Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Get out of the Shop!

There were three big reasons for me to choose a relocation to North Carolina. 1) It would allow me to be closer to someone I really cared about. 2) I was tired of deserts, I wanted to live with some trees. And 3) I wanted a location with a greater ratio of woodworkers per capita. Retirement meant a new start, and to me that meant North Carolina.

Part of my resolutions was to become more involved in the local community, namely the woodworking community. In this regard I researched and joined three local groups: the North Carolina Woodworkers (NCWW) - an online forums community, the Hillsborough Orange Woodworkers (HOW) - an extension of the NCWW that physically meets up every Monday night, and the Triangle Woodworkers Association (TWA) - which meets every 3rd Tuesday of the month. I actually drive about an hour to go to these meetings and always enjoy reflecting on the night during my drive back. I'm making new friends and learning so much more than I could ever imagine on my own. 

Our Monday night meet-ups normally consist of food (and tasty beverages), working on various projects, and one of the group members demonstrating various tips or techniques. Since I have been part of the group, these tips and techniques have included three kinds of saw cuts (which was passed on from The Schwarz himself), saw sharpening, compass and dividers, and how to mill stock using only hand tools (which I shyly demonstrated). This most recent Monday, we had a special treat. Our guest speaker was Bill Anderson, and he guided us to making better mortises (tenons will have to be another night, hehe).

Bill is a research scientist for the US National Protection Agency and a fine woodworker who studies the techniques and technology found in the 18th and 19th centuries. He also creates and teaches from his workshop, Edwards Mountain Woodworks, and also teaches in Roy Underhill's Woodwright's School in Pittsboro, NC. 

Here are some random pictures of Bill and his awesome breakdown workbench from that night. All of the pictures I took that evening can be found here

I also attended my first TWA meeting last night. I always find it so hard to go someplace new and meet new people, but I am really glad that I did. The TWA is not as "hands-on" as the weekly meeting with the HOW group and it's definitely more formal, complete with charter and cabinet members (Bill Anderson from above is the Secretary of this group). The meetings are broken down into segments including notes, meet and greets, show and tell, and a presenter. This month's guest presenter was Brian Coe, who is the Director of Interpretation at the Old Salem Living History Museum and a talented fine furniture maker.

Brian presented us with detailed information on 8 workbenches found in Old Salem and included demonstrations of some bench accessories that he brought along. Such as; shooting boards (90 degree and mitered), bench hook, donkey ear, a dovetail vise, and a sawing vise. Don't quote me on some of these names, I'm sure that not what they are called, but it's sounded better than thingy-ma-jingy that clamps in with the dog holes and clamps the board so you can saw it without and floppy or chatter.

Here are some photos from last night. If anybody is interested in more photos, leave a comment and I will post the entire set. (Not that I have a lot of people following this blog)

In addition to all the wonderful information I gained last night, I also won a $25 gift card to Woodcraft! That just paid for my membership and I can buy a nice little marking knife, hehe. Other bonuses to clubs are shared libraries, years of combined knowledge, and plenty new friends that are more than happy and willing to help you with a project. Oh...don't forget to factor in the free food, there is always someone going over the top to bring wonderful goodies to share! :D

What are you waiting for? Get out of the shop and join a club!


  1. I totally agree. I don't have much in the way of groups in my neck of the woods, but I strongly encourage woodworkers to get out of their shops and take in new ideas. I visit museums a lot for inspiration on design and to learn how things were made. I may have to take a page from your book though and put some miles on the car to get to a few of the groups up in PA. Finally, you know an Xacto knife can make a good marking knife too.

  2. I love visiting museums! I have a totally different way of looking at things when I go alone than when I go with my girl type friend. She has actually told me at times that she doesn't want to hear the word "wood" while we are out....but I'm still looking and taking mental notes. lol (looking at furniture, not girls)

    I also do a lot of mental designs and always think (to myself, mostly) "how did the builder make that?". This allows me to bring my own personality into a project. Not quite a copy of someones work, because I'm doing from memory, but definately inspired by.

    I've been using a beefy utility knife. The bulk of it is not always helpful, I sometimes find myself wanting to 'grip it and rip it' like the marking knife will cut the stock to size for me. lol



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