Apparently my laptop (or its charger) just died.  Since this is where I keep all my documents and pictures I may not be posting for a bit.  Yes, everything is backed up on an external archive drive, but I do not have access to that at the moment.  All I’ve got is my Kindle, which IIRC is incompatible with anything USB so I’m kinda stuck for now.

Check back later to see how things progress, if at all.

Stay tuned.

Springtime Ritual #2 – Garden Carpentry

Another of the regular winter/spring/summer rituals here in Shangri-la is to re-think the carpentry needs for the gardens, and this year two new hoops over the raised beds percolated to the top of the pile.  There had been hoops before but those were made in haste and only lasted ten years.  The time had come for something a bit more robust.  They get used year round, in the winter to serve as mini-greenhouses, in the summer to keep out the cabbage butterflies.

I decided to make the ribs with three lamina instead of two, so I ripped the requisite number of 1/4″ strips from pressure-treated 2x lumber.  The actual forming/laminating process began with constructing a form that can serve to fabricate laminated hoop ribs from now until I become part of the landscape myself.  I used scrap materials for the form and used clamps for making the first curved ribs.  I used up all the clamps I had that would fit and kept them engaged for 24-hours (I used T3 adhesive).

I got smarter.  On subsequent ribs I used deck screws and fender washers to clamp the laminations to the form.  With the addition of crown staples I was able to assemble two ribs per day.

After removing the laminated ribs from the form I restrained them with ratchet straps to keep the correct shape and size, and set them aside.  Once I had enough I could assemble the skeleton and cover it with the screening.

Stay tuned.

Happy Father’s Day

May you spend this day in reverence for our Heavenly Father and in celebration or remembrance of your earthly father.  We commemorated the occasion last night as Li’l T’s dad will be on duty today.  I got this t-shirt from his mom and a Peer Gynt Suite CD from the other barndottir.  Glory abounded.


The Best Layout Knife I’ve Ever Used…

… and it’s home made and free from the scrap pile!

I was introduced to the layout knife when I went into the pattern shop in 1978 (I was a strictly power tool woodworker prior to that) by shop master John Kuzma, who taught me more about precise work than anyone who has ever crossed my path.  Regardless of the scale of the foundry pattern, ranging from a small gear or housing to huge dredge pump components, the standard was always the same — work to the center of a knife cut. Given that the final product in metal was probably going to be machined to a .001″ tolerance this made sense.  Rarely/never is this the case for woodworking otherwise.

While marking knives (of an astonishing variety) have been a constant presence in my tool kit over the past 4+ decades I have never encountered a better version of the marking knife than the one John used very day.  It was simultaneously no-nonsense and performed exquisitely in every application in the wood shop.  Recently I made another of these tools like this.  The beauty of this method is that not only do you end up with a superb tool using recycled material, it does not require any de-tempering or re-tempering the material.    It’s all cold work.

The starting point was a retired file.  I make no secret of my pack-rat tendencies, so I always have old files on hand.  If they were a good file, they are good tool steel.  John’s knife was built from a 1/4″ square file, this one I just made was from a 3/16″ round chainsaw file.  Given my reliance on firewood for heat I have a nearly never ending supply of worn out round files.

The first step of the process is to smooth out the remaining texture of the file teeth using a diamond stone or similar.  This leaves a texture but not so much as to be uncomfortable in your hand.

The second step is to put the tang in the vise and give it a bit of a bend.  The amount of the bend is slight enough that there is no need for any heat treatment of the metal.

Once the bend is done, sharpen the tip to a knife edge.  In my case I use a coarse diamond stone for the shaping followed by a routine regimen of achieving a sharp knife edge.  The beauty of this little curved tip is that it enhances the ability to make marks inside or underneath restricted spaces.  I have never encountered a better way to transfer the lines of the small dovetails I often make,

On the other end of the file I again used the diamond stone/sharpening stone routine to create a knife bevel and razor sharp tip.

That’s all there is to this tool.

No cost, almost no time (under a half hour) and incomparable performance.  Sounds like a near perfect formula to me.  As soon as I come across a worn out square file I’ll make one from that, too.



Outfitting the Tool Cabinet – I

As I have stated previously, the interior of the tool cabinet will be “composed” more than it will be “designed.”  The process of layout and fabrication will certainly be a deliberate one, and the amount of progress will depend greatly on the other activities in my life, projects in the studio and events outside the studio.

I have made my first choices and taken the steps to make them happen.


First, I moved my saw rack en toto into the rear of the proper right compartment.

Second, I began to design the fittings to affix my hand planes to the rear of the proper left compartment.

Third, I began the process of mounting my carving chisels on the proper left door panel.

It’s clear there will be a lot of proceeding and retreating as I work out the composition, but it will all be a lot of fun.  There will be irregular updates as they are called for.

Stay tuned.

Back to Shangri-la (for a bit)

In between extended travels to spend with Li’l T and his parents we are back at the homestead.  The “to do” list is lengthy; mowing the hay that popped up in the yard, lotsa gardening for Mrs. Barn (pretty much all day every day), packaging and mailing several polissoir and wax orders, preparing for the upcoming presentation at the SAPFM Annual Mid-Year conference at the end of June, more mowing (always a problem given my extreme allergies to grass pollen), along with all the other things that are ongoing in the studio, paying bills, doing laundry, and a multitude of other things I cannot remember at the moment.

I get tired just thinking about it.  Tough.  Better get to it.

Sharpening Impulse Hardened Saw Teeth

Sometimes a willingness to venture “outside the box” yields great rewards.  This is one of those times.

Like probably most of you I have a number of modern saws with impulse hardened tri-faceted teeth.  The upside is that these teeth can be very long lasting.  The downside is that they are brittle and prone to snap off whenever encountering an exceedingly hard material, such as a nail.  I have several saw blades with a gap-toothed grin.  Fortunately, the blades are almost always replaceable.  Unfortunately, until recently, my experience had been that they were impossible to sharpen due to the impulse hardening that made the files skate off of them without affecting any improvement.  I found this frustration to be true for any of the facet-tooth saws I have, whether actual Japanese saws or the Stanley western style saws that employ Japanese-style teeth.

While working at my daughter’s house a while ago with my old-ish Z-brand saw I hit a nail good and hard.  Much to my surprise only one tooth snapped off, but a couple dozen were mushroomed (I’m not good enough with that camera to get a nice pic).  I had never before seen this damage.  Before, the teeth just snapped off.

I certainly had new replacement blades in the drawer, but since the teeth were intact (except for the one) I decided to bring it back to the barn and give it a try to sharpen them.  Using abrasives, first sandpaper then one of my small whetstones, I flattened the back side of every damaged tooth.  Since most of the saw’s use was for rough carpentry and yard work I went ahead and cleaned it up pretty well.

However, when it came to re-shaping the damaged facets even my diamond needle files mostly skated over the hardened tips.  But there in my small container of whetstones for my carving tools was a diamond shaped aluminum oxide “India” stone.  The cross section was exactly like that of the file normally used to sharpen Japanese-stye saw teeth.  I also had a needle-taper stone of the same material.  They both came in handy.

Setting up the sharpening station just like every other saw I’d sharpened in the past umpteen years, “filing” with the “India” whetstones worked like a charm.

In less than a half hour I had the task done.  Prior to the sharpening the saw would still cut after a fashion, 51 strokes to get through a 2×4, but after the sharpening it made it though the same lumber in exactly 1/3 of the strokes, leaving a very nice kerf surface.

It is a good day when you can go to bed after learning something you did not know when you woke up that morning.

Remember. Always.

I am reminded by my friend Col. Steve’s remark, “I wrote a blank check to this nation and signed it in my blood.”  Remember always those men and women who did the same thing on our behalf.

A Peculiar(?) Menagerie

Early in our four decades-plus of marriage, Mrs. Barn learned that whenever I was browsing through the card catalog of my 3,000+ record albums, I was in a mood.  Could be a mood of contemplation, sometimes a mood of problem solving, occasionally (or not so occasionally) a mood of being just plain old cranked up about something.  But, she knew to let it run its course.

As I grew older (and perhaps [?] more mature) I could be found browsing my bookshelves instead or just working my way through my collections of vouchered wood samples.  (Sorting the card catalog for my vinyl records was pointless in an age of CDs as the records were placed [and remain] in deep storage.  I recently bought a new cartridge for the turntable and may just dust off the record collection.  But, I digress.)

To this day I find a peculiar comfort in shuffling my version of playing cards, using the fascinating beauty of this natural resource as inspiration for creativity.

To the best of my knowledge these are all vouchered specimens, or at least ostensibly scientifically identified, and the oldest collection dates back maybe 75 years.

More Boullework Adventures

As I continued preparations leading up to last Saturday’s Boullework presentation to the SAPFM Blue Ridge Chapter I was able to make good progress once I discovered the cause of my earlier frustrations.  Which was, as I realized once the initial center cut was completed and the material removed, that the first blade break resulted in a small fragment being embedded in the kerf.  Every succeeding blade was damaged by encountering this fragment, continuing the sawing difficulties.  When you’re talking 0000 blades it does not take much to throw them off.

Getting a little more sawing done and assembling the demo materials was pretty straightforward.

I even made a scute of tordonshell.   Fun, fun, fun.

PS  Since I am on the home stretch for reviewing the Gragg chair video (probably about a dozen finished half-hour-ish episodes plus a bonus episode or two) and creating the edit sheets for the project, I am casting my brain forward to next winter.  I am thinking about a shorter series on Boullework, Don-stye.  Or at least revising and updating my original monograph from my presentation in Amsterdam.