not oak

well, I never really was a true monoculture anyway. But close. Mostly oak, lots of white pine, ash. some maple (mostly turned), but there’s even mention in the back pages of this blog of Spanish cedar, East Indian Rosewood, Atlantic white cedar – and the spoons are a range of woods that never include oak. That’s where you’ll see me use cherry and apple – not in furniture.

walnut bolt

But my recent foray further into walnut is really out of this world, for me anyway. Riven, radial, high moisture content. Now I have run the gamut with this wood, from my first experience with that awful kiln-dried randomly sawn lousy stock, to air-dried straight-grained clear stuff – now to the true beast – riven radial stuff. Wow. Hewing it is so much fun I almost just chopped it all up just for the thrill. It’s going to be a joined stool, which I need like a hole in the head – but the book needs joined work that’s not oak. And…the walnut was a gift. Thanks, Michael D.

hewing walnut

Here are the stool parts, planed. Why 5 aprons & only 3 stretchers? Because I had just a little bit of extra wood. This way, I’ll make the aprons. If all goes well, apron #5 will get chopped down to a stretcher. Something goes haywire, I make #5 an apron & return to the wood pile to hopefully scrounge a stretcher. Timid, I know. But I don’t usually have riven walnut around. This is New England, not the mid-west. 

walnut joined stool parts

Part 3 of the “what happened to my monoculture” is really out of this world – this wood was like nothing I have ever seen. I got a sampling of it in the mail – to test it for a carving class. 11 1/2” wide quartersawn stuff – with over 360 growth rings!

200 to 300 yrs

300 yr mark

Alaskan yellow cedar – is not a cedar and might be from British Columbia…but it is yellow. http://www.wood-database.com/lumber-identification/softwoods/alaskan-yellow-cedar/

I just could not wrap my head around the growth rate of this tree. Turns out as I read more about it, the tree grows for upwards of 1,000-1,500 years. That’s old. It’s a tree that has been in decline for 100 years, dying off due to climate change. Seems it’s so warm these days that the trees are freezing – sounds like Stephen Foster wrote the story of it. http://www.fs.fed.us/pnw/research/climate-change/yellow-cedar/yellow-cedar_and_climate_change.pdf

We’re hopefully using this for the box class I’m teaching in Alaska next spring. Thanks to the guys up there for sending it down…

carvings

It carves very well, planes to a beautiful finish, except for some tearout difficulties. I’m mesmerized by it. Density is a bit softer than the black walnut; specific gravity is .42,  as compared to the walnut at .51. I did much of the carving without the mallet. Once all the V-tool outlining was done, I used hand pressure for a great deal of this design.

detail

spandrel

panel full view

 

But I have been working up some oak stock recently to replenish what I have used. I only have about 6 or 8 more of this crazy-wide oak panels to prep…the offset handle on this hatchet is especially useful when working wide stuff. this one’s 14” wide. That’s knuckle-scraping wide if you’re not careful.

oak

 

Couple of spoons left, the bowls, etc. The wainscot chair video too – http://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/spoons-more-december-2014/

over at Plymouth Craft – if you’re thinking of the spoon class, it’s about half-full now. So don’t delay…  http://plymouthcraft.org/  (3PM – Eastern time, that website is having a problem. We’ll get on it, or it will fix itself miraculously…) 

 

box done blog

 

open w till

 

Finished building a box the other day; red oak, white pine. The original this is mostly based on had no till, but I’m shooting this one for the joinery book, so added a till. This box has a wooden hinge; a small extension is made on the rear board, so that it overhangs beyond the sides. Then this “pintle” is shaved round, and fits in a hole bored in the lid’s cleats to form the hinging action. Some shots of the process:

Here, the rear board’s rabbet is double-long. Much of this excess length will be cut away, leaving the pintle. This shows the saw cuts that define the pintle. 

pintle sawn

 

Then I split the waste off. Red oak splits very well. 

 

split it

 

The result. Next is just gets whittled to roughly round. 

pintle roughed out

 

I jumped ahead and here I am nailing and clinching the cleat to the underside of the box’s lid. You can see the extended and rounded end of the cleat; with a hole bored in it. 

clinching cleat to lid

 

There’s a little fumbling around to get the lid in place and nailed on. But here is the side view of the end result. 

 

cleat & hinge

 

This box is a custom order, complete with initials. You can tell it’s modern, because the period way to render a “J” is to make it as an “I”.  But the customer was leery of having this box read “IT” – so I made up a modern-ish “J”. 

initials

 

Then I went back to my carving

back to carving

My kids complain when we draw together, they say all I draw is patterns & designs. (Here’s them painting; I can’t find them drawing right now…)

kids painting

 

I’ve been doing some drawings lately. It’s somewhat new for me to draw before I build something, usually I make it first, then I draw it… 

I’m finishing up a few projects, which means it’s time to start the next ones…I’m real good at starting them…it’s easy. I always have more ideas than time. A further challenge is when one thing leads to another, and a project comes up out of nowhere, and jumps the queue. I’m right now struggling to keep that from happening. I’m losing that struggle. But that’s OK.

brittany

I had a visit from Chris Pinnell from Montreal recently, and we were talking about joinery in New France. I had remembered some photos sent to me from a reader, and dug out pictures of joined work from Brittany. [It was Maurice Pommier, author of Grandpa’s Workshop – here’s my original post from a few years back –   http://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/2010/03/27/bretagne-joinery-an-english-book-stand/ and the book is here http://lostartpress.com/products/grandpas-workshop  ]

 

Afterwards, I went back & started drawing this carving over & over. I’ve probably drawn five versions of it since yesterday. I plan on carving it just to get it out of my system, so I can get on with the other stuff I really should be doing.

bowdoin chair panel

One of the projects I have to do next is a wainscot chair. For this project, I’ll be using some of that really wide riven oak I just got in. The panel is 14” wide x 16 3/4” high. I decided I’d draw this design a few times before picking up the tools, that way I know the shapes I’m after. Those size panels don’t grow on trees, you know. This is slightly different from my usual approach. Typically, with this Ipswich/Devon stuff I carve my own versions of the panels…it’s easy enough to make them up using various elements from existing patterns. This time, I’m trying to copy the existing chair …)

dennis wainscot panel no grid

Dennis wainscot panel

 

 

I’ve drawn it about 3 times, including one that’s half the panel, full size. I won’t lay out a grid on the panel, but I will work from the scaled full size drawing. I want it to have irregularities in it, and those are easy to get. 

 

One last drawing – this thing jumped in front others, should be done this week. A bretstuhl – in walnut. Here’s the carving design I made up for the shaped back board to this chair. the chair is based on one Drew Langsner wrote about in Fine Woodworking in the early 1980s, from Switzerland. The carving designs I adapted from Dutch work of the 17th century. 

bretstuhl stabelle

things finished – the box w drawer (mostly, just needs one more board in the drawer bottom.) and a birch bowl.

done

drawer open

sliding DT

side

 

This birch bowl has been around a while, but I just finished carving it yesterday, then chipcarved some of the rim last night. It’s big – maybe 20″ long or more. Great fun. It’ll be for sale soon, no paint – don’t worry. 

bowl side

bowl end

 I added a link on the sidebar to Plymouth CRAFT – where you can sign up for spoon carving, card weaving, lace making & more. http://plymouthcraft.org/

Maureen tells me there’s new felt stuff on her site too. So that’s what she’s doing while I’m here doing this…  https://www.etsy.com/shop/MaureensFiberArts

glyphs

It becomes a funny diversion; what are these called – both today & in the 17th century. The old name is easy – we have no idea what the joiners who made ‘em called ‘em. Furniture historians often call them “glyphs” – but most architectural definitions call a glyph a vertical groove or channel. 

whatever they’re called, here’s how I made some today for the carved box with drawer. This batch is walnut. Essentially I make a run of molding that is peaked, then cut it up. I took a scrap about 15″ long, by about 9″ wide. Planed a straight edge, then marked the middle of it, (this board is just over 1″ thick.) also marked the thickness of my glyph – 3/8″. Then planed two bevels down almost to the scribed lines. I needed about 4 feet of this stuff; so I did this to both edges of the board, a couple of times. I made extra so if something went wrong in trimming I wouldn’t need to start over. 

planing edge

Here’s a close up view of the planed result. 

more detail

here’s how I held the board – the single screw is next to useless – it just pinches the board while I get a mallet to whack the holdfast. Then I sawed down both edges, I sawed in the waste area, leaving stock for planing the backs of this molding. 

holdfastSawing. simple enough. 

sawing

This is one of those rare instances when I will say to you – be careful if you do it this way. It’s hard to tell from this photo, but I’m pulling the molding to plane off the saw marks – much like a cooper will plane the edges of his staves. Need a sharp plane, set fine. And focus. One slip…and you feel real stupid. 

planing upside down

Then saw the pieces to length, and use a chisel, bevel down at first, to shave each end of the glyph. Or whatever it’s called. 

chisel

 

Here’s some from a chest with drawers made in Plymouth Colony, c. 1680s or so

molding detail, Plymouth Colony chest

I have mine cut and glued onto the box with drawer. so that’s the first piece built for the next joinery book. Next week I’ll apply a finish & photograph it. 

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…)

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