Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Register for Spoon Carving Event!!

Here is the poster for the event at Suny Purchase!
Please email me at (yes, the vacation reminder is on, but ignore that) to get on the list. Spaces are limited and this will be first come first serve. For more info, see the previous post. I will get in touch with all the accepted registrants,

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Free Spoon Carving Event!

I am pleased to let you know that on December 1st and 2nd at SUNY Purchase (the college where I am currently enjoying a stint as resident artist) there is going to be a spoon carving event with some of my heroes of the craft.
Tim Manney, Darrick Sanderson and Joshua Vogel will be joining me for two discussions as well as demonstrations for the two days. As part of the grant that is hosting me at the school, thanks to the generosity of the Windgate foundation, they set aside funds to create and event and I couldn't think of anything that I'd rather do than hang out with these brilliant makers and learn. I hope you can find the time on short notice to come and join us. Spaces open to the public will be limited and in the next week I will announce how to register and participate. I sincerely hope to see you there, but regardless, I will be tickled pink to see these modern masters at work.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Half Way Update

I have been at the State University of New York at Purchase, just north of White Plains since early October thanks to a grant that gives me the opportunity to make new works without the pressure of making a living. My time here ends in mid December. It's been an eye opening experience. The energy of the students here at the art school is inspiring and brings me back to my own time in art school 20 years ago! I teach 3 hours a week and have a studio space next to the wood shop where I get lots of interaction with the school community.
Besides chairs, I've been making small sculptures from cherry logs, carving them with embedded objects. Splitting logs is always exciting for what one can find, so I thought I'd add a bit of my own drama

I've had lots of great things happening lately. Next year I will be continuing to teach at North Bennet Street in Boston and am happy to be lecturing again at the conference at Colonial Williamsburg in February. Some of you may recall that I helped Dave Sawyer and Curtis Buchanan present there about 10 years ago. I think that the Old Yankee and Young Whippersnapper routine that Dave and I played out endeared me to the organizers. I recently visited Dave in Vermont, and while his health is not so great, I was thrilled to see that his son George continues to practice the craft and that the environment is still charged with that special aura of slow engagement that changed my life. You can read more about Dave and George in issue 2 of Mortise and Tenon Magazine.
I also have a video coming out that my friends at Lie-Nielsen produced. It's in the can and I am just awaiting all the logistics to work out before I can offer the release date. It's was fun to make and I am very happy with the content. It focuses on green woodworking and the project is based on one of Dave's firewood carriers. More to come.

I've also been lucky enough to get a section in Nick Offermans new book "Good Clean Fun". Nick is best known for his character on the TV show "Parks and Recreation" and for being married to Megan Mullally (he'll appreciate the attribution). Last December, while in Boston for a play, he took my chairmaking class and I can honestly say that he was one of my most enthusiastic students. He is using his public position to shine a light on the value of craft and craftspeople as well as setting forth a very useful philosophy on good living. I've been listening to his books while in the shop and I highly recommend them (not just the one that I'm in).

On the tool front, I have been sorely remiss in not updating the blog. While Tim and Claire have continued to crank out amazing tools (these are solely their businesses and I am their best client), I have ceased the wholesale selling of my caliper. My retailers have been great partners for many years, but the margins on the tool are basically nonexistent when I sell through them, so I've chosen to sell the caliper solely through my website after I return from the residency here in NY. For all those looking to purchase one, thanks for your patience and check my site just before Xmas for details.

And for all my friends out there who have been following all the changes in my personal life, I'd like to bring you up to date. It's been a year since the unexpected loss of my dear Lily and sadly, Rockets health took a turn recently and Claire bravely gave her friend up to peace. For those who don't know, after my divorce, I had both dogs and Claire was working with me at my house in Sterling. Her bond with Rocket was unlike any I've ever seen. So when she moved south, it was obvious that Rocket should go with. It was a great choice and Rocky lived out his days in such good care and love that we should all be jealous. I got to see him a few times in the last year and it was always great to see him living the good life as the happy scoundrel that he always was.

I am excited to go back home to Boston and start looking for another dog to adopt.

So many of you visited me in my years with Sue that I wanted to let you know that we remain friends and that we have both found new partners to share our lives.  I am proud of both of us and will always be the person that she helped me become.

I am lucky to be celebrating my two year anniversary next month (boy does time fly!) with the lovely Stephanie Hubbard. She is a landscape architect with Site-Creative, a firm she started 10 years ago in Boston and our life together brings me great joy.
I won't prattle on, although I really want to, but suffice it to say, especially for all those who were so supportive in the transitions of years past, I am very happy, so thanks for helping me along. If you want to see Stephanie in action, visit the archive shows of "This Old House" as she was a regular contributor in the past.
Thanks for continuing to read Chair Notes, obviously I've been hunkered down with many other endeavors, but if you want to keep up, please follow me as I post more often on Instagram under  petergalbert. Yes it's the lazy man's blog, but I'm not too proud.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

About the Oil

I get asked a lot about the oil that I use, and over the years I've used many different types. One mix that I've often returned to is a spar varnish, raw tung (or linseed) and mineral spirit mix. The next question that I get asked is usually about the proportions, which is perfectly natural.
But the answer that I feel compelled to offer isn't as easy as a the question. I think that it's more important to understand that each of these three components play a role and depending on where I am in the finishing process or the environment that I'm working in, I might change it up a bit.
First, the spar varnish. This is the tough flexible finish that dries to form the shine and water resistance. But, left alone, it is way to sticky, thick and fast drying. So to slow it down to the point that I can lay on a thin layer, I add the raw oil, which goes on smoothly but if applied alone would take way to long for my patience to build and dry. But mixing these two together gives a mix that is akin to the thickness of honey, so I add mineral spirits to make it flow. If it's the first coat and my goal is to flood the oil on and have it soak in, then a generous amount of mineral spirits is a good idea, but for later coats that I pad on and wipe off the surface quickly, then a thicker mix works fine. Often, I'll burnish the chair before the final coat and use more raw oil in the last mix to get a "softer" look. I don't wax my chairs because I've seen trouble with body heat causing clouding, but maybe I just don't know how to use it or have used the wrong stuff.

So as far as I'm concerned, there is no magic mix. I suppose that the simple way to put it is that whatever you do, you are gonna end up with a basic finish made up of cured oil, and using the different elements is simply an opportunity to guide the process. I usually start with leaning towards too much spar and fill in the other elements to get the consistency and time that the project and weather call for. I always check my rag to see how long it takes to harden, if it isn't hard after a night of drying, add more spar.

And of course, dispose of rags in a safe way to prevent spontaneous combustion!!!

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

A Fine Time

I just returned from the Lie-Nielsen open house in Maine and, as usual, I can't say enough about the host and all the other makers. It's the one show that I go to every year and it's a great chance to see my friends and get feedback on new work. I highly recommend going.
 Here is a rocker that I finished in preparation for the show. I fumed it in ammonia as you see in the tent below.
Here is the before and after. I went darker than usual, just to see what the results would be like, I think it suits the design nicely.
Here is one of my favorite details. I've been wanting to make a crest like this for some time, and I think it will be appearing in my chairs more often.

Here you can see the oil going on over the fumed wood, I don't think the video will play, but the image say it all.  I fumed it overnight to get this color with regular household ammonia.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

New Toolbox!

I've definitely noticed that I have had trouble transporting and organizing my tools when teaching. My bench is always jammed with tools as students return them and I usually spend a great deal of my time stowing and retrieving them from an array of boxes and bins that travel with me. In a moment of frustration, I decided to have my friend Eli Cleveland build a traveling toolbox for me.
Here's the end result. There are three components that stack and the top one fits in front of the middle one when rolling it around on the wheels. There is room for all the tools I need for a class, including multiples of reamers, travishers, drawknives, drill bits, carving tools, spokeshaves, layout tools, mirror jigs, bevel squares, sharpening gear, glues, saws etc...
It changed my teaching experience more than I expected. Not only was my bench clear for the entire class, but every tool was accessible for both me and my students. Dan, who was in his third class taught by me, mentioned repeatedly that it was making a difference in not only the organization, but the tone of the class. I have to agree. Every time a student just walked up the the box and grabbed the tool they needed, or returned a tool to the box, instead of on my bench, it felt like a little victory.

I know that tool storage and use has been a topic of discussion for a long time, one of my favorite books is Tolpins toolbox book, not to mention the Anarchists Toolchest, but I must admit that I never thought that it would make such a profound difference in the way I worked. When I got the box home, I rearranged my shop and organized it so that I could work out of the box myself. I have even taken the time to paint it!
Only the saw drawer has been oiled. I recall that sad feeling that came over me when I realized that I didn't need any more tools and that the types of tools that I wanted to work with were very much settled. But on the bright side, it made investing in a tailored toolbox and tricking it out with dividers a lot of fun. Of course, I still dream of taking the time to build a lovingly crafted unit like Greg Penningtons, but, for now, I'm still an itinerant teacher and utility is the name of the game.

One funny realization came after posting the pic of the chest on Instagram, it got 1785 "likes", which is about 4 times as many as I've ever gotten showing my chair work...hmmmm

Thursday, April 28, 2016

The Shavehorse

I realized recently that while I had published my book with shavehorse plans in "Chairmaker's Notebook", that I'd never "shown" the advantages of it. There are as many plans and ideas about shavehorses out there as there are users and I've had a lot of fun thinking about the tool, especially as I've traveled and seen so many in action. When I sat down to put a design in my book, I felt that I should revisit the idea with the priority of making an easy to build, bullet proof and simple to use shavehorse.

 I thought long and hard and got some design influence for the body of the horse and the materials from Tim Manney and Brian Boggs. I had realized a while back that the narrow body of the two rail style is comfortable and that it also resists vibration in the direction that I pull the drawknife, which gives smoother cuts. There's nothing terribly new in the body design, but I think the adjuster that I made has proven to be a worthwhile addition.

 Of course, pulling the pin to raise and lower the head is not a huge deal, but as you'll see in the video, the toothed adjuster is very simple to use and fast as can be to adjust.

I chose this over my earlier design for the ratcheting head that I made because it's easier to make, and it can be retrofit to any dumbhead shavehorse just by cutting the mortise, drilling a few holes and filing the wood (or on my horse, aluminum) pins to ride smoothly around the pivot pin.  I have 9 of these that I use when teaching at North Bennet Street, and to me the true sign of success is that there is never any conversation about them, they just hold the work solidly and let the users focus on the real job, which is shaving the wood.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Empty Nest...soon

I've been finishing up these three little youth chairs lately. They have a presence that's hard to ignore, something about the fine details and scale makes them stand out. Soon they'll all be gone, and as much as I look forward to the extra space in the shop and less risk of damaging finished pieces while working, I"ll miss em.
I've been posting pics to instagram for a while, frankly it's much more of a hit and run easy way to post, but I just got a new laptop, so here I am in the shop, sitting in my new rocker typing away, hopefully the ease will help get me back in the blog game. Here are the ears before and after burnishing and oiling.
 Besides lots of chairs, I've been working on making a shop dog of Kobe. He's no scruffy shop dog, but as long as I keep a space heater on him and give him a bed, he's good company.
I'll be teaching in a couple of weeks at North Bennet Street, so you can see the mess I'm making doing the turnings.
We've added a class in August, which is my last one this year. I"ll spend the fall at Suny Purchase on an artist residency. This summer I'll be teaching for the first time at Lie Nielsen and shooting a video to boot. If you are going to their open house, I'll see you there!

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Ray Duffy

Last week, I got news from the nephew of my friend Ray Duffy that he had passed away. Ray was one of the first people to reach out to me when I moved from New York to Massachusetts. He only knew me through Chairnotes but offered to let me use his ample workshop until I got set up here. Throughout my time as Rays friend, he showed a generosity and kindness that I've come to see as the binding force in the woodworking community. Whether helping me make a new maple syrup evaporator or offering to forge a replica of my favorite scorp, Ray was always looking for ways to engage and offer his time and expertise. Here is a photo of me and Ray with my book. Through a snag in the mailing, purchasers started receiving the book before me, so Ray came over with his copy so I could finally see the results of my efforts.

A couple of years ago, Ray's wife passed away. I admit, I was concerned about his well being afterwards. I was relieved when Ray told me about his new lady friend Penny. He and Penny shared a passion for art and creating and Ray was very excited about their most recent projects together. I think that the way Ray shared his life and passions is a great blueprint for a life well lived. I hope to live the same way, more excited about the next project than the last and cherishing those who share the road. Rest in peace Ray.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Added Class and Spoon Video!

As I mentioned in the recent post, I have been batting the idea of teaching a perch class back and forth with my friends at Lie-Nielsen this summer and we finally pulled the trigger. It's a two day class and spaces are limited to 10 students. Check out their site for the details.

This is one of my favorite chair projects. I did all the writing for my book sitting on one, so I assure you, it's a comfortable seat!

 Jon Binzen is somewhat of an unsung hero in the world of woodworking. He has been creating the back cover for Fine Woodworking for many years as well as some of it's best features. I've been lucky enough to work with Jon a few times and recently, with his help and advocacy, I wrote an article for Fine Woodworking on spoon carving. It's been a long time since the magazine featured spoon carving and I'm proud to be in it. That said, there are lots of great spoon carvers out there and I can name a few that I think deserve to be heard more than me. Jon also shot a video about my spoons that you can see here.
Wooden Spoons