Popular Woodworking in America: Interview with Caleb James

Caleb James plane maker

Caleb started his woodworking profession designing and creating
mid-century furnishings, with a concentrate on Danish trendy chairs.
His entry into conventional chair making started with coaching
from Peter Galbert and additional expanded as he collaborated with
Curtis Buchanan. This conventional kind of woodworking guided
his analysis into conventional tooling and led to his making
18th-century picket handplanes. He frequently blogs about airplane
making and encourages the craft.

PW: You’re identified for each Danish trendy furnishings and
19th century instruments – do you see a path from one to the

CJ: I don’t essentially see a direct path, however there’s a
particular connection for me. One is that Danish designers took
the strategy of not ranging from scratch to design completely new
work however relatively they checked out designs that stood the check of
time and sought to enhance them. From there they realized new
designs primarily based on that strategy. Additionally, the philosophy behind
their strategy was rooted in becoming a member of the craftsperson’s abilities
with factory-made objects. From these converging processes, 19th
century hand instruments had been usually included into manufacturing unit work.
Particularly when it got here to the refined particulars and last
finishes. These factories had been usually “hybrid” workshops approach
earlier than that time period was coined. So, for me, I undoubtedly see the
connection and really feel it could be extra related to right this moment’s
craftsperson than ever earlier than.

You’ll be instructing about hole and spherical planes, a
subject you wrote about for a current Widespread Woodworking
cowl story. Why ought to folks be involved in
this subject and what can they anticipate on the

For me hollows and rounds transcend the curiosity of those who
solely wish to make 18th/19th century furnishings. For one,
studying how instruments like this had been used earlier than the router got here
alongside offers an perception into why issues had been made the best way they
had been. Additionally there’s a lesson to be taken merely from the
proportions of a circle that the airplane’s sole relies on.
Anybody involved in designing furnishings primarily based on complete ratios
will discover that these instruments are rooted in that, so it’d add
to the palette of design choices that they could not have
thought-about earlier than.

Through the class I will likely be familiarizing the attendee with the
fundamentals of the development of those planes and the way they are often
used to make basic moulding profiles. As well as, I’ll
present preserve and sharpen the planes for efficient use.

Your different two displays – “ Make a
Raised-Panel Door by Hand” and “Danish Trendy Furnishings” – are,
at the least at first look, worlds aside: One’s an historical
approach, whereas the opposite’s roots are lower than a century outdated.
How would you pitch the displays to an individual involved in
attending each?

Frankly, I might see that many may wish to attend one of many
displays without having any curiosity within the different.
Nevertheless, as I discussed in a earlier reply, Danish furnishings
has its roots deep in finding out tried and true building
strategies as a way to advance new designs for our present
existence, whereas profiting from present expertise. I
may evaluate it to 1 who would find out about 17th century
joiners’ wooden despite the fact that they don’t ever plan to begin working
wooden from the log. Understanding what got here earlier than helps what
comes after.

However, I hope the one who desires to find out about
raised panel planes would open their thoughts to Danish-designed
furnishings. I’d enterprise to say that those that admire
Stickley/Arts & Crafts and Shaker furnishings would very a lot
admire Danish trendy furnishings. Most of the similar beliefs are
held in widespread: Nice joinery, respect for the supplies,
craftsmanship, top quality, clear and easy strains,
performance and sturdy pure finishes. I feel the
majority of woodworkers admire these qualities of their

You’re identified to make a instrument design from completely different woods
– I see spokeshaves in beech, apple, pear and persimmon on
Instagram page
. What’s the reasoning behind various your
supplies? Do you be taught something from working with completely different

Beech was the most typical wooden for commercially-produced picket
instruments. It has all the precise qualities for planes and is instantly
out there in massive sizes. I exploit it for a similar causes. I
usually hunt down fruit woods along with beech. Fruit woods
are very steady when quartersawn and they’re usually very
dense and laborious, which makes them very best for heavy use. Some
woods have particular traits which are notably
helpful, resembling persimmon. It’s used for the “boxing” on sole
areas that obtain quite a lot of abuse. I like to make use of native woods
specifically. Persimmon is the one North American ebony, so
it really works superbly for that function. One different issue that’s
price contemplating is that some woods really feel nicer within the fingers
for sure instruments. It’s a choice factor.

You embrace the time period “maker,” saying you’ve been one
for so long as you may keep in mind. How did you come to
“makerhood,” and what do you see because the maker’s function in 2016
and past?

I embrace the time period maker primarily as a result of there are such a lot of
prefixes to that phrase, resembling “chair”maker or “airplane”maker –
each of which I’ve used up to now. Relatively than labeling
myself in a particular class, I favor to depart it open. I
know that my pursuits additionally lie in basket making or furnishings
making basically. I wish to make issues, and I’m fairly sure
that will likely be my career from right here on out, no matter it’s
that I make. Subsequently, I really feel that “maker” is solely the perfect
method to describe me.

I feel the maker’s function for those who do it for a residing will
be what it’s for expert crafts resembling jewelers. They may
by no means compete on a big scale individually however could make up a
massive business as a complete when contemplating all the person
makers. They may cater to those that both admire a excessive
degree of craft regardless of their earnings degree or to those that can
extra simply receive it due to increased earnings. Then there’ll
all the time be those that are makers as a result of it’s their ardour. I
got here from that place myself. 🙂

You’ll be part of the airplane maker roundtable – what
is it about planes that excites you and retains you excited to
produce them?

I like seeing a easy instrument work effortlessly. It brings me pleasure
to see one thing that I made carry out very effectively. Seeing the
elements come collectively in simply the precise approach is all the time a problem
that by no means appears to get outdated. Airplane making, particularly facet
escapement planes, permits a lot room for exploration and
experimentation that there’s all the time one thing to look ahead

What are you presently engaged on?

I’m engaged on a wide range of planes whereas additionally exploring new
instruments. I’m very involved in creating chairmaking instruments and
frequently prototype new variations of vintage instruments. Some
marking and measuring instruments preserve popping up in my explorations
so I think about I’d see a few of these being produced at some
level. I even have all the time appear to have a brand new chair design
someplace on the again burner that often causes me to
drop all the things and construct it when the urge takes maintain.



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