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A week ago Saturday we attended the Maine Organic Farmer’s and Grower’s Association annual “Common Ground Country Fair,” a weird amalgam of passionate foodies, sensible homesteading and rural stewardship, self absorbed yuppie/hippie types who likely shed their costumes and returned to their Ivy-League lives by Monday (I can only hope they didn’t stay that way in perpetuity, although I don’t know what those old balding men will do with their pony-tails), skilled craftsmen, pagan mythology, eco-hysterics, some pretty cool gadgeteering, and some stuff that simply defied description.
And of course, fabulous food. And friends.
I especially enjoyed the skilled trades and crafts on display and being demonstrated, including hewing,
ash sapling peeling for basketry,
furniture making, woodlot and forestry managing,
a huge range of primitive skills like starting a fire with a bowsaw setup and making archery bows (I wanted to take the fellow’s drawknife and sharpen it proper, because he was basically chewing his way through the wood), spectacular sheep dog exercises,
stone carving humble,
and spectacular, and a whole bunch more.
It definitely supplied this year’s quota of human contact, although that one gal with the black make-up and a hardware store’s worth of accouterments in/on/through her face makes me wonder about the human part. I really wish I had taken a picture. I simply do not understand the appeal of self mutilation.
It was pretty clear that the patron saint for the event was Karl Marx, and the omnipresent hectoring of the unctuous enviros made me recall this observation of CS Lewis.
Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.
Still, a grand time was had! I only wish I had yelled out, “Hooray Monsanto!” or “Fracking now!” just to see the tremors sweep through the crowds.
I love examining at old furniture. I enjoy looking at the joinery used by the craftsman who built it and see how well it has lasted over the years. After all, since it lasted this long, the piece of furniture must have been made well. However, sometimes I see failures in furniture that I can learn from and not make the same mistakes.
I came across this secretary in an antique store in Milford, OH this weekend. It’s a beautiful secretary that I believe is made out of cherry. When I examined the top, I noticed it had a bread board edge that I had never seen before.
The craftsman who built the top inserted the edge of bread board into the slant top board by forty-fiving the end board into it. The whole point of making a bread board edge is to prevent the top from warping. However, it’s critical that you make sure that the top can expand and contract with changes in humidity during the summer and winter months.
While it took incredible craftsmanship to accurately cut the joint into the top, three of the four corners where the joints meet, cracked because there was no room for the wood to move.
The only reason I can guess why the craftsman built the top the way he did is he either he didn’t want end grain to show on the top’s edge, or he didn’t want to make mortise and tenon joinery for the bread board edge. I think it would have been rather ironic if he chose the latter because creating a 45 degree joint that fits perfectly into the top’s cavity seems a lot harder than making a mortise and tenon joint and then pinning it tight with pegs.
Before I tell you all about last week’s class out at Heartwood, (a great time. what til you see it) = I have a bit of stuff to run down about next year’s classes. First off, two new places. Three new places I mean. All begin with vowels.
Alphabetically, Alaska comes first. I think I won’t drive to this one. Late April, just a tiny bit early for migration, but there should still be lots of stuff to see. Oh, & we’ll make some boxes, but from boards, not logs. Might do a one-day spoon class there too…
Another in the series of classes in places that begin with vowels, England. http://www.newenglishworkshop.co.uk/
Seems I’m there for 2 weeks, teaching the log-to-box version twice. Once in Somerset, once in Warwickshire. WOW. These classes are part of an I-don’t-know-how-many ring circus. Me, Chris Schwarz, Roy Underhill, Jeff Miller, Tom Fidgen – mostly all at the same time. I know Chris & I are on the same schedule – I got lost eventually trying to map it all out. I haven’t been to England since 2005 – can’t wait. Somerset – where they carved stuff like this:
The last vowel destination for now is also a new one for me, Marc Adams (Indiana) – so the only venue in the lower 48 where we’ll do the carved box from a log in 2015. They’re working on the schedule now, I’m there in late Oct, the 19th-23rd. http://www.marcadams.com/
There’ll be more of the usual places; Lie-Nielsen, Roy’s, Bob Van Dyke’s – I hope to be at home some too. And I’m working on more new places too. I’ll post more of it soon so we can get 2015 sorted. As always, thanks to the students who put aside time, money etc to come out to these classes. It makes it possible for me to have fun for a living.
This is fun. Results still look plenty amateurish, but I have more maple, so no reason not to continue improving my arts. I really love this kind of freehand work.
Something that I preach is that we woodworkers should use the best tool for the job. It that’s a table saw, jointer or big-honkin router, so be it. It the best tool is a handplane, egg-beater drill or sharp chisel, go for it. To be wholly dedicated to one woodworking discipline while ruling out others is nuts.
The story I like to tell is a tale on myself. When I built the Baltimore Card Table article for Popular Woodworking Magazine, I was more dedicated to power tools even though I used hand tools. In one of the early steps of the build, I needed to trim the ends of the brick-laid apron. I spent 20 minutes or more setting up the cut at my miter saw. Of course, the cut was square and right. (See the image from the article above.)
Years later, after hand tools began to play a bigger role in my day-to-day woodworking, I taught how to build that table at a woodworking school. When the time came to trim the apron, I grabbed my pencil and square, laid in the lines then made the cut using a hand saw. Of course, the cut was square and right. The difference was that I did not spend 20 minutes setting up the cut.
What’s important is to choose and use the best tool for the job.
In the photo below, I guess the tool would be classified as a hand tool. I know, however, that it is the best tool for the job. Why? No only does this tool make spreading the oil/varnish mix quick to accomplish and easier to direct finish were it’s needed, the process also warms the oil ever so slightly to better allow mixture to soak into the surface.
Build Something Great!
I got a couple of hours in the shop yesterday and made a good start on the G&G power strip. This is supposed to be a “quick and dirty” project, so I hope it doesn’t take on a life of it’s own. We’ll see. I made good progress, although there are still a couple of time consuming details left on the boxes themselves — shaping the ends of the finger joints after using a round over bit seems to take longer than you’d ever expect for example.
Anyway, here is where things stand right now.
I did a bit more, laying out the locations for the ebony pegs — twelve to each box — and starting to round over the ends before I called it quits. I won’t be able to work on these until next weekend again because I’m about to pack up and drive to San Diego for a week long class in Boulle Marquetry. On the way I hope to stop in LA to look at some original G&G stuff. I’d like to be on the road in an hour, so time for a cup of coffee and then I need to roll.
The second stop on the New England Tour 2014 was the homestead of Joshua and Julia and Eden, and what a delightful stop it was. Aside from the fellowship we encountered an overload of learning and experiencing
On our way to dinner the first evening we stopped by the Jonathan Fisher House museum, where Joshua is engaging in a lot of important research and recreation for his upcoming book on this rural Maine polymath. There was simply too much to see in such a short time, and I am eagerly awaiting the results of Joshua’s research on this remarkable man who was part parson and part inventive genius furniture maker.
Of course one notable item in the collection is this Roman style workbench,
while another is the windmill powered lathe that Joshua is currently reassembling after two centuries of non-use.
Miraculously many of the original turning gouges are still in the collection.
Fisher was many things including an accomplished artist, as these prints from his woodcuts will attest. I fully expect Joshua to paint a compelling picture of rural inventiveness and creativity from the Maine frontier of two hundred years ago.
I only have a little time before I leave town for the marquetry class tomorrow, but I wanted to start on a couple of new projects in the shop today. I threw together some plans for the power strip I designed, I’ll see if I have enough scraps to make one or two of these.
There are some details I want to adjust still, and I don’t have the materials for the inlay, but what the heck?
It’s been warm outside and there are still some tomatoes in my garden, so it’s been easy to stay in denial. But when I saw holiday stuff on display in a local mall I knew I was in trouble – those projects I meant to make as gifts might have to be given as Valentine’s presents, maybe even Fourth of July presents. That sewing-machine-shaped inlay I have in mind for a […]
This year’s just-completed whirlwind blitz through New England began with a day of photographing Ben’s bench in central Rhode Island.
It turns out that Justin, the son of some dear friends here in the mountains, knew a guy with a piano maker’s workbench. The upcoming book on HO Studley and his tool cabinet and workbench will include a gallery of similar benches and vises, and Ben’s was certainly worthy of inclusion.
The bench featured a number of exciting revelations, not the least of which was the number “15” stamped perfectly on three of the adjacent parts. I can only conclude that there are (or were) at least 14 other units of the same manufacture somewhere.
What was best about the visit was that Ben’s bench is still a working tool to this day. He was apologetic about some of the accretions, but I was thrilled to see it still helping a guy make a living.
The motley crew, with Ben in the center and Justin on the right.
I’ve received more than a few requests to get a full view of the tattoo on my right arm that you sometimes see creeping out my sleeve. I’m sorry to say that the only person who sees that tattoo in full is my wife, and anybody who happens to be a member of the same swim club I am.
Every day I receive dozens of e-mails. Everyone suffers from this affliction, but when you’re on the staff of a magazine you’re an attractive target for photographers, illustrators, PR people and marketing gurus. I wade through them all, and every now and then I’m pleasantly surprised to get a message from a reader with a photo of his version of something I’ve designed and built for Popular Woodworking Magazine. That […]
If you have been woodworking for a while, there is a good chance you have seen or even built a rendition of Norm Abram’s Miter saw station. I built my version several years ago and as the years have passed, I have made several changes to it to meet my shop needs. My most recent change was to the area behind the miter saw fence. That area has become a drop zone for clutter. I seem always to be losing project pieces and small tools directly behind the fence where it is out of my sight. Even worse, the pile of scrap wood and miscellaneous supplies stack up and spill onto the fence getting in the way, preventing my miter saw’s stop block from sliding down the fence and making it unusable.
Honestly, I could probably throw half of the scrap wood away to clean up the mess, and not miss it. However, there seems to be an unspoken rule among woodworkers to never throw away scrap wood, so if I did I’m afraid I would have to turn in my woodworker’s card. To clean this mess up and take back that valuable shop space, I decided to build storage bins directly behind the fence.
In addition to cleaning up the mess, I found a use for some of the scrap wood in the pile and used it to build the bins. I started by screwing down a 2×4 to the workbench behind the fence. I paid special attention to be sure I left a space for the miter saw’s stop block to slide past, and a comfortable amount of room for my hand to reach back to clamp it to the fence. The 2×4 will provide a solid surface to screw my dividers to as well as a stop to prevent the wood in the bins from sliding against the fence causing the same problems as before.
To make the dividers, I cut some scrap plywood into triangles and attached them to the wall as well as to the 2×4 using pocket screws. My shop walls are made from structural panels so I can put a screw anywhere. If you are in a traditionally framed shop be sure to find studs in the wall for the screws to get a good strong bite. The studs being spaced 16 inches apart will make for a nice sized bin and help keep them evenly spaced out.
Now that the bins are complete, I sorted out my pile of scrap wood by size and species. It keeps it all visible and at my fingertips, ready to be incorporated into a project. The bins are also helping me stay organized as well. As I am cutting the lumber down to size, I can easily sort the cutoffs into the scrap bin as I go.
The post Back to the Workshop: Brian Benham – Taking Back Shop Space appeared first on Woodworking Blog.
Thanks to the generosity of attendee BL I can post a number of images from the WIA Saturday afternoon session on gold leaf.
The preparation for either perfect polychrome or gold leafing is essentially the same, requiring good gesso and application techniques, along with attentive treatment of the surface at every step as each successive step amplifies the quality f the previous step like a blinding spotlight.
I test the first application of dilute gesso by making a drop in my hand; I want it to look like skim milk.
The really great things about the small audience were the ability of everyone to get really close to see what was going on, and the chance for almost everyone to try their hand at applying good gesso so they would know what it looked and acted like on the brush.
Once the gesso is built up on top of the carving it needs to be “re-cut” or re-carved since the gesso will obscure the detail as it gets built up. I generally use dental scrapers and chisels for my re-cutting. In gilding shops of old, the re-cutter was usually the highest paid guy in the shop.
Often the final step in the gesso and bole stage is to briskly rub the surface with a piece of linen, which creates the polished base on which the gold leaf is applied.
Here I am just showing the cutting of gold leaf on the gilder’s pad. Since modern gold leaf is somewhere around 1/100,000th of a inch thick, a delicate touch is required.
Prior to the start of the two-hour session I brushed some quick-set oil size on a painted and polished surface, and at the end of the session I laid the leaf. Here I have just set the fragile gold leaf on top of the hardening oil size and am pouncing it down.
Brushing of the leaf reveals the areas that had been sized and those which had not been sized.
Water gilding is a whole ‘nother cat. Here I had just wetted the surface with my gilder’s liquor and laid the leaf on it while it was still wet, allowing the water to draw the leaf down to the surface as it soaks into the gesso and bole.
Water gilding, done.
At a specific point in the process for water gilding the ground dries to the perfect point where a polished stone burnisher can be worked on the surface, bringing it to a mirrored shine.
All in all, not a bad amount of demonstrating for a complex process and only twp hours to show it.
Again, with apologies to Derek Jacobi (for the CAD file pun)…and credit (blame?) to Ralph at the Accidental Woodworker for the inspiration, I’m pleased to present another random synaptic misfire.
I’m actually kind of excited about building this, it will be a great chance to practice my inlay work, and should be a relatively quick project. Less than two months I’d bet, but don’t hold me to that. Nothing too complex, and I can make it from scraps left over from recent projects.
The starting point for the project is the Leviton plug. It’s rated for 20 amps and has one standard 3 prong grounded outlet and two USB charger outlets for the Apple devices that seem to be reproducing everywhere in my house.
I bought two of these through Amazon, they weren’t available locally. I specifically wanted black because of the style I’m headed towards. I started by modeling the plug in SolidWorks so I had a virtual outlet to play with.
I settled on using two of these, both for the scale and because they are a little pricy, at least compared to standard 110 outlets that are only a couple of bucks each.
I tried a couple of arrangements, and settled on an inline layout. I sorted out the proportions and modeled sides, a base, a brass top and some spiffy inlay in silver and abalone shell. I haven’t figured out the exact mounting arrangements for the outlets and brass top — I may end up putting a couple of screws through the brass top plate. I’ll probably use some vintage cloth covered cord for the extension cord to the wall outlet. I’m not happy with the base and will likely change it when I have a better idea.
I know it’s a goofy idea, but I like it.
Since I am ramping up for mega beeswax production (about 500 pounds to process and pour into blocks for sale), I thought I should make a new rubber mold more to my liking. My previous mold design was a spur of the moment sorta thing that I needed in a hurry. It has served me well for a while, but I never really liked it all that much. So it was time for a new one.
The new one is based on a poured-wax block of 1/4 pound, whereas the previous one was approximately 6 1/2 ounces, not exactly a nice round figure. Once I determined the new mold size of 4 inches long by 2 inches wide and 1-3/4 inches thick, I needed to make a design to match the size of the face. I settled on a background of the barn with the word “BEESWAX” overlaying it.
I printed out the pattern I created, and using spay adhesive glued it to some 1/8″ mat board,
then glued that to a wood block.
With a scalpel I incised the completed design,
then dipped the whole thing into molten wax since the edges of the paper were a tad ragged in some places.
When the wax hardened I re-carved the master pattern to show some various relief levels in the design,
and readied everything for pouring the rubber mold by first mounting it to a piece of cardboard using hot melt glue.
Then I built the cardboard dam around it (I could not find my molding clay and Lego blocks I normally use),
and filled the flask with RTV silicon rubber.
Done! I can’t wait to see how it turns out.
Beginning with my first job in journalism, I self-imposed a rule to not discuss my political thoughts in public – so the below is in no way constitutes personal commentary on President Obama and his administration. But no matter what one’s thoughts on any past, current or future office holders, there’s no arguing that those in power have access to some mighty fine furniture. Case in point: Today’s New York […]
Ok people, it’s time to get back in the shop. Summer is over, Labor Day is gone so you can’t wear the white apron any more this year. Holiday season is coming, and it’s time to make something.
Summer time is when we all head off in different directions, vacations at the beach, trips to the cool mountains, pool time with the kids at home. While you were gone, the shop dust settled, and those projects you were so hot to work on last spring may not look so good after you have not seen them for a few months.
Now if you are like me, you really don’t want to do anything but the woodworking you love. I heard Mr. Norm say once on his show that everyday when he goes to the shop, he takes the first five minutes to pick up or clean up something. I think that is an excellent idea.
So what do you do first? I think we would all do well with a good sweeping. I swept my shop a while back and thought it looked pretty good. Right after sweeping I took some pictures for some turning projects and someone who saw them wanted to know when I was going to sweep the floor. Hurt my feelings, but perhaps is an indication of how hard it is to get the shop really clean. I think a good sweep, then a good vacuum down on your hands and knees to get all that fine dust, and finally a good brush with the trusty shop brush will do the trick.