Musings

Sweet Home (from) Alabama

Whew! Concluding a few months of mostly traveling we got back to Shangri-la late Sunday evening after driving non-stop from Alabama, where L’il T’s family just moved (we were “helping,” a/k/a grandparenting L’il T and his brother).  Travel advisory — avoid Chattanooga if at all possible, the construction and attendant constriction made it a more than an hour of stop and go experience at 97 degrees.

I am looking forward to resuming some semblance of norma life, including full days in the shop.  This is made possible by the cessation of travel for most of the foreseeable future, along with finding a sturdy Mennonite lad to do most of the yard work.  We were spending 3-4 days a week just keeping the grass cut, brush beat back, and trimming the edges.  This young man could do what is necessary in 3-4 hours, rather than 3-4 days.  Oh, to have the exuberance and fortitude of the young!  That plus a $10k lawnmower makes a big difference.

Other than routine chores around the homestead I’ll be preparing for a Labor Day Weekend shindig at my friend Tim’s place, celebrating the historic crafts of our ancestors.  I’ll be assembling a vintage-form tool kit to fit into my antique cabinetmaker’s tool chest which has been used as storage for the past couple decades.  So, I’ll be there with tools and one of my Nicholson workbenches, in period costume, probably making a small dowry chest.  If you are in the region, stop on by.

In addition I’ll be ramping up for my only teaching event of the year, a 3-day Introduction to Historic Woodfinishing workshop near Charlottesville VA.

And resuming work on my magnum opus tool cabinet, and oh by the way L’il T is now big enough to use a step stool to wash his hands and brush his teeth.  The ones I made for his mom and aunt are still in service after 35+ years.

And my traveling tool kit needs completing.  As do a couple of Gragg chairs.  And those half-finished Studley mallet exercises, and the patterns for the genuine replicas.  And the custom oculars for my rifle scopes, bypassing the now nearly defunct right eye (dominant).  And the boat load of writing and editing staring me in the face.  And setting up a video system to make in-shop vids after I get the Gragg video edited.  And tuning my ripple molder.

And, and, and…

We Hold These Truths… (2024)

This post is presented annually, revised a bit from time to time.  Despite dozens of recitations, I can never read the last line of The Declaration out loud because I am overcome with emotion.- DCW

Tomorrow my fellow Patriots and I, however many of us there are, will commemorate and celebrate the 248th anniversary of the most profound statement of human aspiration ever known.  We have already endured two violent wars of secession, the first from 1775-1783 and the second from 1861-1865, and I pray that our third one can be avoided by a peaceful segregation of a populace that no longer shares a common vision.

As our nation is seemingly rife with incurious, gullible and servile inhabitants, we would be well-served to reflect seriously on the document encapsulating the mission statement for the greatest nation ever known to man, the only nation ever founded on a creed rather than geography or lineage.   It was and is of course imperfect, no institution created by fallen and sinful men and women can be anything else.

I am unabashedly proud to be a partisan in the cause of Life, Liberty, and Property (the original wording) and find The Declaration of Independence to be the most noble civil document ever created by mankind.  I pray you will read and reflect on the ideas expressed by men who pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor to pursue the path of liberty.  Reading it is much like reading the Minor Prophets of the Old Testament; more up-to-date regarding the human condition than tomorrow’s headlines.

God Bless America, and may righteousness flourish and wickedness be overcome.

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IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.–Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

Button Gwinnett
Lyman Hall
George Walton

William Hooper
Joseph Hewes
John Penn

Edward Rutledge
Thomas Heyward, Jr.
Thomas Lynch, Jr.
Arthur Middleton

John Hancock

Samuel Chase
William Paca
Thomas Stone
Charles Carroll of Carrollton

George Wythe
Richard Henry Lee
Thomas Jefferson
Benjamin Harrison
Thomas Nelson, Jr.
Francis Lightfoot Lee
Carter Braxton

Robert Morris
Benjamin Rush
Benjamin Franklin
John Morton
George Clymer
James Smith
George Taylor
James Wilson
George Ross

Caesar Rodney
George Read
Thomas McKean

William Floyd
Philip Livingston
Francis Lewis
Lewis Morris

Richard Stockton
John Witherspoon
Francis Hopkinson
John Hart
Abraham Clark

Josiah Bartlett
William Whipple

Samuel Adams
John Adams
Robert Treat Paine
Elbridge Gerry

Stephen Hopkins
William Ellery

Roger Sherman
Samuel Huntington
William Williams
Oliver Wolcott

Matthew Thornton

10 Tools For the Old Folks’ Home

This video resonated with me as it has been an area of contemplation for quite some time.  A couple years ago Mrs. Barn attended an Eldercare event and they recommended that spouses discuss in detail their preferences for life in an assisted living arrangement or similar.  When we were having this discussion about that far off day, she was astounded that my top ranked “deal breaker” was not what she expected — my pocket tool.  My “deal breaker” was I would never willingly go into a care facility where I could not have my pocket knife/utility tool.

While the choices made in this video are thought provoking, they are probably not mine.  For starters, the question arises, “Exactly what kind of work would I be doing in the old folks’ home?”  A second attendant question would be, “Exactly what are the facilities and space available to me?”

Regardless of the second answer, the odds of me doing large scale woodworking or furniture making in an old folks’ home are pretty slim and my tool choices reflect that.  It is more likely that I would be doing puttering and repairing, making very small things or fixing stuff for other folks.  Plus, I’m thinking it would be a pretty rare circumstance where I would have access to a real workshop so my space would be my bedroom/sitting room and the furniture therein. (Obviously this assumes a transition from my own domicile to another facility).  Hence, my choices would be very different than those in the video.

Of course, the list begins with my Victorinox Spirit multi-tool.  Second would be a multi-screwdriver of the Stanley, Craftsman or Milwaukee variety, followed immediately by a pair of pliers or more likely small channel lock and adjustable wrench. Though these are not “woodworking tools” per se, they do provide a foundation for almost everything downstream.  The scene with Walt and Toad regarding WD40 and channel locks in the movie Grand Torino summarizes the situation perfectly.

After that, again since my scenario is built on a premise of having only my bedroom or sitting room to work in, I would need a work holding set-up.  For me that means either a Zyliss vise or a wood screw clamp.  Add a block plane with two irons — one flat, the other cambered — a small Japanese saw, a small eggbeater drill or Yankee drill or similar, and a 3/8″ chisel and I would surprise myself at how much I could accomplish.

Though not the “5 Tools” as addressed by the video, I think these 10 Tools (combined with a nice plywood for a work surface, and some ultra fine wet-or-dry sandpaper in lieu of a sharpening stone) are the ones I would want in hand as I head to the geezer farm.  In the meantime, I’ve still got the barn and its 7000 s.f of work and storage space, along with another barn just for lumber.

If your choices would be different, let me know.

 

The Latest Conversation Podcast (not woodworking)

I had another invigorating conversation this week with my long time friend (almost 40 years) broadcaster Brian Wilson, who though retired can’t quite kick the habit.  It’s posted on his podcast Now For Something Completely Different.  No, I will not provide the link to avoid the accusation of imposing my worldview on you.

This time we got even more philosophical and metaphysical than usual, with critiques of the current state of affairs in the culture and polity.

As always, if a pungent exchange of radical ideas is not your thing, avoid it.  You have been warned.

Woodfinishing Video In The Pipeline

This is the original DVD case cover art. I’m leaving the front pretty much alone but reworking the back extensively.

One of the ongoing headaches(?) has been the inability to resupply my inventory for the historic woodfinishing video F&W Media (PopWood) produced several years ago, which I had available on the donsbarn.com website store.  The new company that now owns PopWood discontinued the hard copies of the DVD and no longer even had “new old stock” copies in the warehouse.  After some back-and-forth the new company released the video to me gratis, for which I am most appreciative.  At Handworks 2023 the editor-in-chief made a point of confirming our earlier correspondence; my F&W videos were now my intellectual property to use as I saw fit.

The urgency of me acting on this came to a head a few months ago when my final copy was sold.  Since then I have been noodling the revisions of the original DVD cover and am now ready to send it off for reproduction after I let it ruminate for a couple days.  While the DVD content was now my property I had no desire to disavow F&W from the picture as they truly deserve all the credit for producing it in the first place.  Thus I am keeping the bones of the original packaging, crediting F&W, but revising the content a fair bit to re-brand it as a Barn on White Run product.

As soon as I get copies into my hands I will be fulfilling the two dozen orders that have been sitting in my “Pending” folder.

Been Busy…

Baby M’s fingers wrapped around one of Grandpa’s.

… and here’s why.  L’il T now has a brand new baby brother!

We just back to Shangri-la after a month in New Jersey helping with preparations, pitching in whenever and wherever needed, and doing grandpa and grandma stuff.  L’il T and I spent untold hours playing with his cars, chasing balls in the yard, swinging and sliding at the park, reading books.  Mrs. Barn got a full dose of medicine to respond to the demands of the grandma gene.

Amusingly (?) when I go to visit I always travel with a bin or two of projects to work on during the “down times.”  When packing to return home, I realized I had not opened up those bins this trip except to complete some gold leafing (more about that later).

We also celebrated L’il T’s 2nd birthday, and I made him his first toolbox, complete with 23K gold leaf trim and his name.  This picture is just before I started the gold leaf trim.

Glimpse Of A Master

Again, one of the beauties of youtubeworld is the sheer quantity of vintage video on almost any topic you want.  Finding it can be a challenge, especially when the titles are in other languages and “alphabets” but lately I’ve ben coming across some jewels from 40, 50, or even 60 years ago.

Here’s a glimpse of the modern master of lacquerwork, Gonroku Matsuda.  Enjoy.

Empty! (~2021 years ago)

Been Lookin’ For This

One of the thrills of incursions into the Evilgoogle Empire via the satellite of Youtube is coming across an instructional or demonstration video that was at the very least unexpected or unknown.  Sometimes it is the result of a long search, that search can be keyword or descriptor directed.  But when the subject and title are not English or even Western alphabet but rather Eastern in character it becomes a matter of sheer luck as YouTube cycles through videos of related topics for referral.  Sometimes it leads to new videos, sometimes it leads to videos posted years ago that I had no way to know existed such as this one linked below.

For the most part urushi lacquerwork is applied to a wooden substrate, either wooden boxes or trays or turned bowls, with the occasional foray into furniture pieces, for example in the work of Gonroku Matsuda.

For I’ve long been searching for video about a peculiar lacquerwork technique that fascinates me, the analog to sculptural papier mache’, using urushi instead of oil or paste to assemble the creation.  I have long held this candy dish (above) to be one of the most beautiful objets d’art I have ever seen, unfortunately not in person.  It was made with this urushi-laminate technique, albeit using fine linen cloth instead of paper.  Classically this method involves draping urushi impregnated fabric (or paper) over a previously sculpted (unfired?) terra cotta core, then excavating the terra cotta once the form is achieved.

The technique demonstrated in this video uses sculpting clay and plaster for moldmaking steps in a manner I find both fascinating and fully do-able.

Infill Planes

A few weekends ago I attended the PATINA monthly gathering, as always getting my tool-flea-market fix (I bought only a few small items) before going inside for the presentation on infill planes by Lee Richmond of The Best Things tools, towards whom I have sent very many dollars over the years.

The talk and Q&A were excellent and very informative and I learned a lot, particularly the history of infill plane kits that were available to craftsmen, and the prevalence of planemakers making tools to be marketed under other branding than their own.  More about both points in a minute.

It got me wondering about my own inventory of infill planes which, when compiled, was more numerous than I initially thought.  I don’t know why as these are tools I use regularly.  I guess I just never thought of them in that way.

Here is my own collection, presented in no particular order.

The prize of my collection is my Robert Towell miter/shooting plane, probably from the second quarter of the 19th century.  Towell was one of the makers who produced tools bearing his own imprint and sold from his own shop, along with unmarked planes sold by other purveyors.  Mine is one of the latter, devoid of any maker’s marks but with all the hallmarks of his work.  His planes were apparently of this form and are highly desirable by collectors, provided they bear his mark.

This image from the interwebz shows the maker’s mark that is missing on my plane. That lacunae is what made this plane affordable, otherwise the $5k price tag would have been beyond the realm of consideration for me. And, Mrs. Barn would have probably killed me…

Since mine is unmarked, it was “affordable” to me (still pricey by my standards but only 10% of the price had it borne his stamp) and I bought it from a flea market session at Martin Donnelly’s about 20 years ago.  The throat is so tight (about 1/3 mm) I find the only useful purpose it has for me is trimming the end grain of boards on a shooting jig.

Contemporary tool maker Raney Nelson of Daed Tools made a series of Towell-inspired planes maybe 20 years ago and I got it through trading some other materials and tools for it, otherwise I could have never afforded it.

Like Towell and Raney’s friend Konrad Sauer the construction is hammered dovetails, with I think African Blackwood as the infill.  I really should ask him more about this tool the next time our paths cross, as they do occasionally.

It’s just a bit too small to use as a block plane, but perfect for small shooting tasks.  This plane might have evolved into the “collectible” realm as I am not sure how much plane making Raney does any more since he and Chris Schwarz started Crucible Tools.

This still-under-restoration smoother is one of those Richmond said was probably a kit of sorts, with the metal shell being sold as a chassis for a woodworker to make the wooden infill components.  I got this late 19th century tool in a box lot of other derelict tools at a flea market, devoid of iron or wedge, looking like at had a stint inside a concrete mixer.  I cobbled it together as a functioning plane after restoring the totally trashed wooden infills, ebonizing them and leaning the steel shell.

I was never really happy with the wedge or the iron I dug out of my spare parts drawer, so I asked my friend Josh Clark to look through his inventory to see what he had.  I soon received a really nice double iron in the mail that fits the sole mouth very tightly and have been puttering on making a wedge off and on ever since.  If I have success with a wooden wedge I just might make another out of ivory.  Just because I can.

For many years Ron Hock used to sell kits to make planes, and this started as one of those.  The maker in this instance was my friend Joe who gave it to me 15(?) years ago for reasons I can no longer recall.  It was a very nice plane but underweight for what I wanted.

During the first Roubo manuscript I modified it with heavy brass cheeks and a bit of stylizing to use it as a veneer/parquetry shooting plane.

Some years ago at a Lie-Nielson event I bought this infill plane from Mateo Panzica of Lazarus Planes in Louisville KY.  His fabrication approach is almost 180 degrees opposite from Towell and Nelson but you cannot argue with the results.

This weighty smoother is simply superb and gets regular use at my bench, perhaps more than any plane (other than my sleigh-style block plane that is going into the grave with me, unless of course it goes to L’il T or his brother).  If I needed more new planes I would probably divide my money between Lazarus and Steve Voigt, although the Lasso of Truth would reveal I do not really need any more.  (Other than a toother from Steve Voigt, if he ever gets them to market).

An infill I made all by my lonesome is this plane designed specifically for, and not useful otherwise to tell you the truth, shooting the edges of sawn parquetry elements.  I saw Paterick Edwards demonstrate a vintage version of this plane at Williamsburg several years ago and decided I had to have one myownself.

I started out with a derelict one-inch rabbet plane body and beveled one side, then silver soldered the brass shell.  I am really pleased with its performance.