By Scot O’Shea
A good friend asked me if I could help his son put together a chair he wanted to make and like a good neighbor, I said, “Sure, I will be happy to look at it and offer a little advice.” That was two years ago and we are still happily learning a few things each week about woodworking.
You may have noticed I said “we” – and it is true. We began with six cedar trees that my young friend had chopped down and stripped of bark. He had no real tools and even less knowledge about how to construct a chair. He did come with lots of ideas and opinions. I am surprised when I look back that the two of us not only survived but managed to construct Justin’s chair.
The chair was a journey of 10 months, four hours and one week. My learning consisted of listening to an 11-year-old with lots of ideas, more energy than I could remember having and no woodworking knowledge, focus, concern for quality or a clue about tools.
Along the way Justin learned how to cut tenons by hand. I learned that it was OK if they did not fit perfectly. He learned how to make half-lap joints. I learned it was OK to shim them. He learned how to make rails with wedged-tenon joints. I learned a small split was OK. He learned to sharpen my chisels. I learned it was OK to touch them up when he went home. He learned to vacuum the shop. I learned it was OK to not get it all. He learned to put the tools away. I learned it was OK to let some sit out for a while. He learned to weave a rush seat. I learned it was OK to have a few spaces.
We took a break from the chair as he became tired, frustrated and a little disappointed that it was taking so long. Justin carved crosses for Christmas gifts. He made a sturdy box. He took a tree limb from an oak that had fallen in a storm and he hand-carved a bowl. He took offcuts of pine and built a box for his tools. He carved a spoon for camping which began a whole new journey of working with green wood.
From the August 2012 issue #198
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