Thursday, January 5, 2012

Training an Apprentice

 We've got a new man at the shop!  While he is not quite a full-fledged 'craftsman' yet,  he is beginning to learn the tricks of the trade.  For his first day as an apprentice craftsman, he is working on the Lathe,  learning how to create replacement spindles for a Hall Tree.  In the forefront of the first picture you can actually see one of the existing spindles still stuck into the Hall Tree.  Our apprentice will need to successfully create two more spindles, to replace a few missing ones.  He starts out by cutting several pieces of practice wood to the correct length.  The exact centers must be found, and then a hole drilled into that spot.

Each block is put onto the lathe and smoothed into a cylindrical shape using a large, shallow carving knife.  Then, each of the curves from the existing spindle is measured with calipers and the measurements are then marked on the new spindle.  Using these markings, our apprentice then learned how to use various carving knives to contour the spindle.  Calipers were used each step of the way, to make sure the new spindle is exactly the same size as the old.

This is very tricky work for someone who doesn't have a whole lot of experience.  After watching the process the first time, he was able to complete a few spindles on his own, which is pretty impressive.  With each spindle, he got closer and closer to the desired effect and is just about ready to move on to the 'real' thing, which will be carved out of Redwood to match the rest of the Hall Tree.  Learning to work with wood in this fashion is a pretty unique thing in our modern world.  Other then high school woodshop class, there aren't a lot of opportunities for a person to learn this trade from an expert.  That is why it is so exciting for us to be able to take on and train an apprentice.  It means that the skills required to turn broken furniture into beautiful, functional furniture, will last into the next generation.

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