Sunday, December 27, 2009

A Window

We are certainly here at Inside Passage School of Fine Woodworking to learn this craft, to hone our skills, to make woodworking apart of our lives.  Our primary purpose in being here is far away from writing a blog.  Yet, we remember what it is like checking the Inside Passage website hoping Robert has posted a newsletter or hitting the refresh button a few times hoping the browser was not updating the page properly.

Visitors to the school all come in with a "Bride on her wedding day"-like smile (ear-to-ear).  We completely understand because we were there too.  Everyday we count ourselves lucky to be apart of this school and this approach to the craft.

The purpose of this blog has been to provide those that want to visit us, with a window.  Alumni, family, friends, prospective students, and fans- you are all apart of our experience in some way and this is our attempt at sharing it with you.

The authors of this blog have been here in Roberts Creek for two years and have participated in the first day/introductory lecture with two separate classes.  That first day Robert gathers us around the front bench and asks us to share who we are, how we came to be here and something special, weird or fun about ourselves.

As you sit there listening to your new classmate tell the story of his/her path in getting here, you begin to realize that you are not so alone.  Maybe the same book, lead you to the same Google search, which lead you to the same website.  Perhaps completely different careers left you each with the same frustrations and caused you to start building a shop under your home.  Granted there are unique details, but you begin to see that you are apart of something special.

Maybe this deflates you a little to realize you are not so unique.  Here the act of sharing brings out quite the opposite.  When we share who we are with people, achievements bring larger celebrations as there are others to appreciate the work you went through to get there.  In reverse, the tragedies are only half as bad because someone else has stood in that hole before and knows the way out.

With this blog entry we are announcing a new window into the school, a way for you to hear some of our stories.  We will be sitting down with individuals close to the school to have a discussion about who they are and what lead them along this path.We have a list of questions that we will all answer; we call the cut list.

Hopefully, this will provide you with an understanding of what brings us here.  Perhaps you will like what you see through this window and you will want to walk through the school's door.  When you do, make sure we see your smile.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Gleam in Mellowness

Every now and then, prospective students come by the school to evaluate Inside Passage as a place to "hone" their chops.  One of our school's attributes that consistently grabs their attention is making their own tools.
Imagine two cabinets side by side, one you made and one you bought.  There is no doubt that the one you built means much more.  There is a special feeling that occurs inside of you when your friend glides their finger along an edge of the cabinet that you shaped.
Now imagine a third cabinet.  You not only made this cabinet, but you also made the hardware that allows the door to swing open properly, the wall hangers on the back that keep it flush with the wall, the chisel that cut the dovetails in the drawer and most importantly- you made the wooden hand plane that created the shape and the surface of the edge that your friend is now admiring.

This does not mean that all the tools we use here are handmade.  We are all fans of the Veritas Cabinet scraper, the LN low angle block planes, Japanese dovetail chisels, and Japanese pull saws. However, Robert finds it vitally important that we know how to make out own bevel gauges, chair scrapes, spokeshaves and flat edges with wood.

A few posts back we put up a picture of Jason's bench (above).  To the right of the cabinet hangs his collection of wooden hand planes.  The plane rack consists of two dowels per plane, sticking out from a piece of plywood.  This design allows air to access all sides of the planes evenly.  Wood being a living material, it requires consideration of seasonal changes to remain stable.

Among his collection is the last hand plane that James Krenov ever made- a smoothing plane made of mesquite.  This hand plane was made last spring, only days before Jim would close his home shop forever.  Also among the planes is a high angle wooden hand plane made of Macassar Ebony.  This plane is a gift from Robert Van Norman, made at the beginning of this year's program.   Jason has been using this plane quite frequently as it leaves an amazing surface on the Chinese Elm he is working with.
A few people have contacted Jason to inquire about the words written behind the hand planes.  It is an excerpt from A Cabinetmaker's Notebook, by James Krenov.  Gary Van Rawlins, a College of the Redwoods alum and one of Jason's mentors, often says this poem aloud in his shop from memory.  A nod to the "Old Man."

We will place the excerpt below for your enjoyment.  For best results, please grab a plank of friendly wood and your favorite wooden hand.  Put a fresh edge on the iron, put the plank in some clamps or a vise and enjoy the work of your craft...

From A Cabinetmaker's Notebook by James Krenov
I stand at my workbench.
Shavings curl from the plane in my hands, swish-and-slide, as I rock to the motion of work.  The smell of fresh-cut wood, a slick, silvery yellow surface gleaming under the tireless plane, and a feeling of contentment.
 Nothing is wrong.

Here am I, here is my work- and someone is waiting for the fruits of these fleeting hours.  My contentment is bound by the whitewashed walls of my little cellar shop, by the stacks of long-sought woods with their mild colors and elusive smells, by the planked ceiling through which I hear the quick footsteps of a child- and yet it is boundless, my joy.

The cabinet is taking shape.  Someone is waiting for it.  With a bit of luck, it will be liked, given continuity in a life of its own.  Hands will caress this shimmery surface, a thumb will discover the edge, which I am rounding.  An edge rounded with my plane, an edge cut rounded, but not sandpapered- a sensitive finger will understand its living imperfections and be pleased at the traces left by sharp steel on hardwood.

Through the years this edge will be polished, change tone, gleam in mellowness.  Yet always it will bear the marks of my favorite tool.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Open House

In past years, Inside Passage has had two shows per year.  One in either December or January and one in May at the end of the year.  With the amount of teaching that goes on first semester, the first show has always been one which looms over our heads as Craftsman Program students try to complete their exercises so they can move onto their first project.

Months ago, Robert made a suggestion to the class, "Let's make it an Open House."  The idea caught on, and this Saturday we will be hosting an Open House at Inside Passage School of Fine Woodworking.  Each student's bench will be adorned with their work to date.  Visitors will get to see some Wabi-Sabi cabinets, some hand made tools, some first projects that are days away from complete, as well as some completed furniture for both viewing pleasure and for sale.

We invite you all to attend, but for those that cannot, we will be posting a blog entry so you can catch a glimpse of the fine work our class and teachers are doing.

Michal Opalski should get most the credit for the below invite.  While the picture is of Barb's current project (using sycamore marquetry on a boxwood cabinet). Michal took quite a bit of time out of his project to put this idea on paper for us.  Thanks Michal.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Walk Arounds

Walk-arounds are a great way for us to keep up with all the projects underway in the class. Every student shares their challenges and triumphs of each week which allows us to learn a great deal from each other.

Jason explains the challenges of curves in the complex construction of his lap desk. The interior assembly is now glued together and will be doweled between the top and bottom.

Daisuke shows off the beautifully planed surface on the top of his sycamore table.

Hong shows us the source of inspiration for the traditional Korean piece he has started.

After doing several mock-ups, Junior decides on a leg shape he is happy with for his table.

Evan tells us how the natural details in a piece of local Arbutus, along with a bunch of bright Arbutus berries, has inspired him to use the colours as an element in the door of his cabinet.

After planing almost every plank in the wood room, Ian chose the Red Elm. A gorgeous wood, but a defect was uncovered that caused him to rethink his project.

Don is using Chinese Elm which has a contrasting edge of sapwood he intends to incorporate into the design of his cabinet.

Bruce's coffee table out of Sapele will have a base joined by dovetails. He is also using the wood's naturally contrasting sapwood as a feature.

Neil tells us of the challenges he faces in the truly unique joinery between the legs and the base of his clock.

Steve N is much farther along than this picture represents. He is showing us the lumber-core construction of his piece that is proving to be a more desirable method for veneering.

Barb shows the twin floating mortise and tenon joint for the framed side panels of her cabinet.

Byron is using Yellow Cedar for his box with a double-curved lid, he actually has two underway.

Meredith shows us the exciting grain graphics that will wrap around her french walnut cabinet.

Steve W is using the "Mystery Wood" for the panels of his jewelry cabinet.

Michal O is also using Sapele for his music stand and explains the well thought out dimensions of the piece.

Michael A shows the mock-up for his cabinet that will feature two "floating" panels in the door.

We were fortunate enough to have the opportunity to see the first piece Gary made at College of the Redwoods. A sweet little chest made of Koa for his daughter, it was great to hear the story of the piece and Gary's experience as one of JK's students.

First Projects

First projects are underway now, and the shop is full of mockups and wooden parts...

Robert keeps a watchful eye over the class as wood is being broken out for first projects. Wood selection clearly being one of Robert's favorite processes, we saw him come back to life this week after a long month of feeling under the weather.

The mock-ups:






Meredith mistakes Hong's mock-up for a dancing cage.

The wood:



Ian listens closely in hopes that the wood will speak to him.