August 4th 1914

WW1 german workshop

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”  George Santayana

The lights began to go out all over Europe on June 28th 1914 with the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo. By July 28th the European continent was at war and, one hundred years ago today, the darkness arrived on the shores of this island as war was declared between The British Empire and Imperial Germany.

Why am I telling you this? Well, because my other affliction apart from woodworking is early twentieth century history, the events that led to World War One and its aftermath. In particular I am interested in early aviation: It was the engineers and the woodworkers of the time that made early flight possible. The fragile airframes of the early part of the war were almost entirely made from wooden frames that were held together with wire and covered in linen. Many industries on both sides of the conflict, including the furniture trade, turned their facilities and the skills of their craftsmen over to production of these new machines of war. Companies such as HH Martyn (below) who originally made the fixtures, fittings and furniture for luxury liners suddenly became aircraft manufacturers.

HH Martyn HH Martyn02

The learning curve was brutal and lessons were paid for in the lives of aircrew lost. The forces placed upon delicate flying surfaces were not well understood and lessons on the effects of both battle damage and weather on wood, glue, metal and fabric were painstakingly learned failure by failure.

Wing fail

Even as early as 1915 the technology had begun to mature with a reduction in the woodworking skills applied to  these fast-developing machines of war and an increase in repeatable industrialised processes. Where possible many joints applied to early Royal Aircraft Factory BE2c scouts were therefore reinforced with metal brackets (shown below) – a technique used by Allied aircraft manufacturers through to the war’s end and beyond.

TVAL06

The designers emlpoyed by the Central Powers took a different route: Ever innovative, the German Roland company’s D.VI featured a highly streamlined fuselage constructed from overlapping plywood ‘planks’ in a manner similar to ‘clinker built’ boats. In contrast the Albatros Flugzeugwerke began building what were effectively early wooden monocoque structures (below).

Albatros DI

Albatros D1 2

With the recent surge in interest due to the conflict’s centenary, the activities of many woodworkers who are bringing some of these fragile and dangerous machines back to life is being recognised. They range from lone woodworkers working in a garage to huge commercial operations.

Caudwell01

Nick Caudwell in Australia (above) has spent nine years recreating a late war Sopwith Snipe from nothing but the period Sopwith drawings. Koloman Mayrhofer and Eberhard Fritsch have spent thousands of hours handcrafting the structure of an Albatros D.III (below, which flew for the first time in 2012).

mayrhofer01

Surely the most impressive of these efforts however is the operation put together by Sir Peter Jackson the film director who, due to his obsession with the period and vast resources has recreated many of the aircraft of the time through his company ‘The Vintage Aviator’ (TVAL).

Albatros DV

Mostly, the craftsmen who work at TVAL did not, like the lone builders before them, have anything other than the imperfect and often incomplete drawings of the machines of the time to go by. But, as a result of a huge effort, this endeavour is probably unique within the world aviation community due to the fact that it solely manufactures aircraft from the 1914-1918 period. TVAL work under strict Civil Aviation Authority mandates, codes and systems for their methods of construction and operation; Safety is paramount.

The TVAL staff has a great deal to be proud of; a state of the art manufacturing facility coupled with an ICAO Aircraft Manufacturing approval. These two remarkable achievements emphasize their commitment to engineering excellence and technical innovation. TVAL are using the most modern technology to reproduce the most accurate aircraft reproductions from a bygone era. I don’t often point at things outside of woodworking for furniture but the quality of the woodworking alone, as the photos show, is extremely high.

TVAL01 TVAL07 TVAL04 TVAL02

The war that began a century ago destroyed tens of millions of lives, ruined empires and bankrupted nations. Its brutal mechanisation and mass industrialisation also changed the course of art and damaged the craft tradition in many nations including that of woodworking. By 1918 aircraft 9and everything else were made to industrial processes in large scale factories rather than the workshops of 1914; The war halted any serious development of lyrical and  labour intensive design styles such as Art Nouveau as artists and designers replaced the natural forms of Art Nouveau with those that represented mechanisation and speed as Art Deco became ascendant.

Today I wanted to do two things: first to point at some of the incredible work being done by some really committed woodworkers that help us to remember the past but most importantly to remember all those who were caught up in the maelstrom of that dreadful summer a century ago.

Poppies

– Paul Mayon

Pégas Skip Tooth Coping Saw Blades

Screen shot 2014-08-02 at 19.01.05

Making an Anarchist’s Tool Chest has been described in the past as a ‘dovetailing death march’ and, with over 100 dovetails in the average chest it can feel that way to the neophyte dovetailer.

There is a lot that practice, skill and confidence can do to reduce the amount of time required to make that many hand cut joints but last week, thanks to Matthew Platt of Workshop Heaven I finally found a tool that can make a huge time difference in cutting out waste.

 

High carbon steel Pegas skip tooth blades made in Switzerland by Scies Miniatures SA are the most fabulously aggresive blades I have experienced. Not only that; they are easy to steer close to the baseline and leave a very smooth finish compared to many coping saw blades. In ‘Stuff of Nightmares’ Southern Yellow Pine they left a glassy finish that required very little chopping in to finish the joint.  Thanks to Matthew I have tried the 9, 10 and 18 ppi skip tooth blades. I tried these in both a £8.00 Axminster ‘sale time special’ frame and  a fancy pants Knew Concepts red anodised aluminium frame.  Although you could tighten the blade up considerably more in the Knew Concepts saw the blade did a great job of transforming even the bargain basement Axminster frame into something that can take minutes off dovetailing time.

Frankly, I won’t use anything else in my coping saw from now. Do your dovetailing a favour and go and buy some from Workshop Heaven. A great find. Thanks Matt.

– Paul Mayon

 

 

 

The Axeman Cometh

Follansbee

If woodworking were ruled by Norse gods (and who says it isn’t?) Peter Follansbee would be Thor (or maybe Odin with that beard…but you get the point). He doesn’t carry a hammer; he carries a hatchet. And, if you have ever spent time in one of his classes, you will know how deft and precise Peter can be with that same tool to start creating the most stunning pieces of furniture from green wood.

That he can do this in front of a crowd whilst delivering tidy patter with wit drier than  about what he is doing is all the more remarkable.

C17-carved box

So DJ and I are really thrilled to let you know that Peter will be coming to the UK in summer 2015. He will be teaching a class on making a carved oak box like the one you see above ‘vis ze beeg axe and ze carving tools’. Luscious no? The great thing is that he shows how to start with a log, create a box and lay out the most sumptuous carving patterns with the simplest of tools and without measuring anything

Follansbee Hewing

Follansbee Planing

Follansbee Laying out

Follansbee Oak Pattern

And, if we are all really good I am told Uncle Peter will even read us all bedtime stories.

follansbee-the-professor72

We will be announcing course timings and venue when we launch our new N.E.W. website in a couple of weeks. But be very sure that if you want to be part of this event you are going to have to be damned quick out of the blocks. We haven’t even advertised the course properly yet and we have already sold five places of those available (my nearest and dearest was No.1 on the list when she saw what we will be making). Are you on your marks?

Now where is my single bevel hatchet?…

– Paul Mayon

 

Il Miglior Fabbro

IMG_6909

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.

IMG_6934

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

IMG_1992

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.

IMG_1983

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.

DSCF1304_3_2_2

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

DSCF1304_3_2_2_3