Archive: » 2015 » September

These Days…

Re-ordering  the Jackson Browne lyrics:

Well I’ve been out talkin’

I don’t do that much walkin’

these days

I have long enjoyed the non-political early music of Jackson Browne (I’m not in tune with his political worldview and he is not a good enough songsmith for me to listen to it when he goes there; Bruce Cockburn, on the other hand, is), who penned “These Days” when he was a teenager, and was first recorded by Nico of Velvet Underground fame. Browne’s rendition of the song is one of my least favorite.  I think it was performed better by other performers, the best by Gregg Allman, second best by Jennifer Warnes, who I could listen to singing the phone book.  Nevertheless, the song  kept running though my mind as I was puttering in the shop yesterday.

Re-worked ever so slightly it was a perfect metaphor for what “these days” are like for me.


I am now allowed as much time in the shop as I can manage, with the non-negotiable rule that I cannot put any weight on my right leg.  Period.  For another 16 days.  So I stand with all my weight on my left leg, and my right foot merely resting on the ground for balance.

Fortunately there is a lot I can do with my walker and rolling office chair.  For starters, I had never really tidied up following the Studley exhibit, as I left again on another long trip almost immediately after returning from re-installing the tool cabinet and workbench back at its home and dumping the full cargo truck worth of materiel in the barn.   Then I went to the MJD tool auction, returning to spend a week working on the root cellar, then my brother and nephew came to visit and we worked on deconstructing the old shack and tinkering with the hydro, then I broke my hip.  Inexplicably during this entire period the shop fairies did not trek to White Run and dispense with the aftermath of what looked like a tool bomb explosion.


So lots of cleaning up, organizing, and putting away was on the docket.  Floors needed sweeping, tools needed cleaning and putting away (I am not a neatnik by nature), and workbenches needed clearing, all of which I could do on either one leg or two cheeks.


I even grabbed my Japanese block plane and fitted some new drawers for my “fussy work” bench.  The Japanese affinity for doing woodworking while sitting is an increasingly attractive option, provided I do not have to sit like a pretzel.


I have a lot of smallish artifacts to finish conserving and gun stock work to do so I will be able to stay productively occupied while my femur finishes fusing.

Paean to Biled Pinders

Four decades ago while working for the Schindlers in West Palm Beach, Florida, I became entranced (addicted might be too strong a description) with fresh, steaming biled pinders.  Our shop was in a small industrial section — “industrial park” would be too formal — a few blocks long and wide, adjacent to an older residential neighborhood.  The finishing room was right on the street; literally when I opened the garage door next to the spray booth I could step right out onto the street.

A couple times a week a misshaped tiny black man would walk the streets of the shops pushing a shopping cart with small steaming bags of biled pinders.  My coworker Dewayne was always there to greet him, and after my first hit I was too.  I cannot recall the vendor’s name but remember him as being nearly ebullient in his cheer despite his physical condition.  It was a struggle for him to get around but I truly admired him for his desire to remain not dependent on anyone, he was making his own way the best he could.   It was a powerful example for me to see, one the culture has long since forgotten I fear.

I do not know where he prepared the biled pinders — fresh, raw green peanuts cooked for hours in boiling saltwater — but I looked forward to the twice a week food of the gods.  We always bought some, and always stopped what we were doing to eat them immediately.  If you get hot fresh biled pinders you take advantage of the moment.

The hook was set, and even to this day when we travel to Florida the odds are good I will stop somewhere to get a bag.  The girls think they are disgusting, but what to they know?  The eat cilantro, the inedible herb that tastes like soap laced with metal flakes!

So last week we went over to the orthopedist’s for the two-week post-op checkup, and since we were venturing to the big city Mrs. Barn took advantage of the proximity to go grocery shopping.  While I can spend hours in a hardware store or lumber mill, grocery and clothes shopping are in the neighborhood of Dante’s Seventh Circle of Hell to me.  I waited in the car, resting my hip and listening to podcasts.

When Mrs. Barn emerged one of the treats she had for me was a bag of boiled peanuts.  I finally was able to partake of the splendor as she warmed them for my afternoon snack today.  It was the very definition of decadence, sitting in my recliner while my sweetie brought me a bowl of this earthy delight.  I offered her some, but she took one taste and said, “They taste and smell just like you are eating dirt.”

Au contraire, it was leguminous-ly divine.

A Studley-Connected Piano Maker’s Workbench


One of my not-so-secret desires about the aftermath of releasing Virtuoso: The Tool Cabinet and Workbench of Henry O. Studley was that voids in my research could be alleviated, and that people who had more knowledge than I would contact me to push back my frontiers of ignorance. Well, I am delighted to say that it has begun! It’s just a trickle so far, but I will recount the developments as they occur.


Recently I was contacted by renowned tool maker Ray Larsen, author of the much-ought-after Toolmaking for Woodworkers (I’ve had mine since it was first published), with images and the tale of his piano-maker’s workbench, complete with two of the wheel-handled vises.

In reviewing the known history of the bench, the odds are pretty good that this bench has a Two Degree of Separation connection to Henry O. Studley himself!

Here is Ray’s fascinating account [edited lightly for clarity].

I purchased the bench in question about 25 years ago from an antiques dealer in Hingham, MA, not far from Quincy. She had gotten it when she cleaned out a house in Quincy where the bench had been stored for many years in either a cellar or a garage… The bench is in the same form as the benches in your book.


It has a heavy, hardwood top with two large hand-wheel operated vices.


This top sits on a 9-drawer base similar to the base of the Mack Gavitt bench in your book. There is no kneehole. The bench was used hard —and it shows it. It also suffered further indignities while in storage; there are one or two paint spills on the top surface and some of the moulding around the drawers is missing, as are some of the original drawer pulls. It is, however, totally original.


An interesting aspect of the bench is the fact that the top surface of its base is made up of planks taken from piano shipping crates.


These planks have several piano company addresses painted on them, including that of the Poole Piano Company where Brother Studley worked. Another unusual feature is a 4-inch-high vertical tool rack or holder mounted along the back of the top.



Have been able to track down more info on the piano bench. It was owned and used by Charles A. Ross of Quincy. I got the name from a guy (now 90 years old) who lived across the street from him many years ago. The September 16, 1922 edition of THE MUSIC TRADES provides more info, reporting that Ross was resigning as sales manager of the A. J. Jackson & Co.’s piano warerooms in Boston to establish his own warerooms in Boston under the name Charles Ross & Co. The article goes on to say: “Mr. Ross has had a thorough schooling in the piano craft. For fourteen years he was employed by local factories and after several years at the Vose and Poole companies he entered the retrial sales branch.”

Turns out Ross was a big cheese in Quincy, having spent many years in politics including a stint as Quincy’s mayor.

The time frame and context are fascinating, perhaps even downright seductive to us Studleyophiles. Given that Ross was actually in the piano making trades during the long career of Studley including his 1898-1918 tenure at Poole, and given that there is a solid connection to the Poole Piano Company, the possibility exists – and seems probable to me – that this workbench was originally owned and used by one of Henry Studley’s action mechanics at Poole.

And how cool is that?