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Woodworker's Gazette
Gazette Archive 7/27/00

Fine Joinery Workshop Class
by Dave Beach

Having been the lucky winner of a WWA membership drawing to attend a one-week workshop with Jim Rubino, I would like to share my experience through this review. The class I attended was held in the beginning of June and it was a wonderful learning experience. Jim is the owner of Windsor Studio and Fine Joinery Workshops in Obernburg, New York, where he offers several different classes depending on the experience and desire of the student.

I had the opportunity to talk to Jim on the phone several times before my class and he decided that based on my previous experience, we would do the Shaker Nightstand workshop. This workshop provides an opportunity to learn a number of hand tools skills while building your own shaker style night stand with a hand dovetailed drawer. Jim was very helpful with helping me find accommodations and provided a good set of directions to his shop.

I arrived at Jim's place on Sunday afternoon. It was about a five hour drive from Northern Virginia and I didn't have any problems with the directions. Jim helped me unload my tool chest and I got a quick tour of his workshop. You could probably spend a week just going through all the different tools and machines that Jim's collected over the years.

For anyone with an interest in industrial woodworking machinery, this was heaven. Jim had recently added a Flather Lathe with a 17 foot long bed which was cast as one-piece. This lathe gives Jim a place to turn reproduction porch posts and other large turnings. The heart of the shop is a Northfield #4 tablesaw with a huge sliding table. Jim also has a Martin T17 tablesaw, a 20" Jointer made by American Tools, and a Hollow Chisel Mortising Machine made by American Saw Mill.

Various other machines are scattered around the rest of the shop area. In a separate section, are the workbenches and hand tools. An avid tool collector, Jim has selves and drawers filled with hand tools, many of which I would get to try out during the week.

Monday morning, the class started with a trip down the road to Jim's neighborhood saw mill. At the saw mill, Jim introduced me to one of his friends and we got a tour of the sawmill and millwork shop. What a great way to start the workshop with an overview of the process involved in transforming the piles of logs laying outside into hardwood lumber. Jim often cuts and dries his own lumber and feels that this provides him with a great deal of quality control over the finished product.

When we got back to the workshop, Jim taught me the proper method to layout and cut through dovetail joints. I got to work with several of Jim's tools including a nice set of Japanese chisels which were very helpful in trimming around the narrow pins.

A break for lunch at the local general store for a good sub and then back to the shop to learn half-blind dovetail joints. I would get a chance to practice these joints several times during the week.

The week continued with the selection of some highly figured tiger maple for the top of my nightstand. We dimensioned the stock, glued up the top and then sanded it flat with a wide belt sander. The base of the nightstand was build from cherry, and the drawer front would be tiger maple. Jim showed me how to make the tapered legs and the aprons. I was taught how to cut the mortise and tenon joints using both hand tools and the hollow chisel mortising machine. Next I learned how to add a decorative bead around the apron edges using an old beading plane.

Throughout the project, Jim stressed the need for a balance between the hand tools and the machinery - some aspects of the project are better done by hand for the traditional look and quality. I learned how to attach the front rail using a half lap dovetail joint. All of the pieces were scraped and sanded prior to assembly. The aprons were then glued to the legs and the layout of the drawer runner and guides was planned.

Once these were in place, the dimensions of the drawer were calculated and the stock was cut. The drawer was dovetailed with half-blind dovetails at the front and through dovetails at the rear. A solid pine bottom was prepared for the drawer and the edges were tapered to fit into a groove which was cut around the interior of the drawer. Three small brads secured the bottom to the back rail of the drawer. When I left, the only remaining work needed was to apply the finish to the piece.

Throughout the course of building the night stand, we developed cut and material lists, and made sketches of the assembly so I would have a through understanding of the layout and design. We discussed the importance of being able to work through a design and determine the necessary structure and joinery required. Jim told me about the importance of grain orientation in the construction of the drawer sides and bottoms. We talked about lumber preparation and storage, material handling, and sanding and finishing. A photo of the finished product in place in our living room is shown below.

In addition to the skills, Jim also provided me with a number of very good resources for hardware, tools, lumber, and supplies. I took down the titles of some of the books he found useful for reference. I also had the opportunity to use many hand and machine tools which I will be adding to my collection in the future. It was very obvious that quality tools produce a quality product and Jim was able to answer lots of questions regarding my future machinery and tool purchases. Jim was also very knowledgeable about the business aspects of woodworking and was able to answer many of my questions about my desire to go full time in the near future. Aside from the awesome woodworking and learning opportunities, this part of New York State is beautiful country. This is the heart of American Fly Fishing with numerous rivers in the areas and famous fishing towns like Rosco. There is plenty of entertainment for the outdoor enthusiast and I would recommend giving yourself an extra day or two to check out the local attractions.

Jim has a list of bed and breakfast inns and motels in the area, and I'm sure he would be willing to help anyone find great accommodations. I stayed at the Reynolds House Inn in Rosco, and was quite pleased. The breakfast was included in the room fee and the owners cooked lots of homemade breads and served waffles and pancakes.

As you can tell, I would strongly recommend Fine Joinery Workshops.

Dave Beach

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