As usual, click any photo to bring up a larger version.  

1999 Michigalootapalooza


(Back in the late 1990s there was a handtool-woodworking-oriented mailing list online that I followed. This group would refer to handtool enthusiasts as "Neanderthals" and "Galoots" at various times. And a get together was called a "Galootapalooza", inspired by the "Lollapalooza" music festival name.)

On Saturday the 11th of September, 1999, Alan Graham hosted the 'michigaloots' for a get together. Ralph Brendler came out to teach a bunch of clumsy ham-fisted neanderthals the fine delicate art of making shaker boxes.

Ralph's instructions for making shaker boxes can be found on his web page. I certainly don't explain all the steps here.

Considering that the location was in Windsor, Ontario, I almost rebel at calling this Michigalootapalooza, but I guess tradition rules.

Lots of pictures follow. Virtually all are click-able, to bring up a larger double-sized image.

Attendees: Ralph Brendler (teacher), Alan Graham (host), Marcie Graham (gracious hostess) Bill Fissell, Dave Tobbe and myself Art Mulder. Later after the class we were joined by Bruce Mosher and Randy Forsch. Ralph's son Nik was also present as chief highway navigator for his dad, but as he spent the day on Alan's computer battling invading hordes from Alpha Centauri he managed to escape any inclusion in the photo's below.

Also, here's a mini-archive of related Oldtools mail, just for completeness.

Ralph had a wonderful copper box + propane cooker for soaking the bands.

(L-R) Ralph is showing Dave and Bill how to use the bending forms.

Yours truly is fitting the tacked lid onto the bottom, for drying.

(L-R) two shots showing Bill and Dave nailing the small copper tacks through the bands to hold them.

Dave had an unfortunate amount of trouble with the lid-band of one of his boxes. It snapped twice(?) and half-broke a third time. By then Ralph was out of material, but rescued the day by taking the partially fractured band, resoaking it and bending it the other way.

Here are most of our boxes, all tacked together and fitted with the top and bottom shapers, waiting to dry.

While the boxes dried for an hour in the oven, we broke for a sumptuous lunch, eaten in the peaceful back yard.

Dave and Alan are tracing and cutting the lids and bottoms for the now-dry boxes. The lack of a neanderbuddy meant we were handtools-only today, and we rough-cut the lids and bottoms with a coping or fret saw.

Here's myself and Bill using Ralph's coolest invention. Take an old hand grinder, toss the wheel and replace it with a disk of plywood with 80-grit sandpaper. Then attach a table which is pre-angled for the angle we want on the lid/bottom edges. This results in a noisy and dusty, but wonderful set of "power" disc sanders. They really sand quickly, but not too quickly. You have a lot of control, and don't have to worry about taking off too much, as you would on an electric disc sander.

Here are three sets of nearly completed boxes, on the fireplace mantle -- hey how many of you have a large stone fireplace in your shop eh!? not me. The shorter stack is Ralph's demo set of boxes, in ash.

By now were in the final stretches of the project, it's getting to be the late-mid afternoon, and Bruce showed up. (L-R Ralph, Bruce, Alan, Dave)

The final step is drilling tiny holes around the edge of the lid and base and pegging the holes with half toothpicks. No glue is used, the toothpicks are just gently tapped into place and then trimmed flush with a sharp utility knife. Finally a bit of planing to trim the sides flush with the top and bottom. Note the beautiful set of windows in Alan's shop.

Here I am with my finished set of boxes. Over my shoulder you can see the demo set, in ash, that Ralph brought. The whole project ran from 10am to almost 4:30. There was no rushing, and plenty of time for lunch. Alan got out the Danish oil immediately and made his boxes look fine. I waited until I got home and the next day I put on two coats of Behr's Tung Oil.

That concluded the shaker box-making portion of the day. Randy showed up around now and we proceeded with the next three items on the agenda. First was show-and-tell, then some scrubbing, then supper, and finally some scraper test drives.

On the left, Bruce demonstrates the largest scrub plane that we'd ever seeen. I think the smaller, lighter #40 was more preferred. On the right is the aftermath of the scrubbing test.

Yes of course Ralph brought some marking guages to show off. Note the magnifying glass. Can you say "hard core" tool hounds? (L-R: Bill, Randy, Dave)

Scraping was next on the agenda. A 12, 112, several 80's, and a hand scraper were trotted out, tuned, talked over, and demonstrated. Speaking personally, as a scraping 'newbie', it was great having Ralph show me how to set up my #80. I've read different instructions, I've seen Kelly Mehler demonstrate it on a video, but less than 5 minutes one-on-one with someone who knew how, were the best of all those.

Ralph turns a burr, note the use of the holdfast to clamp the vise to the table.

And of course, here's the group shot. Unfortunately the bozo with the camera (that would be me) didn't realize that Dave was already out loading his car when I put the camera on the mantle and pushed the timer button. Oh well, sorry Dave. I think Ralph got you in his group shot.
L-R: myself Art Mulder, Ralph, Randy, Bruce, Bill, and Alan.

Some Other Items

Here's a shot of alan's "prototype" wall mounted plane holding shelf, which was admired and inspected by all.

Ralph tells me that it's a running joke that you can't get a picture of him at these events without a beer in his hands. As you can see from the pictures, this is obviously false, as I did find one...

No, not that photo, the one on the right, see. That's your coffee isn't it Ralph?

Well, that's about it for this event, I'm already looking forward to the next one. I don't view myself as that outgoing among strangers, so I was somewhat nervous about this, my first Galoot gathering. However it was a genuine pleasure to make everyone's acquaintance. I was made to feel right at home and had a great time.


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