September 25, 2006

We began this week with Jim Krenov's lecture on knives and dovetailing. Each week the students and I have been treated to Jim as he reflects back on his life as a craftsman, teacher and writer. His words are as inspiring as ever and we are grateful for his presence at our school.

With Gary Kent moving into a relief teaching role at the school this year machine maintenance has become a shared task. It also allows each student the opportunity to learn first hand machine setup and tuning. Last week students learned planer, this week it was joiner. The knives for each machine are removed, honed using a simple jig with water stones and then reinstalled in the machine. The machine is tweaked to produce exceptional results.

Ian & Cole discuss the millwork for sawhorse exercise. Once students have completed a stub, haunched, slip and and through and wedges mortise and tenon joints each student makes a set of Krenovian sawhorses. This year many of our students are making one in ash and one in eastern hard maple. Working in a variety of woods gives the student the opportunity to experience the working properties of each wood.

Robert's knife in the early stages. A quick sketch shows the intended shape. An old needle file is given a new life. When fitted with a handle it becomes a very useful tool for carving consoles, latches or pulls. Each student has the opportunity to make a paring chisel, a dovetail chisel and a carving knife. Starting with old files the steel is softened, a process known as annealing. The tool is then shaped, rehardened and then tempered. Many of our students enjoy the tool making component of the program and have made several tools.

Cole shows completed bevel gauge made just prior to dovetail drawer making & fitting exercise. Tool making is done in line with skills using these tools. Each student made a small wooden bevel gauge. The process saves the student from buying expensive or hard to find tools and is an enjoyable process.

Jacques tunes his wooden smoother to prepare surfaces on his sawhorses with joinery nearly complete. These sawhorses are durable, strong and easy to store. In his weekly lecture at the school Jim Krenov told the students that he is still using the same horses for fifty years.

Juan's tool cabinet with tools neatly stowed. A few refined tools can take a craftsman a long way. Juan and his wife Beatrice, both from Venezuela have been taking part in our weekly yoga class set up for our students which takes place just upstairs from the school each Monday morning. Marnie Coulter from Yoga by the Sea has put together a yoga program which addresses the specific needs of our woodworkers.

Lael pares the notch for brass insert of chair scrape. Developing a sensible balance between hand and machine tools is encouraged throughout the program.

Steve finishes his left hand shooting board. Each student has the opportunity to make one of these very useful jigs. Shooting boards are used for a variety of tasks during the program.

Scott takes some sweet first shavings from his chair scrape. Scott discovers the joy of the amazing little tool coveted those who do a lot of shaping in nasty grained woods. The surfaces left by the tool are ready for finish. Scott is joined by his wife Kathy and daughter Isabella. Families contribute a great deal to the atmosphere at the school.


Jon dials in the fit of lignum wear plate on his chair scrape. Lignum is very unstable and difficult to work but provides a slick surface that wears very well. Jon is using a shooting board made the week prior and his block plane finely tuned.

Sharpening a good place for conversation. Each student has a sharpening station locate next to their bench. As craftsmen, efficiency helps create flow in ones work. When a tool is losing its edge a skilled craftsman can dismantle a tool, hone the edge and be back making shavings without losing a step.

Federico cuts Macassar ebony veneer for compound curved parquetry cabinet. Federico had a strong background in sculpture prior to attending the program. He is a gifted designer and we look forward to watching him further develop in his second year. First year students benefit a great deal by having second year students. Veronica and Ignacia, Federico's wife and daughter are regular visitors to the school.

Robert demonstrates hand cut dovetails. Students watched Robert repeat the demonstration three times. Some would say for clarity, Robert would say until he got it right.

Some very tidy work by Scott. This is exactly the kind of work we have come to expect from Scott. Laying out hand cut joinery gives the maker a chance to show some creativity. Students are encouraged to layout by eye, not measuring. Jim has been laying out his dovetails for many years without even the aid of a bevel gauge.

Happy Birthday Jon. Jon is joined by partner Jaylene and daughter Zeppy. A lovely family with one of the happiest children I have ever known.

Lael uses one of the chisels made earlier in the week to pare his dovetails. Lael has shown us that he is one to watch. A very patient and thoughtful woodworker. Lael was married in August. His wife Catherine is still living in Alaska but is due for a visit in a couple of weeks. I know that I have already talked about sacrifices that our students and their families have made to attend our school. I can't think of a bigger one.

Juan cleaning up a set of dovetails on his drawer. Juan, another of our students from Venezuela has been woodworking for many years primarily with machine tools. Since arriving at the school he has developed some fine hand skills.

Juliette chops dovetails at her bench. The little elephant stool makes its first appearance this year. Juliette has fit into the program very well and enjoys the emphasis on hand tools. Many of the children of our faculty flock to her bench for a hug and a kind word.

A few of the many tools made during the first few weeks of the Craftsman Program. Tool making offers students a change of pace with their work and continues throughout the program. This past week students were shown the applied sole method of plane making and using inserts.

On Monday, students and faculty will gather for a Thanksgiving potluck dinner at Yvonne & Robert's home. This coming week students will complete their drawers and fit them to the pocket in their tool cabinets. We then will be moving onto making coopering planes then returning to joinery where students will be introduced to doweling, partitions and frame and panel. Sharpening Japanese saws will also be covered in the mix.

Benchroom this week will return to a weekly schedule following next weekend when Yvonne and Robert will be attending the Victoria Wood show. Please come by for a visit and hear about the exciting new offerings at Inside Passage School of Fine Woodworking.

The Benchroom this week ...

September 18, 2006

Ian's final NK drawer glue up. Since this photo was taken he has moved onto drawer and door pulls. Ian has had a very busy summer and is nearing completion of this exceptional and exquisite piece.

Jacques with perfect board flat and square. He will now have the opportunity to split the board and practice edge jointing covered by Ian last Saturday. The perfect board exercise can at times cause frustration however most students would agree that it embraces the close connection between the craftsman, his or her tools and the material. Students having completed this exercise are much more in tune with their plane.

Robert teaches students the process of placing an insert into the sole of a plane. This process gives the plane new life after several year of use and flattening which opens the mouth. In this case the plane is a plane Scott made while taking a summer class at the College of the Redwoods several years ago.

Jon checks for flat across the width of the face of his perfect board. Anything effects everything. In this exercise students take a piece of eastern hard maple and using a previously made plane, plane the board flat and square and parallel along all of its faces, edges and ends. The board is then split on the bandsaw and the joint is 'shot' with their plane before gluing back together leaving an nearly invisible joint. The board is then planed to a fine sheared surface and burnished using the shavings. After that many become cutting boards while others are burned as a sort of right of passage.

Juan displays his stub and haunched mortises. Each student has the opportunity to cut and fit a stub, haunched and through and wedged mortise and tenon joint before moving onto the making of a set of "Krenovian" sawhorses which will be used over their time at the school and in many years to come.

Letters home, Juliette writes a letter to a friend back home on shavings that she has taken from her plane. What a thoughtful gift from an incredible young woman. She has returned home for a few days to perform the marriage service of a couple of friends.

Cole laying out mortises for exercise. As machines are introduced students need to be conscious of the process. Using their time efficiently and being sure required machine processes are complete during the day allowing for hand work in the evenings.

Ian cutting cheeks of tenon, Juliette watches on. Ian, a second year student as well as our Saturday teacher. A fine craftsman with a relaxed approach, Ian has done an admirable job since joining our faculty.

Lael cutting the shoulders on tenon. During the first eight weeks of fundamentals students receive a daily morning lecture on a given topic and are given the balance of the day to practice the skills covered with the support of resident craftsman.

Scott uses his finely tuned block plane and a shooting board to carefully size stock. Cut ever so slightly large on the machine, the shooting board allows the craftsman to 'dial in" to final dimension. Each of our students will have the opportunity to make a shooting board this week at the school.

Steve with wife Lisa, daughter Michaela and his mom. Family visits are always welcome at our schools. Steve returns home each Saturday following class to spend Saturday. This commitment is paying off as Steve has made fine progress since arriving at the school.

The Benchroom this week ...

September 11, 2006

Juliette, Lael, Jacques and Cole listen in on as JK addresses the class on the first day. Next week Jim Krenov will be joining us via speaker phone for a weekly lecture at our school. We are delighted to see Jim's increased presence at our school.

Steve, from Powell River British Columbia laps the back of one of his plane irons. Over the first few weeks students spend a significant number of daytime and evening hours making, preparing and modifying their tools.

Many of our alumni joined this years class for first Elephants. Having so many of last years class here, made this event so special. Brent drove up from Bainbridge Island Washington and Eric all the way from the Okanogan for a potluck supper at Varco beach followed by an informal gathering at Stephen and Susan's just a short walk from the beach.

Lael's first plane ready for assembly. The iron back polished and bevel hollow ground and honed to a razor edge. The front ramp cleaned up with a carving gouge. Rear ramp planed square and flat using a block plane carefully tuned. The cross pin neatly fitted and nicely shaped at this point the ramps and cross pin are waxed, an acetone wipe of glued surfaces and dry run prior to glue up.

Robert's Tulipwood edge plane. One of the joys of making our own tools, planes in particular, is that we can make them for a specific purpose. This plane will be used to making friendly or happy edges and for the fitting of small drawers. The tulip wood has good weight and burnishes to a high sheen with use.

Scott from Carlisle Bay Barbados takes his first shavings with a very sweet plane. Scott is joined this year by his wife Kathy and daughter Isabella. Families play a significant role to the atmosphere at the school. Scott has taken a couple of sessions at the College of the Redwoods Summer Programming and is off to a flying start doing some fine work.

Lael, from Anchorage Alaska takes first shavings. I have made many of planes over the years and I still get a strong sense of satisfaction watching people take their first fine shavings from a plane that they have carefully made.

Juan from Caracas Venezuela carefully opens the mouth of his plane. Juan is our second student from Venezuela at our school. Federico, also from Venezuela is taking a second year of study at Inside Passage as a Resident Craftsman. Federico had a strong presence at the school the first week when we were without our other Resident Craftsman and Teacher, Ian, who was with his partner for the birth of their first child.

Jacques first shavings less than .0005". Shavings of this thickness are consistent with final polishing and require a razor sharp tool finely tuned.

Jon from Calgary takes first shavings with his plane. Jon joined us with very little hands on experience but a passion for working with his hands. His passion has already translated to fine work. Jon is joined by partner Jaylene and daughter Zeppy.

Juliette, from Pound Ridge New York takes her first shavings with her Jatoba smoother. Juliette is working on her thesis for her masters in fine arts while at the school. Juliette is another one of our students coming into the program with limited experience which is more than compensated for by a strong aptitude and a strong and yet gentle spirit.

Scott's smoother with maple shavings and start of Bocote jointer. During the first eight weeks of the program new topics are introduced nearly every day. Students are encouraged to utilize some of the many evening hours available to them.

Lael's smoother with brass and Padauk plane adjustment hammer. The hammer is made from made from solid brass rod stock drilled, edges softened and carefully fitted with a handle of fine wood which is wedged in place. The size and weight of these handles is ideal for the planes made here and are a enjoyable side activity.

Jon uses his Jatoba smoother for the perfect board exercise. Anything effects everything. One correction can often throw out another.

Jacques, from Blackland New Brunswick, adjusts his Jatoba smoother with his hammer also made the first week. Jacques will be joined later next month by his partner Clair who is currently working at Lake O'Hara Lodge. Jacques hand picked the nasty board for Robert to demonstrate the perfect board exercise. Jacques will be paying all year for this.

Cole, from Vancouver, checks his perfect board for flat and doing very well. The perfect board exercise introduces students to plane use and the importance of a sharp and tuned tool. As Ian points out every piece of wood after the perfect board exercise is a perfect board.