Maloof: “Then I just cut ________ on the bandsaw
I’ve been watching/studying and rewatching/studying the Fine Woodworking
Video Workshop tape “Sam Maloof - Woodworking Profile”. It’s like
watching a slight of hand artist up close and in slow motion, as Mr.
Maloof goes over the key steps in making one of his rocking chairs,
noting important details and reasons for each operation from stock prep
through joinery, shaping and finishing. The tape is 55 minutes long and
better than half of that is on his chair making methods. If I had to
describe the tape in one word it word be Revelations. He reveals the
answers to so many of my “How the hell does he do THAT?!” questions.
I’m watching, remote in hand - ready to pause and rewind, taking notes
and doing sketches - 3 degrees like this on this piece, 3 degrees but
like this on this piece and 3 degrees like this, but only on this edge.
And when he sticks them all together he’s got a squashed down “W” - the
rough front profile of his chair seat. “Ah - so that’s how he does it.
NOW it’s obvious. Hell, I could do that.”
But it’s his “Then I just cut (fill in the blank) - on the bandsaw.”
where it starts getting questionable that “I can do that”. With one of
those 3 degree flat edges on the bandsaw table he cuts the side profile
shape on the center board. Slicing through walnut like the blade’s
following an unseen template, with his fingers dangerously close to all
those fast moving, obviously sharp, TEETH. “Flip it over and do it
again on this side.” he says and it takes him about as long to do it as
it took to say it.
Through most of the process he tells you and shows you what he does, why
and how. With the exception of some special router bits he has custom
made for his 3 degrees (sometimes 4,5 or 6 degrees) joints he uses
machines found in even a hobbyists shop - joiner/jointer, planer, table
saw, drill press (OK so he uses a horizontal boring machine - and a very
old one at that), bandsaw and a hand held router. He’s got plywood
patterns for the various components so almost everything is “just
cutting close to the line”.
UNTIL he gets to the arms.
If you’ve ever tried to bandsaw a piece of stock with a bow, twist or
any other deformity that keeps the bottom face of the piece FLAT on the
table you probably know what can happen - and sometimes that ain’t
pretty. I’m talking 3 foot vertical, 5 foot horizontal jumping, arms
waving, vocal cords straining, sphincter clenching, heart pounding, eye
popping, pure adrenaline pumping terror. And that’s if you’re lucky.
You could be bleeding profusely and/or looking for body parts to pick up
BEFORE rushing to the emergency room. He’s freehanding some pretty
complicated cuts - with just the far corner of the stock on the table -
a single point of contact - and he makes it look so effortless.
Now he does warn the viewer that YOU should NEVER do what he’s about to
do and repeats the warning as he makes repeated shaping cuts, revealing
to you the shape he has in his mind. Damn - it’s such a pleasure to
watch a master of the high wire perform -without a net. What’s really
amazing is that he’s only smashed the tip of one finger between the
stock and the bandsaw table top and that must’ve been fairly early on.
If you’ve admired Mr. Maloof’s rocking chairs or any of his other wood
works you really should watch this tape. You’ll learn a lot -about how
he does things and about the man. Though woodworking is what he’s best
known for he’s got his priorities - family first, friends next and then
The ISBN number for this tape is 0-942391-26-8 and it’s about $20 US,
available from Taunton Books & Video or through Rockler, Lee Valley,
WoodCraft or maybe (JOAT - you listening?) - your local library..