Last week was a very unique week. I don’t often co-teach a class, but that is what Ben Hobbs and I did. I don’t think Ben does this often either.
Ben has a wonderfully casual way of teaching. He accommodates all levels of students in a class that covers a lot of difficult techniques. Even when mistakes happen (yes, they do happen sometimes – and this class was no exception), he handles them with good humor and patience, and he always finds a solution out of the problem. Watch this video that will help you to get to know Ben a little more.
Last year Ben had an idea of building a beautiful little dresser table that is at MESDA (Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts) that is attributed to the furniture makers William and Robert Walker, from around 1770. We had discussed collaborating on a class where he would teach the construction and joinery techniques, and I would come in at various times in the class and teach how to carve the tiny ball and claw feet, scroll on the knees, and the detail on the corners of the top of the table (they told me it was called a “baby’s butt”, but I think they’re trying to pull one over). It turned out that I was there for 4 days out of 6. When they got to a particular part of the table where carving was needed, that’s where I would come in and do my part.
We were able to get through carving one ball and claw foot in a day. Then the next day we pushed it to finish the final 3 – in sort of “production” mode. Some made it through and some needed “encouragement” the next morning to get everyone close to the same point.
During the times that they were doing more joinery work, I watched and learned a lot of techniques that I don’t get the opportunity to learn. I generally focus so much of my energy on carving that I hardly know the basics of woodworking and joinery. I’m a little embarrassed to say that Ben was the first to teach me how to use a hand plane. Odd, eh? 25 years of carving, but never used one. Maybe one day I’ll take the time to build something!
I left on Saturday morning, and they spent that day finishing up the drawers and the rest of the joinery. It was amazing what everyone got accomplished in only 6 days. You should all be very proud! I was happy to be a part of the project.
Next year we are planning another class where Ben teaches how to build a fireplace surround and I teach how to carve the oval sunburst details that are so often seen in period homes – especially in the south. One large horizontal one in the center and 2 smaller, vertical ones on either side – similar to the one below. These are often painted, so we could even carve this in basswood. It would make all our lives so much easier!