May 2, 2014

It has been a year since we changed the format of our program, enabling our students to take our Impractical Cabinetmaker program a session at a time. Our Impractical Studies program, a foundation in the teachings of James Krenov, maybe taken a week at a time or as a complete ten-week program, and is a prerequisite to each of the other three ten-week programs. The Upward Spiral program is an exploration of the solid wood construction of an established piece, and serves as a prerequisite to our Composing program, where students have the opportunity to compose a piece from a plank to a cabinet under the guidance of the Resident Craftsman and Teacher, further exploring the many subtleties of our craft including the use of shop sawn veneer, curves and glass. Vidar’s Chair program is a comprehensive lesson in grain graphics, increasingly complex joinery and shaping. This fine chair, originally made in Jim’s little basement shop in Bromma Sweden, in 1970 by his dear friend Vidar Malmsten. At the same time as we changed the format of our program, we reduced our class size by over forty percent. In just three weeks we will begin our tenth year of offering craft education for the aspiring amateur in a supportive and creative environment located in the quaint seaside community of Robert’s Creek on the beautiful Sunshine Coast of British Columbia.

back row from left: Yvonne, Brad, Russ, Kelly, Kevin, Nondas, Chris & Gary
front row from left: Gavin, John, Robert, Caroline & Tom

Caroline Woon, who recently completed her second year of study and is undertaking a residency at the school will begin her training as a teaching assistant in the coming program. With a student enrolled in Vidar’s chair program, she will be making a chair along side him, as she guides him through the process. Having recently completed the chair, she has proven herself as one of the finest craftsman to come out of our small school. Yvonne and I are very grateful to have such a fine young craftsman join us in providing craft education, in the Krenovian tradition.

Yesterday the final Elephants of this session, took place at our home just down the road from the school. We began with a tour of my little shop and listened to a farewell address lecture Jim had given at the school back in 2007. Students then had an opportunity to see first hand some of my work, the work of my students and of course one of JK’s cabinets that grace the floor of our home. I also brought out some of Jim’s archive to share with the students. We had a bon fire where in keeping with tradition, I burned my Wabi Sabi exercise cabinet. It was a night of good food and wonderful people including alumni from our first year. I was filled with a deep sense of gratitude for all the wonderful people in my life.

This past week, after spending nearly two months dismantling, cleaning, lubricating and setting up Jim’s Stenberg table saw and mortiser, I decided to set aside the restoration of his remaining machines for a while and make some shavings. I installed the phase converter and all the machines are up and running except the tablesaw and mortiser, which is awaiting a part for the switch. The following is from my notes of the past two months: Jim often said “make sure they know you’ve been there.” While he was referring to our work, I have taken this approach with their restoration. Each machine would need to be disassembled, cleaned, lubricated and tuned. Twenty years of salty sea air had taken its toll on them and while, they had been cleaned before their arrival, I wanted to get to know them better, to prepare them for another lifetime of use. I began with the tablesaw and mortiser. After dismantling the machine, I removed all surface rust, despite a little pitting no parts required machining. All paint is original, with two exceptions, the motor for the table saw had been rebuilt about six years ago. When it returned from the rebuilder, it had a paint inconsistent with the original Stenbergs green. The dust bin had also been modified and fitted with a dust collection port. In an effort to return them to as they were in Jim’s little basement shop in Bromma Sweden, I made a minimalist patch for the dust bin, neatly covering the hole and attached it using the same screw holes. The patch and motor were the painted to paint carefully tinted to match the rest of the machine. In preparing the motor to repaint, I located and uncovered the motors specification plate. Once completely dismantled all surfaces where thoroughly cleaned and lubricated and I began to reassemble. I began with the arbor assembly, it which pivots on two bushings. The photograph below shows one cleaned with surface rust removed prior to lubrication, the other is as the machine arrived.

When the machine arrived, the raising and lowering of the arbor and chuck, which run on the same shaft, was a bit rough. Cleaned and lubricated, it works beautiful including the micro adjustment which is smooth and a delight to use. Each of the machines, are built with simplicity in mind, but built for many lifetimes of use, like our work. I then attached the saw casting and trunions. The tilting table had not seen much use so when it arrived, the trunions were nearly seized. After a lot of cleaning and sensible lubrication, they are as smooth as the day they left the small family run factory. The pulley was then cleaned and reinstalled on the motors shaft. With one grunion attached to the top, the top was carefully lipped into place and was reattached, and the table tilt stop set pretty close for the time being. The tilting of the saw is smooth in both directions and the locking mechanism solid.

I began work on a pair of chairs underway in narra. With mortising of the legs complete, I turned my attention to the tapers on the front and back legs. I brought down a couple of Jim’s planes, ground the irons and put on a fresh edges. I could have cut the tapers on the bandsaw first, but decided to set on of the planes for a heavier cut to plane in the tapers and the other set very fine to take the tapers down to final dimension and surface. I was reminded of the following quote as I made the first shavings in my little shop.

“ I stand at my workbench. Shavings curl from the plane in my hands, swish-and-slide, as I rock to the motion of work. The smell of fresh cut wood, a slick, silvery yellow surface gleaming under the tireless plane, and a feeling of contentment. Nothing is wrong. Here I am, here is my work-and someone is waiting for the fruits of these fleeting hours. My contentment is bound by the whitewashed walls of my little cellar shop, by the stacks of long-sought woods with their mild colors and elusive smells, by the planked ceiling through which I hear the quick footsteps of a child- and yet it is boundless, my joy…” – James Krenov  A Cabinetmakers Notebook 

We will be launching our new website in the coming weeks. Our new website, was built on simplicity and will enable weekly Journals, even for a luddite like myself. I will be sharing my personal work and thoughts on teaching, and Caroline, who will be completing a residency at the school, will be sharing her work, and the work of the students. The rest of the site will be a work in progress, your patience is very much appreciated.

Over the next few days we will be saying goodbye to a few very special people. We will be preparing the school, and ourselves for our tenth year of offering craft education for the aspiring amateur founded on and dedicated to the teachings of James Krenov. Yvonne and I would like to thank the over three hundred alumni from over thirty five countries who have entrusted our school for their craft education, and are reminded that this school not only exists for you but because of you.
Be well and enjoy your work,