Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The Saws Of Chartres Cathedral

I need a wealthy patron. Someone excited enough about my work and research they're interested in funding my modest lifestyle plus a generous budget for my clinically diagnosed BAD (Book Acquisition Disorder.)

After a bit of a break as we upheaved life, home and workshop around again I have again rolled myself back into finalizing the research and writing of my book on the Medieval Furniture of the Morgan Bible and I'm finding maybe the step back was good. I never stopped thinking about it, I just stopped looking at it everyday and that time has given me two gifts. First it's allowed me to re-approach the work I've done with a fresh eye. I'd done a lot of footwork, tracking down books and articles, gathering notes, connecting dots, but now, notes I wrote are offering fresh insights and things I might have missed. 

Second, and more importantly, the time has allowed me to find the book. It took me a while to realize anyone willing to apply ass to chair and fingers to keyboard can write step by step instructions on sticking boards together but that doesn't make a book - that makes IKEA instructions. I've been able to solidify the string of my truth that trusses tight the parts into, well if it's not a story then we'll call it a strong argument. 

That string seems to have become a lit fuse and result will be sparse updates here, unfortunately this is a continuation of the recent trend. 

As a peace offering I'm sharing some photos I found tonight while looking at one of my primary collaborating sources, The Chartres Cathedral and some interesting saws. 



















The sharp teeth of war and revolution has chewed up many touchstones to Europe's past. If not eradicating them completely, then leaving them scarred and much changed, but the Chartres Cathedral is one of the exceptions, surviving mostly intact from it's early to mid 13th century construction. It has many details in the stained glass and stone friezes just waiting for the curious eye to discover. 

There is a fantastic resource documenting nearly every inch of the structure online thanks to the University of Pittsburgh and Dr. Alison Stones. You can visit it HERE. just start punching terms into the search function. Mind-blowing.  


Is that a saw or an Anime Sword??  It appears to be St. Simon (the Zealot) one of the Apostles. He is often depicted with a large saw symbolizing one of the traditions of his martyrdom. I keep wondering about having one of these saws made. If for no other reason than to experience the use.


























Better yet (and more interesting) this scene showing construction of a cathedral and one of the earliest representations of a bow saw I can remember seeing.




























Even the detail in the twisted tension cording is there. Standard saw bench ripping body posture with the head dipped to really make sure you're following that layout line. 

This shit is just fascinating to me. As close as possible to a photograph from the past. Open to interpretation - yes. But then again what isn't? 

Ratione et Passionis
Oldwolf


PS. The Chartres Cathedral has shown me some interesting tools before. Check out a very modern looking claw hammer HERE.  

Friday, December 9, 2016

The Seductive Power Of Hand Tools


There are many reasons I lean heavily into hand tool woodworking. Yes I have and use several stationary power tools, but there a word hand tools free me from and I love them for it.

Production.


With primarily a power tool mentality you fall into the activity of production and arrange your workflow accordingly. I set up the tablesaw for a certain cut and I want to make all the possible cuts using the same set up, the same measurements. To redial in precise measurements can be a big time sink.


Instead with my hand tools I can skip around the process of building with no real consequences. For example I built a small run of four little dovetailed pine boxes


I milled all the parts close using my table saw. This did help ensure all the sides were the same width and length. After milling I touched all the surfaces with a hand plane and started the process of building each box.


As a result of the space I have and the use of hand tools instead of doing things in production way. Say - cutting all my dovetails for all four boxes first THEN moving on to chiseling all four boxes joints to the line THEN grabbing all four boxes and   . . .  you see the cycle.

Instead I was able to take a single box from dovetail cuts to glued up carcass and start over again without creating any delay or errors by changing up my machinery.


Why jump around the process like this? For me that's a couple easy answers.

1. It keeps me fresh. I don't get burned out cutting dovetail after dovetail. When I do this I can see the quality in my work degrade over time but changing out operations allows me to tackle it with fresh eyes after a bit of a break and I believe my work is better because of that.

2. It keeps me involved. It's like the difference between hanging drywall and taping/mudding drywall. When you're hanging drywall your progress is evident, a half hour ago there was bare studs now there is something that looks like a wall - satisfying, with taping and mudding you are making small incremental differences that aren't as satisfying to the whole picture. Important but not as visually impacting. This trade off works the same. Throughout the day I can see nearly finished box carcasses pile up on the moving pad. I know I'm making progress and I can consider whether the most recently finished box is better or worse than the previous and try to perfect the steps on the one to come.

3. I don't lose time changing operations because I am the limiting factor. Because I'm the machine driving the tools I can just mark a line and saw a line and I don't have to worry about losing a set up or a measurement, Changing or resetting up a jig or configuration. If I had a small space with only a six foot bench this would be different, but as it is I can saw my dovetails in a moxon vice, grab the boards and move to a chiseling station to clean up to the lines, then move to a leg vice to cut the corresponding joint side before moving back to the chisel station, checking the fit, then moving to another area by the glue pot to stick things together.

I would never trade in my hand tools because of the freedom they assist me in achieving in the shop. it is so emancipating to mark a line and be able to saw or plane to it confidently.

Ratione et Passionis
Oldwolf