Category Archives: featured

Historic Trades Sampler 2015

This summer I’ll be teaching a workshop as part of the Early American Industries Association (EAIA) ‘Historic Trades Sampler’ at Eastfield Village.

Hands on learning at Eastfield Village
Hands on learning at Eastfield Village

The events run from Thursday, July 30 through Sunday, August 2, 2015, at Historic Eastfield Village, East Nassau, New York. The program this year includes:

  • Hand planing picture molding with Bill Rainford:
  • Printing a broadside in the print shop with Toby Hall:
  • Knife making in the blacksmith shop with Olof Janssen:
  • Tinsmithing with master tinsmith Bill McMillen:
  • Floor cloth painting with John Verrill:
  • Flint knapping & arrow making with George Lott.
  • Black powder shooting with Bill McMillen

The name ‘Eastfield Historic Trades Sampler’ reflects what is being offered –a sampler of various trades- with an opportunity to learn about them while completing a small project related to the craft.

Students exploring the village details
Students exploring the village details

There are two different workshops each day from which to choose. The classes start at 9 a.m. and there is a lunch provided in Eastfield‘s historic tavern from noon until 1 p.m., at which time the afternoon session of the workshops resume. The workshops end around 5 p.m.

The official flyer can be found here.

Additional Detail of Bill’s Workshop:

I’ll be teaching a lesson on running traditional moldings using traditional hand planes. Each student will have the opportunity to setup and use some hollows and rounds, beading planes, rabbet planes and molders on a sticking board to make a short run of molding that will be mitered to form a small picture frame.

If you’d like to learn a bit more about this sort of work please check out this earlier post as well as this one.

The General Store at Eastfield Village
The General Store at Eastfield Village

About Eastfield Village:

Eastfield is a village of historic buildings that Don Carpentier brought to the east field of his farm in East Nassau, New York, over a period of forty years. The village is used as a hands on preservation lab and students can explore the village, handle period objects and learn a lot in a short period of time.
Examining a period oven
Examining a period oven
Students are welcome to stay in several of these buildings which have been restored to their 18th and 19th century appearance; however there are hotels and other accommodations nearby. Learn more about Eastfield Village here.

The Tavern at Eastfield Village
The Tavern at Eastfield Village
Accommodations at the Village:
Accommodations in Eastfield‘s taverns are available free of charge for those wishing to stay as  guests in early 19th century accommodations. The only requirement is that each person supply their own bedding, plus 10 ten-inch white candles.

Students who take classes at the Village are encouraged to stay here during the Historic Trades Sampler. Meals may be cooked  or served in the late 18th century kitchens. Accommodations are rope beds with straw and feather ticks. Facilities are located in period out houses (and there is a modern porta-john,  and a running hose should you need those slightly more modern comforts ). There are evening gatherings in the Briggs Tavern and lively conversations  and games of dominoes by candlelight. This immersive experience offers an unforgettable opportunity to be with others – students and teachers – of similar interests, to gain an appreciation for the work and daily life of early 19th century America.

Don’t forget to Register Today!

This is an great opportunity to learn and practice historics trade using traditional tools!

Dates: Thursday July 30-Sunday August 2, 2015
Location: Historic Eastfield Village, East Naussau, NY 12062 (Directions)
Cost: $485 for this 4 day event

I hope to see some of you at Eastfield this year. You can register for the event on the EAIA website here. If you have questions, feel free to ask me in the comments or via the contact page for my blog.

Take care,
-Bill

The One Tool I Hope I Never Have To Use

I love buying and using hand tools.  The tool in this post I hope I never have to use. In fact, I bought two of them and hope I never have to use either of them.

Channel Lock 89 Rescue Tool
Channel Lock 89 Rescue Tool

 

Why would someone buy a tool they never want to use? 

Is it a collector’s item? Nope.
Was it a bargain? Nope.  I paid about $43 each for them on Amazon.

I bought them because I am a parent now. (And I do love a good tool with a solid purpose).

Channel Lock 89 Rescue Tool
Channel Lock 89 Rescue Tool

Why would someone want this tool?

This tool was designed for fire and rescue professionals and is a versatile multi-tool. The hardened cutter is designed to cut through a car battery cable,  wiring harness or seat-belt with ease. The curved end can be used as a spanner wrench to open water fittings. The more rectilinear arm can be used to shut off a natural gas valve and the tapered end of that arm can be used to pry a door or window. The hardened arms also have some semi-pointed ends that can be used to break safety glass. If you get into a car accident or help someone on the side of the road this is the tool you want to have by your side.
The tool is made in the USA by ChannelLock and is called the #89 ‘Rescue Tool’. They also make a slightly smaller/lighter version (The #87) if you drive a miata or have this tool on your person as part of how you make a living. They also make the #88 version which has linesman pliers instead of the cutter.

Channel Lock 89 Rescue Tool
Channel Lock 89 Rescue Tool

A few years ago I saw this in my local Home Depot and wanted to buy it, but we put it off as it was kind of expensive for a seemingly simple tool.  As a new parent with a 10 month old baby and surrounded by terrible drivers and winter road conditions up here in New England I figured I’d bite the bullet and finally go buy one for each of our vehicles. They no longer seem to stock it in the store, but thankfully it’s still in production and readily available from Amazon and similar sources.

Fits nicely into car door storage pockets
Fits nicely into car door storage pockets

The tool fits nicely into the door pocket on both of our vehicles. If it rattles around too much for you liking you can wrap it in a towel or similar to keep it quiet. It also has a nice thick clear-coat on it which should keep it from rusting in the door which likely gets some rain on it on occasion.

It’s a great addition to any vehicle.  If you’d like to learn more about this tool ChannelLock has a dedicated website for it here.

Take care,
-Bill

P.S. I don’t have any relationship to ChannelLock, but have many of their Made in the USA tools that have served me well for years of hard work and I wholeheartedly endorse this tool.

P.P.S. Curiosity and necessity drove me to use it the other day and the tool did a great job cutting through some 3/4″ braided nylon rope with ease and made a nice clean cut.

The Shutters of Old Quebec

As a Joiner and a Preservation carpenter I always enjoy studying interesting architectural details. On a recent trip to Old Quebec I found a lot of interesting French influenced shutters that I wanted to share with you.

The Frontenac Hotel and Old Quebec
The Frontenac Hotel and Old Quebec

Living and working in New England and the mid-Atlantic the majority of what I come across are English, Dutch and some German inspired shutters.

In Old Quebec many of the buildings date to the 17th and 18th centuries. Shown below is a great example of a board and batten (or sometimes called a ‘ledge’) shutter with ‘Z’ bracing. I like how the ‘Z’ brace was properly let into the batten (horizontal member). What was unusual to my eye was how the the nails used to clinch the boards to the batten were relatively large nails and relatively few in number compared to English versions of this type of shutter.

Z-braced Batten Shutter
Z-braced Batten Shutter

Wandering around Place Royale Square you can visit many beautiful and historic buildings. The earlier 17th century French buildings had smaller panes in the windows and the 18th century English buildings had larger windows with larger panes as technology advanced and styles changed over time.

Smaller window panes are from earlier French buildings, the larger panes are from later English buildings (Place Royale Square -- Quebec)
Smaller window panes are from earlier French buildings, the larger panes are from later English buildings (Place Royale Square — Quebec)

The doors, windows and trim on many of these buildings are painted in vibrant colors.  The tour guide for our group said many of these colors were reminders of the villages they came from in France where towns often had many buildings painted in the same color to help aid ships navigating — by the color they could tell what town it was. (I have nothing to back that statement other than her word, but interesting if true)

Breadboard ends and decorative cutouts
Breadboard ends and decorative cutouts

These beautiful bright yellow shutters had nice breadboard ends and decorative cutouts to dress up the otherwise relatively plain look and let in a bit of light so occupants could tell if it was day or night from inside the building.

Breadboard ends
Breadboard ends

On this building the shutters also sport breadboard ends to help keep the vertical boards flat. These shutters were made from particularly thick stock and the outer edges are also fielded a bit which adds a nice detail and likely helps the shutter sit flush when closed.

Place Royale Square -- Quebec
Place Royale Square — Quebec

Wandering around Place Royale Square there were many great buildings to admire including some with traditional raised panels but we’ll skip those English style shutters since we’ve talked about them before in other posts.

Many of these buildings date back to the 17th century
Many of these buildings date back to the 17th century

Here is were things really started to get interesting for me. The building shown here has tapered sliding dovetail battens to help keep the boards flat. A shutter is exposed to extreme conditions of sunlight, heat, weather, cold etc which will cause the boards to move a lot with the seasonal changes. If you look carefully at the photo above you can see how the sliding dovetail allows for that seasonal movement without any metal hardware to secure the batten to the boards.

Tapered dovetailed battens
Tapered dovetailed battens

Also note how the middle batten is tapered the opposite way compared to the upper and lower battens. This helps keep the battens and boards flat and keeps the boards from sliding off the battens.

Flush tapered dovetailed battens
Flush tapered dovetailed battens

In another part of the city we saw the same style of tapered sliding dovetail battens that are flushed with the rest of the shutter. If you look carefully at the paint lines you can see how the battens were set into these nice thick boards.

Beautiful 'bead and butt' paneled door to go with those shutters
Beautiful ‘bead and butt’ style paneled door to go with those shutters. (Rather than a bead, looks like a simple V-joint)

On that same building was a very nice butted panel door with a large transom above it that I had to share with you. Again the lines are very neat and plan, only dressed with a simple V-joint to accentuate the defect of the narrow panels meeting the rails and stiles.

Great door detail to help keep snow from getting under the door
Great door detail to help keep snow from getting under the door

What really grabbed my eye was this detail on the bottom of the door that helps she snow away from the threshold during the harsh Quebec winters. This year in Boston we set local records for getting 10+ feet of snow this year. When talking to folks in Quebec they said they had over 20 feet of snow! So with larger snow piles reaching up to your door this detail presumably will help keep some of the snow from getting in.

It was great to see some architectural details that were uncommon to my area. If you live in an area with interesting shutter and door details, please share them in the comments.

Take care,
-Bill

P.S. If you want to learn more about traditional New England and Mid-Atlantic style shutters you may want to check out this earlier post here or an upcoming session of that workshop. During the course I talk about stylistic and regional variations we have here in New England, New York and Northern Virginia.

Hand Tool Shopping at Foreign Big Box Stores

While on vacation my wife and I have a few idiosyncrasies. Alyssa and I like to visit food stores we don’t have at home to see how the locals eat, try some new foods, bring home unusual condiments etc. It kind of gives us a feel for ‘could we live in this place’?

I also like to visit hardware stores and lumber yards to see what is available and popular in other parts of the world.  We were recently in Quebec Canada for the Early American Industries Association (eaiainfo.org) Annual Meeting. The meeting was enjoyable as they always are — if you are not familiar with that group but love old tools and methods of work I encourage you to check out their website — don’t worry, I’ll wait for you to check out the site — I built out  their webpage so you’ll see me over there as well. 😉

Main Aisle inside RenoDepot
Main Aisle inside RenoDepot

While in Quebec we went to ‘RenoDepot‘. At first glance it reminded me a lot of Home Depot and Lowes — many of the same major manufacturers, same power tools etc.– but with a nicer blue-green color on everything.  It was a little smaller in scale and reminded me a bit of what Rickles/Pergament/Grossmans used to be like before they were all driven out of business — a big store but limited selection of brands and supplies. I made a bee-line for the hand tool section.

Hand Tools at RenoDepot
Hand Tools at RenoDepo

I was happy to see a larger hand tool section compared to the American big box renovation stores I was used to. A larger selection of chisels (still not fine chisels), files etc. Stanley seemed to have a larger presence on the shelves of stores we visited followed by Fuller and the usual generic/store branded imported brands. There seemed to be more items made in Canada and North America in general, but not drastically different from home.

Rona Exterior
Rona Exterior

I also searched online in the area and checked out a RONA home store. Apparently RONA owns Reno-Depot and it seems like a RONA is the larger Super-Center type store with a wider selection.

Hand Tools at Rona
Hand Tools at Rona

Again I went straight to the hand tools section. I was much happier with the selection at Rona. 5+ different makes of chisel including the BlueChip style Irwin/Marples/Record chisels which are the first tier of big box chisels I’d consider — I learned on them as a student and they were always a good value for a lower end chisel and work great out in the field. (The website showed the old Record ones at a great price which is why I went there, but on the rack was some of the early 2000s Irwin flavor chisel with round handle and the newer style with the stumpier handle). The price was right and I bought 2 of each style in odd sizes I didn’t have to round out my travel tool roll and will compare them to my old English made Marples Blue chip chisels in a future post. I heard the metal quality was not as good in these later Asian made lines so we’ll put that to the test.

What made me really happy with the hand tool aisle here was the quantity and variety given this was not a specialty woodworking store. There were a few low-end Stanley bench planes (Still better than the Buck Brothers or generic planes at similar stores near me), far greater variety of Nicholson and similar files and then lots of things I wish local big box stores still stocked — card files, sharpening stones and oil (not hyped up cheap diamond plates, but traditional oil stones etc), Stanley spoke shaves, card scrapers, record woodworking vises and that sort of thing.

Even safety gear and boots
Even safety gear and boots

The other neat thing was to see a selection of safety gear, working gear (jackets, overalls etc), work boots etc for the carpenter on the run.

It was clear that the Canadian renovation market still made use of human powered woodworking.  Sure these stores still had all the latest cordless power tools as well, but at least craftsmen and handymen and women in Quebec had the option of filling their tool-boxes with reasonably quality hand or power tools. At my local big box stores the brand name hand tools have been increasingly swapped out for cheaper and cheaper brands, smaller selection and replacement by cheap gimmicky power tools.

As energy becomes increasingly expensive, folks spend their limited funds on higher quality materials and results and green/conservation movements help put pressure on the disposable society mentality of the 20th century I hope the current hand tool renaissance can spill back over into mainstream carpentry/renovation. Only time and our efforts to spread the word will tell.

Take care,
-Bill

P.S. I also checked out a BMR Lumber (great name as those are also my initials) and a Canac store with similar findings. I was hoping to find a store that stocked a lot of Bahco tools — I still want to try some Bahco files but never see them offered in the US. I love my Bahco Superior saws, card scrapers and paint scrapers.  If you find other regional chains that value and sell quality hand tools, please share it in the comments below.