Saturday, March 26, 2016

A New Chapter in Blogging

This post is the beginning of a new chapter in my blogging. For years, I’ve blogged at The Workbench Diary sharing the ins and outs of my little conservation practice on the coast of Maine. I’ve regularly posted about furniture related research, preservation, and recreation with the occasional glimpse into happenings on my homestead including goats, chickens, gardens, etc.

Even as Mortise & Tenon Magazine has been growing and blossoming far beyond what I ever envisioned, I’ve been maintaining (sort of) The Workbench Diary alongside. What has been happening lately is that because so much of my time has been spent on M&T it has naturally started to become the M&T blog.

As I’ve been sharing these M&T-related blog posts on social media, I’ve begun to feel like having a blog of a different name from the Magazine’s was confusing. Additionally, since I have hand-picked a team of people to work with me now, I really want to give them a voice on the blog. You will want to hear what they have to say, readers. These are some of the most passionate hand tool woodworkers around. As we grow and experiment and test our theories as a team, we want to be sharing it with you.

So I thought it would make more sense to relocate my blogging efforts to one regular place. I’ve opened up a new blog on the Mortise & Tenon website. You’ll be able to find it in the navigation bar by simply clicking on “Blog”. So, although will remain a live static site, all new posts will be at

It really isn’t a sad ending, though. It will be the same stuff only in a different place. So from here on out, readers, follow us at the M&T website. Everything will be nice and tidy and in one place. (And commenting will be easier!)

Thursday, March 17, 2016


Late last week I finally got a two day break from this magazine craziness. Early Thursday morning my studio assistant Mike and I got on the road to head down to the Yale Furniture Study in New Haven, CT. Even though this was technically a “business” trip it was an immense “pleasure” to be away from my computer screen and M&T mailing responsibilities. This magazine has been a real stretch on my ability to keep it together while being pulled a million different directions by urgent matters. I survived a few months like that but I was beginning to reach a breaking point.

This Yale trip was a totally different experience. Road tripping 6.5 hours down the coast with my good friend chatting the whole way was a blast. I was looking forward to this trip because the mission was singular: document and measure a chair. That’s it. The Yale University Art Gallery has commissioned me to make a reproduction of an 18th century Rhode Island banister-back chair from their collection for an upcoming exhibit. (More about that exhibit here.) This project actually has two parts… Besides the building of a reproduction, they will be sending a film crew up to Maine to film the building process. This footage will be edited into a short looping video to be played at the exhibit. There is even talk about hosting a longer cut of the footage on their website. Stay tuned for those details.

When we arrived at the Furniture Study, Mary May and Bob Van Dyke were there examining some pieces for their own projects. We all caught up and chatted as Pat Kane, curator, graciously invited us all out to lunch. A good time was had by all. There was a lot of interesting conversation ranging from Eliphalet Chapin, to South American furniture, to a wrist tattoo of Hogarth’s line of beauty. I couldn’t help but think, “Man, these are my people!”

Besides our measuring tasks, Mike and I wandered the collection to examine construction techniques and stylistic details on a variety of forms and periods. I always learn so much when I go there. We were struck in particular with the inanity of describing “the” way “they” did it back then. When you examine this many pieces back to back you can’t help but notice how many different ways a form can be constructed. Being there is a wonderful experience like none other I’ve had. If you haven’t gone yet, I encourage you to read the article in Issue One all about the place. Once you make your way through that interview, you’ll be planning your trip to CT. Promise.

My new acquisition

On the way back up to Maine on Friday, we stopped at Skinner to pick up a piece I won at auction. I’ll save details for later but let’s just say this piece will definitely be featured in Issue Two of Mortise & Tenon Magazine because it is a goldmine of 18th century tool marks and construction. It is a great case study for period methodology and has a workmanlike beauty that’s stolen my heart. I also plan to bring the piece to some of my events throughout the year so if you plan on seeing me at any of those, you’ll probably see this piece.

When I arrived home Friday night I had gained fresh perspective and new energy for getting caught up on M&T orders and emails. If all goes to plan, by tomorrow evening everything will be caught up completely. Let’s hope.

2016 Events

Every year I have a number of lectures, presentations, and demonstrations booked. Here are the events for 2016. You will see this post linked on the side bar (non-mobile version) of the blog throughout the year.

April 2nd – 3rd Northeastern Woodworkers Association Annual Showcase in Saratoga Springs, New York

I will be presenting two workshops on both Saturday and Sunday. Between sessions, I will be at my booth with M&T merchandise talking about building furniture with hand tools and conserving our furniture heritage. Below are the workshops I will be presenting:

1. “Conservation in Practice: Restoring Antique Furniture" – This workshop is a discussion of conservation theory, the relationship to “restoration”, determining “what to do” for a given project, and is a demonstration of executing some of the most common repairs without jeopardizing historic integrity. This is an introductory workshop designed for those with no prior experience. If you’ve had an heirloom piece passed down to you that needs help but you’ve been nervous about doing the “wrong” repair on such a special piece, this class is for you.

2. “Restoration of Historic Finishes” – Aged and worn finishes on antique furniture have been prized for their beauty for a long time so when a surface has seen many generations of wear and use, that patina deserves to be preserved. This workshop covers ways to treat damaged finishes without stripping them or using damaging methods. White rings, paint flecks, and scratches are all common occurrences in antique furniture that can be sources of further damage if not treated properly. Attend this session to learn how to address these issues with minimally invasive (and simple) methods. No experience necessary.

June – “Wrought by Hand: Furniture Making Before the Industrial Revolution” at the Wilson Museum in Castine, Maine

Before the adoption of machinery into furniture production in the 19th century, all furniture was made completely “by hand”. Starting from a log all the way through to a finished piece of furniture, axes, saws, planes, and chisels were the tools employed by furniture artisans. But don’t believe the myth that building by hand is slow or arduous. Based on my experience building furniture without any “power” tools I can vouch for the fact that period makers were efficient workers. Come and watch a live demonstration and discussion of the efficiency and viability of pre-industrial furniture making methods. Far from merely anachronistic curiosity, this presentation is a lively and interactive opportunity to see hand-tool-only furniture making.

July 8th-9th - Lie-Nielsen Open House in Warren, Maine

This event is a staple for woodworkers. There are always loads of awesome demonstrators and so many tools to try out. I will be there in a Mortise & Tenon booth demonstrating and discussing period furniture making methods. Make sure you stop by. This one shouldn’t be missed.

August - Jonathan Fisher Antique Show in Blue Hill, Maine

This show I’ve been doing for a while now. Each year, in the sea of antique dealers, I’m the one guy planing boards and chopping mortises at a workbench. It is always draws attention and helps contextualize the pieces sold at dealer’s booths.

Sept 16th-18th – Woodworking in America

Plan to drop by my booth at WIA this year. Workbench and tool chest in tow, things are guaranteed to be fun. I will have examples of actual period joinery available for close inspection and will be demonstrating efficient pre-industrial methods of working wood.

Oct 1st-2nd – Living History Days at Leonard’s Mills in Bradley, Maine

The Living History Days are two days of historic interpretation of a 1790s Maine frontier logging camp. If you’re into watching folks demonstrate historic trades in period dress, this one’s for you. I always bring my workbench and tool chest to demonstrate historic woodworking. My wife and kids come along for this one and it is always a special weekend that we look forward to every year. There are hay rides, bean hole beans, and tons of other historic crafts demonstrated.

Oct 29th-Nov 1st - SAPFM Peach State Chapter Presentation in Alpharetta, Georgia

The Society of American Period Furniture Makers chapter in Georgia has invited me to do two presentations on furniture restoration this fall. Stay tuned for details…

Sunday, March 13, 2016

It Was Never Supposed to Be Like This

The plan has been since last fall that I was going to dedicate the month of January to working on the magazine exclusively. I knew there was going to be a lot of editing and design work that I couldn’t get done in my “spare” time alone. Also, the public excitement about M&T really forced me to step up my game and make this thing as polished as I reasonably could achieve with the time and resources I had at hand. Giving M&T this concentrated January time worked out well with the exception of one thing: it’s still not over.

As we were packing magazines and dropping off van load after van load at the Post Office last month, things began picking up rather than slowing down. It seems that once readers began getting their copies and showing them off on social media others began to get jealous to see what they were missing out on. The orders spiked and I’ve barely been able to keep up since. For weeks now, I have been full time answering emails, packaging magazines, and shipping orders out. Now, don’t get me wrong here: I’m not complaining but it was never supposed to be like this.

When I began this project I hoped to sell maybe 1,000 copies when all was said and done. That would be decent for a small start-up independent publisher and would be considered a success in my book. But as momentum was gaining the past few months, I decided to bump up the print run to 5,000. Because I want to keep Issue One in stock I thought this would be a safe number to cover me at least for a few years. Turns out I was wrong. Right now, only a few weeks after hitting mailboxes, Issue One is almost completely sold out. I am currently working on a second run of Issue One but it might be a month or so before I see that delivery. If you want a copy but still haven’t ordered, I recommend you get it now before it’s out of stock temporarily.

Waiting to hear back from me?

So if you have been waiting a few days to hear back from me with your order inquiry through email, please be patient. This thing is way bigger than I anticipated and definitely way more than one person can handle. I will get back to each and every one of you as soon as is humanely possible but as of right now Mortise & Tenon Magazine consists primarily of one person. I am in the early stages of training help but it’ll be a few weeks before that transition is smoothed out. For now, I’m trying to keep my head above water solo.

Thank you all for your humbling support and near embarrassing enthusiasm. I feel so fortunate to be able to share the research and work I am passionate about. As I gain more experience overseeing the ins and outs of running a magazine, I am confident things will become much more manageable. And with hired help, I hope to see this operation running as smooth as any independent publisher could expect, even if it is (literally) a kitchen table publication in the meantime.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Pre-Orders Either in Your Hands or in Route

If You Haven’t Gotten a Shipping Notification E-Mail

There have been some folks that have kindly emailed to inquire about their shipping status because they said they never got a shipping confirmation. Although many did receive one, some didn’t. I honestly don’t know why that is. If you’re not sure if you got it, please check your spam folder to see if it was mistakenly filtered out. If it’s not there and you just can’t sleep until you know where your magazine is, the best way to inquire is at Please refrain from inquiring through comments on the blog or Instagram because I’d rather not post your personal tracking info in public. If you shoot me an email I can give you specific details about your order.

If You Did Get a Tracking Confirmation E-Mail

In other technical glitch news, has not so helpfully goofed on the confirmation emails many of you did receive. They’ve mistakenly linked your USPS tracking number to the DHL site. Doh! I’ve called tech support and they told me they were aware of the problem and are investigating it. So that one I can’t do anything about directly but if you do want to know how to see your tracking info, copy and paste the tracking number you have into the tracking number search bar on . If you still are having trouble, feel free to email me.

The Mystery of the Exploding Packages

It seems that one of the postal workers out there has dropkicked a few of my customers’ magazines. I cannot even fathom how one would have to treat a package to incur such damage. The packaging I opted for was a result of personal experience ordering publications along with multiple consultations with my postmaster. I’ve never order a magazine that came in anything beefier than a poly mailer. But apparently they’re out to get us, folks. It seems it’s not uncommon that the brown paper the magazine was wrapped in tears because of the sharp corners. As unfortunate as that is, I can live with that for now as long as the magazine itself is okay. That said, a few people have reached out to me about damage to the magazine itself. Some have let me know about minor issues but kindly refused a new one in the spirit of acceptance of “patina”. (Ha! Sure. I can go with that.) But if you received a copy in a condition you are unsatisfied with do not hesitate to contact me at the aforementioned email address. I don’t want folks disappointed. Now that the first round of shipping has gone out, there will be some tweaking to the packaging to foil the attacks of the heavy hitters on the postal team.

Thank You All

All in all, things are going pretty smooth. It’s a lot more work than I thought to ship these out but there haven’t been any major hitches. Thank you all for your patience with me as I run the shipping department, marketing department, sales department, and customer service for this magazine solo. It’s so rewarding to see your enthusiasm on social media as you receive your copies of Issue One. Thank you for seeing this thing as gloat-worthy. It makes this all worthwhile.

If you haven't ordered yet, you can do so here.