Till the Cows Come Home

If you know me, you know I spent January through March of this year in Port Townsend, Washington attending a three month woodworking intensive at the Port Townsend School of Woodworking (great class, great people, highly recommend). If you don’t know me, now you know that much. One of the things you learn when start getting serious about woodworking is how much time you spend “using your tools to make tools and using your tools to improve your tool-holding tools” (quote from my friend Rob who encouraged me to start down this path).

Last year at this time, I had two saws. A cheapo Stanley panel saw used mostly for quickly changing the size of wood, but not in an artful way, and a little Bear pull-saw, which has been my main way of cutting things nicely for probably 15 years. I had one handplane, an old Sears model that was a rebranded Stanley 200, that I got as a gift when I was a kid. I couldn’t tell you the last time I used it, much less sharpened it.

Now I have 7 more handsaws ranging from very nice to quite nice to “the saws I learned to sharpen on that work really well, but will go unnoticed due to being not fancy” and have five more handplanes, of similar quality to the handsaws. The saws were all taking up space on the pegboard and the planes were using up most of a shelf and that didn’t really suit them.

So I built a saw and plane till.

The project actually started as just a saw till, because I had assembled the collection of saws mentioned above. At the start of the project, I still only had two handplanes and they fit on a tiny shelf. However, almost as soon as I started work, I acquired three new planes in rapid succession. I now needed storage for them. Luckily, I had decided to make my saw till 24″ wide to sit nicely on the 24″-on-center studs of my garage, and that was enough room for all the saws and planes. I added a center vertical board to the plan that I was using and just attached the plane till there.

In the end, I didn’t have quite enough of an angle to feel comfortable just leaving the planes sitting on the till. They do rest on it without falling, but a good bump could send a couple them to the floor, so I added some leather loops that fit loosely around the front knobs. Just close enough that a good jolt would leave the plane hanging but not on the concrete floor.

I started with the Wood by Wright saw till plans (not an affiliate link, just a link) and after deciding to add the planes, just adjusted things as needed. The plane till is just screwed into the vertical boards and the saw holders run the whole width, so in the unlikely event that I suddenly find myself with a pile of extra saws, I could pull out the plane till and build a new one.

I used commodity lumber from a big box store to reduce the amount of milling I’d have to do in not-ideal circumstances and, frankly, because I was a little worried about mistakes. In the end, I did kind of mess up the T notches and had to screw in the saw holders because they wouldn’t seat quite well enough to just glue them.

I built it all using hand tools, except the French cleats that it hangs from. After I decided to use plywood for the cleats, it made more sense to go to my community wood shop and use the table saw.

It’s finished with Skidmore’s Liquid Beeswax Woodfinish, a product I learned about in Port Townsend. It’s similar to using tung oil, but dries quicker.

The combination plane from the front with no tools on it.

The combination plane from the side with no tools on it.

The combination plane from the front, loaded with tools.

The combination till from the side, loaded with tools.

The mounting of the plane till

Inktober ’23 Prompt 28: Sparkle

Today’s prompt was “sparkle”.

Guitars are fussy things to draw. Compound curves all over the place, big areas with subtle bends and so many fine, long, straight lines.

I own two Gretsch hollow-bodies and one of them is literally sparkly. Its finish is this amazing silver-blue icy glitter. I got stumped trying to represent that with black and white ink, so I’ll come back to it later.

For now, this the other one. Let’s say it metaphorically sparkles.

I do like the way the not quite completely blacked-in F-hole provides a little depth.

(Guitar nerds, it’s 1959 6119 Tennessean with a single bridge pickup.)

Typing the Comics

I have never been a fan of “handwriting” typefaces for computers. For the most part, the quirks that make handwriting interesting don’t translate to a rigid set of letters and numbers. A person scribbling notes is not going to make every letter exactly the same every time, and block of text quickly slips into a typographical uncanny valley when you realize the same weird descender on the lower-case g is identical in every single word.

Even professional letterers are not 100% consistent, although they are consistent enough that one of the historically largest industries for hand lettering — comic books — has largely shifted to type-setting the speech bubbles that used to be so painstakingly written by human hands, and the computer stuff is admittedly often indistinguishable from the human stuff in this context. Of course, the fact that it’s basically indistinguishable is a testament to how freaking good the humans that used to do it were at their jobs. (And to be clear, there is still tremendous art and skill in lettering a comic book with a computer. The constraints of the medium are tricky!)

Well, there was a comic book company that not only eschewed hand lettering, they went so far as using a special typewriter with a custom-designed typeface to get the job done. I’d never heard of this and it’s fascinating. Alex Jay over at the Tenth Letter of the Alphabet blog has the full story, but here’s what the typewriter looked like.

A manual typewriter designed for setting text in comic books. It has an extra-long carriage for greater flexibility.

Joumana Medlej

Joumana Medlej specializes in art based on Kufic script, but also makes deeply layered objects (see the Treasure Boxes) and publishes historical and instructional books. She makes her own inks, and one of her books provides guidance for doing that yourself.

My visual language is rooted in the artistic culture of my native Middle East: I shape the ancient Kufic script to create images made of meaning. Free from iconography, but not obviously legible, the work bypasses the mind to engage a deeper recognition. The geometric compositions refer us not to the world of forms but to a cosmic order; their architectural quality generates a space in which one is held in contemplation and stillness.

Two pieces by artist Joumana Medlej showing her use of Kufic script and self-made inks.

It’s all just amazing work.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

David Shrigley: Artist pulps 6,000 copies of The Da Vinci Code and turns them into 1984

Shrigley spent what he describes as “a six-figure sum” publishing his edition of 1984s. This is his justification for each book going on sale at £495, a price as eye-opening as a rat in Room 101, to use 1984 parlance.
A portion of the profits will be donated to Oxfam, who have also been paid for the hire of the venue and will receive the proceeds of specially designed tote bags merchandise.

“Four hundred and ninety five pounds seems like a kind of crazy price,” admits Shrigley, “However I have made an artwork, a signed print to go in it, which is based on a lot of the themes of 1984. So people are perhaps willing to pay that price for an original artwork of mine, where they might not be for the book, so I’ve sort of hedged my bets.”

Shrigley says it wasn’t about literary criticism, and I believe him, but also The Da Vinci Code is possibly the worst book I have ever read all the way through.

Inktober ’23 Prompts 24, 19, & 20: Shallow, Plump, Frost

The daily prompt was “shallow”. I also included prompt 19, “plump” and prompt 20, “frost”.

As long as the Garys have been in my life I’ve wondered what Gary would do when Gary went into hibernation. I think he’d stick around to make sure everything was okay, then go find someplace out of the cold, but come back regularly to make sure Gary was still tucked in.

Gonna make a tote bag with Celtic knotwork all over it and call it the Sack of Lindesfarne.