Wednesday, January 21, 2015

irish stone hut

In 2007, I traveled to Ireland.  This is one of the houses I photographed there.  I have more pictures here.

Thursday, January 08, 2015

invest in yourself

Anne Truitt is a fine artist who wrote the memoir "Daybook".  One piece of advice that stayed with me from the book was invest in yourself.

Another writer mentions this in an article on her website.  I've taken the advice to heart, spending money for courses and lodging during this winter break.  This also applies to spending money on quality tools, and to investing time in myself.

Speaking of time, if I just spend 30 minutes in my workshop tonight, I may complete a dovetail joint that would allow me to re-assemble my table.  The pegs will have to wait until next week.  Not sure how long it will take me to figure out the table top, and most challenging, installing the vise.  But bit by bit I'm moving forward.

Below is my workspace with one of the legs.  One mortise done and one drilled in preparation for chiseling.

And the next photo is the tenons, stacked and ready to assemble.  I found that very little adjustments were needed when I put it all together.  It was very exciting to assemble the table and see all the pieces FINALLY come together!

I'm still procrastinating putting the pegs in--nervous about draw boring, because if I screw it up I feel like there is no turning back.  Perhaps in my course this weekend I can ask for some advice.

Sunday, January 04, 2015

new year

It's healthy to take time off during the dark months of the year.  Time to reflect, and recover.  I've dug into my journals and been reading back into my mindset from ten and more years back!  Wow.  I am getting reacquainted with myself.

Yesterday I drove to Philadelphia to take a sharpening class at the Philadelphia Furniture Workshop.  I learned how to sharpen my chisels, plane irons, and my new cabinet scraper (a tool I'd never heard of until this fall).

I don't have a grinding wheel at home so it was good to get familiar with one.  I learned that the grinding stone can get clogged with metal debris and needs to be "dressed" with another tool that freshens the surface of the stone.

I learned how to hollow grind, even though my timber framing friends say not to do it (they grind their chisels flat).  But then again, they're often working on oak and really hard antique timbers.   If I'm working on green wood, and especially softer woods like pine and poplar, like I have been, I may be ok with hollow grinding my chisels.

I watched how carving tools are sharpened, and decided that carving a spoon would be fun!

Two of my chisels are very low quality (they were hand me downs).  Of course my timber framing chisel is the best I could find.  It and all my planes are now sharp.  Between other obligations, I'll spend time this week working on my table.

Then I can get to making the toy box/bench that friends want me to make for their daughter.

Happy New Year, friends!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

sturdy little bench

This little bench is very close to my heart.  It's made from old douglas fir (a board I picked up somewhere) as well as two cross pieces of new pine.

You can see the holes from the board's previous life as a shelf, and who knows what before that.  The wood is scratched and worn, which is part of its charm for me.

There is a photo of me that I don't have right now, on my first birthday, sitting on a little stool not too different from this one.  That little stool was part of my childhood.  I can picture it vividly still, although it was left behind in Bolivia when we moved over twenty years ago.

Two of my coworkers are originally from Africa.  When I showed them this picture, they said:  we sit on benches like that all the time back home.  And perhaps that is the appeal for me--simple benches like these are what Bolivian market vendors sit on while they spread their produce on blankets on the ground.

I want my furniture to be primitive, made from solid wood only.  It should be sturdy, an heirloom piece that stays in the family for a lifetime or longer, so that it holds an emotional weight.  It's a repository of memories.

The furniture should be unfinished, or at most rubbed with oil or beeswax.  It should not be stained or varnished or painted.  The edges should be rounded, sanded soft, so that your hand feels the wood's smooth texture.  Then as spills, scratches, or stains accumulate, you embrace the history that will be recorded on the surface.

This little bench will be part of my life for years to come.   I would like to make many more benches like it for people like you.

Friday, December 12, 2014


I got these boots.  They may be my seven league boots.  Here I come!

These are steel toed, full grain leather, and made in the U.S. by Thorogood.  They even have a bit of style.  I am planning to get different laces.  I wore them out all day and they're quite comfortable.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

adobe hut

This picture was taken...a while ago.  We were hiking down from the top of the mountain above our house in Cochabamba, Bolivia, and came across this hut at the side of the road.

I don't remember the dog that got himself into this photograph, but I do remember being enchanted by this little house, built from whatever was at hand, including what are probably eucalyptus poles, as they grow a little further down the mountain.

At the top of the mountain, the grass is bristly yellow against a deep blue sky.  To me, these are the colors of the Andes.

Friday, December 05, 2014

december actions

So I'm applying for apprenticeships for next summer at Heartwood, EcoNest, and through the Timber Framer's Guild.  I'm very excited some days and scared other days but I am not letting myself give up, or change course.  Just keep moving ahead.

I ordered some good boots.

Miwa, a former apprentice from Heartwood, was very helpful in giving me advice about applying for apprenticeships.  She's building a tiny home!  Miwa works with Maria of Hammerstone School, near Ithaca.  Maria teaches Carpentry for Women, and I plan to go up to take a course.

I spent time with some timber framers at the New Jersey Barn Company, and asked them a ton of questions, and they showed me their tools and gave me tool shopping advice.

I signed up for a tool sharpening class in Philadelphia.

I'll be back in Virginia in April for the next Timber Framer's Guild workshop there.

And I'm doing exercises to strengthen my core.

I'm excited!

Now I have to go grade quizzes and tests and try to focus on that for a bit.  When I finish maybe I'll go down to the basement to keep working on my table again.

Thanks for reading!  I'll keep you updated on my progress.