Archive: » 2017 » April

A Ripple-y Day

Last month my long time acquaintance RichardB organized another field trip to JerryR’s shop and examine again the ripple molding cutter his dad Irv made a jillion years ago.  Both Irv and Jerry made/make exquisite clocks and incorporate(d) the moldings into their designs.


A selection of the moldings Kurt made on his machine.

Jerry’s sample board.

The catalyst for this gathering was the visit of KurtN who has built his own version of such a machine and was, like me, continuing research on the topic.  We were also joined by tool historian and collector extrordinaire BobR for a grand day of fellowship and exploring the elegance of craft technology.

I found it useful to once again spend time with the machine, as it was extremely helpful in formulating and refining the strategy for the upcoming gathering to manufacture a ripple molding machine at The Barn late next month.  In fact we have enough folks coming that we might try to divide into two working groups to make two machines.

Here’s a gallery of the day.

Jerry’s machine features a traveling cutter head carriage with free weights on it to to provide the downward cutting/scraping force.

I could not tell if the up-and-down patterns were made from Delrin, HDPE, nylon or whatever.

The machine is set up to cut up-and-down patterns and side-to-side patterns. I hope we can incorporate the same features when we make ours next month.

The underside of the carriage with the cutting iron, fashioned in this case from an old file.

The electric worm drive motive power was a feature I definitely expect to incorporate into ours, although for demonstration purposes we may make it hand-powered as well.

We took a few minutes to tour another shop building Jerry has set up to document his family’s woodworking over the past several generations.  Yes, that is a ten-foot Moravian style workbench.

A collection of mantle clocks Irv and Jerry made, with copious ripple moldings.


Some of Jerry’s recent and current work.

Stay tuned.


Handworks 2017 Countdown – Original Roubo Print # 222

As I blogged earlier I will be selling many original First Edition 1772/1774 Roubo l’art du Menuisier prints at the upcoming Handworks 2017.    I bought these prints at an auction featuring a huge inventory from an antiquarian bibliophile who had mutilated scores of exquisite ancient books by cutting out the print images from the bindings. As unfortunate as this act of barbarism was, it did bring these masterpieces to the marketplace.

The only other option for me to examine them closely would have been to purchase a complete set of First Edition l’art du Menuisier for perhaps $10-15k or travel to Ft. Mitchell KY to see Chris Schwarz’ excellent set.  Since the latter remains an option to me for the foreseeable future, I’m jettisoning most of mine.

If you have ever wanted to own a genuine piece of Rouboiana, this is your chance.   I will be selling my prints to Handworks attendees on a first-come basis, with terms being cash, check, or Paypal if you have a smart phone and can do that at the time of the transaction.

Roubo was the draftsman for all the prints, and the engraver for a large number of them.  All these were hand-printed intaglio prints on hand made rag paper, almost certainly personally overseen by Roubo himself.

This is the first of the prints which I will be presenting in the order of their print numbers,  Plate 222, “Illustrations of Many Ancient Chairs.”  This image of chairs from the 7th Century through the 15th Century was both drawn and engraved by Roubo himself.  The print is one of the rougher of those I purchase, with the left edge being pretty irregular as the removal from the binding was, shall we say, inelegant, and the page itself stained especially around the perimeter, reflected in the price of $100.

If you have any questions about this print you can contact me here.

Sharpening the Itty Bitties

I’m nearing the tail end of a long term project involving in part the sawing and preparing, and ultimately using, mahogany crotch veneers.  Given my skill is not yet Roubo-esque I sawed the veneers to a fat 1/8″ because I had no room for error, in other word I would have to begin all over again with another piece of lumber if I could not get this to work out right.

The weight of the veneer made it a delight to work with, that is until I had to thin it down to the final thickness.

Working squirrely wood like this is less amusing than you might think.  The grain was so wild I came down to only two real options; aggressive toothing plane work, which I did plenty of, or using a handled luthier’s palm plane.  This latter step was immensely helpful once I got the tool tuned up.  It reminded me of a lesson from the foundry pattern shop; to really hog off material in a hurry, use a small convex spokeshave that is sharper than sharp.

The tool in question was probably cobbled together but had real possibilities.  The iron was adequate for nibbling at straight grain wood, but needed to be upgraded considerably in the sharp department.  Given that the iron was barely larger than my pinkie fingernail I spent a couple minutes trolling in the shop for help.

Then I found the perfect tool, my jeweler’s hand held vise.  With the tiny iron securely held in its jaws I could sharpen it effortlessly just like it was a narrow iron four inches long.  Piece of cake.

It sharpened to a brilliant mirror and uber sharp cutting in literally three or four minutes.

Putting it to hard work was a pleasure.  It hogged off stock like a pro, and all it took afterward was some time with one of my toothing planes to get it ready for application.

And all because I went shopping for just the right holding device in my own toolbox, allowing me to get the teeny iron sharper than sharp..

Handworks 2017 Countdown – Restocking

Starting top left and working clockwise: Model 296 ($42, sold privately and through Lie Nielsen only); 2″ Original ($42); 1″ Turner’s Model with 1/4″ bristles ($24); 1″ Carver’s Model ($24); 1″ Original Model with 1/8″ bristles ($24).

Yesterday I got my first polissoir inventory reload in the lead-up to the upcoming toolapalooza in Amana IA.  I’ve asked the broom maker to just keep cranking them out until I say “Stop.”  This is the first installment to make sure I have plenty for Handworks, and I intend to have sample boards to play with during demonstrations there. One of the things I want to emphasize there is how to prepare and tune up a polissoir for use.

You can also order them from me here.

Fortnightly Reminder of 2017 Courses at The Barn

Here is the full slate of activities upcoming.


May 23-27 Making a Ripple Molding Cutter – this is less of a workshop than a week long gathering of fellow galoots trying to design and build a machine to allow us to recreate ripple and wave moldings.  Material and supplies costs divvied up, no tuition.


June 16-18  Make a Nested Set of Brass Roubo Squares – This is a weekend of metal working, as we fabricate a full set of nested brass squares with ogee tips, as illustrated in Plate 308 of l’art du Menuisier.  The emphasis will be entirely on metal fabrication and finishing, including silver soldering with jeweler Lydia Fast, and creating a soldering station for the workbench. Tuition $375, materials cost $50.


July 24-28  Minimalist Woodworking with Vic Tesolin – This week long session with author and woodworking minimalist Vic Tesolin will begin with the fabrication, entirely by hand, of a Japanese tool box.  Who knows where we will end up?  I am looking forward to having my own work transformed.  Tuition $625, materials cost $50.


August 11-13  Historic Finishing – My own long-time favorite, we will spend three days reflecting on, and enacting, my “Six Rules For Perfect Finishing” in the historic tradition of spirit and wax coatings.  Each participant should bring a small finishing project with them, and will accompany that project with creating numerous sample boards to keep in your personal collections.  Tuition $375.


September 4-8  Build An Heirloom Workbench – I’m repeating the popular and successful week-long event from last year, wherein the participants will fashion a Roubo-style workbench from laminated southern yellow pine.  Every participant will leave at the end with a completed bench, ready to be put to work as soon as you get home and find three friends to help you move it into the shop.  Tuition and Materials $825 total.

Since some recent research revealed the attention span of Americans to be eight seconds, I’ll re-run this periodically.

If any of these interest you drop me a line here.

Handworks 2017 Countdown – First Edition Roubo Prints For Sale

As I blogged last year I was fortunate to purchase at auction two lots of prints that had been sliced out of a First Edition of l’art du Menusier by Andre-Jacob Roubo in the 1760s and 1770s.  These are remarkable artifacts, printed by hand on hand-made paper.  Roubo was the artist for every image, was the engraver for a great many of the plates, and almost certainly was personally overseeing the production of the volumes.

As fate would have it all the prints I acquired are from the portions of Roubo that Michele, Philippe and I have completed after about 10-12,000 hours work thus far, and the hearty souls at Lost Art Press have already published.

Plate 296, the one which lit my fire for this project more than 30 years ago. This treasure will feature prominently on the wall of our home.

Among the prints I bought was the very one that inspired me to head off down the path to our ongoing project to bring to the Anglophone world our annotated Roubo translations.  Plate 296 whetted my appetite more than three decades ago, and as soon as I get a frame made it will be occupy a place of honor in our home.

I have already gifted two of these prints to my LAP collaborator colleagues, chief-cook-and-bottle-washer Chris Schwarz, who received Plate 279 featuring “the German Workbench,” and book designer and artisan printer Wesley Tanner who seemed delighted to get Plate 327 featuring the printing press.

After culling the dozen-or-so prints of greatest meaning to me I have decided to sell the rest from my purchase because I do not have the appropriate wall space to display them (about three dozen); it is not a complete inventory by any means, but there are some pretty good ones.

Over the next several weeks I will be posting here all the individual prints I will have for sale in Amana.  Terms will be cash, check, or Paypal.  Prices will probably mostly fall between $150-$500 with a couple of outliers, but if you ever wanted a piece of genuine Rouboiana this is your chance.  In addition to the Roubo prints I got a number of original, similarly excised plates from Diderot, all concerned with the manufacture of ship’s anchors.   The Diderot plates will be considerably less.

There will be no advance reservations, this is a special first-come sale for Handworks attendees.  If any do not sell there, I will offer them for sale through the blog afterward.