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.