Saturday, May 30, 2015

Assembly Of A Small Medieval Chest

This chest has been on my mind and my conscience since January. It started as a prototype to decipher the best size for the chest shown in the Morgan Bible. With a hundred other distractions and influences coming from all the reading and research I've been doing it quickly took off in a weird direction.

I'd read in Victor Chinnery's "Oak Furniture; A British Tradition" how many boxes were lined with printed paper and lining boxes with paper is already a thing for me, so I printed a large sheet of paper with wood cut blocks I made.

Then I had someone make an offer on it. . . provided I could trick it out to hold their modest collection of reproduction medieval daggers and a small removable till.

He was patient as I pegged away on it and put up with my distractions and delays. Recently I got him to bring his daggers to the shop to be properly fitted into slots.

Thus today, after much fence sitting and deliberation. I decided to assemble the damn thing and get it off my bench. I've got other things to build after all. While doing the assembly I decided to shoot some time lapse video of the process and assembled that into a quick video this afternoon.

Ratione et Passionis

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Coping Saw Appliance

I'm usually pretty loud and obnoxious about my distaste for jigs. Building something just so I can build something else seems like wiping before you poop. They are a necessary evil in power tool woodworking and I get that, but I hate the concept. Especially when they are one time use jigs. The false economy of jigs is one of the reasons I strayed from a New Yankee lifestyle and fell in love with hand tools.

I have the different feeling when it comes to a variety of jig I've come to call "bench appliances" I'm still not a fan of making them, I'm not a huge fan of making my own tools (though often I do). I really want to make furniture. But bench appliances help, less like jigs and more like tools, and making my own is more fiscally prudent than buying one. Plus once they're made to my liking, I can use it over and over until it wears out.

That is worthwhile economy. . . so I added another one to the shelf below the workbench last night.

I had some fancy cutouts to do on a piece. The current project I'm finishing is a box to display and protect a client's collection of reproduction medieval daggers. Imagine a saw till inside a tool chest, only fitted for daggers.

After fitting and roughing the shapes for the dagger hilts and blades I strengthened the thin pine by sandwiching it between two veneers of printed canvas paper. Then I wanted to make some cuts into the top reminiscent of gothic arches and relieve a space underneath for more goodies. The coping saw seemed like the best tool for the decorative cut outs but I didn't want to stress the piece by clamping it in a vise and sawing on the unsupported fingers.

I pondered making the standard Birdsmouth board. a simple board with a "V" notch cut into it, but I wanted it better, lifted off the bench so I could stand and saw without hunching over.

I remembered something. A few minutes of looking and I found it. Don Williams calls it a Tilting Fretsaw Fixture, and I swiped the idea from his blog.

It's simple plywood construction from a few scraps I had laying about.The two parts are held together by a single carriage bolt and wingnut so the table can tilt side to side to make cutting double bevel marquetry by hand simpler. (You can see I was less than careful and drilled the bolt hole off center so when the pieces are flipped into working position they are off center by maybe 3/4" . . . oops. A quick expletive and I decided I could live with it.)

Some 1/2" quality plywood, some glue, and some countersunk drywall screws. Everyone should build one.

There is a 1/2" hole drilled through the sawing platform and a saw kerf from the front edge to the hole. I quickly discovered I had trouble trying to keep the saw within the bounds of the hole while I worked. My solution was to blacken in a couple bands of visual cue to help me behave. Thus the black "T" on the platform.

Not wanting the ink to easily wear onto a piece I applied two coats of shellac to make an easily repairable seal. I suppose any film finish would have worked but the shellac was there and freshly mixed. So you know. . .

I let it dry overnight and fired it up this morning. It works perfectly fine and even gives me an excuse to try some double bevel marquetry of my own one of these days. Watch out Jameel :)

Ratione et Passionis

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Nearly All The Bells And Whistles.

The new workbench I bodged into place last fall needed some of the bells and whistles attached if I was going to make serious use of it this year. After all a bench isn't a bench without the handful of workholding devices that make life easier.

In my book a bench needs three things

1. Dog and Holdfast holes. Drilled where appropriate.

2. A Leg Vise. This is going to be yet forthcoming. I can't make up my mind on which hardware to buy (or how to earn the extra scratch needed)

3. A Plane Stop. As some of you remember I received this Perfect Workbench Punctuation last fall from Tom Latane.

A little while ago I managed to drill my initial holdfast hole locations and set about installing the plane stop.

I started by making a 3"x 3" Square hole in the bench top and milling down a blank of clear white pine to fit snugly. I know what you're thinking, isn't that supposed to be made from hardwood? I guess the answer is yes but there are a lot of "suppose to do" things I just ignore. I think it relates to issues with authority in general.

To go along with the new plane stop I made a few new notched battens or "doe's feet" from some 1/2" plywood scrap. Since these photos I've also glued a third sheet of 150 grit sandpaper to the underside to increase the grippitude.  

Yes it will scratch the workbench top but no worse than errant saw and chisel marks. This is a workbench not a sacred altar to thumb twiddling. The sandpaper improves and already great tool. It's not like I've gone to the blasphemy of hitting the whole top with a toothing plane. (Oh wait, I just ordered a toothing plane from Hyperkitten

In the meantime, still pre-leg vise, I've been using the plane stop and a wooden hand clamp for edge planing. It works well in most cases and I'd almost fore-go my dreams of a Benchcrafted leg vise if not for the sliding deadman I built into the new bench. 

Well that and eventually working with wider stock. 

Everything was working well, until the pine block holding the plane stop dried out a tiny amount, or the bench top changed a little around the stop hole. Not much but enough to affect the movement and make it loose especially when it's set around 1/2" high or lower, which is most of the time. I thought through my solutions, from making a new block to installing some ball catch or spring plate hardware. 

In the end I went a bit low tech and simply glued a couple sheets of heavy sketchbook paper to two faces of the block like it was a sheet of veneer. 

Problem solved as quick as the glue set up and I trimmed the paper I was back in business. There is still a little slop so I'm considering adding another paper thickness or so to refine that, but it works much better now at any rate. 

Ratione et Passionis

Monday, May 18, 2015

Medieval Claw Hammer

There is always debate and controversy over the "form" of a tool as it passes through history. This stained glass window is from the Sainte Chapelle in Paris France. Built by/for King Louis IX to commemorate his heading off to crusade (the 7th Crusade) and to house the very valuable relics from the Passion he'd managed to purchase from Byzantium.

The window was created around 1240 - 1250 AD. It shows Christ carrying the cross through Jerusalem and a man standing by, hammer in hand.

The hammer obviously has a claw, not unlike a modern hammer. Almost looks like an Estwing brand.

I find that interesting. . .

We have to be careful about what we think we know about the past. Those old boys were pretty smart.

Ratione et Passionis

Burdens, Research, and Answers.

I know if you're following me in any variety of social media, it looks like I'm simply hanging out with Don Williams and the Studley Tool Cabinet and Workbench. . .

you'd kinda be right about that.

But I'm also using my downtime from docent duty to focus in the laser on this little medieval book of mine. After all a few weeks ago I gathered some incredible research and I'm ready to start filling in the initial framework.

There is still more research to do along the way, but yesterday evening I had a small but satisfying break through.

The bed shown in the Morgan Bible has been an issue for me since just after identifying the thirteen instances it shows up.  Why is it so problematic?  The bed clothes hide most of the bed in nearly all the instances. The best you get to see is the feet.

It's a little maddening in the fact that it doesn't show anything much for me to work from. But research is magic. Tonight I was reviewing my notes and I found a trail to follow. Under my research on beds I'd written "Famous example from Chartres" Offhand I wasn't sure what Chartres was.

The power of the internet is great and soon I'd found that Chartres Cathedral is a medieval Gothic cathedral built near Paris France around 1194 and completed around 1220. It is nearly complete in it's original state, almost untouched by hardships. And the stained glass windows are exquisite. In a stained glass window panel called the Charlemagne panel. There I finally found a solid answer.

My research has concentrated on other illuminated manuscripts, now I'll have to spend some time with stained glass windows as well. It's a heavy burden. . .

Close in geographic proximity. Falling very close to the span of years in which the bible was made,
The bed without the bedclothes is fairly close to what I was picturing in my head and planned out on paper. Still, I wasn't close enough, I'll start the measured drawings again from scratch once I get back to my drafting table.

A lot of those who've studied the Morgan Bible note how the artistic interpretations inside are different from other manuscripts at the time. The popular speculation is they were actually mural painters, based on recollections of similar murals that had been painted at the time and preserved until the 20th century.

I have a different speculation. Not possessing the advantage of witnessing the murals, I see similar artistic quality and work in the stained glasses of Chartres Cathedral and Sainte Chapelle.. What does a stained glass artisan do when the work is light? or they cannot travel for a while to work on a new cathedral? Settle down for a bit and work for a Scriptorum creating manuscripts.

I wonder if the idea has been entertained.

I will have to leave it for the moment though. For the rest of the day I get to help pack up and wrap up the Studley Tool Cabinet, Workbench, and all the tools for it's return journey to the owner. Yet another burden. . . .

Ratione et Passionis

Friday, May 15, 2015


I went to Handworks 2015 for a great reason. The H.O. Studley Tool Cabinet and Workbench. But today I wasn't scheduled to stand in as a decent docent, so I drove a bit down the road to Handworks itself.

I had only two purchases on my mind. First I was going to look at Lee Valley for a pair of their register calipers that look close to the pair in the Studley Cabinet, but I didn't see any there. The other thing was to pick up four more holdfasts from Tools For Working Wood. Now I will have a pair for each bench, no more stealing from one to another.

Then I wandered down to the darkside. To Patrick Leach and his used tool menagerie. I reminded myself there's not many tools I'm on the lookout for and none of those that I can afford this weekend. (mainly we're talking hollows and rounds) I have a weakness for dividers, and as I wandered Patrick's booth I grabbed a nice bullseye pair and thought long and hard.

Then I found a bin of hammers.

I didn't want both, so I made a decision.

Despite having zero need, the hammer won out.

I have always loved this form, It needs some clean up of a chip in the narrow face and a little hot hide glue for the crack in the handle, but she's a nice intermediate size. Ah what the hell.

As far as my un-affordable moulding plane issue. . . I may have solved that too.

So. . . caught twice I guess.

Ratione et Passionis

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Studleyville USA

I know there is going to be a lot, and I mean a lot of discussion, re-discussion, and examination of the HO Studley Tool Cabinet and Bench coming in the next few weeks at least, if not (justifiably) for the next decade.

Don Williams has done a magnificent thing bringing the Cabinet and Workbench out into the daylight of public consumption for a weekend. He is the only man in the world who could have made it possible. We all owe him a debt of gratitude for finding the access to this masterwork, and then thoroughly documenting the tools, the bench, and the cabinet in a way to answer almost all of the possible questions.

And Narayan Nayar's phtography . . . forget about it. I don't have the words to even start.

As a docent for the exhibit I have been fortunate enough to spend a little more time around the tool cabinet than others will. I can tell you one thing for certain.

It never gets old.
It never feels like, "Oh, I've seen that before."

Sit and study for as long as you want . . . this is alien technology folks.

Studley is showing us what's possible. It's up to us to stand up to the challenge.

Seeing it in person. . .it's a paradigm shift.

A game changer.

Tonight was the open house for the vendors of Handworks 2015. As a docent it wasn't my job to watch the Cabinet or the Workbench. It was to watch the patrons.

I stood near the cabinet vitrine.

I saw the astonishment on people's faces. I heard the expletives and excitement in their voices. I saw their reaction to seeing it in person for the first time.

I could completely relate.

Ratione et Passionis

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Dear Workshop…

I know we haven't been able to spend much time together lately. It weighs heavy on my heart too. You've watched me come and go, drop a variety of stuff off in your space, and leave nearly as quick as I show up, and you've stayed strong. You haven't uttered one bad word.

I know lately I've spent much more time than usual with pickup truck and laptop. And while I enjoy their company, it's not the same as the time I get to spend with you. Unfortunately it will be a few more weeks until I can again settle into a routine with you. 

We will spend some time together this weekend and we'll see what we can accomplish. But until the time where I can fully re-dedicate myself please know I will miss you.  

Tell tool chest and workbench I said "Hi" and help them understand this time apart is for the good of all of us. I know the chisels and tenon saw already understand. 

Let's just remember to cherish the time we have when we have it. 

Your's forever.