November 16, 2008

Welcome to the current publication of Heart Hand and Eye, Inside Passage School of Fine Woodworking's newsletter celebrating the work of our students, alumni and faculty.

On Friday afternoon after class, Robert made the first presentation of this year, a letter box in cocobolo, tasmanian blackwood and port orford cedar.

"To know and not to do is not to know"

Wang Yang Ming

First Semester Show & Open House

JK Lectures

"...from the beginning you are aware of beautiful lines and good work, good work you know, properly done and nice attention to detail, pleasant to run the hand over, explore it by touch. All those things, be lucky. But be lucky in the sense that have something pleasant to offer. That's about what I can do, you know there is a temptation to imitate someone else or make something so wild that no one can live with it, that's possible. I'm talking about the mild, kind of sensible approach and don't imitate machine made things. On the contrary separate yourself from them by leaving the touch of your tools, and your hands, and your eyes..."

James Krenov November 7, 2008

Craftsman Program

Our students have completed their fundamental exercise and have moved onto first projects.

Michael from England is enjoying the process of shaping his kwila curved door of his wall cabinet, and it shows.

Barb from British Columbia Canada cutting some fine joinery for a curved top dovetailed box in lacewood.

With his curved door shaped, Fergal from Ireland selects the rest of his material for his lovely wall cabinet in teak.

Grig from Romania uses the bandsaw to shape his mockup for a box to be made of some london plane harvested by Doug in the eighties.

Jody from Ontario Canada resaws some Honduras mahogany for the top of his side table with a drawer.

Yosuke from Japan uses negative templates to select the locally harvested Elm for his coopered wall cabinet.

Neil from British Columbia Canada selects the graphics for a coopered lid box to be made from a lovely plank of plum, a gift from Juan Carlos.

With doweling complete, Craig from Minnesota United States mocks up the interior of his fine locally harvested arbutus and apple wall cabinet.

Steve from Ontario Canada selects the apple for the panels of his walnut wall cabinet.

Hannah from England has a lovely box with two sliding lids underway in damson, from a tree harvested from her parents property in England.

Derek from Manitoba Canada uses his shop made smoother to clean up the surfaces of a plank of kauri pine to be used for his hidden mitered dovetailed box.

Nick from Minnesota United States used his coopering and jointer planes to shape the chopping block for his tapered and curved joinery for his locally harvested arbutus box.

Brad from Alberta Canada has a fine cabinet in a very sweet piece of kwila underway which will feature door using a Chinese inspired cracked ice panel.

Jason from North Carolina United States uses one of his fine planes to surface a wonderful plank of doussie as he looks for the parts for his wall hung whiskey cabinet which will feature compound curved shaped doors.

Resident Craftsman

Resident Craftsman Daisuke Tanaka from Japan continues to serve as a fine mentor to our first year students and has an desk of Swiss pear underway which features four curved drawers.

Resident Craftsman Doug Ives is nearing the completion of the vanity. He has the joinery for the curved sided drawers underway.


Resident Craftsman & Teacher Juan Carlos Fernandez has been working on the mockup for his next piece, a five sided compound curved box. He has a real passion for design and our students benefit a great deal from having this fine young craftsman as a teacher.

Craftsman & Teacher Ian Godfrey shown here a few weeks back during his perceptive drawing class. Ian recently completed a walnut rocking chair with leather upholstery and has already moved onto a bench. If you would like to follow his progress visit his blog.

A Teachers Notebook

by Robert Van Norman
Resident Craftsman & Teacher

'Letters Home'

With the kwila milled and settling in my benchroom, I turn my attention to the letter box to be made of some very sweet wood I had milled and set aside some time ago.

When I unwrapped the parts there was little to no movement allowing me to avoid the machine room for a while. I spend a few minutes familiarizing myself again with the material. I reach for a favorite plane and began planing the inside surfaces of the box. The cocobolo I am using is milder than what I am used to. It is much lighter in color and weight and has wonderful figure. It takes a fine finish off the plane. The shavings have a floral fragrance. I turn my attention to squaring off the ends. I reach for my shooting board and realize that it has been neglected for some time. I am anxious to get to the joinery so tuning it up will have to wait for now. I sneak into the machine room and make a few crosscuts then quickly and head back to the tranquility of my benchroom.

The scribe feels familiar in my hand, it has been with me for many years and slices a very fine line where I have intended. I reach for an off-cut and sketch a few layouts, decide on one and proceed to layout the pins. I begin from the outside edges and work my way towards the center. I draw not straight lines with a bevel gauge, but subtle curves by eye.

My saw is still warm from cutting joinery with the students last week and cuts effortlessly somewhat close to my line. Leaving to much will mean a lot of paring and the potential for shifting. I draw a few more lines in between a couple of pins and get familiar with the wood getting progressively closer to the line until my confidence returns. My eyes are no longer as sharp as they once were, I adjust my lights, take a deep breath and cut as close as I dare to the waist side of each line.

With the sawing of my pins complete, I make a coffee and spend a few minutes on my edges. I modify a few angles and test the end grain looking at the quality of cut and checking durability. The angle is what it is, perhaps an angle similar to what I would use for kwila.

I pull out my chopping block and plane the edge square to the bottom face. I clamp the block on my scribe line and adjust by tapping it lightly with my small hammer.

I begin chopping the sockets, "A little down, a little in, and don't get greedy!" Jim would say. The wood has some curl and I have to keep the cuts light or the chisel wants to dive. I remove the work piece from the chopping block and pare each set of pins square to the end. I put my tools down turn off my lights and head out for a walk.

When I arrive back at the school most of the student are already at their benches and a few are setting up machines anxiously waiting for some power. Juan Carlos taught doweling this morning and the students are busy working on the doweling exercise. I begin to make my rounds. The doweling exercise is a good warm up for many of our students who have decided on wall cabinets.

The sky was very clear on my walk in this morning. The stars were brilliant and shape of the moon reminds me that we need to spend some time with our coopering planes which we will need next week. I arrive at the school make my way through my benchroom, the woodroom and wander around looking at the previous evenings work. There are a few new joints, a few new exercises completed. The benchroom feels calm, it feels like a place where people want to be. That is important that we feel comfortable and relaxed in our work. I wander back into the machine room and have a look in the wood box finding mostly firewood.

It is times like this that I am reminded why we built this school. I look around the room and realize that people are committed to this way of working, curious enough to travel fare distances and relocating their families to join us. I am filled with a deep sense of gratitude to our students, for without them our school would simply not exist.

The students begin to arrive, we chat share a coffee and a bad joke. I head back to my little room to get some work done. I sit down at my bench and study my early morning work and discover that the spacing isn't as bad as I remember. I reach for my paring chisel, give a quick hone and set to work paring a little flare into each of the pins. Too much it makes the fitting to the tails a little tougher, too little or inconstant and it begins to look like a miss. I enjoy this process, the chisel cuts across the brittle grain shaving a little more from the center lighting up the cut at the end to prevent blowing out the back side. As I hold the chisel completes the cut I rest its back against the side of the pin. The back of the chisel is polished and helps me judge the depth of flare. It needs a bit more so I take another pass. The first few take a while but as my confidence improves so does the efficiency and ease of my work. My neck is getting tired, I readjust my light and decide to stand for a while.

The students have gathered on the deck for a break, I make a coffee and join them. The sun warms our spirits and the cool fall air is fresh the talk is all about the United States election. The world just seems like a better place this morning.

I return to my cozy benchroom, put away a few tools and set up for the transfer. I scribe the tail stock, keeping in mind my layout and not scribing where it is not necessary. I sharpen my pencil and carefully transfer my lines. This cocobolo is unusually light and I can see my line without having to change my lead hardness. I sit down at the end of my bench and begin sawing the tails. I rotate the work piece in the vice giving me a vertical line. I tilt my saw almost un perceptively towards the outside of the joint which will make my pin socket tighter towards the outside of the joint. It is not that I do not trust my saw or my hands but it gives my a little room for miss reading the grain during initial paring.

I clearly mark my waste before set the chopping block up. I find a few narrow chisels and realize that I am limited to just one for the chopping. I like the look of small pins but sometime it can get me in trouble. I head out to the grinder and make a few modifications to another chisel and hollow grind the iron of my block plane while I am out there. The machine room is pretty quite, just myself and a second year student. I am humbled by the complexity of his work and am grateful for the simple work I have chosen.

I return to my bench and begin to chop, making sure not to bruise the sides of the tails. The chisel has been modified to allow me to get much closer to the corners but I will need to remove the last of the crumbles with a knife, one with a modified bevel on just one side allowing me to get into the corners without diving. I will leave the fitting for the morning when I feel fresh. The sun is shining and it is time for a walk.

The next morning I am treated to lovely light streaming through the windows of my benchroom as I carefully pare to fit each of the joints. The first corner takes a while, as my confidence return so does the efficiency of my work. I dry fit the box mark outside edges and face with blue tape and return to the machine room to run the slots for my bottom panel of and for the frame and panel lid. While I am there I size the panel of port orford cedar using my story stick and run the lip for the panel on the shaper.

The students have their mockups underway as I return from my walk. We look at sketches, talk about volume, shapes and of course the wood. There are several planks on sawhorses throughout the shop and the floor is filled with fresh shavings. The smell reminds me of my little shop in the mountains years ago. There is excitement, hesitation and lots of enthusiasm, a wonderful environment for careful work.

I assembled the letter box the previous day. I reach for my favorite smoother and with the box clamped to the side of my bench I begin to take flush off the joinery. The cocobolo is rowed however with alight cuts and sharp iron the light shavings reveal a fine surface. The edges are softened carefully ensuring "kindly edges.". The final test is by feel with my eyes gently closed. This is something I learned early on and has stayed with me. Our hands are equally as sensitive as our eyes often picking up what our eyes miss.

Ian arrives at the school with a rocking chair in walnut and leather he recently completed. We move it into the center of the gallery and he invites me to sit. It is as comfortable as it is beautiful. I am filled with a deep since of pride for this fine young craftsman and teacher.

I return to my benchroom and try some finish on an off cut. I decide on a light coat of oil with a little wax. The cocobolo is lovely untreated but over time would get dirty with frequent handling. There is something almost sensual about applying oil, the color and figure in the wood becomes alive as I rub down each surface and edge. I go out and visit with the students, share a moment with Yvonne and head back to my benchroom and remove the oil that has bled back to the surface.

The afternoon is spent discussing joinery and rebates. The progress is good. The previous week we discussed the importance of keeping procedure lists which our students are encouraged to keep. We will need to talk about the making and installation of hinges and wooden latches, which we will begin tomorrow. I prepare for tomorrow's lecture and make a handout so they can concentrate on the demonstration instead of taking notes.

After a cup of coffee with one of my students, I return to my benchroom and mockup my frame and panel lid. I have an idea of what I want and after and a few minutes I take the material which has been resting down to final dimension and begin cutting the joinery.The graphics show an inward curve, hopefully drawing attention to the panels. I begin on the bandsaw carefully cutting the open mortises. I then cut the shoulders for the tenons on the table saw and the cheeks of the tenons on the bandsaw. The small rails require mortises, so I head over to the mortiser. Working with this machine, the way we do requires minimal setup and is a true example of workmanship of risk. This is a machine process which I enjoy very much.

I return to my bench and carefully fit the joinery. I had intended on using a very sweet of piece of narra, a gift from a former student. The grain is a fine match with the cocobolo and planes beautifully however it is a little too yellow. I search through a few planks and come across a piece of very tight grained curly Tasmanian Black wood. The plane slices through the sawn exterior surface revealing lovely brown wood with a little flash of red. I reach for my amber polish to bring out the rich warm tones in the wood. I hold it next to the box and am pleased with the combination. I cut out a negative template and find my panels, return to our fine bandsaw and saw the book matched panels, which have a subtle inward curve. I set them aside to rest and head out for my walk.

I arrive back at the school to find many of the students waiting for me to turn on the power. There is wood to cut, mockups to refine which leads us back to the wood for answers. I will put off making hinges with them until tomorrow. There are many questions to answer and lots of wood to look at with our students.

I arrive at school before six and after my morning ritual of coffee and wondering through the shop, I head into the machine room. I have the frame and today I will mill the tenons, one each of the panels. After a brief visit to the table saw for the shoulders I spend a few minutes tuning the bandsaw and then cut the cheeks. The saw is cutting so well it is hard to tell that it is a sawn surface, this enables me to get an almost fit off the saw. I return to my benchroom and after a few passes with a file I have a fine fit. A few of the students have arrived so we chat and I clean off my bench. I sharpen a few irons begin to soften the edges and prepare the surfaces of my frame and panel components. I enjoy this work, shaping is a sensitive thing. We can change the way people look at the work with transitions and steps. After a couple of hours, I am applying finish. A light coat of my oil mixture for the exterior of the frame. The panels will receive a couple light coats of amber polish then wax.

I just finished the hinge making demonstration and am reminded never to assume anything. The number bit I use for the pin hole prior to reaming was been replaced with a larger bit and my pin slips right on through my press fit hole. I tell the students I do this for demonstration purposes and we have share a laugh. The remainder of the day is spent mostly looking at wood and discussing changes with their mockups. It has been overcast for a few days but this afternoon the sun came out for a while, many of use take a break on the deck.

I arrive at the school at six thirty, I spent some time at home in front of the wood stove sketching this morning. Working is giving me ideas for new pieces and I am feeling inspired once again. I know that these pieces will have to wait as I have enough work to carry me through until the spring. I begin the assembly of the frame and panel. I do my glue ups in manageable stages, working from the inside out. While in clamps I go through the kwila, narra and kauri pine that I milled a few weeks back for my next piece, a small sewing table.

It is saturday morning and I arrive at the school early, I couldn't sleep last night. I remember getting like this when I am nearing the completion of a piece. Questions, Did I make the best use of the material? Will the client like it? Do I like it? The answers will have to wait. I run the lip on the panel and cleanup the edges with a file and a bit of paper and apply some wax. We are entering the dry season so fitting the lid too tight will mean a call from the client next summer so I spring the fit, planing a slight curve along its length giving it room to breath the slot yet giving it some tension so the box can be handled without having to worry about the lid sliding out unintentionally.

After several sketches and mockups I decide on a pull. I pull out a small piece of Costa Rican cocobolo from a stash of wood under my bench, a little darker than the Nicaraguan I used in for the box. I cut off a slice and mock up the pull in the real wood and it seems to work. I take my finished frame and panel into the machine room and attach a block to stabilize the cut. I hold my breath and make light passes with the sharp end mill on the mortiser leaving a clean mortise. The Cocobolo I have for the pull is not large enough for the machines so I sized it by hand back at the bench. I make a quick jig to hold my pull as I run it over the shaper to form the tenon. I head back to my room stopping by the front bench announcing to the class that I will present on Friday at the end of the day.

I pull out a few gouges, files and a small shop made scraper and a finish pull and fit the tenon. I apply some finish, make a couple of clamping cauls and clamp the pull in place.

I leave the shop early and take a walk. I am filled with a deep sense of gratitude for the new found balance in my life.


Congratulations Scott King who has two articles on the pieces he made as a student in the craftsman program in 2006-2007 in Fine Woodworking Furniture 102 Contemporary Designs by Taunton press. Kathy's Chair appears on page 82 and Isabella's Treasure Chest on page 156-157. For more information about acquiring his furniture visit his website.


The Chinese Elm arrived at the school in mid-August at a moisture content of 21.5%. It was stickered and has been drying at the school since that time.

The elm with an average moisture content of less than 10%, has been transferred to our woodroom. I would like to thank Nick for his curiosity, checking the kiln each day checking the moisture content and emptying the water from the tank. A few of our students are using the arbutus that we pulled from the kiln prior to loading the elm. The results have been very good. Our students made their exercise drawers out of arbutus and the wood seemed very stable. A few have gone on to using this wood in their first pieces.

The kiln has been loaded again with some very wide planks of figured locally harvested 10/4 arbutus. The arbutus was at 23% moisture content. A week later we removed several liters of water and the wood has dropped to 18%.

Heart Hand & Eye Gallery

New in the gallery, walnut and leather Rocking Chair by Ian Godfrey. If you would like to see first hand the impeccable craftsmanship of this piece and new work by this years class, alumni and faculty, plan on attending our fourth annual First Semester Show and Open House on December 20, 2008.

This exceptional cabinet is available for purchase. If you would like more information please call Yvonne at our Gallery toll free at 1.877.943.9663

Our Annual Student Show & Open House takes place on December 20th. Open House will take place from 1-5pm at the school. The show will take place in the Heart Hand & Eye Gallery from 7-10pm. If you would like more information or assistance with finding accommodation, contact Yvonne toll free at 1.877.943.9663.

Programs for 2009

We are accepting registrations for our Artisan and Guest Faculty Programs for 2009. If you would you would like more information or would like to register call Yvonne toll free at 1.877.943.9663. Alternatively registrations may be faxed to 1.604.885.9711.

We are currently accepting applications for the 2009-2010 Craftsman Program.

Artisan Program Schedule for 2009