Archive: » 2014 » May

Purchasing Tickets for the H. O. Studley Tool Chest Exhibit: What to Expect

As we get closer to the start of ticket sales, I wanted to post a quick note about the ordering process and claiming your tickets.


The Purchase

Tickets sales for the H. O. Studley Tool Chest and Workbench Exhibit will start at 12:01am EDT on Sunday, June 1. At that time the TICKETS link in the menu bar will become a live store, and it will have three items — each representing a day of the event (Friday, May 15; Saturday, May 16; and Sunday, May 17).

When you click on a particular day you will be presented with a drop down menu from which you will choose a session time. Each session is 50 minutes long, and starts on the hour from 10:00am to 5:00pm. Once you select a specific session, you will see how many tickets are still available for that session and a quantity box to select the number of tickets you wish to purchase.

Each session will only have 50 tickets available, so we recommend that groups wanting to attend a session together have one person buy the tickets for the entire group. That’s the simplest way to ensure that you all get tickets for the same session.

After selecting your session and quantity, you will click the button to add them to your cart — then a View Cart button will appear. Click that button and then Proceed to Checkout (assuming you have added all the tickets you wish to purchase).

Once you’re on the Checkout page you will register like any other on-line purchase. Simply fill in the fields (red asterisks signify mandatory information) for your name, address, email and phone number. ***We will not be selling, renting, or sharing this information with anyone.  We just need to be 100% confident we can contact you.***  Then after double-checking the details of your purchase you will click the button to pay on PayPal ( Note — you will be able to pay with a credit card even if you don’t have a PayPal account), and it will take you to the payment screen where you will follow their prompts to remit payment. Upon completion, you will receive an email confirming your order. While the order is instantly completed and the email is automated, it still may take a little time for it to show up depending on the amount of traffic we are experiencing.

Also, to answer a question we’ve already received: YES! The ticket store is also accessible via a mobile device.

The Event

You will not receive your tickets in the mail. Instead tickets will be picked up the day of the event. For this reason, we ask that everyone arrive at least 15 minutes before their session to assure enough time to get tickets sorted and make sure everyone is there.

Tickets will be held under the name of the person who purchased them. That person must bring a photo ID to claim the tickets, and then be responsible for dispensing tickets to those in their group.

We hope this gives you the necessary information to feel at ease about your upcoming purchase and the steps of doing so.

If you have any other questions, feel free to contact us.

Countdown – 48 Hours


It is a strange time for me as the sorrow of losing a dear friend coincides with the excitement of a milestone in the H.O. Studley cosmos.

In little more than 48 hours the tickets will be available for the exhibit.  We were test driving the site today and all was working fine.

Tomorrow night’s post will cover some more of the details of the exhibit and ticket arrangements.  Stay tuned.

Mel, 1958-2014


Today we found out how many precious days had been allotted to Melvin John Wachowiak, Junior, as my friend and colleague of a quarter century passed away last night after a valiant struggle.  But as my pastor said a couple weeks ago, “Father Time is undefeated.”

Mel is survived by his wife and two children, his mother, four siblings, and a literal multitude of loving friends and colleagues.

He was a man of unusual gifts; brilliant, skilled, talented, knowledgeable and well-read on an amazing range of topics, inventive, and good company to boot, never more than a breath away from a hearty laugh.  Artist, wood scientist, inventor, machinist, bench craftsman, author, teacher, microscopist, problem solver par excellence.

We had a similar sense of off-beat humor, and many times we cracked each other up in staff meetings with quiet quips that we were the only ones who “got it.”  Plus, we liked the same music.  When I recruited him to join the Smithsonian in 1989 (my smartest career move ever!), I knew well his resume’, so the only really important question was, “What kind of music do you like to hear in the shop?”  I don’t know how I would have dealt with the wrong answer, but he nailed that one too.

Our relationship, professionally and personally, was not without bumps as you might expect with two strong-willed men driven by their curiosities, both of whom is convinced that they know more than anybody else what was important on the things that mattered.  But it was a rich and rewarding one, and I am a better person and professional because of my years working alongside him.  When we were on the same wavelength, which actually was most of the time, magic happened.


Don and Mel at Don's retirement party

Don and Mel at Don’s retirement party

Farewell, dear friend.  Farewell.


Countdown – Less than 100 Hours to Go


photograph by Narayan Nayar, all rights reserved.

photograph by Narayan Nayar, all rights reserved.

In less that four days the tickets for the exhibit of the Henry O. Studley tool cabinet go on sale.  And today I accepted and approved the first press credential.

This is really cool.

Simple Parquetry Tutorial 2 – stock preparation


Once you select your wood, prepare it such that the edge of the lumber is the radial orientation, and make the board flat and true.  Using a power jointer and power planer or drum sander is perfectly fine.  It’s how I do it.  My favorite little Makita combination 4″ jointer/4″ planer is darned near perfect for the task

planer from infeed side

The thicker the board, the larger the eventual veneer lozenges (and pattern) will be, and the converse is equally true.  For first timers. unless you have a specific design aesthetic in mind I recommend lumber stock finished to about  1-1/4″ thick.


The final step in acquiring the raw material for the parquetry is to saw the edge of the prepared lumber into slices about 1/12″ thick.  You need not follow historical precedent precisely.

Whatever tool or machine you use for such processes is fine. I set up my band saw with a fence and simply run off slices until the board is gone.


And, you do not need a big, expensive band saw.  My favorite tool for the job is an old Delta 10-inch benchtop model with a 1/4″ narrow kerf blade.  A single point or half-fence guide is perfectly fine, and as you can tell, I do not invest much money or time on this.  This arrangement has cut hundreds, probably thousands of linear feet of veneer stock for parquetry.


To figure out how many strips you need for your project, simply lay them down next to each other as you are cutting them, and compare that area to the area you are trying to cover.  Make about 10% more than your panel’s end size and you should be fine.  This image shows a piece of stock laying flat — the strips are cut off the edge on its radial orientation — with the pile of perfectly equal and parallel veneer strips ready for sawing into simple parquetry.

Next, a review of the hand tool inventory you need for the project.

Simple “Dice” Parquetry Tutorial


Whenever I teach I request honest and constructive feedback, especially from my hosts.  (I often even request video if it is available, and I do study it not because I am a narcissist but because I want to be better at what I am doing)

My recent “off campus” weekend at the Kansas City Woodworkers Guild was just one such event.  Many fine swaths of parquetry were created, but the weekend was not without its hitches.  There were definite instances of frustration and communication failures, many revolving around the problem endemic to teaching something to new audiences.  Since I have done this parquetry exercise so many times I have internalized much of the process such that it is not even fully articulated in my head any more.  After the fact I realized that I was reminded that I had not given enough detailed step-by-step instruction, something I am determined to rectify.

One excellent suggestion from the KG gang was that I create a detailed illustrated tutorial for the class, especially since I am going to repeat the workshop probably several times in the coming years beginning with the weekend of  July 18-20 at The Barn.  Beginning with the selection and preparation of the stock material, through the inventory and use of the tools, constructing of templates, to the much-more-difficult-than-it-looks process of compiling the pattern, and finally the finishing process.


I have finally finished writing the tutorial and will plug in the pictures and post it in installments beginning Thursday or Friday.  Once I have posted all the installments, I will move it to the “Writings” page as a free, complete, and downloadable .pdf.


My workshop schedule for The Barn this year is decidedly and purposefully brief with the Roubo manuscripts, the Studley manuscript, and the Studley tool cabinet exhibit hanging over me.

July 18-20  Parquetry and Banding

August 11-13 (H&R pair) and 14-17  (complex) Plane Making with Tod Herrli

October 3-5  Boullework Marquetry

If any of these interest you, contact me here.

Shellac Archive Update – “The Relative Effect of Structure and Other Factors on the Permeability of Varnish Films”

It’s been a while since I added to the Shellac Archive with Juliane Derry’s very important recent Thesis, so I thought I would dust off another, much older piece of valued research.

Henry Payne and William Howlett Garner, two monumental figures in the workd of coatings technology, co-authored the 1937 paper “The Relative Effect of Structure and Other Factors on the Permeability of Varnish Film” for the Shellac Research Bureau of the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn.  The BPI phase of the SRB research was the most fertile period of shellac research ever, in my opinion.

I would abstract the contents, but I think the title is pretty self-explanatory.  It does make for an interesting conceptual bookend with Bill Feist’s “Moisture Excluding Effectiveness of Finishes on Wood Surfaces” from the Forest Products Laboratory in 1985.

Moving and Unpacking as Christmas!

One of the wondrous (?) things about moving after almost  thirty years in the same house and with the same job is to “rediscover” treasures you squirreled away for some future day. Well, that day has come.


One of the treasures I acquired in the distant past was this Anglo-Indian lap desk, with ivory and sadeli parquetry on a yellow sandalwood base.



I bought it for a song because the antique dealer had absolutely no idea how to restore it, and fortunately I do.  The “secret sauce” adhesive technology revolves around road tar.  Yup, asphalt was the original adhesive laying down all these tens of thousands of bits, and I expect I will use it again.  I can practically sense the wide smiles on the faces of two dear friends, “Czar of Tar” AlanN and finisher extraordinaire DaveR, two earnest evangelists for asphaltum.


This detail is of a medallion about the size of a nickel.

Now to somehow figure out how to work its restoration into the schedule…

Finding Excellence in Unexpected (?) Places

Last Monday while en route to the Virginia Highlands, my friend Tom and I had the opportunity to visit an old colleague of mine and make the new acquaintance of a remarkable artisan, thriving in the smallish Shenandoah Valley city of Staunton, Virginia.

I first met architectural conservator Richard O. Byrne almost thirty years ago at museum conferences in Canada where he was then working and living and I was early in my career at the Smithsonian.  We corresponded for a while, but about 20 years ago the connection faded.  About a month ago I got an email from Richard — thanks in great part to Roubo.  Richard has always been an enthusiastic reader of ancient French encyclopedias and craft treatises if I recall correctly.  He indicated he was now living fairly near me in the beautiful little city of Staunton.  His invitation to visit was accepted and fulfilled the next time I passed through town.

Who knew that one of the hemisphere’s most accomplished architectural preservation practitioners now lived only an hour away?  Ironically it turns out he was the project leader for the restoration of the famed mansion house in McDowell, VA, which now serves as the headquarters for the Highland Historical Society and museum.

Richard promised to introduce me to a friend of his, whom he touted as a first-class woodworker.  It was perhaps one of the few times I have known Richard to engage in understatement.

Walter Wittmann was immersed fully in the artistic and technical aspects of woodworking designs as an artisan and student in his native Switzerland, a context that immediately resonated with me.  You see, my oldest and dearest mentors, Fred and Pop Schindler, were Swiss, Pop an immigrant to the USA in the 1920s.  My admiration, appreciation, and affection for them was such that To Make As Perfectly As Possible is dedicated to them.

I intended to spend a few minutes with Richard, a few minutes with his friend Walter, then be on my way to the Highlands.  Instead the captivating experience consumed almost the entire afternoon.


Here is Tom admiring Walter’s almost-completed handtool cabinet.

It turns out that Walter is much more than “a woodworker,” he is a consummately skilled artisan in a wide range of enterprises.  A product of the peerless European tradition of the skilled crafts, he is part machinist, part joiner, part furniture designer, part inventor, part musical instrument craftsman (bass viols and cellos), and furniture maker par excellence.  He has a cavernous work space carved out inside a rehabilitated former auto dealership, which includes a fully equipped millwork shop for large runs of architectural and related work, a brilliantly illuminated (with huge banks of windows) handwork room, and a fully equipped machinists lair.  A brief visit with him unveils the making and modifying of tools, restoring early automobiles, and much, much more.



Two views of a heavily modified marking gauge for bombe surfaces.

Staunton, Virginia, an unexpected (?) place to find such excellence.  I suspect that my excuses to visit Walter will become increasingly flimsy, but the visits will become equally frequent.


Side note:  I know a lot of folks who are good at sharpening their tools.  I am myself fairly confident in my own skills there.  But I have never seen anyone who can put an edge on a tool like Walter can, as he demonstrated his techniques for doing so.  I have much to learn from him and practice, something Tom and I have already begun to implement in our own work based on the demonstration, with great results!

Studley Toolchest Exhibit — One Year to Go!


I know exactly what I will be doing precisely one year from now.  I will be heading west from Virginia Highlands to begin the packing, shipping, and installation of the exhibit “The Tool Cabinet and Workbench of Henry O. Studley,”  in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, May 15-17, 2015.  The exhibit will be twenty-five minutes away from the concurrent Handworks toolapalooza in the nearby Amana Colonies in eastern central Iowa.

We are now setting up the ticket sales site for the exhibit, which goes live at 12:01 AM, June 1, 2014.