Thursday, July 24, 2014

Last Call

This is a detail shot of the Fisher property from an 1824 landscape. His yellow 1814 house is on the far right. Photo: Brad Emerson

My family and I are heading out to go to a church camping trip today so this is the last opportunity to remind you all of this Saturday’s lecture at the Fisher House. The official write up says, 
"On Saturday, July 26th Joshua Klein of Klein Furniture Restoration will present his research on the furniture produced by Jonathan Fisher (1768 – 1847) of Blue Hill. The talk titled, “The Fashioning Hand of Jonathan Fisher: An Inside Look at the Parson’s Furniture” will begin at 1:00 pm and will be followed by a guided tour of the collection.

This exciting new research has uncovered a rare look into the productive life and mind of this farmer-artisan of 19th century Maine. The surviving body of furniture, tools used to produce them, and diary entries recording their creation are a uniquely comprehensive record unparalleled by any other chair or cabinet maker of preindustrial Maine. Klein will discuss how a close investigation of Fisher’s furniture reveals to us insights into the complex relationship between the parson’s religious devotion, intellectual pursuits, and craft skills."
Yes, somehow my wife and I double-booked this Saturday. I will have to leave the campsite and drive a couple hours to the lecture only to turn around to go back to camping. Oh well. It’s all fun stuff anyhow.

As an aside, I’ve made a little bit more progress on my tool chest… Bottom boards, plinth, and becket cleats. Next up is the interior storage. Oh and I was playing around with some paint yesterday. I decided to grain paint this chest like the mahogany graining so common in Maine in the early 1800s. I’ve not done that before so I am making up some sample boards. 

The Chest in the white

The dovetails are reversed on the plinth (for added strength)

Becket cleats of poplar I had laying around

This is the 'mahoganized' sample board sitting against the chest.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Each Such Occurence

“Furniture, created for utilitarian purposes in a living environment, predictably undergoes strains, dents, burns, and assorted abrasions, and each such occurrence is a record of the object’s use. The eighteenth-century infant who pounds his spoon on a tabletop and the mother who, trying to keep warm, moves her chair too close to the fireplace are adding to the surface of that furniture an interpretable record of its use. I believe that sanding or scraping away such dents and burns destroys forever an important part of any wooden artifact; and from a baldly economic point of view, a zealous finisher intent on removing clear evidence of a family's usage is also reducing the monetary value of the object, as well as destroying palpable history.”

 - Robert F McGiffin, Furniture Care and Conservation p.6

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Building a Double Screw Without a Tap and Die

This is an experiment. I was recently putting in a materials order and I noticed in the ‘odds and ends’ department they had ¾” threaded maple dowel rod.  For a few dollars per lineal foot, I thought it would be worth putting in the cart. When it arrived, I set out to build a double screw.

I grabbed two pieces of cherry I had laying around and drilled holes for the screws. First I drilled a pilot hole where the screws would go. This gave me my alignment between the two jaws. Then the outside jaw was drilled with a ¾” hole so it would free float on the screw. The inside jaw was then drilled about ¾ of the way through with a 1” forstner bit. Before breaking through, I switched to the ¾”bit to exit out the back just big enough for the screw.

Now that I’ve got a gaping hole where I need threads, what’s next? 

I drilled some ¼” holes around the inside perimeter of the hole.  (Wait. More Holes?) These holes will get filled with epoxy putty and when the epoxy cures these “teeth” help keep everything in place. Once the hole was pretty well full of epoxy, I used my (liberally paste waxed!) threaded rod to turn my way through. Once it was through, I made sure to mash a bunch of epoxy back down in there to surround the threads. Over the next fifteen minutes or so I would turn the screw back and forth a few times just to make sure the threads were established well. As long as the screw is waxed, the epoxy won’t stick to it.

The next day I turned a couple simple handles, bore out an oversized hole in the middle, and used epoxy putty to permanently attach the screw into them. (Don’t wax that end of the screw! ) I toothed the jaws of the vise for better grip and the next day I gave it a go. It works wonderfully. For small work, the ¾” screws are fine and because the threads are epoxy they are super strong.

This may all sound convoluted. I know if I were reading this, I would be saying, “Why don’t you just get a tap and die set?” The answer is: this was a quick and fun experiment and it’s a way to use materials laying around the shop to make something that works just as well (hopefully... this is an experiment, you know). I will be getting a tap and die in the near future but this was fun in the meantime. The second answer is that I am curious to see the holding power of epoxy internal threads as I imagine this being useful information for my conservation work.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Writing, Writing, Writing

Besides the studio work, I’ve been busy writing and editing an article I’ve submitted for publication. Trying to boil down Fisher’s furniture production into 3,000 +/- words was hard, especially since this is my first go at a polished manuscript on the topic. With some revision help from a few colleagues, I think it came together. Perhaps one of these days you will see it... I’ll keep you informed.

I’m pretty much set to go for the lecture/tour on the 26th. That one is titled “The Fashioning Hand of Jonathan Fisher: An Inside Look at the Parson’s Furniture”. It will take place Saturday the 26th 1:00pm at the Fisher House in Blue Hill. I will give a brief introductory talk about how furniture making fit into Fisher’s life. The real meat and potatoes of this event though is the guided tour through the house. I will be taking the group through and pulling out drawers, etc.  I’ll be highlighting a few noteworthy features and discussing attribution issues.

I am also working through the powerpoint for my lecture in August at the Wilson Museum in Castine, ME. This one is on preindustrial Maine furniture makers.  It’s on August 13th at 1:00pm. More info here:

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Lie-Nielsen Open House 2014

I spent much of yesterday at Lie-Nielsen's Open House. It was such a wonderful time. Woodworking is great but woodworkers are even better. These are all real down to earth great people. Thanks for hosting the event, Tom!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Friday's Fisher House Tour

L to R: Robin, Karen, Julia, Tom, Chris, and I

 Last Friday morning, Tom and Karen Lie-Nielsen, Chris Schwarz, Julia Kalthoff, and Robin Macgregor met me at the Fisher house in Blue Hill. Though Tom and Karen had visited a few times years ago, I gave the whole group a full tour. I shared the back story as we walked through the house discussing what the winter’s investigation has found. We pulled out a few drawers and looked at some construction details. There were definitely objects we passed by as they have no documented connection to the Fisher family. Besides the furniture and the 1814 house itself, we looked at some of his tools that are on display. 

Photo credit: Chris Schwarz

I showed them his turning tools, a few files, strops, auger bit, etc. We also looked at this interesting framed (tenon?) saw. None of us had seen anything exactly like it before. 6 tpi with a cutting depth of about 3” on an 18” blade. What do you think? Tenon saw?



Through tenoned tote

Fisher's workbench (you're looking at the back)

We also looked at Fisher’s only surviving workbench (of the many he made) with mitre boxes and backsaw. It probably won’t surprise anyone that Chris made a lot of keen observations about the bench. And now that he’s pointed some of this stuff out I am even more excited about it. I plan to replicate it in the not-so-distant future. After the bench and various vises, I brought them over to the recently discovered lathe. This piece I have not had a lot of time to examine yet because I only found it a little while ago. 

the lathe

Awesome use of  a tree crotch!

We spent a good two hours at the house. That’s better than the three I spent with Freddy Roman. Somehow I’ve gotta boil this tour down to under an hour for the 200th Anniversary Event in two weeks. I’ll keep working on that. They all seemed to genuinely enjoy their time at the house and I was grateful to have them take an interest in my research. 

After lunch, most of the gang went back to Rockland but Chris and I drove over to my studio. I showed him my little space and we discussed the benefits of small shops. I also got him to sign the bottom of the traditional cabinetmaker’s tool chest I’m making. Now that the thing is Schwarz Certified, I will be able to finish it up and bring it to Leonard’s Mills in fall. Thanks, Chris.

From there we drove out to the Hull’s Cove Tool Barn. Chris wrote about the visit here. We each got a few things but Chris didn’t get a certain item he was pining after. He did, however, show me a delightful Millers Falls mitre box. The former owner babied this thing and even built a custom base for saw storage. Pretty cool, I’d say. I have been looking out for one of these for a while so I‘m glad Chris pointed this one out to me. (My apologies to Ric “Canadian Gravity Latch” Archibald who we ran into while shopping. He also wanted it but I guess I was closer. By Ric’s request, here are some shots of the carrying base.) 

Mitre box

Slot for saw storage

Small built-in drawer on the other side

All packed up and ready for travel

Chris and I had a good time talking about his work, my work, and the Jonathan Fisher research. There have been so many things uncovered thus far but I know there is still so much more to go. I look forward to bouncing thoughts and ideas off of Chris, Don Williams (whom I’ve been consulting), and the readers of this blog. It looks like this thing has taken off and I anticipate a fun ride.