So another 1,860 miles under my belt; just back from Woodworking in America, 2013 version. I took ZERO pictures while there. Me, I stuck by Roy Underhill & Peter Ross much of the time. Also met George Walker, but we mostly talked birds. A little about design & layout. I did stop by to see Chris, John et al at the Lost Art Press booth. Picked up my copy of the deluxe version of the Roubo book. It makes me want to try some of that weird French stuff! I’ll write a separate post about that book soon, but it’s mostly a no-brainer – a beautiful job by all at LAP.
Also spent time with the Lie-Nielsen gang – no surprise. We talked about next season’s schedule – no dates right now, but I will teach my usual 17th-century carving class there, probably during spring migration. Then later in the season my first class in spoon-carving. I’ll announce it here, and it will be posted at their site too – so keep watching if you are interested. I doubt I’ll travel as much next year as I did this, so if you want to take a class – act promptly.
I’m back at the shop now, trying to pick off one project after another.
I have lots to write about, & will get to it very soon. Stayed up too late tonight watching the Red Sox lose game 2 of the World Series.
For those looking to buy spoons, I have a dozen to post tomorrow night. So hang in there, they’re coming.
Then, I’ll tell the story of this stick of wood. From it, more spoons to follow. It never rains, but it pours.
I was scheduled to be on stage first thing Saturday morning, starting at 8.30. I was somewhat concerned about the long-ish time slot of 8.30 – 12.30 for my talk “The Transition From Hand Tools to Machines” since I had given a version that before and it was only about 75 minutes long. Megan thought I might start at 9, add a bit more information, and have some Q&A and that way maybe fill up two hours.
Even while driving in to the Convention Center it was apparent that this plan would not work. At about 8.20 Megan called and said “The crowd is here and they are restless.” Fortunately I was just pulling into the parking garage and was at my appointed place at my appointed time.
In fact the expanded time slot allowed me to explore many of the topics in much greater detail than before, and even after a halftime break the audience remained large and attentive. Wilbur Pan posted a concise if tongue-in-cheek review of the session here.
Three-plus hours later I stopped talking and made my way down to The Marketplace where Philippe Lafargue and I were to go on display and spend the afternoon signing hundreds of copies of To Make As Perfectly As Possible: Roubo On Marquetry. After a quick lunch we took our stations at a table adjacent to the Lost Art Press booth and met the long line of folks waiting patiently for our signatures.
The book’s Standard Edition is something like 9×12 inches, and the Deluxe Edition twice as big, which means we were wrangling a lot of awkward poundage of books, signing until our arms nearly fell off. We were quite literally taken aback by the enthusiasm and encouragement of the crowds patiently waiting in line to spend time with us.
It was a serious time of celebration and delight, and the only way it could have been better if our collaborator Michele Pagan had been able to join us as well. Her absence due to an unavoidable previous commitment was noted by everyone.
Late in the afternoon I returned Philippe to the airport for his flight home, promising each other to get together sooner than another decade, then concluded the evening at a raucous celebration at the Schwarz household. Bed could not come soon enough after that.
Tonight after work I completed my final sketch/design for my blanket and/or toy chest project. I’ve come up with a final dimension of 23 inches deep x 46 inches wide x 28 inches tall. I’ve added one new design feature that wasn’t included on my original sketch, and that is panels. But the truth is that the chest will not be paneled, and the rails and stiles will just be decorative 1/4 inch thick strips. Why include panels as fake as Pamela Anderson’s rack on a perfectly good and simple design? If you must know it is because of an episode of The New Yankee Workshop I watched online just the other day.
Though this chest isn’t an Arts & Crafts design, I was hoping to incorporate some A&C design elements. On the New Yankee Workshop episode, Norm built a replica of a Stickley original desk which just so happened to incorporate panels in the design. Since my chest design looks somewhat like a squashed desk, and since I really like Arts and Crafts furniture, I thought the faux panels may be a nice touch, and also do something to set the chest apart. So I drew up another sketch which included the fake panels, and on paper it looks like it may just work. Of course, Communism, friends with benefits, and the Phillies outfield also seem like they should work on paper. So before I commit to the idea completely I’m going to mock it up and see what’s what. Another option would be to just make the chest using actual panels which is a proven design element. I considered that, and while it wouldn’t really change the dimensions or overall look of the chest all that much, it would more than double the material cost if I wanted to do it properly; I’ll pass on that. If this one turns out okay, my next chest will get all the bells and whistles.
So the design is set and I have the material ready to go. I plan to begin on Saturday afternoon (I have work in the morning) starting with the legs. I hope to get the mortises finished, along with the chamfers on the feet and on the leg sides. Sunday morning I hope to get the side panels dadoed and ready to receive the chest bottom. I am guessing at around two hours each day. With those operations completed the rest of the chest should go together quickly and painlessly, on paper. If this chest build goes well I will have a proven design under my belt for future use, and more importantly it will get my wife off my back for the time being and give me the trump card I need to build my Arts & Crafts side table without any grief. That all sounds like a good plan, on paper.
Here are some of the legs ready to receive the stretchers:
You can see from the number of cuts and shoulders that the layout was involved. Not to say difficult, but it took a few hours for all the members.
Here's the stretchers and rails, a bit simpler although the lower set are now also rabbeted to hold shelves. I would have cheated and tacked on a ledger for that, but it is not my design:
You can see that some of the joints are cut out, and some have the waste remaining. I did use a bandsaw to speed up the scoring process.
I also used this to trim many of the members:
Is Roubo spinning in his grave? I doubt it. He'd understand I have a deadline to meet. I also used a drill press for the mortises, although my test joints were made entirely by hand and came out a bit neater. Go figure.
P.S. - The first batch of Jim's tools have been photographed and as soon as I have the prices and descriptions written up, they'll be listed here.
Then filing to remove the saw marks and straightening the cut. Finally everything needs to get sanded to remove all the hammer marks and dents. I use a handheld bandsander, clamped upside down in the vise. Going slow, not too much pressure, cooling in a bucket of water when my fingers get hot. And not being too skimpy with the sandpaper rolls.
Slowly they are starting to look nice!
The best reason to attend the Woodworking in America conference is to meet people. Here’s an abbreviated list of some of the woodworkers I met during my two days at the conference. (Sorry, very few pics. I was too busy talking and listening.)
Peter Follansbee–I showed him a mortise gauge I made after I saw one like it on his blog, and he complemented my work.
Megan Fitzpatrick–She showed me pictures of a custom-made plane her co-workers had given her. It had a cat inlaid into it. My wife is trying to talk her into setting up a kids’ corner in the WIA Marketplace next year.
Patrick Leach–I spent a lot of time browsing all the vintage tools he had there. I bought a fine Disston backsaw and a Stanley 151 spokeshave from him. My wife and I learned a lot about old tools just by standing around listening to him interact with the other customers.
Wilbur Pan–We talked Japanese tools, and he showed me what to look for in a high-quality Japanese chisel. We also got to talk about teaching, and about having our kids in our shops.
Isaac Smith of Blackburn Tools–We talked saw files, and I showed him some pipes I made. Now he’s thinking about making a saw handle out of briar wood. I really want to see him do it–it would make a fantastic saw absolutely stunning.
Tommy MacDonald–I overheard him order three shots of espresso over ice at Starbucks. That explains a lot.
Jim Bode–My wife and I hung around his booth of vintage tools for a long time, and she bought a bunch of carving gouges from him. He sells vintage tools in very good condition.
Tim Manney–Tim is a talented Windsor chair maker and tool maker who works with Peter Galbert. I tried out a reamer and a gutter adze he and Peter designed. The tool that really caught my attention, however, was the travisher. It’s an absolute pleasure to use.
Among the other people my wife and I spoke with were Ron Hock, Dave Jeske, Chris Schwarz, Mary May, and of course Roy Underhill. Now these people are no longer just names, photos, or avatars, but genuine people with whom my wife and I share a genuine passion: woodworking.
On Friday afternoon, I was asked to participate in a roundtable discussion about online woodworking communities. I was there representing WoodNet. Some of the other participants included Ellis Walentine from Wood Central, Wilbur Pan of Giant Cypress Blog, Matt Vanderlist (pictured above with Wilbur playing tug-of-war with the giant plane) from Matt’s Basement Workshop, Shannon Rogers of Renaissance Woodworker (Matt and Shannon also do The Hand Tool School), Marc J. Spagnuolo of The Wood Whisperer, and several other woodworkers who have a strong online presence.
We talked a lot about how different formats–print, video, podcast, blogs, and forums–appeal to different kinds of people, and we found that these formats do not really compete with but complement each other. We also discussed the reasons for putting this information online to begin with. Naturally, many are looking for step-by-step instructions or for inspiration, but the biggest draw is the sense of camaraderie and community.
No longer is must a woodworker remain isolated in a shop with only the occasional magazine or catalog dropping in to visit. Amateur woodworkers can now gather online around forums, blogs, and websites, where they swap information and talk about their successes and–crucially–their failures.
And that’s why we came to Woodworking in America, too.
Filed under: Musings, Reviews, Wood and Woodwork
A friend of mine in Summerville, SC, Tom Timm, is selling off much of his 32 year collection of genuine mahogany. He has some beautiful wood 1 inch to 5 inches thick, 20 to 38 inches wide.
So if you have a dream of making that tilt-top tea table, this might be the place to find that perfect board for the top. The sale will go on for the next month. He also has walnut and other figured woods.
I will be heading over there soon and hope I have enough discipline to not spend all of my children’s inheritance…
His web site is http://www.customwoodcrafter.com
His phone number is 843-871-8815
Tell him Mary May sent you!
Introducing our volunteer, Oscar Welles, a longtime woodworker who helps us here in the shop two days a week. Of late, he has been working to complete the dressing bureau featured at the Mount Vernon Symposium in 2012. Here, he has contributed a brief post on the decisions about color and varnish on the piece. Thanks, Oscar, for all your help and knowledge and comradeship!
The topic of finishing always stirs up a good discussion, so I might as well stir the pot. I have been in the process of preparing and applying a finish to a replica of one of two bureau dressing tables that Peter Scott originally completed in lieu of a year’s rent for his Williamsburg shop space, which was owned by Daniel Park Custis. After Custis’s death the pieces followed his widow, Martha, into her new marriage to George Washington. The original Bureau Dressing Table is the property of George Washington’s Mount Vernon and the curators there were gracious enough to allow us to study it and fabricate a replica for our conference on Working Wood in the 18th Century – The Furniture of George and Martha Washington in 2012. Since then, the piece has been waiting at the shop for someone to have the time to start finishing it. Once completed, the desk will become part of our ware room here at the Anthony Hay Cabinet Shop and will be available for those of you who visit and wish to examine it in detail. An excellent article on the furniture of Peter Scott, which discusses this piece specifically is found in the article by Ronald L. Hurst, “Peter Scott, Cabinetmaker of Williamsburg: A Reappraisal” in the 2006 issue of American Furniture published by the Chipstone Foundation.
With the dressing table sanded and ready for finishing, guidance was provided by our conservation staff. The preference of that time was to have the mahogany stained with a reddish organic dye stain using either logwood or brazilwood coloring. This would be followed by a minimal application of orange shellac or a light kusmi seedlac of one or two coats. I prepared a strike-off sample of logwood and brazilwood on the same mahogany used in the dressing table. Single and double coats of each of the stains were followed by an application of alum as a mordant to make the stain more permanent. Seedlac was then applied after drying. The two coat sample of stain resulted in a dark red color, while the one coat sample of brazilwood displayed a bright red and was chosen as most representative of the period. The logwood produced a very light red color and was discarded from consideration. The seedlac toned down the color to a rich reddish-brown color typical of the period.
A single coat of brazilwood stain was then applied to the primary wood of the replica dressing table and allowed to completely dry. A stain was also applied to the secondary wood of the bracket feet in accordance with Peter Scott’s practice. Alum was applied and allowed to dry.
A 1 ½ pound cut of light kusmi seedlac was then prepared and one coat was initially applied with a brush for a faster build on the base. Following this, several additional coats were padded on to the dressing table and drawers. A future post will cover the completion of the finishing process.
The first day of WIA on Friday was somewhat unusual for me as I was able to swim anonymously in the sea of woodworking as just another fish in the school.
Given my decades-long interest in and practice of marquetry it is surprising that I had never met marquetry maestro Silas Kopf before, but I rectified that shortcoming at the conclusion of his first session that day. Silas is a true artist with veneers, and it was fascinating to see and listen as he composed and constructed a floral marquetry pattern. His approach is nearly opposite of my own so it was a fertile learning experience for me.
I next attended Peter Follansbee’s “Spoon Carving” session, enjoying immensely his folksy, occasionally caustic, sense of humor interspersed with demonstrating a well-tuned skill set. His workmanship and creativity are inspiring, and I will surely try to emulate him on some long winter nights in the holler back in the mountains. As he pointed out, spoon carving has a near-zero raw materials cost, making many of his spoons from shrub branches and discarded wood.
I completed my day of classes with Peter Ross’ truly engaging exposition on historic woodworking tools, particularly the Benjamin Seaton tool chest and its contents, often comparing historical attitudes of excellent to our modern “Obsessive Precision Disorder.” It was enlightening to say the least and the attendees provided an active period of questioning and discussion afterwards.
I spent quite a while wandering through The Marketplace, visiting with attendees and exhibitors, gawking at tools and giving a number of them a test drive.
The day concluded with the conference banquet, dining with friends old and new followed by a quick trip to the airport to pick up Philippe Lafargue for our big book-signing-day on Saturday. Despite being friends for twenty-five years and collaborating on To Make As Perfectly As Possible for the past several, we had not actually seen each other in person for over a decade.
A few tweaks to my Saturday morning talk and it was off to sleep.
(Thanks to Marc Spagnuolo for the photo.)
Two small benches, we found in the same swedish house.
This is a 19th century lap desk made in China. It was made for traveling sea captains to pick up in their overseas travel. The primary wood is camphorwood. This piece came into the studio in pretty serious disrepair. The canvas on the back of the tambour (roll top) had deteriorated allowing the slats to become jammed in the track the tambour slides in. Because opening and closing the drawer is the way of opening it, this means the drawer was stuck too.
The first step was to disassemble the piece enough to get at the tambour. At this point, the old canvas was removed, the slats were numbered, and the backs were scraped clean. Some of the tabs (tenons that ride in the track) were broken off so new ones were grafted on. I used a router set to the thickness of the tabs to clear the broken material away and then glued on new tabs.
After the tabs were shaped, the slats were glued with hide glue onto new canvas. The final slats (the ones that show when it’s closed) were glued into a round profile using gallon paint cans underneath to recreate the original profile. The tambour was reinstalled into the track and attached back onto the drawer. Finally, the entire rising shelf was reassembled and dividers glued into place with hide glue. The wooden locks were repaired so that the unit would stay in place.
Here is a video how this thing works… (It’s a lot easier to show than describe in words.)
|Patrice and Agnes Reading Roubo in French|
His response was rather cold. He seemed to think that it was only possible to understand the mysteries of Roubo by understanding both the French language of the 18th century and the specific French history of the woodworking methods shown.
I was left with a feeling of frustration, knowing that a book of knowledge about a trade I cared very much about was not accessible to me.
20 years later, when I was attending school in Paris, I would divide my spending money between veneers at Patrick George and books at the Librairie d'Ameublement, which specialized in books about woodworking and the trades. I bought books in French, German, Italian and English, and my bags were always at the limit. Of course, Air France back then allowed me two checked bags (30kg each) and a carry on (no weight limit!). And they provided a great meal inflight. Those were the days...
Anyway, each time I returned to Paris, I would rush over to the bookstore and ask what was new. The owner remembered me and my tastes, and would direct me to exactly the books I needed. In one section of the store was the Roubo, which was very large and very expensive. And in French.
Each visit, I would ask the same question: "When will it be available in English?" Always the same answer, "Probably never, since there is no demand for it by English speaking people."
I eventually was able to acquire a wonderful full size edition (in French) which was printed in 1975. That date is ironic, since it was the same time I first heard of Roubo. However, I only received this edition, which included all four volumes, just last year. My partner, Patrice, was much more helpful in translating the work, and my understanding of French has improved over the years.
Nearly 20 years after I finished my studies in Paris a team lead by Don Williams and Christopher Schwartz managed to complete the project. Last Saturday, after I finished teaching a class in French Polishing at MASW, I got into my car and drove (at a high rate of speed) down 74 from Indianapolis to Cincinnati. I was in a rush to get to the last hours of the Woodworking In America trade show to visit Christopher and Don, as well as many other friends and professionals in the wood industry.
I was also there to pick up my copy of Roubo in English. For the first time in over two centuries people who don't read French can now enjoy the wonderful insight and information which Roubo captured in this important work. Lost Art Press had printed a limited edition of large format books which sold out immediately and will not be reprinted. However, for the rest of us, where the book may end up on the workbench as a "working" copy, Chris has printed a smaller hardcover edition.
That edition is very reasonably priced and available here: Lost Art Press: Roubo
You cannot imagine my excitement to finally be able to read, in English, the information which had so long eluded me. Chris and Don and the team deserve the MacArthur award for genius for their efforts.
I was also honored to be able to contribute the Preface to this historic edition, along with my friend and business partner, Patrice Lejeune.
Life is full of amazing surprises!
Starting out a business – the first steps may well begin here
You may well see this as a starting point to a home-based business and I hope that that is the case for you. Learning to make them by hand will give a greater understanding and feel for the process and will give you greater levels of skill and fulfilment than using machines. I will however give the process for making them by machine when I am done with this training series. That way you can meet the higher demands should your business grow into a manufacturing enterprise.
Upcoming cane-making series with woodworkingmasterclasses.com
Another thing. Those of you who are members of woodworkingmasterclasses.com may want to hold off starting your cane until next Wednesday 30 October when we start the new online broadcast series for making canes, sticks and staffs. This will actually show the techniques and methods more clearly than I can do here. Here is the link to an intro video if you are interested.
The blank sizes are 23mm x 50mmx 175mm long (7/8” x 2” x 7”) for the handle and 23mm x 35mm x 965mm (7/8” x 1 3/8” x 38” long for the shaft or stem.
The tools you will need are square, knife, pencil, mortise gauge, 1/4”*, 3/8” and 1” chisel, chisel hammer, tenon saw, plane, spokeshave, hand ripsaw, hand router*, rasp.
*Denotes non-essential tools.
1: To begin, lay out the taper on the stick shaft. The stick tapers from 1 3/8” to 7/8”, regardless of the length you make your cane.
2: Rip down the length with the ripsaw cutting on the waste side of the line and leaving sufficient to plane down to the line.
3: Plane the edge straight and square.
4: Square a shoulder line around the shaft a little more than the width of the handle after being cut to shape but before any rounding over is done. This is done at the wide end of the shaft, which is obviously the top of the cane. Use the square and the knife and remember the cane tapers, so you must decide on a face to register the square against and stick to it.
5: Set the mortise gauge to a 3/8” chisel and, centred in the 7/8” face so that the distance is equal from both sides, run the gauge lines along both edges and onto the end grain. This setting will work for both the shaft tenon and the handle mortise.
6: Chisel into the knifewalls on the waste side to further delineate the shoulder line.
7: Saw down these shoulder lines to the cheek of the tenon.
8: Now saw down the gauge lines to establish the cheeks of the tenon.
9: Trim the shoulders with the 1” chisel to remove any fibres and level the shoulders.
Mortising the handle
10: I like to shape the handle before I mortise as this makes the mortise less deep. Draw out the shape as show onto the handle blank.
11: Make saw cuts down to near the lines and chisel away the waste. Take care to follow the grain and use wisdom in determining which direction the grain runs.
12: Now use the 1″ wide chisel to remove the waste wood.
You may want to use a coping saw for direct crosscut work near the rounded end.
Measure 1 1/4” from the end of the handle and make a mark. Use the actual shaft to get the exact distance for the second line. These lines are not accurate but they serve as temporary lines to show where to start and stop the gauge lines.
13: Using the same mortise gauge used for the tenon, mark gauge lines onto the narrow edges of the handle and between the pencil lines.
14: Chop out the mortise hole working from both sides and meeting somewhere in the mid section.
For any of you who missed it or would like to see it again, here is my appearance with Paul Heiney on the ITV Countrywise programme.
I’m pleased with how it turned out and think I managed to put my points across pretty well. Paul had a few attempts at his parts but I didn’t get any advance notice of what the questions would be or a chance to re-record what I said so it’s all off the cuff.
Watching it myself it’s interesting to see that Paul, like a lot of folk, expected it to be easy to use a scythe and the production team turned down my offer to spend some time teaching him how to scythe properly. Instead I had just a few minutes to show him the principles of the movement and I was actually quite pleased with his progress. During my Learn to Scythe courses, I make sure you have plenty of mowing time when I can watch and adjust your technique. Just like Paul, you won’t be an expert by the end of the day but you’ll have all the skills and knowledge you need to practise on your own and enjoy the process of improving your technique.
I've been recovering from my trip to WIA this week. I felt incredibly proud to be there with Claire Minihan, Tim Manney and Caleb James. The next time you hear someone grumbling about todays youth...just send them my way and I will blow them out of the water with the talent and incredible work ethic of these three. I could go on and on about the show, it was a highlight of my year.
Here is a stool that I brought along. I really shouldn't have heaped building this onto my plate while preparing to leave, but I had this itch to build something new and fun and it certainly fit the bill.
The "magic" part of this is twofold. First of all, in the first photo, it looks like a 3 legged stool in the photo even though it has 4. With curved legs like this, that can only mean one thing. The sightlines run directly from the front leg to the rear on the opposite side of the seat. I've never done this before and am very pleased with the results.
The rear legs are closer together in the seat and are reamed at a slightly greater angle.
The other "magic" is the finish, which only took a few hours start to finish and came out great. I was hoping for a worn black lacquer look to go with the Asian style and am very pleased. I'll share the process in another post soon.
The inimitable Peter Follansbee delivered the keynote address at the Friday evening dinner. I suspect that many of you who were at Woodworking in America 2013 are, like me, still wading through e-mail, trying to catch up on sleep and perhaps trying to find your voices (mine is apparently still down at the convention center). … Read more