A reminder that tickets are now on sale for John Porritt’s April 6-10 Welsh backstool class. Click here to register.
Welsh Back Stool Class with John Porritt
John Porritt, a woodworker who trained in the U.K. – and who had one of his chairs praised by John Brown in a Good Woodworking column! – is coming to Covington April 6-10, 2020, to teach a side chair (also known as a backstool) class, and we could not be more excited. In addition to making chairs, John is amazing at repair and color work, and he has restored tools for Jim Bode, Martin Donnelly, Lee Richmond and many collectors both here and abroad. He’s one of the traditional chairmakers Christopher Schwarz wishes he had found 20 years sooner. (You can read more about him in this post from Chris.)
This is not a class for beginning woodworkers – though if you’re confident in your sharpening skills and use of basic bench tools, you’ll be fine (you needn’t be an accomplished chairmaker).
Each student (it will, as usual, be limited to six) will make his or her own version of this traditional Welsh chair out of air-dried elm and ash, which is to say there’s some room for expression. John will, as he writes, discuss “the aesthetics and elements that line, skill, happenstance, materials and luck produce,” and students will use those within the constraints of the form to build their own chairs.
I asked John his thought on the craft to help me better write a class description – but I love the inherent tension in what he said, so I’m offering his thoughts verbatim instead:
Jan. Welsh Stick Chair Class w/Chris Williams
A special treat for us – and for six students – Christopher Williams is traveling to Covington from Wales to teach a Welsh Stick Chair class January 27-31, 2020.
When registering for the class, you’ll be charged a $60 non-refundable administrative fee (after the class sells out, a waitlist will open; signing up for the waitlist is free). After registering, the six in the class will be sent an invoice for the class fee of $1,500, which will be due upon receipt, given the relatively short time until the class. If, after paying the class fee of $1,500, you need to drop the class, we can offer a refund of said class fee only if we can fill your slot from the waitlist – in other words, please be sure you can take the class before registering. I know this is strict, but there are a few students who play a juggling game with classes and deposits. We do not want to play this game.
Attendees will receive a tool list and details on booking accommodations in the Covington area. Don’t worry – there are lots of rooms here.
A materials fee will be due on the day the class begins. We’re trying to source as much of the material from tree services, so we don’t yet know what the fee will be. Likely about $300.
Chris is a fantastic chairmaker and worked with John Brown for many years in refining and exploring the Welsh Stick Chair form. (In fact, Brown likely invented the term “Welsh Stick Chairs,” which we all use today.) Chris’s focus as a chairmaker is on achieving perfection in these chairs while using the barest minimum of tools. His classes focus on the skills and mindset to make these chairs – not jigs or machines.
As a result, this is definitely not a beginner chair class. We ask that anyone who registers for the class/waitlist to have prior chairmaking experience. The chair for this class will have six sticks making up the chair’s back. Each chair will turn out a little different based on the materials and the maker. That is one of the (many) beautiful aspects of this chair.
This is a rare experience to learn chairmaking from someone who has lived and breathed it his entire life, who has made hundreds of these chairs and has a direct link to John Brown that lasted many years.
We promise this will be one of the most intense and gratifying weeks of your woodworking career. Chris gives 100 percent during the entire class (and afterward) – answering questions about Wales, chairmaking, John Brown and (if you’re nice) rugby. All your senses will be involved. We’ll make sure everyone eats and drinks well and gets a good taste of what this area has to offer. Unless you are a devoted hermit, I think you’ll find the evenings as enlightening and stimulating as the classroom time.
Reminder: Storefront Open Tomorrow
The Lost Art Press storefront is open tomorrow (Saturday, Nov. 9, 2019) from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. for all your woodworking questions and holiday (or personal) shopping needs (in addition to the Lost Art Press books, we have a Crucible Tool lump hammer or two, some scrapers and burnishers, and five holdfasts).
Brendan Gaffney has a chair (or nine) on which he’s working, and I’ll be finishing up the tills on the XL Anarchist’s Tool Chest I’m making for a customer, then – depending on how busy we are – installing the hinges on the lid, and the rest of the hardware. And possibly mixing up some milk paint.
At 2 p.m., I’ll give a free presentation on cutting through dovetails – and tricks for fitting them. (I promise there will be no Shakespeare jokes.)
And late in the day, it’s possible the globe-hopping Christopher Schwarz will make a brief appearance (but only if his plane is on time and he’s not too tuckered out).
We’re at 837 Willard St., Covington, Ky., 41011.
p.s. Plus a reminder that tomorrow and December 14 are the last days on which the storefront will be open until June 13, 2020 (we’re planning to be slightly less busy 2020).
p.p.s. Yes, I know those pins in the picture are far too far above the Moxon vise…but the piece is almost as tall as am I, so no choice.
Storefront Open this Saturday
The Lost Art Press storefront will be open this Saturday (Nov. 9, 2019) from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. This is your opportunity to talk with fellow woodworkers, ask any questions about the craft that have been bugging you and perhaps learn a new technique at the bench. Plus, there’s only this Saturday and Dec. 14 to visit before the holidays, then we won’t be open again until June 2020 (click here for more info on next year’s open days).
We’ll have our full line of Lost Art Press books (excepting “The Anarchist’s Design Book” – Christopher is working on a revised edition that will go to press soon) and we’ve a few Crucible Lump Hammers, scrapers and burnishers for sale.
At 2 p.m., I’ll give a presentation on dovetails, including a few simple “tricks” to get them nice and tight…but not too tight.
As always, there are a couple of ongoing projects in the shop for you to examine (including the ongoing project of working on the shop itself).
- I am finishing up work on a super-sized English tool chest commission, and if all goes well this week, I’ll be fitting out the interior and/or installing a cool lock on Saturday.
- Brendan Gaffney is working on a tour-de-force writing chair – a mahogany post-and-rung rocker with an outboard desk and drawers (really).
- Plus we have a couple of Chris’s chairs you can check out (he’ll be on a plane, traveling back from Ireland – no doubt with a camera card full of photos of Gibson chairs).
Come for the Woodworking, Stay for the Food
And while you’re here, make time for brunch, lunch or a late lunch; here’s some great places to eat that you can walk to:
Otto’s: A fantastic brunch (you might want to make reservations just to be sure).
Coppin’s at Hotel Covington: The best eggs Benedict in town
Libby’s Southern Comfort: Crazy good fried chicken
Commonwealth: Kentucky cuisine at its finest
Tuba Backing Co: Pretzels and yummy things on pretzels – opens at 3 p.m. (It’s a new place, and open to the public right now only on Saturday afternoons/evenings…so I’ve had time to try only four offerings thus far – all delicious)
Crafts & Vines: A wine bar (they have beer and spirits, too) that we love – light bites including a cheese and meats board, house-made beef jerky, and whatever goodness is cooking on the Big Green Egg. (Maybe save this one for the early evening…so the Big Green Egg dish of the day is available.)
Also worth seeing in town:
The Cincinnati Art Museum has three new featured exhibits: “Treasures from the Spanish World,” “Women Breaking Boundaries” and “The Levee: A Photographer in the American South” along with an impressive decorative arts collection (and general admission is free).
The Contemporary Arts Center (the CAC) is also free and is currently featuring the work of Brazilian artist Sandra Cinto.
And The Cincinnati Museum Center is has reopened (following an extensive and impressive renovation). You can lose an entire day here touring the multiple museums – or just gazing around the rotunda.
And don’t forget the regulars: The Newport Aquarium, the world-class Cincinnati Zoo, the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, the American Sign Museum, the Taft Museum of Art and the Cincinnati Fire Museum (to name a few).
Directions to the storefront are here.
— Megan Fitzpatrick