When you look at old engravings, there are going to be details that confuse. Perhaps they were drawn incorrectly. Or you just don’t have enough information to interpret the marks on the page.
Several years ago, I wrote about the French benches in the La Forge Royale catalog, which illustrates several benches with wagon vises. The images of the benches show an odd thing hanging down below the benchtops. It’s clearly a stick, but its purpose isn’t discussed in the text of the catalog.
After several years of speculation, we now know what this dangling stick is. It is the handle for the wooden screw that attaches the top and base together. Thanks to a photo from Jameel Abraham, we have this clear cut-answer.
Of course, this answer raises some questions. Does this method of attaching the top and base adequately resist the horizontal forces from the leg vise? If you built a bench like this and attached the top and base with lag screws alone, you’d be sorry. I am sorry.
Perhaps the top and base of this French bench are attached with both the wooden screw and some dowel pins. I guess I’ll never know until I get to take apart one of these benches myself.
Philippe Lafargue, my Roubo translation collaborator and long-time friend, has been insulted.
Deeply. By M. Roubo himself.
Roubo’s chapters on chairmaking are technically sublime, with many profound insights and word pictures I find captivating. However, he is incessant in his demeaning descriptions of chairmakers, accusing them of being sloppy, careless, unskilled and slothful. Somewhere between the lines he is probably implying that they are hung over, their feet stink and they don’t love Jesus. Though he does not comment on their table manners, we can guess what he might say.
As a graduate of the renowned École Boulle curriculum in classical French chairmaking, Philippe unsurprisingly takes umbrage at these characterizations. He has gone so far as to wonder out loud (well, in print correspondence) why it is that Roubo was so contemptuous of chairmakers.
If we knew where Roubo is buried, it might be worth trying to dig him up and asking him. When you read Roubo’s accounts of chairmaking, you will no doubt ask yourselves the same question.
The American Agriculturist says, perhaps there is no farm implement which is so useful and so little esteemed as the grindstone. If it was kept under shelter and otherwise properly taken care off, one of these instruments should last almost a man’s life-time instead of wearing out in a few years.
No grindstone should be exposed to the weather, as it not only injures the wood work, but the sun’s rays harden the stone so much as in time to render it useless; neither should it be run in water, as the part remaining in the water softens so much that it wears away faster than the other side, and many a “soft place” in a stone has arisen from this cause alone, and not from any in equality in the grit.
The proper way is to allow the water to drop on the stone as it is needed, either from a cast-iron water cup, or (what answers very well) an old white lead keg, supported above the stone, with a spile near the bottom, which can be driven in when needed, and if kept filled with water will last a long time.
Finally, the stone should not be allowed to “get out of the round,” as no tool can be properly ground unless the stone runs true; if it should become uneven, get some one to turn it, and with a nail rod raze it down until it becomes perfectly round.
Greasy or rusty tools should be well cleaned before grinding or they will choke up the grit. If this should occur, a little sharp sand and water on a board kept against the stone while turning, will clean it off and sharpen up the grit.
These words, inscribed on the door of a farmer’s tool house, recently caught our eye, and furnished a ready theme for meditation. Borrowing is an ancient and evil custom, the fruitful source of many troubles. In the ruder stages of civilization there might have been greater necessity for borrowing than now; but as the world progresses there can be less and less need of it.
The tendency of cultivated humanity is to independent action—the tendency of barbarism is to a servile obligation. The more educated a community, the less they borrow, and consequently the more the borrowing element predominates, the greater their degradation. (more…)