Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Four Guys, Seven Days & Four Maloof Inspired Rockers

Four woodworkers came from Canada, Wisconsin, Texas and Alabama to my studio in Columbus, Georgia to build their “bucket list” rocker with me October 25-31.

Day One
They all started with 8/4 and 10/4 prepared walnut stock stacked on their Hoffman and Hammer work benches. They began by crafting coopered seats so their seat could have that “Smile”. They cut the bevels in their seat boards and reinforced them with Festool Dominos. After cutting the seat to width they cut their notches in the seat to begin the signature joinery at the schools new SawStop using a Kreg miter gauge and a cross cut sled. Two other tasks also began. Charles’ assistant Mark McGowan worked with each woodworker individually gluing up sets of laminations to make their reverse curve rocker skids. Charles demonstrated spindle making using a bandsaw, patterns, Auriou Rasps, Microplanes and scrapers of various shapes and sizes. Seven spindles have to be made for each rocker. Learning to carve and reconcile a set of spindles is the primer for carving the entire chair.

The Taste of Columbus Lunch Tour began with all the fix’ns at Country’s Bar-B-Que.

Day Two
The rasps were rasping out spindles while the coffee pot was brewing up another round on day two. Spindle making was at full tilt. I hated to slow spindle making, but progress had to be made on the rabbeting the seat joints. Each woodworker experienced rabbeting the joints on the superb Kreg Router Table. With great care in set up and with everyone understanding how to use the starter pin, the rabbets were just jumping off the table. Next, I demonstrated the process for laying out the seat bowl and removing waste at the band saw before glue-up. While each waited their turn at the shop’s Agazzani and Steel City band saws more spindle carving and skid glue-ups were taking place. Everyone got their first crack at using the set of three Festool RAS 115 grinders w/ Dust Collection we have at the school. They used the grinder to shape and waste some stock from some seat boards that would be hard to band saw unless you were Sam Maloof. Since no one decided to be a hero, they all successfully used the grinders. A long day indeed! Everyone dusted off and got a good nights sleep.

The Taste of Columbus Lunch Tour visited B. Merrell’s today for wings and good American food.

Day Three
Yes we do have glue! But first, we faired the back legs band sawn from the pattern and squared the arm and seat joint stems with a Lie-Nielsen hand plane. I love those hand tools! We cut the front profiles of the back legs at the band saws before gluing on adder blocks at the seat stems. These will be ready by afternoon for some tapering, dadoing, rounding and fitting to the seat joints. We fit the front legs to the seat joints by cutting the dados, rounding them over using router planes, sanding blocks and floats fit them to the rabbeted notch. Then we band sawed the profiles and turned them. Also more spindle making (started making 1/2” tenons) and as our friend from Wisconsin said, “Back to the rasp”! More skids, too! and Oh Yes! We glued up the seats!

The Taste of Columbus Tour wentUptown in Columbus to Minnie’s. Southern food served by ladies that call you honey and sugar and just make you feel welcome. Our woodworking friend from Ottawa really enjoyed the experience.

Day Four
We started grinding the seat bowls into the signature contours that make this a wonderful rocker. We had three going at one time while I worked on details with each woodworker. After drilling holes with the Miller Dowel Bit and driving Spax screws we were all legged up by the end of the day. Time for a major celebration! Yesssssss!

The Taste of Columbus Lunch Tour had a treat at our place to go eat lunch in Columbus for the last 60 years. Dinglewood Pharmacy. This is the home of the “Scrambled Dog”. They took pictures of it, ate them and lived to tell about the experience.
Day Five
I showed the guys how to fit, band saw and sculpt a Maloof Inspired arm. We worked at that for most of the day!
We also worked on seat, and leg refinements, spindle reconciling and gluing transitions. They were happy but tired when they scurried out at the end of the day.

The Taste of Columbus Lunch Tour enjoyed generic Mexican at El Carrizo. This was on my dime!

Day Six
Everybody worked on arms, skids, spindles, and such before starting on headrests. We fit them by mitering them at the table saw. Then cut the front back and bottom profiles before, drilling the seat and headrest mortises. A full catch-up day of woodworking!

The Taste of Columbus Lunch Tour visited Rose Hill Seafood for fried catfish, shrimp, broiled flounder and the like. My parent’s favorite!
Day Seven
Get-A Way Day! Airplanes and automobiles after an all day session on sculpting the chair. I went through every joint and how to sculpt them with several different tools. There is a secret to getting that monolithic flowing look that comes from fairing in the joints. Now they know it! We also worked on finishing sanding and recipes for that Maloof inspired finish. We took pictures, packed chairs for transporting and shared our joy over the project and experiences we have shared together.

We ate in the shop on this busy final day.

Wow! I just love teaching this chair! It is especially good in my new school facility consisting of a 500 square ft. bench room and a 1000 square ft. machine room. All with heat, AC and plenty of good light. I can also sleep in my own bed each night.

-- Charles Brock

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Maloof Inspired Rocker Kit

Yes! Yes! Yes! After months of working on the project, the Maloof Inspired Rocker Kit is now a reality. Thanks to my licensing partnership with NewcoUSA.

This past Friday I visited the production facility and viewed the parts for the first 20 rocker kits before packing and shipping to Highland Woodworking. Quality control is very important as well as a relationship with the craftsman (Barry, Keith and Donnie) making the parts for a product that bears my name. I saw the quality of the kit, joinery and the people involved first-hand. In my estimation they are all excellent. American craftsman can compete with anyone in commitment to high quality at an affordable price. Even the packing is first rate. Each part is encapsulated by a kind of "French Fit" of foam making sure your rocker parts arrive at your shop in great shape.

Selecting boards for the various parts is always a tedious task and I was thrilled to see much thought had gone into everything from color matching of seat boards to choosing grain orientation for strength and beauty. We also went through all the culled parts and we all agreed why each one was sent to the heap.

Many more woodworkers can now make their Maloof inspired rocker a reality. For example, a "father to be" can make a fine rocker for the "mother to be" without spending over two hundred hours on the project. Woodworkers, new and experienced who have been reluctant to build it from scratch using my instructional bundle will be legged up in no time and be able to spend their woodworking time carving the parts (which is great fun) instead of worrying about the seat to leg joinery. The kit will make it possible to more quickly craft a dream rocker in less time and without the worry of making mistakes executing the signature exposed joinery, also with less time and expense selecting wood and preparing stock. The beautiful coopered seat has tremendous strength from the insertion of 3 Festool Dominoes in each seat board joint allowing the woodworker to sculpt the seat thin without worry about strength. The side profiles of all seven spindles have been cut and sanded. In addition, all the laminations and transitions for the "S" curve rocker skids have been sawn ready to glue up on the form. If a part fails or even fails to meet expectations, we will send you a new one.

Another important part of the value of the kit is savings. You won't need a big and expensive 8" jointer or a Festool Domino! The expensive walnut 8/4 and 10/4 (hard to find) wood alone is $550 plus shipping.

If you need help with sculpting the parts you can even take a class this February 26-27 that will demonstrate the methods and tools utilized to make those beautiful hard and soft lines "pop" on your rocker.

Within a few weeks a non-stick form for gluing up the skids will be available for purchase as well as the "Ultimate Beeswax Finish" for your beautiful Rocker. Wow!

The kit will make a great Christmas gift that will be a prize in your family for years to come. If you would like to read more about the kit click here!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Maloof Inspired School of Woodworking: A Tour

The Maloof Inspired School of Woodworking is opening in the new studio and school facility October 25th with a Seven Day Build A Maloof Inspired Rocker Class. The studio will provide room for the woodworking publication business ("Build A Maloof Inspired Rocker/ Low Back Dining Chair with Charles Brock") to film more videos for instructional bundles without having to move to another location for filming. The school will have a home for classes without having to move up to Highland Woodworking in Atlanta for a seven day class. My shop, studio and school are now in one location which is a dream come true.

Let me take you on a tour of the facilities. The building is 1,500 square feet located on the edge of town in a new commercial park with plenty of trees and fresh air all around. There are plenty of hotels and and eateries within two miles of the school for student accommodations.

The entire facility has lots of light, high ceilings, air filtering and has split heating and air conditioning systems to provide comfort for every woodworker. The front room of the school is the bench room with five wonderful German Hofmann & Hammer student woodworking benches. Several work stages are also present for showing and working on rockers and chairs without having to get in uncomfortable positions. There is also a hospitality area for cold drinks and coffee. Soon I will have a big screen TV for viewing instructional materials and an occasional ball game while I'm at work. HA!

My workbench, hand tool wall and power tool cabinet dominates the entrance into the machine room. The new Professional SawStop is waiting to safely cut all the various chair joints students will make for their Maloof Inspired rockers, low backs and other "bucket list" projects. A heavy-duty Kreg Router Table with lift is close-by as is a drill press and a lathe. A cutt-off saw is further down the wall and all of these items are supported by dust collection.

The other machine room wall has a 14 inch bandsaw, 8 inch jointer, 20 inch Agazzani band saw and a dust collector cyclone with a muffler providing a safe and clean work environment.

One of my favorites is actually having lumber, project and chair parts storage. This replaces two storage buildings and every corner of my old 24x24 garage shop. We were supposed to have a garage for the first time in the 14 years since we moved to our current house. Immediately my wife moved her stuff into the garage from a storage building. I still can't park my truck in the garage, but neither can she park her car!

I had a Five Day Build A Maloof Inspired Low Back Dining Chair mini-class last week to test things out. A woodworker from Canada and from North Carolina came down and we just had a great and productive time shaking down the new school space.

Yesterday, I journeyed up to Highland Woodworking to pick up a few odds and ends. Some of the odds meaning since we moved I can't find my turner's double stick tape. Some of the ends being some new drill bits, some more "You Can't Ever Have Enough Clamps" clamps and a few items to improve my dust collection systems. I also got a coffee pot to welcome all who have traveled from far and near to take a class, come by to visit or see what in the heck is going on in there! When I returned I was just thrilled to see my new school/ shop and studio.

Come on down and build your Maloof Inspired Rocker with me! Escape the cold of another winter and soak up some southern hospitality (the Taste of Columbus Lunch Tour is a must!) and Maloof Inspired Woodworking at its finest. I have one bench open for the October class and one for the January Class. Call me at 706 366-3152 or email
To get more information go to the rocker class page at

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Maloof Inspired School of Woodworking: Once A Dream Now A Reality

Once a teacher and school administrator always one. I retired from teaching and administering schools over a year ago to become a full time woodworker. Ha! This is even better than my wildest dreams could muster. The "maloof Inspired School of Woodworking will open by the end of September with its first full class by the end of October.

For the last couple of years I have been holding my classes 100 miles from home at Highland Woodworking in Atlanta. Chris and Sharon Bagby, Ed, Terry and the entire group of woodworking tool specialists have been the best hosts anywhere. I would not have this expanded woodworking career if not for their support. They cumulatively have many talents but one of them is growing woodworkers. They originally hired me into their teaching faculty to teach a class I called Build A Maloof Inspired Rocker with Charles Brock.

Eventually I had my own students and struck a deal to use their classroom for my "Seven-Day Build Your Maloof Inspired Rocker" hands-on class. Students have continued to come from all over North America to make their "bucket list" rocker and take it home to finish. Everything was good except the packing of tools and being away from home for 8 days and 7 nights at a B&B in Atlanta. I'll miss my extended family at Highland Woodworking. They are tops!

My wife and I spent a year trying to sell our house to move to the Nashville, Tennessee area to be more "involved" grandparents and to open my school there. Well this economy changed everything. There are no buyers for a house in our price range so after 9 months of cleaning and showing we took it off the market and I found a great place in Columbus, GA that would provide me with 1500 square feet of production space for my woodworking DVD business and room for the Maloof Inspired School of Woodworking.

I have been busy getting the "Maloof Inspired School of Woodworking" ready for the last month. We have installed massive amounts of dedicated electrical circuits, heat and AC lighting, painted everything in light colors to reflect the light without creating glare, epoxied the floor, installed dust collection, air filters, workbenches and some new woodworking machines.

The next post will take you on a tour.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

And the Best Picture of the Year Goes to ......

A student from my January Seven Day Build Your Maloof Inspired Rocker with Charles Brock Class sent me a picture of the two Maloof Inspired rockers he has finished. You can write your own blog to go with this interesting picture. He is a Rock'NChairman and she is a Rock'NChairwoman! Eric (last name withheld to protect the dysfunctional) is a 72-year old dentist who loves building rocking chairs and life in general. His wife is undoubtedly very fond of his efforts. He kept all of us in stitches during the January class. There is no doubt he deserves the 2010 Rock'N Chairman Picture of the Year!

What a couple and what a couple of rockers!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Seven Days - Five Rockers - Five Dreams

August 3-9, I taught another group of five hopeful craftsman the art of building a Maloof Inspired Rocker. It is so exciting to see their initial enthusiasm and to see them start to believe that this project that they have wanted to do for so long is coming alive through the diligence of their hands, work and effort. As each student sees first that they can sculpt the 7 spindles and cooper a seat into an inviting "smile" they blossom into becoming the chairmaker that registering for the class promised. Each will take their rocker to their home shop and finish sculpting, sanding and finishing. Of course I am always on call to help. Click here to see their slide show.

Wood working is about wood, tools, design, methods and sometimes making a living, but it is really about people and their dreams. The picture of five guys and five rockers at the end of their seventh day doesn't tell the whole story. Everyone brought something different to the class. One man traveled 3000 miles to build a rocker for their daughter who is having their first grandchild in October. He was a shop teacher and retired educator who just drank up the opportunity. A very bright financial planner of 30 was preparing a rocker for their first child in December. Can you imagine gaining these skills at such a young age. I hate to quote the late sports announcer Curt Gowdy who would laughably say, "Well his future is ahead of him!" An electrical engineer listened intently and worked flawlessly without an awful lot of experience. A contractor from South Carolina always wanted to build a rocker like that and worked at each task in the hope they would somehow come together. Another engineer was just into all things woodworking and absorbed every detail. When the seats, joinery, legs, arms, spindles, headrest and laminated skids came together on the last day I could see and hear their pride of accomplishment.

In the process they experienced a lot of woodworking. Some learned rudimentary best practices like how to mark out and how to use a jointer. All searched for and found out how to sculpt a line as a transition between two adjacent surfaces, fit joints in curved parts and find square reference points with which to work. I knew that they would no longer approach their woodworking the same.

I love to work with each student and to help them see their dream coming together. Long after my name disappears from the conversation each of them will be a hero to their family, friends and community because they built this great rocker.

Helping them achieve their dream is what mine is all about! It doesn't get much better than this!

Monday, July 26, 2010

A Minimal Tool List

A delimma is a problem offering at least two solutions or possibilities, of which none is practically acceptable.

What tools are necessary to build a Maloof inspired rocker? It poses an interesting question and everyone that has built one has a different set of answers. This question reminds me of National Lampoons "Christmas Vacation." Sparky Grizwold and family hiked through a forrest to find the perfect huge Christmas Tree, only to realize that they didn't have a shovel, axe or anything else with which to remove it from the earth. So they dug it up with their bare hands.

You can't build my rocker with your bare hands but what would be the minimal tool list? The maximum? Why do I pose this delimma?

Some woodworker's want to know the exact tools I use for every step in the process. Some want to see what is involved in every step, then they modify everything in order to use what they have in their shop. In other words they recognize the work-arounds and modifications as they go.

I use a pretty well rounded shop for each of my chairs but then I add a few specialty tools that would not be found in a general woodworking shop. An example would be a small router plane for fitting the Maloof type leg to seat joints. Can anything else be used? Is it a necessity? I started out using a small shoulder plane which is rarely used now since I discovered the best way to clean and true the bottom of the dados was with the router plane. The shoulder plane worked but the router plane gives more consistent results. You could also use a flat rasp or file. So what do you put on the list - the best tool or the least that will work?

Size, so it's been said, matters! Some projects require a six inch jointer while others require an eight. Can you do it with a six? Yes, It's much harder. Of course the 7 inch board can be face jointed by hand.

Let me know what you think about the tool list. Should it be minimalist or the maximum? I want to give you the information you need.

Monday, June 28, 2010

As Iron Sharpens Iron, So One Man Sharpens Another

The title of this post is from Proverbs 27:17. I was reminded of this verse by a wonderful friend. He is one of those people who makes everyone who is around him a better person. I reached the end of a journey this June that has blessed me many times over and seems to have been a mutual blessing to others.

This week we had pictures taken of five rockers in a group with their owners. It was the first time I had seen all five of the rockers together. They were crafted from slabs of a huge English walnut tree full of figure and curl purchased on a wood safari through Pennsylvania at Talarico Hardwoods. The first rocker was for his wife and then one for my fellow craftsman followed by one each for three grown daughters. Seeing the chairs together with three girls who love their father and exude a love and respect for what he had produced for them was just remarkable.

These rockers were born of a relationship between myself and a woodworker who had a dream of building rockers for his entire primary family. He asked me if I would help him with make the five rockers a reality. He is one those people whose association makes you a better person. Every Tuesday night for five years we got together in my shop and worked for an hour or two on the rockers one chair at a time. We usually began each session with a prayer of thanks. The woodworking sessions and prayer have reaped many blessings. The relationship helped us get through the passing of family, illnesses and struggles with life. We celebrated new grand children and other achievements.

The picture of the first finished rocker spawned the out of the blue request for me to begin teaching "Maloof Inspired" rocker classes at Highland Woodworking. We celebrated that event together as he assisted me in the weekend seminar. From the teaching at Highland grew my instructional bundle publishing business that has helped fine woodworkers all over the world build their Maloof inspired rocker.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Sculpting Chairs Part 2 Start with the Hard Lines and a Rasp

Part 1 - "Lines, Shadows and Curves, Oh My!" contained some exercises to help train and improve your sculptor's eye. Let's put the rasp to wood in Part 2 and see what flows from the event.

I see chair sculpting in four phases:
  • Construction
  • Hard Lines
  • Soft Lines
  • Transitions
During the construction phase you make the chair's parts and join them using the band saw, table saw, lathe and other tools. Many of the hard lines are formed by this construction phase which ends with parts joined to each other. But most of these hard lines need to be transformed or sculpted so they form a flow from one part to the other. That is the topic for this article.

Where do I begin. Pick up a tool and see what happens. We are back to the fear problem unless we just jump in
and take a chance. Is everybody going to be good at it? No! There isn't a to risk in comparison to many things we endeavor to do, but a lot to gain by trying.

First find a model for comparison. In my newest "Build A Maloof Inspired" Instructional bundle I do a video segment comparing and contrasting the Maloof Inspired Low Back Dining Chair roughed out, assembled and ready to sculpt and a finished chair. In the comparison I draw what I refer to as topographical lines on the chair to show the way surfaces transition in various radii
to join other surfaces forming hard and soft lines. I used a white pencil on walnut to show these contours. For your own project a mental compare and contrast with a picture of the object you are sculpting would be of great benefit.

When I am unsure of finding my chair's shape in the roughed out parts, I prefer to sculpt my prototypes with a rasp. I use Auriou rasps and the number system I will talk about relates to them. The lower the number the more coarse the higher the number the finer. The Auriou's are hand stitched meaning their teeth are set by hand making that are totally random void of a pattern. The result is that they leave a much smoother cut which will not be furrow or tear-out if the rasp is used correctly. They also have teeth right up to and along the edge,allowing the sculptor to get into corners and crevices. They are a much harder cut on your wallet in that they average $100+ for each rasp. A set of 3 rasps I recommend will take care of a great many of your needs and is available at Highland Woodworking. There are other choices. Sam Maloof used Nicholson's patternmaker's rasp. They are the best of those not hand stitched.

The first rasps I grab are the combi flat #5 on one side #9 on the other and a big #10 cabinetmakers rasp that is curved on one side and flat on the other and comes to a point. cabinetmakers rasp. Work with how they cut on some long scrap. Use big muscles and make long sweeps focusing on holding the rasp at 45 degrees to the length of the piece of wood while pushing the rasp along the length . Do not saw with the rasp. When the cut is cleanest you have found its best working angle. Look at the rasp's teeth and push the teeth in that direction.

While making long sweeps you will be establishing a flat. When I round over a surface with a rasp, I mentally divide the surface into a series of contiguous flats and then join them with flats until they appxoximate a radius that pleases me.

Start with an arm. How do you want the outside line of the arm to flow? Is it going to provide lift is it going to have a sweep and in what direction? A way to answer this question is by deciding whether the flow for the chair from any point of view is going to be generally up and back (uplifting) or down and back, etc.

Are there lines that will flow from the front leg through the arm. Is there a line which will continue into the back leg?

Start with the big rasps, using sweeping, big muscle strokes. Work on it until it smiles at you!

Remember the best tools in your kit are patience, persistence and attitude!

Part 3 will explore the use of a grinder to transform and establish the hard lines when you know where they are and you want to get there in a hurry!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Sculpting Chairs Part 1 Lines, Shadows and Curves, Oh My!

A graduate of one of the most prestigious woodworking schools in the U.S. recently wrote me to ask for help. I am not sure how he arrived at having constructed a roughed out Maloof type rocker since they were inquiring about my bundle. They were fearful of shaping and sculpting the legs, seat, crest rail ,etc. and then faring one into the other. You know the tried and true FDR saying,"The only thing you have to fear is fear itself!" Sometimes we are afraid of failure and sometimes we are actually afraid of success. It is the old writers block, only in this case sculptor's block.

Let me qualify this as a discussion of art over engineering. The engineering qualities of the woodworker are very necessary as I have written before. This is more about freeing oneself from formula to producing what looks good to you and hopefully other observers.

Does nature or nurture make a wood sculptor? A man sat in the back of one of my Maloof Inspired Rocker Demo Classes for a day and a half before raising his hand and stating, "I can put it together but I can't shape it!" He went on to describe his totally frustrated attempts to do anything art related.

What are the human tools necessary for success as a sculptor of wood? Sight is huge but not totally necessary. If you can see the line or visualize it, you are ready to pick up the tools and sculpt. If not, you must become a student of sight. Try this activity. Most cars are automotive sculpture. Follow the hard lines (they define the edges or movement) and how they pull the eye around the car. Find the softer lines and how they cause transitions to be made from surface to surface or hard line to hard line. Make visual comparisons of two cars that are in a competing group. Observe a Camry and a Honda. This will really work well if both cars are the same color. How are the lines the same? How are they different? Observe how opposing surfaces meet. Is the line caused by the meeting of two surfaces that have different radii? What surfaces are concave? Which are convex? Where are the flat surfaces? Where are the shadows? What causes the shadows? Train your powers of observation. Now describe the lines and decide what their purposes are in the over-all design. Do the same thing with nature. Trees, leaves, flowers all have shapes, lines and surfaces in opposition. How do they work together to form the whole?

The first sentence in the previous paragraph sounds ridiculous and yes, I am sure an overstatement. Touch is huge and can help if you have a vision deficit ! When I started studying Sam Maloof's work I saw them in a museum setting and I explored Sam's chairs kinesthetically. I touched and rubbed them with my fingers every time the security guard turned his head. I was using my fingers to get the details. Just another way to program them to memory. As I sculpt I am always touching and asking myself how does it feel? Is it flat, hollow, round? How does it flow?

Get a ball of modeler's clay and form surfaces in opposition that you like and form a lines at the transition between the two. Visualize , think and feel, you are on your way!

The next post will discuss lines that are satisfying and flowing versus what is not!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Kreg Router Table & Router Lift

What do I expect out of a router table? As a chairmaker and teacher I want dependabilty and durability. The stand and table need to be heavy without being a boat anchor. Weight reduces vibration that can induce chatter in the cut. Because I take my router table with me when I teach a class, sometimes transporting it 100s of miles, the frame needs to be rigid and it has to have good casters. I want the table top and plate to be absolutely flat and I want them to stay that way because I have enough tool set-ups when I get to the class location. I don't want my router table to need adjustments, too. The fence needs to be easily secured and allow for micro adjustments without too many moving parts. It also has to have great dust control which is important for your health and happiness in the shop. Besides that, I don't expect much!

The router table is used for two very important operations. I trim or copy the back legs of my Maloof Inspired Rocker and Low Back Dining Chair using a 2" spiral router bit w/top pilot. The other operation is rounding over the inside of each leg at the joint to fit the radius of the seat 's rabbet. In this case I need a full round over without a bead. The fence helps me round over even though I round past the dados that are cut through the legs. Otherwise, without the fence the pilot could plunge into the rabbet. It's just a matter of control and this table and fence give me what I need.

The lift is the icing on the cake. The plate is heavy duty milled aluminum. It has a multiple jack screw system that makes it easy to level and machine screws to hold it to the table when you have it just right. It is built for a porter-cable router but there are adapters available for all the popular router motors from Kreg. My Bosch router motor fits tight without any movement. The real reason for the lift is adjustment. This baby comes through in several ways. There is macro adjustment with a rod that locks, unlocks and positions the router horizontally. A thumb wheel makes the micro adjustments easily and it all locks in to prevent slippage. It's all EeeZeee !

If you need a lot of stops and micro-adjusters for the fence, Kreg has thought of them all including some handy feather boards. If you want the best new thing check out there Beaded Face Frame Kit. I don't do this kind of work but after talking to people who do this system will add beaded face capability to your shop's router.

This router table and lift meets and exceeds my expectations everyday in my shop!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Where are You on the #1 thru #10 Woodworker's Continuum?

When teaching woodworking classes I can quickly tell if a woodworker's style is that of an artist or an engineer or somewhere in between. Think of it as a ten point scale or continuum with 1 being the artist and 10 being the engineer. This evaluation not only helps me understand how to help students achieve success but it has helped me with my focus on projects.

The Maloof Inspired Rocker project that I teach, like most chairs or functional furniture is evaluated in the end as how well did form meet function? The woodworker's style dictates what comes easiest and what will be the hardest to accomplish, form or function. I have had students that could sculpt beautiful lines but really struggled with the unforgiving process of creating tight structural joints. They are the artists. Being an artist is a blessing until you struggle on the engineering side of your project. Plans are seldom if scarcely used. They get in the way of what's important. It's all form (lines, curve, textures and colors) to the #1 artist. Their chair may look good but might not sit or rock safely. It may never go together.

On the other end of the woodworking continuum lives the engineer. The engineer typically has all the tools perfectly sharpened ready to follow explicit instructions using plans with precise measurements. Joinery is tight and functional and the chair will rock and support the sitter but the sculpting shows a failure to take risks to form their own curves and explore lines that would make the chair flow.

It's important that you know where you are on the continuum. If you are a 4 you are more of an artist but very close to being well-balanced. An 8 would describe a woodworker whose strong suit was following directions but short on taking artistic risks.

If you know where you would fall on the continuum you will know your strengths from which you can work from and the areas of risk on which you should work the most. The purpose is to grow at whatever you do.

I would like to think of myself as a 5 (being very well balanced) when in reality I am surely a 4 working harder at the engineering side meaning I don't like to measure or deal with identifying a radius as long as I am happy with the results. Sculpting is my preference but to teach and publish I must identify, quantify and communicate information in an organised, precise way like an engineer.

Think about it!using plans with precise measurements. Joinery is tight and functional and the chair will rock and support the sitter but the sculpting shows a failure to take risks to form their own curves and explore lines that would make the chair flow.

It's important that you know where you are on the continuum. If you are a 4 you are more of an artist but very close to being well-balanced. An 8 would describe a woodworker whose strong suit was following directions but short on taking artistic risks.

If you know where you would fall on the continuum you will know your strengths from which you can work from and the areas of risk on which you should work the most. The purpose is to grow at whatever you do.

I would like to think of myself as a 5 (being very well balanced) when in reality I am surely a 4 working harder at the engineering side meaning I don't like to measure or deal with identifying a radius as long as I am happy with the results. Sculpting is my preference but to teach and publish I must identify, quantify and communicate information in an organized, precise way like an engineer.

Think about it!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Going Pro as a Woodworker Part 5 - Getting the Tools You Need

While teaching a recent woodworking class, I was asked a question in front of the group that could sound both humorous but very relevant. How do you justify or sneak your tool purchases past your better half? The class got all fired up about the topic letting me know that we had hit hot common ground.

Well my method was to leave it in the truck, go in, hug the wife and wait for my beloved to head for her favorite chair in the bedroom so I could usher the the tool or tools past the front door on the way to the shop. Then I blend it into the general collection as quickly as possible and get rid of all incriminating packaging ASAP. You probably do something very similar. It doesn't really matter how wealthy or poor you are we all have the same problems just a different number of zeroes at the end of them. The real point is that we don't want to and can't waste money on tools that are non-productive, mediocre or promise to do a lot but don't do anything well.

My first tool was a radial arm saw. The Sears info said it would crosscut, rip, route and perform great feats of joinery. My uncle said, "Don't believe all that, if you can get one tool that does a single job well. You will have something!" The saw crosscut well if you kept visitors from leaning against the saw's table (pushed it out of square). The motor ran at one speed making it a terrible router (too slow) and dangerous for anything else.

Finally I'll get to the topic. The first thing you need to decide is what do you want to build? That is an irritating question if you don't have an answer for it, but you can't argue with the logic. You buy a tool to do a job. If you don't have a goal in mind you don't need the tool. I have seen so many woodworkers put together a model shop, every tool and I mean every tool beautifully organized and ready for building something but not much is produced. On the other hand there are woodworkers who turn out amazing work with home-made tools or very few tools. Again they specialize and the work is not about the tools but what they want to accomplish. Simply a means to an end. If you don't decide what you want to accomplish it doesn't matter what tools you collect. You will just collect tools you better not go pro you will eventually be a generalist who has gone broke.

Because of competition, price and competition will help you get what you really need for the same or less than the cost 20 years ago. Old is not necessarily better or is the newest technology the best buy. It has to be assessed on a tool to tool basis. Stay away from gimmicks and hot items. Use your money for the basics. I have a six hundred dollar dovetail jig on the shelf that I don't need because I rarely build items needing dovetails, the manual is irritating and I learned to cut them hand. That purchase was made at least 12 years ago when I was a generalist, part-time non-specialized pro.

What do you need?

You have to have a good table saw at least a better contractor's saw with 1 1/2 HP or better, standard miter slots, t-square fence and a flat solid surface (cast iron or the new granite) top. I would build a crosscut sled and buy an aftermarket miter gauge without too many bells and whistles. Don't buy the gauge advertised by the slick salesman at the show. I have buyer's remorse for several show buys in my career. SawStop technology is great if you can afford it. It is arguable that we must afford it from the side of safety.

Buy a good heavy jointer. Everything starts at the jointer. Stock must be square and you better start at the jointer. Six inch is fine but an eight inch makes good sense at today's prices. But again, What do you want to make? The helical heads and carbide cutters are great if you are going to need almost finished flat, square boards, but you are probably not. You need square boards. Don't spend the babies milk money on this!

Planers are cheap! The lunch box type for less than $500 is the way to go unless you are running flooring.

Bandsaws are important to me because I use them for ripping, resawing, cutting out patterns and parts and shaping them. I make sculptural chairs so I need a big solid saw. I bought a 20 inch 3 horse Italian beast.

Lathe purchases should be based on what you want to do. You can justify a large lathe if you turn large bowls. You can turn most furniture products with a small lathe. But again if you build bedposts you need .......!

Hand tools are where I spend most of my money. Four or Five times the amount of stationary tools. But you must again know what you want to accomplish and buy the best to a point. My chisels are a mid priced brand they are not the best Japanese steel. My rasps are the best because that is where I need the best.

Don't go cheap on education, information, safety, light, heat or AC and cleaning the air.

After all of this the best tools in your pro tool box are attitude and persistence.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Going Pro As a Woodworker Part 4 - Finding Customers

"If you build it they will come!" This is not completely true. This addition makes the statement ring true to me, "If you build it and they know about it they will come!"

Sam Maloof struggled with finding the best way to connect with customers during the early part of his career. For him to build "It," wasn't enough. He tried designer galleries for a while and had to give too much money (commissions) and control. He finally settled on a one customer at a time model while really pushing the magazine, newspaper article and book methods of getting the word out about his work.

The "humble" woodworker can't be so humble in reality. The woodworker, businessman must be more like the character in the old private detective series named Columbo. He was always asking questions , never thwarted but never rude and always "humble" as he moved in to solve the case. In the case of the humble woodworker you must find opportunity after opportunity to show, talk about and/or tell a story about your furniture. To do this you need to know your story and develop your brand before moving forward to find your real customers. In other words, Who are you? What is your story? What do you do? What is your product's value?

Consider these questions to find your customers:
  • Who are your customers? You should be able to describe them. Education, income, age, interests, vocations, dreams, needs and values. They are your target. A person recently asked me if I ever took my chairs over to a local flea market to sell. I graciously thanked him for his suggestion . He didn't know my customer.
  • Where are your customers located? I live in a city that is more concerned with price than the experiences of life. As a young woodworker making custom furniture, I competed with furniture stores in my local market. Let me tell you there is not any profit there.You have to fish in a pond with the fish you want to catch.
  • How do you get your furniture or story in front of your customer? Once you know the answer to the above and you have developed a product out of wood that you think your customer desires, then you have to place your brand in front of them. (see blog article concerning developing your brand)

I found out through bold effort that the media needs a story. They have all of this space, TV, radio, magazines and newspapers that they need to feed. I find that a press release emailed to the newspaper or magazine works well. Give them enough of an idea for a story that they can take it and make it their own.

Example: We have a turning club locally that was having a devil of a time getting press. I told the president that I would use a method I had used before to get them a story. The local paper's "Home Section" was a good fit for a story about wood turners (mostly men) wearing plaid concerned with designing and making wooden decorative items with texture, shape and color using lathes. I emailed the story idea to the home editor and she pounced on the idea. The story brought renewed interest, new members and enough orders to improve their clubs teaching mission. I have done the same thing with teaching woodworking classes. They need to print!

The media loves human stories about craftsmanship and passing skills to a new generation. They need you! (See a magazine story link in part 2 of this series that is an example of how I have used this method)

If your customer can afford your work they read and keep abreast of what is going on using the media in some form. Try the following to find your customer one, fifty, five hundred or thousands of miles away from home:
  • Establish a blog or website. I have sold my woodworking products to customers all over the world even in Moscow, Russia by utilizing the internet. Like I have said before, take or pay for high quality professional pictures of your work and post them on the web. Create your store. The world is flat on the internet and you look as big as anybody.
  • Join and link to individuals on the internet that will place you in front of your customer.
  • Send links and stories to TV stations, magazines and newspapers that can place your work and story in front of your customer.
  • Recognize key people who can get the word out for you as a customer or connector to your next target customer.
  • Study other successful woodworkers and find out their story. They can be and usually know the keys to success. This works for anything you want to do!
While you are perceived as the humble woodworker, sell, sell. sell!!!

Friday, March 5, 2010

RAS 115 is a Dream Wood Sculpting Machine

Several years ago at the Festool IWF booth, I told one of the reps what type of work I do and he said you got to try the "Termite Tool!" Full of woodworker's cynicism , I thought, Yeah! Just another grinder. I didn't try it, so I continued to shape my rocking chair seats using a grinder with a carbide wheel attachment while turning my shop's air into a dusty haze. My only alternative was to go outside on a windy day and let my neighbor deal with the dust. As usual necessity is the mother of ..... well? How about? "Change!"

I was planning my first Seven Day Build Your Maloof Inspired Rocker Class and was worried about the air quality and the mess when the 5 students started sculpting their seats in the classroom. I was afraid the air would look like a 70s Lynard Skynard concert. Festool to the rescue! Thanks to the help from the staff at Highland Woodworking and the Festool Representative Dan Durant they put together a group of three Festool RAS 115s and their 22E Dust Extractors. How did that "change" work for me?

Festool designed this baby to be used for paint removal and surface preparation. They have a wood sculptor's dream. The RAS 115 is a high-powered wonder! Armed with 24 grit Saphir paper it is the answer to sculpting and/or shaping woof furniture even indoors. It is aggressive when you want it to be because it keeps constant torque. RPM can easily be adjusted so as not to heat up the abrasive which causes clogging and will ruin your bank account. It is light weight and very controllable allowing you to feather in a curve or round-over a surface. For aggressive shaping I like to use the optional hard pad. It just gives more support when I am shaping a concave area. The soft pad comes with the grinder and I like to use it for faring in arm to back leg joints and doing finer work. The Festool "StickFix" paper comes in several varieties. The Saphir works in the most aggressive situations and has a tougher edge, while the Rubin leaves a better surface and better definition.

Where the RAS 115 really shines is in the areas of health and safety and neighborhood relations. My neighbors are no longer living under a fog of walnut dust on windy days when I sculpt rocker seats outside with my grinder. It easily hooks up to my Festool 22E Dust extractor with a non-static hose and starts and stops its operation with the grinder. I prefer the 22E to using my shop's cyclone collector because there is less noise and it picks up better. The grinder has a rotating hood or shroud that easily rotates in place via a gear built into the handle. The hood has a set of brushes that deflects the heavier dust and redirects most of the lighter dust particles into the hood. You can see the dust getting sucked in as you operate the grinder. Best of all what is left is not visibly floating in the air. It is also a lot safer than my grinder armed with the carbide grinding wheel. The wheel can easily grab clothing and instantly leave a mark. I was almost bitten and have the t-shirt with the custom ventilation to prove it.

This "change" is working for me! The students in my class were amazed also at how will it works. Several of them are now proud owner/ users. It is one of the most used tools in my shop.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Great Tool for Sanding Maloof Inspired Rocker Laminations

Some of my hobbies include playing guitar, dobro and own several other string instruments. Recently, I was surfing a supply and tool site for luthiers called Stew-Mac. I saw a tool called "The Luthier's Friend." It was designed to sand small strips of binding or wood that are used to build guitars. It is a vertically mounted drum sander, fence attachment for the drill press.

Just like the rest of you guys, I don't have enough room. My 16-32 Performax drum sander takes up valuable floor space in my shop and costs $900. As a chair maker its only use has been sanding lamination's for rocker sleds. Maybe the Luthiers Friend (it hangs on a peg hook) could sand the few laminations that needed drum sanding and free up some floor space for assembly and carving. After Googling the name of the tool I found some info about the designer and gave him a call.

Ken Picou is a fine woodworker, tool maker and designer ( in Austin, Texas. Ken sent me one to put through the paces.

The Luthier's Friend is a friend to anyone who needs to quickly sand thin strips of wood like my laminations. The operator simply sets the fence to reveal the desired thickness between the fence and the sanding drum. Don't take a big bite(just like the Performax drum sander) and pass the laminations through the opening. The base of the unit provides zero clearance with the bottom edge of the sanding drum (which is also outfitted with a roller guide on the bottom and is called a Roto-Sander). A great little dust control shroud picks up that pesky stuff. Way to go Ken you have a tool that does what it was designed to do. Save money over buying the big drum sander, and valuable space (did I mention it hangs on a peg hook).

The Roto-Sander can be used to duplicate the rocker's back legs from a template without the dangers of router table duplication with a two inch bit. Ouch!

It is available from Highland Woodworking.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

New Patterns and Topographical Carving Studies Help you Build Your Maloof Inspired Rocker

I get a thrill out of seeing the chairs built by my friends. As a life long teacher I never tire of helping others achieve success.

Recently, I have been able to open some new pages on my website ( in Chuck's Studio (named after my brother Quido) that I hope are just the beginning of new ways to utilize the technology available today to teach fine woodworking.

Last summer I was thinking about ways to update the design opportunities once a customer had acquired my instructional bundle. One of my goals was to offer a fairly open design that could be changed with alternative arm, leg spindle and headrest designs that would not alter the original rocker geometry. Woodworkers could build several different models with the same basic joinery and concepts. In other words, keeping it fresh. When my DVD bundle was introduced I had no idea how busy I was going to be with sales and woodworker support, new classes and such. Now I have finally gotten the new arm pattern tested and posted for your use.

Download the pdf onto a SD card, thumb drive or disk. Take it to a business that does wide format printing from a pdf and you have a new arm profile.

The newest item in Chuck's Studio (for member's only) is the first Topographical Carving Study (or TCS as we call it in the trade) Ha!Ha! What is this? I hear you say. It is a tool to help you see the contours of the rocker. It works just like a topographical map in concept (someone will email me and disagree I am sure) The white lines (applied with chalk on a perfectly good rocker) follow the chair's contours with a few notes written in for good measure. Actually the lines demonstrate applied current technology.

I hope you enjoy these new features and that these new tools have utility for you!

Group Rocker Build On Saw Mill Creek Forum

I have enjoyed reading the group build taking place on Saw Mill Creek Woodworker's Forum. It started on November 4, 2009 with a new post by a woodworker wanting to know if anyone new about the Maloof Inspired Rocker bundle and gave my web address. Since then a host of interested woodworkers have started their chairs utilizing the bundle and great support from each other. Every woodworker has a collection of different experiences abilities and shop tools available but they have a common dream. The mutual support helps with work-arounds, questions about how-to's, should I's and what do I do nows. They can also post pictures which you know are worth a thousand words. Check it out!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Seven Day Build Your Maloof Inspired Rocker with Charles Brock Class

On January 12th, five fine woodworkers who journeyed from across the U.S. came to Maloof Inspired Rocker School with Charles Brock at Highland Woodworking in Atlanta. It was total immersion in band sawing, joining, routing, rasping, drilling, bending, gluing and scraping walnut stock into the parts of their dream rocker. Students rotated through stations while my assistant Mark McGowan and I gave whole group and individual instruction on each step of rocker construction.

See Seven Day Class Slideshow Click Here

Highland Woodworking's great staff supplied the class with two band saws which were constantly busy shaping the seats, arms, headrests, legs and seven spindles or "spokes" as one student called them. They each spent lots of bench time carving seven spindles into a matched set with rasps and spokeshaves. There was no log jam at the machines because you could always work on spindles.

Three Festool RAS 115s were used with Festool dust extractors to enable three student at a time to sculpt the contours of their seats without choking on the dust. Students also used Festool Dominos to align and strengthen the coopered seat joints.

Students took turns sawing the notches and dados in their seat to leg joints with a SawStop Table Saw. I said, "The SawStop technology allows safe table saw instruction in a class for the first time! Everybody should have this peace of mind!"

The goals of the class were met and everyone went home with their all parts fitted and shaped. It takes approximately 150 to 200 hours to build a rocker and each had completed the initial 70 hours. They shipped their rockers home knocked down ready to glue-up, shape, scrape and finish in their shop.

A dentist from Buffalo, NY said, "Charles and Mark made the experience more than fabulous. Their info and hospitality are winners. I have been to many dental technique courses--hands on-- and taught at many. This was like the very best of them I am very glad I partook in the course, and am recommending it to some of my woodworker friends."

I am offering another Build Your Maloof Inspired Rocker Class August 3-9. The class is limited to five students and he only has two openings left. The teacher student ratio is 5 to 2 so each student can get full benefit of the instruction as they build their own dream rocker. Contact me at to inquire.

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