Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Chew On This

So, I'm sitting in the dentist's chair today having a tooth drilled, sans Novocaine, ala Little Shop of Horrors, and after the filling is ground with a dremel-like tool whose high-pitched screech can peel paint, the hygienist slides of piece of paper in between my upper and lower choppers.

"Bite down, please. Tap. Tap. Now grind your teeth back and forth."

The paper leaves a residue on the high spots of the filling so the dentist knows where to file, garnering a perfect fit between your teeth.

I often disappear to my "happy place" while at the dentist's office, and today I was whisked away to a book I'm reading, entitled "Our Workshop: Being A Practical Guide To The Amateur In The Art of Carpentry & Joinery" by Temple Thorold, 1866.

This book was sent to me by my friend, Gary Roberts, who runs the Toolemera site. Recently, he's produced exact reprints of some 18th-, 19th-, and early 20th-century woodworking books that contain fascinating, relevant information, all told in a prettier language than we speak today.

The episode with the dentist reminded me of one passage on joining two boards, one of which has been made square:

"If a little chalk be rubbed evenly all over the true edge, a small portion of the white powder will be deposited on the prominent points of the work, if the former be slightly moved backwards and forwards over the latter in the direction of its length. By removing the material where the chalk has adhered we shall soon bring the edge of the second plank into close contact with that of the first."

I had to try it. One problem, though—no chalk. The next door neighbor kid has a bunch that she uses to decorate our shared driveway (which is highly amusing and much appreciated), but I was unable to divert her attention long enough to pilfer some.

Instead, I tried a series of experiments with graphite, flour, baking powder, and powdered sugar. Nothing worked well. So, I reluctantly parted with a buck and bought a pack of chalk. Which worked.

"Our Workshop" is a short book, only about 195 pages, but covers several topics that a handtool woodworker would find captivating. Many will already know much of the content, but there are enough details and tidbits that you might not know, all presented so eloquently as to be lyrical, that it's an absolute delight.

And it's close enough to modern language to be easily understood. Like Moxon, but without the lisp.


rgdaniel said...

No freezing? Are you mad? I get the full freezing for a CLEANING... most sensitive teeth EVER... I get freezing for the freezing, so the needle won't hurt... I had a new dentist the other day when I had my cavity filled, and when I was explaining this to her, the regular guy poked his head around the corner and said "yup, load him up!"... makes the "grind your teeth" procedure a bit problematic though, since I can't feel anything...

Bob Easton said...

No Novocaine? Yikes! Gotta stop using those cut-rate dentists. :)

The chalk technique works really well. I used it on a boat recently. ( But, I can't get chalk for a buck here. It shows up only in one of the art supply stores, with an artsy price.

Thanks for the good reference to "Our Workshop." Time to order a copy.

Thanks also for showing up in Popular Woodworking mag. That was a very pleasant surprise. Hope that arrangement lasts a good long while.

Rob Eisenmann said...

Nice post! Hadn't thought of this procedure for pairing up edges. Good idea.

Gary Roberts said...

Kari... were you saving the novacaine for the wood to be joined? Or is this some kind of Pennsylvania 'we are tough as old wrought nails' thing? If a dentist came near me without a quart of novacaine (in my case, lidocaine), you would only see my back as I scooted out the door.

And thanks for the lovely review. And the photo of the first four books. Wish I could take pictures as nice as that.


Morton said...

Love the way you do photos - really nice.

Yeah - I finally got some chalk in the workshop to mark up roughsawn boards (where I want to cut, etc). Very handy stuff.

Cool technique to use to mate edges. Definitely will use that in the future.

Dave said...

I'm not trying to be smart, can't get that even on a good day, but how do you know which board is off? What if it's the chalked up board?

I suppose it doesn't really matter as long as they line up nice and tight. Dumb me, sorry.

Sgt42RHR said...

When I cut the male and female parts of the knuckle joints for the folding legs and posts of my field bed, I rubbed white chalk on the male portions to see where wood needed to be removed in the female part of the joint. It worked perfectly. I also used the technique when fitting the curved tenons in the folding side rails of the bed. Again, it allowed very precise trimming of the mortise.


Gary Roberts said...

Dave... it's always the other board that needs fixin"

John Cashman said...

I use chalk on files sometimes, and it help keep them from clogging. It's also handy for hopscotch.

Congratulations also on joining the Popular Woodworking team. I can't imagine a better addition.

naomi said...

Nice one, Kari. Going to the dentist always makes me feel like a project in a shop. It's a weird angle to have but i then hope my next piece of work is the better for it ;-) I would have loved some footage of you trying to nick some chalk from a little girl!

MKTRAT said...

And here I was negotiating with the neighbors 3 year old for a popsicle in return for a single piece of chalk out of her "bucket-o-chalk"

Maybe the store would have been easier......

I have used this technique from time to time with mixed results. But it does work, its a matter of whether or not I execute the technique correctly.

Oh, and Kari, Septocaine is your friend........

Dave said...

You really really don't like the dentist do you? :)

Kari Hultman said...

Bob, I kept thinking "Civil War guys had their limbs removed off by doctors w/o anesthesia, so I should be able to handle this. Wasn't too bad. I'd get numbed if it were a root canal, though!

Bob, it sounds like a lot of people already knew about using chalk in the shop. Guess I missed the memo! haha I got the pack at a local convenience store for $1.19.

Rob, thanks!

Gary, she doesn't like to use Novocaine if she doesn't have to, for some reason. Maybe too much is bad for a person? Anyhow, it wasn't too painful. I was thinking about your book instead. ; )

Morton, I can see where the chalk will come in handy for other uses in the shop. I hope the neighbor kid doesn't try to nick my stash.

Dave, sorry, I wasn't very clear. You make sure that one board is perfectly flat first and mark it so you remember which one to use. I checked it for square with a square and a straightedge from Lee Valley. Joint the other board as best you can, chalk up the flat board, and rub in on the new board.

John, it's a nifty trick for sure. When are you going to post photos of your field bed???

John, thanks for kudos and the file tip. I'll give it a try. Maybe the hopscotch, too. heh.

Naomi, wouldn't it be something if while working in our shops, our minds start to wander to thoughts of going to the dentist?? agh!

Mktrat, sounds like the negotiations didn't go so well. Maybe next time try a pony instead of a popsicle.

Dave, she cracks me up actually (not my teeth, my demeanor).

Woodbloke said...

Hi Kari - Novocaine...not the 'real deal' Ask, no... demand, the stuff they have to give you for root canal work or wisdom teeth extraction. Works for me every time.
Nice way of jointing btw (I intend to get hold of one of those scrubs on the Continent this year) - Rob

Anonymous said...

Lipstick works too.