Sunday, April 15, 2012

I Didn't Faint and No One Fell Asleep

I've spent the last four months building my workbench and getting ready for a presentation that I gave yesterday for the York County Heritage Trust on 18th-century woodworking tools and joinery.

In preparation, I read five books (for the first or second time), studied page after page on the Colonial Williamsburg website and many other sites, and watched the Colonial Williamsburg DVD on cabinetmaking.

I took tons of notes, whittled them down to the most interesting bits, and wrote and refined an outline until it was skeletal.  I practiced my lines, sharpened all my tools, made various joints, and tried not to panic.
My workbench, Greta,
worked splendidly.

And the presentation went surprisingly well.

Did I forget to mention some things? Yep. Was I nervous? Only in the beginning. Did I mess up? You bet. I referred to my plow plane as a grooving plane, and wish I had set some of my planes to take thicker shavings. All of mine, except for the scrub, were set to shave whispers of wood which isn't very impressive to the guys in the back row.

There were 75-80 people in attendance. And for an hour and 20 minutes, everyone seemed genuinely engaged.

What I took away from all this is that working with hand tools is extremely interesting to many folks—both woodworkers and non-woodworkers—and it's our responsibility, even if it's outside our comfort zone, to be open to opportunities to share what we know.

I demonstrated the difference between
a plastic-handled "saw" from the home
center and a well-sharpened antique saw.
It was exciting to see a few young people in the audience. One 14-year-old boy stuck around for quite awhile afterwards to listen to the other woodworkers in attendance talk about the craft.

What I hope people took away with them was how easy, fast, and fun it is to use these tools, how the tools are simple yet refined (not crude implements), and how closely connected we are to early woodworkers.

There was one other book I read a few months ago: Kruschev's Shoe, by Roy Underhill—a fascinating book that offers ways to captivate an audience and become an engaging speaker.  It was enormously helpful.

One powerful phrase that stuck with me was the very last line in the book: Taking your turn to lead is part of becoming fully human, as beneath your feet you feel the planet tilting in its path, shifted just a bit in its course by your courage and skill.

Thanks for the shot of confidence, Roy.


jarrod said...

great post
i really like the quote at the end. good for you. education/sharing is a very important part of what we do.

Anonymous said...

If you are planing with the wood grain you are grooving right?

Kari Hultman said...

Thanks, Jarrod. :o)

Anon, that's exactly right. I had planned to compare my antique plow with my new plow but talked about them separately instead. So there's no way anyone could make the connection. It's minor, I know. Just trying to sharpen my game for next time.

Badger Woodworks said...

What were the five books out of curiosity?

Badger Woodworks said...

Never mind, I see the pictures now.

I was reading it in a Google Reader.

Joe Cottonwood said...

It gets easier! Next time, fewer butterflies.
Thanks for sharing your knowledge and - more important - your enthusiasm.

Anonymous said...

Frank Eastman said: I know exactly how you feel,Kari. I had the same butterflys when I started my radio show. It's fear of the unknown, I think. After a few months on the air, it became easier and easier. After a year, it was normal routine and I had no anxioty at all. Being well prepared is the best way to attack the situation - we Virgos are very good at preparing to the minutest details. So, WELL DONE! You're on your way!

David Barron said...

I have have to say that is one fine and solid workbench.

Jamie Bacon said...

Great job Kari! Very cool of you to share your knowledge and help preserve/promote the craft. I'd venture to say that must have been one of the FANCIEST workshops you've ever worked in? :)

Jeff Branch said...

I am glad your presentation went well, but mostly I was struck by how cool your bench looked in that room.

Julian Peters said...

Kari, your woodworking/communication skills are outstanding! Love the bench and sawbuck table—beautiful fit'n finish. Myself, semi-retired from design & art direction, I can relate to your thorough presentation process and special skill set—and the 18th century setting didn't hurt either. Nowadays, as I practice my woodworking hand tool skills I relate them to when "pasteup and film" ruled the day. Your brand is building—keep it up!

Kari Hultman said...

Bander, you probably already own those five books. ; )

Joe, nice to see you! Thanks for stopping in.

Frank, I do believe it will be easier next time. Thanks for the pep talk!

David, I'm surprised it turned out to be so solid since it knocks down. I believe it's the beefy legs of the Roubo design that ensure its rigidity.

Jamie, I can't wait to tour this museum (didn't have the time after the presentation). I've been to the others in York but not this one. They have lots of fine antiques on display.

Jeff, I was told that this building used to be a car dealership! They've done a great job of renovating it.

Julian, I was hoping that my over-preparation would help assuage my fears and it did help. Gosh--paste up. Ugh. Those are hand tools skills I do NOT want to revisit! haha

Bob said...

Let's face it Kari, you're just awesome!
There, I said it.

Kari Hultman said...

Thanks, Bob. :o)

Brander, sorry I misspelled your name.

Shannon said...

"I wish I had set my planes to take a thicker shaving" LOL I've been there.

Shannon: "so you can see just how quickly I can sink this groove...umm...see how quick...and in no time...umm...the groove is to depth."

Anonymous said...

Bet you didn't realize you where creating your own fairy tale! We shall call it Handsaw & Greta :)
Nice work.


Ken said...

"I wish I had set my planes to take a thicker shaving" Well, Kari, if you're fretting about how thick the shavings were from your plane I'd hazard a guess that you did wonderfully.

I was pleased and amused to see that you are using a five board bench as a saw bench, I do the same thing except I use two Shaker inspired benches.

"Greta"? there's gotta be a story there!

Thanks for the book recommendation, too!

Kari Hultman said...

Shannon, it's nice to know I'm not the only one!

Dean, that is brilliant. I think I'll have to quote you the next time someone asks me about her name. Thanks!

Ken, that little saw bench comes in handy for a bunch of things. So glad I built it. Shaker-inspired benches---I'd like to see photos. They sound great!

Steve Branam said...

Nice job, Kari! I hope you impressed them with that framesaw. Thanks for the recommendation on Roy's book, I just downloaded it for reading on my Kindle app.

I used to hardly be able to speak in front of an audience, my throat paralyzed. But after doing Toastmasters for a bit and then years of presenting technical information, I've gotten pretty comfortable with it.

The real key is presenting material you know and care about. Initial nerves fade pretty quickly, and squeaky voice aside, as long as you can keep it dynamic, the audience will pick that up and follow along.

Mark Greer said...

Hi Kari,

I've spent the last several months reading your blog from the beginning (a little bit at a time) and I'm almost up to your current posts. I had promised myself that I would wait until I was there before posting any comments, but I had to thank you for that quote from the end of Roy Underhill's book. I liked it so much that I've put it at the end of my email signature.

I absolutely love your posts on building the Roubo bench. It is absolutely gorgeous. So what if the cherry picks up some dings. It adds character.

Thanks so much for your beautiful writing and photos. You're an inspiration to us all.

Kari Hultman said...

Steve, you're exactly right. Once we get going on something that we love, we forget all about being in front of a group.

Mark, thank you so much for the kind words. I just love Roy's quote, too. It really boosted my confidence.

Greta has been picking up more dings, but that's because I'm using her, which can only be a good thing. I'm taking her on the road again tomorrow and next weekend for demos. She's holding up nicely and doesn't complain a bit.