In Pursuit Of Imperfection 4 : Chris Schwarz to Rowden

Chris Schwarz to Rowden

Chris came to Rowden this August and its now November, so its taken me some time to assimilate the effect he has had upon Rowden, and upon myself.

I invited Chris to come for two weeks the first week to lead a class building his Travelling Anarchists Tool chest and the second week allowing Daren and myself to show techniques of veneering and decoration. I knew he would upset a few people, by the energy and speed that he would be demanding. We tend to do things very well here but a little slowly. I need not have worried the top shop with my senior students responded magnificently. I came in early at 7.30 one morning to push my own chest along a bit. I was greeted with a furious tapping of dovetail hammers from top shop.

Chris Schwarz hammer

Chris is used to large classes which he has to keep together, or its madness. We don’t do large classes here, tutorials are three or four students often bench tuition is one on one. So we had top shop rushing ahead and one or two of the members of the public who had joined us, falling behind. So Daren and Jon and Ed when he joined for the second week were delegated to help, remake, assist and in every way get those guys up to speed and on quality. Top shop where set loose like a pack of rabid dogs to go rushing ahead.

Chris is a superb tutor, knowledgable to a fault. He has a command of the historical context that explains why every thing was done that way. He has an energy that I envy from my dotage, and an intensity of purpose that is very endearing. He travels with a small collection of very carefully chosen hand tools that had us all fascinated.

So what has he brought to Rowden? Well, a pile of pretty damn well made tool chests and the self confidence that goes with it. A confidence of making something substantial and well, in a short time. That is key. We build on that kind of self confidence, we build pieces of work and we build ourselves.

matt using his dividers

He didnt bring us hide glue, but he reminded me of properties that I had forgotten . I have used hide glue for veneering but I had forgotten how great it is as a general workshop glue. How great it is for carcase assembly, PVA can lock the assembly up as it stiffens, hide glue, if you are brisk in the process, LUBRICATES the assembly. I knew this but had forgotten, when I set up my first shop PVA was all the rage and I could not afford an electric glue pot . I struggled for a while with a cast iron pot that was not properly lined with solder. ( I believe now but did not know then that you do that to stop the iron pot discolouring the glue) My glue lines were dark and the pot heated on the wood burning stove constantly either boiled dry, or bubbled over as a kind of five mile island melt down. So I put it aside.   Now I have to over come Darens modern shop methods and demand those glue pots are plugged in and available


He brought us hammer and nails.  Yep, simple stuff so often overlooked in “posh furniture making”, these correctly applied in construction can be an appropriate method of construction. Chris had with him an lovely 16oz american claw hammer with tapered handle that I was dribbling over. Used with appropriate pilot holes and HAND MADE nails OOOOOhhh thats nice. Now I am developing products nailed together and looking very sexy .

Perhaps one of the most powerful connections that Chris made for us was the position of English furniture making in the history of our craft. Dammit there was period when even the blasted French admired what we were doing! English making has been, and should still be, the Ducks Guts. Chris also gave me a great gift, he positioned Rowden in the tradition of Arts and Crafts Movement with a direct lineage going back through Alan Peters right back to John Ruskin. When you are inside a forest it is hard to see the trees. I am exploring right now exactly what that means to me and finding a rich creative pasture.  Thank you Chris.

Thank you Chris for coming half way around the world to inspire and instruct. Your example is a powerful one to any young maker.

Hats off to the Yank ….

My very best wishes









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