My Brother-in-law and his then fiancé decided early this year that they would visit us in France and while here have a little wedding… Stamps-With-Foot freaked out and turned on the ‘Big-Sister Action Mode’ setting on her internal processor. She quickly organized the shipping logistics, helped with transportation, found lodging for all, located a restaurant for the reception, sourced champagne and wine, etc… I had two jobs. 1. Make sure the yard was a perfect/green as possible. 2. The wedding arch. It was implied that fvcking up either would have dire consequences.
I sketched a bunch of ideas up in my notebook and talked to the bride a little about her ideas and wants over Skype and e-mail. I had planned on doing a big natural arch with the pruned limbs of 70-100 apple and plum trees, but my source burned the branches before I could get to them. I went with Plan B and drew up a modern interpretation of a classic white wedding arch. The bride said ‘go’ and it was on.
The arch is made from 4 meter (13.14’) X 1.25”X1.25” pine sticks that I sourced at the local lumber yard. They are sold for fencing trim and to cut foundation stakes from. I painted each with two coats of white paint and the bottom is held together with 10mm all-thread. The top is screwed one stick to another – everything is pre-drilled.
All was finished one day before the ceremony with the bride’s brother, cousin and sister helped out with the final painting (taking turns with the one roller) and installation. I really couldn’t finished in time without their help and support.
The bride and groom seemed very happy with the work and allowed me to even officiate their wedding. Honored does not even begin to describe my feelings about being included in this way. It was my first time getting to use my Ordained Minister credentials and I am SO adding wedding officiate to my resume! I will add some pictures and wedding details later – after the bride has had a chance to flood her social media accounts with pictures to her little heart’s content. Out-doing of being faster than the bride to share “her day” with the world would be bad juju…
As you can see from the pictures – I succeeded in Job 1 as well: Greenest yard in Toulouse:-)
I have a big ol’ crush in Lister single-cylinder diesel engines. These stationary work horses were made from 1926 to about 1985 and were used for pumping water, power generation, inboard flat-water boat engines, and all manner of other uses. They came in 1.5-12 horsepower and would/will burn Diesel, paraffin, kerosene (as a mix), waste motor oil (WMO) fresh or waste veggie oil (WVO), bio Diesel, etc… They were and are so reliable that many of the originals are still running today after 90+ years of just regular maintenance.
After the parent company stopped making them, Indian firms started making clones for Asian and Southeast Asian use due to their inherent long life, simplicity, and ease of maintenance. These are called Listeriods, and they are fairly plentiful, but the quality swings widely.
Why do I want or need a Lister? Reasons. Why did I need a Millennium Falcon in the second grade? Why did I need all those Legos? I just did. Just like I just need a small Lister (or two) in my garage to tinker with and run various other machines that I just need as well.
I have been thwarted in my attempt while living in the US due to EPA regulations making importation verboten. There are some, both original and clones, around, but they command top dollar as they are VERY popular with the off-grid/prepper folks. I like “The Grid” just fine. I am not building a bunker, planning for any sort of societal collapse or EMP weapon defense, I just need a Lister.
I have found a couple here in France, but either the owner has been unwilling to sell or the logistics in getting it have proved difficult – hauling it 30 vertical feet up and 2km down a mountain path sort of daunting. I still haven’t given up. We know a British couple that have been here long term and the husband is a classic car/truck guy – he has a 1962 Unimog fire truck as a daily driver… I spoke to him this weekend about my need and he might know a guy who knows a guy sort of thing. I have my fingers crossed.
Enjoy a few videos of Listers in action below:
I have neglected my bike since we have lived in France. I thought I would ride every day, but it has been more like once a week or once every two weeks with sputters and spurts of activity. The only bright spot is really that I have been riding 30-50km once a month or so with a neighbor. He is 20 and like 6’2″ and lanky – built like a proper cyclist. The first time he showed up at our garden gate to ride he had a full local team kit (matching jersey, socks, shorts) on and was astride a very clean, full carbon bike. My first reaction was ‘Shit… This kid is going to KILL me …’
Turns out that even in my current chubby condition and at my advanced age, I still have a little something when riding and I had no problem staying with him on the flats and can take him in the hills.
We have been riding off and on for about 18 months and recently I had a friend from Germany in town that I used to ride with there. A mini-tour of the local country side from atop a two wheeled stead was in order, but he didn’t bring a bike. No Worries, I loaned him my road bike and I took one for the team and rode my single speed. I just knew that they were going to kill me, but I needed the workout.
I am happy to report, that I stayed with theme both of them for the whole ride, and blasted by both up a moderate hill. I was super proud of my self after – I am not saying I didn’t hurt or didn’t want to puke, but I was still proud of the showing I managed. Not too shabby for a chubby bearded grandfather.
We have an official date for our move from France and back to Seattle. It is on paper and everything. Stamps-With-Foot and I will be in back in the Emerald City just in time to celebrate Christmas.
Life in France has been amazing:
The amazing food
Our friends here
Our house in the country
The big yard
Our Diesel-fueled car
Cheese, glorious cheese
Free world-wide long distance
Crazy cheap prescription meds
The used furniture shops
Walks in the farm fields with the puppies
The different kinds of honey
Always a sign pointing to the next village or spots of interest
Stuff We will not miss:
The August Shutdown
Early shop hours
The entire city/country closed on Sundays
The other neighbors and their dogs
I had a super shitty trip home from Morocco and was stressed out & pissed off when I got up Saturday morning.
I then decided that and working on some current projects, a couple of little things on the lathe, and making lots of sawdust and wood shavings would make it all better.
I am in the process of building an old-school 6-board chest (now 8-board as I added a skirt to front and rear…) and had some white pine scrap sections left from the two sides and the bottom. I glued them up before I left for Casablanca and when I got home I decided to turn a quick fruit dish for the kitchen/my wife. It took all of about 20 minutes and is 10.5″ in diameter and 2″ tall. I am pretty happy with the results.
We are currently going through a make/buy decision concerning our house in Seattle. Meaning, do we spend $200-$250K plus, months of time, and lots of sweat equity on updating our house, adding a garage/shop and dining room, and refitting the basement into an apartment for my mom. Or, do we spend $5K getting the house ready to sell and find another house that has what we want already done and complete. Do we keep the house as a rental and build an entirely new one…? We have met with our estate agent, a builder, a draftsman, an architect, a landscape company, a second builder, and now a third builder in our quest, but really are not any closer to making a decision. As said before, Stamps-With-Foot and I are going over it all and trying to decide what is best for our finances, future possible family expansion, and quality of life.
I drew our lot and house just after we moved in and have spent more than a few hours modeling all our crap – to scale – and seeing how it would all fit in the possible expansion of our existing house with the new garage build. Part of this on-going decision process is looking at all the possibilities and modifying the existing drawings into a “someday-maybe state”. I have a touch of OCD… If I am working on something or especially in the planning stages, I will drill WAY DOWN into the project. Evidenced by the below images and the included timeline.
I have modeled sewing machines, yard tools, bikes, my 1986 Jeep, my wife’s Subaru WRX, hand tools, bikes, , machine tools, trees, bushes, furniture, lathes, saws, wiring diagrams, rugs, even our puppies… all to scale… I may have a problem.
The lavender is in full bloom in our backyard. Last year I counted five different types of bees that visited it during the late summer. So far, I have counted seven different types, but I think one might be a type of yellow jacket. I looked online, but it is inconclusive. I went full-nerd and ordered a couple of books: Bees of the World by Mitchner and Bees of N. America (Princeton Guide). I will take some more pictures and see how many types I can find every couple of weeks. As a side note: I often wonder given my nerdiness how I have both managed to procreate with the female of our species and how I have a wife that is so damn adorable…
Early last year, Stamps-With-Foot and I bought a few pieces of furniture from an English couple moving out of France. One of the pieces was a pine drawer-front blanket chest that someone in the UK had built in their garage out of decking material. It was constructed with dovetails, screws, and lots of glue, so it was a stout little piece and for $50, I couldn’t pass it up. The finish was originally 1980’s fabulous stain and it was semi-sloppily finished with a brushed on polyurethane topcoat, but all and all not so bad as to ruin the chest. Just right for a little refinishing.
It sat in the house for a year or so, covered with a runner, before I dragged it into the GROP and tore into it. I cut the funky curved feature off the base, added some corner reinforcement, re-worked the drawer slides, removed the fat awkward drawer knobs, turned and added bun feet to the front, and installed square feet on the rear (going for the 17th century Furniture of Necessity look). I sanded the whole thing down to remove some of the gloppy poly and painted it with an undercoat of red and an overcoat of flat black – also period appropriate. When the top coat gets a ding, the red shows through. I have a number of chairs and other chests done in the same manner. I added brushed antiqued solid brass handles and called it done.
The chest now sits behind the couch, near the door for the back garden and holds a couple blankets for TV watching comfort and two cotton hammocks for lounging the yard.
In about 4 weeks I will celebrate the 13th anniversary of my 29th birthday and the current plan is to spend the weekend in Rome and Venice or Florence. While there, I want cake (moist yellow cake with chocolate butter-cream frosting), snuggling, a nice glass or 6 of fine wine and lots of tiny cups of Coffee, 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.
Below is my birthday wish list – mostly for my wife, family and children, but feel free to peruse and suggest.
I already have a bunch of crap, so my first request is that people give to a worthy cause.
If you DO happen to maybe want to get me a little tangible token of your love and appreciation:
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
Mahogany: The Costs of Luxury in Early America
by Jennifer L. Anderson
Benjamin Franklin by Edmund S. Morgan
A volume on handplanes or a tome on traditional woodworking
Twilight at Monticello
Bees of the World by Mitchner
Bees of N. America
A Lost Art Press volume of The Essential Woodworker
Washington: A Life by Ron Chernow
James Krenov’s Cabinet Maker’s Notebook
Two Classic books on Shaker Furniture: here and here.
A yearly subscription to Monocle Magazine
Permission to buy a sweet fountain pen
Amber 2ga. Plugs
2ga. Dark Jade plugs
A handsome tweed vest
a large Isle of Lewis Chess Set
Brown Redwing Engineer’s boots
A banjo mute
These new bad-ass cufflinks or these
New House Shoes
A Global Chef’s knife, bread knife, and ceramic sharpener
Classic Cartoon DVDs (Bugs, Tom&Jerry, Loony Toons, Road Runner, etc…)
I have been swamped for the last month and have not been posting. We have had friends and Family in, there have been trips for work and vacation, my J-O-B has me running in 6 directions – you name it. I will get my poop in group and post pictures from:
The second edition of my shoe/boot edition of Film Friday.
Climbing shoe resole in Bishop, California:
Last summer My Father-in-law, my son, and I made a road trip to the Musée du bois et de la Marqueterie (Museum of Wood and Marquetry) in Revel, France (about an hour from our house if you don’t get lost or almost run out of gas…). The town is one of the noted centers of high quality furniture production and has historically specialized in wood marquetry. It goes back to 1888, when Alexandre Monoury – a master cabinetmaker – left the workshops of Versailles and settled in Revel. Under his influence, several workshops were set up there and many of those origional shops are still going strong today.
The museum highlights the work of the area, new and old, and we spent a couple of hours marveling at the tools, example pieces and shear artistry of furniture, sculptures and marquetry examples on the second floor of the facility.
As a note – this part of France is stunning with sunflower and wheat fields(the Tour du France rides through or by every year) and the town has an stunning 13th century market square and a beautiful central market hall with a quadrangle of historic buildings around it that are home to restaurants, a fabulous bakery/pastry shop and antique shops.
Our time in France is not forever and we are more than halfway through our stay here and have begun the logistics discussion for our return to the US: What goes and what stays, where we will live, timing, etc…
Since we are on the downhill slope, my wife and I have decided to get busy seeing the parts of France that we have put off visiting thus far. So, this past weekend we went on a “must see” tour of Provence: Arles, Avignon, wineries, food, ruins, castles, sights, sounds, sunshine, oh my…
Below is a short list of accomplishments and pictures from the weekend:
Toured the coliseum in Arles (20th largest in all of the Roman Empire)
Visit to the Arles amphitheater
Walked in the footsteps of Van Gogh
A fantastic Air B&B in Avignon
Tour of the Pope’s Palace in Avignon
Drive to the wine region and village of Châteauneuf-du-Pape
Wine consumed and purchased
I may have taken some rocks from the fields…
Visit to the Point du Gard (tallest aqueduct in the Roman world)
4-hour mad dash home and restful sleep.
I am a sucker for a fine pair of shoes or boots. I love to go into a shoe shop to watch the cobblers work and smell the leather & dye. I have a pair of Justin Roppers ™ that have been with me since I was 17. I have had them half soled more than 5 times and full soled twice. I have had cuts stiched up and new heels nailed on. They fit my feet like a pair of bespoke calf-skin gloves. I wish all my shoes fit and felt like they do. I have Al’s Attire in San Francisco building my dress shoes and boots now and I hope to have that sort of relationship with their products as well someday.
First Rate Shoe and boot repair in the Great State of Texas:
A part-time cobbler making shoes in his garage:
Western boot builder:
Current ‘shit that I want/need list':
For my mom to feel 100% better
To stop traveling SO MUCH for work
To stop eating so many carbs and so much sugar
For my wife to feel all better
A three day walk in the mountains
6 Days in Rome without my cell phone
To rock climb with my friends in the French countryside
About 15 hard cover books about beekeeping and cabinet making
Some serious cash to give to Heifer and MSF
To be 100% certain of what can and should be done with our house in Seattle: rebuild or sell
For my wife to finish some alterations and repairs for me
A slender dark grey Yorkshire cap
To stop worrying about our house in Seattle
A sweet tweed vest
A few pair of cordovan and black monk-strap wing-tips from Al’s Attire
A Filson medium travel bag.
A couple of belts
To start working out again in earnest and stick to it
We sort of have a Wood-Craft/Bohemian/Bookworm thing going for our living room, den, and dining room decor at our place in France. Stamps-With-Foot just sort of let me go and only said no to the anvil for a sofa table idea. She hasn’t just sat on the chaise lounge and popping bon-bons in her mouth – all the curtains in the whole house are here doing and the flowers that seem to be magically refreshed every few days is all her as well. Everyone that we have had over loves it and one guest said: “It is so lovely that your company provides you with a professionally decorated home…” I was a little taken aback; embarrassed and proud at the same time.
The wooden extension ladder bookshelf was my first project after we moved here and I have sort of built around that, adding a few pieces: a workbench turned into a buffet/TV table, the lathe book shelf, an assortment of Moroccan and Turkish rugs, an antique or two, a few unique bits & bobbles, some paintings, a chest or two, a small bench, etc…
The rest of the place isn’t too shabby either with a dedicated sewing room for my wife, a 1000+ lending library that we house and run, a great shop space, my office that is plywood-modern, a guest room out of the 1930’s with all sorts of girly pretty things (also my wife’s touch). Our bedroom is all dark wood, yellow curtains with sage green accents, and my son’s room/other guest room is bright and happy. The quiet and secluded backyard has an outdoor dining area and grill, fluffy green grass, lots of flowers, and a shady spot for my hammock – the puppies are in heaven out there!
My ego got the best of me and I snapped off a couple of shots and sent them into Apartment Therapy, knowing that the site admin would go nuts for our place… nope, no response. Fine, I get it. I don’t NEED their validation, but I wouldn’t have kicked it out of bed either… Instead, I will post my non-professional, non-posed (except the one of us and the puppies), snapshots of our house near Toulouse here as a tincture for my ego. In the end, my wife loves it, which matters the most and one needs a happy wife if one wants a happy life.
Stamps-With-Foot and I had a long weekend in Munich last month and we spent the better part of a day in the Bavarian National Museum (Bayerisches Nationalmuseum) looking at cool old stuff. Their furnishings collection is impressive, with rebuilds of entire rooms from castles, hunting lodges and ale houses from 1400-1800. My wife gave me free reign to snap pictures to my little heart’s content so what follows is a collection of chests, cabinets, beds, and other furniture from their collection. I also love wood carvings and bronze, so expect a sampling of those as well. There were a lot of images to load and I put up smallish images for the sake of speed, so if you see one that you REALLY like and want more detail, let me know and I will send you a full sized image and all of the notes that were attached to the piece.
in December of 2013 Stamps-With-Foot and I were in San Francisco and visited an awesome shop called Windtip, which is in the shadow of the Trans-America Building. They are in a former Art Nouveau bank building (Originally the Bank of Italy) that the store has preserved – including the vault. As you might imagine, they have lots of fancy men’s shoes that made me tingle, But are more than a shoe store: “… a “one-stop shop” for the modern gentleman… the store features a custom clothing department, professional & casual clothing, cufflinks, pens, leather goods, barware, cigar accessories, a barbershop, and shoe shine stand. And that’s just the store. A private club for our best customers houses a bar & lounge, private parlor rooms, a boardroom, golf simulator, and a wine cave.” In short, a VERY cool place that any gent or his loving wife SHOULD check out if in the city.
Anyway, while there I fell for a black leather Moore & Giles document portfolio that I considered, if only for a flash of an instant, plopping down some hard earned cash for. Although perfect for my work life as a European-dwelling engi-nerd that prefers to more fast and light through airports, I came to my senses and walked away. I have longed for it ever since and have asked for one as a gift for every anniversary, Christmas, birthday, and a few random Tuesdays and Thursdays since that first meeting.
I checked the other day on it, more to torture myself than anything else, and the manufacturer has discontinued the product. Wingtip had bumped the price up and had it marked at $450! Crap… I started sketching it up so that I could get my cobbler (that sounds SO much more pretentious than it is…) to see about making it. I needed a detail and did a image web search this afternoon 15 minutes before I had a super important call for my J-O-B and BAM! There it was at Sierra Trading Post for CRAZY CHEAP! I have bought hiking clothes from them for years at deep discounts, but had no idea that they would have something like this. I double checked the item, looked if they had the black one in-stock, and called their customer service right then.
Yes they have it in black, yes they accepted my 4 year old 30% off coupon and just like that I got a $450 portfolio for $110.40 delivered free to my house in Seattle. Done and done. I was so excited that it made the work call after a pleasure and I have been dreading it for two days.
AM SO STOKED!!
Early last year, I picked up an antique copyist’s lectern (the top part only) that originated in a French Abby. The lectern was riddled with worm holes, a couple pieces were missing, and there was some damage to repair, but the first thing was to make it bug free so not to infect all our other furniture with wood worm. The thing spent a couple of months in a plastic bag full of insecticide and chemicals that makes for square babies. According to the interwebs two months bathing in said concoction would make the piece safe to bring out see the light of day again, so after fumigation, it sat in our living-room as decoration for 12 months before I started the rebuild in earnest.
Initially, I sketched up a few column profiles in my ubiquitous little black notebook and settled on a somewhat simple design that matched the overall style and period of the piece. Next, I spent a little time one Sunday turning a new pedestal out of beech scraps from my workbench build. I glued them all up into a single 5″ X 5″ x 32″ hunk of wood. I then measured and turned matching intermediate supports from a scrap oak rolling pin with curves to match the column. A couple of weeks later, I used the last of the beech scrap and turned the pedestal base, which ended up 16″ in diameter and 3″ tall.
After gluing it all together, applying matching stain, and putting 4 coats of polyurethane on the base, it was time to start on the lectern top. All was going to plan right up to the moment that I removed a damaged shelf and saw what looked to be fresh wood damage… In one of the joints there was a small white bug larvae… Son of a bitch… I immediately put plastic on my bench top and took apart another joint. I found more LIVING wood worm. I started picking at the capped holes here and there and more worm… Shit!!! I wrapped it up in a trash bag and out to the street it went. It would seem that my lethal chemical treatment wasn’t that lethal. Just REALLY, REALLY happy that the hatch hadn’t started and that my house was no full of bugs that would lay word worm eggs all over our other furniture. I took pictures and measurements and I am now planning on building a copy of the top over the next month or so and I will post the finished product here when I am done and it is installed in the living room.
I am too stupid to own a motorcycle. Really. I have been on one bike or another since I was 5 , when i first sat on a 50cc Honda dirt bike and my last one was a beautiful 900cc rocket. I have all sorts of stories about crashes and near misses, a few scars, a broken wrist and foot from my early riding years. I decided that most of my injuries and near-death experiences on a bike were completely my fault and that unless I wanted to be an early organ donor I had to give them up, so after the birth of my daughter, I sold my last bike and other than a dalliance with rebuilding a duel-sport on my balcony in 2004, I have been able to resist the pull of two wheels. Then, minding my own business, I walk into something like the pair shown below:
Went to local pizza shop for dinner last week and what is sitting outside? Two vintage bikes, both old single cylinder French Motobecanes – the single-seater with the white helmet is a 1950 and the double-seater with the gas can on front is a 1952. Talked to the two guys riding them and the bikes are barn finds bike that they pulled out and got running this morning. Super jealous!!!! There were cobwebs and barn dust still on them. Take gander at the old plates! These babies make me want an old bike to tinker with, ride, rebuild, ride, cuss, work on, ride, love, ect… Now, I need another project/hobby like I need a hole in my head, but the pull of the Dark Side is SO strong!
It has been almost a year since I built (with help from The Ruminator) Stamps-With-Foot a kitchen island and she has loved it (so I am told) and used the bejesus out of it. I made a couple of additions and there are a a few observations:
I have been swamped with work and travel for the last couple of months, so my shop time has been very limited. I have mostly been puttering around with my workbench, getting the last bits and bobbles done before calling it done and I have spent the off hour here and there on the lathe and doing stuff around the house:
I have do a few things in the shop just for organization and am working on a couple of little projects:
I am about a month late in posting this – life and my J-O-B got in the way – but the Cornebarrieu Bench is done. Completely done! All bells and whistles added. It seems like it took me forever, but it fits perfectly in the shop and I started using the bench even before it was finished. I am very happy with the outcome and am currently working on projects that have been piling up all winter. Just in case you haven’t been following along for the past year and a half or so:
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/sort of – 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 as well as some time to build one – or so I thought.
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 was made and first used.
For anyone interested, here is a documented build process, build notes, and step by step guide – 115 steps – to build this beast.
My wife, Stamps-With-Foot, has a normally dry sense of humor and sometimes she is unintentionally hilarious. Other times I am shocked at some of the stuff that her brain comes up with that her sweet innocent little mouth then utters. I have been recording a few of them lately and the choicest pearls are below.