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This is a collection of all the different blogs I (try to) read. A whole bunch! If you have any comments or suggestions feel free to use the CONTACT page to get a hold of me. Thanks!
We are closing the circle today, and it is fitting that we are introducing the BT&C hardware store saw with our version of the Montague-Woodrough tooth pattern at Handworks 2015. (The saw will be available on our website shortly after we return from the show and finish catalog photography and related things).
The tooth pattern of our saw was inspired by the Montague-Woodrough saw, but isn't identical. We have the benefit of studying what they did so we can move forward. We did a lot of prototyping and we think our tooth pattern has some advantages over the original. We also added a few other 19th century innovations. The saw cuts like a demon and also functions as a pretty accurate square; ruler; protractor; layout guide for dovetails; and many other tools. The idea of using a saw for layout is of course a 19th century idea, but it never caught on much and was hard to manufacture reliably. The graphic details on the saw are inspired by the mid 20th century machine tools in our workshop and the background texture (you can't really etch a flat surface evenly, and it would wear too fast too) takes its original design from an 18th century leather instrument case.
But this is a high tech 21st century saw. Really. The detailed etches on each side of the saw are accurate and clear to read. The black color of the etch is below the surface of the saw and will last for years. In the 19th century, makers could not effectively etch that amount of detail. In the 20th century, the shallow electo-etch that was popular would wear off over time and even initially rarely had the detail needed. In the 21st century, we use a state-of-the-art etching mask, lots of computer time and precision in punching to register the blade and pattern correctly from each side of the saw. Unlike the fancy square saws of the 1900's, these saws can be made to a precise standard at reasonable, if not rock-bottom, price. In the USA.
The end result is a saw that you would want around the house or shop. A saw that you might take with you on the road. A saw with a comfortable full sized wood handle, that cuts fast, but is short enough (16" cutting length) to carry around without damage. A toolbox kit, an all-around saw, a household saw. You know that saw your dad had, that he got from his dad, who got it at the local hardware store a long time ago. The saw that he used for everything. You just wish it was a better saw. This one is. We also wanted to make it versatile so you don't have to go around with a kit of tools just to cut a square line or measure off a few inches on a board or cut at an angle.
When we were first discussing the concept for this saw, we referred to it as "the hardware store saw" because that was our frame of reference: the useful saw you get at any hardware store. We figured we'd call it something different later on but the name stuck, so Hardware Store Saw it is.
Here are a few pictures. In the next weeks we will release the saw to the world. We hope you like it. I'll be writing more material about the engineering and manufacturing of the saw, because for all that it's a hand saw with 19th century roots, it really is high-tech. High-tech for what a 19th century saw can do, and high-tech in some areas even for 21st century manufacturing.
In November 2011 I built a sun oven for our holiday house. It became a real gem with regards to my holiday cuisine. I do almost all the cooking while we are at the beach house and there is few things better than chucking a North African tagine in a black cast iron pot, stick it in the sun oven at 09h30 and sit around reading until sunset for a perfect meal. Seeing that the beach house is probably 1500 km south of Windhoek I though it should work even better in the vicious Namibian sun.
While engaging in sun oven building activities, it made sense to build two. One for Jacana Junction and one for our Windhoek house. It is not rocket science so I will leave it up to the pictures to tell the story.
At Jacana Junction we built this stand for it where it catches all day sun every day of the year. As you can see it has a glass lit and foil to reflect the sun onto the cast iron pots. You will be surprised how effective this oven is. I once cooked a leg of lamb that went into the pot frozen (because I forgot to take it out of the freezer the previous night) to perfection in 6 hours. It works even better than a commercial slow cooker and needs no electrons.
Every so often I come across a real head scratcher. A piece that defies convention and makes me ask: “What were they thinking?” You wonder if they weren’t sure of “the way things are done”. An original thinker that came up with a unique style. Or perhaps just a contrarian that intentionally does something for the sake of doing something different. It all comes down to intent.
I found this press(?) at an antiques shop in Gibsonville, NC. The shop is just down the street from the Hardwood Store so, I visit it quite often.
The hinge gudgeons are applied:
The doors are actually panel in frame in frame:
Drawer dividers are fitted into the shelves:
And thy had a different take on inlay:
Flowers and vine in monochrome?
I also liked this armoire:
Great molding profile:
And turned feet:
Lots going on in this armoire:
Finally, a small bedroom appliance:
With its snipe hinges:
To see more pictures of these and other delightful oddities, click HERE.
I know there is going to be a lot, and I mean a lot of discussion, re-discussion, and examination of the HO Studley Tool Cabinet and Bench coming in the next few weeks at least, if not (justifiably) for the next decade.
Don Williams has done a magnificent thing bringing the Cabinet and Workbench out into the daylight of public consumption for a weekend. He is the only man in the world who could have made it possible. We all owe him a debt of gratitude for finding the access to this masterwork, and then thoroughly documenting the tools, the bench, and the cabinet in a way to answer almost all of the possible questions.
And Narayan Nayar's phtography . . . forget about it. I don't have the words to even start.
As a docent for the exhibit I have been fortunate enough to spend a little more time around the tool cabinet than others will. I can tell you one thing for certain.
It never gets old.
It never feels like, "Oh, I've seen that before."
Sit and study for as long as you want . . . this is alien technology folks.
Studley is showing us what's possible. It's up to us to stand up to the challenge.
Seeing it in person. . .it's a paradigm shift.
A game changer.
Tonight was the open house for the vendors of Handworks 2015. As a docent it wasn't my job to watch the Cabinet or the Workbench. It was to watch the patrons.
I stood near the cabinet vitrine.
I saw the astonishment on people's faces. I heard the expletives and excitement in their voices. I saw their reaction to seeing it in person for the first time.
I could completely relate.
Ratione et Passionis
I’m excited to announce the latest DVD that I’m releasing with Popular Woodworking Magazine next week called “Choosing, Refurbishing & Using Moulding Planes with Bill Anderson“. Roy Underhill kindly invited us to film it in his Woodwright’s School! You can learn more about the video or buy it here. Here’s the cover:
And you can find all the free moulding plane (or molding plane) resources right here. These resources are a free gift to woodworkers, even if you don’t purchase the DVD! Here’s the back cover:
My friend Bill had invited me to sit in on one of his classes, and afterward I said, “Bill, this class is amazing! We’ve got to turn it into a video so everyone has access to this priceless information!”
The class covered everything from what to look for at flea markets or tool swaps…
…to types of moulding planes, to refurbishing, to sharpening, and to using moulding planes. The cherry on top was learning how to draw Ogee and Ovolo profiles using basic geometry, then cutting moldings with hollows & rounds.
Here are some photographs that I took during the video shoots (yes, I shot so much footage that it took two trips!):
In “Choosing, Refurbishing & Using Moulding Planes”, Bill walks you through the classifications of moulding planes, discusses what to look for when shopping and then takes you step-by-step through the process to bring the iron back to cutting shape (and how to make a new iron if it’s missing).
Those of you who follow Christopher Schwarz’ blog at Popular Woodworking my recall him writing about an IKEA lamp that he reluctantly fell in love with. You can see his post Here. The lamp that he raved about is called the Jansjo and is quite a handy little light. At the time, I recall looking on the IKEA website and seeing that shipping was almost as much as the cost of the lamp. Needless to say, I didn’t order one. Well, I went to Seattle a couple of months ago and stopped by the IKEA store to pick one of these up.
When I finished my bench, I tried the light out but didn’t find it that helpful. I suppose the main reason for this is that my shop is quite well-lit already. I have a series of fluorescent tube lights around the room and track/spot lighting above the workbench and tablesaw. This Jansjo light works very well and puts out a nice bright light, but it just wasn’t needed on my bench. I decided to re-purpose it.
My bandsaw could use a good task light so I figured that would be a good use of the Jansjo. To use the light on the bandsaw, I need to affix it to the door or frame of the saw vertically. I could have done this with some double-sided tape, but then the light can’t be quickly re-purposed to other tasks in the shop if needed. The lamp has a rough cast metal base to give it weight and make it stable, so I thought, why not use magnets?
I looked on amazon and found these BYKES 1/2 x 1/8 Rare Earth Magnets. I ordered them and as always, two days later they were on my door step.
The lamp has a thin layer of foam on the bottom to cover the rough cast metal. I arranged some magnets on the bottom of the lamp and trimmed the foam around them with a scalpel.
I tried adding the magnets and attaching the lamp to the saw. However, when I removed the lamp, the magnets remained stuck to the saw, not on the bottom of the lamp where I want them. To fix this problem, I turned to J-B Weld.
J-B Weld is a 2 part epoxy that is good for gluing metal to metal
I mixed up a small amount and put a little dab at each magnet location.
This epoxy takes a while to cure so I left it like this overnight. The next day I tried it on the saw, and it worked perfectly. Also, when I take it off, the magnets stay stuck to the lamp, as I had hoped.
Let there be light!
Overall, I’m very happy with the addition to the saw. This lamp only costs $10 and the magnets are $o.40 a piece, so if you have an IKEA nearby, this makes for a very cheap upgrade to your bandsaw.
The only thing that I would do differently if I was doing this again is to use only three magnets. I don’t know what possessed me to use four. This thing sticks to the saw like white on rice; like stink on garbage; like shit to a blanket; like a clenched nail; like…. well, you get the point. Feel free to chime in with your own, if you have more.
– Jonathan White
My wife isn't too thrilled with getting up at oh dark thirty to bring me to the airport but it's 25+ dollars by cab. My wife was agreeable to a cab but that don't run that early in the morning. When I come home on sunday there is a problem too. It seems her Mad Men show finale is on at 2200 (the time my plane lands). But they are going a rerun it at 2315 so I'll have her cheery face to greet when I come home.
|I swapped cauls last night|
|it's flat to the eye|
|insurance against stupid wood tricks|
|I didn't get to he drawer fronts|
What Ivy League college was the last one to go co-ed?
answer - Dartmouth in 1972
The materiel logistics for even a boutique exhibit (the term of art for the Studley Exhibit) is pretty staggering , when you consider moving supplies and collections from different places to a third place for the exhibit itself.
When you toss in the things needed for sales at Handworks, the piles of boxes get pretty intimidating.
First were the mounds of material for the exhibit and Handworks to be loaded and hauled from The Barn.
Then there was the Studley Collection itself, which was packed in subsets according to the location within the tool cabinet.
Each box was carefully loaded and bumpered into a larger crate.
The cabinet had a dedicated custom built case.
Then the crates were closed, and the work bench mounted and bound to its custom made cart, and the base was placed and secured on its custom made dolly.
Then loaded on the special truck, dedicated to the one-way transport to Cedar Rapids.
Double locked with a seal that would not be moved until I gave my permission at the end of the trip.
Rollin’ down the road, feelin’ fine.
Unloaded and safely ensconced in the exhibit hall, awaiting tomorrow’s installation.
It’s been a few days since I announced my upcoming mystery project, and asked if anyone could guess what it will be. Well, there have been a few responses – good guesses all – but all incorrect, and since I doubt that there will be any other guesses I thought I’d reveal true answer. It’s not a herb cutter. It’s not a cigar trimmer. It’s not a device for making dolls house shingles. It is in fact…
…a biltong slicer!
My friend is from South Africa, and biltong is a type of dried, cured meat popular in that country. It is a little like beef jerky, and it is apparently quite difficult to cut with a knife. Biltong slicers are quite common in South Africa, but not so much in the Channel Islands, hence the request for me to build one.
I must confess to a little trepidation in starting this project. The thing itself is relatively simple, and I’m sure once I get stuck in it’ll be fine, but not only will this be the first project I’ve undertaken for someone else (aside from family), it will be the first proper woodworking job I’ve attempted without a plan or cut list to work to. I’ve had to give the slicer back now, but I have taken some photographs and measurements to help me with my design.
Originally, I had intended to use the left over apple from my mallet project, and use that as the base and handle support for the slicer. My design also incorporated walnut for the handle and also for some supports for the apple base, and a slice of acacia for the cutting board. I started to work on the apple log in order to get the rough shape, but it became apparent that the wood still had a little too much moisture content. Recently, I have noticed one or too small checks in my mallet head – nothing to cause concern, and they dont’ seem to be getting any worse – and I supposed that I had just jumped the gun in using it before it had fully dried out. Whilst I can get away with this in a mallet, I’d hate to have that happen on this project, especially as it will be used in food preparation, so that idea will have to be scrapped.
My new design still makes use of walnut and acacia – the former for the base and handle supports, the latter for the cutting board – but I am also going to use zebrano, for the handle.
One reader had speculated that my design might incorporate the use of panga panga, no doubt referring to my recent acquisitions. Unfortunately, like a lot of exotic wood species, panga panga can prove difficult to glue due to a high resin or oil content of the wood. I am planning on glueing most of the components of this project, the only hardware being to affix the blade and conceivably the handle, so the panga panga will have to wait for another project.
The brief for this project stipulated that it should stand apart from the example I was loaned. I think hope my design does that. The base will be curved and shaped in contrast to the rather pedestrian rectangular original; the blade will be integrated into the handle, rather than being crudely bolted on; the cutting board will be a slice of a log, complete with bark, as opposed to a simple square of wood; and off to one side will be a depression or ‘bowl’ carved into the base for the cut biltong to accumulate into.
I have a little non-woodwork related work to attend over the next day or two, but I should be ready to make a start on this new project this weekend.
Woodworking author and instructor Tom Fidgen is the mastermind behind the Unplugged Woodshop web site, the online hand tool woodworking school An Unplugged Life, and author of two bestselling books: “Made by Hand” (currently available at ShopWoodworking.com) and “The Unplugged Woodshop” (Taunton). He teaches woodworking with hand tools internationally. This September Fidgen will be teaching at Woodworking In America. His sessions will cover the kerfing plane and resawing by hand and handsaw essentials (both using hand/panel saws […]
|Wally World finally came through|
|did this last night|
|new and old|
|blue tape protects the edge and prevents gluing it to the table|
|dry fit came off without any hiccups|
Two thoughts on the cauls not laying flat. The first is the slope I planed in them might not have been consistent and not enough. The other is I did the slope starting from the center about 1" away from the centerline to the ends. Maybe I should have done it from the centerline out.
Tomorrow I'll get the drawer fronts on and take the clamps off the table. Then it's get ready to go to Amana. This works in my favor with the paint on the table. That will give it a week to cure out and when I get back I'll put on a couple coats of shellac. This will also give me chance to think more on the bread board ends.
I have done bread board ends before but this time I want to try and do them with tenons in them. I think that way will give a stronger top better able to keep it straight and flat.
What musical instrument did Mark Twain refer to as the 'stomach Steinway'?
answer - the accordion
Two weekends ago, my family and I took a trip to Victoria, BC, Canada. It is only about 20 miles away across the water, but it is another world. We love going there and try to go two or three times a year. My wife normally books us a couple of nights in a nice hotel for my birthday, so we go there every April. We see the sights, do some shopping, and enjoy the fantastic restaurants.
This trip, we once again took the kids to the Royal British Columbia Museum. My son likes going there and asked to go straight to the Woolly Mammoth. How can you say no to an exited 6-year-old?
So, you are wondering if the bench blog has become a travel blog now? Fear not, I’m just slow in getting to the point. As I wandered through the museum, I came upon this display of old woodworking tools. I (of course) immediately smiled, and the kids (of course) immediately groaned “oh no Daddy, not more woodworking stuff”. They then promptly walked off with Mom.
There was a pretty comprehensive set of tools on display, but some of them were a little rough. A few I might have even passed on if spotted at a garage sale. However, there were a few gems in there that I have yet to find “in the wild”. The shape of the handle on the below saw was very nice, the lambs tongue was well executed, but it has certainly seen better days.
I have to admit that I had a little chuckle when I came upon the bowsaw in the display. Gerhard Marx over at Je ne sais quio woodworking made a couple of beautiful bowsaws recently and wrote about them here and here. Brian Eve from Toolerable and I were picking on him a little for the string he used on the two saws.
And then I saw this:
Gerhard, I take it all back. Your string is superior to the historical record. Mea Culpa!
I was also pleasantly surprised to see an ebony and brass mortise gauge in the display case. I have the exact same gauge but the maker’s stamp on mine is too shallow to read and I have never been able to ascertain its brand.
However, all the tools in the display were numbered and there was a corresponding key. This listed the tool as a Hibernia Mortise Gauge by William Marples.
Here’s my mortise gauge so you can see just how similar it is. It is a fantastic tool to use and very well made. It is hefty, solid, an functions perfectly. It’s by far my favorite mortise gauge.
As I stood there looking at all the tools, a couple (I assumed husband and wife) walked up and were viewing the display. The lady said to the man:
“Wow, could you imagine trying to woodwork these days using all that old stuff?”
Yes… yes I could, I thought to myself as I smiled and walked away.
|This is the place to be this weekend if you are at all interested in hand tools. Almost all of the important hand tool makers will be there, the setting is fantastic, Roy Underhill will be talking, and in nearby Cedar Rapids, you can check out the Studley Tool Chest and Workbench at their only public viewing for the foreseeable future. For more information, go to: http://new.studleytoolchestexhibit.com
I’m looking forward to seeing you there!
...in 2013 the first incarnation of a Hand Tool only gathering was held in the historic Amana Colonies near Cedar Rapids, Iowa. By all accounts it was a huge success and as a result is coming back as a biannual event this year. In all likelihood, at the expense of WIA, I am heading to the Midwest this weekend; like the hand tool lemming that I am, to see many of the players who have abandoned WIA. Some I will be meeting for the first time.
I have one woodworking poster in my shop and have had it as long as I have had a shop (over 25 years). The picture is of the Studley tool-chest which woodworkers refer to in revered tones. This tool-chest and the bench that goes with it will be on a very rare public display at Handworks 2015 and I have my ticket to see it.
A new book on the tool-chest has just been published and I expect that I will have to grab a copy. For me this artifact has provided much inspiration over the years, I am glad I am finally getting the chance to see it in person.
My sense is that this event is somewhat similar to the European Woodworking Biannual show held in Essex, in the South of England in September. Right now my plan is to also attend this weekend event which is held inside a 12th century wooden barn - yea 12th century!! I live in a province that was the first settlement of Europeans in North America only 410 years ago - we have something to learn about old stuff here!!
Looking forward to the trip and the chance to catch up with some friends; and perhaps make few new ones.
After several years of following the world of woodworking through the internet, I’ve noticed that a fair number of woodworkers were/are musicians. I’ve always equated woodworking and music because I was once a musician myself, and it is my belief that the disciplines needed to excel at both fields are similar. Lately, I’ve discovered something similar about my feelings towards both woodworking and music that has actually bothered me.
Roughly 20 years ago I was in a band that would play usually every weekend, an average of 4-6 gigs per month. The anticipation and excitement of setting up the stage with the band equipment, knowing that for the next 4 hours we would be playing music for hundreds of people, was generally offset by the less exciting proposition of breaking all of that equipment down at 4 a.m. with the knowledge that I would be lucky to get 3 hours of sleep. It was a lot of practice and hard work for what was essentially a few fleeting moments of joy. Even worse, music began to feel empty to me.
Most musicians who rise to the level of playing professionally or semi-professionally were born with an ear for music. That could range anywhere from the gift of ‘perfect pitch’ to the basic ability to recognize intervals. Either way, those abilities need to be developed no matter what level of ability you were given at birth. I studied music deeply for many years, to the point where my theoretical knowledge eclipsed my ability to play. I began to listen to music in parts rather than a whole; I began to analyze music rather than enjoy it. To this day, when I listen to a song, I no longer hear a completed piece of music, but a lot of individual instruments, and that to me is sad. So twelve years ago I decided to give up music in order to get married and hopefully start a family.
Now, with woodworking being my hobby, I’m starting to notice a lot of eerily similar parallels. The pleasant thought of spending a few hours in my garage is tempered by the not so pleasant thought of cleaning up afterwards. I often worry more about the parts than I do the whole. Woodworking theory has become more important than building. I’ve found that woodworking, like music once did, has become a series of fleeting moments that are fun while they last, but nothing more than brief interludes which mean less than they are made out to be. I once thought that our hobbies defined us, and maybe they do to an extent, because I do believe that in some ways our hobbies choose us as much as we choose them. But even if they choose us, I think it is a mistake to let them rule our choices, and our time, because they do not last.
How many Springtime days do we get?
How many days do we get when the sun is shining, the air is warm, and we have nothing else to do but enjoy them? For me that answer is ‘very few’. Moments of fleeting joy, by their very definition, come and go. Yet, a two hour walk in the park with my daughter, her hand in mine, and her subconscious mind knowing that while she is with me her only concern is to enjoy the day, is far more important to me than any song, tool, or piece of furniture. Those moments, while they are indeed fleeting, as all of our lives are, do not fade, and in fact strengthen with time. As much as I enjoy many aspects of woodworking, I can say with certainty that there will not be a time when I look fondly back on sawing a tenon. And as much as I enjoy furniture, and what it means, it is how that furniture is used, and not it’s shape or grain which gives it relevance. Thirty years from now, God willing, will I look back upon the Spring of 2015 and remember what I made, or not even what I made, but the “process” of making it? Will those “processes”, which woodworkers are told mean so much, mean anything at all? I’m not asking anybody, because I know the answer for me is “no”.
Thirty years from now, will my fondest memories be of a song, or a tool, or of a dovetail joint? Or will they be remembrances of time spent walking hand in hand with my daughter through a sunny park on a perfect day, not caring if the note was perfect, or my tools were sharpened, or my joints crisp? Will a set of tools, and the things I made with them be the memories I choose to carry with me? Or will a father’s love for his daughter, and the memories of the time I chose to spend with her on a perfect Spring day be the enduring legacy of my life? I’m not asking, because I already know the answer.
With the exhibit of the Studley Tool Chest and Workbench only days away (May 15-17, 2015, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa), I find myself fielding a lot of similar questions (especially about tickets – if this is your inquiry READ THE LAST QUESTION) in email and conversations. So I took the time to create a Frequently Asked Questions compilation for the LAP blog, from which this was adapted..
How did the exhibit for the Studley Tool Chest come about?
Three years ago while studying the chest in person for the forthcoming book “Virtuoso,” I interviewed the owner for background material for the manuscript. At one point I asked, “Do you ever think about exhibiting the chest?” He smiled and just said, “I probably should, shouldn’t I?” A year later we spoke again and he agreed for me to do it.
Why is the exhibit in Cedar Rapids, Iowa?
For starters, one of the requirements by the owner was that the exhibit, “Be nowhere close to where I live.” Cedar Rapids fits that description pretty well. Plus, when I visited Jameel and Father John Abraham after Handworks in May 2013, we were just brainstorming and agreed that they needed to organize Handworks II, and having a Studley Exhibit in Cedar Rapids concurrent with Handworks II (only 20 miles away in the Amana Colonies) would be a great idea.
Did you consider any other site for the exhibit? I mean, I’d never even heard of Cedar Rapids before.
Originally I scouted out the Rural Masonic Lodge in Quincy, Mass., because it was the home Lodge to Henry O. Studley. I even visited there to explore the possibility. Four days later a catastrophic fire gutted the building, so that option was no longer on the table. The Scottish Rite Temple in Cedar Rapids is a spectacular site, and it will be the perfect venue. It was important to my vision to place the exhibit in an elegant Masonic building and one where the exhibit could be featured, not simply lost into a maze of a mega-programming institution. In the end I did not consider a huge city because I dislike cities. Well, I did think about Cincinnati, but is it really a city? Isn’t it more like a big town?
Why is the exhibit only three days long?
Much of that is simple practicality. My agreement with the chest’s owner requires me to be on-site with the exhibit all the time it is open to the public. Three days of the exhibit (plus at least three days of packing, shipping and installation on either side) was about all I think I could take. Besides, the host site is a busy place and I did not want to take a chance on not being able to have the exhibit there.
Are there any plans to extend the exhibit, or put it someplace closer to civilization if I can’t make it to Cedar Rapids for those three days?
Why are tickets so expensive?
The answer is fairly straightforward. First, if you think the ticket price ($25) is high I guess you have never been to a good play or the ballet, or a ballgame (even minor league games cost more, once you factor in everything). Second, the ticket price is in fact a bare-bones reflection of the project’s budget. Feel free to price out the cost of a secured transport service to move around a collection like this, or the cost of insuring The Studley Tool Chest, or the fabrication of exhibit cases and platforms, or the rental and security of a prominent public building, or the theatrical lighting necessary… Best outcome? Every single ticket sells, and I will only be out almost a thousand hours donated for this labor of love. I would do this again in a heartbeat. Third, I wanted to make sure the visitor’s experience was amazing. Hence, the very few number of visitor slots.
What do you mean, “visitor experience” and “low visitor slots?”
My concept for this was to allow each visitor to get an in-depth exposure to the chest. So the exhibit will be quite spare, only four or five artifact stations, and each visitor will be in a 50-person group and spend 50 uninterrupted minutes with the exhibit. The docents and I will make sure everyone gets their turn to get as close as possible to the cabinet (about 4” to 6”). At the end of the 50 minutes each group will be ushered out and the Plexiglas vitrine housing the tool cabinet will be cleaned to remove any fingerprints, nose imprints and drool, so everything will be perfect for the next group.
Couldn’t you get some corporate sponsors to help cut the costs?
I did check into that, but the initial inquiries and responses led me to believe it was not a fruitful path. So I decided to take personal financial risk and pay for it entirely out of my own pocket.
So nobody is helping you?
A great many people have volunteered to help in ways large and small, serving as docents, packing and setup/take-down crews, etc. All tolled there are more than two dozen people involved, and are donating their time and (for the most part) their out-of-pocket expenses.
Will you be mailing me my tickets?
No. The ticket purchases are recorded electronically. I will print the entire list out, then check you off the list and hand you your timed ticket when you check in at the Scottish Rite Temple. You will show it at the door of the exhibit hall and be ushered in. Just to make sure, it would be a good idea to bring your PayPal receipt with you just in case we miss something.
I think my tracking down of literary shellac treasures is just like Indiana Jones’ quests for ancient artifactual treasures. Except without the alien and dangerous locales. Or the mega villains and the life threatening predicaments they inflict on the heroes. Or the femmes fatale.
Okay, it’s nothing like Indiana Jones. Well…, maybe a little like Indy’s adventures as this episode did involve traveling to a terrifying place, Hades-On-The-Hudson (cities absolutely creep me out, my temperament is much more suited to life in the boonies where my nearest permanent neighbor is a thousand yards away) and two lovely ladies instrumental in the discoveries. And there wasn’t really a mega villain, just a knuckleheaded academic, but then I repeat myself.
As my Shellac Archive grew into the thousands of pages it is now, it became clear that one of the brightest lights in the historic shellac research firmament was the Shellac Research Bureau of the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn, New York. In the 1930s, as the winds of war for the survival of civilization began blowing, much of the research function of the venerable London Shellac Research Bureau migrated across the pond to our shores, to Brooklyn Poly. As a result, perhaps the golden-est epoch of subject research emerged as the research output of the SRB-PIB soon overshadowed the breadth and quality of almost anything ever produced by the LSRB or their Indian counterpart. As both of these enterprises were part and parcel of an imperial, ossified mercantilist/socialist system, when SRB relocated to a new culture – albeit struggling mostly due to the collectivist FDR regime in Washington – of innovation, risk, and accomplishment, perhaps the outcome was predictable.
At its peak just before and during the war, SRB’s group consisted of several faculty and several dozen students, all working on original basic and applied research under the direction of the renowned William Howlett Garner (let us pause for a moment of respectful silence. Okay, we can move on.)
Over the years I had acquired a number of the literary products from the group, mostly research monographs, but I knew from the few Annual Reports I had that my holdings that these monographs were but the tip of the iceberg. I could not help but wonder how much more there was, and began to follow up on this speculation. About 15 years ago I contacted Brooklyn Poly to see how much of the shellac research archive remained. It took many, many phone calls before I finally spoke with Heather, the research archive librarian for the university. And what an enriching experience our interactions were!
Heather was one of these classic cataloguers and retrievers of knowledge, and my inquiries into scholarship from three generations ago simply raised her estimation of me. Enthusiastically she embarked on her own journey of exploration with a promise to call me back.
And she did.
I knew immediately from the tone of her voice that the news was not promising. Deeply apologetic, she informed me the Shellac Research Bureau’s records were gone. All of them.
All of them.
Assembling the pieces of the story in retrospect revealed the utter shortsightedness of even institutions of scholarship in a culture with the attention span of a fruit fly. In the third and final installment of this tale of woe and reclamation, of knowledge lost, found, and shared, I reflect on the sentiments of the university’s Chemistry Department Chair (or perhaps it was Chemical Engineering) from the 1970s as the Institute was forming its new strategic vision, “Shellac? Who cares about that? The future is all about polymer synthesis! Throw all that old stuff away.”