Archive: » 2022 » December


I did so little websurfing over the Christmas week that it took an email from Webmeister Tim notifying me that the entire web site had been offline and that he was on the case.  It turns out it was an administrative thang going back ten years to the foundations of  There was some sort of certificate/hosting/renewal minutiae that named original Webmeister Jason as the payment source, or more precisely, Jason’s credit card.  Since Jason has moved on to other projects and almost certainly does not have the same credit card numbers, and neither Webmeister Tim nor I were listed as the contacts/payers for some “i” dotting, “t” crossing exercise, the entity involved had no one to respond to their billing notice.

Anyhow, Tim texted me last night that the electron-work details had been resolved (is it really “paperwork” anymore?) and we will have a strategy chat tonight about the future of the site and its ancillaries.  I congratulate him resoundingly for diligence in getting any interwebz/compewder service company to respond in any way on Christmas Day!

I’m still in the midst of a season of scheduling dynamism so don’t get too nervous about any occasional radio silence.  Never fear, there is so very much going on and yet to begin on the homestead.

Stay tuned.

The Carpenter’s Step-Son (2022)

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.

Back At It (Roubo)

After a hiatus Michele and I are back at the Roubo grindstone.  We are now looking forward to two or three or four years of near-constant work.   Notwithstanding any reservations, we are determined to bring our final three sections of this monumental project to conclusion.  Admittedly, if the ongoing social and political exploration of the boundaries of decadence brings about the ultimate collapse of Western Civilization, and the interwebz with it, that could be a serious glitch.  As long as we can communicate easily between locations in the Virginia mountains, northern Vermont, and southern France, we will charge ahead.

In the aggregate, these three final sections — interior carpentry (windows, doors, stairs and floors); garden carpentry (surprising amounts on discussion of carving and design principles); and carriages (perhaps the coolest content of the whole encyclopedia) — are roughly 20% larger than Roubo on Marquetry and Roubo on Furniture combined.  LAP has indicated they want the whole pile all at once, so we are about to go “radio silent” for this portion of our working lives.  I expect to post approximately zero times over the next couple years on this project.

At the moment my task is to photograph the text pages from my Leonce Laget facsimile set, then to crop and reformat those pages before sending them along to Michele to work from.  At that point our well-established process will play out.

  1.  text page images to Michele
  2. rough first draft translation back to Don for heavy editing and workshop-friendly annotations and ancillary content
  3. round-robin between Michele and Don until we are both satisfied with the completed draft
  4. completed draft translation and text page images sent off to Philippe (note to self, contact Philippe; he is now living back in France)
  5. send “final” draft to LAP, to begin the round robin with them.

Unless there is a compelling reason, there is no need for me to blog any more about this until we are much nearer the finish line.

(Re)Making A Parquetry Veneer Saw

The assemblage of the 60-120-60-120 parquetry for my proof-of-concept panel for the tool cabinet, confirmed two critical tool contributors requisite for the process.  First is a set of fine kerf saws and the other is an ultra-precise trimming template for the individual units.  The blog on the trimming template will be posted soon, but the next few are all about the saws.

In working the heavy sawn veneers, I found myself using several small Japanese saws exclusively — a readily available dovetail saw and a curved tooth veneer saw.  I’ve blogged previously about the unavailability of Japanese veneer saws, at least in my experience, which motivated me to look for other alternatives.

One of the alternatives I have used in the past is the saw used for cutting into the center of flat areas, mostly for outlining mortises for carpentry-scale work.  Such a saw works  perfectly for trimming parquetry elements in part because it has a much larger handle than anything similar.  Unfortunately it has a really long neck on the blade, making it “wobbly.”  Blending the cutting capabilities with a stiffer handle and neck was a project I bit in to with vigor.

Stay tuned.

Great For Furniture, Lousy For Heat

We are now firmly into the wood-stove-heating season, and it happens that this year we have a lot of black walnut to burn.  Not anything furniture-worthy, I set all that aside for use in the shop later, but the branches and such.  Since we felled several walnut trees two years ago there is a lot of that “clean up” to burn, and burn it we are.  One thing is clear in my observation — walnut may be great for furniture making and bowl tuning, but as a firewood?  Meh.

For the number of BTUs per unit volume of wood it really fails to deliver.  Yes, of course it burns and provides heat as a result.  But compared to everything else on the menu for wood burning it falls way short.  Plus, it is really ashy, as bad as soft maple.

In fact, walnut comes in dead last in my hierarchy of firewood I can harvest from my own ~70 acres of forest.

The top of that list is occupied by locust, which seems to be almost as BTU-dense as the coal I burn in the shop stove.  It can’t be, of course, but goodness I love the output of heat vs. volume and ash I get from locust.  I’ve got a lot of it including two stupendous fallen trees up near the ridge property line near the cabin.  Even one of those trees will suffice for a complete winter, so I am anxious to bush-hog enough to get my little 4WD truck right up to the windfall.  In fact, the two remaining standing trunks are so big I need to hire my pal Bob to come and bring them down.  I just do not possess the experience, skill, or saw to bring them to the ground.

Next comes oak, which we have a fair bit of but not as much as locust (firewood-wise).  Given the amount of windfall of other species we have up the hill I do not cut much oak.  But when I do, once seasoned it is a premium source of heat.

As is ash, of which I have very little.  The characteristic of ash that makes it a good firewood is that it needs almost no seasoning to be ready for the woodstove.

Cherry and maple are also good source of heat, and we have a lot of both.  The difference between them is that maple is a lot more ashy than cherry for the amount of heat provided. When we burn a lot of maple we have to clean out the stove about once a week.  With cherry it would be every two weeks.  For oak and locust it could be every three weeks.  About equal to cherry is the surprise pick of black birch, which we get a tree or two every so often.

We do not have any tulip poplar so the last spot is occupied by black walnut.  It’s just the way it is.  We’ve got a very large walnut tree that is ailing and through which the power and phone lines travel.  I hope the tree recovers, but if not there’s a huge pile of lousy firewood waiting to happen.


BTW I am almost done splitting and stacking the firewood for next winter and will likely wrap that up with a couple of good days after New Year’s and will weave more occasional firewood processing into my routine thereafter.  A couple hours here, a couple hours there, and the mountain of cut wood will turn into a mountain of split and stacked wood.


It’s That Time of Year…

…when I listen to this version of The Messiah at least once a day.  It is so sublime that I will not desecrate it by trying to sing with it, and sometimes I cannot even bring myself to hum.  It is that majestic.

There are many features of this performance that I find captivating.  Of course the musicians and singers are simply superb.  Alto Delphine Galou is my version of the old Benjamin Franklin quip, “Beer is the proof that God loves us.”  (Admittedly some of the impact of this saying is lost on me as I do not possess the beer-drinking gene.)  Mrs. Galou’s voice is one proof that God loves me.

I love the ensemble who performs the oratorio and the philosophy behind them.  The Prague-based Collegium 1704 ensemble emphasizes period instruments, and it is simply amazing the sounds and configuration of those instruments.  It’s no big deal to find c.1700 violins.  Expensive, but not unusual.  But c.1700 trumpets and other brass instruments?  Wow.

The vocal ensemble is much smaller than typical for The Messiah, which tends to be a monumental production with a monumentally sized orchestra and choir.  Aside from the four soloists there are twenty in the choir, with roughly the same number of instrumentalists.  This allows for the massive inertia of most presentations to be overcome with this much more crisp and sprightly version.

Finally, the setting, again made possible by the smaller ensembles, provides a much livelier sound; the giant spaces necessary for huge performances muddy the music in my opinion.

I must not be the only one, the video has been watched almost 8 million time.

Christmas Shopping/Shipping

It always surprises me how many last-minute Christmas orders I get for the very limited range of products in the Donstore.

Be forewarned that Mrs. Barn and I will be coming and going A LOT over the next few weeks, so if you want me to send you something before Christmas make sure to get your order in by COB this coming Friday.  After Friday, orders will be at least a week later, perhaps even two or three weeks.

A Grand Day


Last Saturday we were in Columbia, Maryland, first for my presentation to the Howard County Woodworker’s Guild, where a rollicking good time was had by all.  I’ve spoken there twice before, most recently on the sober, memorable day of the second Space Shuttle disaster in 2003(?).  There was no memorable public disaster last Saturday, other than the ongoing collapse of Western Civilization.

I had a such a terrific time!  I sometimes forget how much I enjoy teaching traditional wood finishing.  The large-ish audience was very engaged and I had some difficulty getting things wrapped up and loaded afterwards as person after person came to ask questions as I was packing up.

For this 75-minute demo I selected the highlights from my 3-day workshop Historic Wood Finishing.  They might invite me back to teach that event, and I am pretty sure Joshua Farnsworth will ask me to teach it at his school near Charlottesville this summer.  Check their respective web sites to catch any updates for that.

After this we met with long-time dear friends K and N to tour the moss art studio where she works, and consuming a delightful meal with them.  We bought several of the moss art works as we were both enamored with them.

(I know, I am really lousy at taking pictures with my phone.)

Picking Away (At Silica Deposits)

After much noodlin’ and experimenting I wound up in the place of resolving the problematic silica flatting agent deposits in the interstices of the antique wood of Mrs. Barn’s clothes cupboard doors.  Unfortunately the destination was a place I did not necessarily want to go — picking out all the offending material with dental tools.

A few hours of work (I did not keep track as I popped in and out on the process) was all it took to get things back to a good place from which to proceed.

I really did not mind, for most of the past forty years I became accustomed to delicate, tiny-scale work, frequently under a stereomicroscope.  I guess if you find such work intolerably tedious, art conservation is not a good career path for you.  At least in this case I was not tethered to one of my microscopes, reading glasses and good directional lighting were all I needed.

One project from the past came to mind as I was picking out all the bits of crumbly whitened varnish.  It was a late 19th Century Alexander Roux cabinet that had been gifted to the Institution, needing a fair bit of work.  The original base had rotted off due to the cabinet sitting on the mud floor of a basement, so it needed a new base along with all the bronze mounts.  I sculpted the wax patterns for the new mounts and cast the bronze myself.

But, the most nettlesome aspect of the project was the intractable accretion of untold layers of linseed oil-containing furniture polish on top of all the surfaces including the patinated copper and bronze on a large cameo medallion that was the visual centerpiece of the cabinet (the main purpose of the cabinet was to hold either one piece of sculpture or a flower arrangement on the center of the top).  Over the years the linseed oil had hardened into something akin to Scotty’s transparent aluminum due to imbibing metal from the substrate leaving an encasing residue essentially un-removable by ordinary means.  The only effective technique was to formulate and slather an ultra-high pH Laponite gel, which coincidently removed the patination on the underlying substrate.  That was not a desired outcome.

Eventually I wound up fabricating some ivory scrapers to chip off the deposit, working entirely underneath a microscope to protect the undulating surfaces of gilded bronze and patinated copper.  The ivory scrapers looked like dental tools and were used because they would chip off the rock-hard contaminate yet not scratch the substrate.  In the end I was exceedingly pleased with the outcome.

But back to Mrs. Barn’s cabinet doors.  After removing all the deposits with the dental tools and scouring the surface with a wire brush, it was time to try applying a new coat of gloss oil resin varnish.


Whew.  I can now proceed to completion, building up the finish to a matte presentation.


On Saturday morning I will be making a presentation to the Howard Co. (MD) woodworker’s club on the topic of shellac finishing.  Somehow I’ve got to cram enough content from a three-day workshop into 75-minutes to make true believers out of them.

The only way I can think to do this is to “Julia Child” it, so for the past couple of weeks I’ve been spending a few minutes here and there creating in-step sample boards, allowing me to jump into each step for a couple minutes and start with raw plywood and end up with some highly polished surfaces.

I’m also taking the tack of using only (well, at least mostly) locally available supplies, including Bulls-Eye shellac, fine artist’s brushes, good rags from the thrift store, Woodcraft or a good hardware store, etc.