STL185: Reading Bob Van Dyke’s Mind

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  • 6″ Jointer ShearTec II

Question 1:

From Shawn:
I’m working on a Christmas present for my sister.  It’s a hallway table with 2 drawers in cherry.

This is the first piece I’ve made with cherry.  Some of the surfaces have a quarter sawn grain orientation and I’m finding them highly prone to tear out. My card scraper seems to be the only tool I’ve got that can tackle it, and even then I still have to pay really close attention to the changing grain direction.

I’d like to hear any recommendations you might have about tools and techniques to deal with tear out, and also about other tear out prone woods you’ve worked with. I’ve found quarter sawn maple to be difficult as well.

Question 2:

From Joe:
To build a bed for my grandson I ordered 50 bd ft of rough lumber,  Black walnut. The wood was beautiful but this is where my confusion began. I got the job done but I don’t know if I went about it the best way.

The bed with headboard, frame, 6 drawers underneath, and footboard had over 100 pieces. All the lumber was about 8 inches wide and about 10 feet long. Is it better to mill the long boards and then layout all the parts, or layout the parts oversize and cut them out and send smaller pieces through the planer and jointer?

Segment: All-Time Favorite Tool

Mike: 6-in. Combo Square

Bob: Stanley #4–Type 11

Ben: Lie Nielsen honing guide



Question 3:  

From Mike:
I’ve come to realize my jointer needs tuning, and i recall you guys saying how you set your outfeed table a hair lower than your cutter head. I can’t find the episode that contains this discussion, but i don’t recall there being any reasoning for this. I adjusted mine as y’all suggested but found this was causing the trailing ends of the boards to not touch the blades. After reading my powermatic manual, it says to have the outfeed table level with blade, so what’s up with your hack causing me this grief?

Recommendations:


Every two weeks, a team of Fine Woodworking staffers answers questions from readers on Shop Talk Live, Fine Woodworking‘s biweekly podcast. Send your woodworking questions to shoptalk@taunton.com for consideration in the regular broadcast! Our continued existence relies upon listener support. So if you enjoy the show, be sure to leave us a five-star rating and maybe even a nice comment on our iTunes page.

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These Blind Woodturners Are An Inspiration

 

As a young man, Christopher Fisher, the Blind Woodturner, lost his eyesight. Four years later, when he decided he wanted to learn to turn wood he listened to close to 600 hours of You Tube videos in order to teach himself. Today he gives woodturning demonstrations and lectures hoping to inspire and motivate others.

“This might freak you out, but I don’t want my eyesight back. I’m happy with who I am now…” says Fisher.

John Furniss, also known as the Blind Woodsman, lost his eyesight at the age of 16. During his time at the School for the Blind in Salt Lake City, Utah, he met a blind woodshop teacher who changed his life. John says he learned more than woodworking: the teacher also inspired John’s creativity and gave him the confidence to create beautiful things.

“I always like to say I was really born the day I became blind,” John said. “I am so much more patient, peaceful and zen now. I tend to think things through, and try to be logical and go with the flow”.

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Outdoor Projects 2019

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Online Extras for Outdoor Projects 2019 

 

Video: Angled Arms

New Hampshire furniture maker and TV host Tom McLaughlin shows that making the angled arms of his Adirondack chair is much simpler then it looks.

Video: A Simple Curve

Fine Homebuilding editorial director Justin Fink demonstrates a simple technique for creating a curved template for his pergola.

Video: Footings for Decks

From digging to forming to pouring, this video shows that deck footings can be mastered in a minute.

Video: Why I Build: Jane DeWitt

What inspires this mason to make beautiful things that last. It’s the contrast of a hard day’s effort and evening’s rest. It’s working outside amid the unfolding seasons. It’s both the process and the people.

Video: A Different Kind of Shed

Fine Gardening asked the experts at Fine Homebuilding to design and build a garden shed that was a little different. Int his multi-part video series, we demonstrate the phases of construction for a unique backyard shed project.

Video Workshops: Graceful Curves for Your Garden

Wood-bending wizard Micheal Fortune deconstructs the classic Adirondack chair to deliver an updated design full of beautiful curves.

Article: Free Plans for Cedar Pergola

 This cedar structure combines the look of traditional joinery with contemporary lines, all built with simple techniques.

Article: A Closer Look at a Japanese-Style Garden Gate

More drawings, details, and photos for this project.

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STL184.5: Chris Schwarz


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Upgrade to Laguna!

The winner will receive a prize that includes:

  • 14|12 Bandsaw
  • F2 Fusion Tablesaw
  • 1 HP Dust Collector
  • REVO 12|16
  • 6″ Jointer ShearTec II

Chris Schwarz is a furniture maker and writer who works from a German barroom built in 1896 in Covington, Ky. He is one of the founders of Lost Art Press, a book-publishing company that specializes in handwork, and Crucible Tool, a company that makes hand tools for woodwork. Chris is the author of several books, including Workbenches: From Design & Theory to Construction & Use (F+W Media), The Anarchist’s Tool Chest, Campaign Furniture, The Anarchist’s Design Book and Ingenious Mechanics (Lost Art Press). In addition to his publishing efforts, he builds casework and Welsh stick chairs for clients all over the world.

Chris’ class at Fine Woodworking Live is titled:
Compound-Angle Joinery, Minus the Math
Mastering compound angles typically means mastering trigonometry. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Compound angles can be measured, laid out, and cut without any math—or even numbers. Chris will show you the methods he uses for replicating unusual (sometimes radical) compound angles to build his Welsh stick chairs. The method requires just a wire clothes hanger, a sliding bevel, and a ruler. (Oh, and you’ll also need to bring an open mind.) The technique allows you to replicate compound angles from photos or drawings, or to create new designs using half-scale models (made with that clothes hanger).

Register now for Fine Woodworking Live 2019!



Every two weeks, a team of Fine Woodworking staffers answers questions from readers on Shop Talk Live, Fine Woodworking‘s biweekly podcast. Send your woodworking questions to shoptalk@taunton.com for consideration in the regular broadcast! Our continued existence relies upon listener support. So if you enjoy the show, be sure to leave us a five-star rating and maybe even a nice comment on our iTunes page.

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Modeling A Plucking Jack in SketchUp

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For the last 12 years or so, I’ve attended the Colonial Williamsburg Conference “Working Wood in the 18th C. And following each of those events, I’ve posted a SketchUp representation of a process, tool, or piece of furniture presented at the conference. So here is my 2019 submission – a Plucking Jack.

At this year’s conference there were several pre-conference workshops, and I chose  Hands-On Harpsichords: Making the Plucking Jacks.  Edward Wright and his assistant ably led us through the process of making these critical and unusual parts of harpsichords. There is a Plucking Jack for each note in a harpsichord. They have an important role, that is to pluck the strings that make the sound.

Here is a picture of the Jack that I made.

After returning home, I immediately opened SketchUp to capture this unique design. Although quite small, there are a number of surprising materials and components.

 

 

Below is the Exploded View showing all the components. Note the Crow’s Feather and the Boar’s Bristle. These materials are still used after 100’s of years of harpsichord making. The Crow’s feather strikes the String to make the sound. As you depress the key on the harpsichord the Jack is lifted upward so that the end of the feather strikes the string.

Note in SketchUp the dashed lines indicating the connections of these components. “Dashed Lines” are a new capability in SketchUp 2019. I will be using them for these types of exploded views.

Here is the X-ray view of the components. Now you can see the channels, slots, holes, and V-cuts that are necessary for the Jack’s function. In the workshop, we used several hand tools, but the most fun (and somewhat daunting) was a Bow Drill (an early Period Tool) to create the tiny holes for the pivot shaft and the Boar’s Bristle.

Here I’ve shown the “At Rest” position of the Jack in relation to the string. You can see the end of the feather protruding through the Tongue and below the string.

 

Below shows the Jack raised by action of the keyboard causing the end of the feather to pluck the string.

 

Then the Jack falls by gravity and the Tongue rotates as the feather hits the string. But there is no plucking on the way down as a result of the pivoting of the Tongue.

In SketchUp I’ve animated this movement (although quite jerky and rough) of the Jack and the rotation of the Tongue using a Plug-in Keyframe Animation. In this case, I set up three scenes showing the position of the Jack and the Tongue in relation to the string. Here is a video of that animation.

Tim

Killenwood.com

https://www.youtube.com/c/killenwood

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Full Circle–Dishing out a tea table top

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I won’t pretend that the tea table top I’ve been making is anything other than complicated and intimidating. This is a good thing. Opportunities for real growth in the craft don’t come along every day; they are a privilege. At once, they show us how far our skills have come since our beginnings (however humble) and how far we still may go. Whether it’s hitting a wall or reaching a plateau with no end in sight, it is easy to feel stuck. Even if you’ve been woodworking for years, it’s not uncommon to feel like a perpetual beginner from time to time. Perhaps you never feel this way, but I certainly do. If we let them, projects like this tabletop can challenge us in new ways, propelling both our skill-set and our thinking forward, and we can break through.

As on the 1750s original (see it here) from the Virginia shop of Robert Walker, the tea table’s carved decoration is not applied. Instead, the vast center is worked down, effectively raising up the edge to be carved (the top’s diameter is 30 in.). The work of dishing out—both mental and physical—reminded me of my first project at the Anthony Hay Shop: helping then-shop master Mack Headley make a serving tray in the form of a scaled- down version of this same tea table (18 in. diameter). When I started here in 2005, I stepped into a shop with one other new apprentice and five well-established craftsmen—the most junior of whom had 22 years of experience. That’s a great student-to-teacher ratio and, despite their kindness and patience, intimidating as all get-out. I came on with a few years of serious hobbyist experience, plenty to learn, and a position that was generously endowed by longtime Colonial Williamsburg donors. The tray was their thank-you gift. The plan was simple. Mack would carve the edge after I dished out the center. What wasn’t simple, however, was the board I was given for the job: a 20-in.-wide piece of crotch walnut. Thus, my first job as an apprentice wasn’t with some scraps of pine, but with the most expensive and widest board that I had ever used with grain that ran in every conceivable direction. As I said, intimidating.

Although the mixture of squirrely grain and a nervous mind slowed my daily progress, the work came out well nonetheless. I could not find any photographs of the finished tray, but I’ve held onto Mack’s working drawing and a scrap of the walnut, as seen here.

This past fall, 13 years after that tray, I relished the opportunity to revisit the process of dishing out a large surface by hand. Not only was this a special project in and of itself, it was also a chance to prove to myself that I had in fact learned a few things over the years and developed much greater efficiency with hand tools. Though I didn’t have a new boss to impress, my nerves were still rattled by the 34-in.-wide piece of mahogany I had to start with. I don’t get to dig into boards like that very often.

In the 18th century, craftsmen could remove the bulk of the waste from a table like this following one of two general approaches: either mount it on a lathe and treat it as a large faceplate turning, or carve and plane the wood away. Several surviving examples bear witness to turning; there are filled screw holes on the underside of the top from where it was mounted to a turner’s cross. I have carefully examined two Walker tables that have no such evidence. In all likelihood, they were worked down with carving tools and a router plane. Because the router’s base cannot span the top’s entire diameter (or even come close), the top must be worked down in sections, leaving raised areas to guide the router and allow it to maintain a consistent depth of cut. This process will also work well with a modern, electric router (you would be able to skip the initial gouge work described below).

Level Big Slabs in No Time Flat – Nick Offerman’s
jig for flattening slabs is a bridge-like trough that
guides the router on a level plane over the workpiece

After transferring the pattern onto the board, I used a V-tool to carve a deep trench that separated the raised area from the lower area. I also carved a series of concentric circles in the center of the board to delineate the raised tracks that would eventually guide the router plane. Pay close attention to the base of your router to know how far apart these tracks need to be.

Next, I aggressively carved away a lot of the wood between these V-cuts. There is 3/8” of thickness that needs to be removed on this table, so this is no time for fussy workmanship. Use a gouge with a fairly steep sweep to hog away material (I used a 20mm No. 8 (Continental numbering system) though anything similar would do just as well). Think of this gouge like a scrub plane. It should be wide enough to remove a lot of wood, but not so wide as to be difficult to push. And it should have enough of a sweep to not dig in at the corners of the cutting edge. I took this a little further than halfway to the final depth and then switched over to a 30mm No. 5. Again, like progressing through bench planes from coarse to fine, the shallower sweep smoothed out some of the texture left by the first gouge and paved the way for the router plane. In certain back-grounding work in which I’m not using a router, I follow up with No. 2 gouges (the shallowest sweep short of a straight chisel) to finish things out—think of the slight camber on your smoothing plane blade.

Even after I switched to the router plane, my initial concern was with rapid stock removal. As I got closer to depth, I calmed down and worked harder to avoid tearout. I neither expect nor strive for a finished surface with the router plane, but a consistent depth that is maybe two or three shavings above the finished surface.

The greatest care is required around the perimeter where the lowered surface meets the wood that will be carved. It is easy for the L-shape blade of many routers to undercut this area, which can be ruinous later on. I used crisp, vertical gouge cuts to define the inner border of the carving, cutting progressively deeper as needed, and then tiptoed around the border with the router making sure not to undercut anything.

With the recess just about to depth, I quickly knocked out the raised tracks with the same sequence of gouges that I had used for the initial hogging-out work (No. 8 followed by No. 5).

Once all of that wood was out of the way, there was enough space for a smoothing plane to bring the recess down to its final depth and degree of smoothness. I used scrapers to finish out the surfaces closest to the border where the plane could not reach.

Finally, I cut the outside perimeter to shape. Why do this last? It’s far easier to hold a square steady than a circle.

All those years ago, as I was dishing out the walnut tray, visitors to the Hay Shop would occasionally ask if I was also going to carve the border. One day while Mack was out, a colleague looked over in my direction and said, “Yes, I assume Bill will carve that.” Suddenly, whatever anxiety I had been feeling about being new and dealing with expensive walnut took a backseat to the dread brought on by the thought of carving such a complex pattern. Were they really going to ask me to do that? Did they know I had never carved anything worth seeing? Would I ever be able to carve something like that?

As it turns out, that coworker was just messing with my head—very successfully—and Mack carved the tray as planned. Now, that very thing that had frightened me most and seemed so impossible, presents itself as one of my most welcome opportunities. Of course, we all keep changing, but it’s nice to have proof now and again that some changes are for the better. I really have learned a thing or two, and this table has plenty more to teach me. I’m back, full circle to where I started, but everything is different.

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STL184: Is it time to stockpile ash?

Enter for your chance to win Fine Woodworking’s Shop Giveaway: Upgrade to Laguna!

The winner will receive a prize that includes:

  • 14|12 Bandsaw
  • F2 Fusion Tablesaw
  • 1 HP Dust Collector
  • REVO 12|16
  • 6″ Jointer ShearTec II

Question 1:

From William:
I live in Ohio where the Emerald Ash Borer is ravaging every ash tree around. With all these ash trees coming down and the infestation of the Ash Borer, are we looking at a future shortage of ash trees?  Should we, as woodworkers, stock up on quality ash boards while we can get them and while they’re fairly inexpensive?

Question 2:

From Paul:
I’ve started looking for a better sketchbook and am overwhelmed by the choices.  I’ve heard Mike talk about the books he uses, but I’ve never heard him mention the brand or “model” he favors.  On STL 155 he mentioned 60-80 lb paper, spiral bound, unruled, 6×9 size. Frankly, that limits it to about half a zillion options and it’s very hard to judge quality even touching the book at the local art supply place.  So please spill, Mike!

Segment: All-Time Favorite Tool



Question 3:  

From Caleb:
I’m wondering if any of you have used a hollow chisel mortiser as a drill press? Is this a viable way to get around buying a drill press?

Question 4:

From Chris:
What books inspire you to get out to your shop and build something? Any favorite books on the history of woodworking and maybe different trends through the ages? Or books specific to a style of working, like Shaker or arts & crafts, etc.?

And from Larry:
I would love to see a Live Talk episode on “go to books” reference books for novice woodworkers.


Every two weeks, a team of Fine Woodworking staffers answers questions from readers on Shop Talk Live, Fine Woodworking‘s biweekly podcast. Send your woodworking questions to shoptalk@taunton.com for consideration in the regular broadcast! Our continued existence relies upon listener support. So if you enjoy the show, be sure to leave us a five-star rating and maybe even a nice comment on our iTunes page.

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Siosi Designs–Our Lives In Frame

Our Lives in Frame is a glimpse into the enigmatic world of Siosi Design. Siosi is Audi Culver + Ivy Siosi, and they describe themselves as partners in life, collaborators in design, and women who make + fabricate. The short film by the Indiana University College of Arts + Sciences takes a stunning look at the work they do, the way they do it, the people they are. It’s nothing short of an inspirational window into the honest and humble craft of woodworking. The pair talk about making the business of woodworking work, combining their backgrounds in art into a passion for the craft, and shaping a life together doing what they love. The Fine Woodworking audience may recognize them from issue #274, “Add Strength and Style to Any Slab.” In the article Siosi and Culver share their tips on using inlays to transform a flawed slab into a pixilated work of art.

-Anissa Kapsales

 

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The Wooden Underground

I have a project coming up: a medicine cabinet for the “boys’ bathroom” in my 1940s era home. I sketched it up and refined the drawing, all the while thinking: “I should never have given away my stash of vertical grain Douglas fir — it would be perfect for this cabinet!”

Alas, when I moved from my huge woodshop a few years ago, getting rid of my extensive supply of lumber was a big task. At one point, I sent an email to my woodworking buddies and said, “At 10 a.m. Saturday morning, it’s first come first served — cool wood free for the taking!” I got rid of a lot of cool stuff … including Doug fir.

So, a week ago I went to work looking for some quartersawn fir and, in the middle of the search, much to my surprise and relief, one of my buddies who had picked up part of my stash told me to come over and just take what I needed.

Full circle in the underground world of cool-looking wood.

Rob Johnstone, Woodworker’s Journal

Dave Bossert Wrote the Book on Disney Animation Furniture

Dave Bossert Wrote the Book on Disney Animation Furniture

When Dave Bossert “retired” from Disney Animation Studios after 32 years, he received a parting gift: the Kem Weber-designed animator’s desk he’d been using for over three decades.

Weber, a mid-20th century designer and creator of the iconic “Airline” chair, was the architect and furniture designer for the creation of the Burbank, California, Disney studios complex in the 1930s. While Dave sat at the desk, now located in his home office, and worked on a book about one of the Disney films he’d worked on, it occurred to him that the Kem Weber Disney animation furniture itself was deserving of a book.

Disney Studio version of Air Line Chair; image above Kem Weber Animation Desk; photo credit for both-Heritage Auctions, HA.com

“Having worked on the furniture, having heard stories about the different things with the furniture over the years in conversations with colleagues,” Dave found himself uniquely qualified to be the one to write that book: Kem Weber: Mid-Century Furniture Designs for the Disney Studios (published by The Old Mill Press in 2018).

Weber’s furniture designs for the Disney studios encompassed a variety of pieces styled for particular jobs within the hand-drawn animation industry. “There’s an animator’s desk; there’s a background artist’s desk; there’s a layout desk; there’s a storyman’s desk. There’s all these different types of desks that have different attributes and features specific to that particular discipline,” Dave said.

For example, on the desks with drawing boards, a lever underneath the board allows for adjusting the drawing surface to any suitable angle. Also located underneath the drawing boards was a light box capable of illuminating multiple levels of animation paper; the brightness of the light box was also adjustable. “In some of the early Kem Weber designs, he actually had indicated that there was this whole elaborate foot pedal mechanism so the artist could use both hands to adjust the drawing surface angle by using the foot pedal, but from my research, I suspect that creating the whole custom foot mechanism was probably cost-prohibitive, and they just went with the straight-on lever,” Dave said.

A modular design allowed the original users to customize the desks’ lower section into the particular drawer or shelving configuration that suited them, with the upper sections based on their particular discipline. A recessed channel on the upper portion fit into a corresponding raised channel on the lower portion to fit them together.

Dave Bossert’s Weber Desk

“When you sit at one of these desks, you can’t help but wonder what legendary artist was sitting at this desk 50 years ago,” Dave said. “There’s something historical about it.” While he doesn’t know who had his own desk, some of the desks do have names of the previous users written on the underside of the drawing table. He does know the person who had his desk “was a smoker. Underneath one of the shelves is a three- to four-inch round nicotine stain.” Dave’s supposition is that the desk’s occupant had placed an ashtray on a lower shelf and, when dropping a cigarette into the ashtray, “the smoke just hit the bottom of the shelf as he was working so there’s this nice, dark nicotine stain, which is just sort of a wonderful part of the desk.”

A woodcarver himself (he’s been carving basswood wildlife sculptures for years), Dave was surprised to find out through his research that the furniture many people had assumed for years was maple was actually made from solid core birch plywood. That’s what’s listed on the original blueprints he discovered in the Kem Weber archives at the University of California Santa Barbara, and a closer look at the grain pattern on his desk – replicated in the photo used for the background of the book cover – seemed to confirm it.

The furniture was finished with a varnish that has acquired a golden patina over the years. There also appears to have been a beeswax application to the raised wooden track used for drawer slides, Dave said. He notes that he’s never reapplied any beeswax, but “the drawers slide out just perfectly.”

Left to right: Walt Disney, Kem Weber (kneeling), Howard Peterson; image ©UCSB

It’s entirely possible that Walt Disney himself was involved in such design decisions. Although Dave didn’t find much archival correspondence between Weber and Disney, “You can see there’s a bunch of photos in the book of Walt Disney with Kem Weber and Howard Peterson. Walt was very hands-on in meeting with Weber.” Peterson was from the Peterson Show Case & Fixture Co., Inc., in Los Angeles, the manufacturer of the furniture – and of the prototypes that preceded the final iterations, like the desk animator Frank Thomas used during the making of Pinocchio in 1940. Disney had asked for Thomas’s input in the original desk design; after he put the prototype to use, its rounded edges and painted finish were refined out of the final design.

“Weber was having his input on the design, obviously, but he was also translating Walt’s vision,” Dave said. He also notes that it’s possible to still see the influence of these design decisions and the streamlined Mid-Century Modern aesthetic in various buildings designed for Disney properties, including the parks and resorts.

Ollie Johnston’s modified Animator’s Desk; image courtesy of Mark Kirkland, photo ©Dave Bossert

As for the original animation furniture, when it was built in 1939, “The idea was the furniture stayed in the office. If an artist moved, he just packed up his personal stuff and went to a different office that had the same desk,” Dave said. Over the years, however, that’s not what ended up happening.

For instance, Dave remembers moving to a smaller facility while working on 1991’s Beauty and the Beast, for which he served as supervising effects animator. He took his desk with him, and “was happy I had a compact animator’s desk as opposed to the regular animator’s desk,” which was 16 to 18 inches wider than the compact version.

Other changes have occurred in the animation industry itself. “There’s a few of the desks that are being utilized at the studio still today, but for the most part, the animation industry has changed over to computer animation, and there’s specialty desks available for computers,” Dave said. “These particular desks were designed specifically for the hand drawn aspect of animation.”

After the book’s publication, he received a note from a director of operations at Walt Disney Animation Studios who said “he loved the book and it was so helpful because they had furniture pieces in their warehouse that they had no idea what they were. A lot of this furniture has just sort of filtered out of the company. They’ve given it away to artist who were retiring; they sold it; they had warehouse sales where they sold the furniture to artists.”

With a rising interest in Mid-Century design and the provenance of these furniture pieces, they’ve also become collectible, with some being sold at auctions for display pieces or repurposing. (Dave also notes in the book that, in recent years, the Disney company has instituted an annual inventory of the location of the remaining 100 or so original Kem Weber Airline chairs at the studios.)

“From my perspective,” Dave said, “I thought it was just an important piece of history to document.” He called the book “a labor of love. I think we all had a certain reverence for the furniture. I quote some people as saying, and I feel this way as well, that the furniture has a soul to it.”