hog out most of the waste, but my results were poor with that approach.  With practice, I’ve become quite proficient at chopping out a mortise with a bench chisel or mortise chisel.  And it is exactly that, schedule time to practice, that turned out to be the best thing I got out of my Red Rocks experience.  There’s no substitute for hands on experience.  I need to build and build more and build again.

In addition to oodles of time spent flattening all my chisels and sharpening every tool I own, I also made a small table in the first semester.IMG_1146 IMG_0092

Another invaluable experience is spending time working at a great variety of incredible workbenches. I certainly got to try many different configurations – all vastly superior to my wobbly HF bench.  And I’m narrowing in on the bench I will eventually build for myself.

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All of the benches in the photo were made at Red Rocks.  Every other semester they offer a bench building class which I would love to take when I am ready to build my bench.  However the class is usually during a weekday, which makes it not possible for me to attend.  I’m likely to build a version of the split top Roubo we see so much of and working on these benches has given me a much clearer understanding of what I like and dislike in a workbench.

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Beginnings

I have much better instincts and ideas about how to approach woodwork than I do how to design and begin a blog. However, I’ve genuinely enjoyed and benefitted from the rich online community of fellow makers sharing their experience, so I will begin my own blog and join the conversation in a new way.

My primary interest is in designing and making furniture in wood.  While I’m drawn to traditional methods and find them the most enjoyable methods of work, I also use modern tools and equipment. For many years I’ve dabbled in woodwork, making simple, useful furniture and objects for my personal use. But I dreamed of doing more, learning to make what I considered “real” furniture, something I’d be proud to put in my home, that would stand the test of time, dare I say “fine” furniture. In the past 2 years, my progress has been slow but steady. With each completed piece, I’ve gained skills and confidence. I’ll add to this post the pieces I’ve made in the past 2 years in chronological order.  The progress I’ve made and the complete joy I receive from making simply makes me want to spend as much time as possible continuing to develop my design and woodworking abilities.

I learn almost as much from reading as from doing, so beginning this blog and continuing to read many of your blogs is just another way to keep making progress.

A finishing project. I learned so much about finish and flat from this burl. I’m very satisfied with the result and love this coffee table every day in our house.

Returning to woodwork

Returning to woodwork

The burl project motivated me to begin woodworking again. I found Paul Sellers online and began playing with boxes, dovetails, dados, rebates, clocks….and collecting tools of the trade.

Pencil Box

Pencil Box

Paul Sellers, Boxes and Tools

Paul Sellers, Boxes and Tools

More boxes - and more tools.

More boxes – and more tools.

After a couple boxes I moved on to my interpretation of Mr. Seller’s clock and made a weather station.  And so my adventure into woodwork began anew. Like so many of you, I have neither enough time or space to do all that I want to do, yet every bit of time I spend woodworking is deeply satisfying and encourages next steps.

Weather Station on Burl Table

Weather Station on Burl Table