Putting the "log" back in Blog

Kid In A Dusty Candy Shop: The Next Best Thing to WIA 2012

Posted on March 16th, by Andy Brownell in Around the shop, marketing & promotion, Publications, Tools. No Comments

What’s going to be the next best thing to attending WIA this year? It’s the Lie-Nielsen Tool Event on April 20-21st at Jeff Miller’s shop in Chicago! This event is going to have a great group of professionals and manufacturers all loaded into Jeff’s shop (recently featured in PWW in an article by Chris Schwarz).

Why am I making the 330 mile road trip from Cincinnati?

Because it encapsulates all things woodworking  I’ve been spending my time on over the last year:

Jeff Miller's latest bent lamination rocker in walnutMore importantly, the event is hosted by Jeff Miller who I consider a prolific and talented contributor to our craft as well as a good friend. I’ve had the fortune of taking several classes with Jeff as well as working as a weekend/ part-time apprentice for close to 8 years. It’s no secret that Jeff is capable of translating his ideas from sketch-to-prototype-to final piece that can dumbfound many of us. Tapered laminations, complex joinery and a mix of simple lines and compound curves are common in much of his work, particularly his latest rocking chair in walnut shown here to the left. From 1997-2003, I had the chance to be a part off building some amazing pieces of furniture for his clients. Elegant dining sets, Torah Arks and the Arch Table to name a few – all original designs.

But more than just the design and construction, is Jeff’s perspective on instruction. His instruction is not just around how to cut complex joinery, or how to go about design. He grounds much of what he teaches in the basics: body motion & positioning, center of gravity, location of hands on tool, tool to piece and piece to bench. This “body-hand-tool-wood-bench” relationship is a skill that in many cases is learned over time, refined with proper repetition and always in a constant state of refinement, particularly as we age. I learned this in his classes, while working as an apprentice and at past L-N events he’s participated in.

I was reminded of this earlier this year when I began to cut tenons late one evening with Jeff  in my workshop. Jeff was less focused on the quality of the cut, and more on the “body-hand-tool-wood-bench” relationship. His simple yet useful suggestions re-positioned my hand, shoulder and the height of the wood in a way that made my subsequent cut much more accurate, and a more comfortable fit with my body’s natural movement. So often those basic skills are either forgotten, or never taught in the first place.

I’m looking forward to that weekend to talk to fellow woodworkers, fill my tool chest up a little more and hopefully get a few more tips from Jeff on how to properly use those tools.

Those tips alone are worth the 330 mile drive in my book.

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