Archive: » 2015 » December

I Swear, Google Maps Uses Race Car Drivers

Today confirmed my opinion of the general veracity of all things Google.  I made a round trip to the Maryland panhandle to return some of the tortoiseshell artifacts I’ve been conserving to their owner.  Since I had not made this trip before I got directions from Google Maps.  They gave me a route and an estimated travel time of 3 hours and 16 minutes.  Despite leaving an hour before sunrise and driving at or above the speed limit the whole time, the trip took 3 hours and 48  minutes.  Sheesh.  Makes me glad I will be eliminating all the travel I can for the next two years.

Bigger Just Might Be Better

I returned home from FORP 2015 to find my old friend Jersey Jon (accompanied by the lovely C, Mistress of Toolism) parked in the driveway, having just deposited a 14″ chop saw on the doorstep of The Barn.  This mega tool had fallen into disuse at Jon’s place and he was loaning it to me in anticipation of its use for next Spring’s bench build.


Jon indicated that the saw would cleave a 6×6 in a single stroke, so it ought to handle our work load.  I’ll touch up the blade and it will be ready for work.

Tortoiseshell Box Conservation Series – Elephant Dentistry

This particular box needed no meaningful repair, but rather a good cleaning and polishing.  The tortoiseshell surface had a slightly cloudy appearance due to abrasions typically imparted through the nearly two centuries of use.  Given that chemically tortoiseshell is nearly identical to your fingernails as high density keratin fiber plates, it can easily be scratched and polished.


Polishing the surfaces was a straightforward process I have described here previously, and the results were not disappointing.



The larger component of the treatment revolved around the cleaning and polishing of the ivory feet.  In short, I became a postmortem  elephant dentist.



Diving into my tool kit of dental tools I withdrew my favorite cleaning scraper.  If I could ever find another one like this I would snap it up.  I recall this tool being a vintage SS White piece from an old military dental kit.

A half hour of dental hygiene cleaned each foot.


The cleaning/scraping was followed by a few minuted of dry polishing, using a cloth I made from chamois rubbed with 1 micron agglomerated microalumina metallography abrasive.


Like the polishing of the tortoiseshell, the treatment of the ivory yielded a satisfactory result.


With most decorative objects I treat, my objective is to conclude with a piece that appears “old, but well-cared for.”

FORP 015 – Fellowship and Finale

The week of fellowship began immediately with the "get acquainted" barbeque and social hour preceding the orientation lectures Sunday night.

The week of fellowship began immediately with the “get acquainted” barbeque and social hour preceding the orientation lectures Sunday night.

There is no doubt that the highlight of the week was the many levels and contexts for the fellowship of the instructors and participants.  FORP 2015 reconvened a core of FORP 2013 fanboys for another run at the prize, and my time spent strengthening friendships and just having plain old fun with Jameel Abraham, Bo Childs, Jeff Miller, Will Myers, Raney Nelson, and Chris Schwarz goes straight into the memory book.

Narayan recorded the events of the week with his camera and his unerring eye.

Narayan recorded the events of the week with his camera and his unerring eye.

This posse was augmented by John Hoffman and my Virtuoso collaborator Narayan Nayar, making the company of companionship darned near perfect.  At one point in the week Jameel  asked us all at dinner whether anyone would be willing to participate if it ever happened again.  Every hand at the table was raised.


Jameel was around all the time, especially when help was needed with the design and layout of the criss-cross and Benchcrafted end vises.

Equally delightful was the time spent with the subscribers, coming from all around the continent, with the closest being only a few miles from his Atlanta home, and the farthest from home having driven from the Pacific Northwest.  Of course the fellowship for a remarkable endeavor was the drawing card; any one of the participants could have probably built exactly the same bench at home alone or with some buddies to help with moving the mass.  But to engage in the same activities with two dozen other fanatics was irresistible.


During the week Chris and John Hoffman were at the south end of the room building a bench and helping any and all who called; I was on the north end of the room ensconced between Steve, Walter, and Joe.  The grouping was representative of the gathering; one retired guy with a bum hip, one software developer, one facilities manager, and one anesthesiologist.

Raney, Will, and Jeff were peripatetic throughout the week, doing whatever needed to be done, helping whoever asked for it.  Jameel and Bo ran the endeavor from behind the scenes such that it appeared to be smooth running flawless operation, but we all knew how much effort it took to make it seem effortless.  Since I was limited in my strength and mobility I was mostly a cheerleader and adviser, providing instruction and demonstration as needed.  One thing I could do without hindrance was sharpen, so I set up my sharpening station and invited anyone who needed something sharpened to drop it off.  I’m not sure how many plane irons of chisels I sharpened, but it was a bunch.


Rick especially appreciated my timber framing chisel when it came time to get his bench top ready for the Bechcrafted end vise.

I was also able to loan out many of my tools when there was a need.  I brought my timber framing tool box, and the scale of the work was more akin to that skilled trade than furniture making.

The bull session at Ron's plane making shop.

The bull session at Ron’s plane making shop.

Ron took the opportunity to deliver this new plane to Ted, one of our company.

Ron took the opportunity to deliver this new plane to Ted, one of our company.

During the week there were two scheduled social events, the first being a group dinner at Ron Brese’s house, the second being a barbecue in the Wyatt Childs workshop we were occupying for the week.  The former allowed us to have a great meal under the faithful hospitality ministrations of the Breses, a bull session in Ron’s pane-making studio, and the opportunity to help out one of the company who inadvertently maneuvered his rental car into the ditch.

Joe's daughter making music for us while we are all blending and yakking.

Joe’s daughter making music for us while we are all blending and yakking.


At Thursday’s social Chris chats with FORP 2013 alum Krishen, while Marty’s new bride checks her phone in the background.

At the second we were able to visit with a FORP 2013 alumnus and listen to the musical interludes provided by Joe’s lovely daughter, and to make the acquaintance of many family and friends of the group.

I think this was Pete's rig, heading back to NYC.

I think this was Pete’s rig, heading back to NYC.


Chris and John headed back to Cincy with this new bench hanging out the back end, with the tailgate mostly open. Good thing there was no rain in the forecast.

By Friday lunch the work was winding down, and the vans and trucks started getting in the queue to load up.  Once again this was a group effort as the task of loading a 450 pound bench and the accompanying hundreds of pound of tools for each person was not inconsiderable.  As the crowd thinned out I departed late Friday afternoon, needing to get home and resume many projects in the barn.  A few hearty souls stayed to work on their benches on Saturday, and then the event was concluded.


One of the delightful occurrances of the week was our daily catered lunches, served on the c.1900 Forge Royal Rouboesque bench.


I saw many captivating tool boxes and tools during the week, but my favorite just might be Francis’ hand made boxwood rule. Were it for sale I would buy it in a heartbeat.


Wandering through the Wyatt Childs’ inventory of mostly architectural antiquities yielded some surprising discoveries.


This mighty cypress log was scheduled to be milled the week following FORP 2015. The widest point at the base of the bole was over four feet.