Newsletter May 2019


Presidents Message

Fellow woodworkers

We recently visited the Oakland Museum of California for the first time since it reopened after a major upgrade a few years ago to look at the furniture of Arthur Frank Mathews, one of the founders of the Arts and Crafts movement.

He had local connections; studying art at the California School of Design then, after time studying in Paris, returning to San Francisco where he and his wife, Lucia (also an artist) set up a shop in the city called the Furniture Store where they made and sold their works.

The museum's furniture collection also contains work by other designers from the Arts and Crafts movement.

This Charles and Ray Eames Folding Wooden Screen made from molded Cherry plywood, which was designed in 1946 and made in 2005, reminded me of partitions I have seen in hotels recently.

Big gate made by Bernard Maybeck Gates, circa 1910, Hand carved Redwood.

Memorial windows by Arthur F Mathews, 1925

A Sam Maloof settee

Green and Green side table

This high back chair is quite heavy and was built for the children's study area in the museum. It may have been an inspiration for Renne Mackintosh in Glasgow. He designed similar chairs a few years later that were much more delicate looking.

Enjoy your woodwork
(Contact at:


Last Meeting

President Frank Ramsay called the meeting to order at 6:10 PM.

Upcoming Meetings:

May 19th: Next month Jon Kaplan who will talk about CNC woodworking. Plus: Special Show and Tell: John Flahery - Rebuilding after the fire.

June 16th: Jamie Buxton will present a special Show and Tell about cabinet building plus we will have the 2x4 challenge.

July 21th: Tom Gaston will s speak about Kumiko Zaiku.

September 16th: Currently still open. Frank is trying to arrange a talk on finishing.

A talk was requested on how to cut and dry lumber.


Frank has received a copy of a book by the San Diego Woodworkers Association about designs for toys which he will make available to members. They would like to establish a relationship with us.

Claude Godcharles brought in 2 books for silent auction.

Jon Kaplan brought in some magazines and wood strips to give away.


Featured Speaker: John Lavine

Chinese and Japanese joinery

John Lavine was introduced by Frank Ramsay. His talk is about Chinese and Japanese joinery. His interest in Chinese techniques was first ignited when he visited Kowloon 45 years ago and saw people straightening nails for re-use and realized how valuable metal fasteners were to the people. This is what led them to figure out how to make wood joints with no fasteners or glue. By 1400 BC they had already figured out how to do mortise and tenon joints and frame and panel construction.

John's career started in construction carpentry and high-end remodeling. He took classes at Laney College in woodworking and moved into furniture construction. The turning point in his career came when he attended a Japanese joinery demonstration by Mikoto Imai in San Rafael. Imai-san had been apprenticed to a Japanese master beginning at age 8 and had just finished rebuilding his family shrine. This led John to learn how to incorporate Japanese joinery into his furniture.

In the third century BC the Chinese began to build furniture, beginning with folding chairs replacing mats. The Japanese continued to sit on mats and confined their joinery to building construction. Chinese furniture is made mostly of rosewood and padauk while Japanese buildings are constructed of cedar because these are the native species respectively.

John described the joinery used in the 1975 reconstruction of the Golden Hall of the Yakuschichi Temple, which was done from written plans. Most of the fabrication techniques were held as guild secrets and not often disclosed. There has been a lot of interchange between Japanese and US woodworkers, particularly at Kazurakai shows which showcase works and competitions.

John then showed examples of Japanese joinery. The first was a detail of a bracket on top of a post from the Yakuschichi Temple. It consisted of many components interlocked to each other to support the various static loads of the structure as well as to resist earthquakes. It represents one of 60 such joints in the structure. John referred to books on this subject, Genius of Japanese Carpentry, Japanese Joinery, and Japanese Woodworking.

A typical way of joining timbers together to increase their length is a scarf joint with notched pegs to hold it together. These could be either a gooseneck loose tenon or a gooseneck fixed tenon. The tools used were typically Japanese saws, handplanes, and chisels, wooden mallets of different sizes, shaped bamboo dipped in ink for marking, and a flexible square. Japanese woodworkers also made shoji screen which were at the opposite end of the size scale and used tools and joints of the same type, appropriately scaled to much smaller size.

Chinese furniture began initially as boxes with supports at floor level. Eventually they figured out how to make joints strong enough to be able to eliminate the bottom stringers around the turn of the millennium.

John referred to a book, Chinese Household Furniture. Chairs require very strong joints since the members are narrow and the joints must bear high loads. Chinese woodworkers disliked end grain so every effort was made to hide it in the joinery. This is quite different from the Japanese approach which did not object to end grain. John showed an example of a table by George Nakashima, a Japanese immigrant who was trained as an architect in Japan and became a master furniture maker upon emigrating to the US. John recommended two further books, Chinese Domestic Furniture, and a 2-volume set, Construction of Chinese Furniture. He then showed photographs of several examples: a Chinese chest of drawers like a western armoire, a 6-legged Chinese washstand with complex bridle joints in the base, a Nakashima cabinet with interlocking shoji-like pattern on the door, and a classical Ming chair with hidden mortise and tenon joinery.

He then showed an article he co-authored with Yeung Chan on the assembly of a Ming style armchair followed by a tansu cabinet and a tansu on wheels that he made. The wheeled tansu was made primarily from re-used wood crates that had been used to ship motorcycles.

Chinese and Japanese Joinery-Selected Bibliography


Show and Tell

John Blackmore showed 2 of his turnings from a recent class he attended.

Yeung Chan showed 2 small bronze planes he had build using a pieces of bronze channel.

Per Madsen showed a series of boxes he used to make from scrap 1/4in ply in his workshop.
They were used for many purposes including boxes for building blocks made by the Toy Workshop
and gifts of chocolate to his special friends.

Steve Rosenblum, Secretary


Blast From The Past
(or BAWA History file)

BAWA Newsletter - April, 1989

This month I thought it would be fun to just print an article directly from the April, 1989 newsletter.
Peter Good had written articles for the previous several months about his travels around the country teaching at woodworking shows. He was quite opinionated and pretty humorous. Jon Kaplan.

Tales of the Southeast

I recently did a couple of woodworking shows at the other end of the country; one in Richmond, Virginia and one in Miami. I also did Richmond last year, so I knew what to expect and there were no surprises. Woodworking is semi—comatose there, however, drugs are doing quite well and when I was there the top news story was the city's high murder rate. Miami, on the other hand, was new to me, so I had no expectations. It would be safe to say that woodworking in Miami, like Richmond, appears to be in something of a developmental stage. No, that's not it. Actually, they bypassed the developmental stage, and the refinement stage, and went straight to the particleboard stage. In a certain technological sense, you could say that they're in an advanced stage of woodworking. There's another type of woodworking going on in south Florida that I call hunter-gatherer woodworking. Apparently, quite a bit of wood washes up on the shores of that area and a certain segment of practicing woodworkers use the water's edge as a source of supply. I guess moisture content isn't a big concern.

As far as wood from the lumber company goes, folks in south Florida go for what they described as "light" woods. At first, I connected this with light beer and other insipid things, but it was explained to me that they meant wood that was both light in color and weight, not low in calories. We're talking poplar and white pine, a species which thrives in the east.

Strangely enough, in the midst of all this particleboard and light wood, I found, when I took a drive out to Key West, that lignum vitae and cocobolo grow wild in the Florida keys. The keys, by the way, are quite beautiful if you like chains of islands, and the vegetation is very different from what we see in most other parts of the land. Mangrove seems to be the predominant green growing thing. It's hard to say what it is, however. It's too small to be a tree and doesn't look like a bush. It's somewhere in between and has no principal trunk or stem. Instead, all the green part is supported by a massive tangle of aerial roots that grow directly into the water.

Actually, mahogany grew in abundance at one time in southern Florida, but thanks to unbridled commercial harvesting during the last century and the early part of this one, the trees have basically been wiped out. On a side trip which I took through the everglades, I ran across a small protected area about the size of a baseball infield, in which was exhibited, sadly, the largest living mahogany tree in the United States, a rather pathetic specimen of unnoteworthy proportions. It also appeared to be about the only one left. Actually, the notion that the everglades is a protected area is rather ludicrous, since much of the water that made the place what it once was, a vast, lush subtropical swamp teeming with all manner of life, has been permanently rerouted to serve the expanding nearby agricultural areas and to quench the thirst of the burgeoning population of Miami, about two thirds of which doesn't speak English and the remaining one third speaks it with a New York accent.

I had a very nice visit, however, with Tom Wahlgren, a fellow who does woodworking on Big Pine Key, one of the islands out near the end of the chain. Tom's shop consists of two bays in an industrial building, of which there aren't many in the keys. The woodworking done in this area is primarily residential and includes a lot of straightforward cabinetmaking. Plastic laminate work is popular and seems to blend well with the area's casual, low maintenance way of life. High humidity is a big problem here, not only from a comfort standpoint, but also because the moisture-laden air, combined with temperatures that never drop below 40 (it was in the 80's when I was there, the first week in March) takes a heavy toll on wood that isn't well protected, and the generous amount of Sun proves to be an effective natural bleaching agent.

Woodworkers are casual folks in south Florida. Shorts and tee shirts are pretty much the uniform of choice and it's quite common to not work during the hottest part of the day. The typical client of a woodworker is someone who is moving down from the north, often the newly retired, and before moving, engages a local contractor to build them a house. Much of the work, therefore, is done through contractors, rather than directly with the owner. Tom explained that much of the bread and butter jobs are the result of having a good subcontract arrangement with one or more local contractors.

In general, woodworking hasn't been fully discovered in Florida, which is understandable since the primary activities seem to be fishing, going to the beach and dodging the Federal narcotics officers, not necessarily in that order. In the "secured" parking lot of the Howard Johnson (yuk!) hotel where I stayed in Miami, the primary activity was theft. Alligator hunting also seems to be popular, which may explain why there are hardly any of the creatures left. Environmentally, Florida performed a lobotomy on itself long ago and is missing some major areas of consciousness. Fortunately, there are 49 other states where they have no jurisdiction. Richmond, Virginia, on the other hand, which I was in a week later, is quite a different situation from a woodworking standpoint, but that's another story for another time.

Peter Good