Despite my butchering of their language last year, the German tool company Dictum asked me to return this week to teach two classes at its new workshop in Niederalteich, a small village in Bavaria.
Since I last taught here in September, Dictum has moved its workshop to Niederaltaich Abbey, a Benedictine order whose roots extend back to the 8th century. Students can stay on the abbey grounds, which is where I am, and walk to the workshop every morning. There also is a nice restaurant and beer garden on the grounds.
I wonder when my passport and visa expires?
The only rough part about teaching in Germany is the jet lag. It’s a six-hour time difference, which is just enough to mess with my internal body clock. I flew from Cincinnati on Thursday and arrived in Munich Friday morning. After checking in I slept until about 9:30 p.m. local time and went to find some dinner.
The restaurant had just stopped serving food, so I had to settle for two weiss beers, which are like liquid wheaty goodness in a glass. Thanks to my empty stomach, the beer put me under for another eight hours. Jet lag vanquished.
Today I took a look at Dictum’s new workshop and sorted through the stock they had prepared for the two classes I’m teaching. On Monday I’m teaching a two-day workshop on sawing to 13 students. Usually when I teach this class we build a sawbench. But because this is land of the bowsaw I had to reconsider. So instead we’re building the English Layout Square using European cherry.
It is going to be a fun mash-up of cultures on Monday. There are students coming from all over Europe. Dictum sells mostly Japanese tools. And I’m trying to translate my sawing methods to work with English, European and Japanese tools.
Example: How do you describe “points per inch” in the metric system? Points per 21mm?
Starting Wednesday I’m teaching a five-day class on building a traditional tool chest – the first time I have ever taught this course. If I can get the bugs worked out of the class here in Germany, perhaps I can teach it in the United States.
My only apprehension at this point is the wood. The cabinetmakers who run this shop have already prepared the panels for the students. They used a local pine, which is good. But it looks to my eye a lot like light-yellow pine – there are serious color changes between the earlywood and latewood. If the wood’s density changes a lot between the annular rings, the students could be in for some tricky sawing.
After sorting out the wood and touring the workshop a bit I made one last visit to the shop’s lunchroom. In September I had become quite fond of the company’s coffee machine, which dispenses a wide variety of hot beverages. I don’t know if Germany would be the same without it.
And there in the corner it was – my old friend.
— Christopher Schwarz
Can’t Afford a Sawing Class in Germany?
• My sawing class is one of my most popular courses. It’s so popular that we filmed one of the classes and now sell it as a DVD: “Build a Sawbench with Christopher Schwarz.” It’s just like taking the class, but without all the smells.
• If you are interested in building a dovetailed tool chest, I recommend you watch Glen D. Huey’s “Cheating at Hand-cut Dovetails,” which has a lot of great tricks to speed you on your way.