Wednesday, February 27, 2008

I'd give my right hand to ambidextrous....


Is a very old joke. There are very few folks who are ambidextrous (Question: Is there such a thing as ambisinister? Yes).

Handedness - how you hold a tool can completely change the way you work. Sometimes a left handed approach to cutting or paring can make a huge difference compared to moving a piece around and re-clamping it to work the same cut from a right handed position.

Much of my work is sculptural - I spend a lot of time with rasps and files to blend surfaces together. For example in blending the base and stem of this piece I consciously practice using my left hand to rasp and file the profile. I've found that over time I've got a lot more dextrous with left hand (that almost sounds like an oxymoron).

So I urge you to try using you left hand (or other hand) whenever you can. Recently I've been painting the windows in the new bench room and I've found it easier to switch hands than contort myself to always use my right hand. Similarly I found it much easier to switch hands to use the razor blade scraper to clean up the glass.

I find that I can use use light tools more easily in either hand but have a tough time using a cordless drill driver in my left hand. Guess I'll just have to row some more and build up my strength.

My father was left handed and always lamented that nobody else in the family was left handed (though my brother started out left handed) - so I imagine he's having a little chuckle now.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Roll up, Rollup!

The electrical contractors start work tomorrow and it looks like all the other tasks needed to complete the work before the school can be opened are under control. Well they're doing a perfect impression of being under control.

So we're going to open up registration. You can now sign up for any of the courses.

In this first term in our new home we are trying out variations on a course to give you the option of signing up for a week day or weekend version.

We want to know what works best for you. If you see a course that you want to take and the dates don't work for you - let us know and we'll ferret away that information and try to include your needs as we work on the schedule for the rest of the year.

If you would like a course that is not on offer - let us know. It may be in our plans for next term or we may like the idea enough to add it.

If you've looked closely at our class schedule you'll that this Spring's classes are all focussed on hand tools and small power tools. In April / May we'll get the second room in the Old Power House we add the big stationary power tools. But not too big - no three phase machine or top line professional tools - just the tools you'd expect in a single person furniture shop.

The one high end exception we hope to make is a SawStop table saw - we believe in being safe and providing you with the safest possible environment to learn woodworking.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Practice Makes Perfect. Sawing away!

We were having supper with our good friends Bertram, Bobbie and their daughter Madeline. Bertram is a wonderful musician and spends many hours a day practicing the Bandoneon (see his website). Bertram, as is his way, made the observation that musicians spend hours and years perfecting their art and that woodworkers seem to expect to get things right the first time.

I couldn't particularly disagree with him. We, woodworkers, want to make the project right the first time and tie ourselves in knots in the process. The more experienced (those with the most practice) are better able to get it right the first time - but even then every project can be an adventure.

I remind folks when learning to cut dovetails that sacrificing a 2x4 to improving your sawing skills is no bad thing. Every morning mark up ten straight lines and ten inclined lines. Crank the wood up in the vice and practice those 20 cuts. Repeat for a week. You'll be surprised how much easier it becomes!

When I was stuck in the bitmines (read software development) we were trying to apply metrics to the work we were doing. It taught me a simple lesson - you don't know if you're getting better unless you record and measure what you are doing. So at the end of the session mark your cuts on a scale of 1-10. A perfect 10 is when you split the line on all three sides of the 2x4. 1 is when you are way off the line and then cross it (you'll know what I mean). Tot up the score and keep track daily.

One of the things that beginners find hard to do is to relax when you are sawing. You have to relax and let the blade follow the line. If you try to force it, like a cat, it will wander away from the line.

I prefer to use Japanese handsaws for fine work like dovetails. The pull stroke tensions the blade and holds it straight. I also like to use the biggest set of muscles I can to do handwork. That may sound strange but there is a simple explanation.

When sawing I like to rock (there is a better way to say that but it escapes me now) backwards and forwards using my upper legs and then I can use my hands and arms for the fine control of the blade rather trying to control both the motion of my arms and hands!

There's a lot more to say about practice in woodworking and we'll share more in the classes.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Yea!!!! Permits Approved!!!

We just got notification that our Conditional Use Permit and our Commercial Building Permit have been approved. There is still an appeal period on out Conditional Use Permit that will expire on March 3rd. However the only comment recieved by the City was one of support!

So we are continuing on plan to hold the Grand Opening on March 8th. We still need the gods of contractors to continue to smile benignly on us but the omens are looking good. We've invoked Anoia and she is guarding our drawers. The responsibility for bad jokes and pun(e)s on the website and in class are mine (All mine!!).

I'll be turning on registration for classes in the next day or so. Watch those mailboxes.