Writings

PopWood Twofer — Blessing and Curse

I’ve been a reader of Popular Woodworking for several years, and in recent times have enjoyed a very congenial working relationship with them.  I just got the latest PW Issue 218, which is a terrific and not just because I have two things in it.  There are several great articles including the cover project and a long insert.

cIMG_0045

The magazine features my article on decorative wire inlay (bisected by the aforementioned insert) and the End Grain column about the Studley Tool Cabinet that ran on the Popular Woodworking web site a few days ago.

cIMG_0046

Mrs. Barn glanced through the issue and said, “Very nice article. (I think she was talking about the Studley piece — DCW)  But when are you going to start making furniture for me?”

Ouch.  I guess I know what I’m doing after the Studley exhibit.

Smacks to the Forehead and A Lump in the Throat

Yes, I am “all Studley exhibit, all the time” for the next month, but that tedium (?) was punctuated by a banner week at the Post Office box.

galbert

First came the brilliant Chairmaker’s Notebook from Peter Galbert.  It arrived just in time for one of my periodic days at the ophthalmologist’s office (the periodicity depends on which of my eye diseases is acting up, and how severely) during which I had time to read a good part of it carefully and browse all of it to the end.  The book is only partly about making Windsor chairs.  In truth it is really about the way to think about, and the way to do almost anything of real consequence.

I am not a Windsor chairmaker and unlikely to become one other than as an amusement, my chairmaking runs from Point A, Gragg chairs, to Point A’, making slightly different Gragg chairs.  Still, Peter’s eloquence and deep understanding, and the exasperatingly skillful manner of conveying them, made me smack my forehead repeatedly with the silent exclamation,”But of course!” while simultaneously silently muttering, “Man, I wish I had written this.”

printers proofs

I also received the printer’s proofs from Virtuoso, and to tell you the truth, the combination of the sumptuous imagery contained therein combined with the realization that almost five years of work are nearing the end made a sizable lump in my throat.  It has been a project of passions — sometimes love, sometimes hate — as are most such undertakings, but it it noteworthy to celebrate its conclusion.

Finally, my good friend of three decades Dr. Walter Williams just send me a signed copy of his latest book.  A collection of scores of columns, it will make for enticing bite sized bits of common sense wisdom.

All in all, a good week at the post office.

There’s A Party Going On! (part 1)

Several months ago I received an invitation from a South Florida custom millwork and fabrication shop to speak at a luncheon banquet celebrating their 25th anniversary.  At first I was ambivalent about the invitation as I didn’t know the folks, but Mrs. Barn was very enthusiastic about the prospect of a trip to the warm sunny climes at the tail end of a brutal winter in the mountains.  As my correspondence continued with my host and the themes emerged for the presentation, I too warmed to the idea.  By the time we plowed through the snow on our way out of town I was really looking forward to it.

IMG_8605

The audience was designers, architects, and contractors, and I did my best to turn them into historic finishing enthusiasts.  As I told them at the beginning, “My task is to show you a door, and open it just a little bit so you can see inside there’s a party going on.  And the name of the place behind the door?  The Finishing Room!”  They were very receptive.

cIMG_8496

In the weeks leading up to the event I made dozens of sample boards so that every table had a complete set to fondle and admire as I talked about them.

IMG_8428

In coming posts I will walk you through the samples I made.

IMG_8421

It was great fun and reminded me how much I love woodfinishing, and the delight I will take over the next three or four years while crafting my gigantic Historic Finisher’s Handbook.

Thanks AWC and Catie Q for the invitation, you guys were great hosts and I hope to see you again!  (and Mrs. Barn loved basking in the warmth and sunshine).  I think late winter trips to Florida may become part of the routine.

Sample Boards As Inspiration

For much of the past month I have been working on a set of sample boards for an upcoming address to a luncheon banquet of folks involved in mostly architectural interior finishes.  It reminded me once again how much I love finish work, and caused me to ruminate on undertaking my long-desired magnum opus.  I’m now committed in my heart to finally put pen to paper and create that mammoth manuscript I’ve been mulling for a long time, beginning next autumn, extending perhaps into the following two years.  It will be part finishing room bench manual, part materials science treatise, part historical review, part aesthetics, and a large part recipe book.

cIMG_8496

The sample board set included things like glazed panels, limed panels, burnished shellac/wax, shellac pad polishing (aka “french polishing” even though the French probably call it “English polishing”), waxed French polishing, raw polissoired surfaces, fumed oak, japanning foundation, and finally a piece of true “bog oak” salvaged from a dismantled antique dam.

Now all I have to do is my part in getting Virtuoso: The Tool Cabinet and Workbench of Henry O. Studley 100% done (I’m going today to get the page proofs printed in color to finish my review), Roubo on Furniture Making revised and into the Lost Art Press production pipeline, and the Studley tool cabinet exhibit done.

Teasers

cIMG_8163

There was a beautiful sunny vista of the mountains outside my shop window late this afternoon, just after I finished taking the photographs for the PopWood article on wire inlay.  The article was a lot of fun to write, for a technique I have been toying with for some time, with ever widening applications.  I think it is in the upcoming April or May issue, so check it out when it arrives on the shelves.

Figure 24

Making Tortoiseshell, er, Tordonshell

We’ve got a weekend workshop on Boullework Marquetry coming up at The Barn the first weekend of October. Recently I made a batch of artificial tortoiseshell for us to use in that workshop, with at least two pieces for each participant.  One of the exercises for the weekend will be to make another batch so that each attendee can make their own once they get back home.

cIMG_6952

My method is described somewhat in an article I will post next week in the Writings section of the web site, but here again is how I did it this time.  Start with a flat clean surface with a sheet of mylar on which to cast the artificial shell on.

cIMG_6955

Cast out the material on the mylar,

cIMG_6954

then create the pattern.  The upper row of scutes is made to mimic “hawksbill” turtles, and the lower row “greenback” turtles.  Once that is firm, cast a second layer of polymer on top of the pattern to complete the composite, and you are done.

PS  –  I purposefully left out all the chemistry stuff.  It’s in the article

PPS  If you are interested in joining us for the course, drop me a line through the “Contact” function of the web site.

Next PopWood Article – The Butterfly

Last week I finished the photography for my next article in Popular Woodworking, about “The Butterfly” an innovative sawhorse-type accessory I invented for the workshop or even around the house.  I think it will be in the June issue, but don’t hold me to that.

IMG_4935

Thus far I have worked with Glen Huey at PW, but he is moving (organizationally) over to American Woodworker.  I will miss working with Glen, but the way I look at it his arrival over at AW simply provides me another outlet for woodworking verbiage.  I’ve already started pitching article ideas to him, including one about the Ultimate Portable Workbench I invented, and would like to build another one for the article.  We’ll see if he bites on it.  If not I will chronicle it here.

Hammer Veneering

Last fall the good folks at Popular Woodworking very kindly asked to adapt and re-publish  an essay I wrote for To Make As Perfectly As Possible: Roubo On Marquetry, which they titled Hammer Veneering.  It came out a couple of issues ago but I got distracted and forgot to put it here also.

cIMG_1626

Here it is.

Old Time Ways, Old Time Words

micheles dictionary collection 2As we approach the long-awaited debut of To Make As Perfectly As Possible: Roubo on Marquetry, (my first documents for this project are over six years old!) it is worth reflecting for a minute on the unsung heroes for our completion, the tools that were integral to the whole project.  Those tools were Michele Pagan’s lovingly assembled collection of French dictionaries going back more that 200 years.  Notwithstanding the fact that French was one of the first Western languages to be standardized, the usage of words and expressions has changed over the decades and centuries.  One phenomenon that Michele noticed was the change in dictionaries over time.  In some early editions, the definition of a word would rank the likely usages in a particular order, but in the ensuing editions over 250 years, new usage emphases emerged while others receded and some disappeared altogether.

 

Once our remaining Roubo projects are finished in four or five years, it is unlikely that these precious word repositories will be retired.  Michele now has a taste for the hunt for words, and she will keep on translating old time words on behalf of collaborators passionate about old time ways.