Monday, September 9, 2013

The Schwarz-Follansbee Complex

A few months back Chris Schwarz posted a string of blogs (here, here, and here) about "Roman Style" workbenches. I initially passed them off as a novel form of workbench, and figured it would be interesting to see what he did with his ideas of reviving these early workbench vernacular forms (that's right, I bought a thesaurus).

Pompeii Workbench, circa 50AD

Flash forward to last week and Peter Follansbee tells me that he is making some benches out of the oak flitches we had left over from some band sawing we had done for the "Big Fence" Project. I again thought nothing of what Peter had said...that was until I saw what the benches looked like.

A very familiar looking form

Instantly I thought back to the spindly legged workbenches that Chris had written about with slab tops and holes for holdfasts and planing stops. The two forms, deriving from two seemingly opposite origins, shared a shockingly similar appearance, in fact, they were so similar that I almost grabbed a brace and bit, bored a couple of holes in Peters bench, and took it for a test spin.

Needless to say I did not actually go through with this plan, for starters Peter would not be too happy to have me putting holes in his benches, and secondly I need to do some hardcore research into 17th century work holding and whether or not the "Roman" form was still in use by agricultural English planters in New England...say around 1627. Off to the archives!

Research will probably look something like this...

PS. I am pretty sure Chris and Peter are in cahoots. Kind of the ebb and flow of the hand tool world. They pretend as though they butt heads, but really they are masterminding the greatest renaissance since....well the renaissance. St. Roy probably has something to do with this as well.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

I won't tell if you won't tell

So the other week at the museum we cheated a little bit on our material preparation. We have a prolific palisade project (alliteration not intended...but intended) over the summer with a very definite deadline and as a result we have been hewing posts and splitting pale like madmen. Our total goal is 27 hand hewn posts, 33 sawn rails, and about 400 pieces of pale. On top of these staggering numbers we are also one carpenter down (no worries, no one was hurt) so the rest of us are picking up the slack.

This is our running tally of logs hewn and logs split...we are getting there! 
As a result of this massive material manufacturing marathon (see what I did there) we have little time to learn pit sawing and even less time to actually pit saw all of the rails that we will need for the project. Enter the band saw mill! It does pain my heart a little bit to see band sawn rails going into the project after so much sweat has been put into traditional techniques, but sometimes economy outweighs authenticity. Luckily the band saw mill was one of the coolest pieces of machinery that I have ever seen (GASP! That isn't very woodwright sounding).

Nothing miserly about this rig, Bob the owner really knows what he is doing.
This bad boy could take logs over 24" in diameter and spit out slabs of any size. It lifts the logs into place, rotates them into the correct orientation, adjusts the table to compensate for tapering at the bell, and clamps the piece firmly for sawing...hell I am sure it probably makes your lunch if you have the right attachment.

Some finished maybe it is a little easier than pit sawing

We were aiming for 3-1/2" x 5-1/2" for our rails, so we had to start with some pretty massive slabs around 15"x6" (eat your heart out Mr. Schwarz and Monsieur Roubo).
If only we could have stopped here...and opened a workbench building business.
Some of the white oak we were sawing was absolutely gorgeous, and we joked that it was a crime that we were sawing it up just to rot away on a fence that would be keeping away imaginary Narragansett's.
Absolute gorgeous grain.

The best part of the whole day, was that the "waste" from the band sawing were some pretty decent slabs of white oak, some of which were upwards of 4" x 10" in cross section.

The slab laying aside is the "Scrap"

So as any self respecting hand tool enthusiast would do, I grabbed a chainsaw and some Elmer's glue and stickered up this "scrap" to set aside and dry...for the next three hopes that I can build a long as it doesn't check...or warp...or...well you get my point.

All stickered up...I should probably go do something while this dries

Along with the slabs of oak we had a whole bunch of really big 12 foot long flitches from the outsides of the logs...but that is a story for a different time!