Category Archives: NBSS

Signing your name in wood…

It’s easy enough to sign your work with a Sharpie or branding iron…and I’ve done both many times in the past. But what if you are looking for something that will give your work that extra flourish? Or work on a massive scale like a timber framed barn? Or be a new sign for your shop? Often the best solution is to carve your own sign or inscription.

This past weekend I had the opportunity to take a two day workshop in letter carving with Janet Collins at the North Bennet Street School.  I had a great time. Below is a quick recap of how I spent my Superbowl Weekend.

Demonstrating how to make the first cuts
Demonstrating how to make the first cuts

Janet is a graduate of the NBSS CFM program, instructor, former workshop director and accomplished artisan. She has a passion for woodworking and loves sharing the craft with others.

Laying out your letters
Laying out your letters

After sharpening your tools the first step is laying out your text first on paper or a computer.

Transferring your pattern
Transferring your pattern

Transfer your pattern on to the workpiece.

Carving
Carving

Now for the fun part — carefully carving your letters into the piece. You want to take a light touch, always be aware of the grain direction and strive for an even depth of cut.

Carver's natural habitat
Carver’s natural habitat

Just as you can never have too many clamps, you can never really have too many carving chisels and gouges.

Completed name carving
My completed name carving

A raking light and solid platform to secure your work are requisites to success in this sort of work.

Gilding lesson
Gilding lesson

Beyond the carving exercises we were also treated to a nice demonstration on how to gild this sort of hand carved sign.

Janet Collins with completed sign
Janet Collins with completed sign

Pictured here is Janet with her carved and gilded number sign.

Chip carving samples
Chip carving samples

Beyond letter carving, these kinds of woodworking skills can be applied to may other forms of carving…

More chip carving
More chip carving

such as chip carving…

Chip and relief carving samples
Chip and relief carving samples

relief carving…

Celtic knot and floral carving
Celtic knot and floral carving

organic designs, geometric designs, anything you can imagine. The above sample boards are just a few from the large bag of samples Janet brought to show the class.

Carved and Gilded sign at NBSS
Carved and Gilded sign at NBSS

Above is a hand carved and gilded sign honoring the founder of NBSS — Pauline Agassiz Shaw. If you study it carefully you can see how it was clearly laid out by hand and shows many of the tool marks and design cues you’d expect to see in hand work. Pictured below is a nice old sign in the Cabinet and Furniture Making department at NBSS which is a combination of painting and carved details — “All Kinds Of Woodwork Done Here” which is an apt description for what goes on in the upper bench room. I am also partial to the “Please don’t feed the woodworker” sign.

"Don't feed the woodworkers" and "All Kinds of Woodwork Done Here" signs by the entrance to Cabinet and Furniture Making department at NBSS.
“Don’t feed the woodworkers” and “All Kinds of Woodwork Done Here” signs by the entrance to Cabinet and Furniture Making department at NBSS.

After taking this course I have a new sign for my workshop, and a whole new appreciation for hand carved signs. Next time you are walking around your town take a moment to look at some of the carved signs and see if you can differentiate the ones that were carved by hand versus those which were made by machine. After looking at a few of them you’ll likely see that many of the signs with the best details were carved by hand.

I’m looking to make some signs for my barn and workshop and will be sure to post them here on the blog. In the meantime you can learn more about Janet Collins and her work via her website here and here. And if you are interested in taking workshops at NBSS you can find out more here.

NBSS Holiday Party 2012 + BAC Building Opening

During the holidays there is always so much to do, so many errands to run, so many people to try and catch up with, and all of the other usual holidays stresses. Even with all the running around, one of my favorite events of the season is the North Bennet Street School Holiday party. For me it always evokes images of what I imagine a party at Old Fezziwig’s warehouse would be like.

Band Playing at the NBSS Holiday Party
Band Playing at the NBSS Holiday Party

There is always lively holiday music being played on a fiddle recently made by its owner.  Lance plays a tune on his saw. Everyone brings homemade dishes. Many of us are covered in saw dust or smudges from the shop and there is a energy in the room. The annual table hockey tournament is being played to a cheering crowd.

A view of the NBSS Holiday Party
A view of the NBSS Holiday Party

The room is alive with students, faculty and alumni talking about their work, their passions and the year ahead.

Front of the new home to NBSS after 125+ years on North Bennet Street they are moving to a larger facility that will put the entire school back under one roof.
Front of the new home to NBSS after 125+ years on North Bennet Street they are moving to a larger facility that will put the entire school back under one roof. Located right off the greenway the new building has a nice street presence.

This year (Thursday 12/13/12) was the first North Bennet Street School Holiday Party at the new building which is located at 150 North Street in Boston which is now partially occupied by the school (the rest of the departments to move in this coming year).

Side view of North Street Building. This rear corner is where Preservation Carpentry will reside.
Side view of North Street Building. This rear corner is where Preservation Carpentry will reside.

The new building will start an exciting new chapter in the school’s history. While I am nostalgic for the original NBSS building which had a lot of unusual quirks and a TON of history in the walls, the new space is starting to take on a life of its own and as more tools make it up onto the walls and the old benches find their way to their new homes you can see a distinctly NBSS feel develop.

New workspace for the Bookbinding program
New workspace for the Bookbinding program

The Bookbinding program was one of the first to move into the new space. And even during the party a few dedicated folks are still toiling away at their benches as party-goers make the rounds to see what students have been up to.

DSCN7022
Massive wooden bookbinding presses waiting to be set up

Walking the halls you can see all the tools and equipment that have seen many years of use.

Violin making department -- even during the party a few students were still working at their benches
Violin making department — even during the party a few students were still working at their benches

In the violin making department there are a few more folks finishing up their bench work. The new space is larger and more spread out.

A Violin being constructed
A Violin being constructed

The school also has many of the posters from the new ‘Do What You Love Every Day’ marketing campaign you can see around the city and in related trade magazines. It really captures a core tenet of the NBSS Philosophy and how skilled hand work is a very fulfilling vocation.

'Do What You Love Every Day' NBSS Ad campaign (In this poster is a friend named Nikki from Bookbinding)
‘Do What You Love Every Day’ NBSS Ad campaign (In this poster is a friend named Nikki from Bookbinding)

You can learn more about NBSS and their efforts to bring the school ‘Under One Roof’ here on the website. There is also a powerful video clip about why this move means so much to the NBSS community and the surrounding neighborhood.

'Do What You Love Every Day'
‘Do What You Love Every Day’

Thursday was a busy night for me in the city. After the NBSS Holiday Party I had to head over to the BAC to see the public opening of the new building they’ve renovated/re-purposed at 951 Boylston Street in Boston.

Entrance to 951 Boylston Street Boston, a new building for the BAC. The desk shown here was fabricated by NBSS students
Entrance to 951 Boylston Street Boston, a new building for the BAC. The desk shown here was fabricated by NBSS students

On display in the entry way is a beautiful desk and shelving system which was fabricated by NBSS students.

Interior of 951
Interior of 951

The interior of this building is now a bright and modern space designed to celebrate student work, host school and community events, and provide more studio space for students.

Me, in front of an example of what will be preserved in the old building
Me, in front of an example of what will be preserved in the old building

Above I am standing in front of a section of this building which was a hot topic of discussion during the summer Historic Preservation (HP) classes at the BAC. Originally this historic masonry work was going to be concealed in the wall, but with some pushing from the HP students and faculty this architectural detail will be the subject of upcoming materials conservation work and will be incorporated into the design of the space and a creative example of work on display.

BAC Student work on display
BAC Student work on display

You can learn more about this new space at the BAC here.

It was a great night to be in downtown Boston and helped get me into the spirit of the holidays.
Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year!

NBSS Distinguished Alumni Award Winner: Brent Hull PC ’93

One of the many traditions at the North Bennet Street School is recognizing a distinguished member of the alumni community each year at the graduation ceremony. With so many talented individuals coming out of the school it is often hard to choose just one person, and this year was no exception.  As part of the alumni council we each presented candidates from our own department(s) to the other members of the council and the school administration and at the end of the meeting took a vote.

This year I am happy to report that we have our first Distinguished Alumni Award (DAA) winner from the Preservation Carpentry Department — Brent Hull.

Brent Hull (left) and Robert Adam (right)
Brent Hull (left) and Robert Adam (right)

Brent was part of the class of 1993 and studied under Robert Adam. After graduating he returned to his native Texas and started his own company. From a modest beginning working in his brother’s garage, and a lot of hard work, Brent went on to build the Hull group of companies, which now employs over 50 artisans and related staff. He runs a successful construction and consulting firm, is the exclusive millworks provider for the Winterthur museum, has restored historic courthouses in Texas and worked on many private residences including those of Barbara Streisand. Beyond the commercial success, Brent has also been a prolific writer in the field of traditional interior designs and moldings publishing several books on these topics. Brent also enjoys educating his customers and the general public via teaching forums on the merits of traditional design and craftsmanship.

Brent Hull Speaking to both PC Classes
Brent Hull Speaking to both PC Classes

The day before graduation, Brent stopped by the Arlington shop to speak with the PC ’12 and ’13 classes. He shared his thoughts on what he enjoyed most about the program, shared some hard learned lessons, tips on how to start a business and select customers and some guidance around areas students should learn more about after graduating.

Rich Friberg, Bill Rainford, Brent Hull, Robert Adam (left to right)
Rich Friberg, Bill Rainford, Brent Hull, Robert Adam (left to right)

Above, second year instructor Rich Friberg PC’04, Bill Rainford PC’11, Brent Hull PC’93 and Robert Adam long time PC department head and founder of the program gather in the office to celebrate the day. Robert also shared some of his wisdom with the students and reminded those who are from outside of New England that it has been his experience that the further students get away from Boston the more successful they often are given the concentration of graduates in the immediate area.  This was great news for many of our students from around the country and abroad who will be going home with a great set of skills.

Johnathan Ericson handing out his Attendance Awards / Scholarship
Johnathan Ericson handing out his Attendance Awards / Scholarship. Accepting the award is Frank Di Francesco PC’12

Rounding out the afternoon, Johnathan Ericson PC’11 gave out the Attendance Awards / Scholarship that he started last year. It consists of a certificate and scholarship for those students who maintained a record of perfect attendance while a PC student. The message is clear — that hard work and dedication to show up each and every day is something that should be rewarded and will help new graduates when they get out into the field.

Congratulations to Brent and the PC Class of 2012 — you have a bright future ahead of you!