Friday, February 13, 2009

Finishing off the week the right way...

Let's see a show of hands... Who likes the idea of hand-cut dovetails? Who doesn't like the idea of putting the finish on your project?

Something tells me just as many hands were raised for the second question as were raised for the first.

Let me ask you a different question... At the age of 16, if you had the opportunity to learn how to drive a car or fly an airplane, which one would you pick? Sure, it would be great fun to know how to fly an airplane, but it isn't a skill you'd be able to use right off the bat. You'd have to have a plane handy, you probably couldn't use it to get to high school (unless you lived in Alaska), and you don't even want to think about gas prices! So the smarter choice would be to learn how to drive a car, right?


Now let's get back to the first two questions... If you had the opportunity to attend a class on learning how to make hand-cut dovetails or how to improve your finishing techniques, which one would you pick?

Be honest now.

You'd probably pick dovetails, wouldn't you? I imagine I would, too. In fact, now that I think of it, I did. The first woodworking class I ever took at Woodcraft was how to hand-cut dovetails. I was actually quite impressed with my end result - I still have those first dovetails on a shelf above my tablesaw. But I have to admit something else to you. I've never made a box - drawer, carcase, or jewelry - with hand-cut dovetails. I've always used some other method, like mitered or rabbet joints. So while I did learn some good sawing and chiseling techniques, that class didn't really give me a full return on my investment.

Now contrast that with how many projects I've put a finish on, which is pretty much all of them, and one would wonder why my first class wasn't on finishes! Taking into consideration that most new woodworkers think the hand-cut dovetail is the sign of a a true woodworker, I can see why it was my first class. But after this many years, I would like to think I'd learned my lesson a little sooner and would have picked up a finishing class a long time ago.

Well, I haven't... until now.

This weekend I get to spend about 15 hours with Jeff Jewitt and 20 other woodworkers at a seminar sponsored by the St. Louis Woodworkers Guild (I'm not just the newsletter editor, I'm also a client).

A few months ago, when we announced the seminar and the date (February 14th and 15th), I thought there would be no way of going. My wife and I don't actually celebrate Valentine's Day to any significant degree (we choose to celebrate the week before, on the 7th, which is the anniversary of our first date), but still... I thought spending the whole Valentine's Day weekend at a woodworking seminar might be pushing it.

It wasn't really a big deal, though. It isn't like I was missing out on a hand-cut dovetail seminar, right? So I quickly resigned myself to not doing anything fun in February and then didn't give it a second thought.

Jump ahead to just a few weeks ago when my wife called me from work. She had to travel out of town for a Friday/weekend in February and wanted to know what weekend might work best for our busy schedule. I quickly reminded her she couldn't travel on the weekend of the 7th because that was our dating anniversary!

(Yeah, I know how to score brownie points.)

I followed that with the Wronski feint, suggesting the following weekend was clear if she wanted to go then. She agreed that would be the best travel weekend of the month and, before she knew what hit her, I was signed up for a Finishing Seminar with Jeff Jewitt!

(You've got to keep these skills sharp, people, or they will fade away!)

Tonight, Jeff flies into town. One of the guild board members is going to pick him up and get him situated at his hotel. I'm supposed to give them a call and join them if he's up for dinner with a small group of people. It will be a good way to end one of the worst work weeks I've had in a long time and a great way to start a Woodworker's Valentine's Day Weekend!

(I'll be sure to follow this blog entry with one about the seminar.)