Roubo

WW18thC 2018 – Rediscovering Roubo

The first of my two WW18thC presentations was “Roubo Rediscovered – Merging 1760s Paris with the 21st Century” in which I recounted the nuggets gleaned from The Roubo Translation Project and how I have incorporated them into my current work practices.  Not too surprisingly this is a topic on which I could speak and demonstrate literally for days, but I packed as much as I could in 90 minutes.

I began as almost always within this framework by giving my benches-and-holdfast sermon,

followed by demonstrations of Roubo’s veneer sawing bench with some audience participation,

winding-sticks-on-stilts,

the coopering cradle, a vital clamping component in the world of serpentine and bombe’ furniture,

panel clamping jigs,

mobile bench-top press, this one made by Oldwolf (can you say Moxon vise?),

and finally ripple molding cutter my friend and collaborator JohnH.

Each of these items will be addressed individually in coming blog posts.  The overal; topic of Roubo’s Workshop is a huge one and I am outlining an extensive video series to explore it in depth (more about that later this week).

My thanks to JohnR for pictures of this presentation.  I would have taken them myself but I was busy at the time.

Barn Workshop – Build A Classic Workbench

And speaking of workbenches, you’ll have the opportunity to work with me at The Barn building your own version of either a basic Roubo or Nicholson bench in Southern Yellow Pine.  Thanks to my adapting David Barron’s innovative system for building laminated Roubo benches, and the elegant simplicity of the Nicholson bench, you can arrive empty handed (except for your tools) on Monday and depart at the end of the week with a bench fully ready to go.  The only likely hindrance to this outcome is if you spend too much time simply looking at the mountain vista on the horizon.

The finished bench does not include holdfasts or vise mechanisms; if you want those you can supply your own or I can order them for you separately.  And if you prefer a 5-1/2″ slab for the Roubo bench rather than the 3-3/4″ slab, there will be an additional $100 materials fee.

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

The complete 2018 Barn workshop schedule:

Historic Finishing  April 26-28, $375

Making A Petite Dovetail Saw June 8-10, $400

Boullework Marquetry  July 13-15, $375

Knotwork Banding Inlay  August 10-12, $375

Build A Classic Workbench  September 3-7, $950

contact me here if you are interested in any of these workshops.

Building Bench #18 – III

With the bench “assembled” I turned it over halfway and rough trimmed the bottoms of the legs. Even though I was handling it by myself, wrestling with a 350-pound behemoth is fairly straightforward if I am careful and make sure I am actually handling half or less of the total weight, which is the case if I am rolling or spinning it.  With the legs cut to rough length I rolled it the rest of the way over so I could work on flattening the top for a couple of hours.

With the bench on its feet, but on a rolling cart so I could move it easily,  I set about to installing the planing stop I had already glued up.  I planed it such that the fit was very tight, counting on a few humidity cycles to induce ccompression fit on both the stop and the mortise in which it resides in the hopes of establishing a nice firm fit in the end.  I’d wanted to put a full width (of the block) toothed tip on the stop but I did not have the piece of scrap steel in the drawer that could suffice so I just used what I had.  I filed the teeth, drilled and countersunk the holes for some honkin’ big screws and assembled the stop.  I also excavated the top of the bench so the entire assembly is flush.

photo courtesy of J. Rowe

photo courtesy of J. Hurn

With that I cut and affixed temporary(?) stretchers to the legs to support the shelf, Kreg screw style (without the Kreg jig), which on a decently built Roubo or Nicholson bench is the only functional purpose for stretchers.  If mortised stretchers are needed to stabilize the bench structure, it wasn’t built well enough.  Using scraps from the pile I cut and laid the shelf boards and attached the vise and for now, it was done.  Come summer I will flatten the top again and call it quits.  As it was the bench served my needs perfectly in Williamsburg to give me both a perfectly functioning work station and a focus for my sermon on workbenches and holdfasts,

Building Bench #18 – II

While the glue for the laminated slab was setting I turned my attention to the legs and their integral tenons.  As in previous efforts the three laminae of the leg are glued up with the center lamina off-set from the outer two by a distance equal to the thickness of the slab plus a smidge, using decking screws and fender washers as the clamping mechanism.  These are removed after they have done their duty.

If I did my layout and glue-up of the top slab correctly, and cut the dovetail pins accurately on the tops of the legs,  the double tenons are a perfect fit for the mortises already created in the top slab so all that is needed to put them together is a gentle tap to drive them home.  Since the bottoms of the legs need to be trimmed to matching lengths ex poste the protruding excess is no bother to me.

Before I do that, however, I de-clamp the slab after letting it sit overnight and spend an hour or so getting the underside flat enough to seat the legs evenly.  I do not care about the underside being smooth, merely flat.  A sharp scrub plane and fore plane make short work of it, as I said it was a little over an hour to get it to an acceptable point.

For this bench I did something I had not done before and remain unsure as to whether I would do it again.  Since I was installing a vintage screw and nut from my stash I decided to inset the nut into the back side of the front left leg, where the leg vise would be installed since I am right handed (if you are left handed it goes at the other end).  Doing this was no particular bother but I am unconvinced of its efficacy or necessity.  I also cut the through-mortise on the lower leg for the pin bar of the movable chop/jaw.

Before long I was assembling the bench and as you can see the space was ridiculously tight with not only this bench but two ripple molding machines being tuned up for the conference.  Since this is the only heated working space I have, everything that needed to be worked on for WW18thC was there.  It got to be pretty chaotic for a while.  I am not particularly tidy as a workman and that shortcoming becomes really evident at times like this.

At this point the bench was assembled and I was at the 12-hour mark for the project.

Building Bench #18 – I

Once I realized I needed to make another Roubo bench for WW18thC, my sixth or seventh such tool, I began with a selection of SYP 2×12 framing lumber stacked underneath the lathe.  (Calling it my 18th bench includes a small number f no-account benches, for honest-to-goodness furniture making or repairing workbenches the real number is probably 13).   I ripped in half as much material as I needed to make the bench and legs and loaded the ripped lumber into the truck to cart downstairs to the planer.

After running it through the 10″ Ryobi planer to get clean surfaces on both sides (although I will have to set aside some time to address the snipe issue, which seems to be getting worse.  Go figure, I’ve only been using it hard for thirty years. Or, here’s a thought, run some new wiring down to the machine room/foundry so I can hook up my Mini-Max 15″ planer/joiner that has zero snipe) and then carting back up the the main floor I set them out spaced in my barely heated shop for a few days to equilibrate.

After spreading some plastic on the bench I glued up the core laminae using yellow glue to skirt any temperature issues.  Previously with 3-3/4″ stock I assembled the bench tops in two pieces so I could run them through the planer once assembled, but since this was 5-1/2″ stock I was going to have to plane everything entirely by hand.  No, I was not going to be slinging these slabs around to feed them through a planer.

 

I had not yet finished fabricating Roub0’s panel clamps, which could be scaled-up to work perfectly for this process, so I wound up using practically every clamp I had of this size to get things glued.

The next day I came back to glued up the outer laminae with the mortises, using 5″ decking screws as the clamps.  The resulting slab was right at the wight limit I could handle by myself.

Bowsaws, The Next Frontier

While visiting Mark Harrell recently our conversation returned to a topic we had engaged in previously, namely that of the repertoire of saws in an 18th century Parisian workshop.  Whatever they had, Mark wants to try to make it.

The literary evidence is pretty clear that the workhorse saws in these shops were frame saws for much of the heavy dimensioning (ripping) work and bow saws for the rest, including joinery.  (Roubo makes no references to back saws)  We might tend to see bow saws as a northern implement, coming from Scandinavian and Germanic traditions, but Roubo places inordinate emphasis on their use and utility in the Paris of his time.

The variations within this theme are many, but at present I am trying to brainstorm about adapting Roubo’s images and descriptions to the tasks of a workshop in 2018.  I am starting from the premise that the saw plate Mark developed for the frame saw should serve equally well in a bow saw with the plate fixed parallel to the plane of the frame.  With that in mind I have been noodling the designs and begun replicating at least one of a pair of Roubo bowsaws (the other being a compass or “turning” saw, so noted as having a shallow blade that can both follow a curved cut and be rotated in the bow handle for greater facility) in time for demonstrating at CW next week.

Hoping for success.  Wish me luck.

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.

A Juncus Polissoir – I

The polissoirs I commission from a local craft-broom-maker employ the materials with which he normally works, namely broom straw (sorghum) and nylon twine, with woven outer sheaths.  It makes perfect sense given the scale that Polissoir, Inc. has become; he needs to use materials and techniques with which he is familiar and facile, and for which he has (for the moment) a sorta-reliable supply of raw materials.

The only variance from this is the Model 296 polissoir first commissioned by Thomas Lie-Nielsen for sale through his enterprise.  In this version, made as close to the original description in L’art du Menuisier as is practicable, the outer sheath is a wrapped linen cord rather than woven sorghum.

In reviewing the sorghum polissoirs (and To Make As Perfectly As Possible) marqueteur Yannick Chastang chided me for mis-identifying the fibers used in traditional polissoirs, asserting that the genuine article used a wetlands rush rather than sorghum, and that sorghum broom straw was an inferior material for polissoirs.   The first point is certainly a fair one, the second is a judgement/preference call I will discuss in a subsequent post.  It’s like saying a Ruger 10/22 rifle is superior to a Smith and Wesson .50 caliber revolver.  It depends on what you are trying to accomplish with the tool.

In the original text, Roubo uses the term “de jonc ordinaire” (common rush; the connection of “de jonc” to “Juncus” is not a great leap) for the plant fiber used in polissoirs.  Our dealing with that term highlights the difficulties of a translation project (and explains the reason this is a very slow writing process), especially when the primary meaning of words mutates over time.  Although French was probably the first codified modern language, it has changed little in the past three or four centuries, the hierarchy of definitions for words has definitely shifted.  Words for which the first definition might be XYZ in one time period might find definition WYZ to be the second, third, or even eighth-ranked definition in an earlier or later dictionary.  This is a struggle Michele, Philippe, and I wrestle with continually as we work our way through the original treatise.  Dictionaries roughly contemporaneous to Roubo declare that the word “de jonc” can mean reed, rush, straw, grass, hay and several other definitions I cannot recall at the moment.  But Yannick’s assertion that I chose the wrong word in English based on my editorial discretion is certainly not unfair.

With that idea in mind, I set out to explore the topic more fully.  One problem, though, resides in the question, “Which Juncus?”  After all, this is a huge genus consisting of several hundred species.

And, where would I find it?

Stay tuned.

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.