The reason I haven’t posted about furniture is because I’m not making any lately…and without photographs, this blog is going nowhere.

so I have been sifting through some old and not-so-old photos and thought we could just have a random-thoughts sort of post. Like Rick does http://blueoakblog.wordpress.com/2014/03/08/a-cinnabon-in-omaha-2/ 

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God said to Abraham, Kill me a son…

“Abe said, Man, you must be puttin’ me on.” An overmantel in Salisbury, Wiltshire.

Time to give another nod. Maureen’s felted stuff is getting going. She’s added new bits, stop by & get yourself some knitted and/or felted goods. More coming soon she says. https://www.etsy.com/shop/MaureensFiberArts

 

Felted wool bowl or nest, green bowl, Waldorf inspired toy, Easter decoration

Thinking about turner’s work, for the upcoming visit to MESDA this week. Here’s a few rather rough photos of one of 2 examples of great turned chairs from either Wales, or the west of England, late 16th/early 17th century.

 

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Look at the detail of the back – all those horizontal connecting bits had “free” (sometimes called “captured”) rings. How can they be captured & free?

welsh chair 12

Imagine how good this photo below would be if it were in focus. This chair, badly restored in its bottom half, and another from the same workshop are at Cothele, a National Trust house in Cornwall. http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/cotehele/?p=1356297446549  - if youwant to see their mate in America, go to Harvard University’s commencement. They have one they used to use for the Prez to sit in at commencement.

 

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Here’s a simple version, this I shot up in Yorkshire years ago. It might be all-shaved, might have some few turnings. It would be nice to learn more about this chair and its kind.

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If you want to see carvings, get some raking light. MFA, Boston.

 

raking light

 

 

 

This house (torn down 1890s)  is reputed to have been William Savell’s in Braintree. His 1669 will mentions, “house, shop, etc” – if that’s the shop on the right, I hope there’s windows in the back wall…

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Here’s a “road-kill frog” hinge…1630s in Derbyshire.

 

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“We’ll see summer come again…gonna happen every time…we’ll see summer by & by.”

(I’ll miss being at Drew’s this summer, but you can go - http://countryworkshops.org/ )

CW 4

 

well, this is stupid, but how much time am I going to spend doing this over & over? The blog wants to flip this photo (the one w paint below) on its side…might be why it’s never been here before. (HA! Joke’s on me – I had given up, wrote that sentence – added it one more time. It came in right side up & brought another with it. So you get 2 for 1, right side up) The first one’s from Marhamchurch Antiques - http://www.marhamchurchantiques.com/current-stock/all/

carved panel

carved panel

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Well, I gotta finish my lecture for Friday. Then look at flight & bus schedules…

 

 

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 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 haven’t done any bench work in some time. My shop is almost all packed up, here at the house I now have a bench and tool chest. Just been too busy to get it organized. Soon, but not now. I’m off to Connecticut, the Wild West. To the Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking to be specific. http://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/2014/01/08/my-first-class-of-the-season-cvsww/  Room for one or two more, I bet. Sounds like we’ll have some fun. I’ll get to carve again finally!- feels like ages…but it’s really been just a few weeks. We’ll see if I remember how. 

detail

 

At the house here one day, I was shooting photos outside, but it was so cold that I thought I should put the camera inside. As soon as I did, sweeping along the river came a bald eagle – never saw one here before. So, the one that got away…but then I found some good birds in Plymouth the other day.

hoodeds

Hooded mergansers

Golden crowned kinglet skulking around the grass & leaves…

easy to miss

golden crowned kinglet

they flit around so much, it’s easy to miss them

GC kinglet

And them off they go…

kinglet flight

Enough of that holiday stuff, time for some woodworking. First class of the year for me is at Bob Van Dyke’s place in the wilds of Connecticut. Saturday & Sunday, February 8th & 9th, 2014 I’ll be at the Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking in Manchester, CT to teach a 2-day class in carving 17th-century style patterns in oak. Bob’s school gets an astounding array of teachers and students, the focus on “period” furniture is first-rate.

we’ll have oak, we’ll have carving tools. Students bring their tools too…come see Bob get unsettled when we look at slides. He sees faces in all the patterns, and it’s not a good thing…

http://www.schoolofwoodworking.com/woodworking-classes.html

sign up, come carve a bunch. we’ll have a blast.

carving samples

carving samples

 

reproduction 17th-century furniture

Here’s some photos from one of last year’s classes

 

leslie diggin the posture

 

I thought I had a lot of carving tools

dedham panel

 

 

 

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.

Moving is a good time to sort junk & throw out some stuff. Moving the shop is no exception. I got to the small bookcase & sifted through some magazines…I had long intended to go through the back issues of Antiques & Fine Art and snip out the photos and articles that might be useful, and ditch the rest. I can save 2 feet of shelf space by doing just that. I ran across this advertisement from a 2004 issue of the magazine:

box ad

 

I had never seen this box before it appeared in this ad…and I have never seen it otherwise for that matter. But to me, it resembles the work in the cupboard at the MFA that I worked on some years ago. http://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/?s=MFA+cupboard

To review that project – the MFA owns a 1680s/90s cupboard base. They asked me to make a top to go with it, but worked to look “as new.” It was a great project, one in which I had lots of help from their conservation people and those at Winterthur Museum as well. Here’s my result, before it was installed at the MFA.

upper case, MFA cupboard, 2010

upper case, MFA cupboard, 2010

To get to that, we studied the related objects. In all, we only knew of 4 pieces from this un-identified shop. Here they are:

First is the MFA cupboard base. The top drawer is carved on a shaped drawer front applique – and the stiles are carved below this drawer. Plus false muntins on the 2nd & 3rd drawers. Highlighted w paint.

MFA cupboard base

MFA cupboard base

a detail:

S-scroll MFA cupboard

S-scroll MFA cupboard

The chest wth drawers at Concord (MA) Museum is a great example of this guy’s work. It’s all kinds of weird in its construction, but the carving and paint are immediately recognized.

 

chest w drawers overall b&w

A detail of the carving:

concord detail

This old photo of the cupboard head at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NY shows what was left c. 1900 or so. They had the base too, but this one I cropped when I was studying the cupboard’s upper case.

 

Met cupboard head

 

The box at Winterthur is a fine example, I especially like its small size. It’s dated in paint on the side, I think it’s 1698.

 

Winterthur box, dated 1698

Winterthur box, dated 1698

You might remember one of my interpretations of this box just the other day:

painted box Nov 2013

When I ran across the photo at the top of this page in the shop today, I started to make out in my head how to lay it out…within a few minutes I figured it would be quicker & easier just to lay it out on wood & carve it. so I did.

 

half-carved

half-carved

I tilted the board a bit, to try to show the layout scribed w a compass…it’s a bit hard to pick out. But it’s there.

half-carved & layout

half-carved & layout

What fun! Once I got that out of my system,  I went back to sorting & cleaning.

 

Some stuff I have been finishing up. Got to photographing it on Thursday.

A small carved & painted box. I did one like this before, when I was working on the cupboard for the MFA. This one is not a copy of an existing piece, but based on a couple of examples we studied while researching that project.

painted box Nov 2013

 

Open showing the till inside.

 

 

 

carved & painted box open

 

And a detail showing the wooden hinge – a pin on the extension of the rear board, fitting through a hole bored in the lid’s cleats.

carved & painted box detail till hinge

 

In keeping with the squiggle-painted decor – here’s a joined stool I built during the book project, but just painted this fall.

joined stool painted Nov 2013

 

Then next stool was a customer-request. Carved aprons.

joined stool carved fall 2013

joined oak stool carved fall 2013

 

I’m also finishing up the bookstand orders I got – one more to go. I keep hearing about “oh, you can use an Ipad on them too!” – I don’t want to know about it!

bookstand

 

I left the owl alone today, plus it was raining so I didn’t walk the beach. Went to the post office & sent out the last of the spoons/carved panels. Then was in the shop all day. First full-day in the shop for the off-season. Felt pretty good…but soon I have to pack it up & move it. More on that when I know more…

Meanwhile, I’ll try to address a question that I have never satisfactorily dealt with.. -  “what carving tools do you use?” What brand, size, shape, etc. I have always frustrated people with my answers; often I would just strike the tools into a piece of scrap wood & say, get something like these.

Here is my latest attempt to help folks understand which tools I use for carved furniture. Doesn’t mean you need these exact sizes and shapes. These are just what I use. You can adapt carving patterns to suit your tool kit, as you collect and assemble a “set” of carving tools.

carving tools in trays

These two trays’ worth get me through most every carving I do. Sometimes I add one or two more (I’ll get to those.) Let’s start with these tools, with their profiles struck in a chunk of – surprise – oak. 

carving tools w strikes

carving tools struck detail

from left to right:

Swiss-Made (Pfiel) #7, about 3/4″ width. I use this on EVERY carving I do…no exaggeration. 
Swiss-Made (Pfiel) #5, 1/2″ width. I use this one for background removal, and shaping. Also in every carving, with just a few exceptions. Its end is slightly crowned, probably from sloppy sharpening -but it helps when meeting the incised cuts…

Swiss-Made (Pfiel) V-tool #15/6mm – I know because it’s marked that way. Mine’s old now, about 25-30 years. I think its shape is a bit different than what they make now. Tighter at the junction of the two “wings” – to make a crisp V. 

Swiss-Made (Pfiel) #8, 5/16″ width. A very small, deeply curved gouge. I use it regularly, but not always. For small details. Larger #8s are too rounded for my taste…but the small one suits what I need sometimes.

Antique – W. Butcher – I don’t remember when I got this one, I think it was a Brimfield find. 11/16″ wide, part of a circle that’s about 1″ in diameter. I use it when defining medium-sized curves. It’s used a lot in my S-scrolls…

Not-new, not-antique Henry Taylor – 7/16″ wide, about a 1/2″ circle. Same as above, but for smaller sized details. 

Buck Brothers, 9/16″ wide, c. 5/8″ circle. This one falls between the previous two. I sometimes combine two or more of these to create shapes that go from tighter to larger arcs. 

Two Ashley Iles gouges – #5, 1″ wide, and #6 just over 1″ wide. I got two of them from http://www.toolsforworkingwood.com/store/dept/TXQ5-6 - They are great for large sections of arcs. Heavy, stout tools. Maybe they are available slightly scaled down, I forget. These are big tools…but I’d rather big than too small..

In some carvings, there are more details, and I need to break into another tray, but not for much. Here’s the second stringers:

extra carving tools

 

The first “extra” tool I am likely to reach for is a small Stubai gouge – #7, 1/2″ wide. I can’t stand the dinky size, but I just haven’t replaced it. It works fine, but I don’t like the way it feels. 

The middle tool is an antique Henry Taylor –  very small. 1/4″ wide, just a little more curve than the Pfiel #5. 

The tool on the right is just another #5 Swiss-Made (Pfiel) – but wide. 1″ wide. I use it for outlining when I don’t use a V-tool. 

I occasionally use some #2s, for shaping or outlining, but the #5s are best for that. I have a few other 5s…some wider, some bent. But I don’t use them for furniture carving much. 

 

mallet

The mallet, which is on its last legs, is hickory. 3″ in diameter. About 12″ long, more than half of which is the head. Its weight is about 1 lb, 12 oz. I have a new one I turned back in the spring. It is dry now, I just haven’t dug it out of the shavings yet. They last me about 6-10 years, I’d say. 

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