Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Respect The Screw

Absolute Proof of Authenticity
I refinish and restore antique furniture.  I have taken apart and repaired or refinished over 10,000 pieces of antique furniture in my 45 years.  I am fortunate to see the "guts" of some amazing pieces.  I get to see the tool marks and construction details up close.  I get to examine the nails, screws, hinges, pulls and all sorts of other interesting hardware that exists on these pieces.

Over the years I have developed a deep respect for original hardware which is still in its place and has never been removed.  I think it is certainly one of the most important clues as to the actual age of the piece.  Fakers are usually more concerned with the wood elements and hiding the new wood or cut wood edges with fake patina and stains.  Until recently, they have not been so concerned with using period and appropriate hardware.

In fact, it is possible to recycle old hardware onto newer reproductions, but more difficult to find enough old hardware from the same period that matches.

When I look at antique tables, the very first thing I look at are the hinges and screws.  Iron hinges went through a very clear evolution during the late 18th and first half of the 19th century, as did the screws that held them in place. Until the industrial revolution fully took over this job, all furniture hinges were made by blacksmiths.

The earliest iron hinges were straps of iron bent around a pin and forged together.  These hinges clearly show the smith's work and have a distinctive taper to their thickness.  It is pretty hard to break one of these hinges, since you would have to break the pin or tear the iron.  Not going to happen.

Soon they added rivets in iron to hold the straps together.  On all these hinges the bevel for the screw head is hand cut and irregular.  In fact all the holes are where they end up.  Nothing is even or symmetrical.  Just not important, since they were not seen in the finished product.

Note Scribe Lines For Axis Alignment
Note Saw Cuts For Creating Mortise
Eventually, around 1850, a tool was developed that could form the iron or brass into a circle to hold the pin.  There was no longer a need to make hinges.  These "butt" hinges, as they were called, were cheaper and all made the same, which made installation faster.  However, if you pulled strong enough on the door or leaf, the metal would just unwrap and pull open.  Not too strong, but it works under normal conditions, so it prevails.

The screws went through a similar evolution, from completely hand filed to cast to the invention of the modern pointed gimlet screw in 1846.  There is a wonderful research pdf from the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, by Christopher White online which illustrates the different periods of screws.

A Thing of Beauty
You can see it here:  Wood Screws in North America
Nothing Touched Since 1820

It is important to recognize that modern screw drivers should not be used on period screws.  Period screws were fastened with two tools, a gimlet and a turnscrew.  The gimlet was used to create the pilot hole, since the early screws were blunt and not tapered.  The turnscrew is the original name for the screwdriver, but the tip was not square.  The tip was tapered, like a "V."  The reason the tip was tapered was because the slot in the head of the screw was not flat bottomed.  Being cut by hand with a blade left the slot slightly tapered.  Therefore, using a modern screwdriver, which has not been modified, will cause the tool to slip out of the slot, damaging the oxidation on the head of the screw.  This is how you can recognize original screws which have never been removed compared to original screws which have been removed and reinstalled using the wrong tool.

The photos of all 6 hinges on this post were taken from the same table.  It was made in Baltimore around 1820 and is in two sections, each with drop leaves.  Each leaf has three hinges, all completely untouched by modern woodworkers.  Although the table was refinished some years ago, the refinisher had the good sense to not remove the hinges.  I would like to thank him for his knowledge and consideration.

Bottom line: when you find original evidence of age, leave it alone.  The future collectors will thank you.

This One Had A Loose Screw

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Spring Clamps...Literally

Hand Surgery

I must have an unlimited source of clamping choices.  When you spend over 40 years repairing antiques you get creative with unique problem solving.

Most of the repairs I see come into the shop which have failed are the result of poor clamping efforts.  Face it, when the wood surfaces do not meet under precise pressure, even the best glues do not solve the problem.  A good example was the last post, where it was obvious that the person who wanted to reattach the table leg simply injected lots of plastic glue and pushed the leg back in place.  The result was a large surface of dried plastic glue which held nothing and prevented the wood joint from closing.

In that case, a simple pipe clamp would have worked, but I suspect that repair person did not have one available.
Clamps Where You Want Them

Not all cases of clamping are that obvious.  Today I needed to reattach several fingers on a carved chair.  This chair was made in Italy and had two "servants" carved at the front to hold up the arms of the chair.  I'm in no position to judge the political correctness of this subject; my job was to repair the broken hands, which had lost several elements.

As with all carving, there was no flat surfaces to clamp and the elements I needed to reattach were tiny. Fortunately, I have spent years upholstering and had a good supply of springs in the shop.  Taking these springs and cutting away loops gave me a good supply of clamps.  This is a neat trick, and I think all shops should have them available.

Available In All Sizes
I know this idea is not new.  There are spring clamps sold, with a special tool to hold them in place.  But the last time I looked, those kits were expensive and I hate to buy stuff, unless I simply have no choice.

Old springs are free, and by cutting the loops I have several sizes to choose from.  I take a file and make points on each end, so the clamp bites into the wood with the smallest mark visible after the job.  I can bend and shape these clamps to suit the job.  The important thing is that the points of the ends line up, creating a direct clamping force.  See my post again on Vector Clamping.

Add Points With File
I made some rough fingers and cleaned up the broken ends so I had a good fit.  Then I just applied a small bit of Old Brown Glue and the spring clamp.  Final result is a good amount of pressure and a repair which will allow me to finish the carving as I wish.

Simple.  Effective.  And Free.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Why Not Period Glue?

Synthetic Glue Sucks
I joined the Society of American Period Furniture Makers in 2000, when they first got together.  I really enjoyed going to Williamsburg, even though it was in January, and I had been there dozens of times before.  The reason I had so much fun was the experience of spending a week with like minded furniture makers, from all over the country.  We talked about furniture styles, different methods of construction and tools from different periods, finishes and just about every aspect of our craft that was important.

Usually, when I am in a social environment and others find out I work in wood, the topic of conversation ends up with someone discussing their efforts to build a coffee table or birdhouse.  It is a completely different situation at these SAPFM events.  Furniture design and construction is a real passion with this group, and nothing is too esoteric or obscure to merit hours of intense dialogue.

What fun.

I was an active member in the early years.  I was fortunate to be asked by Roy Underhill to tape a segment on his show, The Woodwright's Shop, which required me to ship a large container of tools and materials back East.  At the same time, since I was there with all my stuff, I demonstrated on stage during the SAPFM conference and made a short video for them about the chevalet.

It was interesting, since there are two back to back sessions of the "Working Wood in the 18th Century" event, and I had a conflict with the second week.  Therefore, I asked Silas Kopf to stand in for me and use my props.  During my presentation, I had each segment of the talk prepared in boxes ahead of time.  Each box was numbered so all I had to do was reach under the bench and pull out the next box which had the materials for that segment of the talk.

I worked fine for me, since I was familiar with all the props, and had a time tested presentation developed over several years of talks at the Getty museum.  It was not so easy for Silas, who does his marquetry using a completely different method.

I need to stress at this point that I think Silas is the greatest marquetry artist working in the US.

As it turned out, he made the effort to use my props and present the talk on French marquetry methods that we had agreed to.  But, after about 15 minutes of his talk, he abruptly changed direction.  "That's the way Patrick and the French do it.  Now I want to talk about how I do it."  His presentation was excellent, but not what we had planned.

I also wanted to contribute to the new Journal of the SAPFM, called "American Period Furniture."  For issue #1 I wrote "Form Follows Process," which analyzed the different methods of work used by craftsmen before and after the Industrial Revolution.  For issue #3 I wrote about my research into the Price Guides of the early 19th century, documenting the time required to make each aspect of furniture using hand tools, "Period Productivity".

1820 Cuban Mahogany with 1980 Synthetic Glue
In Issue #2 I did something different.  During the first session I attended, I was amazed that all the woodworkers there were passionate about choosing the right woods, following period design exactly, understanding period finishes, and so on.  There was a certain amount of divergence in whether or not to use only hand tools, and that I understand.  Most of the members had access to power tools and the general consensus was that it was ok to use power as long as a certain amount of hand finishing was involved.

The area which startled me involved glues.  Practically every person I talked with used modern synthetic glues to make their period furniture.  I could not understand this "blind spot" in an otherwise very academic group of individuals.

So I wrote an article for issue #2 called "Why Not Period Glue"  I took the position that traditional glues were used for centuries and worked fine.  If there was a modern glue which did something better than these traditional glues, show me the advantage and I will use it.  The only one which comes to mind is epoxy, which can be used to repair metal parts.  Of course epoxy should never be used for wood repairs, or worse, tortoise shell, ivory or any other material.

Missing Tenon/ Covered in Plastic Glue
Most of the woodworkers used glues like yellow glue, carpenter's glue, white glue, and other glues with fancy chemical names I never heard of.  Hardly a glue pot among the entire group.

Only those who made their living restoring antiques seemed to understand why it is important to use traditional glues.

Cleaning Surface with Toothing Iron
I was reminded of this article today, as I worked to repair a broken leg on a period Baltimore dining table.  The leg was originally attached with a double tenon to the apron.  One of the tenons had broken and the repair was made by adding yellow glue and clamping.  That repair did not work, of course.

Old Brown Glue Ready for Use
In typical fashion, the clamping was not done properly.  The wood surface was not cleaned in advance.  The missing tenon was not replaced.  And on other legs of this table, the repair was "enhanced" by a series of nails, which did nothing but damage the wood.

As I removed the leg to begin the repair, it was obvious that the synthetic glue did not stick to the wood.  Using a sharp chisel, I was able to pick off most of the glue chips, which came away like flakes of paint.  I think of synthetic glue as a plastic, and plastic does not stick well to wood.  I typically use a toothing iron to scrape away the glue residue and tooth the surface.  You must be careful to not remove wood; just glue.  It takes a bit of care, and the toothing iron helps.

Tenon Replaced, Ready for OBG
 I just felt good, when I was ready to apply the glue for the repair.  All the wood surfaces were toothed and clean of plastic glue.  The tenon was made and installed.  The clamps were ready and clamping blocks were installed.  (See the post on Vector Clamping)

I warmed the glue, brushed it on and applied the clamps.  Another antique repair done professionally, using the same glue that the original maker would have used some 200 years ago.  I'm sure he would approve.

Gigi Inspecting Protein Glue

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Got Ivory? Got Tortoise Shell? Got Cuban Mahogany? Dalbergia Negra?

First of all, I want to say that I care about the rape of the wilderness, the destruction of the rain forest, murder of elephants, pollution of drinking water and general stupidity that permeates the world these days.  Not to mention fossil fuels creating measurable warming of the atmosphere, ocean and dramatic melting of the ice caps.

(Wow, that was depressing!)

In my small way, I consider myself a recycling restorer.  I salvage materials which would have been lost in the dump to repair and restore other objects that are on their way to the dump.  Therefore, I have chunks of Cuban mahogany, pieces of tortoise shell and ivory and rosewood carefully stored in boxes ready for the repair project to appear.

I have not had a need to record how and where I got these things.  Much of that stuff was acquired some 40 years ago.  It wasn't until the C.I.T.I.E.S. ban on endangered materials was signed in the 1980's that I realized these materials were protected by international law.  At that time, I began to record purchases of pre-ban ivory, tortoise shell and other materials, which I acquired only from recognized professional dealers in that field.  These dealers were required by law to keep accurate records of their inventory, where it was purchased, how much they had, who it was sold to and so on.

In fact, their records were more detailed and examined than records of gun sales, but that's another story.  (Elephants don't kill people; people with guns kill elephants!)

One of the dealers who participated in the formation of the C.I.T.I.E.S. act was Patrick George, the veneer dealer in Paris, where I purchase my veneer.  Another respected person who keeps these records and sells ivory, as a 5th generation ivory dealer, is David Warther, who has a museum of ivory in Ohio.  In fact, the jewel cabinet which I made that is featured at the top of this blog has turned ivory feet and knobs which I purchased from Mr. Warther.  He supplied authorized papers with the ivory that documented where and when the ivory was legally harvested.  That ivory came from Kenya and was imported into the US in 1963.  The document records the Tusk Identification number for the Federal Government reference.

When I decided to make a pair of Louis Philippe tables in the 1990's, I wanted to use satinwood and Brazilian rosewood (dalbergia negra).  Since it was protected, I purchased from Patrick George some old stock which was harvested in 1952, and legally brought it into the US with appropriate papers.

Louis Philippe Tables

If you try to purchase protected woods from outside the country you need the following:

What you should do to make sure the wood you are interested in purchasing is to contact the supplier, ask them to provide you either (1) a copy of the CITES pre-Convention certificate, stamped "cleared" by USDA/APHIS to show legal import if the wood came into the U.S. after 6/11/96, or (2) an invoice showing they purchased the wood in the U.S. before 6/11/92 (showing that it was imported before the listing date), or (3) if they imported the wood themselves before 1992, documentation of that import to prove the pre-1992 date (customs documents, shipping documents, bill of lading, etc.)

If they can't provide one of the above three documents, don't buy from them!


Ron Vandervort
Permits Biologist
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Division of Management Authority
4401 N. Fairfax Drive, Room 212
Arlington, VA 22203
800-358-2104 X2312
703-358-2312 Direct Line
703-358-2281 FAX 

I support legislation for protecting endangered species, but I also recognize that the same law doesn't work in all cases.  For example, protections against killing elephants for their ivory tusks works.  It is possible to keep track of the legal ivory, properly harvested, and work to prevent poachers from doing their horrible job within the country borders.

On the other hand, it is impossible to protect sea turtles with the same law.  The difference is that poachers do not normally kill the elephant for the meat.  But sea turtles taste delicious.  Therefore, turtles are killed and eaten and the shell is thrown back into the sea, leaving no evidence.  I wonder how many sea turtles are killed by petroleum leaks?

At the same time, in Brazil, rubber trees are naturally protected by the farmers because their sap is valuable.  But the result of making rosewood illegal is that it has no value, so it is not a problem for the same farmers to burn down acres of wild forest to create grass land for cows.  What if the rosewood trees were worth a lot of money and could be properly harvested?  Would they be so eager to burn them down?

I live in California, and I have noticed a recent trend by activists to seek out people on ebay and Craig's list who list materials such as ivory, tortose shell and so forth.  In some cases, armed federal agents arrive and confiscate the object, as if it were a threat to our security.  I note that the auction houses are starting to list tortoise shell as "faux" and ivory as "bone" to avoid problems.

Now, I receive a note from David Warther, who clearly has a professional interest in these things and keeps up on the law.  Here it is:
Hello Everyone!
Ivory Ban - The Presidential Advisory Committee that met 12/16/13 does plan to recommend a total ban on ivory sales, within the US, to the task force on Wildlife Trafficking.
If you want to oppose that action please email ACWT@FWS.GOV before December 28th when they file their report. I have attached a letter beneath my signature (below) that you can use by cutting and pasting but feel free to change it as may fit your interests and work.
This is not a ban on new ivory but rather a ban on the sale of ALL ivory that is in any form. This includes pre-ban and antique ivory in musical instruments, knives, guns, cues, etc. and will make Grandma's piano illegal to sell if it has ivory keys. This sounds ludicrous but it is true. If this passes then it will take the form of a bill that will be set before Congress in 2014.
Presently this ban on the sale of ivory is to include fossil mammoth ivory as well as pre-ban and antique elephant ivory.
Please forward this information to everyone you think may want to voice their opposition to this type of government control.  
Sincerely ,
David Warther
2561 Crestview Dr. NW
Dover , Ohio
Letter :

Dear Advisory Committee,
 I stand against a total ban of all ivory sales in the US.
As called for in the Presidential Executive Order I ask that the recommendations continue to allow for "legal and legitimate commerce”. 
The ivory market in the US is stable and /or declining, and the seizure records indicate that a high proportion of the seizures made were personal effects lacking the correct paperwork, not the “blood tusks “ spoken about in the media. The Elephant Trade Information System (ETIS) analysis indicated that the amount of ivory (by weight) seized annually has not increased in recent years. WE are not the consumers of the poached ivory. Therefore banning ivory sales within the US will do nothing to save the remaining world population of elephants.
CITES MIKE report (Monitoring the Illegal Killing of Elephants) September 2013 report, page 64 analysis states "Africa's elephant populations are managed sustainably" and that in 2013 the quota for permits for legal elephants was 1350 animals. There is legal trade that can be monitored with DNA testing and permitting. Enforcing and policing a ban would use funds that should be used to support the ban on imports already in effect.
I fully support the CITES rules, closing international borders to elephant ivory trade, a law already in effect that should be fully supported and enforced. I stand against a total ban of all ivory commerce within our United States borders, a decision that would be an enforcement nightmare. Like prohibition it will cause a new wave of illicit commerce where a legitimate one now exists. Museums, antique dealers, collectors, artisans and individual citizens have invested in a legal and valuable material. Sanctioned trade in ivory that is legal (culled and pre-ban) and comes from unthreatened sources (mammoth, boar, warthog, antique and recycled products) can pose no possible threat to elephant herds in the wild.
I believe our mutual goals are the same and a solution can be reached. Please keep the focus where it belongs. To increase the elephant population the killing must be stopped in Africa and at its borders. 
Respectfully Submitted,
I am deeply concerned at what impact this poorly designed legislation would have if passed in the current form.  Artisans, conservators, collectors and dealers would overnight loose a significant portion of their life's work.  What becomes of the millions of historic objects that become illegal?

As an example: last month I visited a major museum objects conservation lab to examine a wonderful tortoise shell clock.  During the conversation, this topic came up and it was pointed out that another table, with tortoise shell and brass, was to be exported for a museum exposition to another country. So that there would be no problems with customs, several small repairs of tortoise shell were removed, to prevent the possible seizure by authorities, which was a real possibility.

Can you imagine the result of international museum loans, if every suspicious repair of protected materials were removed so that these items could be displayed "legally"?

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Got Antiques?

Hepplewhite Work Table
Last week, as I perused the Arts section of the New York Times, my eyes landed on a small headline above a small paragraph, buried in the small corners of the page.  It said "New York Antiques Stores Are No Match for the Web".  The first line read "Manhattan antiques shops founded decades ago are vanishing at an alarming rate, unable to compete with online offerings."  The story continued with a list of distinguished dealers who have closed their doors.

I have been reflecting on the current state of the antiques business for the past 5 years and this article was not news to me.  It is just a sad reflection of how this important and historic trade has degenerated into insignificance during my lifetime.  It is not the internet which is to blame.  It is the business practices of the dealers themselves, as well as the general lack of public education in this field.

I remember clearly walking into Albert Sack's shop in Manhattan some 40 years ago and meeting Albert.  He asked me what I was interested in, and I told him.  He then went to some lengths to show me items in his inventory as well as discuss other pieces which he thought might appeal to me.  I probably spent 2 hours with him, and he did not seem upset that I did not purchase anything.  The entire event was educational, informative and pleasant.

Over the years, the concept of a shop managed by an expert in his field was gradually transformed into a flea market mall, where each "collector" filled his mall space with his stuff, which usually ranged from kitchen items to toys and dolls.  If you had a question, there was no one to talk with.  The person at the front desk simply rang up the sale and took your money.  It was exhausting to just walk through the mounds of discards, looking for the "treasure."

That said, I would sometimes find something important.  Like the time my wife and I were on a "date" driving up the coast.  My terms for the "date" were that I would be allowed to stop at an antiques mall where I would usually be disappointed.  This time, however, I immediately noticed a period English Hepplewhite work table, in its original finish, with a skateboard on top and buried in shoes and dishes. I noticed that my hand was shaking as I presented the ticket to the sales person and paid the $185.  She remarked, "Oh, that piece has been here for some time.  We were thinking of sending it out to be refinished."  I mumbled, as quietly as I could, "No problem, I like it fine as it is."

I sold it the next month to a New York dealer for $15,000.  Then I made a copy for myself, which you can see at the top of this post, and sold that for $17,500.  Sometimes you bite the bear, and sometimes the bear bites you.

The television is alive with stories about antiques which all focus on this angle: You can discover something which will make you rich.  In other words, antiques are like the lottery.  Value and money are represented as the primary reason to own antiques, and the first question is always, "What's it worth?"

Well, I did not get into the business of antiques to get rich, and my expectations were rewarded by not having to worry about lots of money in my old age.  Lately I have been telling clients that the antiques business is the classic "Buy high and sell low" business model.  It is a perfect example of the economic theory of market forces.  You need a willing buyer and a willing seller to set the price.  When there is too much inventory and not enough demand, the market collapses, as it has recently.

The Millennials are not interested in antiques.  The current fashion is Post Modern.  The stuff I grew up with: Danish Modern, simple lines, foam upholstery, light woods and plastics, solid colors and minimalism as a decoration.  It's not that they don't have money to spend; this generation somehow has a lot of equity.  They prefer to spend it on electronics, entertainment, food and drink, and small downtown condos, where they can easily walk to their coffee house.

As a result, their parents, who invested in antiques all their lives, cannot give their precious furnishings away.  The kids just don't want it.  Too much trouble.  Doesn't impress their friends.  They don't even know what to call it.  I had a young couple accidentally walk into my shop recently and notice a rocking chair.  When I mentioned proudly that it was a true Shaker rocker, they looked surprised and responded, "What's a Shaker?"  Where to start?

Part of my success in the business derives from the early years of my career when I actively taught classes in American Decorative Arts at adult schools, universities and colleges on a regular basis (4 days a week for 15 years), as well as creating a very popular TV series on CBS, "Welcome to the Past...the History of American Antiques."  In all these presentations, I rarely mentioned values.  All the material presented focused on the cultural significance, historical context and technological evolution of furniture made between 1700 and 1900.

In effect, I taught the Southern California collectors and dealers how to identify period furniture and how to recognize fakes and reproductions.  That generation of students has continued to support my business over the years, and I realize I had a significant impact on their lives.  By teaching over the years, I became a legitimate authority in the field.  Unfortunately, funding for adult education disappeared and classes like Art History and Decorative Arts are no longer popular.

Where are the next generation of collectors going to learn about antiques?  The internet?  Really?

There's another serious problem with the business of Antiques: FAKES.  I have seen hundreds of examples over the years where a dealer or collector valued an obvious fake as a real item.  Either through sheer ignorance, or even worse, the desire to make a quick buck, these poorly made objects continue to be sold and collected at prices that make me cry.  I remember standing in front of a French Buffet Deux Corps in Los Angeles at a very high end shop years ago, when this form was in demand.  The obvious fake Buffet was priced at $65,000 while standing just across the room was an authentic Buffet priced at $15,000.  The difference was that the real Buffet was rather plain, but the fake Buffet was highly decorated with fake carving.

If all the dealers in the business would purge their inventory of fakes, the result would be rather empty shops, but the remaining items in these shops would be real, and their value would rise significantly.  We need Antiques shops strictly for real antiques and Decorative shops for objects which only have decorative value.  They are not the same.  When you mix them together, people get confused.

Another problem with the business is that the dealers typically do not pay enough for good inventory to keep up the resale part of the market.  They are more than happy to sell to clients at inflated prices, but when that same client wants to sell it later, they are not interested in offering a reasonable price.  Clearly, if you have invested in stocks and need money, you just call your broker and the check is immediate.  If you want to sell your valued antiques, good luck.

In the last five years there has been activity which has not been discussed.  This has resulted in a flood of inventory through the auction houses.  High end dealers typically keep surplus inventory in storage units.  Since it is not good business for these high end dealers to paste signs in their windows like "Huge Sale" and "Prices Drastically Reduced!" they simply dump the unseen items directly from storage to auction.  No one knows who is selling the items, and the market is flooded, driving down prices.

It seems to me that this is one of the real reasons high end dealers are closing their shops, not the internet, as the Times writer seems to assume.

I am surrounded by antiques.  My home is full and I work every day with marvelous and beautiful objects.  I am being honest when I say that I look at them as historical artifacts that have survived through wars, floods, clumsy movers and dozens of owners.  I don't think of them as piles of money.

As Billy Pilgrim realized in Kirk Vonnegut's "Slaughter House Five," I have become unstuck in time.

Monday, November 25, 2013

The Future of American Trades, Part II

Contrast this video with the previous post.  The video of George was shot objectively, simply letting him tell the story of his life working at a trade that is almost obsolete, and what the future holds for him.

This video, with a much higher production value, tells the story of Eric and what he has done with his life, and how he is changing the future.

Eric, George and I are all from the same generation.  They are my brothers.

This film should inspire you!

Blue Ox Woodworks

Saturday, November 23, 2013

The Future of American Trades

Hands to Work
This morning I discovered a post on the internet which included a video of a man named George who has made shoes for 40 years.  As I watched the video, I immediately recognized the tools and methods I use in my workshop to repair and upholster furniture.  Most of all, I recognized his hands.  People often remark about how my hands look, and I am always surprised that they are "unusual" in any respect.   However, when I see another man's hands, who has made a career out of hand work, I understand what they are talking about.

It reminds me of an English TV show many years ago, titled "Hands" which, unfortunately, is no longer being produced.  "Made by Hand," "Handwork," "Handmade,"and other similar terms are used so often that they lose their significance.  Seeing a person's hands at work on a skill or trade that takes years to master reinforces the true meaning of these terms, and I instinctively stop and reflect on the process which experience makes look easy.

Here is the video: Hand Made Shoes

As I listened to George relate his story, I was struck by how direct and realistic his evaluation of his life's work was.  In particular, his remark that he can't find a worker with a "good work ethic" to pass his knowledge on to, is exactly the same thing I have said over the years.  I began to reflect on how many specific trades will become extinct during the next decades, simply because people like George get old and the business dies with them.

Obviously, from a strictly economic sense, it is fine to have shoes made in China where people are paid pennies a day to make shoes for the masses.  There are a lot of people in the world who need shoes, and I suspect that cheap shoes provide a necessary good.  But at what cost, really?

I was born 65 years ago.  I remember the introduction of television.  I remember the rise of the middle class and watched, in confusion, as Reagan introduced changes that began to attack the middle class and allow the rise of the super rich.  I look at the situation now and am dismayed at the condition of the middle class and how the poor unemployed members of our society are attacked for being "lazy."

Well, where are the jobs?  Where are the productive and rewarding jobs that you could count on to provide work during the post war years?  Jobs like the steel industry, lumber industry, making cars or houses, even making shoes?  Without jobs there are no consumers, except at the WalMart price point.

One of the real problems is the elimination of trade schools and work related classes in schools.  Auto shop, metal shop, wood shop, and all the other related classes that gave students a chance to work with their hands have disappeared, except in rare cases.  Without teachers and students to learn the trades, it becomes difficult to create a working class to continue the trades.

How life has changed during my lifetime.

For example, I remember in 1967 I was in college, working 20 hours a week in the Physics department and carrying a full load of classes at UCSD.  I was paid $2.67/hour, which was a dollar more than the minimum wage, so I was doing well.  Tuition was affordable, books were expensive but I watched my budget, and lived on campus.  The next year, I was looking for a small house to purchase, and found one in a good neighborhood for $8,500.  I needed my father to cosign the loan, since I was young and had no credit history.

He refused to sign, as he thought the house was too much for me to afford.  "Your payments are going to be $85 a month!  How do you expect to pay that?" he demanded.

Well, during those days, even on a low wage, you could earn enough in a month to make a car payment with one week's income, a house payment with the second week's income, buy food and clothing with the third week's income, and the last week became "discretionary" spending for entertainment or saving.

That is what the middle class lifestyle was like before Reagan.  (I should note that it was not just Reagan who led this attack on middle class.  It has been a long, sustained attack by those on the right who, for reasons I cannot imagine (except greed) have been successful over the past 30 years.)  The Democrats have either stood by while this happened, or actually helped in the process.  There is plenty of blame to go around for both sides.  I mean, Clinton signed NAFTA and repealed the Glass-Steagall act, setting the stage for the banks to gamble with our hard earned savings.

Doesn't anyone remember Henry Ford, one of the captains of industry, who famously said, "Workers need to make enough money to buy my cars."  (I am paraphrasing here.  The actual quote is:
"There is one rule for the industrialist and that is: make the best quality goods possible at the lowest cost possible, paying the highest wages possible.")

I heard that if WalMart simply raised the cost of a package of its tube socks by a few pennies, they would be able to afford health care for all their workers.  CNN yesterday related the news that Switzerland is considering passing a law limiting the ratio of CEO compensation to worker compensation at 12 to 1.  Looking online just now, I noted that in America the current average CEO wage is $12,259,894/year and the average worker wage is $34,645/year.  That is a ratio of 354:1.

Henry Ford was not worried about shareholders and corporate profits.  He was worried that his workers would have productive jobs and be able to afford to consume his goods.  How times and priorities have changed in a century.

In any event, watching George go about making shoes, and listening to him talk about his future made me think, long and hard about my life.  I am doing the same thing, and the results will probably be the same for me.  My business will be liquidated, the tools sold, the wood thrown out, and the knowledge lost, except for what I can post on this blog.  That is why I am compelled to contribute whatever I can to help those who might be interested in keeping this profession alive.

Bottom line:  We all need shoes.  We all need jobs.  One and the same.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Mr. Roubo at Ecole Boulle

Mr. Roubo's Book
From time to time I find myself actually reading posts from my own blog.  Some times I am impressed with what I wrote and often I realize I left something important out or what I was trying to say was not as clear as I would like.

Today I put down my English copy of Roubo, which I have read twice, and went back to the computer to read my last post.  That was when I remembered my early conversations with Christopher Schwartz about writing the Preface to the new edition.  My post on "Roubo Redux" left out one of the most important events in my life as it related to Mr. Roubo.  So I went back to my email conversation and pulled up these photos to share.

I Love Libraries
As I spent several years at ecole Boulle as a student, it was my pleasure to explore the school and meet other professors and their workshops.  At some point, I opened a door and found myself in a library.  What a pleasant surprise!  It somehow had not occurred to me that ecole Boulle would have a library, but as soon as I discovered its existence I began to spend a lot of time searching its stacks.  It was full of some amazing books, mostly in French, but still exciting.

Title Page with Inscription
The first book I asked for was Roubo.  The librarian smiled and returned with an original first edition of the same.  I carefully placed it on the table and opened the cover.  I still remember, as I sat quietly in the center of the library, with the sunlight raking across the desk from the 19th century windows,  how I stopped breathing when I saw the inscription.

"A Camille Pouplin affectueux souvenir de la petite fille de Roubo.  Adele Margolle"

Handwritten in ink was the dedication: "To Camille Poupin friendly souvenir from the grand daughter of Roubo. Adele Margolle."
Roubo's Grand Daughter's hand

Not only was this particular copy of Roubo's work directly from the family but it is entirely possible that it was a copy that Mr. Roubo himself owned!  I imagined his hands turning the pages exactly as I was doing.  It struck me that I was sitting in a French school, named after the greatest cabinetmaker of France, reading a book written by one of the most famous authors of the trade.

It just doesn't get any more real than that.

How could I have not included this little story in my post?

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Roubo Redux

Patrice and Agnes Reading Roubo in French
I first met Mr. Roubo at the Getty Museum Conservation Lab around 1975 or so.  There was a French conservator there who had a copy and used it for his reference.  I was interested in it, since it was full of amazing drawings of various tools and woodworking methods I had never seen before.  As I did not speak or read French, I began asking him questions hoping he would translate.

His response was rather cold.  He seemed to think that it was only possible to understand the mysteries of Roubo by understanding both the French language of the 18th century and the specific French history of the woodworking methods shown.

I was left with a feeling of frustration, knowing that a book of knowledge about a trade I cared very much about was not accessible to me.

20 years later, when I was attending school in Paris, I would divide my spending money between veneers at Patrick George and books at the Librairie d'Ameublement, which specialized in books about woodworking and the trades.  I bought books in French, German, Italian and English, and my bags were always at the limit.  Of course, Air France back then allowed me two checked bags (30kg each) and a carry on (no weight limit!).  And they provided a great meal inflight.  Those were the days...

Anyway, each time I returned to Paris, I would rush over to the bookstore and ask what was new.  The owner remembered me and my tastes, and would direct me to exactly the books I needed.  In one section of the store was the Roubo, which was very large and very expensive.  And in French.

Each visit, I would ask the same question:  "When will it be available in English?"  Always the same answer, "Probably never, since there is no demand for it by English speaking people."

I eventually was able to acquire a wonderful full size edition (in French) which was printed in 1975.  That date is ironic, since it was the same time I first heard of Roubo.  However, I only received this edition, which included all four volumes, just last year.  My partner, Patrice, was much more helpful in translating the work, and my understanding of French has improved over the years.

Nearly 20 years after I finished my studies in Paris a team lead by Don Williams and Christopher Schwartz managed to complete the project.  Last Saturday, after I finished teaching a class in French Polishing at MASW, I got into my car and drove (at a high rate of speed) down 74 from Indianapolis to Cincinnati.  I was in a rush to get to the last hours of the Woodworking In America trade show to visit Christopher and Don, as well as many other friends and professionals in the wood industry.

I was also there to pick up my copy of Roubo in English.  For the first time in over two centuries people who don't read French can now enjoy the wonderful insight and information which Roubo captured in this important work.  Lost Art Press had printed a limited edition of large format books which sold out immediately and will not be reprinted.  However, for the rest of us, where the book may end up on the workbench as a "working" copy, Chris has printed a smaller hardcover edition.

That edition is very reasonably priced and available here:  Lost Art Press: Roubo

You cannot imagine my excitement to finally be able to read, in English, the information which had so long eluded me.  Chris and Don and the team deserve the MacArthur award for genius for their efforts.

I was also honored to be able to contribute the Preface to this historic edition, along with my friend and business partner, Patrice Lejeune.

Life is full of amazing surprises!


The New School of French Marquetry
I realize that, in the world of French marquetry, there are a few "chevalets" sitting in workshops in large cities like Paris, Brussels, London and New York.   However, these tools belong to the artisans who built them and use them for highly specialized work, usually restoring period furniture for dealers.  In general, the design and function of this tool has remained somewhat "secret" over the centuries.  You could just say the "chevalet de marqueterie" is obscure.

In fact, there is only one school in Europe where students can get instruction and practice using these tools.  That school is ecole Boulle, in Paris.  Even in that school the chevalet is part of a curriculum which includes Colombo Filippetti  jig saws and other cutting tools to make marquetry.

When I was there as a student some 20 years ago, Dr. Pierre Ramond taught a rather strict traditional approach to making marquetry which focused on the chevalet.  There were 12 such tools in the class and a similar number of students, working diligently every day to design, cut out and assemble real masterpieces of art in wood.  The new professor at that school has a new building and encourages a diverse mix of traditional and modern methods to create the work.

In 2000, when Pierre retired, I asked him and received his permission to create my own school in San Diego, where I endeavored to continue his work, using many of his exercises and methods.  I built 7 chevalets and created a simple introductory program for students which would allow them to experience the amazing properties of this tool.  That program has been a great success and I have had hundreds of students, of all ages and skill levels, over the years.  Every one of them is delighted to have the chance to use this tool, and many of them have followed up by building one for their own use.

During the past several years, Marc Adams and I have had phone and email conversations about me teaching at his school.  Although I had never visited his school, I had had many students here at ASFM who also were graduates MASW, and they encouraged me to go.

The biggest problem is that the chevalet is a large tool and cannot easily be transported, so it would be necessary for Marc to build a chevalet for each of his students who wanted to take a class.  That means, essentially, that there was no profit motive for him to do so.  It is to his credit that he decided to proceed, and the only motive I can suggest is that he really loves woodworking and his desire to create the best and most diverse woodworking school in the country is sincere.

At any rate, Marc built 8 chevalets this summer, and I agreed to fly out and teach a class.  I was impressed and amazed at the facilities and quality of instruction which I discovered when I arrived.  I had no idea how complex and professional the facilities were.  He is celebrating 20 years of classes and it shows.  The walls are covered with student's work and souvenirs of past instructors, many of whom I know and admire.  On top of it all, it was spotless.  Imagine all the woodworking machinery and activities running continuously and not a spec of dust anywhere.

First Class at Marc Adams
I was provided with a room to myself, full of benches and a chalkboard with video hookup.  In the center of the room stood 8 beautiful new chevalets, ready to use.  I arrived a day early to run through the final tune up procedure so they would cut properly and empty my bags.  I had brought 100 pounds of materials and supplies to run the class and it took some time to set that stuff up for class.

Cleaning Up the Marquetry on Friday
I was pleased to meet the 8 students who showed up bright and early Monday morning for the first class.  It was an honor to be able to bring the chevalet to another school in America, and I personally want to thank Marc for his vision and support to make this possible.

I had suggest that Marc build his chevalets in several different sizes, but he chose to build them all the same size, which was 61 cm.  This size tool is fine for a person who is over 6 feet but one of my students was only 5 feet tall, and that presented a problem.  I have different size chevalets here in my school, and it makes it easy to fit the student to the tool.  The solution we came up with at MASW was to make a second seat blank and use wood spacers to raise the seat.  This required raising the foot pedal an equal amount with a block of wood, and allowed the shorter students to easily work the larger tools.

Adjustable Seat Height

At the end of the week, all students had successfully completed the three basic projects in Boulle technique.  Everyone was pleased with the class and I felt that I had contributed to the diversity of the woodworking program that Marc has developed over 20 years.  It was an honor to add my name to the list of famous and distinguished instructors who have passed through these doors over the decades.

Now there are twice as many woodworking schools in America as there are in France where students can create art using the "chevalet de marqueterie."  The American School of French Marquetry, in San Diego, will continue as usual to offer classes, as we have done since 2000.  Marc Adams School of Woodworking, in Indiana, will offer similar classes in the future, so keep watching their schedule.

I am rewarded each time I see a woodworker sit for the first time on this tool and smile at the results.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Mr. Lecount Ready For Adoption.

Meet Mr. Lecount

Over the years I have lectured to groups, large and small, thousands of time.  Public speaking is easy for me.  Just tell me how long you want me to talk, pick a subject, and let me go.  I never talk over the time allowed.  I can easily tell a story which is adapted to the audience with facts and anecdotes, letting the questions from the audience direct the presentation.  If you were to ask me how I do it, I would tell you a few basic rules:  have the confidence in your material, speak clearly and vary the delivery to "sell" the story with enthusiasm, and, most importantly, maintain eye contact with everyone in the audience.  As you speak, there will be those who nod in approval.  That means continue on that topic.  Also there will be those who nod off in sleep.  That means change the topic.

Original Works from 1690
It is important to use humor at times to put the audience at ease.  Knowing what kind of humor is the secret to success.  Having a joke fall flat is perhaps the worst type of mistake a speaker can make.  I have a good selection of humorous remarks that fit nicely into my presentation, and I am never afraid to use them when it feels right.  For example, when I am talking about making furniture and the amount of time it takes to do it by hand, they always have a question like "That must take a lot of patience!"

I then quote from Toshio Odate, a wonderful woodworker who says, "Why would I do something in 10 minutes that I could do all day?"  In other words, it is not "patience" but "passion" that drives me to work the way I do.  When you are passionate about your activity, it is not "work" but a "lifestyle."

As I remember from Be Here Now, the bible of the 60's, life is a journey, you better enjoy the trip.

Olive, Yew Wood Oysters, Marquetry
At times I am speaking to a small private group of mature individuals and I can use a  metaphor which exactly explains how I feel when making a piece of furniture.  I tell them that I enjoy being pregnant, what I don't like is kids.  In a crude way that illustrates that I enjoy the creating process, giving birth to a new form, but I don't want to take care of it when it's done.  I just put it up for adoption and then start over.

This is where I am with Mr. Lecount.  I have labored over it for over a year to get it to stand up on its own and be ready to face the world.  Now that he is finished, I hope he finds a good home.

When I returned from my vacation, I finished applying the shellac finish, installed the glass and gold mounts.  Then I fixed the hinges for the upper door and installed the latch which keeps the glass door closed.  I rubbed out the shellac and applied a coat of Kiwi paste wax, which gave a nice patina.

Bullseye Bellybutton
The last thing I did was install the hand blown glass bullseye in the lenticle.  The lenticle is an oval window in the door which allows the owner to see if the pendulum is moving or the weights are down a certain length.  When clocks evolved from the marquetry period to the Georgian period, for some reason the lenticle was no longer popular.  I like it and think it is an attractive feature.  With the bullseye glass, in my mind, the lenticle becomes the belly button of the clock.

It seems appropriate that, as a parent giving birth, the belly button would be the last thing to do, since cutting the umbilical cord is the actual last act of separating the child from the parent.

Now all I need to deal with is the postpartum depression.

Blue Birds of Happiness

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

We've Got Nails!

Tools for Nailing Veneer Packets

When you practice an art form which was perfected in France over 200 years ago, it is natural that you will need some specialized materials, usually not available in America these days.  Home Depot carries a lot of stuff, but they do not have animal protein glue or cast iron glue pots, as I understand it.

Some of the things I need to do my job properly include sawn veneers in a variety of exotic species, bleached bone, 16cm fret saw blades, backer board (ayous) in both 3mm and 1.5 mm thickness, Kraft paper and, of course, veneer packet nails.

Veneer Packet Properly Nailed

"Veneer nails?" you ask.  Why, those are easy to find.  Perhaps, if you don't want the "correct" nails which are used in France exclusively to make the veneer packets.  The problem is that the nails you find in America are more like pins than nails.  The shape is wrong.  The point is not sharp.  The steel is the wrong hardness.  They usually have no flat heads.  Otherwise, they work ok, I guess.

Some years ago it was easy to bring in kilos of the correct nails from Paris, packed in Kraft paper and carried in my carry on bag.  That was before paranoia changed air travel.  Heck, I used to bring liquids of all types, powders in paper bags, tools, and a wide variety of professional materials all the time.  Now I worry about how much toothpaste I have in my bag.  How long does 3 oz last?

Anyway, the last kilo of nails lasted a long time.  So when I returned to Paris and made a trip to the nail factory which had operated in the Faubourg St. Antoine for more than a century,  I expected that it would be easy to buy another kilo.  I still remember standing in the street, looking at the building which was completely gutted and the impressive sign which proudly announced the new condos soon to be finished.

No more nail factory...Instant panic set in.  What now?

Searching on the internet made me realize that nail guns had replaced brads generally with the special nail strips that these guns used.  Useless for my projects.  Other than that I found small brass nails which were used for model building.  I couldn't believe that small nails had become obsolete.

These nails are used in building packets of veneer for marquetry.  They have a special hardness which makes it possible to drive them through hard woods, and, after the excess length is cut off, the ends are riveted in place.   They come in different lengths for different thicknesses of veneer, usually 15 mm and 20 mm in length.

Finally, after some time searching for another factory which understood the special type of nail we needed, we got a tip from Yannick Chastang, ebeniste working in England.  He pointed us to a factory in Creil, near Chantilly, North East of Paris.  I discovered this factory was the last factory in France which was able to make these nails, but they had a minimum order requirement of 50 kilos.  That meant that to place an order I had to spend more money than I had.  Also, 50 kilos of these small nails would last me for a century.

Not only that, these nails were not normally in stock.  The minimum order was because they needed to actually make the nails for us on demand.  We needed to order 25 kilos of any size before they would tool up and make them.  Note on the label that there is the date (11/9/13) which is September 11, 2013, the actual date of manufacture.

It took me two years to get the money together to place the order.  So two months ago I sent the money transfer for 25 kilos of 15mm nails and 25 kilos of 20mm nails.  Naturally, they took August vacation, so the shipment was delayed.  Then it was sent by air freight, which added to the cost, and arrived in Los Angeles to clear customs (even though I told them to send it to San Diego.)  Thus, I had to pay the duty and trucking to have it delivered to my shop, which further added to the investment.

15mm Nails in Can or Box

Last French Company Making These Nails

15mm Length
What a crazy thing it is to spend all this time and money for a bunch of tiny nails!  The  only consolation is that I will never need to buy nails again.  Also, I can now supply nails to students and other marquetry workers here in the States so that they don't need to go through what I went through.

20mm Nails in Can or Box

"Acier Clair" means "Bright Steel"

20mm Length

I am making these nails available, if you need them, at reasonable prices, for several sizes of packages in both lengths.  These nails are 0.7mm in diameter which is American wire gauge #21.  The 15mm length is packaged in tins which weigh at least 200 grams or 7 ounces and cost $15.  The 20mm length is packaged in tins which weigh at least 100 grams or 3.5 ounces and cost $9.  The 15mm length is also available in a box that weighs 1Kilo or 35 ounces and cost $50, and the 20mm length is sold in a box which weighs 500 grams or 17.5 ounces and cost $25.  Shipping is extra for any size, of course.

Please contact me if you want to get some of these nails for your project.  I will be happy to send them to you, and you don't need to invest the kind of money I did to get them.  Frankly I am amazed that any factory still makes them, and I wonder how much longer this supply will be available from France.

I also import 90gm/square meter Kraft paper and sell it for $3/meter and the impossible to find backer board in two thicknesses, 3mm for $3.50/square foot and 1.5mm for $3/square foot.  These are speciality items for the serious marquetry professional, and I need to purchase them in substantial quantities to be able to offer them in this country at these prices.

If you are interested, just call or contact me by email.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Mr. Lecount Gets First Coat

First Coat of Shellac
As I work to create tall case clocks, I am constantly reminded of the human characteristics that we share with this form of woodwork.  It is not just a coincidence that the clock stopped, never to run again, when the old man died.

I am also deeply in love with the first generation of time pieces, from 1650-1700.  During this period, I imagine it was like when Jobs introduced the iphone.  Before we had one, we didn't need it.  Once we got one, we wondered how we lived without it.  That is what it must have been like back then.

Before 1650 there was no real accurate way to measure time.  Knowing what time it was meant that you were within an hour or so of the real time, and that was fine.  However, once the pendulum clock was perfected, by adjusting the length of the bob by a slight amount, you could accurately determine the time to the minute.  Where would we be today without that invention?

These "new" clocks were so important that the clockmakers searched out cabinetmakers to make cases which justified the expense and verified the importance of their work.  The last two decades of the 17th century saw the most highly decorated clock cases ever made, and I am sure they commanded a place of importance in the rich man's home, announcing to the world that he was a "modern" man, who knew what time it was.

Only Missing Glass and Mounts
So, with this in mind, it is curious to think about how human characteristics were transferred to this type of woodwork, unlike any other piece of cabinetry.  For example, the clock case has "feet" which is not in itself unusual, since most furniture has feet.  However, it also has a "face" which "tells" the time, in a kinetic way, whether you want to know or not, since the bell strikes on a regular basis.  The case also has a "waist" which might make it more attractive, and perhaps more feminine.

It has "hands" which are strangely attached to the "face" (strange).  The works rest on the "cheeks" of the side boards.  The average height of the "face" is at eye level with the average person.  The top case is a "bonnet" which of course represents the hat covering the face and protecting the works.  The "backboard" is similar to the spine, in that it holds the clock upright and straight.

To regulate the clock, you set the "beat" which is analogous to a heartbeat.

A tall case clock requires regular attention to operate fully.  Without human support it stops.  That means that every week or month the owner needs to adjust it and reset the weights.  No other piece of furniture requires regular attention to survive.  It is like owning a pet; you need to feed it often to keep it alive.

I am comforted by the sound of the ticking and reminded every hour of the passing of time, when I am near one of these wonderful objects.  It reminds me that I, too, am human, and my time is measured and finite.  I should make the best of it while I am able.

That is why I am leaving tomorrow for a well deserved vacation at my cabin on the Madison River in Montana.  Leaving time behind and following the stars.

Blue Birds of Happiness

Friday, August 16, 2013

Mr. Lecount Gets Fitted For A Bonnet

Le Count Ready For Fitting
I have spent several days this week fitting the Lecount works to the case, which is assembled without the bonnet.  I prefer to make the bonnet last, as I don't work from plans, and need to see where the works end up to actually put the top together.  It is important the bonnet fits exactly right, since its primary purpose is to keep the dust away from the works, and it needs to be a relatively airtight fit.

As I said in earlier posts, my method for making tall case clocks is to start with the back board. This becomes the spine of the clock and all measurements are taken from its center line.  Then I build a lower case (just a box) and fit it onto the back board.  That allows me to cut and fit the sides and front frame, which makes it easy to fit the large door properly.

The door itself has a wide overhanging molding around it, which needs to be carefully measured so the the edge of the molding clears the case when it opens.  That is why these doors have a unique type of hinge that has an offset pivot.  Also the door has an opening, the "lentical" which allows the owner to see the weights and pendulum from a distance.  In my case I am having a glass blower make a bullseye glass oval to fit in this space.

The last job for the lower case is to make and fit all the molding.  In these early cases the molding is short grain, so it is usual to cut and glue sections of short grain wood (olive) onto strips of beech or oak and make the molding lengths this way.  I am also using cherry molding which is ebonized to provide contrast, like the original clock.
Initial Fit 

Now that the case is assembled, I set up a thick piece of wood on the floor and make it absolutely level.  Standing the case on this floor allows me to properly fit the works.  I have lots of lead weights on the floor to keep it stable.  Placing the works on the cheeks of the case, I can then adjust the fit and set the crutch to make the beat even.  That means that it works perfectly in an ideal flat and level location.

However, not all homes have that ideal flat and level place for a clock.  I have made a special modification for this clock, which is not original to the 17th century.  The works are old and some of the gears are worn slightly uneven, so the beat is not always regular.   Also, the works are designed to run for 30 days, so when the weights are low enough to reach the pendulum bob, it sets up sympathetic vibrations which can act to stop the clock.  That took about 2 weeks to happen when the works were running on my test stand, which is not that stable.

I solved this problem and also the problem of making sure the case is level with a modern solution.  The round feet are turned from cherry around a large bolt.  This bolt is set into the bottom of the clock with standard "T" nuts, so the feet can be screwed up or down slightly to fit the floor.  At the same time, I made a large hollow space above the bottom board and covered it with a second "false" bottom board.  Inside this hollow space I added a fair amount of lead shot.  When you look inside the case at the "false" bottom, it looks fine.  You cannot judge the distance easily so it just looks like a standard case.  However, the addition of lead shot provides stability for the case and the loose shot absorbs any vibrations which may affect the operation of the clock.

As soon as I put the works into this case, standing on the level floor, they ran perfectly, even though the weights were all the way down into the case.  Problem solved.

Today I was able to glue together the basic bonnet, which fits nicely to the works.  During the next week, my attention will be to add all the veneer and molding which will dress it up.  I expect that the clock itself will be ready for the finishing process in a couple of weeks at most.

I cannot wait.  Either can Mr. Lecount.

The Bonnet Assembled