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This morning the crew gathered at 7:00 and devised a plan for raising the next three bents. The members between the bents are connected to each other with a 24’ long joist and so it was assembled as a unit and raised into place with a manual lift. The next bent was assembled on horses on the ground and carried into place by Matt via telehandler. This process continued all the way through to the fourth and final bent. Happily, there is little to report on because everything went so smooth. Even the twist in the joist between bent two and three was easily pulled into proper alignment.
By the end of the day, we had all four bents assembled. Tomorrow, we plan to put a temporary deck on the second floor and install the 26’ long plates with their braces onto the eve walls. With the plate in place, we can finish pegging the bents together and release the come alongs. After that it’s rafters and ridge pole! We’ll see how far we get tomorrow.
Tonight we feast and then rest before the next exciting step!
Today was the first day of the shop raising and, wow, was it momentous. The day started with finishing the new sill Luke, Matt, and Isaac began the day before. This 8” wide by 10” tall sill sits on top of the deck to raise the ceiling height. It is joined in the traditional manner with pegged mortise and tenon joints. After the sill was assembled and bolted to the deck, we began assembling the first (rearmost) bent.
We assembled the joints on sawhorses and drilled and pegged each tenon. Peg sizes varied from 1-3/8” to 1” to 3/4” depending on the joint. Because the pegs Luke purchased weren’t available in the odd 1-3/8” size that this frame was made with, Mike and I spent a good chunk of our day shaving the pegs to final size. Once the bent was fully assembled, Luke and Isaac measured the tenon spacing and braced the assembly with 2x4s to keep them in position.
Matt carried the bent with the telehandler as Luke directed it into the mortises. It was pretty incredible to watch these two work together. Their subtle but effective communication showed that they’ve been doing this for a long time. With each tenon slipping seamlessly into its mortise, the first wall was standing.
Between the physical labor these guys have gone through and the stress of crucial measurements working out, I think everyone working on this project was feeling wiped at the end of the day. But the day went off without a hitch. Tomorrow, bright and early we begin assembling the second bent.
After Mike and I got all the granite blocks squared and leveled on the gravel pad, we fit hardware cloth over the ventilation spacing between the blocks to keep critters out. This cloth was bent around top and bottom of the blocks and glued in place with construction adhesive to ensure there was no way anything was getting under there.
We laid six-mil plastic over the gravel inside the foundation to seal off future moisture release. Then, on top of the granite we half lapped a pressure-treated 2x6 to overhang the blocks by 1” on all sides. The conventional TJI deck was then constructed on top of that. These man-made joists are unpleasant to work with but are functional and quick to assemble. With the I-beams in place, we cut ½” plywood to lay between them. These were then screwed to the beams. On top of that, we laid 2” blue foam that we then sealed with Great Stuff spray foam to close up air gaps. I’ve seen this blue foam/Great Stuff method called “poor man’s spray foam”.
With the blue foam installed, we laid the subfloor. After applying a bead of construction adhesive, we screwed 3/4” Advantech down to the framing. We were happy to find that at every stage of the process things turned out square. We joked that all our mistakes must have compounded to cancel each other out.
Despite the purist strain some of us may have, I think we made the right choice. With this floating block foundation, it seemed best to avoid a central support point and so, to be able to span the 25’ of the deck without sagging, TJI joists made the most sense. Although not particularly fun to do or interesting to discuss at length, this deck system will give us a solid, draft-free floor. Once it’s buried in top floor and exterior sheathing I’ll never have to look at it again. I’ll just enjoy the benefits of its performance for the rest of my life.
Luke and part of his crew arrived from Vermont this afternoon with the final trailer loads of the frame. We spent time getting to know each other and they looked over the site before heading off to their rental house. They’ll be spending tomorrow putting a few finishing touches on the frame’s sills in preparation for Monday. Then, over the following few days, it all goes up.
All photographs by Jessica Smolinksi. Courtesy Yale University Art Gallery.
Last Friday’s visit to the Yale Furniture Study went off without a hitch. The seven-hour drive was pleasant and quiet, bringing me into New Haven 45 minutes ahead of schedule. I hauled my tools and sample table parts down into the Study’s workshop and got things set up.
I began the presentation by exploring three table examples from Yale’s collection. We had the tables upside down so that everyone could take a turn looking at the joinery under the table. I had the attendees specifically examine the tenon layout lines and the tenons’ pins protruding to the inside. To illustrate that these tables are constructed in the same way, we chose two vernacular painted tavern tables as early as 1730 to compare to a mahogany inlaid drop-leaf table made somewhere around 1810. The construction was the same: drawbored rails into four legs with a top.
Then we went into the shop and I showed them how that is done. I had a small table under construction and demonstrated each stage of preparing legs, chopping a mortise, planing the taper, prepping the rails, cutting the tenons, fitting the joint, and drawboring it together.
It was fun to hear feedback after it was over (I went well beyond the allotted time). The attendees expressed how seeing these originals and then watching the process was eye-opening for them. I trust that the speed of this handwork was conveyed. One of the biggest disservices these kinds of presentations can give is to feed the myth that craftsmen were slow and careful artists or that hand tools are slow. Nothing could be further from the truth and so I think it’s important that anyone demonstrating these skills should have sweat on their brow. It’s only when people see this kind of hustling shop practice that they can begin to get a picture of how period artisans worked.
I was honored to be invited back to this place for demonstration and look forward to next time. If you haven’t been to the study yet, you don’t know what you’re missing. Prioritize a visit. My interview with museum assistant, Eric Litke, in Issue One discusses this place in depth. 800 items of furniture all arranged by form chronologically. You’ve never seen anything quite like it.
Mike and I have finally settled on a logo for M&T. We’ve spent two years going back and forth trying every idea under the sun: plane shavings, hand planes, joinery dissections, etc. None of it worked. We needed something dead simple that eluded to (but didn’t clobber you over the head with) the heartbeat of M&T. We knew the most effective logos (such as those of Apple, Nike, and Target) can be drawn in a few lines and are recognizable from across the room. After many abandoned designs, we decided on the one above. This drawing is from the title page of London-based painter and engraver William Hogarth’s 1753 book, The Analysis of Beauty. The image is simple, powerful, and beautiful. But what does it symbolize?
The Meaning Behind the Symbol
In 1745, William Hogarth painted a self-portrait with his pug. Lying on the painter’s palette prominently set in the foreground was an S-shaped three-dimensional line with an explanatory caption below: “The Line of Beauty”. Hogarth later said that “the bait soon took” and many artists came to him to inquire of the meaning resulting in “freequent explanations and disputes”. Hogarth made the case that the waving line, found all throughout nature, was “ornamental and pleasing” requiring a “lively movement of the hand” to draw. It was the Line of Beauty.
Hogarth expounded his case in The Analysis of Beauty which he said was “written with a view of fixing the fluctuating IDEAS OF TASTE”. The book set forth six principals of beauty: FITNESS, VARIETY, UNIFORMITY, SIMPLICITY, INTRICACY, and QUANTITY. He explained that these elements work together to create true beauty. In his view, although all these principals were to be balanced together, the waving and serpentine lines made the biggest visual impact. Hogarth’s biographer, Ronald Paulson, has explained that the Line of Beauty was “a synecdoche for his theory and its crucial terms of variety, intricacy, and pleasure. It was his theory reduced to a hieroglyph.”
Not all waving lines are created equal, however. To illustrate the ideal curvature, Hogarth showed seven cabriole chair legs, the first three of which were “mean and poor” (too straight) and the last three of which were “gross and clumsy” (too curvy). The ideal curvature for a cabriole leg was depicted as number four.
Because of the importance of the waving line in his system, Hogarth composed an illustration that sat on the title page of Analysis. This emblem depicted the serpentine Line of Beauty set inside a transparent glass pyramid atop a plinth inscribed with the word “VARIETY”. Of the pyramid shape, Hogarth wrote, “Observe, that a gradual lessening is a kind of varying that gives beauty. The pyramid diminishing from its basis to its point [is a] beautiful form… There is no object composed of straight lines, that has so much variety, with so few parts, as the pyramid: and it is its constantly varying from its base gradually upwards in every situation of the eye.”
One scholar has said this symbol was “emblematic of and embodying Hogarth’s ideas espoused in his work” and was “a synthetic visual demonstration of the argument of his text.” In his preface, Hogarth explained how the two elements in the logo come together to symbolize the essence of beauty: “the triangular form of the glass, and the serpentine line itself, are the two most expressive figures that can be thought of to signify not only beauty and grace, but the whole order of form.”
We at M&T celebrate the SIMPLICITY of historic craft process, eschewing elaborate machining processes and complicated jigs. A major part of that includes embracing the VARIETY (in dimension, tool mark texture, etc) inherent in hand tool work. We’ve decided to adopt the drawing (sans the plinth) as M&T’s official logo because it perfectly depicts the beautiful fusion of SIMPLICITY and VARIETY.
This logo, shown on the first page of Issue Three, will also be featured on our merchandise in the future. Yes, stickers and shirts are coming.
Hand tools are not slow.
This afternoon, after Mike and I ditched the granite work because of a downpour, I went to the shop to prepare table parts for a presentation I am doing on Friday at the Yale University Furniture Study (Registration full, sorry). The presentation is titled “Efficient Handcraft” and will focus on pre-industrial methods for efficient furniture making. I will bring parts of a table at each stage of the process so that I can demonstrate the whole process in the time allotted. This afternoon’s prep involved ripping out two legs and two rails from rough-sawn pine, planing both legs square, laying out and chopping two of the mortises, tapering one of the legs on two sides, planing the rails’ faces, laying out and cutting four tenons, fitting two of the joints, shaping pins and drawboring one of the joints, and cutting and paring the two pins flush.
This took me one hour. And I figure this base is almost 1/3 of the way complete (i.e. ready for finish).
This time in the shop reminded me of two things:
- Our “Tables” Apprenticeship video is still under production. It’s proven to be much more of a time consumer than we anticipated. With the new shop raising, and shipping Issue Three out at the end of the month, we will be hard-pressed to get much time to work on it. But every spare minute Mike has, he’s editing that video. Promise.
- I will again be teaching the “tables” weekend workshop from this summer at Lie-Nielsen this next summer. We don’t have dates yet and they don’t have their workshops listed yet. I will also be teaching a five-day version of this class at Port Townsend School of Woodworking in spring. Stay tuned for all those details.
Now that Issue Three is at the printer and my edits to the Fisher book are complete, Mike and I have begun getting things ready for the new M&T shop frame to arrive on the 18th. We started the morning staring at a pile of granite foundation blocks. We gathered small log rounds, pry bars, and all other manner of tools to muscle the 100 linear feet of granite into place on the gravel pad. After we got a few pieces in place, a stone mason friend of mine, Ken stopped over on a lead from a neighbor. He showed up to generously share his experience and knowledge of the finer points of moving large stone. With his help, we made pretty quick work of it.
We squared up the corners and began fine tuning the straight lines by the end of the day. At that point, we began shooting ideas around for the best way to determine level on these blocks. As the words were still in our mouths, another good friend of mine, Adam drove up and shouted, “Hey! What are you guys doing?” “Building a new shop. Come over and help!”
After parking his truck, Adam joined in our planning session and announced that he has an antique transit that we could use. “Do you want me to go get it?” he asked. Are you kidding me? Of course!
Adam drove up the road to his house to retrieve the transit and immediately set it up on site. I’ve never seen one of these things at work. Pretty cool. Within 15 minutes, we had level measured on all four corners. Tomorrow (in the rain, probably) Mike and I will level the blocks and put the few remaining in place. Once the blocks are leveled, we will build a conventionally-framed deck that the shop will sit on. We’ve got to hustle because the 18th is not that far away!
As we work on this part of the project, Luke Larson and his crew at Green Mountain Timber Frames have been restoring the frame. The 24’ x 26’ beech and chestnut hand-hewn frame was built in Pawlet, Vermont around the year 1800. In the 1980s, it was given to a local Grange to use as their meeting hall. There was a lot of gutting work done at that time but no one messed with the frame.
About a year ago, Luke purchased the house (read his blog entry about it here) and he and his crew carefully disassembled it for restoration. The frame was in great shape with the exception of the rafters and ridge beam, which suffered fire and leak damage. When I found out about this frame and discussed it with Luke, he asked what I'd like to replace the rafters with. I told him I wanted old material, as close to the original roof system as possible. He did some digging and came up with a five-sided pine ridge beam almost the exact same size as well as round cedar rafters from a barn in Addison, Vt. virtually identical to the original. He and his crew have replicated the original roof system using these reclaimed materials. They’ve taken great care to leave the original surfaces unmarred. They’ve also de-nailed and washed all the 1-1/4”-thick sheathing. As Luke put it, “There is nothing like the patina of old boards.” Totally agree.
The old stock roof sheathing was then laid out for optimum placement and labeled. This will make reattaching this sheathing after the frame is raised a breeze. They’ve also added collar ties to the gable ends and braces on the first floor to strengthen the frame even more.
Mike and I are beside ourselves excited about this frame. We plan to leave the interior unfinished with roughsawn old boards and the frame completely exposed. All the insulation will be built on the outside of the frame and then exterior sheathing attached to that. From the inside, it will look like an 18th-century workshop in all its rough-hewn glory. I’ve also purchased a pile of antique window sashes (with wavy glass) that we will be using.
Besides a quick trip down to do a presentation at the Yale Furniture Study this Friday, this is the rest of our year. We will be working on this over the winter, hoping to be completely moved in by spring. We’ll see.
This is to be the new M&T headquarters. In this shop, our magazine will be created, our videos will be filmed, and our workshops will take place. As goofy as it sounds, this is a dream come true. This frame exceeds all my hopes for a little shop of my own on my property.
We will be documenting this project extensively, so if antique timber frame restoration is something you’re interested in, follow along here and on our Instagram page. It promises to be a fun ride.
Editor’s note: The following is a guest post from one of my students at Lie-Nielsen this June. Adam finished his table and wrote up these thoughts about his time at the class.
“The planned obsolescence of modern consumerism is a real tragedy. I encourage you to rebel against this.” ~Joshua Klein
After reading Christopher Schwarz’s The Anarchist’s Tool Chest cover to cover, an obsession began. This eventually led me to take Joshua Klein’s “Cut-The-Cord” class at Lie-Nielsen Toolworks this June. Joshua, whether he realizes or not, has played an integral role in shaping my thoughts and ideals about woodworking since my very first project not long ago.
After taking my first-ever passes with a handplane at a Lie-Nielsen Hand Tool Event in Philadelphia, I went straight home and searched the internet for hand-tool workshops I could sign up for. Joshua’s “Cut-the-Cord” workshop stuck out like a sore thumb. This was exactly what I was after: pre-industrial woodworking. I have long held beliefs that what industrialism has done to music, art, communities, and our only livable planet has been painfully atrocious. I recognize the monumental improvements in health care and quality of life that it has given us as well, I’m just not sure we need so much damn stuff.
I set out the next weekend building my first project, which was the first project from Roy Underhill’s The Woodwright’s Apprentice - a folding workbench. I think I heard the sawmill owner chuckle a little bit as I walked away with a stack of oak. I took my very dull 5 ½ tpi Disston and set to ripping 8/4 oak on a couple of downturned five gallon buckets. Hours later, I had a wobbled, rough, sad piece of wood. After hours of planing with a no. 5 set to take a very thin shaving I had four very out-of-square pitiful legs. OK, so, I need some guidance. Watching old episodes of the Woodwright’s shop provided oodles of encouragement (and happiness), but some information was assumed. That’s what I was missing. I emailed Joshua some photos of my workbench legs and asked him if I would be ready to take his class. After a few back-and-forths and some helpful encouragement, I was signed up and looking forward to June.
Joshua began the class by having us examine several examples of pre-industrial tables as well as the table he recently built. What an eye-opener to see this stuff in person. It gave new meaning to what it means to be made by hand. We watched a short film showing pre-industrial woodworkers from Sweden. It was amazing to see their speed, and how cavalier they were with banging home joinery. The class continued with Joshua demonstrating how to make the legs and rails of our table. His shavings were passed around the class and everyone was in awe at the incredible thickness he got from his fore plane. My goodness, I’ve been doing this wrong and absurdly inefficiently. (My fore plane got a thorough opening of its mouth when I got home as well as an even more pronounced camber on the iron.) Joshua showed us his planing technique, explained the concept of reference surfaces, and ripped and smoothed a leg. Then he said “OK, now go make 4 legs and 4 rails!! Work quick, time is of the essence!” The rails were fairly easy to get roughed out and the pine stock that we were working with was beautiful. Then came the legs. This is where a freshly sharpened saw is a life saver. I looked around the room at one point and everyone was drenched in sweat. Not many were talking, but all had smiles and the satisfaction that comes from this hand work. By early afternoon, we were getting close to having the rails and legs finished and Joshua began demonstrating how to lay out the joinery.
It’s important to grasp the fact that none of us had plans. We did our best to eliminate using math and pencil marks - everything got knifed in and the dimensions came from the work itself. The only time I used a ruler during the entire process of building this table was when using the ruler trick to sharpen plane irons.
Day 2 began with chopping mortises, lining up joinery, planing, and sawing. It was glorious. I got my last mortise chopped and then we stopped for a drawboring demonstration from Joshua. He assembled one joint. It was a beautiful sight to see the pin suck the tenon shoulder right up against the mortise. By the end of the second day I had the front and the back drawbored and assembled. I found it a great help when switching gears or tasks in the project to sit down and look and think before whacking into something. We were moving as fast as we could, but there are parts of this project that require precision. That’s the trick: knowing when to be precise and when things can be left rough. That’s the true understanding of period tolerances. Another lesson I learned was to stop hitting the drawbore pin just before splitting the leg. This requires a careful attention and listening. The resonance of the pin as it’s being driven in should tell you something. When that resonance stops and a deadened thunk is heard, that’s it. Put the wham-er-doodle down and walk away.
When it hit 4:00 p.m. it was time to pack up. We said our goodbyes, thanked the LN crew and Joshua for an amazing experience and the incredible amount learned and gained. I can safely say that this experience changed the way I’ll work wood for the rest of my life.
-Adam Eisenreich (@oatsandtoads)
Editor’s Note: Robell wrote this post several weeks ago, soon after he came up to help with the Nicholson bench build. Because I’ve been out straight getting Issue Three ready, I haven’t had a moment to put this up on the blog until now. Mike and I loved having Robell in the shop with us and we look forward to the next time he can come up. The following are Robell’s reflections on his time working with us.
It is often intimidating meeting people you admire from afar. That was the case for me when I met Joshua and Mike. Having been a reader of M&T since the first issue, I reached out and asked if I could spend some time working with them. Even though they didn’t know me besides from a few photographs of my work, they said yes. As I biked down the craggy Maine coast to meet them at the shop on the first day, I was nervous. Would I be taken seriously? Would our personalities vibe?
These worries can be heightened for me because there are exceptionally few people of color represented in the world of fine furniture. As the son of immigrants from Africa, which has its own amazing but different woodworking tradition, I sometimes feel like an outsider.
My nerves quickly dissipated after I pulled into the driveway and saw 12-foot boards hanging out the back of Joshua’s minivan. Conversation came easy and authentically over the days we worked together. We discussed New England’s Whoopie Pie rivalries, the enormous amount of labor that goes into pre-industrial furniture making, and the work songs that woodwrights would sing together on the job. We even tried to come up with a song of our own - a futile but hilarious exercise. But most of the time we spoke in saw strokes and mallet blows, allowing the language of shared physical effort to connect us.
The kindness and warmth that I experienced with Joshua and Mike echoed throughout Maine’s woodworking community. From Skip Brack at the legendary Hulls Cove Tool Barn, to employees and vendors at the Lie-Nielsen Open House, graciousness abounded. Folks were eager to share their woodworking knowledge and experiences, enthusiastically welcoming me into their world. One would think that in a place like Maine where woodworkers are plentiful, they would be at each other’s throats competing for work. Maybe some are. But for me, it felt as if the dominant culture was one of teaching, learning, and sharing. It was truly and deeply inspiring.
In the weeks since my visit, I have been thinking about what it means to build a vibrant woodworking community in Atlanta. I’ve come away more convinced than ever that supporting each other is the key to our success. I’m fortunate to work out of Mass Collective, a maker’s cooperative where I get to interact and connect with various craft people. Spaces like these are critical in fostering inclusive and collaborative work environments, and because, as we all know, gluing up sometimes requires more than just two hands. My experience in Maine strengthened my commitment to helping build a stronger woodworking community here in Atlanta, a community where all people can take part in and have access to this incredible craft.
-Robell Awake (@robellawake)
The Tuesday morning Issue Three pre-order launch was nuts. Mike and I stayed up late with last minute prep and double (and triple) checking all the store’s settings for the launch. We knew we had at least a few folks that would stay up late to order at midnight so we wanted to make sure there weren’t going to be any glitches.
I called Mike at 11:50 p.m. to check in and review our launch check list (update inventory, publish blog post, post on social media, etc.). We divvied up the list and waited until the clock struck 12:00 exactly. As we worked through our check list, we were watching for the first 25 orders to come in to take the free eBook. Before we even finished our tasks, Mike realized we whizzed right past order 25! Woah! All night long our dedicated readers signed up for subscriptions and pre-orders. You all amaze us. Thank you for being so supportive as we grow this little publication. The yearly subscriptions are a huge step for us and we are blown away to be here. There’s no way we could continue to do this without you surrounding us with your enthusiasm and patronage.
As a way of celebrating the launch, Mike came over Wednesday morning to help my father and I raise the barn I purchased last fall. The 18’ x 24’ frame was made by a local timber frame company as a seasonal display barn. It sat, unsheathed, on the side of highway 295 to advertise their work. As I understand it, these display frames are sold at the end of the season for a song. I bought it second hand from a friend who wasn’t able to put it up as he envisioned.
The three of us (under my eight-year-old’s supervision) began sorting the timbers and deciphering the labeling system. We assembled the first bent on the sills and rigged up a gin pole with a block and tackle system against the back of our greenhouse. With one man on each outside post and one pulling the rope, we raised the massive wall without any problems. It was heavy, to be sure, but totally manageable.
The plates, their braces, and the nailers that connect the bents made the next two walls a wee bit trickier. To make sure everything was lined up while raising the next bent, we assembled the parts into the standing frame and screwed supports at the exact height they needed. Once the bent was raised, it was a simple matter of guiding the three tenons (on each side) into place. It made things surprisingly straightforward.
Little Asher (2) driving pegs for us
We lashed the gin pole to the middle tie beam to raise the last bent. Everything went swimmingly. In two days of work, the three of us raised the three bents. What a satisfying project to tackle together. This was the first time any of us were involved in raising a frame and it was so fun. The gin pole especially fascinated me. This sapling with block and tackle is an amazing device that makes huge lifts like this possible for such a small crew. Next week, Mike and I will try to come up with a way to install the rafters. I’m not yet sure how we’re going to pull it off but the success of the gin pole has us optimistic.
This whole project was a great warm-up exercise because next month Mike and I will be raising the frame for our new workshop. I’ve purchased a hand-hewn beech and chestnut frame (circa 1800) from Green Mountain Timber Frames in Middletown Springs, VT. Luke Larson and his crew will be bringing it up this September and raising it on my property. I’m relieved to not be the one overseeing the process. This crew has a lot of experience with these old frames and I am looking forward to soaking up their wisdom as Mike and I help out.
The new M&T shop building
I went down to see the frame (and Luke) in person a few weeks ago and am so excited about it. This frame is absolutely gorgeous. We can’t wait to be standing in it. Our articles for M&T, our instructional videos, and all our workshops will take place in this historic building. We will make many memories here.
You will hear a lot more about the new shop frame in the coming months.
(with an option to “Auto-renew” each year)
Beginning with Issue Three, we will only be doing the brown paper and wax-sealed trade cards for subscriptions and pre-orders. After this issue’s pre-order window has closed, the magazine will be mailed naked in a rigid mailer. If this special wrapping is important to you, please know that the only way to get this is to purchase a yearly subscription or pre-order the issue.
Although I never would have anticipated this, these trade cards have become collectibles. Many readers have emailed us pictures of the cards proudly displayed in their shops. Since every new issue will feature a new trade card designed just for that issue, I can picture folks 10 years from now boasting that they have every single trade card since the beginning! Ha! That would be awesome.
Because we don’t want anyone bummed to miss out, we will be repeating this message until pre-orders close at the end of September. We know there are going to be customers that will email us the week after we stop wrapping to ask why theirs isn’t wrapped. Don’t let it be you.
This change also applies to Issues One and Two. We will continue to wrap every single copy of those two that we sell until late September. At that point, we’ll never again wrap Issues 1-3. If you want a wrapped copy of Issues One or Two, time is running out.
To make sure that we’re as clear as possible, from here on out, we’re probably going to refer to this as our “Pre-order wrapping” or something like that.
The best way to guarantee you never want to miss out on any issue is to purchase a yearly subscription. Then you know you’re all set.
Learn more about the Table of Contents here.
On August 1st at 12:00 a.m. (Eastern Time), we will be opening pre-orders for Issue Three. Why midnight? No idea. It’s just silly fun, I guess. If you’ve got quick typing fingers, the first 25 orders will get our brand-new eBook for free (automatically emailed to you). This eBook featuring the two high chairs in Issue Three will be the first glimpse into this new issue. If you’re not one of the first 25 orders, the eBook will be available for purchase ($8).
In other big news, starting August 1st, we will also be offering yearly subscriptions (2 issues a year). Mike has been working his tail off trying to get us setup to offer a recurring payment option for subscriptions. Many of you have told us you just want to be signed up to get every issue without having to order each individual copy. We hear that. Cross your fingers that all will go smooth with the automatic payment feature. We’ll let you know by August 1st.
Hang tight! Issue Three is coming soon!
On September 29th and 30th, Mike and I are throwing a huge party to wrap and ship out Issue Three pre-orders. When we did this for the last issue, it was incredible. We rented a local active Grange Hall (in Blue Hill, Maine) and set up tables, supplies, and boxes upon boxes of brand-spanking-new magazines.
People drove and flew from all over to be a part of the big launch. Mike and I were humbled to have such amazing help. We had two days of stories, laughing, loads of food, music, and fun. Almost everyone who helped last time already told us they’re planning on coming again.
This time, we’ve rented a house for our helpers. There are limited slots for these accommodations, so if being put up in the house is important to you, contact us right away. We could also talk about some camping options, if need be.
If you are interested in signing up, please send us an email right now at firstname.lastname@example.org. We were blown away at how quick the response was for Issue Two and we expect it to be the same this time around. We cannot guarantee anyone a slot just yet but we will put you on the list on a first come first serve basis.
Wanna come to Blue Hill, Maine for a couple days this fall to help us launch M&T Issue Three into the world?
In anticipation of the upcoming Issue Three, we’ve just released the new cover poster. It is the same (sane) 14.5” x 11” size as the first two on the same heavy paper for long-term durability. We think there is pretty much nothing more rad to hang on your wall than old hand tools. This cover features Kenneth Kortemeier receiving a drawknife which symbolizes the passing of the craft baton from recently retired Drew Langsner of Country Workshops. This image, while powerful on its own, has so much more meaning once you read this Langsner – Kortemeier story.
You can order your Issue Three poster here. $15. And, yes, we do now ship all over the world.
P.s. Tomorrow I will have news about the packing party for Issue Three. If you were bummed to miss our last party, you will want to be ready for tomorrow’s announcement. We’ve arranged accommodations for all our helpers but there are only so many slots available. Stay tuned…
This is the final installment of our Issue Three table of contents announcement series. Check out the full T.O.C. here. (You can click on any of the article titles to read about them.)
“Resurrecting the Derelict: Hard Choices in the Conservation of a Chest” by Joshua Klein
No one wants to be guilty of destroying an antique. What if we ruin exactly what is so special about a piece? What if it ends up on Antiques Roadshow someday? Will we be berated for ham-handed restoration? This legitimate fear rises up especially when our projects do not go according to plan. Often, furniture conservators set out on their treatments with a grand vision of a phoenix-from-the-ashes resurrection only to be faced with hurdles and inevitable compromises. Even after all the examination and solvent testing, many projects are more complex than the original examination suggested.
How does a conservator decide the “right” thing to do when faced with stubborn finishes or other complex problems? What do they do if they just can’t physically achieve the ideal outcome? Anyone who has thoughtfully undertaken the restoration of an antique knows that the answers to these questions are not obvious. There are always many factors to consider when deciding treatments.
This summer, I undertook a conservation project that I knew was going to have a lot of real world complexity. The chest was covered in many layers of goopy paint, original elements were missing or cut out, and other parts were added on. Although the chest was derelict, I could see beneath it the beauty of a handmade late 18th-/early 19th-century New England chest over drawers. As is, it was headed for a dumpster. Restored, it could live on for another few hundreds years.
This article is not a show-off piece for my portfolio. As I proceeded, I encountered complicated problems with removing layers of paint to get to the lowermost indigo blue. This forced me to tack another direction in the treatment which brought to light the importance of understanding the different values we place on artifacts.
Although I walk through one particular treatment from beginning to end, I’ve written this piece to teach others how to do the hard work of assessing the “right” thing to do for any restoration project they take on. Most of the hand skills required in this work are well within reach of the average woodworker but it’s the decision making and thought process that sets an excellent conservator apart from a hack.
In the end, we want beautiful results but we also want to be able to sleep at night. The only way we can be sure we won’t have guilty consciences is to learn to think carefully. Think of this article as a conservation 101 lab. This hands-on experience gives context to the statements like “What’s it worth?” and “bringing the piece back to life”.
Check out the full table of contents to see what’s coming. Mike and I are excited about all this and are confident that fans of our first two issues will be delighted with this next installment. Pre-orders for Issue Three open in one week on August 1st at 12:00 am (Eastern time). We will soon be blogging about pre-ordering details relating to subscriptions, brown paper wrapping now offered only for pre-orders, the packing party information, and a special giveaway for the first slew of orders. Stay tuned.
Upcoming in Issue Three: “On Perfection: Both Practical and Practiced” by Jim McConnell
An idea is like a rabbit. You can’t sneak up on it. You have to let it sneak up on you. Like most creative types, I feel like in some ways I’ve been chasing perfection for most of my life without ever asking what that might really mean. Lately I’ve had some questions.
I’ve started to wonder, what is so compelling about the idea of perfection? Is perfection a product or a process? Is it something that stands out there in the ether or something that can be actualized? Is it an idea or something you can stub your toe on in a dark room? Does it mean the absence of error or the evidence that a tangible object has been crafted by hand? When we say a thing is perfect, what do we mean and why?
Last year I decided to seek wise counsel on the topic and began asking other craftspeople to explain “perfection” with the only constraint being that they do so in one-thousand words or less. The answers I received were so diverse and interesting that I began publishing them each month as part of an ongoing project on my blog. Naturally, a conversation ensued. I’ve largely tried to stay on the periphery of that conversation until now, but in issue three of Mortise & Tenon Magazine, Joshua has asked me to finally weigh in on the subject. The generous soul that he is, he’s even given me an extra 1000 words. In those 2000 words I’ve tried to offer some thoughts on the matter of perfection that are both practical and honest.
I’ve come to believe that perfection is not so much a goal but a practiced habit. As craftspeople, perfection is in our heads, but also our hands and our hearts. It’s in the snick of the fore plane and in the quiet as the last coat of finish is wiped on. Perfection can drive us mad or it can drive us to a deeper understanding of who we are and why we do what we do. In my experience, the later seems like a better road to travel, and I hope you’ll join me.
- Jim McConnell
Stay tuned for Monday's announcement of the last article upcoming in M&T Issue Three...
Upcoming in Issue Three: “Through a Wilderness of Ornament: Making Sense of 18th-Century Pattern Books” by Bill Pavlak
This past February I began my presentation to a group of 250 period furniture making enthusiasts at Colonial Williamsburg with a simple question: how many of you own a copy of Thomas Chippendale’s The Gentleman and Cabinetmaker’s Director? Not surprisingly, most raised their hands. When I followed that with “how many of you actually refer to this book regularly,” I got a very different response – perhaps fewer than ten raised hands. This is exactly what I expected. Why? Because at first blush Chippendale’s plates, like those in other 18th century pattern books, only bear a slight resemblance to the Colonial American furniture so revered and familiar today. Wildly ornate and aristocratic, these designs can be off-putting to modern eyes. While we sense the historical significance of such books and detect their influence, we struggle to come to terms with them ourselves. After all, we like our woodworking books full of tools, joinery details, and measured drawings. Chippendale and his contemporaries give us fashion plates overgrown with foliage and teeming with putti, nymphs, and sea creatures. The books stay on our shelves, closed.
Can we ignore the angry looking baby about to strangle a large bird on top of that bed? Probably not, but there are ways to demystify these high style designs and see them with new eyes. Likewise, we can recover some of how our predecessors may have utilized published patterns. Let’s give ornamental design a rethinking similar to what we’ve done with traditional artisan geometry and classical proportioning systems in recent years. While more difficult to codify, we can study and learn techniques of ornamental composition as both an analytical tool for existing furniture and a creative tool for new designs in historic styles.
Drawing isolated ornamental elements from pattern books for the past ten years has helped me learn historic design languages. Since many details are a bit vague in the engravings, I often find clarity and gauge my success by observing and drawing similar elements on surviving furniture. The back and forth process of drawing and looking has not only increased my fluency in the language, but has also allowed me to build up a library of design that I can use in my own work. I’m excited to share some of this thinking in Mortise & Tenon Magazine. Rather than explain how to draw, I will offer some thoughts on what to draw and how to develop an eye for period detail.
As a case study, I tell the story of my experience with the pattern for a music stand published by the English designers William Ince and John Mayhew in their Universal System of Household Furniture (1762). Though the plate looks remarkably detailed at first, it actually leaves a lot to the imagination. This is most evident in the design for the knee carving on the leg (see the detail below) where the pattern is shown from only one perspective and its details are fairly sketchy. This was all the information an experienced carver needed to carry out his work in the period – the engraved ornament functioning as a kind of shorthand. Without a seven year apprenticeship in the eighteenth century, that shorthand is a real challenge for modern eyes to decipher. However, by pulling from the library of ornament that I’ve been building through drawings and photography over the past decade, I fleshed out the design and came up with something reasonable. In the article I illustrate this process and offer some ideas on how we can attune our eyes to this seemingly foreign aesthetic. This, in turn, deepens our understanding of the streamlined variations on these ornaments more typical in American work. By opening these pattern books and using our eyes and pencils together, we can begin to cut a trail through this rococo wilderness.
- Bill Pavlak
Stay tuned for Monday's announcement of the last article upcoming in M&T Issue Three...
Upcoming in Issue Three… Book Review by Vic Tesolin: “A Field Guide to Identifying Woods in American Antiques & Collectibles” by R. Bruce Hoadley
I’m a voracious reader of both fiction and non-fiction and as you can imagine, most of my non-fiction reading is about woodworking. Currently you’ll find me in the Japanese hand plane rabbit hole and I’m not sure if I can find my way back out.
Joshua asked me if I could write a review of R. Bruce Hoadley’s latest book A Field Guide to Identifying Woods in American Antiques and Collectibles when he and I were at the Fine Woodworking Live event this year. Writing this review was an absolute pleasure for me because I have read almost everything Hoadley has printed. Although, to be fair, I wasn’t sure that I was going to pick this one up…but I’m glad I did.
Many woodworkers don’t understand how wood works. This is an odd thing because, for me, understanding the medium I work with helps me to understand how to work with it. Things like grain direction, porosity and hardness help my come up with a plan of attack for my tools. Take hand planing as an example. White pine practically glistens when you use a low cutting angle, however, try that in hard maple and see what happens. The more you know about wood, the better woodworker you will become.
This book is aimed at the antique market including conservators, collectors and traders, so what did I think of it as a maker? You’ll have to read the full review to see exactly what I thought.
- Vic Tesolin, The Minimalist Woodworker
Stay tuned for tomorrow’s announcement of the next article upcoming in M&T Issue Three...