Musings

Studley-esque Treasure Discovered at PATINA

One of the great joys of living in the mid-Atlantic region is the 42-year-old organization known as The Potomac Antique Tools and Trades Association, or PATINA, which meets every other month in McLean VA on the outskirts of Mordor.  I have had a long and fruitful relationship with this group and find their bi-monthly swap meet and demonstrations sessions to be a genuine delight.  Their annual mid-March flea market and auction near Frederick MD are worth the drive from wherever you might be coming from.

The recent PATINA meeting was the fulfillment of all that and more!

Let’s back up a year or ten, reflecting on my research into Henry O. Studley and his tool cabinet and workbench.  Experiencing it, up close and personal, it is even more spectacular than can be captured in images.  The nooks and crannies can be appreciated only in 3D in real space.  One of the tools it contains is this little 1″ x 1″ Prentiss vise mounted on a Cuban mahogany block, tucked up away and entirely out of sight to the normal viewer.  I love this vise and have been looking for a sibling without success since I first saw it almost a decade ago.  I’ve been in the neighborhood a time or two (more tomorrow) but never found the exact house address.

Thanks to the ongoing project at our daughter’s house near Mordor I was in town for last Sunday’s PATINA meeting and flea market (I bought a few useful items).

And then my friend JohnD summoned me over to his table.  A fellow named Kevin had strolled in and showed him this.  John knew what it was and also knew I would pop my eyes.  I did.

Holy cow!

I offered him five bucks cash, no questions asked.  He declined.  I think John was dickering with him for a while.  I would love to own this but cannot justify the money it would take to reach a fair price.  But at least I got to look at it closely on this grey, drizzly day.

You just never know what you will find at a PATINA event!

FORP III, Day 5

Friday was a combination of several benches going together, others being palletized for shipping home, and the completed ones going into vehicles for transport home.

Early in the day the push was on to get together as many criss-cross leg vises as possible.

Once that was done it was time to merge the legs and the top.  One group used hot hide glue as a lubricant and adhesive for the joints, even though the latter utility was/is superfluous.

But for most, it was a simple process of placing the top over the leg tenons and rocking the entire unit up and down, switching from end to end.  Slamming the entire mass down eventually drove the top mortises onto the leg tenons soundly.

There then began a round of slamming tops followed by proud portraits of the makers and their new benches.

And out the door they went, some on to trucks, others into trailers, and some on to pallets for shipping home.

By 2PM the place was pretty much emptied and the tidying began.  Then all of a sudden another FORP was finished.

Rearrangeritis

I was recently watching some videos on shop layout and came across my friend Stump Nubs’ hilarious riff on the constant need for many of us woodworkers to tinker with our shop layout.

You just might enjoy it and laugh just like I did.

FORP III, Day 4 – Coming Together

Day 4 of FORP III was another one of feverish work as the participants were striving to start putting their benches together.  Which meant, of course, the final fitting of all the joinery.

One image that was prevalent during the day was sharpening tools to get the joints as crisp as possible; numerous sharpening stations sprouted around the room.

Another snapshot that amused me was this tray of analgesics that was emptied at some point in the day.  This was hard physical work, the kind few of us were used to at this level of intensity.

The buzz of activity was the air that we breathed throughout the day.

One of the benches I followed ws the one being built by this father-and-son team, whose tool kit had not arrived for reasons I never quite knew.  Nevertheless, I was pleased to make my own kit available to them and they put it to good and successful use.

 

Meanwhile around the room twenty tales were unfolding and moving towards completion.

This is one of my favorite pictures from the week, with Will providing some useful ballast to Horace’s bench.

Jameel and Jeff provided the real-time, real-space tutorial on installing the Benchcrafted criss-cross leg vise that was part of the package of every bench.

Tim the mechanic was the first guy across the finish line, and hearty congratulations abounded.

John and Phil were next to finish, and I think this will be a treasured family memory for generations yet to come.  The excitement was rising for another half-dozen benches ready to assemble Friday morning.

That evening was the open house with a cajun stew for supper, and my Gragg chair on display or anyone who wanted to give it a try.

 

FORP III, Day 3

Day 3 of FORP is pretty much an extended schizophrenic moment as the participants are settling into the routine of work and fellowship, knowing what and why they are doing what they are doing.  The morning generally starts out smoothly with restrained purposefulness but as the day goes on there is a palpable edge to the atmosphere as the sentiment, “Oh crap, I’ve only got two more days to get this done,” wafts into the shop.

Wednesday was Mortise Day and the intensity was thick.  At the beginning of the day everyone was first wrapping up their base assemblies so they would know where to put the mortises.

There was a fair bit of tenon trimming also, especially for the dovetailed tenon cheeks.

 

Oh, and lots of checking to make sure “square” was really square.

Around mid-morning Chris gave the sermon on executing the double tenons.  There were two major steps and some folks did one first (sawing the outer dovetailed tenon) and other went the other way (drilling out the waste for the inner tenons).

There was a lot of deep breathing as this was the start of irreversible steps.  For the most part everyone had on their game faces for sawing the dovetail shoulders.  Except for Brian #4 who was never more than a moment away from a hearty laugh.  I think the class had something like five Brians, four Andrews, and three Tims.

Once the angled cheeks were cut the waste was kerfed to facilitate removal.

For the inner mortises the waste was drilled out and for many the edges of the joint were established with a saber saw, a technique I have never employed.

Then the chopping began in earnest.

Somewhere along the line Schwarz encountered this beast of a hand-held bandsaw, using it to trim the ends of the slabs and kerf the outer mortises.

I included this picture just because the wood was so remarkable.

Yes indeed, the joint was jumpin’ this day.

 

 

FORP III, Day 2

Tuesday morning saw me working with Jeff Miller in the lower shop building because the Tannewitz band saw there was better suited for finishing up the tenon cheeks and the dovetailed shoulders on the front tenons.  Though there are no pictures of us doing that I did get a pretty neat pic of Bo’s crew distressing some sweet oak box beams for a custom interior someplace.

Jeff had an appointment elsewhere for a few hours so I was working with Jameel to get all the tenon cuts finished, and we did.

I got back up to the main work room just before lunch and there was a flurry of activity and the bench parts began to come together.  Lots of tenon valley cleaning out,

edges being trued to make sure the layouts of the mortises were correct, (the long curls were ankle deep that afternoon),

the dovetail cheeks were cross-cut and trued

and a whole lotta stretcher mortises were matched with their mortises.

Before long there was a collection of upside-down bench bases on display.

Around mid-afternoon The Schwarz gave a demo on laying out the base to the top and marking and cutting the mortises into the latter.

So that’s what was happening all over the place for the rest of the day.

The day was capped by another walk through the yard full of antiquities, with Chris being captivated by this sculpted sandstone bank faced detail of a bee hive.

FORP III Day 1 – Variety

I  thought I had been told to arrive at 9 the first morning, so I did, only to find out that the first students arrived before 7AM to stake out their work stations and set up, so the bee hive was buzzing long before I got there.

As I came to learn throughout the week the students body was an amazing mix of folks; a chemical engineering professor, a video production entrepreneur, a lawyer/lobbyist, three professional woodworkers/furniture makers, a cybersecurity geek, a geophysicist, a playwright, a CPA, a custom floor maker and his furniture design student son, a fireman, a mechanic, an energy engineer, an electrician, a high-end custom home builder, a rancher, two surgeons, a military helicopter pilot, and maybe another couple of folks I cannot remember at the moment.  There was no shortage of interesting things to talk about during meals and breaks.

Frankly put, the gallery of student set-ups was a dizzying cornucopia of horses and tool inventories, with the former ranging from old-school carpenter’s horses to sooper high tech devices the likes of which I had never seen.

Take a look.

As for tool inventories and their containers they ranged from several ATCs and Dutch cabinets to plastic tubs to simple canvas bags.  I’ll take a look at them in another post.

As I arrived the last of the bench tops were being fed through the Stratoplaner, the prehistoric minivan-sized machine that planed all four surface of the 300-pound slabs simultaneously.  One by one these took their places in the appropriate work stations.

In short order the preparations for the 80 legs commenced.

A quick tutorial on laying out the double tenons on the tops of the legs (and keeping track of them!) was followed by the soundlessness of eighty sets of tenons being laid out.

While that was underway Will Myers and Father John Abraham prepped the stretcher stock, and once again Jeff Miller and I tag-teamed to make jigs for cutting the tenon shoulders.  Which we did.  A lot.

As the day closed the air was filled with the sounds of wailing away on the valleys between the double tenons and the scriiitch of planing the edges of the tops square and true so the double mortise layout could be executed.

And that was Day 1.

80 Yards of Pinstriping

One of  the true challenges for decorating the Gragg chair is that to be faithful to the original requires the commitment to execute almost 80 yards of pinstriping on curved surfaces often awkward to get to.  (Several areas of striping are multiple applications of adjacent lines).

 

Back in the day when I was doing commercial custom refinishing and such I was fairly good at striping since a lot of it was part of the equation when creating painted furniture finishes for beach front condos.  For years afterward I was seeing pink and yellow striped moldings in my sleep.  But that day was many, many moons ago.

I’m guessing that doing the pinstriping will take me three or four days.   Stay tuned.

Shaping the Studley Replica Infill Mallet Head

One of the seductive features of the Studley mallet is that the shell of the head is curved on all four sides, making this blunt instrument of smashification seem almost streamlined.  In addition the edge detailing for the head was elegant, almost delicate.

In this particular case I decided to use brute mechanical/abrasive force to achieve part of the results, and hand filing for the other.  For the general gross rounding of the shell I just used my belt and disc sanding machines to literally grind off almost half of the shell mass.

Once the overall shape was finished and the handle openings trued I filed the teensy moldings on the faces and fit the shell with its infill block.  The original block was beech but I had maple handy.

One thing is for sure, this is a hopelessly inefficient way of doing things.  Once I get done with this proof-of-concept model I will make the patterns needed to cast this thing in the foundry.

Behold, The Peacock Feather Cometh!

After months of anticipation and labors the time had come for my friend and protégé Daniela to come and paint the peacock feather(s) on the chairs I was constructing for clients and for the documentary video we were shooting.   She had painted the peacock feathers for me previously and was able and willing to pitch in again.

We had only a very narrow window of time to work with as it was the weekend of the county fair, which is a VERY big deal in these parts; our county of 2100 people can see crowds twice that for the tractor and truck pulls.  Videographer Chris needed to be at the fair on duty for his day job by 1PM, so Daniela and I set up the night before and were on duty by 8AM on the day of the filming.  Actually she painted a full-scale feather on the back of the chair as a warm-up exercise during the set-up evening (I painted over it subsequently).

It was almost intoxicating watching her slowly build the design with the fine tools, confident eye  and sure hands of a trained decorative painter and conservator.

Fortunately the weather was wonderful so Daniela’s husband and children put in a full day of revelry at the fair while we were hard at work the following day with the cameras running.  Actually Daniela was hard at work, I was just watching her create magic.

And there you have the lovely chairs and the even more lovely lady who helped create them.  She is excited, as am I, to reconnect for the next round of chairs as I intend to include them in my agenda for the foreseeable future.  Daniela, being Daniela, refused my efforts to pay her for these labors but I did persuade her to take about $500 worth of 23k gold leaf home with her.

Daniela’s creative genius was all captured on camera and microphone (I was interviewing her almost the entire time she was working) and will be included in the completed video, which at this point is looking likely to be longer than Roots.