Medieval Benches in Art

As I have mentioned in previous posts, I have been on a 5-board bench kick this year. I have built five so far and two more are in the works. I am also putting together at least three 6-board benches in the next 6-8 months, which share similar design and construction. Both items are classified as “Furniture of Necessity” or “Early Rustic” if you go shopping for one or the other. The patterns for them are roughly the same now are they were 2000 years ago and they lend themselves to hand-tool only construction.

I am not a Luddite that eschews a table saw, not in the least. I just don’t have one in France and am not buying one (If someone dropped off a new 10” cabinet saw and a compound sliding miter saw at my door, I guarantee that I could shoe-horn them nicely into the GROP). It has taken me almost 10 months to decide that I need a plug-in circle saw, but only to speed up the breakdown of thick planks and beams – I will be shopping at a pawnshop in the city though. I am just not spending the money to set up a new cabinet shop when we are leaving in a couple of years. Tools here are CRAZY expensive and most of the stuff available to non-professionals is crap. A Ridged-type contractors saw (bottom rung of what I consider acceptable for cabinet work) here with a real fence and a solid top will set you back the equivalent of $1100.00. Same saw at any Home Depot in the USA is about $500.00. A 7.25” Makita circle saw is the equivalent of $230.00 and an 18vt Ryobi drill with two batteries? $195.00!

Anyway, back to benches and chests… While in Paris last month we visited a plethora of museums and I kept finding little nuggets in the paintings, tapestries, and stained glass: top edge profiles, proportions, leg cutouts, etc… I am going to incorporate a couple of the details into my planed remaining work this year and next – just because I can. Below are a few of those details. They were for sure more to see, but not all museums allow pictures in their halls.


stools from Book of hours 2

stools from Book of hours 1








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Film Friday – Merrill Guitars

Merrill Guitars – Emulating a Perfect Era from fretboardjournal on Vimeo.

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What I want Thursday – Birthday Addition 2014

In about 3 weeks I will celebrate the 13th anniversary of my 29th birthday and the current plan is to spend the weekend in Porto, Portugal.  While there, I want cake (moist yellow cake with chocolate butter-cream frosting), snuggling, a nice class of Port, laughter, and a few well thought out gifts. I will NOT work that day – just not going to happen – and I plan to pamper myself with a haircut and a strait-razor shave if it can be found and I might buy some new wingtips, just ’cause they make me happy. Cookies will be eaten.  Beef will be consumed in quantity.   Below is my birthday wish list – mostly for my wife and children, but feel free to peruse and suggest.

I already have a bunch of crap, so my first request is that you give to a worthy cause.

Heifer International: Bees, Goats, Chickens, Llama, the whole Ark:-)
Doctors Without Borders/MSF
Diabetes Research

If you DO want to get me a little token of your love and appreciation:


Anything from my Amazon wish list
A signed hardbound copy of Campaign Furniture 
Theodore Roosevelt: a Strenous Life
I would like a signed copy of Chris Schwartz’s The Anarchist’s Tool Chest
Founding Foodies
A volume on handplanes or a tome on traditional woodworking
Twilight at Monticello
A Lost Art Press volume of The Essential Woodworker
James Krenov’s Cabinet Maker’s Notebook
Two Classic books on Shaker Furniture: here and here.

Don Julio Anejo Tequila
F3 Architect’s Wallet
Porsche Design TecFlex Fountain Pen (F Nib)
New bad-ass cufflinks or these or these
A Global Chef’s knifebread knife, and ceramic sharpener
Classic Cartoon DVDs (Bugs, Tom&Jerry, Loony Toons, Road Runner, etc…)
Stainless Omega Seamaster 007 or Planet Ocean with inscription
A fantastic sport coat

A pair of 1/2 round molding planes
A Pair of Snipe Bill molding planes
A set of Mortise Chisels

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Making stuff with My Son

It is one of my duties in this life to make sure that my children can do for themselves. Having to call a plumber for a clogged drain or an electrician to replace a switch just is not the Talley way. We are fixers, tinkers, builders, and warranty voiders by practice and nature. I cannot have it on my conscience that such a path would end with me, so part of the summertime ritual is to fix and build stuff.

This year was no different. The Ruminator work on the lathe a bit, helped me build a kitchen island, and helped design and construct a hanging shelf system for my wife’s sewing room. We hung a storage rack in the garage, built a snowboard rack for his room, hung stuff up in the living room, applied a little spray paint and finish, learned about milk paint, refurbished a miter-box saw, cut up some andirons, went over tool identification, sunk a bunch of screws, put some all-thread to use, made sparks with the grinder, and that sort of thing.

Just little bits at a time… Next year we will do a little metal work and wood carving. The year after, we might build a deck and do a little welding. At some point he will learn to sew and mend a little – not to be a seamstress, but enough to make simple stuff and put a button back on a coat. If he wants to be a carpenter or a cobbler or a tailor or a machinist or a welder fine, then I am equipping him with early skills to build from. But if he wants to be an architect, teacher, engineer, lawyer, doctor, or whatever – I still want him to have the knowledge base of how things work, how they are put together, and how they should be fixed.





andirons 2014 (1)






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Small parts holder for French Cleat wall

What happens when you are 99.98% done turning a bowl, there is a millisecond of inattention and BAM! And the bowl explodes off the chuck?? After you check your britches and finish saying dirty words, you pick up the pieces and make lemonade from lemons.

I thought about tossing it all in a fire, but decided to use the largest intact piece to make a small parts holder that mounts on a French Cleat. I am forever looking for a jar or a can to put small parts in while I am voiding a warranty or rebuilding something small and complicated.

Bowl to French Cleat 2014 (1)

Bowl to French Cleat 2014 (3)

Bowl to French Cleat 2014 (2)

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Everyone needs a circus tent stake maul…

I have a good number of wooden stakes to drive into the ground – garden project, long story. In the early stages of planning, I realized that I didn’t have a proper maul and did nor relish driving any of them with a claw hammer. Hummm….


To remedy that tool deficit, I finished turning one from a piece of oak firewood after work the other day – instead of mowing the yard… The steel bands are cut from a 5″ iron pipe and they are held on by 15 or so long brass nails. It seemed like a good use of my time and was a nice end to a very stressful day.

Old tent stake Maul (2)

Old tent stake Maul (1)

Old tent stake Maul (5)


Old tent stake Maul (3)

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Apple, why wont you just take my MONEY?!?!?

Statement displayed of the MacRumors website today:

“Apple’s “iWatch” is a smart watch project that Apple is reportedly aiming to launch with a special event in October of this year. Expect a ‘fashionable’ device running iOS with biometrics and other features providing integration with other iOS devices.”

I have been waiting for FIVE years for an iWatch. I held off buying the nano with a Lunatic band/case, because the iWatch was “coming out in the Fall…” every Fall comes and goes and my hunger grows for this bit of techie opulence. I never jump on board when stuff first comes out. I always wait until the 2nd or 3rd Gen, but I NEED an iWatch. Need….. Apple, please just take my money and the damn thing to me already.

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Weekend Update – the gods of lawn maintenance are displeased

We had a national holiday in France on Friday and I made the most of my 3-day weekend.

Instead of the stuff I needed to do I did this:

1. Got up at 7:30 on a holiday
2. Went up into the mountains with a group of Expats for a hike and a picnic – got some great pictures and had fine food
3. Worked on a design for wooden wine box/kitchen cabinets
4. Completely filled my Leuctterm1917 design sketch notebook – took 2 years
5. Watched a girlie movie with my sweet wife
6. Started a new notebook – a Rhodia Webbie this time (I like the paper better)
7. Spent too much time on the interwebs
8. Started formal permit process for garage shop and apartment above at our place in Seattle
9. Sanded, sealed and painted the “T” supports for the workbench/buffet table
10. Rough turned 4 oak bowls from a piece of tree blown down in a storm
11. Sent some e-mails out that I had let sit too long
12. Coated the bowls in wax and will let them cure for a year.
13. Cleaned and organized GROP – oak shavings were EVERY where
14. Composted the shavings with some grass and kitchen scraps
15. Sharpened all my lathe chisels
16. Brained myself on a low hanging bike – said f-word more than once
17. Went to a run along the river
18. Called my Mom and talked for a bit
19. Checked on the kids
20. Cut first 5” top sections for Cornebarrieu Workbench
21. Need a proper circle saw… the 18v battery saw is out of it league on 1.5” beech
22. Worked on the small cabinet rosettes for our neighbor – he also asked me to install a shelf while I was at it…
23. Played with the puppies – while Stamps-With-Foot had a girls night
24. Got sucked into Pinterest
25. Updated website a little (here and Tumblr)
26. Watched a little too much TV/YouTube
27. Took puppies for a walk around neighborhood a couple of times
28. Rode my bike about 10 miles – muddy
29. Cleaned and tuned single-speed bike
30. Played with puppies
31. Did some grilling with beer in hand 
32. Got up Sunday morning and worked for a few hours, – because I thought it was Monday. Damn it!
33. Closed office door and did not return for 24 hours
34. Told wife her hair was very pretty
35. Went for a walk with wife and puppies
36. Made a small parts organizer out of a broken wood bowl
37. Got glue on my favorite shorts
38. Wrote some snail-mail
39. Surfed the interwebs until I fell asleep with the iPad on my chest…
40. I did not mow the yard again. The gods of lawn maintenance are displeased with me.

Hiking august 2014 (3)

Hiking august 2014 (1)

Hiking august 2014 (5)

Hiking august 2014 (2)

Hiking august 2014 (4)

Rosettes for neighbor

Oak Bowls Aug 2014 (5)

Oak Bowls Aug 2014 (7)

Lathe clean aug 2014

Oak Bowls Aug 2014 (1)



Last page of notebook Aug 2014

yard not mowed this weekend 2014

T-beams for bench-buffet table aug 2014

found trivet 2014

making shavings aug 2014

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Film Friday – Ellis Mandolins

We Should Build Mandolins from fretboardjournal on Vimeo.

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Art in Paris – July 2014

Regardless of what your personal belief structure might look like, it is hard to see some things that were created by the hands of men and women and not wonder if there is something greater than ourselves out there. The Musee d’Orsay is full of those objects: from sculpture to paintings to carvings to furniture. It is not just the Orsay though – it is the entire city of Paris. Buildings, museums, subway stations, churches, stained glass, public art, gravestones in Père Lachaise, even the trash cans on the street corners.

Below are pictures from a recent visit to The Orsay, The Cluny (see previouse Carving post), St. Eustice Church, and Notre Dame, with shots from various walks through the city.





























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Castles, Fireworks, and the City of Light with my son.

The Ruminator and I had a big time this summer! It was full of firsts for him. A truncated list of firsts for him are:

Transatlantic Flight, time to France, real Castle, walled city, a basilica, cathedral, trip to Paris, taxi ride, subway ride, renting a bike, trip to a vineyard, picnic of goat cheese, bread and saucisson, seeing fields of sunflowers, Mass, walk in a vineyard, jousting tournament…. The list goes on.

The pictures below are snippets from out time together on various roadtrips this summer.
tumblr_n33wgwJr2F1sk0b4eo1_500 tumblr_n75wf5WQUs1sk0b4eo1_500 tumblr_n75wfgUxeA1sk0b4eo1_500 IMG_1914 IMG_2374 IMG_2436 IMG_2440 IMG_2455 IMG_2457 IMG_2458 IMG_2460 IMG_2464 IMG_2470 IMG_2473 IMG_2475 IMG_2477 IMG_2489 IMG_2598 IMG_2602 IMG_2617 IMG_2619 IMG_2630 IMG_2654 IMG_2655 IMG_2682 IMG_9784 tumblr_n7s2m4IgpH1sk0b4eo2_1280 tumblr_n7s2m4IgpH1sk0b4eo3_1280 tumblr_n7s2m4IgpH1sk0b4eo4_500 tumblr_n8rpahaTkH1sk0b4eo1_500 tumblr_n33we3icSd1sk0b4eo1_500

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Wood Carvings at the Cluny in Paris

We spent 3 hours at Musée de Cluny (Musée national du Moyen Âge) in Paris on a recent trip. I highly recommend the little museum and the adjacent garden. While I enjoyed the tapestry and armor and paintings, it was the wood carvings that really stood out. The detail… Braids, carved folds in the dresses, miniature figures and scenes in a triptych that were beyond belief, fingernails, pages of a book… All carved in 400+ year old oak. Astonishing.




































Side note: the plums in The Unicorn Forest (forêt de la Licorne) section on the garden were ripe and falling. I tried one ant it was delicious – upper sweet and deep blood red. They will make terrific jam. I may have brought 10-15 plums home with me and extracted the seeds. I plan to plant a few in a local forest and I have a sneaking suspicion that a very similar tree will grow in our yard in Seattle and in a friend of ours yard in Portland…

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Cornebarrieu Bench – Redesign & first cuts made

I did a full redesign of the Cornebarrieu bench… As per my normal modus operandi, I was over designing/building it. With all the tweaks and gadgets and new parts, it was going to take me 6 months to build, some serious math to layout the interlocking joint angles and cost $1900 in material – I may have priced solid 4” thick seasoned Eastern European beech and walnut for the top and legs…
Anyway, I came to my senses and decided on using the pine I had already purchased for the legs and stretchers, lap joints with bolts instead of compound dovetails, a liberal amount of hide glue here and there, and a top made from re-purposed IKEA counter tops and will install a leg vice salvaged from a junk shop near Limoux, France instead of the $300 Benchcraft scissor vise that I was eyeballin’. The top will be solid all the way across instead of the split-top design.

The pine slabs have been drying in my GROP for 5 months and were ready to be cut down into their rough size. I had a little time this last weekend and spent 4 hours making all the leg and stretcher joint cuts – hogging out the material with successive circle-saw cuts and then chiseling them out. I am waiting to cut the tenon that fits into the top on each leg until I have the top in-hand. I chiseled and planed all the joint cuts smooth and I really wished I would have had a timber framing slick. When I do another bench or some large furniture with this type of joint anytime again, I will pick one up as it will pay for itself with the labor saved, in comparison to a 1.5” bench chisel, on 4 lap joints. I did the rough math and I think that I will have made 1023 total handsaw and circle saw cuts by the time the bench is done. There will be 16 bolts, 6 sections of 7/16” all-thread, 12 large screws, one 2’ ACME thread rod, 2 large dowels, 4 lag screws, 32 nuts & washers, and some sweat, blood, and curse words that will all go into it by the end. The new dimensions of the bench will be 25.5” wide, 34” tall, and 8.2 feet long. I believe the finished weight will be around 320 pounds.

My next milestone is the dreaded IKEA run. It will be a couple of weeks before I have the enough spending money horded together from my allowance (I want to be debt free in two years and retire at 55 so yes, I have an allowance…) and get the top cut out and fitted. I will update as I go.

Cornebarrieu Bench update (2)

Cornebarrieu Bench update (1)

bench drawings 2014 (3)

bench drawings 2014 top detail

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Puppy Narcissism

Our dog is awesome. Everyone that we know likes him and he is even allowed in peoples’ homes that don’t even allow other dogs in their yard! His happiness means a lot to us and we take really good care of him: Warmed gourmet food, toys, lovin’, walks, cheese under the table, loads of attention, snugglein’, fur rugs to nap on, etc… I have told my wife repeatedly, that if I am reincarnated, my first choice would be to come back as her puppy (minus the whole neutering thing…)

Anyway, when we fist adopted Brodie, he had leash aggression issues and DID NOT play well with others. There were beat downs, bloody lips, flying fur, and all out brawls with much larger dogs. It has meant that he has had only us to hang out with and sometimes he gets a little board of the pink monkeys that share his space. I am sure that he now views me as his combination butler/chauffeur…

We have spent years socializing him so that he could have puppy-friends or siblings. A recent week+ visit to the puppy spa (really) while we were in Paris convinced us that he was finally ready for a full time buddy – he did great, made multiple friends of different breeds and there was not one incident of bullying or aggression. Right then, the stars aligned and we heard about a female French bulldog puppy that was being re-homed due to an allergy in her family.

When we went to meet her, it was like when my wife met Brodie for the first time: the puppy latched onto Stamps-With-foot, sat down in her lap, applied wet kisses, decided we were good people, and staked her claim. We introduced her to Brodie and they immediately got along. The deal was sealed.

Meet Truffle. She is the newest member of the family.

TRuffle and Brodie 7-2014


Truffle 2

TRuffle 2014

Truffle and Brodie - 2014 (2)

Truffle 8 -2014 (1)

Truffle 8 -2014 (2)

Truffle 8 -2014 (3)

Truffle and Brodie - 2014 (1)

I just threw the waterlily picture in because it was pretty and from Truffle’s first walk in Toulouse.

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No More Facebooking at the breakfast table

I quit Facebook.

My wife drug me into it after years of refusal and I turned very quickly into one of those constant status checkers that everyone hates, but just couldn’t stop…

It is the data mining that finally got me. I had to get pissed off before I could put it down. Products were suggested because I went to a website 9 months ago, books were suggested “out of the blue” (Mahogany: The Costs of Luxury in Early America is on EVERYONE’S top pick list… Sure…) from my Amazon wish list, a friend suggestion was made for the cop that sends out monthly neighborhood safety bulletins for our neighborhood in Seattle. The friend thing was the final straw…

A couple of years ago my shop was broken into and a ton of irreplaceable (father’s and Grandfather’s) tools were taken. The guy who did it was a contractor we used. Facebook has gone through my e-mails and can see some e-mail traffic with the douchebag and BOOM! Facebook thinks we should be friends and keeps reminding me. Nope. It makes me mad every time I look at my phone now.

I have a large enough social media presence even without Facebook and if you REALLY want to see what I had for dinner, cute pictures of my dogs, travel shots, or some forwarded rant you can find me on Instagram, Tumblr, or here on my own site – which celebrates its 12th year in September.


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Up-cycled present for my wife

On our way to Carcassonne a few weeks ago for the Bastille Day festivities, we stopped by one of our favorite used furniture/junk shops and I found a few pieces of treasure (Cast iron miter saw, a forged hold-fast, etc…) and Stamps-With-Foot found a set of badly weathered Victorian andirons (the things that hold logs in a fireplace) with a female costumed figurehead bust. She took one look and immediately thought “book-ends!” We paid 5 Euros ($7.50) and put them in the car trunk. I researched them a little later on and found that they were cast in France between 1870 and 1880. Even in the condition we found them in, they go for 90-120 Euros ($121-162) on eBay, so I was pretty pleased with her find.

After coming home from the vacation weekend, my son and I cut the rusted rear beam off one of them, cleaned the sharp edges of the cut with a file, and used a bronze wire brush to mostly clear the surface rust off the bust. My saw blade was dull and we couldn’t cut the second one, so we put all the pieces up a shelf for me to take care of later. Fast-forward 3 weeks and after buying a new blade, I made the second cut, filed the edges, took all the rust off both, primed, painted them with 3 coats of matte black paint, and 2 coats of clear matte finish.

Stamps_with_Foot had a big smile and skipped a little when I gave her the finished pieces.

Laurel's Bookends (1)

andirons 2014 (1)

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Very Productive Weekend – except in the yard.

I did not mow the yard this weekend. It just didn’t happen. I meant to and I wanted to… I even took the mower and cord out, but it just didn’t happen. Instead I did this:

1. Redesigned the top of the workbench that I am building.
2. Threatened for 148th time to quit Facebook.
3. Didn’t quite
4. Updated status
5. Cleaned and organized GROP a little while grumbling about my lack of willpower
6. Worked on a J-O-B related spreadsheet
7. Finished bookends for wife – made from Victorian andirons.
8. Cut the base (legs and stretchers) for my workbench.
9. Turned two sets of TINY rosettes for our neighbor to replace a couple that are missing from a piece of furniture – help the neighbors when you can.
10. Put together a set of I-beams to reinforce a table top that is warping – they do that after 250-300 years…
11. Gave my wife a foot rub.
12. Glued up some maple blanks to turn later on
13. Played with the puppies – there are two now.
14. Got sucked into Pinterest
15. Watched a little TV/YouTube
16. Took puppies for a walk around neighborhood
17. Turned a small jar lid for wife out of some scrap cherry
18. Drank some Spanish rosé with wife and had a nice home cooked Thai meal
19. Fixed front door lock at 1:00am
20. Had weird dreams Saturday night
21. Slept in – new puppy had first good night’s sleep :-)
22. Puppy sat while wife got her hair cut.
23. Told wife her hair was very pretty
24. We took puppies into Toulouse to meet some friends for coffee
25. Walked in park with wife and puppies.
26. Cut and chiseled joints in to ½ of the workbench legs
27. Sucked into Pinterest vortex again
28. Sent some J-O-B e-mail
29. Talked to my mom
30. Text messaged with my daughter
31. Tried to call my son – he was out with friends. Teenagers… :-)
32. Played with puppies
33. Sent some more work-related e-mail
34. Told wife hair was pretty again
35. Made a tiny adjustment to kitchen island at wife’s request
36. Wrote a snail-mail letter to my aunt and son
37. Filled out a couple of post cards
38. Updated website a little
39. Looked at work calendar for tomorrow – very full.
40. Said dirty words…
41. Went downstairs to snuggle wife, puppies and to stay up too late on Pinterest or stupid Facebook.

Cornebarrieu Bench update (2)

Cornebarrieu Bench update (1)


andirons 2014 (1)

Truffle 8 -2014 (3)

TRuffle and Brodie 7-2014

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Film Friday – Romero Banjos

A Visit to Romero Banjos from fretboardjournal on Vimeo.

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Outdoors this summer with my son

A summertime fixture for my son’s summer visits has always been some time outside. We have canoed, hiked, ridden bikes across international borders, camped, road-tripped, National/State Park hopped, etc… This year was no different except we did those things in France.

We canoed along the Canal du Garone in my 2014 Father’s Day present – a Big green 3-person canoe. The Ruminator learned about the magic of portaging and that stinging nettles should not exist on this earth. We hiked into the Ariège Pyrenees, climbing 5900+ feet in 4.5 hours. That night we slept in an high alpine Refuge (his first), ate great food, and saw the most amazing mountain waterfalls, wildflowers, streams, and lakes. There were high green fields dotted with cows, sheep and goats before we walked above the tree-line and blue ice floating in the deep alpine lake at the base of the Refuge. It is a memory that I will carry with me for the rest of my days!

There was bike riding, lawn mowing (had to throw that in!!), soccer, long walks and one attempted swim session. He got turned away because he showed up with swim trunks to the pool and here in France you have to wear Speedos – no really, I swear. We also visited one of the prehistoric parks in the area (there are three?!) and got to throw spears at targets as part of one of the interactive displays. There were deer and bison 3D archery targets out in the field along with paper animal targets and we only learned that the 3D ones were just to look at and not to aim at. This information only came after one of my spears sailed over the bison’s neck, clearing it by 2 inches from 50 yards away. I got a stern warning…

Being outside with my kids is one of my true pleasures in this life (My daughter HATES backpacking and sleeping on the ground and is more of an RV girl). I look forward to many more years of it and the inclusion of more children and grand children.

Canoe 2014 (1)

Canoe 2014 (2)

Carlton Summer 2014 Sport (1)

Carlton Summer 2014 Sport (2)

Carlton Summer 2014 Sport (4)

Carlton Summer 2014 Sport (5)

Carlton Summer 2014 Sport (9)

Carlton Summer 2014 Sport (10)

Carlton Summer 2014 Sport (11)

Carlton Summer 2014 Sport (12)

Carlton Summer 2014 Sport (16)

Carlton Summer 2014 Sport (17)



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Before Electricity – French machine tools that were/are human powered

As we have traveled a bit here in France, I have drug my wife, son, in-laws, and friends to dusty museums and shops to see some amazing examples of traditional French woodworking tools and machines. These bits of pre-electric woodworking gems have been covered in beasage, wabi-sabi and love. Some were almost pristine, looking like there were used the day before and a few are shadows of their former-selves, but beautiful none the less. There are lathes, marqueterie saws, Saw-tooth sets, sharpening stones, carts, presses, saws, etc…

One of the most prominent things I noticed were all the different mechanisms for making the different lathes go ’round: peddles, treadles, hand operated flywheels, waterwheels, and bows.


French Lathes 2014 (2)

French Lathes 2014 (3)

French Lathe 2014 (4)

French Lathe 2014 (5)

French Lathe 2014 (6)

French Lathe 2014 (7)

French Lathe 2014 (8)

French Lathe 2014 (9)

French Lathe 2014 (10)

French Lathe 2014 (11)

French Lathe 2014 (12)

French Lathe 2014 (13)

French Lathe 2014 (14)














French Lathe 2014 (4)

French Lathe 2014 (1)

French Lathe 2014 (2)

French Lathe 2014 (6)

French Lathe wheel 2014

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Historic French Work Benches

In the 7 months I have lived in France, I have seen some amazing examples of traditional French carpenters’ work benches. They are full of tool marks, tool trays, attachments, vices, dog-holes, studded plane stops, nicks gouges patches, etc… Some are almost pristine, some covered in 100+ years of marqueterie glue, and some rotted – full of worm holes.  One some you will see the standard “French” leg vice and others have a parallel top vise – also don’t know what to call it – is a southern French/Basque sort of thing.  I asked a local “old guy” here and he said was a “thing” here.  That is the direct translation :-)

Almost all the benches I see here are slab benches and a number are slab benched with a thick dadoed plank bolted to the front edge to provide square dog holes.

As a man who appreciates such things, as a joiner in the process of building my own bench, and as a tourist in a foreign land I have been busy with my camera. :-) Below is a data-dump of some of the better benches and details that I have seen so far.  I will update as I see more in the “wild.”


Side note: I bought a couple and am having the gassed (wood worms are serious here!) and will be bringing them back to the US when we rotate back in a couple of years – one for the house and one for the shop (tall oak slab for dovetail cutting) and IF there is any room in the container I may bring back a couple more – just because my wife hasn’t said no :-).


French Work Benches 2014 (5)

French Work-Bench 2014 (3)

French Work-Bench 2014 (1)

frenchmarketbench2014 (1)


French Work Benches 2014 (21)

French Work Benches 2014 (1)

French Work Benches 2014 (2)

French Work Benches 2014 (3)

French Work Benches 2014 (4)

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Officially Super-Old

My sweet daughter, LOL, is going to have a baby girl soon. I am super-pleased for her and her partner and am excited to meet my first grandchild. I am SURE that she will be beautiful. We are flying in for the birth and to see her and the baby for a while afterward. Am am getting all giddy and excited. This declaration, however, means that I am now officially old and reminds me that my time on this earth is not forever and that there is a debt that I, like all men, must pay. I am going so start shopping for leisure suits, high waist-ed pants and a sweet walker – red and chrome.

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Chopping Block Kitchen Island – IKEA Hack

Stamps-With_Foot has wanted a chopping block island for years. Our kitchen in Seattle just didn’t have the room for one, but the kitchen in France was PLENTY big enough. I looked into taking some 5/4 maple and gluing it up for her, but without a table saw and a power planer it would have been REALLY difficult. We found a couple that were already built, but they were between 400 and 900 Euros. No.Thank.You. After some deliberation, I decided on an IKEA island – the Groland. Stop Laughing and put down the stones…

While my son (The Ruminator) was here in France on his summer vacation, we bought one in a box, strapped it to the top of the car, drug it home, and started putting it together. I couldn’t leave it stock though, that is just not how I operate :-) We added a few flourishes to make it “better.”

1. Turned the legs on the lathe to give it bun feet
2. Glued it all together and added some extra dowels for reinforcement
3. Removed the steel rods on the original and plugged the holes with Dowels
4. Painted the base with a Sea Green Milk Paint
5. Added an additional block section to the bottom of the top panel – to make it super-solid
6. Cut a 6″ hole in the top for sweeping scraps off the work surface
7. Put a large plastic bin – removable from both sides – under scrap hole
8. Bolted rolling pin to one side to towels and placed 2 brass hooks on the other side
9. Scrapped the wood lattice bottom panel and used 7/8″ tongue and groove clear pine decking boards instead.
10. Polyurethaned the top – 5 coats – and bottom shelf so they match and make the painted base “pop”
11. Took a hunk of cherry tree trunk and turned it down as a lid for the scrap hole.

My Son and I had it installed just in time for my chef Father-in-Law, The Chatty Buddha, to visit and whip up a few fine meals using it as a work platform

Kitchen Island France 2014 (1)

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My Mom

When we were in Seattle in June, My mom gave me these two pictures. In the first she is a year old and her older sisters took her to school to have her picture made while they were taking yearbook shots – it was at small country school and in a different time… The second is from when she was 5. I now have one in my office and one downstairs on our family picture wall. I am really proud to have them and that they are out and not filed away in a box somewhere.

Nana (1)

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a couple of saw benches for the shop

I needed a couple of saw benches for my GROP, so I put a together two of different designs. They are both simple, plain and sturdy – no nails or screws, just glue, dado joints, and oak dowels. One is an old V-notch pattern that I have seen 1000 times and the other is combination bench/tool tote of my own design. I made the tote handle of the second one from a baseball bat that was cracked. I turned down the ends on the lathe to make 1-1/2″ round tenons and captured the tenons with wedges and 2 dowels – placed at 6:00 and 12:00 as keys. This permanently locks the bat and will keep it from twisting loose. the Louisville brand is facing up when carried – It adds a little flair to something that would normally be utilitarian and is big enough to carry everything I need to do a household fix/honey-do.

Grop Bench 2014 (1)

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My Wife REALLY loves her puppy

Stamp-With-Foot loves me, of that I have no doubt. At times though, I think that I am second fiddle to her puppy. They have been together almost 6 years and are somehow physically and psychically linked – really. No two beings are more complete and happy than when the two of them are snuggling on the couch. They become a single entity. It took a year for Brodie to even acknowledge my existence and now he sees me as his butler and chauffeur. I make yummy food and give great scratching, but and am, in truth, an accessory that comes along with his mommy. I walked into my home office the other day and I found the below drawn on my white-board:

being loved 2014

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Our French Jardin

With my J-O-B and all that we have going on here in France (work, travel, guests, work, work…) there is NO WAY that I can have a proper garden. To scratch my farming itch, I have been medium obsessive over the grass (I have not found the desire to begin a campaign of slaughter for the dandelions as yet) and have made our outside living space as nice a possible. The prior occupants of our house planted rosemary, sage, lavender (we have 5 different bee types on it right now), a couple of fruit trees and some bulbs that we are nursing a little the the color and life help with my primal need to make stuff grow.

We eat outside in the evenings a couple nights a week and I bought a sweet masonry grill from an English couple that were moving to Spain. The thing weighed a ton, but it works and looks great. In addition to grilling on weekend afternoons, I REALLY like to have my coffee in the shade of the porch out back if my schedule allows and the hammock has an assign spot in the shade. We see our back yard here as more of an outdoor room and have furnished it with a teak table set and the Adirondack lawn furniture that I made for Stamps-With-Foot a couple of years ago – she insisted we bring it from Seattle :-)

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Road Trip to the beach in Collioure, France

We took a weekend road trip down to a small village near the Spanish border and stayed in a friend’s Aunt and Uncle’s Gite (sort of a B&B). Brodie came along and was fed all sort of yummies and got to pee on lots of new stuff – a very high priority on his list… We had a blast there and made side trips to the beach in Collioure on the French Mediterranean (VERY COOL), went to a local cherry harvest festival, and had many fine meals! Our friend’s aunt even made Stamps-With-Foot chouquettes, a local pastry specialty, for breakfast.

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I hate my internet provider…

Our internet provider here in France is a company called SFR.

I hate them.

My access has been down for over ten days. I call everyday. Have had French colleagues call in case I am missing something and am given a new reason for the outage every single day: cut fiber line, bad modem, crossed lines at central hub, etc…

I stayed home from a J-O-B meeting today because I was specifically told that a “senior technician” would call me between 8-12. No call! rassin…frassin’… I called them and flipped out of a customer service rep in French when she asked me why it had taken so long to call them about the issue. She transferred me to her boss who started our conversation with “what lights are visible on your modem?” I flipped my shit!

After giving him a passionate history of the issue, making him shush when he tried to interrupt, and explaining how to telnet into their SFR modem as the administrator, he seemed to finally listen.

After checking the account history, and prior notes, he started apologizing profusely. It seems that no work order HAD EVER BEEN WRITTEN?!?!? Son of a bitch!!!!

They gave me 5 days before the issue will be resolved.



France TelComm came by on the 17th – almost three weeks after it went down – and finally got our network up. They disconnected someone else’s on the street in the process…

Insert unhappy face and wet cat noise here.

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GROP update – French Cleats

Since I live in France, it only makes sense for me to have a shop organization wall that using French Cleats. I have wanted to do it for years, but just never found the time between house and furniture projects when we were in Seattle.

I ripped down some pine sub-flooring that came from the local French Big Box (Leroy Merlin), cut the edges at a 45, ripped the board in half, and glued/screwed them to a section of 1/2-ish (13mm) plywood. Exterior water-based poly was added to both the back and front before it went up on my clay-block garage shop wall with 8 large anchors. For my first French Cleat accessory: I had three small cut-off sections left from a picture shelf wall I did in my home office that I tacked to section of scrap ply to hold my #5 1/4 Jack, #4 smoother, and a couple of block planes. I keep the rest of my planes in a chest, but I use these constantly and wanted to have them in reach. I was so happy with how it all tuned out that I started building all sort of other holders and organizers: ones for squares, chisel rolls, Mallets, cords, apron hooks, saw horses, clamps, Japanese saws, etc… I ringed the garage with a single cleat about 6′ up for all sorts of diabolical organization plans, then hung two more above the lathe so that I would have a place to suspend my lathe chisel rack that is currently in progress and for a spot light that shines down on projects as they are turning.

I will update and post as I add new stuff.

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