Chris Schwarz's Blog

My Part at Woodworking in America

Hmmm. I don't remember getting up on the table and dancing at last year's WIA.

Now that I’m no longer on the staff of Woodworking in America, I get to do three things:

1) Actually attend some of the really great seminars from people like chairmaker Curtis Buchanan, carver Mary May, Yeung Chan and David Marks.

2) Present my own seminars on topics that are a bit on the nutty side – In past years I planned my sessions to help bring balance to the whole program (more joinery, more technical tool stuff, etc.). Well no more. My sessions for 2012 are intended to upset, amuse and even annoy you into becoming a better furniture maker.

So with all due respect, Megan, balance this:

Make a Sawbench in an Hour: After years of refining the traditional design of the English sawbench, I found an old American book that shows a crazy way to build a splay-leg sawbench with a framing square and just a few cuts. Heck it’s almost Zen-like in its simplicity and efficiency. This is my most straightforward session at WIA, and I don’t even know if I can build the thing in an hour. I might have to get Marlon Perkins to narrate it while I work.

In any case, bring rotten fruit to throw if I fail to complete the sawbench. At least there will be a big finish, and I might get a free meal out of it.

Introduction to Campaign Furniture: If you’ve been following my blogs lately, you know that I’m building a bunch of campaign-style furniture for Popular Woodworking Magazine and a forthcoming book. This session will give you a head start on all your friends. It will be a quick immersion into the style and language of campaign pieces. You are going to see some of the hundreds of images I’ve collected during the last year and get a crash course in its joinery. At the WIA show in Kentucky, I plan to bring several of the pieces I’ve built. For the California Show, I’ll probably only be able to bring a Roorkhee Chair.

Bottom line, I’m going to try to convince you to stop building pansy Shaker pieces or hippiefied do-gooder Arts & Crafts stuff. Building campaign furniture will make you want to buy a box of cigars, a bottle of scotch and a pith helmet.

The Furniture Style that Has No Name: I hear that the period furniture makers are building a gallows (with ball-and-claw feet) for me because of this session. For two years now, I’ve been working on a book that seeks to upend the style of furniture that home woodworkers build. Though I deeply appreciate the craftsmanship of the high-style pieces that fill the woodworking books, magazines and galleries, that stuff has never appealed to me. Instead, I’ve always been drawn to a style of furniture that has remained fairly unchanged for more than 300 years. It is made with outstanding joinery. Beautiful forms. Gorgeous wood. And it doesn’t rely on surface decoration, carving or elaborate mouldings. What is this style called? It doesn’t really have a name, so I’m calling it the “Furniture of Necessity.” While the very rich would commission cabinetmakers to make them pieces in the latest style, the furniture of necessity is what the rest of us were using. But it’s not crude, shabby or shoddy. To see what I’m talking about, you’ll just have to show up.

Megan tells me there is still space left at both Woodworking in America conferences – Oct. 12-14 in Pasadena, Calif., and Nov. 2-4 in Cincinnati, Ohio (actually Northern Kentucky).

You can read about all the seminars, the Marketplace and the after-hours activities (which I am not invited to) at woodworkinginamerica.com. Check it out. If I weren’t speaking, I’d definitely be attending.

— Christopher Schwarz

P.S. Oh and what’s that third thing I get to do? Actually get some sleep to try to get rid of the mild hangover that seems to accompany every WIA.

P.P.S. There is some sarcasm in the above post. Just sayin’.

4 thoughts on “My Part at Woodworking in America

  1. nroulleau

    you are hereby officially invited to the afterhours events, at least those “sponsored” by the Modern Woodworkers Association.(By sponsored, I mean, we’ll be there, with beer, scotch, bourbon…etc.) I’ll be in Pasadena, but the guys will be in Cinci as well. (Dyami will be sure to send you the calligraphic version of the official invite)

  2. msiemsen

    Chris,
    No gallows for you Chris, it is the pillory that is the punishment for your crimes. That and a big red letter “A” for anarchist. Followed by shunning.

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