The Roman Workbench is Finito Mussolini

Zeus Protecting Emma the Aussie from Donner, the German God of Thunder

Workbenches are multi-taskers, from holding stuff off the ground, to sheltering the pooch from harm during a thunderstorm outbreak. This Roman design turned out even better than expected. Just ask Emma.

Eight Legs are Twice as Good as Four

Here are only three of the holding devices that can be used on the AD 79 bench, traditional and modernized, though all are useful if not essential. The middle metal one, a forged bent piece of cast iron, is know known as a holdfast. Strangely enough, this wall tile from the Roman city of Herculaneum, buried in ash by Mt. Vesuvius in AD 79, has a Roman version of the same holding implement, securing the board on the right.

Cherubs are Handy Helpers

Used in combination with a bench top dog (stop), as opposed to the dogs under the bench, the holding ability equals any modern set up. The Romans likely used wooden pegs, which can easily be made in any length or form. The modern version is the metal dog, and the little Veritas made dogs on my bench are called “surface dogs.” They will likely last longer even than this bench. Combine the old or modern dog with a modern version of a holdfast, a Sjobergs “hold down,” the one with the screw down mechanism, and your work isn’t going anywhere you don’t want it to.

Anyone wanting to know how to build this style of bench should buy Ingenious Mechanicks by Christopher Schwartz. It is better researched than many scholarly texts, without the mind numbing academic terminology. And it has pictures.

Speaking of academics, I once had a student who acted in Shakespeare’s Merry Wives of Windsor, while she was still in high school (she played one of the merry wives who dumped Falstaff in the river). She also enjoyed jokes about punctuation, pointing out that without the comma, “Let’s eat, Grandma,” becomes “Let’s eat Grandma.” True enough.

Something similar is true with “finito Mussolini,” in that a comma makes it “finito, Mussolini.” Little Mussolinis can be found in parts of congress, various state houses, and truck stops everywhere. They should be reminded of what happened to the real Mussolini, and the importance a comma can make.

Bear Sighting

Asiatic Black Bear, or Emma in Her Happy Place?

Word trickled down to us that a new neighbor, who is three houses down from us, had reported seeing a bear in their yard, and called the police to have it removed. Imagine their disappointment when the neighbor nearer to us told them that it was Emma the Aussie, who had wandered down to play with his dog.

The police came on patrol anyway, and found no trace of a bear that they could use as bear spray practice. They should have looked for one that has one leg shaved, which Emma has. Hereby hangs another tale.

Back at the first of the month Emma had a bad case of food poisoning, which I strongly suspect had something to do with the big piece of of squirrel fur which she barfed up right in front of me. We took her to the vet, who promptly shaved her leg and stuck an IV in it. Two days and two nights later, Emma was returned to us, and she promptly reclaimed her bear’s territory. Moral here–if squirrel is on the menu, specify that you want the non-rotten one.

Such is a dog’s life. You get sick, only to have the cops called on you when you get home. It could have been worse–she could have run into Florida Man. Just a week or two ago one prime specimen sprayed thirty people in a Miami mall with–you guessed it–bear spray. He knocked over a candle shop, and bear sprayed his way out of the crime scene, and escaped in a cab, to whereabouts unknown.

Surrounded by Florida Men, unvaccinated maskless marauders, and various other yahoos, such as the fifty percent of nursing home workers in this state who are unvaccinated, what to do? Voltaire would say, we should cultivate our garden. In my case, I am about to throw the chickens a day old biscuit, and start a chicken riot.

Shirley the Sheep, Australian Shepherd Version

A Comfy Spot–Leaves on Concrete

Emma the Aussie is a big dog. She spends her days sleeping in the sun, and her nights on the dog bed. At 70+ pounds, she is far past the size of a registered Aussie. Think Shirley the Sheep from the great show Shaun the Sheep, who was three times larger than the rest of the flock.

Her sleeping habits surprised us the other day. She came to snooze on our couch downstairs, and to have me scratch her back at the same time. As soon as I started, a worm looking creature came crawling out of her fur. I grabbed it, yelled, and threw it on the floor.

The ever logical MJ inspected it, as it was sine curving it’s way across the floor, and said, “It’s a salamander.” That is the signature amphibian of the southern Appalachians, and I have seen tiny ones, up to ones more than two feet long (re: Hellbender.) I liberated it back outdoors.

I created a limerick to celebrate this episode:

There once was dog name of Emma,

Who found herself in a dilemma.

She had no tale to tell,

About her lack of a tail,

Although she was quite a femina.

Isn’t this called Dog-gerel verse?

Sandvik/Bahco Scraper

Hand Forged or High Tech, the Swedish know their Metals

When one of top woodworking tool sellers in the country describes a single thin piece of steel as being “legendary,” it’s time to pay attention. The wood certainly does, when this well sharpened Sandvik (now Bahco) scraper gets in on the action.

It’s easy enough to sharpen a good scraper blade, as it can be done with just a file and a burnisher–a screwdriver will do as a burnisher in a pinch, but mine (re:gear head department), is carbide steel. The edge is a “hook” edge, not a chisel edge, like a plane blade.

Let’s have a trans-Atlantic coalition:

Western Europe, Meet Eastern US

Gott in Himmel! A Swedish scraper blade in an American tool, which was designed by a German immigrant. This floor will be refinished in just days, if I can keep the stinking dogs from walking through the wet water-based polyurethane.

Stanley #82 Scraper

Scraper, Meet Kitchen Floor. Another Justus Traut Masterwork

As it is time to refinish our kitchen floor once again, I needed a tool upgrade. Our dogs take a few years to do the damage, but there is practically no finish they can’t ruin–one of them even ate the grout out of a tile floor. Therefore, it was time to hit the dreaded fleabay for a classic tool, and as usual, this hog found an acorn.

I found that the old Stanley #82 scraper has something of a cult following. A chief writer for one of the best woodworking magazines stumbled across these on fleabay, and liked them so much he ended up buying something like nine of them, giving most away as gifts. The kicker was when one person pointed out that this scraper could reach into practically any corner. Try and do that with a random orbit sander.

I bought one that was listed as a “planer,” whatever that is. Some WD, sandpaper, and a micro abrasive and the thing was bright and shiny. I also renewed the wood handles with some wax polish.

As there isn’t much detailed info about these available, I was intrigued by the original scraper blade, which has two edges bent at ninety degree angles. A couple of swipes with sandpaper revealed the Stanley logo. No big surprise there.

Double Threat

Then the extra words began to appear: “Rough” and “Finish.” After a little inspection, the two edges were finished differently. The Rough edge is curved, while the Finish edge is flat. Traut must have been a genius at multi-tasking.

The final feature is that many many scraper blades can be used besides the original one. I have already tried a high quality Swedish made Sandvik blade in it, and it scrapes like nobody’s business. The dogs will be banished from the kitchen for a good long while.

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