Friday, June 24, 2011

Comings and goings

It's been a few days between postings and seemed like a good time for an update. I was down in Washington D.C. for the past 5 days, where I had the opportunity to spend some full days in the Library of Congress. It's a great library with 1.5 million volumes, but more than a little frustrating as far as libraries go. You see, almost all the books are down in storage, and you have to search for them using an online system. Once you've found the book you want, then you have to fill out a slip of paper detailing the book, your name, address, and library card number, etc., using a stubby blunt pencil, and hand that form in to the desk clerk. One form for each book. Why the computer cannot be used directly for this is a mystery. Further, each reading room in the library has its own unique request form, also for no sensible reason I can ascertain. In some cases I had filled out forms in one room, discovered the books needed to be requested from a different reading room, went over there only to find I needed to refill out the info on different forms. You get the idea. And the library, composed of three main buildings, is like a labyrinth inside, and even after three visits there I still get lost in the catacombs.

Once the request form(s) are submitted, you have to wait 60~90 minutes for the book to appear. Sometimes you wait that long and all you get back is a notice saying 'book not on shelf', which could a bunch of things, none of which are known to the desk clerk. Sometimes the clerk omits to tell you this and you have waited for more than two hours wondering where the damn book is, only to find out, 'not on shelf'. You'll order a 2-volume set, one volume of which is plates and one of which is text, and you'll get one back. The other one, 'not on the shelf' though you would think the two volumes would be side by side (?), and of course, in these set ups, common to books pre-1950, if you have only one volume you are screwed as far as making sense of things. The LOC is a place filled with government employees in secure jobs moving at a relaxed pace and generally not too concerned with the situation, if you know what I mean, overflowing with tourists moving about in massive mobs on tours of the building. The reading room themselves are largely devoid of researchers. Only members of congress can actually take book out of the library, though i serious am beginning to wonder how often this ever happens (or just how literate such members may be :^)). There's a special reading room for members of congress only, luxuriously paneled like some sort of high end legal office, and I've never seen anyone actually using it in the times I've been there.

Anyway, it became quite an exasperating process after plowing through more than 100 books, so I abandoned ship after the second day. I think I'm done with that place. I did find some good Japanese material, which I photocopied, and was most impressed by the works of Peter Nicholson, a 19th century writer on the building arts. I researched further on the origins of the word 'gambrel' and was unable to find much reference to it before 1900. The old term for both 'gambrel' and Mansard roof forms, as they are termed in English-speaking countries today, was 'curb roof'. Mansard and Curb roof were synonyms. Today, the term 'curb roof' appears to have all but disappeared for some reason. Anyway, my research on this matter is on-going.

Back home now, I am dealing with a whole bunch of emails (I'm sure most of you can relate to this situation). I guess some people who receive lots of email each day are having to declare e-mail bankruptcy if they go off somewhere without access for a few days. I can understand! I'm only now coming up for air.

Today I sent out the 3rd revision of the volume I and II essay set, so if you are one of the people who purchased that set, please check your inbox.

There has been a lot of interest and excitement about the online carpentry study group. So far 15 people have signed up, which is awesome!! This study group will be using the material brought out in Volume II of the Art of Japanese Carpentry Drawing series, the hopper, as the springboard, and moving forward into all sorts of entertaining directions. Once we deal with hopper joinery and enlarge the scope of the kō-ko-gen method, we will turn to splayed post structures, dealing with both French and Japanese approaches. From there it will be on to regular hip roof work. I'm looking forward to it and lot of folks seem pretty psyched to get involved as well.

To that end, I have purchased a domain name so as to be able to upload a online forum software, the good ole' phpbb forum template. This forum will be a place where Study Group members can discuss the problems at hand and share their knowledge with one another as they see fit, with the option to be anonymous or not, as with all forums. I figured this would be a more straightforward approach than using a group email conversation format. And unlike previous forums I've been involved in (and found frustrating after a while), I will be fully able to devote some energy to making this forum of optimal relevance to its users. And, unlike other carpentry forums, this one is not attached to a commercial website so there is no possibility to slant things in that respect and members can feel free to say pretty much what they want to.  Like this blog, the forum will not be bombarded with advertising. If there is enough interest, I may open the forum up more generally as a place to discuss traditional woodworking and layout techniques. I realize there are plenty of forums already out there and so I'll just play this part by ear for the time being.

Online study group members will be receiving a mailing soon enough providing further details, along with a link to the forum.

As for the coffee table project. I received a sample of the leg from the CNC people, and with some minor tweaks made, the parts should be produced today and I'll have them in my hands soon enough.  I also ordered, once the top frame pieces had been cut, the table top glass, I figured that the CAD drawing which programmed the cutting would be the most accurate possible to share with the glass cutters, who also have CNC-operated glass cutting equipment. Unfortunately, the glass people had some recent large orders just come in ahead of mine, so the glass delivery is pushed back to July 18th at the latest. So, this coffee table project is going slower then expected, but is progressing smoothly otherwise. I think by the end of next week I should have most of the cut out completed and be commencing the finishing.

All for today - thanks for dropping by the Carpentry Way.

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