Thursday, July 30, 2015


Almost like it was never even there.

Tonight I brought the last load home from the job site. It’s amazing to think it’s only been ten weeks since we started this thing. Yep, ten weeks. Despite all the doubters and naysayers, we finished exactly one day before the contractual deadline of July 31st. We are grateful to God for the strength to keep it together during this whirlwind of a project. Between parenting, running my conservation business, developing Mortise & Tenon Magazine, and trying to keep our current house at least moderately inhabitable, we were already stretched pretty thin this time of year. So we decided to disassemble a two hundred year old cape to move it to our property on top of the rest of it. Riiight.

But honestly there’s no boasting here. There’s no way we would have gotten this done without the help of numerous friends. Mark, Dan, Mike, Nathan, Jerry, Brave, Owen, Brittnay, Dad, Nielsen, Gabe, Zander, Sam, Elisha, Alec, Ken, Greg, and Vicky, and all the babysitting helpers: THANK YOU ALL!

The cellar hole will be filled in by the property owner.

We still gotta get boards and beams resituated in the trailer so that we will be able to access them easily over the next few years as we repair it. There will be cleaning, paint stripping, repairing the frame…. I better stop. I don’t have the energy to think about that right now. Let’s just say we have our work cut out for us. But it will be a dream house for us. Our home. A place in which we sweat, bled, cursed, and prayed during the course of making it ours. May this house live on by us and may our children grow up within its safety. May our boys through this know what it is to live full and pursue their passion. Julia and I pray that this house would become a place of shelter and growth for our family: our home.

Ten weeks ago

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Disassembling the Timber Frame

The past couple weeks the guys and I have been taking down the frame of this 200 year old cape. It was done in stages over a number of days. Everything went pretty smooth except where we ran into later ill-conceived repairs. Those sections slowed us way down.  Here’s how it when down:

Five sided ridge pole

We pulled the rafters down first one half at a time.

Rafter tenon into the ridge

Then we pulled the joists up.


Bold drawboring!

After that came the plates and girts off the top of the posts.

Mark knocking pegs out

Once the frame was down, the top floor and sub floor came off the old parlor followed by the rotten joists.

Then we started harvesting bricks from the double arch in the cellar. These will be reused to recreate the fireplaces for the central chimney.

The beautiful 1830s bricks

I’d say it looks pretty different from when we started. We will be hauling the last of the bricks to my house today. Then I just need to rake the yard for a little debris and we're all done at the site. I have some sheathing to be de-nailed back at our property and then all will be stored away nicely in the storage trailer to be worked on over the next couple years. I'm ready for a vacation.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Step into the World of Mortise & Tenon Magazine

Photo Courtesy: Lie-Nielsen Toolworks

As I’ve been thinking a lot about my furniture restoration workshop at Lie-Nielsen this September, I can’t help but think of it as the physical manifestation of what I’m trying to do with Mortise & Tenon Magazine. M&T is all about bridging the worlds of furniture maker, conservator, and scholar. These three disciplines have so much to learn from one another that I wanted to create a publication that ties them together. This September in Warren, ME I will be standing with a handful of students walking through the details of period construction by examining the actual objects themselves. We’ll see how period work informs our restorative treatments. We’ll also see how this diagnostic process is what, in turn, informs our making.

It hadn’t dawned on me until recently, but this workshop is a hands on opportunity to step into the world of Mortise & Tenon. Antique furniture, conservation practice, and authentic period construction: what’s better than that? Come this September and experience firsthand the world of authentic period furniture.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Moulson Chisel Contest Winner Announced!

Well, the Moulson Brothers 1 ½” chisel giveaway contest is complete and I’ve spent a good amount of time combing through and thinking about each response I got at the Diary, Instagram, and Facebook. As I said last week, there is no wrong answer to the question of why you choose hand tools. We all choose our tools for personal reasons. I got so many comments about the connection to the material be worked, and the peacefulness of the shop environment, and the tactile quality of the finished surface. All of these things I agree are significant. 

Ertheworks wrote, “The main reason that I use hand tools in sensory. Using them enables me to use all my senses to experience, respond to and create with wood. It provides a much greater awareness of the infinite variety of the characteristics of each species and piece of wood”

Dan Kochensparger put it, “There's something about the connection between the craftsman and the material being worked that requires the kind of feedback that only a hand tool can provide.”

D Tikhon Chapman said, “Peace and quiet. Working wood respectfully, as it is meant to be worked, instead of 'overpowering it' with power tools.”

Bill Domenz said, “I love the slight signature a tool can leave in the finished product.”

A number of folks also mentioned how they felt more connected to the final result than “power” tools offer.  Jerry Palmer wrote, “Hand tools connects me to my creations and helps me feel like a creator. In touch with the essence of my media” and Michael Lehikoinen aptly put it, “I feel … more like a creator than an operator.”

All of those are great comments. Thank you for your entries! There was one however that hit me particularly keenly. Stuart C. Blanchard from Strafford New Hampshire summed up a lot of my own thoughts about the work. He wrote, “I find that sharp hand tools offer a controlled precision for joinery that is often difficult to achieve with power tools - not to mention the minimal setup time for hand tools compared to power tools. Hand tools also leave planed, carved, or otherwise shaped surfaces that are a delight to both the eye and hand - most of which cannot be achieved with power tools. I also find that hand tools are enjoyable to use, quiet, dustless, and they also create a certain tie to craftsman who have used similar tools for centuries past. I also like knowing that with just the hand tools in my (Anarchist's-like) toolbox, I could make any traditional piece of furniture, and perhaps many contemporary pieces too.”

Congratulations, Stuart. You have been selected as the winner of the contest! Please send me an email and I’ll get the tool shipped out ASAP! Thank you!

For all else… stay tuned for the next giveaway! This was too fun not to do again real soon!

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Mortise & Tenon Giveaway: Moulson 1 ½” Chisel

Last week I went to the Tool Barn in Hulls Cove to nose around for some old tools. I did find a couple of nice backsaws for myself but the trip wasn’t totally selfish. Tool picker extraordinaire Skip Brack has three shops all within an hour from my house: the Tool Barn, Captain Tinkham’s, and the infamous Liberty Tool Company. I don’t take it for granted and now I wanna pass some of the goodness along to you all.

I picked up this nice 19th century Moulson Brothers 1 ½” chisel for a giveaway here. I think everyone needs a good 1 1/2" or 2" chisel. I use mine all  the time even for small stuff. The mass and width makes paring operations so much easier. I replaced its split handle, did a very minor surface cleaning, and put a razor sharp edge on it. Now I’m going to give it away.

To enter, all I request is that you answer one question: In one or two sentences, why do you choose to use hand tools? There is no wrong answer. I just wanna know what motivates you or inspires you about hand tool woodworking. Please note that no submission is private. I’ll be sharing my few favorite responses at the end and awarding the chisel to the #1 response.

You can submit your answer in one of three places: 

1. In the comment field in this blog post,
2. by “regramming” my Instagram post for the giveaway, or 
3. by dropping your analog (i.e. paper) response at my booth at Lie-Nielsen this weekend.

Contest ends next Thursday morning. You got one week, my friends. What’s your answer? "Why do you choose to use hand tools?"

The Restoration:

removed the tattered handle

sawed out a new walnut blank

marked center

began drilling and fitting the tang

constantly checking alignment for twist

fit until bolster is 1/4" away...

... then hammer it home.

layed out tapers

cut to length

remove bulk of material with chisel

final passes with a plane

lay out the chamfers

carve the chamfers

bevel the butt of the handle

pull out the dyes and shellac

add color and patina