Archive: » 2020 » February

Update From The Department of Redundancy Department

As they say in the world of supply logistics, “Three is two, two is one, and one is none.”

The great thing about providing all your own power for a facility is that you get to provide all your own power.  The bad thing about providing all your own power for a facility is that you get to provide all your own power.  Thus you are enjoying the fruits of your own power plant or you are tending to the power plant.  That is why I have redundancy built in to my system.  For example, in the winter when I decommission and drain the water line to the hydroturbine I can fall back on my solar panels, which usually suffice.  And if it is a particularly cloudy stretch of days I can fire up the 6kw gas generator.

But sometimes even that is not enough.

Recently I did some routine maintenance to the system requiring me to take the solar panels off-line.  It was nothing exotic, I was just cleaning the battery terminals for the storage batteries.  When I brought everything back on-line the solar system simply refused to work properly.  Grrr. If it had been performing at zero efficiency I would know one thing.  If it performed at half efficiency, I would know another.  But those stinkers are only performing at about 10%, which has me and the engineers scratching our heads.  I need to undertake  thorough troubleshooting session once the weather warms a bit.

So, I fired up the generator and sent the juice up the hill.  But friends, when the temps are in the teens, pull-starting an 11HP motor can be a challenge.  Under those conditions pull-starting a big motor can result in pulling a muscle in your abdomen.  Which happened.  Grr, grr.

Still for three weeks I relied on my generator, but that has its own problems too.  A typical generator provides “dirty” power meaning that the current is pulsing and so too do the lights. The eye can get used to that, but the video camera cannot.  Thus we had to cancel a long-scheduled video session, no small thing since Chris now has a full time job, a new/old house, and a baby on the way.  We have not been able to schedule the make-up session, and I really need to get the Gragg chair video finished.  Grr, grr, grr.

In semi-desperation I undertook another upgrade/redundancy to the system and have yet another in the works for this summer.  I hired the electricians who have worked with me in the past to come about two weeks ago and wire in a 50A 220v circuit from the cabin to the control shed, so now I have the option of sending ~11kw of clean juice up the hill if needed.

This summer I will build a second hydroturbine about 100 feet downstream from the current Pelton wheel micro-turbine, but this one will be a cross-flow turbine with an open hopper penstock so it will not need to be decommissioned in the winter.  I’ve got the perfect location for the sluice and hopper where it will capture 100% of the water flow with about  a five-foot drop and will begin work on them as soon as the weather is more congenial and I get caught up on my projects in the studio.

I am currently four-is-three and will soon be five-is-four…

Stay tuned.


Very Nice

The latest issue of Chronicle, the journal of the Early American Industries Association, features the Studley Tool Cabinet on the cover and an extended excerpt from the book Virtuoso in its contents.  It is very nice to know that there is still interest in the cabinet and my book on it.  I will be speaking at the EAIA Annual Meeting this year about the tool cabinet.

Surprising Source For Outstanding Tools

While working on the Maryland house I have found one tool that is now integral to my everyday activities in or out of the shop, and two tools re-purposed to even greater utiity for the execution of tasks.

The first one is this superb little Japanese-style saw from Lowes, I think was about $14.  I bought it as a semi-disposable tool for cutting cedar shingles as house siding, and before long I was keeping it in my tool belt or my ancient Skillers tool vest all the time, for every project.  I went back to Lowes and bought three more so that I have one at my daughters house, one in the cabin in the mountains, one in the studio in the barn, and one more in reserve in the Japanese toolbox.


Then while I was prepping to do a little spackling to touch up the wallboard from when I had to removed and reinstall the cypress trim in the living room, I simply could not find my sheetrocking tools.  Exasperated I looked around to see what I could use to “make do” on the shelves of the basement.  I grabbed a couple of tools and much to my surprise and delight they worked even better than anything else I have ever used for the task.

First I applied the joint compound with a square-end masonry trowel that I used for a small patching job at some point long ago.  It was easier for me to control than a typical taping knife.  Then to smooth out the freshly applied spackling compound I used a plastic bondo spreader.  It also worked better than anything I have ever tried before.  Brilliant!

Now all I have to do is wipe the areas with a damp sponge and they will be ready for paint.

Sometimes we just gotta be Keith Jarrett (more about that later).

Long Rifle Retoration – Finis

With the overall reassembly and configuration of the rifle stock accomplished it was time to dive in and rectify as many of the structural problems as I could.  Given that the damage was 100% cross-grain breakage at the narrowest part of the curly maple structure, and the area had been repaired previously several times, my options were not the hifalutin’ elegance of conservation ideology.  However, I still used that decision-making framework I developed decades ago as best I could..   Fortunately I understood the ultimate use of the rifle was as an exhibit item, not for re-enacting or use or anything similar.   It was a historic document of the brilliance of David Cooley, the maker.

The original(?) inlet patch behind the metal plate of the hammer works was only partly intact, but that part was re-glued into the box.  A new repair element was crafted, then grafted into the void of the previous material that had become pretty much pulverized.  Combined with the infusion of the West epoxy the overall soundness of the structure was enhanced immeasurably.  I reattached the shoulder to the hammerworks box with hot hide glue and the stock re-assembly was mostly complete.

There were two more areas of damage and loss adjacent to the trigger that needed compensation, again areas that had been worked over several times before.  In the more severe case I needed to carved and fit a new piece to glue into the void.  With some inpainting to match the adjacent area and a bit of pigmented hard wax (my Blend 31 wax with microlith pigments turns out to be a magnificent fill material) melted into any remaining voids and the project was essentially done.  All I had to do at that point was reassemble all the parts into a whole artifact and return it t the client.  Having paid attention to Tim’s disassembly I had no difficulty reassembling the rifle.

Again, I cannot find the images of this process ex poste.  I hope I did not erase them from the SD card they were undoubtedly on.  When I find them I will post them.

At the request of the client I hung the rifle over the mantle of the cabin for a final picture before I delivered it back to him

Long Rifle Restoration – 1

Once all the disassembly and glue surface cleaning was complete I set to the task of making the pieces into a whole thing.  Not precisely a whole long rifle, as that would imply functionality, but at least a whole assembly of the parts.

My first step in this process was to determine if the pieces actually all fit back together again without any modifications.  Temporarily re-installing the barrel I decided that indeed the major elements fit nicely back together.

Since the configuration and shape of the rifle precluded my ability to really clamp anything together I used foam pads and wedges to hold everything in the precisely correct position and wicked-in some dilute hot hide glue into the break, just to hold things in place for what was to come next.

After allowing the glue to set fully overnight, I was delighted to pick up the rifle gently and realize that it stayed together.  With the proper shape established I then wicked-in slightly diluted West System epoxy with extra slow hardener to allow it to wet out the gluing surfaces and voids completely.  I let this sit for a week before touching it again.

Stay tuned.

***Apologia – somewhere I think I have a few more pictures of this process, but I either put them in the wrong directory or they are on a wandering SD card and have not been uploaded to my compewder yet.  If I find them I will post them.***

Inside The Guts of the Long Rifle

Once Tim got all the metal parts removed from the rifle I was able to take a good look at what was inside.  It was pretty much what I expected, based on my observations from the outside.  The narrowest part of the rifle stock is also the region of the greatest stress from the explosion and reaction of the gunpowder igniting and expulsion of the heavy lead bullet.  And when the material used for said stock is curly or highly figured there is a lot of end grain/short grain structure, so failure is a given.

I could see immediately that the break was all the way through the narrow neck, and the only thing even holding it halfway was the inlet repair from days gone past (this picture was taken prior to the removal of the barrel).  Even this repair was loose and shattered.  At the very least, “the structural integrity was compromised,” as we say in our reports.  As a matter of fact there were pieces already so loose that they were coming off n my bare hands.

There was no doubt that a complete disassembly was called for.

The initial “disassembly” was auto-started as one major piece came off without any help from me.  It popped off when the barrel was detached in the initial disassembly.

My first step was to remove the inset repair that was the last thing holding the rifle together.  I poultice the area with water and 1% surfactant to soften the glue holding it all together.

No sooner was that accomplished than the entire thing came apart.  I now had direct access to all the gluing margins (and the glued that had been slathered/poured on in a previous restoration campaign).

I poulticed and cleaned every surface I could get to, softening the glue and scraping it off with one of my home-made ivory tools, followed by swabbing with distilled water to get them squeaky clean.

I let eveything sit for a couple weeks to reach moisture equilibrium before beginning the reconstruction.

One Of These Days… – Finishing And Accessing My FORP Workbench

Usually I find that hindsight is somewhere in the range of 20/20.  When I moved my FORP bench into the studio I though I had the perfect location for it.  It sure looked great there, at least until the space got put back together.

After almost two years of using it there I have become less enamored with the situation.

For starters I rely more on my original small torsion box bench more than anything else, in great part because of the vises already up and running on it.  The spatial relationship between my favorite bench and the FORP bench has precluded my finishing and installing the leg vise on the FORP, knowing that if I did install the leg vise the tight quarters would result in me cracking my knee on a regular occasion, resulting in improper verbal outbursts.

After cogitating on the issue for several months I recalled how much I enjoyed having my first Roubo bench in front of the eastern windows before I moved it to the finishing station twenty feet away.

Now I think I know what to do.