Thursday, December 31, 2009

Going Pro as a Woodworker Part 2 - Is It for You? The Thrill of It All

The life of a professional woodworker/ furniture maker is a dream to most 9 to 5'ers. Having been one for thirty years I knew what I wanted to do once I earned my retirement. There is not a day that I don't count my wonderful blessings personally and professionally.

Maslow's revered Hierarchy of Needs has a top level called self actualization. As a productive, professional woodworker I honestly feel I have arrived at this level. I am who I am supposed to be, doing what I do best for people who value my work. More people should be blessed to achieve this level of fulfilment. From the hymn ,"I was lost but now I'm found." I get to work with what I have to make one of God's most beautiful creations into something of form and function. The ideas flow when you work freely with your two hands and are fortunate enough to do it with a sense of trust and not desperation.

When you are confident about your craft and your personal story, I have found that people will listen and ask questions of you concerning every aspect of what you do. You have to mention to people what you do. Very few people make a living as a chair maker. When I am asked about my "job" or volunteer people usually want to know more or they want to tell you about a piece they have from Aunt Gerdie that needs repair, etc. The thrill is you are the rare person in most settings and people will want to connect with you. Connecting with people over something you are passionate about is a thrill.

There is also a sense of permanence in creating furniture for clients. I run into people all the time that I made a bed for in the eighties or have a table that I designed for them. When they still own it and value it you are a success. Well-made furniture transcends generations. Most of my pieces will have life after I am gone. I have wondered about the hands and spirit of previous furniture makers whose worked I have repaired. This connection with fellow furniture makers from other generations is another thrill.

For you to survive financially, the customer must view you as an artist. First you have to be confident that you are an artist. It is not done through calling yourself an artist. It is achieved by asking for and receiving a very good wage for your work. Sam Maloof called himself a "woodworker." Everyone else including his business partners supported him as an artist. The price of his work showed he was more than a woodworker. Your work shouldn't be priced as a starving artist. If it is you will starve. It's a thrill to be able to pay the bills with money made from creating something of value.

Giving each piece your best is the only way to success. I learned a lesson with my first rocker commission. I had asked for (with knees shaking) and received an artist's price for the rocker. I worked and sweated over every detail. My wife kept saying, "Why aren't you finished with that chair?" My answer was that it was not my best yet. When I finished and the customer picked it up they were over-joyed with my work. A few nights later, I heard a knock on my shop door. The customer identified himself and I opened up and was surprised to see him thinking surely something was wrong with the rocker. He said he and his wife just loved the rocker and felt like it was art worth even more than they paid. I received a 20% tip or bonus for the chair and the other chairs he ordered. The blessings from doing your best never stop. Actually your best is really something excellent.

Doing your best and being recognized for it is the thrill of it all!

Part 3 of Going Pro - Is It for You? Will deal with how do you advertise and build a market for your art.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Going Pro as a Woodworker: Part 1 - Is it for you? The Dark Side

I was traveling before six in the morning recently, on my way to do a personal appearance as a woodworker. There was a big chance that I would hit snow driving north in the early hours. Why was I up and about at that time, driving into who knows what? As dawn broke I saw other people, grim faced, headed to work. This caused me to think about some of the other jobs to which I had trudged, day after day, five days a week. Who do I have to answer to now? What makes me do this? Is it worthwhile?

On 11 AM on Christmas Day past, celebration was interrupted with loading a rocker into an SUV to make a delivery to a local bank president's family. I had worked nonstop for two to three weeks to finish the rocker as a Christmas present from a father to a daughter's family. Everybody else was Christmas shopping, wrapping presents, cooking Christmas goodies, but I was in the shop with rasps, scrapers and sandpaper in hand. The muscle memory is easy when you are constantly moving your hand and arm back and forth, back and forth, forth and back, on and on. Why? Why? Why? When I finish this rocker, fortunately I get to craft another one and do this all over again!

My hands have grown gloves. They are rough. They are a purple-lish brown all the time from the walnut. I've got a scar running across my palm and an index finger that always feels like it has an electrical current running through it as a reminder of what can happen while working half asleep.

It's all about your point of view at the time. You have to be able see the big picture, understand what motivates you, knowing that nothing worthwhile comes without sacrifice, and that the possibility to achieve only comes when we complete the drill. You also have to work hard at the task at hand, be it sanding, measuring, coming up with a work around, paying the bills, working on the website or planning to connect with someone with enough money and interest to pay you to build one.

Sounds like a great life! Huh? It is not for everybody. I am not an overnight success with the DVD bundle. A good friend explained it to me recently. "You learned your trade one success and one failure at a time for thirty years building furniture. You worked your plan to finish raising a family as a full-time educator while you worked nights building furniture commissions for clients. You retired from one career at the same time you finished the DVD, book and pattern bundle to go with teaching sculptured rocker making at Highland Woodworking. You paid your dues many times over. You finished the drill!"

Sam Maloof told hundreds of woodworkers and want-to-be pros at his workshops that with all his talent, making a living was hard. He said the mailman would eagerly celebrate with him with the coming of a check and despair at delivering the bills. If you have mouths to feed it all becomes real very fast. You have to have support. Meaning there has got to be someone willing to carry your water while you work your plan.

Can you finish the drill? The next post will explain why finishing the drill can be worth it to you!

Part 2 - Is it for You? The Thrill of it All!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Maloof Inspired Rocker Russian Style

Thomas Friedman's book "The World is Flat" describes the world's new reality. The computer and the Internet have made it possible for people to connect via virtual bridges of interest anywhere on the globe.

Woodworkers of the world unite! Before my Maloof Inspired Rocker bundle became available with the DVD through Highland Woodworking, I sold a small booklet and the full-size patterns on my website Each morning I would open my email and see if I had any new purchases from my PayPal account. There had been many sales to Canada and even Sweden, but one morning as I wiped my eyes I saw a name written in Russian. Vladimir Parfenov eagerly agreed to pay the cost of the extra shipping to get the package to Moscow, Russia. To me this was very special!

I was a middle school student during the Cold War. We lived in fear of nuclear Holocaust. Neighbors built fall-out shelters and we practiced getting under our desks at school in case of a blast. This was kind of funny to me because the desktop was wood and I figured would only accelerate our destruction. The Cuban Missile Crisis worsened our fears to the point that twelve or thirteen year old boys were talking about "the end" rather than girls and Mickey Mantle.

Now I am sixty years old and I have connected with Vladimir in Russia and he anxiously wants to build my rocker. He told me he was a beginning carpenter and was very motivated to achieve. His emails are either translated through software or he speaks and writes some English. On the fourth of July, he emailed me saying" Happy Independence Day!" This was a great moment for me. I learned that the world (as Thomas Friedman said) is virtually flat. People can connect and unite to build those bridges through common interest threads like woodworking. Vladimir and myself are probably more alike than different. How alike I may never know.

Yesterday I received the Vladimir's pictures of his finished chair and thanked me for my help.

Read the next issue of Highland Woodworking's WoodNews eMagazine to learn of Vladimir's story. I have asked him for pictures of his shop, tools and to find out about his experiences as a woodworker. The opportunity to see how a Russian woodworker pursues their love of the art will be I hope enlightening.

I was thrilled to have my rocker patterns reach around the globe, but best of all to have an opportunity to make a friend in Russia. Woodworkers and the Internet have helped us join hands and be "Comrades" after all this time.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Whiteside Router Bits Has Become A New Website Sponsor

Please welcome Whiteside Tool Co. as a website sponsor. This is great news because Whiteside reconizes that website learning communities will be a leading resource for the woodworkers who will become the 21st century Maloofs and Krenovs.

Whiteside was rated # 1 router bit manufacturer by Fine Woodworking Magazine in their last two study/comparisons. Best overall in 1999 and Best overall and Best Value last year. I have always preferred Whiteside because of quality. When you hold it in your hand you can feel its heft and see the great finish. Because of the generous micro grain carbide cutters they can be sharpened multiple times. This makes most bits a life-time tool.

They have made a real commitment to provide the router bits needed by sculptured chairmakers. The seat to leg joinery featured in "Build A Maloof Inspired Rocker," requires a 1/2" rabbet bit that is 1 1/2" in diameter to rabbet the seat joint and a 3/4" roundover bit to make the mating leg joint. I recommend the Whiteside #1922 rabbet/ slot cutter and the #2010 3/4" roundover.

They soon will have the 5 degree rabbet bit set and the 1" rabbet used to make Sam's joint. As soon as they are available I will demo them in Chuck's Studio so you can have a choice in methods and tools for your rocker. I will also demo them at my Highland Woodworking seminar in November.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Maloof Inspired Rocker DVD, Patterns and Book Now Available

Thanks to your interest, woodworkers across the U.S., Canada, Sweden and Russia are engaged in building the rocker from the original full-size patterns and eBook bundle. This interest led me to develop a comprehensive bundle of instructional materials that will be available for shipment in August to make your Maloof Inspired rocker a reality. Titled “Build a Maloof Inspired Rocker,” the bundle includes a DVD, book, full size patterns and professional online support. My wish is each of these companion pieces will work together to make your rocker a success.

DVD Music Row Video of Nashville, Tennessee shot over twelve hours of rocker building video. The goal was to teach the process of building the chair and at the same time keep it informative, moving and entertaining. The videographer rarely shot from a tripod. He was moving all around the action. My thought was tight shots let you see the process and connect to the main idea which is, “I can do that!” Music and voice-overs were placed to keep the instruction moving and the audience connected while bandsawing, turning, shaping and such are in progress. Text boxes and graphics fine tune each segment so greater knowledge and confidence are gained from the viewing experience. The final product is a one hour forty three minute experience that will give you what you need to build the rocker of your woodworking dreams. The video teaches: 1) Assembling and carving the coopered seat 2) Bandsawing and shaping the legs, arms, headrest and spindles 3) Attaching the legs to the seat using the signature bridal joinery 4) Shaping hard and soft lines 5) Laminating the flowing rockers 6) Assembling the rocker

BOOK There are some concepts and information that is just better to have in written form. That is the basic idea of the companion book. I wrote a narrative for each part of the process shown in the video. My insights about each step, along with alternative methods and tool choices can help you adapt the work to your shop’s resources. Some of the resources in the book are sections on 1) Stock selection 2)Making shop patterns from the paper patterns 3)Do’s and don’ts 4)Tool lists 5)Rocker design 6)Pictures of the chair to use as carving models 7)Finishing Sanding 8) My thoughts on the Life and work of Sam Maloof
Full Size Patterns
Two Sheets 24”X 48”
Full size patterns allow every woodworker a chance to build the rocker. It simplifies the construction because the geometry is built into the pattern design. The patterns have valuable information printed on them to help you identify key areas of importance. They are printed on heavy paper and should be glued or transferred to appropriate pattern material for long term shop use (as explained in the book).
Professional On-line Support
The new website will go live in August. Its mission is to provide online resources for the community of woodworkers building this style of rocker. There are public and membership areas of the site. The public portion is devoted to Student Galleries, Instructional Product Information, workshop and demonstration schedules, etc.
The best part is Chuck’s Workshop, which is a membership section. The workshop contains a rocker builder’s forum, Q&A’s, Updates on new methods and materials, Tool Reviews, Recommendations and Demos, Tool Store linked to dealer’s websites (Every dealer will share in my recommendations), Resources for buying wood, Pattern alternatives (new arm, headrest or leg profiles/ download and print at Kinko’s), Videos on topics of interest to builders, etc.
Owners of the bundle qualify to apply online for membership, using the unique serial number in each bundle. There is a $20 membership fee which helps to pay for this website.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Lee Fox's Maloof Inspired Rocker

The biggest thrill for me as a teacher is to share the joy of building this rocker. When a student finishes their first chair, it brings back that feeling I had for my first one. Matter of fact, everyone of them gives you a feeling of great accomplishment and blessing. Texan Lee Fox was kind enough to share his pictures and inspiring story. - Charles Brock

For several years, I had the dream of building a Maloof-style rocker, but I did not know where or how to start. I searched the internet on several occasions to see if I could find a book or some plans to get me started. I was unsuccessful until early last year when I found out about a class being offered by Charles Brock at Highland Hardware in July of 2008. I immediately signed up for the seminar and made my way from Texas to Atlanta. At the seminar, I bought a set of plans and took many pictures and notes. This gave me the confidence to attempt the building of my own chair.
After I returned home, I found two large slabs of 8/4 walnut at a local sawmill. Somewhere in those slabs of walnut I found the parts to build my Maloof- style rocker. Without the seminar and the plans, I would not have been able to build this chair.

If you want to build this chair, I would recommend several things: First, attend the seminar. Take lots of pictures and notes and ask lots of questions about anything that you do not understand. I found Mr. Brock to be more than willing to answer my questions and share his knowledge and experience with me. I also would highly recommend that you practice all of the joints in this chair before you cut the final joints. The joints are not extremely difficult, but they are unique and should not be attempted until you have practiced them in some scrap wood first. Refer to your pictures often and study them carefully. Finally, take your time and do not get in a hurry. You are building a heirloom and you must give it the proper time it deserves. Think through each step and plan your execution carefully. Concentrate and work purposefully. If you do these things you will not be disappointed.