Thursday 3 March 2016

I am not a chair maker...

... but that doesn’t mean I cannot fall in love with chair making tools!

At HandWorks last may, I had a chance to visit more with Claire Minihan. She had a stunning Ebony travisher at her booth, and I asked what prompted her to try Ebony and how she liked it. She commented that the extra weight of the Ebony greatly improved the function of the travisher. And lets face it - what is not to love about an Ebony travisher? We continued talking and the wheels were turning. We started talking about other heavy wood species that might be appropriate for travishers - and which ones were ‘traditional’ tool making woods . The usual suspects came up - African Blackwood, Honduran Rosewood, Boxwood, Verrawood and Lignum Vitae.

We decided to go for the less typical option - Claire was keen to try something off the charts weight wise. In that spirit - there was only one option. Lignum.

Claire sent photos of the finished travisher, and posted a few to Instagam. The photos were great, but nothing compared to the real deal. The weight is incredible and the workmanship is impeccable.  It is a hard tool to photograph, but here area bunch to try and show it off.


One of my favourite touches is the serial number engraved in the end of the brass - 393.

Thanks again Claire for such fine work. I guess a reamer is next... and then I really don't have any more excuses not to make a chair.


Blogger Andy said...

That really is beautiful.

3 March 2016 at 10:01  
Blogger Steve Kirincich said...

Hi Konrad,
Is that the Argentine lignum or the stuff that is getting harder and harder to find? I have good size chunks of both kinds and am still looking for the "perfect" use.


3 March 2016 at 11:42  
Blogger Konrad said...

Thanks Andy - I feel the same way. Gotta get over the hump of trying a chair now.


3 March 2016 at 12:21  
Blogger Konrad said...

Good question Steve.

I am not 100% to be honest. I have a loupe from college, but it may not be significant enough to really get a good view of the endgrain to tell them apart. Color and smell are almost useless - the overlap in color is so close it is not a surefire way to tell them apart. How do you distinguish between them? Are you going by how they were labelled when you bought them or by the reputation of the seller? I suppose it does not really matter much from a weight or technical perspective - all 3 are certainly heavy enough... it just may come down to bragging rights.


3 March 2016 at 12:24  
Blogger Jeremy said...

How high is your "chairmaker" bar that your 6 sculpted dining chairs don't qualify you? Claire's work is impressive, nice to see so many artfully minded folks making beautiful + functional tools.

3 March 2016 at 12:24  
Blogger Konrad said...

Thanks Jeremy. Tim Manney is next on my hit-list - his Rosewood reamers were pretty stunning. I agree - great to see the world of independent toolmakers grow the way it is.

Your question about my chairmaking bar is a really good one actually. I do not consider myself a chair maker. I am a guy who has made 6 chairs. The best way to explain the difference is in planemaking terms. Chair making and plane making are pretty specialized ends of the wedge so to speak. There are lots of people out there who have made their own planes - but I am not sure they would consider themselves plane makers. It took me a few years before I was comfortable calling myself a plane maker. Making something that looks like a plane is not that hard... making something that IS a plane requires a different set of skills (at least, it does in my mind). For me, I needed some pretty intense immersion making planes before I really understood what they were about. This is going to sound cheezy, but I needed to understand the spirit of a plane - how it works and why. There are so many intangibly aspects to making things that are really, really hard to articulate. It is these tricky bits that help make someone a planemaker, or a chair maker. People who are chairmakers understand the basic structure of a chair so thoroughly, that they 'see' the forms and effects of making small changes before they even make them. I know this because the same is true in planemaking. Whe I see people who are so comfortable at their craft, they appear to have Jedi powers - like they are anticipating things long before they even happen. They work in a manner that looks effortless.

You know, this is a really important subject, and one that might need some more thought on my part. I am just spouting off right now:), but there I do feel pretty strongly about it.

Does any of this even make any sense?

thanks for the great question.

3 March 2016 at 12:38  
Blogger Konrad said...

Hey Jermeny,

This also reminds me of what I like about the blog format vs the hand-held devise format. I can type (and therefore think) way faster on a proper keyboard:)


3 March 2016 at 12:39  
Blogger Unknown said...

Hello Konrad,

Is making a living at your chosen craft an intrinsic part of being a planemaker, chairmaker and therefor being a professional? a little off topic but in our day many people apply the label artist to the the finer crafting but I believe they are quite separate. I have been informed that astisan from italian friends seems to bridge the gap. Just curious on your thoughts, as I have admired and been inspired by your work for many years, a schoolmate met you and made a infill plane along your methods I believe.


3 March 2016 at 18:45  
Blogger Konrad said...

Hello Lymond,

I don't think they need to be connected, but I suspect that by the time you start to really understand the making of something, the idea of making it for income had already crossed your mind. This has been my personal experience and that of many other tool makers (and luthiers, shoe makers etc).

Who was your school mate? Just curious.

Thanks for your question and input.

3 March 2016 at 20:11  
Blogger MM said...

Many years ago, in Wales, when as a young man I was taking the first tentative steps towards what would now be called studio furniture making, a nearby retired cabinetmaker invited me to visit him. He had a terminal lung disease, and like many of us, a wood store stuffed with a lifetime of saving nice stuff. Among the wood he gave me were a few pieces of dark green and brown lignum vitae.

Over the years I've used this precious treasure to infill a couple of palm planes, handle knives, floor jigs, and awe workshop visitors. Anyone who has lignum in their shop is a very lucky person.


4 March 2016 at 07:05  
Blogger Chris Bame said...

Hi Konrad,
Great reply to Jeremy's post. The same thought came through my mind. "I could have swore I saw 6 chairs he built on this blog"
Wood is such a great medium for so many avenues of creativity one just has to dabble a bit here and there.

Cheers Chris

4 March 2016 at 10:27  
Blogger Konrad said...

Thanks Chris,

I have been thinking about this more for the last few days, and another way of expressing it is as a design language. Design language is what makes one persons work identifiable from across the room. And it is usually not about any special materials - it is about the way they use shape, form, texture color lines etc. They have established their own language that is a blend of all sorts of other influences and have made it their own. Chair making (and plane making) is like this too. A chair maker understands this language thoroughly and completely and their work is a reflection of this. If I were to guess, most chair makers can tell a Galbert chair from a Buchanan chair. I cannot - I do not know their language well enough to tell them apart. Or a Maloof chair. There are lots and lots of people who make Maloof inspired chairs - myself included. I spent a lot of time looking at them, and as an exercise, I googled 'maloof dining chair'/images. There are pages and pages of images. Go through them and pick out the ones Sam made, and the ones that others made. I was able to get pretty good at it after a while. Sam had is own, very distinct language that even people trying to reproduce exactly have a hard time pulling off.

All this to say, that understanding the design language of a form may be a good way to evaluate if you are a a chairmaker or a guy who made 6 chairs.

Keep in mind, this is a pre-coffee post... :)


6 March 2016 at 08:17  
Blogger Konrad said...

Hi Malcolm,

Nice to see your name show up here! I remember reading many of your forum posts years ago.


6 March 2016 at 08:19  
Blogger Chris Bame said...

Good Morning Konrad,
What you are saying is so true. If I googled Infill planes I would definitely see your language out of the others. I think we all acquire forms that we are fond of and then try to instill them in our own work.

A mid coffee post!!!
Cheers mate

8 March 2016 at 09:58  
Blogger Jeremy said...

Totally agree re: format (even if I am typing this on a handheld device). I think you articulate the thought well (and always good to have a Star Wars reference) I do also believe "mastery" translates fairly well across specialties. If not completely then it gives you a big leg up. For instance, in your blogs re: chairs you seemed to zoom in on the arm/leg/back transition which as I sketch my designs further, I keep ending up at eventually. Having a mastery of one field (which is also a subset of woodworking) allows you to foresee and shortcut to viable solutions many of the issues that might take a rookie chair maker multiple attempts to figure out.

18 March 2016 at 01:20  
Blogger Jeremy said...

Such good stuff in this part as well. Reminds me of a TED talk on how really innovation is all just "remixing" sampling bits you like into a new form until eventually the original is only barely recognizable. Your planes show this, even in the early days of spiers reproductions, your emphasis on the wood, then the xs single iron unhandled coffins, then the K series, each gets more and more "you" but I suspect even the first few planes are clearly identifiable as S&S. Even if you thought you were just a guy who had made a few planes, you were already a planemaker. I've also combed the internets in search of Maloof chairs... You are already a chair maker whether you ever make another or not. Interesting how Sam always wanted to just be "woodworker"

18 March 2016 at 01:43  

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