Windsor Institute, Day 1
Green wood is a wacky thing. Yes, it can be easy to work. But don’t fall for its easy-going nature. It’s like a Type-A hippie chick.
Sometimes you can do anything (go against the grain, ignore the grain, like bourgeois shrimp cocktail) and it all works out fine. Other times you are doomed no matter how sharp your tools are, no matter how much you work at it and no matter how odiferous you are/aren’t.
Today was the first day of classes at our sack-back chair class at The Windsor Institute. As someone who has taken and given woodworking and writing classes, I can tell you that this is a world-class operation. On the outside, the place looks casual, with a low-key staff.
Dig a little deeper and you’ll find assistants with long careers in mechanical engineering or the Marines. And it’s all run by an instructor who has a complete grasp of the topic , plus fine teaching skills, an incredible library and a fascinating collection of chairs.
Today we worked on the chair spindles for our Windsors, plus we bent the bow and arm (very cool!) and prepared the rough shape of the seat. It was a long but exhausting day. My friend John Hoffman is sitting to my left at his laptop. He is completely asleep. My dad is in the kitchen making a tuna-fish sandwich for his lunch tomorrow. This is important because that’s what he ate every day when working at the family farm.
And I am dreaming of chairs.
I had a fairly good day, though most of the other students were faster than I am. I am going to chalk it up (that is, rationalize) to my perfectionism. I was, however, one of the first students who was called up to bend my arm and bow.
The rectangular arm bent without a problem. Then I bent the bow with the help of a fellow student. One section of the 1″-diameter bow fought us. It wouldn’t follow the bending form. And its grain delaminated when I finally wedged up the assembly.
After clamping up the split in my bow, I hung the completed nasty bow up onto the hooks of the ceiling of the furnace room, where our bows and spindles will dry.
After I hung up my bow and arms, I looked to the bent bows and arms made by the other students. Bad idea. Mine looked primitive. And it was the only one with a C-clamp on it.
– Christopher Schwarz