Friday, August 21, 2015

Fall/Winter Events

My schedule for the fall and winter is (no surprise) pretty full. Here’s what I have on my plate:

September 18th I’ll be demonstrating historic turning on my pole lathe at the Yale University Art Gallery's Furniture Study in New Haven, CT. It will be about an hour or so presentation. The folks at Yale told me they hold back on publicity for these things because there aren’t many spots available. Consider this leaked. More info to come.

September 20th-26th Thanks to two generous scholarships for my Jonathan Fisher book from The Early American Industries Association and The Society of American Period Furniture Makers, I will be making a number of research trips this year. This first trip I will be at The Winterthur Museum camped out in the greatest library of American Decorative Arts literature in existence doing research. I will be staying on campus at the Winterthur Visiting Scholar's Residence and spending all day every day digging into historic texts, photo archives, and studying pertinent objects. This week will be pretty much a dream come true. Expect updates here at the Diary.

October 2nd-4th I will be demonstrating 18th century woodworking at the Leonard’s Mills Living History Days in Bradley, Maine. My wife and I have been doing this event for the past 6 years or so and it’s always fun. I always get as many smart alecks as I do genuinely interested people. Keeps me on my toes. I love it.

April 2nd-3rd, 2016 I will be a demonstrator at the Northeastern Woodworker’s Association Annual Fine Woodworking Show. I’ve been asked to give two or three talks on furniture conservation related topics. If you can make it to Saratoga Springs this April, I’d love to see you there.

p.s. The Lie-Nielsen workshop unfortunately had to be cancelled. No worries, though. Deneb and I may have something else up our sleeves. 

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Two New Sponsors!

Courtesy:Walk Moore Tools

I am honored to add two new sponsors the Mortise & Tenon Magazine curated Directory of Sponsors. Richard at The English Woodworker and Aaron and Alan of Walke Moore Tools have joined the ranks. As always, I am honored to have the support of such skilled artisans. Walke Moore, based in New York, focuses on hand tools that aren’t made by many other makers. Brass bound levels, try squares, wooden straightedges, winding sticks. They’ve got some unique offerings. Check them out here: 

Courtesy: The English Woodworker

After visiting Walke Moore, check out Richard’s Premium Videos featured at The English Woodworker. These new videos are destined to impact the online hand tool woodworking in a very big way. Professional quality production, regular entertainment, and clear teaching all make these things a good value. Check out the new Spoon Rack series here: 

I heartily recommend these companies. In my conversations with them, we have expressed mutual interest in promoting hand tool woodworking. The vision of Mortise & Tenon is their vision also.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

By Flashlight and George

Last night George Walker drove up after getting settled in at Lie-Nielsen for his class this weekend. Because of his flight times and the hour and a half drive to my place from the Toolworks, we got a quick dinner and headed straight over to the Fisher house before we started losing too much daylight. There are no lights in the 1814 part of the house so we needed to proceed at a hasty pace.  As the sun tucked beneath the tree line, my flashlight became increasingly important. It was a curious thing showing him the construction details in the dark. Because, at the end, all we had for light was one single flashlight I saw things I’ve never seen before. The way the secret compartment box was attached under Fisher's desk lid was frankly boggling. There were tons of toothpick sized wooden pins holding it in place. I never noticed that before. There were other curious things too and I am looking forward to reexamining these pieces in more detail soon.

After we totally lost light, I took him into the archives where we looked through Fisher’s 1790-1791 geometry notes from Harvard. This obviously struck a chord with George. As I, for the zillionth time, gave my Fisher spiel I saw again that look of wonder and fascination at the genius and sophistication of this rural minister/artisan.

It was great spending the evening with George. We talked about Fisher, period furniture making, writing, teaching, and an upcoming M&T article he’s working on for me (which I’m stoked about, of course).  I’m grateful for his fellowship and insights about the Fisher collection. Thanks, George. I look forward to next time I see you.

The Most Effect

"...As in most cases it is not the excellence of the tools, but the skill of the hand that wields them, that gives the most effect." 

- Nathaniel Whittock, 1828, Decorative Painter's and Glazier's Guide

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Men and the Art of Manliness

Among restorer/conservators there is a little bit of a controversy over how to deal with clients repairing their own objects. On the one hand, we deal with botched repairs all the time on the historic objects we treat. Nails, Gorilla glue, and all manner of poorly executed splices/patches. This always makes treatment more difficult. Safely undoing and patching inappropriate repairs is a lot more time consuming than repairing a clean fresh fracture line. This is why some practitioners discourage their clients from performing minor remedial treatments to their furniture. Don’t get me wrong, I get that point of view.

There is another side to the story, however. First off, not everyone has historically significant furniture. And there is a category of people with mediocre solid wood furniture who have more time than money. For these people, if it comes down to a couple hundred dollars to repair a loose chair, the chair’s headed for the dump and they’re headed to IKEA. Rather than conservators subsidizing the chair’s repair by taking a pay cut, another option is to teach the public safe and reversible methods to repair their furniture so that a conservator can work on it later. This is the strategy I have adopted because, frankly, handymen are going to do it anyways. We might as well teach them to use hide glue and non-invasive techniques so that the chair is still retreatable.

So I’ve begun at one of my favorite websites. For years I’ve been following The Art of Manliness (and highly recommend you do as well). Their vision to make true men out of the adult boys our culture is full of is inspiring.

As AoM has written, “Many men today feel adrift and have lost the confidence, focus, skills, and virtues that men of the past embodied. In an increasingly androgynous society, modern men are confused about their role and what it means to be an honorable, well-rounded man.

The causes of this male malaise are many — from the cultural to the technological. One factor is simply the lack of direction offered men in the popular culture. Men’s magazines today are largely about sex, sports cars, and getting six-pack abs.

The Art of Manliness seeks to fill this void and offer an alternative to those who believe there’s more to being a man than expensive clothes and the hot babe of the month.

AoM is a blog about growing up well, aimed at men and their unique challenges and interests. We explore all things manly — from the serious and philosophical to the practical and fun. We seek to uncover how to live with grandpa’s swagger, virtue, and know-how in the present age by wedding the best of the past to the best of the present. The end goal is to create a synergy of tradition and modernity that offers men a way forward and signposts on how to live an excellent, flourishing life.

Ultimately, the Art of Manliness aims to encourage our readers to be better husbands, fathers, brothers, citizens — a new generation of great men.”

A few months ago Brett and I were discussing their lack of furniture repair articles and he asked if I’d write some for AoM. I happily agreed. We ultimately decided to cut it into two parts. Part One addresses the “Why?” of repairing your own furniture and Part Two addresses some common repairs. Last night, I saw on Instagram that one of their readers shared pictures of regluing a set of chairs they inherited. He said “after four kids climbing them daily [we] thought they were done for. Now they are rock solid.” That made my night. 

So check out the posts. Let me know what you think:

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Three More

Courtesy: Vesper Tools

This week I started playing catch up now that the house disassembly is complete. I have an incredible amount of clients to connect with, trips to plan, and things to build and write. One of the things that has been on the back burner the last couple weeks was adding a few new sponsors to the Mortise & Tenon Sponsor Web Directory. Fortunately, these folks have been patient with me as I wrapped up the house. I got them added last night and, wow, I am excited.

Courtesy: Peter Galbert

I am so honored to announce that Highland Woodworking, Peter Galbert, and Vesper Tools have each committed to sponsor M&T. Check out their websites to see what they contribute to this hand tool woodworking community. They’ve kindly expressed their enthusiasm for the project and I think you can guess how enthusiastic I am about what these guys are doing. Honestly, I am really humbled that I have the cream of the crop backing me. Every time I am contacted by another one of my woodworking heroes for sponsorship, it raises the bar for what this publication will be. I truly hope this fulfills what’s lacking in woodworking media today.

Courtesy: Highland Woodworking

Make sure you check out the new additions. I give them my full endorsement and hope you will too. There are more sponsors in the wing that will be added after I get logos, etc from them. If you are a maker or supplier or have any business related to historic furniture, I’d love to hear from you to discuss if M&T sponsorship is a good fit for you. Send me an email at sponsorships [at] I look forward to growing this community of mutual support.