Acanthus Workshop Fundamentals 3
I’m off this weekend up in central PA visiting Chuck Bender at his school The Acanthus Workshop. My long time readers may remember my trip over a year ago to get schooled in the fine art of hand tools during the Fundamentals 1 class. Due to some personal conflicts I was not able to attend Fundamentals 2 on power tools, but I’m hoping that my experience up until now has trained me enough that I didn’t miss much. In talking to Chuck and some of my classmates who did make it to the second installment, I think there are a few tips and tricks that I didn’t pick up and I hope to absorb them during our side table build this weekend. The goal of this weekend is to build a small Shaker table. That’s funny, didn’t I just build one of those the The Wood Whisperer Guild March build?? This class for me isn’t about the piece of furniture but the experience to build a project from design to execution under the tutelage of a master cabinetmaker. If the hand tool class taught me anything, Chuck has an enormous amount of hands on knowledge to share and I am bound to pick up volumes over the next three days.
So day one was all about the design. We talked at length about scaling and designing a piece from a photograph and how to deal with varying perspective. Chuck specializes in period furniture and he has built many exact replicas just by taking lots of pictures. If you have ever wandered into a museum and taken out a tape measure you will see just how fast the security guards will show you to the door. The ability to capture photos of that museum piece (assuming photos are permitted) and then reproduce dimensions is extremely valuable. Think about the times when your spouse or family have presented you with a picture and said, “can you build this for me”. Not only that but we then talked about the ways to re-size the piece while keeping the proportions the same.
From there it was time to build our story sticks for our side table. A story stick is a narrow board with all of the information needed to build the piece in question. The idea is that once this board is laid out, you throw away your tape measure and build everything to match your story board. It contains all the dimensions laid out to actual scale and any additional notes you will need throughout the build. If you look around the walls of Chuck’s shop you will see hundreds of story sticks for the period pieces he has built over the last 30+ years. So as you make up your story stick, make sure it makes sense so that 10 years from now you can take it and build the same piece.
From there we headed to a great lunch and great conversations. This was the halfway point on the road to our field trip destination: Hearne Hardwoods. The Shangri La of wood dealers. We toured the monstrous facility and took in all the amazing woodness of the place, followed by a breathtaking tour of the new offices with every exotic species under the sun. Stay tuned for a short video on this as I was able to get some footage on my iPhone.
OK, well here is a sneak peek, attach that bib now…
The goal of this field trip was to peek inside Chuck’s head when he goes to the lumber mill to buy wood for his project. How to prepare and how to pick your boards for most efficient yield and the least wasted money. This was also an excellent primer into wood science and how a lumber mill operates and marks their stock.
There is not much to say about Hearne Hardwoods other than WOW. The place is astounding and no where have I seen such wide board stock so readily available. I saw some of the famous “sinker” mahogany that has been rescued from the rivers of Belize as well as boards that are so wide you would think you are looking at the lengthwise dimension. I came across a piece of Sapele that was at least 6 feet wide! This place should be on every woodworker’s list to visit. You might want to leave your wallet at home or you will certainly get in trouble.
What a great day and I am excited to head back tomorrow and get back to work. Stay tuned for more!