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Paul Sellers – day 1

May 11, 2013 7 comments

Awoke this morning the the sound of gentle rain amongst the leaves. It was very calming and a great start to the first day of Paul Sellers 9 Day Foundations class. Classes are held at the Maplewood Center for Common Craft located between Schuylerville and Greenwich, NY which is a beautiful part of the country.

The first step is to prove that I am actually at the school, so here is a photo of Paul, who’s bench is right behind me.

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We spent some time breaking the ice, talking philosophy and seeking common ground, after all spending 9 days with a group of 18 people that you have never met will take effort. Then Paul got to work. Introducing sharpening, tools and techniques. If you have ever watched his videos, read his blog, participated in his masterclasses or seen him on Facebook he is absolutely genuine. He practices what he teaches and his good humor, experience and total passion for woodworking was present throughout the day.

I’ll take more pictures of the workshop over the week but it is a beautiful timber framed building with great light and a nice open feeling.

The class grabs stools and huddles around Paul’s work bench listening, taking notes and asking questions. He explains, demonstrates and then sends us back to our own benches to practice the lesson.

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The basic tools that we have for the first day were set out neatly at each bench. As you can see there is a total of fourteen including a pencil. These are the same or similar to the tools Paul uses in his blog and the online Woodworking masterclass series. I noted some more tools in a box stored under the bench, which I am sure will be used later in the class.

Looking at the photograph you can see a Stanley #4 Plane, set of Narex chisels, Veritas dovetail saw, Veritas marking gage, combination square, Thorex hammer, Stanley 10-049 knife, tape measure, shop made marking gage and if you must know a Dixon Ticonderoga pencil. At this point I am sure that is the secret to all of Paul’s skill so I snuck out and ordered 10 cases. (Just kidding!)

The tools are incredibly sharp and ready for use. Tomorrow I will take a picture of the bench which is the same design as Paul describes in his blog with a quick adjustment vice.

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Lesson one began with making a dovetail, yes the joint that makes woodworkers tremble in fear. Paul’s simple instruction and process was concise and when put into practice produced some very nice results. This was not my first time cutting this joint, but it was the first time I began to really understand how to effectively cut it. I struggled with the saw initially, but made my way through the joint. Paul next took time working with the class on sawing technique, in particular only using the weight of the saw to make the cut. After watching, and listening (a critical part of understanding the performance of the tool) we made many test cuts. Brilliant, this was one of those moments that I came to the class to grasp. Once I truly unloaded the saw, it was poetry in motion. The second item that Paul passed on concerned correcting a mis-aligned saw cut. If the saw begins to wander from the line it does not help to apply pressure to the saw plate to force it back to the line, this in fact makes the mis-alignment worse because the curve of the plate against the side of the cut forces the teeth in the opposite direction. Instead lift the saw up to the point where the problem began and use the teeth to cut down your planned line. It seemed obvious when he explained it to the class, but it was another piece of information to tuck away.

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After spending time listening to Paul’s teachings around his bench and watching his demonstration we began the first of three projects (many of these are shown in Paul’s book) a dovetailed box. The class worked along and with the wonderful sounds of saws and chisels we spent a relaxing and informative afternoon. In fact I entered “the zone” my eyes were focused, my ears tuned into the sound of the saw and chisel and and my focus was purely on working with wood.

How long I worked like that I am unsure, but when I looked up complete with the lesson I was a little ahead of others. This gave me the opportunity to do a little extra project and make my own dovetail guide with a little help from Paul. It’s simple and very effective and since I have been using one belonging to the school all day. I now have my own to take home. I’m looking forward to the rest of the week.

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Time to learn

May 10, 2013 3 comments

The last few weeks have been very hectic at home and work. My wonderful wife has graciously let me travel east for 9 days of wood working school. ( She’s the best in the world). So if you have’t guessed by now I am in NY state getting ready to attend the 9 day foundations class with Paul Sellers.

I am extremely excited to take a step back and actually have someone watch over and critique my work especially in the basics. So stay tuned over the next week and I’ll share the experience.