Lonnie Bird's School #1: Day 1 - Handworks Essentials Class

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Blog entry by kenn posted 04-21-2015 01:03 AM 1114 reads 1 time favorited 5 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Lonnie Bird's School series Part 2: Glueing up & practice dovetails »

I signed up for the Handworks Essential class at Lonnie Bird’s School of Fine Woodworking and thought I’d share my experience with you. The setting is perfect. A quiet country road, lined with grazing cattle, leads you to Lonnie’s home and school. The rain stopped about 10 minutes before I arrived so my tools didn’t get wet. We started promptly at 8. After introductions, Lonnie gave us an outline of the week’s timeline.

Right to work, laying out mortises on the legs for the small table with a drawer we would be building.

Once the layout was completed, we used the mortiser. He’s a pic of Lonnie demonstrating what to do.

By the way, I learned I want a mortiser. I’ve been thinking that for some time now and today convinced me it’s time to upgrade from the router. We didn’t waste time waiting for the machine. He reviewed sharpening and had us get a chisel sharp while the mortiser was in use (water cooled grinder and Norton waterstones for those you who asked). We practiced our hand saw skills. Lonnie is a pins first dovetailer (a new experience for me, I’ve always done tails first) and his experience says that his students need to start on day one practicing sawing. The key tip I picked up is shown in the picture, start the saw on the corner and in the first stroke establish the square cut across the end of the board. Sit down, get close, if you can’t see it – you can’t saw it, saw slowly (no diving down to the baseline, take your time and enjoy it).

I’m making my table out of walnut which I bought from Lonnie’s assistant Jason. He has milled the lumber for us and cut the tenons on the table saw. It is nice having somebody mill lumber for you. It has let me concentrate on learning and not on getting the wood ready for the joinery. My main layout tip of the day is to establish your reference surface as the inside face. That’s a change from my previous habit. Here I am getting ready to cut the tenons to the correct length.

They fit great and I’m pleased.

In no time at all, I’ve got the three long tenons dry fitted.

The front top rail is joined to the legs with a dovetail. Jason cut a small shoulder and roughed in the dovetail on the table saw. We cleaned up the corner and clamped it in place. Then we could knife out the joint. Lonnie advocates deep layout lines and after today, I see why. The saw tracks easier, the line jumps out at you, it works. I don’t really know why, but it works.

Then it was time to have a seat and chop out the socket. Lonnie showed us how then we followed.

The lower rail was joined with a double tenon. That joint was a first for me. Jason cut the outside shoulders. We laid the rail onto the leg and marked the mortise outside edges straight from the rail. Then careful setup at the mortiser resulted in a pair of 1/4” mortises. We chiseled a wee bit of the bridge between the mortises. That allowed the tenon to fit into that space and we could mark the center tenon section that makes this a twin tenon directly from the legs. Saw on the waste side of the line, add a few relief kerfs, chop out the waste leaving a slight undercut.

Here’s my dry fit selfie – terrible smile but I am happy with it.
Sorry it’s turned but you get the idea.

That’s the end of my first day! It’s probably a little weird but this is a great vacation to me. I love this a thousand times more than the beach, if I could only convince my family to make something besides a tan.

My apologies for any grammar and punctuation mistakes. Between using the IPad and being tired from the day, this is what you get. Smiles to all!

-- Every cloud has a silver lining

5 comments so far

View ruddhess's profile


117 posts in 634 days

#1 posted 04-21-2015 01:48 AM

Awesome! :)

-- Rodney, Arkansas

View Karson's profile


35032 posts in 3824 days

#2 posted 04-21-2015 03:30 AM

Nice report.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Southern Delaware soon moving to Virginia †

View lew's profile


11266 posts in 3179 days

#3 posted 04-21-2015 01:31 PM

Sounds like you are having a ball! Looking forward to more.

-- Lew- Time traveler. Purveyor of the Universe's finest custom rolling pins.

View helluvawreck's profile


22707 posts in 2290 days

#4 posted 04-21-2015 03:36 PM

That sounds very exciting and I’m sure that you will learn a lot.

helluvawreck aka Charles

-- If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away. Henry David Thoreau

View mafe's profile


11061 posts in 2513 days

#5 posted 04-22-2015 10:55 PM

That looks like a wonderful way to spend vacation.
I’m so jealous in every positive way that exists.
Looks like you are in wood heaven, wish there were classes like this here in little Denmark.
Best thoughts,

-- MAD F, the fanatical rhykenologist and vintage architect. Democraticwoodworking.

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