Musings

Talking Studley in Fredericksburg VA

Recently I was invited to speak about the HO Studley project to the Frederickburg (VA) Woodworker’s Guild.  My friend SteveD was my host and a grand time ensued.

While at Steve’s I got to see a bed frame he had been working on in recent weeks, and about which we had corresponded regarding the finish being used.  This bed was commissioned by the organization that is recreating George Washington’s childhood home near Fredericksburg.  Much of the recreation is based on rigorous and ongoing archaeology.  The Washington family domicile being readied for the public is all new construction, but there is solid evidence that it is a very faithful interpretation of the original.

Steve has been commissioned to create a number of beds (and perhaps other pieces?) for the site, and this bed is a stunning one.

The audience at the Guild meeting was large and enthusiastic, Steve said it was about twice normal.  And you gotta admit, the tale of Henry O. Studlew is a compelling one.  The group meets in a semi-industrial space which suited me just fine.

The audience was very attentive and engaged, asking excellent questions throughout the presentation and staying after to discuss all manner of Studley and Roubo topics.  They promised to invite me back, and I look forward to that event.

Of Barn Doors and Stump Sitting

En route back to Shangri-La following our excursion into deepest Flyover Country we stopped to see the progress of things at Lost Art Press.   Mrs. Barn had never seen the new World Headquarters and since they were within a mile of our route, I checked to make sure we could stop.

As usual Chris was hard at work in the shop and on the shop, but he took a few minutes to visit and relax.

During that brief visit I sat in the Mother of All Stump Chairs that Chris has been chronicling.  I cannot say I could sit there for an entire evening but it was more comfortable than I expected and looked pretty cool too.  All I needed was a bearskin vest and a grog of mead and I would have looked right at home.

We also toured the new machine room emerging from the renovation of the carriage house out back, and Chris had just hung and caulked his hand-made doors before we arrived.  I definitely approve.

I join Chris in celebrating the establishment of the new headquarters, and even his dream of living in this vintage high density neighborhood.  He likes having neighbors nearby, I like having neighbors on the other side of the mountain.

LOL

This giant banner at Bad Axe Toolworks made me laugh out loud.  You know Roubo is catching on when the yardstick for a tool is its ability to cut the dovetailed leg tenons for a Plate 11 workbench.

I Came. I Sawed. I Collaborated.

My recent trek around Flyover Country included an intersection between my path to my home town in southern Minnesota (the tropical part) and LaCrosse, Wisconsin, home to Mark Harrell and his ambitious enterprise Bad Axe Tool Works.  I’ve been collaborating with Mark for some time on the development of a frame saw/sash saw  with the promise that he would put one in my hands.

As the owner of two c. 1800 four-foot frame saws I was delighted to share the particulars about them with anyone who wanted to know.  Their details are spectacular, from the hand forged hardware to the forged plates in near-perfect condition.  (by that I mean there are no kinks or missing teeth, there was plenty of surface rust and the teeth needed touching up)

Like other saw makers, Mark contacted me some time ago and I took the time to talk with him at length about the vintage saws I have, in addition to the diminutive version I made for myself.  Mark was particularly interested in a model halfway between my vintage big ones and my new smaller one, and we worked out the details over many emails and phone calls, an interchange I welcome from any tool maker who wants my two cents worth.  To this point my only fee is that I get one of the tools in question if they ever go into production.  I think Bad Axe might have had this model at Handworks 2017, but I was so busy I could never get to their station once they got set up, so this was my chance.

Accompanied by The Oldwolf, Derek Olsen, we arrived late-morning.  And the saw geek-dom commenced.  Behind this modest door and awning is a buzzing hive of saw making.

Mrs. Barn and I got a quick tour of the facility, getting the opportunity to meet and greet each of the the sawmaking elves there.

I was especially impressed with the classroom they have set up there for saw making and sharpening workshops.  Mark definitely has the leads for mondo saw sharpening vises and setters.

Then we got down to the real fun as Mark brought out several models of saws for me to play with.  I already own two Bad Axe saws, including a custom made dovetail saw I commissioned and that has now become ensconced in their product line.  Under Mark’s watchful eye the playing commenced, and it was glorious!

Our exploration of the topic continued almost non-stop and we were torn between talking about saws, and sawing.

Then came the “official” purpose of the visit,  taking delivery of my own Bad Axe frame saw based on Roubo, my old saws, and my new one, with a bit of Bad Axe special sauce tossed in for good measure.

It performed perfectly right out of the box and will be integrated into my shop work as soon as it gets home.

More about the visit in the next post.

Dropping In On Oldwolf

A recent trip to the Midwest for a variety of family gatherings provided a chance to drop in on Derek Olsen of Oldwolf Workshop fame.  Derek’s is a fairly recent entrance into my orbit, but our friendship is fast and strong.   He was first among the multitude of friends who volunteered to help with the 2015 HO Studley exhibit, and his account in The Bank of Don is brimming.

The stop for fellowship was a delightful one as you might expect.

Derek proudly showed his impressive library of furniture history books, his shrine to Studley, and his still-in-development shop in the garage next to where he and Mrs. Oldwolf moved in recent years.

After our time there, we headed down the road (actually only a few blocks) to some time of saw geek-dom at Bad Axe.

But that’s for the next post.

Teaching Historic Finishing At MASW

Right after the conclusion of the Parquetry workshop at the Marc Adams School of Woodworking I dove in again with three days of Historic Finishing (reminder to self — DO NOT do this again.  The logistics of changing horses mid-week is a headache you can do without).  This class had more than a dozen students, and the enthusiastic feedback had led Marc to ask me to develop an expanded  week-long workshop on the same topic, which we will do in 2019.

I’ve pretty much got this workshop dialed in, as I do with Parquetry, so there is a fairly fixed syllabus here.  The emphasis is on processes and work habits rather than having a “completed” project at the end, concentrating on shellac spirit varnishes and beeswax applications.

The starting point is this 24×48 panel building up multiple brushed applications of 1-1/2 pound cut shellac to about 18 layers over the first day and a half.  Getting this to “done” allows us to explore the detailing and polishing of the surface.

We used polissoirs for preparing surfaces and applying wax, and filled the grain with molten beeswax.  Then we made and used polishing pads for applying spirit varnish.

Each student got to address the problems of finishing undulating surfaces,

applying pigmented wax grain filler,

and even making historic sandpaper.

The giant panels were polished out with a variety of period-appropriate abrasives,

and one quadrant was glazed with asphaltum.

All in all, it was a great time of fellowship and learning.  How could it not be, we were finishing!

 

Teaching Parquetry at MASW

I recently spent a week at the Marc Adams School of Woodworking, teaching two three-day courses.  I believe this was an experiment on Marc’s part, road testing some new scheduling concepts such as a three-day workshop during the week as opposed to only on weekends.

The Parquetry workshop had three enthusiastic attendees (plus a most excellent teaching assistant), a number the Marc told me precludes any repetition of the topic.  This is an entirely fair conclusion on his part as he has a huge footprint to support.  With several classrooms in simultaneous use I’m guessing he needs somewhere between 35-50 attendees every day for six months to make it work.

In fact our merry little band was in a huge, well equipped classroom with twenty (?) workbenches.  The spaciousness was both unnerving and delightful as the students could spread their projects as widely as they wanted.

This workshop is somewhat unusual for me in that there was a finished project at the end, while I tend to prefer teaching a skill-set rather than a project.

But skills and processes were taught and practiced, including the making of sawing and planing jigs,

sawing veneer stock for making the patterns,

the assembly of the patterns,

fabricating and integrating simple bandings,

and gluing them down to a substrate.

In the end they were cleaned up with toothing planes, files, and scrapers making them ready for the finishing process.

Though I will not be teaching this workshop again at MASW, I will not completely set the general topic aside.  I am hoping to have a workshop on knot-work banding perimeters there in 2019.

The Doctor Is In. In Ft. Mitchell, Kentucky, That Is

My recent trip to Indiana to teach for a week at the Marc Adams School of Woodworking coincided with one of the monthly “open houses” at the World Headquarters of Lost Art Press in Ft. Mitchell, KY.  I had a grand time there, visiting with many fellow woodworking enthusiasts.

I was especially delighted to cross paths with Dr. Mike, a specialist in hand and wrist injuries, who has been advising me on my rehabilitation following last year’s broken arm.  The location and severity of the break made its manifestation a wrist and hand issue.  The radius had snapped about an inch above the wrist and the broken-off tip had rotated considerably.  Fortunately the setting went perfectly.  (Note to self: don’t fall onto a stone walkway any more)  The resulting cast was necessarily quite snug to keep everything in order, and the posture of the hand was not straight but rather considerably bent to keep everything in proper alignment during the healing.  One result of this arrangement was that all the swelling was pushed down into my fingers, which for several weeks looked like kielbasa.  As a result of all this, the directed swelling really aggravated the arthritis in my hand, which x-rays confirmed infest every single joint therein.

After getting the cast removed I undertook a rigorous regimen of physical therapy emphasizing flexibility and movement and downplaying the regaining of my hand strength.   I attacked the problem, which seemed to be resistant to my best efforts at resolution.

Enter Dr. Mike.

At last March’s Lie-Nielsen event on Covington KY he examined my arm/wrist/and and declared that I was being too diligent in my exercises; I was working the region so hard I was essentially inflicting as much inflammation as I was alleviating.  He proposed a new exercise routine for me, which I began the next day.  The beneficial results were almost immediate, but still the road to full recovery had many miles to go.  We corresponded regularly as I provided updates and he provided further counsel.

Flash forward to the LAP open house, when he gave an exceeding thorough evaluation of the damaged flipper.  We were both every pleased at the progress, and changed the emphasis to the return of ultra-fine motor skills in the digits.   With a new set of exercises to address this we parted and I have been engaged in additional finger flexibility routines ever since.

At this point the overall status of the ensemble varies on a day-to-day basis of somewhere in the 85%-95%+ range.  My arm bone is fully healed and needs no more thought.  My wrist flexibility as close to 100% of that which was expected.  My finger micro-dexterity is somewhere north of 75% depending on how my arthritis is acting up.  Some days it exceeds 90%.  My hand strength is in the 80-90% range and slowly getting stronger with ordinary shop activities.

I recently wrote a note to Dr. Mike celebrating my use of chopsticks for the first time in over a year.  Indeed I mark the progress by the little things I can do again; remove the gas cap from the car without discomfort, pull the starter cord for the log splitter, handle the chain saw, hand plane and hand saw with impunity.

As the day in Ft. Mitchell wound down the stragglers mostly gathered to watch Chris work on a chair seat.

Finally it was just a handful of us, as we ate pizza and then I hit the road.

Firewood

Recently I was reviewing the manuscript for Joshua Klein’s great new book about polymath and furniture maker Jonathan Fisher for Lost Art Press as I had been asked to write the Forward.    The book is an excellent reading and learning experience, and one of the descriptions of Fisher’s day-to-day life caught my particular attention.  In addition to everything else he had to do was the onerous task of obtaining many tons of firewood requisite for each Maine winter.

My friend Bob, who is a lifelong timberman, came for couple hours a few months ago and felled more than a dozen large ailing trees that had been damaged over the years.  His help is incalculably important as I simply do not have the experience necessary to fell very large trees with confidence, while he has felled literally tens of thousands of trees and manages to drop them safely right where they need to go.  Among this year’s prizes was a wonderful old oak with a long, straight trunk, that had been damaged in a storm last winter.  I’ll be splitting and riving that one in a few weeks, I hope.  More about that later.

Sometimes we just go where the trees are, but I am particularly interested in thinning the woods to the south and southwest of the barn to perhaps extend the daylight portion of winter days by an hour or more.  Currently I lose direct light by about 3PM and I aim to push that to 4 or 4:30.  That will be the best I can hope for unless we remove the crest of the hill occupying that space.

Once the trees are on the ground I can then return at my leisure to cut them into bolts and haul them down the hill.  Inasmuch as I have the same objective as Jonathan Fisher, gathering tons of firewood each winter, I am more than delighted that almost a century ago the good folks at Stihl, Dolmar, and Festool worked independently to provide us with what we now have as the modern chainsaw.  Ditto whoever combined a gasoline engine, hydraulic piston, and steel wedge to create log splitters.

With the side crib completely full with a double course of wood and the front porch filled with only a walking path to the front door we are ready for winter.  I’m now working on my firewood pile for next winter with hopes of eventually getting a couple of years ahead.  It’s the mountain way.

The Carpenter’s Step Son

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counseller, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

Holy_Family_Father_and_Son_CorbertGauthier

The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God.  You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

sculpture

Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother’s name Mary?

And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.  And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. 

I pray for you to have a blessed time with loved ones, and that you are celebrating the Incarnation, through whom we can be reconciled with The Creator.