|NOT from IKEA!|
I had a great time last year at the Woodworking in America conference. I am really looking forward to returning in September to the WIA at Kansas City. I will be speaking, and probably looking as usual at tables stacked with old woodworking tools. Also it will be a good chance to meet old friends, since I live on the extreme South West corner of the country and many of my "buddies" live on the other side of the world (in other words, the East Coast.)
Last year I met Mark Hicks, who was showing his beautiful benches, at his booth for his business, Plate 11. You can see his work at his website, Mark Hicks. He lives in Missouri and builds amazing benches with all the surfaces finished by hand.
I mentioned to him that for years I had been looking for a woodworker who could supply the wooden parts to a chevalet. I have been selling the hardware kits since 2000 but many of the students who buy the kits are not set up for "timber framing" which is essentially what building a chevalet involves.
In my experience it may take several weeks to cut out and fit all the wood parts and students just want to return home from the classes at ASFW and start cutting marquetry. I have had dozens of students say that they would prefer to just buy a tool and get to work.
Mark was very interested in the project, so I left him with a hardware kit and a set of plans and we communicated off and on over the past year by email. Fortunately for him, but unfortunately for me, he had a lot of orders to build benches and it took him a while to find the time to study the plans and "tool up" for the job.
A few months ago he sent me a message that he had started the prototype. Last week it arrived in a box. There have been a few jokes about IKEA but none of them have been worth repeating. I should say that he builds shipping boxes and packs them better than any professional shipper I have ever seen. You could have driven a fork lift over that box and nothing would have been scratched.
|Every Thing You Need Ready To Assemble|
I opened it and found a beautiful set of wood parts to make a chevalet. Mocking them up with some hardware provided me with the confidence that I had found a perfect partner in this effort to make this tool available to a wider audience of woodworkers.
Then last week Mark arrived and spent several hours with Patrice and I discussing minor points of the elements, perfecting the prototype, which I will be sending back to Missouri. Mark will then develop the final kit and have one on display at his booth in Kansas City. If you ever thought you would be interested in working on one of these amazing tools, be sure to take the time to visit WIA and talk with either Mark or myself.
He will be taking orders for these kits at the show. We will be working together on this effort, and I will supply the hardware from my workshop while he ships the wood kit from his business, located in the center of the country. I will reduce the cost of the hardware since I do not need to supply the plans, and he is making every effort to keep the cost of the wood kit as reasonable as possible.
Looking at his work on this prototype, I can say that the marquetry worker who ends up with this tool will have a better chevalet than any of the tools I currently have in my school. I expect that, once he is in full production, I will probably sell off the chevalets in my school and replace them with these new ones. They are that good.
The American Chevalet has arrived! It's not your father's Chevalet.