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.

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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.


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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 :-).


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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

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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)

Nana (2)

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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.

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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:

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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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Beekeeping – Making New Queens

A couple weekends ago I worked the hives, checking their overall health and seeing if any were thinking about swarming. Swarming = bad. If there is more than one Queen in a hive, the ladies will either duke it out and both could die – dead hive bad – or the hive will swarm, taking possibly more than half of the precious worker bees that make all the yummy honey. There are some things that can be done to prevent swarming:

1. If two queens are found or if there are new queens about to be born (they have a uniquely shaped chamber that other bees make specifically for queens) AND the hive is doing really well, you can manually split the hive into two hive boxes.
2. If the hive is not doing great, remove the old queen and let the new one be born.
3. If the hive is doing fine and you don’t want another, then you can snip the new queen chamber in half – assuring that the original queen will preside a little longer.

Sometimes though, you will need a new queen if old one not producing, she dies unexpectedly, if the hive is aggressive, etc… When this happens, you typically buy/order a new one from your local bee supply store, online, or from a local apiarist who makes a little side money raising them in specially maintained hives. I had never actually witnessed the process of “Making Queens”, so when one of the older gents with Syndicat Apiculteur, held a lecture after the hives were checked, I sat in and tried my hand at it.

The simplified version:

1. Take a fresh brood comb out of a gentle hive that is doing well and has historically been a great honey producer.
2. Prepare “Queen Cups” with Royal Jelly.
3. Gather lights and tools and an assortment of magnifying glasses.
4. Uncap the comb and prop it under a light on a 45 degree stand.
5. Make sure no bees are in the room as an uncapped brood comb WILL piss them off and you WILL get stung.
6. Remove any stingers from skin while quietly cursing.
7. With a small dental scoop, remove one larva per cup. Look for a small one no larger than 1.5mm.
8. When cups are filled, place in special “Queen Frame”
9. Place frame in hive with no Queen – there is more to it than that, but for the sake of brevity…
10. Add a sugar water mixture to a feeder frame next to the “Queen Frame” in the hive.
11. Check back and when the queen cells are fully closed and the new queens are growing, place a purpose built cage over the cell and wait for them to emerge.
12. Re-queen some hives or sell them to your nerdy bee-keeping friends.

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Bee Larva into cup

Queen Cell 4 Queen Cell

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RIP Ezra Caldwell

Ezra was a photographer, chef, dancer, bike builder, husband, brother and son. I followed him for years on Flickr and on his various sites. He fought cancer again and again, fought it with all his might. He has passed and is now at peace.

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Ukulele holder for my office

I have the most of the instruments hanging downstairs, but I spend the lion’s share of my day (sometimes night too :-( ) in my home-office upstairs. I decided that I needed a little diversion from my computer every now and then and brought a ukulele up to strum and pick when thinking hard or if the J-O-B gets me down – no one can be unhappy while playing the uke, it is physically and psychologically impossible!

I already had the perfect piece for the task: Last year in Seattle I was playing with some scrap oak flooring on the table saw and I made a modern-ish mount for some tool in my shop that I didn’t end up using. Somehow, it got lumped in with the stuff sent to France and I found it while unpacking some hand-planes. I touched it up a little, added a hanger, and mounted it on the wall under my office window – well within reach while I am sitting at either of my desks (drafting & computer). It looks great and matches my office decor AND I have found my self already absently-mindedly finger-picking while thinking on a problem or figuring out why something isn’t working right.

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A trip to the Taoist temple of Mount Qingcheng

While in China near the city of Chengdu, my co-workers wanted to show me a Chinese cultural site and planed for this crazy hike up a mountain to see the Giant Buddha of Leshan. I opted out as I was crazy jet-lagged and was not geared for a mountain hike on this trip. The alternate plane was to visit the Taoist temple of Mount Qingcheng, which is one of the the most important sites of Taoism/Daoism in China and is the historical center of the Taoist religion. I like temples, so I said “sure”

I wore jeans, a button-up shirt, a sweater and wingtips. Instead of climbing one mountain, I got to climb two, in the rain, wander through a cave and hike 10+km (~7 miles) in those awesome wingtips. I think that “I don’t want to hike up a mountain” was somehow lost in translation. They meant well. The temple complex was very cool and the food at the top of the mountain was yummy, but super pricey – as they have zero competition.








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Film Friday – Some Foot-Stomping Music

A little Bluesy foot stomping to get things started. A cigar box guitar, mouth harp and a Farmer Footdrum make a person want to do a little busking. It is a rocking tune that really cranks up about halfway in.

A sweet cover of a sad song. I really like this lady’s voice and I have stripped the audio from this YouTube video and put it on my iPhone in a playlist

A little song set where I am originally from. I have fished in and swam in the Sabine River, saw my first aligator in its waters, BBQed on its banks, drank beer with my toes in its water, canoed a few back channels, and once even bow-fished there for carp and alligator gar.

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A sort of Vacation to Seattle

As part of my work contract with my J-O-B, we are flown back to the States twice a year. One of those trips has to be coupled with work travel, but overall not a bad deal. Stamps-With-Foot and I flew in to Seattle last week and stayed with my mom at our/her place. This was our first time back “home” since our move and my mom has transformed our eclectically decorated (books everywhere, Moroccan bits, craftsman furniture, mid-century couches…) home and turned it into your grandmother’s place: ceramic chickens, recliners for TV watching, lace doilies, a tin of cookies ripe for raiding, special soap in the bathroom that is meant just for looks…

We stayed in the basement and by our second day we had trashed it with clothes and books and other stuff to the point that it looked like a staged teenager’s room in a TV sitcom. I felt like I was in high school: mom cooked, did my laundry, made sure I got up on time every morning, offered to pack me a lunch, I played a little music, watched a few movies when I should have been sleeping, tossed clothes about… The only exceptions were the lack of posters on the walls and that I had permission for the pretty girl to share my bed and I didn’t have to sneak her in the basement window. :-)

I ended up working for 5 days of the 8 day trip, but I got a good bit of other stuff done this week:

Sorted 3 months of mail – we get a LOT on junk mail
Picked up backyard and garden a little bit – long winter
Went to a couple of our favorite restaurants
Made 3 trips to Woodcraft for  toys tools to take back to France
Coffee at C&P :-)
Cut and edged yard
Fixed a few things
Hung out with my mom
Had great breakfast at Easy Street
Moved a room full of boxes into the basement
Painted a mirror frame for my mom
Ate 2 dozen cookies – true story
Snagged treasure at Goodwill: baseball bats, rolling pins, sweatshirts…
Ridded the yard of filthy, dirty, evil dandelions
Treated the yard for moss
Accidentally poisoned my mom’s cat with Moss Out
Spent evening in veterinary ER and dropped $250
Cat all better now
Turned compost pile
Paid some bills
Set up a Skype account for my mom and showed her how to use it
Got a sweet new pair of running shoes
Arranged for professional lawn care – warned them about the cat

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A Bench Building Machine

In addition to the 5-board bench by our front door, I have built a large bench for our dining table and one for our entry-way with shoe storage, per my sweet wife’s request. I have a couple of saw benches for the GROP and 2 narrow ones for my office all cut out as well, but not put together. These benches are traditionally “furniture of necessity” and not meant to be fine furnishings, but I think that there is still beauty in their simplicity and usefulness (useful and helpful are the highest Talley-family compliments). Additionally, they are simple, cheap to build, and lend themselves to hand-tool only construction. Not a single screw or nail is used: I used through-tenons, oak wedges, and dowels. With almost instant tangible results, the whole process in building these is therapeutic. When and if I have a super-crappy day at my J-O-B, I can go into the Garage/Shop/GROP after dinner and make some wood shavings and improve the bejesus out of my mood. Cheaper than counseling and less bloody than a rampage :-)

7/3/14 Update:

So… The bench built for the dining table had ends that extended a little too far from the legs. It made the bench tippy if someone either sat on just the end or got up with someone also sitting on the other end. There were a couple of incidents where a butt almost hit the ground. I removed 7″ from either side and changed the stretcher detail a bit as the plain 45 degree cut didn’t really match the curl detail on the feet.



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Film Friday – The Potter’s Wheel – 4/25/2014

Jim Malone ‘Potter’ // Artist Documentary from on Vimeo.

MUNIO HOME pottery from Munio Home on Vimeo.

Artist Documentary: Kim Haughie: Ceramic Artist from MichelleDunnPhotography on Vimeo.

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Perks of living in France

If you happen to follow Stamps-With-Foot or me on Tumblr/Facebook/Instagram it looks a lot like our life here in France is filled with wine, coffee, cheese, baguettes and croissants. There is a good bit of that, but there is also a LOT of time spent at my J-O-B; no 7 hour french work day and 2-hour lunches for me. No berets have been purchased, I am not wearing a scarf, no-one is smoking Gauloises, and neither of us has perfected the “french shrug”

Regardless, we do like to share the shots of the fantastically good and cheap stuff to drink and eat here. More pictures of the same will follow for the next two years or so :-)

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Guitar and Ukulele wall mounts

One of the last things to deal with at our place in France was all the stringed instruments propped in corners or laying precariously on top of furniture. I wanted them out in view so they would be played instead of put in a closet somewhere, forgotten about. We want a home that is filled with music and if there is a loaner guitar or uke (LOVE the ukulele – have two) about, someone is going to pick one of them up and strum a few cords. There is nothing like a cool evening, sitting outside after a BBQ with someone softly playing a tune or two. I looked at a couple of commercial wall mounts that were pricey and didn’t really go with our decor and decided to make my own. I am sure they would look great in a studio and there was one model that would have been killer in my 15-year-old self’s poster-filled bedroom, but nothing I looked at screamed “hand-crafted” or “classy.” I went through a couple of ideas in my head that wouldn’t have really worked out for various reasons before having a light bulb moment while on a work trip in China: scrap wood + my lathe + U-hooks and some silicone tape = sweet instrument hangers that both blend with our home AND that no one else has.

This past weekend (Easter holiday), I cut five octagon blocks out of some left-over 5 inch thick pine timber and rounded the first one on the lathe. It was meant to be a prototype so I free-handed the curves without really having a design in mind before I started. It looked so great after the stain and wax went on that I took it right in and mounted it to the wall. I turned the others all with different patterns and hung them in a living-room hallway that has an awkward corner. They look great there – if my opinion counts for anything. Now there is room for 2 ukuleles, an acoustic guitar, an electric cigar-box blues machine, and a resonator banjo.

I am working on a Uke hanger for my home office as well.  I spend 10+ hours on my computer or on the phone and find that it helps if I can take a little break or strum while thinking about a technical problem that is pissing me off.  I wouldn’t be able to do that in a cube.

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The city, not the game.

My wife really likes castles. Really, Really! Ruins, Chateaus, piles of stone on the top of a lonely hill: they all make her swoon. We visit whenever we are in the vicinity of one and if such a visit won’t land us in jail for trespassing. I set the bar a little high on her 25th birthday when we spent a week touring wineries and castles along the Rhine and Mosel rivers. Now, castle-filled birthdays are are de rigueur and for the third anniversary of Stamps-With-Foot’s 29th birthday, we spent a long weekend in the walled City of Carcassonne and then a couple of days at a B&B in Limoux. Carcassonne was amazing – we were there two weeks before tourist season started in earnest and had many of the streets and restaurants almost to ourselves. Old walls, moats, a huge almost empty church, a high-walled keep, great food… I could go on and on.

Limoux was also a relaxing change of pace from our everyday life. I didn’t turn on my phone once to work and we may have brought three cases of wine and Blanquette (similar to Champagne) home with us. Brodie stayed with a house/puppy sitter while we were gallivanting about and when we got home he and my cute wife immediately snuggled down and took a nap. Below are a few of my pictures and here is the link to her website and more pictures from the trip.

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Another Cherry Bowl

I spent another weekend afternoon playing on the lathe. I made a mate to the cherry bowl I turned last month – the other side of the tree trunk. It was a little smaller block of wood and I roughed it out a little quicker. I decided to keep this one instead of giving it away and use on the dining table for fruit and such. It colored up really nicely – a warm orange that will darken with age, but it has checked a little more than the first one – it hasn’t split and hopefully won’t – but there are a few fine cracks that have popped up here and there.

I started it out thinking it was going to be a different shape, but due to some spongy fruit-wood, it became more of a vertically sided bowl with a deep finger groove on the bottom. Like the last bowl (and most of my bowls and lids), I turned a little detail in the bottom of the bowl because I think that curiosity should be rewarded. The bowl is again finished off with my own mix of beeswax and walnut oil. I am going to let it dry for a few months and reapply.


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Film Friday – Paddle Triple Feature – 4/18/2014

Canoe Paddle Maker

Hand Crafted from Jam Jar Films on Vimeo.

A Cherry Paddle

My Paddle – Luke Gibson from Luke Gibson on Vimeo.

Hawaiian Paddle Maker


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A Fine French Work Bench

My GROP (garage and shop combo) in Seattle was too small for a proper joiner’s bench. I made due with a slim, high, wall-mounted work counter, a bolted on machinist-vise, Quick Clamps, and the top of my table saw. It worked – mostly – but was a pain in the ass a good bit of the time: I never once planed a board on a stable, solid surface. My GROP here in France is roughly the same size as the one in Seattle, but is absent the huge cast iron machines and saws. I have some room to move and finally have the space for a big, heavy, proper work bench. This shit is about to get real…

As I live in France, I am building a 2m long, 85cm wide split top Roubo-style bohemyth, that will have a 12cm, 4-part slab top (6.5′ X 33.46″ X 4.72″) and it will be 36″ high as that is MY optimal bench height. Wooden leg vise, dog holes, a cast iron tail vise – all the bells and whistles! I am planning for it to take a mule to move this thing as I will do some serious planing on this baby. It is an amalgamation of benches by M. Roubo, Roy Underhill, Chris Schwartz, and Bill Schenher. I am calling it the “Cornebarrieu Bench” after the small village in southern France where we live, where the lumber has been sourced, and where the bench will be made and first used.

I picked up the lumber at a yard near the house, strapped it to the top of my tiny car and carried it home, giggling manically. The wood is now in the GROP drying out a little and waiting for me to attack the timber and fashion it into one fine, sweet hunk of usefulness. It makes my black heart more than a little happy to think about the look on movers’ faces when they see this thing when they come to pack us out for our eventual move back to Seattle. Mwahahaha…

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Weekend Update – 4/14/14

Really good weekend with just a couple of bumps…

Out late Friday night in Toulouse
Slept in Saturday morning
Stamps-With-Foot made yummy breakfast – great croissants!
Surfed the Interwebs and lost an hour or two to Pinterest
Worked on a dining table bench for about an hour
Used smoothing plane and made tissue paper-thin shavings :-)
Drove to Toulouse for 1st outdoor beekeeping class – waking up the hives from the Winter
Warm sunshine, blue skies, perfect weather!
Hives were in good condition and got to split one hive that was doing really well – already completely filled the hive box with pollen and honey.
Stopped by Lumber store on way home to buy some dust masks.
I can’t be trusted in Lumber/Hardware stores…
Bought 60 Euros worth of lumber, glue and screws
Forgot dust masks…
Came home to cuddle wife
Wife accidentally kneed me in the baby-maker and ¼ of a second later, put weight on the same knee, smashing the boys…
Rolled around on the ground in pain for at least a full minute
Limped outside
Mowed lawn and turned the compost
Limped a little while doing so – boys still hurt.
Helped wife make steak fajitas
Was on guard for any errant knees…
Drank a glass of wine and snuggled while watching 6 episodes of the last season of HIMYM
More Pinterest and sleep
Slept till 10:00 and leisurely breakfast
Went into Village to market and found a very nice oak printer tray for 10 Euro.
Immediately bought it without haggling over the price
Spent an hour in shop patching a small section of bench where plane slipped while joining two boards.
Found where a cat had marked some lumber when garage door was open night before.
Said hateful things about cats.
Had lunch with a friend that is healing from a cracked collarbone
Came home and finished putting together the teak patio
Bought wrong oil for the patio furniture – Grrr…
Fixed one of the broken arms (from move) on the Adirondack chairs
Had coffee in the shade
Hung hammock and tested it out.
Place feels like home now!
Sweet wife made dinner and we ate for first time on our new patio table – first of many meals
Snuggled in hammock with wife and listened to birds, neighbors, bees, etc…

Very happy

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Market Stall Finds – China 2014

My mom drug me all over Texas as a kid; visiting antique markets, flea markets, auction houses, garage sales, junk shops, etc… I hated it at first, but more and more, I would find some cool old nick-knacks, books, or a tool that would make the trip worth it. I think my dad made her take me along so she would not be tempted to buy out every shop. I had side deals with both of them: to rat mom out and keep my mouth shut when Daddy asked about the amount spent. It was a lucrative arrangement and usually netted me $10 a weekend in hush money and my father would slide me a Verboten Sneakers Bar under the table for tidbits of information. As I got older, I became my mother’s pack mule – training that my wife now truly appreciates!

My first sword came from a garage sale and was a rusty WW1 Cavalry saber that I defeated entire imaginary armies with, became a pirate, an Arthurian knight, a samurai, a ninja, a Jedi, and was Teddy Roosevelt leading the charge up San Juan Hill! As a note, that hill was a mound of dirt pushed up by a dozer at a construction site, but it didn’t matter to my 9-year-old self. I now look back with fond memory on all the bits and bobbles that came home with me from that time and those early trips into the dusty corners of market stalls has left me with a love of the same. I hope that when I retire from my J-O-B to have my own little Rag and Bone shop of furniture and antiques to while away my time in.

For now, anytime I travel, I try to take a couple of hours to explore the local markets. I have spent hours roaming, looking, haggling and bargaining in market districts from Berlin to Paris, Marrakesh, New York, Tokyo, Abu Dhabi, Tel Aviv, London, Belfast, Beijing, Hong Kong, Montreal, Calcutta, New Delhi, Los Angeles and so many points in-between.

I just returned from China where had a little time in Xi’an and Chengdu to do some wandering and I found a few treasures to bring home and some that stayed right where they were… Some of the offerings included:

Wooden and stone beads
Cabinet Hardware
Brass statues
Corn and honey sweet treats
Bamboo chop-sticks that were made right there in the stall (~10 cents a pair)
Human skull caps (stayed at the market!)
Hand bells
Military Surplus
Old Suitcases
Musical Instruments
Dried fruit and nuts
Polished turtle shells
Go game pieces
Reproduction coins
Terra Cotta Figures
Chinese calligraphy paintings
Religious mementos
Animal horn combs
20 different poses of Buddha
Porcelain dishes and bowls
Wood Carvings
Old books

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Off to China

My J-O-B sent me to China again for another 5-city mad dash of meetings over a 6 day period. Here is how the schedule went:

Wake up at 0-dark-thirty, taxi to the airport, fly, meet with customers, eat, take train or car to the airport, fly again, eat, check into some weird hotel, sleep, do all over again. Exhausting.

A few observations:

That is not dust in the air, it is smog.
Lots of inappropriate footwear – lady cop directing traffic in platform heals & brick mason in flip-flops
Food was amazing!
Food sucked – depended on the place and the dish…
Really got tired of people pushing, cutting in line, spitting on sidewalk everywhere.
There is an inability to use a urinal: piss everywhere but there.
Liked haggling at the markets
Where did all the bikes go?
Really liked the door/chest hardware stalls at the street markets.
No, I do not want a watch…
No, I do not want pretty girl…
NEVER drive a car in China!
How can a fvcking plane seat be this small!?
Traffic lanes and signals are just for suggestion.
LOVE the cabinet hardware in the markets.
Can I please have chicken without the whole damn head included on the plate?!
Why is there no soap in the bathroom?!
Please stop touching me…
Why is that kid peeing in the middle of a busy intersection?

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