Archive: » 2013 » December

Morphing (cross post from LAP blog)


I posted this update on the Roubo and Studley projects.over at Chris Schwarz’ Lost Art Press Blog.  Please drop by there and give it a look.

Please Permit a Proud Papa…

Today was a moving celebration in our clan as we attended the graduation of our older daughter, receiving her PhD diploma in Physics (Non-Linear Dynamics) along with her doctoral hood.  I cannot deny the presence of moistened eyes in our company.  Parenting is for ever but today we saw a result of our years of child rearing.


After being a high school valedictorian (as was her younger sister) she attended a rigorous small college and flourished there as well (ditto).  For grad school she wanted to go a much bigger university, so she went where the Physics Department was larger than her entire undergraduate class.  It was a culture shock but she excelled again, and is now an assistant professor at a prestigious smallish university.

My wife is among the smartest and wisest people I have ever met, and this apple does not fall far from that particular tree.

Congratulations, my beloved daughter.

Well, It Was Empty…

Recent weeks have found me working feverishly to prepare a place in The Barn for the remaining shop accoutrements from the house in Maryland, primarily with the laying of a plywood-on-sleepers floor in the lowest-level north bay of The Barn, and most recently with the construction of an insulated wall between that bay and the remainder of the lowest level.  This space, essentially a below-grade walk-out room, has the advantage of remaining above freezing all by itself except in the most extreme and extended cold snaps.  While working out there earlier this month, with consistent outside temps in the teens and twenties the interior temperature back in the deepest corners remained in the upper thirties and lower 40s.


Last Saturday morning several of my woodworking/conservation friends, Anthony, John, Fred, Eric, Tom, Hugh, and Bill, converged on the house in Maryland to move and load several tons of machines onto the rental truck waiting in the driveway.


I could have probably handled the machines and foundry stuff out in the little barn in Maryland myself, but getting them out of the house — they were in the basement and needed to be muscled up the narrow stairs, down the ramp, and across the yard — was clearly beyond me.  It is indeed frustrating how merely sitting in place for three decades had increased the weight of all this stuff.


Special thanks goes to JohnR for coming a day early and helping get everything set up.

The weather report all week had been foreboding for Saturday; snow, sleet, and freezing rain.  Much to everyone’s delight dawn that morning revealed only a light overcast, which held until just moments after our work was completed several hours later when the freezing rain began.

With a double 2×10 ramp laid on the basement stairs up the the deck level, another ramp down from there to the ground level, and a 75-feet long runway of 1/2″ plywood on the ground, we had a “clean” shot to the truck.  Everything was strapped to dollies, and thanks to the genius of FredG bringing his portable winch — I gotta get me one of them! — big heavy loads were creeping out of the basement in no time.

In about two hours we had everything to be removed from the basement and loaded on the truck, and another hour emptied those things we were getting from the little barn.  We concluded with a festive meal of Mrs. Don’s home-made turkey soup.


Sunday morning we pulled into the driveway at The Barn, where the weather was considerably colder with several inches of snow on the ground.  My pal Tony, a local contractor who keeps an eye on the place when we are not there and harvests venison when the time is right, had arranged for a snow plow to clear the path.  Still, the 10%+ incline up the driveway to The Barn was a challenge we overcame with four wheelbarrow loads of gravel on top of the ice.  In less than an hour Darren and Rick had everything out of the truck and into the formerly empty bay.


Meanwhile Tony was completing the installation of an amazing little wood stove he had salvaged from one of his renovation jobs.  As we were finishing unloading the truck he was firing up the stove, and it is a simply superb addition to the facility infrastructure.  It will heat the lower space and then radiate up to my shop above.  The stovepipe runs through that space right next to my sharpening station, and between the grills in the floor and the stove pipe, the space warms quickly and remains that way, helped by the R43 polyisocyanate foam insulation panels surrounding the envelope.


Later that evening I was shuffling all the space’s contents to make sure I could move around, there is still much to do, and the stove kept the place t-shirt warm.  Magnifique.

Final Chapter Underway!


With Christmas less than a week away the most intense period of editing, revising and annotating for To Make As Perfectly As Possible: Roubo On Furniture Making is drawing to a close.  I have spent nearly every spare waking moment working on it since about July.

I am making my way through the 250-page-printout behemoth that is the final chapter of our book (84 12×18 text pages and over a dozen very complex illustrated plates in the original).  This chapter, Volume III, Section 3, Chapter 13, “Of Solid Cabinetry or Assembly in General” is in some respects the most fascinating chapter of the treatise in that it presents turning, screw cutting, locksmithing, metalworking,  flute cutting and wave-molding machines, all esoteric and fascinating stuff.  It resided, awkwardly in my opinion, in the middle of the sections on marquetry that comprised our first volume of TMAPAP, so I took editorial license and moved it to this volume.

Depending on familial, seasonal, and travel activities I expect to wrap this up in less than a week.

The vigorous badminton match wherein we launch manuscript pieces back and forth over the (inter) net has begun in earnest.

Shellac Archive Update – Natural Resins Part 2

It’s been far too long, but here is the second half of Gidvani’s 1946 book Natural Resins, about industrially important natural resins, with a large shellac presence therein.


Simple, Easy, and Cheap Odor Scrubbing Unit

While getting ready for the big move of shop machinery this coming weekend — packing, sorting, throwing out, and disassembling — while packing I was reminded of this snazzy little ultra low-tech air scrubber I built for the basement shop several years ago.  Since my shop is directly under the living space of the house, and I am a varnish and glue sorta guy, my need for odor control was pretty prominent.  I came up with several solutions, ranging from dealing with small amounts of fumes through the need for spray finishing when the need arises.


This little beauty is one I built for the control of the nuisance fumes attendant to using hot hide glue and solvent based coatings systems.  It took about fifteen minutes to make, and works so well that I have never received a complaint about basement stink.

Here is all you need to make this air scrubber, which can perform flawlessly for pretty much the rest of your life.

1 recycled computer fan

1 cardboard box about the size of a cube slightly larger than the fan frame

1 salvaged power cord (I routinely snip and salvage the power cords from EVERYTHING that gets tossed around here, it’s a circle of life thing)

1 piece of scrap plywood the size of the box

a jar of clean activated charcoal aquarium filter medium

a hot melt glue gun and a few screws and bolts, etc.

some scraps of metal window screen


First place the fan against the top or bottom of the box, mark and cut a hole the size of the fan blade.


Cut a piece of the metal window screen to fit over this opening, and glue it in place with the hot melt adhesive.

Since I wanted a down draft unit, I attached the fan to the box to cover the opening such that the fan is blowing into the box.  I used small nuts-and-bolts from the box of miscellaneous fastners.  Using a recycled power cord I wired it up.  (my fan is a bit askew because I dropped the unit several years ago and the bolts pulled out, and I did not have another box the right size at the moment, hence the new orientation with new bolt holes)


Cut the scrap plywood to fit the opening of the box, and drill a series of holes to allow air flow.  Glue a piece of the window screen to one side of the plywood so that all the holes are covered.


As my scrubbing medium I used aquarium filter activated charcoal purchased at a local pet store.  I poured some of this into a pasta screen to allow the littlest pieces to fall out.  The remaining charcoal, beginning with the size of rice grains and larger will be used as my air-scrubbing medium.


I turned the box over so that the fan was on the bottom and filled it with the activated charcoal.   After shaking it gently a bit, I dropped the plywood square into place and pinned it there with some small screws.  I cut out some openings to make four legs and four air channels for the downdraft flow, and the unit was finished.


The unit works well at scrubbing nuisance odors out of the air 24/7/365.  this one has been providing yeoman’s service for almost ten years, although I swap out the charcoal every year or so.  I especially like the fact that at about 1 pound I can pick it up and move it to wherever I am working with small amounts of solvents or the like.  for example, when I am polishing metals or tortoiseshell I simply place the scrubber on the bench right next to where I am working, and don’t even need a fume mask.

Will it keep the living room from stinking if you are using gallons of paint remover in the basement?  I’m guessing the answer would be a NO!  But for ongoing odors from shellacking, gluing, polishing, and a little spot spraying with aerosol, it works fine for me.  More intensive applications require a larger unit I will write about soon.

Approaching the Sublime

These days I am spending far more time slogging than blogging as I work my way through the 125,000 words of To Make As Perfectly As Possible: Roubo on Furniture Making.  Deadlines, even self imposed ones (I am determined to get through the manuscript with a complete first pass by mid-December) do have a way of reducing the whimsical charm of a project.  But there are moments…


This evening was one of those times that reinforces the delight of beginning and reaffirms my commitment to the Roubo annotation.  I was wrapping up the general chapter on the making of seating furniture.  The description of upholstery techniques was grand (as soon as I finish the following chapter in the next couple of days I will forward them to one of my readers for confirmation of the descriptions), but the last fifteen pages of the chapter wherein Roubo describes the material technology and techniques of cane preparation and weaving was simply elegant, eloquent even.  The wordsmithing of Andre-Jacob as transmitted by Michele melded into something approaching the sublime for those pages.  I was honestly sad to see them go.

Simply breathtaking.

It made me ever so grateful for the ability to read, to understand and appreciate words and the information and ideas they convey.  I simply cannot comprehend the widespread desire for willful illiteracy, which is all about me outside these walls.   Heck, only a dozen miles away are a legion of belligerent flaks and flunkies whose duty is the eradication of words, or worse, their meanings, surrounded by a populace that apparently welcomes the relief from being responsible for learning, knowing, understanding, and acting.

Down off the soap box now.