This is Friday of the November 14 Windsor Settee class. Tonight, after class, we were supposed to Burn the 2011 backboards. That is not going to happen. It’s not going to happen tonight because the five day class wrapped up in four days. The boards are already burned. We did it last night.
For those of you who are not familiar with The Institute’s traditions, we begin the school year with fresh, pristine backboards. Backboards are 1 X 6 X 24 inch pine strips placed under through holes to protect the bench tops. During the first class I drill the first hole into my seat and the bit passes into the backboard beneath it. When I am done, I remove the board and everyone in the room signs it. Then, it is secured to the wall next to the white erase board, where it hangs until the very last day of the last class of the year.
During the school year, everyone who takes a class is asked to sign a backboard, so as to be with us in spirit when we burn. When the last class ends, we take the year’s backboards to the incinerator behind the shop. There, as we read the year’s class rosters, we all take turns tossing boards into the fire. It is a fitting ceremony for wrapping up our year.
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During the class, someone mentioned that I had not posted here for a while. In fact, according to the student, I hadn’t posted since last July. I knew I had been busy, but I was surprised it had been that long. I have excuses and I know they are worth the same as all other excuses. My son began his freshman year of college (College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, MA). It is amazing how much effort getting a kid into college takes. During the summer, I also wrote book six in my eight book series of young teenage adventures. You, who receive my monthly essay on chairs via email, saw the square backed chairs that I developed for our new chair next year. That project was a major undertaking. Oh, I almost forgot, I also taught all our summer and fall classes. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.
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The time that has passed since last July has included some significant events. Sir George Wright was inducted into the Chairmaker Hall of Fame. His innovation is known as the Right Vanhovenometer. George’s idea was to add a pilot shaft to the Vanhovenometer. This way, the device can be used to check a hole’s angle before beginning to ream. Adjustments can begin with the initial reaming. Combined with the pilot on our reamer, the Right Vanhoveometer makes it a piece of cake to get leg angles dead on. It is a major improvement.
Sir George joins 21 others in the Hall of Fame (we call these chairmakers The Immortals). He is one of only five Immortals who are also in the Royal Orders. The question “What about the other guy?” is often asked when an innovation improves one that is already extant or, supersedes it; in this case the Immortal James Van Hoven.” He was inducted for his innovation, the original Vanhovenometer. The answer is simple. Jim remains in the Hall of Fame, as membership is in perpetuity. His certificate still hangs with all the others. He is still recognized as a “Humanitarian, a Philanthropist, and a chairmaker concerned with the well being of his fellow chairmakers.”
Meanwhile, we have replaced all the old Vanhovenometers on the shop benches with Right Vanhoveometers. The new innovation is now the one we sell in the catalog.
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In September we held the Two Kids Chairs class. In it, we taught the students our joint for attaching the footrest. Everyone who takes our sack back class learns traditional Windsor joinery. I am proud of the footrest joint. It and the Brother-in-law Joint are my contributions to Windsor joinery. I am pleased to announce I have developed another joint. Remember the bent mitered arm on the Square backed arm chair in this month’s email essay? I have worked out a really neat joint to secure the end of the arm to the stile. The guys in the March 26 class will be the first to learn it. I hope that I can adapt the technique to the Brother-in-law. If I can, chairmakers can trim that joint flush with the lower arm rail without worrying the joint will fail. I will keep you posted.
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