Archive: » 2020 » May

Another Section Off To The Races

This afternoon I emailed the second of a great many sections of A Period Finisher’s Manual to my initial reviewers.  I am trying to send them texts in their proper sequence even though that is not how I write them.  This one was the introductory soliloquy on Surface Preparation (of wood).  The surface preparation during the application of the finish will come much later.

My plan is to send another section every week or ten days, probably longer than today’s 1300 words.  I know that the next one, the conclusion to Surface Preparation, is several times longer.

Many tens of thousands of words to get into the hands of the readers.  I got my Eames Chair knockoff repaired so I’m good to go in massaging all these parts together.

Cockroach’s Cousin, Part 7

Progress on the house siding has been slow but steady.  On our last trip I made it all the way to the peak of the wall, making sure to be careful and cautious the whole way up and down the ladder,  The use of which made me think of my late friend and colleague Mel, who gave me the ladder with the comment, “I’m done going this high.”  The ladder is a beast but there is no other way to get to where I needed to go.

As I was zooming along thinking I would get the entire wall ready for trimming out I made it to the octagonal window in the master bathroom.  Uh oh, this does not look good.  The bad news is that the window is totally shot.  I’d painted it when installing it 33 years ago but time has not been kind to it.  So out it came, adding another thing to my “To Do” list.  I will make a new one immediately on return to Shangri-La.

The great news is it is plain old weathering and rot, and the surrounding material was in perfect shape.  No evidence of  a cockroach’s cousin to be seen anywhere in the vicinity.

I have been sending pictures to old friends who know the house, and one replied, “This looks great and like it will last another forty years.  By then you will have to be REALLY careful up on top of the ladder!”

Workbench Wednesday – Basically, Cow Tipping

I am on the home stretch, expecting to have Tim’s gunsmithing partner workbench ready for delivery by the end of next week, so now I am just wrapping up some of the details.  Yesterday I laid it over to proceed with some of those tasks, and someone asked how I flip over a 10-foot almost 400 pound bench.  Well, for starters in this instance I did not flip it all the way over, although I could have done so easily, I simply had to roll it 90 degrees so I could plane the apron and the edge of the top board to align perfectly with the apron.  I’d already planed the legs before assembly.


This is how I lay over a Nicholson bench.  I start with a pair of small horses/stools I made from a pile of scraps many years ago.  I cannot remember the project now, but I had a whole stack of off-cuts and from them fabricated ten pairs of these unbelievably handy units.  Placing them correctly I can just barely lean the the bench over such that the apron bottoms rest on the tops the two stools.

At that point the center of gravity is almost neutral, so flipping it the rest of the way is simply a matter of grabbing one of the feet and lifting easily.  Once on its back I can kick the stools to support the apron and the leg at the same time.

Now that the bench is on its back I’m ready to clean the apron with a foreplane, it is supposed to fit into rude frontier workshop after all, and chop the mortise for the parallel guide on the leg vise.  Since I am re-using an extant leg vise all I need to do is put the jaw in the right place, mark with the chisel, and start wailing away.  I have to mount the twin-screw face vise on the opposite leg, drill some holdfast holes, and it will be ready to go.

Roubo Bowsaw Prototype 1.2 – The Joinery Saw

Some time ago I was asked by Mark Harrell of Bad Axe to build  production-able prototype versions of the bow saws Roubo featured in L’Art du Menuisier, Plate 12, Figures 3&5.  He was considering adding them to their product line and I was delighted to collaborate with him as I would be with any tool producer.

My first effort two years ago resulted in some success but some failure, so in recent weeks I have been trying to extract more of the former and expunge the latter.  My first attempt yielded a prototype that was unsatisfactory in the important aspects of the tool; 1) it was way too heavy, 2) did not look anything like what Roubo described and illustrated, and 3) had plate fittings wholely unsuited for manufacturing (yes, I know I spell wholely different that the dictionary; the dictionary is wrong).  So, I went back to the bench and started all over again.

In the coming days I’ll walk you through my successful attempt at Version 2 of the Joinery Saw..

The Rolling Ball

A couple weeks ago I blogged over at Lost Art Press about the initial distribution of manuscript pieces for A Period Finisher’s Manual to my first-tier reviewers, four hearty volunteers who have pledged to stay with me to the bitter end.  I assure you they will be just as tired of the project as I will be by the time it makes it into print.  Thanks again Bill, Bob, Gina, and Josh for your yeoman’s work to make this esoteric topic into an engaging and informative volume.

The first broadside was the “Introduction,” a non-technical roadmap for the project.  Later this week I will be sending them at least part of (maybe the whole of) the first section, “Preparing the Surface.”  There is nary a drum sander or jitterbug to be found.

I look forward to their feedback.  Once it gets integrated into the manuscript text, that “final” version will be winging electronically to my second tier reviewers Bill, John, Len, and Mike for any final thoughts before the whole pile lands on The Schwarz’ desk.  I have only so many words in me, so periodically I fall silent here as I restock the lexiconic inventory.

The only current unexpected  hurdle is that a bolt on the rocker mechanism for my Eames knockoff chair broke on Friday so I have to get that fixed pronto.  It’s my writing nest in The Waxerie, where I spend part of every day massaging words.

It Depends On The Light

Last week for the first time ever I saw this faint embossed pictogram on the rosewood plane.  It was all a matter of the light hitting it at precisely the correct angle.  It is fascinating but not especially helpful a priori as my literacy of Chinese pictograms is exactly where it was the moment before — nil.  If anyone knows what this means I would love to know.

I’m still thinking of fabricating a wood-planing iron for this beast and putting it to work.  I believe one of the blog’s readers identified the original tool as an apothacarist’s or herbalist’s plane for shaving plant medicines, or perhaps a cook’s plane for shaving vegetables.  If I  can make an iron made for it and working well it would be a beast of a wood plane.

Necessity Is The Mother Of Invention, And Sometimes Mom Is Smarter Than All Get Out

Between a lot of activities in the shop and around the homestead, I use a lot of disposable ear plugs for sound reduction.  Recently I was getting ready to fire up some machine or the other and simply could not find my cannister of disposable ear plugs.  No where.  They had simply been beamed up by aliens or something.  Admittedly I’ve been doing a lot of reorganizing and cleaning lately, but these are not something I would have put is an obscured location.

While not exactly desperate, I looked around to see what could be used as a sufficient substitute.  Sure, I had cotton wadding in my finishing kit but that is not really an effective sound stopper, and yes I could use ear muff sound reducers which I also use regularly.  Then something in my hardware store under the stairs caught my eye and the light went off.  I tried it and quite simply it may have yielded the best ear plugs I have ever used.

Most earplugs do not fit my ears snugly, no matter how much I twist the rounded tips or shove them into my ears they always seem to fall out fairly soon after inserting.  I have a little better luck if I turn them around the wrong way and insert the larger butt end of the plug, at least they stay put, but they still do not provide the hearing protection I used to get from the green hexagonal plugs from days gone by, the kind I have not been able to find for many years.

But these new ones?  They fit my ears better than any others I have ever tried, and their sound reduction is at least as good.

So what were these new magic ear plugs?  You can see in the picture.  I took a coil of  1/2″ foam polypropylene caulking backer, snipped off a 3/4″ piece from the end, compressed it and stuck it in.  Like I said the fit was the best ever and the sound reduction truly excellent.  These are now my “go to” ear plugs, period.

And the missing cannister of ear plugs?  In the locked gun cabinet, left there after my last practice session.


Ingenious Mini-Workbench

Even though it is Workbench Wednesday I have not made any progress on Tim’s Partner Gunsmithing Bench for a couple weeks (I will post about those other goings-on soon) and do not really want to post yet about some other workbench-y things in the barn.

I did, however, come across this video of a truly ingenious adaptation of a Roman workbench that I thought you might find as engaging as did I.

Cockroach’s Cousin, Part 6

Over the winter and into Spring I was able to go to Maryland a few times to work on replacing the cedar shingle siding on our daughter’s house there.  The progress was steady but slow.  For starters, a things progressed the work got higher and higher on the ladders and I simply do not scamper up and down like I used to, added to the inherent risk of high ladder work I was exceedingly cautious while working.

In October I noticed that my knee began to progress(?) from a constant dull ache to a sharper twinge and finally to an acute pain that kept me mostly on the coach with ice and heat.  Turned out the episodic ice-pick-through-the-knee was due to an inflamed/damaged meniscus, and after almost going down in the middle of a flat parking lot Mrs. Barn put her foot down and directed me to actually to go to the doctor, who prescribed Physical Therapy for a month. The results were spectacular and I continue a 75-minute exercise routine on alternating days and now I’ve been feeling no discomfort in the knee for the first time in 50 years.

As for the house siding project one of the most difficult aspects was the safe removal of the 2′ x8′ cedar shingle panels I installed 35 years ago.  In the intervening period there was a lot of penetration with plumbing and electrical projects, requiring several of them to be cut away in pieces while up on the ladder before carrying them down the ladder and over to the trash pile.  While there was very little additional damage from the cockroach’s cousin in the wood there was a lot of nesting/penetration in the rigid foam insulation.  I replaced a lot of that and added another layer of insulation in between the horizontal firring strips required by the new cedar shingling.

I evaluated the production of my days by the number of tote bags filled with shingles I used, and a really good day had me installing a half dozen.  Now the end is definitely in sight.

Workbench Wednesday – Tim’s Novel Leg Vise

When Tim came over a while back to check the progress of his bench he asked for a special arrangement for the leg vise — could it be configured to rise above the bench top several inches to better accommodate carving his gun stocks and similar gunsmithing tasks?  I had already given him a vintage vise screw and nut, so I had to check out what was possible with them.  I also had a jaw from some other project that could be integrated with whatever I could arrange for the vise.

My first task was to see if/how the nut could fit into the underside of the Nicholson bench.  I took a little trimming of one edge of the nut block but it fit darned near perfect.  I would love to claim credit for this design feature genius-ness, but it was just a lucky happenstance.

Fitting the jaw to the screw took a minute or two on the spindle sander, but the screw hole through the apron was another matter.  I wanted a snug fit and the closest hole saw I had was 1/16″ underside, so I would up pending two hours rasping the hole by hand.

The arrangement of the jaw to the nut/hole allowed the jaw to protrude about five inches above the bench top, to serve in essence as an integral carving vise a la one of the bench top accessories from Benchcrafted.

A rear jaw sculpted to fit, to be bolted to the top with some vintage square head bolts, and that particular feature was finished.

PS  sometimes Photoshop and WordPress do not play well together, sorry about the photo orientation but I cannot seem to solve it this time.  If I get it figured out I will repost with the pictures corrected.