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The Barn on White Run

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Where modern craft meets the past.
Updated: 5 hours 51 min ago


Tue, 09/30/2014 - 6:21pm


In previous years our sporadic presence in the mountains often meant that we missed autumn, which comes and goes pretty quickly.  The trees reached full color only a week after beginning to turn, and will be gone in another week.  When the sun is shining the maples are practically neon.


I continue to chop up trees, and this is maple the first large tree I felled completely by myself.   It was about 60’tall and 18 inches at the base.  I definitely need a larger, more powerful chain saw.  The firewood inventory continues to increase, the local habit is to have next year’s firewood pile sitting and seasoning through the coming year.  I’m thinking I may be approaching that point fairly soon.

Also I am moving the tree line back to the southwest of the barn.  In winter the trees, even though devoid of leaves, are thick enough such that I loose sunlight by about 2.30.  I’m hoping that by moving the tree line back 100 feet I can extend that by an hour.


Preparations for the Upcoming Boulle Marquetry Workshop

Mon, 09/29/2014 - 6:57pm



This coming Friday through Sunday I will be teaching a three day workshop on the Boulle technique of marquetry at The Barn.  This is something I very much look forward to.  So, for the past few days I have been punctuating my days by preparing the classroom space for the event.



One of the parts attendees seem to enjoy the most is the making of tordonshell, and here is a batch I have prepared for them to use.  They will make their own to take home.


Come Sunday afternoon they will have some finished panels, the number and complexity depending on their interest and the time it takes them.

I still have an empty slot for this, so if it interests you drop me a line at the Contact portal for the site.


Mon, 09/29/2014 - 5:50am


A week ago Saturday we attended the Maine Organic Farmer’s and Grower’s Association annual “Common Ground Country Fair,” a weird amalgam of passionate foodies, sensible homesteading and rural stewardship, self absorbed yuppie/hippie types who likely shed their costumes and returned to their Ivy-League lives by Monday (I can only hope they didn’t stay that way in perpetuity, although I don’t know what those old balding men will do with their pony-tails), skilled craftsmen, pagan mythology, eco-hysterics, some pretty cool gadgeteering, and some stuff that simply defied description.

And of course, fabulous food.  And friends.


I especially enjoyed the skilled trades and crafts on display and being demonstrated, including hewing,


ash sapling peeling for basketry,


furniture making,  woodlot and forestry managing,


a huge range of primitive skills like starting a fire with a bowsaw setup and making archery bows (I wanted to take the fellow’s drawknife and sharpen it proper, because he was basically chewing his way through the wood), spectacular sheep dog exercises,


stone carving humble,


and spectacular, and a whole bunch more.

It definitely supplied this year’s quota of human contact, although that one gal with the black make-up and a hardware store’s worth of accouterments in/on/through her face makes me wonder about the human part.  I really wish I had taken a picture.  I simply do not understand the appeal of self mutilation.

It was pretty clear that the patron saint for the event was Karl Marx, and the omnipresent hectoring of the unctuous enviros made me recall this observation of CS Lewis.

Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.

Still, a grand time was had!  I only wish I had yelled out, “Hooray Monsanto!” or “Fracking now!” just to see the tremors sweep through the crowds.



The Jonathan Fisher House

Sat, 09/27/2014 - 4:45pm


The second stop on the New England Tour 2014 was the homestead of Joshua and Julia and Eden, and what a delightful stop it was.  Aside from the fellowship we encountered an overload of learning and experiencing


On our way to dinner the first evening we stopped by the Jonathan Fisher House museum, where Joshua is engaging in a lot of important research and recreation for his upcoming book on this rural Maine polymath.  There was simply too much to see in such a short time, and I am eagerly awaiting the results of Joshua’s research on this remarkable man who was part parson and part inventive genius furniture maker.


Of course one notable item in the collection is this Roman style workbench,


while another is the windmill powered lathe that Joshua is currently reassembling after two centuries of non-use.


Miraculously many of the original turning gouges are still in the collection.


Fisher was many things including an accomplished artist, as these prints from his woodcuts will attest.  I fully expect Joshua to paint a compelling picture of rural inventiveness and creativity from the Maine frontier of two hundred years ago.

Ben’s Bench

Fri, 09/26/2014 - 5:24pm

This year’s just-completed whirlwind blitz through New England began with a day of photographing Ben’s bench in central Rhode Island.


It turns out that Justin, the son of some dear friends here in the mountains, knew a guy with a piano maker’s workbench.  The upcoming book on HO Studley and his tool cabinet and workbench will include a gallery of similar benches and vises, and Ben’s was certainly worthy of inclusion.


The bench featured a number of exciting revelations, not the least of which was the number “15” stamped perfectly on three of the adjacent parts.  I can only conclude that there are (or were) at least 14 other units of the same manufacture somewhere.


What was best about the visit was that Ben’s bench is still a working tool to this day.  He was apologetic about some of the accretions, but I was thrilled to see it still helping a guy make a living.


The motley crew, with Ben in the center and Justin on the right.

Guest Pics From My Gold Leaf Presentation at WIA

Thu, 09/25/2014 - 5:06pm

Thanks to the generosity of attendee BL I can post a number of images from the WIA Saturday afternoon session on gold leaf.

WIA2014DW (3 of 15)


The preparation for either perfect polychrome or gold leafing is essentially the same, requiring good gesso and application techniques, along with attentive treatment of the surface at every step as each successive step amplifies the quality f the previous step like a blinding spotlight.

WIA2014DW (4 of 15)

I test the first application of dilute gesso by making a drop in my hand; I want it to look like skim milk.

WIA2014DW (6 of 15)

The really great things about the small audience were the ability of everyone to get really close to see what was going on, and the chance for almost everyone to try their hand at applying good gesso so they would know what it looked and acted like on the brush.

WIA2014DW (7 of 15)

Once the gesso is built up on top of the carving it needs to be “re-cut” or re-carved since the gesso will obscure the detail  as it gets built up.  I generally use dental scrapers and chisels for my re-cutting.  In gilding shops of old, the re-cutter was usually the highest paid guy in the shop.

WIA2014DW (8 of 15)

Often the final step in the gesso and bole stage is to briskly rub the surface with a piece of linen, which creates the polished base on which the gold leaf is applied.

WIA2014DW (9 of 15)

Here I am just showing the cutting of gold leaf on the gilder’s pad.  Since modern gold leaf is somewhere around 1/100,000th of a inch thick, a delicate touch is required.

WIA2014DW (10 of 15)

Prior to the start of the two-hour session I brushed some quick-set  oil size on a painted and polished surface, and at the end of the session I laid the leaf.  Here I have just set the fragile gold leaf on top of the hardening oil size and am pouncing it down.

WIA2014DW (12 of 15)

Brushing of the leaf reveals the areas that had been sized and those which had not been sized.

WIA2014DW (13 of 15)

Water gilding is a whole ‘nother cat.  Here I had just wetted the surface with my gilder’s liquor and laid the leaf on it while it was still wet, allowing the water to draw the leaf down to the surface as it soaks into the gesso and bole.

WIA2014DW (14 of 15)

Water gilding, done.

WIA2014DW (15 of 15)

At a specific point in the process for water gilding the ground dries to the perfect point where a polished stone burnisher can be worked on the surface, bringing it to a mirrored shine.

All in all, not a bad amount of demonstrating for a complex process and only twp hours to show it.


A New Wax Mold

Thu, 09/25/2014 - 9:53am

Since I am ramping up for mega beeswax production (about 500 pounds to process and pour into blocks for sale), I thought I should make a new rubber mold more to my liking.  My previous mold design was a spur of the moment sorta thing that I needed in a hurry.  It has served me well for a while, but I never really liked it all that much.  So it was time for a new one.


The new one is based on a poured-wax block of 1/4 pound, whereas the previous one was approximately 6 1/2 ounces, not exactly a nice round figure.  Once I determined the new mold size of 4 inches long by 2 inches wide and 1-3/4 inches thick, I needed to make a design to match the size of the face.  I settled on a background of the barn with the word “BEESWAX” overlaying it.


I printed out the pattern I created, and using spay adhesive glued it to some 1/8″ mat board,


then glued that to a wood block.


With a scalpel I incised the completed design,


then dipped the whole thing into molten wax since the edges of the paper were a tad ragged in some places.


When the wax hardened I re-carved the master pattern to show some various relief levels in the design,


and readied everything for pouring the rubber mold by first mounting it to a piece of cardboard using hot melt glue.


Then I built the cardboard dam around it (I could not find my molding clay and Lego blocks I normally use),


and filled the flask with RTV silicon rubber.

Done!  I can’t wait to see how it turns out.

Making and Using Traditional Gesso

Wed, 09/24/2014 - 4:50pm

My recent presentation on “Gold Leafing” at WIA was the most I could cover in a short period, but it was still woefully shy of a thorough understanding.  I hope it was a solid teaser.  We were able to complete the entire process in the compressed time of two hours, ending with laying gold leaf by both oil size and water gilding, with a little burnishing tossed in.  (If you were at the presentation and have some of the pictures to share with me, I would be delighted).

I emphasized that the truths about finishing in general became stratospheric when that “finishing” was with gold leaf.  Namely, each step of the processed is conveyed clearly in the following step, so you’d better make sure to get it right every step along the way.  Integral to gilding in my opinion is the making and using of traditional glue-based gesso as the primer built up to the point where the surface was ready to apply the gold leaf and it would look good.  While I will not go into detail on the techniques of each step here, I do want to take a minute to talk about how I make and use gesso.  I do not know if it is the “right” way, I only know it is how I do it and it has been working fine for me for more than four decades.


I start with an empty jar, and place dry glue granules in the bottom to fill about 10% of the volume.  My preferred glue for this is either 379 or 444 gram weight strength glue, but I have had fine results with glue as low as 192 g.w.s.


I fill the jar with clean water and let it soak overnight, then cook it to make it a homogeneous solution.  THIS DILUTE GLUE IS THE CORE OF THE GESSO MIXTURE, AND IS NOT MODIFIED FROM THIS POINT ON.

I use this as my glue size and binder for the ever thickened gesso and I NEVER add more glue to the solution.  The ideal is to progressively dilute and make the glue weaker, to render a leaner and leaner admixture as you build up the gesso ground.  You always want gesso to be getting marginally softer as you apply additional layers of this ages old primer to your workpiece.


I first brush on a generous application of the dilute glue size to the wood surface, and allow it to dry thoroughly. (see center section of the sample)


When that is dry, to the heated glue solution I add enough calcium carbonate, sold as “Whiting” by art suppliers, to make the jar seem like it is filled with skim milk.  Here I am preparing to add the amount of whiting to the glue solution.

I brush this on to the surface and allow it to dry.  In the follwing steps, I make note of how much whiting I added to the glue size to render this first “skim milk” solution, and I add that same amount for the next iteration, which I also brush on and allow to dry.  Then a third portion of whiting,and a fourth, and as many as is necessary until you get to the point where the heated gesso acts like heavy cream.  Make sure to “pounce” the gesso in the early stages with a coarse brush to make sure it fills all the interstices if there is carving.


Here is the progression of the applications and the built-up surface ready for abrading and re-carving as needed.  In this case I could have stopped after the sixth application and it would have been fine.

And as I said, the addition of more and more whiting serves to dilute the glue portion of the mixture.  Also remember to stir the heavier gesso as you use it because the whiting will settle to the bottom without agitation.

This is as perfect a primer as I have found for my work whether gilding or japanning.  How much you build up depends on how well you prepared the wood to begin with, and where you want the surface to end up.

At some point over the coming winter I will work a surface through from beginning to end so you can get the detailed blow by blow.  Until then you can go to the Writings page of this blog and read the article I wrote on Japanning, which gives a good summary of the process.

WIA Final Day

Tue, 09/23/2014 - 5:27am

Last Saturday found me first at Peter Galbert’s talk on rocking chair design, which I found very helpful as I contemplate some efforts in this area, and merely heightened my anticipation for his up coming book


Following that I hustled to my room to set up for the gold-leafing discussion and talk, from which unfortunately I have no pictures as I forgot to ask anyone to take pictures on my camera.  If you were there and would like to share some of your pictures with me, please let me know.

Our assembly for that was wonderfully small, perhaps two dozen, so I just had everyone gather around the workbench while I worked and talked and demonstrated.  The size of the audience allowed for much more participation than normal, as everyone got to try brushing good home made gesso, etc.

photo courtesy of Megan Fitzpatrick

photo courtesy of Megan Fitzpatrick

Following that was the chairmaker’s roundtable.  Again the discussion was enlightening and helpful to future work in that area.  Notice how cleverly I placed the banner for the upcoming Studley exhibit.

We had a quiet delightful dinner with our hosts, then sped home the next morning to reload out suitcases for another whirlwind research trip to New England.

More about that anon.

‘To Make as Perfectly as Possible’ Named one of the ‘50 Books of the Year’ (repost from Lost Art Press blog)

Fri, 09/19/2014 - 5:45am

From Chris Schwarz’ blog:


The deluxe edition of “To Make as Perfectly as Possible: Roubo on Marquetry” has been named one of the “50 Books of the Year” for 2013 by the Design Observer, in association with AIGA and Designers & Books.

Wesley Tanner at work on his bench during the French Oak Roubo Project.

Designed by Wesley Tanner, “To Make as Perfectly as Possible” is the most beautiful modern book I have ever held, much less worked on. Wesley, a fine woodworker himself, did justice to the immense years-long translating job by Don Williams, Michele Pagan and Philippe Lafargue.

You can see all of the winners of the competitionhere.

This “50 Books” competition is the oldest continuously operating graphic design competition in the United States, starting in 1922.

Please join me in congratulating Wesley on his prestigious award.

— Christopher Schwarz

P.S. We have about two dozen copies of the deluxe edition for sale in our store. Once they are gone, they are gone forever.

WIA Day 1

Fri, 09/19/2014 - 5:37am


WIA began with a sumptuous breakfast courtesy of our hosts, the good folks at Popular Woodworking magazine.  I had been kibitzing with friends and acquaintances down in The Marketplace and was a bit late for the start and Editor Megan Fitzpatrick’s comments, but there was still bacon and eggs and lots of fruit when I got there so all was well.




We then moved en masse down to the same Marketplace, where the money started flowing from the guests to the vendors, and there were many fine vendors selling exquisite tools.


At the appointed time I dashed upstairs to sit in on Patrick Edwards’ excellent talk on the history and range of French Marquetry, which given my investment in the Roubo franchise should make my interests pretty clear.  Patrick and I first met 32 years ago, and have remained acquainted ever since.  We invited him to contribute the Foreward to To Make As Perfectly As Possible: Roubo on Marquetry.

Patrick did a terrific job of covering an immense amount of material in his allotted time.


That session had gotten off to a rousing start with stand-up comic Roy Underhill introducing Patrick with a wild story of their first meeting at the Great Brine Shrimp Roundup in The Great Salt Lake of Utah, and how Patrick somehow saved the day in diffusing a brine shrimp stampede that threatened any and all who were nearby.


Immediately thereafter I was next door feverishly setting up my session, “Secrets of Period Finishing.”  It was well attended by an enthusiastic audience that frequently led me down rabbit trails with their insightful questions.  I really have to watch myself about that and remember to stay on course.


I am now thinking that a four-hour session is too long in that it actually encourages me to divert from the main theme, and that a three-hour session would impose a certain disciplinary constraint.  I’ll have to talk to Megan about that.  Still, a large number of folks stuck it out to the very end.


The day concluded with a festive gathering at Martin O’Brien’s eerily tidy shop, where fellow Groopsters were joined by Phil Lowe and Will Neptune.

WIA Day 0 – An Exhibit and Setting Up

Thu, 09/18/2014 - 6:04am

Since we were planning on taking all my stuff to WIA late in the afternoon, we decided to follow our hosts’ recommendation and view a local museum exhibit of Chairs at The Reynolda Museum on the north side of Winston Salem.  Unfortunately they did not allow photography, but it was a terrific exhibit.  We were accompanied by old friend and brilliant furniture maker Freddy Roman.


Later in the afternoon we navigated the clogged pathways of the WIA Marketplace in the convention center to get all my demonstration supplies up to the room I was using for teaching, and noted several things along the way.


First, I must admit it was quite a kick to see the video front and center in the Popular Woodworking bookstore.  I had actually only seen the released version two weeks ago; it was not terrible.


Second, even though I have given scores (hundreds?) of talks it still is a bit of a jolt to see my name listed on the room schedule.  I don’t know why, it just does.


Third, there were a lot of great folks exhibiting mighty fine tools in The Marketplace.  Somehow I managed to emerge from the weekend with zero dollars spent.  Not that I wasn’t tempted…

We wrapped up the day with some good old North Carolina barbecue and bluegrass music a Prissy Polly’s, a renowned local eatery a few miles away in Kernersville.  Ummmmmmmmmmmmm.

I see that according to WordPress this is my 200th blog post.  Who knew I had that much to say about anything?  I mean besides anyone who actually knows me.


WIA Day 0 Minus 1 – Chris Vesper

Tue, 09/16/2014 - 3:26pm

On the eve of departing for Woodworking in America we were delighted to host a brief visit from Chris Vesper, toolmaker extraordinaire whose handiworks are simply the standard in my opinion.  Chris wrote me about a month ago saying he was flying into Richmond as the terminus for his flight from Australia, and after 36 hours in the Williamsburg area we saw his headlights peeking up the driveway.  His navigation was mighty good as we are pretty much beyond cell service, but apparently not beyond satellite.  I need to remember that fact…


Chris had an amazing tale of woe relating to his two suitcases of tools being confiscated by the Customs clowns in Dallas.  He hoped but did not know for sure the tools would show up in time to set up his booth.  As you can see from the picture above, in the end it did work out although he had to pony up some pretty serious unexpected express shipping fees.

After dining we set about to commencing to talk, and it was well past midnight when we turned in.  the next morning we toured the barn and then he headed off for Winston Salem.  We followed him a couple of hours later, arriving just in time for a late supper with the friends we were visiting.

Making Tortoiseshell, er, Tordonshell

Fri, 09/12/2014 - 4:49am

We’ve got a weekend workshop on Boullework Marquetry coming up at The Barn the first weekend of October. Recently I made a batch of artificial tortoiseshell for us to use in that workshop, with at least two pieces for each participant.  One of the exercises for the weekend will be to make another batch so that each attendee can make their own once they get back home.


My method is described somewhat in an article I will post next week in the Writings section of the web site, but here again is how I did it this time.  Start with a flat clean surface with a sheet of mylar on which to cast the artificial shell on.


Cast out the material on the mylar,


then create the pattern.  The upper row of scutes is made to mimic “hawksbill” turtles, and the lower row “greenback” turtles.  Once that is firm, cast a second layer of polymer on top of the pattern to complete the composite, and you are done.

PS  –  I purposefully left out all the chemistry stuff.  It’s in the article

PPS  If you are interested in joining us for the course, drop me a line through the “Contact” function of the web site.


Wed, 09/10/2014 - 6:41am

We all have quirks, but one of mine is the irrational fear of running out of stuff to talk about whenever I am making a presentation.  Notwithstanding the fact that I have never run out of words before the end of my previous two hundred presentations, I still try to prepare such that I can “wing it” if ever I do.


So, in preparing for the upcoming presentations at WIA I have been working assiduously for both the historic finishing and gold leafing talks.  Just the supplies and examples for the historic finishing talk seems somewhat overkill, but don’t bother to argue with me.  It’s what I do.


I even hand-planed some boards from the lumber pile,


and made a couple of parquetry panels to make sure I had things to work on while the crowds are watching.


I might’ve gone even nuttier with the gold leaf demo, starting with mixing up traditional gesso by putting 10% glue granules in a jar,


Adding water until full,


and soaking over night.


I cooked it,


added calcium carbonate/whiting,


and started preparing step-by-step examples so that I can walk the attendees through the entire process from start to finish, ending with the toning of the newly applied 23 karat gold leaf..

If you are at WIA make sure to say “Hi” and tell me you read the blog.




A Peek Into the World of Henry Studley

Tue, 09/09/2014 - 10:54am

Now that the rough/first draft of VIRTUOSO: The Tool Cabinet and Workbench of Henry O. Studley is in the computer I can now focus on those areas of the manuscript that need beefing up.  One of those areas was the dearth of description regarding the possible daily activities of Studley in the Poole Piano Company when he was building the tool cabinet and work bench.  That information has been very hard to find.


Fortunately I came across a shop in Charlottesville, two hours away, that was dedicated to the restoration, preservation, and care of fine old pianos.  Owner Tom Shaw (right) and historical piano specialist Randolph Byrd (left) were a tremendous source of encouragement and information.  Their framed poster of the Studley cabinet is jut out of sight on the right.


What made me excited to visit them was the breadth of their activities, plus the fact that Tom’s grandfather was a piano craftsman in Boston beginning in 1907, in other words, a contemporary of Studley’s.  Here Tom is proudly showing me his grandfather’s piano tool kit, which his grandfather made himself.  It put food on the table, and you can’t ask for much more than that.


The one and only known portrait of Studley depicts him as an “action man” at the Poole Piano Company.  His task would have been to assemble a kit like this one (this is for a grand piano, but you get the idea) into a perfectly functioning mechanism that would produce beautiful noise whenever the keys were pressed down.



I even got to see the working of one of the tools identical to Studley’s for adjusting some part of the action mechanism.


One of the final steps before assembling the action is “sighting the hammers” in order to make sure they are aligned and evenly graduated.  While this is for a grand piano action, the process for an upright would be conceptually identical.

Gentlemen, thank you for pushing back the boundaries of my ignorance considerably.  A copy of the book will wing its way to you when it is available.

Power System Upgrade Complete

Sun, 09/07/2014 - 7:24am

This week was a time of delightful camaraderie and productivity around the homestead as the firewood pile grew immensely, thanks to the ministrations of my  Bible-study friend BobK and his mondo chainsaw (back in the ‘burbs my Stihl was the Beast of the East, but out here it is just a toy.)  With Bob’s help we felled a number of locust trees on the perimeter of the front yard, and removed the sections of the raggedy old walnut overhanging the power system.


Following that came the arrival of my dear friends Bill Robillard and Dave Reeves for a few days of fellowship and power system upgrade as the new bank of solar panels was installed.   Immediately on arrival Dave and I spent an hour at the wood splitter processing the two truckloads of firewood Bob and I had compiled.  But as soon as Bill arrived the next morning the power work began in earnest.  The current bank is almost perfectly oriented for summer power, but the new bank will be much more amenable for winter power production as it is inclined several degrees.  if that is not adequate I will raise that angle to be more efficient with the low winter sun.


However, even prior to their coming I had to dig out and inventory all the parts and supplies I had purchased for this project last year.  Fortunately I was able to put my hands on everything on the invoice.


Installing the framework to hold the panels to roof was fairly straightforward measuring, drilling, caulking, and bolting.  And of course, it was the hottest, sunniest day of the summer.  Handling the panels and the tools was at times unpleasant due to their heat, but we got it done shortly after lunch.


We then draped the older bank of panels and shut the entire system down so there would be no risk of shock to Bill as he integrated the two sets of solar panels and upgraded the electronics connections in the power closet.  His career as an electro/mechanical engineer has certainly been a tremendous resource for me and all his friends.


Combining this improvement with the new gargantuan 192-pound batteries I installed last spring should bring the system up to snuff.  Perhaps over the winter I will get the second hydroturbine built downstream about 100 feet from the current one, gaining perhaps another 30% electricity from the hydro function.

When I first became interested in off-grid living more than four decades ago, efficient solar and microhydro electricity were pipe dreams, and I remember an article titled something like “Will Solar Panels Every Break the $10/Watt Barrier?”  My panels are now six or seven year old technology, and they were in effect about 70 cents/watt, and the microhydro thurbine about a dollar a watt at maximum output.  Newer ones are even better, of course.  I can only imagine what the inventive American spirit will accomplish in the future out of necessity as the current knuckleheaded political establishment ramps up its obstruction to efficient industrial-scale energy.  Come 2015 and 2016 as the War on Coal begins shutting down 3/4th’s of the nation’s electricity output…  I decry the duplicity of political figures, but wouldn’t you know the one time a national politician keeps his promise, it is to fulfill a vow to send the energy costs skyrocketing.

On Friday bill and Dave and I even had a bit of spare time to 1) solve the world’s problem, which we did with insightful alacrity, and 2) allow me to demonstrate to them my technique for sharpening edge tools.  They seemed to appreciate it and went home with another skill set in their quiver.

I’ll know how much of an improvement this was to the system when the sun comes out later in the week.  Until then I will just have to wait and anticipate.

Thanks guys, your accounts in the Bank of Don are full to the brim.

A Simple Solution to a Common Problem: Replacing a Rocker

Sat, 09/06/2014 - 3:18pm

Some friends have a century-old painted wicker rocker that is a prized accent on their front porch, and one of the rockers broke.  Several times.


I find that many of these old rockers are made from “run of the mill” lumber which can be good or bad, and when they are bad there is just no fixing them.  So, I made a new one.


I began by tracing the remaining sound rocker on a piece of 2x framing lumber and band sawing the  bottom profile into the 2x and ripped a number of strips from the same 2x board to build up a new laminated rocker (the only time I have used the table saw in a couple of months).


Using the just-sawn contour as the form, I laminated a four-ply rocker from the strips using yellow PVA as it was going to be exposed to the porch environment.  I clamped it all together, wrapped in wax paper to make sure it comes apart as it should, and let it sit until the glue was hard.  A couple days later it popped free just fine.


Pinching the rough laminated piece in the four dogs of my vise I planed and shaped it in just a few minutes.


My first step was to clean up the glue squeeze-out with a plane which took 30 seconds per side.


Once that was done I traced the original rocker again to determine the front to back taper.


With a spokeshave I achieved the desired taper line in a few minutes.


Getting the holes of the right size in the right place, I finished off the project with some final shaping with spokeshaves and rasps, and it was ready to be sent home.




FORP II: The Anticipation Begins

Tue, 09/02/2014 - 5:29pm

The Benchcrafted folks opened the registration for the November 2015 reprise of the amazing French Oak Roubo Project I was privileged to to participate in last year (and no, my own bench is not yet finished.  It has been languishing for the past 14 months while other things have been closer to the top of the “Get This Done Now!” pile).

c mondo dovetail

I will once again be part of the teaching-and-helping team, along with Jameel Abraham, Raney Nelson, Chris Schwarz, Jon Fiant, Will Myers, Jeff Miller, Ron Brese, and our incomparable host Bo Childs.

c slabs galore

I was outside working all day today, and just now saw the posting for the registration being opened, and the posting indicating that all the slots were filled.

My only sage advice is to make sure to wear clothes you do not mind getting stained.  This oak was so rich in tannins that everything I wore then still has a faded black tint to it, but given my wardrobe that’s no big deal.

Between Roubo 2, VIRTUOSO, The Studley tool cabinet exhibit, and probably Roubo 3, 2015 looks to be a mighty exciting year.

Studley Research Whirlwind Trip Part 2

Sat, 08/30/2014 - 2:28pm


cIMG_6814Ninety miles from the Studley-era piano maker’s workbench was the finest Studley-inspired tool cabinet I have seen.  No, it wasn’t Studley, nothing else is, and it is not yet finished as there are still many tools destined for it, but I cannot imagine any serious woodworker not wanting this hanging on the wall above their bench.

The  maker is a tremendously skilled fellow whose other projects revealed that like Studley, he enjoyed making intricate and complex things.

Oh, and all the screws are clocked.  He wouldn’t bite on my suggestion that this revealed he was anal-retentive/compulsive, he merely replied that it was attention to detail.  He was a great sport about the whole thing, and I truly enjoyed my time with him and hope he will make it to the exhibit next spring.


Yup, it’ll be in the book too, in far greater detail and length.

Back home now, and finishing the first rough draft of the whole book tomorrow!


by Dr. Radut