Teaching at Marc Adams School of Woodworking…Here’s What We Are Making in 2013


“All war is deception.”
Sun Tzu

In an earlier post I shared the King and Queen of a chess set I have been working on for over a year now. Next week, my students at Marc Adams will make their version. And the new students the week after that.
I wanted a project that really emphasizes the capabilities of the Jointmaker Pro.
The smaller your work, the more accurate you have to be. This is going to be challenging, but we will do it.
This chess set will be on display in the upcoming “Quality is Contagious” exhibition in August. It is the first piece of woodworking I will have made in almost 30 years. Lots of precision sawing and block plane work. FYI, the king is 4-1/2″ tall, the chessboard squares are 1-3/4 square in the cavities. I wish my eyes were younger.
The piece is called. “Fog of War“.
Chess Set 1
Chess Set 3
Chess Set 4
Chess Set


32 comments on this post:

  1. There’s no way to ask without risking sounding like an ignoramous, but is this a working chess set or an objet d’art?

    David “Knight to Queen’s Bishop 3…dangit, it fell through again” Markowitz

  2. You’ve sort-of answered my question, but couldn’t you make it functional and artistic by using, say, maple and walnut in alternating squares to get the checkerboard pattern? Or at least be consistent with the inner grids angling one way and then the other?

    Wish I were attending the class. Looks really fun. I bet everyone’s going to wish they had an Angle Master after the class…

    – Peter

    P.S. Gorgeous chess set! Very challenging.

  3. P.S. Are those inner lattices sitting in dados, or are they just wedged in?

    P.P.S. And of course in my earlier comment I meant that the inner LATTICES would be maple or walnut, not the squares themselves…

  4. Peter;

    It is a visual metaphor called “Fog of War”. And the fact that you folks are having a hard time escaping the literal is one of the points of using the bones of chess for the metaphor.


  5. Beautiful design. The sort of thing I have been messing around with since I got my JMP.

    - Ed Harp

  6. PS, I’d attend the class were it possible. Do one in Oregon or California and I’m there.

    - Ed

  7. John,

    Very nice, just gives me even more reason to get my ankle to flex so I can push the car pedals. I’m really looking forward to seeing what me and my JMP are capable of.


  8. I can’t wait for the class. See you in two weeks. The project looks just awesome.

  9. Wow!

    Three things really “pop” for me:
    1.) The pieces remind me of some type of “desert warrier”. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but together, they look VERY cool. Together, the bodies take on a robed appearance – like a group of wizards or something. This is unexpected and therefore takes the display to another level (the “whole” metamorphoses the “individual” pieces into something totally different.)
    2.) The “fill” that the pieces rest on – that is really cool. Great balance of positive and negative space.
    3.) The ABSENCE of fill on the battle field. It begs a lot of questions.

    Great work John! You have me WAY outclassed.


  10. I know it’s prosaic, but how do you get the knight’s heads to stay on?

    – Peter

  11. John,

    What kind of glue do you use? KIDDING!

    Just a little inside joke from a story John tells about woodworkers asking questions of Sam Maloof.


  12. DSN,

    Just curious to see who will be in class; I’m in the 15-19th class, anyone else?

    Looking forward to great times, great people and great information.


  13. It’s really very cool John. Very “Game of Thrones” ish if you ask me – it made me think of the opening sequence of that show immediately.
    Did the show provide any conscious inspiration for you?

    Love the variable ends of the home ends of the board – I wonder if any of the DSN noticed that. Terrific primitive and uncertain element it adds to the whole.

    Congrats on a great piece of many pieces!


  14. Thanks Joe.

    I don’t know what “Game of Thrones” is. The inspiration came from attempting a new joint on the JMP and messing around with the falloff. When I put the two pieces back together misaligned, I had a serendipitous moment. The cool thing about the JMP are the smooth cut surfaces… in this case the angular falloff became more interesting than my original idea because it looked precise and deliberate. It was not what I intended but I am glad it happened.

    There is symbolism in all aspects of this piece, pleased that you like it.


  15. rutager,

    i’m in the 15th – 19th class as well. hopefully if there are any kinks, john will have worked them out the prior week and we can benefit from their learning curve. how’s the fracture coming along?

    see you in about 10 days. dave

  16. Hi Dave,

    Looking forward to being in class with you. Thanks for asking about my leg; Doctor has cleared me to start putting weight on it and driving starting on the 12th- cutting it close, but I’m optimistic.


  17. john, great class. enjoyed the week at masw but also happy to be home. looking forward to the new videos which will be a nice refresher on the class. thanks again for the jmp tune up. watching you field adjust various machines was worth the price of admission.


    p.s. neil, hope you are drying out and the damage was controllable.

    p.p.s. with the snow up north, rutager should just about be home and is probably happy to have all of the cutoffs and extra jmp’s in the trunk for extra ballast

  18. Dave,

    I must agree; class was fantastic, great people and information.
    Only snow on the ground was my driveway and front steps; it was hard frozen, so driving on it was marginal and getting in the house on the crutches at 1:30 am. after driving 10 hours was done very carefully!


  19. Dave – thanks for asking

    7 inches of rain in 24 hours did me in. Drying out – 18″ of water in a workshop meant drywall cut out, carpet in finished area removed, doors and trim removed, and 6 dehumidifiers and 10 large fans running since Saturday. Benches and cabinets will dry out and a little sanding and reglueing on a couple of drawers should get things back together. I did make get most stuff cleaned up and oiled with Beoshield after blowing out with compressed air. But I am out of commission for probably 3-4 weeks before all back in place.

    Insurance is a good thing. Reconstruction should start on Monday. Biggest loss was a number of Festools, but they are insured.

    Really was sorry I had to leave early but now anxious to get back to the chess project. John gave me a LOT to think about in both design and execution. Well worth the time!


  20. neil, insurance is truly wonderful and the fact you were/are covered for water damage like you had makes all the difference in the world when it comes to recovering from something like that.

    things are things and can be fixed/replaced.

    re: getting back to the chess set project, can not remember if john mentioned it on friday or earlier in the week prior to your departure, but he needs to make videos of exactly how he made the chess set as part of training videos associated with his china sale of jmp’s.

    he said he had to get on that right away and that they should be up in the next 4-6 weeks.


  21. Neil,
    My condolences to your shop. I think that unless you have seen what flood water can do you can’t appreciate it. Good luck with getting all back to normal as soon as possible.

    I operate the flood wall for the city of Keokuk, Ia. so I has a busy week also, but I didn’t have to deal with it personally in my own shop.

    I would have loved to have joined you at this training. It would have been a quite good skill building class!


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