I get asked this a lot

Carved Chippendale chairsWhen I’m out on the road, I get lots of questions. One of the most frequent is what’s going on in my shop? I guess people are looking to make a connection between what I am working on and what they have going on in their shop. For me the problem is, between writing for Popular Woodworking Magazine, producing an online woodworking show and dvd’s, teaching classes and trying to get some furniture made for customers, my answer is usually not much of real interest.


In talking with Glen Huey, over at  Woodworker’s Edge, he made me realize that people aren’t necessarily looking for a detailed report. They just want to know what interesting things have been happening in my shop lately. Well, once again, the lightbulb clicked on and I finally got it.

A few years back one of my good customers sent me an email and asked about commissioning a pair of chairs to match some old ones that had been in his family for quite some time. Since I had done some other pieces for him in the past that were lots of fun (primarily Newport pieces some of which are in my portfolio), I jumped at working with him again on another project. 

If you’ve read through Parings you may have stumbled upon a blog post about Monticello. It was on that same trip that I stopped and looked at the chairs to be copied. I also picked up a side chair and an arm chair from the original set that needed repair. This worked out well because the chairs are rather complex and it would be great to have a model from which to work in the shop. This helps both for the carving details as well as the color and finish.

Yeah, I know those other posts are four years old. I’ve got a backlog, what can I say? The chairs got finished and, after lots of fits and starts, the customer finally took delivery a few weeks ago  of his repaired chairs and the two new ones made to match.

The big thing to remember is the parallel you can draw between my work and yours. When that certain someone asks if you’re ever going to finish that project that’s been in your shop for months just say “I may take a while but I’m no where near as slow as Chuck Bender.”…no, that’s not what I want you to say. Just say “It may be taking quite a bit of extra time but, when I’m done, you’ll be amazed that I could make something like  that.”

In typical woodworker fashion, I fret and worry over my projects from beginning to end. I’m sure at every step of the project that it’ll be a complete piece of junk by the time I’m done. This, for me, means I’m sure the customer would never want this abomination in their home. When the last of the surface prep is complete, the color is dry and the final bit of wax is applied to the project I usually shake my head and realize how lucky I got…once again. Are the projects perfect? Far from it but if you give me (or you) a little time, we’ll both be amazed that I could make something like that…

As my friend Glen Huey says, get into your shop and “build something great”. Thankfully, he doesn’t put a deadline on it.


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