Gap-Filling Flexible Adhesives

My friend Joshua Klein reminded me about this youtube.com version of my presentation on “Gap-Filling and Flexible Adhesives for Wood” I made at the Getty Conservation Institute in LA.

It’s not bad.

The paper itself is on my Writings page here.

Polissoir Line-up Now Complete

On Wednesday I got the first production run of the three new models of polissoirs that have been in development for many months. Here is a picture of the whole team, with the original polissoir on the left.


Next to the Original model is the new, Full-Sized Roubo Model polissoir, a full 2-inches in diameter as Roubo first described.  It is definitely a handfull.  You can get an idea of the comparative size by viewing the 2-inch in my mitt, and the 1-inch in the same place.



The third player in the line-up is the polissoir made especially for burnishing intricate high-relief carving.  This 1-inch diameter polissoir has 1-inch long bristles from the raw end of the broom straw stalk.  I was so enamored with my prototype that I ordered these to include in my inventory, rather than just keeping the prototype in my tool box as a whim.  With these new polissoirs I found it simple to trim and shape the tip to any desired profile with a pair of scissors.  I like to round them a bit more than they are when they arrive.

The final addition, the polissoir on the right, is identical to the Original model on the left except that it has bristles of 1/4″ length rather than 1/8″.  This innovation allows you to sculpt the business end to whatever configuration you want.  I find this model especially useful for burnishing the insides of concave surfaces and the corners of panels.



The first step for this is to submerge the tip into molten beeswax until it is fully saturated then withdraw it and allow it to cool.


Once the wax is cool and hard you can shape it however you want with chisels and a float.  Using images of my prototype, you can see the domed tip, for burnishing the insides of concave surfaces, or the flat square tip for getting into the corners of panels.



Until The Barn store is up and running, which I think will be very, very soon as I sent Jason one last piece of information for the Shopping Cart this morning, you can order these direct from my with PayPal at my donsbarn250@msn.com eddress.

The two new 1-inch models are $24 like the Original, and the full sized 2-inch unit is $42.  Just let me know if you want The Original, the Full-Sized, the Carver’s Polissoir, or the 1/4″ Bristle Polissoir.  shipping per order is usually about $4-5, double that if overseas.

I think these would make a great belated Valentine’s Day gift, don’t you?



A (well-deserved?) Delightful Diversion


For a moment, think about that ten-page term paper you had to write in high school, agonizingly struggling to finish the assigned task.  Now multiply that ten-page paper by a factor of eighty-two, combined with transforming that much of some old French guy’s arcane verbiage into comprehensible English and you know what it is like to spend days on end working with Roubo.  It is not agonizing — to the great contrary – but it is grueling.


Combine that with a bitterly cold winter (for these parts) and the ongoing chore of relocating after three decades in the same house without ever systematically winnowing the papers residing in multiple file cabinets and dozens of bookcases, and you get some idea why I rewarded myself this afternoon with a delightful diversion — formatting and massaging the manuscript for Virtuoso: the Tool Cabinet and Workbench of Henry O. Studley.  No less arduous than Roubo, but certainly a welcomed change of pace.

studley chart

For the sheer fun of it, I spent several hours creating the tool inventory for the cabinet, merging the notes I dictated to Chris during my examination of all the tools individually during our research and photographic forays with Narayan’s exquisite photographs.  Sometimes I just stopped to stare a the screen, to relive the moments past.  It was and is unbelievably cool.

Shellac Archive Update — Shellac: A Story of Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow

While shellac may not strike you as a fanciful subject for a whimsical account with a surprising amount of good information, Elizabeth Brownell Crandall did not share your limited vision.  Her charming 1924 little volume, “Shellac: A Story of Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow” is a delightful read that is a treasured piece of my archive.


Finisher’s Retreat Weekend for SAPFM-VA Chapter


One of the things I have enjoyed hosting in the past is a Finisher’s Retreat Weekend for the two regional chapters of the Society of American Period Furniture Makers in which I am involved, the Chesapeake Chapter and the Virginia Chapter.


The plan is for about a dozen participants to bring one of those projects they have been building all winter to The Barn for a weekend of fellowship and hands-on traditional finishing.  There aren’t really any presentations or lessons, it’s just the crew of us working together to move forward with the most important part of the project!  I’m joined by my long time friend Dave Reeves who is a wonderful finisher to help us navigate the path to beautiful finishing as he will be demonstrating and providing hands-on instruction in pad polishing while I concentrate on burnishing and brushing.


This year it’s the Virginia Chapter’s turn, and we will be gathering in the mountains for three days of varnishing on May 30 – June 1, 2014.


For more information and registration please contact Bob Mustain at mustainrw@juno.com.  I believe that as with any SAPFM Chapter event, it is open to all SAPFM members nationwide.

Upcoming Workshops – A Week of Plane Making with Tod Herrli

I am especially pleased to announce a week-long hands-on tutorial from renowned plane maker Tod Herrli this coming August.  I was first introduced to Tod when I bought his plane-making video almost fifteen years ago.  It is perhaps the best instructional video I have ever watched on any subject. cpmdisk

The seven days will be split into two interconnected workshops, the first three days (August 11-13) being “Making a Matched Pair of Hollow-and-Round Planes,” with the subsequent four-day session (August 14-17) on “Advanced Side Escapement Plane Making.”

herrli2 flattened

If this interests you, drop me a line.

Sensory Overload vs. Sensory Perception

I am in no way “anti-machine.”  I have them.  I like them, especially the ones that work well (I will write later this week about two old gems rediscovered).  But, I am not bound by them.

Since I am increasingly tool-challenged, or more precisely machine-challenged back here in the burbs while moving more of my capacity to The Barn, I am by necessity turing to alternative processes.  This imposes a certain innovative “simplicity” on my working regimen, causing me to reflect on Chris Schwarz’ accounts of Ghandi-izing his shop through tool divestment (my characterization, not his), which in turn makes me recall (in the pinball machine that is my brain) a comment by a Ghandi lieutenant while the latter was leading the rebellion against the British through his mimicry of an ascetic lifestyle.  The expense of maintaining a phoney simplicity in the midst of a modernizing industrial economy — then and now — was exceedingly expensive, prompting the aide to remark, “If the Mahatma’s life gets any simpler, he may bankrupt the nation.”

That is certainly a roundabout way to introduce the topic of sensory perceptions made possible through the use of simple(?), non-mechanized processes in the shop.  While working by hand (mostly) the window trim in the bedroom, I have mused the following (musings made possible by the ability to put part of the brain in neutral while doing repetitive hand work, whereas machine work requires constant hyper-attention.  You can remove a digit or limb with hand tools, but you have to work at it pretty hard.  With machines?  All it takes is a moment of inattention.)


Consider the following sensory observations.

Aural – when working with machinery, my hearing sense is dulled to almost nothing due to wearing the  protective muffs or ear plugs.  When working by hand, not only is there not the exhausting whine of the machine and the sense of isolation imposed by the protection, you can both enjoy the aural surroundings, like listening to music, podcasts, or simply enjoying the relative silence, there is the added delight of the sound of a well-tuned tool fashioning the wooden component.  Further, these sounds are vital feedback to the work itself.

Touch – When using machines I often wear gloves to keep from picking up splinters.  Not while using the table saw, but certainly in material handling attendant to mass processing.  Even if not wearing the gloves, I get little useful information from my sense of touch while working with machines.  Conversely, my fingertips are a non-stop feedback loop when holding a hand tool.

Smell and Taste – When working by hand, the gentle aromas, or even cloying stink, of the wood is released through the shaving or sawing with sharp tools.  Whether I enjoy these fragrances, I can at least notice them.  With machines, alongside my hearing protection I generally wear respiratory protection because the waste product is fundamentally different and must be dealt with more aggressively.  Ultra fine sanding or power-sawing dust can be aspired efficiently, while a plane shaving requires a lot more effort to breathe in.  Even with a protective particle mask, many an evening after machine work is spend blowing brown goo out of your nose.  I cannot recall any tales of someone needing to evacuate a nice curly shaving from their head orifices, but my experiences are definitely finite.  And the bitter taste of cypress dust in the mouth takes a lot of expectoration to purge from the taste buds.


Sight – A lot of this is the result of the amount of money Blue Cross/Blue Shield and I have invested in my very “at risk” eyeballs.  When using machines, I wrap those puppies behind layers of isolating protection.  Not so much as to obscure my work and make it more dangerous, but certainly enough to remove any sense of visual intimacy.  Further, when using machines I cannot observe the work occurring, I can only observe the result.  By hand?  A totally different game.  I can actually see what is going on, in part because I have a different protective set-up (polycarbonate safety glasses vs. goggles and full coverage face shield), I can observe the edge of the tool on the work piece, and the rate of the work is slow enough to actually observe.

Just some cogitations on a snowy day.

Upcoming Demonstrations at The Highland Maple Festival

The Highland Maple Festival -sugar water drip by Devonia Gutshal Rexrode

One of the annual highlights out in the mountains, well, to be honest THE annual highlight, is the Highland Maple Festival over the two weekends in the middle of March when the maple sap is flowing freely and the county of 2,200 residents is joined by about 50,000 of their closest friends.  In addition to maple buckwheat pancakes and the incomparable maple doughnuts there are lots of craft and art vendors from one end of town to the other.


I will once again be demonstrating old-time woodworking at my pal David Blanchard’s furniture making and restoration shop across the street from the courthouse.  David is also a local elected public official, but I hope and pray he recovers from this wickedness before much longer.


I’ve been demonstrating at David’s for several Festivals, and have not made up my mind about what I will be doing this time.  In the past I have steam bent Gragg chair parts, taught sharpening, assembled parquetry, and cut joinery.


I have the new (since last year) Tod Herrli small window sash plane so I just might make some doors for a cabinet.

herrli2 flattened

So, if you are in the neighborhood, drop by and say high.

Dramatic Reading day 1


This afternoon will be the first time that Michele and I sit down at the dining table and work together in person to simultaneously review completed sections ofTo Make As Perfectly as Possible: Roubo on Furniture Making.  I will conduct the dramatic reading from the completed English manuscript, the sections that have thus far endured nine rounds of translating, editing, and review, while Michele follows along with the original pages from 1774.  Thus far we have 155 pages of manuscript that fit this description.  Our working manuscript is 820 pages long!

This is hardly a whimsical endeavor as we note each and every deviation and correction, which including typographical, syntax, and typesetting notations numbers sometimes in the thousands per chapter.  Afterwards I will enter every correction, before it is ready for Chris Schwarz’ red pen.

Just didn’t want you to think we were slacking.  Even without this, my typical day includes reviews of hundreds of pages of manuscript edits from a half dozen collaborators and reviewers.

Groopstock 8


I am in the final stages of nailing down the details for the upcoming schedule of events at The Barn on White Run and will post a complete schedule in a few days, but I thought you might be interested in the ones that are set in stone.  I’ll post about them in the coming days.


The week of June 23-27, 2014, will be the 8th in-the-flesh assembly of the Professional Refinisher’s Group, a spirited on-line forum of furniture restorers where I have been a participant for more than 10 years.  We have gathered at the barn twice before, along with meetings in Topeka KS, Rosemount MN, and Atlanta over the years.  Participation at what the organizer’s light-heartedly refer to as “DonCamp” is limited to Group members, with lectures, demonstrations, and hands-on programming occurring side-by-side with fellowship and tip-swapping.  In addition to getting your brains crammed with useful information applicable in the shop tomorrow, a highlight is the Thursday night meatfest with me fixing slabs of my scrumptious BBQ ribs and another hearty fellow grilling a passel of handmade brats fresh from Wisconsin.  Lethargy ensues within an hour or so.


For reminiscences of the previous gatherings you can see some things here, more information about joining the forum, which we lovingly call “Groop” you can check it out at their web site, and as the the event itself, drop an email to mail@prgroop.org to find out more.