Il Miglior Fabbro

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So DJ shows me a picture and says “What do you think of this tool chest?”

I glance at the picture: it’s a neatly finished Anarchist’s Tool chest painted in de rigeur Bible black with all the trimmings. Nice.

Nonchalantly, he shows me another pic’ of the interior: Equally good. Bang tidy in fact.

IMG_6910I’m beginning to think these are shots of Chris Schwarz’ own chest but empty of tools. Even the hinges are clocked North-South which really does make me think this is the Schwarzmeister’s own. Then another: the chest next to a sweet Roubo bench.  A nice, low tone shot of Chris’s shop I think. The bench has tools scattered on it and some shavings.

Then he pulls the rug from under my feet: In the next picture of the chest some joker has slid a giant copy of ‘the Anarchist’s Tool Chest’ into shot.  The penny then drops…this is a miniature.  Not like any miniature you or I have ever seen before.  It is perfectly in scale and it is made by an outrageously talented maker called Marco Terenzi.

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Marco spent an incredible 400 hours making this 1/4 scale chest and he did it in one month. In. One. Month. He completed the final stretch in 30 straight hours. Just stop and think about that for a minute…. Are you feeling like a thoroughbred slacker now? Trust me: I am and so are you.

Not only did he make the damned chest but he also made an entire series of miniature tools to make it and a Roubo bench to sit it next to. Some parts are so thin that you can see light through the dovetails.

Marco lives and works in Detroit but having seen this chest we could not do anything other than bring Marco and this incredible work of art over to meet Chris Schwarz. We were not sure who was more bowled over.  One thing was for sure: when he saw the chest it was the first time either DJ or I found Chris lost for words.

But here is the real kicker: not only is Marco the most extravagantly talented maker it has ever been my privilege to shake the hand of, not only is he cranking out incredible pieces like this day in, day out….but he is just 24 years old.  When I asked him when he had started making objects like this he replied simply ‘I can’t remember not making things like this’.

The writer T.S. Eliot had a phrase that he used for his friend, the poet Ezra Pound. Eliot called him Il Miglior Fabbro: The Master Craftsman.  I cannot think of a better phrase: although Marco is far too humble to admit it, he is already Il Miglior Fabbro.

This incredible build will be featured in several up-coming issues of Furniture and Cabinetmaking magazine and frankly I am practically salivating in anticipation. There will be a few more pictures to follow in the coming week but to get the full story lookout for the magazine…for now enjoy these few shots.

Remember:  This is Marco Terenzi’s world. We just live in it…

–  Paul Mayon

 

Going Dutch

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So, having created a landmark in bringing the English cabinetmaker’s tool chest back to the land of warm beer (we like it that way) we moved onto something a little more…petite and continental. But it was loud: The bunch of desperadoes you see above were fundamentally the loudest group of people armed with hammers I have heard in my life. Next time I am bringing Lemmy and a Marshall stack to compete (“Lemmy, please… play anything but just play it LOUD!“).   Seriously: it was like being on the range at Salisbury Plain with the 7th Armoured Brigade doing the full tilt boogie on your head.

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Thankfully the temperature only hit 28 degrees celsius (82 F) rather than the 33 degrees celsius (91 F) that we had last week. The pace remained just as furious as the previous week and we were pleased to see that all 18 had a solid carcase finished by the end of day 2. Outstanding result everyone!

And that, as they say, Is Jenga!

– Paul Mayon

 

 

 

Made in England

DSCF1295It was wonderful to see eighteen new Anarchist’s Tool Chests emerge out of Warwickshire College’s workshops yesterday. Everyone put in huge effort in the hottest week of the year to produce a great result.  On behalf of New English Workshop we would like to thank everyone who signed up for this course:  We could not have wished for a better group of people to work with and none of this could have happened without them.  Everyone without exception learned a great deal from their experience and from Chris’s diligent and thoughtful tuition. New English Workshop will run many more courses next year with Chris and other high profile woodworkers but no one can take away that everyone in the pictures you see were the very first who agreed to work with us: Thank you.

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We would also like to thank our hosts at Warwickshire College and in particular the workshop manager and tutor Jamie Ward who, time and again, went the extra mile to help students out and to keep the course running smoothly. We could not have asked for more.

Thanks to many the many toolmakers and suppliers who have been our partners and donated tools to fill the chest that Chris made on this course, we will be able to fill it, auction it off and donate the entire proceeds to Warwickshire College in order to help future aspiring woodworkers.

We would like to reserve the biggest thank you to Chris Schwarz. Not simply for the Herculean efforts he put in throughout this course but also for something bigger than that: The building of  English cabinetmakers’ tool chests of this form has probably not happened in well over a century in England.  Chris is the man who has, single-handedly, completed scholarly and diligent research into the form, who built and rebuilt the form many times, set up Lost Art Press and who wrote and published the book that has lit up the woodworking world. Now, he has completed the circle and brought this English form back to its roots. That is a significant moment in the craft of cabinetmaking in the UK and we are very grateful to Chris for his knowledge, patience, diligence and dedication. So from DJ and I: Thank you Chris.

Most of all; it was great fun. We promised it would be.

– Paul Mayon

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The Heat is On

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Apologies for the reference to a cheesy Glenn Frey pop song from 1984…Most improbably we are having the hottest week of the summer; for the first time in five years July is living up to its promise.  What this means in the workshop is that we are going hell for leather in temperatures of 80 degrees Fahrenheit and more. This is tuff stuff when you are ripping yards of stock vis ze beeg handsaw French style. Everyone has lost 5 lbs (minimum) in fluid loss alone. Behind the ever present good humour, poor Chris Schwarz is melting (it’s the result of being covered in fur…next he’ll be wearing a check shirt…).The pictures tell the rest of the story.

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On another note: My better half regards all off this ‘cabinetmaking’ (i.e. woodwork…snigger, snigger) as a thinly disguised excuse for smut.  Worryingly, I am beginning to think she is right…Despite all on the course being respectable denizens of our respective parishes, it appears that once we all get together there is nothing that we all like better than to have a serious debate on the correct technique for ‘Bishoping‘. So far we have had two complaints from the local priest that this has to stop. Sadly, church protests have gone unheeded and today we have started to nail our own bottoms…: Onward for another evening of double fisting now that Chris has kindly explained that this is American for holding a drink in either hand (DJ – I never would have guessed that…)

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– Paul Mayon

Full Steam Ahead!

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It’s great to see that production of 18 new Anarchist’s Tool Chests is in full swing here at Warwickshire College. Day one saw the students get straight into dovetailing technique: Chris has a great way of explaining each operation in short tutorial sessions that are then put into immediate practice, where questions can be asked and techniques practiced.

A good example is saw technique. Chris uses the three terms, Baby Bird, Locomotive and Hovercraft to describe how you should be sawing: hold the handle as you would a baby bird; strong enough to not let it get away, gentle enough not to crush the bird. You move the saw just as a steam locomotive’s wheels are driven and finally, when beginning the cut you hold the weight off the toe of the saw by using the lower horn to lift the toe (when starting a cut). All of this leads, ultimately to better to controlled cuts for our dovetails.

The boards may be wide but the smiles are wider!

 

Self Sufficient Marking Out

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Woodworking has a grand tradition of those involved in the craft making their own appliances, marking out and bench tools. It has long been pointed out by writers such as James Krenov, Alan Peters, Robert Wearing and Chris Schwarz that making our own tools is an end in itself; it improves our technique and ensures we have a tangible, useable result that will extend the capabilities of our workshops. What’s not to like?

This message has clearly been taken to heart by Bernard Billsberry who is one of the makers who will be joining us to make an Anarchist’s tool chest with Chris Schwarz in a few days time.  Bernard has made the beautiful dovetail marking gauges shown above from reclaimed Sapele (Entandrophragma cylindricum) and Oak (Quercus robur) and ensured that his gauges have some really nice tight dovetails themselves. They are a nice design: I really like the fact that they have a high wall to keep a marking knife snug against and that Bernard has chsoen two species with good wear properties. I am also alarmed that Bernard told me he made them to ‘speed things up’ when taking part in my ‘Dovetail Challenge’ back in March (Note to self: people actually read this stuff…).

Now I am always very pleasantly surprised at the generosity of woodworkers the world over but was blown away when Bernard let DJ and I know that, without being asked, he has made one for every person on the ATC course as a gift.  Bernard: A tip of the cap to you Sir.

– Paul Mayon