Panic coming up to Christmas

This is a cheat as i write this it is nor January but the end of

December. The workshop is winding down for our Christmas break the

only time we close in the year and i thought if i dont write this

now then, well, it wont get written. This is such a busy time

coming up to a holiday it feels like you have to paddle twice as

fast just to get a couple of weeks off with the family but i know

that it is going to be worse when we get back from vacation.

First there is that bed “The Great bed of Thame” sure M… wanted

to be involved with the design process and yes i have sent her all

the sketches as i have done them but they are in New York for

Christmas and I know that beds are not top of the agenda right now

leading up the Christmas . So i shall send the drawings to Thame

they will see them when they get back and work that could have been

done now will wait till then. Bah. This is fine but I have a chair

to design in January its for an exhibition displaying the creative

process which is nice but they have a deadline of 28th February. I

have Keith Fernley all set up to help me with this chair, Keith is

a wizard maker who comes and works here occasionally when we need

him . He has his own workshop at his home and usually works there

but comes here when I have a project suitable for his skills.

 In this case he will be managing the work of two students who are

making for me in the last six months of their course. this is an

arrangement I do occasionally that enables students who are not

going to become designer makers but going to work for established

workshops to get workshop experience working with a designer. In

this case Keith is going to supervise a job that is a matched pair

of cabinets with mirrors above. This is not a terribly complex

piece but there is a lot of it and Keith needs to get hold of the

job the first week back, set them up then he can drop back onto my

chairmaking problem. I have to keep ahead of him with drawings and

ideas for models or maquettes . I have about three weeks to get

this job sorted and settled in my mind before three new students

arrive in February and I am into tool sharpening with them . I like

to work with the new students getting them handling tools

proficiently before handing them over to Daren to do work with the



Its like Santas little Grotto in the Workshop at the moment

everyone is busily rushing to finish whatever it is for Christmas:

In the Tables department,Toms mum isnt going to get her English

Walnut Dining table as the veneering had a couple of “issues” to be

resolved, Elliots Maple sunburst veneered low table is galloping to

a finish but without a finish. I cant see how he can get a polish

on that table in the remaining couple of days and its the polish

thats sooooo important. Jon has just finished polishing up and

fitting drawers to his Walnut hall table so thats on target .

Jonathan Piece has also finished a lovely small Oak Cabinet so

thats a hit. If they are all still here in the New Year i will put

a couple in the next Noos Letter provided I can resolve the



I have just had Alex from C
lassic Handtools
 on the phone. Classic

are a small supplier of high quality tools that we have been

supporting for a couple of years now. They are the old fashioned

small supplier that I believe in, other websites can give us

slightly cheaper tools but Classic give us good advice and a

personal service. Alex was checking that we would be open to

recieve a delivery from america that had been delayed, [see what I

mean] and he was asking about what tools I would be recommending to

students so he could keep stock  available. I dont keep a

recommended list and have never become associated with any tool

maker. We find that everyone has different needs and budgets, hand

sizes and aesthetic requirements. So I will go on not being very

helpful and confusing.

One a positive note we have found lately the Veritas are making

pretty attractive shoulder planes both a large plane and a nice

medium sized plane. The planes are comfortable to handle well

finished and with a clever set screw that locates the sideways

position of the blade, this is a critical adjustment and one that

was always needing fiddling with on other planes. There was even a

workshop custom that bench planes were put down on their sides to

protect the blade but shoulder planes were stored upright because

of this “blade issue.” Now those of us with new Veritas shoulder

planes dont have to bother. Hurray!! another great leap forward.

We have found that ordering tools from Canada can take a couple of

weeks to arrive but sometimes it can be cheaper, even with the high

carriage costs, than U K suppliers. It seems to be dependent upon

whether or not you get hit for 17.5%VAT tax on import. The

application of this seems to be totally unpredictable.


Dont eat too many Mince …… Sorry Im getting de-mob happy.


This Tip isnt from Daren this month but from Greame Scott a maker I

trained many years ago that Daren worked with for some time, Greame

like Daren is an expert in veneering. Sucess in making and in my

mind true craftsmanship is in combining speed with quality. Greames

workshop in Bideford is well known for high quality and efficiency,

he does not concern himself with design for he works to

specification, to drawings so his price and efficiency is critical.

Greame was showing a new guy how to tape up a veneered panel

quickly. Two sheets of veneer had been trimmed square and straight

and needed taping up to hold them together so they could be glued

to the ground. Greame uses 2inch wide clear tape and puts one strap

about four inches long across the two veneers in the centre making

sure that the two are aligned correctly. He then tears off about

six pieces of clear tape, each about the same length and sticks a

corner of each to his forearms and shoulders perhaps three on each

side, so he looks a bit like a Sellotape Christmas tree. Having

done that he moves down the veneer another strap goes on four to

six inches away from the first, the veneers are pinched together so

no light is visible between and the tension on the strap is light,

too much tension on the strap and the veneer will pull over the

joint. Strap strap strap, strap strap strap job done.

Now Greame had taken the time to show this new guy a process, one

that had been developed over years to save time without

compromising quality, how did he feel to see that guy a hour later

tearing off one bit of tape……………


I got this is in the post this morning. What a shock, I happily

point cameras at other people but get flustered when others do it

to me. This is a rare shot of me doing something useful the caption

should read “when are you going to finish that ruddy table!!”

This came from a Japanese Publisher who spent some time with us in

February. They are publishing a book, to come out in March on the

subject of Hand Craftsmanship in Wood and Furniture making and

quite rightly wanted a British workshop to be represented. THey

came , as the Japanese do, mob handed with a photographer a

translator two executives and a wild japanese craftsman  who I got

on with really well, we didnt know a word of each others language

but understood perfectly, especially after a few sakis [they came

laden with gifts and lots of saki which it would have been inhospitable

not to drink….]


When we get back we shall be mailing everyone about our short courses for 2008  get ahead of the crowd and come and see us for a week in 2008

short course info

Have a great  Woodie 2008

David Savage


David established Rowden Atelier in 1995, a now world renowned fine woodworking school. Discover Rowden, the woodworking courses, and the work that students go on to do.

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