Roubo

Summer Workshops 2015

After long and careful consideration, I have concluded that I simply cannot host any workshops at The Barn this coming summer.  The combination of the Studley book and exhibit, brutal winter aftermath with a mountain of things to do on the homestead, projects that have languished in the studio, and the need to wrap-up Roubo on Furniture Making (almost twice as large as Roubo on Marquetry) leaves me with no time nor energy to dedicate to workshops at the barn.  I had planned on a historic finishing workshop in late June, but that will have to wait until net year.  In September I will host a week-long workbench build for my friends of the Professional Refinishers Group web forum.

This is not to say I will be entering my long anticipated hermit phase.  My presence and teaching elsewhere over the summer will be evident.  Check these out.

Henry O. Studley Tool Cabinet and Workbench exhibit – May 15-17, Cedar Rapids IA

Making New Finishes Look Old – Society of American Period Furniture Makers Mid-Year Conference, June 11-15, Knoxville TN

Gold Leaf and its AnalogsProfessional Refinisher’s Group Groopfest, June 24-26, Pontoon Beach IL

The Henry Studley Book and Exhibit (breakfast banquet address) and Roubo Parquetry (demo workshop) – Woodworking in America 2015, September 25-27, Kansas City MO

 

Polissoir and Beeswax Update 2

We’ve recently debuted a new style of polissoir, based on the one depicted in and described by the accompanying text for Roubo’s Plate 296.  Not too surprising, I have dubbed this the Model 296 polissoir.  The Lie-Nielsen website featured it in their “Tom’s Toolbox” page of episodically available specialty tools.

ccIMG_8004

This polissoir as close the original as we can make it, using full length broom straw bristles and ultra-heavyweight waxed linen cord wrapping to accomplish the overall diameter of somewhere between 1-3/4 and 2 inches.  It is somewhat looser than the woven 2-inch polissoir, but not really enough so that you can sense any difference in how it works.

c296-8-9

This polissoir is available from both The Barn On White Run and Lie-Nielsen Tools for a retail price of $36.  They are also carrying our 1/4-pound hand processed beeswax for $10.

Polissoir and Beeswax Update 1

c polissoir bw5

I am delighted to take note of the recent Gift Catalog from Lee Valley Tools, which I believe offered the Original 1-inch Polissoir from The Barn On White Run, and the accompanying 1/4-pound block of hand processed beeswax.  Yes indeed, our interpretation of Roubo’s finishing magic has gone international, and I am truly appreciative of the vote of confidence from Rob Lee!  I don’t know if it will remain a specialty item for them or migrate into their standard catalog, so check it out.

beeswax block

Their retail prices are the same as mine, $24 for the polissoir and $10 for the block of wax.  So, you now have two sources for the same wonderful products.

Go forth and polish.

Beeswax Mold Success and Production Begins

I unpacked the new silicone rubber mold and wooden pattern for the new beeswax mold, then tried it out with some molten beeswax I had previously processed.  Success!, and I am pleased with the outcome.

cIMG_7321

Production has now begun.  Thus far I have orders for about 300 1/4-pound blocks.  I should be caught up with these orders in less than a month.

If you would like any of this hand processed beeswax, drop me a line at the Contact portal of this site.  The slightly-more-than-a quarter-pound block is $10 plus shipping.  This is the beeswax I use myself when doing Roubo-style finishing, and demonstrate using it in the new video Creating Historic Furniture Finishes that PopWood released a little while ago.

Once the Studley book manuscript is submitted in about a month I will turn my attentions to many new projects, including the creation of new finishing products including pigmented waxes and “Mel’s Wax,” the revolutionary high-performance furniture care product invented in my lab at the Smithsonian.

Mark Your Calendar: French Oak Roubo Project Part Deux (cross post from Benchcrafted)

An announcement from Jameel Abraham at Benchcrafted.

 

The arrangements have been made. Contracts signed. Wood procured. We’ve even struck a deal with the local meteorologist to all but guarantee comfortable weather.

The French Oak Roubo Project will happen again the week of November 8-14, 2015.

We’ve been working out many details over the summer and can say with assurance the following:

1. The original crew will be back. Chris Schwarz, Don Williams, Raney Nelson, Jeff Miller, Ron Brese, Will Myers, and Jon Fiant will all be back. Of course Bo and I will also be there, although I can’t promise you won’t find us fishing in one of Bo’s ponds for lunker bass.

2. We’re making room for more. There are eight benches in Plate 11. Since this is FORP II we’re going to double that. We’ll have 16 spots available for participants. We actually built 16 benches last time around, but this time the original crew will work on everyone’s benches, in the hopes of getting more accomplished during the week.

3. Another huge bench. Bo complains that one 16′ Plate 11 bench isn’t enough (some people!) So we’ll try to build another one for him while we’re there. We had loads of fun getting Bo’s bench put together last time. Lowering the top onto the base with the fork truck was thrilling on the last day. I want to duplicate that.

4. Schwarz will talk Sunday night during a meet and greet about bench history, the art of the green bean casserole, and how to live without a modern sewage system. There will be refreshments (no casseroles though.)

5. Lunch. Catered lunch everyday from a local chef who studied in France and at the CIA (the other CIA.) Some of you might end up staying at her B&B. Excellent. We may also break out the grills in the evening if we feel up to it.

6. Hardware from Benchcrafted, Lake Erie Toolworks, and Peter Ross. Same as last time.

7. Personalized letterpress labels from Wesley Tanner

8. Pig Candy.

As for price, it will be a little more. Some of our costs have gone up in the past couple years. It won’t be a deal breaker for anyone, promise.

We’ll open registration on Tuesday, September 2 at 10am CST (we’ll do a blog post then to announce.) To register you’ll simply send an email to jameel@benchcrafted.com saying “I’m in” and we’ll send you all the nitty gritty. To be fair, it will be first-come, first-served only.

 

Parquetry Workshop Day 3

The day began with the excitement of seeing the glued-up panels.   We had slightly oversized 1/2 baltic birch plywood for each of the panels so that they could be trimmed precisely to size one the project is complete.

cIMG_6359

The first step to getting finished from this point was to moisten and peel off the kraft paper that served as the support for the assembling of the pattern, banding, and border.

cIMG_6360

It was a delicate balancing act, moistening the surface enough to remove the glued-down paper, but not so wet as to lift the veneers.  Once the paper is removed begins the tiresome task of dampening and scraping off all the glue left behind.

cIMG_6369

A quick stint on front of the fan to dry them, and then we brought out the toothing planes, scrapers, and small planes to get everything flat and smooth.

cIMG_6371

The conditions of the panels,

cIMG_6367

cIMG_6377

cIMG_6378

and the floor indicated we were making great progress.

cIMG_6380

In a normal 3-day parquetry workshop this would have been the final process,

cIMG_6379

but these guys were working so efficiently we made it all the way through a finished project by the time they left.

cIMG_6393

Using one of my panels, I demonstrated the simplest finishing approach to the parquetry, and they charged ahead.

cIMG_6404

Burnishing with polissoirs came next,

cIMG_6399

and then the molten wax treatment for the final finish.  The wax was first dripped on the surface, then trowelled around with the tacking iron.  Again it was important to use the iron delicately to melt the wax enough to impregnate the surface, but not to heat the surface enough to lift the veneer.

cIMG_6412

Once the surface was fully impregnated the panel was set aside to let cool and harden, then the excess was scraped off,

cIMG_6417

and the remaining surface was buffed with a linen rag.

cIMG_6422

The results were eye popping, and demonstrated what can be done with very little wood in a short while.  If you snoozed on this one, you loozed.  Joe and Joshua now possess another important tool for their design and fabrication toolkit for the future, and when they get home they both plan to trim their panels and build a small table around them.

Great job, guys!

My Main Roubo Bench (for now…)

cIMG_6082

This was my first Roubo bench, built from leftover timbers that were part of the original barn in Illinois. It’s been several years since I built it, and I never really did get the top finished all proper. Now it is.  Using my scrub plane on opposite diagonals I got it pretty darned flat. At that point I slathered it with some of the Schwarz bench varnish of 1/3 polyurinate, 1/3 tung oil, and 1/3 turpentine. I did it at this point because two of the timbers turned out to be eastern white pine and were a bit soft compared to the southern yellow pine; I hoped the softer timbers would be firmed up by impregnating them with the varnish. They did, but only after a week or so, which was way longer than I was willing to wait.

cIMG_6069

I followed the scrub plane on the varnished top with a toothing plane, on opposing diagonals again, checking to make sure everything remained flat. I prefer the tightly checkered surface of the toothed top as it grabs the work piece a little better than a smooth surface.

cIMG_6083

In the years since fabrication the entire unit has twisted a tiny bit, so I have a thin shim underneath one of the legs to keep it from rocking.

cIMG_6086

I have not installed a leg vise, even though I have a vintage one ready to use. I’m just trying to see how long I can keep on using the bench as is, with my workpiece-holding functions solely with holdfasts.

Above the bench I finally built racks to hold a multitude of tools, mostly files, and am hanging saws and the like off the joists with nails.

cIMG_6156

No doubt this may soon be supplanted by the group of in-process benches in line awaiting my ministrations, including a 5″ solid maple top with white oak legs bench; my French Oak Roubo Project bench, which is slowly being uncovered by the ongoing archaeology within the barn; a pair of Roubo benches also made from salvaged barn timbers (although I am almost certain to hang an Emmert K1 off one of them); a mahogany slab and black walnut legs Roubo bench (I was originally going to use this for a Studley bench, but have now decided to build a Studley bench the way Studley built it instead), and finally the true Studley bench.

I’m thinking I may need to install some of my existing or future benches up on the fourth floor.  That’ll take a passel of stout guys even with a compound block-and-tackle.

Parquetry Tutorial – The Basic Tool Kit

ccDSC00552

One of the beauties of parquetry, aside from its, well, beauty, is that it is a decidedly simple process requiring only a few tools to get started.

When we gather for the workshop at The Barn in less than a fortnight each student will need only a few tools, none of them exotic or impossible to find or purchase or even make.

These are not presented in any order of importance.

cIMG_6091

1. Small back saw

The first tool needed is a small dovetail-type saw, used to cut the already fashioned veneer strips into equilateral parallelograms.  Almost any kind of small back saw that cuts cleanly will do.

cIMG_6095

2. 30-60-90 triangle

Since this type of parquetry is based on the 60-120 degree equilateral parallelogram, a 30-60-90 triangle is required.  A decent quality plastic one from the big box store works just fine.  Or you could do what I do and just pick them up at yards sales for a quarter apiece.  That does sorta explain why I have a whole drawer full of them…

3. Bevel Gauge

To both prepare the sawing jig and the layout of the veneer panel, a bevel gauge is needed.  In the preparation of the sawing guide it is the fence against which you ride the back saw for establishing the initial kerf.  As long as the blade of the gauge is straight and the locking nut locks, you are good to go.

cIMG_6098

4. Straightedge/ruler

In order to assemble the parquetry pattern properly you have to establish the greater and lesser axes so you know how to assemble the pieces on the kraft paper backing.  The straight edge makes this an easy task, especially if it is a ruled bar used in concert with the aforementioned triangle.

cIMG_6103

5. Utility knife

Many times  in the course of a project you need to cut or trim something, so some sort of utility knife is called for.  Equally applicable would be a straight ship carving knife.

6. Cutting gauge

If you are including banded inlay into your composition, a cutting gauge (pictured next to the blue utility knife) is useful for establishing the edges of the channels into which the banding will be glued.

cIMG_6096

7.  Veneer saw

For finishing the edges edges of the marquetry panel, or establishing the channels for the banded inlay, and marquetry saw is a godsend.  I show three different iterations; on the left is an “English” style, the center one is I believe of German heritage — both of these saws cut on both the push and pull stroke — and the one on the right is Japanese, hence cuts only on the pull stroke.  I have tried but do not yet own the new design from Gramercy Tools, but it is superb.  Since much of my future work will be parquetry, I will order one.

8. Small bench chisel

To clean out the channels for the banded inlay.

cIMG_6092

9. Toothing plane or analogue

When the parquetry panel is assembled and applied to the substrate, it will be neither flat nor smooth.  A toothing plane will accomplish the former.   I have about ten, but if you don’t have one you can make either a low-tech block toother or a squeegee-style toother, both of which employ hack saw blades.

cIMG_6101

10. Block plane or similar

Often the parallelogram lozenges need just a touch along an edge to make it fit perfectly, and the sharp block plane is just the tool.  Later on, you will need the block plane to follow the toother in the finishing.

cIMG_6099

11. Scraper

The final step of smoothing is done with a scraper.  Whether you use a card scraper or a block scraper is immaterial, all that counts is that it be cutting nicely and leaves a perfect surface.

cIMG_6097

12. Miscellaneous tools

I always like to have a pair of tweezers laying in the vicinity, and a bunch of metal-headed thumb pins, to tack down the banding while the glue set.

That’s pretty much all you need tool-wise to get started.  Next time I’ll talk about making and using the sawing and planing jigs.

===================================

If spending a weekend in Virginia’s Little Switzerland making a parquetry panel sounds like fun, drop me a line and sign up for the class.  It is  a week from Friday-Sunday.

 

 

Historic Transparent Finishes – The Rough Cut

cIMG_5771

I recently watched and approved the low resolution rough cut for my soon-to-be-released video, “Historic Transparent Finishes” (or is it “Transparent Historic Finishes?”  I can never remember).  Anyway, David Thiel and Rick Deliantoni of F&W Productions (The Popular Woodworking video folks) did a good job of capturing the action.  If nothing else, we were efficient.  As I recall, we shot about fours hours of video, and the rough cut is just under 3-1/2 hours long.

cIMG_5782

Here are a few snapshots of the computer screen from the video.

cIMG_5773

Not too surprisingly to anyone who knows my interests, the video will revolve around shellac finishes and wax finishes, including all the old favorites like polissoirs, brushing shellac, “French” polishing, and such.

cIMG_5772

The outline for this video, in fact the outline for almost everything finish-related that I do, is “Don’s Six Rules for Perfect Finishing.

I think I might show it to the participants for the upcoming Professional Refinishers Group retreat at the barn in three weeks.

That’s another thing I can check off the list.

Jonathan’s Wit

One of the great things about woodworking is the people you get to befriend, and I say this as someone who is not by natural inclination a “people person.”  As the son of a pastor I became reasonably adept at social interaction, but I am entirely comfortable being alone, perhaps too much so.  So many of our cohort are truly gifted thinkers, seers, and solvers.  Many are even pretty good company!

cIMG_5706

One terrific fellow and gifted designer and maker who fits this description is Jonathan Szczepanski, who lives and works in the Maryland suburbs of DC.  Jonathan is one of the moving forces behind the SAPFM Chesapeake Chapter, and at yesterday’s meeting he presented Michele and me with these t-shirts of his design.

Untitled-1 copy

 

If you find them as amusing as I do and want to “Roll with Roubo”, Jonathan has them posted for availability at CafePress.  It has become one of the treasures of my wardrobe, I tell you.  Fortunately, like Jonathan’s Roubo I am a total hipster.