|Review by ShannonRogers||posted 07-20-2009 06:09 PM||2575 views||0 times favorited||4 comments|
I took a trip up to Chester County, PA this weekend to take a class with Chuck Bender’s school, The Acanthus Workshop. Chuck goes by the handle Acanthuscarver here on LJ. What a treat! I have been woodworking now for 7 years and hardly do I think of myself as an expert, but I admit to being a little dubious as to how much I would get out of a fundamentals I class. Because the focus was on hand tools, I was more optimistic because I am pretty new to the way of the Schwarz having “grown up” watching brad nailer Norm.
What can I say other than, get yourself up to Chuck’s shop and take a class with him. He is a walking encyclopedia of period furniture and has a classically trained background by a German cabinetmaker. He has a very no nonsense, do what works, philosophy and can do a pretty good Frank Klausz impression too.
The product of my 2 days class is a pretty fancy sanding block made from Ribbon Mahogany with a Tiger Maple diamond inlaid into the top, a Bassswood dowel, and several sets of dovetails. The cool part is that nothing was plugged in once over the weekend. Chuck went to great lengths to screw up this block of mahogany to make sure nothing was flat or square and my classmates and I had to bring it into harmonic squareness before we cut out the diamond and inlaid it into the back of the block.
The dowell started from another out of square block that we planed to a uniform 1” square block before chamfering it to death to make a dowel. This seemingly simple exercise teaches incredible plane control and hopefully will appear in an upcoming issue of Pop Wood where maybe yours truly might finally make it onto the pages of that holy publication. This may be the only way I get there as “3rd awestruck woodworker on the left” in the background of the photos up Chuck making shavings.
Finally we turned our sight on to dovetails. Through and half blind. After a couple of hours everyone in the class had cut at least 2 sets of each joint and were stumbling around with stupid grins on our faces at just how easy Chuck made it seem to cut this sought after joint.
In conclusion, I feel that I walked away with a strong grounding in plane and chisel tuning, usage, and control. Sawing usage and control and an ability to fine tune joints as well as correct little mistakes to make a beautiful result. (my diamond inlay didn’t fit right the first time but with a few tweaks it looks like it grew there)
Chuck doesn’t endorse any particular technique or tool, but he does speak as a furniture maker with many many years of experience and a body of work that leaves no doubt about his abilities. His students get a keen insight into what it takes to make masterpiece furniture and won’t leave thinking they need to buy a couple thousand dollars worth of tools. I think the true testament to this review should be that when I got home last night I put down a deposit for both Woodworking Fundamentals II and III because I don’t want to miss out on more of this education.
Thanks Chuck and Lorraine for the excellent cooking!
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