Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Milling Complete. Whew!

I’m not sure if you remember but I am in the process of building a timber frame studio on my property. Every once in a while I get asked about how it’s going. To be honest, things got bogged down for a while. Because I decided to cut the logs off my property and mill them with friends, things got complicated. We were able to get some done but (long story short) I eventually had to switch gears. Fortunately, my good friend Bill Turner down in Stonington offered his help. Bill has an incredible circular saw mill from the 30s. This old beast is a powerhouse.


With some help from my friend Nathan, the three of us got through 50+ logs today. That completes the milling stage. That is a lot of weight off my shoulders now. Once I get my brother in law to haul the logs to my place next Tuesday, I will be on my own... free to work at my own pace. I tell you, coordinating people and equipment has been hair pulling from day one. I know the joinery will take me a bunch of time but I am really looking forward to being able proceed solo. Hopefully I can make good progress on the joinery this winter but, at this rate, I make no promises.

Monday, October 27, 2014

"Conservation" - The Workbench Glossary




Conservation is a discipline concerned with the preservation of cultural artifacts. It includes such activities as examination, documentation, environmental control, and interventive treatment (also called Restoration). As the key objective is to maximize the lifespan of the object, conservators adhere to guiding ethical principles such as minimal intervention, treatment “reversibility”, and thorough documentation. Conservation exists to extend the educational and enjoyment benefits of artifacts for the longest time (and therefore the most people) possible. 





Thursday, October 23, 2014

Ultraviolet Light for Safe Adhesive Removal


Ultraviolet light is routinely used by conservators as an aid in examination of objects. UV light causes the materials of the object to fluoresce differently giving the viewer a whole new perspective on the object.  Glue squeeze out turns bright green or white, fresh shellac is neon orange, deteriorated natural resin varnishes are green, waxes, oils, and raw wood don’t fluoresce at all. (Think trippy blacklight posters.) This can be helpful for quickly finding previous repairs or to facilitate surface cleaning.

Adhesive fluorescence

The other situation I have found this handy in is when I need to scrape a thermoset (indissoluble) adhesive from a joint. Because these glues need to be removed in order to get good adhesion for new glue, the UV light causes the otherwise transparent glue film to fluoresce a bright whitish green. Once you can see what is glue and what is wood, you can safely proceed with mechanical scraping without tearing up the wood beneath.

Note the raw wood does not fluoresce when adhesive is scraped away

Surface scraped completely clean

There are high powered conservation UV lights available for a few hundred dollars but I have always just used a blacklight bulb from the Halloween store. (There are online sources too.) With the studio’s windows covered and the lights off, you can see fine enough to get the job done. For $10.00 you can’t go wrong.

A Good Sign

I recently had to purchase a new work van because repairing my old one was promising to be an inordinate investment. I knew exactly what I wanted when I set out: A silver Dodge Caravan with Stow-and-Go seats. Because this is a vehicle for pick-up and delivery, it is very important to have the entire back cleared out for furniture. My last Caravan had big bench seats and I had to lug those things in and out when I needed a seat back there. Between that and having to store them in my barn, it was a major hassle.

After I found what I was after I set out to get the new one lettered with vinyl. If you have your own business, I cannot express enough to you: get your vehicle lettered. It is so worth it. Last vehicle, I had the cost paid off in work directly from seeing the van within two weeks. Seriously. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve given folks my business card while pumping gas. I’ve even gotten work while I was unloading trash on a dump run.


I have a local place do the work and they have been excellent to work with. We just shoot emails of photoshopped images back and forth until it is just right. I walked down to the sub shop and read while the work was being done. A pleasant experience all around. I think they did a good job... I have noticed people rubbernecking at my vehicle as I have been driving around the past few days. I hope that’s a good sign.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Holy Utility

When I first drilled ¾” holdfast holes in my bench top, I had no idea how much I would use them. Besides the inevitable workholding revelation holdfasts were to me, I quickly found other purposes for these holes. In my conservation work, I am often holding small pieces like chair stretchers and need to pare scarfed grafts flush to the original surface. Among the various ways I hold/clamp these pieces for shaping, one of the most common is to place the end of the piece into the holdfast hole as a stop. I then can quickly rotate or tilt the piece in the blink of an eye. It’s so simple it’s almost obvious… or in the words of a friend of mine, “donkey dumb”.

I also use the ½” holes which the bench top bolts are countersink into. Having these two hole sizes as stops are great for filing round tenons to final thickness, beveling the ends of tenons, and paring grafts flush.


What other workholding methods do you use 
that aren't commonly talked about?

Monday, October 20, 2014

Harvest Days and Nesting

We have been blessed with a decent harvest this year. The past few years our gardening efforts have been combined with Julia’s parents. We try to grow enough for both families’ yearly vegetable needs. Typically her father does the early season tilling and planting and we end up with the harvesting and processing. This year has brought a lighter load than usual due to the pregnancy.


Our meatbirds are processed and resting in peace in the freezer now. I always feel so relieved when slaughter day comes. It’s the last week when I have trouble sleeping. Those last nights are filled with nightmares of coons or weasels breaking into the chicken house and annihilating our investment. Thankfully, we again had no problems with predators. 


On Saturday we dug potatoes. Eden swore he was a pirate digging for treasure. Five year olds seem to need work to be made into a game in order to get anything accomplished. We’ll take what we can get.






Julia's mother helped out too





In other news, Mama is bursting at the seams. Little guy is pretty active in there. (Go figure.) Even though we have until Thanksgiving until she’s due, we are keenly aware of the surprise we felt when Eden came five weeks early. We won’t be blindsided this time. We’re cleaning up the house and reorganizing things to accommodate for the new guy. One of the pressing things on my list is to finish up the co-sleeper cradle I started at Leonard’sMills a couple of weeks ago.


I adapted a number of period cradle designs to suit our purposes here. In the studio, I got the corners dovetailed and cut out the scroll work. My newly completed Gramercy turning saw worked wonderfully for this task. 






After clean up with chisels and a spokeshave, I popped the pieces together and brought it home to see it in place. I want to make sure it works out before I proceed with the bottom and the legs. I think we may have a success here because our cat, Garbanzo, bee lined for the mattress and settled right in. I hope the baby feels as at home in it as he does.


Sunday, October 19, 2014

"Restoration" - The Workbench Glossary




Restoration is a treatment process in which the stated objective is to return the piece back to a known or assumed former state. Any treatment that adds material to, removes material from, or modifies the object is technically performing a restorative function. These treatments are typically activities such as structural repair to wooden components, inpainting to compensate for areas of lost color, consolidation or reamalgamation of a degraded varnish, etc.

Removing bloom from varnish

Readhering loose marquetry

Aqueous cleaning to remove soiling

Structural repair of joinery

Friday, October 17, 2014

How Our Museum Got Screwed

The other day I was over at the Fisher House giving a tour and noticed something wooden shoved behind the door collecting dust. I pulled it out and found it was an early 19th century double screw vise. Astounded and alarmed I inquired about its story. They told me it just showed up one day on the doorstep along with a couple of bucksaws. No one ever left a note or called to tell us why they gave it to the museum. (This kind of stuff happens more than you’d think.) Was it Fisher’s double screw a local resident had? I guess it’s possible but we will never know until the donor fills us in. This was dropped off quite a while ago so the likelihood we’ll ever find out is slim I think.

Regardless, the vise is cool. 18” between screws. I think they are 1” screws. There are hand wrought nails that were driven through the back jaw for mounting  to a workbench presumably. I don’t know what the museum is going to do with it but I think it’s a cool find.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Do You Feel What I Am Saying?

This is NOT what I do

Here's a quick tip:

When setting the depth of cut on your bench plane irons, a number of folks recommend sighting down the sole to eyeball the protruding edge. People especially like this with metal bodied planes with the adjusting knob. In my experience I have found this difficult to do with an degree of accuracy. The way I was trained (even on metal bodied planes) was to rely on touch rather than sight. I was taught to use the gentle brushing of two fingers to feel the set iron depth. You can even easily tell if the iron is skewed. I find this gives much more feedback than my eye. Quick, simple, and easy to do in the low lighting of period shops. Give it try.

THIS is what I do.

Let know what you think. Have you tried this method?