Archive: » 2022 » September

‘Tis the Season…

… to harvest firewood for the coming winters.

The pile as of two days ago.

This coming winter is already taken care of, so now I am working on winters 2023, 2024, 2025, etc.  This week I have done nothing but retrieve a small portion of the windfall over the past year, yielding a heaping pickup every day.  Thus far my mountain of firewood to be split and stacked is about 1-1/2 winters, maybe more if the new cabin windows make the same difference as did the two previous projects — insulating and sealing the crawl space under the cabin, and replacing all the chinking between the logs.  These two ventures resulted in cutting our firwood needs by almost 50% last winter.

The road up to the previously felled timber is blocked by windfall trees which must be cut up and removed to even get to the upper inventory. Each of these trees renders almost a full pickup load of cut bolts.

I haven’t even made it to this tree yet, with its 40+-feet of clear trunk almost 24″ in diameter. If it were less logistically challenging, I would contemplate getting this one milled into slabs.

I’ve retrieved four truckloads, with at least another dozen still awaiting my ministrations.

This maple log was a particular challenge as I had to use some block-and-tackle to enable my little pickup to drag it uphill and on to the road so I could work it.  This made me appreciate my little Stihl saw all the more.  It is small and lightweight but can handle an 18-inch bar due to its narrow chain.  I keep the chain sharpened several times a day and have to swap out the current chain because I’ve worn it to the nub.

This week also brought the first swatches of color to the local flora.

CW’s 2023 WW18thC

This week by mail and email I got the announcements (several of them, actually) for the upcoming conference Working Wood in the 18th Century at Colonial Williamsburg, January 26-29, 2023.  The topic is certainly of great interest to me and since they have rescinded all their previous Covid restrictions I am likely going.

Over the past dozen years I think the only times I have gone is when I was a presenter, so this will be a pleasant experience.  I know most of the presenters and look forward to visiting with them, and hope to run into friends old and new.  I promise to be mostly congenial but have to brush up on some social skills that may have become dormant in recent years.

If you’re going let me know.

Back to harvesting firewood for winter 2023/2024 and well beyond.  There’s a lot of storm-fall out there.

On Display

Some months ago I was approached by my friend TimD, who was organizing a “Historic trades” weekend at his place with fellow gunsmiths, horn workers, blacksmiths, weavers, etc.  Tim is an accomplished craftsman, primarily making flintlock rifles and associated accessories like powder horns.  So, he was gathering a number of friends and acquaintances for a weekend shindig open to the public and he asked me to demonstrate making my Tordonshell to the crowds.  It was a peculiar technology to include but I was delighted to participate.  I spent three days on display and explained Tordonshell to literally hundreds of attendees.

I was set up to occupy Tim’s gunsmith shop, a reconstructed late 18th/early19th log structure, using the partner’s workbench I built for him a few years ago.

The front porch of the shop was occupied by other artisans including a wool spinner and my very own polissoir-maker Gary.

I was frankly surprised by both the number of visitors I had, and the intensity of their interest in both genuine tortoiseshell and my imitation of it.

Next year’s event is already on the books for Labor Day weekend and is expected to have around 30 demonstrators.   I am already at work for my demonstrations, as I will be making things out of finished Tordonshell as opposed to making the Tordonshell itself.

I hope you can join u there.

New Hoop Covers for Raised Beds

With the form for the curved ribs in hand I set about to making the four necessary ribs from 3/16″ strips of pressure treated lumber.  Using the combination of T3 adhesive and my fender washer/deck screw method I clamped the laminations to the form, followed by a boat load of crown staples.

When the glue had set (but not hardened fully) I removed the ribs from the form and strapped them to maintain the proper dimension until everything was dry and hard. Unfortunately I do not have any pictures of the skeleton all assembled (I should follow the example of RalphB who is scrupulous about photographing his projects).

With the skeleton finished I stapled 1/2″ hardware cloth as a skin.  This was a bit of a problem until I had a blinding flash of the obvious.  The tip of the pneumatic stapler kept sliding off the wire of the hardware cloth, that is until I filed a tiny notch in the center of the stapler tip, the part that slides up as a safety measure.  After that the process went amazingly fast.

The hoop covers were really light and easy to maneuver into the proper place.  Mrs. Barn wanted them to be attached and hinged so I made that happen, then covered them with a second skin of window screen to keep out the moths that love to eat up the veggies she grows inside.

Come winter we will cover these with plastic to turn them into mini-greenhouses so that she can grow things inside year-round.  This works well enough, but a big improvement in this regard is coming soon to the homestead.

Stay tuned.

Mundanities Vol. 4

It’s that time of year when there’s a run-up to firewood season.  I will soon find myself building a mountain of cut firwood next to the splitter and spending several days splitting and stacking the finished product to season and await its use.  We do not need any firewood for the coming winter, and perhaps even into the start of next winter, but my goal is to get ahead of the heating fuel curve by three winters.


In addition to that we’ve had some work done on the homestead (more on that later) that is prompting some aggressive brush cleanup around the log barn near where my pal Bob felled some trees eighteen months ago.  To that end I’ve spent the past two weeks working in the area extracting brush, cutting wood, and bush hogging.

A simple tool I made from, once again, wood from the scrap inventory and decking screws, has been exceedingly helpful; a saw buck.  It was made from pressure treated pieces left over from some long-forgotten project, took very little time or energy to become manifest.  In sort, a perfect “mundanity.”

Exploiting the properties of triangles and diagonal bracing the saw buck is very light — I can move and maneuver it easily with one hand while the other is holding the idling chain saw — and also exceeding strong with a holding capacity of several hundred pounds.  Thus I can easily get the piece(s) to be sawn up off the ground so that I don’t have to finesse the saw bar to keep it from touching the ground.  Around here if the running chain hits the ground, it hits a rock, and off to sharpening it goes.

A Different Kind of Craftsmanship (not exactly woodworking)

I recently ordered a new pair of lightweight logging boots to replace my old ones, now 20 years old and very high mileage (not to mention they weigh seven pounds apiece).  Somewhere in my search I came across this fascinating video of handmade boots.

Hooped Covers for the Raised Beds – Part 1

Our little corner of paradise has many idyllic features fitting my “Want List,” compiled over 30 years, almost perfectly.  Remote?  Check (as the realtors have advertised, we are three mountains back from the nuclear blast zones). Sparse population?  Check (reputedly the lowest population of any county east of the Mississippi River).  Isolation?  Check (nearest permanent neighbors a mile away).  Geographic beauty?  Oh yeah.

Rich, loamy soil perfect for gardening?  Uh, not so much.  I actually think that the primary “agricultural” product of our region is not cattle and sheep but rocks.  Even now after a dozen years of gardening the same spot Mrs. Barn gathers a new pile of rocks every Spring during her pre-planting preparations.   By the way, this has to be done by hand as the “soil” will beat the ever lovin’ snot out of a garden tiller.  I once rented a trencher to bury some electrical conduit.  Didn’t last five minutes.


Recognizing the nature of the “soil” here I built a series of raised beds for gardening before we moved here.  I ordered a truck load of “topsoil” that had to be screened to remove all the gravel, then filled the boxes with that screened dirt.  Soon enough there were green shoots popping up.

Early on I affixed PVC hoops ribs on the boxes so they could be netted in the summer and covered with plastic in the winter.  On two of the boxes I built removable screened hoop covers for the beds, and this past winter I was informed that the two screened covers were plumb wore out and needed to be replaced.

Given the importance of the enclosed raised beds I decided to make some first-class hoop covers for them.  I began by taking the time to make a form on which I could assemble laminated curved ribs.  Then the work got serious.