Trent sent a note tonight about a joined chest with 2 drawers coming up for sale soon in New York. 

It’s an old favorite of mine, made in Braintree, Massachusetts between 1650-1700. Look:

braintree chest w drawers

Here’s the link to the auction –


In an article of agreement in connection with William Savell, Sr.’s 1669 will, the sons of William Savell, Sr. agree that the widow, Sarah (Mullins Gannett) Savell shall have “…her whole estate returned to her that she brought to Our ffather for her own use & to dispose of forever with a chest with drawers & a Cubbert…”  

the distinction here is “chest with drawers” – plural. Most of this group had a single drawer below the chest compartment. 

Back when I was doing the legwork research chasing these chests down, I saw two examples that had 2 drawers instead of the more typical single drawer. One of those is now in the Chipstone collection in Milwaukee, WI. This might be the other one, or now a third. I did see a piece of 20th-century homemade furniture that incorporated two drawers from one of these. That piece descended in the Hayward family from old Braintree. 

The article from years ago is:

Peter Follansbee and John Alexander, “Seventeenth-Century Joinery from Braintree, Massachusetts: the Savell Shop Tradition” in American Furniture, ed., Luke Beckerdite, (Hanover, N.H.: University Press of New England for the Chipstone Foundation, 1996) pp. 81-104

You can look it up on Chipstone’s website, but often you don’t get all the pictures there –

Fun stuff. 

[i].) for the will and inventory for William Savell Sr. see Suffolk County Registry of Probate (SCRP) #501, Massachusetts State Archives, Boston. 

New DVD from Lie-Nielsen


Got this note recently from a reader of the blog, about the Joined Chest DVD

“At 3:05:16 in the chapter on Making and Installing the Top there is a big red error screen that says Media Offline #15067 for a short while, like 15-25 seconds. It looks like a small section of video is missing when they compiled the video. ”


I wrote to Thomas Lie-Nielsen, and he replied:

“Yeah, … It is true.  We’ve pulled them and will reprint. Sorry!”

When I get new ones, I’ll send out clean copies to those who bought from the blog. I’ll keep you posted when I hear more.



New DVD from Lie-Nielsen

I went down to Manchester, CT the other day for a Lie-Nielsen Hand Tool Event at the Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking. As always, I had more fun than I could stand…and just as I came in the door, Ted Dishner of LN saw me & told me, “we have your new DVD…”

So, if you have a few hours to watch me thrash an oak log apart and build a joined chest, you can do so from the comfort of your own home – otherwise, you have to stand at the railing in my shop at the museum.

We shot the DVD last spring in Maine, it includes splitting and riving the stock apart, hewing and planing, then layout, joinery and assembly. I cut notches for the till, and show how to install that, and make a tongue-and-groove white pine floor. The lid is also white pine, a single-width board. For the finale, I attach the lid with iron “snipebill” hinges, (what I call “gimmals” – the 17th-century term for them.)

The disc runs over 200 minutes and is broken into 18 chapters so you can get around to the segment you nodded off at. There is additional content accessed through your computer; some measurements, photos and other bits and pieces.

I have 10 of these discs for sale, you can order from me by emailing me with your mailing info. Price is $42, shipped media mail in the US. Of course, as always you can buy the disc directly from Lie-Nielsen too, while you are there buying tools and other goodies. They have my two previous DVDs on carving, they also sell the joint stool book.

till closed

Fitting the till parts inside a joined chest is one of the most time-consuming aspects of making these things. It takes a good deal of test fitting and fussing to get it right. there is a tendency to rush this part, many times I have made tills that I wasn’t happy with in the end. All in the name of impatience.

The sequence I use is to do the bottom first, then the side, then the lid last. I often make the bottoms and sides from white pine, and always make the till lid from oak. Almost always.

Here is a view of the till bottom fitted into notches in the front and rear stiles, and scribed and fitted against the beveled panels and muntin on the chest side. I made a two-part template from matboard, one part scribed to fit the front stile, and one for the rear. Then I overlaid them on the pine board using the muntin notch as a benchmark.

till bottom scribed & cut

The till side is easiest, and I didn’t scribe it to perfectly match the contours of the chest interior, close enough is OK.

For this till lid, I decided to notch the inner corner of the front stile so that the end of the till lid is a square cut, other than the pintle. I sawed and chiseled the notch, and bored the hole for the pintle. This hole is above and tangent to a line struck from the top edge of the till side.

front stile notched for square-ended till lid

For more about cutting tills, here’s an earlier take on the subject.

Now, this chest has its rear finished face inside the chest.

inside the chest, rear framing


I really like this format, it makes a nice surface in the chest when you’re rooting around in there. And it leaves all the scruffy bits against the wall, where no one sees them. But one challenge in this arrangement is that the rear stiles bump out beyond the back face of the upper rear rail.

rear stile thicker than rear rail

When it comes time to hinge the lid, you need to deal with these stiles. One way around this problem is to make rear stiles that are the same thickness as the rear rails. I have seen English chests do this, but not New England examples. Another way around this is to cut a notch in the top end of each rear stile. Like this: 


We’ll see this again when I install the hinges on this one. This chest is going to get a paneled lid. When I first started reading about 17th-century joined chests, paneled lids in New England work were perceived as being indications of “first-generation” workmen, those trained in old England. That might be so, but it’s a difficult notion to prove. What I can say for certain is that paneled lids take up a great deal of labor. A single-board pine lid is the quickest thing on earth. Plane it, cut it to length and width, and run a thumbnail molding along its perimeter. A multi-board oak lid is a lot of work too, riving and planing usually three long narrow oak boards, edge-jointing them & gluing it up. Then planing it as a whole. 

But the paneled lid is the most labor of all three versions. 

This one requires riving and preparing all those framing parts, cutting the joinery, test-fitting it, drawboring, and then cutting the panels, beveling them, and so on. Maybe those old guys were faster than me…it still takes me more than a day to make this lid I bet.

I saw this announcement from Lie-Nielsen the other day in their newsletter. I almost forgot I shot it!  There’s no carving how-to in this one, it’s how to open the log, rive the stock, plane it, do the joinery, etc…

I guess when you concentrate on 17th-century stuff, that means you go first. So although others shot their discs before me, mine’s out soon. This is the beginning of project-based DVDs for LN. There’s more in their pipeline. Here’s their picture and text.


new video coming

Over the past nine years, we’ve produced woodworking DVDs focused mainly on hand tool set-up and techniques. In our next release, we turn the focus to applying these skills to a specific furniture project.. “17th Century Joined Chest,” featuring Peter Follansbee, is the first DVD in our new Master Workshops series, which are hand tool based furniture projects with master craftsmen. With only a few hand tools, Peter shows you how to get your stock from an oak log and build a frame-and-panel chest using 17th century joinery methods. Available on our website at the end of October.

I just found out this was posted at Lie-Nielsen’s YouTube channel…we shot it in May while I was up in Maine. I first heard of this teaching technique when Roy Underhill collaborated with Frank Klauz at an early Woodworking in America. I wasn’t there, but maybe had seen some video of it. Roy then showed me how to do it the first time I taught at his school. I  did it as a slide-show on this blog I don’t-know-when, so now you get to see it as Conor & crew shot it.

Here it is:


Sorry to drag out this discussion about selling JA’s tools, but here is one (last) sermon on the subject. First of all, thanks to all regarding the comments, I read every one of them, Alexander did too. we are grateful for your interest in our joinery undertakings. We never could have envisioned twenty+ years ago that it would turn into this.

I never felt that anyone was whining. I read it as a few folks felt they missed a chance, & were offering alternative ideas on how to proceed. I greatly appreciated everyone’s ideas & comments. The general consensus is that the way it has worked is fine. Some feel otherwise, but to my ears, no one came on strong complaining. Mostly I got that people are hip to the idea that we are trying to get these tools out from boxes collecting dust & back into use in woodshops.

I just want to remind everyone to be nice in your comments. I have only deleted one or two comments over 4 years of this blog – but I won’t have folks sniping at each other. There’s plenty of that on the web – we don’t need it here. Green wood, hand tools, furniture history, a few birds & some kid drawings – that’s most of what this blog is about. let’s keep it that way.

Friday June 22 I will post about 8 rabbet planes. All useful, working planes. I’ll probably get the post out in the mid-morning, east-coast-of-America time.

Meanwhile, here is the latest joined chest I just finished last month. Not a copy of an existing chest, but I took my usual liberties with the Devon, England/Ipswich, Massachusetts stuff. Oak & pine.






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