Friday, November 29, 2013

2014 Teaching Schedule

I'm happy to say that I'll be returning to some of my favorite schools around the country as well as some new destinations this upcoming year. I'm all booked up for my classes at my shop, but I think you'll find an option that will suit your needs and location.

Highland Woodworking: Continuous Armchair March 3-9

Warren Wilson College: Balloon Back Side Chair March 17-22, contact Bill Palmer at
Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking: Continuous Armchair
Friday – Sunday April 11 – 13 & May 9 - 11

Port Townsend School of Woodworking: Continuous Armchair May 26-31

Sterling Historic Society:  All classes at SHC have a 6 person limit. Class tuition is $1150 which includes materials and most tooling.
Contact me at for details and openings
June 23-28 Fan Back Side Chair

July 21-26 Balloon back Side Chair

August 11-16  Continuous Armchair (chairmaking experience required)

If you have already contacted me regarding these courses, please do so again with a reminder so that I don't miss you! I might add another class at the SHC if the interest demands and after that, I will most likely be heading back Down Under for some more classes, details to come!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

More Teaching, More Learning

I've had a couple of busy weeks here with lots of folks in the shop. First, I had the pleasure of finally meeting Jameel Abraham, whom I've been working with long distance all year to get the Drawsharp completed.

Here is Jameel carving the front of his seat.
He brought along his pal Louis to join in the fun.
Here they are with their chairs.
When I was starting to make chairs in my NYC shop that I shared with a guitar maker, I used to get visits from Eddie Boros who was an amazing untrained sculptor. I featured his work in this post and tell the story of him calling me a fence builder compared to the guitar maker. All week long, as I guided Jameel through his first chair, I couldn't get Eddies raspy voice out of my head. If you don't know what I am talking about, look at what Jameel can do.

Luckily, chairmaking is very different from Oud making and I think Jameel picked up a thing or two.
When I had a little down time, I continued my quest to master the Real Milk paint.

A little background...I stopped using the Old Fashioned Milk paint because of the issues that I, and lots of others ran into with white powdery flecks, adhesion and color shifting. It's a fine product, but to get the consistent results that I want easily takes some effort, and even then, can be elusive.
I think that I have finally latched onto a way to make the results of the Real Milk paint product as good as the Old Fashioned at its best, at least with the black over red finish.

I have been using a very very thin coat of blonde shellac to aid in the process and doing so, I was able to get this finish within a 6 hour period from the raw wood.

 I shot the photos from two angles so you could get a better idea of what the finish looks like in a dark or light environment.
Here is how I did it.

First of all, the best way that I've found to mix this paint is to combine the paint and some warm water in a cup and then to swirl the cup like you would an icy drink until the powder is all wet, then use a stick to mix it further. Then let it set and mix it more over a period of a couple of hours, this gives the particles a chance to absorb all the moisture they can.

In this instance, I mixed the red paint 2 parts to 3 parts water. Then I applied the red to the piece. I put it on thin, but at that mix, it covered great.

Once it dried for a couple of hours, I rubbed it lightly with a xfine mirlon pad to get any excess paint build up off. This step seems to be the key to getting the thin finish that I like,really allowing the wood texture show through. If any of the steps would benefit from a longer drying time, it would be this first one.

Then, I padded the piece with the super thin shellac. Don't let the shellac harden before the next step. This seems to do a few things. The next coat of black paint (mixed 3 to 5 H20) adheres a bit better and it keeps the black from dissolving the red and mixing in with it, which just creates a dull muddy appearance.  After an hour or two, I rubbed the piece again with the xfine mirlon pad to remove the excess paint. This step gives me the opportunity to even out the saturation of the paint. The piece had an ox blood color at this point.

Then another coat of shellac and black. One lovely benefit of this process is that the shellac allows you to see exactly what the piece will look like if you simply finished at that point. The second coat of black dried for a couple of hours and then I rubbed it to get just the look that I wanted, which doesn't take much effort and then a final coat of shellac to seal it up. After that, I rubbed out the shellac with the mirlon lightly and did a topcoat of Waterlox to finish it off.

It may sound like a lot of steps, but each one is quick and there isn't that moment of fear right before oiling that something might not look right.
With the Old Fashion Milk paint, I found that the mixing, filtering and application were the keys to getting a successful finish, but if you screwed up any one of them, then the results were compromised. With the Real Milk paint, you do want a good consistency, but the translucence of the final finish comes more from sealing in what you like with the shellac and rubbing each subsequent layer to a thickness that you want. It's much more controllable in my opinion.

I will be finishing and documenting a c arm that I have in the works, but I wanted to get the ball rolling. If you are interested, do some samples and let me know what you find, thanks!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Fine Seats

 It's as busy as ever around here. I had two students in this week kicking off a bunch of fall classes that I have scheduled. Rick from Philly and Dave from Olympia made some really lovely chairs. I like the two person format, it's intimate enough that there is no lacking for attention and having multiple projects in play keeps the energy up.

Above is Ricks sack back seat. I always try to have folks do their seat clean up at the end of the day so that they can scrape to their hearts content. In this case, they really put in the time to get refined results.

Daves balloon back is one of the project chairs that I am including in my book, and the changes that I made to the design have made it more attractive and very comfortable. I don't have a photo of the finished piece because he already dismantled it for shipping. Take a moment to click on the image to see the fine job he did.
Winter is bearing down on us, as you can see it was already dark at 6 when Rick was driving his wedges.
Speaking of Winter, I took the time to get my ladies out of their summer home and into a shed for the coming cold. They free ranged the property for the summer, tearing up the gardens and entertaining the passers by.
They seem to be enjoying it, plus, I don't have to look all around the yard for my eggs!

And as with us all, they seem to appreciate a room with a view.