Glazed and Confused

A request came in to see the progress in my window glazing putty application efforts. So, at the risk of both glazing narcissism and the dullest imaginable blog post in the history of the interwebs, please note the first window I attempted on the left and the last window on the right. I attribute the progress entirely to Eric of Garden Fork‘s useful how-to videos on glazing putty application (video 1 and video 2).

I’m left with two glazing putty inspired philosophical questions:

  • YouTube can be simultaneously useful and dangerously distracting. How can you use the internet productively without losing hours to cat videos?
  • How do you retain a skill like window glazing putty application when you don’t do it often?

Alas, there is likely no definitive answer to these questions. But, as one things leads to another, please know that I will continue to explain the mysteries of old window repair and replacement. Stay tuned.


How to Apply Window Glazing Putty

I spent yesterday afternoon applying glazing putty to a window while simultaneously speculating about hosting the world’s first Olympics of window glazing. Who needs gymnastics? At the glazing Olympics, the judges will score the smoothness of the putty line, evenness of the corners, economic use of materials and cleanliness of the glass.  One can also easily imagine the constant and exciting play by play banter in the broadcast booth.

For those of you lucky enough to have escaped this task, window glazing putty is a soft and slightly greasy material that seals the glass and keeps it secure. Fumble the application and, every time you glance out the window, you have wavy gobs of putty to provide an ongoing reminder of your lack of glazing skills.

I’ve always found applying glazing putty to be a challenging job, one of those tasks you only do every few years and never get the chance to get good at. Yesterday I was applying glazing putty to a new and expensive window that I had milled and I wanted it to look good. So, naturally, I took to YouTube for some tutorials and quickly landed on two excellent glazing tutorials by none other than Root Simple pal Eric of Garden Fork (video two is here).

After viewing the videos several times and getting plenty of practice on my new window (nine panes on the top and one on the bottom), I managed to achieve acceptable (though not gold medal) results by the end of the job. Some tips that I gleaned from Eric’s video:

  • Use a stiff, bent putty knife like this the one above. It makes the job a lot easier.
  • Pack the putty in firmly. You can see this first step in the video. If you don’t do this it will pull out when you make the final pass with the putty knife.
  • As to that final pass, use a lot of pressure and don’t hesitate.
  • Clean the glass immediately with mineral spirits.

Now I’m kinda serious about the Olympics of window glazing. Perhaps we will see some gold medal glaziers when we host the event in 2028. Get practicing as the winners will make millions from Dap sponsorships!

What’s Buried in Your Backyard?

I hate digging. Around the Root Simple compound, if you dig deeper than six inches and you hit a layer of hard packed clay entwined with tree roots and chunks of concrete. At least my digging efforts yield the artifacts of previous inhabitants in addition to the raw material for adobe ovens.

While recovering from a bad cold this weekend I fell deep into the hole that is the Historic Glass Bottle Identification and Information Website created by a retired Bureau of Land Management Rangeland Management Specialist, Bill Lindsey. While the bulk of the internet consist of intemperate tweets and cats, it still has useful information like Lindsey’s bottle website which was created to, “assist archaeologists with the dating, identification and classification of historic bottles and bottle fragments located during cultural surveys and excavations.” You can lose a lot of hours on this site marveling at the design details and uses of old bottles. There’s a handy page for dating bottles, scans of antique bottle catalogs, and page after page of bottle types.

My unintended archaeological efforts have yielded no Spanish doubloons, viking graves or Anasazi ruins, but I have found lots of glassware, mostly broken milk bottles. I’ve also discovered what I think are cheap perfume bottles like the one above. If you know what this bottle contained please leave a comment. I suspect perfume, because this tiny bottle has a very narrow, flow restricting opening.

What have you found while digging on your homestead?

Epic Rants and Raves


I’ve made good use of my late mom’s iPad to explore the world of free online 19th and early 20th century literature. As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been slowly making my way through all of Gustav Stickley’s Craftsman Magazine (I’m reading the 1905 issues this week) as well as Moby Dick (never read it in school), May Morris’ Decorative Needlework and the writings of John Ruskin and William Morris.

From these tomes I’ve bookmarked a few epic rants that I suspect Root Simple readers will appreciate. First, as quoted in The Craftsman, the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson,

We are students of words: we are shut up in schools, and colleges, and recitation-rooms, for ten or fifteen years, and come out at last with a bag of wind, a memory of words, and do not know a thing. We cannot use our hands, or our legs, or our eyes, or our arms. We do not know an edible root in the woods, we can not tell our course by the stars, nor the hour of the day by the sun. It is well if we can swim and skate. We are afraid of a horse, of a cow, of a dog, of a snake, of a spider. The Roman rule was to teach a boy nothing that he could not learn standing. The old English rule was, ‘All summer in the field, and all winter in the study.’ And it seems as if a man should learn to plant, or to fish, or to hunt, that he might secure his subsistence at all events. and not be painful to his friends and fellow-men. The lessons of science should be experimental also. The sight of a planet through a telescope is worth all the course on astronomy; the shock of the electric spark in the elbow, outvalues all the theories; the taste of the nitrous oxide, the firing of an artificial volcano. are better than volumes of chemistry.

Enjoy the “taste of the nitrous oxide” kids!

A quote to hang over your workbench

Gustav Stickley, in addition to manufacturing furniture, freely gave away plans to his readers in the pages of The Craftsman. These plans were preceded by long, meandering meditations on the DIY ethos that, sadly, have been omitted from the Dover Edition of Stickley’s furniture plans due to the overrated 21st century obsession with “getting to the point.” Here’s an excerpt from one of those introductions,

It must also be distinctly understood that the proper preparation for this freedom, both of the mind and in design and work, can only come to full fruition by compelling your hands to obey you in doing whatever you have undertaken. Do not think for one moment that you can do good individualistic work, until you have demonstrated that you can copy so that the sternest critic must commend what you have done. Bliss Carman never wrote a truer thing than when he said: “I have an idea that evil came on earth when the first man or woman said, ‘That isn’t the best I can do, but it is well enough.’ In that sentence the primitive curse was pronounced, and until we banish it from the world again we shall be doomed to inefficiency, sickness and unhappiness. Thoroughness is an elemental virtue. In nature nothing is slighted, but the least and the greatest of tasks are performed with equal care, and diligence, and patience, and love, and intelligence. We are ineffectual because we are slovenly and lazy and content to have things half done; we are willing to sit down and give up before the thing is finished. Whereas we should never stop short of an utmost effort toward perfection, so long as there is a breath in our body.”

Now that is something worth writing out and hanging over one’s work-bench. It is on a line with St. Paul’s: “I have fought a good fight,” or Robert Browning’s emphatic words, where in the preface to his poems he says: “Having hitherto done my utmost in the art to which my life is a devotion, I cannot undertake to increase the effort.”

Further reading
Looking for some 19th century summer reading? How about Abe Lincoln’s favorite non-fiction book, An Authentic Narrative of the Loss of the American Brig Commerce, which tells the story of a crew shipwrecked and enslaved by a Saharan tribe (thank you Futility Closet for the tip on that one). And if you’re looking for more seafaring tales there’s always Two Years Before the Mast. Lastly, if you haven’t read Moby Dick, well, what can one say about a book that spends an entire, breathtaking chapter on the color white or pulls both Plato and Thomas Cranmer into a description of sitting atop the masthead?


Is Stickley is the New Ikea?

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You’ll have to pardon the breakout of bungalow fever on the blog this week, but I’ve vowed to spend the summer patching, painting and fixing up things around our almost 100 year old house. One of my projects is an all out war on ugly furniture. Sorry, Ikea, but you’re out. Stickley is in.

Thanks to the folks at you can download a copy of Gustav Stickley’s 1909 furniture catalog as well as Gustav’s brothers Leopold and John George’s 1910 catalog. Gustav and his brothers enjoyed their fifteen minutes of fame between the years 1900 and 1915. Furniture trends changed during and after WWI and Gustav’s company went bankrupt. It wasn’t until the 1970s when interest in the Arts and Crafts movement returned.

stickley 811 rocker
We were lucky to have picked up an L. & J.G. Stickley rocker #811 this week that now graces our living room. At nearly 110 years old, the rocker looks a whole lot better than the disposable Ikea couch it faces. If one were to amortize the cost of a well made piece of furniture versus something cheap and disposable I think it’s obvious what’s the better choice.

Screen Shot 2017-06-23 at 8.42.24 AMCraftsman furniture seems to have fallen out of favor again with the ascendancy of mid-century modern mania. I’m hoping for a Stickley revival. To that end, please note that L. & J.G. Stickley seem to have manufactured the world’s first futon couch and it’s a lot more handsome than the ones I see discarded on every other block in Los Angeles.

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Lastly, I’m trying to think of the lifestyle adjustments that would justify a weekend in the garage making a copy of the L. & J.G. Stickley dinner gong. How exactly would a dinner gong work out in our 1,000 square foot house occupied by just two people? Would its existence prompt more inspired daily meal prep? Would reheating a frozen Trader Joe’s meal (what a friend calls the Ikea of food) in the microwave justify a bang on the gong? Would it cause the cats and dog to scatter? Should I develop a gong app instead?


My attempt to craft a longer blog post with a clickbait headline, “Is the Dinner Gong the New Killer App?” failed due to lack of source material, but I’d like to share this bittersweet object: a French dinner gong crafted from a WWI artillery shell.