Greasy hands, always.
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The Rhythm of Work

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“Garden Gates,” The Woodworker magazine, August, 1947

“The man nowadays who is able to do a job at his own pace is one of the fortunate ones. Then to one he’ll either be a craftsman with a small workshop of his own or a man working at a hobby. A feeling of enjoyment so much more often accompanies work that is freed from outside control, when that control takes the shape of a nagging foreman or an impatient boss. The queer thing is that when these no longer have to be encountered, our own moods and temperaments want to take charge, as variable as the weather and just about as dependable. It is then that the craftsman has to assert himself and put the mood in its place, knowing very well that it will play high jinks with his work if he isn’t careful. Once he has really started, no matter how lazy or disinclined he may have felt, the odds are that the mood will recede, the work will catch hold of him and bring an enjoyment of its own.

“The pace and the manner are the things that count. If we fling ourselves into any job with a “Let’s get it over and done with” feeling, the chances are that we shall soon be running up against snags caused by own impatience. If we take it up at an even pace, then a regular rhythm of work develops, hand and eye are co-operating in friendly unison, and if we come up against difficulties we shall be all set to tackle them. At least they will not have been created by our own frenzied desire to get on, which is at the root of the most botched work.

“The sense of haste in the modern world is infectious. We must always be wanting to rid ourselves of the work in hand so that we can start something else. It may be because already we can visualise the new things as having more perfection than the old, or because we very quickly tire of a job and want novelty. Or it may all come round to the same thing, that we do not give ourselves utterly and wholly to the work we are doing, because that means putting that little bit of extra pressure on ourselves which is necessary for work of the very best kind. It is, I believe, an almost universal shirking and it keeps us working at second-best.

“And yet the opportunity is there for every man who knows how to handle a tool. Knowledge alone is not enough, skill alone is not enough, for the perfect use of them depends on what a man can give of himself. For when all is said and done he is not a precision tool, or a robot, or a machine, nor even—by nature—a machine minder. Something he is of all these things, but he has also that gift which is so utterly his own, his restless, eternal, questing spirit, which keeps him ever searching for beauty and everlastingly trying to create it. This is the power behind his technical capacity if he learns to harness it, the power by which he can attain to the sense of balance and good judgment which are among the first requisites of beauty. The rest will vary with the man himself. This is the great glory of our personality, that each individual touch is different, so that throughout the great ages of craftsmanship the work of each worker stood out from its fellows even if it was never stamped with his name. Nowadays the individual touch is swamped in mass production. But it still lives on in the small workshop and in the home, wherever there is a woodworker to remember that tools are excellent things, but that it is a man with a tool in his hand who is the hope of the world. He will always be the one to keep his own courage alight and that of his fellows, because he will have discovered some of the things he can do and know that one life is not long enough to find them all. Always there will be for him the perfection that lies in wait just round the corner, to reach which needs every ounce of the effort he can put out. And even in his failure he may pass on to his fellows those glimpses which the world will treasure, seeing in them its dearest hope.”

— Charles Hayward, The Woodworker magazine, 1947


Filed under: Honest Labour, Uncategorized



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brico
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"... it is a man with a tool in his hand who is the hope of the world. He will always be the one to keep his own courage alight and that of his fellows, because he will have discovered some of the things he can do..."
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More Translated Text from Hulot on the Roman Workbench

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Plate13fig4

Woodworker, designer, great cook and all-around nice guy Tom Bonamici volunteered to help translate more sections of M. Hulot’s “L’Art du Tourneur Mécanicien” (1775) that deal with the low workbench.

I have devoted lots of brainpower to this bench lately, and I have many ideas and theories I will test when I build the chairmaking and mortising jigs Hulot describes for my own low Roman workbench.

For the time being, I’m going to hold my tongue and just let you enjoy some of the interesting details unearthed by Tom’s translation.

Tom provided two versions. One is a straight translation that embraces Hulot’s flowery cadence. The second is a condensed version that gets right to the point.

— Christopher Schwarz

Description of a Saddle which serves for planing, mortising, and assembling the work.

The Figure 4, Plate 13, represents a type of bench which is named a Saddle for planing and assembling; it’s a piece of oak of 5 feet in length by 12 to 14 inches in width, and very thick, carried on four strong legs below, R, Y, X, Z, which enter through as many round holes drilled in the bottom of the Saddle, A B. The Worker has his face turned towards the head, H B, which is a big piece of softwood, such as alder, and of which the bottom forms a flat tenon which passes through a mortise in the Saddle; the upper part [of the alder head] forms a type of stepped stop, of which the steps are notched in different ways, some perpendicular and shallow, for receiving the end of flat pieces to be planed on their edge [see vertical notch just to the left of the letter B, Fig. 4, Pl. 13]; the flat steps receive pieces to be planed on their face. Other steps are notched horizontally and vertically in the form of a little spoon, for receiving the end of a baton. There are more little vertical notches next to this hollow, which can be seen in the figure [Fig. 4]. Independently of the tenon which fixes the head H, it [the head] is supported by the cross beam K, also named the transom, head, or buttress of the head, & which is supported at the end & across the Saddle, by two strong pegs of strong and binding wood, such as ash or dogwood, which pass perpendicularly across the cross beam and the Saddle.

            If the wood to be planed is big & long, one doesn’t sit on the Saddle, but one stands upright, & one places the end of the wood in the corner H K formed by the cross beam and the side of the head of the Saddle.

plate13fig10

Description of the work planing Belly.

The Worker is obliged, in planing a piece of wood, to support its end against his stomach; & so as not to hurt himself, he has in front of him a mass or block of wood that’s named the Belly.

plate31vignette3

            This Belly is a type of wooden palette of oak, a foot long, 6 inches wide, & about 1/3 of an inch thick, Pl. 13, fig. 10. The top part is cut in a roughly oval shape, F I, f G; the bottom part, F I, f k, is made in a roughly semicircular shape; & as the Turner places this Belly in front of himself, the cord of his apron passes from F to f, and by this method the Belly is held fast. In the middle of the oval, one places a block L, of softwood, round, 3 to 4 inches in diameter, by around 2 to 3 inches in thickness, made of end grain, and in the center of which has been inserted a pin l of hardwood, & which is held by a friction fit in a hole in the center of the Belly’s oval; one cuts the end of this pin flush off at the back so that it doesn’t hurt the Artist. On the face of this block, one makes a very shallow groove in the shape of a cross, which serves to hold the flat pieces to be planed, either on their face or on their edge. See Pl. 31, vignette, fig. 3, where the Turner is occupied in planing. Below figure 10, Pl. 13, we see the block shown in perspective; l, is the tenon or pin which enters in the hole in the middle of this block. The holes I, I, which are at the bottom, in the semicircle of these Bellies, serve to hang them on the wall when not in use.

plate13fig4detail

Another use of the Saddle, which is also called the Assembly Saddle, is to firmly hold the workpiece by the means of three dogs I, D, D, fig 4, Pl 13, making three sorts of poppets of well-binding wood, such as ash, which enter by tenons and mortises into the Saddle. The tenon needs to be flush to the interior face of the poppet, which are named dogs [entaille means notch, literally, but that doesn’t feel quite right in this situation. I’m using ‘dogs’], & that their arris is on the opposite side, and on the exterior of the heads of these same dogs, so that they don’t reverse themselves under the forces of working; it’s between these three dogs that one holds the work that one wishes to mortise, regardless of whether the workpieces are round or square. I suppose that one has to mortise the two back legs of a chair E E F, which are turned, we have the custom of cambering them, so that the back of the chair has recurve, & is consequently more comfortable, which we will discuss later. These two legs are therefore placed between the three blocks D, D, I, one fixes them in this state by the means of a block of wood, square & straight L, & also by a wedge of wood C, which one drives with force with an iron mallet AB, fig. 3; this block L needs to be more or less thick, depending on whether the workpiece is more or less big, & one always places the wedge C, on the side where there’s only one block I, which must by consequence be larger than the others, so that these three points of pressure always maintains parallelism between the pieces which one wishes to mortise. On the head of the block D, which is to the right, one makes a hole flared in the shape of a salt cellar, which one fills with tallow, & in which one plunges the bit of the brace from time to time, which tends to heat up in drilling, which refreshes it [the bit], & eases the friction.

            Ordinarily, one makes this Saddle 16 to 17 inches in height, so that the body of the Artist curves, and presses the brace against his stomach to make it work more quickly, finding thusly more force.

Plain Language Interpretation

Description of a Saddle which serves for planing, mortising, and assembling the work.

            The Figure 4, Plate 13, shows a type of bench which is named a Saddle for planing and assembling. It’s a piece of oak of 5 feet long, 12 to 14 inches wide, and very thick. The slab sits on four strong legs held in four drilled mortises. The worker faces the head of the saddle, HB, which is a stepped piece of softwood such as alder that’s tenoned into the slab. The head has various steps and notches, which can be used to hold flat workpieces on their faces and edges. There’s also a hollow indent, used for holding the ends of round, baton-like pieces.

            The headpiece is also supported by a full-width cross bar that’s firmly pegged across the end of the bench, using two ash or dogwood pegs. Larger work may be worked on standing up, with the end of the work positioned in the corner formed by the cross bar and the stepped headpiece.

Description of the work planing Belly.

            When planing or shaving wood, the free end of the work must be supported by the Worker’s stomach. So that the Worker doesn’t get poked, it’s best to use a Belly.

            This Belly is made of oak, one foot tall, 6 inches wide, and about a third of an inch thick – see Plate 13, figure 10. The top part is oval, and the bottom part is semicircular, forming a notch between the two forms. The worker ties the Belly on at this notch with his apron strings. A replaceable softwood block is pegged on to the center of the Belly with a friction fit, and the peg is flush-cut on the back of the Belly to ensure the worker’s comfort. This block has a shallow cross-shaped groove on its face, allowing wood to be held horizontally or vertically. The Belly’s use is shown in Plate 31, figure 3, and a detail of the block is shown in Plate 13, below figure 10. A hanging hole, I, is the final touch.

            Another use of the Saddle bench is to hold work firmly with three wooden dogs, seen at I, D, D, fig. 4, Pl. 13. The dogs are made out of a sturdy wood, like ash, and are tenoned into the bench with an off-center tenon. The face of the tenon which is flush to the face of the dog is on the side that’s towards the work, providing an arris that helps support the dog during use. The workpiece is fixed between the three dogs using a wedge and a block, L C, which are sized proportionally to the workpiece and driven home with an iron mallet. The wedge is always placed on the side with just one dog, making sure that pressure is applied evenly to the workpiece. On the head of one of the dogs, there’s a hole filled with tallow that’s used to lubricate the bit of the brace when drilling.

            The Saddle is usually 16 to 17 inches high, which allows the Worker to bend over and apply maximum pressure to the brace with his stomach.


Filed under: Roman Workbenches, Uncategorized









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brico
17 days ago
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A different approach to a shave horse
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Mad Marx: The Class Warrior

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brico
17 days ago
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30 days ago
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3 public comments
rraszews
30 days ago
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Karl Marx of the Wasteland headshotting Ayn Rand is the single most beautiful thought I have ever been gifted with.
CarlEdman
31 days ago
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So true! All of the world's problems could be solved by Marx(ists) killing more of their opponents.
Falls Church, Virginia, USA
quad
30 days ago
Your irony game is so strong.
rclatterbuck
31 days ago
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I'd watch it

Higher-level causation exists (but I wish it didn’t)

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This past Thursday, Natalie Wolchover—a math/science writer whose work has typically been outstanding—published a piece in Quanta magazine entitled “A Theory of Reality as More Than the Sum of Its Parts.”  The piece deals with recent work by Erik Hoel and his collaborators, including Giulio Tononi (Hoel’s adviser, and the founder of integrated information theory, previously critiqued on this blog).  Commenter Jim Cross asked me to expand on my thoughts about causal emergence in a blog post, so: your post, monsieur.

In their new work, Hoel and others claim to make the amazing discovery that scientific reductionism is false—or, more precisely, that there can exist “causal information” in macroscopic systems, information relevant for predicting the systems’ future behavior, that’s not reducible to causal information about the systems’ microscopic building blocks.  For more about what we’ll be discussing, see Hoel’s FQXi essay “Agent Above, Atom Below,” or better yet, his paper in Entropy, When the Map Is Better Than the Territory.  Here’s the abstract of the Entropy paper:

The causal structure of any system can be analyzed at a multitude of spatial and temporal scales. It has long been thought that while higher scale (macro) descriptions may be useful to observers, they are at best a compressed description and at worse leave out critical information and causal relationships. However, recent research applying information theory to causal analysis has shown that the causal structure of some systems can actually come into focus and be more informative at a macroscale. That is, a macroscale description of a system (a map) can be more informative than a fully detailed microscale description of the system (the territory). This has been called “causal emergence.” While causal emergence may at first seem counterintuitive, this paper grounds the phenomenon in a classic concept from information theory: Shannon’s discovery of the channel capacity. I argue that systems have a particular causal capacity, and that different descriptions of those systems take advantage of that capacity to various degrees. For some systems, only macroscale descriptions use the full causal capacity. These macroscales can either be coarse-grains, or may leave variables and states out of the model (exogenous, or “black boxed”) in various ways, which can improve the efficacy and informativeness via the same mathematical principles of how error-correcting codes take advantage of an information channel’s capacity. The causal capacity of a system can approach the channel capacity as more and different kinds of macroscales are considered. Ultimately, this provides a general framework for understanding how the causal structure of some systems cannot be fully captured by even the most detailed microscale description.

Anyway, Wolchover’s popular article quoted various researchers praising the theory of causal emergence, as well as a single inexplicably curmudgeonly skeptic—some guy who sounded like he was so off his game (or maybe just bored with debates about ‘reductionism’ versus ’emergence’?), that he couldn’t even be bothered to engage the details of what he was supposed to be commenting on.

Hoel’s ideas do not impress Scott Aaronson, a theoretical computer scientist at the University of Texas, Austin. He says causal emergence isn’t radical in its basic premise. After reading Hoel’s recent essay for the Foundational Questions Institute, “Agent Above, Atom Below” (the one that featured Romeo and Juliet), Aaronson said, “It was hard for me to find anything in the essay that the world’s most orthodox reductionist would disagree with. Yes, of course you want to pass to higher abstraction layers in order to make predictions, and to tell causal stories that are predictively useful — and the essay explains some of the reasons why.”

After the Quanta piece came out, Sean Carroll tweeted approvingly about the above paragraph, calling me a “voice of reason [yes, Sean; have I ever not been?], slapping down the idea that emergent higher levels have spooky causal powers.”  Then Sean, in turn, was criticized for that remark by Hoel and others.

Hoel in particular raised a reasonable-sounding question.  Namely, in my “curmudgeon paragraph” from Wolchover’s article, I claimed that the notion of “causal emergence,” or causality at the macro-scale, says nothing fundamentally new.  Instead it simply reiterates the usual worldview of science, according to which

  1. the universe is ultimately made of quantum fields evolving by some Hamiltonian, but
  2. if someone asks (say) “why has air travel in the US gotten so terrible?”, a useful answer is going to talk about politics or psychology or economics or history rather than the movements of quarks and leptons.

But then, Hoel asks, if there’s nothing here for the world’s most orthodox reductionist to disagree with, then how do we find Carroll and other reductionists … err, disagreeing?

I think this dilemma is actually not hard to resolve.  Faced with a claim about “causation at higher levels,” what reductionists disagree with is not the object-level claim that such causation exists (I scratched my nose because it itched, not because of the Standard Model of elementary particles).  Rather, they disagree with the meta-level claim that there’s anything shocking about such causation, anything that poses a special difficulty for the reductionist worldview that physics has held for centuries.  I.e., they consider it true both that

  1. my nose is made of subatomic particles, and its behavior is in principle fully determined (at least probabilistically) by the quantum state of those particles together with the laws governing them, and
  2. my nose itched.

At least if we leave the hard problem of consciousness out of it—that’s a separate debate—there seems to be no reason to imagine a contradiction between 1 and 2 that needs to be resolved, but “only” a vast network of intervening mechanisms to be elucidated.  So, this is how it is that reductionists can find anti-reductionist claims to be both wrong and vacuously correct at the same time.

(Incidentally, yes, quantum entanglement provides an obvious sense in which “the whole is more than the sum of its parts,” but even in quantum mechanics, the whole isn’t more than the density matrix, which is still a huge array of numbers evolving by an equation, just different numbers than one would’ve thought a priori.  For that reason, it’s not obvious what relevance, if any, QM has to reductionism versus anti-reductionism.  In any case, QM is not what Hoel invokes in his causal emergence theory.)

From reading the philosophical parts of Hoel’s papers, it was clear to me that some remarks like the above might help ward off the forehead-banging confusions that these discussions inevitably provoke.  So standard-issue crustiness is what I offered Natalie Wolchover when she asked me, not having time on short notice to go through the technical arguments.

But of course this still leaves the question: what is in the mathematical part of Hoel’s Entropy paper?  What exactly is it that the advocates of causal emergence claim provides a new argument against reductionism?


To answer that question, yesterday I (finally) read the Entropy paper all the way through.

Much like Tononi’s integrated information theory was built around a numerical measure called Φ, causal emergence is built around a different numerical quantity, this one supposed to measure the amount of “causal information” at a particular scale.  The measure is called effective information or EI, and it’s basically the mutual information between a system’s initial state sI and its final state sF, assuming a uniform distribution over sI.  Much like with Φ in IIT, computations of this EI are then used as the basis for wide-ranging philosophical claims—even though EI, like Φ, has aspects that could be criticized as arbitrary, and as not obviously connected with what we’re trying to understand.

Once again like with Φ, one of those assumptions is that of a uniform distribution over one of the variables, sI, whose relatedness we’re trying to measure.  In my IIT post, I remarked on that assumption, but I didn’t harp on it, since I didn’t see that it did serious harm, and in any case my central objection to Φ would hold regardless of which distribution we chose.  With causal emergence, by contrast, this uniformity assumption turns out to be the key to everything.

For here is the argument from the Entropy paper, for the existence of macroscopic causality that’s not reducible to causality in the underlying components.  Suppose I have a system with 8 possible states (called “microstates”), which I label 1 through 8.  And suppose the system evolves as follows: if it starts out in states 1 through 7, then it goes to state 1.  If, on the other hand, it starts in state 8, then it stays in state 8.  In such a case, it seems reasonable to “coarse-grain” the system, by lumping together initial states 1 through 7 into a single “macrostate,” call it A, and letting the initial state 8 comprise a second macrostate, call it B.

We now ask: how much information does knowing the system’s initial state tell you about its final state?  If we’re talking about microstates, and we let the system start out in a uniform distribution over microstates 1 through 8, then 7/8 of the time the system goes to state 1.  So there’s just not much information about the final state to be predicted—specifically, only 7/8×log2(8/7) + 1/8×log2(8) ≈ 0.54 bits of entropy—which, in this case, is also the mutual information between the initial and final microstates.  If, on the other hand, we’re talking about macrostates, and we let the system start in a uniform distribution over macrostates A and B, then A goes to A and B goes to B.  So knowing the initial macrostate gives us 1 full bit of information about the final state, which is more than the ~0.54 bits that looking at the microstate gave us!  Ergo reductionism is false.

Once the argument is spelled out, it’s clear that the entire thing boils down to, how shall I put this, a normalization issue.  That is: we insist on the uniform distribution over microstates when calculating microscopic EI, and we also insist on the uniform distribution over macrostates when calculating macroscopic EI, and we ignore the fact that the uniform distribution over microstates gives rise to a non-uniform distribution over macrostates, because some macrostates can be formed in more ways than others.  If we fixed this, demanding that the two distributions be compatible with each other, we’d immediately find that, surprise, knowing the complete initial microstate of a system always gives you at least as much power to predict the system’s future as knowing a macroscopic approximation to that state.  (How could it not?  For given the microstate, we could in principle compute the macroscopic approximation for ourselves, but not vice versa.)

The closest the paper comes to acknowledging the problem—i.e., that it’s all just a normalization trick—seems to be the following paragraph in the discussion section:

Another possible objection to causal emergence is that it is not natural but rather enforced upon a system via an experimenter’s application of an intervention distribution, that is, from using macro-interventions.  For formalization purposes, it is the experimenter who is the source of the intervention distribution, which reveals a causal structure that already exists.  Additionally, nature itself may intervene upon a system with statistical regularities, just like an intervention distribution.  Some of these naturally occurring input distributions may have a viable interpretation as a macroscale causal model (such as being equal to Hmax [the maximum entropy] at some particular macroscale).  In this sense, some systems may function over their inputs and outputs at a microscale or macroscale, depending on their own causal capacity and the probability distribution of some natural source of driving input.

As far as I understand it, this paragraph is saying that, for all we know, something could give rise to a uniform distribution over macrostates, so therefore that’s a valid thing to look at, even if it’s not what we get by taking a uniform distribution over microstates and then coarse-graining it.  Well, OK, but unknown interventions could give rise to many other distributions over macrostates as well.  In any case, if we’re directly comparing causal information at the microscale against causal information at the macroscale, it still seems reasonable to me to demand that in the comparison, the macro-distribution arise by coarse-graining the micro one.  But in that case, the entire argument collapses.


Despite everything I said above, the real purpose of this post is to announce that I’ve changed my mind.  I now believe that, while Hoel’s argument might be unsatisfactory, the conclusion is fundamentally correct: scientific reductionism is false.  There is higher-level causation in our universe, and it’s 100% genuine, not just a verbal sleight-of-hand.  In particular, there are causal forces that can only be understood in terms of human desires and goals, and not in terms of subatomic particles blindly bouncing around.

So what caused such a dramatic conversion?

By 2015, after decades of research and diplomacy and activism and struggle, 196 nations had finally agreed to limit their carbon dioxide emissions—and thereby to start to carve out some sort of future for the human race, one in which the oceans might rise slowly enough that we could adapt, and maybe buy enough time until new technologies were invented that changed the outlook.  Of course the Paris agreement fell far short of what was needed, but it was a start, something to build on in the coming decades.  Even in the US, long the hotbed of intransigence and denial on this issue, 69% of the public supported joining the Paris agreement, compared to a mere 13% who opposed.  Clean energy was getting cheaper by the year.  Most of the US’s largest corporations, including Google, Microsoft, Apple, Intel, Mars, Unilever, PG&E, and ExxonMobil—ExxonMobil, for godsakes—vocally supported staying in the agreement and working to cut their own carbon footprints.  All in all, there was reason to be cautiously optimistic that children born today wouldn’t live to curse their parents for having brought them into a world so close to collapse.

In order to unravel all this, in order to steer the heavy ship of destiny off the path toward averting the crisis and toward the path of existential despair, a huge number of unlikely events would need to happen in succession, as if propelled by some evil supernatural force.

Like what?  I dunno, maybe a fascist demagogue would take over the United States on a campaign based on willful cruelty, on digging up and burning dirty fuels just because and even if it makes zero economic sense, just for the fun of sticking it to liberals, or because of the urgent need to save the US coal industry, which employs fewer people than Arby’s.  Such a demagogue would have no chance of getting elected, you say?

So let’s suppose he’s up against a historically unpopular opponent.  Let’s suppose that even then, he still loses the popular vote, but somehow ekes out an Electoral College win.  Maybe he gets crucial help in winning the election from a hostile foreign power—and for some reason, pro-American nationalists are totally OK with that, even cheer it.  Even then, we’d still probably need a string of additional absurd coincidences.  Like, I dunno, maybe the fascist’s opponent has an aide who used to be married to a guy who likes sending lewd photos to minors, and investigating that guy leads the FBI to some emails that ultimately turn out to mean nothing whatsoever, but that the media hyperventilate about precisely in time to cause just enough people to vote to bring the fascist to power, thereby bringing about the end of the world.  Something like that.

It’s kind of like, you know that thing where the small population in Europe that produced Einstein and von Neumann and Erdös and Ulam and Tarski and von Karman and Polya was systematically exterminated (along with millions of other innocents) soon after it started producing such people, and the world still hasn’t fully recovered?  How many things needed to go wrong for that to happen?  Obviously you needed Hitler to be born, and to survive the trenches and assassination plots; and Hindenburg to make the fateful decision to give Hitler power.  But beyond that, the world had to sleep as Germany rebuilt its military; every last country had to turn away refugees; the UK had to shut down Jewish immigration to Palestine at exactly the right time; newspapers had to bury the story; government record-keeping had to have advanced just to the point that rounding up millions for mass murder was (barely) logistically possible; and finally, the war had to continue long enough for nearly every European country to have just enough time to ship its Jews to their deaths, before the Allies showed up to liberate mostly the ashes.

In my view, these simply aren’t the sort of outcomes that you expect from atoms blindly interacting according to the laws of physics.  These are, instead, the signatures of higher-level causation—and specifically, of a teleological force that operates in our universe to make it distinctively cruel and horrible.

Admittedly, I don’t claim to know the exact mechanism of the higher-level causation.  Maybe, as the physicist Yakir Aharonov has advocated, our universe has not only a special, low-entropy initial state at the Big Bang, but also a “postselected final state,” toward which the outcomes of quantum measurements get mysteriously “pulled”—an effect that might show up in experiments as ever-so-slight deviations from the Born rule.  And because of the postselected final state, even if the human race naïvely had only (say) a one-in-thousand chance of killing itself off, even if the paths to its destruction all involved some improbable absurdity, like an orange clown showing up from nowhere—nevertheless, the orange clown would show up.  Alternatively, maybe the higher-level causation unfolds through subtle correlations in the universe’s initial state, along the lines I sketched in my 2013 essay The Ghost in the Quantum Turing Machine.  Or maybe Erik Hoel is right after all, and it all comes down to normalization: if we looked at the uniform distribution over macrostates rather than over microstates, we’d discover that orange clowns destroying the world predominated.  Whatever the details, though, I think it can no longer be doubted that we live, not in the coldly impersonal universe that physics posited for centuries, but instead in a tragicomically evil one.

I call my theory reverse Hollywoodism, because it holds that the real world has the inverse of the typical Hollywood movie’s narrative arc.  Again and again, what we observe is that the forces of good have every possible advantage, from money to knowledge to overwhelming numerical superiority.  Yet somehow good still fumbles.  Somehow a string of improbable coincidences, or a black swan or an orange Hitler, show up at the last moment to let horribleness eke out a last-minute victory, as if the world itself had been rooting for horribleness all along.  That’s our universe.

I’m fine if you don’t believe this theory: maybe you’re congenitally more optimistic than I am (in which case, more power to you); maybe the full weight of our universe’s freakish awfulness doesn’t bear down on you as it does on me.  But I hope you’ll concede that, if nothing else, this theory is a genuinely non-reductionist one.

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brico
17 days ago
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"Reverse Hollywoodism"
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Some Interesting Lesser Used Joints

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Joints1

FIG. 1. CROSS HALVING JOINT WITH HOUSED SHOULDERS.


This is an excerpt from “The Woodworker: The Charles H. Hayward Years: Volume III” published by Lost Art Press. 

CROSS HALVING WITH HOUSED SHOULDERS

The cross-halving joint, with notched or housed shoulders (Fig. 1), is only rarely used in actual practice. In ecclesiastical woodwork it is occasionally seen on a cross, and at times (though less frequently) in outdoor woodwork framing when the timbers are fairly stout.

The cutting of the joint is shown at X. The notching (or shoulder) is never more then one-sixth of the width, and is sometimes less. Although the cross piece is slightly weakened by the shouldering, the joint is really a strong one as in gluing there is an extra hold at each side. The joint moreover is a neat one and has been used effectively for high-class joiner-made estate gates.

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FIG. 2. SADDLE JOINT FOR UPRIGHTS


SADDLE JOINT

For this Joint (Fig. 2). the name “saddle” is distinctly obvious, especially if it is turned the reverse way; the V-shaped aperture in the post fits saddlewise on the triangular projection in the notching. The joint is used to connect upright posts to sills, or to the head horizontals of similar framing.

In everyday outdoor work it may be hardly worth the additional labour, but for indoor joinery it is a good joint. It weakens the framing much less than a mortise and tenon joint, and there is little effect of shrinkage on it. Its great advantage is that the saddle (the V) keeps everything in alignment. Depth of notch in sill should not exceed one third or two-fifths of the thickness of the timber.

 

 

DOVETAILED SCRIBED OR HALVED JOINT

This (Fig. 3) is a joint which, in former days, was used in better class interior woodwork when pieces of timber had to be lengthened.

When accurately marked and cut the double dovetails ensure against any gap showing. In Fig. 4 the separate parts are shown in plan and elevation. Sections at both ends of the joint (A and B) are also indicated. From these diagrams the setting out of the joint can be followed. For general building the double dovetail involves too much work to justify its general use and it is rarely seen. In the Handicraft Centre, however, the joint has often been used as an exercise, and the home worker who has a flair for accuracy in marking and cutting would enjoy a couple of hours on it.

THREE-WAY HALF-LAP JOINT

The rather complicated three-way halved joint at Figs. 5-8 is one of the most troublesome to mark out and construct with flawless accuracy. It has always been widely used by pattern makers, chiefly for the lap-jointed arms of pulley patterns.

In former days, however, the village carpenter knew it and used it for barrow wheels. Fig. 5 shows a wheel with built up rim (the joints probably bridled). Fig. 6 shows the three arms, or spokes, lap-dovetailed to the rim and “three-way lapped”, or, as it is sometimes termed, one-third lapped, together. The separate arms cut and ready for assembling are shown at A, B, C, Fig. 7. For clearness piece C is shown reversed—that is, upside down.

If the centre joint part of Fig. 6 is drawn full size it is worth while setting out the parts. Take the width of arm as, say, 2 ins., and the thickness 1-1/2 ins. Two points may be noted as a guide.

On the width face all the lines can be set out with T square and 60 degree set square. The thickness (1-1/2 ins.) is divided into three in order to get the three planes or steps of the joint. Hence the term “one-third” lapped.

Fig. 8, in conjunction with Fig. 7, will show how the parts are assembled. The “step” of piece A is 1/2 in. thick, the edges of the cut part above being 1 in. Over this B lies at an angle. It covers the flat step of A, but leaves two little triangular gaps (x) (Fig. 8) which are later filled by the corresponding triangular steps marked on C, Fig. 8.

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FIG. 8. ORDER OF ASSEMBLY OF SPOKES OR ARMS

Piece C (shown reversed) rests at the correct angle on the halved upper face of B, the little mid-step projections fitting into the gaps (x) left on Piece A. The piece C is the same as A except for these extra triangular steps (x).

When the parts are glued it will be seen how firmly they are interlocked. Incidentally, if the reader can lay his hands on a medium-sized turnip, it is an interesting study to make a small experimental model joint with a penknife. The parts need not exceed 1 in. by 3/8 in. It is not the first time that turnips have been used for model joints.

Meghan Bates


Filed under: Charles H. Hayward at The Woodworker















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brico
56 days ago
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Brooklyn, NY
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Meet the Author: Peter Follansbee

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A few weeks ago Peter Follansbee participated in a panel discussion titled “Looking Forward, Looking Back: Traditional Crafts and Contemporary Makers” at the Fuller Craft Museum as part of the opening reception for Living Traditions: The Handwork of Plymouth CRAFT. Peter was asked an either/or question: “When you’re making things, is the process of doing that just for you or for the community?”

Feeling put on the spot, he answered: “I’m doing this ’cause that is what I want to do.”

But that’s not completely true.

“Afterwards I was thinking of their use of the word ‘community’ and through all of this woodworking, from back in my early museum days all the way up to today, I’ve met so many people who are just fabulous, and many have become lifelong friends, just great, great folks, both students and other instructors and other woodworkers.”

With community comes commonality.

“I can find commonality with people that otherwise I would walk right past them, and they would walk right past me,” Peter says. “We share nothing in common except for this interest in and this desire in making things out of wood, and that is unlike what I said on the panel discussion. That is important to me. I can’t imagine a different life. So I’ve been lucky to kind of stumble into this one, and it was all through woodworking.”

And in a way Peter did stumble into this life, in a story that involves the death of his father at a young age, splitting logs for firewood, waffling between art painting and woodworking, and an unexpected 25-mile walk to Drew Langsner’s Country Workshops  school in North Carolina.

In the end, it was the community he sought, the community that accepted him, and the community he now serves that helped form his life, which reflects a quote by William Coperthwaite on an axe handle Peter recently carved: “I want to live in a society where people are intoxicated with the joy of making things.”

‘Without Love in the Dream it will Never Come True’
The youngest of five, Peter was born in 1957 in Weymouth, Mass., a suburb of Boston. His father worked at A.J. Wilkinson & Co., “back when a hardware store was a hardware store,” Peter says. The day after he graduated high school, Peter’s father walked into Wilkinson’s and applied for a job. He worked there until he died, at the age of 51 in 1975.

A widow, Peter’s mother had to reinvent herself and started working at a law firm in Boston. As an 18-year-old, Peter says he didn’t recognize what a big deal that was for his mother during the mid-1970s. “Later, some perspective really shown a light on it.”

Peter’s father had a basement woodshop filled with Delta and Powermatic tools: a lathe, table saw, jointer, drill press, circular saw. His father built furnishings to outfit the house. “I don’t remember anyone talking about it, and I certainly didn’t think about it,” Peter says. “You just sort of took it for granted that he made stuff. You make stuff.”

Peter was into art. He took art lessons as a child and, moving from crayons and pencils to pastels and paints, he essentially majored in art in high school — by grade 10 he was studying art history and knew art school was in his future.

And it was. He attended the Massachusetts College of Art and Design for a year. And then he dropped out. “It was a lot of scruffy 20-year-olds expressing themselves and doing wild and crazy stuff,” Peter says. “I wanted to learn under-glazing and classic painting, and I had no way to put that into words or to search out how I was going to get that so I just bagged it instead. … It was sort of funny. What I was looking for in painting I ultimately found in woodworking.”

But first there was, as Peter says, a whole lot of floundering. “Keep in mind that this was the mid-70s, so there was this whole dope culture, too. And I was reasonably involved in that. I wasn’t into hard drugs, but I kept pretty high all the time. So that clouded a lot of judgment.”

Upon his father’s death, Peter inherited a basement full of tools. And because he was an artist, he began making picture frames. “I started dabbling in framing my canvases while I was painting, and little by little I started to learn more about woodworking – not in any orderly fashion. So for many years I kind of divided my time between painting and making stuff out of wood.” This included a Shaker rocking chair, with almost no instruction.

“I failed miserably,” he says.

Then, a friend showed him a copy of Fine Woodworking magazine. Peter subscribed.

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Peter’s copy of Drew Langsner’s “Country Woodcraft.”

Peter was living with his mother and their house was close to a power line. To keep trees from tangling the line, the power company came out and cut them, but also left behind what they had cut. The energy crisis had hit, and folks were burning firewood regularly. So Peter taught himself how to split wood. He also wanted to make a chair. The September 1978 issue of Fine Woodworking arrived, and in it was an advertisement for the book “Make a Chair from a Tree” by John (now Jennie) Alexander and an excerpt from Drew Langsner’s book, “Country Woodcraft,” about splitting logs. “It was aimed right at me,” Peter says.

Peter finally convinced himself his years of waffling between painting and woodworking were over – he had to choose, for the sake of focus. “So I stopped painting,” he says. “Which is a good thing.”

In 1980, Peter signed up to take a class at Country Workshops. He didn’t have a driver’s license and he had never flown – in fact, he had never been out of New England. “I got on a plane, and then two buses,” he says. “I was too shy to call Drew and say, ‘How do I get from the bus stop to your place?’ and not having any experience in rural America, I saw that his address was Marshall, N.C. The bus went to Marshall so I thought, I’ll just walk! And it was a 25-mile walk. I made it in time for dinner, and then pitched my tent and fell right asleep. It was really out of character for me, but it was one of those moments where the stars lined up and look at what it did.”

Of course, it wasn’t immediate.

“I was the worst possible student,” Peter says. “Drew will tell you. I was terrible. I was awful. Years later I would learn that Alexander would have 10, 12 students, and would watch for who was going to be the ‘destructor,’ the one you have to watch, the one who was going to ruin everything. And it was me. I was still a pothead, and I was still just a novice.”

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A coopering class at Country Workshops, around 1989.

But skill, of course, is separate from passion. “Oh man, it changed my life,” Peter says. “I flipped out, I loved it, I was just over the moon. It was great. So then I went home and made more chairs. By 1982 I was done with dope, and shortly after that I went back down to Drew’s, and then I would go twice a year every year. In 1988 I was an intern and stayed there for five months. By then I was getting serious and a little more coherent and semi-skilled.”

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A woodenware class at Country Workshops, early 1990s.

Throughout these years Peter continued to live with his mother, so his needs were few. He sold some chairs and, after learning how to make split baskets at Langsner’s, he sold those as part of a craft cooperative. “It sort of validated what I was doing,” Peter says. He realized he could make things. And people would buy them.

‘Once in a While, You get Shown the Light, in the Strangest of Places, if You Look at it Right’
In the late 1980s, Peter and Alexander were spending a week, along with some other folks, on improvements to Langsner’s facility – it was called volunteer week, and it was a way to support the school. One evening Alexander showed a series of slides of a disassembled cupboard door, then at Winterthur, made about 1660 in Braintree, Mass. “It was split out of a log, like the chair parts were, but instead of then going to a shavehorse and a drawknife, you went to a bench with a plane,” Peter says. “And then instead of boring the mortise with a brace and bit, you chopped it with a chisel. So it was similar to what we were doing with chairmaking, but different.” Only Peter shared in Alexander’s enthusiasm.

So the two began a correspondence, roping in furniture historian Robert Trent. Their letters included questions, sketches, diagrams and theories. Throughout the correspondence Alexander told Peter to refer to out-of-print books and visit the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. So, Peter did. At the time Jonathan Leo Fairbanks was curator and Ned Cooke was assistant curator.

“Those guys would let me come in stone cold off the street and study the objects in the collection,” Peter says. “I had no academic affiliation, no credentials, no references, nothing. I just showed up with a question and some curiosity, and they gave me access to stuff. It was fabulous.”

Around that time Trent was lecturing up in Boston. Alexander called Peter and said, “You’ve got to go hear Trent.” Peter called the lecture host and was told that in order to hear Trent, he’d have to buy a ticket to the entire lecture series. Peter hung up, called Alexander and said he wasn’t going to be able to go. Later that day Peter got a phone call from Trent. “He just went on a rant about what idiots they were and he put me on the list so I could go to the lecture. And that’s how I met Bob.”

As Peter’s community grew, so did his knowledge of 17th-century woodworking. In the mid-1990s Peter sneaked into a lecture by Trent at Plimoth Plantation. After the lecture a mutual friend introduced Peter to Joel Pontz, who worked at the museum. “Joel had seen a newspaper article about me,” Peter says. “I had a Delta lathe [his father’s] that I had thrown the motor away and hooked up a spring pole to it so it made for a curious article. Joel had seen that and said, ‘Wow, would you like to work here?’ And I said, ‘Yeah!’ And he said, ‘We don’t have a job for you.’”

But Pontz and Peter became friends, getting together one night a month for “shop night.”

Eventually Pontz left Plimoth, creating a space for Peter. “There was a woman running that program, called the Craft Center,” Peter says. “It was me, potters, textile artists and a few other things. I was hanging around visiting there and they said, ‘Go talk to this woman, we’ve got a part-time job [available].’ And later on she told me she went to her boss and said, ‘Who is this guy? Should we check up on him? Get references?’ And they just said, ‘Oh, Joel said he’s OK. Just hire him.’ And that woman is now my wife. I love to tell that story.”

(Peter and his wife, Maureen, married in 2003 and now have twins – Rose and Daniel.)

shop-overall_plimoth

Peter demonstrating at his 16′ x 30′ shop at Plimoth Plantation.

Peter worked as a joiner at Plimoth Plantation for 20 years. “And for probably 14 of those years, I’m making up a number but it’s close, it was the greatest job a woodworker could have,” he says. “Absolutely fabulous. Because I had to go to work every day and go in and make stuff with wood I didn’t have to pay for, and all I had to do was talk to people about it. There was almost never a deadline. I didn’t have to worry – is it going to sell? – all I had to do was make it. And talk to people. And I got to do the research behind it.”

Research involved trips to England and around the country, visiting museums and attending symposiums and lectures. “I got to hobnob with all the people who could help me learn my craft and the history of it better and just talk, talk, talk, talk,” he says. “And what woodworker doesn’t want to show you want they’re doing?”

Because the audience would change every 10 to 30 minutes, Peter became a master at capturing their attention. “You instantly find out if this joke or this trick fails and that sort of thing, and I loved to do it.” He was not taught this. But through previous demonstrations at craft fairs and practice, he quickly learned that big crowds mean big movements, but little crowds mean small movements. With families, he says, you focus on the kids.

“It was great,” he says. “It was great fun and people came from all over the world, all kinds of people – you never knew who was going to walk through the door.” One day he was making a brace for a brace and a bit, and a British couple walked up and started talking knowledgeably about tools. Turns out it was Jane Rees and Mark Rees, authors of many important books about early tools and their makers.

There were questions that were asked, repeatedly. “It got old right away and then you had to learn what to do,” Peter says. “Some people learn how to deal with it and some people don’t. And the ones who don’t are bitter, nasty little people who shouldn’t be doing that job. So the question you get the most, no matter what you’re doing is, ‘How long does it take?’ I saw co-workers find all kinds of ways to fight that question and I thought, ‘Well, that’s stupid because that’s what they want to know.’ So you tell them that and then you can move on and tell them what you want to tell them.”

In order to do this, Peter actually timed his various operations so he always knew the answer to that question. “The repetition is annoying for me, but it isn’t repetition for the people asking,” Peter says. “It’s new to them.”

Peter says he misses that part of it, talking to people. He left Plimoth in 2014. In the end, there were some difficult years involving a change of directors and general bureaucracy. In 2008, friends of Peter’s, including his then boss and his wife, were let go.

Peter wanted to leave, but he needed to make money. Now he was the sole earner in his family and he had two children to support. So he stayed, all the while building up a following through his blog, Joiner’s Notes, planning for a future in which he could make it on the outside. “I stayed for many years,” Peter says. “It took a long time.” Christopher Schwarz stepped in, helping him find teaching gigs and, through Lost Art Press, publishing “Make a Joint Stool from a Tree” with Jennie Alexander in 2012.

“Then it was just kind of floundering for a few years, and not having the nerve to pull the trigger,” Peter says. “One day I said to Maureen – our kids were then in school, they were in the second grade, going to public schools and we didn’t like that either – every day three of us go out the door to something you and I don’t believe in,” Peter says. “We should stop doing that. So we home-school our kids, and I quit my job.”

Immediately following a blog post about leaving Plimoth, Megan Fitzpatrick, editor of Popular Woodworking Magazine, offered Peter a column. “It was really a godsend,” Peter says. “I greatly appreciated it.” And then Marc Adams called, asking him to teach. He teamed up with Lie-Nielsen Toolworks (check out his DVDs for sale here) and Roy Underhill. Peter says he booked too many teaching gigs that first year, worried about income.

After years of giving to the woodworking community – and the general public – the woodworking community gave back.

‘Hang it up and See what Tomorrow Brings’
Teaching, Peter says, is totally different from demonstrating. “I don’t get to do as much woodworking when I’m teaching. At the old job, all the attention was on me.” He laughs. “And I like teaching. It’s fun, it’s interesting, you get that group dynamic and some groups are duds and some groups are really great. A lot of students have become friends of mine.”

These days, Peter is still waiting for a “typical” year. He spent the last year building his shop. “I read on the Web one day, ‘He’s not doing much woodworking these days,’ and I thought, ‘I’m building this freaking shop by hand! That’s all woodworking!’ But what they meant was that I wasn’t doing much furniture, and I hadn’t.”

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Parts to a headboard of a bedstead Peter is currently building for a client.

Now that his shop is built, Peter’s hoping for some normalcy. “If I’m not traveling and I’m not teaching, it’s going to be out in the shop building things,” he says. “I have some custom work that I’m way behind on, and I’m starting to get going on that now. So I have some big carved chairs, and a bedstead and a chest of drawers to make. I’m trying to get in a rhythm that I used to use at the museum. In the morning, I’ll split logs and make boards. I’ll do real physical work for a few hours, and then kind of switch gears and maybe do joinery and carving later in the day. I’m just trying to pace myself so I’m not beating myself up. I usually work several projects at a time, and try to leapfrog them to the finish line altogether.”

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The river in Peter’s backyard.

Peter and his family live in a little town near Plymouth, Mass., on the way to Cape Cod, on a small piece of property, maybe three-quarters of an acre. In the backyard is a river with a marsh behind it.

At the same panel discussion mentioned above, someone asked Peter if he’s more interested in the process or the finished product. Peter said, “Oh no, I can’t stand the finished product because when I finish them I don’t want to see them again.” Tim Manney, a chairmaker and toolmaker in Maine, was in the audience and called his bluff. “You’re lying,” Manney said. “Your house is full of your stuff!”

 

Peter admits that there may be two or three pieces of furniture in his house that he didn’t make.

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A new kitchen cabinet panel, in process.

When Maureen, Peter’s wife, was pregnant she ended up on bed rest for 11 weeks. While she was upstairs, Peter spent 11 weeks at Plimoth, building and carving new fronts to their kitchen cabinets. “So she came down after 11 weeks and saw that,” he says. “She had never seen it. There are probably seven or eight kitchen cabinets that are all carved.”

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Peter’s shop.

 

Building his shop was a lifelong dream. It’s 12’ x 16’ with 15 windows. “It’s like being outdoors when I’m indoors,” Peter says. “It’s where I want to be.”

A friend helped. He’d come by Peter’s for one or two days a week, lay out some stuff, show Peter how to cut it, and then leave. “I’d cut for a few days and then I’d call him up and say, ‘OK, I’m ready for the next step….’ I don’t want to do it again.”

He lost some woodworking time this winter, due to not having a stove. But a former student gave him a little stove and this summer he plans to hook it up.

In addition to building and teaching, Peter enjoys making spoons. “Spoons are taking over the world you know,” he says. “And why is that? Why are they making all these spoons?” At England’s Spoonfest last year Peter served as the keynote speaker for the opening night. “I told them all, ‘We checked and that’s enough spoons. We don’t need to make anymore.’ And they started to boo and throw things at me.”

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A sampling of Peter’s spoons.

Peter began making spoons in the 1980s. In 1988, during his intern year, he took a course taught by Jogge Sundqvist and was hooked. While at Plimoth he carved spoons that “were really ugly,” 17th-century English spoons, “and there’s nothing interesting about them.” Throughout the years Peter would carve spoons on his own and post pictures on his blog. One day somebody asked if he would sell one. “The thought never occurred to me,” Peter says. “I couldn’t imagine someone would buy one of those. I used to make them, and use them at home and give them as gifts.”

So why is everyone making spoons? Peter says he carves them because the ones he likes best form a natural, crooked shape – the curve of the spoon mimics the curve of the tree. “They’re a nice design challenge, and a functional sculpture sort of thing, a real good exercise in knife work and just an all-around interesting item.” But he says he’s also carving them because he wants more handmade stuff in the world.

“I think our culture has moved so far away, other than Lost Art Press readers and readers of these various blogs and things, just in general, our culture is really pretty far removed from that.”

One of Peter’s big influences in woodworking is Daniel O’Hagan, a man he met through Langsner many years ago. “I remember Daniel once writing to me and using the phrase ‘plastic and confused culture.’” O’Hagan lived outside of culture, Peter says. In 1958 he went back to the land and moved to eastern Pennsylvania. He built a log house with no electricity or running water, and he and his wife lived that way until he died in 2000.

“I don’t necessarily want to live that way,” Peter says. “I like running water. I like having a computer that connects me to all around the world and stuff but I like to sort of blend some of these two mindsets. So it’s places like Drew’s and Daniel’s where I first was in a handmade building filled with handmade stuff. And it speaks to me, there’s something about it.”

Peter’s own home is now filled with woodenware and wooden furniture. Maureen is a potter and knitter (you can view, and buy, her fiber arts here), so they have many handmade items in their house. “That’s important to me,” Peter says. “Especially once we had the kids. People would say, ‘Do you want the kids to do what you do?’ and no. I don’t want them to do what I do. I want them to know that you can make things with your hands, that people make things, but I want them to be happy. I want them to do what makes them happy. I’m doing what makes me happy but that doesn’t mean that’s what would make them happy.”

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A red-breasted merganser, taking off on Peter’s property.

Peter doesn’t subscribe to American culture. He hasn’t owned a TV in years. He enjoys bird watching. He likes to be out in nature. He likes to be home but recognizes the joy in traveling. “There aren’t many other parts of my life,” he says. “I can sit here if I had the time, I could just sit here and just watch the river as the tide comes in and goes out, comes in and goes out, and just keeps changing. I’m fine with that. That could be my entertainment. I don’t really need entertainment, but that could be my amusement. It could hold my attention.”

Peter’s not entirely sure what his future will look like but for now it’s something along the lines of “broke but happy.” “I wake up every morning perfectly happy, but I do need to generate income better than I do,” he says. In order to spur this along, he’s planning on teaching students in his home shop. He can only fit one at a time (if teaching spoon carving classes, two). He already has a few folks on schedule. “And if that works, that will help me because I’m home,” he says. “There isn’t a lot of demand for my carved oak furniture. There’s some, but not enough to pay all the bills. So there has to be teaching. I have a new book under way with Chris and Megan [through Lost Art Press], so those bits and pieces will hopefully add up to something. I want to stay healthy, so I can keep going. That’s as far ahead as I’ve looked.”

A while ago Peter did a piece for Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. They had the bottom half of a two-part cabinet made in about 1680 and they hired Peter to make the conjectural top. Their conservation department guided him in coloring it. Color is intriguing to Peter. On a trip to Sweden he visited the Nordic Museum and spent six hours studying thousands of pieces in the museum’s storehouse. “It was just stunning, beautiful, beautiful stuff all highly decorated, almost always painted, very reminiscent of what we often term, inappropriately, Pennsylvania Dutch furniture.”

And while he doesn’t plan to veer too far from carved oak furniture – he’s invested, now, and he’s good at it – he still wishes for more hours in the day. “There’s a fellow from Hungary who wrote to me from his blog whose building chests out of riven beech with tools that we’ve never seen and making them all by hand the way they were made 500 years ago,” Peter says. “I’d love to go and see his work and see him do it and do it with him.”

‘Inspiration, Move me Brightly’
Now that it’s spring, and the birds’ songs come early, Peter finds himself in his shop quite early. He says he hopes to hit his stride. And although he’s currently figuring things out, he still considers himself extremely lucky. There’s community behind that sentiment.

“I try to remember to always thank my students in [my classes],” he says. “I try to make them understand that I appreciate them dedicating the time and the resources to come and take that class because if they don’t do it, they won’t hire me anymore if I can’t get students. So I always appreciate that. I had classes two years in a row where it was one weekend a month for five months. They laid out a lot of cash to do that, they set out a lot of time, and that’s the thing nobody has any to give up. Everybody is running low on time, so I always appreciate that kind of stuff.”

There’s community behind most of Peter’s sentiments, even if he failed to acknowledge that at the panel discussion a few weeks ago. And for those looking in, the flip side is more than apparent: Both the general public (visitors to Plimoth) and the woodworking community have benefited greatly from Peter, who is incredibly smart yet humble, honest and easy-going, a skilled teacher, demonstrator and entertainer, and a man who has surrounded himself with beautiful things, most of his own making. That society of people who is intoxicated with the joy of making things? We’re closer, because of him.

— Kara Gebhart Uhl


Filed under: Make a Joint Stool from a Tree, Uncategorized



























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brico
57 days ago
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True american hero
Brooklyn, NY
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