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Inside the Oldwolf Workshop
|Here I am in near full armor doing a lecture/demonstration of medieval weaponry|
for a seventh grade class from the area.
I've read the story Chris Schwarz wrote about the Anarchy Square several times. In my romantic, failed fiction writer mind I picture a chorus of angels harmonizing their "Ahhh"'s as he opened his email from Patrick Leach and found the icon for his book "The Anarchist's Tool Chest."
I see the Anarchy Square popping up in all kinds of places these days. They kind of stand as a secret handshake for a specific cloister of the woodworking collective. A Schwarzian cult that bides its time like a sleeper cell, waiting for the beginning days of the zombie apocalypse when we can fill our hands with dovetail saws and razor sharp chisels to defend humanity and bring about a new and lasting Luddite utopia.
Ummm. . . . sorry, my imagination seems to be getting the better of me this afternoon.
In seriousness, I do find it fun to spy this square out in the wild. You'll see it in the back ground of pictures inside shops and hanging on the wall in shop tour videos on YouTube and every time I notice it I smile.
I've been taken with this square since I first saw Chris write about it on his Popular Woodworking blog. I build a pair of them almost three years ago to the day, (Read the entry HERE) a full size and a half size one. The older ones were built from some African Mahogany scraps. I've been making a couple sets of wooden squares lately and decided to make myself a new version of the Anarchy Square. This time I was able to get the walnut to the more correct width and give the tool the strong posture it deserves.
I've built several wooden squares lately and I've found it to be a good, back to basics endeavor. A little bit like NBA players will still spend hours shooting free throws. I've gathered quite a collection of wooden squares over all now.
In addition to my three versions of the Anarchy Square. I have a Roubo Square I built three years ago, and the square I bought from Jim Tolpin.
I built the full set of three squares from the Benjamin Seaton Tool Chest, accurate to the measurements given in the book. The large and medium squares are massive. Bigger than my steel carpenter square with the blade on the large one measuring 30 1/2" long. The double tenon on these was a cool challenge.
The best thing I took away from this squaring exercise was enjoying how far my skills have come. Sawing a straight line for a tenon or half lap was something I really had to concentrate on last time I built squares. This time around the sawing and paring came easy. I could see whether my surfaces were straight and square without really measuring. I'm proud of how far I've some in using and understanding my hand tools. Things I worried about so much in the past have now taken a back seat to bigger and better concerns, like proportion and the execution of details.
I did build one other square over this past week. One sourced from my own little epiphany, complete with angels singing, well maybe not angels, but inspiration, answers, and plans instead. More about that soon, but in the meantime, lets see if anyone can guess the historical inspiration for this square. . . (Hint: In the historical context, the square is not being used by a woodworking craftsman, but some other trade. This reference is significantly older than Roubo or Moxon)
Ratione et Passionis
Then I started to layout the joinery between the blade and beam for the smallest of the squares. I knifed a line so the blade would pass about an 1/8" beyond the beam so I could plane it even after assembly.
The blade itself is wider than one would think, nearly 3". but the measurements for laying out the twin tenons is not included. The only measurement is the blade sticks out .39 of an inch past the end of the beam. I decided to give some account to planing the blade square after assembly and rounded this number up to 1/2" then doubled it for the amount housed in the blade.
Extrapolating from that I sized the gap between the tenons at around a 1/2" and the housing cut to hide the mortise on the inside of the blade at 1/4".
I laid out the cuts and sawed them out like I would a dovetail. Then I used the tenons to mark out for my mortises.
I hadn't realized how long it's been since I've chopped out a mortise by hand. Any larger mortises I've made in the last few years I've drilled out first. It went very well, slowly, but very well. In the end I got the tight fit I needed and in my excitement I banged the glade home solidly, to the point where taking it apart would most likely destroy it.
So I planed down the proud ends and pondered my options. I'd banged the sucker home before I'd applied any glue. Sure it was a tight fit and would hold fine, but a square that develops a wiggle in the blade is no good to anyone. So I went off script a little.
I made three pins from pine, thinking the lighter wood would be a nice accent. I drilled three holes through the beam and blade and I glued those pins in place and trimmed them flush. Now I had to cut my chamfer on three sides of the beam with the blade in place.
I cut the end grain chamfers with a paring chisel and the long grain with a block plane. By then I had to pick up and wrap up for the day. Chores to do don't you know. but tomorrow I'll square up the blade to the beam and have the smallest of the Seaton Squares done. Then it's on to momma bear and pappa bear.
This is feeling good.
Anyone want a set?
Ratione et Passionis
No matter how you feel about tools, whether power, hand, or hybrid, you have to appreciate the engineering that went into that.
I only used 4' of the beam for the magazine build. This leaves another 4' behind for my nefarious purposes. I'm still deciding what I can do with it and how to stretch it as far as possible. Part of me is thinking resawing into parts for wooden squares and part of me is thinking about building a repeat of what the other half went to.
In a few hours I board a plane leaving for a week in Nicaragua. I understand most peoples years start on January 1st, but the last couple years it seems my year begins in the spring with this trip.
I'm not a tourist, though I do often go by the moniker "estupido gringo" while in country. I am part of a medical mission trip. I'll be facilitating the work of surgeon and two residents as they perform corrective podiatric surgeries. That means I'll be setting up the supplies, cleaning and sterilizing the instrumentation and implants, and occasionally assisting with the surgeries. The assisting part is closer to what I do everyday at the hospital.
This will be my third time going. It's an amazing experience everytime. Inspirational and exhausting. This time I've upped my stress ante by bringing along my oldest daughter. At 17 years old it should be an eye widening, "it's a big world" experience for her. Nicaragua is the second poorest nation in this hemisphere, it used to be the poorest before earthquakes leveled Haiti. There is all the things imaginable that accompany crushing poverty. But there are beautiful, hopeful things too and you are reminded that where there is life, there is hope, and that people are people no matter where you meet them.
It turns out I may have a different mission next spring so this will be my last trip back for a couple years.
But this is a woodworking blog, so where's the sawdust, the tools, the furniture? Well of course my camera comes with me, and of course I take pictures of furniture and architectural elements. Depending on where you are in country the furniture has some distinctive features, but I would say the majority could easily be identified in a range from gothic medieval to the arts and crafts style.
I've gathered some from my past trips below. Click on the photos to see larger images.
Hotel St. Thomas, Matagalpa
Catholic Cathedral, Matagalpa:
Selva Negra Plantation
Ratione et Passionis
I bought it used. I probably paid less that $10.00 over all for it. The description by the seller (not Amazon directly but an "associate") was used and fair condition, hardcover with dust cover. I will happily pay a little more for a used book with the dust cover, it often means the book was well taken care of otherwise.
It arrived in the mail two days ago. I opened it up and was on the inside cover found an inscription that made my jaw drop.
Here was a book signed by the author, with an inscription written to Sam and Alfreda Maloof. That means this book was probably in Sam Maloof's hands at one point, and most likely among the books on his shelf. The possibilities of receiving this book from a random selection on Amazon amazes me. It's part of the human experience to tack significance onto seemingly random acts of coincidence, but then again, maybe there is something to destiny. This book could have ended up in a thousand different hands, people who would not ever have recognised the names in the inscription.
Having it in my possession almost feels like I stole something.
The book itself is fantastic. It gives a snapshot of woodworking in the mid 1980's. The parents of woodworking as I know it today. Between the covers are the roots of both studio furniture and modern woodworking media. We revere the words these men wrote and the furniture they built. Have you spent time in your favorite chair with "An Impractical Cabinetmaker" or "Soul of a Tree"? Paged through Fine Woodworking Magazine?
How revered are the names of Krenov and Maloof, Frid and Nakashima.
But the question remains, "Where do we go from here?" The book is nigh 30 years old. Who are the next ten Artisan Masters of today? Not to replace the artisans mentioned in this book, but to stand on their shoulders to see further, like those in the book stood on the shoulders of those before them.
How about men like Thos. Moser, David Savage, or Aaron Bladon? Writers and teachers like Jeff Miller or Tom Fidgen? An artistic wild card like Chris Wong? Someone immersed in green woodworking tradition like Jarrod StoneDahl?
Or, is the furniture output you see from these woodworkers to much like the sculptural work of the ten men listed in Michael A. Stone's book.
What's the next step past sculptural, studio style furniture.
I sure don't consider myself nearly experienced enough, educated enough, or worldly enough to deserve the right to weigh in on the who or what of these questions.
We spend a lot of time looking at our past, and thats a good thing. We learn from our past.
We spend a fair amount of our time looking to our future. Soon I will start building this. Tomorrow I will cut the joinery for that. This is also good because you need to have a sense of where you want to go.
The thing you miss, looking to the future or rebuilding the past, is discovering where you're standing Right Now.
Like it or not, this book records ten woodworkers relevance in the past. Who would you count as the woodworkers building their relevance now and working towards the future?
I hope people will understand that someone has to ask these questions.
Ratione et Passionis