30 December 2012

Most West of the Western front

A last Winter Sales post, #6. A visit to a former German artillery post of WWI and WWII in the dunes of Oostende this August.

After mainly failing to echo much of medieval carpentry through the visit of 'medieval' castles.  I visit one of the most western positions of the western front.  The place is still interesting thanks to the use of concrete and brick shelters and a display of their inhabitants and ustensils. Where all the original woodwork,  barracks and wooden trenches are long gone.

Now first about the name: Oostende most West of the Western front, should it not be something like Westende?  Technically it was Westende most of the time as seen from the German side , but as it is about an artillery position, nearby Oostende is close enough to cover the distance.
Oostende is mainly known for a fierce three year siege from 1601 to 1604.  Here a map of Oostende in 1777, showing that the town was still very frontier by then. The town will keep its fortifications until 1865 and rapidly expand beyond them after that.  The only military position left is one of the pentagonal forts, from a 1811 update, set in the dunes East of the harbor channel.


At the beginning of the WWI the German advance was stopped some ten kilometers more West.  The channel to the harbour of Oostende was then off center and indicated by two leading lights a few kilometers West of the harbor, attracting by this German artillerist like a magnet when setting up one of the 6" defensive battery.  The neighboring battery Tirpitz was a 11" battery.  The Royal Navy responding with up to 18" Monitors.


Part of the visit shows the concrete bedding for the four 15 cm (6") guns, (my google guess is SK L/40 quick-firing guns in MPL type casemates),  the ammunition stores - two of them under each platform and a shelter for the artillerists and the supporting marines. The wooden barracks are of course all gone.  The electric railway in front is still there.
The first picture show the guns after their destruction by the retreating Germans in October 1918,  the guns having lost their top armor trough the explosion.






The Royal Navy did two raids on Oostende in an attempt to block the harbor channel, each time with two old cruisers filled with concrete.  They were lured to a sandbank the first time. On the second attempt lost their way in the fog, one remaining cruiser entered the harbor under heavy enemy fire but sank finally against the East pier (pictured at low tide)


After the war S.M. le Roi build an exotic (Swiss?) beach house, and a second wooden Norwegian house in the dunes (gone, no pictures found). From around 1930 up to 1983 the domain was occupied by his son Charles, keeping many military structures intact.


During WWII the position was taken again by the Germans who burned down the overly visible beach house. So nope nothing to see, only the foundations are visible.

This time the battery is made of four pieces of field artillery of 12 cm ( 4"3/4).  Over time the wooden bedding for the guns was replaced by a concrete bedding. Upon looking at the bedding I could see that a wooden rim between the gun and the walls is absent.  Also a picture from 1943 on a visit of the desert fox, the one holding a golden stick. A minor wood success is the artillerist quarters


After his visit the battery got its guns replaced with new 10cm (4") submarine guns in covered shelters. The older ones moving to France.








There are also two observation bunkers equipped with telemeters



Some last pictures.  A picture of covered brick trenches made with a patchwork of quality bricks.  The escape hatches are now transformed in windows.  A total of 600m of trenches is still available.  The cramped sleeping bunkers,  the daytime wooden barracks are all gone. And another munition store, which made me think of a Festool systainer line up.

Last in the visit a house with a, for me, unusual rafter design.  But the outside is even more special,  the absence of windows, thick walls and covered entrance shows it is a military building camouflaged as a house.




29 December 2012

Crutches for the weak

Winter Sales #5 - started in October - A post about scrapers and burnishers.

But first a cultural escape.  In my mind there is a crutches divide over the Atlantic, where not only Roy Underhill, but every television show seems to favor underarm crutches.  Where here, only Stevenson's Long John Silver or prewar pictures show us these models. In daily life  I only know forearm crutches.

I have scrapers and a burnisher,  but although useful, the results are not overly spectacular.  Veritas has a clever burnisher with a set angle looking quite attractive.  Now Ulmia has also its own burnishing block.  So with ebay.de and some patience I got a second hand model.


And it works,  with a constant angle I get better results.  I discovered later that some make a similar setup with a slotted piece of wood and an angled router bit shaft.

Even better was possibly to follow a good method when preparing the scraper. I found Michael Pekovich showing how burnishing can be done with a light touch and a wooden block with a saw kerf as proposed by Brian Boggs.

28 December 2012

Who's first?

Winter Sales #4  After being confronted one time too many by Festool enthousiasts in March, I went to Wikipedia and other sites.

Seeing on a forum and in Wikipedia the claim that: Festool is the inventor of the first portable chainsaw, the orbital sander, the portable circular saw with guide rail, the Domino jointer, the Systainer storage system and a number more.[citation needed] , I looked further

On a Festo site the claims are less extended:  In 1929, when Albert Fezer and Gottlieb Stoll developed the first portable chainsaw .... Throughout the years, Festool has continued to set benchmarks for the industry with the introduction of the first orbital sander, the first eccentric sander, the Rotex® dual-mode sander, the first brushless drill driver, and the revolutionary DOMINO® tenon joiner. 

- In 1926 Mafell The world's first portable carpentry machine. Mafell  The machine is probably a chain mortiser.
- Andreas Stihl ... patented and developed an electrical chainsaw for use on bucking sites in 1926 and a gasoline-powered chainsaw in 1929.  Wikipedia
- Others ... I Don't Know is on third.  A&C
- In 1927, Emil Lerp, the founder of Dolmar, developed the world's first gasoline-powered chainsaw and mass-produced them. Wikipedia
- 1929, when Albert Fezer and Gottlieb Stoll developed the first portable chainsaw  Festo
Anyway when the time is right,  it's time for everyone ... but surgeons who used portable chainsaws for cutting bones in tight places during the 19th century.

As for the Domino,  it's a great tool but it owes much to Lamello as a concept (an early plunge saw by the way)  and to the Mafell duo dowell for its positioning abilities.  More a synthesis than a revolution. Oh yes since then I discovered that Mafell can be the new Festool.

OK  I vented,  the Festool crowd can continue their show.

27 December 2012

La colère de Roubo

Roubo's anger.  That's Winter Sales #3  started in May I think.

Having acquired a copy of the original Le Menuisier en Meubles from Roubo and more importantly having started to read the book,  I difcovered first the s and f confufion and to a leffer degree the long phrafes,  but most importantly his dislike of the furniture makers.


What you see is the first sentence (it's readable) of an interesting footnote taking most of page 601.  His opinion about carvers is similar: ..., ces sortes de sculpteur étant pour l'ordinaire de fort mauvais Ouvriers dans leur talent, & pour la plupart sans dessin, ne travaillant que par routine, ... translates to: ... this kind of carvers are mostly workmen of poor talent, & most of them clumsy, working only by routine .... & merde had I known that I would not have bought that book. 

Furniture makers are distinct from ébénistes who use precious woods like ebony and do all things veneering.  Where furniture makers do frame-and-panel structures and even lesser frame only structures. Those are covered with fabrics or carved by other trades.


He gives himself different reasons for his dislike.
Industrialization as furniture makers are specialized in making specific frame or frame-and-panel structure based on templates, where most artisans are unable to design anything. They also work together with other trades loosing the ownership of there products as the end product is sold mostly cheap by merchants, making these their only custommers.
Industrialization and fashion.  Fashion makes that good furniture is thrown away and that the furniture makers forget all but the current fashion.
Industrialization, fashion and stubbornness.  Stubbornness of the furniture makers who uses only a limited number of techniques mainly sawing with precision - their sole expertise,  using a rasp when needed and avoiding planes whenever possible. Leaving gouges and profile planes mainly to the carvers whom will never work on assembled furniture and make poor transitions over the joints.

So?  If I am looking for a career, forget about the furniture maker trade, I better go for finish carpenter or carriage maker.

26 December 2012

Medieval carpentry - 5

Fifth post in a series about medieval woodworking.  As ever it is circling around the real thing as this time it concerns a painting representing a polychromic (that's painted) carving.

Winter Sales #2.  I am pushing out a number of post drafts,  this one dates from June. A descent of the cross on a second Christmas day?  I think it can be appropriate for medieval paintings as they didn't hesitate to mix up different spaces and times in a single painting.

I discovered in a recent tv documentary the Kruisafneming from Rogier de le Pasture that translates into The Descent from the Cross of van der Weyden  from 1432. It was commissioned for a church here in Leuven, even if it is today in a dragon's lair (the Prado).


Dirk de Vos suggests that van der Weyden wished to evoke a life sized, carved relief filled with polychrome figures, and thus elavate his painting to the level of grand scale sculpture. The work's corners are filled with carved gilded tracery, with the presentation of living figures on a stage intended as a tableau vivant, or sculptural group, the latter of which is created through the sense of condensed movement within a single instant.

So the painting puts people in a box to echo a traditional carved altarpiece. Some see it as the best painting of the fifteenth century,  I could agree with that,  this and Lascaux for the other periods  ... and a few others.  Anyway it fits the woodworking bill: medieval wooden panel with decorative oil finish.


25 December 2012

Wooden planes - French names

Fifth post in a series about western wooden planes

Winter Sales #1:  I am ending the year with as many unpublished drafts as blog posts. So in a late attempt of efficiency,  I am going to push out some of them and drown the others.

Concerning French or Dutch names for wooden planes I am no specialist.  I expected a difference as Dutch offers like German through composed words more descriptive names. ex: Reformputzhobel newish-smoothing-plane. Where French can have unique names.

I knew rabot, varlope and plane add to that riflard, guillaume, guimbarde, tarabiscot, wastringue, racloir.  Racloir is easy that's a scraper.  Tarabiscoté means something complex so tarabiscot is a ... a beading tool? Yes of course, overuse it and you get something tarabiscoté.  Guimbarde is an old car ... but also a router plane.  Elementary my dear, it's also a mouth harp and those look sort of similar. Wastringue sounds good ...
To save me from guessing any further I purchased a small book Dans l'atelier de pépère with this image in it.  Lostartpress published a translation,  but that will be of no help when learning French names.

Feuilleret is apparently a fillister plane. It makes a feuillure that accepts a feuillet and that was a board of  3/4" or less thick, where it is planche otherwise.  Riflard is a scrub plane, from rifler, you know like in rifle (fusil).  Plane is absent, that's a draw knife. Where wastringue is a spokeshave,  with a w, probably pronounced v, it looks foreign, no cue where that comes from.

I have never seen a bouvet à joindre, it corresponds to the whole metal Stanley #148 match plane.  I add a picture of the section to make this more clear.  It's a plow plane and a double rabbet plane sharing a central fixed fence. Now we are at it there is rabais (a sales rebate) from rabaisser (lowering)

I better forget about all this,  by the time I meet someone who know those names,  I will mix them all up.

06 December 2012

Fast Wood

This week The New Yankee Online presented a Desk Top Writing Case.  I like the programs even if my recurring impression is that many projects could be done without a stacked dado blade and simply with biscuits.  This project is a compromise,  where the sides of the box are finger jointed with ... a stacked dado blade (he could have joined them with biscuits:). But the breadboard edges of the desktop are made with pinned biscuits,  a technique I hadn't seen before.

He first shows us the original English desk top writing case with a top with breadboard edges and two cracks: One at the junction of two boards, those are pulled apart by the nailed breadboard edge.  And a second crack in the corner at the top where the hinges pulled and the breadboard pushed

His solution is to use biscuits set off center,  the narrow side glued and the other pinned through a slot to allow seasonal movements.

The same cross-grain problem gets another solution for the bottom of the box. Screws and slotted holes are used there.

Looking at what Chris Schwarz has to say talking about cross-grain construction in six-board chests,  nailing is good enough for softwood.  The cracks seen in the antique example could then be attributed to the fact that the wood was not dry enough when making the writing case.  

Personally I like biscuits because they are wooden fasteners and are also fast and relatively easy to use. They are even so fast that if Norm Abram had used them more, the program would probably have been ended within two seasons.
Making a six-board chest with biscuits needs only special care at the junction of front and back to the sides.  Using the pinned biscuits solves most problems, where the junction with the lid and bottom remains a problem.  I suppose that not attaching them close to the corners solves this.  This is setting the hinges away from the sides and not attaching the bottom close to the ends of the front and back.

02 November 2012

Staring at people

Staring at people,  I shouldn't,  but then the conjunction of three posts and I did.  The Oregon Woodworker presented the different approaches of Christopher Schwarz and Paul Sellers about bench and as such planing height, for him that's 34" vs 40".  And then both presented a video and used a plane talking about a shooting board for Sellers and plane tuning for Schwarz.
The benches used are not necessarily standard,  as for presentations, by lack of an anatomical theater,  low benches may give a better view,  certainly for a sitting audience.

Schwarz seems to drop 4" (thanks to young knees?) setting his elbow nearly in line with the top of the plane.



Where Paul Sellers planes with his elbow an inch or two lower.


In the end both have, unsurprisingly, their elbow nearly in line with the plane.

As for the shoulders,  Paul Sellers sets his shoulders higher than average people do even at rest,  they stay 'low' during the whole process.  Chris Schwarz right shoulder starts low and stays low, I think, mainly dropping his head.  His left shoulder climbs to give more pressure to the front.  And me?  The moment I grab a tool my shoulders climb and turn rigid.


31 October 2012

Summer fall

A few pictures taken in the forest nearby.  Some in the late summer others a month later.  The forest has a part oriented to children.

There be dragons and mighty snakes.  The snake is more a legless lizard as it refers to the smalish slowworm Anguis Fragilis ,  the fragilis is probably about the possibility to lose its tail like lizards do.

A place for camps, percussion

A liana, step trunks, puzzle trees to climb  .... and much more: a tree over a deep ditch (with safety nets),  a giant mikado game....  Looking at the public I think it's made for six year olds, but I couldn't convince my kids.


A month later we crossed the children part to see the falling leaves. Some kids move enough even while 'sitting' behind a computer,  but then we need pictures to feed our hungry blogs and facebooks.









30 September 2012

Ryoba and maebiki workshop

After following a session about Japanese sharpening last year, I got this month the opportunity to do a  ryoba and maebiki workshop at the MOT (Museum for Old Techniques) in Grimbergen this time.  I only know Grimbergen for its beer, so it was interesting to discover other aspects. As I don't have any Japanese tools,  I did buy a ryoba in a Berlin web-shop. Is this a first step on the slippery slope of Japanese handtools?

The museum has its own castle. I always like to see one even in a poor state.  If  it was demilitarized early 17th century (hence the windows), it was nevertheless burned down by retreating soldiers in 1944.  Looking further on internet I found that the current castle was build in 1500 and that one of the previous versions was burned down in 1195.  Knowing that the brewery uses a fenix as logo,  it appears to have been slightly more succesfull in being rebuild after a fire.

After a short introduction we got a demonstration in Japanese ink markings and a hands-on experience with the maebiki.

We also got some explanations about various japanese carpentry joints through a display piece


The second part was of the workshop about the ryoba.  Here again inked layout lines
And what should be the final state of the exercise.  But this piece is not mine,  as much as I love to use a ryoba: the handle is perfect,  switching between rip and cross cut blade a pleasure,  it wasn't a success for me as I am unable to cut a vertical line.  I could be that I am left handed and right eyed,  or that age makes the use of reading glasses a necessity.

A fine afternoon and a few more things discovered.