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I’ve had some more questions from readers about axes recently, so time to delve into this subject again. There’s lots of tools you can use; some better, some less-so. But don’t despair – the magic is not in the tools, it comes with practice. You can learn to hew with a crap hatchet, if you can make it sharp.

Here’s an earlier take on the subject - http://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/2012/12/13/the-endless-look-at-hewing-hatchets/ 

 

First off, for joiner’s work, my mainstay – I have shown several times that I like a hatchet that is large, heavy, single-bevel, and curved cutting edge. This one weighs 3 lbs 7 oz. and is about 7 ¾” along its cutting edge.  Hard to find. Really hard. 

best fuchs hatchet

Fuchs hatchet

Fuchs hatchet

 

Take note of the relationship of the eye to the cutting edge – for hewing flat stuff, this is the best scenario. Others will work; but this is the best. 

What do I use it for? Taking rough split stock and preparing it for planing; 

hewing

hewing

The Kent pattern (below) is one of the most common old ones you will find in both the US and the UK. Elsewhere, there are other similar tools. Nice thing about the Kent design is it’s symmetrical, so lefties can remove the handle, make a new one & insert it from the other side of the head. 

Kent hatchet

Before anyone tells me that Gransfors Bruks makes a carving axe available as leftie or rightie – let me save you some trouble. They offer some of their hatchets right-handed or left-handed; but the eyes on these tools are centered on the head, not shifted over to one side. Their tools’ bevels might be asymmetrical; but these aren’t single-bevel tools with a properly placed eye. I have used one of the Gransfors Bruks Broad Axes – it’s a nice tool, but a double-bevel. 

And for some reason, their axes and hatchets have convex bevels; for hewing, I like a flat bevel. That’s the principal complaint about the GB carving hatchet…Drew Langsner writes on the Country Workshops axe page how to fix a GB carving axe’s bevels; (file them flat) too bad they don’t just make it right 

http://countryworkshops.org/Axes.html

I also have a large Wetterlings axe, it’s nice. (called at LN the “broad axe, short handle”) A bit heavier than the GB broad axes; but good at removing a lot of stock… Lie-Nielsen sells a line of their axes in the US; we use some for spoon work when I’m up there. https://www.lie-nielsen.com/nodes/4085/wetterlings-axes

Some have shown me the Oxhead hatchet, from Austria. It’s a bit clunky; it will work. I would hacksaw off the nail puller/claw. It could be better; but for the money, it’s not terrible. 

For the spoon work, my favorite is a Hans Karlsson hatchet I got from Country Workshops years ago. They have a new one now, I have one of these too, and it’s excellent. 

http://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/2012/12/04/new-to-me-hans-karlsson-hatchet/

I just ordered 2 new hatchets for spoon work; one from Drew and one from Robin Wood. I’ll let you know when they get here. Some readers have reported success at the German ebay site for old hatchets. A gamble if you’re shipping to another country, but they go for reasonable prices. I like to see old tools before I buy them, but that’s getting harder to do. So I wouldn’t want to pay a lot for a hatchet that way…

Here’s more, some of which is repeats. 

http://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/?s=hatchet

http://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/2011/08/27/the-hatchet/ 

Took some time away from the carved box w drawer, to work with some funny wood. Yes. I’ve returned once again to using Juglans…

First up, juglans nigra….yes, nigra. Remember my struggles with black walnut? http://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/?s=walnut+high+chair   Well, of course the first go ’round I can blame on poor quality stock; kiln-dried, random-sawn lousy trees.

the 2nd time around, I got very clear, straight-grained, air-dried stock, and it’s two off-cuts from that batch that I’m working now.

walnut carving

But first, some green wood – a bowl from Juglans cinerea; butternut. That’s what I’m interrupting my interruption for…this could be fun…if that jackhammer next door would quit.

bowl butternut

half carved

 

A while back I mentioned that I had 2 visits to Connecticut recently. One was at the Yale University Art Gallery Furniture Study, which was a great time. I wrote about that visit here; http://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/2014/10/19/yale-university-art-gallery-furniture-study/  and included some oak furniture made in Connecticut in the 17th century. The other was a 3-day class at Bob Van Dyke’s Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking. I’ve been working with Bob there for a few years now, this time we did a frame-and-panel – carved of course. So some joinery, plow planes; beveling the panel – all after carving the panel and in some cases, the frame too. http://www.schoolofwoodworking.com/

laid out Thomas Dennis pattern

shaving of the week

 

test fit

another Massachusetts pattern laid out_edited-1

 

For both of these trips I had been thinking about Connecticut examples, there’s lots of them in captivity – one of my favorites has always been this one that I recently did as a frame-and-panel offering in my October-stuff-for-sale page. http://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/spoons-and-more-oct-2014/

sunflower panel & frame AUG

Some of the other patterns I know pretty well from Connecticut are these coastal chests; like what I showed from the YUAG Furniture Study – maybe Guilford, maybe New Haven – it really doesn’t matter to me – I just want to carve them.

guilford out front

 

I had made some examples for teaching that were partially carved, partially left as layout. (top photo)

Today I went to the shop to work on the carved box with drawer – it was sliding DTs day you might recall. Except I forgot my glasses. Not wanting to tackle a joint I rarely make with diminished eyesight – I opted instead to do some carving. I have a (Massachusetts) box to make for a customer up next, so I carved the front of that – room left for initials; needed to double-check my notes before taking that plunge. 

box begun

 

then had a little time left over, so finished two other partially-carved box fronts. Then it was 1 pm, time to go home for lunch…so one full, two half-box fronts, w photos. One is a whacky design that I think relates to the cupboard I did for the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; also copied from Massachusetts work..

middlesex box front

But I finished this one, is derived from the Guilford or New Haven, Connecticut work –

done

 

I’ve seen boxes from this group – they are noted for their use of dovetails, a rarity among New England boxes of the 17th century. I did one once, long time ago. 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

all this Connecticut stuff must have been in the air – because then I heard from Bob Van Dyke. He & I are working on plans to have a joined, carved chest-with-drawer class at his school in 2015 – it will be a “one-weekend-a-month” for X# of months. Maybe 5. The notion is that we work together for a weekend, you go home & do homework, come back a month later – and so on. Stay tuned. this will have riven oak, carving, joinery, a side=hung drawer, some moldings, a till – this one will be something! It will be based on a Windsor, Connecticut chest w drawers now at the Connecticut Historical Society. 

The crash course in sycamore this morning got me out to the back yard to photograph the neighbor’s tree – note at the edge of the photo, the river just in view. American sycamores like wet ground. This one is a beautiful tree. 

american sycamore 2

sycamore leaf

 

 

Figured wood??? 

sycamore sample figured wood

sycamore figure

Sliding dovetails?

sliding DT

sliding DT 2

I remember when this blog had integrity…what’s happened here anyway? 

Nah…I haven’t sold out – it’s just another day in the 17th century. 

 

box with drawer, Ipswich, Massachusetts, made between 1663-1706

box with drawer, Ipswich, Massachusetts, made between 1663-1706; Bowdoin College Museum of Art

The 17th-century work of Thomas Dennis – and to some extent William Searle, but it’s a long story that I think might involve murder…has long been a huge inspiration to me. 

[Oh…what did I mean, about murder? You see Searle was a trained joiner from Ottery St Mary, Devon, England, living in Ipswich Massachusetts in the early 1660s. Then, 1666 or so, he died. Thomas Dennis then moved from Portsmouth, New Hampshire to Ipswich, married Grace Searle, widow of William, and practiced joinery there until his death in 1706. There’s a group of maybe 4 or 5 pieces, all carved, that descended from Thomas Dennis – but were some of them his wife’s from her first marriage to Searle? When Searle died, his estate included the following:

“one bedsted & Cupboard £5  a trundle bedsted & a box & a little box £1  3 stooles & 3 little boxes —-   one Chaire £1  one table & 3 Chaires & one Cradle £1-5  2 wicker basketts 4s  one settle one meale trough & a Chest £2  one Cupboard £2-12  a box 5s  Tooles & Timber & board, 2 pikes £3-19”

Furniture scholars have tried to divide the group into Searle’s work & Dennis’ work – and some that are probably apprentices of Thomas Dennis – and on & on. I gave up years ago. But I have often wanted to write a murder mystery involving Dennis & Searle, and the widow Grace Searle…]

I went to Bowdoin College Museum of Art http://www.bowdoin.edu/art-museum/  to see the pieces from the Dennis family, including the wainscot chair that is the inspiration for the one in my new video. There’s a segment in the video where we look at the original; and hear its story from the curator Laura Sprague. http://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/book-dvds/

bowdoin chair B

On another trip up there, I got a brief look at the carved box with drawer (above) that is the basis for one I am making these days. I had known this box from publications ever since I began studying 17th-century stuff. but had never seen it in the flesh. First thing I noticed upon walking into the gallery – the lid is sycamore (you Brits, think “plane tree”). There are very few instances of this wood in surviving works from 17th-century New England. Maybe two others? One I know for sure is a cupboard at Winterthur Museum that uses sycamore boards for drawer bottoms – a horrible idea if, as in this case, they are flatsawn.

Bowdoin box w sycamore lid

The lid of the Dennis family box is sawn very near the heart of the tree. In this shot, you can see splits running down the middle of the board. Mine are 3 quartersawn boards, edge glued together. I got the sycamore from the website http://www.curlymaplewood.com/ – the boards were just as described, arrived in just a couple of days, and all around a good experience. Thanks, Kevin. Now you know why the figured wood in the opening photo.

lid done

We’ll save the sliding DTs for another day…(quite a term, sliding DTs…)

 Lie-Nielsen just released a few new videos; mine among them. https://www.lie-nielsen.com/ (Mary May has a new one; Steve Latta too. There are more in the pipeline…)

You can order directly from them, or I have a limited number for sale here  http://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/spoons-and-more-oct-2014/   I added a paypal button on my page for it; hopefully it will work correctly. I fumble around through this sort of stuff…leave a comment or email if you have a problem.

wainscot chair videp

17th Century Wainscot Chair

with Peter Follansbee

The Wainscot Chair is one of the hallmarks of 17th century joinery. In this DVD, Peter demonstrates how to prepare material from a section of oak, shape the chair pieces using bench tools and a pole lathe, and join them together with drawbored mortise and tenon joints. He also offers two traditional approaches for making the angled joints of this chair.

Peter Follansbee specializes in 17th century period joinery and green woodworking. He spent over 20 years making reproduction furniture at Plimoth Plantation, the living history museum in Plymouth, Massachusetts. In addition to teaching the craft at schools around the USA, Peter co-authored the book, Make a Joint Stool from a Tree: An Introduction to 17th Century Joinery, with Jennie Alexander. He is also featured in three other Lie-Nielsen DVDs: 17th c. New England Carving (2010); 17th c. New England Carving: Carving the S-Scroll (2011); and 17th c. Joined Chest (2012).

218 minutes (2 discs), Lie-Nielsen Toolworks Productions, 2014.

I know weird people. There’s an outfit formed around Plymouth Massachusetts this year that proves it.

photo shoot at MLB

most of them can’t even look at the camera

The fledgling non-profit Plymouth CRAFT is getting up and running; the website is being developed now, it will get fleshed-out soon – http://plymouthcraft.org/welcome/

The whole gig will be worth watching, or better yet, worth participating in. The word “craft” in the title stands for Center for Restoration Arts and Forgotten Trades. It is a loosely-knit group of artisans and craftspeople who will be offering workshops, demonstrations, expertise and other whiz-bang crafty know-how to students, amateurs, professionals, and other interested parties.

The other day a few of us assembled at Michael Burrey’s place to shoot some photos and video to be used in our fund-raising and as a general introduction to the question – “what goes on? “

First up, woodworker Michael Burrey, working clay. You’ve seen MIchael on these pages some before; http://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/2014/02/17/who-you-gonna-call/ and if you read Rick McKee’s blog Blue Oak, http://blueoakblog.wordpress.com/   (you do, don’t you?)  then you are familiar with the scope and range of Michael’s work. On this particular day, Michael was molding bricks for a building on Nantucket. These go down low, around the perimeter of the building, with the ogee shape towards the sky to shed water…if I had paid more attention, I would have the name & date of the building, and more detail about the source for this brick shape. Once he has enough made, he’ll fire them in his wood-fired kiln, just beyond the edges of this photo.

mlb brick man

brick mold

brick exits mold

Paula Marcoux http://www.themagnificentleaven.com/The_Magnificent_Leaven/Welcome.html  was mostly the ring-leader, but she also dove in and was teaching passers-by how to make “shrak” a flat-bread found in her book Cooking with Firehttp://blueoakblog.wordpress.com/2014/05/22/product-placement/ this stuff was good. Give Paula a 5-gallon bucket, and a few sticks & she’ll whip out her gear and some flour and off you’ll go…

pm & jacob

pm & bread

I only know the tip of Pen Austin’s iceberg. Her work is astounding, catch a glimpse of it here http://blueoakblog.wordpress.com/2014/07/27/playing-marbles/

pen & marbled paint

and when I saw this rig on Saturday, I knew I had to hang around to see it happen… it looks like a “sweep” (that’s what Joseph Moxon called it, for making an arch from wood, sans lathe) – a scratch stock on a trammel essentially. Pen has a whole different vocabulary for it, here she was working plaster – gooping it up right quick…then swinging the  molding scraper across the mess- out comes architecture. (the first shot is a rope of clay, to bulk up the demo piece – usually it would all be plaster…) 

like a scratch stock

 

Midway through the process – these folks got to work quickly, before the stuff sets too much. 

plaster arch w sweep

arch

At this point, there’s a lot of refinement; filling in gaps with wet mixture, then swinging another pass. 

arch 2

she made this archway just for a demonstration – what work! It was a gas to watch that form come together…

 

Charlotte Russell came by with some drop-spindle stuff, some carded wool and Maureen sat right down for lesson # 1… Charlotte has been a textile artisan for over 50(ish) years -she spins, knits, weaves, has a passion for history and craft, and is a skilled teacher in all things fiber.

cr & drop

spinning a yarn

I took a quick stab (Oh, poor choice of words for teaching knife-work) at teaching one of the photographers some of the knife moves for working on spoon-carving. I have no idea if it was sinking in, there was lots to keep track of that morning…but his moves were right, and no blood was shed…

003

002

When we get further along with this endeavor, I’ll be writing more about it here, Rick will too on Blue Oak – so you’ll hear about it.  There’s way more people and crafts involved than what we previewed the other day…that was just what we could round up on short notice. Have a look at the website, and stay tuned. You’ll hear more. 

I think of Bill Coperthwaite’s quote – “I want to live in a society where people are intoxicated with the joy of making things.”

If Daniel hadn’t had a baseball game, we woulda stuck around Burrey’s for the rest of it. Just as regular order of business, it was apple-cider-making day…


more work on the box with drawer. I’m making some of it up as I go along – when I saw the original, I was not really doing a thorough examination like I would need to actually build one. Like I need now… Here goes, just a bunch of photos, with brief captions. 

installing the middle board for the box section’s bottom

installing bottoms middle board

the last one you gotta give it a bop

give it a bop

in a groove in the rear, nailed to a rabbet at the front

1st bottom done

I turned the feet from green wood, left the tenons large. Trimmed now to fit. Here’s a test fit to see where to trim it

turned feet testing tenons

boring the holes for the feet, in narrow oak slats. An auger bit, nice clean hole. 

auger bit

 

Cross-thumbs grip to trim the tenons
cross thumbs

Then line it up over a hole in the bench, and knock it in

feet go in

Split the protruding tenon for a wedge. 

split

said wedge. 
wedge

The feet assemblies

feet ready

The bottom of the drawer opening is a pine board, planed to 5/8″ thick. Nailed to the sides & rear. 

2nd bottom on

Then nail on the feet assemblies. 

feet go on

Here it is with the drawer front mocked in place. Some applied moldings will cover the pine bottom. Applied decoration on the sides to come…next time is the drawer. then moldings & lid. this thing weighs a ton…

feet w mock drawer

 

a few things left for sale - http://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/spoons-and-more-oct-2014/

Maureen tells me the felt is going quickly too - https://www.etsy.com/shop/MaureensFiberArts

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