When Mike Siemsen started work on a reproduction of an Aaron Willard tall case clock built in 1799, he had a lot of help – much of it invisible to others.
There was his father, who taught Siemsen basic carpentry skills and a solid work ethic; there was Grant Francis, his high school shop teacher; there were the writings of Nicholson, Roubo and Moxon; and of course, Willard himself.
“I learned a lot from the original maker by following the tracks he left behind,” Siemsen said. “All of my earlier experiences affect how I approach my work. Successes and failures alike are the foundation we build upon.”
Siemsen earned a degree in industrial education, has written magazine articles, starred in videos and runs his own woodworking school – Mike Siemsen’s School of Woodworking – so it’s safe to assume that when it comes to teaching and learning, the man knows how to construct a foundation on which others can build.
Siemsen will be sharing his know-how at Woodworking in America 2015, Sept. 25-27, at the Sheraton Crown Center in Kansas City, Mo. In “Workholding: With and Without a Vise,” he’ll show you how to hold your work solidly on almost any surface. You’ll learn how to make a typical vise – such as a face vise or end vise – work even better, and he’ll show you solutions for when those vises don’t work – or what to do you don’t have a vise at all. Have trouble holding round or curved work? Siemsen will cover that as well.
Until Friday, June 26, you’ll save more than 10 percent on registration for Woodoworking in America during our Early Bird registration – you can register here and attend workshops with some of the best woodworkers in America, including Phil Lowe, Will Neptune, Patrick Edwards, Alf Sharp and more; participate in the Hand Tool Olympics and stock up on must-have tools in our Marketplace.
Best of all, it’ll be wall-to-wall woodworkers.
“The thing I like about WIA is the chance to connect to other woodworkers,” Siemsen said. “It’s always fun to share information and open people’s eyes to options they didn’t know were there.”
Siemsen’s WIA appearance fits in well with one of the most important pieces of advice he has for woodworkers: “Have more confidence, and travel to work with other woodworkers.”
Over the years, Siemsen has worked as a house carpenter, in millwork and furniture shops, run his own cabinet and furniture shops and worked as a restoration expert on 18th-century American furniture. He’s a member of the Society of American Period Furniture Makers (and secretary of the Minnesota chapter), and has been the driving force behind the Hand Tool Olympics at every WIA. And, he has an article in the upcoming November 2015 issue of Popular Woodworking Magazine.
With his deep experience in the craft, you might think that Siemsen’s most indispensable tool is a finely tuned plane, or perhaps a specialty saw built to his exacting specifications. Think again – as the photo above suggests, it’s a broom.
“A clean shop is a safer shop. You are less apt to lose small parts on the floor,” he said. “When things are going badly you can sweep, contemplate and listen to music until you are calm again and your head is right to continue working. Ideas come to me when I sweep.”
Along with learning from other woodworkers, Siemsen said that every woodworker should know that simply buying a better or more expensive gadget isn’t the way to become a better woodworker.
“You need to get out in the shop and develop skills, then buy things you need to make your work easier, or that you know will improve your work,” Siemsen said. “Having a new square will not enable you to saw square – practice does that.”