Deirdre Saoirse Moen

Sounds Like Weird

Rob "Lilo" Levin

17 September 2006

Like Dick Morrell, I was also one of Rob Levin’s coworkers at Linuxcare.

How I’d best sum up Rob: he had an idea for what he wanted to do with his life — and he made his life work out so that he could do exactly that. The structure he created has been of immense help in getting communication working for numerous free software projects, including Ruby on Rails (though the core team has now moved to Campfire for obvious reasons).

Rob wanted to make open source happen by making communication about open source easier. He did that, and everyone who uses open source has benefited, albeit indirectly, from his work.

I talked to him not so very long ago about some of the changes he’d made in his life since we worked together, including moving from the expensive bay area to much-less-expensive Houston.

I’m sorry he didn’t have a longer life. I’m especially sorry Benjamin will have to go through the last ten years of his childhood without his father. And, of course, I’m sorry that Deb won’t have the husband she relied on. I didn’t get their relationship (they seemed so different), but then again, I didn’t have to.

I haven’t met many people in my life that had Rob’s single-mindedness of purpose. At times, I thought he was nuts. In the end, though, he made it work, and that’s not nuts at all.

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Miss Snark: 110 Slush Entries Critiqued

03 September 2006

I don’t know why I hadn’t heard of Miss Snark before, but one of the coolest things a budding writer can read are the 110 reactions to cover letter and first page she’s posted.

One critique I particularly liked, where the story starts with the character asleep. So many new writers start with their character waking up (or asleep), forgetting that the beginning of their story needs to match the ending of the story, and there’s not a lot of time to waste. Don’t make it start the way the reader starts their day or it’ll be mundane. (And yes, I’m giving this critique almost exactly in Critters this week.

Look at each entry, and then her comments. You may not agree with her, but maybe you’ll learn something. I did.

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01 September 2006

Somehow, the household wound up with a case of Bawls. I’m not normally one for hyper-caffeination, but I have to admit I really, really, really love the bottles themselves. I’ve always had a weakness for cobalt blue, so we have cobalt blue dishes and bowls. And now I have several mini-vases in waiting.

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Brian Boggs Chairmaking Class, Day 5

14 August 2006

Day 5: Wrap-up

Wow, it’s hard to believe it’s over — it’s a little surreal, honestly.
Boggs discussed the two primary differences between his chairs and the classic post-and-rung chairs.
1) His rear legs have a below-the-seat rear curve of 12 degrees. This helps prevent tipping — it’s a lot of work to lean back in that chair, so people don’t. Beyond 12 degrees, legs are more likely to break during assembly. The rear legs splay out to the sides as well as to the back, so each side has three different rung lengths.
2) The front corners are tenoned into slats, much like the stool covered in the FWW article (July/Aug 2001).
Typically, the back (above the seat) carries about 17% of the body load. The further the back tilts, the higher this number.
He designed his front corners based on Queen Anne country chairs with seats covered in bullrush. He tried to sell bullrush chairs, but, well, they didn’t.
In something flexible, all the weight concentrates on the point of inflexibility (e.g. where the rungs connect).
He puts no shoulders on rungs. The shoulders probably won’t hold up anyway, so it’ll be visually distracting. Plus, stress concentrates at the point of sudden change of dimension.
When turning rungs, he turns the tenon first.
“I’m ready to demonstrate seat weaving and y’all ain’t doin’ nothin’, so I don’t know what to do about that.”
99% of what he covered was also on the video he’s got out from LN; I highly recommend watching that if you want to use hickory bark.
Use your bigger rolls (of hickory bark) for the warp (front-to-back). Tighten the roll up so it’ll stay in a roll as you work.
Soak hickory bark in hot tap water for about 1/2 hour.
Use a girth hitch for the first hitch.
One advantage of a tapered (front-to-back) seat is that it gives you a chance to clean up the edges. Boggs weaves a tapered seat in about 45 minutes; an un-tapered seat in about 25 minutes. He prefers the tapered seats because they look neater.
Eyeball (or mark) the quarters to sync up the front and back when weaving a tapered seat.
Good tension for warp: when the bark stops on its own when you hit the bottom row.
If you have one rough edge on your bark, keep that on the same side as your hand so it’s easier to cut.
Bark from Boggs is rolled with the good side out.
Someone asked how he got the bark smooth, did he sand it? Lightly, he said. “What’s made that bark smooth is the back of people’s britches.”
When creating a knot, make the tongue for the knot about 1/4″ wide.
The whole bark of a hickory tree is about 1/2″ thick. Boggs takes the inner 2/10″ and cuts it into two layers. The inner layer he calls first cut (and doesn’t sell; it’s reserved for his clients only); the outer cut he calls second cut and that’s what we were using.
And we all assembled our chairs. Several people (but not me) wove their seats. I figured that would be easier to do after arriving home.
After class and after I packed my car up, I got to meet up with Steve Knight of Knight Toolworks and GregP — had a great time!
More pics will be up soon, but perhaps not until I arrive home. I’m TIRED.

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Brian Boggs Chairmaking Class, Day 4

14 August 2006

Day 4: It Ain’t Cabinetmaking

Now that the slats have been fitted, we put the bottom legs in a taper jig and bandsaw the taper on the bottom 10″ of the legs. Important note: bandsaw with curved part of leg up. Of course, you can also do this step with drawknife, plane, etc.

Scraper tuning

Brian goes over scraper tuning. Someone has a Veritas scraper (he said), but it had been punched out and was thin. Boggs asked someone for an LN scraper. He polished the back and front on a large fine diamond stone, then put the scraper in a block with a bandsaw kerf cut out to hold it vertical for sharpening the edge. Boggs uses a burr (this is, however, a controversial point).

He doesn’t use a file until the scraper becomes work-hardened and won’t sharpen any more, at which point he stops filing when the file stops chattering and starts cutting smoother.

See his video on the FWW site.

Let’s talk about drillin’ holes.

Read Boggs’s article about drill bits (FWW 138 or online).

In his opinion, the only reliable brad point bits are from Veritas.

Brian grinds down the spurs. The spurs only need to score deep enough for one revolution. Longer spurs are needed for faster feed rates. For joinery, you really need to go only about 10 thou per revolution, about the thickness of a business card. Most spurs come about 1/8″ long, which is too long.

A high clearance angle is one thing that makes a drill bit cut aggressively. Boggs prefers a lower clearance angle, but most are high because it allows a dull bit to still cut.

Boggs hones his 5/8″ rung drill bit until it’s about 10 thou under dimension. I’ve got to say, the holes drilled were absolutely gorgeous — completely clean on the sides and bottom.

We transfered the front rung holes and drilled them, then gathered for “Lesson 42, Part A”: figuring out where to drill the holes for the rear seat.

Basically, you need to drill parallel to the chord formed by the slat. Put one slat in each leg, then rotate the legs appropriately. Make sure the slat is all the way home. Sight down the line to a framing square (clamped to a block clamped to the other end of the bench) and see if the angles of the slats are the same.

Someone called this the “slat-o-matic” procedure. 🙂

(I know I’m explaining it badly, but it really isn’t that complicated, it just seems it)

At this point, someone was stressed about trying to get the joints too close. Boggs replies, “It ain’t cabinetmaking.” Chairmaking is somewhat forgiving, far more so than some tight joinery. Despite this, his techniques are quite concise.

Then we got to the discussion of how to figure out where to drill the holes for the side rungs, someone asked what the angles would be. Boggs pulls out the jig. “We don’t need no angles, we just need blocks.”

Maybe it’s just that I was mathematically precocious as a kid, but I wasn’t entirely sure I believed him. However, it turned out to be right.

“The catch, of course, is figuring out the blocks.”

He showed a finished chair, pointing out that the front posts were 16-5/8″ center-to-center, and the rear posts were 13-5/8″ center-to-center. That’s 3″ different overall, so 1.5″ per side.

Draw a line, draw perpendicular at the front center distances, then draw a line 1.5″ in (conveniently, a framing square is 1.5″ wide). Draw from each corner to the inner line the calculated length of the side. Now draw a perpendicular line to that, and calculate how far that line is from the first line you drew. In our case, 1.75 inches.

So, basically, if the front rung is elevated 1.5″ on one side and 0″ on the other, you’ll drill at the correct angle. If the rear rung is elevated 1.5″ on one side and 1.5+1.75=3.25″ on the other, then you’ll drill at the correct angle.

We got our fronts and rears glued together (but not to each other today), all with hide glue. Boggs was very impressed with the Behlen stuff. We used 3-lb deadblow hammers to assemble, but in many cases, we needed to use clamps afterward to draw the joints together.

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Brian Boggs Chairmaking Class, Day 3

14 August 2006

Day 3: More on bending; mortising; slat theory

For bending, you’re looking for straight grain, it doesn’t matter if it’s flat-sawn, rift-sawn, or quarter-sawn. The face (front) of the bent leg should be flat sawn.

For cherry and walnut, rung precision is critical if you’re also using them for rungs. For rungs, Boggs said soft maple is too soft, but hard maple’s okay. For one-species chairs, he recommends: oak, hickory, ash, cherry, hard maple. He’s never tried exotics for rungs.

Boggs uses Titebond 2 as an end grain sealer on wet wood after cutting off any visible checks. He used to use anchorseal, but it can be VERY slippery on (and is difficult to remove from) concrete floors, and was just too hazardous (because of the slipperiness).

About the sample one of his chairs brought in, in curly hickory: “This chair is a gnarly, difficult wood and I thought it was just perfect for its owner.”

Tenons at the end of each seat slat are 22-30 degrees off the chord line between the mortises. Both tenons need to be the same angle. If your seat slat is unevenly bent, try moving the center of the slat to the left or right to adjust the curve (this is one reason why he cuts these oversize — to givee som play room).

If the curve of the slats are too deep, it pinches the shoulder. If you have to err, err on the side of making the curve too shallow. For a post-and-rung chair, 25 degrees works well. Oh, and to straighten out a slat: push down. That’s all, really. Be careful NOT to push down before the chair’s assembled.

Cut the slats to different curves so all four tenon angles are the same; otherwise each slat would have different angles.

Boggs trims the back rungs after assembly to get a drop in the rear seat as that is more comfortable than a seat that’s straight across.

For the chair back above the seat, 95 – 100 degrees from the seat is typical.

18-19″ above the seat is as tall as you can support with slats. Thus, the useful height of a dining chair is 36″, but this height is perceived as “not majestic enough” for dining room chairs. When he added a third rung (and 2″ overall), Boggs started selling more chairs at a time, because they weren’t just settin’ chairs (as he calls them), but being used as dining room chairs.

As Phil from South Africa put it: a shorter chair is less formal.

After that, we all got busy chopping our leg mortises. Boggs did (in about 10 minutes, and giving explanations at that) what it took me two hours to accomplish.

2 p.m. “Time for Chapter 14. Put all your weapons away and allow me to be the center of attention.” We all put our mortising chisels down. 🙂

And then a long lecture that I won’t do justice to commenced. I’ll do my best, and I’m writing this down as much as for me as for you, because I need to know how to reproduce it when making additional chairs later.

Note before proceeding through numbered steps: Cut and fit your top slat before starting on your bottom slat. If you don’t do it that way and make an error in your top slat, you can’t easily make it into a bottom slat unless you’re making multiple chairs.

So how do you know what angle your seat slats are?

1) Draw a line that’s the spacing of the chair rungs. Put the slat on there until it bisects the line at the same length as the rear tenon. Draw the first bit of the inside curve, then measure the angle of that curve at the point at which it meets the line (on each side; they may be different). Note that it’s got to be the beginning of the curve, because the angle gets more acute as you get further from the line defining the chord.

1a) Now, measure that angle. For our purposes, it was 25 degrees, so when you see that number in the following instructions, you can substitute your own result. Draw it onto the paper, then also draw a right angle outward. This should be where your legs fit.

2) Next, make a jig. It should hold the legs so that they’re splayed at the correct angle (in our case, 25 degrees) so that the leg mortises will come in square to the leg. (If you look at the [url=]paper diagram in my flickr photostream[/url], you’ll find it easier than if I explain it) Clamp the rear legs in the jig, and then you’re ready for the following half-billion steps.

3) Measure inside depth between legs at the bottom front of each mortise. Easiest using a folding extension rule. Don’t measure the depth of the mortises at this point, just how far it is between them.

4) Transfer the lengths onto paper.

5) Draw 25 degree angle (facing the starting one) for each slat length.

6) Find a good location on each slat for the curve and mark the slat ends from that line. This is just a starting point for layout.

7) Draw a line through each mark and perpendicular to slat bottom. These aren’t final lines, but the bottom corners of the slat will be somewhere along these lines.

8) Mark each mortise with a letter and carefully measure its height and depth. For depth, make sure you get the minimum depth. Since the leg is 1-5/8″ wide, in an ideal world, the mortise would be between 1 and 1-1/4″, however most of us didn’t get that far in the stated time (especially me, I was the slow mortiser).

9) Determine where on the slat you want the top and/or bottom. In part, this will depend on how much “belly” curve you want (Boggs uses 3/8″), and how much curve you want on the top (Silly me, I used 3/8″ there, too. Bad me. Tired me.)

10) Mark the starting point on the line where the slat bottom begins or ends. The slat top will depend on the mortise height; there is no shoulder on this mortise (so you’ve got to be very, very good).

11) With the legs in the jig and a slat centered on marks made in step six, and holding the slat lined up with the bottom of the mortise, have a partner mark each side’s bevel angle on the back. Set your bevel gauge to one and check the other. If they’re the same, you’re golden. If not, re-set your bevel gauge to split the difference between the two angles.

12) Take that bevel gauge and mark from the bottom of each slat upwards the mortise height on each side (I didn’t ask what to do about uneven mortises, btw. Chop better.)

13) Then mark the mortise depth on the outside of those lines to form the tenon.

14) Take two spring clamps and a flexible stick (like a dowel) and lay out the top and bottom of the slat profile. The profile for the top should extend to the end of the mortise. For the jig that occurred at the tenon’s bottom, it should be removed because it can break off and possibly cause a worse split.

15) Cut the slat using the method of your choice (bow saw, coping saw, band saw, drawknife, alien space ship…). For Boggs, the drawknife is faster than the band saw….

16) Shave off about .002″ off the tenon face on each side. Remember that curve? The tenon isn’t flat, but the mortise is. Shaving the face will help correct for that. When I say “shave,” I mean using a block plane, not a spokeshave. If you’re really good with a spokeshave, you certainly could do it this way.

17) Shave down the back until the slat fits into the mortise (and trim the tenon tops and bottoms if required, too.). You fit slats from the back for the simple reason that convex surfaces are easier to plane. Repeat with other tenon.

18) Repeat with other slat.

19) Now they should fit into the rear legs and when the tenons are seated to the depth of the lines drawn in step 12, your rear legs should be as far apart as the rungs want them to be. However, chairs being chairs, they may no longer be at the 25 degree angle you started with. This is fine. From this point on, we’re dealing with reality, not theory. As Boggs said when another classmate faced this problem: “According to the chair, the jig is wrong. But you can’t trust those chairs,” he added with a grin.

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Brian Boggs Chairmaking Class, Day 2

14 August 2006

Day 1 recap additions:

Brian said that he started his first shop for $50. Soon after that, he was laid off, and he never did bother getting another job, because he was soon making money doing woodworking.

He also gave a rule of thumb (though he noted it worked mostly for domestic hardwood) that below 20-25% moisture content, for each 2% loss in moisture content, you lose about 1% of dimension.

When making a chair, ideally, the growth rings of the legs should be aimed around the chair pretty much like they are on a tree. For rungs, the medullary rays should be vertical and growth rings horizontal because of how seasonal expansion occurs.

One guy asked about why the form went on the outside of the curve on a steam bend. Honestly, it never occurred to me to ask, but lest it save someone else from the same issue, here’s the reason: because if you’re starting a bend on a concave curve, you’re only able to bend at the very ends of the piece, which is not actually where you need the bend. If you start on a convex piece, you’ll bend from the part that needs bending.

I also never quite got why sometimes straps are used for steambending, except for large or complex bends where they are required. Basically, wood compresses better than it expands; if you put blocks on the end and a strap around the bend, you’re compressing the front rather than expanding it, so this would lead to fewer bending failures.

Long, thin pieces may need side support for a bend, or a wraparound support like tape.

Day 2: Recovery from Tragedy

I got in early to fix my horse and hey, it worked! I think I learned more from fixing my mistake.

We started with our lecture about sharpening, and Brian got into the various similarities and differences between how drawknives, spokeshaves, and planes cut. He was trying to describe a bench plane without having one, so I offered up the LN 5-1/2. He then started talking about the camber on some blades, and so I showed the Knight scrub plane I also brought. Several people looked at it. Brian asked who made it and I told him, then he said, “Oh, he made those too,” pointing to a shelf with several Knight planes at the front of the class. Guess I’ll try those out before I go home. 🙂

Part of the lecture about sharpness and cutting angle: You can prevent tearing (with a drawknife) by taking a light enough cut. The thinner the chip, the less pressure it’ll take. The lighter the cut, the smoother the surface (of course, this is pretty much true for any tool, powered or not). You want the lowest angle that’s comfortable for your work and stays sharp as long as possible. For finish work, you want a higher angle. The harder the wood, the higher angle required. The higher the angle, the more it’ll wear you out (like a york pitch plane, just harder to push).

Skewing a drawknife lowers the effective angle of cut and also increases the length of sole supporting the work.

In discussing sharpening, there was a funny moment. Brian said, “Some people use glass glued down to sandpaper,” then chuckled because he’d said it backwards.

One of my classmates quipped, “Which side up?”

Boggs quipped back, “Depends on how long you want to take.” I love quick wit.

Later, as he was having issues with a drawing on the blackboard, someone asked if a whiteboard would be better. Brian said, “No matter what you give me to work with, I’m going to gripe about it.”

Another classmate this time, “You need a better back bevel on your marker.” (Everyone busted up at this one, because we’d had a long talk about microbevels and back bevels)

One of Brian’s rules about skewing drawknives and spokeshaves: “Every time I can skew a tool, I will.” He also pointed out that beginners tended to use just one part of a drawknife or spokeshave, and that led to uneven wear.

We got some practice then shaping the front legs in, and I found my hand cramping a lot with the drawknife. The handles were uncomfortable, but I think it was just my unfamiliarity with the tool that caused most of the problems.

Spokeshaves get darn hot during use, which surprised me. Boggs says that his sometimes get too hot to hold, which is one reason he’s got so many. How many? His shaving horse is within reach of a wall where he’s got two rows of a bunch of spokeshaves, including four of the LN flat ones (one set up as a scraper, plus three different setups for depth-of-cut), two round-bottom ones (one set up as a scraper). They each have different handles so he can tell them apart. In addition to these, he’s got a number of vintage shaves.

Boggs then went to demonstrate some point, and managed to knock over the shaving horse while trying to get on it. “You’d think I’d do better than that, coming from horse country and all.” He gave a good demo, and after he’d flipped his spokeshave in the air a few times, someone asked him if he did that with drawknives too. This got a good chuckle out of the class. Seriously, though, one of the things he worked on with the LN Boggs shave was to get good balance for being able to flip it, as well as ability to use it one-handed. He also talked about his frustration with traditional adjusters and why his isn’t set up the same way.

After lunch, we went on to practicing mortises for the next day. I’ve only ever chopped a few, actually, because my hand tools class teacher prepped them for us using a router. Someone asked why we weren’t using a machine (e.g. a hollow-chisel mortiser), and Boggs pointed out that they really weren’t terribly suitable for round work.

When sharpening, hold the mortise chisel’s handle weight with your pinky so the weight of the handle doesn’t skew the chisel.

For a mortise chisel, if the edge isn’t square to the sides, the chisel may lean to one side or the other in a cut, causing the mortise to be out of square.

One of the primary rules of mortise chopping: don’t pry your chips loose, only pry your loose chips. It’s probably easier to clear out chips with a smaller chisel.

Even though Boggs has done many mortises, before he does a real one in a chair, he always does a practice one. At one point, he was the one chopping mortises and was doing as many as 90 in a single day.

After our Fun With Mortises, we got all our back legs out of the solar kilns and pulled them out of the forms. I found that mine were well and truly lodged in, so I used a smaller dowel and a dead blow hammer to get them out.

Some of the guys got a lot of springback, but my legs had nearly none. The poor guy who’d bent his leg the wrong way the first time, well, that leg failed. He was really depressed about the split, and Brian said, “It’s only wood deep.” Heh.

In that case, since it was the back that was split, Brian’s solution was to taper not only the front of the rear chair legs, but also the back, removing the split. He got on the shaving horse and fixed the leg.

For the rest of us, we had to check to make sure that our legs weren’t still overbent. For correcting the curve, we just put a couple of blocks on the end of a bench and unbent it manually. Took most of my weight to do that (and a few tries, too). Boggs wanted to make sure that our legs were evenly bent, which is more important than how bent they were. I didn’t get to see what the legs looked like for the guys who’d had a lot of springback.

I finally got comfortable with my drawknife, at least somewhat. The hands started cramping less frequently. I worried about the way I held it, because it seemed to want thumb pressure behind the cutting edge. Sure enough, when I went over a bump, the work caught on the right side and my left thumb got a small cut. I patched it with cyanoacrylate glue and went on, though I realized I was probably not awake enough to continue working with a drawknife. 🙂

Oh, almost forgot. Pictures can be found here.

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Brian Boggs Chairmaking Class, Day 1

14 August 2006

Day 1: And then tragedy struck

Since I was so exhausted I couldn’t think Sunday night, I deferred the few remaining tasks until Monday morning. I got up at 6 a.m. and went out to my car for a couple items I’d need.

I had several choices of glue I’d brought with me, but the late hour pretty much doomed me to 5-minute epoxy. While one can use coffee cup lids as a mixing platform for said epoxy, coffee stirrers proved to be a inadequate for thorough application.

I did take pictures of the fully assembled horse, then set off for the class. I finished. Go, me!

I was worried about how the horse would fit in the car with the new assembly, but didn’t think about stresses.

Unfortunately, this was fatal: the dowels I’d just epoxied less than an hour before failed. Fortunately, as I said, a coffee stirrer doesn’t make the best epoxy applicator.

So I arrive to class on time, but am harried, and unload then repark my car, arriving in at exactly 9 a.m. I notice everyone else has a Boggs-style horse except for one semi-styled based on his and half- styled on a more traditional horse.

Everyone introduces themselves. A bunch of us are from California, though I’m the furthest north, several from Oregon and Washington, one from Nevada, and one guy (Phil) came all the way from South Africa for this class and the Windsor class the following week.

I sit down, fiddle with a piece of my horse, relieved that my glue joints did give with a reasonable amount of force. In one case, the joint was too tight to get significant epoxy in the joint and thus was glue-starved; in the other, there was too much gap and too little glue to fill it. Regardless, I was lucky, because that meant the fix was easy.

Initially, I thought about dowels, then realized I should just use threaded rods as a temporary fix, then re-drill the holes out when I had access to a drill press. Everyone else used either 5/8″ or 3/4″ dowels, which would have been my first choice (I even have a lot of 3/4″ dowels), however, my drill wouldn’t drive the 3/4″ bit I happened to have, and I didn’t want to do all of them with a brace (especially being such a newbie with one), so I stepped the dowels down to the next size I had an appropriate bit for: 3/8″.

Needless to say, I was a bit distracted by the morning’s failure, but I tried not to let it get to me.

Brian talked about the goals for each day of the class, which I dutifully took down in my notebook, but I left that in the classroom, so this is without notes.

One of the things he did emphasize, though, was that he recommended that we do every step, and not do everything perfectly. As he said, if we were working on it on our own, we’d take more time, but as class time was limited, we should adjust our workmanship downward. Don’t make everything perfect. Learn what you can.

Monday’s goal in the class was to steam bend all parts, so Brian talked a lot about how wood worked and how steambending works.

We selected our rear leg pieces, then bandsawed off the taper on the front (which starts not far above the rear rungs and goes to the top). We then made the back half “octagonal” (half-octagonal?) with the bandsaw and a vee jig.

Because the piece needed to be fairly smooth to bend well, we then planed down the taper surface to remove the band saw marks. I started out behind (fretting over the shaving horse), so Brian pitched in and planed my other leg flat. Day-um, he’s fast with a plane.

Then lunch was delivered and all work stopped. I discovered that I really really needed to be drinking more water, so I tried to make up for my earlier dehydration by drinking nearly a quart.

About this time, the steamer was ready, gurgling away (but not yet fully hot, because it’s safer to put the wood in when it’s not), and we stacked our legs in (having first put our initials on the bottom of our legs).

After that, Brian talked about the theory of bending and bending forms more, and a lot of people asked questions, some of which I wrote down in my notebook. One I recall was about Shaker oval boxes and why the steam time is so short (typically 15 minutes soaked in hot water rather than steamed). Brian said he wasn’t certain, but suspected that the wood for Shaker boxes didn’t become fully plasticized the way a steam bend would, rather they got just flexible enough to bend around the form. They didn’t need to retain the shape; the drying form and the tacks helped them.

Okay, I’m a heavy person, so one of the things I feared was breaking the wood when using the bending form. Boy was I wrong! Not only didn’t I break it, I actually needed a little bit of extra help to get it fully bent. I suspect this problem is more due to my overall lack of arm strength; I simply couldn’t bear enough of my weight onto the wood to fully engage it onto the form. Fortunately, there were other people around, but it is something I will have to handle differently and plan for if I’m doing this by myself.

Apparently, people who do a lot of steam bending, Brian included, have a commercial sauna for same. The mfr also sells a lot of them to people who make hockey sticks. Not something I would have expected, eh?

While we were waiting for the slats to heat up, and during a lull when other people were doing other tasks, I asked Gary Rogowski where the nearest hardware store was and decided to take a side trip there so I could pick up the parts for the horse repair and be done with it.

So, side trip to Wink’s, which is an awesome, awesome hardware store. It’s kind of like an auto parts store — you ask for the hardware and they find it for you. When I wanted to double-check how large the nuts were (outside diameter), the guy whips out his little gauge to check. I was going to need a hacksaw. I didn’t realize the guy had gotten one, so I saw they had a Starrett one hanging up and I selected it.

“Oh, you want the Cadillac,” he says.

“I have a fondness for Starrett,” I say. That’s when he mentions that the gauges they use are also Starretts. I immediately heart them. The other guy up at the counter is being helped with a more complex problem. The woman helping him is suggesting intelligent possibilities for his design problem. Not just a bolt pushed out the door, a whole freakin’ service to solve customer’s problems. Imagine that.

I go to pay, and the clerk asked if I owned the PT in the lot. I said that I did, and he said that my front passenger tire was low (and it was). So, not just great hardware service, but great human service too.

I get back to class and Brian’s just gathering everyone back to talk about drawknives and drawknife safety. Basically, he said, drawknives caused more blood loss, more stitches, and more people going home early than all other tools combined. Keep your drawknife covered. Don’t put it down near ANYTHING else — frequently, the injuries occurred while reaching for something near the drawknife. Obviously, I need a better cover for mine….

Speaking of which, my biggest disappointment today, which will sound silly to some of you. I was secretly hoping that Brian would be bringing some unreleased LN kit, specifically in the form of drawknives and the like. Nope. In fact, he had none at all. Some of us brought stupid little carver’s drawknives. One guy had the Barr medium, which Brian thought was way too big. I believe someone else had a Curry, same problem. Boggs pointed out that most drawknives weren’t made for chairmaking and were balanced for different applications. Never knew that.

So, by this time, the chair slats were ready, so another round-robin of bending started. Because it’s easier, Boggs suggested we bend one side first, then the other, then bend in the middle, as it’s much easier to get a complete curve. One poor soul had the misfortune to break three chair slats in a row. In one case, he was bending it only in the middle, but other than that, there wasn’t any obvious reason (that I saw) in his technique that would cause failure. Once we’d held the slat to the bending form for 20 seconds, we then put it into a form for drying. Basically, this consisted of a plywood board with two boards battened to it, each cut with a 45 degree edge (bevel to the inside, of course). The battens were 1″ closer together than the slats were long. Interestingly, on a previous occasion, I’d calculated the back bending distance at 1.07″, so it’s good to know that my calculations were pretty close.

Once we finished with the bending, we were done. I was exhausted (too little sleep three days in a row, tired from the agony of defeat.

I went to find a gas station, but got turned around and wound up going south rather than north. Found a little tire store that was happy to put air in my tires. Gratis. I wish I remembered where I was so I could tell you more about how cool they were.

When I got to my hotel, I needed a nap, so I picked up some of the complimentary orange chamomile tea and snuck up to my room.

Now it’s dinner time. Tomorrow, I’ll go in an hour early and put the rod and bolts on so I can use my shaving horse. Wish me good healing thoughts, please.

Oh, wait, I forgot one thing. I’d been dreading one aspect of this class: the fact that we were also going to use hickory. As it turns out, the hickory rungs were already prepped for us. Boggs used to have students do the rungs themselves, but he said they looked dead by the end of the week, and he figured they weren’t learning anything additional by doing the rungs themselves. Go, Brian! We’re also using maple instead of the cherry I’d hoped for, but that’s cool. This stock is air dried from a tree Brian felled and sawed for best chairmaking yield, which isn’t the same as best clear lumber yield.

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Press 1 for English

03 August 2006

This is a pent-up rant that’s been waiting for a while, but bear with me.

Last time I had to contact our state government’s Employment Development Department by phone, I had to “Press 1 for English.”

Now, really, does that make any sense at all? Shouldn’t English be the default? Especially when there’s separate phone numbers for other languages?

I mean, it might be A Clue that if you don’t happen to speak English and you call the English phone line, maybe you should press 1 and get some message like, “Well, maybe if you learned English (or one of the other supported languages), you might not be unemployed.”

Your tax dollars at work, making the UI harder for everyone.

I’m reminded, as an aside, of Nick Moffitt’s response when being panhandled, “I’m sorry, but I don’t speak a word of English.” Still makes me laugh.

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Getting Ready for Boggs Class

31 July 2006

Going to be going to Northwest Woodworking School for a week for a class. I’m really looking forward to studying for a week with Brian Boggs. Traditional chairmaking is still very much in vogue, and I’ll be interested to see How Things Are Done.

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