1,100 Hours - In One Piece?

Eleven Hundred Hours- in One Piece? (actually it's for a five piece set - but still - 1,100 hours?)
The Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts exhibit “Inspired by China” has 29 pieces done by 22 furniture makers from around the world. One of those who participated in this exhibit is Joe Tracy from Main. Inspired by the Chinese invented Tanagram (google tanagram ) he designed and made a five piece set comprised of two small, tall tables and three shallow cabinets, each on its own tall table. He has 1,100 hours in this set! At 8 hours a work day, you’ve got 173 work hours per month - so he put over six months in this set of pieces.
For the weekend warrior, a project that takes 6 months to complete isn’t all that unusual. Hell, it was over a year before I finished Das Bench (http://web.hypersurf.com/~charlie2/DasBench/CBbench0.html ), and there were a lot of starts and stops, along with a lot of head scratching.
But Joe Tracy makes furniture for a living so I suspect the 1,100 hours were “billable hours”, not elapsed time. Can you imagine going to work five days a week, eight hours a day, working on one set of pieces - and do that for over six months - and at the end of six months have five coherent pieces?
I get distracted easily, heading off in one direction and then going off on various tangents along the way to a finished piece - if it actually gets finished at all. The discipline this man must have to do what he does, and what he does is pretty amazing.
Let’s start with his choice of materials - quarter sawn wenge veneer for the cabinets, with split curly redwood medallions in the cabinet doors, red palm for the table tops, Damascus steel door pulls and silver foil on the inside s of the backs of the cabinets. With the exception of the split redwood medallions in the doors, everything is flat planes and straight lines, not a curve or a roundover to be found - no place to hide a mistake - one careless chisel or plane cut and the part would have to be made over again. The skill, and confidence this man must have to do what he does is astounding.
You really have to see these pieces - and study them - to really appreciate what he’s done. There’s an article in the February 2007 issue of Woodwork - A Magazine for All Woodworkers “Joe Tracy: Inspired by China” with an interview with Mr. Tracy, accompanied by photos of these pieces and some details of how they were done. If you can get your hands on that issue have a look at that article - and then study it - for an hour or two. If you aren’t inspired to take your woodwork up a notch - well there isn’t enough sawdust in you yet.
charlie b who is now looking for the book about the pieces in this exhibit. I REALLY want to see some details of this set of pieces because there have to be a lot of gems to study - and maybe include in some future project.
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Charlie b,

Recently was at a woodworker's shop and he had several pieces that were well over that, if my memory serves me right. Formally a professor at a community college in art, so his time was factored over years.
Regarding Mr. Tracy, I would think that perhaps he didn't spend the hrs straight. I'd imagine part of the time was getting the wood, drying it if not already dried, milling it, etc. LOTS of time right there! Still tho, I am in awe of the hrs. I have several projects where I've spent 40 hrs and still not done and that's over several years. I'm in the running for the "king of unfinished projects".
MJ Wallace
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wrote:

Yeah, but when people quote numbers like that I always think they are including an awful lot of standing round scratching one's butt, err, I mean "thinking", talking to the neighbor who walked by, taunting spiders with a piece of scrap, etc, etc.... Just because you went into the shop at 1 and came out at 5 doesn't mean you actually did 4 hours of work. He's probably got 5 hours of adding up all his minutes and making them all nice in a spreadsheet factored in there too.
-Leuf
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Or maybe he's a wannabe lawyer with a very modest concept of "billable" hours.
FoggyTown
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Some of the most prize shotguns that come out of the Beretta factory have several thousand hours just in *engraving*.
steve
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Ah but engraving is certainly not traditional woodworking, it is more akin to carving . As fast as he was I would imagine Grinling took even more time than that. I think it might be more like Leuf said, doing anything but actually working on said pieces . For what it is worth I did a complete library from a wreaked room in less time than that, including all doors computer station fully paneled walls trimmed out and cased entrance [see web page] oh and all the drawings for approval.....mjh
http://mikehide2.tripod.com/id26.htm

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double width.
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How did you do the wide panels? Were they glue ups or did you find some good (rare) wide stock?
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The house was one where an addtional story was added .The double door was the "architects " idea and when opened had to look like the wood panelling. All the lower panelling adjacent to the computer station were actually doors housing printers etc.As far as panel widths go some were full width [20"] others no more than two pieces grain matched.
The client interestingly enough was an attorney who made a million on a local deal and then won 30 million on the lottery soon after,some folks have all the luck......mjh

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