The Long and Short of the Year So Far

I looked at my queue of posts to write today and realized that I’ve been slacking since March. That is about the long and short of the year so far. With the pandemic shutting things down in March, followed by what has to be one of the hottest summers I can recall, I haven’t had a chance to do much woodworking this year.

But Mousie, thou art no thy-lane,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men
Gang aft agley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
For promis’d joy!

To a Mouse – Robert Burns

To say that this is a disappointment is an understatement. I had arranged to teach a class on kalimba making this summer. Unfortunately, that was cancelled due to the pandemic. The plan for the year was also to do at least one show. It appears most craft shows have been cancelled or are severely cut down. Add to that some of the other goings on since March and there is just no way I’ll have enough stock to do a show this year. That, of course, is no excuse for not getting what items I do have in stock photographed and up on the website for sale.

While I was able to travel to The Woodwright’s School in June for classes with Roy Underhill and Cara O’Connell, the whole experience was a bit surreal. Roy and Cara did a great job given the circumstances. Ed Lebetkin’s tool store, located above the school, was open to those of us in classes. This place is like a candy store for woodworking tools. I ended up leaving with a new rip panel saw, a 6 inch Starrett combination square, and a small incannel gouge. On the way down to Pittsboro, I stopped in Thurmond, WV, a ghost town in the bottom of the New River Gorge. The thing is, most of the places I drove through felt a bit like Thurmond – eery and abandoned. I stayed at the Celebrity Dairy, bed & breakfast and working goat farm, located between Siler City and Pittsboro. Fleming and Brit were wonderful hosts.

As if the heat this summer weren’t enough to keep me out of the workshop, we also embarked on Operation Kitten Fixin’ in May/June. The feral colony in our back yard produced four kittens this year. The process of trapping them, getting them fixed, and in the case of three of the kittens, socializing them, took a lot of time (and I wasn’t even the person who was doing most of the work!). I’m happy to report that three of the four kittens are now in their forever homes. One of them was captured a bit too late for socialization. The adult cats (minus one who has an appointment coming up) in the colony have also been trapped and fixed. With luck, no more kittens for at least a few years.

I have been able to build a few small projects on the lathe, including some coasters, a ring box, and a small vase. I haven’t taken photos of the coasters as I never applied finish to them. They are doing duty right now, but they really should have received a coat some sort of finish. I have some ideas for doing sets of these, including adding colored resin, but that’ll wait for another day.

The ring box was made during a period of shop cleaning and organizing. I’d started on the box at some point at least a year ago and never completed it. I’m still in the process of figuring out the best way to handle the interior foam/ring holding.

The vase was a bit of an experiment. I had a free day where the temperature in the shop wasn’t atrocious. I also had a scrap offcut of some ash that I had glued up (I can’t recall the original piece). It was a nice enough first go at the form. I painted the base with an oil paint mixed with boiled linseed oil. Danish oil was used for the top finish. The phrase “watching paint dry” clearly refers to oil, not modern latex, paint. Either way, it turned out well and is currently living on our front porch.

After my return from Pittsboro, and having taken a class on Slyod and green woodworking, I was inspired to build a shaving horse. This based on plans I found from Peter Follansbee, though I used only three legs instead of four.

Completed Shaving Horse made from Southern Yellow Pine

In addition, I designed and build a seiza bench. The bench is about 7 inches off the ground and angled forward slightly. The bench is made from beech with sapele wedges, finished with black wax and danish oil. The seat is an oblong octagon, with an underbevel to reduce its visual weight. The legs are set into shallow mortises that house the full width of the leg. Each leg is further secured with double-wedged double tenons. The shaping of the seat, as well as adjustments to the angle of the legs was a fun exercise. I have some beech left over and may make a small table to match.

Seiza Bench in Beech

So that’s about the long and short of Wave I of the 2020 pandemic. With luck, the fall and winter will be much more productive and much less devastating for the world.

Monastery Roubo

I recently watched Into Great Silence, a documentary about the lives of Carthusian monks at the Grande Chartreuse monastery in France.  Each monk lives as a hermit in their own cell within the monastery.  Each cell includes their living area as well as a small work room.

This workbench appeared for only a few seconds in the film.  Unfortunately, the quality of the video I was watching was not great and this was the best that I could do for a screen capture.  The bench top appears to be only about two inches thick.  The leg vice is missing but you can clearly see both the tap for the screw and the lower mortise for the guide.  There is a hanging drawer to the right on runners.  In addition, there appears to be a wooden planing stop hanging down from the left side. I wasn’t able to identify the machinery sitting on top of the bench, but it appears wholly unrelated to woodworking.

I’ve searched a bit online and haven’t been able to find much in the way of additional photographs inside the workroom of a cell.  A few photographs appeared to depict staged spaces in old monasteries that are open to the public as museums.  However no one appeared to be interested in the workroom as photographs showed just the living quarters.

The drawing here appears to depict not only a workbench in the workroom on the first floor, but also a treadle lathe. These lathes appear to be standard issue for the monks.

In this photograph from the Order’s website (apparently even hermit monks have a website), you can see a lathe in the background.

A Visit to Old Economy Village

I have been meaning to pay a visit to Old Economy Village for a while.  This was the third home of the Harmony Society.  The Harmonists were a religious society, founded by George Rapp, that separated from the Lutheran Church in the late 1700s.  Eventually, Rapp emigrated to the United States and was jointed by 800 of his followers.  They established three communities, first in Harmony, Pennsylvania, then in New Harmony, Indiana, and finally in Old Economy, Pennsylvania.

By 1825 they had constructed textile factories powered and heated by steam engines. They built shops for blacksmiths, tanners, hatters, wagon makers, cabinetmakers and turners, linen weavers, potters, and tin smiths, as well as developing a centralized steam laundry and a centralized dairy for the community

– History of Old Economy Village

They have a wonderful museum in their visitors center with a number of artifacts from the village.  After touring the visitors center museum, I headed over to the village itself.  There were a number of period re-enactors and demonstrators on hand.  While touring the granary and watching a rope-making demonstration, my eyes wandered and noticed this frame and panel tool chest.  I was informed by the staff that the tool chest was not from the period the society was in existence.

Sitting behind a number of chairs for visitors was an old Moravian-style workbench. This guy had square dog holes (as all workbenches I observed had), as well as a leg vice that was sloped with the leg. The legs on the tail-vise end of the bench were not splayed out.

The cabinet shop had a number of tools laid out to see.  I didn’t get a photo of it, sadly.  I guess that means I’ll need to take another trip up.  Of note was a large treadle lathe that appeared to require standing on a platform.  In addition, the demonstrator in the shop had one of the thinnest holdfasts I have ever seen.  It was made by one of the blacksmiths at the village.  Two things stuck out about it.  First, the work bench did not have any holdfast holes.  Instead, he had a wooden insert that he could drop into one of the square dog holes.  Second, in spite of its rather thin shaft, it held down a workpiece fairly well.

Thin holdfast

There was a small chest in the visitor center museum that I found interesting.  The base is a scallop.  Furthermore, it appears that the front is joined to the sides with a few half-lap joints.  The back looks to be nailed or screwed on.


Giant dividers

And of course, the museum had the largest set of dividers I have ever seen.  Each leg was at least three feet long.  A notation indicated that they were used for “drawing circles and arcs for the construction of buildings, wagon wheels, and other round structures.”

I only had a chance to tour through a handful of buildings in the village.  Another trip will need to happen in the near future.