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Drivel Starved Nation… It’s Been Awhile!
I know it’s time to write something in this Totally Awesome and Worthless Blog when I receive emails from DSN members inquiring if my cremation was gluten free….
Here’s an explanation;
Whenever I “disappear” from my blog, I am usually at the mercy of the Muse. And it is true in this case.
In late January, I embarked on my annual work retreat and on DAY ONE, I asked myself an interesting question. At least it was interesting to me.
I am still obsessed with answering this question. It is too early to disclose but our patent lawyer is involved, our trademark lawyers are involved, the creative team is working on all the two dimensional marketing material and we have secured the URL’s to 5 websites. So my gut hunch is this might be a big deal. Stay tuned!
Next week, I will announce all the details for our excellent field trip to China in the fall. I hope you can make it, it will be a memory not soon forgotten.
In the meantime, I apologize for the misleading headline – I was just making myself laugh — it worked.
Speaking of laughing, let’s laugh at us;
PS: Over this past weekend, our site was hacked and an ANNOYING banner ad now sits atop our site. We are working on getting it removed.
The post The Four and a Half Best Sex Positions for Woodworkers! appeared first on John's Blog.
Welcome to “Tips From Sticks-In-The-Mud Woodshop.” I am a hobbyist who loves woodworking and writing for those who also love the craft. I have found some ways to accomplish tasks in the workshop that might be helpful to you, and I enjoy hearing your own problem-solving ideas. Please share them in the COMMENTS section of each tip. If, in the process, I can also make you laugh, I have achieved 100% of my goals.
Recently, I was working on a little stool for an employee’s niece and it was a blast to make! To give it an extra sentimental connection, I chose 150-year-old pine salvaged from our clinic’s old baseboards. It was great material, except for the fact that its age makes it somewhat brittle.
To give it plenty of stability (we didn’t want little Kessa taking a tumble!), I mortised the top to accept the legs.
The two sides were not interchangeable, as the legs were not exactly the same thickness. Frequently, antique lumber isn’t uniform. There wasn’t enough difference for one’s eye to tell, but enough that the mortise fit wasn’t identical.
To keep myself straight, I put chalk marks on all the pieces through the milling process. I’ve seen chalk used by a lot of very talented and successful woodworkers, and it had to be easier to remove than pencil marks, so I thought I’d give it a try.
As the kids nowadays say, “How’s that working out for you?”
Not so great.
I managed to keep the top on the top and the center section in the middle. Additionally, the center puts its best face forward, which also establishes the front and rear of the stool.
Somehow, though, in the middle of gluing up, I managed to get the big leg in the small mortise, which wasn’t the end of the world because it fit, nothing split, and its mortise for the center section fit, too. But, when the little leg went into the bigger mortise, the slop was immediately evident.
And, the gap around the leg was evident. Not huge, mind you, but evident.
Like a Lego fort, the interlocking parts already installed and glued were too intimate to disassemble, so rearranging was out of the question at this point.
While there might be other projects where chalk is a viable marking option, I’m going with bits of blue shop tape next time.
According to Steven Johnson’s study on adhesion and cohesion, we shouldn’t need to worry about residue interfering with finish after using painter’s tape, because its cohesion exceeds its adhesion. Of course, tape sticks better to smooth wood better than rough, so, it’s not going to be the universal marking answer. I’ll let you know how the tape works out.
And, I won’t be throwing my pencils away. Did you know that acetone is an excellent graphite remover?
- Be generous when applying the acetone to a rag or paper towel.
- Work quickly, because acetone evaporates rapidly.
- Keep moving. By that, I mean, once you’ve removed some or all of a mark with a spot on your paper towel, don’t try to continue using the same spot. Apply more acetone to a clean area and begin again.
- Remember, acetone is an organic solvent, and, thus, is subject to spontaneous combustion. Allow the vehicle to air-dry in an open area and/or immerse it in water in a plastic bag.
- Some woodworkers report that mineral spirits are also effective at removing pencil marks.
Jim Randolph is a veterinarian in Long Beach, Mississippi. His earlier careers as lawn mower, dairy farmer, automobile mechanic, microwave communications electronics instructor and journeyman carpenter all influence his approach to woodworking. His favorite projects are furniture built for his wife, Brenda, and for their children and grandchildren. His and Brenda’s home, nicknamed Sticks-In-The-Mud, is built on pilings (sticks) near the wetlands (mud) on a bayou off Jourdan River. His shop is in the lower level of their home.Questions and comments on woodworking may be written below in the comments section. Questions about pet care should be directed to his blog on pet care, www.MyPetsDoctor.com. We regret that, because of high volume, not all inquiries can be answered personally.
The post Tips from Sticks in the Mud – April 2017 – Tip #1 – Marking Pros and Cons appeared first on Woodworking Blog.
As I blogged last year I was fortunate to purchase at auction two lots of prints that had been sliced out of a First Edition of l’art du Menusier by Andre-Jacob Roubo in the 1760s and 1770s. These are remarkable artifacts, printed by hand on hand-made paper. Roubo was the artist for every image, was the engraver for a great many of the plates, and almost certainly was personally overseeing the production of the volumes.
As fate would have it all the prints I acquired are from the portions of Roubo that Michele, Philippe and I have completed after about 10-12,000 hours work thus far, and the hearty souls at Lost Art Press have already published.
Among the prints I bought was the very one that inspired me to head off down the path to our ongoing project to bring to the Anglophone world our annotated Roubo translations. Plate 296 whetted my appetite more than three decades ago, and as soon as I get a frame made it will be occupy a place of honor in our home.
I have already gifted two of these prints to my LAP collaborator colleagues, chief-cook-and-bottle-washer Chris Schwarz, who received Plate 279 featuring “the German Workbench,” and book designer and artisan printer Wesley Tanner who seemed delighted to get Plate 327 featuring the printing press.
After culling the dozen-or-so prints of greatest meaning to me I have decided to sell the rest from my purchase because I do not have the appropriate wall space to display them (about three dozen); it is not a complete inventory by any means, but there are some pretty good ones.
Over the next several weeks I will be posting here all the individual prints I will have for sale in Amana. Terms will be cash, check, or Paypal. Prices will probably mostly fall between $150-$500 with a couple of outliers, but if you ever wanted a piece of genuine Rouboiana this is your chance. In addition to the Roubo prints I got a number of original, similarly excised plates from Diderot, all concerned with the manufacture of ship’s anchors. The Diderot plates will be considerably less.
There will be no advance reservations, this is a special first-come sale for Handworks attendees. If any do not sell there, I will offer them for sale through the blog afterward.
The secrets to become the master is not at all a secret, but one known to us all and reserved only for those who are prepared to undertake a journey I am to reveal or maybe I should say, remind you and myself of something we all already know.
Let’s take a brief journey into the philosophical world of martial arts to better understand ourselves and the journey we are about to embark.
If we look up the definition of Kung Fu we’ll get many descriptions, but only one nails its true meaning, “to refine the body and its mind.” Kung Fu is supreme skill that can only be attained from hard work. You see Kung Fu doesn’t only relate to martial arts but to all that have mastered their trade. A painter Leonardo Da Vinci can be said to have reached Kung Fu, French woodworker Andre Jacque Roubo can be said to have reached Kung Fu. A skilled masterful musician who can move the hearts with his music can be said to have reached Kung Fu. Even a servant who loyally serves his master flawlessly can be said to have reached Kung Fu. Anyone who has mastered the arts be whatever that may be, whose skills have reached perfection and cannot be perfected any further has reached Kung Fu.
Kung Fu is not about fighting but about mastery of the arts. It’s about self discipline, self sacrifice, struggle, endurance and determination. Strong will power.
Let me give you a quote from a master of Kung Fu of what is needed to reach Kung Fu. “Preparation, endless repetition until your mind is weary and your bones ache, until you’re too tired to sweat and too wasted to breathe. That is the way, that is the only way one acquires Kung Fu.”
Would it surprise you if I said even those who have worked wood for 40, 50 or even 60 years have not reached Kung Fu, they are merely black belts who know enough to get them by. But I personally want more than that, I don’t want just to know enough to get by.
Shaolin monks undergo severe physical training to attain true Kung Fu and it all boils down to that definition to refine the body and its mind.
We are all different in body and mind to each other, many of us are happy and content with their current status, then there are many who want more but are not willing to step forward to get it, but only a few small group want it so bad, that they’re willing to sacrifice themselves to undergo severe training of both body and mind to reach Kung Fu. They do this not for fame nor fortune but to attain true skill, self elevation in their chosen art.
I, and I speak for myself only want to achieve Kung Fu, I want to reach a level of mastery in my craft and I’m not referring to become the best of the best because I know all too well, that there are no best of the bests in this world, only God can claim that title. When you believe, you are the best, know that someone somewhere out there is better than you, but to become a true master among many masters is what I want to achieve.
This means going back to basics, re learning simple skills is the key to mastering them, honing with repetition until my mind is weary and my body aches beyond endurance is what I’ll have to do to master each skill in this trade. When I saw, there can’t be good days and bad days, every day I saw to that line must be perfect in every sense of the word. When I plane the edge to the line it must be square and perfectly parallel to the opposite edge with no severe time lost. My tools must be an extension of my arms and all must work together harmoniously. My knowledge must be pure and extensive with real purpose in mind. To execute an operation it cannot be clouded with doubt but only with sheer conviction of its purpose and success.
I have built many clocks in my lifetime and many of them struck people with awe, I gained popularity due to my workmanship, honesty, integrity and generosity, so I can never say I wasn’t successful in my career as a clock maker and seller. But had I remained content with only building clocks I would never have found myself, my true purpose in life, I would never have discovered what I truly want out of my craft. As you all know there are many aspects of our craft and choosing only one aspect is evidently clear to me now more than ever that that is not enough for me. So, my journey begins on a different route all over again but this time with clarity and single purpose in mind as an apprentice, and am not ashamed to demote myself in order to reach my final destination.
This blog has gone beyond my wildest expectations, it’s not about self promotion or self marketing but about a woodworker who is unknown in this world, who is of no real importance nor holds any celebrity title. It’s about a man who has taken upon himself to take a leap of faith into himself, to undertake an enormous journey, a task of determination through self discipline and hard work to achieve his goals and objectives in life in order to better himself until that final destination of Kung Fu is reached. And you’re all welcome to join me should you so desire.
I am at Woodworker’s Showcase in Saratoga Springs, New York, and along with my fellow jurors, examined a great deal of fine work from wood. My personal choice as best of show is a hand-crafted Adirondack guide boat. I think my readers understand my own love of wooden boats.
If you haven’t run across Doug’s blog, go there now and spend some time there. Doug is one of the most thoughtful woodworkers out there, and his blog is a complete reflection of that. I usually go to the Northeastern Woodworkers Association Woodworkers Showcase, but unfortunately I can’t make it this year because I’m away for work. I’m really disappointed, as I would like to meet Doug one day.
Fellow jurors, Ernie Conover, Bob Van Dyke and Freddy Roman had the same feeling about the quality of the boat and we came to a quick agreement. Best of Show.
Seeing Ernie and Freddy would have been great too, as well as meeting Bob.
|out of the clamps at oh dark thirty|
|all the tenons are 3 frog hairs proud|
|removing the proud|
|sharp fixes a multitude of sins|
|good fit on these two|
|flush but gaps on this side|
|this came out better than I expected|
|clipping the corners|
|sawed two from the top and two from the bottom like this|
|the first side with the veneer planed off|
|the opposite side|
|my biggest hollow is a #7|
|this worked rather well|
|good looking half circle|
|pencil tray holder|
|dovetails glued and clamped|
|epoxy to the rescue|
|another piece to glue on|
|file the screws flush|
|you get the idea|
|broken piece glued on|
|sizing the ends|
|working on the book shelf|
|had to use the #80|
|this helped but only when I did it|
|ugly looking tear out|
|within a frog hair of each other|
|the shelf is flat too|
|shiny top on the monitor stand - waxed and shined|
|in the batter's circle|
In what language was the first complete Bible printed in America?
answer - in the language of the Algonquin Indians in 1663
My goal was to have a functioning lathe by the end of this weekend. As progress was made over the past week I became confident that my goal would be met. Alas, the weekend has come to a close and finds me still short of a completed lathe. I’m really, really close though. So close that it was hard to put down the tools and shutdown the shop this evening. But it is better to stretch out the project by a few days than to make some silly mistake because I’m too tired. Anyway…
Most of the progress over the past week has been related to mortising for the wedges and adding “decorative” embellishments to the rail tenons. The mortises are straight forward. Simply chop thru and match the angle of the wedges. The decorative embellishment is completely unnecessary but I like to seize any opportunity to try out something new or to practice something. These are tusk tenons and the area after the wedge needs to be strong to resist the pressure of the seated wedge. So I needed to be careful as to how much material I removed. After several sketches I settled on two options. One for the upper rails and one for the lower rail.
The design I used for the upper rail rounded the two corners with the addition of a scroll. I created a template from card stock so that each layout was easy and quick. To cut the design, I sawed away as much waste as I could and then used a sharp chisel for the rest of the outer work. The scroll I incised with a gouge. Once the shaping was done I broke out the wood burner and went to work.
The lower rail received a simple angle cut. What angle? No idea. The leg of my square is 15mm wide, so 0mm to 15mm is the angle technically.
I will be installing 1MT (#1 Morse Taper) dead centers in this lathe. These are a little over 3″ long. When installed in the 1-1/2″ thick upright, just over half of the dead center will be unsupported. It would probably be fine, but the idea bothers me. To remedy this I laminated another piece of 1-1/2″ pine to the inside face of the upright. To keep this extra piece from looking out of place and clunky, I gave it a little shaping.
The next job I tackled was the puppet. The blank for which has been glued up and waiting patiently since this whole thing started. I shaped it to match the short upright. The lower portion of the puppet fits between the upper rails and hangs below them far enough to install a mortise and wedge. The wedge locks the puppet in the desired position along the rails. With the shaping out of the way, I laid out the mortise. To create the mortise I bored out the bulk of the waste and cleaned up with a chisel.
The next pieces that I fabricated were the spring poles. I have a few bits of white oak and searched thru them to find two pieces with straightest grain I could find. Then I ran them thru my old table saw to bring them to 1-1/4″ square. From there I went to the shaving horse and shaved them to octagonal with my drawknife. Then a little fine tuning with the spokeshave.
I then installed my fancy copper strap, that I made from a bit of pipe, and secured its ends with a rivet.
I began work on the tool rest today but, quite frankly, was to dang tired. Oh well, I’ll hit it hard again this coming week.
Part 3 Greg Merritt
In the autumn of 2015 there was considerable interest in the auction of the notebook of the early-18th century joiner, John Widdifield. A private collector prevailed in the auction and agreed to make the notebook available for publication and study by the Chipstone Foundation and the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
The initial article about Widdifield and his notebook was published in “American Furniture” and is available from Chipstone to read online here.
If you would like to take a closer look at each page of the notebook click on ‘Show all Figures only’ on the upper right hand of the page and a window will open.
Filed under: Historical Images
To move forward with my design for a three-legged stool, I had to look back to my past work. Though the above stool might look a lot like the other designs I’ve shown here, it is significantly different (or really similar if you’re familiar with my past designs). Here are some of the major design changes and the history behind them. Yellow pine. I have a long history with yellow […]
You may know that Sears is in big trouble; the brand may not survive. It’s closing stores fairly rapidly and in January sold the iconic Craftsman tool brand to Stanley Black & Decker. I have some history with Craftsman tools and some thoughts about what has happened, so I thought I’d share them. Back in the 1960s, I restored an old house in Washington, D.C., while I was serving in […]
Above is a photo I took of our storefront this morning as I got to work. Notice anything different? Me neither.
But we have a new roof on 837 Willard St., which took almost 10 months of wrangling and four roofing companies to complete. We removed four ersatz skylights, added a hatch to the roof (who doesn’t want a hatch?) and now we don’t have buckets located strategically throughout the third floor.
To celebrate, Lucy and I want to Pontiac barbecue last night and ate a cow.
This is the end of phase one of the work we are doing on the building. Phase one was about stabilizing the structure – concrete and French drains in basement, new gutters, repair the deck, replace the rotting fence, caulk and paint the exterior, install a sump pump, new windows on the first floor and a new roof. Oh, and gutting the first floor for my workshop.
All that took about 18 months, hundreds of hours of work and more money than most families spend on a college education. And as our personal bank balance veered toward zero this winter, we began to get stressed. Luckily, a couple commissions and articles came through and we are back in the black.
The plan now is to take the next 12 months to work on the cosmetic stuff that doesn’t cost much money or require professional help. I’m going to install a new back door to the shop ($400), install a floating floor in the utility area ($385) and start demolishing the interior walls in the Horse Garage for the machine room (cost: paying for beer for my friends).
Oh, and I’m going to enjoy not writing huge checks for a while (knock wood that there is no Godzilla attack this spring).
— Christopher Schwarz
Filed under: Lost Art Press Storefront
A few weeks back in Ron Herman’s video presentation, “Quick Joinery Using Sticks,” Ron talked about making a set of shop-made spacer blocks out of hardwood. His premise was that when you’re setting up a saw cut, say at your human-powered miter box, if you hit an aluminum spacer with your saw blade you can damage your blade. I get that. But while working on a contemporary table for a presentation later in the month, I found a place where I needed to set my router depth of cut at 1/2″– a place where accuracy counts.
by R. Bruce Hoadley
The object of clamping a joint is to press the glue line into a continuous, uniformly thin film, and to bring the wood surfaces into intimate contact with the glue and hold them undisturbed until setting or cure is complete. Since loss of solvent causes some glue shrinkage, an internal stress often develops in the glue line during setting. This stress becomes intolerably high if glue lines are too thick. Glue lines should be not more than a few thousandths of an inch thick.
If mating surfaces were perfect in terms of machining and spread, pressure wouldn’t ‘ t be necessary. The ” rubbed joint, ” skilfully done, attests to this. But unevenness of spread and irregularity of surface usually requires considerable external force to press properly. The novice commonly blunders on pressure, both in magnitude and uniformity. Clamping pressure should be adjusted according to the density of the wood. For domestic species with a specific gravity of O. 3 to 0. 7, pressures should range from 100 psi to 250 psi. Denser tropical species may require up to 300 psi. In bonding composites, the required pressure should be determined by the lowest-density layer. In gluing woods with a specific gravity of about 0. 6, such as maple or birch, 200 psi is appropriate. Thus, gluing up one square foot of maple requires pressure of (1 2 in. x 12 in. x 200 psi) 2 8, 800 pounds. Over 14 tons! This would require, for an optimal glue line, 1 5 or 20 cee-clamps, or about 5 0 quick-set clamps.
Conversely, the most powerful cee-clamp can press only 10 or 1 1 square inches of glue line in maple. Jackscrews and hydraulic presses can apply loads measured in tons. But since clamping pressure in the small shop is commonly on the low side, one can see the importance of good machining and uniform spread. But pressure can be overdone, too. Especially with low-viscosity adhesives and porous woods. too much pressure may force too much adhesive into the cell structure of the wood or out at the edges, resulting in an insufficient amount remaining at the glue line, a condition termed a starved joint. Some squeeze-out is normal at the edges of an assembly. However, if spread is well controlled, excessive squeeze-out indicates too much pressure; if pressure is well controlled, undue squeeze-out suggests too much glue. Successful glue joints depend on the right correlation of glue consistency and clamping pressure. Excessive pressure is no substitute for good machining. Panels pressed at lower pressures have less tendency to warp than those pressed at higher pressures. Additionally, excessive gluing pressure will cause extreme compression of the wood structure.
When pressure is released, the cells spring back and add an extra component of stress to the glue line.
The second troublesome aspect of clamping is uniformity, usually a version of what I call ” the sponge effect. ” Lay a sponge on a table and press it down in the centre; note how the edges lift up. Similarly, the force of one clamp located in the middle of a flat board will not be evenly transmitted to its edges. It is therefore essential to use heavy wooden cover boards or rigid metal cauls to ensure proper distribution of pressure.
Clamp time must be long enough to allow the glue to set well enough so that the joint will not be disturbed by clamp removal. Full cure time, that is, for development of full bond strength, is considerably longer. If the joint will be under immediate stress, the clamp time should be extended. Manufacturer’ s specified clamp times are established for optimum or recommended shelf life, temperature, wood moisture content, etc… If any of these factors is less than optimum, cure rate may be prolonged. It’s best to leave assemblies overnight.
Most glue specifications are based on ” room temperature” (70 · F). Shelf life is shortened by storage at above-normal temperature, but may be extended by cold storage. Normal working life of three to four hours at 70· F may be reduced to less than one hour at 90· F. Closed assembly at 90· F is 20 minutes, against 50 minutes at 70· F. A curing period of 10 hours at 70· F can be accelerated to 3 – 1 / 2 hours by heating to 90· F.
Finally, cured joints need conditioning periods to allow moisture added at the glue line to be distributed evenly through the wood. Ignoring this can result in sunken joints.
When edge-gluing pieces to make panels, moisture is added to the glue lines (1), especially at the panel surfaces where squeeze-out contributes extra moisture. If the panel is surfaced while the glue line is still swollen (2, 3), when the moisture is finally distributed the glue line will shrink (4), leaving the sunken joint effect.
|the fun started here|
My thickness went from 13/16" to 5/8". This will be ok for the keyboard and mouse and I could have gone down to 1/2". If I had had to do that I would have thinned the legs down to 1/2" too.
|done with the desktop|
|laying out for the through tenons|
|laying out on the dadoes|
The mortises are one inch in from the edge and 2" long. I used the 1-2-3 blocks to set the squares to 1" and 2".
|dry fit for the dado is good|
|marking for the tenons on the legs|
|sawed out a brace|
|marking the shoulders|
|this is something I usually get wrong|
|the last of the trimming|
|dry fit is goo|
|wee bit of blowout on this M/T connection|
|didn't need to use my new side rabbit planes|
|layout for the brace tenon done|
|last through mortise|
|tenon for the brace|
|splitting the cheeks|
|trimming the cheeks|
|another 'Paul Sellers' fitting joint|
|almost ready to glue up|
|up in the air on this|
|planed and cleaned up with the #3|
|going with a poking out tenon|
|going to round over the top too|
|looking better on the second one|
|the glue up from hell|
The brace had to be glued in the legs first and then the legs glued into the top. The leg on the right split in two on me when I was putting the brace in. Since I already had glue on the tenons and the top, I clamped the split and glued the whole thing up. I had to ask my wife to come and help me because the clamps holding the split leg together were being a PITA besides being in the way.
I finally got it glued up after a lot of choice expletives were let loose and that did seem to help some. I had a crazy thought about moving it over to the tablesaw so I could use the bench for something else but nixed it. This glue up can stay here as long as it needs to set up.
Before I left the shop I gave the glue up one last look over and I'm glad I did. The leg on the left side had moved outboard at an angle and the brace was ready to fall out of the mortise. I had to put the 36" long quick grip clamp on the bottom to keep the legs from moving outwards. I went down to the shop and checked it 3 more times before I went to bed to make sure nothing else decided to do stupid glue up tricks.
|it got a grayish black|
|it's not an even color neither|
What is Issac Van Amburgh known for?
answer - He was a circus headliner in the 1830's who was the first to put his head in a lion's mouth
It's the Yandle's Spring Show next week on Friday 7th and Saturday 8th. Here I am cutting dovetails (and chatting) at last years show. This year will be my 20th appearance at Yandles.
There are always plenty of turning demonstrations.
And basket weaving.
Some very skilful chain saw carving.
A large and popular café, inside as well as outside when the sun is shining, which it always seems to do at this show.
and there's even a tattoo parlour....
Before there was Antiques Roadshow and YouTube videos that helped antique owners and buyers authenticate real antiques and uncover fakes, there was Myrna Kaye. Thirty years ago, in 1987, she published a book called Fake, Fraud, or Genuine: Identifying Authentic American Antique Furniture. The book is written for collectors of antique furniture and is intended to help savvy buyers avoid being taken in by pieces that are not what they seem.
Kaye begins with the Case of the Fake Seventeenth-Century Chair. Back in the 1970s, a clever period-craftsman, after being insulted by the staff at a nearby museum, decided to build a fake seventeenth-century turned chair and pass it off as a genuine article. And it worked. He built the chair from new wood but used period-correct tools and styling. Then, using an antiques dealer who was in on the game, the craftsman successfully got the chair into the local antiques market. The chair changed hands several times before ending up on prominent display in a museum. Only after it was featured in several magazines and books did the original maker come forward to challenge the authenticity of the chair. It took X-rays to reveal that the chair had, in fact, been made using some modern tools and was confirmed to be a fake.
It’s a great story–something you might read in a quirky detective novel. But Kaye reminds us that not all fraudulent antiques are products are such a dramatic narrative.
Much more common, she says, are the following types of fraudulent antiques:
- Old Parts, New Object: Materials from one or several genuine antiques are used to make a new piece that still looks old because its parts and materials are old. Example: a new “Chippendale settee” made from pieces of several broken Chippendale chairs.
- Remade Object: Genuine antiques that have been modified, repaired, or enhanced so much that they have lost much of their value as real antiques. Example: an originally plain chair enhanced with new carvings and a replaced splat and seat.
- Married Piece: Originally two pieces (often one significantly newer than the other) that have been put together and presented as a single piece. Example: an old top to a high chest set on a newer, reproduction secretary.
In distinguishing reproductions (either honest, period-style reproductions or clever fakes), Kaye has some good advice. First, know the marks of each furniture style, whether seventeenth century, Queen Anne, Chippendale, or Federal. There were variations within each style, of course, but if a piece seems to mix elements of two different styles, it’s probably not genuine. Kaye’s overview of each major American style is brief but very helpful in pointing out some of the distinguishing marks of each style.
Second, examine a piece of furniture closely for signs of its true age. While it’s possible to make a fake antique so convincing that it will fool experts, most pieces will give up their secrets upon close inspection. But you have to know what to look for–and where to look for it. The undersides of tables and the insides of cases can be especially telling.
As someone who uses traditional hand tools and occasionally dabbles in period styles, I was already familiar with a number of Kaye’s points. For example, cut nails were first used early in the nineteenth century, and wire nails became common late in the nineteenth century, so if you find an “eighteenth century antique” with pieces held on by wire nails, you should be suspicious. I also know to feel for the scalloped surface left by a jack plane on the undersides of secondary surfaces. Modern planers leave a very different surface.
But I also learned a number of things about identifying genuine antiques:
- Until the later nineteenth century, very few furniture makers signed their work. If you find what appears to be a maker’s mark (whether in ink or as a stamp) on an earlier antique, it is probably an owner’s mark.
- Many antiques have holes from old hardware that has long since been removed. Some holes, such as plugged holes from replaced drawer pulls, are easy to explain. Others are more difficult. On the bottoms of feet, for example, you will often find holes from old casters. “Leave no hole unexplained,” Kaye advises.
- Use a needle and thread to test worm holes. If the needle goes all the way through a worm hole, then that piece of wood was wormy when the wood was first cut to size, and that means that that piece of wood (and possibly the whole piece of furniture) was made from reclaimed wood–which was never done until the twentieth century. On genuine antiques, worm holes always bottom out. Worms start inside the wood and chew their way out. They don’t chew all the way through a piece of wood.
- Rocking chairs did not exist in America after the Civil War. If you find an eighteenth-century rocking chair, then either the rockers were added later or the whole thing is a fake. Remember the opening scene of Mel Gibson’s The Patriot? Gibson’s character is a colonial farmer attempting to make a Windsor rocking chair, and it collapses under him when he sits on it. It’s a funny scene, but Gibson should have done a little more homework on period furniture styles. Rocking chairs were unknown in colonial America.
In the thirty years since Kaye published her book, I’m sure there have been a lot of changes in the antique furniture market. But now that period-style hand tools are widely available and instruction in traditional hand-tool work is easy to come by, I expect that fakes–both intentional frauds and honest mistakes–are also more common than they once were. In the coming decades, it will be all too easy to mistake a good, twentieth-century reproduction chair or spice chest for a remarkably-well-preserved nineteenth-century antique.
Kaye’s book has had staying power. You can still buy a new copy on Amazon for about $18, but old library copies are easy to find for under $8 on ABE.com and other used book sites. The book is generously illustrated with photos of genuine antiques, as well as many fakes, frauds, and reproductions. If you are a collector of antique furniture looking for sound advice (or a greedy, unscrupulous period-furniture maker looking for inspiration), I highly recommend this book. I am neither, but the next time I browse the furniture in an antique shop, I’m going to have a lot of fun trying to pick out the fakes, the frauds, and the genuine articles.
Tagged: antique furniture, antiques roadshow, fake, fake antique, fakes, fraud, Myrna Kaye, The Patriot, worm holes
It began innocently enough one ordinary weekday. It was quiet in the studio - I was planing some stock while Joshua sharpened a few chisels. I’d sat my plane on the bench and walked away for a moment to grab a pencil, but when I turned back I found that my plane was sitting on its sole. I always lay my planes down on their sides, the CORRECT way. Carefully-constructed and articulated arguments to the contrary aside, placing a plane on its side while not in use at the bench is the historically approved and most advantageous practice. But clearly, somebody in the room disagreed.
Exhibit A. The defense rests, Your Honor.
The tension in the air was thick as I resumed smoothing the piece of pine. Joshua tried to lightly discuss some detail about an upcoming build but I wasn’t really listening. We made it through that day, but the simmerings of discontent had begun. Through subsequent weeks, there were uncomfortable conversations about the proper sequence involved in cutting dovetails – pins first vs. tails first. I had to step outside to cool off. Then it was bevel angles and tearout. The nature of “craft”. Sharpening stones (this one got ugly). Plane tote profiles. I was realizing that hand-tool woodworking is simply too controversial to be enjoyable.
Fortunately, Joshua had been thinking along the same lines. He’d finally snapped when he considered how much easier and more relaxing it would be to set up and use a dovetail jig with special bits and collets and collars and clamps and routers and protective eyewear and earplugs and dust collection, rather than, you know, just cutting dovetails by hand.
Some big changes are in store around here.
Readers, we know that you will agree with us. Our new magazine format will reflect these exciting truths. The age of the power-tool-only purist is here. To showcase this new focus, we are changing the name of the magazine from “Mortise & Tenon” to something much more, shall we say, relevant. “Biscuit & Epoxy” is my current favorite, although that remains a work in progress. In Issue #3 we will be examining the complete and refreshing lack of toolmarks in the carcase of a 20th-century IKEA cabinet, asking the question “Can Your Table Saw Top Ever Truly Be Flat Enough?”, and will be travelling to Asia to visit a factory that winds electric motors for 8 different router manufacturers! So stay tuned – the future is now.
Incidentally, as we are starting small in making our shop upgrades, we’re looking for a lightly-used 20” jointer that someone might have for sale. Anybody looking to dump last year’s model for the latest and greatest? Let us know!