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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...


Tool Donations for the Baby Anarchists

Lost Art Press: Chris Schwarz - Tue, 10/28/2014 - 5:47am


Thanks to everyone who has sent tools and money for the 18 new hand-tool woodworkers I’ll be teaching at the Marc Adams School of Woodworking next year.

Your tax-deductible donations have already paid for five (almost six) of the students. And the donated tools are piling up on my workbench in the sunroom. I haven’t counted everything yet (and I still have three boxes to open today). But I can say that we are set on mallets and coping saws – more on that point at a future date.

If you haven’t heard about this heavily discounted course that I’m teaching in the United States and England in 2015, go here. If you are interested in donating tools or money to the effort, you can read about that here.

I have had a lot of questions about the class at the Marc Adams School of Woodworking in particular because it has not opened for registration yet. Registration for the general public begins on Dec. 1. If you wish to read the course description and get information on registering, fill out the contact form here and opt in for the school’s newsletter. They’ll send you the 2015 schedule and registration information.

— Christopher Schwarz

Filed under: Woodworking Classes
Categories: Hand Tools

Get to Know Your Ampacity

The Furniture Record - Tue, 10/28/2014 - 5:04am

There was too much woodworking going on in my shop tonight. On many Monday nights, the Hillsborough Orange Woodworkers hold their weekly meeting in my shop. Tonight’s project was part of the continuing toy build for the Triangle Woodworkers Association annual Toys For Tots campaign. To recap, HOW was building toys for the TWA’s T4T 2014.

Nominally, I am in charge of the build. My shop, my project. Trouble is that the HOW people are a bunch of self starters. Hard to control. Not a bad thing, I just need to be a bit more assertive. Better overly eager than reluctant and cranky.

For most of the night there were five work stations in use, a band saw, a drill press and three different sanding stations. I have plenty of power in the shop. Problem is that I usually work alone in the shop and use only one tool with dust collection at a time. The power isn’t distributed for so many tools in use at one time.

Five people in there working, really.

Five people in there working, really.

Tonight, I had to run more extension cords from outlets I seldom use. Running out of extension cords, I plugged the band saw and it’s dust collector into the retractable ceiling cord reel. I have often plugged in the band saw there without anything interesting happening. But it usually only runs for 10 or 15 minutes. Nothing that will stress the system.

They were using the band saw continuously for around two hours when it happened. I had gone into the main house. Nothing for me to do in the shop, all the tools were in use. I came back in and was told the breaker for the ceiling outlet had tripped and would not reset. We plugged the bands saw into  another outlet and moved on.

I tried the breaker and it tripped immediately. They were right. Thinking that there might be a problem in the reel, I pulled down. It wouldn’t move. I pulled harder. It moved and I didn’t like the results. Wire was a bit toasty.


10 amps, 20 amps, what's the diff?

10 amps, 20 amps, what’s the diff?

The wire was only 16 gauge. 10 amps. I was running a bit more through it. Probably a bad idea. And the lack of air movement in the reel didn’t help.

Well, off to the recycling center, a sadder but wiser man.

Michael White, cabinet maker

Hackney Tools - Tue, 10/28/2014 - 5:00am

Back in September last year, I had the pleasure of visiting a wonderful violin shop and its restoration workshop called Bridgewood & Neitzert.
If you look at the slideshow, you will see the superb cabinet work of Michael White. I asked Gary for more information about Michael and how he came to meet him. His response via email was such a lovely portrait of Michael that I asked if I could reproduce it in full. Gary’s email is below, with some pictures he also kindly forwarded to me.
I started this blog because I wanted to show the work and skill of proper traditional cabinet makers, joiners and woodworkers like Michael and I hope to connect with many more like him.

Michael White 5

Michael White made all of our cabinets, sadly he died nearly three years ago, and he is terribly missed. He worked with us for 18 years. It’s quite an interesting story, an artist friend asked me to help her deliver a painting she had made of a woodworker. She had been commissioned to paint on the inside of a lid to Micks tool cabinet. Mick lived in the Goswell Road in a tower block on the 14th floor. His tool cabinet was truly incredible.
Michael White 6
He had started it as an apprentice at Cubitt’s, I think in the Grays Inn Road. He was a sea cadet and involved in D-day but as a skilled woodworked was conscripted to stay repairing London during the blitz. The cabinet was about 8 feet high with a bell shaped cabinet below with a pull out section, made of exotic woods. He had inlaid the old three penny coins around the edge. He had never finished adding to it and amending details, it was truly a superb piece of work. My artist friend had painted Mick with his tool cabinet in the background whilst planing some wood.
Michael White 2
We got on very well and Mick was very interested in violin making, which I was doing a lot more of back then. I invited him to come and visit and if he ever wanted to use any of our machines in our basement he would be very welcome as they rarely got used.
I didn’t see Mick for about 6 months when one day he arrived in his best suit at our door. After tea and a good look round he was ready to leave and once again I offered use of our facilities, Mick said he’d think about it. About four months later Mick arrived in his work wear and asked me what I wanted doing first! I was quite taken aback and said why he hadn’t brought his own work; Mick said he’d prefer to help us first. Anyway this conversation was to be repeated for the next 16 years, only towards the end when Mick was not well did he decide to finish his cabinet and the last job was finishing the pull out section with carousel which was full of drawers and hanging sections which had a handle in the top and could be removed when working on site. I supplied Mick with pieces of ebony, rosewood, and quilted ash and of course violin maple for the drawer fronts, it was spectacular when finished.
Michael White 3
Mick kept finding things to do and useful places to make a cabinet or shelf to maximise storage, his last project was our violin/viola/cello case display cabinet which was finally finished and installed by my friend Hugo.
Michael White 8
Mick told of his master whose name I think was Spirro, he trained at the Vatican and Mick said his training was not only woodwork but carving, gilding , drawing/painting and stone work, his apprenticeship lasted 16 years! Mick was lucky enough to train under Spirro at Cubitt’s. He also told many, many stories. One was for one of the old carpenters who worked at Cubits whose tool chest doubled as his coffin and was kept at the end of his bed.

Categories: Hand Tools

Not sure if this is a good idea.

Oregon Woodworker - Tue, 10/28/2014 - 4:29am
So, here are the pieces for the desktop as they will soon go together.  It looks pretty straightforward, but there's a rub.  My son was absolutely adamant that the rear part of the top and the gallery be quickly and easily removable because he expects to change apartments frequently.  I argued against it strenuously to no avail.  What that means is that there will be a seam across the desktop right in front of the gallery that will be prominent in the middle of the desk where the top extends all the way to the back.  Yuk.  What I decided to do is use hardware made for table leaves to hold the two pieces of the top together.  The front of the top will be held in place like a normal top and the rear portion with the gallery will come off.  The expansion and contraction will happen toward the back.  Using the Woodweb calculator, the expected expansion is less than half an inch, the value for flatsawn lumber, and more than a quarter of an inch, the value for radial sawn lumber.

The first thing I did was carefully joint the two pieces of the top face to face.  By the way, that's Maude in the picture below, with her painted knob and tote and bakelite adjuster carefully stowed away in a drawer, replaced by rosewood, brass and a Hock blade and chipbreaker.  As usual, Maude worked great.  

Then I installed the hardware, two latches on the sides that pull the pieces together and two positioners (I don't know what else to call them) in the middle that fix the position of the "leaves" side to side and up and down.

 With a lot of trepidation, I turned it over and it wasn't too bad.  This is a close-up shot of the center that I am most concerned about.  Surprisingly, it is smooth to the touch.  It looks like, well, it looks like a dining room table with a leaf in it.  Big surprise.

 I don't like this, but it was the best way I could think of to do what he wants.  Another way that occurred to me as I was doing it is to glue blocks onto the bottoms of the pieces at the joint line and fasten them together with bolts.  It would have taken longer to take the top apart but would perhaps have been a little more secure.  Oh well.

The remaining task is to come up with a way to fasten the gallery to the rear stretcher that will allow it to be removed quickly.  He will need to be able to undo the latches and slide the gallery back in order to disengage the positioners before lifting the gallery up.  That means the attachments in the back will have to accommodate a considerable amount of movement.  I've got a strange idea that I think will work.

Categories: Hand Tools

Picture This XXXV

Pegs and 'Tails - Mon, 10/27/2014 - 8:07pm
Lopers are employed in bachelor’s chests etc. to support their fold-out leaves and in bureaux to support their falls. I covered the installation of lopers in A George II ash bureau – Part VII. As I mentioned during the construction … Continue reading
Categories: Hand Tools

Dados for Lunch – Yum!

Popular Woodworking Editors Blog - Mon, 10/27/2014 - 7:54pm

I got a good start on my kitchen island over the weekend…but then Monday came along and work intruded. Loath to let my momentum falter, I decided on sawdust for lunch instead of my usual diet of Diet Coke and pretzels. So I headed to the shop to cut the dados for the two “floating” shelves; the top one will hold the microwave, the bottom one will likely be quickly […]

The post Dados for Lunch – Yum! appeared first on Popular Woodworking Magazine.

Categories: General Woodworking

A Note on Well-Designed Joiners’ Mallets

The Literary Workshop Blog - Mon, 10/27/2014 - 7:43pm

There are many, many variations on the basic joiner’s mallet design, but there’s one design element I will always insist on in my own mallets: a curved top to the head.  I used to think this was merely a decorative element, but I recently found out it’s not.

But does it really matter whether the top of the head is curved or straight?

Yes, it does.  Here’s why.

Below is a small mallet I built a couple years ago, mostly to be used for adjusting wooden planes.  It doesn’t get much use, and I made it before I had thought much about mallet design.  The striking faces are angled as usual, but the top of the head is flat–co-planar with the bottom.  That makes an acute angle on the top edge of the mallet, a potentially weak point.

Mallet Head Design 10-2014 - - 1

Imagine that the ruler on this square is the trajectory (more or less) of an errant mallet blow that lands right on the top of the striking face.  If I strike the mallet there enough times, the top is eventually going to mushroom over.  Given enough abuse, the top edge will eventually begin to split off.

That’s exactly what’s happening to my oldest mallet:

Mallet Head Design 10-2014 - - 3

This mallet has a few years on it, and when the original face began to show some wear, I sawed about 1/4″ off of it in order to expose a fresh striking face.  However, I eased the angle of the face just a bit, leaving the top edge at about a 90-degree angle.  It’s now beginning to show some mushrooming, which you can just see in the above picture.

So when I made my most recent mallet, I decided to put a healthy curve on the top of the head:

Mallet Head Design 10-2014 - - 2

This makes the top edge of the striking face an obtuse angle, which should be less prone to mushrooming and eventual splitting.

The curved top on the head thus protects the top edge of the striking face from excessive damage.

Okay, but does it really matter all that much?  I can imagine a few objections already:

Objection 1: If you use a split-resistant wood, it shouldn’t matter. The top edge will be robust enough to take a pounding for years.

Reply to Objection 1: I partially concede the point.  Although my old mallet, made of elm, shows some mushrooming on the top edge, there’s no sign of splitting.  That wood is nearly unsplittable. If, however, you are making your mallet from wood that can actually be split, such as beech or hard maple, I maintain that your mallet will probably last longer with a rounded top–all other things being equal.

Objection 2: Mallets aren’t meant to be indestructible.  When (not if) your mallet wears out, you make a new one.  Don’t waste time on little details.

Reply to Objection 2: I want my mallet to last as long as possible.  I will gladly spend an extra fifteen minutes on a single design detail if that means the tool lasts a year longer.

Objection 3: You must not be very accurate with your mallet, or you wouldn’t have the problem of errant blows mushrooming over the top edge in the first place.

Reply to Objection 3: All right, if you want to get personal, I’ll admit to a good deal of inaccuracy when pounding with my mallets. But within a few thousand blows, I’d wager that a few are bound to land somewhere near one edge of the striking face or another, no matter how accurate you are.

Objection 4: There’s little historical evidence for mallet heads as you describe them.  Neither Moxon nor Roubo show mallets heads with curved tops. The old guys built some pretty fine furniture with what you seem to think are sub-standard mallets.

Reply to Objection 4: That’s true.  Moxon and Roubo also don’t show planes with proper totes.  While there are many, many things we can learn from them, that doesn’t mean we can’t improve on them.  If the mallets in 18th-century joiners’ shops were as clumsy as Moxon and Roubo make them look, I wouldn’t want to use them.  In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a modern mallet made quite like the ones Roubo shows (click on the link above and scroll down.)

Objection 5: This seems kind of trivial. I’ll bet you were just especially hard up for a blog topic this week.

Reply to Objection 5: That’s true. (It’s also an example of the genetic fallacy.) But I’m still going to be curving the tops of all my mallet heads from now on.


Tagged: joiner mallet, joiner's mallet, mallet, Moxon, Roubo, striking face

Spoons and more for sale, Oct 2014

Peter Follansbee, joiner's notes - Mon, 10/27/2014 - 7:28pm

makes me thing of RB merg

This view always makes me think of a red-breasted merganser; or Woody Woodpecker. I got some stuff photographed and posted finally. I struggle with the photos constantly; they are never to my liking. But after shooting this stuff three times in some cases, I figured it’s not going to get different enough to matter. I hope. There’ll be another batch sometime between now & Thanksgiving, maybe two if I get organized. Here’s the page, http://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/spoons-and-more-oct-2014/ or the banner at the top of the blog’s front page. Leave a comment if you’d like to order something. Only one shipping charge per order for those who order more than one item. No need to get nuts about it…

Paypal is easiest, but I can take a check too if you’d rather, just let me know. 
Thanks as always for the support. I truly appreciate it. 

bowl & spoons

"Conservation" - The Workbench Glossary

The Workbench Diary - Mon, 10/27/2014 - 6:44pm




Conservation is a discipline concerned with the preservation of cultural artifacts. It includes such activities as examination, documentation, environmental control, and interventive treatment (also called Restoration). As the key objective is to maximize the lifespan of the object, conservators adhere to guiding ethical principles such as minimal intervention, treatment “reversibility”, and thorough documentation. Conservation exists to extend the educational and enjoyment benefits of artifacts for the longest time (and therefore the most people) possible. 




Categories: Hand Tools

New English Workshop Tool Chest Course

David Barron Furniture - Mon, 10/27/2014 - 3:37pm

So for those of you who have already booked and those thinking about it, here is what you will be making.

This one is in olive ash with a piston fit tray and soft close lid. Apart from dovetailing (lots of it!) the techniques used include use of the shooting board (again lots!) as well as hinge fitting.

The chisel storage is a tray within a tray which can be angled towards you or........

....removed completely if that's all that's needed.

Here's the discreet finger recess, now who says woodworking isn't sexy?!

Categories: Hand Tools

Studley Exhibit, Cedar Rapids Logistics Day 2

The Barn on White Run - Mon, 10/27/2014 - 2:52pm


Today was a seamless continuation of the successes of yesterday, as Jameel Abraham and I first went to the Scottish Rite Temple in Cedar rapids, Iowa, which will be the venue for the exhibit The Tool Cabinet and Workbench of Henry O. Studley.  We spent about an hour in the exhibit hall, brainstorming about the actual layout and design of the event.


Can’t you just see it now?

Following that we went immediately to a theatrical lighting supplier to order the necessary fixtures to make sure the exhibit is visually compelling.  It will be.


I spent the afternoon heading an hour north to purchase some Select white oak to complete the purchase of materials for the Studley workbench replica I will build to use as a prop in the exhibit.


Now that is a bench top!

I can now leave Cedar Rapids knowing everything is moving forward.

Questions Answered – Advice Needed on #5 Stanley Planes

Paul Sellers - Mon, 10/27/2014 - 2:15pm


Hi Paul,

My name is Jamie. I’m 18 and just starting out in woodwork (specifically Luthery, however I really enjoy all kinds). I was wondering if you’d be able to help. I am looking for a number 5 plane and really don’t know where to start. I know you have a beautiful collection and probably have some useful information to help me. My options are to either purchase a cheap hand plane like Silverline. Or pick up an old stanley and restore it. Restoring does scare me a fair bit but I’d give it a go. I thought i’d ask if either you’d advise restoring, or would you advise buying new. (if you have a number 5 for sale for me to restore, please let me know!) I think car boots are going to be my best option. But would love too hear your opinion.

Thank you for being such an amazing inspiration.




Hello Jamie,

Thanks for the question. It’s unlikely that I would ever advise someone to buy a new plane over a secondhand or older model because in functionality, older made Stanley or Record bench planes work just as well as any of the new ones once they are restored if that is indeed needed at all. They are reliable lifetime planes too. Not sure about Silverline products. I feel less inlined to recommend them generally. It’s not that I necessarily prefer old planes or that I am nostalgic. I just prefer using what’s available and well proven. Hundreds of thousands of users through a century and half can’t be wrong surely. The other issue surrounding your question is that we tend to put off learning what we feel uncomfortable with. I understand that, but really, there’s not much to truing up and fettling the Bailey pattern bench planes and included in those is the #5 jack plane.

A #5 jack is excellent for luthier work and will straighten and thin all of your stock for fronts, backs and sides and it will do that within thousandths of an inch as needed. The jack plane measures around 35.5cm (14”) long and has an overall width of  64mm (2 1/2”). More than sized for making guitars, violins and cellos too.

DSC_0008 DSC_0011

Here are the steps for restoring your #5. Don’t be intimidated by your thoughts, anyone can do this. It’s not particularly demanding or skilful. More sensitive than anything.


My #5 is a typical eBay find. The sole isn’t flat at all. Almost make a good boomerang.


It’s also hollow across it’s short width too and at first you’d look at the pictures and think it would take forever to flatten. In actuality this one took me about 15 minutes so don’t be daunted and though the eBay find might not be as bad as this one, it’s not unusual to find one as bad as this one.


In fact it’s quite common to find planes hollow across the width because many joiners use their jack planes to plane narrow boards of wood, MDF, melamine faced pressed fibre boards and much more abrasive stuff such as plastic laminates and plastics too.


I happen to own a proven dead flat granite slab so placing 140-grit abrasive paper on the block gave me the right start. You can use float glass or even a tile if you test it for flatness first. Sometimes, machine tables are close enough too. I have used wooden 4” x 4”  lengths of wood and MDF. Choose your flattest surface.

I used 4 feet of 140-grit abrasive paper 4” wide for the first level major abrading and then polished further to 600-grit. Plenty fine enough.


Make sure you keep the lever cap locked in place at normal pressure with the blade retracted. This keeps the sole in tension and so maintains as closely as possible how the plane will be in its final tensioned state during use.

It’s not necessary to abrade to a finer level, but you can if you like. Wood is surprisingly abrasive and soon undoes what polish you might attain. I went to 600-grit straight from the 140.DSC_0041

DSC_0056I cleaned up the sides with abrasive paper but it’s not necessary to square the sides to the sole. DSC_0042

Using the light and a true straightedge is usually enough to check for flatness. I first offered mine to the light and even fractional glimpses of light is not necessarily more than a thousandth of an inch.

DSC_0052 DSC_0051 DSC_0043

I used a 1/1000” feeler gauge on my test slab and the gauge penetrated only around the rim where I had bevelled the outer edges as I always do.

DSC_0065 DSC_0075 DSC_0078

To additionally prove my surface flatness I plane two boards independently and placed the edges together and they joint line was perfect.

The post Questions Answered – Advice Needed on #5 Stanley Planes appeared first on Paul Sellers' Blog.

Categories: Hand Tools

Louisiana’s Bousillage Tradition

L'ébénisterie Créole - Mon, 10/27/2014 - 1:56pm

As students of Historic Architecture, Culture and Trades we must never be satisfied with unfounded assumptions. Regardless of how long these speculations have gone unchecked we simply cannot take, as fact, the presumptions of those before us without testing and building reasonable evidence to support it or to debunk it, whatever the case may be.

For those of you who know me, you know that this is nothing new. This is not some new revelation rather something I have said for many many years. In simpler terms, the suggestions and opinions of others should always be valued and weighed but they can never replace experience and research. Learn from others but learn also from experience and testing. I believe that is precisely what Laura Blokker and her associate Heather Knight have done in regards to bousillage construction in Louisiana. She has taken material samples of well documented bousillage structures in Louisiana and has subjected them to analysis.

Simply put, the below information on bousillage is a must read for those currently involved in historical preservation efforts on the Gulf Coast or associated Acadian locals. Unthink what you knew about the composition of bousillage and read this article.

A special thanks to Laura Blokker for graciously accepted my invitation to present this data on-line via L'ébénisterie Créole. I look forward to continued cooperation and unified efforts in the preservation of Delta Region Material and Cultural History.


Jean N. Becnel

I unfortunately had to transition a PDF file into what you see below. I have tried to maintain the format and presentation to the best of my ability. Please let me know if any errors are discovered so that I may correct them.

Louisiana’s Bousillage Tradition:
Investigation of Past Techniques for Future Practice

Laura Ewen Blokker
Principal, Southeast Preservation 

Heather A. Knight
Adjunct Assistant Professor, Tulane School of Architecture


Introduction.................................................................................................................................... 1
Survey Work................................................................................................................................... 2
Materials Analysis........................................................................................................................... 9
Interviews...................................................................................................................................... 17
Conclusions and Future Directions............................................................................................... 23
Glossary......................................................................................................................................... 25

On the cover: Clockwise from left, tacheron trampling Spanish moss into clay for bousillage at Green House by H. Knight; detail of bousillage in Estopinal House by L. Blokker; photomicrograph of Dumesnil House bousillage showing traces of decayed Spanish moss bark by J. Walsh.       

            This report describes the work of the 2009 Fitch Mid-Career Grant funded project, “Louisiana‟s Bousillage Tradition:  Investigation of Past Techniques for Future Practice,” conducted between June 1, 2010 and May 31, 2011.  The goal of this project was to gather detailed information about the historic Louisiana building technology of bousillage which could be used to broaden public understanding of the tradition and lead to the creation of technical guidelines for its conservation and restoration.  The authors sought to achieve this through an interdisciplinary methodology incorporating collection of local knowledge, close study of building fabric, and laboratory analysis.  This work was designed to build upon several years of independent research on this topic conducted by the authors.  In spite of the fact that the number of documented extant bousillagebuildings in Louisiana numbers well over a hundred and that there are without doubt countless more undocumented examples, this technology has received scarce attention from scholars and is commonly misunderstood and taken for granted.  
As explained in the application for this grant,
[b]ousillage is an earthen nogging used in the timber structures of Creole and Acadian Louisiana throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.  Like many construction technologies used in the Americas during the Colonial period, bousillage is based on a European tradition adapted to New World conditions.  In this case, the influence of Native American building practices on the tradition was immediate, well documented, and enduring.  In 1699, a Jesuit priest, Father Paul du Ru, recorded in his journal the manner in which the different native tribes of the Gulf South mixed the local Spanish moss with mud to make a mortar for building.  From that point forward this indigenous recipe was used for the earthen nogging in Louisiana‟s French Colonial, Creole, and Acadian buildings.  The proliferate use of this technology throughout the area that is present-day southern and central Louisiana is remarkable when compared with the limited use of other earthen nogging methods throughout the United States.  As an earthen construction technique [in North America], bousillage may be second only to adobe in prevalence as measured by the number of standing historic buildings in which it is found.  
 We embarked upon this project with the belief that the proper preservation of bousillage is as important as that of adobe and that a similarly in-depth knowledge of its mechanics and conservation requirements to that which exists for adobe should be developed.  With this project, we have gathered some exciting new insights and have successfully moved in that direction.
Survey Work
            The aim of survey work during this project was documentation of the rare surviving bousillage buildings east of New Orleans in St. Bernard Parish.  This parish is located in the southeastern corner of the state and its fingers of land extend perilously into the Chandeleur
Sound toward the diminishing Chandeleur Islands, which offer just a ribbon of buffer from the
Gulf of Mexico.  St. Bernard suffered greatly from the devastation delivered by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and it was revisited by disaster of a different kind in 2010 when oil gushed into the Gulf from the Deepwater Horizon spill.  Colonial settlement in this area began in the eighteenth century, and it is a historically and culturally rich landscape.  Because of the threatened condition of this landscape in the face of coastal erosion and climate change, documentation of the few surviving bousillage buildings in St. Bernard Parish was considered a priority.  An unplanned field study of another building in western Louisiana came about as part of one of the oral history interviews.  The “Green House” or Hebert House, located on the Mermentau River in the Lake Arthur vicinity of Cameron Parish is the southwesternmost extant example of bousillage known to the authors.  Thus, through a fortuitous opportunity, documentation of both the southwesternmost and easternmost examples of bousillage was accomplished as part of this project.

 Map of primary buildings discussed in this report, by L. Blokker.  Photograph of Hebert House by H. Knight, 2011.  Photograph of Estopinal House by L. Blokker, 2011.  Photographs of sample collection sites, Parlange Plantation, Homeplace Plantation, Mather House, Dumesnil House, and Desfoss             é House, by L. Blokker, 2008, with the funding support of an Old Salem Architectural Fellowship.
Fig. 1: Map of primary buildings discussed in this report, by L. Blokker.  Photograph of Hebert House by H. Knight, 2011. 
Photograph of Estopinal House by L. Blokker, 2011.  Photographs of sample collection sites, Parlange Plantation, Homeplace Plantation, Mather House, Dumesnil House, and Desfossé House, by L. Blokker, 2008, with the funding support of an Old Salem Architectural Fellowship.

Survey work in St. Bernard Parish began with an interview of local historian William
Hyland.   All of the historical information that follows is based on this interview, conducted
April 22, 2011.  Mr. Hyland‟s knowledge of St. Bernard Parish and Louisiana history is extensive and his assistance was invaluable to the documentation of the three extant bousillage buildings and the collection of information about two buildings which were destroyed during and after Hurricane Katrina.  The three existing buildings are the Estopinal House, Magnolia Plantation House, and the Messa House.  The demolished houses were the Rodriguez House and the San Germain House.  These two houses and the Estopinal and Messa houses were all a part of the TocaVillage, a settlement created by Louisiana‟s Spanish Colonial government for los Isleños, colonists from the Canary Islands.  This was one of four Isleños settlements established between 1778 and 1783.  The others were Galveztown below Baton Rouge; Valenzuela along Bayou Lafourche, below Donaldsonville; and Barataria along the Bayou des Familles.  The bousillage houses were not completed until 1791 as documented in the Archivo General de Indias.  It is very possible – even likely – that bousillage houses also survive in the three other settlement areas, particularly along Bayou Lafourche.  This is an area for future research.  Tradition states that prior to the construction of the permanent housing, the Isleños lived in palmetto huts.  The construction of some poteaux-en-terre (post-in-ground) houses at Toca
Village is also recorded at the St. Bernard Parish Clerk of Court.  According to Mr. Hyland‟s account of the Archivo General de Indias records, construction of the bousillage houses for
Spanish government was executed by a contractor with enslaved builders.  The original St.
Bernard church was also reportedly built of bousillage but it was replaced in 1851 due to a fire.
 Fig. 2 (above): Preserved section of 
bousillage in Estopinal House.  
            The Estopinal House was severely damaged by Hurricane Katrina and it has since been carefully restored.  However, because not enough information or craftspersons skilled in bousillage were available, the remaining original bousillage was preserved, but none of the losses were restored.  It is a two-bay, two-room, side-gable house with an engaged porch.  This form is classified as a Creole cottage.  According to William Hyland, the dimensions of each room of the cottages built for theIsleños were typically 12‟ - 0” X 25‟ - 0”.  One of the original panels of bousillage has been covered with clear acrylic plastic sheeting so that it may be viewed and studied.  This area provided an excellent opportunity to document the craft as used in the late eighteenth century within a close proximity to New Orleans; though unfortunately the encasement left no loose pieces of bousillage available for petrographic

The clay of the bousillage is of a light color typical wood affixed to brace, indicated by arrows.

Fig. 3 (below): Close-up of bousillage
section showing thin strips of
of this southeastern area and it is mixed with a wellintegrated abundance of moss.  The moss appears to be cured.  The work in situ demonstrates yet another variation in the post and barreaux arrangement that the researchers had not encountered in some forty buildings examined previously.  In the Estopinal House, the barreaux are almost completely horizontal, which is not uncommon, but along the posts and braces on either side of the barreaux are attached thin strips of wood.  The intention of this

detail is uncertain, but it is possible that it was meant as extra reinforcement to keep the barreaux and the nogging from being able to move out of the wall.  If so, it could represent an evolution of a practice in which a concave trough was hewn out of the sides of the posts and braces.  This is known to have been done in Missouri where the method may have derived from the infill technique of pierrotage (stones and mortar) which uses no barreaux and would therefore require another device to keep the nogging in place.[1]  The authors have not documented any example like this in Louisiana, but interviewee, Wade Lege described seeing just such a detail in an eighteenth century house near Baton Rouge.  Very similar nailed strips appear
Fig. 4: Detail of bousillage with arrows indicating
 thin wood strips.  Photograph by L. 
in a photograph of a house with a nogging of thick riven oak slats daubed with mud and straw in Riverdale, New Jersey which appeared in a 1980 issue of the APT Bulletin.[2]  According to the author of the query that accompanied the photograph, these strips served to hold the oak slats in place.  As the slats in this design appear to be stacked one atop another, it is assumed that there would have been no pockets holding their ends.  The query author had no information about this infill technique or even a name for it.
            The Estopinal House was the only one of the three extant buildings in St. Bernard Parish in which the bousillage is exposed.  Because of that fact and limited access, it was determined that the other two buildings would be documented simply with exterior photographs, basic historical information, and locational data.  Information about the two recently demolished buildings was also noted.  While the lost San Germain and Rodriguez and the existing Messa and Estopinal were all two-bay, side gable cottages of the Isleños Toca Village, Magnolia is a sevenbay Creole plantation house with an umbrella roof.  The construction date of the house is uncertain, but in 1794 the property was occupied by a Cuban-born man, Antonio Mendez, whose wife Félicité was of French descent.
            On May 15, 2011, Knight travelled to the “Green House,” located near open prairie and the Lacassine National Wildlife Refuge, in Cameron Parish in the southwest corner of the state, to conduct both a bousillage structure survey and an oral history interview.  The Hebert House or “Green House” is located on the Mermentau River, near Lake Arthur, Louisiana, and roughly at the junction of Greenhouse Lane and Highway 3056.  The original owner was Alexander Hebert who married Clarisse Broussard and together had eight children.  It is known locally as the
“Green House,” because it is painted a deep forest green.  The bousillage vernacular one-and-ahalf story cottage was built c. 1836, in what was previously Calcasieu Parish.  In the late nineteenth century, the state legislature created additional parishes in southwest Louisiana. It now falls in the boundaries of Cameron Parish, close to the Jefferson Davis Parish line.  In 1997, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
The Acadian style cottage was built poteaux-sur-sole, or post-on-sill, with bousillageentre-poteaux, or mud-between-posts as nogging.  The colombage frame was hewn with an adze and finished with a hand-plane to smooth the exposed timbers.  The frame is mortise and tenon with pegs. The house originally sat on cypress blocks and currently sits on treated pine blocks that rest on individual concrete pads, with a metal damp course between sill and pier.  The upper floor garçonnièreor young men‟s quarters, can be accessed through a staircase located on the front screened-in porch.  This area was locked and inaccessible during the survey.  Originally, this access area would have been an open gallery.  Another bed chamber was added to the southwest corner and then the remaining gallery was screened.  The upper garçonnière with front exterior stair access and gable roof are both features of Acadian architecture.  
The house is undergoing restoration, with its current phase addressing damaged sections of bousillage in two areas of the southeast salle. One lacuna is located in the rear, south interior wall under the eight-over-eight sash window.  The other bousillage restoration is being completed on the rear interior east wall between two door openings.  After its restoration, including removal of a rear 1920s addition, the house now has a rear gallery with three door openings.  Originally, the cottage would have probably had two east facing windows, where the two outermost doors reside as partially evidenced in vintage on-site photographs and survey work.
Fig. 5: Detail of original Hebert House bousillage and barreau above new barreau.  Photograph by H. Knight.
The bousillage restoration is being undertaken by Dale Pierrottie of Lafayette.  Pierrottie has over twenty years of experience in recreating bousillage.  This will be discussed in the oral history section of the report.  As a portion of the east wall was open, Knight was able to observe both original and reconstructed barreaux and bousillage.  The original barreaux are hand-split and tapered at the ends.  At 2‟ - 10”, they are the longest barreaux the authors have documented anywhere.  The newly constructed barreaux are machine sawn and uniform in appearance.  They are much thinner than the original with one end tapered. 

Inactive carpenter bee holes were observed in the rear salle, which can be a threat to the stability of bousillage and adobe structures.
The original bousillage is light brown to pale yellow with what appears to be uncured Spanish moss.  The Spanish moss is generous in portion in the salvaged original samples stored on the rear gallery.  The nogging sample is more than two inches thick and finished with a lime plaster that has been painted with an inappropriate white latex paint.  The plaster is flush with the framing and finished with a chair rail.  This evidence accompanied with the fact that the timbers were hand-planed smooth means the timbers were purposely left exposed.   
Materials Analysis
            When the scope of work for this project was conceived, it was hoped that samples of bousillage could be sent to different labs and submitted to different forms of analysis such as soil characterization, qualitative petrography, X-ray diffraction, and quantitative analysis so that results could be compared to determine the method that produced the most useful information.  However, at the outset of the project, the budget was reduced due to economic conditions and it was necessary to select a single method of analysis with the greatest promise to provide instructive findings. Petrographer John Walsh‟s laboratory Highbridge Materials Consulting, Inc. was selected to perform the analysis because John Walsh has a proven track record in the investigation of historic building materials and the authors have had positive experiences in working with him in the past.  One limitation of Highbridge was a lack of expertise in plant fibers which was desired for analysis of the Spanish moss bound in the samples.  However, multiple attempts to identify anyone with qualifications to examine the characteristics of the moss fibers in this type of building material – including inquiries with the McCrone Research Institute for Microscopy and the College of William and Mary Center for Archaeological
Research – failed.  Therefore, we determined that there was no known superior alternative to John Walsh‟s experience and skill as a microscopist for examination of the moss fibers and that keeping all of the analysis in the Highbridge lab would preserve the limited funds of the budget. Samples of loose retted and unretted moss were provided along with the bousillage samples for comparison.
Further discussion of the desired investigation of the material with John Walsh led to the conclusion that qualitative petrographic analysis would be the best starting point for examining the samples.  Our top questions regarding the composition of the material regarded the inclusion of anything other than clay and Spanish moss, specifically lime or unburned oyster shell and animal hair.  Although historic accounts of bousillage describe just a combination of Spanish moss and clay, a definition of the material that includes oyster shell or lime and deer or other animal hair has become standard; being regularly mentioned in tours of historic properties and appearing in architecture books and even Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) drawings.  While we also hoped to gain a clear picture of the mineralogical composition and particle size distribution of the clay, for which it seemed x-ray diffraction (XRD) might be most effective, it was decided that XRD would be deferred because of the restraints of the budget, and only executed if initial analysis pointed towards a great usefulness of that approach.  As noted by Giacomo Chiari in his introduction to the “Materials and Craftsmanship” section of the 2000 Terra conference preprints, the analysis of clays is extremely complex and does not lend itself perfectly to XRD, which is the most common analysis approach, while a more effective technique utilizing synchrotron radiation is prohibitively expensive.  In light of this he asked, “is it really necessary to get this type of information?”  We asked ourselves the same question, with the conclusion that in the context of this project, the answer was no.[3]
With the laboratory and the method of analysis determined, the next step was to select the best samples for study.  At the outset of the project seven samples of bousillage were in hand.  These samples were collected during a 2008 survey of bousillage structures by Laura Blokker, assisted by Heather Knight and Mark O‟Bannon, which was made possible by the financial support of an Old Salem Architectural Fellowship.  Of these, three were selected based on the amount of the material, its inclusion of sufficient Spanish moss for examination, and the ability of the three samples to represent variety in geography, age, and cultural associations.  Those selected came from Homeplace Plantation, Parlange Plantation, and the Dumesnil House. 
Homeplace is a raised Creole plantation home constructed c. 1800 in St. Charles Parish, west of New Orleans up the Mississippi River.  Parlange, like Homeplace is a Creole plantation home raised on a full-height, brick ground level (rez-de-chausée).  It is located in Pointe Coupee Parish on the False River, northwest of Baton Rouge and is believed to have been constructed at the beginning of the nineteenth century.  Both of these homes would have been erected by master builders with a crew of enslaved craftsmen of African descent.  The Dumesnil House is a twobay Acadian house resting on brick piers, which was built c. 1835.  Its location in the Bayou
Teche area of St. Mary Parish places it southeast of Lafayette, in the central portion of the state‟s southern coast.  Together, these three properties form a small triangle within the larger settlement pattern that is known as the “French Triangle of Influence.”  

 Figs. 6 & 7 (left): Bousillage in situ at Homeplace Plantation. Photographs by L. Blokker, 2008, with the funding support of an Old Salem Architectural Fellowship.

Figs. 8 & 9 (left): Loose bousillage at Parlange Plantation. Photographs by L. Blokker, 2008, with the funding support of an Old Salem Architectural Fellowship.
 Figs. 10 & 11 (left and above): Interior bousillage wall at Dumesnil House and detail of cracked bousillage revealed by removal of chair rail. Photographs by L. Blokker, 2008, with the funding support of an Old Salem Architectural Fellowship.

Once these first three samples were analyzed and interviews were completed, it was determined that the cost benefit scenario for XRD would not be favorable, but that qualitative petrographic analysis of additional samples could offer further insights.  Based on the same requirements of the quality of the sample and representation of variety, two more samples were selected for analysis.  These were from the c. 1790 Jules Desfossé House in Mansura and the c. 1811 Mather House in Convent.  Both of these buildings began as modest Creole houses which were later expanded. Mansura is in Avoyelles Parish in the center corner of the state, making the
Desfossé House the most northern sample collection point.  Convent sits on the east bank of the
Mississippi almost midway between Baton Rouge and New Orleans.

Figs. 12 & 13 (above): Bousillage in situ at the Desfossé House. Photographs 
by L. Blokker, 2008, with the funding support of an Old Salem Architectural Fellowship.

 Figs. 14 & 15 (above): Bousillage in situ at Mather House. Photographs by L. Blokker, 2008, with the funding support of an Old Salem Architectural Fellowship.

The results of the qualitative analysis of the first three samples provided some interesting findings.  As suspected, lime and animal hair were not found to be intentional additives in any of the samples.  There was however, discovered in the Dumesnil and Parlange samples, a “very low abundance of fine-grained glass fragments that do not appear to be geological in origin.”[4]  The Dumesnil sample also contained some fine-grained particles that were interpreted as dead-burned lime.  We hypothesized that these contaminants could have been created by a lime burning process on the site for the mortar required by the brickwork foundations and that they may have been introduced to the bousillage when it was tempered in an in-ground pit.  Another possibility suggested by a segment of the interview with architect Eddie Cazayoux is that these particles were part of an ash additive.  Mr. Cazayoux stated that he had been told ash was added to bousillage to reduce cracking.  Reduction of cracking in plasters or mortars is typically achieved by slowing the curing process and a variety of materials have traditionally been used as retardants.  Though ash is well-known in historic masonry as a pozzalonic additive to endow lime with hydraulicity, it is not common in vernacular earthen construction without lime.  Analysis of the fourth and fifth samples aided in a comparative interpretation that suggested the glass particles were not likely to be ash, but in fact must be of a geological origins based on the striking similarity between two pairs of the samples.
The Desfossé sample was found to have a remarkably similar mineralogy to the Dumesnil sample, and likewise, the Parlange sample to the Mather sample.  Although these sites are geographically dispersed, they may share a common geological development. Mather is located on the Mississippi River and Parlange, while not on the Mississippi, sits on the False
River, a former part of the Mississippi that is now an oxbow lake.  Meanwhile Desfossé and Dumesnil are both sited close to bayous.  We do not yet know why the Homeplace sample did not share characteristics of Parlange and Mather, as it is located on the Mississippi.  Certainly, further exploration and consultation with local soil experts will help to clarify these findings and it is a topic for future work.  With this additional data, Walsh concluded that the similarities of the Desfossé and Dumesnil glass particles, which he described as equidimensional, and the Parlange and Mather glass, which was shard-like were too distinct to be the coincidence of contamination.  Further, he noted the absence of any truly spherical ash particles, making it unlikely that this was an additive.  
A questioning of the cured/retted or uncured/unretted state of moss in bousillage first arose between the authors while surveying a building in which the exposed pieces of moss appeared to be unretted.  This was contrary to conventional wisdom that states the moss must be retted and led us to investigate the matter in the analysis.  Spanish moss is not actually a moss, but rather a bromeliad which grows in favorably warm and humid parts of the southeastern United States.  The plant is found growing on trees, which it uses for support, but as an epiphyte, it absorbs it nutrients and water from the air and rainfall.  It has a slender stem covered with bark and curly leaves.  When it is cured, the outer bark and leaves are removed, leaving the strong black inner stem.   Through a careful comparison of the retted and unretted Spanish moss samples with the fiber traces found in each of the bousillage, samples Walsh interpreted the Spanish moss in each of the first three samples as having been added in an uncured state.  This conclusion was based on the “many occurrences of decayed bark residues as well as impressions of the outer bark imbedded in the dried clay.”[5]  In the second pair of samples, the Dumesnil moss was again interpreted as uncured, but the Desfossé moss appeared to have been cured.  When Spanish moss is piled on the ground, it naturally begins to compost and the bark and leaves decay, so it is possible, that the piece of moss in the Desfossé sample was a naturally cured anomaly which might not represent all the moss in the building.  Or, of course, it could be that it was in fact retted for the construction of this house. In either case, four out of five of the samples indicate the use of uncured moss, a fact contrary to the popular consensus about this building method.  
All contemporary descriptions of the process of making bousillage – including those provided by each of our interviewees – state that the moss must be retted.  Although methods of acquiring cured moss vary from composting in piles at home to purchasing from a moss gin, the call for retted moss is consistent.  However, the use of unretted moss is specified in the most detailed known historic account of traditional bousillage making, a narrative of Acadian life from 1840 to 1901 known as the “Anonymous Breaux manuscript.”  It states,
The tache is a square or round hole for making bousillage.  The topsoil is stripped off with shovels.  Then the hole is excavated with hand tools and the spoilage thrown to the side.  At the bottom is laid a coating of “green” moss and layers of earth are alternated with further layers of moss.  Then the whole is watered so as to soak the earth.  The men called tacherons, bare-footed and with trouser legs turned up, descend into the tache, treading and crushing the mixture until it is of the consistency of mortar.[6]  
If the analysis interpretation is correct that four samples used unretted moss and such a practice is corroborated by the one historic account that specifies the condition of the moss, then
how has it come about that everyone believes moss used in bousillage must be retted?  We have two possible explanations for this.  After moss was added to the clay and wetted and then dried in the wall, the bark of the moss would decompose and all that remains visible to the naked eye in most cases is the inner shaft of the moss.  In essence, the moss becomes retted in situ and anyone examining a historic building would assume it had been in that condition when mixed with the clay.  In addition, it is possible that this impression would have been colored by knowledge of the moss industry that burgeoned in Louisiana during the twentieth century, in which moss was cured for use in upholstery and for other purposes.  Memories of how “old timers” used to cure moss could easily attach themselves to one‟s interpretation of this historic building process, but this may have led to a false understanding.  Although moss was cured for home purposes prior to the twentieth century, the mass harvest and retting of the material did not occur until the 1900s, long after the peak of bousillage construction.  Curing moss is somewhat tedious and time consuming and would have made an already laborious process even more so.  Using uncured moss as described in the Anonymous Breaux Manuscript would be much more efficient method, so this finding could have significant practical application in restoration practice.
Four oral history interviews were conducted under the auspices of this grant.  The original scope of work for this project included the interview of craftsmen, folklorists, architects, and homeowners with bousillage experience.  When the scope of work was revised to fit the reduced budget, we concluded that interviews would be limited to folklorists and craftspersons because we felt they would have the most information.  In addition, some of their advanced ages rendered the gathering of information time sensitive.  A further revision of the scope of work
was made to alleviate the Fitch Foundation Board‟s concerns that one of the interviews would overlap the work of a simultaneous project.  After work began, it was discovered with sadness that another primary interview candidate, Earl Major, had passed away.  The interviewee list was therefore revised to again include an architect and a homeowner.
Edward “Eddie” Jon Cazayoux, FAIA, was recorded on October 12, 2010 at the Pitot House on Bayou St. John in New Orleans. The Pitot House is briquette-entre-poteaux or brickbetween-post construction, and contains no bousillage.  On November 16, 2010, Merle Donald
“Don” Moe shared his experience as a bousillage folklife demonstrator on the grounds of Destrehan Plantation in Destrehan, the site of an eighteenth century bousillage Creole plantation house.  Glenn Wade Lege II recounted the restoration of his bousillage Acadian cottage on January 3, 2011.  Russell “Dale” Pierrottie, a self-taught bousillage sculptor, folklife demonstrator, and craftsperson, was video interviewed while working at the “Green House” in Cameron Parish on May 15, 2011. Unfortunately, none of the interviewees learned bousillage technology directly from a seasoned practitioner.
As a native of Pointe Coupee Parish, Eddie Cazayoux grew up in an area where bousillage was prevalent and as an architect he has embraced such traditional “green” building technologies.  His professional experience with bousillage includes several restoration projects and he incorporated a bousillage wall into the new construction of his own home.  Seventy-threeyear-old Don Moe is not a native of Louisiana, but was trained as a folklife demonstrator at Destrehan Plantation in 2004.  To augment the knowledge he received from his predecessor, he scoured the internet for images and information on various aspects of the craft and has discovered more still through doing.  Wade Lege learned the craft out of necessity, in order to restore his Acadian cottage that was moved in 2007 from the vicinity of Carencro and now stands in the country near Abbeville.  Dale Pierrottie‟s interest in bousillage began when his grandfather of Basille, Louisiana described its use in Acadian chimney building.  He first had the opportunity to try the craft when he was employed to construct such a chimney for the 1986 film Belizaire the Cajun.  To bring authenticity to this project, he began intensive bousillage research in archives and libraries.  For the past twenty-five years, he has continued to study the technique and has learned much from hands on experience.  As well as working on many restoration projects, he has created a unique art form by adapting bousillage to sculpture.  In his interview, sixty-two-year-old Pierrottie modestly summed up his considerable knowledge stating, “People say, „Oh you‟re an expert.‟  I go, „No, all the experts are dead, I‟m just an enthusiast who knows perhaps more than the laymen does.”
All audio, with exception to Pierrottie, was recorded with a hand-held Panasonic Digital Recorder.  An Olympus Digital Camera and tripod captured the Pierrottie interview and recorded his work at the “Green House.”  Back up audio recordings were made using the Recorder application on an iPhone.  Additional short video clips were made using a Canon Digital Elph, Power Shot SD700 IS.
Collectively, the interviews provided invaluable information from several different perspectives on the mechanics of working with bousillage.  Each interview was guided by a questionnaire created for this project.  The questions covered the personal and professional background of each individual, their personal habitation experience related to bousillage and their hands on experience with bousillage.  The primary aspects of bousillage construction that were discussed in detail are the clay, the moss, mixing techniques, consistency, and application methods.  While some of the information was similar, techniques varied.  A special emphasis was placed on discussion of Spanish moss because of the results of the analysis.  As delineated in the “Materials Analysis” section, four of the five samples sent to Highbridge for analysis employed uncured/unretted Spanish moss.  These findings contradict popular folklore and current practice in which all Spanish moss is cured before mixing with mud.
All four interviewees called for cured Spanish moss, but how it was retted varied in description.  Pierrottie‟s moss for the “Green House” restoration was previously boiled for fifteen minutes to flash cure it.  It was then allowed to air dry and still appeared somewhat green on site, with no black inner fibers exposed.  Lege and Cazayoux purchased bales of ginned moss for their personal dwelling projects, while Pierrottie felt “ginned moss was too clean and uniform in nature.”  Moe spoke of and demonstrated curing moss by a composting method.  It would be wet down and flipped occasionally and wet again over six weeks, until the outer bark naturally decomposed.  Pierrottie also likes this method, when the project timeline permits.  David J. W. Floyd, Director of the Louisiana State University Rural Life Museum, commented in a phone interview in December 2010 that “boiling moss would have been too much trouble and that craftsmen would simply have piled it and composted it until it cured.  He stated that the moss gin was not invented until the mid-nineteenth century, which is a late period in the historical use of bousillage construction.  The author has noted that Spanish moss will self-cure in its natural environment, both on the ground and hanging in trees.  Large clumps of green moss, whether deposited on the ground or in trees, will often contain an inner section of naturally cured moss. 
This was observed at Audubon Park in December 2010 and at the “Green House” hanging from a tree on the banks of the Mermentau River in May 2011.  
The Moe interview also brought up methods of retting moss by burying in the ground and by drowning in the swamp or a local source of water.  Moe seemed to be most knowledgeable in the folkways associated with harvesting and ginning Spanish moss and the industry centeredaround that.  He harvests Spanish moss from Destrehan Plantation and collects mud from the Mississippi River batture.  The curing of moss is done on site via compost method.  The “swamp water” curing process is described from the interview below:
They built scaffolds on a barge so they could move around.  Another thing they did was when they pulled the moss off, they didn‟t necessarily bring it back.  They just buried it in the swamp water, and it would eventually decay itself.  Then they would come back
and collect it.    
Moe further explained the “burial” curing method for moss:
            You can dig a hole and bury it in there.  [This method] gives you more surface area.  Once you set it on the ground, that sets up the decay like you are composting in the garden.  It works the same function.  But, if you put it into a pile, and you have a large enough hole, you are going to have more surface area [for decomposition].
Moe, Lege and Pierrottie described or demonstrated loosely fluffing the moss before adding to mud.   Pierrottie also explained how he sorts the moss to remove short pieces which do not hold the torchons (loaves of mud) together as well as long pieces.  In this sorting process, twigs and other material that could cut the feet and hands of the craftspersons during tempering and application are also removed.
            Two of the interviewees brought up using materials other than Spanish moss in bousillage.  Wade Lege mentioned friends that restored their bousillage home using pine needles instead of Spanish moss.  The house was out in the Louisiana prairie where pine trees are more prevalent. Dale Pierrottie also noted hearing of the use of pine needles, but suggested that this was probably just done in chinking, not in full wall infill.  He further commented on experiments done in the Lafayette area with byproducts from the rice industry as a substitute for moss.  Both of these methods deserve additional inquiry and survey of mentioned structures.  In 2008, the authors surveyed the Cook‟s Cabin at Oakland Plantation in Bermuda, Louisiana.  The bousillage employed at the cabin used straw as a substitute for Spanish moss.  The material resembled adobe, yet was still draped over the rabbits or barreaux in a similar manner.  Such alternative fiber materials could offer another green aspect to building with mud in areas lacking ample Spanish moss by virtue of their local availability.                             
            Lege worked with several workers from Central America for one year to restore his home and noted in the interview that they were good problem solvers and familiar with earthen architecture.  He mixed his mud and moss on a table so “the work would not be back breaking.”  Cazayoux and Pierrottie both employ baby pools as substitutes for pits in which to trample the mixture by foot.  Tempering by foot is certain to have a considerably different effect on the consistency of the material than mixing on a table top and might affect the amount of water required and the subsequent curing and cracking.  Each of the interviewees had developed slightly different methods of achieving what they felt was the right cohesion of the material before the loaves could be placed in the wall.  Moe explained that when the material is first made, it will fall apart and must age for at least a day – preferably two – before it is a good consistency for using.  Cazayoux noted that he worked the material wetter and let it dry a little before applying it.  He also stated that he would add some extra moss to each torchis before placing it in the wall.  Pierrottie focused on the incorporation of long pieces of moss into the mud, but used the torchons almost immediately after mixing.[7]         
CazayouxLege and Pierrottie discussed the “green” qualities of bousillage.  Lege mused
on this subject:
Once you have lived in one of these [bousillage homes] … it is hard to live without a thick wall, well insulated situation, because they do work really well.  If I have to build, recreate something, it will be recreated with thick walls.     
Bousillage is often misconstrued as insulation, when in fact it functions as thermal mass in the wall.  In the 1990s, Cazayoux built one wall of his new residence with bousillage for its ability to retain heat or remain cold due to its thermal mass.  He wanted to defy the contemporary opinion that you could not build in mass in a hot and humid climate successfully to create thermal comfort – something beautifully demonstrated by historic Creole homes.  In his home bousillage is used in combination with a fireplace to provide comfort in winter as well as the summer.  He described how the exposed bousillage cracks in the dry air of winter and heals itself as the humidity returns in the spring.  In Louisiana‟s humid weather, Cazayoux noted, the ability of bousillage to act as a desiccant has a very desirable impact on the indoor environment.  Pierrottie termed this function “Cajun air conditioning,” explaining how moisture that is absorbed during the day is released in the lower temperatures of the evening, producing a cooling effect.  He concluded that he would like to see people recognize sustainable qualities of this material for new construction as well, a sentiment the authors of this report share.           
Conclusions and Future Directions
By bringing together materials analysis, building documentation, and craft practice interviews through the support of the Fitch Mid-Career Grant, we successfully created a new body of information about bousillage which will serve as the foundation for creating a primer on this nearly lost building art.  The observation of Spanish moss bark residues in the materials analysis is a very significant finding and something that could only be achieved through microscopic analysis; demonstrating how this was a valuable addition to field study and interviews.  Field survey of buildings served the important purpose of documenting the physical evidence of this building tradition for future generations and also offered new insights.   Invaluable information gained from trial and error experience was recorded by the interviews and will serve as an excellent basis for developing technical guidelines and recommendations for bousillage construction.  Now, the insights that formerly resided within the heads and hands of a few will be able to be translated to an accessible written form to assist any conservator, architect, homeowner, student, or other person interested in this topic. 
The next step in our on-going effort to create a published guide to bousillage will be the completion of additional interviews and analysis that will help to support or challenge the findings of this project.  With this further information we will draft recommendations for materials and methodologies that we will then test with mock-ups and field trials. Field trials will allow us to observe and scrutinize the results of all the different methods suggested by our interviews, analysis, building study, and archival research.  We will continue our efforts until we are able to accomplish all the work necessary to produce an informative and practical publication.  Our enduring goal is not just to collect information, but to disseminate it to the public.  
barreau(x) – Fr.  A small bar or stave.  Used in this context to describe the wooden members which are fitted between the posts of the colombage, or timber frame, to support the clay and Spanish moss bousillage loaves.  Barreaux are riven and roughly square, rectangular, or trapezoidal in section (depending upon how the fibers split) with tapered and pointed ends.  They can be arranged horizontally, diagonally, or zigzaggedly.  Also referred to as bâtons or rabbits in certain parts of Louisiana.  

baton(s) – Fr.  Stick.  In this context, barreau(x).  Usage of this term is predominantly Cajun rather than Creole.

batture – Fr. The land between a river and a levee, which could consist of a sand-bar or mud deposits.  This term is commonly used in Louisiana to refer to the sediment deposit between the Mississippi River and the levee.  As the river rises and subsides seasonally, the batture becomes flooded and drained.  Craftsmen would harvest sand from the batture for mortar and plaster recipes as well as clay and sand for bousillage, if the structure was in close proximity to the river.  

briquette-entre-poteaux – Fr.  Brick-between-post construction, in which the brick nogging is laid between the vertical members of a timber frame.

bousillage – Fr.  In the Gulf South, tempered clay and Spanish moss used as infill in colombage structures, as daub over the stick framework of chimneys, and occasionally as chinking.  In French settlements of the Upper Mississippi River Valley and Canada, straw or hay, not Spanish moss, was used as the vegetal binder as in France.  Acadian buildings of Nova Scotia also used marsh grass as the binding plant fiber.  On early documents, the term appears as bouzillé or bousillé.  It is uncertain when the term bousillage developed from bousillé.  Also sometimes referred to asbousillage entre poteaux and bousillier entre les poteaux.  In contemporary Parisian French, the verb bousiller means to ruin and the construction method of bousillage is known as torchis.  One interviewee noted that visitors from Quebec said they use the word bousillage to mean making a mess.  

colombage – Fr.  Heavy timber-frame construction; the framing of walls infilled with bousillagepierottage, or briquette-entre-poteaux.

garçonnière – Fr.  Young man‟s quarters.  In Acadian structures the garçonnière was typically located in the attic.  In French Creole plantation architecture, young men often had their own upper floor wing of a home.  This structure was frequently separated from the main house by a gallery. Sometimes, it was a completely detached structure located off the rear of the main home.

gin – A machine that removes unwanted debris from fiber.  Spanish moss is retted and cleaned of large debris by hand picking before it is ginned.  The moss gin uses a toothed cylinder and fans to further clean it and prepare it for baling.

pierrotage – Fr.  A stone and mortar infill between timber frame construction used in French settlements of the Upper Mississippi River Valley and Canada, but not along the Gulf Coast where stone is lacking.

poteaux-en-terre – Fr.  Post-in-ground construction.

poteaux-sur-sole – Fr.  Post-on-sill construction.  

rabbit(s) –   Barreau(x).  Term used in the Natchitoches area; of uncertain etymological development.

ret – To steep, soak, or otherwise process to separate fibers.  In this context, to remove the outer bark from the inner stem of Spanish moss.  var.: rettedunretted

rez-de-chaussée – Fr.  The ground level of a raised building.

salle – Fr.  Large general purpose room or hall.

tâche – Fr. An in-ground pit used to make bousillage.

tâcheron – Fr. Person who mixes bousillage by trampling in the tache

torchis – Fr.  A loaf of bousillage.  In France, today, this is the term for bousillage construction. The word is believed to have derived from the resemblance of the clay and fiber wrapped around the barreau to a torch (Michel Lessard and Gilles VilandréLa maison traditionnelle au Québec,
115).  The word “torcher” is also known to have been used as early as the fourteenth century in
England to refer to a dauber and the term “torching” meant the process of daubing (Tony
Graham, “Wattle and Daub: Craft, Conservation, and Wiltshire Case Study,” 15).  Also torchon.

torchon – Fr.  A loaf of bousillage.  In present day France, it is synonymous with mess like the current meaning of bousillage in Quebec (see bousillage).  In seventeenth century France, a torchon de paille was a small bundle of straw or as much as a thatcher could lay at once (RandleCotgraveDictionarie of the French and English Tongues, 1611).  Also torchis.

[1] Charles E. Peterson, Colonial St. Louis: Building a Creole Capital (Tucson: The Patrice Press, 1993), 44.
[2] Claire K. Tholl, “Query Re.: “Filled Wall” Construction,” APT Bulletin 12, no. 2 (1980): 124-126.
[3] Giacomo Chiari, “Materials and Craftsmanship,” in Terra 2000, 8th International Conference on the Study and Conservation of Earthen Architecture: Preprints (London: James and James, 2000), 109.
[4] John J. Walsh, “Bousillage Analysis Report” (Highbridge Consulting, Ossinging, NY, 2010), 2.
[5] Walsh, 2.
[6] George Reinecke, trans., “Early Louisiana French Life and Folklore, Excerpts from The Anonymous Breaux Manuscript,” in Louisiana‟s Living Traditions, Louisiana Division of the Arts, http://www.louisiana folklife.org /LT/Articles_Essays/the_breaux_manuscript.html (accessed September 12, 2008).
[7] Torchis and torchons both refer to the loaves of mud and moss. Pierrottie says torchon while Cazayoux says torchis Baguette is another term with the same meaning.  Terminology varies somewhat by region.

© Jean Becnel, 2014. 
The material found herein is the sole intellectual property of it's author(s). 
Reproduction of this information is strictly forbidden without the written permission of it's author(s)

Categories: Hand Tools

Why I Want ‘The Book of Plates’

Lost Art Press: Chris Schwarz - Mon, 10/27/2014 - 1:00pm

Whenever woodworkers come to my house, two things happen. We drink beer and we gaze longingly at my 18th-century copies of A.-J. Roubo’s ‘l’Art du Menuisier.”

I assure you that we keep the beer far away from the books.

I’ve owned many copies of Roubo, from the trade paperbacks all the way up to this beautiful first edition. And it is the detail and size of these original plates that grab your eye and cause you to press your face to the page.

“Why did he draw that tool in that way?” is a common question.

With many old woodworking books, the answer is, “He didn’t draw it that way. Some illustrator did.” But in this case, Roubo himself drew most all of the plates. Nothing is unintentional – I can say this because I know many of these plates by heart and have been editing our upcoming translation, which will be published next year.

With “The Book of Plates,” we wanted to capture that same experience of examining the 18th-century original by giving you the plates at the same size they were drawn in the 1700s. We wanted to offer the extreme detail from the original. Oh, and the paper is the nicest stuff available.

To give you a feel for that experience, I made this short video tour of two plates in the book – one on trying planes and one on measuring tools. The book shown in the video is my first edition – “The Book of Plates” is still on press. I apologize in advance for how many times I say “cool.” I recommend you turn that quirk of mine into a drinking game.

We are now accepting pre-publication orders for “The Book of Plates.” Order soon to ensure delivery by Christmas. The book ships starting Nov. 20.

— Christopher Schwarz

Filed under: To Make as Perfectly as Possible, Roubo Translation
Categories: Hand Tools

The Best Wood, Part 2

Brokeoff Mountain Luthierie - Mon, 10/27/2014 - 10:58am
Federico Sheppard: Do you ever use cedar tops?

Antonio Marin: Yes, but only two or three per year. This is a spruce town.

From an interview with the great Granada guitar maker, Antonio Marin, American Lutherie #117

A young man visited my studio the other day to chose a guitar from my inventory, he was looking to replace the Asturias brand guitar that he is currently playing. His two complaints about the Asturias were the string length (656mm) and the neck is too thick and rounded.

Spruce/Walnut Guitar

I handed him a spruce/walnut guitar (photo above) with a scale length of 650mm. He loved the neck and the string length, but I noticed right away that he was struggling to get a good sound out of it.

Spruce/California Laurel guitar, Torres/Santos Model

So, I pulled out one of my latest guitars, the one based upon Antonio Torres's guitar FE 19, which is loud, has an amazing voice and capable of many nuances and again, as he played this guitar I noticed that he didn't get along with it.

"Wilson," he said, "I really want to play that Douglas fir/mahogany guitar that you brought to the Guitar Celebration at Metro State."

I got that guitar out of its case and handed it to him.

It was startling to hear him play that guitar, it was clear that a spruce topped guitar was not for him. The piece of music that he played was immediately clearer in sound and quality, no flubs with the left or right hand.

This guitar has a 640mm string length, one-half inch shorter then his Asturias, which he noticed right away and mentioned that the neck on my guitar made it easier from him to play.

For a little experiment, I let him play my old battle axe, a cedar top Hernandis guitar with a 665mm string length that was made in Japan in 1973 and imported by Sherry-Brener, the one that I played at the Christopher Parkening master class (click here for my posting on that) all those years ago. Yep, he could play that guitar well and it turned out that his Asturias guitar has a cedar top.

I told him that at this point in his studies he is a Douglas fir and cedar man.

I never would have thought that wood could influence a classical guitar player that much.

A true Spanish guitar is made of spruce and rosewood, like the woods in the photo above. I strive to make as Spanish of a guitar that I can, even though I am not Spanish, I want to capture that sound I heard in Segovia's and Sabicas' recording when I was studying the classical guitar.

Working with these young musicians is showing me that I need to make instruments that fit them, that fit them physically, sonically and dare I say it, emotionally. The guitar they play should blow their minds so much that they can't stop playing it and through that constant playing they become better musicians. That is a goal worth working for.

The young man will come back next weekend to pay for and take delivery on the Douglas fir/mahogany guitar. He mentioned to me that he wants me to make him a guitar for his senior recital, which will be in one year.

I all ready know what woods I will use for that guitar: a Douglas fir top; black walnut back and sides; walnut for the neck; black locust for the fret board and bridge; and braced with Engelmann spruce.

All woods that grow in Colorado.

Douglas fir that was salvaged from an old bleacher seat. I've had this piece for 15 years

Time for me to go have lunch and get into the workshop and do some work!

Categories: Luthiery

5th Annual Fall Woodworking Festival at the CU Woodshop

Matt's Basement Workshop - Mon, 10/27/2014 - 9:00am

The folks at CU Woodshop Supply are holding their 5th Annual Fall Woodworking Festival this week, Thur. Oct. 30th-Sat. Nov. 1st 9 am – 6 pm at the CU Woodshop & School of Woodworking.

If you’re anywhere near the Champaign, Il area and haven’t visited them yet this is a great opportunity to stop by and check them out.

CU woodshop fall festival logo

The event is open to everyone and this year will be featuring two masters of woodworking, Jeff Miller & George Vondriska, on-site to share their woodworking knowledge and answer your questions. At the same time the CU Woodshop is also hosting a Lie-Nielsen tool event.

So if you haven’t been tempted enough, this is an amazing opportunity to stop in and try out some of the premier hand tools available on the market and get expert guidance in choosing and using the right one for you by their knowledgeable staff that will be on hand to answer all of your questions.

And if that wasn’t enough to grab your attention and bring you in there’s also the following:

  • FREE lunch, drinks and snacks available daily!
  • Over 10 product vendors on site with scheduled presentations/demos and giveaways!
  • Hourly prize drawings, as well as, daily grand prize drawings!
  • HOT! Sale opportunities in our retail store!!
  • Inventory closeout deals on new, fully warrantied products!
  • Also, well maintained tools from our DreamShop will be sold at significant discounts!
  • Come see the popular Freud van on Thursday and Friday only!!

CU logo

If you make it, tell the staff “Matt said HI!” They’ll probably give you a blank stare, but that’s okay, it’s better than being escorted off the premises. For sure tell Jeff I said “Hello”, but more important have a great time and share your pictures (if you choose to take any) online. I’d love to see how it went.

Help support the show – please visit our advertisers

Categories: Hand Tools

Skin on Frame Kayak: The Design

Tim Manney Chairmaker - Mon, 10/27/2014 - 9:00am
Earlier this summer my girlfriend ponied up and bought herself a nice hot pink fiberglass sea kayak, which finally put the screws to me to build the skin on frame boat that I had been dreaming of for the past couple of years.

Skin on frame construction is the way that kayaks were originally built in the arctic waters of their origin.  You make a wooden skeleton that is a framework for a waterproof skin that encloses the boat. Traditionally, the skin was made up of several seal skins that had been sewn together, and then sewn around the boat.  Most modern builders of skin on frame boats opt for ballistic nylon, polyester, or canvas as opposed to seal skin.

I considered building a Greenland style boat, but eventually settled on building an F1 kayak designed by Brian Schulz of Cape Falcon Kayak.  Brian is a paddler and kayak designer/builder on the Oregon coast.  He teaches skin on frame boat building classes and builds kayaks and paddles to order.  He is actually gearing up for an epic round the country kayak class marathon this winter/spring that is probably coming to a city near you.  You can read more about the design, Brian, and skin on frame boats in general here.  Check here to see the current destinations for Brian's traveling kayak workshops.  Inspiring person, inspiring boats.  Here is a picture of Brian paddling one of his F1s out in their natural habitat.

Want one yet?

At 14' long the F1 is short for a sea kayak, but it is playful, fast, and action packed.  Armed with Christopher Cunningham's book for construction techniques, Harvey Golden's drawing of Brian's F1 kayak, and a clear vertical grain 14' cedar 1x10, I took the plunge.

Categories: Hand Tools

Kerfing Plane – Done

Bob Easton - Mon, 10/27/2014 - 8:20am

photo of completed planeThere are a lot more pictures this time because I read that a lot of people avoid saw making, rehabilitation and sharpening. I want to show that it’s within easy reach of anyone who wants to try and doesn’t care to wait while saws take long trips to the sharpener and back. We can find many sharpening guides and tutorials online. Nearly all are very useful. For this particular saw plate, I followed Paul Seller’s recent tutorial about cutting saw teeth. The method worked wonderfully!

The plate itself is roughly 10″ by 1.5″, recycled from an old Disston that I cut down to make my frame saw a few years ago. Cutting to this shape was simple hack sawing. The tooth edge was smoothed “flat and straight” with a simple single-cut mill file. I decided to cut it to the same pattern I use for other resawing work, 5 TPI, zero rake, no fleam … just a dead simple aggressive rip pattern.

My ever handy Stanley No. 36 1/2 R rule has multiple scales in  8, 10, 12, 16 parts to the inch. The 10 scale made easy work of laying out a guide. The slideshow walks through a number of steps, with notes about each.

The 10 to the inch scale of a Stanley rule is used for marking out 5 TPI.
The little no-name saw was OK for cutting the guide but gave up when it came to the plate.
After making the tooth spacing cuts
Which to use, the one with 6 moving parts and adjustments that can sometimes loosen, or... ?
Saw filing setup. The adjustable lamp is the most important part.
When looking from the edge doesn't show what you expect, look from the side and seek those glints of light from unsharp teeth.
Coarse tool, set for a gentle #8.
Finished plane - toe end
Finished plane - business side - What big teeth you have.
Finished plane - fence side
First cut. The angle is off a bit.
Kerfed all around. The slight angle is noticeable at the corners.
First resawn board. Close enough for government work, but not for me.


photo of first test resultEnd result? A small piece of pine became the test victim. I set the fence to produce a kerf 3/32″ from the edge and went at it with only casual concern. What will this thing do without a lot of fussy attention? Cutting was easy once the initial grabbing was overcome. Hint: start from the far end as one does when planing a molding. You can see in one of the pictures that the kerf is not absolutely square. It’s tilted slightly. Despite that, I ended up with two boards that have less than 1/32″ of roughness left from the cut.

It will be perfect after I make an adjustment to either the face of the fence or to my right elbow.


Categories: Carving and Sculpture

Simple is Complex

Northwest Woodworking - Mon, 10/27/2014 - 7:27am

All projects need refinement, lightness, simplicity.

I tell my Mastery students often in a critique to lose 10% of their design. Sometimes 20%. Mass is not always required for strength. Careful engineering is required. Where can you remove material?

Adding lightness and simplicity is a difficult chore. How much work do you need to do to make something simple? How do you know what is unessential in a piece? Where do you stop?

Make copies. Make models, drawings. Try one thing and then another. Keep checking in with your gut to see how it feels. Keep practicing your paring skills. You will make mistakes. Try again.


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Categories: Hand Tools

How to Saw/Why you Should Follow David Savage

Lost Art Press: Chris Schwarz - Mon, 10/27/2014 - 7:18am


“I teach people to see using a motorbike analogy. ‘Imagine you are riding a nice powerful bike, the sun is shining and you are driving along this winding country lane your partner is on the back and you are going quite quick but safe. You approach a series of shallow S-bends you flick the bike left and right with no conscious movement of your body. Sawing down a line is like that.’ Hold that saw handle light like a child’s hand, don’t rush the stroke, don’t press down, just do it. Watch yourself uncritically, your body will adjust your stance to achieve your goal if you allow it. The moment we get tense, the second we seek to control, it goes to hell. Like raising a child.”

— David Savage

David’s e-mail newsletter is one of the things I most look forward to in the morning. As a writer, David is willing to take risks and go places I wouldn’t dare. As a woodworker, he kicks all of our butts. Sign up for his newsletter by going to his home page at http://www.finefurnituremaker.com/. Scroll down to the bottom and you’ll see a box where you can sign up. Highly recommended.

— Christopher Schwarz

Filed under: Personal Favorites, Saws
Categories: Hand Tools


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