Saturday, April 5, 2008

That CH is actually a K

Well, it has been a while since the last update, but I have a good excuse. I've been doing actual woodworking.

This week I attended 2008's opening week of classes at Marc Adams School of Woodworking. My instructor was Chris Gochnour, the owner of the most often mis-pronounced name in woodworking. Honestly, there are more folks who know how to pronounce Tage Frid than Gochnour. Phonetically speaking, that "h" in Chris' last name is actually a "k." It's pronounced GOCK-nour....not GOTCH-nour. It probably shouldn't be that surprising, because the "CH" in his first name follows the same rule. It's pronounced KA-RIS...not CHA-RIS.

Rest assured, though, that I learned a lot more than just how to pronounce Chris' name. In this class, we built a Shaker wall clock using only hand tools. Chris provided a detailed cut list in the weeks leading up to the class, and the students brought their prepared stock. I used my jointer, planer, power miter saw, bandsaw, and tablesaw to prepare that lumber at home. However, after I arrived at MASW, the only electrical energy I used was the overhead lighting.

Using hand tools exclusively opens one's eyes to possibilities that are normally not embraced in a power tool shop. For example, trimming 1/8th of an inch off the end of a 7 inch wide panel is a no brainer with a miter saw or a crosscut sled on a tablesaw. However, working only with hand tools I decided to not use the miter plane and a shooting board and, instead, went for a full size crosscut saw. Using a panel saw to trim off an eighth of an inch is not really as difficult as it might seem, but few woodworkers are ever placed in the situation of needing to attempt it.

Likewise, the decorative molding around the doors of the clock looks like it was run across the router table, but it was actually a hand held molding plane. Honestly, those narrow wooden things that Roy Underhill is always messin' with....they actually work to cut profiles. Who knew?

At the end of the week, when I looked at the nearly finished clock, it was interesting to consider the many steps that could be completed with greater speed in a power tool shop. Routered molding would have been much faster. A hollow chisel mortiser would have made quicker work of the joinery. The bit and brace was not as fast as a drill press. Yet, the thing I come back to is the realization that the exclusive use of hand tools was not so slow as to make this project impossible to complete in 5 days. (Chris says he has taught this class near his home in Utah over the course of only 3 days.) The beauty of the class is during the 5 days, I never once needed to put on any hearing protection. A molding plane is noticeably quieter than a router screaming at 20,000 rpm.

Take note that Chris Gochnour is a great instructor. His articles in Fine Woodworking should be sufficient to give one an idea of his abilities and his communication style. But those articles never communicated one of the delightful surprises of taking Chris' class at Marc Adams' School: with Chris Gochnour a student gets VALUE. The pace of the class was never hurried or frantic, yet it never dragged. Chris was able to provide individual instruction as students progressed at varied rates. The amazing thing is that Chris Gochnour worked harder than any student. We started promptly in the morning, and we would stop each evening a little after 6:00pm. Chris would then tell everyone, "after we grab some dinner, I'll be back here by 8 o'clock for two or three hours." At least two nights during the week, I decided to go back and get some additional work done after dinner. On Monday night, when I left at 10:00 pm, Chris was still there ready to help and instruct. On Wednesday, when I was the last student out the door at 11:00 pm, I later found out that Chris didn't leave until midnight.

I'll have more to say about this clock and Chris Gochnour in the near future.

Sorry for the delay since the last blog post. I hope the folks who follow this blog didn't worry that I was lost like Baby Jessica down a well...I've just been too busy sawing, chiseling, and planing to return to the electrical world of computers and broadband connections to update the blog.

I'm glad my laptop is quiet. (It is going to take a while to work my ears back to tolerating the noise of routers and planers.)

To Chris Gochnour and the staff at Marc Adams School of Woodworking: thanks for a great week. I know that the students in our class were thrilled with the knowledge and experience we gained. It was a wonderful week.


Anonymous said...

I am jealous: sounds like a very rewarding experience. I often am amazed at the precision that I can muster with hand tools, especially for tweaking what i hogged out with something that plugs in. Plus, as you say, there is a connection to the piece when you are fine-tuning this way in the quiet of the work. The one criticism I've consistently heard of Norm Abram is that he uses too many power tools, but I guess that's why it's the "New" Yankee Workshop.

Anyway, do you have any images of the school, the class, the students, the instructor, the handtools used, the piece you created, or even the Spring where you are? That always helps us to take in the description.

Best, Tree

Jeff Skiver said...


I have to do a big ol' massive out of control post on Marc Adams' School, but I just haven't gotten around to it yet. I do always take my camera with me and get some shots, so perhaps one of these weeks where I am too busy to write anything in the blog, I could at the very least just put up a bunch of name-dropping pictures. One per day....

Monday: Marc Adams and me at MASW
Tuesday: David Marks and me at MASW
Wednesday: Michael Fortune and me at MASW
Thursday: Garrett Hack and me at MASW
Friday: David Charlesworth and me at MASW
Saturday: Tom Lie-Nielsen and me at MASW
Sunday: Chris Schwarz and me at MASW
Monday: Chris Gochnour and me at MASW that some world class name-dropping or what.

I have been lucky enough to take at least one full week class and a separate weekend class there each of the last three years. In fact I am headed back down there at the end of the month for the weekend class with the Schwarz/Lie-Nielsen duo. I've been to it before, but this year there is a dinner/round table discussion with Tom Lie-Nielsen and John Economaki hosted by Chris Schwarz on Friday, 25APR08.

Anyway, I have got to run right now, but I promise to post more about MASW and Mr. Gochnour soon.

CRAP!!!!!!!!!!!!! I just remembered I also have to file my taxes within the next week. See, Tree, I am just too busy for my own good....