Archive: » 2023 » October

Huh, Never Saw That Before

Interspersed between sessions of working on the cherry trim for the new bay window I began the process of transforming the pine-veneer-over-particle-board shelf of the unit into something that is visually cherry-ish.  The shelf will be used as a mini-greenhouse by Mrs. Barn through the winter, so the finish needed to be really robust.  To that end, I sealed the surface thoroughly with a brushcoat of thinned West System Epoxy for best penetration to get it as impregnated and protected against moisture as possible.

To impart the coloration for the board I used a commercial cherry stain as an intermediate glaze coat, probably an iffy proposition.  Actually, in hindsight since it was a complete mess of an outcome — perhaps the worst finishing clusterflunk I have ever encountered — it was way worse than “iffy.”  I did not even document the process, I had glazed probably ten thousand surfaces over my career so why document this one?  (Perhaps some day I should write a series of blog posts about imparting coloration for matching, and the various techniques — staining, dyeing, toning, and glazing).

The glazing went fairly well but it took three days for the glaze to set before I could recoat, versus the normal 2-6 hours.  I abraded it lightly to reduce the effects of dust and bugs and miscellaneous debris that became embedded during those drying days.  I followed this with a light brush coat of my favorite oil/resin varnish, Pratt and Lambert 38 (no longer available, alas), just before going to bed.  With the varnish seal coat over the stain glaze it looked awfully good.

Imagine my surprise when I got up the next morning and saw the most highly blushed coating I have seen in my 50+ years of finishing.  Even more than times when I was lacquering on a sweltering Floriduh summer day with a driving thunderstorm outside.  Something in the stain/glaze clearly did not like something in the varnish seal coat.  I mean, REALLY did not like it.  In fact, I have never before seen an oil varnish blush.  Never.  And this was an oil varnish over an epoxy base.

Back to the drawing board.  Gotta noodle this one for a while.  Stay tuned.

Right Outside…

…autumnal chroma!

A few days ago the weather was grey but unfortunately not raining.  (We have not had a decent rain in about six months and my hydro-turbine has become almost a trickle charger rather than a robust electron producer.)

Nevertheless, even on this grey day when I stepped out of the barn to head down the hill for lunch, this explosion of autumn color greeted me and imparted an intense visual delight that brightened my psyche for the rest of the day.

Workbench Wednesday – Tim’s Walnut Bench Finale

Our plan from the beginning of Tim’s bench-building visit was to fabricate what was essentially a kit, since everything had to fit as individual pieces into his compact station wagon for the trip home.

Our final day together was spent sorta assembling the bench to make sure it fit together the way we wanted.  Since it was a split-top Roubo, we could each work on one half of it at different work stations.  This was Tim’s first big woodworking project so I let him do much of the work.


In the end we screwed some temporary cleats to the underside of the slabs in order to get it up on its feet, and mounted Tim’s piano maker’s vise for the obligatory pictures.

The rest of the work, installing the stretchers and cross battens and trimming the legs to length, will be accomplished by Tim once he gets back home.

We made exact measurements prior to beginning the construction so it all fit into his little station wagon, just barely clearing the rear hatch and dashboard.

And with that he was on the road back home to work on completing the bench as time allows.

NB – Tim has been making steady progress but the terminus has not yet arrived.

Board Stretching

Looking through my lumber inventory for vintage cherry boards from which to make the trim for the new bay window, I found some beauties.  Unfortunately, all the boards I had on the top of the pile were about 4″ shorter than I needed for the lintel and base trim.   The deeper into the pile I looked, the more frustrated I got as these were too short also.   Aaaargh!

After many days of ruminating on the problem, including contemplating a trip to a sawmill to get some new lumber, I settled on a plan to stretch my boards by grafting in some diamond “dutchmen” as decorative elements into the center of the boards I had.  I rough cut the boards with my circular saw and a fence, then fed them through the lunchbox planer.

I laid out the dutchman on the inlet, clamped the inlet board and the longer board together, and cut the angles with my reciprocal saw and a speed-square fence.  The kerfs were smoothed with my Iwasaki float to fit them together well.

Using pinch dogs on the verso as the clamps (indispensable accessories I first used in the foundry patternmaking shop when I worked there 45 years ago), the glue margins drew together very tight with nice squeeze-out of the PVA I was using as the adhesive.

To counteract the slight curling induced by the pinch dogs being only on one side of the assemblage, 10-pound bricks were placed on each end of the gluing-together element to press them flat on the bench top.

The next morning they were ready for me to work by hand.

“Comments” Returning Soon

After last week’s web site hack, as Webmeister Tim was noodling around he noticed that a lot of the site platform elements were very old and is undertaking a top-to-bottom update this weekend.  One important consequence is that the “Comments” function should be working perfectly.

Fingers crossed.


The past three years have seen the dramatic improving of the envelope of our domicile, part of which is a c.1890 chestnut log cabin and the other a c.1985 modern kitchen, dining room, and bathroom.  Three years ago we had the stone/block walls of the crawlspace underneath the whole insulated and the ground underneath sealed with heavyweight plastic sheet (depending on your physics literacy the system was either wicking cold in or wicking heat out like a champ, the only thing that was for certain was that before the insulating and sealing the floor was icy all winter long); two years ago we had the cabin completely re-chinked with all the old chinking stripped out and new chinking skillfully installed.  The combination of the two improvements made the floor much warmer, room temperature as opposed to refrigerator temperature, and reduced the air flow ~90% or so.  Not a small thing when you live in a windy, wintery place.

Last year we intended to continue the trajectory by having all the windows in the home replaced.  The extant units were all of modest quality from the 80s, with the sash windows augmented by aluminum triple-track storm windows.  One feature of the latter is that they provide excellent ventilation, open or closed, year-round.  Ever since we moved there in 2013 I have been taping plastic over the windows every winter just to keep the interior somewhat congenial.

We ordered the new, high-performance windows about eighteen months ago, but given the disruptions to the manufacturing and supply chain the windows did not arrive for more than a year.  When they finally did arrive, a local contractor installed them lickety-split, replacing more than a dozen old windows in two days, all finished.

Except for Mrs. Barn’s prized new bay window in the dining room.

That one took four days of work, reframing the opening and installing the new custom unit.  It transforms the whole house.

Extending the schedule of the bay window project was the need for me to fabricate all new trim for the unit.  We decided to go with some of my vintage cherry lumber to be harmonious with the built-in cherry china cabinet already in the room.  The only hitch was that none of my cherry boards were long enough for the upper and lower trim boards, missing the mark by just a few inches.

Next time you will learn about my board-stretching technique.

Stay tuned.

Featured and Hacked

During Handworks 2023 I was able to chat with Youtoobers Rex Krueger and James Wright about their channels (I am a subscriber to both and you should too).  They were very encouraging about my ideas for producing less formal at-the-workbench videos.

Yesterday James’ video featured polissoirs prominently and was an enjoyable romp through the various techniques underneath the umbrella of French Polishing.  My only correction to the content would be that my wax blends are beeswax and shellac wax, not beeswax and shellac.  But certainly the effort was earnest and almost entirely on the mark.  Well done and thank you, James.

Coincidentally(?) while James was steering people toward this web site, the web site itself was partially hacked.  Not the content, but rather the search and redirect from the Dark Star, a/k/a Google.  Late yesterday afternoon I began getting emails and texts telling me that trying to get to this site from Google resulted in the searchers being deposited in a gaming/gambling site.  I contacted Webmeister Tim who got right on it and had the situation resolved as soon as he got home to his computer.  Still, it made for a restless night as I wondered how deep the intrusion was.

Is it any wonder that I have long considered compewder hacking to be a capital offense.  I am not kidding.  And yes, I know what “capital offense” means and implies.


Plane Iron Rehab – Camber

My fundamental operating preference is for almost all of my hand plane irons to have camber, or some degree of curve along the cutting bevel.  About the only plane irons that are not cambered are 1) block planes, of which I have many and use nearly every day, 2) smoothing planes, 3) “miter” planes for use on shooting boards, and 4) rabbet/dado planes for crisp shoulder/joinery work.  Otherwise, pretty much everything is cambered.

And, since it such a routine part of my work, I have developed a simple, easy, and straightforward process to deal with inducing camber and sharpening cambered edges.  It has to be simple and easy or I would not go there.

Exactly how much camber depends on the use of the tool.  For general-use bench planes like jointers it’s a teensy bit (the precise technical description) and for scrub planes it is a gob of camber (again, the precise technical description), and jack planes and foreplanes somewhere in the middle.  How much camber, and when to induce it, are almost whimsical at this stage of my life after decades of creating and maintaining them.  That said, the basic process is the same in that it depends on how my hand bone is connected to my arm bone, and my arm bone connected to the shoulder bone.

The most basic truth is that the hand/arm/shoulder joints function as pendulums (pendula?) and their pivot points.  As a result, while I use a sharpening jig to establish the bevel on a new or really trashed old iron, virtually all of my sharpening at the stone is designed to overcome or counteract this pendulum imperative.  I will not go into depth here on my theory and practice of sharpening (ask three woodworkers about sharpening and you are likely to get 74 opinions), in routine sharpening I am a freehand sidewinder, and in the world of cambers this is an added benefit.

Here is how it works for me.

Holding the iron so tha the bevel is flat on the stone surface, when pushing the iron away from my body I press down hard with my thumb. On the return trip, pulling the iron back towards my body, I press down hard with my index finger. With this simple process camber is induce. Exactly how much camber depends on how many strokes you move fore and back, and how coarse the stone is.

With the iron bevel-down on the sharpening stone, I establish (or discover) the bevel angle moving the blade fore and back.  Here’s the sublime part, camber-wise — all I have to do to induce the camber is press more on the trailing edge on the push stroke and on the pull stoke to begin a rocking action and remove more material in a near perfect curve on one side for the push stroke and the other side on the pull stroke.

Simple as that.

Again, exactly how much camber and when to induce it depends on the purpose of the iron.  For bench planes I induce it at the 600-grit stage of the sharpening process. NB – my progression for a new or derelict iron edges is to work up through very coarse silicone paper or diamond stones to 220 diamond to 600 diamond to 1200 diamond/1000 water stone to 8000 water stone, followed by stropping with micro-abrasive impregnated into a wooden board.


BTW I am playing with creating short shop-based videos, and if there is enough interest I could easily feed this topic into the pipeline.