This ain’t green woodworking. These applied turnings are on a chest of drawers from Boston, c. 1630s-1690s. I’m making some for a chest loosely based on the originals; the Boston joiners also used these turnings on cupboards, cabinets and joined chests, Some of them are “exotics” i.e. imported timbers from the Caribbean and other faraway places. I’ve seen rosewood and ebony used for these, I think. My notes are somewhere. (Or check American Furniture 2010 for an article I did with Robert Trent about the Boston joinery tradition – “Re-assessing the London Style Joinery and Turning of Seventeenth-Century Boston”) Often these turnings are done in local maple instead.
When I run across a straight-grained section of maple in the firewood pile, I split some out and save it for a time like this. The maple I’m working here was riven from green stock a long time ago, rough-planed, and stored in the shop until needed. Which is now.
I decided to practice on maple, and make my mistakes on that. The final ones will be in rosewood. Also not green woodworking.
The premise I operate on is that these turnings are made by gluing up two blanks with a thin piece between them. The function of this sacrificial piece is to prevent the points of the pole lathe from wedging the glued-up stock apart. Everyone I know who has made these used an electric lathe, with various types of drive centers/dead centers. If I just glue the two maple pieces together, the points of my lathe will, when tightened, wedge them apart. Not good. So here you see them centered on the oak strip, not bearing on the glue joint.
So here’s what it looks like in stages. I true up the maple bits, these need to be dead-flat so you can glue them together. Likewise, make the center strip, In my shop, it’s usually oak. Hide glue is used to make a sandwich out of them.
Scribe the diameter on the end grain.
Next, I plane chamfers on the corners to get them nearly octagonal.
Then turn them. I have good photos of the originals, but I never measured their details. I have a good idea of the scale, so I am working out my proportions in the wood. I turned one pair and knew they were wrong – but I finished them anyway, so I could use them as a guide for the next pair.
Here are both turnings. The bottom one is first. Too much taper, too exaggerated. I find I have to get them off the lathe sometimes to see their shapes more clearly. I photographed them against the window and this showed me the details clearly. The second set is closer to the shapes in the originals.
On the 2nd one, (top in photo) I almost had it just the way I wanted it, the vase/cup near the top has its greater diameter too low, its widest point should be right near its top rim. So I put it back & trimmed it some. It’s overall too thick, next one will be more slender. But its proportions are what I am after.
I have some Bolivian rosewood to work on next.
For planing that, I used this toothing plane that I got in the Alexander hoard.
But this is not true rosewood, from the family Dalbergia. I have some East Indian rosewood on the way…need gloves for that stuff. Maybe a mask…
PS: here’s where I learned all I know about toothing planes - http://anthonyhaycabinetmaker.wordpress.com/2011/01/29/the-toothing-plane-a-tool-of-our-time/