Writing Updates


This week Michele and I finished reviewing three little sections of With All the Perfection Possible: Roubo on Furniture Making.  As far as I know this will be our last contact with the manuscript and the production schedule has been penciled in.  I expect that our next contact with the project will be when we hold the bound book in our hands.  We are delighted at this development, as our first work on this volume goes back almost five years.  As compelling as Roubo is, I must admit that it does get tiresome after the umpteenth time reading and revising.  Michele has begun work on the next volume in the series, and I will jump on board sometime late next year to begin massaging it into comprehensible contemporary woodworker-ese.


Next, I’m about halfway done with a first draft of the text for the Period Finisher’s Manual, and expect to turn my attentions to executing and photographing the finishing processes described therein sometime in early Spring 2017.  I am targeting, in my mind at least, having this manuscript completed early 2018.


Finally, I’m almost done with the first draft of my next Popular Woodworking article, titled “Faux Urushi.”  This will be a step-by-step exposition on my work using marine epoxy and similar materials to recreate and replicate urushi lacquerwork.  I expect to send a completed draft to my pal MikeM in a few days for his always helpful editorial input.  I cannot recall which issue this article will be in, but I’ll be done with it in about three weeks.

And the cast comes off my arm in six days and ten hours, not that I’m counting or anything.

Report From WIA – Definitely NOT One Yardstick To Rule Them All

Although I did my part in keeping the woodworking economy alive at the WIA Marketplace, my acquisitions were actually pretty modest and there was no impulse buying.  I had a strategic mission and fulfilled it.  That is not to say that I did not have fun browsing and chatting, and even in the buying itself.


Nowhere was this more true than visiting with (and purchasing from) Brendan Gaffney, trained as a Krenovian furniture maker at College of the Redwoods who finds himself hurtling down an unexpected path as the creator and purveyor of historical rulers and measuring sticks.  As an art class project Brendan created first one, then another, and finally a broad group of measuring sticks based on Roman, Egyptian, Japanese and French precedents, and for all I know may be working on Chinese, Aztec, Atlantian, Maori, and Klingon models as well, along with exquisite sectors.


Given my immersion in all things Roubo I was of course morally obliged to purchase the rulers that would have been used in the ateliers of 18th century France.  I am now the proud owner of a French Royal Foot ruler and a six-foot Fathom.  Should I ever need to replicate a Roubo exercise precisely I am all set.


I found the Egyptian Ruler to be the most fascinating of all due to is subdivisions.  In the twelve-inch foot, the first inch is whole, the second inch divided into two parts, the third inch into thirds, and so on.  This practice is sheer genius.  No wonder the Egyptians were such effective collaborators with the space aliens when they built the pyramids.

I wonder if Brendan will find himself holding a tiger by the tail as I am with polissoirs as my first batch of two dozen, which I thought was all I would ever order from my broom-maker friend, has morphed into orders totaling more than  two hundred dozen.  Good luck, Brendan.

Upcoming Presentations

In the coming days I will be making two presentations, the first on October 18 with a show-and-tell (a demo is out of the question with my arm still in a cast; it’s hard enough to tap out  a few words on a keyboard)  on the topic of “Simple Parquetry” to the Washington Woodworker’s Guild in Falls Church VA.


The second is for the Tidewater Chapter of the Society of American Period Furniture Makers on November 5 in Elizabeth City NC.  I will be showing the use of scratch stocks to create complex moldings on undulating surfaces.  For further information on this meeting you can find contact info here.



Report From WIA – All Studley Mallets Great and Small


One of the fun things for me at WIA this year was showing off the replica Studley mallet JimM made for me as a gift, now residing in my menagerie of treasures on the mantle.  I definitely need to get cracking on producing some of the replicas myself.


Much to my delight  miniaturist Marco Terenzi was also in the house, amazing one and all with his own exquisite workmanship.   We managed to make our paths intersect as he and the lovely Rebecca were hanging out for a while alongside the Lost Art Press and Konrad Sauer/Raney Nelson booths.



The real fun was when we placed my replica mallet with his new miniature version of the same tool.  The ooohs and aaahs were audible along with other exclamations of admiring astonishment I won’t repeat.


A grand time was had by all present.

Vintage Frame/Veneer Saw at Auction

Martin Donnelly’s upcoming auction in Indianapolis includes this intriguing frame saw.  Since I already have two of a c.1800 vintage I am not tempted.  If the overall length is 51″ the blade must be in the 48″ range.


Fingers are back to nimble but the wrist and arm being encased makes typing still a bit of a challenge.  The cast comes off Oct 31.

Report From WIA – Goodies in The Marketplace


One of the benefits about every woodworking show is the space for the tool vendors, and WIA 2016 certainly fit that description.  I’ve noticed over the years that there is a definite trend towards hand tools and away from heavy woodworking machinery.  Yes there are many pigtailed apprentices, but they were small scale or benchtop machines.  While this shift in preferences works fine for me, I wonder if this paucity of large tablesaws, bandsaws, joiners and planers is necessarily a healthy development.  The really great thing is the quantity and variety of tools to fondle and even use, and the opportunity to get to know their makers and purveyors in-person.


My own time in The Marketplace was spent in either looking at the hand tools I wanted or engaging in fellowship.  I am at the point where my tool acquisition stratagem is to either acquire tools to fill in a void, especially as related to specific projects underway or upcoming, or to get a tool of such a quality that it enhances dramatically my benchwork capacity.


To that end my purchases were minimal this year.  In the coming months I will be doing more toolmaking, so I went with the goal of getting one of Chris Vesper’s hyper accurate engineer’s squares, and bought this one.



A second desire was to buy a spill plane, so I did.

Miraculously I avoided the siren song of Patrick Leach and Jim Bode’s booths of vintage tools (although I was tempted mightily by the complete Emmert K2 in Patrick’s booth) so my only other Marketplace acquisitions were some new LAP/Crucible t-shirts and some historic measuring tools I will write about next time.

The Sound of One Hand Clapping: I’m Blaming the Chicken

Out here in the hinterboonies we’ve got a local art form known as “barn quilts,” which are 4×4 sheets of plywood painted as tapestry quilts and hung on the sides of barns, sheds, and houses.  Last year I commissioned one with a chicken design painted by our friend MargieB and hung it on the side of the garden shed over the root cellar.  We love the painting, especially Mrs. Barn who enjoys tending and communing with chickens.  I mounted the painting at the wrong height (more about that in a minute) but it is a beautiful addition for the homestead.


This year I commissioned another barn quilt from MargieB to celebrate the hummingbirds we watched every day at lunch flitting about the flowers on the deck rail outside the dining room window.  We had just the perfect place for it on the side of the c.1920 spring house with its 32″ chestnut slab walls, and ten days ago I mounted the painting in its new home.


Even though the new quilt is essentially at ground level it provides a striking visual greeting to anyone pulling up to visit or return home.  Another artistic treasure added to the homestead — check.

Since the process of hanging the new quilt went so well I decided to revisit the location of the chicken painting.   Originally I located it such that it did not cover the window in the garden shed, but we knew immediately that compositionally it was all wrong.  The panel needed to be centered on the wall and this was the time to do it.


It was a beautiful early autumn day, and there was a convenient place to stand on top of the rock wall adjacent to the entrance to the root cellar (marked with the red ‘X”), so I charged ahead armed with my level and battery drill.


I got the painting removed and relocated temporarily sitting on some cleats exactly above the location shown in this image, when up came a slight puff of breeze, turning the painting into a fairly large sail knocking me off my perch.  Down I went into the rock-lined entry to the root cellar, and if the physical evidence is to be believed, the sequences was 1) crashing into the rock wall below me with my right rack of ribs, 2) hitting the stone walkway with my right (dominant) hand braking the fall and in turn breaking itself, 3) followed instantly by the edge of the painted panel itself alighting and slicing open my scalp.  The scalp wound was a gusher, initiating the brand new Besway/Benco t-shirt I was wearing.  Those copious stains will likely launch that shirt to the top of my fashion rotation.

Stunned but never unconscious I took inventory of the situation as I was twisted underneath the fallen paining, laying on the very hard rocks.  Looking down I noticed immediately the gnarly 45-degree angle in my right forearm and knew this to be both aesthetically unpleasing and structurally non-optimal.  After gathering my wits I dug myself out of the mess and went to get an ice compress on it.  Then I drove myself to the local medical center for x-rays and splinting, although they could not actually set the break.  That took a trip over the mountains as Mrs.Barn drove me to the ER of our excellent hospital there.  They set the bone and fitted me with a temporary splint encasing the arm from mid-bicep to mid-finger.  With the admonition to not attempt any movement which might bring misaligmnent to the bone as set and a scheduled appointment for further x-rays and a permanent hard cast and the removal of the staples in my scalp this past Thursday we headed for home.

On the trip home the ribs started sending me their electric messages.  By bed time I was nearly paralyzed by the pain radiating from my side, a circumstance that remained for many days and is subsiding with exasperating reticence.  I still cannot lay down to sleep at night.

Hence, my squirrely blogging and corresponding for the past ten days and the coming several weeks.  It will give me plenty of time to contemplate the fact that I made it to my 60th birthday without breaking anything, and now I’ve done it twice in 13 months.

Some Amazing Bekko (Japanese Tortoiseshell) Work

As someone with a longstanding interest in working with tortoiseshell I found this video entrancing as it follows a craftsman creating some uber-hipster spectacles.  If I understood Japanese my enjoyment would be all the greater.

I especially delighted in the demonstrations of sawing, scraping, and filing the tortoiseshell into some trend-setting spectacles, and most particularly the use of heated plates to achieve shell welding.

This additional video profile of the same craftsman making a different pair of spectacle frames, with some additional coverage of sea turtle conservation.

Finally this half hour walks us through the creating of various objets d’art, concentrating on some hairpieces.

I wonder from whence came the raw material.  Inasmuch as there has been a prohibition in the commerce of tortoiseshell harvesting, is all this tortoiseshell the remnants of pre-ban inventory?  I know this reality was fundamental to me inventing my own tortoiseshell substitute.

Back to regular blogging in a few days, resuming my reports from WIA.

Aspiring to the Exquisite

I’m off my blogging game for a bit (more about that later) but while noodling around the interweb I came across these two inspiring videos.

The first is planemaker Konrad Sauer’s presentation to a 2013 design conference, the second is a nearly wordless exposition on making nonpareil shotguns.

Report From WIA – Planemakerpalooza

The primary emphasis class-wise for my weekend at WIA 2016 was attending the three sessions on infill planemaking with the tag team of Raney Nelson and Konrad Sauer, two guys pretty much at the top of that particular food chain.  The first and second sessions completed my schedule for Friday, and the third one was first thing Sunday morning.


The format and length of the three sessions en toto allowed for a complete and cogent exegesis on infill plane-making from A to Z.  One of the two presenters took the lead for each segment, but the other one chimed in when the moment was right.  The interplay between these two creative giants was a thing to behold.


The always resplendent Raney started us with an exposition on the attendant geometry and engineering of creating wood shavings and the resultant flat, smooth surface.  (you can see that I did not choose well for my vista)  His emphasis on good cutting with a plane being much dependent on all the plane’s parts fitting perfectly was not wasted on the audience, and I am betting there is much taking down and refitting of planes ongoing now.


Konrad then walked us through the complete process of designing entirely new plane designs, beginning with the initial thumbnail sketches.  It is terrific that he was trained as a graphic artist who worked in the advertising field as he could work efficiently and explain the process to us.



He showed us both one-off designs and those that were part of a graduated series.


The final of the three sessions was a down and dirty practical tutorial on the fabrication process for infill planes including material selection, sawing, filing, hammering, sharpening, riveting, threading, and any other topics raised by the attendees.  The sessions were a near perfect embodiment of what WIA is; it was both highly informative and profoundly inspirational.

Will I become a custom infill planemaker competing with Raney and Konrad?


Will I undertake infill plane making some day soon?

Bet the house on it.