Archive: » 2014 » May

Polissoir Orders All Caught Up!

As of five minutes ago I now have no more pending orders to ship for polissoirs!  I packed the last pair of my standard 1″ models to go to Sweden, which coincidentally finished off the inventory of that model.  Fortunately I will be receiving more of them next week, and I still have a pretty nice inventory of the other three models in-hand.

Given the beauty of summer in the Virginia Highlands, it is probable that product flow will be a bit slow over the next dozen weeks, as the broom maker will concentrate on doing those things in his life that require pleasant weather (he is building a new house by himself).

Thanks again everybody for your continued interest is the old ways of doing things.

Recovering from Winter

This was not the coldest winter all-time in the Virginia Highlands.  Nor was it the snowiest.  But in both categories it was near the top, and the combination made it a brutal winter.

Many folks are bewildered by my descriptions of weather here in VIRGINIA, being part of the South and all, but my friend MikeM and I compare weather notes frequently between The Barn and where he lives in upstate New York.  The weather in those two places is remarkably similar, it’s just two days off-set depending on which way the weather fronts are moving.  It has to do with our location and elevation of 3000’+.



We had some pretty sobering damage from this past winter.  Most notable were the collapse of a basement foundation for a treasured little granary shed/root cellar due to a century of frost heave cycles and a water table that is at all-time highs (although that is a great portent for hydroelectric power for the coming months), the tale of which will be covered in an upcoming post (the reconstruction is progressing nicely), and the blowing up of the hydro pipeline.

Truly exasperating was the destruction of a thousand feet (!) of the 2″ Schedule 40 penstock for my hydroelectric system.  I believe that water running vigorously in an enclosed pipe can continue to flow until the ambient temperature reaches -17 F.  Guess what?  Yes, it gets that cold in our little holler in the hills.  Did I mention we were in VIRGINIA, which is part of THE SOUTH?  Yep, we had sustained overnight temps in the -20 F range on at least two occasions.  Pipe?  KABOOM!


I have already taken one full truck load of shattered pipe to the dump, and will take another this week.  I am mostly finished with the rerouting of the line (to achieve a smoother downward slope with no swales) and grafting in the new pipe to finish connecting the bottom and the top of the system.  I currently just have the upper pipe end sitting adjacent to the mating pipe where it shattered, and still I am getting something around 8-10 kwH/day.  Combined with the solar panels this is way more than enough for me to work in the barn.  By this time week after next it will all be done.


Not so with the broken basement door, where ~80 mph winds smashed it pretty good.  The Highlands are a windy place, and it is good to know that The Barn has been well-tested by extreme wind loads, and snow loads that would have buried a car if it was parked underneath the avalanche when it let loose.

Stay tuned.

HO Studley Toolchest Exhibit Update to SAPFM Chesapeake Chapter


Last Saturday was the Spring meeting of the Chesapeake Chapter of the Society of American Period Furniture Makers.  During the Show-and-Tell I provided an update on the HO Studley Tool Cabinet Exhibit, which is now only 53 weeks away.  There seemed to be pretty keen interest, and many of those in attendance were already crunching their calendars and check books to figure out how to make it to the toolapalooza weekend in eastern Iowa.


I included three or four images of the host venue, the very classy Scottish Rite Temple in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.  Believe me, when you see and experience the exhibit yourself, you will agree with me that it is the perfect venue.


If I can pull together an opening event on Thursday night, it will be in the auditorium with the ensemble in attendance on-stage.


The exhibit itself will be in this elegant room in the facility — complete with dramatic staging and lighting — and over the past two Saturdays I have received much encouragement  and feedback and will now pursue some augmented components for the exhibit.  Stay tuned.

After that I was able to introduce my Roubo compatriot Michel Pagan to the audience, and lotsa well-deserved love was heaped on her.  Chris Schwarz blogged about that here.

Bert Bleckwenn offered an impassioned tribute to the project, about how it was part of the fabric of knowledge that was simply unavailable when he and I started woodworking 45 years ago.  Michele and I were very much moved by your remarks, Bert, and our only regret is that Rouboista #3 Philippe Lafargue was unable to hear them in person.  Believe me, the heartfelt appreciation on your side of the equation is matched by the passionate commitment on this side.

Polissoir Shipping Resumes!

After a few weeks of being completely sold out I now have enough polissoirs in-stock to fulfill all the orders I had up to about five days ago.  I will get them packaged up tomorrow evening and shipped out the following lunch time.  Thank you for your patience.


If your order is newer than a week ago, it will probably be a couple weeks before I get additional refill inventory.

PS  Thanks Caleb James for your very nice words about your experience with the polissors.

Jonathan’s Wit

One of the great things about woodworking is the people you get to befriend, and I say this as someone who is not by natural inclination a “people person.”  As the son of a pastor I became reasonably adept at social interaction, but I am entirely comfortable being alone, perhaps too much so.  So many of our cohort are truly gifted thinkers, seers, and solvers.  Many are even pretty good company!


One terrific fellow and gifted designer and maker who fits this description is Jonathan Szczepanski, who lives and works in the Maryland suburbs of DC.  Jonathan is one of the moving forces behind the SAPFM Chesapeake Chapter, and at yesterday’s meeting he presented Michele and me with these t-shirts of his design.

Untitled-1 copy


If you find them as amusing as I do and want to “Roll with Roubo”, Jonathan has them posted for availability at CafePress.  It has become one of the treasures of my wardrobe, I tell you.  Fortunately, like Jonathan’s Roubo I am a total hipster.


Brevity and Elegance

Roubo was many things, and apparently one of them was a polished wordsmith (or he had a great ghostwriter), although in this instance he cited another author as the source for this expression..

6 14-15-16-17

Consider Roubo’s introduction to the subject of creating moldings for various works, a recitation that would almost certainly resonate with my friends, planemakers Matt Bickford and Tod Herrli.

Moldings are part of the ornaments of architecture (and consequently of woodworking, which makes part of the latter), or better said, they are distinct features, which serve to give to different works a character of richness or of simplicity relative to the different subjects that you are drawing.  One can therefore compare moldings to letters that are used in writing, which by the combination of different characters, form an infinity of words according to the diversity of languages. 

Now that is both brief and elegant!

It will be included in the second chapter in our upcoming To Make As Perfectly As Possible: Roubo on Furniture Making.

Tod Herrli and Jeff Fleisher at SAPFM-VA

One of the good things about living in the Mid-Atlantic is the proximity to several local chapters of the Society of American Period Furniture Makers, a premier collection of artisans if ever there was one.

The Spring Meeting of the Virginia Chapter last Saturday, hosted by the Woodcraft store in Leesburg, Virginia.  During the Show-and-Tell portion of the meeting I “showed” the first 500 pages of the manuscript for To Make As Perfectly As Possible: Roubo on Furniture Making and “told” about the upcoming H.O Studley Tool Chest and Workbench Exhibit I will be organizing for May 2015, simultaneous and in proximity to Handworks 2 in Iowa.

After a brief business meeting we saw a compelling presentation about the importance of demonstrating woodworking at historic sites and museum; this is where much of the next generation of woodworkers will come from.


After lunch we saw a terrific demonstration of chip carving by Jeff Fleisher.  I have not tried chip carving thus far, but I just might now.


The day concluded with a demo by plane maker Tod Herrli, at first tuning up a pair of vintage hollow-and-round planes.




He followed that with a design discussion and demonstration of constructing a somewhat complex molding profile.



A grand time was had by all, and coordinator Bob Mustain deserves a great deal of credit for taking this particular bull by the horns.  (And, he got a pair of his planes tuned to perfection!)


Tod Herrli is scheduled to teach two plane-making at The Barn in August.  August 11-13 will be making a matched pair of hollow-and-round planes, with August 14-17 working on a more complex pattern of your own choosing.  The first workshop is $375, the second $500.  If you would like to participate in either please drop me a line here.