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I Must Be Purdy Stoopid ‘Cause Wordsmith Outsmarted Me

Last week I accidentally posted the title only of a blog post “Pushing the Boundaries of Graggsylvania.”  This evening as I was working on a post for tomorrow I was bewildered that I could not find the post anywhere on today’s blog calendar.  After some noodling around I found that the full blog post had been grafted on to the mistaken Title-only post of last week.  So, if you want to read today’s blog with the earlier title, go here.

I hate compewders.  They do what you instruct them to do even if that is not what you want them to do.

Winter Projects (and well beyond) – Foundrywork


Now that I have the foundry set up on the first floor, I really have no excuse to not start metal casting.  Well, except for the need to refabricate the large entryway, allowing me to roll out the smelting furnace from the interior space.

It might be just fine having a thousand degrees worth of hot indoors with a wooden floor above, but I would rather not test that hypothesis as a starting point.  Perhaps if there is a streak of ultra-mild days upcoming (it’s been unseasonably warm thus far this winter) I can get that task done.

To be sure the first project on the slate for the foundry is to move forward with replicating the infill mallet from the Studley Tool Collection.  Having that prototype in-hand would be a great excuse to revisit the collection itself, to compare my replica with the original.  Obviously, Mister Stewart gets the first unit off the non-assembly line, should he want it.

Right behind the Studley mallet in the queue is my finger plane project, with its thus-far three models underway.  I started working on these models 15 years ago if the date stamp on the images is correct.  I do not need these tools from a utilitarian perspective, but I do need them from a creative one.

Once I get the foundry humming along as a routine activity there is no telling what I can imagine making.

Winter Projects (and well beyond) – Ruthless Wordsmithing

I have on occasion penned a “State of the Barn” blog post but this year decided to lay out my short (and long) term goals as this series of “Winter Projects (and well beyond).”  Looking over the list it reads more like a Soviet/DC Deep State 5-Year Plan.  Oh well.  

Who knew that I would evolve/devolve from a guy who fixed artifacts into a craftsman whose most important output would be words?  Well, that might be my job description now.  I need to follow the example of Chris Schwarz and become comfortable with killing my babies (words).  It is a curious profile in psychology that I am much more comfortable with jettisoning people and relationships that become deleterious or irrelevant to me, while often I cling to ideas and words long after I should.  Everyone has some versions of normalcy bias and preference bias and clearly these are mine.

I’d better get better at it, or my writing projects will just continue to spin further into unfruitfulness or inactivity.  I’ve been wrestling with A Period Finisher’s Manual for almost a decade, or in other words, eight years too long.  I have now begun to take my laptop compewder with me to the shop, to spend at least an hour or two on the project every day in order to knock it out so I can move along to the Roubo files Michele has already completed and sit mockingly in their respective directories (she is almost two books ahead of me, having already finished her side of The Roubo Lexicon and is currently speeding through Roubo on Garden Carpentry [which is way cool!].  She will soon be starting on Roubo on Windows, Doors, Stairs and Floors, our largest Roubo volume).  Plus, I’ve got a lot of fiction outlined in my notebook, some mystery thrillers, some short stories and novellas about Joseph of Nazareth and Joshua Bar Joseph in their first Century workshop.

I am not an experienced writer and have not previously encountered the hurdle I am facing with APFM, namely that I have too much extraneous information and too many words on the subject.  I have returned almost to Ground Zero in rebuilding the manuscript contents and organization.  That was certainly not the situation with Roubo on Marquetry and Roubo on Furniture, where Roubo’s own words pretty much established the boundaries of the projects.  And, on Virtuoso: The Tool Cabinet and Workbench of Henry O. Studley, even after years of diligent research my knowledge was frustratingly sparse and my willingness to go beyond it was almost nonexistent, a situation imposing its own discipline.  I wrote that manuscript first draft in only six weeks for the main text with another two weeks for the photo captions.

Now I just gotta get down to the business of killing words and excising unnecessary rabbit trails.  I would say, “Wish me luck,” but I do not need luck.  I need ruthlessness.  The new standard has to be not, “Does this amuse me?” but rather, “Does the typical reader need this?”

Winter Projects (and well beyond) – Boxwood Handles

Some of the elements of this ongoing litany are monumental and strategic, others are more mundane and simply part of the shop wallpaper, so to speak.  This is one of those times.

Many years ago, a friend was remodeling his garden and removing some pretty nice boxwood bushes.  He made sure to save me a couple buckets full of trunks and branches, and they are awaiting my ministrations to turn them into handles and tools.  As I embark on my tool cabinet there will certainly be times when this or that tool needs a new handle.  Well, if not actually “needs” a new handle, would certainly be more comely with a new one.

It reminds me of the Monday maybe thirty (?) years ago when chatting with one of my co-workers. He was a weekend volunteer at a Maryland historic home for a War of Independence general or some such.  I knew that the residence and grounds were undergoing some major renovation and restoration.

“I was thinking of you over the weekend,” he said,

“Really?  Why?”

“We finally started to return the gardens to their 1790 configuration and are ripping out all the mid-19th century gardens.  We yanked out about 100 boxwood trees and took them to the dump.   Maybe I should’ve called you.”

“Yeah, you should’ve called me.”

“It wasn’t that big a deal, they were really small trees.”

“How big?”

“Oh, not so big.  I don’t think any were taller than me, and the trunks were only about the size of my thigh at the base, some maybe a little bigger.”  He was a little bit husky, so I would guess the century-and-a-half-old boxwood stumps were roughly 8-10 inches in diameter.

All hauled to the dump.

Stake.  Heart.

I got over it.  Sorta.


Winter Projects (and well beyond) – Pushing the Boundaries of Graggsylvania

Sorry, I accidentally posted this headline last week with no content.  Here is the content.

I find everything about the Gragg Chair to be compelling, from its aesthetic sinuous elegance and innovative form to the engineering brilliance and the craft challenge itself.  But, could the same form and concepts be taken to different places?  What else could be accomplished in the territory of Graggsylvania?

I intend to find out.

I am not the first person to ponder an exploration down this path, beginning with Samuel Gragg himself, who constructed this unsuccessful (to me eye, at least) settee. I fully intend to make a four-unit settee employing the fully steam bent structural integers rather that the partial one he employed.  Actually, that might be a post-winter project as I would have to do it on the unheated fourth floor which I promise you is not someplace to be desired as a workspace once the chills set in, although that might just work for steam bending the parts.  If I can clear space in my heated studio, however…

And how about a Gragg Rocker?  I’ve mocked one up and have bent the rockers for it, now it only takes time and energy.

What’s next, Gragg porch chairs?  Gragg footstools?  Gragg plant stands?  Gragg child’s chair (now that is really intriguing)?  The options boggle the mind and fuel the imagination.

The Carpenter’s Step-Son (2021)

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.


The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God.  You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”


And they said, “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother’s name Mary?”

And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.  And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. 

I pray for you to have a blessed Christmas with loved ones and that you are celebrating the Incarnation, through whom we can be reconciled with The Creator.

Wooden Knives

This was certainly the fascinating terminus for an amusing rabbit trail.  I was surfing for information on shop-made plywood-form-laminating and somehow this is where I ended up.  Sometimes the interwebz is a vehicle for cultural destruction, other times it is a portal to enhancement.

This is one of those times.

Or, the other.


Steak knife made from hardened wood is 3 times sharper than steel (

Winter Projects (and well beyond) – Tool Cabinet

My friend Tom standing in front of Walt’s tool cabinet when we were visiting him in Staunton. I very much like this style of standing tool storage.

For a variety of reasons – desire to consolidate my core tools into a compact-ish volume in preparation for the “some day” time when I do not have a 7,000 s.f. barn, organizational order (my friends are laughing out loud right about now); work flow; parquetarian/channeling-Studley indulgence; antipathy for floor level tool chests — I plan to spend a good part of the next two (?) years constructing, decorating and outfitting a large standing tool cabinet in my studio.  It will reside in the space currently dedicated to my saw rack and whatever is on the floor underneath it.  I was really impressed by my acquaintance Walt’s cabinet and plan to use his as an inspiration for mine.

Rather than making it out of solid lumber with dovetailed corners my plan is to construct the box/doors entirely from 3/4″ & 1/2″ Baltic-birch plywood and sheathed in a yet-undetermined parquetry pattern (a la Roentgen?) using veneers sawn from leftover FORP workbench scraps.  This project has been gestating long enough that I scrounged scrap 18th century French oak from the original Roubo bench-building workshop in Georgia.

The cabinet box will be roughly 48″ high x 42″ wide x 16″ deep with an open space between the base structure large enough to fit my Japanese tool chest.

Leave it to me to attempt a masterpiece project that almost nobody will ever see.

Have You Encountered This?

I got a note today from a customer whose jar of Mel’s Wax had some weird black schmutz in the sealed jar.  If you have encountered anything like this PLEASE LET ME KNOW.  I need to figure it out and resolve the problem poste haste.

I check every unit before it goes into the USPO and it wasn’t there last week, so I am scratching my head.  I’ll investigate thoroughly once I replace it and get it back.

It has not only been a crazy year for the world at large but apparently the craziness is becoming manifest with this product as well.

Bandsaw(s) Tune-Up

One of the truly exasperating aspects of the Gragg chair workshop was that my 10″ benchtop bandsaw was continuously malfunctioning, requiring us to go up and down two flights of stairs to the main floor with its two larger bandsaws instead of using the little beauty up on the fourth floor.  Chairmaking does not require fancy band sawing but it is an important contributor toward making it an efficient process.

After much sturm-und-drang I discovered ex poste that the new 1/4″ bandsaw blades I’d had in the drawer for the 10″ unit were mismarked; instead of being the 56-1/8″ needed they were 59″.  I could get them on the wheels and run true when turning freely but they would not stay there once battle commenced.  I ordered new blades and they were the right size, so with a complete cleanup and adjustments, combined with new guide blocks cut from a rod of 1/8″ carbon fiber rod from my stash, the new blade installed and ran perfectly and now once agin the saw cuts superbly.

Meanwhile I decided to tune-up my 40+-year-old 14″ Delta bandsaw, a prize from a yard sale almost 20 years ago.  I think it was $100 complete with rolling base.  For a long time I had been contemplating adding a true rip fence to the saw, and finally made the plunge.  Even though the Kreg fence is designed to be installed on the left side of the blade, with a little tweaking I installed it where I wanted it on the right side of the blade.  Sweet.  I also finally added a dust collection port in the lower wheel cover, which combined with a simple bent sheet metal cowl around the lower guide block unit, reduced the sawdust by roughly 95%.

I am contemplating but have not acted on purchasing a carbide tipped blade for the band saw; the ~$200 price tag is a bit stiff.  If you have had any experience with carbide tipped blades for small bandsaws please let me know.

BTW here is an excellent short video on bandsaws that I discovered recently.