Archive: » 2019 » November

Cockroach’s Cousins, Part 2

My routine and rhythm of life in the shop has been disrupted for the past three months due to travel, processing firewood, and running back and forth to work on the house with the termite damage.  (In fact I have not spent any quality time working in The Barn since early September)

The damage itself was both isolated and pretty straightforward to repair, but we decided it was time to replace the 35-year-old cedar shingle panel siding on the house.  Two loads were soon on-site, the trim lumber (I would salvage all the trim I could but bought enough that I could replace it all if needed) and a palate full of shingles.  Bought any premium cedar shingles lately?  I had not bought any for many years and the sticker shock was breathtaking.

When opening the exterior wall of the first encroachment I found what I expected.  Much to my delight the damage was confined to the area immediately under and adjacent to the one window.  The framing around that window was pretty much shot and the wood frame of the vinyl clad window was lightly riddled but still structurally sound (we were not so lucky with the window on the other side of the house).

I took out the window and executed my standard epoxy consolidation protocol, namely soaking the affected area with West System epoxy diluted 1:1 with acetone for greatest penetration, then following that up with straight epoxy, and finally, if needed, epoxy bulked with wood dust filler.


I removed all the affected materials and burned them out in the fire pit and began the reconstruction.  Needless to say everything was borated to the max, repeatedly.  Fortunately I was careful enough to leave the interior fabric intact, needing only to remove the trim around the window.  I would have been grieved to need to remove all the interior sheetrock.

But soon enough the repair in that area was completed and a carful check of the rest of the wall revealed only one area at the corner needing a little attention from a tiny smidge of rot, about the size of a golf ball right at the corner where the side wall and front wall met.  There was no structural compromise, but I still impregnated and filled the area.

Then it was off to the races with the new cedar shingle siding.

Stay tuned.

Studley-esque Treasure Discovered at PATINA

One of the great joys of living in the mid-Atlantic region is the 42-year-old organization known as The Potomac Antique Tools and Trades Association, or PATINA, which meets every other month in McLean VA on the outskirts of Mordor.  I have had a long and fruitful relationship with this group and find their bi-monthly swap meet and demonstrations sessions to be a genuine delight.  Their annual mid-March flea market and auction near Frederick MD are worth the drive from wherever you might be coming from.

The recent PATINA meeting was the fulfillment of all that and more!

Let’s back up a year or ten, reflecting on my research into Henry O. Studley and his tool cabinet and workbench.  Experiencing it, up close and personal, it is even more spectacular than can be captured in images.  The nooks and crannies can be appreciated only in 3D in real space.  One of the tools it contains is this little 1″ x 1″ Prentiss vise mounted on a Cuban mahogany block, tucked up away and entirely out of sight to the normal viewer.  I love this vise and have been looking for a sibling without success since I first saw it almost a decade ago.  I’ve been in the neighborhood a time or two (more tomorrow) but never found the exact house address.

Thanks to the ongoing project at our daughter’s house near Mordor I was in town for last Sunday’s PATINA meeting and flea market (I bought a few useful items).

And then my friend JohnD summoned me over to his table.  A fellow named Kevin had strolled in and showed him this.  John knew what it was and also knew I would pop my eyes.  I did.

Holy cow!

I offered him five bucks cash, no questions asked.  He declined.  I think John was dickering with him for a while.  I would love to own this but cannot justify the money it would take to reach a fair price.  But at least I got to look at it closely on this grey, drizzly day.

You just never know what you will find at a PATINA event!


Friday was a combination of several benches going together, others being palletized for shipping home, and the completed ones going into vehicles for transport home.

Early in the day the push was on to get together as many criss-cross leg vises as possible.

Once that was done it was time to merge the legs and the top.  One group used hot hide glue as a lubricant and adhesive for the joints, even though the latter utility was/is superfluous.

But for most, it was a simple process of placing the top over the leg tenons and rocking the entire unit up and down, switching from end to end.  Slamming the entire mass down eventually drove the top mortises onto the leg tenons soundly.

There then began a round of slamming tops followed by proud portraits of the makers and their new benches.

And out the door they went, some on to trucks, others into trailers, and some on to pallets for shipping home.

By 2PM the place was pretty much emptied and the tidying began.  Then all of a sudden another FORP was finished.


I was recently watching some videos on shop layout and came across my friend Stump Nubs’ hilarious riff on the constant need for many of us woodworkers to tinker with our shop layout.

You just might enjoy it and laugh just like I did.

FORP III, Day 4 – Coming Together

Day 4 of FORP III was another one of feverish work as the participants were striving to start putting their benches together.  Which meant, of course, the final fitting of all the joinery.

One image that was prevalent during the day was sharpening tools to get the joints as crisp as possible; numerous sharpening stations sprouted around the room.

Another snapshot that amused me was this tray of analgesics that was emptied at some point in the day.  This was hard physical work, the kind few of us were used to at this level of intensity.

The buzz of activity was the air that we breathed throughout the day.

One of the benches I followed ws the one being built by this father-and-son team, whose tool kit had not arrived for reasons I never quite knew.  Nevertheless, I was pleased to make my own kit available to them and they put it to good and successful use.


Meanwhile around the room twenty tales were unfolding and moving towards completion.

This is one of my favorite pictures from the week, with Will providing some useful ballast to Horace’s bench.

Jameel and Jeff provided the real-time, real-space tutorial on installing the Benchcrafted criss-cross leg vise that was part of the package of every bench.

Tim the mechanic was the first guy across the finish line, and hearty congratulations abounded.

John and Phil were next to finish, and I think this will be a treasured family memory for generations yet to come.  The excitement was rising for another half-dozen benches ready to assemble Friday morning.

That evening was the open house with a cajun stew for supper, and my Gragg chair on display or anyone who wanted to give it a try.


MMXIX-I Completed and Delivered

With some degree of anti-climax the pinstriping was touched-up and the final coats of satin oil varnish applied, and all of a sudden after eighteen months of intermittent labor the replica Gragg Fully Elastic Chair number MMXIX-I was finished.

It went with me to Georgia as I traveled to FORP III, and on Wednesday delivered it to the new owner.  He graciously allowed me to display it during our evening open house, and everyone who wanted was able to sit in it.

The moment of my lodging hostess giving it a test sit was captured here, being watched by FORP student Andrew and his lovely wife Katie.


Day 3 of FORP is pretty much an extended schizophrenic moment as the participants are settling into the routine of work and fellowship, knowing what and why they are doing what they are doing.  The morning generally starts out smoothly with restrained purposefulness but as the day goes on there is a palpable edge to the atmosphere as the sentiment, “Oh crap, I’ve only got two more days to get this done,” wafts into the shop.

Wednesday was Mortise Day and the intensity was thick.  At the beginning of the day everyone was first wrapping up their base assemblies so they would know where to put the mortises.

There was a fair bit of tenon trimming also, especially for the dovetailed tenon cheeks.


Oh, and lots of checking to make sure “square” was really square.

Around mid-morning Chris gave the sermon on executing the double tenons.  There were two major steps and some folks did one first (sawing the outer dovetailed tenon) and other went the other way (drilling out the waste for the inner tenons).

There was a lot of deep breathing as this was the start of irreversible steps.  For the most part everyone had on their game faces for sawing the dovetail shoulders.  Except for Brian #4 who was never more than a moment away from a hearty laugh.  I think the class had something like five Brians, four Andrews, and three Tims.

Once the angled cheeks were cut the waste was kerfed to facilitate removal.

For the inner mortises the waste was drilled out and for many the edges of the joint were established with a saber saw, a technique I have never employed.

Then the chopping began in earnest.

Somewhere along the line Schwarz encountered this beast of a hand-held bandsaw, using it to trim the ends of the slabs and kerf the outer mortises.

I included this picture just because the wood was so remarkable.

Yes indeed, the joint was jumpin’ this day.




Tuesday morning saw me working with Jeff Miller in the lower shop building because the Tannewitz band saw there was better suited for finishing up the tenon cheeks and the dovetailed shoulders on the front tenons.  Though there are no pictures of us doing that I did get a pretty neat pic of Bo’s crew distressing some sweet oak box beams for a custom interior someplace.

Jeff had an appointment elsewhere for a few hours so I was working with Jameel to get all the tenon cuts finished, and we did.

I got back up to the main work room just before lunch and there was a flurry of activity and the bench parts began to come together.  Lots of tenon valley cleaning out,

edges being trued to make sure the layouts of the mortises were correct, (the long curls were ankle deep that afternoon),

the dovetail cheeks were cross-cut and trued

and a whole lotta stretcher mortises were matched with their mortises.

Before long there was a collection of upside-down bench bases on display.

Around mid-afternoon The Schwarz gave a demo on laying out the base to the top and marking and cutting the mortises into the latter.

So that’s what was happening all over the place for the rest of the day.

The day was capped by another walk through the yard full of antiquities, with Chris being captivated by this sculpted sandstone bank faced detail of a bee hive.

FORP III Day 1 – Variety

I  thought I had been told to arrive at 9 the first morning, so I did, only to find out that the first students arrived before 7AM to stake out their work stations and set up, so the bee hive was buzzing long before I got there.

As I came to learn throughout the week the students body was an amazing mix of folks; a chemical engineering professor, a video production entrepreneur, a lawyer/lobbyist, three professional woodworkers/furniture makers, a cybersecurity geek, a geophysicist, a playwright, a CPA, a custom floor maker and his furniture design student son, a fireman, a mechanic, an energy engineer, an electrician, a high-end custom home builder, a rancher, two surgeons, a military helicopter pilot, and maybe another couple of folks I cannot remember at the moment.  There was no shortage of interesting things to talk about during meals and breaks.

Frankly put, the gallery of student set-ups was a dizzying cornucopia of horses and tool inventories, with the former ranging from old-school carpenter’s horses to sooper high tech devices the likes of which I had never seen.

Take a look.

As for tool inventories and their containers they ranged from several ATCs and Dutch cabinets to plastic tubs to simple canvas bags.  I’ll take a look at them in another post.

As I arrived the last of the bench tops were being fed through the Stratoplaner, the prehistoric minivan-sized machine that planed all four surface of the 300-pound slabs simultaneously.  One by one these took their places in the appropriate work stations.

In short order the preparations for the 80 legs commenced.

A quick tutorial on laying out the double tenons on the tops of the legs (and keeping track of them!) was followed by the soundlessness of eighty sets of tenons being laid out.

While that was underway Will Myers and Father John Abraham prepped the stretcher stock, and once again Jeff Miller and I tag-teamed to make jigs for cutting the tenon shoulders.  Which we did.  A lot.

As the day closed the air was filled with the sounds of wailing away on the valleys between the double tenons and the scriiitch of planing the edges of the tops square and true so the double mortise layout could be executed.

And that was Day 1.