Vice-President's Message

Here Frank our President flies off to England and we have a guest Speaker who hails from Ireland and we get a record attendance (50) at our monthly meeting! Feelings about any Irish/English/Scottish conflicts? Coincidence? Yes, a coincidence because the big showing was related to the interest in the subject that drew the crowd (I believe), not where she hails from.

So my message is Give and Take. We like to take classes and I think we are all proud that we have three graduates of the College of the Redwoods full time program (Yeung Chan, Arnold Champagne and Bob Nesbit who were all in attendance at the last meeting) and many, many more BAWA Members that have taken one or more Summer classes at the College of the Redwoods in Fort Bragg, CA. The Program seems to be having some issues that are related to California's public finance issues but with the passing of Prop. 30 it appears things are ok for the short term.

I think we all enjoyed hearing about how she and the CofR students approach furniture design. I was particularly struck by her showing the 'photo albums' for lack of a better term for all the past work done by students of this Program and how reverently current students view the work and seek inspiration from their predecessors for project ideas. Some of you left after the break but Laura answered questions for another 30 minutes at the end of Show N Tell, the only time I can recall that we got a little more back and forth from our speaker after the break.

Yes, I had something to do with contacting her and making the arrangements but I think we all feel a sense of 'ownership' to College of the Redwoods since so many have had a part in TAKING classes there. This is not to detract from the next speaker who will tell us about the Furniture Program at California College of Arts! Many areas of the country have NO local program teaching furniture design or construction at the college level.

Giving: so we have another annual project with Rebuilding Together on Saturday, April 27th (always the Last Saturday in April, formerly this organization was known as Christmas in April when Bill Henzel organized BAWA's participation) where BAWA volunteers give of their time. We are very fortunate to have Dan Goodman as our Construction Captain as this year's project called for a bit more than normal woodworking and home repair/remodeling with some plumbing nightmares. Somehow Dan was able to convince (he had hurdles believe me, this almost didn't work out) his employer to send a few skilled plumbers to the project for a few days of expert effort during the workweek to deal with the multiple plumbing issues. Not only the plumbing help, but Dan was able (through Rebuilding Together Peninsula) to secure a professional tile setter to come the week-end after demolition, and after the plumbing is straightened out, to do his thing. All of this sets the stage for what might be a very smooth work day on the 27th for the remaining tasks so we can button up this job. Look forward to seeing those that have the time and will be volunteering this year. Also a 'shout out' to Frank Taylor who is serving as chief foreman this year but with a much less complicated situation than last year's rear stairs.

Ok, that's my thinking about Give and Take with BAWA this month. Welcome Frank back to the US at this month's meeting!

Jay Perrine
[Contact at:

Hand Plane Class held on 23rd March

According to instructor Neal White:

"Plane making class went well. I had 5 students:
Jay Perrine, Leo Shebalin, Stephen Kwo, Paul Larsen, and Jon Kaplan...

I only had one student that needed time on Sunday, so I met with Leo at 11:00. It only took him about 5 minutes to finish, so we were out of there pretty quickly. Bottom line is that all 5 students now have a workable wood plane."


Last Meeting

Jay Perrine called the meeting to order at 7:00pm quelling the raucous din created by an overflow crowd. Tonight we eagerly await the presentation of our guest speaker, Laura Mays, Director of the Fine Woodworking Program at the College of the Redwoods in Fort Bragg, California.

New Members and Guests:

Russel Baldon, the Chairman of the Furniture Program and the California College of the Arts in San Francisco joined us to hear Laura Mays along with four of his students. He is our featured speaker in April.

John joins us as a guest tonight. He is taking a woodworking course with Marcus Miller, our treasurer.


Claude Godcharles presented a new book on French Polishing that he recommends.

Dan Goodman reminded everyone that Rebuilding together is coming up in April.

The big day is April 27. However, it is a big job and preliminary work will be done on April 13 and 20th. Please sign up. The details are: Address is 227 Winchester St. Daly City 94014. Start time is 8am. Will be building a new railing, steps and shelving. Photos of the site are on the flickr page:

Per Madsen reviewed the upcoming BAWA events:

April 18 BAWA meeting with Russel Baldon, CCA

April 20 Shop Visit with Bob Nisbett, Danville

April 25 Big Creek Lumber Tour, 10:50 am, Davenport, Highway 1

April 27 Rebuilding Together

May 16 John Moldovan, Master Chair Makers

Submit your questions in advance to John Blackmore

June 20 Joe Cox, Wild Horse Woodworks

Further info about these is on our website in the Schedule except for the Big Creek Lumber visit, so just "Save the Date" for that until we can firm up the details.

Per has set up a busy month for us, so get ready to enjoy the activities.

Neal White announced some Silent Auction items: dust collection duct work and fixtures, and a Festool Sander, courtesy of Jamie Buxton.

Frank Taylor circulated a Fact Sheet detailing table saw mistakes and bad practices.

Arnold Champagne encouraged all of us to wear our dust masks.


Featured Speaker - Laura Mays, Fine Woodworking Program, College of the Redwoods

Laura was selected to become the new Director of the program in 2011, filling a chair held by Greg Smith and Ejler Hjorth-Westh after the retirement of James Krenov in 2002. Laura, who is Irish, had attended the FWW Program in 2001-2003, she then returned to Ireland to practice her craft until 2011, when she was invited to come back to Fort Bragg to direct the program.

The Fine Woodworking Program was started in 1981 when a group of woodworkers in Fort Bragg persuaded James Krenov to come to Fort Bragg from Sweden to found a new woodworking program at the College of the Redwoods.

Krenov was instructed by Carl Malmsten at the Stockholm school in the tradition of Scandinavian furniture design. He became a master woodworker and began to share his expertise. Krenov wrote several books including: Worker in Wood, The Fine Art of Cabinetmaking, the Impractical Cabinetmaker and finally With Wakened Hands, featuring the work of his students.

He had gained a somewhat cult hippie like status and was touring the United States on a lecture tour in 1981 when he was invited to start the FWW Program at the College of the Redwoods. He directed the school until his retirement in 2002 and remained active in woodworking until his death in 2009.

The Fine Woodworking Program and James Krenov are legend. He imparted an aesthetic to the school that has been the foundation of its success and renowned. He inspired craftsmen and students to bring simplicity, harmony and a love of wood into one's work. He extolled the virtues of clean lines, hand planed surfaces; techniques that are honest. He eschewed the use of power tools in favor of hand tools whenever possible.

Today, Krenov's influence lives on in the school. Graduates are sometimes referred to as "Krenoids." Furniture is described as "Krenovian." Brian Newell, a graduate, has evolved in his woodworking style to become "unkrenovian." And, the school itself is evolving, reaching beyond the master. Laura gave us a photographic review of the work of several graduates and students of the program. Beautiful.

The school is located in Fort Bragg, California, a town in a crisis of confidence. It had been home to a huge Georgia Pacific lumber mill, a redwood plant that went out of business in the year 2000, leaving a devastated forest coastline, economy and workforce. The town is struggling to redefine itself as a tourist destination, but rests in the shadow of Mendocino, only 8 miles south that had undergone a similar catharsis 100 years earlier.

The school's workshop was built in 1981 under the direction of Krenov, housing a bench room with 23 workbenches, a machine room, a wood storage room, a small finishing room, a small office and a front reception area. It is not located on the coastal satellite campus of the College of the Redwoods in Fort Bragg. While there had been efforts to move the school to the coastal campus, these have been abandoned for budgetary reasons. The Fine Woodworking Program is on a fairly secure financial footing although it will need more sources of funding if it is to weather the storm of state financing. The program is, in fact, recognized to be a pillar of strength to the College of the Redwoods.

The school will be improving its present facilities, perhaps with a larger entrance foyer and a gallery area. The school's traditions are strong: the elephant and the chisels, the project yearbook as a vector of tradition and the ritualistic burning of the prototypes at the Friday evening unwinding BBQ.

The program attracts students from throughout the world, but only 23 openings: usually around 6 students returning for a second year, leaving 17 new slots. Most are in their early 30s, some with woodworking experience, some from other careers, even a sprinkling of retirees. The cost is below that of competitive schools. One year for a California resident at College of the Redwoods is $1,688, and $10,076 for out of state and foreign students, compared to an average cost at competitive institutions of $21,150.

The curriculum at the Fine Woodworking Program keeps the essential views of Krenov. Wood is the core of the program. The whole person is involved, their skills, ideas and emotions: a holistic approach. Doing is a form of thinking. There is no substitute for hands on. Integrity in workmanship is a form of morality. Work is intensive. Students work 6 days a week, nominally from 8am to 5:30, but frequently much later, until the last two students close the building together.

The first exercise for entering students is to make the "Perfect Board." First they learn to make a smoothing plane, a shooting plane and a coopering plane. The plane has to work perfectly; it is the cabinetmaker's violin. Hock blades are used in all the planes. It helps that he is located in Fort Bragg. A piece of rough lumber is made into a board with all sides perfectly flat, perfectly smooth, perfectly parallel to their opposites and perfectly orthogonal to their adjacents. Then, this perfect board is cut in half and rejoined with glue with a perfectly undetectable joint. It is an impossible task that lends an appreciation for fine craftsmanship and a love of wood.

Students learn through doing, through lectures and demonstrations and even more doing. They have a first project that must be "small, simple, solid and sweet." There is a mid-winter show of the students' work at the Town Hall in Fort Bragg. The community always looks forward to this event. The second show of the year is held in May at the Highlight Gallery in Mendocino.

And in subtle ways the program evolves. No longer is it just solid wood cabinets; students are making chairs, veneered pieces, marquetry, and carvings. Mockups are still encouraged, but now you see sketches, drawings, and miniatures.

Wholeness Chair

As an example of the designing process, Laura showed us how she developed her Wholeness Chair, an evolution of her original Personhood Chair. In England during the 16th to 18th centuries, some chairs had been hollowed out from a single log, creating open cocoon like seat. These chairs were placed in front of fireplace fires and captured the escaping heat in a bubble around the seated person. Laura sought to capture the essence of this idea in a contemporary form. She chose matched planks of madrone for the wood. First she created a small cardboard model from her sketches. Satisfied with the symmetry, she proceeded to a full-scale cardboard mockup. While the mockup could not be tested for comfort, it did establish the essential design elements. Laura showed pictures of the coopered wood sections that were butt jointed together to form the shell of the chair. Then it was time to get out the spoke shave. Arms were carefully carved. The curves of the back and sides taper towards the ends at the top and bottom, but remain thicker in the middle seat area. It was a feat of creative engineering to figure out how to join the legs to the seat of chair, while compensating for the movement of the solid wood cocoon.

The crowd was enthralled and peppered Laura with an incessant barrage of questions. Alas, it was growing late and we still had not done the Show & Tell. Jay presented Laura with the BAWA Certificate of Appreciation.

You can see the work of Laura Mays and her partner, Rebecca Yaffe, at:


Show and Tell

Tom Gaston brought in a small cherry office cabinet with marquetry side panels and shelving for sheaves of paperwork. The panels are removable. The top has mitered breadboard corners. Tom also showed us a couple of bowl turnings from salvaged acacia.

John Blackmore showed us the prototype for his dining room chair with arms. Is this the third evolution? It uses a modified Maloof joint for the front legs.

Steve Rosenblum showed us the parts he has used to create his vacuum pump system for vacuum veneering, including using a breathable mesh material to permit full air suction around the piece of work.

Stan Booker is traveling so there were no drawings this evening.

John Blackmore