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Workbench Wednesday – A Douglas Fir Laminated Roubo

Continuing the minor detour from recounting the inventory of my own workbenches, today I will talk about a sweet left-handed Roubo made from, I think, salvaged local Douglas Fir. I saw this bench when visiting our daughter and SIL over Christmas.

My daughter had recounted the tale of chatting with their friend K at church, wherein K mentioned to them that he had built a dream workbench. When asked about it, K mentioned that it was a French-style workbench documented by this guy Roubo that they would have never heard of.

At which point my daughter piped up and said, “Hey, I know that name. My Dad is writing a bunch of books about him.”

“Really? Who’s your Dad?”

“Don Williams.”

She said that K’s eyes got wide with disbelief that the author of the book he had used as guide for building his bench was his friend’s Dad. Small world, huh?

So, while in NorCal for Christmas it was arranged for SIL and me to join K for a manly breakfast from several of the fried food categories. We did and had a grand time of fellowship, then trekked to K’s home nearby for the viewing of the bench.

It was indeed a terrific bench.

There were some innovative modifications, including re-locating the leg vise to the right end reflecting K’s left-handedness. Perhaps the most intriguing modification was the re-design of the double-tenon joint where the leg top joins the bench. Instead of ganging together the single rectangular tenon and a single dovetailed tenon at the top of each leg, K chose to use two rectangular tenons with the one set back from the edge face of the bench, rendering it a fully-housed joint. I was very much impressed.

He also included a sliding deadman, a fairly typical feature of many benches, and a nice slipper to fit underneath the holdfasts.

He is rightly pleased with this centerpiece of his own workshop.

We then went down the road to The College of the Redwoods, where K is an instructor in the cabinetmaking program there. IIRC CoR was the umbrella for the Krenov School 125 miles down the coast, which is now independent of CoR. However, K indicated that the CoR administration is interested in creating a new fine woodworking making and design curriculum to stand alongside their other construction technology programs.

I certainly wish them success in that.

2019 Barn Workshops

I’ll post more about each of these in the coming days, and update the website calendar but here are the events for this summer.

Make a Set of Nested Brass Roubo Squares – June 20-22, $425

Historic Wood Finishing – July 18-20, $375

Make A Roubo Shoulder Knife – August 24-24, $250

Make A Ripple Molding Machine – September 23-27, $950

If you have interest or questions you can contact me here. They will also be showing up on the Store page shortly.

Workbench Wednesday – Announcement, “FORP 2019!”

We interrupt our regularly scheduled programming for this special announcement

From Benchcrafted mavens Jameel and Father John Abraham comes this exciting news:

“After four years of catching our breath, and pining (oaking?) for another week building the sweetest benches with great people and amazing French oak from the Jefferson Administration, we’re excited to announce The French Oak Roubo Project III!”

You can read the full announcement and the details at the link above.

The event is schedule for October 13-18, 2019 in Barnesville GA, about an hour south of Atlanta.

If you have ever had the unscratchable itch to build a “to die for” workbench with timbers from trees probably alive during Roubo’s lifetime, alongside a cadre of folks who will become friends-for-life, this is the event for you. I will be one of the facilitators as in the previous two iterations, anxious to redeem myself from being merely a one-legged cheerleader in the aftermath of my broken hip the previous time.

Here are a few images from my memory bank in the previous two events, especially the first one when I started building my own..

A Week *Under* The Cabin

Finally after several years of dithering, we got the crawl space under the cabin insulated. The log cabin sits atop a stone wall in the front with the newer rear addition on a stone-faced block wall, with nary a lick of insulation to be found in the vicinity. Whether you are a physics purist determines if you think the cold was wicking in or the heat wicking out. One thing was evident always; the floors were cold all winter long regardless of how much we cranked up the wood stove. So the time had come to address the situation.

It was not straightforward.

For starters, I am not the most nimble fellow, on or off my feet, and the space underneath the living space was, well, close. I am not claustrophobic, I’m just large (notwithstanding my self image as a small man, due almost entirely to being a most enthusiastic basketball player as a kid. I was almost always the smallest guy in the game. Like Peter Follansbee my dream was to play power forward in the NBA but I definitely picked the wrong parents and stopped growing a foot too soon). Fortunately a chance remark to the fellow who grew up in this house 45 years ago yielded an excellent referral to Rick, a retired electrician/handyman who is a renowned spelunker.

After a few weeks of phone-tag we set the time to commence the project immediately after our week in Florida celebrating my Mom’s 102nd birthday. Being a spelunker Rick kept saying, “This project is going to be fun!” After a week under the house I wonder if he thought the same.

Our first task was to clean out the small amount of debris there, Rick uses a concrete-mixing tray hooked up to a rope for that, and then we got to work on lining all the surfaces — dirt floor and walls — with heavy duty plastic sheet. Have you ever tried maneuvering a hundred pounds of slick plastic sheet while on your belly? It’s less fun than it sounds.

Underneath the old log cabin the space was so tight I was of little help. Even Rick had to lose his winter jacket in order to fit. Once the plastic sheeting was in place he attached 3″ XPS foam panels I had salvaged years before (I used this insulation for my shop space and it worked magnificently). He was underneath while I was outside cutting the pieces to the dimensions he shouted out. All the seams were filled with sprayed polyurethane foam.

With the cabin space finished we moved to the newer addition where the space was comparatively capacious. The first task was to install a sump pump in a depression that was evidently created to hold water, it was in fact full of water when we specced out the project. Fortunately there was no water present during our week under the house.

The final day of the week-long project was tough for me standing outside cutting the foam sheets as a record breaking cold front was moving in. But then it was done.

The days immediately after the installation were record cold, with overnight wind chills in the -40 territory. Given that level of cold we could not adequately discern the efficacy of the insulation. That was followed by record-warm weather, so it has only been in the last fortnight when a “normal” weather pattern resumed that we could tell it was really making a difference.

I placed a dehumidifier and box fan in the space to get it really dry before I treat all the wood surfaces with borate salts solution, and once that dries we will dive back in and finish insulating the perimeter beam on top of the wall, from which the joists are hung.

Oh, Babe!

This chainsaw sculpture of Paul Bunyan awaits to greet any visitors or clients at Blue Ox Millworks. Babe the Blue Ox was not evident.

During our recent Christmas foray behind enemy lines into occupied territory of northern California we had the opportunity and time to do some great sightseeing and such. One trip was to the Blue Ox Millworks (as in Paul Bunyan’s companion “Babe the…”) in Eureka which is both an active vintage millwork shop replicating high Victorian/Gothic carpentry but also cultivating the recovery of “lost” craft traditions.

The main work area for the millwork has an impressive collection of late 19th century technology on display, including about a dozen human powered woodworking machines.

The main building, a re-purposed factory of some sort, is home to a variety of work stations focusing on the restoration of the High Victorian “Painted Ladies” of the Pacific Northwest, including the replacement and replication of fancy trim work, house painting, gilding and sign painting.

One of the surprising work stations was one dedicated to hand weaving of household textiles.

Adjacent to the sign-painting space was the owner’s “mad scientist” lair where he mixes all sorts of earlier technologies, including machine work and paint and varnish making. He was not there when we visited, but I am certain it would have been entertaining to chat with him.

The view from the window in the sign painting studio is pretty darned nice.

Outside in the little craft village surrounding the site was this shrine to the giant redwoods, including this cross-section wafer of the trunk, cut at the 70-foot mark.

A number of smaller studios were scattered about, including ceramics, blacksmithing, decorative metalwork and casting, and plaster work.

A very cool place to visit if you are in the area.

FREE – H.O.Studley Memento

Thrashing around my “mail” closet I came across a stack of leftover postcards I had printed in 2014 to promote the then-upcoming exhibit of the H.O. Studley Tool Cabinet and Workbench I was creating for the following May.

Rather than simply throw them away or use them for notes to myself, I decided to make them available to you for free until they are all gone. I guess I could make some charge, but that seems like too much trouble to me.

So, if you would like one of these cards to post on the wall next to your tool cabinet just drop me a note and I will send you one for free (make sure to include your mailing address!). If you feel compelled to compensate me you can buy me a cup of tea or a brownie the next time our paths cross.

The Weekly Trip To The Post Office

My usual routine includes a weekly trip to the Post Office to mail orders for beeswax, polissoirs, and the occasional video. Given the week’s delay due to the untimely death of my compewder, coinciding with the new offering of Mel’s Wax in the store, Monday’s trip made me feel like Santa.

Since our county is the least populous east of the Mississippi I am able to cultivate a personal relationship with the postal folks and they treat me great, including Monday’s pile of packages. They only have one counter station so I just dropped off the bag and they worked the packages in when they had a break in the flow of other patrons coming in to mail their packages.

I’ve already got another big pile of Mel’s Wax packages to send out. I might have to start mailing things twice a week!

PS If a unit of Mel’s Wax is part of a larger order, I send them separately; the polish is already boxed and ready to go so I put everything else in mailing envelope

Workbench Wednesday – #15 (2015) Laminated Roubo, Part 2

NB: I think I am back on track to resume a “normal” blogging schedule. I spent much of the evening Monday and day Tuesday getting the new compewder up and running, loading it with my every day programs and importing a quarter-million files from my external hard drive archive.

PS Apparently while I was away WordPress “improved” their template, making it nearly unusable for me. I have come to think of web application designers as (functionally) sadistic swine, sitting in their cubicles of antisocial isolation and thinking to themselves, “I guess the users must have the hang of the current version by now, so it is time to change it and make it useless again,” while rolling ball bearings in their palms and muttering  about strawberries.

With the core of the laminated slab assembled and glued I measured and cut the laminae that incorporated the mortises for the legs. I had already prepped nd assembled the legs so “making” the mortises to fit them snugly made the whole project easy, quick, and very high-performance.

The final three laminae on each face, the ones housing the leg tenons/top mortises, were glued in place and the legs driven into the mortises, which fit perfectly since all the amina for the top and the legs were prepared identically.

With the legs inserted and the whole assembly upside down I added the face-mounted stretchers (diagonal deck screws) for the bottom shelf.

Now it was ready for the legs to be trimmed to length, then turned upright to cut the slab to length and trim the protruding tops of the leg tenons.

I planed the top flat, installed the shelf, and before you knew it I had a finished bench core.

This unit now lives up on the fourth floor, in the video studio.

A New Voice Joins the Pantheon (off-topic)

I have long loved the majesty of magnificent singers, beginning with the Messiah as a child.

This continued through my world-shattering exposure to Johnny Hartman, the greatest male jazz/pop vocalist of all time, Etta James and Gloria Lynn in my early introduction to jazz (like my daughter’s reaction the first time she had curry at a restaurant, “Mom and Dad, what is this and why have you kept it from me?” [having Mid-west Baptist taste buds, I am suspicious of anything with intense flavor and consider curry to be inedible] I had the same reaction to discovering jazz), and on to the sublime Linda Ronstadt as a late adolescent. Over the years I created my own pantheon of greatest contemporary/pop singers. Admission to this company is very restrictive, to the point where even Miss Linda came up just a smidge short.

At the very top of the female vocalist food chain is the utterly incomparable Jennifer Warnes, whose long-time collaboration with Leonard Cohen was one for the ages. The fact that SRV played geetar on this album was a cherry on top. Alas, her album output has been way too sparse.

Next up is Eva Cassidy, who like Elvis, is far more successful in selling records after death than before. Her angelic voice and musical interpretations is never far from my ears, especially when I am in my truck. This performance of “Fields of Gold” was so captivating its composer vowed to never perform the song again. And, her rendition of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” is intoxicating. These performances were from her last public appearance, she was already weakened by her terminal illness.

A half step behind Warnes and Cassidy are the magnificent Alison Krauss and Deborah Holland, the vocalist with Stewart Copeland and Stanley Clark in their short-lived Animal Logic. Alas, she recorded only two albums before leaving high-profile performing to become a music professor.

Recently I stumbled across a new (to me) musical group, Lake Street Dive, an intoxicating group of musicians and composers who formed as students at the New England Conservatory of Music more than a decade ago, each brilliant in their own way. Their singer, Rachel Price, is someone I could listen to all day, and she is the first addition to my Pantheon of Singers, Female in two decades. (Michael Buble is the only male inductee in recent times).

Give her/them a listen and see if I am right.

PS My new compewder is due today, so as soon as I get it up and running I will be back to “normal” blogging. I could post this one only because it required no image files from my external file archive.

Bloggus Disruptus

Nothing wrong per se, but lengthy travel, an intense week of work under the cabin, and now a dying compewder resulted in my bloggification output being disrupted for the past fortnight and extending another few days before returning to “normal.” Blogging on a Kindle is not optimal, especially when all my photos are elsewhere.