Musings

Space Available For Upcoming Boullework Class

I was making some preparations for next month’s Boullework workshop (July 13-15) and noted that there is still space in it.  If you would like to participate just drop me a note.

We’ll be making tordonshell from my own special process, and using already-cured tordonshell and brass sheet to cut a couple of tarsia a encastro designs using a jeweler’s saw and 6/0 blades!

In this technique you will cut both the pattern and the background at the same time and thus create two complete compositions, one being the negative of the other.  If we add pewter to the mix it will be three compositions.

I’ll be providing all the tools and supplies for the course.

Hope to see you there.

P.S.  There is also still space in the knotwork banding class August 10-12.

Traditional Woodworking Workshop – Day 1

The agenda for Day 1 of the workshop was ambitious.  We first met for an introductory time and a review of the expectations and projects of the week.  I won’t say there was disbelief at the list of things we were going to do, but I could sense some skepticism.  Especially that part about everyone building a complete bench on Day 1, a heritage tool that would be up on its feet by the end of the day and ready to be put to work for Day 2.

And that is what we did.  I described and demonstrated the process of building the Nicholson bench and everyone got to work, with cooperation and fellowship abounding.  All the 2×12 SYP lumber had been pre-cut so it saved a fair bit of time and allowed for the students to work more efficiently.  As did the use of battery powered drills and decking screws.

Before lunch we had at least a couple of them up on their feet for the first time.  There are repeated up-and-downs with these benches as many of the subsequent steps occur (or should) while it is laying over on its side.

After lunch at Jane and Cam’s restaurant, the best one in the region by far, things got hopping as the tops were added followed by the second lamina for the legs going into place with decking screws and glue.

The front edges of the tops were planed flush with the front aprons and folks got the sense that a real live pile of workbenches was about to happen.

Before long the legs were being trimmed to length and the tops flattened, Round One.  I recommended that everyone wait until next summer for the final flattening of the tops.

Here are a final few pictures from the day as holdfast holes appeared in great abundance, making the benches fully functional even before the twin screw vises and Moxon vises were completed the following day.  It was such a roaring success that it resulted in total buy-in from the participants for the rest of the week.

Arkansas Day 0

The days of preparation finally led to the departure for Arkansas, but not before I spent two days shoe-horning a boatload of stuff into my little S-10.  In addition to the six-foot Nicholson bench I had nearly a score of tubs and boxes of tools, bench parts, supplies, and my suitcase and overnight bag.  Oh, and a dozen pieces of the select SYP 4/4 x 10″ x 8″ I was delivering to my friend John near St. Louis.  Somehow I failed to take a picture of the truck looking ready for a wheelie.  Everything was packed so full and tight I practically needed to slather myself with shortening to get into the cockpit.

Day 1 of the trip ended at John’s after 14 hours on the road.  Our brief time of fellowship was outstanding and very much a blessing.  After we unloaded John’s lumber the next morning I hit the road again for a another eight or nine hours to get to NW Arkansas.  Some of the traveling was through unfamiliar country so I was glad to have the robotic lady in the new smart phone there to provide instructions on the route.

I arrived at Cam and Jane’s just before dark, and they had set me up in a charming guest room in their barn that they often rent out for social gatherings.  The main room was going to be our workshop space for the week.  Jane as the furniture maker and would be in the class, while Cam the metal fabricator was popping in and out throughout the week making sure everything was running smoothly and often getting some materials and supplies for us.

On Sunday  morning I unpacked the truck then went to church with my hosts, and like visiting with John it was a delightful time of worship and fellowship.  After Sunday lunch with the family I got to work getting everything out of its container and setting everything up for Monday morning.  There was no wi-fi available to me through the week, hence my eight days recently of no blogging or emailing, but I was too beat to surf the web anyway.

Improving A Useful Tool

Many, many years ago a dear friend gifted me a pair of “Shinto” rasps, and for some time they sat in the drawer.  Slowly I began to incorporate them into my work, and recently I have integrated them fully into my projects as needed.  The tool really does hog off material unlike anything else in the shop.

Sometimes the bulkiness of the rear handle and the outboard front handle were not a problem, there were times they even provided the perfect place for my hands to grab them and really bear down on the work.

Other times the handles simply got in the way and I tried removing them.  The cutting surfaces then come into direct contact with your, which hand is about a -5 on the pleasantness meter.  I tried wrapping the ends with electrician’s tape but found that to be an unsatisfactory long-term solution.  However, by adding appropriate-sized rubber chair leg tips over friction tape I now do have a setup that pleases me very much.  I suspect I will be using this tool even more in the future.

Final Arkansas Workshop Exercise – A Cypress Water Stone Box

For a final exercise for the Arkansas workshop participants I recalled back many years to a dovetailed, waterproof box I built three decades ago.  I found it to be a challenging and instructive project for me then and figured it would be the same for the others now.  And, I had just the right stash of 180-years old cypress to use as the material.

I tried to find my original box but it has disappeared somewhere in the maelstrom of recent years.  No doubt I will stumble across it immediately after returning home.  So, I made another one to give the students a prototype to follow.

The first things was to resaw some of my prized cypress to obtain enough 3/4″ stock for the sides and 1/2″ stock for the bottom.  Vintage select-grade cypress saws and planes like a dream, filling the room with the appealing and cloying scent of the wood  Some folks tell me it smells a little bit like a hippie chick wearing too much patchouli oil, but I like the scent myself (and the smell of patchouli in moderation) even if it does pull on my throat a bit.

I planed and sawed the boards in the usual manner, cutting the dovetails pretty tightly.  Cypress is a bit “springy” so a tight fit is achievable.  The bottom was made with a tight tongue and groove joint, with the panel chamfered and fitted tightly into a continuous dado cut with a plow plane.  I assembled the whole thing using brass screws through the dovetails to hold everything tight.

If I built it well enough I can soak it is water to swell the wood and render the box waterproof, a la a hot tub, and it can serve to hold my water stones.  A frame-and-panel lid will complete the project, probably after the workshop.

Foiling the Wascally Wabbits

Mrs. Barn has been especially plagued this year by the wildlife endemic to our remote mountain retreat, most especially the bunny rabbits coming to nibble off the tops of her flowers in the bed she has been cultivating for many years on the hillside adjacent to the cabin.

To mitigate the problem I made several cylindrical enclosures from 1/2″ hardware cloth to fit over the plants under attack, painted them black to make them less visible and placed them where they needed to be.  In fact they are nearly invisible from a typical viewing distance, and so far they have done their job.

Now we are hoping the deer don’t take a liking to these plants.  That might take, um, a more impactful pyrotechnical response.

Bench Build *Out*, IRMA 2 *In*

With prep time barreling down the rails, and given the zero interest thus far in September’s workbench building workshop at the Barn I’ve decided to cancel that event and use the week for ripple moldings instead.  It might be or might not be a reprise of last year’s First Annual Meeting of the International Ripple Molding Association or it could be just me and my friend John noodling on ripple cutters in the shop.  I really need to concentrate on perfecting my machine and maybe building another one, and I’ve asked videographer Chris Swecker to mark his calendar just in case John and I decide to make a video as we make both the machine and the moldings.

If you might be interested in joining in, let me know.

Exercises for Arkansas I – Winding Sticks+ and Planing Stop

The point of the week in Arkansas was not to make a workbench, well, not the only point, but rather to use it to undertake a series of activities that would allow the participants to begin integrating traditional hand tool work into their regimens.  Fundamental to this is the ability to make lumber pieces thinner (resawing), narrower (ripping), and shorter (crosscutting).  And since virtually no woodworking involves only a single monolithic piece of wood, multiple pieces had to be brought together via joinery.  I tried a few test-run exercises in advance to see if they could work out for the students, whose level of experience was unknown to me.  So, beginning with a piece of the select 4/4 x 10 SYP I bought a couple months’ ago I gave it a shot.

With an eye towards what could be accomplished in four days (remember, the first day would be as dedicated to making the workbench) I decided to have them first pursue a pair of winding sticks, which would emphasize resawing, ripping and truing, then make a planing stop.  The first step was to use the kerfing plane around all the edges then resaw an 18″ piece of the 4/4 x 10 in half, yielding the stock for both of these exercises.

The Bad Axe frame saw has become an integral workhorse in my shop, and I am delighted to have this arrow in my quiver.

I planed the surfaces flat, then ripped one of the two pieces in half.  By executing these process carefully and with precision the task of creating the winding sticks was nearly done.  After all four sides of the two pieces were planed smoothly and placed against each other, then one of them switched end-to-end repeating the edge planing, both pieces were identical and parallel.

But I was not done with these two boards.  I notched a doe’s foot in one end of each of them so that the winding sticks could serve double duty as clamping devices.  Viola’, we have winding sticks plus.

The remaining resawn board was crosscut at the 2/3 point, and the ends shot on the bench hook (I also was going to have them make bench hooks but that was so simple I felt no need to emphasize that here).  I dovetailed them together and the result was a planing stop to fit into the face vise of the bench.

My own every-day planing stop was made from cypress many years ago has been tucked underneath my workbench ever since, and I use it frequently.

I was pleased with the simple straightforwardness of these projects, believing it would take them about 1-1/2 days to complete.  That would leave 2-1/2 days for something slightly more demanding.

Strategy For Conserving My Gragg Chair, Step 1

The first pair of considerations when designing a conservation treatment plan for an artifact, in this case my own Gragg Chair, is to weigh the nature and needs of the artifact versus the nature and needs needs of the user.  Without comprehending the location of the artifact on the entropy time-line and achieving user buy-in no process can derive a balanced response to the damage being addressed.  As a property rights absolutist I am fine with that; if you own a priceless treasure and choose to incinerate it in the front yard, so be it.  Short of that, there is a wide range of locations for the fulcrum of this competing pair.

The process of understanding the nature and needs of the object can be fairly straightforward.  What is it?  What is its intended purpose?  From what and how was it made?  What is its condition?  What action is needed for it to maintain its existence or function?  All these questions are fairly straightforward as the artifact is, in essence, a static (or not so static) entity at a particular point on its entropy curve, or as my late friend and colleague Mel Wachowiak, Jr., used to say, “On it way back to dirt.”

In the case of this chair the continued existence of it in its current form and condition was not really in doubt, only one or two of its functions.  The chair could be left completely unattended and remain “as is” for decades or centuries as a thing, but one of the primary functions of this particular chair form and presentation, namely that it is a comfortable and beautiful thing, was compromised due to the breaks and attendant distortions of the arms.  That damage, and its disruption of the chair’s “beauty” is a real and meaningful void in its current “function” and regaining that beauty is not a whimsical undertaking.

As for the nature and needs of the user there is far more variability in both theoretical and practical perspectives.  In the case of a chair, the user may need for it to actually be functional as a structure that can support a grown adult for the chair’s intended purpose: to be a chair.  Or, the user (owner) may prefer for it to be an antetype, prototype or example of the generic or specific chair form, or that it simply represent the form and historical attributes of this particular type of chair.  If, for example, one of the legs were missing altogether but the user’s desire was to preserve the remaining fabric as-is, the fabrication of a plexiglass support in place of the missing leg would be entirely defensible.

This is not some bar stool, this is an aesthetically sophisticated and technically refined form, one that is both artistically notable and historically significant.  Its current damage reveals — at the very least — a failure of its maker to anticipate the stresses that might be paced on it in “normal” use and his failure to accommodate those stresses in its structural design or manufacturing execution.  (True enough, I did not anticipate the unauthorized use of the chair by a morbidly obese person and the damage that would result from his frenzied effort to extricate himself before I returned to the booth)  From this context the user may choose to leave the static damage exactly as it is as a painful reminder of that failure.

In this object vs. user consideration, more than with the coming two pairs of contending concepts, balancing the needs of the chair with the preferences of the user results not at a single point of agreement or strategic objective (or one and only one “exact” way to proceed) but a continuum of options that can respond to both competing needs to some degree.

Gmail is Back

It was a minor glitch, everything back on line now with my Gmail account.  But, we are still trying to figure out the hiccup that prevents me from getting notes via the website “Contact” feature.

I hate compewders.