We just had a cancellation in my up-coming class in making a carved oak box – so if you would like to tackle this sort of work, September 22-26 in the Berkshire hills of western Massachusetts, Heartwood School is the place to be. http://www.heartwoodschool.com/

 

open, with till

open, with till

opposing lunettes

opposing lunettes

oak carving box side Sept

till

till

This is going to be a really small class – so we will be able to really delve deeply into these boxes. I usually do this with 10 or 12 students; this time we’re hoping for 5! Lots more attention to carving patterns, and come hell or high water – tills! Students always ask, “can we put tills in our boxes?” – and the answer is usually “maybe” which really means “no.” 

This time – yup. I bet we will. 

come on, fall in the Berkshires? Send Will Beemer a note – it’ll be great. http://www.heartwoodschool.com/coursefr.html

oak bolt

 

 

 

 

This fall I’ll be teaching a class at Heartwood in making one of my carved oak boxes; and this might be the best shot yet at this class. The class size is small, about 6 students. As of right now, we are short of that number – we could use a couple more, so you could sign up and get in on a chance to delve into this subject in greater-than-usual detail. The class is Sept 22-26. The fall is my favorite time of year… 

We’ll be riving, carving and assembling boxes such as this:

carved box 2011

carved box 2011

 

Maybe this is the class to finally fit a till inside their box!

till

till

 

The setting is out of this world – I often get asked “when are you teaching in Massachusetts?” and this is my one-and-only right now. But it’s not eastern-MA with its congestion, noise, strip-mall mentality; this is bucolic western, far-western Massachusetts. It’s at the Heartwood School for the Homebuilding Crafts in Washington, Massachusetts. Those of us out in eastern MA have to look Washington up, because  we’ve never heard of it. It’s that nice. It’s all uphill for me, Washington in in the Berkshires, near the highest point of I-90 east of South Dakota. I live on the Jones River, about 15 feet above sea level.

I was a student in a timber-framing class there in 1984 – Will Beemer dug out a photo to prove it. Bottom center, head down, arms up. skinny, scruffy me. 

PF at Heartwood

Here’s more about the school – it’s quite a place.

http://www.heartwoodschool.com/index.html

Here’s the photo tour of the place: 

https://plus.google.com/photos/104180060919131710792/albums/5964402473095440321?banner=pwa

Fall in the Berkshires – I’m bringing my binoculars too. Come join us.

 

 

 

New box, July 2012

You’ll recall that I was Schwarz’d not too long ago. Also quit my day job – so I have been (thankfully) deluged with teaching offers for 2015. I’m working on sorting out the schedule now, and will know much of it pretty soon.

One that’s mostly nailed down right now is a carved box class in England – with the New English Workshop folks – Derek Jones and Paul Mayon.

http://newenglishworkshop.co.uk/

I’m not sure of the exact dates and specifics; but July is the month. They tell me there’s 5 spots taken already. Get a hold of them if you’re inclined. Me, I can’t wait. I haven’t been to England since 2005. Hope to see some oak carvings…

Here’s the details, such as they are.

http://newenglishworkshop.wordpress.com/2014/08/01/the-axeman-cometh/

You might remember Chris Schwarz writing about this new program over there – Derek and Paul are bringing several American woodworkers over there. Chris will be back..among others. Stay tuned for more.

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) 

I am starting to assemble the schedule for where and when I will be teaching in 2014. This list is partial; as of right now (Dec 2013) – I will update it as things get sorted out. Some of these places have their schedules posted, some are still in the works. I’ll also keep it as a separate page here on the blog for later access. Hope to see you out & about…

PF carving strapworkFebruary 8 & 9, 2014 – Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking, Manchester, CT. Carving 17th-century style. http://www.schoolofwoodworking.com/woodworking-classes.html#Speciality_Weekend_Classes  Bob Van Dyke runs a great place there. Fun will be had. Watch in horror as Bob loses it when we look at period carvings, “All I see is faces” says Bob. 2 days of learning the tools to use, how to work with them this way & that, and generate different patterns. Layout, execution – folks usually carve about 5 different patterns, including one full-size panel version.

spoon carving

May 11 & 12, 2 days of spoon carving instruction at Lie-Nielsen in Warren, ME. My first-ever attempt at teaching spoon carving. I am really excited to tackle this. If you read the blog, you know I have been carving spoons for many years, and every day for the past few. Axes, knives & more – what fun. They will have the details up on their website soon. http://www.lie-nielsen.com/workshops/

mini chest

August 4-8, 2014 – The Woodwright’s School, Pittsboro, NC. – This time, Roy has been kind enough (or nuts enough) to agree to us trying to make a small joined chest in a week. A mix of riven oak and sawn boards (maybe pine – we have some details to work out…) – it will be much like the joined chest we did on his show this past season. (flat lid instead of panels though – enough joinery already) Riving, hewing, planing – mortise & tenon, then grooves & panels. If it works, it’ll be something. Well, it’ll be something anyway…

carved box 2011

September 22-26 – Heartwood School for the Homebuilding Crafts – http://www.heartwoodschool.com/coursefr.html  WOW – I’ll teach right here in Massachusetts. I was a student at Heartwood back in 1984 – and now 30 years later I’ll be teaching the make-a-carved-box class there. Riving oak, planing, carving, assembly – another mix of riven oak & sawn pine. Assembly with hand-wrought nails, wooden pins, and a wooden hinge. I’m really looking forward to returning to Heartwood.

(Will Beemer was able to find a photo that had me in it from 1984 – I’m the skinny longhair sorta just behind/above the fellow in white overalls…head down, arms up.)

PF at Heartwood

There are other things coming up, some museum lecture/demos; one at Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts in NC – in March. Haven’t been there in ages. I’ll also add another class at CVSWW – this one a 3-day class in making a carved frame-and-panel. So some carving, and some joinery for those too smart to tackle 16 or more mortise & tenons! I’ll get that sorted soon, sorry Bob. The 2-day open house at Lie-Nielsen in July – I missed it in 2013, so cleared room in 2014.

I’ll flesh this listing out as it gets more details.

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