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It’s not very often that I get requests for projects that I build. Some of my stuff is a little out there. But, when I do get a request, I try to accommodate. My version of the ratcheting book stand design that Peter Follansbee brought back into focus has proven popular among family members.
The nephew is in from college for the summer and asked if I would make him a “medium” (3/4 scale) version to take back to college in the Fall. Of course I will! Apparently the Summer is all but over because he will be packing off for the Fall semester in a few weeks. Given that sobering time frame I figured that I had better get with it.
I dug through the offcut pile and culled out enough bits from which to mill up the parts.
I began with the posts by first bringing them to a rough round at the shaving horse and then to final shape on the spring pole lathe. I turned a small urn-shaped finial on them and a single, simple bead. The locations for the rungs/spindles I set in with a skew chisel and then used my bit of welding wire (shown in use on a garden dibber) to burn them in.
Each of the parts progressed in the same manner, shaving horse, lathe and done. I’m definitely no speed demon at the spring pole lathe, but I am getting quicker. So by the end of the day I had all of the parts turned and ready for assembly.
Today I did the boring bit and then shaped the shelf. Everything went pretty smoothly , mostly due to my working at a relaxed pace. Or it was just pure luck. Either way, the dry fit and subsequent glue up is done.
One trick-of-the-trade that I have been using is to pre-finish the individual parts while they are on the lathe. It gives me a jumpstart on the finishing process. More importantly though, it makes cleaning up the glue squeeze out much easier.
I’ll add a couple of more coats of my usual Tried & True Original over the next few days and this little ratcheting book stand is ready for college. I hope the nephew has been saving his pennies from his summer job in preparation for his upcoming economics lesson…
…uncle Greg doesn’t work cheap!
On a regular basis, probably at least once a week, someone contacts me looking to have a pin oak milled into lumber. They are excited because they finally got their hands on a truly giant specimen of a tree, and even though it is just a red oak, they are excited to get to work with a hardwood at a reasonable price. Unfortunately, I have to be the bearer of not-so-good news and try to get them to reconsider.
As I mentioned, pin oak is in the red oak family, but that is about the only relationship it has to any decent red oak lumber. Pin oak is not milled and sold commercially under the name red oak, and as far as I know, is only used for low-grade products like pallets and blocking, where the only requirement is that it be made of wood that will stay together. And funny enough, pin oak often falls short of even that low requirement.
The problem is that many pin oak trees suffer from ring shake, which is where the rings of the tree peel apart like an onion, making that section of lumber nearly unusable. The beauty of ring shake is that it can’t be seen from the outside of the log and it won’t always be visible even early in the milling process. Sometimes, it won’t be until the lumber has been fully processed and dried for it to start falling apart. Needless to say this is frustrating, especially if you are counting on that lumber for a project and then end up with no wood to work. Even if the ring shake isn’t bad enough to make the lumber actually break, it very often leaves at least one fancy break line somewhere in a board where you would rather not have it. Again, super frustrating.
So, let’s say you find a pin oak that is solid, with no ring shake, then it is all clear sailing, right? Far from it. You may have lumber, but you probably don’t have great lumber. One of the main attractions for pin oak is the giant size and the promise of a never-ending bunk of lumber comprised of super-wide boards. This, you may indeed have, but it comes at a cost. The cost is that all of the super-wide lumber will have super-wide growth rings, rings that may be up to 1/2″ or more in width. Because the tree grows so fast, putting on up to 1″ in diameter per year, the logs get big in a hurry too. It isn’t uncommon for a 36″ diameter log to have only started growing 45 years ago. It was planted because the trees grow to a large, stately appearance quickly, and that means big, wide growth rings.
Big growth rings mean a coarse textured wood, no matter how you cut it. Whether flatsawn or quartersawn, red oak is already known for its open, in-your-face, grain, and pin oak is ten times worse. Imagine an 8″ wide flat sawn board that may only show a couple of annual rings on the face. It looks more like the cheapest of spiral cut plywood for sheathing the side of your house, instead of quality hardwood lumber for building fine furniture. That same 8″ wide board, if quartersawn, will probably show about 20-25 rings, where a high quality white oak board will show 60-80 rings. The difference is night and day, with the higher growth ring count looking much more refined and not so clunky.
Even if the wood stayed together and for some reason the growth rings weren’t so wide, pin oak would still be far from a great hardwood. The lumber typically also sports bad color, bad smell (commonly referred to as “piss” oak by local tree guys), and many more knots than are outwardly apparent. Since the trees are usually open grown and well pruned, the always straight, always perfectly upright trunks appear to contain up to 30′-40′ of clear lumber. The truth is that the trunks typically contain only 8′ of clear lumber near the ground, with the remainder being full of knots from previously trimmed branches.
Overall, I have nothing good to say about pin oaks, except that they grow big, tall and straight. And, while it may be possible to mill pin oak lumber that meets some minimum requirements (like staying together), the best pin oak is still easily surpassed in quality by almost any other reputable wood. Just know, if you are thinking about paying someone to mill a pin oak tree for you, that I wouldn’t even mill a pin oak if it magically fell on my sawmill. I would take the extra time to get it out of the way, so I could mill something better. It’s just not worth it. Move on.
I’ve mentioned a couple of times that I was working on an office interior in which all four walls had something made from sapele. I thought I’d share some of the woodwork, but I particularly wanted to show the before and after when using shellac – off-the-store-shelf, right-out-of-the-can shellac. Thank you Zinsser.
And thank you suppliers for stocking fresh shellac, when they had it. The first stop – big blue – had two outdated gallons (one from 2008 and one from 2010) and one from 2014.
Week in Review At Pop Wood, we create a lot of great content and I think it would be downright tragic if you missed an article, social media post or YouTube video. So I have compiled all of our content in this post for your reading pleasure. Not included is the outstanding content that Megan Fitzpatrick curates on our Instagram account, find that here. Have a great Sunday! – David […]
|the back of the shelves|
|Stanley 102 blockplane|
|dirt from the vise|
|dirty finger prints|
|planning stages still|
|what will be going in the new cabinet|
|the biggest thing I have to put in the cabinet|
|nice and shiny|
|knob off my #2 on the left|
|the back side before and comparison pic|
|the new way|
Last night while doing the 5 1/4 knob the Bar Keeps settled out to the bottom and today I kept stirring it to keep in solution. I kept doing this until I was able to hold the knob in my hand.
|been about 4-5 minutes|
|looks better and as good as it's neighbor|
|my Stanley parts|
|this is the same barrel nut that is in the plane tote now|
|ready to sand the sole and cheeks|
|wanna be frog screw washers|
|another diversion, broken tab on a lever cap|
|a helping hand?|
|sizing the cabinet|
|my minimum depth|
|double stacked the spray cans for a minimum height|
|enough distractions, I started the sanding with 180 grit|
|dropped down to 80|
|five strokes on the fresh 80 grit|
|it's getting smaller|
|starboard side cheek|
|port side cheek|
|ten minutes later|
|#4 for my grandson|
|done with the sanding|
|there is a burr here|
|back to the 5 1/4|
|blurry pic of a paint holiday|
|220 grit on the left, fine grit on the right|
|got some reading to do|
Why was popcorn banned at most theaters in the 1920's?
answer - it was considered too noisy
|My Tools Cabinets: One for hand planes and the other for chisels|
The title of this blog post is taken from an observation made by my friend Mike Zeller, who lives in Colorado, United States. Mike is helping me locate a few used hand tools, which I might someday manage to ship to India.
I have been telling him about how I don't have too much money these days to throw around at expensive tools and how great it would be if he could find me something cheap and in decent working condition.
Many Indians would be surprised to know that there are more excellent old tools in use in Western countries than here. Out here we don't have a tradition of collecting tools at home and even if we do, we dispose them off to the Kabariwalla once they are old and rusted.
In the West, on the other hand, old tools, especially hand tools, are often handed down over the years or sold to another generation. There are literally thousands of old woodworking tools, including thousands of excellent Stanley Bailey style planes, still circulating there. Some of these tools command high prices because of their vintage value; sometimes you can get them for a song.
Every now and then someone there stumbles upon a cache of rusted old tools left behind by a long-departed soul, and passes them on. People get lucky and can chance upon a fine tool that hasn't been touched by a working hand for decades.
It is very satisfying to know that many old but superbly crafted hand tools can and have lasted for a century and more; they have a life beyond ours!
Mike and I have been discussing various woodworking issues over email in recent weeks and he once remarked: "I think we are both on a budget of a certain amount, which for me is good because it forces me to be extremely creative about solving problems and doing much work myself."
His comment made me reflect on how my views on tools have changed over the years. Several years ago, when I closed down my consultancy, I got a lumpsum payment, a lot of which I spent on woodworking tools, mainly power tools because at that time I thought power tools were the way to go. Many of those tools today are lying unused.
These days I look at online stores selling power tools of all kinds and feel amused; if this was a few years ago I would be thinking how to get hold of some of them. Today, it seems such a waste to buy tools worth thousands of rupees that will become obsolete in a few years and newer better models will be out to entice buyers.
It is an endless process that consumes consumers. So much better to buy hand tools preferably old ones that will last a lifetime and do the job often better than all those shiny, expensive power tools.
I feel it is better to have fewer tools, only the ones really needed for the job and most of all to take good care of what one has. Tuning, oiling and sharpening included. A few really sharp well-tuned hand saws, planes and chisels can get almost everything done.
A tight budget also serves to accentuate the worth of what one has, instead of the perpetual round of wondering if one has missed out on the latest tool, the latest deal and so on.
Nowadays, I mostly concentrate on building things rather than on tools themselves. The process is getting more and more interesting as I find myself gradually but steadily getting sucked into it. This week, I spent most of an entire day cutting hinge mortises and adjusting the fit of the doors for my plywood tools cabinet.
|The one on the right was completed today and my chisels are in place|
It took time but was good time spent listening to some old '30s and '40s Jazz and chiselling away. The hinges took time to fix and required adjustments to get the doors to hang right with about the right amount of reveal and so on.
The cabinet is finally ready and mounted on the wall. The door knobs have been attached and a chisel racks added. I have applied a couple of coats of Shellac but need to sand it down, apply another 3/4 coats and then rub it down to knock off the shiny parts to get a nice even tone.
This cabinet is bound to make a difference to my working, since till now my chisels were in boxes and a hassle to get out every time when I want to do something. I have a similar cabinet for my most used hand planes and having them at arm's reach speeds up things a lot.
Ninety per cent of my hand tools now fit into two wall cabinets, one small cabinet with drawers and a sideboard while the saws hang on the door. Everything is at hand, ready to go. But hey, there's always room for a few more tools!
16 July 2017
|Most of my saws hang on a door, ready when I need them!|
I spent a few days working on the milk paint finish of that I had started at the end of my last post. I’m going to hold off on the details of the process for now. I’ve been asked by Salko Safic to write an article for an upcoming issue of his new, online, hand tool centric, magazine, “Handwork“. After reading through the first issue, I’m pretty sure I’m in way over my head, but I’m going to give it my best effort. So if your interested in my process, keep an eye out for next issue of “Handwork”. At any rate, the finish on the stool is almost complete, but before I complete the finish, I need to weave the seat.
The seat weaving is a repeat of the fibre rush seats that I put on my last two stools. I can use the practice! Actually the weaving process is starting to grow on me as I gain a little experience with it. Someone commented recently that the process has a meditative quality and I’m inclined to agree.
There are few things that I have picked up along the way. First, it is recommended that you dip your working bundle of fibre rush (twisted paper) into water for a few seconds before beginning the weaving process. I’m sure that this varies by brand, but for the particular product that I have, less time in the water is better. I have found the bundle much more manageable if I simply dink it in water and immediately bring it back out. Shaking out any excess water.
I’ve also changed how I join in a new working bundle of rush. Most sources recommend the use of a square knot. Obviously this works and it is easy and quick to do. The drawback is that the square knot is bulky. Most of these knot will be hidden by the weave or only show on the bottom, but the bulky knot bothers me. One resource I have recommends a simple seizing to join in a new working bundle. I gave this a go using waxed sail twine and like the result much better. The seizing is much less bulky and only takes a minute or so to tie. Technically I joined these with a “common whipping“, there are no frapping turns, but it is more than strong enough for the application.
A comparison of the two methods.
Another lesson learned is to, after every few wraps, use a block of wood to compress the wraps so that they remain parallel with the rungs. The natural tendency of the weaving process is that the turns around the rungs grow wider than the crossings in the center. A little persuasion brings everything back into alignment.
Finally, internalize the mantra, “work the corners, work the corners“. Every turn of the cord that generates the internal corners must be neat. Crisp tight corners are what gives the finished product a crisp, neat appearance. A single sloppy turn will show in the finished seat. I’m getting better, but have a ways to go.
Two coats of shellac is plenty to seal the fibre rush. It really is surprising how much shellac the first coat will absorb, but the next coat goes on quickly.
The last thing to do was add one last coat of Tried & True Original to the stool frame and give it a final buff with a soft cloth.
Part 2 Greg Merritt
You have to see this stuff to believe it. When I tell people that pre-industrial furniture (almost without exception) is rife with tool marks, overcuts, and even tear out, I get the sense that some people don’t believe me. They think that there’s no way that the wonderful antiques they’ve seen behind velvet ropes in special museum lighting could be as rough inside as I am asserting. I’ve heard some say maybe I’m just talking about vernacular furniture made by farmers.
I understand the skepticism because this kind of workmanship flies in the face of modern woodworking dogma. But I’m not just talking about a few slap-dash anomalies. These kinds of tool marks are exactly the bits of evidence that antique dealers rely on for authentication. From the nailed together chest to the elaborately carved highboy, this stuff is normal, par-for-the-course pre-industrial workmanship.
This discussion reminds me of an occasion in which I was demonstrating how I chop a mortise. As I was working, I was prying off the top edge. I explained how it is ok to pry off the top of the mortise (but not the bottom) because it had no structural implications and would be invisible in the assembled joint. I said, “No one will ever even know it is there.” One listener, visibly disturbed, blurted out, “But you will!” Sometimes our values conflict with our ancestors’.
I’ve decided the best way to inform our woodworking consciences is to persistently publish photographs of period workmanship. For this reason, every issue of M&T contains a photo essay of period furniture with measurements listed. To show period workmanship in all kinds of furniture, we are consciously documenting different forms. There was the secretary in Issue One and the drop leaf table in Issue Two. In Issue Three, we will be looking at two period high chairs: one 18th century and one early 19th century. There are similarities and there are differences between the two. Although the slat-back 18th-century chair was clearly more hastily made, they both retain riving and tool marks.
For some, the handful of photos in each issue aren’t enough. As we’ve done previously, we will also be offering separately an eBook with all the photos from the shoot. We’ve been getting great feedback about these eBooks of photography and so we intend to keep that going.
We hope that publishing this information contributes to your growth as a woodworker. Don’t take my word for it. You can see this stuff with your own two eyes. These photographs might just be the best way to unburden hand tool users from the strict tolerances of industrial machinery.
Stay tuned for tomorrow’s announcement of the next article upcoming in M&T Issue Three...
In the noises of my working I find silences that still any disquiet in my soul. The mallet of wood strikes wood and something inside me seems able to find the things that resonate in a kind of private silence. The striking blows become measured pulse beats that sever away the unwanted waste that tumbles …
A rather well-known author/publisher/editor/woodworker/furniture maker/journalist/educator/entrepreneur/raconteur/anarchist/cicerone/father/husband has now gotten two blogs out of something I found and shared with him. Now, it’s my turn.
It all started with a unique pair of winding sticks I found near Charleston, SC. I was told there are no tools to be found in the Charleston area but I am too stubborn/stupid to listen and went out looking. To be fair, I wasn’t only looking for tools and there weren’t all that many to find.
But find them I did and these are them:
Taking a closer look reveals some interesting details:
First piece of revelatory information is that we have been using the wrong terminology. These are not winding sticks, they are wood levelers. A knowledgeable dealer would not go through all the trouble of writing the wrong name on the label of an item he/she wishes to sell.
The second is not really that important and I am not going to waste your time making you read something that is unimportant and uninteresting.
This was not my first set of wood levelers. My first set was a purchase from Lee Valley for a saw bench class taught by Chris Schwarz at Roy Underhill’s Woodwright’s School in Pittsboro, NC. I bought them because the levelers were on the tools list that was sent out three days before the class. I was out-of-town on business and would be getting home just in time to pack my tools and head out on the long 0.57 hour drive south.
I did take some abuse from the instructor for having store-bought, aluminum levelers. I worked through the shame and humiliation, after all, better abused than ignored.
The next set I made when I got a really good deal on some thin hardwood strips:
My fourth set came from a toolmaking class I took from the aforementioned Chris Schwarz at Highland Woodworking in Atlanta. This was his classic layout tool class, hand tools only.
Which is my favorite set? I use them all equally.
I might repost this post with better pictures. Then again, I might not.
We just compiled a new collection over at shopwoodworking.com! I am in the midst of setting up my home shop, so the pain of sorting out layout and storage is very real for me. I have leaned on The Practical Workshop for several ideas already. This collection is a great value and won’t be around forever. If you’ve considered picking up a couple of these titles, this may be a great […]
Tonight I came to the shop hoping to sand the bookcase and apply poly. But I saw instead that the shelves needed another coat of paint. I came very close to saying I've had enough this, I'm done painting, but I was a good boy. Not doing this now will just bite me on the ass later on. This not being painted would stick out like a beacon and make the rest of the project seem invisible to anyone else. Just like one 'aw shit' wipes out ten 'atta boys', one holiday on a project can turn it into crappola. People looking at it won't see the other 99.99% of it once the holiday enters their field of vision.
|one last spot to touch up|
|I had to do something else|
|punched the pin for the yoke out|
|wrapped the yoke and the pin|
|the after pic|
|look see with the new knob and tote|
|the original tote is rosewood|
|rusty studs partially cleaned up|
|wired brushed them rust free|
|yoke back on|
|this I don't like|
|called it a night here|
It felt real good to do something other than painting the bookcase. Maybe this was inconsequential but it got my juices flowing again. I emailed Bill Rittner to buy a new stud for the knob and two new barrel nuts. This plane had an old barrel nut on the knob and a newer replacement Stanley barrel nut on the tote. (the stud for the front knob is for a high knob not a low one)
Who was Edwin Land?
answer - the inventor of the Polaroid Camera
I got night shift tonight I should of been in bed 3 hours ago and the results show on my no.10 moulding plane. I can’t attribute everything to the rush but mostly to my own stupidity of not thinking things through properly. I was too confident and lowered my guard much like the motorcycle rider who is still learning to ride, when he gets too confident that’s when the proverbial turd hits the fan.
I drew up the plans but I never made a top view which screwed me up because I got it wrong in the build. You can see I broke through the lamination because the mortise isn’t centered. Then I forgot how I carved the teardrop and on the blindside I planed more than 3/4 high. The good thing is none of this affects the function of the plane, the round has a radius of 5/8 and the bed is flat, so the rest is just aesthetics. The wedge turned out nice, I like that Walker design, its just unfortunate I stuffed up another thing I’ll have to live with. All there’s left to do is to shape the iron and start on the hollow. I’ll be using this round to shape the hollow. I won’t be starting any other projects until I really get a handle on these planes. So far I’m already having a pile of commissioned jobs starting to pile up but I have said until these planes are out of the way your just going to have to wait.
I’m looking forward in doing a write up for these planes but I will do that when I’m absolutely confident I got it right. It will be a pretty long write up because I think I have just about every mistake a person can make but no matter how much an author can give information not all of it is absorbed and it’s only inevitable you too will make the same mistakes. But you learn from this and that’s priceless, no school can ever teach you what you learn from mistakes, no school can ever give you an indepth understanding you can from making mistakes. But don’t knock schools for they are the greatest institutions in the world and every teacher deserves honour and respect.
Take care I’m off to bed.
With June comes summer, and the forest pretty much goes on cruise control. Everything that was happening keeps happening, and not much new happens.
American basswood (Tilia americana) is a late bloomer, literally. It blooms in the early part of June:
I had a hard time getting a photo; this is about the best I could get. (The light kept changing, and the breeze kept moving things in and out of the shadows and in and out of focus.) You can see a tongue-like bract above each cluster of flowers. These bracts are much paler than the leaves, so they stand out, even from a distance.
Here’s another June-blooming tree, this one with wild-and-crazy flowers:
It’s a chestnut, probably a Chinese chestnut (Castanea mollissima). While Chinese chestnuts (imported after the demise of the American chestnut due to chestnut blight) are common near houses, this one is growing in a semi-wild location. It’s also possible that it is a hybrid. American chestnuts (C. dentata) do still occur in Ohio, but they only grow for a couple of years before they succumb to the blight. The largest one I’ve ever seen was about five feet tall.
Here is one of the tree’s leaves:
The fact that it is very broad and almost square across at the base is what suggests that it is a Chinese chestnut; the other possibility, Japanese chestnut (C. crenata) is more rounded. American chestnut leaves are paler green, and they taper to a point at both ends.
The other trees are all done flowering, and the ones that haven’t already dropped their seeds are busy growing this season’s crop. The fruit of the American beech (Fagus grandifolia) is, of course, the beech nut (just like the baby food):
They are supposedly tasty, but I’ve never managed to find one in that period of a few microseconds between when they turn ripe and when the squirrels take all of them.
The leaves of the American beech are somewhat elm-like (see last month), but are symmetric at the base (despite the fact that this one looks asymmetric, because I couldn’t get it to lay flat):
There are many species of hickory, and they are rather confusing. There are two species that I see here in my yard. First up is shagbark hickory (Carya ovata):
Shagbark has five leaflets, and the three distal ones are teardrop-shaped and much larger than the other two. At high magnification, the margins of the leaves have little tufts of hair.
The other one in my yard is mockernut hickory (C. tomentosa), which usually has seven or nine leaflets (occasional leaves will have five or eleven):
Its leaflets are not quite as teardrop-shaped, and the size difference from one end to the other is not as dramatic. The leaf margins have a few hairs, but nothing like shagbark.
Here’s an interesting one; I took it from one of my neighbor’s trees (don’t tell her):
There are five leaflets, tapered and elliptical rather than teardrop-shaped, and there are no hairs on the leaf margins. I’m pretty sure that it’s pignut hickory (C. glabra), but it’s all but impossible to distinguish from red hickory (C. ovalis), so much so that some authorities think the two should be treated as a single species. According to one source, “It is said that the two cannot be separated ‘except with completely mature fruit collected in November.’” Well, this one has quite a few nuts on it, so maybe I’ll be able to key it out then (again, if the squirrels don’t get them all first).
In the same family as the hickories (and pecan) are the walnuts. Around here, black walnut (Juglans nigra) is common. The trees are easy to spot, with their long, pinnate leaves having between 11 and 23 leaflets, and usually an overall “droopy” appearance to the foliage:
The bark is not quite as “braided” looking as hickory, but more so than ash or tuliptree:
Butternut (J. cinerea) supposedly occurs around here, but I haven’t seen it. Butternut is in serious decline due to butternut canker, which is probably why I haven’t been able to find any. Its leaves are similar, but generally fuzzier.
There are a couple of lookalike trees (or tall shrubs) to look out for as well. Smooth sumac (Rhus glabra) is a tall, gangly shrub that’s most often seen at the very edge of the forest:
It is easily distinguished in spring by its conical clusters of cream-colored flowers, which give way by the end of June to clusters of berries:
The berries start out green, but quickly turn a deep red and persist through the winter. Staghorn sumac (R. typhina) is very similar, but less common. As you might guess, its stems are hairy and not smooth.
The tree that most resembles black walnut is a somewhat invasive alien species, tree of heaven (Ailanthus altissima)—most people just call it “ailanthus”:
It’s less droopy and usually a bit deeper green than black walnut.
Did you notice something not quite right in that last photo? The leaves at the center right are actually those of a black walnut growing next to the ailanthus:
The fruit of the ailanthus is a winged samara; it turns bright orange or red when ripe.
Of course, if you see walnuts, that’s kind of a giveaway:
Butternut fruit are more elongated, with smooth rather than pebbly skin covered in fine fuzz.
Incidentally, the name of the walnut genus, Juglans, means “Jupiter’s testicles.” I trust that I don’t need to explain how that name came about.
A close-up view of the leaves is also useful to distinguish these species. Black walnut leaflets have short petioles and finely serrated edges:
Sumac leaflets have no petioles, and somewhat more coarsely-toothed edges (sumac also exudes a very sticky, milky sap when cut):
Ailanthus leaflets have short petioles and just a few blunt teeth near the base:
You can also see on each tooth a gland that looks like a small pimple. From the underside, this is more obvious:
American hornbeam (Carpinus americana) is a tree prized for its hard, dense wood that resists splitting, perfect for tool handles. It is widespread as an understory tree in the forests around here, but for some reason I rarely see any with a trunk more than an inch or so in diameter. Its leaves are small and finely serrated:
Its fruit clusters hang down near the ends of the branches:
The related hophornbeam (Ostrya virginiana) also occurs here, but is less common, and I wasn’t able to find one with fruit. The leaves are all but identical, but the fruit looks a bit like those of hops (as in beer); hence, the name.
I’ve always thought that if a committee of circus clowns that tie balloon animals were tasked with designing a leaf, they’d come up with something like sassafras (Sassafras albidum):
Freshly-emerged leaves give off a pleasant, spicy scent when crushed. The wood gives off the same scent when cut, but the odor unfortunately fades pretty quickly. I have a few small pieces that came from a pallet (holding up a shipment of lumber from Horizon Wood Products in Pennsylvania).
Not all of the leaves have three lobes; some only have one side lobe, and others have none:
As was the case last month, wildflowers are few and far between. I found some American bellflower (Campanulastrum americanum):
This is one that I haven’t seen before. I’m pretty sure that it’s fringed loosestrife (Lysimachia ciliata), but it has some characters that look a bit more like some related species:
It didn’t help that I was out photographing these the day after the flowers were battered by very heavy rains.
Unlike the previous two, which like the edge of the woods, the smooth oxeye (Heliopsis helianthoides) can be found deep in the forest:
Filed under: Uncategorized
Earlier this week our online content director David Lyle raised the question of which modeling software seemed to be most popular with woodworkers. There’s been growing interest in Fusion 360 – David attended a “roadshow” event for the software this week. It seems like SketchUp is still king for the moment, but there always new makers out there with new ideas and ways of designing things. Of course, there are some woodworkers who still swear […]
No matter how long I work in this craft, there are days when I feel incapable of doing anything correctly. Such as today. Readers love to be reminded that even people who do this every day suffer regular failures. If you like to wallow in other people’s misery, this post is for you. (Also, it shows you how I deal with woodworking despair.) For the last month I’ve been working […]
“Modern Revivalist Toolmaking: What Yesterday’s Tools Can Teach Us Today” by Brendan Bernhardt Gaffney featured in the upcoming Issue Three.
Technical innovation has smiled on the modern woodworker – combinations of castings, pulleys, blades, bits and all manner of motors, rigged in many ways, can flatten, cut, curve, bend or join boards of wood. They do so quickly, repeatably and, often, portably.
When woodworking switched its diet, from the manual to the mechanical, a lot changed. Joinery shifted in shape, better suited to rotating cutters than saws and chisels. So, too, did our methods of design, as we took advantage of flexible and industrious software, moving away from the pencil and drafting table. Simultaneously we turned away from proportion and the old, body-based measures, instead unifying and metrifying from a thousand systems to only a few, often losing proportion to the cold arithmetic of measurement.
And yet, a constancy of aesthetic and interest in well-made and fairly-proportioned furniture has remained. While ornament and proportion change, from William & Mary to Wegner & Maloof, the skilled craftspeople of yesterday and today still find beauty in the solidity and durability of well made goods, with the telltale signs of good design and consideration of the human form.
While so many modern woodworkers work to revive the practices of our pre-industrial woodworking, so, too, does the modern toolmaker work to facilitate the revival. With the advent of networked communities, even diffuse networks of hobbyists can discuss their needs in a central forum, and so, too, can the toolmaker make his goods available there. Toolmakers today find the digital marketplace enough to financially sustain what used to be strictly a local enterprise.
And through the game of generational telephone, or even better the discovery, retranslation and republishing of source materials, we remember the techniques of the past, more and more every day.
Sometimes, though, we hear the description, or see an illustration, of a tool that we no longer use, or a measure for which we have no analog. Many tools have survived total obscurity, in some barn in Maine or in the back of a cabinet shop in Michigan. So, too, have the design practices of the past survived, evidenced by a notched stick in a tomb or a passage in an old French book.
Through the reproduction or recreation of the past’s tools, the modern revivalist toolmaker makes available the knowledge and practices of the past. I’d like to share with you some of my own research, where I’ve worked to revive and reintroduce work of the past to contemporary workshops. In doing so, I have surprised myself, finding new uses and adaptations for many tools, even in concert with modern techniques and designs. The past is a rich mine of inspiration – all we need are the tools to work it.
-Brendan Gaffney, http://burn-heart.com
Stay tuned tomorrow for the next article upcoming in M&T Issue Three...