Sharpen and set up a block plane so it could take fine, fine shavings.
Grind, sharpen and set up a jack plane.
Of the three goals, I was most excited about getting 18 vintage jack planes set up and running. If I could give every woodworker in the world one tool, it would be a jack plane set up with an iron that was ground, honed and polished with an 8” to 10” radius on its edge.
That tool can accomplish incredible feats of flattening. With this tool, you can flatten a board of any width – you are limited only by the length of your arms. Machinery be dammed.
Plus, a good jack plane is handy when working edges, or anytime you need to remove a lot of wood in a hurry.
Thanks to the help of Raney Nelson of Daed Toolworks, all of the students became grinding aces in short order. Then they honed up their irons, tuned up their jack planes and started destroying the sample boards we gave them.
Tomorrow (Tuesday) we start on the real stuff – building a tool chest with only hand tools. Then we’ll find out if the first day of teaching was worth a dang.
— Christopher Schwarz
P.S. So after a long day or hard work, the entire class retired to the forest behind the school to cook dinner, drink a beer and talk about woodworking. As I scooted off to bed, they had built a fire in the school’s fire pit and were talking about the day ahead.
Though I’ve taught at the Marc Adams School of Woodworking for almost a decade, I’ve never been there after dark. It’s a bit like running into a familiar school teacher in an unfamiliar place, like the grocery store.
When I teach at MASW, I like to eat lunch in the young forest behind the school, but tonight I was tripping, fumbling and crunching across that familiar ground trying to find my students so I could make sure they didn’t poop in Marc’s lake.
I found some tents in the clearing, but they were deserted. That’s spooky. I looked out over the surrounding corn fields that were lit up by the Super Blood Moon and thought: This is going to be a weird week.
For the next five days I’m leading a class of 18 young aspiring woodworkers in a class officially called “Hand Tool Immersion,” but which I affectionately call “The Baby Anarchists.” We’ll be fixing up hand tools and building a tool chest. While that doesn’t sound extraordinary, it is.
Marc Adams graciously agreed to slash the tuition for the students to make it affordable for young woodworkers. He donated the materials for the tool chests we’ll be building. And he is allowing all the students to camp in the forest behind his house and school (I think 14 or 15 are back there now).
About 100 readers of this blog have donated tools and cash so that all of these students will end up a kit of tools they need to seriously get started in woodworking.
And woodworking friends – Raney Nelson, John Hoffman, Brian Clites, Tim Henriksen, Justin Leib – are donating their time to help the students get individual instruction.
Now we just have to feed this crew, so I’ll find out if Domino’s pizza delivers out here (just kidding; this is Papa John’s territory).
I’ll be posting photos of this class all week here and in Instagram under the #babyanarchists hashtag. I hope you’ll follow along here and on Instagram because a lot of you out there made this class possible. And I am deeply in your debt.
I may have chopped off one of my favorite fingers on Monday, but not even that could keep me away from Woodworking in America 2015. Chris’s three classes on staked furniture, workbenches and back irons are, respectively, just the tip of the Lost Art Press iceberg at this year’s festivities, which also feature courses by LAP contributors Roy Underhill, Megan Fitzpatrick, Don Williams, and Mike Siemsen.
Over in the WIA Marketplace, the Lost Art Press booth is hosting two special “meet the author” book signing events that I just learned about. At 2 p.m. on Friday, St. Roy will be in the booth to sign babies, chests and books. In addition to Calvin Cobb: Radio Woodworker!, we welcome you to bring any of Roy’s other eight inimitable titles for signing.
And most importantly of all, I your fearless forum moderator will be at the booth all day Friday and Saturday. In addition to showing you my “accidental amputation” (as they labeled it in the emergency room), I am particularly looking forward to hearing your thoughts and suggestions on the forthcoming Lost Art Press forum.
Part of our delay in launching the full forum has been due to our internal deliberations over how deeply to plunge into the universe of hand tool woodworking. We originally envisioned the forum as a space to discuss LAP books and the projects contained therein. But one thing we learned almost immediately from the beta forum is that many of you have questions and interests which delve more deeply into the marrow of the hand tool world. To hear more about the options we’re considering, and to weigh in, please stop by the booth.
When we pulled up to the Festhalle Barn the morning of the Handworks show, we were impressed to see a long line of people wrapped around the barn, along the fence and into the street.
As we made our way to our booth, we realized this line started at our booth. I put down my bag and the first guy in line pounced on me.
“I’m here for the calipers,” he said.
“The Studley calipers, the limited edition ones. You only have 50,” he replied.
“Dude, that was two years ago,” I said. “We don’t have any calipers.”
He insisted that we did, and that I had been blogging about it leading up to the show. He got a little cranky and I thought he might take a swing at me. The next guy in line had the same story. I looked and John and mouthed “WTF?”
We still don’t know what happened and why 100 people thought we were selling calipers. So if you are coming to Woodworking in America, read this next sentence: We don’t have any H.O. Studley calipers. We have the book and DVD on Studley, but not the calipers.
(If you want a nice pair modeled after Studley’s, you can buy them from Lee Valley Tools here.)
We do have some other cool stuff at Woodworking in America. A beautiful letterpress poster for $20 that was a joint project between Steam Whistle Letter Press and us. We’re bringing about 470. We sent 25 to Classic Hand Tools in England, which they will offer over there. If we have any posters left over (and we should) we’ll find a way to put them up in our online store.
We also have our crazy Bandito shirt – a skeleton holding two dovetail saws – that was designed by Shelby Kelley. Will these sell? We don’t care. We’ll just wear them all if we have to. The shirts are in an olive green with black ink. Also $20.
Book Signing for ‘Virtuoso’
If you’d like to get your copy of “Virtuoso: The Tool Cabinet and Workbench of H.O. Studley” signed, stop by the Lost Art Press booth at 2 p.m. Saturday. Author Don Williams and photographer Narayan Nayar will be there to sign your books.
Shortly after I started editing the video “Virtuoso” I began to dream up a soundtrack. About the only specific request Lost Art Press gave me was that they wanted the music to be piano based. H.O. Studley spent his working life as a piano and organ maker so it was only fitting that the music pay homage to his work. Considering Studley made pianos in the early 20th century it seemed obvious that I could put any ole Scott Joplin track in and it’d work. The only problem was that it didn’t work.
Narayan and Chris went to great lengths to capture the footage as perfectly as possible. The lighting is fantastic and for the most part all of the shots are crystal clear. Putting a musical bed that was recorded in 1910 against footage that was captured in 2013 would create a disconnect between the two. Even though the subject was from the early 1900s the video and photographs of the tool chest were clearly modern. I needed to find a way of paying homage to the time period Studley worked in while making sure the music seemed timeless to today’s viewers.
My greatest hurdle was the fact that I didn’t think like a piano player. I can play piano fairly OK. I can make it sound like I play piano pretty well if I’m given the power of modern day recording software. But creating a piano soundtrack proved to be quite difficult for me. For me, piano is a second language and creatively writing in a second language can be quite difficult (I’d assume: I don’t creatively write and I don’t speak a second language).
In comes the ukulele.
A great friend of mine bought me a baritone ukulele years ago and it quickly became my favorite instrument to play. It’s small enough to play reclined on the couch watching a football game. Quiet and subdued enough to not bother my wife and best of all for some reason the limitation of four strings makes the guitar player in me think more creatively than when I have six strings. For this project the baritone ukulele became my sketchbook. As I was editing video I always had my uke within arms reach. Video editing can get pretty tedious and while focusing intently on something technical I found that my mind could creatively wander. Often times a melody would pop into my head. I’d quickly grab the uke and record the newfound musical idea into my phone.
Once I was no longer asking my brain to be creative while trying to play piano I was able to just concentrate on playing piano. After I was done with the editing of each chapter I’d play it over and over while experimenting with a piano track based on what I came up with on the ukulele. Once I had the basics figured out I would record the soundtrack a few times while watching the video, making sure to line up any spots without dialogue and especially making sure to get out of the way when nothing was necessary.
Most of what you’ll hear is a simple upright piano. Sadly, because of the hours I was working on the film (night time often when my son was in bed) I wasn’t able to use a real life acoustic piano. I wound up using the Braunschweig Upright samples from Imperfect Samples. An upright piano seemed the most appropriate to me because every picture I’ve seen of a Poole piano (where Studley worked) was an upright. I like the Braunschweig samples because they sound like a well loved and well maintained piano from the early 20th century that is starting to show its age.
In the chapter “Enigmatic Genius” you’ll not only hear the piano but you’ll also hear a reed organ, which would be somewhat similar to what Studley might have worked on when he was employed by the Smith American company. This particular organ is an Estey portable preacher’s organ circa 1906. The organ belongs to a friend of mine and I was lucky enough to sample it myself a few years ago (it can be heard on almost every record I’ve worked on).
The film ends with more than 20 minutes of footage of the tool cabinet being unloaded piece by piece. I knew that the music here was going to be of much greater importance because there is no dialogue at all. I also knew that I was nowhere near the composer and nowhere near the piano player to come up with something that could stand on its own the way this section needed. Here in Nashville we are incredibly lucky to have some of the best musicians in the world just a phone call away.
I first met Micah Hulscher when he came to play on an Americana record I was producing for David Newbould. I hired half the band and David hired the other half. I had never worked with Micah and didn’t know what to expect other than a few people telling me he’s a monster. He came in and immediately started playing (what I assume was) a Bach piece. Normally this wouldn’t be a red flag, but when you’re working on a record where less is more I instantly went into worry mode. Moments later as Micah was playing he seemingly moved into a Jelly Roll Morton tune in three moves. I suddenly realized he was a rare talent and proceeded to pick my jaw up from the floor. Throughout that recording Micah blew me away with his ability to play anything but more importantly his ability to know when he needed to play nothing at all.
I called Micah and explained the task we had in front of us. A few weeks later in between dates playing with Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell, Micah came to my house and we got to work. Over the next few hours I would play him a section of the video and we’d discuss a style that would be fitting. Micah would compose something on the spot and we’d start recording, watching the video the whole time. When the day started, Micah seemed to think it was silly that a tool cabinet warranted a book and a video about it. By the end of the session he was commenting on how mesmerized he was watching the tools come out of the chest and wanted to know more about Studley.
I think the viewers will find Micah’s playing and compositions perfect to help guide them through the unloading of the chest. The unloading is not for everyone. I’m sure many spouses will leave the room after a few minutes but I hope many viewers will be as enthralled by it as I was. The intention of the editing was to show as much of the unpacking as possible while leaving out any unnecessary parts. Hopefully Micah’s playing makes this portion a little more palatable for those who aren’t mesmerized by tools coming out of a cabinet.