Tuesday, March 10, 2009

I visited the atelier of another furniture manufacturer while visiting LA yesterday. The main craftsperson has a fascinating life story of travel from Armenia to Lebanon to France to Italy to France to the United States. The thing he hated about France and loves about the US is that even though his French was superb college level conversational and reading, and his English was barely functional upon entering the country, he was looked down upon in France and was well received and respected here. "Old" Europe still persists in its discrimination  and yet also acts as a library of trade skills that are quickly disappearing here. I was trained by a French furniture maker. A cabinet scraper is an essential everyday tool in traditional craftsmanship. Sanding was strongly discouraged because it added hard to remove dust to the work before the advent of compressed air. A scraper, properly sharpened can leave a finish equivalent to 320 sandpaper or finer. This Armenian-Lebanese-Italian-French craftsman also swears by his scraper. When I moved to Ohio from New York, I didn't meet a cabinet/furniture woodworker who knew how to use a scraper, much less to sharpen one. Hand skills like these are not just useful for the arcane demonstration of "antique" methods but also are critical for many steps of the way we work with wood in our shop.

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