Musings

Paterae Inlay Class at CVSW

The day after Veneer Repair came a session to create a pair of oval Federal inlays.  The morning was spent creating a simple conch shell pattern patera about 2 inches by four inches, in an oval surround with multi-stringing border.  I provided all of the tools and supplies for the students.

The first process is to make a packet of the veneers from which the patera will be cut.  These are just stacked and wrapped with veneer tape.

Then the pattern is glued to one face of the packet, using stick glue.

Using a small eggbeater drill and a tiny bit, a hole is punched in an unobtrusive spot and a jeweler’s saw blade (0000 in this case) is fed through, hooked up the the saw frame, and the sawing begins.

Once the pieces are all cut out they are immersed into a bath of hot sand to scorch in the shading pattern.

The end result is a compelling one.

The pieces are all glued to a piece of kraft paper backing, and the stringing border also glued to the same paper with the help of a pile of straight pins.  The proud wood would be trimmed with a sharp chisel and then it is ready to use.

Thus endeth the morning.  Up next, the second patera.

Veneer Repair Workshop at CVSW

Following the recent Groopshop gathering at the Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking I stuck around to teach a couple of one-day workshops.  The first was “Veneer Repair” wherein I presented a group of techniques I’ve learned or created over the years.  Having looked at an awful lot of historic furniture in my career, I think it is safe to say that the challenge of dealing with veneer damage and loss has been beyond the skill-set of a great many folks in the business.  This is a topic of great interest to me, and since I’ve taught it many, many times, including last week, there seems to be interest in it.  I am currently scripting out a video to shoot here in the coming winter with a young videographer living nearby.

My first order of business, a month before the class, was to make a set of near-identical “problem” boards for the students to work on.  These were fairly good representations of the types of problems they will encounter.

For most losses a technique I created involves tracing  precisely the damaged area onto a small piece of mylar or acetate that is taped to the adjacent background.  Then I select and locate a piece of veneer that matches the surrounding background as best as possible.  (I apologize for many of these pictures, I discovered ex poste that the camera was having a bad day, or perhaps it was the camera operator…)

The outline is transferred to the veneer via a piece of carbon paper (these are obviously not the same problem piece, but I think you get the idea)

The marked veneer is then mounted on a backing board with stick glue, and cut out with a jeweler’s saw.

If all goes well you get a perfect fit from the git go.

But sometimes the back side of the joint edge needs to be feathered with a small gouge to make it fit perfectly.

Once you have the grain and fit correct, you slather on some glue, overlay with a piece of cling wrap or mylar, and clamp with a plexi caul and the veneer repair is pretty much done.  There is finish work yet to come, but that is another subject for another time.

A number of other techniques were taught, but I was so busy teaching that I forgot to take pictures of them.  You’ll have to wait for the video, I guess.

Luxuriating in Peculiarity

I’m in the final week of a project that in some respects highlights my idiosyncratic nature, and truth be told I sorta revel in not fitting in.  (I’ll be blogging at length about this project starting in a week or so, and it will take several dozen postings to get it all.)

My first sense of not fitting in with woodworking came on November 9, 1980, when I attended a weekend workshop in Atlanta taught by Ian Kirby.   I remember it so precisely because it was in a classroom at Georgia Tech, and that was the day that Tech tied the #1  football team (Notre Dame) in the country and the campus went wild.  The subject of the workshop was ostensibly mortise-and-tenon joinery, but I seem to recall him spending an inordinate amount of time extolling the virtues of a new power tool, the biscuit joiner.  Of course I bought one, and of course it has remained unused for the past 46.99 of the intervening 47 years.  I’m soon sending it off to my friend Pete who can put it to good use.

As is often the case at weekend workshops, regardless of the setting or instructor, there is the opening ritual of the attendees introducing themselves to each other.  At this particular weekend the attendees were a mixture of doctors, lawyers, accountants and such.  When I introduced myself as a finisher by trade and that I loved finishing, I could almost sense the rest of the students recoiling as though I was some alien creature whose spaceship was parked out on the lawn.  Despite that, and despite the fact that I was the youngest participant by two or three decades, at every break and every meal I was peppered with questions about the mysterious and un-knowable world of finishing.

I’ve heard that surveys of the populace reveal that the single greatest fear is the terror induced by the prospect of public speaking (I have no such trepidation, probably because I do not care if the audience agrees with me or not).  During that student introduction I was left with a distinct impression that has become cemented over the decades that some/many/most/virtually all woodworkers are as terrified of finishing as they are of public speaking.

Which brings me to my current project, as this week I am rubbing out and detailing the finish I have been so lovingly applying for the past 40 or so hours of shop time.  Not only has every moment of the surface prep and application been something to savor, the bringing of the piece to exquisiteness through the finishing process is simply an embarrassment of riches to me.  Sure, I found it amusing to make the piece from scratch using almost exclusively early-19th Century technologies as specified by the client, including resawing the lumber, cutting all the lumber and joinery by hand, carving all the moldings, hand sawing and assembling the veneerwork.  But to me they were simply the appetizer.

Finishing is the feast, and the whole point of the making.  Which I guess makes me a polisher luxuriating in my own peculiarity.

The Tool World Loses An Innovative Giant

I was saddened to learn last week from Brian Meek that Lee “The Saw Guy” Marshall had passed away.  Lee was the creator of the Knew Concepts company that produced the finest jeweler’s saws and coping saws known to man.  My friendship with Lee (and Brian) had grown continually since we first met many years ago at a Woodworking in America event, and ever since we had picked each other’s brain on many occasions.  In some respects our friendship must have been an odd one, and more than once Lee remarked, usually with a chuckle, that he was surprised that a “Santa Cruz lefty” got along so well with someone who thinks that 1964-era Barry Goldwater was a moderate.

Our relationship grew into me being an enthusiastic collaborator with Lee and Brian as they continued to invent and refine new versions of their products.   Our correspondence was frequent and I reviewed countless design drawings that Brian sent me for comment, and I have many Knew Concept prototypes in my shop, and will continue using them until I hang it up.  Lee was always curious about augmenting his own experience with that of others, and for several years we combined Lee’s aerospace machinist mindset with Brian’s background as a bench jeweler with mine as a woodbutcher.  Many was the time I would explain precisely how it is that woodworkers used their tools, and before long I would see some new understanding become manifest in their tools.

In many respects Lee was a model for me to follow.  An octogenarian whose good cheer, unfailing generosity and insights were never diminished by some serious injuries he had suffered many years ago, rendering him officially “disabled,” Lee was simply one of the most inventive and hard working men I have ever met.  His brain never turned off, working diligently until the end, creating and inventing with many projects in development at the time of his death.  Brian assures me that they will be carried to completion.

To his wife and family, and all who knew and loved Lee I extend my sincere condolences and offer heartfelt blessings in the sorrow of his absence from us.  He is greatly missed.

Groopshop 2017 Fun and Fellowship

The events that are Groopshop are filled with levity and camaraderie, perhaps unlike any I have been party to (admittedly I might not be the best judge of this as I was the guy at high school pool parties who was sitting in the corner reading the encyclopedia).  On the second night of Groophop we  usually have a delightful evening of fun in the guise of “Refinishing Jeopardy” followed by “Mike’s Mostly Honest Auction,” when we raise money for the operation of the organization through selling and buying each others’ shop surplus supplies.

During the former event I was the off-screen judge for the answers, perhaps risking a conflict of interest as one of the categories was titled “Decoding Don.”

Apparently they think I am in love with arcane words and esoteric technical terms, and this was the chance for the contestants to try and figure some of that out.  I may have been a little strict with Freddy Roman during the judging, but I sent him a box of shellac flour as an apology.

Following “Refinisher’s Jeopardy” the auction commenced, and the bidding was spirited and the lots were enticing.  I bought some sheets of veneer, loose abrasive powders, and some more stuff I cannot recall at the moment.  One of the most vigorous episodes was for some lumber AlL brought.  I bought a lovely pair of matched Spanish Cedar boards, but was outbid for a spectacular piece of Swietenia mahoganii by JohnC.  It was a real beauty.

But the real heartwarming surprise came the next day as I was in CVSW setting up for my workshops the following day, and found the John had left me the board as a gift.  I was truly moved by the gesture, and since no good deed goes unpunished I am considering appropriate packages to send him in return.  The board was perfect for turning into sawn veneer for an upcoming project.

That’s the kind of group Groop is.  You should join us, but only if you want to learn, exchange information in a friendly environment, and have fun.

Groopshop 2017 Presentations

The program for this year’s Groopshop of the Professional Refinisher’s Group was an embarrassment of riches, with wide ranging presentations and demonstrations that were edifying to all in attendance.

As was the usual for our events, the several dozen folks in attendance were held in rapt attention as every single session provided nuggets of knowledge for us present.

Golden Artists Colors technical guru Mike Townsend gave a reprise to his presentations at the very first Groopshop almost two decades ago with two spectacular demos on color theory and airbrush techniques.  I am a bit of a color theory maven myself and found Mike’s presentation of the idea and practice of color decoding and matching to be superb.  He has a real sense of how to connect to an audience of varying experience, and his own background as an artist really comes to light when he is discussing appearance.  He provided blank panels to everyone and we followed right along as he showed how color interact with each other.

 

His no-nonsense demo of airbrushing was a huge hit, and as is often the case with Groopshop demos the audience was soon crowded around him trying all the things he was showing us.  One of the highlights of the session was his use of an almost century-old mini air compressor to drive his airbrushes.

John Coffey also had two sessions, sharing the lessons of several decades’ worth of successful experience.  His first session was an excellent discourse on dealing with curvalinear and heavily carved surfaces, and his second was a demo of gilded borders on leather tops.  To say the least the interest was high for both of them, and he found himself in the center of a mosh pit.

Len Reinhardt was attending his first Groopshop and absolutely stunned us with a recently completed project of conserving a pair of giant valances from a famed historic mansion in Nashville.  It  really was a first-class project and presentation.

Dan Carlson regaled us with the mostly-unsuccessful fad of repainting countertops in situ, along with many other home remedies for damaged furniture.  Given that many in our cohort will be called on to deal with these failures it was timely instruction.

Mike Mascelli and Tom DelVecchio somehow snuck in some discussion of caring for and preserving aged upholstery.    Tom is the inventor of The DelVe Square that is made by Woodpeckers, and one of my very favorite tools.

John Szalay and Christine Grove were given an open mike for the after-dinner session on the first day, and as usual had our jaws hanging open with the inventive amazingness of their projects, ranging from furniture restoration to restoring vintage soda machines to casting metal parts for vintage motorcycles to rebuilding vintage woodworking machines.  Jon is better known to the outside world as “Jersey Jon” from the American Pickers” television show.  Christine has a passion for old-time machines, and of course high fashion.

Al Lopez recounted the progression of his shop from small furniture restoration outfit to a large project, mostly architectural restoration enterprise.  I was so busy listening to his talk that I forgot to take pictures.  Sorry Al.

Other presenters who I also failed to photograph were Mark Faulkner and Val Lennon from Besway/Benco, briefing us on new regulations about solvents and chemical safety and disposal.  (I took advantage of their proximity to pick their brains about my upcoming dive into the production of Mel’s Wax.)  Freddy Roman evangelized us by cataloging the role of social media in his business plan.  His talk was simultaneously awesome and terrifying to a sixty-something minarchist like me.  I gave two shorter talks, one on our recent adventures in ripple moldings, and one on the technology of emulsions and the design of Mel’s Wax.  I distributed free samples of the latter with the extracted promise that everyone who took a sample was required to give me constructive feedback, which has begun to flow in.

Even with all of this I m sure I forgot to mention some of the learning opportunities there, and for that I apologize.

And the fun was not over yet.

Ideas Worth Contemplating – A Tradition Continued

This post is presented annually on this date – DCW

As we consider the world around us it is worth reflecting seriously on the document encapsulating the ideas that founded the greatest nation ever known to man (the US Constitution WAS NOT a founding document for the nation, it merely established the rules for its governance [admittedly now generally unknown and ignored] which is not the same thing).   I pray you will read and reflect on the ideas expressed by men who pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor to pursue the path of liberty.  Reading it is like reading the Minor Prophets of the Old Testament; more up-to-date regarding the human condition than tomorrow’s headlines.

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IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.–Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.


The 56 signatures on the Declaration appear in the positions indicated:

Column 1
Georgia:
Button Gwinnett
Lyman Hall
George Walton

Column 2
North Carolina:
William Hooper
Joseph Hewes
John Penn
South Carolina:
Edward Rutledge
Thomas Heyward, Jr.
Thomas Lynch, Jr.
Arthur Middleton

Column 3
Massachusetts:
John Hancock
Maryland:
Samuel Chase
William Paca
Thomas Stone
Charles Carroll of Carrollton
Virginia:
George Wythe
Richard Henry Lee
Thomas Jefferson
Benjamin Harrison
Thomas Nelson, Jr.
Francis Lightfoot Lee
Carter Braxton

Column 4
Pennsylvania:
Robert Morris
Benjamin Rush
Benjamin Franklin
John Morton
George Clymer
James Smith
George Taylor
James Wilson
George Ross
Delaware:
Caesar Rodney
George Read
Thomas McKean

Column 5
New York:
William Floyd
Philip Livingston
Francis Lewis
Lewis Morris
New Jersey:
Richard Stockton
John Witherspoon
Francis Hopkinson
John Hart
Abraham Clark

Column 6
New Hampshire:
Josiah Bartlett
William Whipple
Massachusetts:
Samuel Adams
John Adams
Robert Treat Paine
Elbridge Gerry
Rhode Island:
Stephen Hopkins
William Ellery
Connecticut:
Roger Sherman
Samuel Huntington
William Williams
Oliver Wolcott
New Hampshire:
Matthew Thornton

Groopshop 2017

Almost two decades ago a crusty but brilliant fellow named Alan Marriage, a self employed furniture restorer in the hinterlands of Idaho, began an internet forum named The Professional Refinisher’s Group, mostly so that he would have someone to talk to about the trade.  “Groop,” as it is affectionately known, is open to anyone interested in becoming a member (I think membership is about $60/year, with moderated email exchange five times a week every week year-round).

At the time Groop began my portfolio of responsibilities at the Smithsonian included public education, and our  fifteen year run of the Furniture Conservation Training Program was winding down so I was looking for some new avenues for introducing the principles of furniture preservation.  (FCTP may be unique in the annals of Federal projects in that it had an explicit set of goals, and when those goals were accomplished the program was terminated.  As someone once said, “There is nothing so permanent as a ‘temporary’ government program.”  This explains the special WWII-era tax on rubber products that remains in place and you pay every time you buy a set of tires today!)  “Groop” seemed like a perfect venue and I signed up immediately.

I’ve been an active participant in this web-based community ever since, and soon it evolved into a periodic two- or three-day gathering of members for fellowship and learning.  Most recently we were hosted by the Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking.  What was once a trade meeting of strip-and-dip shop owners has matured into a remarkably sophisticated exchange of technical (mostly finishing and restoration projects) and business information (virtually all of the members are self employed) that is first rate.

So once again we gathered for a couple days of presentations, fellowship, learning, and teaching.

Up next – The Program.

Ripple Finale

Our last two days of Ripplemania 1 were spent in trying to fine tune the older machine into a real working tool, and tinkering with the design for the new one into a working device.

While John and Travis and I were fiddling with the new machine, Sharon was trying out the new cutter on the old machine.  She was able to raise a huge pile of shavings, but the wear between the pattern rail and the follower bar (the rod protruding from the cutter head in order to allow the latter to rise up and down, cutting the ripple pattern in the work piece) was getting too bad to bring about a satisfactory result.

Meanwhile we were trying to perfect the carriage and cutter head for the new machine.  In the end we got to within an eyelash of getting a ripple molding to completion, but we definitely had “proof of concept.”

John and Travis fabricated a carriage that was compatible with ripple patterns (up and down), wave patterns (sideways motion), and even a simultaneous ripple/wave action.

In order to test the carriage and cutterhead, we had to have a pattern to work with, so I dove into that undertaking.  I was rethinking the need for a metal pattern rail in favor of a wooden one, so I began by assembling a long rail sandwich consisting of southern yellow pine on its length as the outer laminae to serve as the backing for the pattern and bearing surface, with end grain black cherry as the contact surface.

With the pattern rail sandwich assembled it was time to cut the ripple chatter pattern into the rail.  Using half round rasps, floats, and carving gouges we were able to create several feet of pattern on the blank sandwich.

I ripped the sandwich on the table saw, resulting in a matched pair  to install on either side of the box to induce the pattern on the workpiece via the undulating cutter head.  (I will certainly give it a try to have a CNC machine create any new pattern rails).

With the pattern installed, we gave it a try.  It sure looked like it was working, but still we had some hurdles to jump in order to make it a reliable high-function machine.  Cranking it by hand was interminably slow even though the movement at the point of cutting was fine.  We decided to motorize the device to take it to the next level so we attached a motor to a stool and hung a belt around the motor shaft and the pulley we made for the drive screw on the machine.  The motion was certainly accelerated without any obvious loss of performance, although there was the issue of an unprotected motor and belt drive.

Travis demanded a protective cowl for the drive unit, so he installed one.  We found this to be much safer.

Like I said earlier, in the end we came within an eyelash (or a half day) of getting the new machine to operate with efficacy.  Given my continued and growing interest in the capacity to produce ripple moldings for clients I will certainly expend more energy to make it happen.

Ripplin’ 3

With the “proof of concept” established for the first ripple molding cutter it was time to launch into Model #2.  I had my own ideas about its configuration and welcomed similar thoughts from all the others.

 

Our first step was to install the 8-foot thread screw which was the driver for the moving cutter-head to go up and down the rails.  While Travis and John were working on the rails/frame Sharon was drilling and tapping the lignum vitae “bolt” that was attached to the underside of the cutterhead carriage.

In short order we had as assembly with a set of tracks for the cutterhead to ride on, and a platform for the cutterhead centered in the frame.  The error in this concept became readily apparent once we started to lay out the bed for the workpiece and the cutter head itself.  There simply was not enough room for everything to fit there.

Back to the drawing board, which we flogged constantly throughout the week.

In short order we determined that an off-center location for the drive screw was going to work just fine and once again we were off and running.

While this was ongoing Sharon got the bug to make a new cutting iron to match one of the samples she found most fetching.

Meanwhile I was attending to a problem that became apparent when we were trying to get things working — the legs needed to be splayed in both directions, so I spent some time re-cutting the shoulders of the legs.

With that we were looking forward with excitement to making the new machine run like a champ.