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Dreary days tend to make me dreary; it’s like I never fully wake up. Today has been one of the best rainy days I have ever had, fully awake and hitting on all cylinders.
I am visiting Hancock Shaker Village working on documenting several more pieces in their collection. Since my last visit, about 200 items that had been in a traveling exhibit the past few years have returned.
So, I have spent the entire day hidden away in the Brick Dwelling measuring and photographing some of my favorite furniture. It has been absolutely wonderful.
— Will Myers
Filed under: Uncategorized
Here is a glue application chart I obtained from woodsmith for your convenience to download. I can’t deny it’s accuracy, it’s pretty much spot on. You can also download my own chart I have compiled in my previous post.
I don’t claim I have all the answers and I don’t claim to be a teacher of any sort, my aim is only to pass on information I know and learn along the way. If it is of any benefit to you, then I have achieved my objective, but ultimately what you do with it is up to you.
That's right, the time has come, I am beginning to scout out locations and facilities in southern Maine for a school. After a couple of years of transition and quiet following my move and book release, I am ready to put together a school dedicated to teaching small groups of people chair making and also roping in some of my most gifted friends to share their talent and energy as well. My goal is to keep things intimate and relaxed, just a great place, in a great place to do what we all love.
I welcome any input and advice as I enter this endeavor as well as any tips from folks who know the area that I'm considering. I want to be within a couple hours of Boston (I still have my roots there) and also close enough to some great towns and sights that can be a part of the experience. I've learned a lot from my friend Kelly Mehler and the good folks at The Port Townsend School of Woodworking and Highland Woodworking about how to create an environment that puts the craft and the students first and I look forward to seeing you there!
I will be posting progress reports as things develop and a schedule at the earliest possible date. I hope to start in the spring of 2018 and offer classes through the fall.
I just got back from a great trip to Iowa for the third Handworks, and I assume, like many of the exhibitors, I've spent most of the day asleep on the floor with my dogs. I find that following their nap rhythm is the only plan that makes sense after such and active and exciting few days.
Dear Drivel starved Nation!
As mentioned earlier in the year, I have to go to China in October and thought it would be fun to invite members of the Drivel Starved Nation to tag along for a couple of days to see China and meet China’s most famous woodworker. It will be a trip you will not soon forget.
Here are some important details for those who have never traveled abroad and are considering this trip;
1) You will need a passport. Everything you need to know about obtaining a USA passport can be found here.
2) AFTER your passport arrives, you will need to apply for a Chinese Visa. The type of China visa for a tourist is “L”. Here is the link for the application process. The visa is good for 10 years.
3) We will be visiting both Shanghai and Nanjing. I am recommending that you fly in and out of Shanghai. We will all take the bullet train from Shanghai to Nanjing and return to Shanghai from Nanjing.
4) Here is the itinerary;
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 27: Bridge City will host a dinner in Shanghai. This will be really fun evening as we mingle and you will get to meet some of the team members from Harvey Industries. The location will likely be our hotel, but that could change.
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 28: We will visit some of the major Shanghai tourist attractions. We will be accompanied by Jack Xu, the president of Harvey Industries who is also a great tour guide! Saturday evening you will be free to explore the Bund area on your own or with fellow DSN members.
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 29: We will visit a couple more attractions in Shanghai prior to taking the bullet train to Nanjing. The cost each way runs from $20 USD to $60 USD. You will be on your own for dinner but I suspect we will all travel in a pack and find a great place to eat.
MONDAY, OCTOBER 30: We will be on a privately guided tour of parts of Nanjing, the old Chinese capital.
TUESDAY, OCTOBER 31: We will visit Harvey Industries and you will learn all about their rich history of making tools for the world woodworking market. In the afternoon, we will visit Mr.Yang Jin Rong, China’s HongMu Master. He is considered the most important woodworker in China. His showroom is literally unbelievable. Lastly, Bridge City will host a farewell dinner in Nanjing and both Jack Xu and Mr. Yang Jin Rong will be in attendance to talk shop with the DSN.
WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 1: Nothing on the schedule, you can take the bullet train back to Shanghai and fly home, or continue to explore China. You can research flying home out of Nanjing as well.
5) Prior to researching your airfare, you need to understand that you likely cannot fly in on the 27th and make it to dinner. The latest you should arrive in Shanghai is Thursday, October 26th. You will likely not get to the hotel before 10PM. Regarding airfare, coach airfare can run from $400-$800. Business class is typically around $4,000. For those DSN members in the USA, it is approximately a 13 hour non-stop trip from the west coast.
6) You are certainly welcome to make your own hotel arrangements but we recommend staying at the Westin Bund Center, Shanghai. If you choose to stay with us here, we will make the reservations for you. The cost will be around $200/night. The hotel in Nanjing is the Crowne Plaza Nanjing. We will also make all reservations for this hotel. Cost is under $200/night. Every effort will be made to get a lower group rate at both hotels once we know the final count of those planning on this trip.
7) About the food. Simply, it is off the charts INCREDIBLE. This is a cooking culture with over 5,000 years of culinary history. Each day you will start off with the hotel breakfast buffet which is free. For those of you who refuse to sway from western food, you do not need to worry, western tastes are not ignored. The two dinners that BCTW is hosting will be typical Chinese style dinners where dishes are prepared and brought tableside and placed on a large lazy Susan. You pick and choose what you want to eat. Practice your chopstick skills! And regardless of how picky you are as an eater, you will not go to bed hungry.
8) A word about Baijiu. This is a traditional Chinese beverage that is definitely an acquired taste. It is served at dinner and all I can say is I thought it tasted like transformer fluid and I have never tasted transformer fluid. Beer and wine are both options as are all the non-alcoholic options. Lastly, DO NOT BRING marijuana into China. This would be really STUPID.
9) A word about safety. Last year I visited China five times, and went on self-guided walking tours whenever I was in the mood to walk. I think China is one of the safest tourist spots in the world if you follow a couple of simple rules. 1) Ask the concierge to write in Chinese your destination if you are taking a cab. Always carry the hotel business card with you for a taxi ride home. 2) Do not talk to strangers trying to sell you things. 3) Take a copy of your passport and Visa. That’s about it.
10) A word about money. I recommend you convert a couple hundred dollars at the Shanghai airport when you arrive. This is a much better exchange rate than what you can get stateside. The taxi fare from the Shanghai airport to the hotel will be around $70. AND, DO NOT accept a taxi ride from people inside the airport, simply head to the taxi line. The people in the airport charge double or triple. Lastly, if you run out of Chinese RMB, you can always exchange for more at the hotel. You can convert all of the excess RMB back to dollars at your departing airport. Credit cards are accepted just about everywhere.
11) We hope you bring your spouse or significant other. Shanghai is the largest city on the planet and if shopping is your thing, you will be a happy camper.
12) Depending on the size of the group, we all may end up sharing the expense for a private bus. Just sayin’…
So, what is left to discuss? WE NEED TO KNOW IF YOU WILL BE JOINING US! If so, please following these instructions!
1) RSVP with CHINA in the subject field of an email addressed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
2) In this email, please provide the full names of the attendees.
3) IF you are going to stay at the recommended hotels in Shanghai and Nanjing, please let us know what days you would like reserved.
4) WE NEED TO KNOW THIS INFORMATION BEFORE JULY 1st PLEASE! The sooner the better.
5) If you have contacted me directly, you STILL need to formally RSVP. I have a crappy memory.
If you have never been to China, I highly recommend this trip. It will change just about every preconceived notion you have about China. This is what happened to me. The people, the food, the architecture, the history… all are simply amazing.
I hope you join us!
So that's it, the show is over! I would like to offer my sincere thanks to Jameel, Father John and all at Benchcrafted for organising this great show. They are very modest about the whole thing but there is an enormous amount of work goes into staging such an event and it was great to see it so well supported both by makers and woodworkers alike.
Above is a glimpse of my stand, I cut 40 of these joints (200 dovetails) over the two days and most were given away, signed if requested.
I must also give thanks to Mark Hicks from Plate 11 who kindly lent me one of his fantastic benches (again!) for the show. The finish of his benches is superb and it wasn't until we were dismantling it that the true quality and ethos of his work shone through. The hardware was top notch and beautifully installed and even parts of the bench unseen in its assembled state, were neatly chamfered. If you are looking to buy a bench just once, this is the one get.
Benchcrafted had a fine selection of their wonderful vices on show and this neat little High Vice was a beauty (as in I want one!)
Ryan was the only other Brit demonstrating at the show (Lie Nielsen), with never ending enthusiasm and a permanent smile.
Ron Underhill delivered a fine show as usual and was a great way to start day 2.
I was sharing an alcove with Dave Jeske from Blue Spruce and he had a fine range of mouth watering tools on display as usual. I had Chris Vesper on the other side but I didn't manage to get a shot of his stand as there were always customers in the way! Any thoughts of my long journey home were dismissed when I thought of his trek back to Australia. Chris (as well as Dave Jeske) will be over for the European Woodworking Show in the UK in September, a great opportunity to see his full range of wonderful tools.
Blue Spruce brought a couple of prototype fret saws which were very interesting. They had a beautiful blade tightening design and they could be swivelled easily to any angle. The fit and finish was superb (of course) and I would have bought one straight away if they had been available. One to watch for.
What I did come away with was a lovely adjustable square as well as sliding bevel, which will join my two Vesper bevels. It's a funny thing with sliding bevels, I don't use them that often but when I do (eg plane making) I never seem to have enough. Well that's my excuse for buying it and I'm sticking to it!
I'll leave you with a selection of other exhibitors from the Festahlle Barn. I'm sorry for not including makers from the others four venues but I didn't get a chance to get round once the doors opened.
Until next time..............
We will have both Improved Pattern Dividers and Design Curves for sale in Crucible’s online store at noon Eastern time on Thursday, May 25.
Why are we waiting until Thursday? I’m still traveling after Handworks in Amana, Iowa. I decided to take a couple days off to see friends and clear my head after the last few months of grinding work to prepare for this fantastic show.
All of the tools are in the back of the trailer, which is parked on the prairie somewhere.
On Tuesday, I will drop these tools off at our warehouse in Indianapolis in the late afternoon. The warehouse employees will make a final count and return them to stock on Wednesday. So Thursday is the earliest we can make them available to you.
Thanks for your patience, and I hope everybody who wants one of these tools will be able to purchase them on Thursday.
— Christopher Schwarz
Filed under: Crucible Tool, Uncategorized
My dear reader, I would like to apologise for my extended absence from the wonder world of virtual woodworking via the internet. You would find the reasons quite boring so let’s not waste any time nor effort ruminating on such drivel. This instalment of an apparently mammoth series will concern itself with the addition of the third and final layer of the so-called trapezoid leg. You can find earlier posts in this series here.
Seeing that the third layer would ultimately close up the internal workings of the whole construction, I took the opportunity to unscrew the second layer’s three ‘cross members’ (for lack of a better term). As you should be able to observe in the photos below, the old school mild steel wood screws received a coat of beeswax. This was accomplished by melting a block of wax in a small tin containing these traditional fasteners. The idea with this is that the wax should reduce the effort required to seat the screws and at the same time providing a layer that would resist future corrosion.
The screws were then seated after the surfaces that is supposed to be able to slide ever so slightly with the changes in ambient humidity over the years, were rubbed with beeswax. Whether this is useful (or possibly the opposite) I do not know, but I tried it anyway. Therefore I would urge you to ask someone who knows before following suite. Maybe some of our more experienced and properly trained cadres could assist in the matter.
Seeing that the plan was to fix the third and final layer using panel pins I had to fashion a custom punch to seat the nails below the surface of the wood. A short section of a round file which I picked up somewhere served perfectly well for this purpose. It was shaped carefully (not to take the temper out of the hardened steel) on a bench grinder to fit the head of the panel pin to a T. There are some picks further down to show the business end of my new redneck punch.
As is so common here in Africa, I also had to modify the panel pins somewhat to serve my purpose. In order to allow layer one and two to be able to move relative to each other, these panel pins had to stop short of layer one. In other words they should only fix layer three to the cross members of layer two. That was accomplished by snipping off the required amount, followed by resharpening on the bench grinder.
The two Kershout strips were fitted first, as they needed to be absolutely spot on given the fact that they mirror the spindles of the so-called Windsor leg. Kershout seems to enjoy spending time off the Janka hardness charts (literally and figuratively) so it hard to say where it rates in comparison to better known species, but let’s just say it tends to take exception when a nail wants to upset it’s feng shui. For that reason I had to drill shank holes for each panel pin, which allowed the shank through and only caught the slightly wider head. This way the panel pins were more inclined to retain it’s linear configuration and the Kershout refrained from flexing it’s muscles.
As discussed in earlier posts, the third layer only needs to add another 8 mm for the trapezoid leg to reach it’s intended thickness of 44 mm. Therefore I decided to challenge my new bandsaw with fairly wide re-sawing in very hard Witpeer. Of course that also allowed me to introduce visual interest by means of a book-matched arrangement of the various pieces.
In order to do that I needed one flat, square and twist-free face side and face edge.
The resultant 8 mm stock were then fitted from the centre of the leg towards the outside. I again used the hitherto unproven technique of rubbing beeswax on the surfaces that is supposed to be able to slide.
I used a no. 78 and a no. 10 Stanley rabbet plane to cut the rabbets that hides the space allowed for movement.
The book-matched pattern is already vaguely apparent.
All the sides were then worked flush.
By hand plane along the grain …
… and by track saw followed by hand plane across the grain.
The small cavities created by seating the panel pins below the surface of the wood were filled with a concoction conjured up by mixing very fine wood dust (of the same wood of course) and epoxy.
Once the elixir had time to set I did a preliminary round of surface preparation.
As you can see the book-matched pattern is starting to emerge nicely. Once it receives oil it should be positively stunning.
Even the opposite side is starting to display a certain je ne sais quoi.
The edges were then treated to some hand beading to hide the laminations.
As you can see it worked a charm.
In our next instalment we will move on to laminating the various boards that was chosen (many moons ago) for the top.
It’s not conventional but it works more quickly and effectively than any other method I know of. You can transfer the outcome to all manner of wood work for decoration or as in this case make it a standalone piece. We created a good-looking bookmark in minutes and without using anything more than handsaws, planes and a …
The two Japanese tools I found at Handworks 2017: a dozuki used by David Barron to make dovetails, and a Japanese spokeshave at the chairmaking area.
Even though this seemed to be the entirety of the Japanese tool representation, Handworks was still completely awesome. I hope that it comes around again.
Roy Underhill, doing his thing at Handworks 2017, and showing an example of a saw that goes the wrong way.
|took it apart to try and salvage it|
|part of a chinese oak stair tread|
|X marks the high corners|
|the other side isn't twisted|
|miter box saw|
|wasn't 100% successful with that|
|the spine bottom will ride on top of these|
|the arm's pivot circle|
|the table pivot point|
|the legs don't lie flat|
|they don't lay flat on all four points|
|made a Wally World run|
|the bottom of the spine|
|the one thing I checked off the A+ list|
I'm going to put a piece of metal in this pie shaped indentation to strengthen it. I don't want to rely solely on the epoxy holding this together.
|first step is to make a rubbing of the metal piece|
|step 2 - glue it to the donor|
|step 3 - file the outline|
|step 4 - the filing will guide the cutoff wheel|
|wee bit too fat|
|a little filing and checking batted next|
|pretty good fit|
|ready to epoxy in place|
|backside of the coarsest diamond stone|
|cooking until tomorrow|
|used it on this end|
|the real stuff|
|tried it on the long grain edge|
|against steel wool on the other long edge edge|
|results weren't any better on the poplar|
|the winner is the real stuff|
|four coats of 1 lb cut on the certificate frame|
|4 coats on the end tops too|
How many people have won the Grand Slam in golf?
answer - Bobby Jones did it 1930 (before the Masters) Tiger Woods held all four titles in a row but not in the same calendar year
This is my best shot at making you laugh and shake your head. I do both each time I dust my shop this way. At a minimum, it is unorthodox, at maximum it is absurd. How did this start? I was getting frustrated one day because countless dust nibs were interfering with my feeble attempts at finishing. In desperation, I opened the garage doors, fired up my blower and blew the whole garage out thoroughly. Then I let a fan run for a few minutes and, to my surprise, the dust was gone. I guess you can put this down as one advantage of garage workshops. In my defense, it does take two minutes.
The best way to deal with dust is to have a separate area for hand tool woodworking that is walled off from machines, sandpaper, and other sources of fine dust. For a variety of reasons that I won't bore you with, that isn't feasible in my case, so this is what I am left with. Rescue me from my perversion; tell me a better way.
“While publications of the 1930s and 40s explored the origins of design, principles of construction and the materials employed, it was not until the 1970s that the joinery of such furniture was discussed in print. In a developing field where scholars and art historians were puzzling over dating, types, functions and materials this neglect is understandable. In addition, there lurks the suspicion that learned investigators, accustomed to intellectual pursuits, found the exploration of furniture making unbefitting to their station. Undoubtedly, ladies and gentleman at work on paintings or jades cut a more poetic and elegant picture than those sprawled below tables or chairs.”
– Grace Wu Bruce, a noted expert and dealer specializing in Ming and Qing Dynasty furniture was commenting specifically on the dearth of information on the joinery of Chinese furniture.
I think there are parallels in the study of Western furniture styles and the availabilty of information on joinery. Scholarship and publications on furniture styles often focused on classifying when a piece was made, where it was made, what woods were used and who was the maker. How the furniture was made, if investigated, was not always published.
In the last forty years or so finding out “the how” has become easier as woodworkers took on the task of researching and replicating historical furniture styles. In their research they opened up a world of variations in methods and tools. Publications that were previously limited to one language or one continent were made available to all readers and makers. Pushing these efforts along was the expansion of online resources and the use of blogs to document research and experiments in making furniture.
However, not everyone is conducting research for an article or a book. We still need those curious and intrepid souls who enjoy exploring out-of-the-way shops and regional museums and know how to charm their way into taking a closer look at that one piece that has caught their eye. If need be, they are perfectly willing to sprawl on the floor and get a bit dusty.
Filed under: Uncategorized
Stewart-MacDonald has been sending me emails recently about a device which allows guitar makers to adjust the height of a guitar nut or saddle while keeping the underside both square and straight (item # 4047 in the StewMac catalogue). Here’s a picture.
I thought that this was rather a good idea. Although it’s not especially difficult to adjust a nut or a saddle by hand with a file, it’s a tedious job and often takes a while. And the reviews on the StewMac website were positive, saying how quick and accurate the device was.
The drawback is that it’s quite expensive. By the time I’d paid shipping and import duty, buying one would probably cost around $200. So, I decided to make one for myself.
The body is a length of aluminium bar, 15mm x 30mm, drilled at each end to take an axle that carries miniature ball bearings.
Used with a sheet of P280 sandpaper on a flat surface, it worked quickly and accurately.
As I hope you will be able to see from the photographs, it’s not difficult to make, although you will need access to a drill press and a small lathe. The materials needed (aluminium bar and four miniature ball bearings) are easily available and cheap.
Mine took a bit longer to construct than it should have done because I drilled the holes for the axles too low, which meant that the body of the device ended up too far above the sanding surface. So I had to bush the holes and re-drill. If you’re making one, I’d recommend positioning the axle to give a gap of no more than 2mm between the bottom of the device and the sanding surface.
I didn't sleep very well last night. The peepers failed open at 0130 and I after an hour of trying to fall back to sleep, I got up. I wasn't going to work OT today but it was way too early to be in the shop so I went to work. I planned on only doing 3 hours but I did 6. We were taught a new way to scan certain documents into the system and today was my first time doing them solo. I got into a rhythm with it and when I came up for air I had already put in over 5 hours. I stayed to round it out to 6 and left then.
|had to sweep the deck|
What brought out the cleaning bug was me looking for something buried somewhere in the shop. As I was looking for that, I realized that I have way too many irons in the fire. I stopped counting after 7 and I could have probably gotten into double digits on just my immediate to do list. Granted some are quickies like setting the shavings on the 5 1/2, but picking the first one to do was giving me a headache.
Priority #1 I decided was me taking a day of rest. Getting up 4 hours before oh dark thirty was catching up to me and it wasn't even lunchtime yet. First batter was doing a leisurely sweep down of the shop which took until the early afternoon.
|WTF is it?|
|this didn't help|
|last thing I did and found|
|largest Ashley Iles chisels|
|ditto with the Buck Bros|
|31 year old delta 14" bandsaw insert|
|failed the bounce test with Mr Concrete floor a long time ago|
|had to make something today|
|the former one was here|
|ugly finger divot hole|
|just enough to get my finger underneath it|
|Grace saw nut screwdriver|
|easier to clean sans the handle|
Along with doing the saw I will have to get some grease for the pivot on the miter box. It doesn't look like it had much grease in it as there is some scoring on both seats.
How much does the skeleton of an average 160 pound human weigh?
answer - about 30 pounds
Today started out much like yesterday (rainy, cold, and windy), but that didn't stop the crowds from gathering outside the Festhalle Barn quite early to await Roy Underhill's presentation. Once the doors opened, the atmosphere was electric and excited. And damp.
As I started in to find a place to listen, I received a text from Joshua announcing the birth of their third son, Wyeth Day! What awesome news to receive. Everyone agreed: even though we missed Joshua at Handworks, we were extremely glad he wasn't here! Congrats, Klein family!
The talk was wonderful and hilarious, as usual. I can't think of a more amicable presence than Roy. He really does light up a room.
The day flowed by, filled with wonderful encounters with folks I've only "met" through social media. I found myself asking several times for Instagram names so I could associate a face and "real" name with a familiar person. Time and time again I was encouraged and humbled by the positive and enthusiastic support from readers of the magazine. Folks from all over sought us out to let us know how much they have gotten out of M&T, and how much it has inspired them in their creative pursuits. That is exactly what we love to hear, and it's why we do what we do. Thank you, everybody. Really.
Roy came by again to hang out for a bit, to sing some "lusty working songs" with my kiddos as they did a serious bit of chamfering on a piece of pine, and to take a look at my Underhill hatchet. No relation whatsoever...
It was great to spend a big chunk of the day hanging out with Jim McConnell in the booth. We've done all of our correspondence for "magazine stuff" virtually, and it's been a real pleasure to meet him in person and catch up with normal life things. We also found some ridiculously similar parallels in our lives and backgrounds, including living just a few miles apart in our younger years and sharing weird German family traditions. Hooray for fasnachts!
With feelings of satisfaction, exhaustion, and introspection, we began the process of packing up and prepping the load for the 1,700-mile return drive to Maine. Everything was packed up, bundled up, lashed down, and otherwise secured for the journey. I hope to have some more photos of Handworks 2017 up in a few days. We had a wonderful time, and will be counting down the days until the next gathering in Amana!
Last Friday, my wife and I, went to Brimfield, Massachusetts for their antique show. This Friday we headed to Springfield, Ohio for their Extravaganza. Even though the amount of vendors attending is a third of who sets up at Brimfield (2000 vs 6000), I was hoping to find better deals as I usually don’t do too bad at the Extravaganza.
There are a lot of professional dealers at Springfield, however the majority of them are concentrated in the center of the fairgrounds. As you venture out onto the outskirts of the show, that is where you’ll find people just setting up tables to sell some of their junk. These are the places where I find the best deals. It’s always nice to visit the tables with a bunch of tools from tool collectors, but that’s not typically where the deals are.
On this table were a Stanley BedRock No 604 for $150 and a Stanley No 8 for $100. Not bad prices if you wanted to pay retail, but I’m always looking for a deal.
Occasionally you’ll find good deals at these tables. Here were a couple of Stanley planes and a Keen Kutter No 5. The two No 5’s were $15 and the Stanley No 4 was only $21. I passed up on these planes as I wasn’t feeling it for some reason. I only had $40 left in my pocket and still wanted to walk around and see what else was available before I spent all my cash, so I walked away.
I always love checking out old anvils even though I haven’t set up my blacksmith shop yet. The big boy anvil in the front was a mere $1000. Too rich for my blood.
After we walked around the fairgrounds for six hours, I came home with a few nice tools. Two Stanley miter boxes, two Stanley No 3’s and two Hartford Clamp Co clamps. The clamps are the most interesting thing I bought as after I researched them, they were primarily used for gluing up thin panels. The bars ride on both sides of the panel so the wood won’t bow while being clamped. I’m going to clean them up and see how well they work.
As far as deals, I believe I did better at Springfield than I did at Brimfield even though I spent a little bit more money. Now I need to go back to the bank and get some more cash for the Burlington Antique Show in Kentucky on Sunday.
I have been told that I focus too much on southern plantations and that rich people have been building large houses in the northeast since the 17th century. And not just in Newport.
Back in October, I realized that the Yale Art Gallery exhibit of Rhode Island Furniture, Art and Industry in Early America: Rhode Island Furniture, 1650–1830, would be ending soon and I needed to make an effort to see it.
Searching around, I found cheap flight, a cheap hotel and a cheap rental car. Almost cheaper than staying home. Before I left, I finished my chores, the lawn, the laundry and the litter boxes. Early the next morning, I drove to the airport for a dawn flight to Boston.
This trip happened so quickly that I hadn’t really planned for much of anything. Yale was on the schedule for day two. It was day one. I was in a rental car and no clear idea of what I would be doing between 8:30 AM and bedtime. I pulled out the iPhone and started looking at some online resources.
I decided to visit Old Sturbridge Village in the afternoon. All I needed to do was find something fabulous en route. Three minutes later, I found a target and spent another two minutes trying to start the keyless car. I resolved that inconvenience set off for the Gore Place.
1804 to 1806, Governor/Senator Christopher Gore and his wife Rebecca built their mansion in Waltham, Mass for $24,000. In 1827, Christopher dies. In 1834, Rebecca dies. Having no heirs, the estate is auctioned and runs through traditional series of owner that presided of the inevitable decline. In 1921, The Waltham Country Club purchased the estate. They build a golf course and tennis courts on the grounds and use the mansion as a clubhouse. The Great Depression hastened the bankruptcy and failure of the country club in 1935.
The buildings fall into disrepair and are scheduled to be torn down to make room for new housing. A group of Bostonians with a view toward preservation raised money to buy the estate and formed the Gore Place Society.
Like other auctioned estates, the furniture is scattered by the auction. The Gore Place Society is faced with repopulating the mansion with appropriate furniture. What they did was to acquire Boston built furniture for much of it and track down and return the actual pieces when available.
This server is in the mansion:
This commode is of the estate:
To see all the pictures I have, click HERE.
Fish glue apparently was ordinarily available in the third century, since Hippolytus notes its use by magicians and diviners on the streets of Rome, in about 220 C.E. According to Hippolytus, fish glue had asbestos like properties, since the trickster “anoints his feet with fish glue” so that he can walk over hot coals without being burned.
A translation of Dioscorides of Anazarbus from an ancient Greek text of what fish glue is made from.
“Ichthyokolla is the stomach of a whale sized fish. The best kind is made in Pontus, and it is white, rather thick, and not scaly, and melts with a low heat (very rapidly). It is useful in making plasters for the head (skull fractures) and has properties appropriate for the treatment of Leprosies and in the manufacture of lotions that erase wrinkles from the face.”
Ladies, before you go out and slap fish glue over your faces note the translation reads “used in the manufacture of lotions” so obviously, there must be other agents mixed with it.
A Caspian fisherman who is presumed to be an eye witness, accounts in the making of fish glue and it’s workings:
“they take out the guts and boil them, and make from this a glue that is very useful, since it holds all things together quite firmly, and sticks to whatever it has been attached, and dries very shiny. And it binds everything that it holds and unites, so tightly that even if it is soaked in water for up to ten days, it will not dissolve or come apart. Moreover, Ivory carvers use it and produce very beautiful pieces.”
Fish glue usually is soluble, to render it insoluble it will need to be in contact with metal ions that also applies to hide glue.
Fish glue is a transparent, colourless, water soluble glue. There are various types of fish glues. The higher quality Isinglass to the lower quality, made from the skins of non oily types of fish as well as their bones and cartilage which are sold in liquid format. The agglutinating agents are removed by extraction with hot water, then cooled and dried to produce gelatin or glue. Varied production techniques can produce poor quality fish glues.
The highest quality fish glue is Isinglass which is made from the swim air bladders of Sturgeons. Isinglass was originally made from air bladders of the great Russian Beluga Sturgeon, found in the fresh waters of the Caspian and Black seas. The Beluga is a monstrous sized fish than can live up to 113 years.
Unfortunately, due to its overfishing the Beluga has been placed on the endangered species list which has prompted many governments worldwide to place restrictions on its trade.
In 1939, restrictions were placed on Russian exports, it’s unclear to me whether these export restrictions were solely placed on the export of this fish or on all Russian exports. However due to this, other fish air bladders were used from various fish and Isinglass became a generic term used. North American Isinglass is made from Cod or Hake.
To prepare Isinglass, the air bladders are removed from the fish, cleaned and air dried. The dried bladder is then cut into thin translucent strips, these strips which are nearly 80% collagen are dissolved in hot water then diluted and cooled into flat disks. Collagen is a protein found in cartilages, tendons, bones etc. This is a very strong and soluble adhesive that can be used in low concentrations. Sturgeon glue is rarely available outside of Russia.
Genuine Isinglass fish glue costs around 578 euros/kg or 57.80 per 100 grams (3.5 ounces) Here is the link to where you can purchase genuine Isinglass fish glue https://www.dictum.com/en/surfaces/glue-accessories/natural-glues/450142/isinglass-glue-granulate
Another link but more expensive:
The purity of Isinglass can vary due to the diverse manufacturing processes, unfortunately there is no way to verify any of the processes. Germany is usually a good source for trusted companies, Milligan and Higgins in the US is definitely a trusted company for hide glue, but I don’t know if they have Isinglass as they have not yet responded to my email. Behlen, I also don’t know what type of hide glue they sell as there is a variety of low to high grade which I will go into detail later. I haven’t also located any of their products that indicate that they sell Isinglass. Lee Valley sells liquid fish glue which is of a lower grade and the one I have, I have tested it despite it being over 5 years old and has worked remarkably well. I have tried with full force to break the pieces apart and cannot do so and remember this is with a lower grade fish glue.
Fish glue is often sensitive to changes in humidity and temperature and can shrink while drying. It doesn’t gel which means you have a long open time; some reports claim 30 mins while others claim 1.5 -2 hrs. It also means you can work in cooler conditions without the need to warm the work prior to gluing. You also apply the glue in its cold state so there’s no heating involved like hot hide glue or liquid hide glue.
Fish glue cleans up with water well whilst still wet, but difficult to clean once its dry. You can also refrigerate it and it will last for many years, the cold prevents the bacteria from forming but also increases the viscosity, so prior to use let it sit at room temperature for about an hour for it to return to its normal viscosity. If frozen you will render the glue useless, once in every few months shake the bottle to prolong its life.
Technical detail simplified – Bloom Strength
Bloom strength means gel strength and is measured in grams or another term is bloom grams, they could have easily picked one word. Manufacturers commonly distinguish between grades of glue by their bloom strength, which usually covers a wide range starting as low as 30g for weak bone glue, to rigorously extracted hide glues up to 500g being a very strong glue.
Gelatins extracted from cold water fish do not have specified gel strengths as they are liquid at room temperature.
Open time, tack and drying
The setting time of animal glues depends primarily on gelling temperature which is known as T gel and gel strength. The lower the T gel and gel strength, the longer the open time of the solution, another words the longer it takes for the glue to gel. High Bloom hot hide glues tend to gel rapidly as gelation occurs at comparatively high temperatures. Gelatinous glues derived from fish have a low T gel due to their chemical structure, and cold set liquid hide glues, are convenient to use when long open times are required. Commercial fish glues usually contain preservatives and, sometimes, small amounts of other additives such as colour brightener, deodorising agents or fragrance. Liquid
hide glues generally have further additives to inhibit gelation at room temperature. These are typically salts, like urea, thiourea or phenols that extend the setting time by inhibiting renaturation of the gelatinous matrix. Some manufacturers claim that their liquid hide glues does not contain gelling inhibitors in which case the gelatinous matrix must be considerably affected by molecular cleavage, and it’s not the hollow between a woman’s breast. Molecular cleavage means molecular separation to achieve the comparatively low molecular weight that is necessary for the glue to be in a liquid state.
In general, glues of higher bloom strength develop tack faster than lower bloom glues.
The tack strength of glues can be tested between the two finger tips.
Isinglass solutions may appear to be less tacky than equivalent concentrations of hide glue, as they take longer to set at room temperature since their lower gelation temperature delays the development of tack.
Drying times depends upon the ambient temperature and relative humidity. Glues dry by evaporation of water however; the drying times can be increased raising the room temperature. It is recommended that these adhesives be allowed to dry as slowly as possible to maximise the elasticity and strength or should I say toughness of the glue film.
Isinglass naturally develops highly stable and elastic films if dried at room temperature, being slightly above its temperature gel. It’s interesting to note if I may back track a little, that heating these glues at high temperatures say 80c or 90c would result in only small amount of loss of strength if only done for a few minutes, anymore would render the glue useless.
Viscosity meaning thickness is an important factor in the choice of adhesive for bonding or consolidation, as it will affect the degree of penetration into a substrate. If the viscosity is too low the glue may penetrate too far into the wood, leaving the joint starved of adhesive. For consolidation of porous materials, high viscosity may prevent adequate penetration and cause stress to develop at the interface between consolidated and unconsolidated areas.
Isinglass has a much higher viscosity than hide glue, in order to obtain glue solutions of low viscosity it is not always advisable to over dilute high bloom glues excessively, hide glue is a high bloom glue. If you did so, you would weaken its strength, leeching, swelling and staining the wood may result if it is water sensitive. In this case, a lower gel strength glue would be preferable. Slow gelation and lower viscosity promote uniform film formation as glue is able to spread evenly, providing adequate wetting of the surface, then again using a larger natural bristle brush will achieve the same result.
Hide glues generally have greater cohesive strength than bone glues which display a lower tensile strength and are much more brittle.
The tensile strength of hide glues is typically around 39 megapascals (MPa) (5700 psi) A tensile strength is the maximum strength that can be applied to it before it breaks, that’s pretty darn strong in my books. Cold water fish gelatins show a comparatively low tensile strength of around 22MPa (3200 psi) which again is very bloody strong. A high tensile strength similar to that of hide glue has been reported for mildly prepared Isinglass from Sturgeon, making it a useful adhesive for bonding wooden joints. Literature confirms that Isinglass has often been used for structural woodwork in the far east, to me that’s impressive.
Although Rabbit skin glue has a high gel strength, it has been stated as having a lower cohesion and bonding strength than other hide glues. This is thought to be due to its high fat content. So stay away from McDonalds.
Creep and Elasticity
Isinglass has more elasticity than hide glue. Glue recipes often contain additives such as sugar alcohols (glycerine, sorbitol) and polysaccharides (dextrins) to improve elasticity and toughness. One traditional method for achieving elastic and resilient glue films is in the addition of honey. Sugars are hygroscopic, by adding water you induce gel strength and viscosity. These additives are known as plasticisers even though they don’t actually plasticise the glue. High proportion of fat also improves the elasticity but at the cost of reducing final bond and gel strength. A high water content or an excess of hygroscopic additives like sugar, can promote an unwanted tendency to creep.
Animal glues are well known for their resolubility or better known as reversibility, but it can be rendered insoluble if it comes in contact with metal ions e.g. Metal foils, tools, pigments), or with certain organic pigments and tannins, either before, during or even after their application. A pigment is a colourant but so is a dye, the difference between the two is that a pigment is insoluble, while a dye isn’t because it’s a liquid. Cold liquid hide and fish glues, the ingredients of which are unknown to the supplier and end user, may already contain additives that promote cross linking and, therefore, increase insolubility. I have read many reports of users claiming they had extreme difficulties pulling instruments apart for repairs. This is why I cannot stress this point enough, to always buy from a trusted source like Milligan and Higgins. I’ve never used hide glue from anyone else and therefore I cannot vouch for them but I would never buy the cheap ones offered on eBay as you just don’t know who manufactured them. There has been a lot of rave about Behlen hide glue, I don’t know because I’ve never bothered to investigate. It’s a German company and Germany is well known for quality products.
Hide Glue Preparation
Liquid Hide OBG – Heat in bottle up to 140°F (60°c)
Hot Hide Glue – Measure weight by volume of water, take how much you’re going to need and place it in a plastic or glass container NOT METAL then fill with cold water just to cover the granules and leave uncovered for half hour or best 24 hours. Heat gluepot to 140°F and cook your glue. Stir occasionally, to thin it add hot water equalling the temperature of the glue. Do not over thin it and don’t let it be too thick, if it’s thick it will gel quicker resulting in a poor bond. Clamping time minimum 12hrs best 24hrs Reactivate with heat and water.
Liquid Fish Glue – Use in a cold state (no heating required) Clamp for minimum 12 hours, best 24hrs. Cleans up with water best when glue is still wet. Reactivate with water
Isinglass (Highest Quality Fish Glue)
This is an extract from Alba Art Conservation
STEP BY STEP: HOW TO MAKE GLUE FROM FISH BLADDERS
Part of the routine activities of conservators is to make our own tools and solutions for use in conservation treatment. Many traditional materials can be found on specialty websites and in stores, but some we just prefer to mix ourselves. Isinglass is a natural and refined glue made from gelatin from cooked down sturgeon bladders. It’s optical properties, such as reversibility, aging characteristics, and strength, make it a very good choice of glue to be used in many conservation treatment applications. It is used mainly in consolidation (stabilization of flaking media), though also has applications in tear repair, facing, and as a general adhesive. I hope this blog post illustrates the care and time conservators put into selecting (and making) their materials, as well as the actual treatment of art.
First, the swim bladders of the sturgeon are purchased dried and unprocessed. They should be free of blood clots and other large inclusions. For this project, I used 50 grams of dried Salianski bladders purchased from L. Cornelissen & Son.
The swim bladders should be soaked overnight in water using approximately a 1:10 glue-to-water ratio. I eye-balled the ratio in a large glass beaker to a final volume of about 800 ml. To help them absorb water, the bladders can be cut into smaller pieces. I found this time-consuming and difficult, so I ended up soaking them whole. After a period of 24 hours, the bladders should be spongy to the touch and able to be easily pulled apart.
Once the bladders are sufficiently spongy, they should be kneaded into a homogeneous blob. The texture was kind of doughy at this point, and obtaining the blob was easier than I thought. Any hard bits should be worked into the dough. If there are a few remaining, they will be filtered out at a later stage.
The glue and water were placed in a makeshift double boiler using the glass beaker, a wooden block, and a large cooking pot. The mixture should be cooked in hot water, never exceeding 140 degrees F (60 degrees C). I allowed the glass beaker to come to temperature in the water and kept a digital thermometer in the cooking water to monitor the water temperature. To double check, I also kept a meat thermometer inserted in the water and had a glass of cold water on hand to cool the water, if necessary. As the water began to reach temperature, the mixture became cloudy as the dough began to dissolve. The solution was stirred with regularity and after about 45 minutes, the glue was mostly in solution. I found that I had to get the outside water temperature very close to 140 for the majority of the mixture to dissolve. The water eventually became more clear as the dough melted. To see that all was well, I checked the tack of the glue as it neared completion, and the results were satisfactory.
After cooking, the solution was filtered into a large glass jar through a nylon stocking. The material remaining in the stocking should be squeezed through to help dissolve any remaining bits. This solution was then re-filtered using the same stocking. Bits remaining after the second filtration can be discarded with the stocking. At this point, the solution should be yellowish and clear of bits. I poured it onto a sheet of non-stick Mylar that had been previously prepared over a large table. Incidentally, I also had to prepare an additional sheet of Mylar to accommodate the large amount of glue produced. The glue should be left undisturbed to dry. To make more homogeneous and complete sheets, I attempted to spread the glue mid-drying with a piece of stiff Mylar with some success. I did end up getting areas of pooling that took longer to dry than others.
Once the sheet is sufficiently dried, they can be easily separated from the Mylar and cut up into smaller pieces to be stored for later use.
The cut up pieces can be stored in jars and re-dissolved in water as they are needed. Though lengthy, the preparation of the glue yielded enough dried glue to last for a few years. The product is very refined and sure to contain no additional additives, bulking agents, or colorants.
For the instruction on the preparation of isinglass, I would like to give credit to my graduate painting conservation professor James Hamm at Buffalo State College and to Jill Whitten and Rob Proctor.
Qualitatively ranked comparative overview of each protein glue
I have included a table you can download. It a comparative overview of each glue
I think I have covered many useful topics and you should now have a solid understanding of the various types of animal protein glue without the unnecessary glossy scientific details which I have omitted, as it does not benefit us the woodworker in knowing it. As for the contradictory data for Isinglass from sturgeon, one test from Pryzybylo indicated that the glue was resoluble in water after both tests of natural and artificial ageing was conducted. However, another report from Michel et al. indicated that their artificially aged sturgeon isinglass was insoluble in water. As you can see these are contradictory results which may be due to different preparation procedures, light source, exposure time, temperature etc. In reference to the Caspian Sea fisherman on his eye witness accounts of where the object was soaked in water for up to ten days and did not come apart is in line with Michel’s findings, but just what preparation did the ancients use to render this glue insoluble is unknown.
Animal protein glues has many uses in all fields of many trades but there is no one particular glue that you can generalise as a general glue type. Each glue has its pros and cons and each glue will perform different tasks. As an example, you cannot use hide glue for bonding metal to wood but instead you would use Fish glue, but the same glue wouldn’t suffice for gilding, instead you would use rabbit skin glue. So, as you can see they all work differently to each other, so it’s up to you as a craftsman to understand what your glue can or cannot do, and to use the appropriate glue for the job on hand.
I think by now with how much I have written on this subject not only in this article but in all my previous ones that animal protein glues, is my go to glue.
If you are experiencing problems with your glue losing its bond as I have read on many forums from Luthiers, you need to ask yourself what quality of glue are you using. Is it from a reputable source? Very high humidity can also be the cause due to high levels of moisture in the air, dry heat is not the cause. As you know by now that Fish glue is high in viscosity, by thinning the glue you’re basically starving the joint. What little glue is on there holding your piece together will come apart in even slight humid conditions. Another factor at play is people using hair dryers to force the drying times, fish glue works best when its left to dry slowly and naturally. If your workshop is in a damp environment then don’t expect much results with any animal protein glue, if your wife’s dryer is in your workshop, your shop including all your tools and wood will be soaked. Look at your environment before you blame the glue doing what it’s supposed to do.
Your customers also need to be made aware of potential mishaps and how to avoid them. All in all, in all my years of using hide glue and this fish glue is the first for me, nothing has come apart, and conditions in my area in summer are extreme, soggy high humidity. I have also just used fish glue instead of epoxy to fill in a crack in a knot on my recently bought bowsaw, it worked wonderfully and as you know this fish glue is very old and I’m confident it hasn’t gone off. Equally it’s the lower grade one from Lee Valley not the high grade Isinglass. It’s also been several days probably a week since I glued to sample together, still its impossible to break it apart. I will give it a test in the laundry when my wife uses the dryer next, just to see if it will come apart and that will the most extreme conditions.
If you’ve read this far then congratulations are in order, this length of post isn’t the norm for blogs but I do hope I will make a regular habit of it.