Two handled perfection

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Richard Grell knows drawknives. He’s been building Windsor chairs for a living more than forty years. That’s a forest of trees sculpted into an armada of chairs. Along the way he’s tweaked and refined his own user tools to a high level. Now the best part. Richard is now making his own version of his favorite drawknife and inshave.

I’ve been using Grell’s drawknife for about a year. The word drawknife doesn’t do it justice, it’s a two handed sculpting tool. First thing that strikes you is the balance. It flips effortlessly in your grip to slice with either push or pull stroke. The cutting edge geometry in relation to the handles give it the control of a spokeshave for fine cuts yet it also can hog off material without complaining.  Take a look yourself at these two short video clips to see it in action.

Here’s a link where you can learn more.

Here’s a link to an earlier post about his chair shop.

 

George R. Walker

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Cheap Tricks at WIA

Fits like a glove by Barb Walker

Study of a burl mallet by Barb Walker

One of the perks of being married to an artist is that we share a lot about design and the creative life. Barb’s always introducing me to her artist friends and mentors she admires. Here’s one of the greats, Wayne Thiebaud sharing his insight on a great masterpiece at the Met. Late in the clip he laughs about how the painting is just a bunch of cheap tricks.

Cheap Tricks

You can say that about almost any great piece of music, painting, sculpture, or chair. Every detail by itself is just a cheap trick. But successfully blending a basket of tricks together may take all you have in you. I’ll be down in Cincinnati for Woodworking in America  WIA in just a few weeks sharing a tool tote full of cheap tricks. Hope to see you there.

George R. Walker

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European Beech is another story

Beech Blanks

The fine folks at Horizon Wood Products in Western Pennsylvania are making available Beech blanks for making bench planes. This quarter sawn 16/4 material is European Beech (Fagus Sylvatica), not the American Beech (Fagus Grandifolia) I wrote about earlier. For those of you excited about the English Woodworker and his upcoming lessons on making a handplane, this should be perfect. I know, I know, in an earlier video, Richard made a workable plane out of some roadkill lumber he fished out of the scrap pile, just to show that it could be done. OK, I got his point, but for something as demanding as a bench plane that might be handed down and put to work for generations, you can’t go wrong with this.

George R. Walker

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Blight hitting American Beech

 

I’m sad to report a blight is ravaging our native stands of American Beech here  in the Midwest. Here’s a link to an article by Jim McCormac updating what we know right now.

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Hand Tool Heaven the Movie

Here’s a sweet video about an amazing place to learn hand tool woodworking. Hope you enjoy and consider what PTSW has to offer.

George R. Walker

 

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Design wisdom from another craft

Three on a hill by Barb Walker

Three on a hill by Barb Walker

My lovely wife Barb is a painter and when the weather turns mild you can find her outside with her easel and paints. She’s helped me to see the world through a painter’s eyes and it’s helped me dig deeper into this design language of the artisans. Here’s a link to an insightful article – It was my understanding there would be no Math – about the underlying design in a painting by one of the most outstanding contemporary impressionists in America, Anne Blair Brown.

There’s much in the article that applies to furniture design.  If you would like to learn more about the underlying design in furniture, you might want to visit my other Blog By Hand and Eye, where Jim Tolpin and I both are writing and exploring the design language of the artisans.

George R. Walker

Posted in Design Basics

A woodworking hero

Richard applying step number

Richard applying the last touches on a finish process with too many steps to count.

We’ve heard the unbelievable stories about how workers of yesteryear cranked out huge amounts of high quality work in an insanely short period of time. There’s no way to confirm the exploits of Paul Bunyan and his blue ox, but I can share with you the work of one amazing chair maker. I stopped by Richard Grell’s shop today to see an order of chairs and tables he’s been building all winter. Here’s a peek at the 54 chairs and nine tea tables that will ship this week.

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Every part, every spindle, and chair seat fashioned by hand. Richard did call on a few trusted helpers for items like the painstaking job painting the miles of pin-striping.

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IMG_0430He’s been making chairs for a living for over 40 years and still passionate about the craft. That makes him a hero in my book.

George R. Walker

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