Sunday, February 21, 2016

A Dream Realized After 20 Years

What is He Thinking Now?
I have always been able to function day to day, taking life as it comes.  It just seems easier to me not to worry about schedules and appointments too much.  Of course, I am reasonably responsible in meeting demands on my business and other social activities.  I just don't write it down on a calendar or post it on my phone with alerts.  I figure that life will prompt me to do something when the time is right.  That means I need to be sensitive to the subtle indicators around me from hour to hour.

Instead of dwelling on what I need to do this week or next, I focus my energies and dreams on the event horizon, years in the future.  For example, in 1984 I started the North Park Main Street Business Improvement District, and directed the non profit management board for the next 30 years in a prolonged effort to revitalize the historic area with new economic development.  I retired from that board in 2014 after it was obvious that North Park was a positive success.  Last week the local paper had a photo of me on the front page, under the headline: North Park Renaissance".

In the same way that I could work towards a long term goal of improving my neighborhood, I had similar goals when I started the American School of French Marquetry.  Initially I just wanted to continue the environment of creativity which I enjoyed at ecole Boulle, so I built some chevalets and set up a workshop for students to learn the French method.

Since the French method I was taught is rather specific to the Paris workshops and uses the "chevalet de marqueterie" to cut the patterns very precisely, I knew that the biggest obstacle to my students was going to be how to get this tool.  While the student was working in the school they could use the various chevalets and get a chance to find out what size tool they needed.  They also got the experience of building and sawing packets so that they could begin to appreciate the possibilities of what the tool could do.

However, it was clear that there was no general awareness of the tool in America.  It's existence was unknown.  Even in Europe, outside of the general Paris region, it was the same.  Somehow, over 3 centuries, the Parisian marquetry worker had kept it secret.

Therefore, my initial goal was just to introduce the tool to students, so that they would find out if they needed one.  Then I began to create blueprints and order hardware so that students could build their own.  Still, the problem of building a chevalet was that you needed to have timber framing skills to build it, so that you could then use it to cut microscopic elements of veneer into exotic shapes.

In spite of these problems, I have sold dozens and dozens of kits over the past 20 years.  I suspect that not all of those kits ended up as built tools.  However, even if half of them got built, that means there is now something like 50 or so in workshops around the country, where previously there was none.

During the past 20 years, as I was selling hardware kits, I had a dream that one day a woodworker would appear and be more interested in building the tool then using it.  I needed a person who had access to good timber and all the machinery required to do the work in a efficient and professional manner, and at a good price.

Those of you who take the time to read these posts will remember that I posted on Tuesday, July 28, 2015 the prototype kit supplied by Mark Hicks, of Plate 11 Workbench Company.  I had met Mark at the Woodworking in America Show and he agreed to work on making chevalet kits.  However, his business making workbenches had a large backlog of orders and he was not able to get to the chevalet project until he cleared his shop of those benches.

At the last WIA show in Kansas City I met another woodworker, David Clark, who is retired.  We discussed the possibility of him making kits and he was excited to accept the challenge.  Since he had a very well equipped workshop and plenty of time, he started immediately.

10 x 20 x 48"

Last week the first kit arrived and it was perfect!  The chevalet of my dreams!  Beautifully crafted, exact in all dimensions, and ready to put together.  Less than two hours after I opened the box I was sawing marquetry on the fully functional chevalet.  All the surfaces were nicely sanded, edges rounded, and everything pre drilled to fit my hardware kit, which I had supplied to him previously.

I have bought and sold and built these tools over the years.  When they are available, which is not often, they sell for an average of $2500.  If I build them by hand, and charged for my time, they would cost three times that price.  If I sell the kits for $500 with blueprints, the buyer needs to then buy the wood and spend the time to make them, which can take weeks, depending on the skill and tools available.

Dave has worked out the specific costs: $400 materials and $1400 labor (at $30/hour).  Amazing!

This Is How You Pack A Box!

He is located in Missouri and was able to ship my kit to San Diego for $110.  Since he is in the middle of the country, I suspect that the shipping to either coast will be about the same.  The kit arrived in a box 10 x 20 x 48" and was packed beautifully.  I was impressed with how he was able to get everything in such a small box.

Wow!  Just Wow!  

As I laid out the parts on the workbench it was clear to me that finally I have found the perfect person to supply the Made in America Chevalet.  He is starting to build up an inventory of parts so that the lead time to supply a kit is expected to be only two weeks.  He says he can build left or right handed tools, in any size for the same price of $1800 out the door (plus shipping).  He told me he needs a $400 deposit for the materials only to place an order.

Two Hours After Opening Box

His contact information is David Clark, 2429 NW Ashurst Drive, Lee's Summit, Missouri 64081 and his phone number direct is 913 486 0344.  He has created a personal email for ordering these kits, which is "".  You can contact him with any questions or to place your order.

I will reduce the price of my hardware kit to $400, since there is no need for the blueprints.  My hardware fits his wood parts perfectly.  I sell the hardware and he sells the wood.  Now a student can simply order the chevalet, wait two weeks and put it together, ready to work.

It Even Includes The Knob!

The French chevalet is no longer a secret or a dream.  This is a reality!  Dreams can come true!


shipwright said...

Great news Patrick.
I find it very cool that two people I have known for a while (Dave only online) have come together to get this done. Dave had told me this was in the works and I'm very happy to see that has come to pass. The world needs more chevalets.
Success in the new endevour!


Steven Davis said...

I hope you keep the blueprint option for the ambitious.

Murmade1 said...

Looks great! So if I had bought one of your kits and blueprints a few years ago, it will fit Dave's kit?

W. Patrick Edwards said...

Yes! I wanted Dave to make a standard wood parts kit that will fit my hardware. That's exactly what he did. The only change over the years with my hardware has been different batches of slider arms have slightly different lengths in the top rod. The hardware sliding rod has two rods: the longer one which attaches to the saw frame and the shorter one which hangs between two pointed screws. On some of the kits the shorter one is 17 1/2" and on some of them it is 18". Just measure your part and tell Dave to make it fit.

Other than that, the parts just go together perfectly. Takes about an hour!


Martin said...

I was wondering how to measure one's self for a Chevy. I have wanted to take one of your classes for a couple years (living just down the road), but wanted to have the tools ready to continue my studies once the class was over. This seems like the perfect way to make this happen.

W. Patrick Edwards said...

When you are sitting down in a normal position, measure in centimeters the distance from the top of the seat to the bottom of your throat. That is the metric size of the tool. My school has chevalets in sizes from 54 cm (as illustrated in the blueprints from Pierre Ramond's book) to the largest which is 62cm. So far, these sizes have worked for hundreds of students. We currently have 8 chevalets in the school.

Martin said...

Thanks, Patrick.

Anonymous said...

I would like to report on my experience with David and his chevalet kit. First Dave is quick to respond to any questions. He also obviously desires to make the whole experience as positive as possible. At one point he even volunteered to deliver the kit himself, a trip of 500 or 600 miles round trip. The kits are made specifically for my height. The whole kit is of the highest quality with the parts fitting together like a glove. After the sale Dave is always available for questions and will do the research to make sure you get the right answer. I can't say enough good about Dave as a business man or as a woodworker. I imagine the quality of these kits will meet the expectations of the most discriminating professional or hobbyist. I had already built a chevalet and have been using it with success but was never completely satisfied with it. Based on Patrick's comments I thought I would give Dave a try. I am completely satisfied and consider the money well spent. This kit is 100%