Woodworking Blog

This is the collection area of all of the writings I've made that pertain to woodworking in its various forms.

The Twibill, the English World's Besaigue

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I recently read (and reviewed) Maurice Pommier's children's bookabout woodworking called GrandPa's Workshop. It's a charming book and it introduced me to the uniquely French tool called the besaigue. To a modern American woodworker's eyes, it's an odd, ungainly looking tool, but after hearing how it might be used, I've come to see how it could actually be useful in the right situation. A besaigue, pronounced as best as I can determine as Bay-say-gwe', is a long, double-tipped chisel, with a mortising chisel on one end, and a broad, flat chisel or firmer chisel on the other end. In the middle is a long rod with a handle attached at the midpoint. The purpose of the tool is for timber framing. The long end not being used is placed on the shoulder, and the handle is used to pare down or punch down into a beam to create a mortise. From other reading, it seems to have been commonly used up until perhaps the 17th century along with a large brace and bit to create round-ended mortise slots for structural timbers.

Promotional artwork for Lost Art Press edition of Grandpa's Workshop showing the besaigue in handFrench Style besaïgue from the collection of the Ethnographic Museum of Geneva


French style besaigue, Ethonography Museum of GenevaWhat I didn't learn from this reading, however, is whether or how this tool was ever used in the English-speaking world.  

Woodworking Skills Assessment

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Stanley No 8, Type 11 Tote and adjusterI'm a numbers guy. It's how I'm wired. And I know I'm going to catch flack for this, but I have been wanting to find a way to attach a number to my woodworking skill level. I've wanted to do this for several years. As a slowly progressing amateur who largely interacts with other woodworkers only through social media, I have no other way to judge my own progress.  

I've built a spreadsheet in which I have attempted to score myself in 10 categories of woodworking skill, with as many subsets of each skill as I could identify. The categories I chose are:

  • General Woodworking skills
  • Measuring and Marking
  • Power Tools
  • Hand Tools
  • Joinery
  • Carving
  • Turning
  • Veneering/Marquetry
  • Finishing
  • Specialty Skills

Review: Grandpa's Workshop by Maurice Pommier (Lost Art Press)

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Review of "Grandpa's Workshop" by Maurice Pommier (Lost Art Press)

Grandpa's Workshop cover (French version)Grandpa's Workshop was originally written in French, with the author describing much of, perhaps, his own family's history, as described to him by his own Pépère (grandfather). Maurice Pommier, and the translators at Lost Art Press, have created a wonderful book for children in the English speaking world to understand about family history, and how the professions and experiences of our ancestors come down to us in various ways.

Describing a visit to his grandparents home when he was a child, the author shares the stories his grandpa gives him about the tools in his workshop, and the little elves that live there. First popular in the woodworking community, I think this would be a wonderful story to tell any child, particularly by any grandfather who likes to tinker. There's magic in these stories, and humor . . . but also hints of past tragedies and real darkness. It looks into the history as seen by a family in the French countryside, which we must realize has at times been filled with hardship and times of war.

Campaign Furniture Designs for Seasonal Storage

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I was thinking. You know, with Chris Schwartz currently focusing on campaign furniture, it had me thinking about other, modern day uses for this kind of design ethos. My understanding of the style is that it is furniture designed of tough woods, but cut thinner than stationary furniture, so it won't be too heavy. It needs to be reinforced at the corners and the latches to withstand travel. It needs to provide compartments to efficiently store whatever the intended contents are.

First test fit of legs to case

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This is an update on the 'jewelry armoire' project I'm doing for my wife. I finalized the design in September of 2011, and didn't really get started until January of last year. Now that my shop is up and working again, I'm making some good progress on it. As of last spring, I had managed to cut the top and sides, and fit them together, but the next critical piece is the case bottom. This single panel is probably the most complicated joined piece I've ever attempted to create with hand tools. (I did cut the panel to final dimensions using the table saw, but after that it was all hand tools.)

First test fit of legs to case

Status of Ben's Mill after Hurricane Irene

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Ben's Mill prior to restoration work, as it was in the 1970s

Anyway, Ben's Mill sits right next to the Stevens River near Barnet, VT. A foundation was formed to restore the mill to working operation so it could be used as a teaching tool to show how woodworking and water based machinery worked in 18th and 19th century New England. The movie is fascinating. (A portion of it is available for streaming on the FolkStreams website (see attached).) They've done some good work cataloging all of the old machines and restoring the old penstock (wooden tube that feeds water to the turbine), as well as the blacksmith area and the foundations. They still have permitting issues to deal with before they can rebuild the dam that finally washed away in the late 80s.