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. 

I needed some oak today for the drawer bottom for my box.

drawer w bottom half done

 

Something in the range of 7″ wide, 22″ long. So I went out to the collection of oak bolts in the yard to get something to work with.

DSC_0016

I picked out a few panels; and brought them in to rough-plane them. These had split so well they needed little hewing. Here’s some…

a good problem to have

 

But the problem? Most of the stuff I had on hand was too wide! That almost never happens – it’s usually quite the opposite. The narrow one in the photo above is almost 10″ wide at the bottom end…

narrow one

the wide ones are over 15″ wide and flat – great stock. (thanks, MD for setting me up with it…) -

wide one

I’ll save these for the rear panels to a wainscot chair I have to make. Like this:

 

TD chair overall

Most of the time, I don’t have such wide stock; the one above was similar width, but quartersawn, not riven. You can make a wainscot chair w 2 panels & a muntin too -

PF design three quarters

to make such a chair, see http://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/book-dvds/

Now I have to go find some narrower oak.

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…)

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

I finally got back to the carved oak box with drawer that I started.

till is next

 

I have been thinking about this box for a month, and was thrilled to get back to it. I shot a slew of photos yesterday and today. First, I had to make the till parts and install them, so I could then finish nailing the box together. Once I had the till’s trenches cut in the front & back, I nailed the back to the sides. Then after fitting the till, I nailed the front in place.

Planing thin stuff like the till lid gets scary when you shove it against the toothy-bench hook. I made a board with a very thin stop at one end, to sit the workpiece on, then I shove the board against the bench hook. 

planing till lid

There’s lots going on when you’re fitting the till parts; 3 pieces that can one at a time, or all together hang you up, and keep the box parts from fitting. A bunch of fiddling around gets you there. Best to take a breath when fitting a till. 

fitting till

 

I make the till lids from oak, often with a molded edge like this one. The till sides and bottom can be various woods in my work; all oak, white pine, or Atlantic white cedar. This one’s cedar. 

 

 

 

till

 

Then I worked on carving the drawer front; in this case based on/inspired by the original – but I didn’t copy it note for note. Outline begun. 

drawer front begun

Shaping & beveling. 

carving detail

Relieving the middles. 

shaping

I work at my regular joinery bench, often hunched right over the carving. Some carvers work higher, but I find I like to get right above it sometimes. 

low bench

 

This gives you an idea of the shaping, prior to adding the gouge-cut details. 

depth

 

I just try to keep from making the same design on 2 consecutive rosettes. 

carving detail 2

 

I had one panel of oak ready for the bottom of the box. It needs a bevel on its rear end, to fit into a groove in the back board. The front edge fits in a rabbet. To bevel it, I jammed it up against some scrap and the bench hook. Held down with a holdfast. 

 

bevel bottom board

The inner edge gets a rabbet, so the next board will overlap this one. 

rabbet

 

A dis-orienting shot – the box is upside down, This first bottom board slips into the groove, drops into the rabbet, then gets slid/knocked over til it bumps up to the inside end. 

bottom's up

 

Tap. tap. 

 

tap it over

Bang. Bang. 

nailed

 

Here’s where I quit for the day. 

first bottom board in

 

I just spent a week back at the Heartwood School for the Homebuilding Crafts  http://www.heartwoodschool.com/ - after being a student there in 1984, I finally returned to teach a small class in making the carved boxes. What a treat! Run all these years by Will & Michele Beemer – Heartwood is a great place. Woodsy, small-scale, friendly and exciting all at once. They have done a great job with this school – it was such a thrill to be there and see how it has developed. When I was first there, I was as green as the wood; but by now I know my way around woodworking schools, and this one gets very high marks. In many ways, it reminds me of my friends Drew & Louise Langsner’s Country Workshops. Both schools are a husband & wife endeavor, very homey (although Will & Michele commute about a mile to work – one of the nicest commutes I have ever taken), and both have a community of supporters and involved participants. I know I will be back before another 30 years. Hopefully next year. Lots of pictures & captions. I wish I had shot the surrounding Berkshire hills…but was sorta busy. 

 

heartwood 2

Heartwood school building

heartwood

from the framing yard

wood storage

some wood storage

splitting

splitting w wedges

brett hewing

Brett hewing

shop view

inside the shop

planing in shop

planing and

planing

more planing

ed carv ing

carving

carving

carving

v tool

V-tool

student carving scroll

carving in progress

A few things set this box class apart from previous ones – because there were only 4 students, we made larger-sized boxes. More like ordinary period ones; about 20-22″ long, 6″ high, 12″+ front to back. And we made tills. Added some fumbling & headache – but they really add a lot to the finished box. 

till notches

notches for till side and bottom

4 hands till

even with 4 hands, it can fall down during test fit

till parts

till side & bottom in test fit, till lid being prepped

box w bottom & till

assembled box, w till & bottom – next is lid

Heartwood’s lunches are legendary – thanks to Michele’s hard work. 

lunch 1

lunch w will

no wonder Will is so happy

lunch 2

lunch 3

Scattered throughout the shop are mementos from previous classes, and apprenticeship grads – going back quite a ways…

student gifts

student gits 2

And projects from specialty timber-framing classes – here’s an example of how to scribe and cut a post to sit on stone. Look at that fit. Will says “now it’s Art”

scribing

scribing fit

 

we didn’t get to it, but there’s a pizza oven. Need I say more? (the frame is a class-project; fitting square timbers to round, round-t0-round, etc – like a sampler)

pizza oven & shelter

pizza oven

 

I didn’t shoot enough the last day; we had lots to do, fitting the wooden hinges, making lids and so on. I wish I had shot some of the local landscape as well. I always joke about those of us from eastern Massachusetts, and how we never go to western Massachusetts (& vice-versa, mostly) – ask my sister who lives in Springfield. But I was thrilled to be there, and reconnect to Will & Michele. BUT…the very next day when I got home, it was off to a perfect fall day at low tide. 

 

sea

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