Thursday, February 26, 2009

February Update

JIm quoted somebody (I forget who) the other day and it made great sense: "If it doesn't make sense to invest in the market then invest in yourself." In the "Plane and Simple" class last weekend it was wonderful to watch the satisfied grins as the students created long thin shavings with the planes they had just tuned up. Their investment had just paid a major dividend!

Join us for some some fun and satifaction:
Woodworking for Women
Martha Collins runs our Woodworking for Women Program. Martha now makes wonderful turned wood jewelry. In a former life she ran furniture making workshops. She teaches a series of classes for women which allows you to explore woodworking at your own pace. There is still space in her classes in March and April
Finishing Workshops
We are incredibly lucky to have Michael Dresdner teaching finishing this year. There is just one place left in the March Fearless Finishing class. We will rerun this class in the TBA slot in August.
There is still space in Michael's Staining and Colouring workshop in April (editorial note - I'm English and I find it very hard to misspell colour). I think that this will be one of the most fun of Michael's workshops. Adding colour, whether to emulate a darker wood or add elements of the rainbow to your work, is about process and experimentation. This is the class to learn the process and to experiment.
Build a Windsor Chair - April 13-17, 2009
The definition of a Windsor Chair is pretty simple - the chair is made of woods appropriate to its function and manufacture. The legs are made of a hard wood that takes good detail when turned. The seat is made of a wood that is easy to carve like pine. The hoop of the chair is made of oak or ash - woods that bend well.

Building a Windsor Chair is not for complete novices but a little experience goes a long way. Enthusiasm counts for a lot. You work mainly with hand tools - there are brief excursions to the bandsaw. Woodworking at it's best.

The class has achieved critical mass and will run. There are still spaces on the course and we encourage you to explore this wonderful tradition.

Even though there is a tool list in the course description - you don't need to bring any tools along.
Out of Square with Seth Rolland
This course is really about design, visual composition and how to make furniture "Out of Square". Seth emphasizes that if you have skills in other visual arts - pottery, sculpture, painting or drawing you'll find that experience helps.

The course is not about fine joinery or fine woodworking. You need some woodworking experience but not a lot. You should be comfortable using a bandsaw and a table saw. Seth teaches pragmatic quick methods for making and joining curved forms.

This course will both challenge your creative skills and be a lot of fun. April 25th - May 1 2009.
The Art and Craft of Working with Wood Lecture Series:
Restoring and Preserving Old Buildings with Kevin Palo
on Thursday February 19th 2009 at 6:30

A final reminder for Kevin's free lecture at the School tonight. This is very timely given the discussion of planning and permitting rules on old buildings here in Port Townsend.

Kevin is teaching the Practical Historic Preservation class in Mid-March. You can sign up for the whole week or just days of the class.
Some courses are full
Darrell Peart's Greene and Green Details I & II Classes are both full. Darrell is open to running more courses this in the fall. Let us know if you are interested.
Bonnie Klein's Basic Woodturning class in May is full.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Restoring and Preserving Old Buildings with Kevin Palo

We're proud to present this Lecture by Kevin Palo in our "The Art and Craft of Working with Wood Lecture Series" on Thursday February 19th at 6:30pm.

This is an important subject for Port Townsend and Fort Worden. There is a proposal from the Planning Department that many of the older buildings (even such your ones as a '50's rambler) could be subject to a historic preservation review. That is the stick.

The carrot is that you can get a property tax break on building improvements that are historically sensitive and retain original features. We hope to have members of the Historic Preservation Commision at the lecture

We're not planning to get embroiled in what will be a vigorous discussion around town.

Doing a good historic preservation job on an old home or building can be daunting. But when an old home is viewed through the eyes of a preservationist you begin to see that some of the problems are easily solved when you understand the construction methods used to build the house. Similarly the historic value of a house can be preserved by not indulging in wholesale demolition and replacement with modern windows or doors. Old windows with storm windows can have a similar, if not better, insulating value than modern replacement windows.

Kevin has joined our faculty to lead the Historic Preservation Program. Kevin has more than 30 years of experience in restoring Old Buildings. This lecture is a teaser for our Introduction to Historic Preservation course in March.

Thursday February 19th at 6:30pm
Free lecture at the school:
Building 315, Fort Worden State Park,
Port Townsend, WA 98368
(360) 344-4455

True Grit

Abrasive grain size can be confusing - there are several standards out there and grain size numbers in the US standard do not map cleanly to another standard (European and Japanese). Grain size numbers get larger with finer abrasives - the number is the reflects how many wires would be needed (per inch) in a sieve to allow a given grain size through.

When we teach sharpening, we teach a combination of the sandpaper and waterstone methods. I've done some research (and I'm sure it can be improved) to simplify the grain size dilemma.

The main difference is for sandpapers (for wood and Wet & Dry) both the American and European grain size use the same sequence of grit sizes 80 (coarse) to 220 (fine) but then at 320 the actual grain sizes diverge.

The US standard is known as CAMI and the European Standard as FEPA. The easiest way to spot the differences in the abrasives is that the European grain sizes have a P prefix (P120 for example). Canada uses the European Standard - so many of the Norton sticky backed sandpapers (our favourite) are sized to the European Standard.

Here is the chart of grain sizes I made to help you understand the difference. The last column indicates the use of the grain size in sharpening (You'll need to click through to read it):

When sharpening or sanding you proceed through the grits in sequence with the number getting larger (120- 150 - 180 - 220 - 320 etc). Where you need to be cautious is if you have a mixture of US and European Grits because going from a US 400 to a European P800 is no change in grit size. You'd need to go to a European P1200 to get a finer grit.

The moral of this post is that you need to carefully check the grit size and source when you buy your abrasives.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Cutting Loose from Cut Lists

I made this plain, box-like bench as an example project for my “Joy of Woodworking” class to demonstrate how two joints (a dovetail and a wedged through-mortise) work in concert to hold a structure together without the need for glue or fastenings. Perhaps more importantly, I also wanted to demonstrate how a one-off furnishing made with hand tools doesn’t necessarily require scale drawings or cutlists (which are more useful and necessary when setting up machines to make a cut.)

I developed the bench by simply selecting a board the width of my hand and the length of the spread of my shoulders. I then crosscut two more boards to hold it a step (my step height) off the ground. No numbers were involved—I just marked the top board to tick marks I made on a stick (that represented my shoulder width) and then cut the two end boards to the step-height length and to match one another! “How wide do you make the stretcher?” the students ask. “Well what looks right to you?” is my answer—I find they have no trouble deciding when they hold up some sample widths to see what looks too narrow to prevent racking and what looks too wide and clunky! “But don’t I need to know how thick the boards are to lay out the joints”? “Well no, you just set your marking gauge to the board itself and go from there!” I reply. “How wide do I make the mortise?” I hold up a chisel and say: “This wide—and you can use this chisel as a gauge to mark the width of the tenon as well!” Everyone seems to be surprised and then relieved to be free of measurements and cut loose from cutlists!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Presentation to NW Corner Woodworker's Association

I made a rare trip outside Port Townsend to present my work and the School to the NW Corner Woodworker's Association in Mount Vernon.

I spoke to a great audience of 50 woodworkers who asked great questions and, graciously, laughed at my jokes. Lots of good questions - I really enjoyed the session.

I like the elegance of the association's logo that you can see in the wonderful insulated mug - my tea is going to stay a lot warmer for longer. Thanks guys!

Any other clubs or wood related clubs who would like one of us to come and talk please feel free to ask.

My next speaking gig is to the Evergreen Woodworker's Guild in October 2009 - I plan to talk about Ergonomics.

PS I know there were a bunch of folks taking pictures during the presentation. If you could send them to me I'd be grateful. (Click on my profile to get my email address).