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The Unvarnished Truth About Shellac

Before I started working with Joshua in the studio doing conservation work, I spent over 10 years with some very pretty and very expensive boats. My primary gig was marine varnish, a seasonal process of sanding off last year's gloss, touching up, taping, cleaning, brushing on a coat of varnish, letting it dry, then sanding again and getting even more fussy about cleanliness in preparation for a final coat. Typically, the cleaning process involved thoroughly vacuuming the boat, washing with water, a wipedown with mineral spirits or alcohol (depending on my mood that day), then hitting everything with a tack cloth before finally beginning to coat. For new boats, this process is repeated 8 or more times over a period...

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Let’s Make This Thing Usable

While Mike has been hard at work giving a face lift to various pieces in the studio, I've been working hard to polish things up here on the website. See, when I migrated my blogging from the Workbench Diary to here back in March, it took a little getting used to. Not only did I already have my writing and photo editing process down but I also had slowly developed a sidebar to have the features I felt were most helpful to my readers. I always like an “About” section. Being able to search the blog for keywords is helpful. Then I had a blogroll which I loved because it served as a one stop shop resource to check in on all...

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The Parts You Don’t See

I just finished making some red oak battens for the bottom of my tool chest. They came from some scrap that has been kicking around my woodpile for a year and they are by no means fancy, but they are essential. They support the chest, protect it against abrasion and strengthen the carcase. They’re also the first line of defense against the damp cement floor of the garage and if they do their job correctly I’ll never have to think about them again. I confess that making them might just be my favorite part of building the whole chest. My work with Mortise & Tenon magazine is very much like those battens. If I do my job well, you will...

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Finally Behind the Lens

Over the past few weeks I’ve been photographing the furniture and tools of 19th-century Maine furniture maker Jonathan Fisher. This is part of a four or so year long research project I have been working on to tell the story of this rural polymathic Harvard-trained minster/artisan. For more information about this fascinating research, you read about it here or refer to my piece in American Period Furniture in 2014. The book is under contract to be published by Lost Art Press in 2017 and thanks to grants from both the Early American Industries Association and the Society of American Period Furniture Makers, I have been able to dig deep examining the numerous surviving objects as well as research the broader historical context in which...

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A Slave to the Couch

I spent most of today on the couch. Because my wife and kids were out for the day (rare for homeschoolers like us), I had the whole house to myself for quiet editing work. Solitude is important for me because my assessment of writing is so much focused on cadence and flow. Sometimes I can make-do by silently mouthing along as I reread and edit. Most times, however, I’ve got to read it out loud to know if it’s working. Every writer’s got their own bag of tricks but this one is my go-to method. So today I finished off a number of various pieces of editing for Issue Two. I combed through Peter Follansbee’s manuscript one last time, polished...

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Issue Two Sponsorship  – 2+ Weeks to Sign Up

With the full table of contents for Issue Two now announced we are taking on new sponsors. We are proud to have just about every sponsor from Issue One sign on again for Issue Two. The sponsorship deal is the same as last time: it is basically a mutual endorsement between M&T and its partners. We’ve decided to keep the cost the same low price to ensure that all the small cottage businesses that are doing amazing work can afford to join in. There is no hierarchy to the list. Everyone pays the same and the listing is alphabetical. The sponsorship directory is published in the back of each issue as well as on the website until the next issue...

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“Everyone Who Knows ‘Why’ is Dead” – Peter Follansbee: Issue Two Table of Contents

 There aren’t many woodworkers that have spent more time examining period furniture than Peter Follansbee. His regular interaction with scholars over 17th century joiner’s work has proved to be a real asset to his critical thinking about recreating period work. Early in his career, Peter spent a lot of time (like we all do) endlessly pondering why every little thing was done a certain way. “Why three legs here and not there?” “Why no mitered mortise and tenons?” “What’s the mysterious backstory to the saw nib?” It seems every opportunity to examine work done hundreds of years ago provides ample opportunity to speculate on these inexplicable characteristics. No more. Peter has written for Issue Two about his take on...

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Fidelity to the Past: An Interview with Zachary Dillinger… Issue Two Table of Contents

When I published The Mortise & Tenon Manifesto in Issue One, my friend Zach Dillinger sent me an email laughing because he said he swore he could’ve written it. To illustrate the point, he attached a draft of the first chapter of his upcoming book With Saw, Plane & Chisel. I read through it and saw an uncanny similarity in his emphasis and creative objective. I chuckled to myself knowing he and I would work well together. But I’ve always admired the work of Zach Dillinger. Zach has long been a furniture maker and collector (and user) of old tools. His level of understanding of pre-industrial process is not common these days and it’s his emphasis on period authenticity that...

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Interview with Tool Collector Skip Brack: Issue Two Table of Contents

Liberty Tool Company in Liberty, Maine has become a legendary stop for woodworkers vacationing in Maine.  This massive three floor grange hall full of antique hand tools is the labor of love of Skip Brack. Brack has been picking tools all around New England for decades and turning them around for sale to honest to goodness users. His prices are very affordable and his selection is reliable. You won’t often find rare mint collector items but if you are in need of a trusty jointer plane or a Stanley #4, you know Skip will have tons of options for you. If can’t find what you’re looking for at Liberty, then you can try his two other tool stores not far...

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Why We Don’t Sell Ourselves

This post may be a bit more candid than it needs to be but I thought I could use the opportunity to share my experience here. Today I had two situations in which I felt blindsided by a salesman’s pitch. You know those times… The guy walks/calls up and seems extra friendly and even interested in you personally. He asks a couple of questions to get you talking about your interests. Then he aligns himself with you as ‘on your side’.  As conversation continues, he slowly begins talking about what he has to offer you. Before you know it, you have been pressured into an awkward situation in which you must listen to his spiel or you look like the...

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