I have just returned from a road trip to Michigan with my friend Bill Anderson. The trip had a dual focus: deliver 40 chairs and learn to make a barrel.
This by far the largest chair order I’ve ever gotten. What fun! I’d take another job like this tomorrow – it’s so much easier building forty identical chairs than bouncing from job to job, trying to keep track of styles and finishes.
Forty chairs and a Ford.
We were excited to travel: Bill and I used to teach together at the John C. Campbell Folk School fifteen years ago, but haven’t traveled together since. Bill has a great sense of humor.
We’re off! 40 chairs wrapped in blankets and stacked on each other – they fit perfectly in a large Uhual trailer.
On arrival, Bill immediately headed to the shop….
….where he found a plane to work on.
Chuck Andrews teaches at Tillers International, and at his shop where we were. He is a very generous fellow – he even made us each a pair of cooper’s shaves while we were there.
To make our barrels (actually they are 5 gallon pins; a barrel is a 50 gallon cask), we measured….
… and stared…
…at misspelled machines.
Then with a grimace and a grunt, we assembled our barrels. With our barrels done, we headed north to deliver the chairs. The roads got smaller, and smaller, and smaller…
… until nothing but miles of glorified tractor-paths remained. The stop sign added a reassuring touch.
Photos of the chair customer’s hunting camp weren’t allowed, so we high-tailed it to Detroit and the Henry Ford Museum.
Henry Ford was friends with Thomas Edison and moved Edison’s entire complex of buildings to Detroit (or really Dearborn). Edison came along and made sure everything was set up accurately. This is his line-shaft machine shop…
…where Bill immediately found a grinding wheel to look at.
I’d like one.
The museum has a Daniel’s-type planer, the first successful mechanized wood jointer, invented in the 1830’s. It leaves distinctive arcs on the work, like subtle circular-saw marks.
They have Windsor chairs and 18th century steam engines, the first duplicating lathe and enormous trains, and the car that Kennedy was shot in.
But the most powerful thing for Bill and me was the bus that Rosa Parks was arrested in.
The Henry Ford would take days to see properly, so overwhelmed, we ate some fabulous Mediterranean food and headed south.
We stopped at Curtis Buchanan’s shop, where he showed Bill his new Writing Arm Chair plans (to be published soon). After a fabulous salmon dinner and a good night’s sleep, we headed home, exhausted.