Peter Follansbee tells me that in his “Make a Joint Stool from a Tree” class at The Woodwright’s School, there are still a few seats available. The class runs from July 15-19 at Roy Underhill’s school in Pittsboro, N.C. You should go.
I took this class during a blazing North Carolina summer two years ago, and despite my loathing for hot, humid weather (my people are from peat bogs), it’s one of the best vacations I’ve taken in years. Plus I learned a lot (including the lamentable fact that I have wussy, bird-like wrists that don’t afford me the ability to hew very well, and the liberating realization that a great-looking joint stool does not require precision joinery or measuring).
Roy and Peter are great fun to be around, and the class size is small enough that you’ll get personal attention from both of them (whether you ask for it or not). And there are watermelon breaks. (As well as adult beverages after every class should you wish to indulge…which I did.)
The week begins on the lovely wooded grounds of Roy’s mill, where you’ll have a great time working up a sweat as you use mauls, wedges, mallets, froes and hatchets to split a log, rive it into planks then hew them to rough size for the various parts of the joint stool. (Then, if weather and water conditions allow, you should ask Roy if there’s time for a refreshing dip in the mill pond behind the Underhill manse.)
Then, it’s on to the (air-conditioned) school in Pittsboro, N.C. (which is conveniently located next door to the S&T Soda Shop, in front of The City Tap tavern, across the street from Davenport & Winkleperry, a cool steampunk gallery and coffee bar and downstairs from Ed Lebetkin’s dangerous store that is chock-full of good vintage tools).
For the first day at the bench, you’ll make a lot of shavings as you hew and plane your planks to size (it’s possible that some prankster piled shavings from adjacent bench onto mine…but that’s not too far off reality).
Then, there’s a lot of mortise-and-tenon joinery, drawboring, chamfering (or turning, if you prefer more rounded legs), all with hand tools, natch – and most of them really old school – 17th-century old school. Plus, Peter introduces you to some traditional 17th-century carving techniques, that are surprisingly easy to do well.
Making a joint stool is an excellent introduction to green woodworking, you get a cool traditional seat (that shows up in Shakespeare!) and you’ll learn skills that will serve you well in all areas of the craft – from the guy who literally wrote the book on it (“Make a Joint Stool from a Tree,” co-authored by Jennie Alexander).
If you have room in your summer for an excellent woodworking vacation, I highly recommend you spend a week with Peter and Roy. To find out more (and register), visit Roy’s web site at The Woodwright’s School.
• If you can’t make the class, you can learn the techniques in Peter and Jennie’s book (but you’ll laugh more in the class). And, don’t miss both Roy and Peter (as well as many other excellent woodworking instructors, sessions and the marketplace) at Woodworking in America 2013, Oct. 18-20 in Greater Cincinnati.
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