Thursday, February 09, 2006

North Bennet Street School

In the shadow of Old North Church in the North End of Boston sits the North Bennet Street School. NBSS is the place to learn trade skills in New England. They offer programs in Jewelry, Locksmithing, Piano Tuning, Violin Making, Construction, Preservation Carpentry and Woodworking. I've know about NBSS for years. Several of the woodworking classes I've taken have been taught by NBSS grads, and it's been written about in woodworking magazines.

This winter I decided to take the plunge and enroll in one of the workshop classes offered by the school. After much deliberation I signed up for the Fundamentals of Fine Woodworking workshop. The workshop meets two nights a week. So far we've sharpened tools - chisels, plane irons, marking gauges; flattened a board; worked on a "practice block" and begun work on a sharpening stone box.

The chisel sharpening has been the most difficult part of the class for me. To start with the 1 inch chisel I started working with had bad steel and wouldn't hold an edge. After working on it for 3 classes the problem was diagnosed and the chisel replaced. That put me behind and I'm still working on catching up. The other part of sharpening I'm having difficulty mastering is using the grinder to set the angle on the chisel. I'm still stuggling a little with this.

Once the plane iron was sharp we learned how to create a board with flat parallel faces, and edges which were square to the faces and ends.

On the practice block we used the 1 inch chisel (now that it was sharp) to create 45 degree chamfers on the end and part way up each side with one ending in a sharp shoulder and the other curving up to the edge, the other end and sides were rounded over, with one edge ending in a sharp shoulder and the other curved out. When I finish it I'll post a picture.

The sharpening stone box is being created out of a single piece of wood. We started by marking two sides and one end with the newly sharpened marking gauge. Then using the stone marked the other two edges with a utility knife. Once the edges were marked we began clearing out the bulk of the interior with a chisel. Once that's done the center will be cleaned out with a router plane, and the edges cleaned up with chisels.

So far the class has been great - except for the frustration in getting the chisel sharpened. The instructor, Judith Hanson, and assistant, Jamie, are knowledgeable, encouraging, and friendly. I'm definitely gaining skills I didn't have before.

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