Archive: » 2020 » October

Treasure(?) in the Firewood Pile

In my recent labors in the readying for winter via firewood splitting and stacking, I came across a couple of interesting pieces.  If the burls are sound, always an iffy proposition, I’m thinking the larger one can be turned into a pretty cool bowl for nuts or dried flowers, as for the smaller one Mrs. Barn has requested a wooden ladle.

With firewood duties completed for the moment I’m back in the shop for a good bit.  I finished processing that which has been hauled down the hill, then sometime later will go get another two dozen or so large trees that are on the ground.  Already we’re well into getting the firewood supply for the winter after the upcoming one.

(This Present) Distraction

With a new Kindle in-hand, and wishing to protect it more attentively than the previous one, I’m making a case for it using the home-made epoxy/ash veneer plywood I described earlier.  It will not be particularly fancy, just the <1/8″ plywood as the flat panels and the ~3/16″ plywood as the case walls.  These will also serve as the ground for some nice French-style parquetry using up some of my re-existing lozenge and trim inventory.  Not sure if “Pimp my Kindle” is a thing.

There is no “joinery” in the project, the case walls were just 1/2″ wide strips of the plywood glued to the 1/8″ panels around the template of the old dead Kindle.

My excitement is building as the fancy work is now imminent.


D’s Broken Chair – Part II

The work of repairing D’s broken chair leg had the additional challenge of intact upholstery in place, and I had no desire nor skill to peel it all back to do the work.  This is not the first time I have had a similar challenge of making a fundamental structural repair to a piece of seating furniture without the luxury of really intruding into the fabric of the object  One notable example of this problem was a c.1800 painted shield-back chair with a very old hand woven cane seat and a snapped side rail.  The client insisted that the repair leave both the painted surface and the hand-woven cane intact, yet restored so solidly that the chair could be used on a daily basis.

In the case of D’s chair I had to peel back the dust panel and just enough of the upholstery so that I could get access to the damaged area.  That consisted of a blowed-up-real-good corner joint with snapped off dowels, blown out seat rail end, and everything under stress from both the upholstery itself and the underlying springs which were still affixed to the frame.

The front rail had been pretty busted up and the dowels damaged and even broken off.  I made the first repair by reassembling the broken seat rail, using PVA and rubber bands as the clamping mechanism.

I gently drilled out the center of the broken dowel after first cutting it smooth with the joint face.  After removing most of the mass with the smaller drill I cleaved off the remaining dowel mass with a small carving gouge until I got everything removed that I could do safely.  Using the proper sized drill bit I “re-drilled” the dowel hole by hand.  That made the reassembly pretty straightforward.

I also had to remove the corner brace completely, as it had broken loose and was not properly aligned even when the chair was new.  After cleaning the gluing surfaces and placing it properly, once reglued and screwed it was mighty strong.

Reassembling the complete structure of the corner took a whole lot of clamps just to get things aligned, remember that the springs were still holding the deck together and exerted a lot of force making the configuration an issue.  I carefully placed the upholstery back where it belonged, doing my best to overcome the puckering induced by the original structural damaged puling the fabric out of place.

It sat under a furniture pad until the D’s husband came to pick it up, and then it was on to the next project.




A Disappointing Tool

A year ago I purchased a pair of brand new Nicholson patternmaker’s rasps to add to my inventory — I do not  have a “file” problem, it’s just that I do not think having hundreds of files and rasps on hand is excessive — and have used the finer one a good bit in working on the Gragg Chairs up in the fourth floor video studio.  The coarser one remained in my second floor workshop getting very little work until I was doing some rough shaping on green wood burl last week.  Given the wet nature of the burl, the rasp clogged pretty rapidly.  As I smacked the tool against the side of my workbench to knock out the offending material, the rasp, with only an hour or two of bench time (none of it abusive), shattered into four pieces.  Obviously in hindsight I should have used a wire brush or file card to clean the rasp, but I was pretty disappointed at how fragile the tool was.

“Comments” Hiccup

I’ve received several notes that the “Comments” do not show on the blog.  Webmeister Tim is working on it.

Prepping (for Gragg Workshop)

I could probably maintain a steady stream of posts exhorting you to prepare for the ongoing (and upcoming) societal chaos, but since this is a mostly woodworking blog I’ll just keep it there.  My commentary on the global status quo mostly remains reserved for private correspondence.

Since deciding to host and teach a “Make A Gragg Chair” workshop next August I have been focusing in on preparing the fourth floor space and the necessary chair-making elements for that enterprise.  This week my dear friend John has come to work with me in both aspects, which include the mundane (tidying and reorganizing the space) and the sublime (steam bending all the elements needed for five chairs — I will be making one right alongside the students so they can witness the way I do things, not simply receive my instructions on that).

I described myself to some visitors last week as “someone who is congenial with well-developed social skills but is entirely comfortable being alone for weeks and months at a time with just Mrs. Barn for company,” I find the circle of friends whose company I seek out is pretty small.  John is one of those men.  Our week will be one of productivity, in-depth discussions of forbidden topics, and maybe even some way-out-of-bounds activities reflecting the fact that I live in a just-barely-free jurisdiction and he does not (some/many/most? “public officials” have clearly mistaken 1984 as an instruction manual rather than a cautionary tale.).

So together John and I will take a pile of sticks and turn them into chair parts.

Stay tuned.

Garden Bounty

We are fans of squash, both summer squash (zucchini, yellow squash, etc. —  her zucchini crush pizza is to die for) and hard winter squash, and Mrs. Barn’s harvest this year was really impressive.  We think it is enough to get us through the winter.  She shredded and froze a lot of the summer squash for use in cooking through the winter, and this mound of winter squash will appear on the dinner table with delightful regularity over the coming months.

Beans?  Great.  Tomatoes? Meh.


D’s Chair

Recently I was asked by a fellow congregant to repair his wife’s favorite chair, a small upholstered piece (that might have been used as a trampoline by the grandkids).  Regardless of the actual genesis of the damage, the front seat rail had its joint snapped off at the proper left end and pretty severe distortion was the result.

For a project like this I use an exceedingly cautious approach since I am not an upholsterer.  Removing the dust panel from the underside of the frame revealed the extent of the damage.  Wowser.  The rail had blown apart at the joint, and one of the dowels had also snapped off.  Repairing this was a good reminder of why I am trying to be retired from the biz.

My expert opinion based on almost 50 years of fixin’ furniture was, “Yup, it’s broke.”  Both the dowel joinery between the rail and the leg and the concomitant glue block had busted loose so I set about getting it right.

Stay tuned.

Readying For Winter (blog back on track?)

After a couple solid weeks of working my way through the pile of cut and drying bolts of wood, splitting hauling and stacking them to various location on the homestead, I note that winter now has my permission to descend on us.  I’ve got about 1-1/2-to two winters worth of firewood ready for burning, with another two-plus years’ worth felled and on the ground up on the mountain above the barn.  I’ll start cutting and hauling that next month to begin drying on pallets until I get around to splitting that too.

The “window” in the firewood crib was left open so Mrs. Barn could view her flower garden while rocking on the front porch. That void will be filled this week.

Being a southern California gal and enthusiastic gardener to boot, Mrs. Barn is singing the blues about the upcoming season.  Given the work done last year to the cabin it is MUCH tighter than in previous years, and she even was heard to utter comments that it was too warm in the cabin at times last winter.  Truthfully, I think the dearth of daylight is more distressing to her than the cold.  Time to get out the happy light from the closet.  And maybe revisit the subject of building her a greenhouse.

I am totally prepared for heating the shop, too, with far more firewood and bags of coal than ever before.  Since taking this picture I re-stacked the firewood to move it back a few more feet from the stove, and added a loose-stack wall of concrete blocks to serve as an additional safety feature between the stove and the wood.

Now all that’s left is to winterize the yard equipment and finish assembling the “Tim the Tool Man Taylor-worthy” snowblower I bought to clear the driveway since our plowing guy retired.

Then the really chilly weather can start.  We might be in Ol’ Virginny, but we have had at least a couple of sub-zero nights every winter.  Last year was pretty mild, but this being 2020 I can only imagine what the coming winter will be like.


I think I am back on track blogging-wise, more or less.  I still do not have Photoshop up and running but found a good work-around for simple photo editing with Corel Photo-Paint, CorelDraw being my preferred vector graphics tool.  I can’t do anything really complex with Photo-Paint, but I can crop and re-size which is all I need 99% of the time.

There are still a couple of minor hiccups with WordPress but for now I can keep moving forward.  Thus I expect to resume posting three or four times a week for the foreseeable future.

Wish me luck.

Step Forward, Step Back

Compewdermeister Tim and I managed to find and intersection in our schedules last night and had a short but productive TeamViewer session so he could fix the problems with the WordPress template.  In the ensuing email he reminded me that our template is old in the tooth,  I have no idea what those implications mean.  But, WordPress does work.

As I went about formatting some pictures for a new blog post I discovered that while WordPress did work, Photoshop does not.  I suspect a forced update to my Windows 10 system is the culprit.  I truly despise it when I am working on this or that and I get a pop-up notice telling me that a required update is going to occur right now, and Microsoft takes control of my laptop until further notice.  In this case it took several hours to do whatever it was doing.

In short, I can now import images into a blog post (this is just a test image) but I cannot manipulate them fully at the moment.  I will re-install Photoshop tonight to see if that cures the problem (I use an ancient version that still uses CDs for the software).  If not, I will try to find a work-around.

Stay tuned.  Sigh.