Monday, August 3, 2015

It's a Letter to a Woodworker, conclusion...for now

I just found out that a student for the August class at North Bennet Street had to cancel and even though the class has plenty enrolled to run, I thought that I might entice someone to jump on the spot with some news. Tim Manney has offered to teach the class along with me. If you aren't familiar with Tim, you should visit his blog. You will soon know more about Tim as he has a number of articles in the pipeline and as far as I'm concerned is one of the best woodworkers around. Tim and I taught together recently in Washington state and I am positive that the students benefited from his keen insights and skills.

Here is the final installment of the Letter to a Woodworker Series. Thanks for all the feedback that you've sent, it's been an interesting time of reflection for me and I certainly hope that some of it has been useful.

So many times as I've met woodworkers, they've expressed interest in transitioning their craft into a business, either in retirement, where it will be a fun endeavor, or in full blown lifelong pursuit of income. I can see in their eyes as they look at me that they think that I'm "livin the dream". There is one factor I suspect that they miss, which is that woodworking is, and always has been a blue collar trade. To me, this means that the making of the objects is what I get paid for.
If I'm not working, I'm not earning.

Of course, this is obvious, but what is tough to predict is how you will feel when the thrill of learning is replaced by the need to quickly and repetitively perform a task. I try not to dwell on it, but it is a job that bills hourly and the pay rate is tied to market value of what you produce in that time.

 So much of what I enjoy about woodworking is constantly learning new tasks and techniques, but developing a business where constant learning is in the plan is not a good bet. To create an object at a reasonable price point while actually getting reasonably paid requires a predictable means of production and well developed skills, which in most cases means that the joy of discovery must sometimes take a back seat. This is the battle between jigging up to make objects with a market value versus residing on the more risky end of things where you can "find" solutions as you go. Looking back, I personally found that chairmaking is engaging enough in the means of production and design potential that I can always find a place to keep myself challenged even while producing certain designs that I've made hundreds of times. Meanwhile, I am always cooking up some new design, process or understanding.

This doesn't mean that chairs are the be all end all, just that they have provided me with a happy medium to exercise my mind as well as body. Why do I hang on this point? Because I've never had an employer paid holiday,  sick day or insurance since I started and the rewards of showing up every day start to wear thin if you don't consider a ways to take the joy of discovery and keep it alive in your day to day. Sure, sometimes you just have to crank it out, and that has it's rewards too, but don't be too shocked when your motivation is waning and you are faced with a task, or hundreds of them that don't carry the luster of the first time you learned or performed them.

 So I finish this series with where I started, which is urging a deep honest look into yourself to find what it is about this pursuit rings your bell. I believe that there are many paths to success, but there are usually a number or failures along the way and it's vital to have an understanding of your interests and expectations and a good plan for keeping them hour at a time.

Monday, July 20, 2015

The Shop is Hummin' Now

In case you missed the Lie-Nielsen open house, here are a couple of pics.

The folks who run the show at Lie-Nielsen are fantastic hosts and make spending a weekend in Warren a great time!
Here's Tim Manney throwing an axe, of course this kind of fun happens after the kegs come out!

I'm back in the shop and working on chairs for clients, as well as working out some ideas that have be stewing for some time. Here is a rocker that is nearly done.

I've been lucky to work with some white oak armbow blanks that I got from Dan Monsees recently. You may have seen this already on my Instagram account (you can follow me at petergalbert). I've been helping Dan get logs recently and he is letting store my own supply and dip into them when I need. It's a great arrangement as I don't have the space and he gets to use and sell some super stuff.
I've updated my website teaching schedule so that you can see where to find me at the end of this year and into the next!

Friday, June 26, 2015

Humble Home

I'm back from a great trip to the Port Townsend School of Woodworking and I'm finally settling in to my new shop space here in Boston. This is going to be my first shop in 12 years that hasn't had to do double duty as a teaching shop and tool factory. Speaking of teaching, there are only two slots still open for my August 17th chair class at North Bennet Street School, so if you're interested please check it out soon.
Here are some shot of the space, lots of air and light.

 It's the same size as my other shop, but with a storeroom in the back and higher ceilings.

Working by the front door gives a great natural raking light.

Being a lefty, the lathe is strategically placed to gather the shavings into the corner to contain the mess.
 The sharpening station  has lots of real estate and light.

 Here is the view from the storeroom and workbench area.

 I've been really enjoying making spindles in this space, as you can see.

 Here is a shot of the majestic Rhodesian Ridgeback Kobe, who I am teaching to be a shop dog, but he seems to think it's a bit beneath him.
He needs to take lessons from Lil, she's a pro.