French Connection 3

I thought I’d post a brief on my progress on the French layout projects, the Tréteau and the Trépied Ètabli. There has been no progress. Zero. Why’s this? Am I too busy? Have I given up? Was I just teasing y’all?

No, no, and no. I sent my drawings to a campagnon more than 2 months back, a fellow who said he would help me out with the ‘sticking points’. I waited nearly a month, sent him a couple of follow up e-mails, and then he finally got back to me and said he was too busy, and that he could show me simpler ways at some point in the future – maybe I could organize a course and he’d come and teach, etc. So that was a dead end, at least temporarily.

Then I found another campagnon who said he could help, sent him all the information, probably some 30 pages in total, and he was supposed to get back to me. It’s been more than 6 weeks now. Seems he’s kinda busy too.

So, I don’t know how much longer I should bother waiting. I think I will get some material soon and at least start on the top for the three-legged joiner’s bench.

The thing I’m finding puzzling in this process is that neither campagnon so far has been able to quickly look over my drawings and tell me where I’m going wrong, or at least answer some of my basic questions, which involve assumptions about how the piece is to be made or not – you know, what standard practice might be. In the Trépied Ètabli, there is the issue of the legs not meeting the top beams cleanly – it would appear they must have a piece that sticks out to the side, yet the perspective drawing given shows them joining cleanly. this makes no sense. On the Tréteau, the geometry insists that two of the legs must interfere with one another where they meet under the top beam, yet nothing is shown on the drawing to clarify this point, and I am mystified. Either one of the legs must taper, bottom to top, or one/both of them have a piece removed so they can fit against one another. These seem like basic questions about the design of the sawhorse, and I figure anyone who has looked at it in detail would be familiar with the situation and its solution. And to even have just one question answered would enable me to return to the drawing and make some progress.

Since a lot of campagnon choose to do projects, or variations thereof, for their ‘masterpiece’, that are shown in the same book I am studying, I figured they would be well familiar with these concerns. I thought since they had studied French layout for years that any questions I would have about basic layout procedures would be easy and quick for them to solve. So far that would not appear to be the case, for whatever reason. I find it surprising because of the fact that in my own field of layout specialization, namely Japanese layout, I cannot imagine any question on that topic, which, if presented to me, that I wouldn’t be able to answer either on the spot or after a few minutes of looking at it in detail. And I know there are people far more knowledgeable than I am about this topic, so it’s not like I think I know everything about it – but the basics, especially in regards to such things as sawhorses, yeah, I think I have that down.

I figure, after all their study, that the camapagnon should have a comparable or even better knowledge of their own layout techniques than I have of mine, and that they should be able to answer any question I posed in a matter of minutes. So, I’m a bit puzzled by all of that. It’s not that I doubt their abilities, it’s more that I thought my questions would be easy ones for them to answer, and am frustrated by the wait at this point.

I will wait another week or two, and then I think I’ll just start blundering my way on in, trail-and-error in the spirit of Thomas A. Edison, the ‘90% perspiration, 10% inspiration’ example par excellence.

I did move the drawings along some distance from the last point at which I introduced them on this blog; here’s the most recent drawing of the Tréteau, still not complete, but getting closer (click to enlarge):

The drawing of the 3-legged joiner’s bench has now morphed into 5 or 6 separate drawings, so I’ll save that for later.

In an upcoming post I will describe a Japanese sawhorse project I completed a few years back in some detail.

5 Replies to “French Connection 3”

  1. Hi Chris,This blog is terrific. You are a fine writer and I appreciate the info you freely share. I met you before the Inomoto dai-making seminar in 2007 at Hap’s place. I look forward to the japanese sawhorse posts. Got any projects currently?Craig

  2. Perhaps communication is a bit challenging, it is sometimes tricky to convey thoughts very easily when working from a language to another. My thoughts are also that the overall quality or technical knowledge of modern compagnons may not be on par with your estimates? I have met several of them living in France and I am not sure that the chef d’oeuvre I saw were nearly as complex or detailed as what I see in your posts. I would love to read about you giving it a try 🙂

  3. Hi Craig,nice to hear from you. Current projects are all in the discussion phase with various clients at the moment, and I’m looking around for shop space as well. It seems like a feast/famine sort of situation, though it looks like I’ll be pretty busy soon enough.Regards,Chris

  4. Neda, thanks for your observations. I have no idea about the skill of modern compagnons as compared to ones in the past. I’m sure that one of them could help me out, I think I just haven’t connected with the right person yet.I’ll definitely be giving it a try though and will post up as I do so.Chris

  5. Hey Chris,Can you tell me where you found these pictures of those “french” sawhorses? I have a very intresting book about staircases with the picture of Ephrem Longépé his chef d'oeuvre, “Architecture et construction des escaliers en bois.” Is this the book where you got the picture from?Do you know the other book written by him, “Architecture et construction des charpentes & combles.”, ans if you do what do you think of it.I also read that you are translating some old french texts about carpentry, if you need any help I would be happy to do what I can. I understand and speak french quite well, and since I am a woodworker myself always looking to learn I would be happy if I can be of any help.Since a year I have been working on a technical glossary of Japanese carpentry terms. I have about 1000 words/terms that are translated from Japanese to Englisch to Dutch, including references the resource, text in books and illustrations. It is not nearly finished yet but I enjoy the process.I am curious about your training, did you apprentice in Japan, and besides being an autodidact where did you learn your skills and who taught you? I hope these questions are not to personal to answer.

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