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The Woodworking Blogs Aggregator
An aggregate of many different woodworking blog feeds from across the 'net all in one place! These are my favorite blogs that I read everyday...
|Looking South on Lake Ennis from my neighbor's land|
My father's family arrived from Germany around 1908 and settled with the rest of the Germans in Wisconsin. My great grandfather was a simple carpenter, and worked with his hands all his life. Not finding the jobs in Wisconsin, he left the family behind and hopped the train West.
When the train stopped in Whitehall, Montana, he looked out the window and saw the smoldering remains of what had been the main block of businesses in town. The entire block had burned down the night before, and he understood that there might be work soon to rebuild it, so he set up shop.
For the next 20 years he operated a mill and sash shop, and sold construction lumber as the Interstate Lumber Company. His shop had a large painted sign on the front, which reflected the philosophy of the day, "A Square Deal." In the center of the shop stood the prize piece of woodworking machinery, the Crescent Multi Woodworking Tool. This belt driven tool was a large single chunk of cast iron, weighing nearly half a ton. It included a 36" band saw, 16" jointer, 12" table saw, and a hand operated mortising chisel, all driven by a leather belt running under the floor. My job, when I was very small, was crawling under the floor and lubricating the bearings of the belt.
You can imagine why I am not that interested in using power woodworking tools after that.
In any event, as I was born in Southern California, the visits to Montana were annual and rather short, depending on the weather. I am not interested in snow. However, I love the smell of the mountains, and the open sky and fishing. I also love finding deer, minks, sandhill cranes, rabbits, owls and other wildlife wandering around the property. Not so much the beavers...who think my creek is their swimming pool.
|The Miller Cabin, after 90 years|
Fortunately, my family had the good sense to purchase a couple acres on a lake, 60 miles from Whitehall, to set up a vacation cabin or two. Actually, there are three cabins, all from the 1930's and still furnished with all the furniture, dishes, wood stoves, guns and fishing rods, and vehicles from that time. Really a simple "turn key" operation. The first cabin was a simple building, which was built inside the workshop in Whitehall. Then it was taken apart, placed on a Model T flatbed truck and driven over the dirt road to Ennis, where it was put back together. It is a wonderful cabin, completely wood inside, with all the conveniences of "modern" life, except plumbing, and insulation. I helped install electricity in the 1960's so we could have a refrigerator and lights.
I have enjoyed these cabins with my family and friends for the past 60 years, and find it essential to return there for a different "perspective" on life. Like Walden before me, I find solace in the simplicity of life, when you live off the land. Chopping wood, getting water from the artesian well, catching fish, and just watching the environment as it changes over time is a full time activity.
Each year there is a lot of timber which needs clearing, as the weather is fierce and the trees are old. Last year and this year I lost two of my largest willow trees, and it took a fair amount of time to clear out the wood. I must admit, I am rather good with a double axe. I really enjoy using it to cut wood. It is such a different aspect of woodworking from the usual job I have, cutting minuscule pieces of exotic hardwoods with a 2/0 jeweler's blade.
|Nice Chain! Need a Pull?|
|Reliable Transportation since 1946|
There are also several vehicles which are waiting for us and ready to go when we arrive. The best one is a 1941 Dodge Power Wagon, which was built for the medical corps during the second War. This truck was purchased by my great uncle in 1946 and refitted for mountain camping purposes. I learned to double clutch on this truck and it is a wonderful thing to drive...anywhere you want. It has been on top of all these mountains around the cabin many, many times.
There is a bit of culture shock when I return to my workshop. It soon wears off, as I begin to get back in the "groove" of work. The good news is that I am constantly reminded of where I came from and it keeps me humble as I work on the wonderful things which compose my life's work.
|Cooked on a Wood Stove|
|Treasure Box Series II Nearly Complete|
The day Kristen and I left to fly to Winston Salem, Patrice finished cutting out the ebony background packet and was ready to start putting it together.
This Treasure Box is twice as difficult as the first series Treasure Box, and it includes subtle complexities that makes it even more challenging. Patrice and I have worked together on this project for an entire year to get it to this point, and we hope to complete the project, with four identical boxes by the end of this year. Or sooner, if possible...
After the success in selling all four of the first series, we were encouraged to start working on the next series. I selected the original box from a web search and began working on the box construction. You can search back in this blog to see how long ago it was that I was cutting the full blind dovetails for the corners.
We decided to do the interior in bloodwood veneer and we found a nice large and colorful bloodwood board in Oregon to cut down for the solid partitions to match. The design includes three birds, each different. Two are sitting in trees inside the box itself. One is on the top outside center, surrounded by bone inlay.
Patrice refined the overall design using illustrator, which produces a line composed of very small dots. It is essential to use a dotted line to cut the pieces properly. That is because we are using the Classic Method to produce these boxes, and, if you have been following this blog, you realize we are "cheating." What I mean by this is that the original box, made in the late 17th century, was made using the Painting in Wood process. With this process, you only are able to generate one copy of the design at a time. In order to made these boxes "affordable" we are using the Classic Method, which the French perfected in the mid 18th century, and with that process we can make multiple copies all identical.
They look like Painting in Wood, but the fit is perfect since the saw kerf is eliminated, so an expert would be able to determine that they are not "of the period."
To cut out the background for the top, Patrice had to first cut out the elliptical bone cavity around the center bird. Then he had to take apart the package and install the bone strips in each background. Since the four backgrounds then had to be put back into a packet absolutely perfectly, with a new design placed on the front of the packet, there had to be some way to keep the alignment of each layer without any error. I suggested using pins which would be placed in holes that were first drilled through the first packet. Then Patrice was able to keep the second design in the right position by locating these pins. It worked perfectly. Absolutely zero error.
So, after cutting the packet for over three days, full time, he was ready to start putting the pieces together. We flew to Winston Salem on a Wednesday. On Thursday night we were looking for a place to eat and walked into a crab shack around the corner from the hotel. As we looked at the menu, we were dismayed to find everything was fried. When the waiter arrived and asked us what we wanted, we said "anything organic and anything not fried." He kindly said, "You are in the wrong place. You need to go down Liberty Street on the other side of the interstate and eat at Willows."
Boy, was he right! We ended up eating there four nights in a row and enjoyed every bite. For example, here is the "Grilled vegetable Napoleon -layered puff pastry, with grilled asparagus, grilled portabella mushrooms, grilled artichokes and fontina cheese, finished with roasted red peppers." I had it twice!
|Excellent Food Properly Presented|
To quickly review how we got to this point, I will briefly summarize the process we used. After Patrice had completed the drawing, I laid out 32 different packets of sawn veneers and coded each part of the design with the appropriate wood. The top has nearly a thousand separate pieces, and each had to have a color, keeping in mind the overall goal of making it look authentic. I then glued each piece of the paper to the packets and fed them to Patrice, who was kept busy cutting 4 layers of each element over nearly a month of work.
He is responsible for placing each piece in hot sand to create the artistic shadow, as I no longer have the patience to do that part of the work. It is an essential part of the process, but very tedious. Patrice has the eye and understands exactly how the final result will look. He did a great job.
At this point all the sides for the four boxes are assembled and all the tops are nearly ready. The inside marquetry is done and glued down. There is one last issue to resolve: green bone.
If you look closely at the marquetry you will see that a lot of the places where leaves should be are empty. These spots will be filled with green bone leaves. Also, in these places you can see small strips of ebony crossing the empty space. These strips are "bridges" which are a feature of the Classic Method. By leaving "bridges" in the design, the various elements of the background can remain exactly in the proper place until the worker is ready to install the proper element. The worker just cuts out the bridge and installs the leaf, in this case. We will do that as soon as we complete the process of dying the white bone a proper green. Green bone elements were a very popular feature in late 17th century work.
I am so proud of this recent work that I want to show you some closeups, even though the work is not completely done. Note you are looking at the back side of the marquetry, which is being assembled with hot glue on an assembly board which is covered in stretched Kraft paper. When all the parts are in place, any gaps which remain will be filled with mastic. Then we can remove the panels and finally glue them in place on the outside of our boxes.
We are very fortunate that three of these boxes have been sold and paid for. That means that there is only one Treasure Box Series II which remains available. It is our hope that we will find a patron who is able to purchase the last box and perhaps donate it to a museum. We believe that this work is worthy of being in a museum where it can be enjoyed by the general public. I think it is very important in this modern disposable world that the public has the chance to view objects which will stand the test of time. This work is equal to that produced centuries ago, as we have been very faithful to the craft.
Fortunately, I had decided to arrive several days in advance of the WIA conference and stay a few days after, so Kristen and I were able to spend some quality time in old Winston Salem. In fact, the last time I visited Winston Salem and MESDA was in 1978, during one of my several trips to visit East coast museums and historic settlements. I am sorry it took so long for me to return.
The weather was great, in fact, with only a slight spot of rain and moderate heat. While I was away, on the other hand, San Diego had a heat wave, with several days above 100 degrees. Poor Patrice had to work at the bench, building the top of our Treasure Box (Series 2) while I got to wander around from place to place, thinking perhaps I should have packed a sweater.
Last year, during this time, I was teaching at Marc Adams school, and only had a short time late on Saturday to get away. I broke several speed limits driving from the school to Cincinnati to see the WIA event. As it turned out, I got there about 30 minutes before it closed, with just enough time to get my signed copies of Roubo from Chris. As it turned out, I also had to sign a few copies, since I wrote the Forward. The best part was that I got to have a nice dinner with Roy later that evening.
This year, I was a speaker, and presented two lectures to a rather enthusiastic and supportive audience. The first was a talk on "Historic Marquetry Procedures,"and went through basically 500 years of the traditional methods used to create this art form. The second was "Building and Using a Chevalet." At the start of this lecture, I mentioned that I have been working for nearly 20 years to introduce this unique tool to woodworkers in North America. Then I foolishly asked if anyone in the audience knew about this tool. When nobody raised their hand, a person in the back shouted, "You haven't been very successful!" As they always say in law school, "Never ask a question you don't know the answer to."
I shared the lecture room with Roy Underhill, which is always an experience. As I was setting up my talk, he was putting his things away. They had scheduled a half hour break between speakers. Just about the time I was ready to start, Roy had the brilliant idea to "introduce" me. You probably already know he can be theatrical, to say the least.
He said the first time we met was at the Salton Sea, and there was a stampede of brine shrimp. Tim Webster was sitting in the audience, and had the quick thinking to pull out his camera and video it, posting it on YouTube soon after. I was speechless and had to hold my tongue, while he went on and on, creating a story that was more and more amazing. My mike was turned up to the max and when I did comment it was way too loud. Near the end I asked him to turn down the mike, and he crawled under the screen to adjust the volume. I thought I had a quick wit, but there is no way I can keep up with Roy when he is "on."
Here is the video: Underhill introducing Edwards
While I was having fun in the lecture hall, Kristen was in the Trade Show, where we had a booth for both the ASFM school and OBG. She is a master of working these shows, and I am very grateful for her talent, as I usually lose my voice and patience trying to compete with the noise.
Of course, Roy had to stop by and pick up some glue...
After the show Kristen and I went to MESDA where we had a nice private tour with Daniel Ackerman. We also enjoyed a private home tour by Tom Sears, both of which are members of SAPFM. We had dinner with Jerome Bias, who is the joiner at Old Salem, and then visited him at work, where he demonstrated his Roubo veneer saw.
Across the hall Glen Huey was using the foot power lathe to make some turnings.
All of this activity was in the Brothers House, and it was full of woodworkers from the show, having a great time sharing stories.
I made a promise to myself not to wait another 30 years before returning to Winston Salem.
To see a list of classes click here:WIA Lectures
Our booth will be representing the American School of French Marquetry, and I hope to attract new students both to my school in San Diego, and also to Marc Adams School of Woodworking, where I will return to teach next fall.
Marc has graciously sent to the conference one of the chevalets he built for my class. Unfortunately, the classic chevalet doesn't fit into the typical baggage requirements, so having one of his on loan is a great help. Thank you Marc.
We are also selling bottles of Old Brown Glue at our booth. That is assuming the TSA doesn't look at a 49 lb bag of gelled organic glue as a threat. We included in the package the MSDS just in case.
I used to wonder at Don Weber, the "bodger of paint Lick, Kentucky," when he would stay with us. His baggage contained a dozen razor sharp turning tools. I guess if you look authentic, they don't mess with you.
I have had my share of interesting stops by TSA. One I am thinking of was the time I transported 2 kilos of sand, which I paid a good price for in Paris. This particular sand comes from Fontainebleau and is used for burning wood in marquetry. As they ran their hands through the sand, looking for something, they finally asked me, "What is this?" All I could say was "Sand."
But the most memorable and dramatic event was when I arrived from Paris to clear customs in Philadelphia. I had a bag which was 50 pounds. I had purchased a variety of traditional stains, in powder form, as well as kilos of pumice and "soie" which is a silk filtered mineral for French polishing. At the same time, since American pewter is different than traditional French pewter, I had several sheets of 1mm thick pewter lining the sides of the bag.
So, when I was asked to open my bag for inspection, the inspector looked into a bag, lined with lead sheeting and filled with hand made brown paper kilos of different powders. He asked me to empty the bag, and as I lifted each kilo out to place it on the table, different colored powders would leak out. I tried as best as I could to explain why I had placed pewter on the sides of the bag, but he wasn't impressed with my knowledge of traditional marquetry and special materials.
As he reached for the telephone to call a superior my heat sank, thinking my stop over in Philadelphia was going to take longer than I had expected. However at that same instant a 777 had just arrived and there were about 300 people rushing the gate. He just gave up, looked at me sternly, and said, "Pack your bag and go."
I guess it does matter if you look authentic. Hope to see you in Winston Salem!
|Always Start With The Basics|
When I decided to open up my marquetry workshop to students, I had to decide what kind of curriculum to follow, knowing that I would have a wide range of students with a wide range of abilities and experience.
Therefore, I followed the musical format which I learned during the decades I was involved with classical music. At the age of 12, I saw a kid playing the violin on the Ed Sullivan show on TV. I immediately told my parents that I wanted to learn the violin. Fortunately, they were able to buy me a moderately good quality instrument and find someone to teach me. I went every week to get a lesson and made a good effort to practice daily. I was not always successful, and my teacher would always know when I had practiced or not.
There were fingering exercises, bowing exercises, scales in every key, and very simple practice etudes. It was all about technique. My teacher was a very old man, and had learned himself from a Russian teacher. He insisted that I learn the basics before I even thought about playing anything by some composer. He was right. I was soon able to join the Civic Youth orchestra, where I sat first chair, second violin section. (I never had any aspirations to play first violin. That takes a certain ego.)
In college, I naturally took music and had the good fortune to study with Bert Turetzky, a famous double bass player. He listened to me play my violin and immediately said, "Forget it. I need a viola player. Can you learn to play the viola?"
I went back to my teacher, who was in his 90's and retired and asked him if he could help me. He was generous enough to show me what I needed and I spent my college years playing the viola in the UCSD quartet. Some of the most rewarding days of my life.
My point is that, if I had not been shown how to hold the instrument, how to tune the instrument and how to execute the most basic technical aspects of it, I would never have been able to perform Schubert's string quintet in C major successfully.
Thus, since I only teach two weeks of classes every quarter, it is essential that I teach the basics. How to fit the chevalet to the worker. How to hold the saw frame and set the tension. How to make a packet and cut it. How to execute simple etudes over and over.
The first week is the Boulle method, where it doesn't matter much if you can follow the line. Most students are able to learn fast enough and have enough control to stay on the line by the end of the week. The second week is the Classic Method (Piece by Piece) where it is essential that you not only follow the line exactly, but are able to cut away exactly half the line consistently. That takes good eye/hand coordination, and that takes much more practice to master.
There is an etude which is in between these two methods: Painting in Wood. With this method, you do not have to follow the line exactly. The pieces always fit, since you are basically using the Boulle method of cutting the layers of the packet in super position. That means the elements of the design are cut at the same time as the cavities of the background, which is in the same packet.
With the Classic Method, the elements of the design are cut in a separate packet and the back ground is cut in a separate packet, so if you are not careful, they will not fit. The French developed the Classic Method and were able to keep most of the secrets of this process in Paris.
At the end of the 17th century, the rest of Europe began to evolve the Boulle Method into the Painting in Wood method, as the desire to create more naturalistic marquetry designs became the fashion. With Boulle, the packets were usually layers of ebony, pewter, brass or tortoise shell, and the overall design was either a positive or negative form of the design ("premiere-partye" or "contre-partye").
|Boulle Marquetry Project for Art Institute of Chicago|
I wrote an article explaining this process in detail in Woodwork, February 2008, where I show how I made one of my tall case clocks.
The success of this method depends on making sure the elements of the wood you need for the design are exactly in place inside the packet, and that you are able to include as many different species of woods as possible in the fewest number of layers. Generally, using 1.5mm sawn veneers, I limit my packets to 8 layers of veneer, plus the 3mm back board and the 1.5mm front board. When using 0.9 sliced veneers, it is possible to include as many as 12 layers of veneer.
I first make multiple copies of the design. Using those copies, I begin to place my woods in each layer where they are needed. Then I fill in the gaps with a scrap veneer so there are no voids inside the packet. I am careful to keep the outside corners of the design for proper orientation. I usually include at least two different species of woods for each flower, which gives me the option at the end of selecting the proper woods for the best effect.
Working from the back of the packet, I first start with a 3mm back board and a layer of grease paper. The back layer of veneer is always the back ground, which in this case is ebony. Note I have colored on the design those parts of the background which are isolated and would tend to get lost if I didn't pay attention while cutting.
|Layer F (Background Veneer)|
(Note there is no ebony veneer in this photo, since it was used in the project.)
Each of the following photos shows the design for that layer on the left and the layer of the packet on the right. Since this example is one I use in class, I have covered the layer of veneer with clear packing tape, and you are looking at the back of the layer for clarity, since it is covered with veneer tape on the face which holds everything together.
The next layer is generally either a layer of green or brown for the branches or leaves:
And so on, each layer with its design:
I make a final drawing and use it when I cut out the packet. This design shows me all the information I need to select the proper layer of wood from the plug of veneers, each time I cut them out. The rest is discarded. I keep only the woods I need for the picture.
One of my students, Paul Miller, seems to have also found this process interesting. After he returned to his workshop and built his chevalet, he sent us a card with the photo of this etude on the cover:
|Paul Miller's Card|
I really appreciate it. Soon he will be performing Schubert!
|A Little Pride Showing|
This Jewel Cabinet was part of the first SAPFM member's exposition at the Telfair Museum in Savannah, Georgia, and I distinctly remember it as being the only piece of European furniture in that show. Subsequently, it was also on exhibit here in San Diego, at the Mingei Folk Art Museum, as part of the "Forms in Wood and Fibre" exhibition. I must say it also stood out from the rest of the show, as being from another planet.
As it is an iconic part of this blog, I thought it was time I should explain what led me to make such a thing. Also, since Paul Miller just wrote me and asked if he could use my piece as an inspiration for him to make something similar, I want to post some more details for him to use. I have no problem with others copying my work. I have done the same thing all my career. The difference is that the craftsmen I choose to copy have all been dead for a couple centuries.
In any event, I first saw this cabinet in London, at one of the most prestigious antique dealers in that city. I will not name the company, for reasons which will become obvious in this post. As I walked through their showrooms, I was impressed with the quality of the objects and the perfect condition they appeared to be in. In one room I was stopped in my tracks by a wonderful marquetry cabinet with ivory feet and pulls. I asked the salesman for more information, as I "might have a buyer" and he obliged by handing me three glossy 8 x 10 photographs and the price sheet.
Here is the description on the price sheet: (Dealer name covered by blue tape)
|Name Deleted to Protect the Dealer|
There are several points raised by this sheet to consider. First of all, it is attributed to "France, circa 1690." Secondly, it is called a "Cartonnier." Third, it is very strongly attributed to Boulle, without exactly saying so. (The word is "comparable.") Forth, it is 116cm wide (this fact will soon be recognized as very significant.) And, finally, it is 18,500 British pounds.
As soon as I was able to return to my library and do basic research, I found this document:
|The Evidence Exhibit A|
I doesn't take a lot of conjecture to imagine a person buying this desk, throwing away the base section (since it needs a lot of work), adding ivory feet and pulls to the upper section and calling it French. The motive is simple: you double your money.
My first suspicion that something was not right, was the term the dealer provided for the object: "Cartonnier." I know from my reading and visiting museums that a cartonnier in French furniture is a different shaped cabinet which stood at the end of the bureau plat. In simple terms, it was a filing cabinet or the paper work. Generally quite tall and shaped to match the Louis XV forms popular at the mid century. The dilemma faced by the dealer was what to call it, since it no longer was associated with the Flemish desk that used to support it.
In any event, here are the photos supplied by the dealer and what I did with them:
|"Comparable to Outstanding Boulle Marquetry"|
|Rough Drawing of Original|
|Final Drawing of Marquetry|
I cut out the solid woods for the carcase, using quarter sawn white oak and beech. I rough out my stock and set it aside, with stickers, for a season (at least one year) to adjust to my climate. I cut out more pieces than I need, so I can pick the best ones when it comes time to build the piece. While the wood is set aside, I turn my attention to cutting out the marquetry panels, using the Painting in Wood process. I remember there are 18 panels plus the running bands on the face. Several of the panels are identical in design but inverted in polarity so as to appear different.
For example, the two large panels on the top ends are the same design, but mounted left and right, with the individual colors of the elements selected as opposite colors. The 8 drawers are made from only two drawings. One has an orchid in the corner and the other has a rose. By flipping the images left and right and changing the woods, it appears that there are 8 different designs. There are 32 different wood species and all of them are natural colors, except the blue and green woods which are tinted using traditional methods. Of course all the veneers are sawn material I purchased in Paris from Patrick George and are 1.5mm thick.
Here is the top of my cabinet:
|Top of Cabinet|
I might mention that I like to use full blind dovetails for my cabinets and boxes which are veneered. This way the dovetail pins do not telegraph through the surface over time. I did the same for this cabinet. Everything was hand surfaced and toothed so I could press the veneer in place. After the panels were laid down, the cabinet was glued together and the ebony and boxwood banding applied.
Here is the front of the original cabinet:
|Made by Hand in Antwerp late 17th Century|
|Made by Hand in Southern California 21st Century|
|Back of Cartonnier|
|Credit for Design to Louis XIV Coffer|
All told, I spend 800 hours building this cabinet and it sold the day it was finished to the first person who saw it. Life is good.