Archive: » 2019 » June

Polissoirs Back In Stock

For several months my broom maker has been up to his eyeballs in alligators as 1) his brooms have been selling like hotcakes and 2) he’s been finishing building their dream house on the family farm.  As a result my inventory was low at first then gone altogether.  Last week I got an infusion of polissoirs so I can now fill my back-orders, which will ship out tomorrow.

A Clothespin to the Rescue. Again

Some time way back I had my Browning shotgun leaning against the bench and much to my dismay it fell over, whacking into a stool in the way down and inducing a pretty severe bend one section of the gallery(?) running o top of the barrel (I am not 100% sure of this part’s name, I am not really a shotgun guy).  The gauge of the metal that was bent is about 1.8″ x 1/4″ and the section about 3″ long.  Although the shotgun still worked fine it looked pretty sketch with this damage.  At the time I tried to un-bend the damage with opposing carpenter’s shims but the metal was too strong to budge.

Recently I tried a different tactic, instead using a half of a hardwood clothespin for the tapered wedge to drive between the barrel and the bent element and it worked like a charm.  I first laid a piece of felt against the barrel to keep from scratching it, and gently drove in the tapered clothespin.  It actually took some fairly robust whacks but eventually the gallery went back into place just fine with almost no noticeable permanent damage.  If you look closely there is still a tiny bit of distortion but it does not shout at you from across the room like before.

Just another day at the barn.  You can’t get much more low-tech than this.

Test Driving the Shoulder Knife Workshop

A few weeks ago my friend B came for a couple days to test drive the shoulder knife making workshop that will be at The Barn later this summer (August 23/24).   We had a great time of visiting while he was working on a natural branch from a fallen tree, cleaning it up an fitting it to his torso for use as a marqueteur’s shoulder knife.

He made great progress and we are anxious for the real event in a couple months.  If you would like to come and make a shoulder knife for yourself, just drop me a line.

As for my current activities I have been busying myself getting ready for the students arriving for the Make A Set of Roubo Squares workshop later this week.

Workbench Wednesday Looking Forward

Returning unapologetic after a week of spending time with the family, and even missing the ostensible subject by one day, let me spend a few minutes looking forward in the context of Workbench Wednesday.  As we last left the subject I posted a gallery of past and current inventory of workbenches either in the Barn or made by me in the barn.  But make no mistake, this does not end the string of workbenches by my hands.  So here goes a glimpse of what the future might look like.  There are many projects at various stages of development and planning extant.

Tim’s Bench

Next up on the workbench agenda is to make a massive 10-foot Nicholson-style gunsmith’s partner’s bench for my friend TimD.  Tim is a gunsmith making superb late 18th century long rifles and often teaches workshops on the subject.  For that reason Tim wanted a workbench that could suffice for both his own work but that of a student on the other side as well.  As is often the case for me the starting point is select SYP from Virginia Frame in Fishersville VA.  I’ll get this delivered to Tim sometime later in the summer, but first we have to line up two additional stout fellows at the finished bench will weigh in at just under 450 pounds.

The Mahogany and Walnut Roubo

When I first encountered the H.O. Studley menagerie in person I was particularly struck by his workbench.  While I could not imagine myself using his tool cabinet as a routine matter, I definitely saw the workbench as a valued addition to my work space.  Then, when the famed lumber store in the Cincinnati area closed I asked Chris Schwarz to get me a slab of mahogany from which I could make such a bench.  He acquired a sweet 7-1/2′ x 24″ x 4″ slab.  Subsequent visits and close inspection of Studley’s bench revealed it was not a mahogany slab but rather a laminated top with oak cores and mahogany faces.  I set the mahogany slab aside and now know that I will turn it into the over-the-top Roubo bench it was evidently destined to become.  In addition to the magnificent mahogany slab I have the necessary 6″ x 8″ vintage black walnut stock to make the legs.  This should be a real eye catcher when finished.

The Ultimate On-Site Restoration Bench

This knock-down lightweight bench is the third generation of the concept, and will include many new features but not sacrifice much of the lightness.  I started this bench a few years ago and set it aside but hope to get back to it in the coming days.  Stay tuned.

photos courtesy of Shannon Rogers

Replicating Shannon Rogers’ Joinery Bench(es)

The first time I saw Shannon Rogers’ two-part joinery bench with the tall, standing bench and its companion planning beam I offered the highest compliment I could: “Darn, I wish I had thought of that design for myself.”  At this point of my working life I cannot say that I actually need it right now, but I can definitely see a time where a differing living situation might make this a perfect fit for me.

photo courtesy of Christopher Schwarz

The Roman Bench

Since Chris Schwarz made his research into this low slung bench, and viewing Jonathan Fisher’s iteration of it, I knew this bench was something I needed to build and have around.  In great part this is because it might make great allowance for working while sitting down.  Plus, since I also dabble in fiction writing I would like to incorporate the workbench into a series of short stories I am trying to sketch about the working life of Joshua Bar Joseph, a/k/a Jesus of Nazareth, prior to his assumption of His earthly ministry.  Having this bench around to inspire me could, well, inspire me.

Curly Maple and Oak Roubo

Over the years I have compiled a substantial inventory of lumber including some pretty big stuff.  Included in this is a slab of curly maple I have squirreled away, along with some fabulous 6×6 oak for the legs of a sweet Roubo.  I have worked on the slab on-and-off for a few years, but perhaps this autumn is the time to bring this ting to the finish line.

photo courtesy of William Duffield

Replicating William’s Benchtop Auxiliary

Some time ago at an SAPFM regional chapter meeting my friend WilliamD showed his auxiliary bench-top-bench, a concept I first heard about from Steve Latta.  The appeal of this appendage is pretty evident in that it reduces the amount of bending over that is required for detail work.  At the moment I just use a nice piece of plywood sitting on a pair of shoji-work-style mini-horses.

Restoring My Piano Maker’s Bench

This thing needs a thorough going over including adding a new layer of mahogany over the current top which would first be flattened.  Oh, and the vises both need cleaning, polishing, and nickel plating.

Bob’s Slabs

My pal Bob got these 10″ x 15″ white oak timbers ( two are 10′, one is 8′) from his brother, who works for a hardwood saw mill, to chop up as firewood.  Bob thought I might put them to better use as workbenches or something and I agree.  When I look at this stack all I can see is a bunch of Roubo bench tops.

More Workbenches for A Possible Gragg Chair Workshop

Should I decide to offer a Gragg Chair Building Workshop, to which I am about 90% leaning, we will need another three or four workbenches up in the attic studio, the only place large enough to host such a class.  If I do go in this direction these benches, almost certainly Nicholsons, would would be a winter time project at the end of this year.

That’s all I can think of for now.  I might need to think about an annex for The Barn…

Juncus Is Way Up!

I chatted recently with the cattle man who runs his herd on the pasture through which I drive coming and going to and from the homestead, and he was fine with me harvesting the Juncus that is burgeoning in the fields.  I am pretty sure I  will be able to harvest as much of it as I can possibly use, and then some, come August or so.  Fortunately the cattle have no interest in it so it should just keep on growing until I harvest the bundles and get them drying.  The clusters of the grass popped their heads last week, so now it is simply a matter of waiting for nature to take its course.  Fortunately most of the densest growth is adjacent to the road.

Over the winter I will start making Juncus polissoirs for sale, although since I have to do every step myself by hand they will be pricey.  If they do not sell, I will just keep them here for workshop students to use.


Imagine you are a vaguely middle-aged man who has spent decades at woodworking, honing your skills and acquiring the mountainous supplies and tools requisite to follow your passion.  Actually, given the likely nature of the readers of this blog, you do not have to imagine this scenario very hard.  It is what you live.

Then imagine you have managed to find a niche for your woodworking and built a nice business from it, enough to support your family.  For a few of us I suppose this is not too far-fetched, for the rest of us it is a stretch.

Now comes a little more challenging imagining: imagine you leave your shop and home one day, and it disappears into smoke.  Literally.  What would you do?  The business assets, at least the physical ones, have turned to ash.  Your home is gone.  And worst of all you are not the only ones as tens of thousands of your neighbors have suffered exactly the same fate as you.

If you can envision such a scenario you have an inkling of the challenges still facing Rob and Kristy Hanson of Evenfall Studios.  Rob has chronicled the catastrophe they suffered and many of you have ponied up some financial support for them.  I know they are immensely grateful for the help.  Though Rob and I never met in person we have been internet pen-pals for quite some time, and I have maintained an ongoing correspondence with him over the past several months.

Paradise CA. Photo courtesy ABC News.

The struggles they continue to face trying to make this particular Phoenix arise from these particular ashes is daily and daunting.  Let us continue to help a fellow woodworker trying to rebuild his life.

There are a couple things you can do.

First, once again donate as generously as you can with contributions via their web page.  Just because this story is long gone from the news — hey there are POTUS’ tweets to get hysterical about, and Mordor nitwittery to make us clutch our pearls! — the consequence of the wildfire is still immediate and ongoing for the Hansons. With the scale of the destruction encompassing the entire region, recovery is unspeakably problematic.

Second, through my lengthy correspondence with Rob I finally persuaded him to send me a list of tools he needs to get back on his feet.  I printed it out and keep it on one of my classroom workbenches as I mosey around the joint, poking in boxes and corners looking for stuff he needs.  This week my daughter and son-in-law, visiting from North Korea, er, Northern California, will assist me in assembling some “care” packages of useable tools to get Rob up and running that will be sent as soon as the boxes are ready to go.  This gesture serves me in many way.  First and foremost it helps me clear the inventory of surplus tools I have accumulated over the years.  I’m betting that many of you have the same affliction, and could use this cure.  Of greater importance this allows me to exercise my Christian Charity, and as a Follower of The Way I am commanded to do this.

If you are so led for whatever motivation, contact Rob and inquire as to what surplus tools you have that he might need.  Sometimes it really is little things, tools that you (and he) cannot even recall because they are so common.  I’m including some spring clamps and utility knives along with my more purposeful woodworking tools, and I bet you can too.

Third, if you are anywhere close to driving distance from Rob I know that he needs a portable-ish workbench on which to work.  A 500-pound Roubo is probably not appropriate, they are in tight quarters at Kristy’s parents after all, but check to see if you have something that might fit the bill for him working in the garage, carport, or even out in the yard.  I have plenty in this regard but it makes little sense for me to ship a full-sized workbench from one remote area near the East Coast to another remote area near the West Coast.

In surviving and prevailing through this epoch with fortitude and resilience we know what Rob and Kristy are made of.

Now it is time to show them what we are made of.