Roubo

Resawing For Rick

Recently my friend Neal came to the barn to work on building a few shelving units, and his pastor Rick came by for a visit while we were working.  Rick brought two maple boards he needed resawn for the new hammer dulcimer he is making and I volunteered to do it for him.  Using my Tom Fidgen inspired kerfing plane and the Bad Axe frame saw I got to work.

It really was a pleasant experience and a very good workout!

After the resawing I touched up the kerfed surfaces with my Dutch-style scrub plane and returned them.

Eau de Payreee, c.Roubo

Whenever I am working on a project and encounter an impasse I do not stop working, I simply work on something else for a time until I can get back in the groove for the original undertaking.  Such has been the case with A Period Finisher’s Manual, which has turned out to be much more of a grind than I was expecting.  Even when taking a break from APFM and blogging I do not necessarily stop writing, I simply write about something else.  Recently that “something” has been some fiction projects, one being some dalliances into Christological fiction regarding Joshua bar Joseph the young craftsman, and another being a panoramic thriller in which the Paris of Roubo’s time is a prime setting.  In researching that topic I began reading David Garrioch’s The Making of Revolutionary Paris.  Though not especially pertinent (yet) to my story line I found this passage compelling.  In it, Garrioch is describing the city’s odors that blind beggars used for navigational aids.

They cannot see and do not heed the summer sun shining on the tall whitewashed houses that makes the eastbound coachmen squint under their broad-brimmed hats.  Nor do they see the flowers in pots on upper-story window ledges, the washing hanging on long rods projecting from the upper windows, or the colors of the cloth displayed for sale outside the innumerable drapers’ shops in the rue de St-Honore.  But they are sensitive, more than other city dwellers, to the fragrances of apples and pears of many varieties (many that the twentieth century does not know) , of apricots and peaches in season: to the reek of freshwater fish that has been too long out of the water; to the odor of different cheeses — Brie and fresh or dried goat cheese.  The street sellers display these and other  produce on tables wherever there is space to set up a portable stall.  For the blind the smells are signposts, markers not only of the seasons but also of the urban landscape.  They recognize the pervasive sweetness of cherries on the summer air or the garden smell of fresh cabbages in winter, marking the stall of the woman who sells fruits or vegetables at the gateway of the Feuillants monastery in the rue de St-Honore near the Place Vendome.  The aroma of roasting meat from a rotisseur in a familiar street, the smell of stale beer at the door of a tavern, the sudden stench of urine at the entrance of certain narrow alleyways; these are the landmarks by which the sightless navigate.

In the early eighteenth century there was no escape anywhere in Paris from the pungency of horse droppings or the foulness of canine or human excrement.  Like human body odor, it was ever-present but normally unremarked.  Some quarters, though, were distinguished by other, more particular smells.  The central market — les Halles — was unmistakable, with its olfactory cocktails of fruit, vegetables, grain, cheese, and bread.  “It is common knowledge,” wrote an eighteenth century critic, that “the whole quarter of the Halles is inconvenienced by the fetid odor of the herb market and the fish market: add to that the excrement, and the steaming sweat of an infinite number of bests of burden.”  Even when the market was over the odors lingered.  The stink of fish bathed the arc of streets from the rue de la Cossonnerie to the rue de Montorgueil and St-Eustache.  To the south, rotting herbs and vegetables polluted rue de la Langerie, th rue St-Honore, the rue aux Fers.  Worse exhalations rose from the neighboring Cimetiere des Innocents, from the huge pits where only a sprinkling of lime covered a top layer of bodies already beginning to decompose.  In the summer only the hardiest inhabitants overlooking the cemetery dared open their windows.

Other neighborhoods had different smells to contend with.  Around the river end of the rue St-Denis were streets here the passers-by were overwhelmed by the smell or drying blood: “it cakes under your feet, and your shoes are red.”  The beasts once killed, the tallow-melting houses near the slaughterhouses produced even fouler and more pervasive odor.  Through the archway under the Grand Chatelet prison and along the quais of the city center the air was heavy (especially in the summer) from the effluent of the great sewers that oozed into the Seine between the Pont Notre-Dame and the Pont-au-Change.  Even in the otherwise pleasant gardens of the Tuileries, a witness tells us, “the terraces .. become unapproachable because of the stink that came from them … .  All the city’s defecators lined up beneath the yew hedge and relieved themselves.”

Ahh, Paris, the city of romance.

Cleaning A Brazed/Soldered Joint (Making Roubo Squares sidebar)

I use some version of the following techniques for cleaning the interior corners of a soldered/brazed joint such as that created at the shoe-and-beam joint for the Roubo squares.  If my brazing technique is on its game this only takes a couple minutes from start to finish.  If not, more minutes.  Actually, were I a better metalsmith there would be no cleanup at all, but this is the kind of joint I usually have after the torch work.

My first step is to clean the excess solder with a half-round Vixen file, which is the metalworking version of a float.  I lay the flat side of the file down flat on the workpiece and press the edge between the flat and half-round sides into the joint to remove any excess.  Then I repeat it on the other flat face.

Once any excess solder is cleaned off I strike the joint with a diamond shaped burin, or engraver, to establish a nice clean corner.  The spatial circumstance of the task does not allow for me to hold the burin properly, I just hold it sorta like a paring chisel.

Finally I find the halfway angle for a triangle fie and undercut the joint ever so slightly for an elegantly clean look.

After that I’ve got a nice surface ready for polishing with a light abrasive to make it finished.  Once I get the edges finished this one will be ready to go.

Making Roubo Squares – Day 3

 

Day 3 was almost entirely a continuation of Day 2, bringing the squares closer to completion.  It was pretty insistent that each student had at least one square all the way done to guide them once they got back home.  I’m pretty sure each of them headed hme with at least a couple finished.

There was a little sawing as the shoes were trimmed as necessary following their brazing.

The sounds of filing and sanding permeated the air as squares were trued, followed by the gentler sanding with finer paper in getting the surfaces polished to the point of being “done.”

As we continued our work we were able to reflect on a grand time of fellowship and learning.

Thanks for a great workshop, gentlemen.  Counting my own projects, I think the grand total for the weekend was 30 squares, eight or nine triangles, and several pounds of scraps and filings.

Now it’s time to turn my attentions to this month’s workshop on Historic Finishing.

Making Roubo Squares – Day 2

By the start of the second day everyone’s trains were barreling down the tracks and all we had to do was keep on keeping on.   Even as I entered the barn the sounds of sawing, filing, and sanding filled the air.

I had given each of the students one of these DARPA funded, MIT developed tools to work on the ogee tips at either end of the squares.  One side was flat and the other was round, and when wrapped with sandpaper the tool was perfect for the task of finishing the shape.  The uninitiated might think these were simply a 3/8″ dowel split in half on the bandsaw, but they would be properly ignorant of the national security dark technology pedigree of the tool.

Pretty soon the tips were more-or-less derived.

One procedure that was replicated perhaps a hundred times that day was returning to the abrasive covered granite blocks to bring the squares closer to “true,” a process that would be continued until after the torch work and the “square-ness” was perfected versus the Vesper final word square.

Len was the first to get the brilliant idea of creating a 30-60-90 triangle from the remaining scrap of rectangular brass plate left over from the four nested squares.  Using my older version of the Knew Concepts Mark III saw he set to work and soon had the inside design cut out.

Meanwhile Dave, John and Pete got their tips shaped and polished.

Len finished the interior of the piercing of the triangle.

All the while the pile of brass filings and shavings built up at every work station.  This continued until the very end and we compiled an impressive pile of scraps and waste filings, I’d estimate somewhere around five pounds worth.

All of this was prelude for the tasks presented after lunch as the shoes for the beams were brazed in place with silver containing solder.  Once the mating surfaces were perfected it was time to move to the torch work stations.

The set-up was designed for efficient and safe torch work.  I will blog about making a perfect set-up for bench top brazing in the next couple of weeks.

Fortunately I had all the things I needed on hand; fire bricks, kiln shelves to use as brazing platforms, and inexpensive lazy susan bearings so each place could turn.  I placed three work stations on top of cement backer board from a home improvement center.  For this project it was important to isolate the workpieces from the shelf and the bricks as much as possible to reduce the amount of heat loss from direct contact during the brazing.  That is why the work pieces are raised up from the shelf by two small pieces of scrap brass.

After slathering on the flux to the contact edge of the square it was placed on the horizontally situated shoe, in the center.  Then the torch was lit and the heat turned up.  We were using both propane and MAPP torches, the first was fine and the second faster.

Once the assemblage was heated up and the brass began to get a coppery tone it was time to simply flow the coiled solder into the back side of the joint and let the heat draw it underneath the joint toward the flame.

Dave gave the quenched joint a fierce testing, and was impressed at the strength of it.

Then everyone set to brazing on the bases of their respective squares, then began the cleaning up process.

And that’s how we spent the rest of Day 2.

Making Roubo Squares – Day 1

Last week I hosted a workshop that reflected my peculiarities as a craftsman, a woodworker who loves metal work.  Four skilled craftsmen, Dave, John, Len, and Pete joined me for three terrific days of fellowship and making.  In this case making a nested set of Roubo-esque solid brass squares a la Plate 308, Figure 2.

The starting point for the three days was a 9″x12″x1/8″ brass plate.

Using my puny table saw and sled with a waste block to reduce the shrapnel, everyone cut a series of descending size squares.

After the table saw cuts, stopped to avoid over-cutting at the intersection of the inner edges, the cuts were finished with deep-throat fret saws and #6 jeweler’s blades which I provided.   Pete had his wondrous Knew Concepts coping saw that worked like a charm.

And then the filing began.  To protect the inner corner of the squares we ground off one edge of the mill files that everyone brought, starting with the disc sander followed by a diamond stone.  This allowed for pretty aggressive work in the corners.

The filing was done on both inside corners of the cut squares and the outside corners of the remaining rectangles in preparation for cutting out the next smaller square, followed by truing on sandpaper over a granite block.  (You can see the sublime Vesper square that was our “final word” truing reference for the workshop.)

This scene pretty much sums up the whole day.  I was working right alongside the students making another set of the squares.  I find this approach works best for the students to see me working on the same exact project, several times they came to look over my shoulder at some point in the day.

Before long everyone had their four rough squares ready for the next step, which was to trace and cut the offset/stepped ogees on each end.  The small rectangle of brass remaining from the first four squares could be used later for a petite pair of squares and a couple of 30-60-90 triangles.

These were roughed out on the bandsaw, ready for filing the rest of the way.

That’s where we were at the end of the first day.

Stay tuned for Day 2.

Test Driving the Shoulder Knife Workshop

A few weeks ago my friend B came for a couple days to test drive the shoulder knife making workshop that will be at The Barn later this summer (August 23/24).   We had a great time of visiting while he was working on a natural branch from a fallen tree, cleaning it up an fitting it to his torso for use as a marqueteur’s shoulder knife.

He made great progress and we are anxious for the real event in a couple months.  If you would like to come and make a shoulder knife for yourself, just drop me a line.

As for my current activities I have been busying myself getting ready for the students arriving for the Make A Set of Roubo Squares workshop later this week.

Workshop Teaser – Cutting and Soldering the Shoes on Roubo Squares

After the blade-and-beam are prepped and trued with the reference square from Chris Vesper I cut and shaped the shoe being soldered to the outer edge of the beam.

Then I prepped the surfaces themselves by cleaning them with 400 grit abrasive paper, and placed them together with flux in the contact of the joint.  The square was held in place simply by placing it between two fire bricks.

A propane torch and some wire solder finished the task.

A little clean-up and the square was ready to get to work.  Now do that several more times and you have a nested set.

This workshop will be June 20-22, 2019

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Other workshops at the Barn this summer are:

Historic Finishing

Make A Roubo Shoulder Knife

Make A Ripple Molding Machine

Juncus Popping Up All Over!

A couple weeks ago as we were driving up the road to the cabin, (our road cuts through a few pastures along its way, so there are literally times we have to wait for the cattle to move aside) Mrs. Barn remarked that there were clumps of Juncus effusus grass popping up in the fields.  I asked around, and it turns out that it is considered a noxious invasive in these parts, spreading in many pastures but inedible by the cattle, or at least not preferred.  So I am delighted that there will be dozens of Juncus bundles of new polissoir stock in a couple months, and our local cattleman will be pleased to have me cut it down.

For those who like me have been bitten by the polissoirs bug I will be harvesting then hand-making polissoirs for sale come this fall.  They will be identically configured to the Model 296.  My broom-maker is not set up to make these, he is set up only for working with the sorghum straw.  Juncus is simply too different from sorghum, most especially in that sorghum compresses comparatively little when bound whereas Juncus compresses about 60-70% during the binding.

Some Juncus left over from my last harvest. I will use this to improve my manufacturing technique.

They will be labor intensive and thus pricey, but if you gotta have one, I’m your guy.  They will be, quite literally, as close to what Roubo described as I can get without a Time Machine.  These are not better nor worse than my other polissoirs, they are just different.

 

A Juncus polissoir.

 

Workshop Teaser – Truing Roubo’s Square

The upper piece is straight off the table saw, and the lower piece has been prepped with a file and abrasive paper.

Once the main body of the square is cut out and the ends shaped it is time to “true” the outside edges.  There will be several opportunities to fine tune the squareness as we go along, but the first thing is to get those outer edges true.  This provides a couple of functions.  First it establishes the square-ness of the tool overall, and prepares the edge for the soldering of the shoe.

The main tools for this process are a clean, new-ish mill file and a granite block festooned with an abrasive belt.  The objective is to both stablish one surface (the beam) amenable to soldering and one (the bade) that is perfectly square to the first one.  Truing the inside edges comes later.

For this task my reference is one of Chris Vesper’s incomparable squares.  I had let him know what I was needing and he prepared one for me with a run-out of only 0.0002″ over the length of the blade.   If you need something more square than that, you are not a woodworker.  You are a jet engine mechanic.