Dividers & Curves in the Store on Thursday

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We will have both Improved Pattern Dividers and Design Curves for sale in Crucible’s online store at noon Eastern time on Thursday, May 25.

Why are we waiting until Thursday? I’m still traveling after Handworks in Amana, Iowa. I decided to take a couple days off to see friends and clear my head after the last few months of grinding work to prepare for this fantastic show.

All of the tools are in the back of the trailer, which is parked on the prairie somewhere.

On Tuesday, I will drop these tools off at our warehouse in Indianapolis in the late afternoon. The warehouse employees will make a final count and return them to stock on Wednesday. So Thursday is the earliest we can make them available to you.

Thanks for your patience, and I hope everybody who wants one of these tools will be able to purchase them on Thursday.

— Christopher Schwarz

Posted in Crucible Tool, Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Sprawled Below Tables and Chairs

Lignarius noseyparkerus exhibiting a behaviour often seen in the wild. They frequently travel in small packs and have the ability to flop like flounders as soon as a docent has turned her back.

“While publications of the 1930s and 40s explored the origins of design, principles of construction and the materials employed, it was not until the 1970s that the joinery of such furniture was discussed in print. In a developing field where scholars and art historians were puzzling over dating, types, functions and materials this neglect is understandable. In addition, there lurks the suspicion that learned investigators, accustomed to intellectual pursuits, found the exploration of furniture making unbefitting to their station. Undoubtedly, ladies and gentleman at work on paintings or jades cut a more poetic and elegant picture than those sprawled below tables or chairs.”

Grace Wu Bruce, a noted expert and dealer specializing in Ming and Qing Dynasty furniture was commenting specifically on the dearth of information on the joinery of Chinese furniture.

I think there are parallels in the study of Western furniture styles and the availabilty of information on joinery. Scholarship and publications on furniture styles often focused on classifying when a piece was made, where it was made, what woods were used and who was the maker. How the furniture was made, if investigated, was not always published.

In the last forty years or so finding out “the how” has become easier as woodworkers took on the task of researching and replicating historical furniture styles. In their research they opened up a world of variations in methods and tools. Publications that were previously limited to one language or one continent were made available to all readers and makers. Pushing these efforts along was the expansion of online resources and the use of blogs to document research and experiments in making furniture.

However, not everyone is conducting research for an article or a book. We still need those curious and intrepid souls who enjoy exploring out-of-the-way shops and regional museums and know how to charm their way into taking a closer look at that one piece that has caught their eye. If need be, they are perfectly willing to sprawl on the floor and get a bit dusty.

Suzanne Ellison

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The Domestic Portrait of Studley

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The façade of the Stetson Shoe Company facility shows a robust, respectable enterprise and suggests a considerable level of financial prosperity of the company’s owner.


This is an excerpt from “Virtuoso: The Top Cabinet and Workbench of Henry O. Studley” by Donald C. Williams, photographs by Narayan Nayar. 

Studley married Abbie Stetson of Washington Street in Quincy on Feb. 10, 1870. The details of their meeting and courtship are not known. He was 31 and she 25 at the time of their wedding, and their marriage lasted almost 50 years until her death in 1919.

The picture of prosperity for Studley’s family is unclear, but the same cannot be said of the Stetsons. Abbie’s father, David B. Stetson, was a prosperous merchant, with his fortune founded on a successful eponymous shoe factory in nearby Weymouth and at least one retail store in Quincy. He began as a very young man with a door-to-door shoe cart and eventually expanded every aspect of his enterprise to produce a stylish and sought-after line of footwear.

When David Stetson died 1894, his obituary asserts that “he had amassed a comfortable fortune.”*

The Stetson household was strongly anti-slavery; David Stetson was an original member of the Republican Party and devout in his regular attendance to the local Congregational church.

Apparently he instilled his four children with a sense of business and financial acumen that they practiced throughout their lives. At the time of his death, it was younger daughter, Ella, who managed the family business, considered to be one of the foremost shoe and boot purveyors in the Boston area. Brother Warren Stetson managed the shoe and boot manufactory, while brother Arthur Stetson was owner of a successful printing company specializing in artistic press-work. Abbie was by then married to Henry Studley, and was clearly an active partner in the couple’s growing real estate empire.

In short, both the Studley and Stetson families were diligent, hardworking, talented and successful clans. As their marriage began in 1870, Abbie was already accustomed to financial success through observing and working with her father.

We might think that the person who created this magnificent tool ensemble and the accompanying workbench was someone consumed by developing and honing this particular skill set to the exclusion of everything else and thus had no other outside interests. That Studley was committed to the practice of craftsmanship at the very highest level is beyond question, however, the intensity of his financial interests and activities outside the workshop were also fundamental parts of his life. The public record of the Studleys’ real estate transactions in particular is truly impressive. The fact that Henry was on the board of directors of a local bank for three decades certainly adds complexity to the tale and sparks a great deal of speculative reflection on the role of the tool cabinet in his life.

While we may be reduced to informed speculation about Henry Studley’s training, skills and woodworking accomplishments, we are not uninformed about what he and his wife were up to in their private finances, thanks to the tireless research of retired history professor John Cashman, who contributed greatly to the scope of this account. The Norfolk County Registry of Deeds records Abbie being a signatory to at least 342 real estate transactions during a roughly 25-year period. During the same period, Henry’s name appears as a signatory on at least another 80 transactions.

At first I wondered about this disparity in the public records, but when Cashman found the obituary noting Studley’s three decades of membership on the Quincy Cooperative Bank’s board of directors, an obvious conclusion to me was that his fiduciary responsibilities and regulatory restrictions curtailed his direct real estate investments as a matter of law. Further, as Cashman pointed out, Abbie’s aggressive real estate activities commenced soon after her father’s death, and perhaps with the infusion of liquid assets from his estate. In the model of a very modern power couple, Henry filled the “sitting on the board of the bank” role while Abbie did the buying and private lending.

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This single page from the Registry of Deeds confirms the breadth of Abbie Studley’s activities as a mortgage broker in the Quincy community. There are several such pages in the registry for both Abbie and Henry.

Abbie’s will and probate records from 1919 paint a fascinating picture of her not as the wife of a prominent and superbly skilled craftsman, but rather almost as a partner in a real estate conglomerate. Even though her probate records state that she owned no real estate outright at the time of her death, the listing of assets being probated is noteworthy. Among them are almost 80 mortgages she held in her own name with a stated worth of $55,504.74. Not a huge fortune, but neither was it a paltry portfolio. Depending on which calculation model is used, Abbie’s estate would be worth between $750,000 to several million dollars in today’s economy (2014).

She and Henry had no children.

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The Stetson and Studley lodgings are long gone, and though I regret their destruction I can simultaneously appreciate the beauty and utility of Quincy’s Thomas Crane Public Library. This photo shows roughly the area of Henry and Abbie Studley’s residence, now home to the “new wing” of the library.

Sadly, the home where Studley lived his last 50 years is long gone, replaced by the new wing of the stone H.H. Richardson-designed Thomas Crane Public Library, but I have stood on the sidewalk where he walked for that half-century.

Meghan Bates

 

Posted in Virtuoso: The Tool Cabinet and Workbench of Henry O. Studley | 3 Comments

A Walk in the Woods in April

April March showers bring May April flowers.

–traditional proverb

Despite sharing a border with Canada, Ohio has a relatively mild climate, and spring usually arrives early. By April, all of the trees are at least beginning to leaf out. One of the earliest here is the yellow buckeye (Aesculus flava). Its digitate leaves unfurl at a time when most of the other trees are still in bud:

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The flowers appear later in the month, in erect clusters:

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Yellow buckeye occurs only in the southern portion of the state, mostly along the Ohio River. Brutus Buckeye, on the other hand, is the nut of an Ohio buckeye (Aesculus glabra). The leaves are very similar, and the flowers have the same general structure but different proportions:

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The bark of yellow buckeye is fairly smooth, with a sort of gravelly texture:

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Both buckeyes are generally found close to water.

A well-known flowering tree that blooms in April is flowering dogwood (Cornus florida). Most people recognize the four large white bracts that surround each cluster of flowers, but few notice the tiny yellow-green flowers themselves:

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An unusual subtropical species that occurs as an understory tree in southern Ohio is the pawpaw (Asimina triloba). Its flowers are maroon/brown, hang straight down, and have a scent reminiscent of rotting flesh:

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Given their aroma, it’s not surprising that pawpaws are pollinated by flies.

The pawpaw is the host plant for the zebra swallowtail (Protographium marcellus):

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And, for no other reason than that I had my camera in hand when I saw them together, here are three different swallowtails; the top one is an eastern tiger swallowtail (Papilio glaucus), and the middle one is a spicebush swallowtail (Papilio troilus):

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A tree that any woodworker can appreciate is black cherry (Prunus serotina). Its flowers are distinctive:

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Another sign of black cherry is the presence of eastern tent caterpillar (Malacosoma americanum) nests:

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Black cherry appears to be their favorite food, although they are occasionally found on apples as well.

Rounding out the commonly occurring conifers in this neck of the woods is eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis), easily recognized by its short needles and small cones:

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Eastern hemlock occurs in the eastern half of Ohio; the trees are found almost exclusively on north-facing slopes and in deep, cool ravines.

Since the leaves have finally arrived, let’s look at them in more detail. First up are the maples. Red maple (Acer rubrum) leaves have irregularly toothed edges, and red petioles (leaf stems):

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Silver maple (Acer saccharinum) is likewise heavily toothed, and the petioles are usually green, but may be red as well:

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The keys to distinguishing the two species are:

  • The sinuses (spaces between the lobes) in red maple are V-shaped, while those of silver maple are U-shaped.
  • The center lobe of the silver maple leaf is longer than half the overall length of the leaf, while that of the red maple is about half the length or less.

The leaves of sugar maple (Acer saccharum) have smooth edges:

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This is, of course, the “classic” maple leaf, as depicted on the Canadian flag. Most of the sugar maples around here have leaves where the three main lobes are fairly broad, and the two outermost lobes are reduced to near nothing. In these respects, they approach the proportions of the leaves of black maple (Acer nigrum). The variation in both of these two species has led some botanists to consider the two to be extremes of a single species. I was not able to find a good example of a black maple leaf, but this variant of a sugar maple leaf is closer to what a black maple’s leaves look like:

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Surprisingly, these two sugar maple leaves came from different branches of a single tree.

Our last maple, boxelder (Acer negundo) doesn’t look like a maple at all, and in fact its leaves are disturbingly similar to those of poison ivy:

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Both red and silver maples set seed early:

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Red maple (on the left) has the smallest samaras, while silver maple has the largest. Both sugar/black maple and boxelder are in between in size, and don’t ripen until mid-May.

Another species that leafs out early is tuliptree (Liriodendron tulipifera). The shape of its leaves is unique:

tuliptreeLeaf

Tuliptree also has interesting flowers, but since they’re all at the tops of the trees, I wasn’t able to get any decent photos.

I mentioned last month that April was the month for wildflowers; here are a few, starting with white trillium (Trillium grandiflorum):

largeFloweredTrillium

Trilliums were especially abundant this year.

Dutchman’s breeches (Dicentra cucullaria) bloom for only a short time in the middle of April, and by the end of the month, all traces of the plant (including the leaves) are gone:

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(But why are the Dutchmen always hanging upside down?)

Hepatica (Hepatica nobilis) normally has white flowers, but they’re occasionally blue:

hepatica

We spent a weekend at the end of April in Adams and Scioto counties, in south-central Ohio. There are a number of wildflowers there that are difficult to find elsewhere in the state, such as these yellow lady’s slippers (Cypripedium parviflorum):

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I took photos of many other species, but rather than post them all here, I’ve put together an album that you can see online: https://www.flickr.com/photos/66983845@N03/sets/72157681988733910

In lieu of a sedge this month, we have this rather unassuming plant:

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It has miniscule flowers, and its foliage isn’t much to look at, but the ability to recognize stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) is a useful skill when you’re walking in the woods.

–Steve Schafer

 

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Photo Gallery – Handworks 2015

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A 3 Part photo gallery from Handworks 2015 is available here. This is the consolation prize for those who will not be attending Handworks this week.

—Jeff Burks

Posted in Personal Favorites | 6 Comments

More Translated Text from Hulot on the Roman Workbench

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Woodworker, designer, great cook and all-around nice guy Tom Bonamici volunteered to help translate more sections of M. Hulot’s “L’Art du Tourneur Mécanicien” (1775) that deal with the low workbench.

I have devoted lots of brainpower to this bench lately, and I have many ideas and theories I will test when I build the chairmaking and mortising jigs Hulot describes for my own low Roman workbench.

For the time being, I’m going to hold my tongue and just let you enjoy some of the interesting details unearthed by Tom’s translation.

Tom provided two versions. One is a straight translation that embraces Hulot’s flowery cadence. The second is a condensed version that gets right to the point.

— Christopher Schwarz

Description of a Saddle which serves for planing, mortising, and assembling the work.

The Figure 4, Plate 13, represents a type of bench which is named a Saddle for planing and assembling; it’s a piece of oak of 5 feet in length by 12 to 14 inches in width, and very thick, carried on four strong legs below, R, Y, X, Z, which enter through as many round holes drilled in the bottom of the Saddle, A B. The Worker has his face turned towards the head, H B, which is a big piece of softwood, such as alder, and of which the bottom forms a flat tenon which passes through a mortise in the Saddle; the upper part [of the alder head] forms a type of stepped stop, of which the steps are notched in different ways, some perpendicular and shallow, for receiving the end of flat pieces to be planed on their edge [see vertical notch just to the left of the letter B, Fig. 4, Pl. 13]; the flat steps receive pieces to be planed on their face. Other steps are notched horizontally and vertically in the form of a little spoon, for receiving the end of a baton. There are more little vertical notches next to this hollow, which can be seen in the figure [Fig. 4]. Independently of the tenon which fixes the head H, it [the head] is supported by the cross beam K, also named the transom, head, or buttress of the head, & which is supported at the end & across the Saddle, by two strong pegs of strong and binding wood, such as ash or dogwood, which pass perpendicularly across the cross beam and the Saddle.

            If the wood to be planed is big & long, one doesn’t sit on the Saddle, but one stands upright, & one places the end of the wood in the corner H K formed by the cross beam and the side of the head of the Saddle.

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Description of the work planing Belly.

The Worker is obliged, in planing a piece of wood, to support its end against his stomach; & so as not to hurt himself, he has in front of him a mass or block of wood that’s named the Belly.

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            This Belly is a type of wooden palette of oak, a foot long, 6 inches wide, & about 1/3 of an inch thick, Pl. 13, fig. 10. The top part is cut in a roughly oval shape, F I, f G; the bottom part, F I, f k, is made in a roughly semicircular shape; & as the Turner places this Belly in front of himself, the cord of his apron passes from F to f, and by this method the Belly is held fast. In the middle of the oval, one places a block L, of softwood, round, 3 to 4 inches in diameter, by around 2 to 3 inches in thickness, made of end grain, and in the center of which has been inserted a pin l of hardwood, & which is held by a friction fit in a hole in the center of the Belly’s oval; one cuts the end of this pin flush off at the back so that it doesn’t hurt the Artist. On the face of this block, one makes a very shallow groove in the shape of a cross, which serves to hold the flat pieces to be planed, either on their face or on their edge. See Pl. 31, vignette, fig. 3, where the Turner is occupied in planing. Below figure 10, Pl. 13, we see the block shown in perspective; l, is the tenon or pin which enters in the hole in the middle of this block. The holes I, I, which are at the bottom, in the semicircle of these Bellies, serve to hang them on the wall when not in use.

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Another use of the Saddle, which is also called the Assembly Saddle, is to firmly hold the workpiece by the means of three dogs I, D, D, fig 4, Pl 13, making three sorts of poppets of well-binding wood, such as ash, which enter by tenons and mortises into the Saddle. The tenon needs to be flush to the interior face of the poppet, which are named dogs [entaille means notch, literally, but that doesn’t feel quite right in this situation. I’m using ‘dogs’], & that their arris is on the opposite side, and on the exterior of the heads of these same dogs, so that they don’t reverse themselves under the forces of working; it’s between these three dogs that one holds the work that one wishes to mortise, regardless of whether the workpieces are round or square. I suppose that one has to mortise the two back legs of a chair E E F, which are turned, we have the custom of cambering them, so that the back of the chair has recurve, & is consequently more comfortable, which we will discuss later. These two legs are therefore placed between the three blocks D, D, I, one fixes them in this state by the means of a block of wood, square & straight L, & also by a wedge of wood C, which one drives with force with an iron mallet AB, fig. 3; this block L needs to be more or less thick, depending on whether the workpiece is more or less big, & one always places the wedge C, on the side where there’s only one block I, which must by consequence be larger than the others, so that these three points of pressure always maintains parallelism between the pieces which one wishes to mortise. On the head of the block D, which is to the right, one makes a hole flared in the shape of a salt cellar, which one fills with tallow, & in which one plunges the bit of the brace from time to time, which tends to heat up in drilling, which refreshes it [the bit], & eases the friction.

            Ordinarily, one makes this Saddle 16 to 17 inches in height, so that the body of the Artist curves, and presses the brace against his stomach to make it work more quickly, finding thusly more force.

Plain Language Interpretation

Description of a Saddle which serves for planing, mortising, and assembling the work.

            The Figure 4, Plate 13, shows a type of bench which is named a Saddle for planing and assembling. It’s a piece of oak of 5 feet long, 12 to 14 inches wide, and very thick. The slab sits on four strong legs held in four drilled mortises. The worker faces the head of the saddle, HB, which is a stepped piece of softwood such as alder that’s tenoned into the slab. The head has various steps and notches, which can be used to hold flat workpieces on their faces and edges. There’s also a hollow indent, used for holding the ends of round, baton-like pieces.

            The headpiece is also supported by a full-width cross bar that’s firmly pegged across the end of the bench, using two ash or dogwood pegs. Larger work may be worked on standing up, with the end of the work positioned in the corner formed by the cross bar and the stepped headpiece.

Description of the work planing Belly.

            When planing or shaving wood, the free end of the work must be supported by the Worker’s stomach. So that the Worker doesn’t get poked, it’s best to use a Belly.

            This Belly is made of oak, one foot tall, 6 inches wide, and about a third of an inch thick – see Plate 13, figure 10. The top part is oval, and the bottom part is semicircular, forming a notch between the two forms. The worker ties the Belly on at this notch with his apron strings. A replaceable softwood block is pegged on to the center of the Belly with a friction fit, and the peg is flush-cut on the back of the Belly to ensure the worker’s comfort. This block has a shallow cross-shaped groove on its face, allowing wood to be held horizontally or vertically. The Belly’s use is shown in Plate 31, figure 3, and a detail of the block is shown in Plate 13, below figure 10. A hanging hole, I, is the final touch.

            Another use of the Saddle bench is to hold work firmly with three wooden dogs, seen at I, D, D, fig. 4, Pl. 13. The dogs are made out of a sturdy wood, like ash, and are tenoned into the bench with an off-center tenon. The face of the tenon which is flush to the face of the dog is on the side that’s towards the work, providing an arris that helps support the dog during use. The workpiece is fixed between the three dogs using a wedge and a block, L C, which are sized proportionally to the workpiece and driven home with an iron mallet. The wedge is always placed on the side with just one dog, making sure that pressure is applied evenly to the workpiece. On the head of one of the dogs, there’s a hole filled with tallow that’s used to lubricate the bit of the brace when drilling.

            The Saddle is usually 16 to 17 inches high, which allows the Worker to bend over and apply maximum pressure to the brace with his stomach.

Posted in Roman Workbenches, Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Moravian Workbench @ The Woodwright’s School

We’ve had two late cancellations for the June 16-20, 2017, class on building a Moravian workbench at Roy Underhill’s school in Pittsboro, N.C.. If you are free that week and interested in building one heck of a workbench, you can sign up here.

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— Will Myers

Posted in Uncategorized, Workbenches | 2 Comments