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While at the Piano Technicians Guild shindig I taught a couple of additional classes. First was a half-day on Veneer Repair (this must be the year for veneer repair, and in fact I am going to work on a full-length instructional video on the subject this Fall) and a lecture on the Principles of Conservation. The latter session essentially mirrored my recent article in Mortise and Tenon, so there isn’t too much to say about that.
Both class sessions were well attended, in fact the veneer repair session was SRO much of the time. The attendees were highly enthusiastic, and I set the room up so they could be close enough to see me working.
At my invitation they gathered closer, and pretty soon it was a mosh pit. I’m not particularly claustrophobic, which is a good thing.
I managed to engage in a discussion of wide ranging topics related to the issues of veneer damage, and demonstrated the techniques that have served me so well over the past few decades.
With lots of Show-n-Tell to pass around, I think they all got a good exposure to the topic. If the evaluations are any indication, they enjoyed and learned much, which is about all you can ask.
My only regret was not bringing my own petite Roubo workbench, as the hotel folding tables were not really up to snuff. I guess that I will just have to make it practice when I go teach to bring my own workbench unless I know for a fact that another good one will be there.
The technique I settled on worked fairly well. Using long winding sticks, I got the ends of the slab in the same plane using both hand planes and my Makita power planer. Then I used a 8' long straightedge and the same tools to connect the ends along the sides. This left me with a rectangle around the edges of the slab that was in the same plane. Finally I just used a straightedge side to side along the length. It worked.
That left me with a slab that was quite flat but with a lot of cracks and knots and substantial tearout. This is the point at which you want to use epoxy to fill in the cracks and knots. I chose to use T-88 epoxy, which I had on hand, because it disappears under varnish and dries very slowly. The problem I encountered is that it dried so slowly that it got absorbed and the level would drop below the surface. In places it ran completely through the slab onto the floor. To remedy this, I taped the cracks and knots on the bottom and overfilled the cracks and knots. This worked but made for a lot of work subsequently levelling the epoxy but the epoxy would still soak in so much that I had trouble maintaining the level. Finally I mixed fine sawdust into the epoxy and this solved the problem. I am not sure how else to do it. I think a faster setting epoxy might be better.
As I wrote earlier, I couldn't figure out a good way to deal with all the tearout. The hand tool that worked best was a cabinet scraper but it took forever because of the depth of the tearout. I finally gave up and turned to a belt sander, which I haven't used in years. I got better at it eventually and, by keeping it moving, I was able to smooth the slab without introducing too must unevenness. I started with the bottom, so I am hopeful that I can do better on the top. What I may do is use the belt sander to get as close as possible and then spend a lot of time with the cabinet scraper. If you know of a better way, I 'd like to hear it. As I have told you, a plane, no matter how sharp, will simply not work because of the soft douglas-fir and the swirling grain.
The epoxy fill actually turned out much better than I expected. Especially with the sawdust, it blends in quite well and looks good.
I often feel like sourcing wood takes on two aspects for me. It can be an annoyance, where I can’t find the board I’m looking for, and everything is checked, warped or has too much runout. On the other hand, I go out of my way on every vacation to visit lumberyards, to see what treasures another part of the country or world possesses, and to take a chance on […]
Every so often I do something dumb. A few weeks ago I was drilling 1/4″ holes to peg the tenons for a table’s apron. I started with a brad point bit but switched to a Forstner after finding that the first bit had torn the grain at the edge of the first two holes. I glued the pegs into those holes anyway, hoping to scrape out the tears when I […]
Over the past weekend, I sent out a good number of photos and videos from NYC Kez, the excellent gathering of fans of Japanese woodworking and tools hosted by Yann Giguère. I used Instagram to post those photos/videos so I could send them to my blog, Twitter, and Facebook. [Insert criticism of crossposting here.] For whatever reason, the video embed didn’t want to play nicely with my blog theme, and so videos showed up as blank space if you’re looking at the desktop version of Giant Cypress.
I think I’ve fixed it, so if you scroll back, you should be able to see the videos now. Sorry for the inconvenience.
Most vices won’t let you file a nut or saddle to shape. Their jaws are too wide and get in the way. Stew Mac make a special vice with tall narrow jaws to get around the problem. I haven’t tried it but I should think that it works fine. However, it’s quite unnecessary. A simple pair of wooden jaws does the job perfectly well.
The jaws in the photographs below were intended as a prototype. I was planning to make a pair of jaws out of gauge plate or aluminium sheet and wanted to check that I’d got the size about right and that the idea was feasible. It turned out that the wooden version worked so well that I didn’t need to bother.
As I hope can be seen in the photographs, the device is little more than a couple of pieces of maple about 5mm thick, hinged together at their lower ends with glass fibre reinforced tape.
Cutting mortises with a relatively sharp chisel was something I had picked up a while ago. Hand cut mortises are quick, easy and accurate. I found I had more control cutting them by hand than with a router that could deviate ever so slightly and ruin the mortise.
The secret of cutting mortises by hand is accurate marking. If the mortise is marked clearly and matches the width of the chisel that is going to be used to cut it then the mortise will be accurate ninety-nine times out of hundred. The knife marks needless to add should be reasonably deep and straight. The chisel does the rest of the work.
|Chopping a mortise by hand is quick but needs careful markling|
Tenons are another matter altogether. They need to be fettled so that they go in straight, align properly and are flush when you want them to be.
For years I thought the answer to cutting the perfect tenon lay in getting the right saw. I tried a couple Western saws, including a fine brass backed English saw and a number of Japanese saws.
I watched innumerable videos on sawing tenons and how you had to start sawing on one edge, then drop the saw and so on. It worked, sort of but most times I wasn't getting the best fit straight off the saw.
Then, watched a Paul Seller's woodworking video and realized that one wasn't supposed to cut on the line and get a perfectly fitting tenon just by sawing. Damn! I had been doing it wrong all along.
|First test Tenon|
Mr Sellers shows that one is supposed to cut slightly away from the line - perhaps a millimetre or so away. This results in a slightly fatter tenon that will not readily fit the mortise.
The next task is to pare down the cheeks evenly with a chisel or preferably a router plane till it fits. This worked the first time I tried it. Perfectly. And what a great feeling.
The problem with theoretical learning is that you often don't get the small details that matter. I have never worked with a professional cabinet maker; far less learnt from one. What I have picked is from books and Youtube videos.
Mr Sellers in my view is the only online teacher who provides every little detail of various processes and methods of work. Hobbyist woodworkers would benefit enormously by watching his videos closely.
7 August 2017
|door is done|
|I like this screwdriver|
I already know the Grace screwdrivers can't handle that. I am hoping that these screwdrivers can handle an occasional Cro-Magnon way. The tips are hardened but so are the Grace and Chestnut screwdrivers. And I've broken the tips off of both of them. I am encouraged by the nut and wrench adaptation on the felo screwdrivers. My thoughts are that why do this if the tips and shaft couldn't handle it? I'm anxious to see how it performs when I do use some wrench assistance.
It did a good job driving the screws in on the pine of this door. There was no slop in the head of the screw and the screwdriver and no problems driving any of these screws.
|checked the plumb again|
|door stays closed now|
|got one brace installed|
|the right side cleat|
|went high on this side to clear the pipe hanger|
|done and partially loaded up|
|Shelf #1, #2 coming shortly|
|draw fronts fitted|
|big drawer parts|
|the little drawer is batting first|
|doing half blinds|
|almost chopped out|
|first side fitted|
|oops blew it out|
|clean break but still sttached|
|I don't have the before pic|
|this is why|
|good fit anyways with a understandable gap on the left one|
|better when the blowout is closed up|
|glued it now|
|watched the left one and some of the right one|
Nancy is smart, knowledgeable, and definitely knows which of the chisel to hold. If there was only one thing to like in this DVD it would be her explanations. She has three majors areas she deals with; fitting a drawer, fitting a door, and mortising hinges. I learned something new on all three from her.
I was expecting more hand tool work on this (not much at all) and I didn't see a lot hand tools in the background. She used a Marples blue handled chisel to chop the dovetail sockets and to square rabbeted corners. A Lie Nielsen O1 chisel was employed to do the hinge mortises. She also used a #4 hand plane and other then a handsaw, all the other joinery was done with machines. Even here she explained things and did it very well.
What I liked a lot was she explained each step of the construction of the baker's table. She went over the reasons why, some common problems, and some solutions. She did not come across as a know it all nor was she in the least confrontational. This was her and how she made the table. It is now up to you to make the table your way.
One thing struck me afterwards and that was she didn't clean and make everything pretty before gluing up everything. You get to see the burn marks etc till the very end. There is always one 'you shoulda....." and Nancy's was there was no glamour shot of the finished piece. The pic on the DVD dust cover isn't the same thing as seeing it in the DVD.
I enjoyed this a lot and I'm sure I'll watch it again because how often do I get the chance to see a lady woodworker wearing boots, making something? I hope that no one takes that as sexist because it isn't meant to be. There is a lot to learn from her in this DVD.
On a formal dinner place setting, what is the order of the 3 forks to the left of the plate?
answer - from left to right, salad fork dinner fork dessert fork
A few years ago I met one of our town’s most respected figures: a husband and father who has held several elected public offices and devoted his career to the cause of social justice. As we shook hands he said, “I understand that your work is very good, but not very cheap.”
“But?” I wondered, biting my tongue.
— Nancy R. Hiller from “Making Things Work: Tales from a Cabinetmaker’s Life”
Nancy will read from her new book at the Lost Art Press storefront at 7 p.m. Saturday at 837 Willard St., Covington, KY 41011. We still have about 15 spots left; get your free tickets here.
Filed under: Making Things Work, Uncategorized
A few years ago, a new neighbor stopped me while I was on a run.
“Hey, I know you. You’re Christopher Schwarz,” he said. “What are you doing here, visiting?”
No, I told him, I live here. Then he looked confused.
“I thought you lived in New England, what with the way you write, look and talk,” he said. And that’s when I looked confused.
Despite 11 years of writing blogs and 21 years of writing for woodworking magazines, I’m always amused by people who think they know me but have it mostly wrong. So to mark the launch of my personal website for my furniture work (check it out here), I offer you this concise summation of me.
Though I was born in St. Louis, Mo., I grew up in Arkansas on Wildcat Mountain and did all the things that redneck kids do: fishing every day after school, hunting, hiking, camping, blowing stuff up (we made our own napalm) and cruising in souped-up crappy cars. If I had my way, every meal would feature a combination of the following foods: grits, barbecue, brisket, fried chicken, biscuits, sausage gravy, cornbread, greens, smoked ham and anything from the other allied Southern cuisines – Cajun, Creole or lowcountry.
I don’t have an accent; my three sisters do. But I am Southern to the marrow and have spent the majority of my life below the Mason-Dixon line. I am comfortable with Southern politeness (false as it may be), Southern insecurities and our hyperbole.
I attended segregated public schools. The mascot for my high school was a morbidly obese Confederate soldier; our school song was “Dixie.” I refused to sing it at pep rallies or convocations and, like most Southerners I know, am disgusted by our shameful history of racism and slavery.
I left the South to attend college outside Chicago, thinking I’d find a more enlightened place. I was wrong, and the day after graduation I moved to Greenville, S.C. I don’t fit in up North.
I’m a redneck. I have a master’s degree, but I lack the Southern accent. I drive a pickup truck, but it’s a Toyota. I love the South, but I am at odds with the backward ideas sometimes peddled down here.
— Christopher Schwarz
Filed under: Yellow Pine Journalism
In Part II includes more benches and angels, a new painting style, a mystery and a few other things. Get your snacks and drinks ready.
Peru starts in Cuzco, capital city of the Incas, and with the Quecha painter Diego Quisepe Tito. Tito is considered the most important painter of the Cuzco School, and his work includes at least four scenes of Saint Joseph engaged in woodworking. Although the painting above is dark with age we can see a simple bench without a vise. The background is too dark to see a tool rack, but there are a few tools on the ground.
When Joseph is in the background we usually can’t see much detail about his bench. In this painting it is easy to see there is a face vise with hurricane-shaped nuts on a staked bench. And Joseph is wearing a hat not usually seen on a member of the Holy Family.
A staked bench with a planing stop. Look a little closer and on the left side of the bench there is a board held upright by a face vise. A saw hangs on the wall, and I am happy to see a basket of tools.
Last night I tried to find a color photo of this painting and what I found instead was the sad news that the painting was one of 24 lost in a fire at Iglesia de San Sebastian last year.
Both of these paintings are a copy of a Flemish engraving by the Wierix brothers. On the left, the artist was faithful to the original engraving keeping the toolbox (behind Joseph) and tools on the ground. The artist on the right changed the saw, perhaps copying a saw seen in use at the construction of a new building. He also left out the tool box and most of the tools on the ground. You might have noticed a whole new look to previous paintings. Brighter colors, intricate patterns (with matching birds on the left), gold leaf, native flowers and landscapes.
At the time the above paintings were done the Spanish had been colonizing the Americas for well over a century. A style of painting evolved in Cuzco when, in the late 17th century, Spanish-born and mestizo artists split away from the Amerindian artists of the painting guild. This freed the indigenous painters to incorporate colors and patterns from their cultures into copies of European art. It is thought Diego Quisepe Tito helped lead this effort that is now known as the Cusquena-style of painting.
A nice sturdy bench with stout legs. Only the axe is left on the ground. The chisels are nicely arranged in a basket with the divider used as a…divider! I think the artist may have given the bench such a great length in order to fill the lunette.
A staked bench with somewhat wonky legs, a parrot and Jesus at sawyer duty. Another trait of the Cusquena style you may have noticed is a lack of perspective.
If some, or many, of the colonial paintings seem familiar it is because of the use of a large set of engravings the Jesuits brought to the Americas to use in converting the indigenous peoples to Christianity. In the mid-16th century the founder of the Jesuits commissioned a series of engravings on the life of Christ from the Wierix brothers, well-known and prolific Flemish engravers. The commission was given in the mid-16th century by the founder of the Jesuits. The engravings were used in Jesuit conversions in their missions in the Americas and Asia.
The next three paintings are copies of Wierix engravings and show other woodworking scenes.
Joseph’s low staked bench sits at the bottom of a substantial gangway-type ladder.
Joseph, Jesus and the angels are building a lattice for the garden. The usual assortment of tools are tossed about.
Joseph is driving trennels into the boat.
The gallery has one more Wierix-related painting, two vistas and a map.
During the colonial era Bolivia was known as Alto Peru.
The silver mines of Potosi helped drive the trade with Asia and filled the coffers of Spain. During the height of its mining production Potosi was the wealthiest city in the Americas.
Melchor Perez de Holguin was a mestizo and the dominant painter in Potosi into the 1720s. Although the Cusquana style of painting was found in Alto Peru, de Holguin’s work falls into the Potosi school and was heavily influenced by the Spanish artist Zurbaran.
Joseph’s bench is much like those seen in other paintings from Peru and representative of all the benches I’ve found for Bolivia.
Although his workshop is in the background the painter did not stint on detail. The bench is staked with tapered legs. The plane is put aside while Joseph uses a chisel. His adze sits on the near end of the workbench. On the wall is a tool rack and on the floor another full set of tools.
I almost left out the next painting but something must have held me back.
It was the curvy legs (with stretchers!) and ornate plane. They were just too good to pass up.
This work is from La Paz. The bench is staked, has a planing stop and a face vise. There is a nice collection of tools even if they are all over the floor. OK, OK, if they were piled into a basket we wouldn’t be able to see them in such nice detail.
Because the painting is so dark the Brooklyn Museum provides a black and white copy to better see this frenetic workshop.
With non-winged personnel this may be a good representation of a colonial workshop cranking out furniture, doors and fittings for the non-stop construction of churches, private residences and governments buildings. There are two workbenches, both with face vises and a mystery.
Close-up shot of the bench in the middle of the painting. The white squares may be the vise screws (only this bench has these). But what are those mysterious things at each end of the vise? After much deep thought Chris surmised “rocks on strings.”
Despite the camera flash there is a staked bench with a face vise.
Isolating the bench shows, unlike others, the face vise does not extend the length of the bench.
This painting is spectacular in its detail: the wood grain on the board held by Joseph, Mary’s sewing cushion with thimbles in one pocket and thread in the other, the cat under the table playing with a spool of thread and the scissors in the basket at Mary’s feet. Joseph works on a staked bench and behind him tools are arranged neatly on a rack.
You may have seen this image on Chris’ other blog. When I sent the image to him a few weeks ago he got a little crazy over the “doe’s foot” planing stop. Readers of this blog will recognize the planing stop as, ahem, the palm or ban qi, which originated in China. You can read the origin story of the palm here. The blog about the modern version of palm or ban qi can be found here.
The palm can hold a wide flat board in place on the bench or a board held on edge, and both without leaving a mark. So how did a bench appliance of Chinese origin get to 17th-century Alto Peru? The same way Asian workers and goods arrived: the Manila Galleons which sailed between Acapulco and Manila from 1565 to 1815. The palm is just one example of the early arrival of Asian techniques in the Americas.
You might be wondering who is that woman in the doorway, the one who has drawn the attention of the Holy Family. She holds a basin containing the Arma Christ, symbols of the Passion of Christ. In a European painting the woman might be Saint Ann, the mother of Mary. In this painting I believe she is Mama Ocllo, a mother figure from Inca legend who gave women the knowledge of spinning thread and weaving textiles. This is another example of Amerindian painters integrating their culture into Christian religious works.
The illustration is from “El primer nueva cronica y buen gobierno,” a publication from 1615 in the collection of the Royal Danish Library.
I found only one workbench-related painting from Argentina.
The painting is from Cordoba and titled ‘El Hogar de Nazaret’ from 1609 by Juan Bautista Daniel (1585-1662). The bench is staked with a try plane resting at the far end. Most of the tools hang in a rack or on the wall.
The painting has long been in a private collection and this seems to be the only photograph available. The odd thing about it is Daniel is identified as a Dane in a plaque at the center-right edge of the painting. It turns out he was from Norway and arrived in the territory now known as Argentina in 1606. He made his way to Cordoba where he was granted permission to live and work.
The last stop on this Latin American tour is at Santa Rosa, one of the Jesuit missions in Paraguay known as “reducciones de indios.” It is also my favorite of all the Latin American paintings.
The fresco is by an unknown artist and is in a corner of the Chapel of Our Lady of Loreto at the former Santa Rosa mission. The mission was founded in 1698 and populated by the indigenous Guarani people. When the Jesuits were forced out in 1767 the missions were deserted and most fell into ruin.
The fresco frames the Holy Family with two columns. Joseph is using a chisel and maul to make cuts on a panel for eight-point star inlays. The middle figure is Jesus sawing (ignore the splotch that looks like a wing), and on the end is Mary. In all the other paintings where we see Joseph with a chisel his action in generic. Is he chopping a mortise or carving? We don’t know. Here, we can see what Joseph is making.
The fresco is first of all an important document in the history of the Guarani. Second, it illustrates a craft that is an important element of colonial design.
Geometric designs were not new to the indigenous peoples of the Americas. Pre-conquest, geometric shapes were used in stonework, metal, textiles and pottery.
The stars, sun and moon were observed and recorded by many indigenous groups. Stars as a symbol, particularly eight-point stars, are found in many cultures. It is part of the Moorish influence in Spanish art and architecture, and in Christianity it is a symbol of redemption or baptism and is also a symbol of Jerusalem. For a sailor an eight-point star is a compass rose or wind rose.
On the left is part of a folio from the 8th century ‘Beato de Liebano’ and on the right Mary’s gown in a Cuzco School painting.
The eight-point star was used extensively as wood, mother of pearl and metal inlays in furniture during the colonial era. The examples above are from chests, armoires and tables made in various parts of the colonial territories. The black ceiling with red stars is the ceiling of the fresco chapel (in some grand European cathedrals the ceilings are painted blue with gold stars).
So, from a humble fresco in a small chapel that somehow survived for over 300 years we learn quite a lot.
To wrap-up this survey of workbenches I think the staked bench (high or low) with a planing stop and maybe a face vise is the type of bench that was most often used in the colonial era. The painters were not working in a vacuum and only copying scenes from European engravings and paintings. They observed carpenters that arrived from Spain and the benches they built and used, benches that could be adapted for different construction needs. Also, some of the first secular paintings, the Casta paintings from Mexico, were not copies of European paintings and show this type of staked bench.
A Quick Tour of Tool Storage
You have seen tools on the ground, on the floor, in racks and shelves on the wall and stowed in baskets. All of these methods, or non-storage in the case of floor/ground, can be seen in European paintings. How did the woodworkers in the colonial era store there tools? Spanish-born carpenters probably brought their tools in small chests or wrapped in bags. Using baskets would also be a familiar method of storage.
Making baskets was a well-known craft in the New World. In the wedding scene above from the Codex Mendoza, an Aztec document from 1535, there are woven mats and a basket.
This lidded basket is from the pre-Inca Chancay society and dated 12th to 14th century (British Museum). It holds yarns and tools used by a weaver.
If you had a small collection of tools and needed a tough but lightweight storage and carrying solution, a basket would certainly fit the bill.
There is one other solution and possible only with the help of the angels: the sky rack.
— Suzanne Ellison
Filed under: Workbenches
When we moved out here to Covington, I refused to do two things. For one, I didn’t want to bring some of the beater furniture that has been following us around since college. And two, I didn’t want to buy any cheap furniture when we got here, with the plan of replacing it. This led to the need to build nice, hard-wearing furniture with some speed, and a few meals on […]
If you are not a subscriber to our print magazine, you might not know that we produce seven issues a year. This week, we received the first box of our September/October issue at our office in Cincinnati, Ohio. This issue should make it to print subscribers through the mail any day now and our digital subscribers have already received their emails with the PDF version. This is always a very exciting time in […]
|before I made the Pepin Lumber run at 0700|
|big black knot|
|painted the back of the door|
|painted the carcass|
|my haul from Pepin|
|haul from Lowes|
I rarely use these hand screws so they won't missed.
|making a french cleat|
|starting to wander a little|
|trying to saw it all from this side|
|looks good this way|
|not so good this way|
|off the line a lot but just in one spot|
|two here and a third one I didn't get a pic of|
|finally got it|
|good match on this end|
|this end has an unacceptable gap|
|how I planed the 45|
|not making it any better|
|I planed a hump in this one|
|45 on both end to end now|
|not as good as the other side but it'll work|
|more vertical sawing|
|they don't have to be the same size|
|I can feel square now|
|nixed this idea for the cleat|
|screwed it to the carcass at the top and sides|
|needs a spacer for the bottom too|
|second and final coat on the back|
|wow it looks so different emptied of all the crappola|
|all the crappola ended up on the workbench|
|it is clear|
|hanging on the cleat and it is level|
|out of plumb by 1/8"|
|five shim pieces and I'm still not plumb|
|new plumb thing-a-ma-bob|
|old kitchen cabinet part|
|possible new home|
|the other side is still seated|
|from the front it looks ok and it still works|
|who uses plane socks?|
|got the shelf ready to hang|
|gas pipe is in the way|
|level only across the front|
|figured out something that might work|
|this is doable|
|another hiccup on this side to deal with|
|change to a bigger bearing plate is coming next|
|first coat on the front second one before bedtime|
|trying a new set of screwdrivers|
This is it for today. I'm tired and a wee bit sore but I feel good about what I got done today.
What is the most used appliance in US households?
answer - the TV remote
You may be wondering or not why I’ve been so quiet lately. Well, I’ve been very busy writing and compiling articles for the second Issue of HANDWORK. With Issue 1 still being downloaded and I’ve stopped counting on the 7th thousandth download and not to mention all the positive emails I’ve received, I’m hoping the second Issue will be even better than the first.
I never thought in a million years I would take upon myself such a challenge. I absolutely take my hat off to all the woodworking magazines out there who has been writing wonderful articles for decades. There is so much behind the scenes work that goes into these magazines that it’s beyond anyone’s imagination.
I would like to thank in advance Matt McGrane for volunteering as a contributing editor. If you see grammatical errors they are from me and not from Matt as I’m under time constraints to get this done as not all of the articles made their way to Matt.
I would also like to thank Greg Merritt a contributing author of two great articles. The pressure was really on Greg when his computer froze and he lost all his work, but none the less he soldiered on and delivered. Greg you’re not alone, the same thing happened to me a week earlier. Bloody windows!
I also want to thank you, my readers for all your letters of support and compliments you’ve emailed me. I’ll be including randomly some of them in the magazine.
There’s still some further changes I would like to make and a lot of proofreading, photo editing, design layout but it will get done. In the coming weeks or months I’m planning on having it itunes ready. It’s a big learning curve for me but I believe in time HANDWORK will evolve to be bigger and better.
I’m hoping in the next week or two the latest to have it uploaded for you to download. So please spread the word and tell everyone about HANDWORK.
Matt how many errors have you picked up in this post? Be lenient I just finished a 14 hour shift.
Take care everyone. Cheers from down under!
My mother stopped by over the past weekend and while showing her the pincushions I have been working on, management made a comment about something she had put back from her grandmother. A pincushion that her grandmother had made her that held scissors, bobbins and a thimble. Since her grandmother had passed away many years ago, management no longer uses it, but keeps it as a memento. That set my wheels turning and I began searching for ideas for a sewing caddy. More on that in a minute.
I did manage to finish version #2 of the clamp-on pincushions. After the third coat of Tried & True finish had cured, I made the pincushion for it. I’ve been using felt for these pincushions and it seems to be working well. The nice thing about the felt is that it doesn’t require any fancy seems. A simple blanket stitch that butts the edges together is all that is needed.
I also promised to complete the design drawing for version #1. So here you go.
OK, that brings me back to the sewing caddy. After a bunch of sketches I came up with a design that I liked.
The general idea is that it is a bird theme. The head holds the scissors, there are pegs down its back to hold thread spools, there is a peg at its feet to hold a thimble and the wings form the pincushion. Management suggested that it should also hold sewing machine bobbins and I added that feature by putting the bird on a perch. The whole thing clamps on the edge of a table in the same manner as the second version of clamp-on pincushions.
With my design in hand I went out to the shop to see if I could bring it into being.
A humble start.
Over the following days I added the finish, made the pincushion and worked up a proper design drawing.
Well that should do it for my pincushion making for a while. Although I’m sure there will be a few more in my future to give as gifts.
Part 1 Greg Merritt
Editor’s Note: In seven days Nancy R. Hiller will read a selection from her fantastic book “Making Things Work” at our Covington, Ky., storefront. After that, there will be the usual post-reading activities: bashing a pinata shaped like a biscuit joiner, playing a game with blindfolds and sinking nails into a tree stump.
Did I mention there will be free drinks?
We still have a few spots left in the free event before the local fire department will get grumpy. If you are interested, sign up here. And feel free to bring a date or a spouse (but not both).
This week, I will feature some of my favorite passages from “Making Things Work,” which is hands-down the funniest, gut-punchingest book I’ve read in years.
In this scene, Nancy is writing a list of her business’s expenses on a series of napkins to explain to a wine-and-cheese poser that her business is legit.
“And yes, my shop is behind my house. But I no longer live in the house. I had to move out during the recession, which absolutely gutted my business. During the worst year, my gross sales (i.e. including materials) were $17,000. I slashed the overhead and everything else to the bone. I relied on my credit card to pay lots of bills, a debt that took the following two years to pay off. I’m incredibly lucky that my boyfriend at the time – now my husband – invited me to move in with him; at least that way I no longer had to pay for all of my living expenses on one decimated income.
“That year from hell, I obviously could not even pay myself minimum wage after covering the overheads. You’re probably wondering why I didn’t just go out and get a couple of jobs – you know, bagging groceries, cleaning toilets at the office supply store…. Believe me, I thought about it.”
— Nancy R. Hiller
Filed under: Making Things Work, Uncategorized
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.