I returned to the Chippendale International School of Furniture in Scotland to teach for my second year, and I am once again inspired by their mix of traditional techniques, ability to adapt to new situations, and their progressive and unabashed approach to furniture making. (See my previous blog on the school.)
While I’m here, I thought I’d share some immediate insights and write more upon my return to the States.
I started my adventure with the double punch of snow storms that wreaked havoc on travel on the East Coast. This event caused me a four-day delay and four flight cancellations and changes; arriving at the school a half day late; and 26 hours of being awake (I couldn’t sleep on the flight). So I hit the ground running and taught for five hours upon my arrival. Okay, that’s enough complaining about getting here.
So in between catching up on much needed sleep, ten hours of instruction a day, sampling the local Scotch, hand drawn ales, and haggis, I am delighted and awed by some of the unique things here that make me say, “Why didn’t I think of that?” Everywhere I look I see fun innovative ideas; they might not be my style, but I love the risk-free atmosphere. Here are a few observations:
· Three-Wheeled Dolly: Sounds simple enough, but with only three wheels they save 25% on the cost of casters. Great idea.
· Sawdust Stove: This metal box burns four buckets of sawdust at a time, for up to four hours. This stove cranks out the heat, and heats the entire 2000 SF shop. They also burn any and all wood scrapes. In addition, the homemade heat hood gathers hot air above and pumps it into another machine room.
· Speaking of heat, the residential side of the 1820 farm house-turned-into-Scotland’s-finest-woodworking-school uses an open fire place for its heat. It may not be as efficient as my airtight Vermont Castings Vigilant Stove, but I love the idea of not cutting, chopping, and splitting. They simply roll an entire section of a tree in on a (three-wheeled) dolly and feed it into the fireplace.
· Instant Spray Room: When they needed more space for an additional spray room, they simply dropped a shipping container on the spot, cut a few holes here and there, plugged it in, and they were ready to go. It certainly won’t burn down. They have since built right onto it and added two more containers with a roof between, creating another 1500 SF private shop that they rent out.
· In my room, and in a few other residential rooms, they don’t have much wall space for art, so they screw works directly to the ceiling with signs pointing to them.
In fact, every nook and cranny within the 15,000 SF facility, residential area, and shop contain little gems that all pay homage to wood working: my bed is made from raw birch branches; art work everywhere made from slabs of wood with interesting grain or elegant curved furniture components simply hung on the wall and bolted to the ceiling for their grace and simplistic beauty; holes in the worn out carpet cover with a thick veneer of slab wood; shelving made from old tables cut in sections and given a new life; handmade door knobs and latches; ALL the furniture except for rare antiques such as the prohibition table with its hidden pop-up liquor cabinet; and vintage pre-World War II carved mirrors.
· Lastly, the homemade hot tub, which is essentially a cast iron claw foot bath tub that is filled with water with a fire lit under it to relax and enjoy the countryside after a hard day’s work.
Chippendale stays loose and makes it work simply, efficiently, and beautifully.
It is wonderful to constantly discover new types and styles of woodworking. I applaud Chippendale for their forthright and experimental methods, and true love they show for woodworking.
Hope to see you next year!
Upon my return, I’ll share what I learned about the traditional technique of water gilding, which is a historical method used to apply metal leaf, typically gold, that yields a solid metal appearance. When done correctly, the gold shimmers with a liquid luster that is far superior to standard oil sized applications.
A real Scottish hot tub after a hard days work - ayh
Birch branch bed
No chopping necessary
Instant spray room inside shipping container
Three wheeled dolly save 25% in casters