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The Barn on White Run

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Where modern craft meets the past.
Updated: 1 hour 34 min ago

Ze Whale, She Been Birthed! (repost from LAP)

Wed, 08/23/2017 - 4:36am

First Look: Deluxe ‘Roubo on Furniture’

ktb-roubo-IMG_8794

After an astonishing amount of work from people on two continents – not to mention hundreds of thousands of dollars of investment – a surprise showed up at the front door today.

It was a FedEx driver in a big truck. Sign this, he said. And then five boxes were sitting on the front step. Inside were the first copies of the deluxe version of “With All the Precision Possible: Roubo on Furniture.” It’s the biggest (physical and mental) thing we’ve ever published at Lost Art Press. It’s also the most expensive book we’ve ever made (and probably ever will make).

The book is now sitting in front of me, and I’m still a bit bewildered. It’s like our deluxe edition of “Roubo on Marquetry” (now sold out) but more than twice as thick.

I’ll have more to report on the book as we get it into the mail to all the customers who ordered pre-publication copies. And we’ll definitely have copies to show off at the next open day on Saturday, Sept. 9.

— Christopher Schwarz, christophermschwarz.com

P.S. FYI, this book is available for worldwide delivery. Choose “Outside USA” when checking out and we’ll contact you about the actual delivery charges to your address.

Charming Vid About Handworks 2017

Tue, 08/22/2017 - 8:20pm

Jameel and Fr. John and crew posted a superb video summarizing 2017 Handworks, where I gathered with several thousand of my closest friends to celebrate hand tool woodworking.  If you were there, this is a sweet taste of remembrance.  If you were not there, it is a bitter taste of regret.

Not My Typical Woodworking Project

Tue, 08/22/2017 - 5:38am

Offspring nuptials often cause woodworkers to deviate from their normal regimen of projects.  I am no different.  Over the past fortnight I’ve been making hundreds of wood wafers as coasters for wedding mementos.

Of course I outsmarted myself by carefully sealing both sides of the coasters to reduce splitting, but then found out the ink would not stick to the varnished surface.  So I had to sand one face of each of the ~250 chotchkis on my disc sander to prep them for stamping.

Last Chance To Sign-up For Workbench Workshop

Mon, 08/21/2017 - 5:46am

I’ll be ordering the lumber this week for the Sept. 4-8 “Build A Traditional Workbench” workshop at The Barn, so this is the last chance to register if you want to participate.  I will close the books on this at 5PM Wednesday.

If you would like to join us and go home on Friday with a finished bench, contact me here.

My Upcoming Workshops at MASW

Sun, 08/20/2017 - 6:12pm

In October I will be teaching a pair of three-day workshops at the Marc Adams School of Woodworking, a Monday-Tuesday-Wednesday session introducing 18th Century Parquetry, followed by the Thursday-Friday-Saturday workshop on Traditional Finishing.  This is something of an experiment for Marc schedule-wise, and I very much appreciate his accommodating me in this.

I know for certain that there are openings for the Parquetry session but am less certain about the finishing one.  I hope you can join me there and look forward to spending time with you there and, as a dear professor friend of mine says, “pushing back the frontiers of ignorance.”

An Exciting H.O. Studley Discovery

Fri, 08/18/2017 - 5:28am

Last week I got a note from “Mister Stewart” that the original tool shelf from the back of the H.O. Studley workbench had been found, shipped to him, and installed on the bench.

Way cool.

Piece by tiny piece the puzzle is filling in.

There Might Be a Down Side To Hermitude

Thu, 08/17/2017 - 3:50pm

So what cave have I been living in that I never heard of Beth Hart (and Joe Bonarossa) until this week?

My pantheon of Jennifer Warnes, Eva Cassidy, and Deborah Holland may be getting a new member

Shop Tune-up

Thu, 08/17/2017 - 5:49am

With the long-term desk and workbench projects finished, I took a few hours to do what I normally do after finishing big projects; clean the shop a bunch, and bring more assets on-line.  One of the prominent additions was my mondo water wheel for grinding and sharpening.

Since moving one of the tools whose inactivity I noticed the most was my 16″ water wheel, given to me by a farrier friend who had no use for it.  It had been set up in my basement shop of the old house but I just never took the time to do any more than get it moved and in place in the barn.  I was always so busy that I never set aside time to get it working again.

Part of this procrastination was that I had mis-placed the gearing sheaves to bring the wheel speed down to my preferred 100 rpm with the wheel turning away from me.  As you can see from the picture, I did find that rig and dug out the motor so now it is up and running perfectly.

In the picture you can also see the rod with the diamond dressing stone for surfacing the wheel when necessary (attached to a jig, laying under the machine).

One pretty remarkable feature of the wheel is that the axle is linked to an arm-and-cam assembly that moves the wheel about 1″ from side to side when in use.  Sometimes I have this hooked up, sometimes not.  I just depends on the task at hand.

Obviously I did survive without this machine for three years, but I must say that since getting it back up and running I seem to use it at least once a day.  Since I mostly camber my plane irons by hand on a 220 diamond stone I thought I could do without it, but I might have been wrong.  I still camber my irons by hand, but there seem to be a multitude of tasks requiring a slow turning giant water wheel that hogs off material in a hurry.

 

Lesson From A Maestro

Tue, 08/15/2017 - 11:39am

Last week en route home from Mordor on the Potomac I had the good fortune to visit Steve Voight, music composition professor by day, planemaker by night.  I became acquainted with Steve in the past couple of years and have come to enjoy immensely his company and his passion as a gifted craftsman fashioning wooden bodied planes in the style of 18th Century English hand planes.  At one point in his life Steve was a skilled machinist and that attention to detail has carried over into this new chapter of life, in part teaching students how to construct music and also providing us with exquisite tools to construct furniture.

We spent a couple of delightful hours discussing woodworking in his charming, spare, beautifully bright garret studio above the kitchen of his (and the lovely and delightful Mrs. Steve’s) house.  Tell me those windows and the light accompanying them does not instill some jealousy.  Go ahead.

I continued my admiration of his products, and noted with anticipation some new items coming to his inventory soon.  We also discussed the possibility of him making some custom tools for me soon.  Cross your fingers.

The money time was the hour or so spent with him demonstrating the method of setting up a double-iron plane to get the most superior results.  I know how to sharpen tools pretty darned well, but his tutorial on setting the second iron was an eye-opener to me.

Steve’s first step confirmed his facility as a sharpener as he tuned up his iron in about 30 seconds.

Thus far I’d been setting my chip breaker around 1/25″ from the tip of the cutting iron but learned that my spacing was far too great, and the best setting is somewhere in the territory of .006″-.010″.  Steve starts his set-up by resting the tip of the cutting iron on the bench and then placing the chip breaker on top of a .010″ feeler gauge leaf.

Then he brings it home with the resultant spacing between the chip breaker and the cutting iron being nearly invisible.

Setting up the plane itself with eyes way better than mine, Steve showed me the results.

He explained that a properly sharpened and set double iron plane almost literally shoots the shaving out of the throat.  I was surprised that they did not curl, they were straight wisps of gossamer wood (this one was a bit heavy and rippled, but photographing him work is a challenge because his motions are so confident and rapid).

Who knew?  Well, not me!

 

Steve definitely gave me something to think about and aim for, which makes our time together invaluable.

Thanks Steve!

I’ve Only Got One Word to Say – “Holy Cow!”

Thu, 08/10/2017 - 4:50am

My never-dormant interest in and work on tortoiseshell and ivory recently led me to acquiring and playing with an amazing new imitation ivory.   Brought to us by ivory artist David Warther, whose enterprise  in dealing in certified vintage ivory was shut down by the previous batch of knuckleheads in Mordor-on-the-Potomac (given the revolving door of knuckleheadery in Morder, I have to specify).  Like me David has been exploring alternatives to the use of an amazing natural material with engineered substitutes.  My correspondence with him led me to Resin-Ivory (TM) as a raw material for use in the studio.

The creators of Resin-Ivory have managed to blend the polymer technology of crosslinked polyester with the artistic morphology of striated composites.  Somehow these manufacturers have figured out how to mimic the working properties of the ivory (not perfectly but pretty close) with the grain patterns endemic to ivory, even to the point of inducing very faint  Shreger Lines, those Spirograph-like patterns that are evident on the end grain of true elephant ivory.

I’ve played with the material enough to know it is going to become a staple in my studio (and the prices are crazy modest).  I was very impressed with its properties in cutting and carving, and spent about five minutes doing some checkering.  The only thing I noticed was that occasionally the checkering cutters needed to be cleaned with a stiff brush, a step that is never needed when working genuine ivory.

I think my next big use for this material will be making a new wedge for the infill smoother I rescued earlier.  Stay tuned.

Teaching at PTG

Mon, 08/07/2017 - 5:07pm

While at the Piano Technicians Guild shindig I taught a couple of additional classes.  First was a half-day on Veneer Repair (this must be the year for veneer repair, and in fact I am going to work on a full-length instructional video on the subject this Fall) and a lecture on the Principles of Conservation.  The latter session essentially mirrored my recent article in Mortise and Tenon, so there isn’t too much to say about that.

Both class sessions were well attended, in fact the veneer repair session was SRO much of the time.  The attendees were highly enthusiastic, and I set the room up so they could be close enough to see me working.

At my invitation they gathered closer, and pretty soon it was a mosh pit.  I’m not particularly claustrophobic, which is a good thing.

I managed to engage in a discussion of wide ranging topics related to the issues of veneer damage, and demonstrated the techniques that have served me so well over the past few decades.

With lots of Show-n-Tell to pass around, I think they all got a good exposure to the topic.  If the evaluations are any indication, they enjoyed and learned much, which is about all you can ask.

My only regret was not bringing my own petite Roubo workbench, as the hotel folding tables were not really up to snuff.  I guess that I will just have to make it  practice when I go teach to bring my own workbench unless I know for a fact that another good one will be there.

 

Talking Studley at The Piano Technicians Guild

Thu, 08/03/2017 - 6:24am

Last month I was invited to speak at the annual national confab of The Piano Technicians Guild, held in St. Louis.  So Mrs. Barn and I hopped in the car and headed west, arriving on a day that was 99 degrees, quite a shock after leaving the mountains at about 70 degrees.

I made three presentations but the first one, on H.O. Studley and his tool box, was the one the audience awaited with greatest anticipation.  Actually I was excited about it as this was the chance to resolve unanswered questions about some of the arcane tools in the collection.

The audience was very enthusiastic, all the more impressive when you consider it was an 8AM(!) gathering.

Immediately following the lecture I signed a basket of books for those who had them in hand.  It was a great time of fellowship and exchanging, as many plausible (but often competing) versions of the esoteric tool functions were elucidated.

Alas, I cannot state with certainty that my understanding of Studley’s odd tools is fully cemented.

Wrapping Up the LC Workbench

Tue, 08/01/2017 - 6:13am

A couple months ago I blogged about building a pair of petite Roubo workbenches (18″ x 64″ tops) for my booth at Handworks in Amana IA, with one of them being ultimately destined for my colleagues in the Rare Book Conservation lab of the Library of Congress.  I’d taught a two-day workshop on making book boards by hand, an event that was simultaneous delightful and frustrating.  Delightful because the staff there was congenial, skilled, and highly motivated.  Frustrating because they did not own a workbench worth lighting on fire.  I vowed to rectify that situation, and now have.

 

With the writing desk project completion drawing nigh I was able to take a few hours to get the LC bench assembled, trued, and tarted up.  The former was straightforward, as I drove home the legs in their twin sockets with a sledge.  They were so snug I did not bother with glue, I simply pinned them in place with 4″ screws and wedged any spaces.   The top surface needed only a few minutes of flattening, first with a #5 set up as a fore plane, followed by a freshly sharpened #7, and concluding with cross-hatching with a toothing plane.  The stretchers and shelf were equally simple, screwed or toe-nailed in place.

The “tartification” came in the guise of a modified vintage leg vise I had in my inventory.  Given the mundane nature of the original, probably a late-19th Century unit I picked up who knows where, I felt some enhancing was in order.  The barrel head of the original was entirely uninspiring, simply inappropriate for the new setting and the artifacts it was to be part of.

I gave it some new life in its contour, and inset a large mother-of-pearl button at its center.  Just because I could.

Not to abandon the foot of the movable jaw, I spent a few minutes with a saw and a file to give it a bit of pizzazz also.

My final flourishes were a double planing stop attached to the end of the top and some sharkskin pads for the top  of the vise.

It gets delivered in a few days, and I hope they enjoy using it as much as I did in making it.

And It Was Only 2-1/2+ Years in the Works

Sat, 07/29/2017 - 6:04am

In December of 2014 I was contacted by a man who had somehow tracked me down based on one of my old blog posts describing several of my earlier projects, including this replica from a decade ago.  He requested that I undertake a similar commission to build an iteration of an early 19th century writing desk, employing the furniture making technology of that period.

After much correspondence I agreed to give it a try,  but let him know it would be a great many months before I could begin.  At that time I had two book manuscripts to complete (Studley and Roubo on Furniture Making) in addition to the bajillion details inherent in creating the once-in-a-lifetime pinnacle-of-a-career exhibit of the H.O. Studley Tool Cabinet and Workbench.  In short, I accepted the project with the caveat that I could not even begin to turn my attention in that direction for at least eight months.

He agreed.

 

Fast forward to now.  Two books, one exhibit, a broken hip, and a broken arm later it’s done, and the delivery is on my calendar.  Over the next few weeks I will post several blog entries describing the project in probably far more detail than you want, but that’s the way it is.

Good Ol’ Fun

Thu, 07/27/2017 - 6:04pm

My friend Clint sent me this video (“This is what passes for entertainment among the blacksmith’s group”) and it made me smile.  I’ll bet it will have the same effect on you.

Paterae Inlay Class at CVSW – Part 2

Wed, 07/26/2017 - 11:37am

With the simpler morning exercise completed we dove into the slightly more challenging task of replicating a flower petal.

Beginning again with a taped-together packet and drilling a tiny hole at an intersection near the center, the sawing began.

Starting near the center and working out, a necessary habit due to the packet being secured only at the outer edges, the pieces begin to pile up.

Soon all the elements are sawn and separated, ready for the hot sand bath to impart scorched shading.

After gluing down the outermost element to some kraft paper, the individual petal are soon in place.

And then it is done, ready to be trimmed and incorporated into a Federal style table design.

Paterae Inlay Class at CVSW

Sat, 07/22/2017 - 6:40am

The day after Veneer Repair came a session to create a pair of oval Federal inlays.  The morning was spent creating a simple conch shell pattern patera about 2 inches by four inches, in an oval surround with multi-stringing border.  I provided all of the tools and supplies for the students.

The first process is to make a packet of the veneers from which the patera will be cut.  These are just stacked and wrapped with veneer tape.

Then the pattern is glued to one face of the packet, using stick glue.

Using a small eggbeater drill and a tiny bit, a hole is punched in an unobtrusive spot and a jeweler’s saw blade (0000 in this case) is fed through, hooked up the the saw frame, and the sawing begins.

Once the pieces are all cut out they are immersed into a bath of hot sand to scorch in the shading pattern.

The end result is a compelling one.

The pieces are all glued to a piece of kraft paper backing, and the stringing border also glued to the same paper with the help of a pile of straight pins.  The proud wood would be trimmed with a sharp chisel and then it is ready to use.

Thus endeth the morning.  Up next, the second patera.

Veneer Repair Workshop at CVSW

Wed, 07/19/2017 - 6:33am

Following the recent Groopshop gathering at the Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking I stuck around to teach a couple of one-day workshops.  The first was “Veneer Repair” wherein I presented a group of techniques I’ve learned or created over the years.  Having looked at an awful lot of historic furniture in my career, I think it is safe to say that the challenge of dealing with veneer damage and loss has been beyond the skill-set of a great many folks in the business.  This is a topic of great interest to me, and since I’ve taught it many, many times, including last week, there seems to be interest in it.  I am currently scripting out a video to shoot here in the coming winter with a young videographer living nearby.

My first order of business, a month before the class, was to make a set of near-identical “problem” boards for the students to work on.  These were fairly good representations of the types of problems they will encounter.

For most losses a technique I created involves tracing  precisely the damaged area onto a small piece of mylar or acetate that is taped to the adjacent background.  Then I select and locate a piece of veneer that matches the surrounding background as best as possible.  (I apologize for many of these pictures, I discovered ex poste that the camera was having a bad day, or perhaps it was the camera operator…)

The outline is transferred to the veneer via a piece of carbon paper (these are obviously not the same problem piece, but I think you get the idea)

The marked veneer is then mounted on a backing board with stick glue, and cut out with a jeweler’s saw.

If all goes well you get a perfect fit from the git go.

But sometimes the back side of the joint edge needs to be feathered with a small gouge to make it fit perfectly.

Once you have the grain and fit correct, you slather on some glue, overlay with a piece of cling wrap or mylar, and clamp with a plexi caul and the veneer repair is pretty much done.  There is finish work yet to come, but that is another subject for another time.

A number of other techniques were taught, but I was so busy teaching that I forgot to take pictures of them.  You’ll have to wait for the video, I guess.

Luxuriating in Peculiarity

Mon, 07/17/2017 - 4:19pm

I’m in the final week of a project that in some respects highlights my idiosyncratic nature, and truth be told I sorta revel in not fitting in.  (I’ll be blogging at length about this project starting in a week or so, and it will take several dozen postings to get it all.)

My first sense of not fitting in with woodworking came on November 9, 1980, when I attended a weekend workshop in Atlanta taught by Ian Kirby.   I remember it so precisely because it was in a classroom at Georgia Tech, and that was the day that Tech tied the #1  football team (Notre Dame) in the country and the campus went wild.  The subject of the workshop was ostensibly mortise-and-tenon joinery, but I seem to recall him spending an inordinate amount of time extolling the virtues of a new power tool, the biscuit joiner.  Of course I bought one, and of course it has remained unused for the past 46.99 of the intervening 47 years.  I’m soon sending it off to my friend Pete who can put it to good use.

As is often the case at weekend workshops, regardless of the setting or instructor, there is the opening ritual of the attendees introducing themselves to each other.  At this particular weekend the attendees were a mixture of doctors, lawyers, accountants and such.  When I introduced myself as a finisher by trade and that I loved finishing, I could almost sense the rest of the students recoiling as though I was some alien creature whose spaceship was parked out on the lawn.  Despite that, and despite the fact that I was the youngest participant by two or three decades, at every break and every meal I was peppered with questions about the mysterious and un-knowable world of finishing.

I’ve heard that surveys of the populace reveal that the single greatest fear is the terror induced by the prospect of public speaking (I have no such trepidation, probably because I do not care if the audience agrees with me or not).  During that student introduction I was left with a distinct impression that has become cemented over the decades that some/many/most/virtually all woodworkers are as terrified of finishing as they are of public speaking.

Which brings me to my current project, as this week I am rubbing out and detailing the finish I have been so lovingly applying for the past 40 or so hours of shop time.  Not only has every moment of the surface prep and application been something to savor, the bringing of the piece to exquisiteness through the finishing process is simply an embarrassment of riches to me.  Sure, I found it amusing to make the piece from scratch using almost exclusively early-19th Century technologies as specified by the client, including resawing the lumber, cutting all the lumber and joinery by hand, carving all the moldings, hand sawing and assembling the veneerwork.  But to me they were simply the appetizer.

Finishing is the feast, and the whole point of the making.  Which I guess makes me a polisher luxuriating in my own peculiarity.

The Tool World Loses An Innovative Giant

Sat, 07/08/2017 - 5:41am

I was saddened to learn last week from Brian Meek that Lee “The Saw Guy” Marshall had passed away.  Lee was the creator of the Knew Concepts company that produced the finest jeweler’s saws and coping saws known to man.  My friendship with Lee (and Brian) had grown continually since we first met many years ago at a Woodworking in America event, and ever since we had picked each other’s brain on many occasions.  In some respects our friendship must have been an odd one, and more than once Lee remarked, usually with a chuckle, that he was surprised that a “Santa Cruz lefty” got along so well with someone who thinks that 1964-era Barry Goldwater was a moderate.

Our relationship grew into me being an enthusiastic collaborator with Lee and Brian as they continued to invent and refine new versions of their products.   Our correspondence was frequent and I reviewed countless design drawings that Brian sent me for comment, and I have many Knew Concept prototypes in my shop, and will continue using them until I hang it up.  Lee was always curious about augmenting his own experience with that of others, and for several years we combined Lee’s aerospace machinist mindset with Brian’s background as a bench jeweler with mine as a woodbutcher.  Many was the time I would explain precisely how it is that woodworkers used their tools, and before long I would see some new understanding become manifest in their tools.

In many respects Lee was a model for me to follow.  An octogenarian whose good cheer, unfailing generosity and insights were never diminished by some serious injuries he had suffered many years ago, rendering him officially “disabled,” Lee was simply one of the most inventive and hard working men I have ever met.  His brain never turned off, working diligently until the end, creating and inventing with many projects in development at the time of his death.  Brian assures me that they will be carried to completion.

To his wife and family, and all who knew and loved Lee I extend my sincere condolences and offer heartfelt blessings in the sorrow of his absence from us.  He is greatly missed.

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