Over the last few weeks I have had a student coming into the shop from time to time working patiently on his first significant furniture piece. Jim is an accomplished pianist (http://jimrobbinspiano.com/) and has always had a strong interest in woodworking and as his music and writing will attest to, a very strong creative side.
For his project he wanted to make a small “Bistro” style table for eating and perhaps doing some writing. In needed to be small in overall size but large enough to seat two people comfortably. Working together we developed an attractive design that would be manageable by Jim as a first project yet also provide many learning opportunities.
For the material, we spent some time together at the lumber supplier talking about material choices, settling in on some beautiful curly soft maple for the top and maple for the legs and aprons.
During the time we spent together we shared many coffees and these great breakfast sandwiches that Jim would bring each morning, and also enjoyed a few conversations over lunch. Jim learned a great deal about furniture making, precision, and patience, and I learned a lot about a new friend with a big and gentle heart.
When making furniture there is always a strong temptation as you move through the project to rush to the finish line, or in the case of furniture building, to rush to putting some finish on. When you first apply finish, especially to a beautiful wood like curly maple, the piece is transformed. But one of the lessons we learn early on is that this is precisely the point where we need to slow down and make sure we take no short cuts. I generally plan that the finishing process of a project will generally account for around one-third to one-half of the total time allotted for the project. The finish has an amazing way of magnifying any flaws or issues that exist and correcting them late in the process takes a great deal longer.
As a full time furniture maker I sometimes find myself rushing to meet a deadline, or forgetting the important lessons I have already learned, and teaching is a wonderful way of reinforcing those points, not just to m,y student, but to myself as well. Watching Jim painstakingly examine every surface as he prepared his table for the finish, and seeing the delight in his eyes when looking at the finished product reminds me of why I love to design and build furniture, and why I love to teach.
Jim, you did a great job my friend!