With the Virtuoso manuscript out of my hands until the page proofs sometime in the coming weeks, and Roubo on Furniture not requiring my all-day-every-day reviewing just yet, I have begun to spend more time outside and in the shop. Since I haven’t even unpacked all my tools yet, much less arranged them in an orderly fashion, it feels good to be up the hill puttering and actually doing productive work on projects.
It has been a fairly mild December thus far, which is a nice break after the brutal November. One of the primary issues for the barn workshop is, of course, heating my work space in a locale with bitter winters. Last winter my pal Tony installed a cast iron stove he’d found for me on one of his remodeling jobs. It was a Coalbrookdale Severn stove, a bi-fuel Brit import no longer being made as far as I know. Despite its compact footprint it weighs in at just under 500 pounds.
Since I was pretty busy with a lot of other things last winter I did not spend much time in the barn shop, so I only used the stove a few times because it takes so long to build up enough heat to be useful to me, while the kerosene heater gets the space warm in just a few minutes.
Now that I will be working out there more, and for longer stretches at a time, I have been playing with the Severn stove. Yep, once it gets going, it is a terrific heat source. But, its firebox is fairly small and I found myself going down about every hour to stoke it (it is in the basement underneath my shop, and the heat radiates nicely up to my space above). I was talking to some of my wood harvesting pals about the use of coal as a fuel in this stove, and Bob said he had a pile of hard anthracite coal for me to try with. I fired it up with coal yesterday and love it! It takes a long time to get up to temperature, but once it does it burns long and hot, usually 8-12 hours per charge. Even though I have not yet mastered the nuances of the stove — starting a coal fire is more complex than simply starting a wood fire, in fact the latter must precede the former — its performance is pretty impressive. Yesterday it had the shop in the high 60s, which is a good 15 degrees more than I need.
I’ve seen the future, and it is black. At least the “heating the barn” part. I’ll burn my way through Bob’s coal pile then for next winter order a couple pallets of bagged anthracite to heat all winter long. Soon I will add an in-stovepipe heat exchanger to extract even more heat from the pipe running up through the shop. With January soon upon us, and the locals talk about January with a mixture of warning and respect, I hope to be ready.
As you may recall, this past July I attended the annual Martin J. Donnelly toolapalooza warehouse cleanout auction, when more than three thousand lots of tools in less than twenty hours of auctioneering. My old friend Jon was there with me, it was his first time there and it blew his mind. At his strong suggestion I bid on and won a superb vintage Lamson machinist’s lathe, to bring back to the barn and add to my inventory. To sweeten the deal, Jon offered to tune up the headstock and outfit the unit with a new drive mechanism.
Recently Jon dropped by the barn on his way home from a vacation of vintage motorcycling with his pal Mike from the Pickers television show (I believe Jon was one of the brains who came up with the show’s idea) and brought with him the refurbished headstock and the attached new drive motor. He had done some bearing work and scavenged a DC motor and control from a treadmill, his favorite source for machine motors.
We spent a few hours assembling the lathe and getting it running, which was very exciting. Watching the first hot curling chips come off was quite a thrill.
Jon will return in a month or so to finish the tune-up, as only someone with almost two dozen lathes can.
Together we will try to decode the thread cutting chart on the lathe.
After the obligatory portrait of a fashionable man with his retro-fashionable lathe, we bid each other farewell as he raced for home to beat the coming snowstorm.
Jon’s account in the Bank of Don is full to overflowing.
I’m emerging from more than a week of radio silence. I’m not apologizing for it, as I was feverishly selecting, identifying editing, and captioning somewhere close to 500 pictures for VIRTUOSO: The Tool Cabinet and Workbench of Henry O. Studley. This was from an inventory of over 6,000 photos in my computer, which does not include the ton of pictures Chris took nor the ones Narayan was not happy with. I would guess that if you gathered all the files from each time we snapped a picture it would number somewhere north of 10,000. I had begun the process about the time I submitted the written manuscript a month ago, but it resumed in earnest once Chris had the manuscript edited for me to work with two weeks ago.
This does not include the glamor shots or other photographs that will be employed as galleries or visual punctuation as Chris Schwarz, Wesley Tnnner, and Narayan Nayar hammer out the final design and layout for the book. It would not surprise me in the end if the book has up to 600 illustrations. I’ll have to look it over one last time, but we have had enough conversations that I am certain they know what I want it to look like.
For tomorrow afternoon I have a handful of photos to shoot (literally, less than a dozen) then I will let the manuscript sit unstirred for 24 hours and read it one final time before washing my hands of the whole thing as I send it to land on Chris’ desk with a plop on Monday.
Good riddance, I say. Come next week I will be free from my chair to work on the firewood pile, the new door for the root cellar, trying to impose some sort of order in the barn, continue reviewing Roubo 2, working on the preparations and marketing for the exhibit of the Studley collection…
We had a heavy overcast with more than a foot of snow today. No solar, but hydropower is working fine. Actually it was nice having the power house under a foot of fluffy snow as it made the soft turbine whine evaporate altogether.
The view out the dining room window was pretty impressive.
I ventured out only long enough to pick up my new computer, onto which all my old files were transferred without a hitch. Tomorrow morning I will finish setting it up with the printers and get my nose back to the Studley manuscript grindstone.
Charles Brock of the video series Highland Woodworker visited me a few months ago to film at The Barn, and the episode came out today. They did a nice job of making me seem sensible. It was an ordinary day in the shop, I didn’t get all dressed up or anything.
New compewder tomorrow. They were able to save the files on the hard disk, so it looks like all is well.
I’m not seeking radio silence on the blog, but have been working on reviewing the edits for the manuscript and adding the necessary revisions, and selecting, editing, and captioning the almost 500 images for Virtuoso: The Tool Cabinet and Workbench of Henry O. Studley. It is way less glamorous than it sounds.
I normally back up everything at the end of the day, but for some reason I had not done that since Saturday. So of course this morning was the moment my laptop fried. I mean sparks and all as I plugged in the printer USB cable. The geeks are trying to copy the hard disk, provided it did not get damaged. I will get their verdict in the morning. So, I am consolidating and duplicating files by the boatload using my indestructible but antique Dell 1525 with Windows Vista(!) and my three external hard drives (we do not have the connectivity required for Cloud backup).
At worst I will have to reconstruct three days worth of work. At best it will all be there. Either way I need a new laptop. It will not be another Compaq/HP.
Until everything gets resolved I will be a bit quiet.
One of the common questions I get regarding the upcoming exhibit of the Studley Tool Cabinet and Workbench is, “Will you take the tools out of the cabinet so I can see everything inside?” The answer to that is “No.” A second question is, “Do we get to handle the tools ourselves?” Apparently the folks who ask this question have never been to museums or artifact exhibits.
This is not to say that the visitor experience will be to view a static and lifeless exhibit. I’ll be making sure the exhibit is a rich and rewarding experience through a couple of avenues, one of which I address here.
One of the final tasks for the recently completed work session with the Studley tool Cabinet was to film a real-time session of me removing the entire collection of tools from the tool cabinet, one at a time. In doing this the video reveals every single tool in its place, and how that relates to the adjacent tools and the cabinet as a whole. This video will be running on a loop on a giant screen at the end of the exhibit hall at the Scottish Rite Temple in Cedar Rapids.
You can find more information and purchase tickets for the exhibit here.
One of the front-burner activities over the past couple of months was getting ready for our first full winter in the Allegheny Highlands, where winters are essentially identical to those of upstate New York or central Michigan. Having spent my formative years in Minnesota, admittedly in southern Minnesota, the more tropical part, the upcoming winter in the mountains is something about which I am fairly sanguine despite three decades in the Mid-Atlantic. However, since my bride of 34 years is from Southern California the angst is running high; my task of keeping the cabin warm and toasty is priority #1.
The assembly of gigantic firewood piles has continued apace. Virtually all of the available spaces around the cabin are filled to the brim with cut, split, and mostly well-seasoned wood (I especially have sought out dead trees on the hoof). This picture is of the cabin front as of last weekend.
We’ve even loaded up the side deck with firewood.
On top of this stash, my pal Mike told me he had a bunch of dead and risky trees he wanted removed from his farm, so for the past several days I’ve been working with him to accomplish that. The result for me has been five heaping trucks-full of mostly already-seasoned firewood, now awaiting splitting and stacking into giant piles out the the lower barn. The local tradition is to always have two full years of firewood on hand. We literally see firewood piles the size of garages here.
Add that to Mrs. Donsbarn’s efforts to get the gardens prepared for spring, including the nurturing of greens in the front raised bed with a plastic hoop house (her goal is to have fresh greens for Thanksgiving) and things are shaping up here at the homestead.
Recently I presented at my home woodworking posse, the Washington Woodworker’s Guild. I have been making presentations there for almost thirty years, since I first moved to the DC area, and even though I no longer live quite so close I enjoy it enough to keep coming back. I think this was either the 12th or 13th presentation for them.
A couple of old friends came; Tom, my Wednesday night woodworking pal for many years, and Daniela, one of my furniture conservation proteges and the gifted hand holding the brush for the peacock feather on my Gragg chairs.
My topic(s) for the evening were pewter inlays, about which I am completing an article for an upcoming Popular Woodworking, and the progress of The Studley Project. That book is now in editing, and development of the accompanying exhibit of the Studley Tool Cabinet is progressing nicely. There are still plenty of tickets available, and the combination of it with the Handworks tool extravaganza in nearby Amana, Iowa, makes for a memorable woodworker’s weekend.
Next Thursday evening I will be presenting an overview of The Studley Project for Central Virginia woodworkers Guild in the Lynchburg area.
As I write this, I have just completed my longest day of driving ever. I turned the ignition key at 7.30 this morning, well, yesterday morning to be technically accurate, and exactly 16 hours and 999.4 miles later, I turned it off. That’s the distance from Topeka, Kansas, to my Fortress of Solitude in the Virginia Highlands. Three refills of gas, four chili cheese-dogs from Pilot, a handful of celery and carrots and two apples, and here I am.
If I could stand up straight I would have a bit of a strut.
Little did I know last year when I agreed to make a presentation to the Washington Woodworker’s Guild it would be the day following this trip, but I am not about to shirk my commitment. They are my woodworking peeps, after all.
Now, on the the hard part of tying up all those loose threads from Henry Studley’s apron.