Buying a Moroccan Rug: How-To

Below is a link to a PDF document that contains The VERY little I know about Moroccan carpets and how to buy them in Morocco. I put it together of multiple trips and years and thought I would share with the general public on the interwebs. Disclaimer: This work is not 100% mine. I have kludged together some of the knowledge and wisdom of others that has helped me in the search for my own carpets and have added my own thoughts, ideas, and text here & there.

I will say that the statements contained are not purely academic: I have perused Medinas and souks in Marrakesh, Fez, Casablanca, Essaouira, Rabat, Dubai, Ankara, and Abu Dhabi. I have purchased rugs from multi-generational vendors who spoke every conceivable language – especially the numbers – and who have seen every bargaining trick known to man. You have not lived a full life until you have seen a mustached Moroccan man and a tiny Chinese lady in serious heated discussion over the quoted price of Beni-Mguild, wildly gesturing with their hands while barking in Mandarin at each other.

I have also walked away from deals after bargaining for a couple of hours. There is a hanbel (kilim is the Turkish word) in Essaouira that I left folded on the floor there that still calls to me. Every so often my wife will say, “Remember that rug…” and we both get a little sad. I do not claim that I am the world’s greatest negotiator or that I have never been taken advantage of by a market seller – I have.

If there is someone out there reading this that feels my info – any of it – is wrong or misleading, write me, tell me what I need to know/change. I will update this doc and list them as a primary source in an endnote/footnote.

Buying a Carpet in Morocco V3

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Film Friday – Blacksmith

“Artisan Blacksmith” Short Film from Kevin Andrews on Vimeo.

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Film Friday – Coffee Double Feature

Roasted || A Coffee Documentary from Matt Ellenbogen on Vimeo.

Making a Perfect Cup of Coffee from BANG on Vimeo.

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Chinese Lathe Build Update – Pimp My Lathe Edition

As mentioned in a previous post, I purchased a Chinese manufactured wood lathe shortly after moving to France. Putting it together and getting it running true was not a Herculean task, but it wasn’t a plug and play affair either. In addition to the initial setup, I have taken an hour here and there to make it bit more ridged and add some features that did not come stock, just to pimp it out a little:

  1. The base is now sheathed in 1/2″ plywood, glued to the wood supports and screwed into the sheet metal legs.  It makes the base a LOT stiffer and clean-up is much faster.
  2. After 4 months of weekly run-time, I have had to replace a couple of set screws and re-tighten the short bed extension outboard of the head-stock. The clamp bolt holding the head stock shattered and caused me some grief.  Chinese bolt quality sucks.
  3. The bottom of the base was finished with 2″ thick scraps and I added a couple hundred pounds of pavers, gravel, and crushed brick to add even more stability.  It is not enough when I try to turn a 15″ hunk of cherry outboard,  It still wobbles and jumps around a bit.  There is just no way to make the sheet metal frame more ridged.
  4. On the French cleats above the lathe, I added a tool holder and chuck/drive center/tail center tool mount for convenience.
  5. I hung a long compact florescent over the work area and on the side there is an IKEA floor lamp/spot light that I can move about.  Scored it used for $8.00!
  6. A tool grinder the I picked up for about $45 is mounted are the end of the lathe on a small table for easy mid-project tool sharpening.
  7. The capacity is only 12″ and that is not the magic number.  16″ – 18″ would be perfect for the bowls and bases and platters that I am doing here.  If I added 2″ iron risers to the head and tail stocks, then it would give me a 16″ turning capacity (swing).  I have thought long and hard about doing it, but haven’t yet as it might be a complication that is more headache than useful AND I don’t want to put anymore time or money into the thing.  I just want it to work.
  8. I designed a steel bed extension – modeled it in 3D and everything, but I am not going to have it made… I would be trying to turn an under powered Hyundai into a V8 4X4 Toyota Truck.
  9. For tuning large objects with the head swiveled, I designed a sweet swing arm tool post as well.  I modeled it up too, and decided not to have it built for the same reasons.  I will use the tool post arm that came with the lathe with a wood post under for support when I turn bigger stuff outboard.
  10. This Lathe will get me by for the next couple of years and I will go over it and repair/replace any worn parts before we leave France to ensure the next owner has relatively trouble free tool, but This is my last “cheap” lathe.  I am going to plop down some funds and get a Robust, Vicmarc, a huge Powermatic, Oneway, Oliver, or a Stubby – Something with power, mass, lots of heavy cast iron and reliable parts that I don’t have to screw with.


IMG_3410 Lathe Chisel rack 2014 Lathe clean aug 2014



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New Cell Phone Blues

My J-O-B issued cell phone was on its last legs: broken internal WiFi antenna, if I switched on “Airplane Mode” than I would have to power the phone down to get it to come out again. At the end, it wouldn’t text and I could receive calls, but not make them. It was a sad day when I turned her in to our IT department.

My iPhone was 3 years old; she lived a good life and was as good to me as a phone could be: We traveled the world together, took pictures in exotic locations, drunk texted my wife and friends, sent e-mail sealing $100K+ deals, jammed together on Seasick Steve and Hillbilly music, searched Wiki at the drop of a hat, we ran/biked/lifted together. I had the unlocked version and she took SIM cards from China, the US, Japan, France, Germany, and Morocco like a champ – nary a hiccup. She was my connection to the 21st century. I think her undoing was one to many drops while running and then I used her as a tether for 3 weeks while my home and office internet were down. It was more then her little chip-set could handle.

I was given an “upgrade” and a new Samsung Galaxy S5 showed up at my door. “Ummm, this isn’t an iPhone…” I uttered into the phone at my IT rep who sat in an office 5,000 miles and 7 time zones away. Don’t worry she said, smooth transition she said… Maybe Android will grow on me, maybe, but setting this thing up to be usable makes me feel like a semi-literate 5th grader taking the SATs. It only took 2 hours and two support calls to configure my three mail accounts, my contacts are floating around in the ether somewhere, I had to buy a couple Android apps to replace the Apple ones that I have come to depend on: Turbo Scanner and Photo Toaster. I use a budget/expense app that is not available in Android and my awesome classic pocket watch app, according to the developers, is forever to remain Apple only. Where the Hell is the flashlight function?!?!

My new phone also has the misfortune of being locked – both SIM and region. I had a wonderful experience with AT&T Customer Service, 4 calls actually, where I was finally informed that the only way that AT&T will unlock this bad boy is if my J-O-B buys the phone and the remainder of my contract outright and then pays them a substantial “fee” to unlock it 7-15 days later. OK, small semi-legal Turkish phone shop on a side street in Toulouse, I will soon be on my way to see you with 40 Euros in hand and let you settle this unlock business. Side Rant: I would like to mash the customer service groups of AT&T and Comcast together in Thunderdome and let them battle to the last. Really, really.

I will say that the screen resolution and processor speed are bad-ass! The thing is huge though. I am going to have to start buying pants and suits with bigger pockets.

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Rainy Day Projects

I spent a few hours this past Saturday cleaning up and re-arranging the GROP. I had bits and pieces of projects strewn about everywhere and I had to wiggle my way in through both the garage door and the door from the house – like I was in need of a hoarder intervention. It just took a couple of hours and only two utterances of the F-word to make sure that my on-going and future tasks were staged for completion and arranged in an orderly fashion.

Months ago, I picked up an antique copyist’s lectern (the top part only) taken from a French Abby. It was in ruins and the wood was full of worm holes, but I saw treasure and have planned on rebuilding it “…when I have time...” This is what rain days are for! Running and biking would have beeen cold and muddy, the dogs wouldn’t budge from the warmth of the pillow filled couch, I had already slept late and there was serious wife snuggling, so might as well make some wood shavings!

I sketched up a few column profiles in my ubiquitous little black notebook (currently a Rhodia Webbie) and decided on a somewhat simple design that MIGHT have been found when the piece was made. It is not some object of high art – no Gothic arches, no carvings and it seems to have been made for a specific task which didn’t require flourishes. I tried to follow that ascetic and kept it all fairly simple, only using a gouge, parting tool, and skew to work the column. While my lathe is modern, the tools are the same that have been used since the ancient Egyptians turned on their horizontal lathes, so I figure that the re-made version would be recognizable to both the maker and user of the original piece – that and it feeds my own mild form of wood working OCD.

The lectern top is now stabilized and bug free after months of treatment and I spent a little time on Sunday turning a new pedestal out of beech scraps from my workbench build that I had. I glued them all up into a single 5″ X 5″ x 32″ hunk of wood. I then measured and turned matching intermediate supports so that it all blends in as one piece. I need to give it a good all-over sanding before I remove it from the lathe. What I have left to do before I call it done is to replace one book ledge, rebuild (or find at junk shop) the second tin candle holder to match the single original that is left, turn and fit the pedestal base plate, and then everything gets stained and oil-finished to match.

It will look amazing in living room next to the book press with a reprinted copy of one of the four volumes of Roubo’s L’Art Du Menuisier on one side and Viollet-le-duc’s Dictionary of French Architecture from 11th to 16th Century on the other side, tall beeswax candles in the holders… Jesus, I am getting nerdier with each passing year!

Lectern rebuild 11-2014 (1)

Lectern rebuild 11-2014 (2)

Lectern rebuild 11-2014 (3)

Lectern rebuild 11-2014 (4)

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Film Friday – Basket Making

A Measure of the Earth from Billy Sims on Vimeo.

Willow Basketry from Brad Salon on Vimeo.

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Four days in the US: lots of work, frenzied shopping, and severe jet lag

I just spent 3.5 days in the US. I had to go over for a bunch of meetings that I just couldn’t do over the phone and this is how trip started…

Woke up at 04:00 and hopped in the shower.

Had 06:30 flight to the U.S. 

Caught female French Bulldog chewing wife’s $400+ retainer in our new bed.

Took retainer away and scolded puppy. 
Went to get tooth brush. 

Walked back by bed while brushing teeth and headed to get dressed.

Caught a sideways glimpse of the same dog peeing between our pillows and switching to the “I gotta shit” hunch. 


Grabbed dog, wife put robe on me (was still naked at that point) as I marched dog to the door in righteous fury. 

Wife stripped bed – no pee on pillows or new mattress.

After completing her business, dog went into the kennel. 

She did it because she was pissed at me for taking her “new yummy toy” and for scolding her so early.

It is official, she is getting fixed next week.
No way we are passing those genes on to continue her line of un-smart and passive aggressive Frenchies.

Our other Frenchie (the smart and well behaved one) watched the whole affair with a dual look of “Wasn’t me!” and “Damn girl, you got in TROUBLE…”
As dessert, I got my balls manhandled by security at the Toulouse airport in a cup and smush maneuver that they must teach to the French equivalent of the TSA as this is not the first occurrence.

Work was work and there were lots of meetings and calls, but I had a couple of hours at night to run some errands. Anytime we go home, there is a list of stuff to get that we normally can’t find in France or if we can, it is crazy expensive: 12oz jar of coconut oil at Trader Joes is $4. Here it is the equivalent of $15.50. Really. You don’t want to know what vitamins cost and forget finding “your brand” of tooth paste.

My sweet wife, Stamps-With-Foot, gave me a list. A very exacting list and below are the places I went to check everything off:

Bed, Bath & Beyond
3 different Walgreens
Ye Olde Vitamin Shoppe
Woodcraft (that was for me and I got in trouble)
West Marine
CVS Pharmacy
Guitar Center (again me, but I only dropped $6)
Academy Sporting goods
Dick’s Sporting Goods
Barnes & Noble
Pets and More

I had to get the puppies new coats for winter ( on the list) and I had an arm load of pink frilly sweaters when a woman from my cooperate office walked by me in Petco and struck up a conversation. I felt especially manly standing the in the dog outfit section, deciding on which pink heart-covered puffy knitted number our female Frenchie would look best in. The lady may have snickered a little. Her husband was standing a few feet behind her – 6’2″, ~240 pounds with a large beard – he was holding a chihuahua mix with a purple harness and gave me a look of shared shame and defeat.

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Free Wood is the Best Wood!

Prospects for Fall wood-turning are looking up!  I am 98% done with the Chinese lathe build-up into a proper tool. I am waiting on the arrival (had to resort as there are not turning shops in a 100 mile radius?!) of two huge bowl gouges and I will be set up to make shavings all winter. I was also given a free electric oil-filled heater for the garage, which should keep things toasty!  On the raw material front: I am taking an old apricot tree out of a small orchard for some friends a few villages away tomorrow (National Holiday) and I am really excited to turn some bowls and jar tops out of it.  A few weeks ago, I mentioned the project to a friend of my wife’s and a couple of hours later she called and said that her husband was cutting an old ornamental cherry down and would I like the wood? Like the Pope wants Jesus, I did!! I went over with the chainsaw and helped him take it down and to cut a few larger limbs and the trunk into sections.  Some of the images below are what it looked like inside the tree just after my chainsaw went through. We were stunned. Not just the center was beautiful – a fire purple, but there are bright reds and oranges in the outer wood as well. The tree had over 70 rings and grew next to a couple of big cedars so the rings are real tight and as I had to sharpen my chain twice during the cutting, the wood is VERY hard and dense.

It took two loads in the car to get it all home.  I sealed the ends right away and stacked everything in the GROP near the lathe. They had cut a plum down earlier this week and I scored two 12” rounds from that as well – the ones with the flame purple center in the pictures below. I told the couple that I would make them a vessel or large bowl out of a hunk of the tree in trade for the lumber.

Fast forward to this past Saturday: I rough turned 6 bowls (one not pictured) in about 2.5 hours from the large limbs. The trunk sections will be cut into starting next weekend.   I will let the small pieces dry for 4-6 months and then finish turning them. The larger bowls from the trunk will take a year to dry.

Am feeling reasonably optimistic about upcoming projects :-)
















Update 11-9-14:

Well, the apricot tree wood harvesting didn’t quite go as planned. I had chainsaw issues right away – needed to tear it down before the first cut and unclog the chain oil hole. Holy crap the wood was hard. It had 65+ growth rings that were stacked in tight. It was slow going with a couple stops to sharpen my chain. The clincher though was that there were two twisting veins of rot that went from crown to root ball with lots of bug damage spidering out from the rot as well. Dammit! There was was maybe 12” of trunk that I can spin a bowl out of. Per my agreement with the owner, I cut up the other trunk & big limb sections to a length that will fit in a fireplace and stacked it up for them. You win some you lose some. If not for this tree I wouldn’t have the amazing wood from the ornamental cherry and plum tree and maybe karma will smile on me the next time I lug my saw into a field.

Apricot Tree 11-2014 (3)

Apricot Tree 11-2014 (1)

Apricot Tree 11-2014 (2)

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What I Want Thursday – 11/6/14

Below are the things that I find are present for me today:

1. More time with my children and my mom.

2. I want to stick to my diet and workout schedule and not fall off the wagon and back into the cookie/café Mocha/lethargic/big-belly/back-hurting abyss.

3. For my wife to finish some long ago promised sewing tasks for me – I would really like those shorts, pants, and shirts back…

4. a Fine large set (only 2) of Easy Wood carbide insert lathe chisels for all the fall and winter bowl work I have planned

5. For my proper car camping/glamping kitchen set up to be finished – it is about 1/2 the way done and sitting in the GROP.

6. A leisurely trip to Rome and Venice with my wife – no puppies, no family, no friends – just us for a week or so.

7. For my Joiners workbench to be done and set up and in use.  I am only about 1/3 of the way done and only have 8 of the 17 sections of the top laminated up.

8. A few booksFranklin Bio by Wood,  Paris Between the Wars 1919-1939: Art, Life & CultureErnest Hemmingway bio and a two books of his letters (1&2), A signed hardbound copy of Campaign Furniture 
Theodore Roosevelt: a Strenuous Life,  The Anarchist’s Tool Chest etc…

9. A whole Metric crap-ton (my favorite unit of measure) of wooden wine crates for a couple of open projects at home.

10. To give Heifer International a menagerie of animals for Christmas - That is my charity goal for the year.  We give monthly, but I would like to be able to do more this year.

11.  For our 2015 French Visas to be finished so we can get on with plans for next year.

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Film Friday – Pipe making

Becoming an Artisan — Life as a Pipemaker from J.AlanPipes on Vimeo.

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Home From Morocco

As mentioned in a previous post, my J-O-B sent me to Casablanca, Morocco recently for a few days. I had a free afternoon the day I flew in, so I headed right to the “New” Medina Market (the Old Medina is where the locals shop for fruit, fish, scarves, socks, underwear, etc…). I picked up a few things for gifts and spent almost 4 hours with a carpet merchant bargaining for two carpets and drinking glass after glass of hot, sweet, Moroccan mint tea. I can say that after haggling with carpet sellers in Marrakesh, that the carpet soul in Casablanca seemed almost laid back. The were no histrionics and the opening price did not equal the price of my first vehicle. I was pleasantly surprised.

Things turned out really well and I got a decent price for the carpets – 1/5 of what they go for in the US and half of the European mainland retail price. In addition to bringing back a horrendous cold, I also brought back a large red leather pouf and 1 square meter of Zellige tile for my sweet wife – she danced a little when I pulled them out of my bag. I got the tile at a giant outdoor bizarre that was full of used and new plumbing fixtures, tile, lumber, tools, doors, etc… It was like 2 Home Depots , a Lowes, and 10 architectural salvage places set up all their wares under tents in a football stadium parking lot. It was vast and cramped and noisy and awesome. I wanted to spend hours there, but it was getting dark and this pale gent doesn’t plan to get caught in a dark ally in the middle of a foreign bizarre after sundown, no sir. I got my tile and zipped away on the back of a borrowed scooter, piloted by a Moroccan carpet seller with a who had a schedule to keep – which is a whole other tale in-itself!

On the day before I left town, I had had a couple of hours and I went back to the Medina and bargained for a few cushions and pillow covers for my wife. Same thing – very laid back. There was nowhere near the selection, but it was worth it not to be constantly harassed and pawed at by sellers trying to drag me into the shop for a “special price just for me…”

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Film Friday – A Ship in a Bottle

Bottled History from Smith Journal on Vimeo.

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Headed to Morocco

Later this month, my J-O-B is sending me to Morocco for 3 days/4-nights. I haven’t been there since Laurel and I went in 2008 for our anniversary. That was a relaxing trip: Palatial riad, going out, romantic dinners, the beach, camels, etc… This trip will be a good bit different: Budget hotel, meeting after meeting all day, e-mails/drawings/spreadsheets at night, hasty meals, and early flights. I do get a free Sunday afternoon the day I fly into Casablanca, so I am headed right to the old Medina Market and plan to do a little gift shopping for my wife and all the birthdays coming up.

We sort of have a Moroccan/Sherlock/Boho thing going for our home deco and I am going to take the opportunity to pick up a few small things for the house while there this time:

  1. A 3-4 meter long meter runner for the living room
  2. A  very small rug for our entryway
  3. A few small tiles to make into coasters
  4. A leather pouf foot stool
  5. Some throw pillow covers – as many as I can carry back actually
  6. A couple of small tajines
  7. Slippers for my wife

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Beer: Quality over Quantity

I was flipping through my Instacrack feed today and I noticed that in the last couple on months that I have had some really good beer.  I am such a raving wino that we can buy a 6-pack and 4 of them will sit in the fridge for a month before I finally give them away to guests one at a time.  More often than not, I will buy one or two promising looking beers at the store and put them in the back of our euro-fridge (tiny) to reward myself with after a day of yard work in the hot sun, when I am finally done with some long-term shop project, or if a project goes horribly wrong – like destroying a saw blade on an unseen nail, anytime I have run a chainsaw that day, after a grueling hike, finishing a monster drawing or spreadsheet, a bowl flies apart on a spinning lathe, multiple parts cut too short….  All that stuff deserves a beer

Tripple Beer

spreadsheet beer

Peche Beer

Leff Beer

Donalld Beer





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Making Little Stuff Around the House

I have been remiss in posting for the last couple of weeks – my J-O-B has been sort of nuts and I have been trying to stay on top of things and stay employed :-) I have been putting around in the shop here and there at night before and after dinner though.  Recently I have completed:

  1. A salt cellar for my wife made from scrap red and white oak because I was tired of seeing the IKEA glass dish on the table.
  2. A jar lid or two for the kitchen.
  3. There have been a couple of honey dippers for turned gifts.
  4. Specifically for my wife, I made rolling pins for fettuccine and ravioli pasta (or pie crust if my sweet bride happened to want to bake me a lattice top apple pie…)  We had a friend who is a food blogger come over that LOVED them and I think that I am going to do one or two for her as well.
  5. I added some wood-bling to a plunger handle – Why have mass-produced stuff sitting around like everyone else when 8 minutes of lathe time and a little oil/wax turns the mundane into the custom.
  6. A glass bottle cutter so I can take the pile of bottles we generate and make candle covers, tumblers, and glass funnels for my wife and for Christmas gifts.  It was a non-specific request from her that has won me brownie-points.
  7. A book shelf made from a small 1931 cast-iron lathe and a hunk of reclaimed barn/house beam from here in France.  I cleaned both the beam and lathe up a little, added a little stain to the wood, light sanding, and a coat of poly.  I mortised in a couple of reclaimed oak runners to serve as feet and the keep the ends of the beam from splitting.  The lathe was then bolted down and I added one of my bowls to give the books a proper purchase.  The tool rest is turned and mounted on the other side to keep the books upright.  I think it looks awesome and everyone who have come over in the last month has either asked where I got it of how I thought of it.  Make my ego swell a bit….


IMG_3146 IMG_3144 Jar lid 8-14 Kitched 2014 IMG_3465 IMG_3897 IMG_3900 IMG_3302 IMG_3301

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Film Friday – Ed Pressnell: Dulcimer Maker

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Film Friday – Old School Moto Builder

Tom Fugle from scott pommier on Vimeo.

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Porto and The Douro Valley

For my Birthday – the 12th anniversary of my 29th year – my sweet wife and I went on a long weekend to Porto. I almost ruined our trip before it began by leaving my passport in my work briefcase – I flew in late from London the night before and that is my only thread of an excuse. A friend’s wife raced to our place and the made the hour and 20 minute drive to the airport in an hour and five. I was the last one on the plane after busting through the closing security gate like I was in a movie. Trip rescued.

It poured on us the first couple of days, so there was lots of sightseeing in churches and port wine tasting rooms. We managed seven in total including the vineyards… When the sun did come out, we found the city to be stunning: Lots of tile, amazing old buildings, picturesque river, etc…

Speaking of churches, we visited the Baroque masterpiece of Sao Francisco Church. Holy Jiminy-Jesus! The gilded wood carving is breathtaking. We could have sat there for hours. Stunning.

Concerning the tastings, we visited 4 of the Porto houses in the Gaia part of the City: Taylor’s, Ramos Pinto, Ferreira, and a local gallery/small scale producer – where Stamps-With-Foot MADE me buy a port wine related board game. She made me. We liked the port at Ramos Pinto the best for everyday consumption and we bought our friend’s wife/passport logistician a fine bottle of 20 year old that was silky smooth. At Taylor’s we/I splurged on a single glass of their 40 year old. Delicious!

For our last full day and on my actual birthday, we took a tour of the Douro Valley and stopped by two vineyards and a local mom and pop shop that made their own that was delectable. Our favorite vineyard and tour was the one at the Quinta do Tedo. Nice place, great tour, good port at a great price. In between the guzzling of the wine, we found the scenery to be breathtaking and Stamps-With-Foot and I decided we could live in a place like the Douro.

Porto and Douro 2014 (1)

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Inaugural Hand Tool Tuesday Post

Being a child of the 1980′s, my early tool and joinery education from my own father was augmented by two TV craftsman – Norm and Roy. I have a foot in each of their worlds: My table saw, miter saw, and lathe get the lion’s share of work done in my shop, but I am giddy whenever I can whip out a chisel, Japanese saw, or molding plane. My lathe gets a lot of press as it is my only power tool here in France and I recently realized that I am not highlighting hand tools enough in my shop work posts. Additionally, I see a lot of very cool old tools here in France that need to be shared. I will be posting pictures, videos, details, openions, thoughts, etc… here.

For today, enjoy Roy and Norm

Disclosure Note: The choice of the Roy video was solely due to the heady mix of Jefferson and Roubo. In the future, I will include more videos of people actually using the tools :-)

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Desk Fetish – Revel, France

I may have mentioned before that I have a certain unnatural attraction to desks – a lust if you will. We have five desks in our house in France home, three in our Seattle house, and I still NEED more. I love me a Victorian Wooten, a Danish cabinet-desk will cause me to pant, fire screen panel desks start me to sweat, roll-tops make me smile, and the smooth curves of an Art Nouveau model will make me twitch.

Whenever I travel or go to a museum or furniture shop, I have a wandering eye for desk-like furniture – I almost feel like I am cheating on my desks at home. It happened again recently, when I went to Revel, France on a road trip with my son and Father-in-law. When we got home and started looking at the pictures, I realized that more then half were of desks, desk drawers, the corner joint of a desk, image after image of drop leafs… I with we had more rooms…

Here are a few pictures from that trip:

Desks France Revel 2014 (14)

Desks France Revel 2014 (15)

Desks France Revel 2014 (1)

Desks France Revel 2014 (2)

Desks France Revel 2014 (3)

Desks France Revel 2014 (4)

Desks France Revel 2014 (5)

Desks France Revel 2014 (6)

Desks France Revel 2014 (7)

Desks France Revel 2014 (8)

Desks France Revel 2014 (9)

Desks France Revel 2014 (10)

Desks France Revel 2014 (11)

Desks France Revel 2014 (12)

Desks France Revel 2014 (13)

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Film Friday Double Feature – Instrument Making

The Instrument Maker from Steven Dempsey on Vimeo.

Luthiers from Porchlight Sessions on Vimeo.

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Reusing/remaking old tools

I love me some old tools. I love looking at them, touching their surfaces, using them… Most of my hand planes, some of my chisels, and all of my molding planes are older them my grandfather. I will push people down in a junk/antique shoppe to get to a wooden plane or socket chisel peeping out from behind a Paint-By-Numbers masterpiece.

Occasionally, I find a beautiful tool that is beyond repair and cannot be brought back to life. I lament its loss. There have been a couple of pieces lately that I just couldn’t let go into the burn pile or let sit to languish as food for wood-worms. The molding plane pictured below was/is a 1860s-ish Gleave #8 round and was split and has warped at the split to the point that there was no bringing it back from the dead. So I cleaned it up, applied a little walnut oil, and added a VERY pitted iron to make a key holder for our living room. It subtly tells first-time visitors that a carpenter/Ébéniste lives here.

The 23″ walnut joiner plane, also below, was the property of a C. Wanger, and used just outside the village of Cornebarrieu, France. It bears the marks of his hand on the foreend and his thumb and index fingers have left deep indentions on the tote. It has been repaired a couple of times, the wedge has been cut off and worms got to it years ago. The poor thing is now held together with hope, spit, and a little epoxy. I loved the size and color, so I turned it into a desk organizer for my office.

Before you all start collecting scrap so you can roast me alive for desecrating beautiful tools, know that I rescued them from a fiery fate and have given these tools a useful and meaningful after-life.

Keys 2014 - France


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Our new puppy is part cat…

Truffle has some cat DNA in there somewhere:

1. If you want to sleep and she doesn’t want you to there is a slobber attack. Don’t try to hide your head under the pillow – it won’t help you.
2. She will chase the laser pointer up the concrete column in the living room and go back to look for it an hour later.
3. Why would she eat her food, sleep in her bed, play with her toys? Brodie’s are so much better.
4. Apparently, her assigned spot in the bed is between my wife and me at shoulder level.
5. Oh, you want to write an email or get some work done? Nope, not on her watch. She will sit in your lap, lick the keyboard and grunt until you pet her full-time.
6. Yoga Mat? Wrong. Puppy play space. Move over.
7. You want to watch “your show”? Not during designated playtime you don’t. When is designated play time? What time does your show start?
8. Why would my wife want to put make-up on by herself when Truffle can help?
9. A relaxing bath for the Mrs…. Sure if she doesn’t mind Truffle standing at the side of the tub whimpering or lying beside it passing gas.
10. “What do you mean there is a no dogs on the table rule?!” We have learned that chairs and benches have to be pushed in so that we do have to share our meals.
11. She CAN get in the bed by herself, but why would she do that? Standing beside the bed with her nose and front paws on the mattress and whining until the bald pink monkeys put her up there is a winning strategy, so why should she expand the energy?












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Small job for the neighbors

Just finished a curio cabinet rework/repair for my next-door neighbor. It was the husband’s parents and as best as I can tell/find it is from 1910ish. It was really well made and a fine piece of small furniture to display dolls, tea cups, and such. At some point, 2 shelves were added and the corner trim blocks were lost. I turned some 7/8″ X 7/8″ X 3/8″ blocks down, and added rosettes with a skew chisel point. As my neighbor was handing me the cabinet to install the blocks, he also asked that I put in a third shelf. OK… I used an old fruit crate bottom for the shelf material and planed it down a touch to match the thickness of the other two. I then cleaned up the front edge of one of the “original: shelves so it matched the other and the new.

After the repair and rework, I mixed and fiddled with 3 different stains I had to color match the original finish; I didn’t want the rosettes looking out of place. After touching-up all the dings and scrapes, I added an oil finish and 2 coats of wax. It only took 10 minutes or so to buff it up to a high shine.

I took it over to his wife Monday morning and she was thrilled at the transformation. The Talley motto (at least my house-hold) is “Be Helpful when you can” and I feel this qualifies. I am glad I could do this little thing for them and hope they continue to use it and pass it to their kids.



Rosettes for neighbor

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Need a trash can lid? Make it on the Lathe

We have a Art Deco flower pot in the guest bathroom that is used as a trash can. is about 9″ high and 8″ in diameter, so it doesn’t hold a lot. However, our new puppy is VERY interested in the contents of that vessel. To stem any possible and eventual messes, I took some pine scrap, chucked it up in the lathe and made a heavy wooden lid. I stained and finished to match the pot. Simple fast jobs like this make it so I can buy new tools without my sweet wife flipping out.




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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 glass or 6 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. I might buy some new wingtips, just ’cause they make me happy. Cookies will be eaten and 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


In addition to a fine long weekend in Porto, my wife gave me a cute desert cookbook, awesome mustache cuff-links, and a watch that I have been asking for. My Father-in-law sent me the funds to buy a nice bottle of port. My Mom hooked me up with an apron for BBQing and the thoughtful gift of Heifer bees. Bottles of good wine and great beer from friends here in France and I got cards and online wishes galore. It all made me very happy. Thank you everyone very, very much!

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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)




















UPDATE: Shortly after my son left to go back home, I was cleaning up the GROP and I found this message below written in saw dust. It made me both humble and very proud.


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