Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Time to Prepair Ones Self

“Apprenticeship is a very important part of ones life: habits at this time formed generally sticks close to one through life: it is the time to prepair ones self for respectability, usefulness, and happiness through life."

- Matthew Ray, 19th century blacksmith in Blue Hill, ME

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Carved Slat Replacement Complete

Got it done today.

Marking the shoulders way too fat to be on the safe side

Laying out tenons (again with extra for paring later)

Began cutting shoulder and tenon cheek

Cleaning out mortise of severed tenon fragments

Check to see shoulder to shoulder distance

Little by little cut shoulder line back

Almost close enough to make it fit (still a little long) but the angle is wrong

Corrected angle and length between shoulders

Hey, it fits now!

Pulled it back out and proceeded with pigments, dyes, and shellac, rottenstone, wax, etc.

It's the top one (below the crest rail)

Detail shot

Detail Shot

Detail to compare original stile versus new slat

Detail shot

View from behind to compare sheen

The Mutable Vacationland

The Blue Hill peninsula is predictably capricious. My business can be trotting along a normal pace, keeping the backlog maintained at about the same amount all spring and summer. All of the sudden the wind shifts at the end of July and the phone stops ringing. For about four weeks, the weather, seasonal harvesting, etc. are all so perfectly aligned that everyone forgets normal life and goes to the beach. Or their sail boat.

I plod along silently working through my backlog and it isn’t until the end of August that I begin getting slammed with calls. It’s actually pretty hard to get projects through the studio at this time because I am making so many appointments (i.e. on-site assessments). Lots of scheduling of winter work before the seasonals split around Labor Day.

 Despite all that I was able to actually get some studio work in yesterday. How novel! I was working on the ribbonback slat that needed to be replaced. The carving is coming along decently. I’ll be fitting the tenons today and coloring and finishing it before the final glue up.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

That is sooooo Two Centuries Ago...

The past couple years I’ve been picking up wooden planes and other period appropriate tools for my 1790s historic interpretation. As I continue to steal away a few minutes here and there to work on my traditional tool chest, I am also making good headway on the tool acquisitions. My most recent procurement was a wooden bodied coffin smoothing plane. I had always used my metal bodied #4 before for this final surface work but that was not quite authentic enough for the reenacting events. (No… I’m not a stitch counter.)

Until recently I hadn’t picked up a wooden smoothing plane because I wasn’t finding any that were suitable for good use. I recently got over that hurdle and just bought one that needed work. Besides the usual grime and dust, there were three main issues I needed to deal with: 1. The cutting iron was basically used up 2. The iron cap was warped 3. The mouth was too wide. The only reason I confidently picked this one up was because there was a James Cam iron in the miscellaneous plane iron box. It was about a ¼” too wide but nothing a grinder couldn’t address.

Note the gap on the cap iron

Back at the studio, I ground the replacement iron slightly narrower to fit and sharpened the cutting edge. For the cap iron: I toyed with the idea of heating and bending the warpage out of it but I eventually just decided to apply some JB Weld at the top to offset the gapping. After it was cured, I screwed the iron and cap together and it worked beautifully. Now the front edge is leveraged nice and flush to the “back” of the iron. Stupid easy fix.

JB Weld

Goober it on and let it cure

The last issue I dealt with was the mouth. I decided to patch it in the manner of the 18th and 19th century repairs. When their plane soles wore down considerably, the mouth concurrently widened. For most planes this is basically inconsequential but for a smoothing plane it’s pretty important to keep it tight.

Establishing the line

A patch was cut of quartersawn white oak because I didn’t have beech on hand. The hardness and shrinkage properties are very close to that of European Beech so I think we’ll be okay. After the patch was cut, the grave was scribed onto the plane sole. The line was then deepened by chopping and slicing the waste away to establish a nice notch for the walls of the patch’s grave.

Trimming the walls

Ready for glue

Then I pulled out a power tool. Yes, you read that right. You thought I didn’t ever use such a thing but I do on occasion find certain electrically powered tools very useful. (Like my bandsaw or drill press!) My small laminate router is great for excavating the majority of material for flat bottom graves for patches. After the waste was removed the walls were shaved and chopped with a chisel. The patch was then adjusted for fit and was glued into place. After leveling it the next day, I adjusted the mouth ever so slightly to even it out across the cutting edge.

Glued up

Ready for trimming

All flush now

Gossamer shavings

This is what you're after

I love this little guy. It works so beautifully. Nice translucent shavings. (Everybody likes to call them “gossamer”.) I am really starting to get the hang of using and adjusting wooden planes and even enjoy using them much more than metal bodied planes... I’m a convert. I find myself reaching for them more and more. If you haven’t tried them out, you really should. Lighter, smoother, and sooooo two centuries ago. Exactly what I was looking for.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Perfectionism in the European Tradition

“(17th century author Joseph ) Moxon … in discussing the “Barbarous ∫ort of working which is u∫ed by the Natives of America” says that “they know neither of Rule, Square, or Compa∫s; and what they do is done by Tedious Working, and he that has the be∫t Eye at Guessing...” This sort of craft-work, barbarous to Moxon is typified in objects we now place a positive value on as being “handmade.” In eras when everything was hand-made however, the aim of the careful worker in the European tradition was to reduce variation by skill and increasingly, by ever more complex tools. Such perfectionism was pursued into the machine age resulting ultimately in techniques that typify workmanship of certainty. The aim of industry after all is quality control, which means the absolute reproducibility of a desirable result.” -J Thornton, The History and Technology of Waveform Moldings

Friday, August 22, 2014

Oh Baby!

Two good things here:

1. Blueberries are picked. Our old house has a wonderful field through the woods and the owners have generously allowed us to go to pick there. We’ve ate some fresh but the vast majority go in the freezer. These little guys help stave off the winter blues when the eating is a little less exciting. We have one rake and the others pick by hand. 

 We are able to use our friend’s solar powered winnower to separate out the leaves. This clackety-bangety batch of old iron and wood is a true beaut. I love hearing the squeaking of the wheels accompanied by the faint plop of berries into the wooden box. What a thing it is to see!

2. And even better than blue berries… our new little baby is due in November. We are very very excited. So is Eden. He said he wants the baby to stay in his room because besides carrying all his pirate loot around for him he will also clean up all of Eden’s toys. Hmmm? This might be an interesting adjustment for our only child. We’re little by little trying to ease him into the change but I think his utopian bubble will nevertheless pop when little brother does finally come along.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Mahogany Score!

During Saturday’s Antique Show, I had a gentleman inquire to see if I would be interested in some mahogany. In the 70s, a friend of his who spent time working in Nigeria had some of her belongings shipped back to the US. When the crate arrived, the goods were unpacked and the sturdy crate was set aside in the shed. Some forty years later, I was asked if I had any use for it. The guy knew it was nice mahogany and knew someone out there could use this stuff. Yes, please!

When I went to his house on Monday, I picked up the box along with some almost unused Swiss Made carving chisels he bought for a class years ago. The crate was free to a good home and the chisels were a very fair price. Grateful, I packed up the tools and crate and headed off on my way. The crate is made of (just shy of) 1” thick ribbon mahogany. There are 4 boards 32” long and 12” wide in there along with smaller boards too. Obviously some of these boards have nail holes in them in one side but some are free of holes except the edges. The smaller pieces will find a home in my repair wood bins but the bigger stuff I’d like to use for a project. Tea table maybe? I don’t know. What would you do with this stuff? 

The chisel score

V tool, veiners

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Though I am Not a Dealer...

And then I got up early again to do demonstrations all day at an antique show in Blue Hill. This is the third year I’ve had a booth at the Jonathan Fisher Antique Show. Though I am not a dealer, they let me sign up to demonstrate period woodworking and explain to the guests what my conservation practice is like. It works out well. If visitors want a break from shopping and haggling, they head over to my booth and watch me cut joinery and use period tools. Just about all day I have people standing around watching me. This year was as good as the others. I like meeting a lot of new people at events like this and it’s good seeing the dealers I haven’t seen since last year’s show.

Julia and Eden dropped by for lunch. Eden, as usual, was captivating the passersby with all of the explanations of conservation he’s heard Papa repeat countless times. The kid’s got my spiel down pretty good by now.

Displaying my most frequently used tools of the trade

Interior storage - Saw till

Interior Storage - Plane corral

The project I was working on at the show was one of the two sliding trays in my tool chest. I got it all finished except the glue-up. Once the next tray is complete, all I need is a lid and then we’re on to paint.

Speaking of paint, I saw two great painted chests in dealer booths. The first one was sponge grained.

 But this second one is so great, I think I might reproduce it on my tool chest. I have been tossing around a bunch of ideas for the decorative paint treatment on the chest. I have been narrowing it down to pieces that look a lot like this one. It was neat to have this one at the show to get a real close look at the brush strokes. I’ll have to play around with this and see if I can’t pull it off.

I love the "stringing" made by removing the paint while still wet.