I keep thinking about Richard Nixon. I don’t want to, but it happens. Remember when he famously stated “I’m not a crook.”? Well, of course he was lying…

but I have  been splitting & hewing crooks into spoons lately. Right after that cherry haul (and another cherry haul) I got 2 small piles of birch.

crooks

crook-y

Most of these are just one spoon in each bend; there’s knots underneath the crook. splitting them is a combination of froe & hatchet work.

top yes bottom no

birch crook

axe & club

 

 

Then I start in hewing to begin to “see” the eventual shape.

axe work

 

Placement of the bowl is the hardest part to wrap your head around. The mistake I usually make is to place it too far forward. Here you see how the bottom of the bowl flows along the curved grain.

outline

 

Then it’s back to more axe work. The more you take off here, the easier life is later.

more axe work

quit there

 

Megan Fitzpatrick swiped a photo of mine from last time; here’s her teaser about an article I did for Popular Woodworking:

http://www.popularwoodworking.com/woodworking-blogs/editors-blog/spoon-carving-next-hot-thing

 

 

We had some heavy wet snow a week or so back. I found  a broken cherry limb down by the river & made some spoons from it. Then the other day I found 2 more, but way up high. I borrowed a pole saw & cut them down. Then started to cut them up.

expect cherry

Around here cherry is the most common wood useful for spoons. It’s quite hard though, comparatively speaking. Birch for instance is much softer & more cooperative. but I love the cherry spoons. They are worth the extra work. I cut a few crooks out of this stuff to get started; but left lots in the limbs, to be dealt with later.

Here’s a whole mess of pictures; not the whole spoon – I didn’t finish it yet. Started some others instead. To really see where the spoons are in crooked timber like this, you have to view them from all around. More than once. This is 2 limbs, twined around each other in this heap.

crooks in waiting

I started here; there’s one good sized ladle/serving spoon between that end grain & the small branch in the bottom of the photo.

one at a time

After cross-cutting, I hew away the bark to see where the piece wants to split.

trimming side bark

The bottom of this crook is trash; it has a large broken-off limb, & resulting knot.

one's a spoon, one ain'

After some initial hewing, I like to start these large deep bowls with a gouge & (borrowed) mallet. Borrowed shop too.

gouge & mallet

The gouge can also be “hand” pressure, but it’s much more than my hands driving it. Here’s the top of the stroke, then my whole body moves to bring the gouge across the spoon’s bowl.

top stroke

(hat courtesy of Maureen. She’s working on her 2nd custom hat-knitting project. Contact her for next year’s winter hats… https://www.etsy.com/shop/MaureensFiberArts )

bottom stroke

More hatchet work.

hatchet work

 

 

Then knives from there. I’ll get it on the blog at some point.

——–

Went walking at one point – going to leave this one alone for a while, I’ll stop back when the eggs hatch, then we’ll see some owl action.

leave it alone

Out to the beach in a bracing wind. Dunlin & sanderlings in flight.

in flight

 

Took one last haul out to the end of the beach to see the snowies; only found one, but didn’t look hard. Soon, they will head north again.

 

 

 

 

one more visit before shoving off

 

Back home, the local redtails are keeping company. Time for them to nest too.

 

 

 

mr & mrs

 

matt video

Poor Matt Bickford. There I was, gobbling up his new DVD from Lie-Nielsen about how he uses hollows & rounds to make moldings, when the video about Wille Sundqvist arrived. Eject, went Matt. In went Wille.

Now, some time has passed & I’m back to Matt’s disc.http://www.lie-nielsen.com/dvds/moldings-in-practice/

As you can imagine, I’m partial. I’ve got to know Matt & his family through Lie-Nielsen events; took a weekend class with him once to boot. His teaching method is excellent.  The way he breaks down these moldings is simplicity itself. Things are presented very clearly on this disc, you’ll find it a great companion to his book of nearly the same name. It’s almost 3 hours’ worth of instruction. Makes me itch to get out some planes & make moldings…

here’s an earlier look at Matt’s work:

http://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/2013/03/04/ive-always-known-they-were-good/

The book: http://lostartpress.com/collections/books/products/mouldings-in-practice 

 

carved panel overall

Having my stuff stashed away in a few storage sites is a bit rattling. I have some tools here at the house, and one workbench. It’s tucked tight into a mixture of kids/grownups/and general clutter; snow-boots, the “shipping” department -(a mass of re-used cardboard boxes and misc materials) the path to the bathroom, and this desk where I write, pay bills, and read about woodworking, birds and a tiny bit of news. I finally decided the other day to quit waiting until I get things “set up” and instead just shoved junk aside & carved an oak panel. It was like riding a bike.

carved panel detail

It being winter, I have dipped back into some of Henry David Thoreau’s journal. Somehow winter is when I read this book; “I to Myself” is the edition I’m using. Got to the part about firewood heating you twice, an oft-quoted section. But reading before and after that part was a treat:

 

“One-eyed John Goodwin, the fisherman, was loading into a hand-cart and conveying home the piles of driftwood which of late he had collected with his boat. It was a beautiful evening, and a clear amber sunset lit up all the eastern shores; and that man’s employment, so simple and direct, – though he is regarded by most as a vicious character, – whose whole motive was so easy to fathom, – thus to obtain his winter’s wood, – charmed me unspeakably. So much do we love actions that are simple. They are all so poetic. We, too, would fain be so employed. So unlike the pursuits of most men, so artificial or complicated. Consider how the broker collects his winter’s wood, what sport he make of it, what is his boat and hand-cart! Postponing instant life, he makes haste to Boston in the cars, and there deals in stocks, not quite relishing his employment, – and so earns the money with which he buys his fuel. And when by chance, I meet him about this indirect and complicated business, I am not struck with the beauty of his employment. It does not harmonize with the amber sunset.”

He goes on, then comes to this one:

“As for the complex ways of living, I love them not, however much I practice them. In as many places as possible, I will get my feet down to the earth.”

words to live by.

—————

Meanwhile, the other day I ordered a new bowl/drinking cup from Jarrod Stone Dahl.

JSD bowl

Did you see his feature at Popular Woodworking? http://www.popularwoodworking.com/woodworking-daily/green-woodworking-linking-past-future

His work would harmonize with an amber sunset for certain.

 

The box with drawer that I posted the other day is a great survivor – the only New England one of its kind. I have seen a corrupted English one – so I dug out the photos of it while we’re on the subject.  I have had it on the blog before, but ages ago.

Here we have an English box with drawer, c. 1600-1610, in walnut mostly. This one got wrecked way back when, then incorrectly restored. The lid is new, and the piece has been turned into a very deep box, the drawer being re-fitted & fixed in place.

box w drawer, walnut & inlay

box w drawer, walnut & inlay

There’s I think 3 surviving relatives, one at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, in their European Decorative Arts collection. One in a private collection in the US, and one that was featured in Percy MacQuoid’s Age of Oak book…

The others have dated iron escutcheons where the blank square panel is here between the inlaid panels. Dates (from memory) are 1603 and 1610? Something like that. I don’t have MacQuoid’s book.

Here’s the only image I have of the Met box

MMA box w drawer

A couple of exterior detail shots:

 

walnut box w drawer inlay detail

arcading

arcading

There are remnants of block-printed paper lining the inside of the box. Also scribed compass work from an abandoned layout scheme for carving? In the first photo below you can see the wooden pin for locking the drawer from inside the box.

printed paper lining

paper lining & wooden pin for locking drawer

 

compass-formed spiral

compass-formed spiral

Now to someday see the other examples, so we can suss out what really went on with these things.

The other box with a drawer, without its drawer. How’s that for confusing?

Here’s two shots I got years ago from Trent of the “other” Thomas Dennis box w drawer. But it’s been chopped down & its drawer is missing. This one’s in Historic New England’s collection, published in one of the books I mentioned last night - Brock Jobe and Myrna Kaye, New England Furniture: the Colonial Era (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1984)

box HNE

 

HNE box overall B

 

 

What’s even better is that there is documentary evidence that Thomas Dennis made this furniture form – there’s a deposition in the Essex County Court Records, cited in the Irving Lyon articles also mentioned last time:

“March 28, 1682 Thomas Dennis deposed that Grace Stout bought a carved box with a drawer in it of him in 1679 and it had two locks, ” for which he was paid 2/6.

(2 shillings, 6 pence – more than a day’s wages…but not 2 days’ wages. Then there’s the price of the locks to consider…) 

Here’s a detail from the Bowdoin one just so we can have them both in mind. For me, the exciting stuff about Dennis’ best carvings is the great variety. Never repeats, even thought the “vocabulary” is clearly evident.

Dennis - 193

A while back I was up in Maine to take part in a program at Bowdoin College Museum of Art. Huh? I hear you ask – why is Follansbee at Bowdoin? Because their collection is mecca to the study of Thomas Dennis’ carved oak furniture.

They have not one, not two, not three – but four pieces of oak furniture THAT DESCENDED FROM THOMAS DENNIS’ FAMILY.

This time, my focus was on the box with drawer in the collection. I had seen it published many times – but the text was always about the family history of the box, never about its construction. I had never seen good enough views of it opened to understand the format.

Here’s Bowdoin’s excellent photo of the box: 

 

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

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

Bowdoin’s credit line runs thus:

William Searle (School of Thomas Dennis); Carved Box with Drawer, 1665-1700

oak; 14 3/16 in. x 25 9/16 in. (36 cm. x 65 cm.)

Bowdoin College Museum of Art, bequest of H. Ray Dennis; 1989.42 

(the box is currently on view in their galleries in the exhibition “The Object Show: Discoveries in Bowdoin Collections,” through June 1, 2014.)

 

First thing I wanted to see is the drawer construction. The drawer sides are fitted to the inside of the drawer front with a sliding dovetail. The drawer front then overhangs the carcass of the box. There are no drawer pulls set into the drawer front, but two “glyphs” glued onto the end grain of the drawer front that act as pulls. Why these are still intact is beyond me.

The drawer bottom is made up of two riven oak boards running side-to-side.

box w drawer

Here is the detail that shows the sliding dovetail, the overhang and the glyph on the end grain. 

drawer DT detail

As you see in the overall photo, the box sits on turned feet. These are tenoned into oak slats that run front-to-back and are nailed to the box’s bottom.  I made a couple of rough sketches/notes = the piece is on display in the gallery; and time was short. I had a mini-lecture to give & cheese & crackers to eat! I hope to get back there to see the box in detail some time this year.

 

bowdoin notes

One great surprise is that the box lid is made not of oak but of the wood we Americans call sycamore. This one: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Platanus_occidentalis

I had this photo from Rob Tarule & Ted Curtin years ago, but never really looked at the lid’s species – until I saw it in the flesh. Sycamore’s radial flecking is more pronounced than oak’s…it’s really amazing. Click the photo & see for yourself. 

Dennis - 196

The box mixes riven oak with flatsawn oak (on the sides in the view above) and the millsawn sycamore as well. The box sides are glued-up of two boards, with an applied molding covering the seam. There’s an abandoned carving pattern scribed & partially cut on the inside face of the box front. I love that stuff. I can still mess them up myself, so I’m glad to see it’s not just me. 

In the meantime, once I get set up & working oak again, the first box I make is going to have a drawer and turned tootsies.

Thanks to all the staff at Bowdoin who were so accommodating to me during my too-brief visit. Here’s a link to a blog post they did about the evening’s program – sorry I’m so late in getting this up here. If you’re in the area, the museum is well worth a visit. http://research.bowdoin.edu/a-world-of-objects/remembering-almost-forgotten-crafts/

The William Searle/Thomas Dennis story is terribly long. Here’s a partial bibliography that discusses their works:

Jonathan L. Fairbanks and Robert F. Trent, eds., New England Begins: The Seventeenth-Century 3 vols. (Boston: Museum of Fine Arts, 1982)

Brock Jobe and Myrna Kaye, New England Furniture: the Colonial Era (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1984)

Irving P. Lyon, series of six articles, “The Oak Furniture of Ipswich, Massachusetts” that originally appeared in Antiques in 1937-38. These are all collected in Robert F. Trent, ed., Pilgrim Century Furniture: An Historical Survey (New York: Main Street/Universe Books, 1976) pp. 55-78.

Robert Tarule, The Artisan of Ipswich: Craftsmanship and Community in Colonial New England (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2004)

Discovering Dennis: The Search for Thomas Dennis among the Artisans of Exeter, Paul Fitzsimmons, Robert Tarule, and Donald P. White III; review by Peter Follansbee in American Furniture, ed. Luke Beckerdite, (Hanover, NH: University Press of New England, 2010) 

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