E N Curtis

Woodworker. Artist. Teacher. Chucklehead.

New Class and New Designs

This week started the "Next Steps in Joinery" class with instructors Tim Rousseau (www.timothyrousseau.com) and John McAlevey (www.johnmcalevey.com)The class is designed as a second step after Peter Korn's Basic Woodworking course, so here we take our designs and our joinery a little further. We introduce new machines, such as the slot mortiser, and, while some of us may branch out, we have a base design for an end table and work from there. The sheer volume of joinery is greater than the usual bench built in the first class, but also we dive deeper into the strengths, weaknesses, and reasoning behind why things are generally done the way they are.

For example, someone asked what the purpose of a haunched tenon was. The answer is two-fold: First, and most simply, it was originally to fill the gap left by a groove. Back before we had fancy router tables and shapers, grooves would be cut using a plow plane, and it was a real pain in the arse to stop a groove. Consequently, when they carried the groove to the end of the board, they needed to fill the gap left behind. So, we filled it with a haunch. But the haunch also serves a second purpose—it widens the tenon and so helps reduce and twist that may occur during the life of the joint. And sometimes little bits, like a 3/4"x1/4" haunch, make a difference.

And such is our course with this class. A good group we seem to have; everyone excited to be making furniture, asking great questions, and seemingly not ashamed to not know the answers. That's the key to successful classes: asking questions. When I was a student, I threw heaps of questions at my teachers, and not just about my projects. I was and am just so fascinated and in love with this world of woodworking that even now I simply wonder about random aspects and bring it up in conversation during lunch or a free moment. It's just something I love talking about—or, for that matter, writing about.

For the first three days we've been working on our designs and watching Tim demo certain aspects of joinery. You can see we spent some time in the Messler Gallery on Monday to find some inspiration (and it's shaping up to be a great show, I might add). I've even been jotting some thoughts down in my notebook in hopes to get back to work soon. Take an honest look and see how furniture begins—nothing more than sketches. Don't judge an idea too harshly right away, rather give it time to develop. Draw variations and don't give up on a good idea just because the rough sketch looks off.  As you can see, my sketches aren't perfect, either.

We began milling in ernest today and will continue that through the week. I'm confident they'll turn into wonderful pieces of furniture that they can be proud to have built with their own hands. Being away from the distractions of the world, they can really dive deep into the world I live in. It's a wonderful place to reside.