A Strategy for Woodworking

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Blog series by Gary Rogowski updated 08-24-2015 04:35 PM 58 parts 101034 reads 203 comments total

Part 1: Joinery Details

06-16-2014 06:14 PM by Gary Rogowski | 4 comments »

Joinery is the art of knowing what wood to remove and what to leave behind. Reductive & simple, yet seductive in its intricacies balancing negative space with strength. Take too much wood away and you leave no strength. Take too little and you’ve compromised the tenon. You are the joinery designer/ engineer. There are several important details to know about wood and its properties. Double a board’s measure in height and it is twice as strong as doubling a board in its width. Hmm. Wood ...

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Part 2: Good Enough

06-19-2014 01:51 PM by Gary Rogowski | 8 comments »

As a furniture maker of a few years time, I realized something important about my work. Oftentimes my clients wouldn’t notice the extra work I had put into pieces. Some times they noticed things that were just so automatic for me that I barely thought of them and they missed the really fine work I had done somewhere else! My realization was that I had to pick my moments on some pieces. Sometimes I needed to do the extra work to make it just so, whether or not the client would see it. Other...

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Part 3: The Fit

06-23-2014 11:22 PM by Gary Rogowski | 1 comment »

The measure of an eye, of a thumb extended, of one cubit is seen in the result and how well things fit. We all know it when we see it. One can sense the art in craftsmanship by simply looking at the product. Some things we have made work better for the eye and hand. It is not luck. It is the experience of your efforts showing. It is the mistakes you have made along the way and their lessons learned that now inhabit your work. Confidence is gained by your error and more importantly your und...

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Part 4: Forgiveness

06-26-2014 08:06 PM by Gary Rogowski | 3 comments »

Human all too human to quote Fred N. Yes we makers are too human. We’re too ready to find error in our work. The voice in our head keeps repeating: Not good enough, not perfect enough. We are always so ready to point out our mistakes, to find the tiniest of errors. When our client never sees them. When another maker doesn’t see them nor care. They see the whole, the entire piece and they’re delighted. So I say, keep your standards high but learn to forgive yourself for your errors that no ...

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Part 5: The Fit Again

07-01-2014 05:40 PM by Gary Rogowski | 1 comment »

In joinery the fit of your pieces is like the fit of your shoes on your feet. If you can toss your shoes off your feet as you hit the couch, too loose. If you shoe horn them in, perfect. A good fitting joint fits snug. No pounding together but it shouldn’t fall apart either. It’s a balance you learn to achieve by sneaking up on it. Learn to use your shoulder plane and you’ll be happy no matter how you cut a tenon joint. Finesse the fit. The Northwest Woodworking Studio

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Part 6: Design Opportunities

07-07-2014 01:48 PM by Gary Rogowski | 3 comments »

A Mastery student of mine came through town to visit. Over 10 years ago he studied with me and he’s building still. Not as much as he’d like but it’s a tough game this woodworking world. Not everyone understands how much time it takes and how much skill. Nor do most people appreciate how long it takes to develop that skill. This isn’t a new hobby for folks that they get good at in a couple of weekends. It takes work. It takes dedication, commitment, practice. I have always found it interes...

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Part 7: Finishing Makes the Difference

07-10-2014 05:49 PM by Gary Rogowski | 0 comments »

How do people engage with your furniture? They look at the form first of course. If they like the shape ofa piece, then they approach it. They eye it to see the wood and the sheen of it. Always, without fail, the very next thing they do is touch the piece. Everyone loves to put their hands on wood because it’s warm, it’s inviting. And if there’s a finish on the wood, then what folks will be touching is that finish. You have to pay attention first to how that finish looks and next how it feels...

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Part 8: Cobblers

07-14-2014 02:02 PM by Gary Rogowski | 6 comments »

This letter was sent to me by an old friend. Hi, Gary! May I give you a story, as promised? The story is told that if you were a young person in medieval France embarking on a spiritual quest, if you were fortunate you might meet up with someone older, perhaps a teacher, who would say this to youI think I understand what you are seeking. Let me give you the name of someone I know, a cobbler, in Dijon. I think that it might work out well if you were to become his apprentice. If that h...

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Part 9: We Forget

07-17-2014 01:17 PM by Gary Rogowski | 2 comments »

We forget that the moon is out. We forget that rivers run underneath us. We forget that we can make things with our hands and heart.We believe that the world is now held in the palm of our hands. It is instead all around us. We just have to look up and notice it.Remember to remain curious. Believe that you don’t have the only way of doing things. Keep open to change. Forgive yourself your mistakes and keep doing good work. The Northwest Woodworking Studio

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Part 10: Marc and I Whisper

07-18-2014 04:19 PM by Gary Rogowski | 1 comment »

Actually, Marc Spagnuolo, aka The Wood Whisperer, and I got together in May to do some work in his shop. I was in the Phoenix area for my mom’s birthday and took some time to meet Marc and visit his place. Take a look at the Jewelry Box we put together. It was fun work. Jewelry Box If you’re coming to Portland, learn about 3 Simple Finishes with me next week at the Studio, 7/24-26. The Northwest Woodworking Studio

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Part 11: Congratulations

07-21-2014 07:43 PM by Gary Rogowski | 1 comment »

Think about how you look at others’ work. You don’t look for every mistake. You look at the scope of the project, the effort required. You consider the time spent on design. You see the form, the choice of wood and think about the time taken to mill the lumber. The hours spent on joining pieces together and the detail in the joinery and the weeks spent on shaping and sanding and how the hardware is hung. You step back and look at the whole piece and you know in your heart how much...

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Part 12: How Design Starts

07-24-2014 02:47 AM by Gary Rogowski | 2 comments »

Design starts with a pattern in the sky, a curl in the stem of a plant, the swirl in a coffee cup. It starts with an idea. There is no one single place from which it begins. And so the designer must grab serendipity when it strikes and use it as a stepping stone, a starting point, and then choose from the infinite number of choices then possible. Inspiration is serendipitous. Design on the other hand is hard work and trials and errors and execution. It is iteration and reiteration. It has ...

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Part 13: A Neatness and Precision

07-28-2014 04:31 PM by Gary Rogowski | 3 comments »

In Pete Dexter’s book Deadwood, Wild Bill Hickok’s partner, Charley Utter, is thinking to himself, “He liked having a drawer, it was a neatness you could see just sliding it open.” Making drawers requires a precision and calm missing from some other jobs around the shop. Cleaning out the dust collector comes to mind. Or hand planing some misbegotten wood like a rowed grain khaya. Drawer building on the other hand needs careful measuring, straight parts, and clear thinking to do a good job....

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Part 14: Making the Connection

07-31-2014 01:25 PM by Gary Rogowski | 3 comments »

Tools are meant to be used by humans. I think that we learned to think by using them. By using tools, our hands made a connection to our brains and then our curiosity gene dove in and our minds grew because of this. We discovered so much about the world poking about in it with our hands. And by using the power of the wedge, we learned to do all sorts of things from carving to cleaving to sawing and planing. We are humans and that means we need to keep making that connection between hand an...

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Part 15: The Work

08-04-2014 04:23 PM by Gary Rogowski | 4 comments »

Fine woodworking is not crafty. It is craft. It takes time, effort, and a commitment to excellence. It requires persistence and a willingness to overcome failure, repeatedly. It takes practice and patience and then more of both. It is as rigorous and as rewarding as learning a musical instrument or teaching your body ballet or the tango. It is formal and full of expression. There are rules to follow and rules that bend. It is cumulative in its knowledge and yet so vast that no one can know al...

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Part 16: Making Time

08-08-2014 02:00 PM by Gary Rogowski | 5 comments »

How do you make time? How can you make time? How can you stop long enough to realize the value of turning your eyes away from your computer screen, your thumbs away from your mobile device, your self towards doing something with more lasting value? Making time. This is a curious concept. It is the one thing we are always running out of, or we have none of it for that thing, or someone is wasting our small resource of it. Time. Precious. And yet when we spend our time working on something t...

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Part 17: Getting Right

08-11-2014 03:31 PM by Gary Rogowski | 3 comments »

It is far easier to talk about than to do, but you have to get right in order to do good work. You have to think straight, to get your concentration right, to get your mind working with your hands and not against them. Now this can take hours for me some days before I finally get focused enough to work. But when I do then the work just flies and the time whizzes by and I get something done. It feels great. But it’s a matter of concentration and when we enter the shop our mind is in a hundr...

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Part 18: Education

08-14-2014 01:16 PM by Gary Rogowski | 3 comments »

I got involved building chairs with the Lumber to Legacy project in Albany, OR. Here’s the story in their local paper. Lumber to Legacy Some high schools kids helped us build this cafe chair design. I wrote to the paper explaining my involvement. “I wanted to respond further as to why I did this class for the kids. I love to teach and this was another opportunity to be with a group that doesn’t get the attention they deserve. Education in the applied arts is mostly for...

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Part 19: Your Grip

08-19-2014 01:42 PM by Gary Rogowski | 2 comments »

Avoid those teachers who say: This is the only way to do something. Whatever that something may be. That person has never been dancing. Expression is a part of building too. There are lots of ways of building things right. Just like there are several ways of learning. Learning style makes a difference in how well you understand a teacher. Pick a teacher who understands that not everyone is the same. Study with someone who remembers that choice is important too. It’s like a grip. They...

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Part 20: Joinery Choices

08-21-2014 08:19 PM by Gary Rogowski | 0 comments »

The value of a classical education is in the laying of a foundation for your work to follow. One learns joinery in order to learn accuracy plus patience and the myriad ways there are to build. For instance, there are a dozen or more ways to build a box, but each situation requires an evaluation and then a decision. Your decision on joinery will depend upon factors like your knowledge or skill, the available tooling options, economy or speed, enjoyment, and finally how late the project is. [If...

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Part 21: Clean Up

08-25-2014 10:39 PM by Gary Rogowski | 6 comments »

Wait five or ten minutes to clean up your glue squeeze-out from a joint glue-up or lamination. It should be almost plastic and then it will peel right off. On a table top you can use a putty knife or my new discovery, an old chip breaker off a hand plane. It works great. For insides of boxes or cabinets, I use my sharpest chisel. That way if I cut into the wood, it will be a good clean cut. Also the color of the cut will match the wood inside which is always hand planed. Patience is a virt...

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Part 22: Curiosity

08-29-2014 02:39 AM by Gary Rogowski | 1 comment »

What causes us to look round the next bend? What makes people want to fly or cross the ocean or play with fire? Why do you do something and then do it again just to see if the results will be the same? Why ask why? All these questions are asked because of a simple if not altogether human trait. This urge pushes us to try things to see what will happen. Like a dog putting his head down between the rocks to sniff out a scent. What is there? What was there? What might be there? Is it that ...

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Part 23: Create

09-02-2014 02:09 PM by Gary Rogowski | 2 comments »

Quit believing that you are not creative. Kurt Vonnegut said: “do art and do it for the rest of your lives”. If you stifle yourself you will fulfill your prophecy of silence. If you explore your life, your interests, the ideas and images that excite you, then you will unlock all sorts of unforeseen doors. Can’t know, won’t know, unless you try. The Northwest Woodworking Studio

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Part 24: Practice

09-08-2014 01:26 PM by Gary Rogowski | 2 comments »

Getting back to the bench is as much elixir as it is simple nourishment. I spend most of every day working in the shop. When I want to relax, where do you think I want to go? To the bench of course. To work with my hands. To make something. To talk to myself perhaps above all. No matter. It’s practice. Practice is what is needed to learn, to become proficient, to master. I worked next to a Japanese Living Treasure one year up at Anderson Ranch Arts Center in Snowmass, Colorado. He wa...

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Part 25: Agreement

09-12-2014 02:21 PM by Gary Rogowski | 4 comments »

You may have noticed. Woodworkers are almost always right in their opinion of things. Hard to find one who doesn’t completely agree with his last statement. Most of them are confident in their ability to be right. Almost all of the time too. Therefore I have come up with two axioms about woodworkers that I know to be true. I am also a woodworker so this must be right. These two things are the only things that woodworkers can agree upon. Number One: Wood moves. Now that do...

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Part 26: Wood & Water

09-16-2014 12:48 AM by Gary Rogowski | 4 comments »

Don’t be afraid of wood & water. Wood loves the stuff. Most of the tree is water when it’s standing. It’s why they’re so heavy when they come down. It’s all that water inside of them. Once I had a 1/2” thick maple table top, 20” square, all shaped and sanded. I decided to raise the grain and sand it off. Wet sanding I call it, although I wait for the water to dry and just sand off the fuzz raised up by it. Well I wet down this top and it cupped...

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Part 27: Prodigies

09-25-2014 03:08 PM by Gary Rogowski | 3 comments »

Forget the 1 in a million prodigies. The rest of us strive every day just to be good. Forgive yourself your humanity & get on with your work. There’s so much to accomplish within ourselves in the process of building. This is the important work. As my old friend Bogy said to me years ago, “You don’t make the work. The work makes you.” The Northwest Woodworking Studio John Merrill, Resident Mastery Program, Graduate 2014

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Part 28: Deadlines

09-29-2014 04:44 PM by Gary Rogowski | 2 comments »

Deadlines are critical to working. Without one I let jobs slide for days, months, years. I have no deadline to fix my house and therefore I get little done on it but basic maintenance. The big jobs I am still considering. So too with furniture projects. Without a deadline, most of us let the idea simmer on a back burner for a good long while. Our Mastery students have had this Thursday’s show date as their own deadline since beginning the program. Displayed this Thursday at the Studio from...

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Part 29: Gathering

10-09-2014 01:41 PM by Gary Rogowski | 1 comment »

It is autumn, once our gathering time. For collecting ideas, it is always time. There is a designed world all around us. Ideas hanging from the rooftops and tree branches and scattered on the ground below our feet. A designed universe whether created by your particular deity or Ma nature or random atoms smashing together: the design of the world is astonishing. The key to it is opening your eyes. Look for forms, find patterns, see the symmetry around us. In the flock of birds, the march of...

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Part 30: Quality

10-16-2014 02:49 PM by Gary Rogowski | 4 comments »

Dream all you like. Think about what it would be like to be skilled in a craft. But skill is gained only by work. Mastery comes after years of study, the rewards through discipline & sacrifice. Sigh. Quality work does not come through an afternoon’s study. It is the work of a lifetime. And why not? What great skilled worker learned their craft in a weekend? What musician became masterful in a few hours of study? It is this very process of learning your skill, of practicing you...

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Part 31: Slow Furniture Movement

10-20-2014 02:38 PM by Gary Rogowski | 4 comments »

Why not a slow furniture movement? An early aphorism I placed in our literature was a quote from John Ruskin: “When we build, let us think that we build forever.” This is a sentiment I am fully in support of particularly these days when you see a “modern” building go up and 5 years later, they’re replacing the siding on it. There’s quality today for you. But one of my Mastery students quoted Ruskin in a different way that I think is equally valid. Perhaps you’ll agree: When we bui...

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Part 32: Finishing up

10-25-2014 05:12 PM by Gary Rogowski | 4 comments »

There is no better feeling in the world than wrapping up a project. Saying to yourself: Enough. They’re done. I can do no better than this. Go out into the world and hold people up. Feels good. The Northwest Woodworking Studio

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Part 33: Simple is Complex

10-27-2014 02:25 PM by Gary Rogowski | 7 comments »

All projects need refinement, lightness, simplicity. I tell my Mastery students often in a critique to lose 10% of their design. Sometimes 20%. Mass is not always required for strength. Careful engineering is required. Where can you remove material? Adding lightness and simplicity is a difficult chore. How much work do you need to do to make something simple? How do you know what is unessential in a piece? Where do you stop? Make copies. Make models, drawings. Try one thing and then ...

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Part 34: Benched

11-04-2014 09:42 PM by Gary Rogowski | 2 comments »

Benches can be practical or symbolic. They can hold us up at dinner or be our viewing spot for the entire game. They imply community and congeniality. Come sit next to me on the bench, is a friendly invite. Where is your head? Go sit on the bench, is my old coach talking to me. This season we worked with the City of Albany’s Parks and Rec department and the amazing Mark Azevedo, botanist and sawyer, to build furniture for a Benefit Auction. Lumber to Legacy Benefit Auction This 1st T...

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Part 35: Work

11-10-2014 04:17 PM by Gary Rogowski | 5 comments »

Work with your hands. As a result, work on yourself. Spend time alone with your thoughts away from the clamor. See what you can make of the time at the bench. I can think of no better elixir for the cacophony that makes up a day in the world today. The Northwest Woodworking Studio

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Part 36: Discontent

11-24-2014 04:09 PM by Gary Rogowski | 5 comments »

Discontent is the key to success, not satisfaction. To do more than you did before is what creation is about. To do the job better than the last time, to create something more special, or to walk new ground. This is what comes from our seasons of discontent. If we say to ourselves, I have learned enough. I am now the master of my craft, you have lost touch with that spark that keeps us creating. Satisfaction doesn’t spur us to do more. It leads us only to the couch. Keep trying to do be...

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Part 37: The Right Saw for the Job

12-01-2014 04:30 PM by Gary Rogowski | 4 comments »

Choose your tools wisely for the job. For a plumber, the sawz-all is king because demo can be fast and messy. Not so much for dovetailing. That requires a different touch. I have many tools at hand. Which one I grab depends upon many factors. When I cut dovetails, how picky do I want to be? How do I want the joints to look? How much noise and dust can I stand that day? And for me most of all, how late is the project? I have many options to use from my Japanese dozuki to my Lie-Nielsen back...

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Part 38: Sanding is Evil

12-15-2014 03:55 PM by Gary Rogowski | 6 comments »

By conservative estimate, over my 40 years of woodworking I have sanded several hundred miles of wood. My sanding odometer broke one day and I never fixed it so this is just a guess. I figure that I sanded enough wood for a line that went off as far as the eye could see into the desert and then beyond that. I sanded all that wood to within an inch of its life and then just a wee bit more. To be certain. I sanded the tops of tops and the bottom of tops. I sanded the insides of drawers and t...

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Part 39: Too Many Fumes

12-22-2014 03:57 PM by Gary Rogowski | 6 comments »

Ever have a problem with finishing? I’m probably alone in this. Or I’ve been sniffing too many fumes. Finishing is chemistry plus alchemy. Plus one more thing. This item is an attitude. An attitude that finishers have but furniture makers do not. Backing up. We never back up. We go forward. We have three forward gears plus one gear for hacking up a ball of spit when we screw something up, but forward always forward. There is no reverse in furniture making. Full or half or quarter ...

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Part 40: Carpe Diem

01-13-2015 11:06 PM by Gary Rogowski | 2 comments »

Carpe diem does not mean fish of the day. It means get out there and do something. It means that time is a’wastin’. It means get down to the shop and build something. Create something of value for yourself & for others. There is a beautiful quote by the Scotsman mountain climber, W.H. Murray. It goes like this: “Until one is committed there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the...

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Part 41: Texture

01-19-2015 03:54 PM by Gary Rogowski | 1 comment »

Look around. Texture surrounds our senses. From the moment our hand touches a surface to the sounds we hear, the ground we walk on, and the food we taste, texture is a daily part of our lives. Texture frustrates monotony. It is the rock in the stream, the bump in the road, the meter of a poem, or the knot in a rope. It is both good and evil. It promises interest; it presages pain. Texture is the drumbeat, the heartbeat, the tear of the concrete as you fall, the hand holds of a wall. It is ...

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Part 42: Absolutely

02-02-2015 07:16 PM by Gary Rogowski | 6 comments »

I had a man write me once after an article showed me using galvanized pipe clamps. “No, no, no, no, no, no,” was what he wrote. Then he went on to describe what a knucklehead I was for using them and how many other wrong things I did in that article on gluing up. I wrote him back. I tore up that letter. I wrote him back again. Again I tore up the letter. Finally after a time, I put my thoughts down to him. Simply put, I said this: Please come to my shop and see what I do. My appro...

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Part 43: Tools Have Magic

02-10-2015 03:39 AM by Gary Rogowski | 3 comments »

I think I can safely say that the hook for most woodworkers was tools. Most of us found a tool, or remembered our dad’s tools, or saw some tools at somebody’s shop and then they thought to themselves, I wonder what these things do? I wonder what I could do with these tools? I found an old hand plane outside the college house I was living in, way back when. I didn’t know what it did, but I knew it did something, and I wanted to know more. Still have it. It’s a wooden bodied transitional pla...

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Part 44: Hand Tools

02-23-2015 04:10 PM by Gary Rogowski | 2 comments »

Spending time with the hand tool crowd this past weekend brings to mind some ideas about utility. And why not? The right tool for the job depends on many factors like skill, economy, and cost. Not just the quiet of the shop alone gets weight in this decision. How many times does a jig get made on the saw and drill press in order to work later on by hand? These choices we make to use hand tools or powered ones are driven by our need to build work. Sometimes building the product wins at...

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Part 45: Expectations

03-02-2015 03:42 PM by Gary Rogowski | 3 comments »

Expectations. We all have them when we walk into the shop. Ah yes, I have come to spend a pleasant relaxing day at the bench undisturbed, unperturbed. Then you begin work. Things can go wrong. Jigs don’t work, parts mis-align as the glue holds fast in the wrong spot, wood tears out, screw heads break off, and finishes blotch. Lest it be misunderstood that I am somehow above the fray here, that nothing ever goes wrong for me, that I am the calm sea in the eye of every storm at my bench, ...

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Part 46: Chisels at the Bench

04-06-2015 03:45 PM by Gary Rogowski | 10 comments »

We are a type, we woodworkers. We are tool nuts, junkies. We love our tools. Somebody asked me once how many sets of chisels I have. I said, Only two. I have my old Marples firmer chisels from 1/4” to 3/4” and then my bevel edge Lie-Nielsens. And oh yeah, I have a missed match set of Japanese paring and mortise chisels. And I forgot the 3 or 4 Stanley 750’s I have collected, and the old Stanley butt chisels I bought when I started out. Then there’s those 3 big mortising chis...

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Part 47: Worth Doing Well

04-20-2015 04:51 PM by Gary Rogowski | 3 comments »

I heard a poet speak last night about doing good work. I was immediately intrigued by the parallels to our work at the bench. He said that doing it was worth it because it was hard. It was hard to do good work. Nothing good comes easy. If you’ve ever tried to write you know how hard good can be. The same thing is true for our work at the bench. It’s easy to drop your standards. Here’s a note from a maker struggling with this issue: Recently I watched the video featuring you and your bel...

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Part 48: My Transmutable Bench

04-27-2015 03:26 PM by Gary Rogowski | 4 comments »

In the middle of a storm, commonplace things change. My bench for instance. When building a piece for a deadline, my recognizable bench becomes a place of chaos, a haven for every tool, every piece of scrap wood, for every note and drawing, dull tool, and a ready to hand assortment of screws and sandpaper, most of which I will not use. A place for everyone and everything. Emptying it will take days. It becomes not just a symbol of my own tumult. It is a signal of the state of my mind. Seemi...

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Part 49: My Transmutable Bench

04-27-2015 03:27 PM by Gary Rogowski | 0 comments »

In the middle of a storm, commonplace things change. My bench for instance. When building a piece for a deadline, my recognizable bench becomes a place of chaos, a haven for every tool, every piece of scrap wood, for every note and drawing, dull tool, and a ready to hand assortment of screws and sandpaper, most of which I will not use. A place for everyone and everything. Emptying it will take days. It becomes not just a symbol of my own tumult. It is a signal of the state of my mind. Seemi...

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Part 50: Do Good Work

05-05-2015 07:01 PM by Gary Rogowski | 5 comments »

How can anyone afford to do good work these days? Isn’t the strain of surviving enough to make mediocre work good enough? As that famous poet once said, You gonna have to serve somebody. So who’s it gonna be? Your landlord or the voice inside you asking you to do it right this time. I can’t choose for you. I can only choose for myself. These were the standards I said I had to adhere to and if I couldn’t meet those then it wasn’t worth doing. Yeah, some days those standards were higher than...

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Part 51: Taking Down a Tree

05-14-2015 02:32 AM by Gary Rogowski | 4 comments »

I hate cutting down trees. As much as I love the wood that comes from them, there is still something about cutting down a tree that seems to me an affront. A crime against the sky. Certainly it is a loss of some valuable shade in the heat of the sun. And it changes a landscape, a street view. But it was half dead and once cut, discovered to be rotten inside. It had to come down now in a noisy if controlled fashion rather than taking out someone’s car some chance day. It was a good sized tr...

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Part 52: Taking Down a Tree, Part Two

05-21-2015 01:53 PM by Gary Rogowski | 5 comments »

The tree is down. No ceremony was performed for it. As a street tree, this maple had a pretty good long run. I was sorry to have to remove it but seeing it fallen over on top of a car would have made me a bit sorrier. It was half dead as was plain to see this spring and rot would soon take over the trunk. So. It was actually pretty cool to watch how the arborist, Aaron, took it down. He roped up and started dropping limbs, both dead and alive from the top on down. When he got close to the ...

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Part 53: Why Not Dovetails?

05-26-2015 07:53 PM by Gary Rogowski | 2 comments »

Hand cut dovetails are a pain in the butt. So some would say. I say differently. They are a giant . . . delight. Consider the dovetails below, cut by John in last year’s Resident Mastery Program. This drawer is pretty small. Dovetails are overkill for its strength requirements. And yet they add so much beauty to the piece. And these half blind dovetails are actually easier to cut than through dovetails. Hmm. Also think about the value of this hand cut work. It’s not just to hold som...

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Part 54: Being in the Shop

06-08-2015 01:21 PM by Gary Rogowski | 7 comments »

I cannot tell what woodworking does for most people. For some it is a simple hobby. It is a pastime where you get to work with some tools and build something nice or useful. For others it’s a job, how you make your money and provide for your family. Still for other woodworkers I think it is an important escape from the world. The shop becomes a spot where you can finally be in control for a change. You alone are responsible for the failures and successes at the bench. You get the credit fo...

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Part 55: As If

06-15-2015 09:52 PM by Gary Rogowski | 1 comment »

I haven’t practiced sawing in a while. As if that makes any difference. It does. I will get to the bench and try my hand at a dovetail and I won’t know where exactly to put my feet. Or rather, I put my feet where I think they’re supposed to go and they don’t feel quite right. Or I don’t feel right and I’m thinking about how to stand instead of standing and cutting. First tail gets done. I start to cut the second tail and I start to feel that things are getting right again. I launch into th...

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Part 56: Chair Design, Please Sit

07-28-2015 03:46 PM by Gary Rogowski | 1 comment »

Chair design is a fairly new design concept. Read Witold Rybczynski’s book called Home and he points out that chairs were used only by royalty for centuries. The idea of comfort only came later on after the Middle Ages. The notion that people could sit unceremoniously slouched around a dinner table took a few more centuries to take hold. We discover the intricacies of chair design this weekend. Three days of design, engineering, and joinery. What a trio! On Day One we look into the n...

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Part 57: The Battleship

08-03-2015 02:55 PM by Gary Rogowski | 12 comments »

Projects come, projects stay. I walked around the shop one day to count the projects I had started only to put down for one reason or another. I got depressed by the number 20. Unfinished for any number of reasons. I cut a panel too short on one. I wasn’t sure of the curve of another. Not hard to make a new panel, 0r try to mock up the curve. That logic does not fly in the face of a simple defeat. I just let the projects linger, go to your corner. What is it that stumps me? Probably this ...

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Part 58: Liberal Arts Education

08-24-2015 04:35 PM by Gary Rogowski | 5 comments »

In working with high school interns last year, I was asked to write about our program. I sent this in to a local newspaper. It sums up my feelings about a liberal arts education. Why I Did the WIN ClassLetter to the Albany Democrat Herald, 2014 What was great was to see how excited these kids were to learn. They listened to me talk about geometry and physics. They asked questions about these subjects. They listened to me talk about joinery and cutting angles. They were to a person all ...

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