There’s a bunch of stuff going on around here. I shot photos of the carved box with drawer project for a couple of days; then had to set that down for the back half of this week, so I could build one of these “plain” chairs. I built this one here at home, so there’s no photos of this work. Maple legs, ash rails, oak slats. If I backed up any further to take this photo, I’d be tumbling into a pile of who-knows-what…

 

rush chair sans rush

Time to trim the legs’ tops; then add a rush seat. I was trying to think how many tools it was – splitting tools; hatchet, drawknife, spokeshave, brace & bit, crosscut saw, mortise chisel – I used an awl and knife also. Maybe that’s it. If pressed, you could drop a couple of those tools…but I guess I should add the shaving horse, and a low bench for boring & assembly. 

This one is based mostly on Dutch paintings of the 17th-century; this style of chair was the first project I ever made when I was at Plimoth Plantation. Indeed, this one’s for them, too. Here’s one that has been in use there for many years:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

I came to calling them plain chairs because of a reference in the Turners Company of London, about pricing for chairs, “plain matted” and “turned matted” – so if the difference is the turning, then here’s what an un-turned chair might look like. There’s a few surviving oldies around, but they are hard to date; and most did not survive. I have seen a few die out at Plimoth after 15-25 years. You can patch ‘em back together some, but sooner or later, it’s just easiest to chuck ‘em and make a new one. 

Typically I make them with low seats, best for working in, rather than sitting at a table. Like this photo Gavin Ashworth took when Trent, Alexander & I co-authored an article about such chairs in American Furniture. I think it was 2008. 

110 West 80 St-4R, NY, NY 10024 212 874 3879

 

Other stuff in the works – finishing up a bunch of baskets I started this summer, (there;’s some in the background of the top photo) finishing some hewn bowls also. Spoons as usual; and I just started cutting out stock for a chair different from anything I’ve done in nearly 30 years.  Next week I’m going to finish assembling the carved box with drawer -just received some quartersawn sycamore (plane tree for you overseas readers) for the lid. Wow. 

This weekend is time to photograph stuff for sale; mine & Maureen’s. She has added some new felted autumn stuff,  if you’re inclined, have a look. More soon both here & there. 

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

 

best fuchs hatchet

 

I know I’m lucky to have the hewing hatchets I do…I got mine from Alexander, and the legend is that Drew Langsner and Jennie (then-John) Alexander got them as partial payment for demos/lectures at Woodcraft back in 1979/80. I found this while down at Bob Van Dyke’s place this week: 

 

1971 Woodcraft catalog axe

 

 – a 1971 Woodcraft Catalog, that listed the limited quantity axe heads they were then offering. Says the first 100 orders will be filled, but 9 years later, they still had leftovers? $12 must have been too steep a price…

I have written about this/these hatchets many times – here’s one post about them http://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/2012/12/13/the-endless-look-at-hewing-hatchets/

Now, if there was 100 of them 40 years ago, where are they now? I had 3, gave one away….

Curtis' spoon

 

Depends on the chairmaker, I guess. It starts with this spoon that arrived in my mailbox one day. I told you I have a great mailbox. Curtis Buchanan made it; sent it with no note, just the spoon. (great article by & about Curtis in Fine Woodworking recently – glad I stumbled into it)

Then Tim Manney posted stuff on his blog about some whacky idea about making spoon crooks by steam-bending the blanks. http://timmanneychairmaker.blogspot.com/2014/07/a-few-spoons-and-dissection.html

Turns out that’s what Curtis did. And then Tim went totally full-tilt-bozo with the idea. And makes outstanding spoons this way; steam-bent, drawknife, shaving horse. Sounds like chairmakers to me.

Tim's spoon 1

 

tim's spoon bowl

Tim's spoon detail

tim's spoon

Tim gave us a run-down of his techniques. Says it starts with “it’s hard to find crooks” so he makes ‘em. Shaved green, tries to follow the growth ring, so very carefully shaved. Then steamed, and clamped to a form for 12 hours.

 

steambent crooks

 

Then, no axe – just goes to the shaving horse and gets his very sharp drawknife and goes to it. He draws the shape on there, and starts in defining the outline of the spoon.

drawknife work 2

 

Here he’s using the drawknife to come down the bowl, towards the neck or stem of the spoon.
drawknife stop cut

 

Next he shaves along the side of the handle, towards the relief cut he just defined. Very precise, deliberate cuts. One false move…

drawknife work

 

Then knife work. He hollows the bowl with a gouge, (see previous post) -

Tmi knife work

 

It’s one of those things that I don’t want to do; but I really admire Tim’s approach and his work. Both are great. It was a real thrill to have Tim around this weekend at Lie-Nielsen, I know the students dug it too.

Just back once again from Maine – where we had a 2-day class at Lie-Nielsen in spoon carving. We turned 16-plus people loose with axes & knives. Yikes. It went very well, as long as I didn’t think about it at first. I had decided the theme for day one was  “A Moment of Doubt & Pain” – some steel & flesh collided. Nothing too bad; but you hate to see anyone get nicked.

16 people loose w axes

 

The 2nd day, it all began to click in, and out came spoons galore. Real spoons. Nice work. Here’s some photos, I didn’t get enough, I was too busy running around.

matt

SE using hook

There were lots of spoons coming out really well, I only wish I had shot more..

spoon

 

 

I remind new carvers (and old carvers too) to look a lot, carve a little. Dave looked:

looking 1

But I guess he didn’t like what he saw…

looking 2

I was helped as usual by Deneb, but we also had Tim Manney come for the weekend, (thanks again, Tim) – he was a huge help. Tim doesn’t make a spoon like I do at all, but he knows how to…so he worked & worked as well. Here, he’s teaching the old method of using a standard gouge for hollowing the bowl. This is how we first learned how to hollow them, from Drew Langsner’s book Country Woodcraft.

tim & sarah & gouges

It amounts to a flick of the wrist. Hold the tool by the shank, not the handle. Then, brace your off-thumb against the heel of your gouge-holding hand; and…

gouge 1

flick o’ the wrist – it’s a short travel for the gouge – but it works well Tim uses this method a lot. Maybe exclusively?

gouge 2

 

Most of our wood was straight-grained birch, but Dave brought his own apple crook to split

dave & the crook

 

I live in Massachusetts, not in Maine. Some think I should live in Maine. Sometimes I think it. But for now, I still drive up when I work there…and for the third straight Maine trip, I had car trouble. Dead starter it seemed. I ended up an extra day in the mid-coast Maine area, with 65-degree temps, under bright sunny skies. Nothing at all to do except sit & carve more spoons. Deneb, ever the charmer, said “why don’t you work down in the showroom?”

Here, I am using my new Nic Westermann twca cam and a neck strap. A great deal of leverage on this arrangement. I put a very long handle on mine. I saw a very brief clip of Barn Carder using one, shot by Robin Wood. Thanks, Robin & Barn – though I have only used this tool briefly, I really like the neck strap idea. The strap is just a loop around my neck. Then I twist the shank of the twca cam in one end. Then pull back a bit with my neck, while levering my right hand away from me, to bring the hook tool across the spoon bowl. Short move, big chips. Reminds me of the short time I got to try a block knife…

twca cam 2

twca cam

 

 

Then, it all became clear – Thomas Lie-Nielsen came by and admitted to tampering with my car, so I had no choice but to demonstrate in the showroom. He’ll stop at nothing. It was fun though…one woman came in & once we talked about what I was doing, she asked if I would mind if she took my picture – I thought about 20 years’ of working in front of the museum visitors, and wondered how many photos I’ve been in. A whole lot; what’s one more?

the tamper-er

here’s the link to Barn using the large hook https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rybANi3lX2M

thanks to Robin Macgregor for the last 3 photos.

Getting ready for tomorrow’s trip to Lie-Nielsen for my very full spoon-carving class, https://www.lie-nielsen.com/workshop/USA/18   I tarted up some of my spoon tools – the excuse is that I will be able to distinguish my tools from others’ tools. I started by cutting rows of gouge-cut patterns on the handles of my knives by Nic Westermann, these handles are ash, so I used a mallet to drive the gouge. Had to be very careful not to bump into the blades, either with my gouge or my hands. One could wrap the blade in duct tape, but I hate trying to get that junk off…I always feel like I’m going to slip & cut myself. I held these in a vise to carve them. 

 

carved handles

carved handles 2

I had been using these knives since the spring, so the handles had some patina to them; once I cut into them, the carved bits came out very bright by comparison. Time will blend it all together. 

Next, I decided to make some woven sheaths for the straight knives. I have kept several knives in a canvas roll,  but even then they can get banged around. I have one small straight knife by Del Stubbs, and he supplied a nice birch woven sheath with it. His website has a very clear photo essay on making these – to me, more  readable than the piece in Wille’s book.  http://pinewoodforge.com/sheath.making.html

del sheathe

 

I made two with some scraps of birch bark, and lashed them with ash splints from my basket work. the dark-handled knife is my first spoon carving knife; late 1980s. Its most recent use is by Daniel, age 8 1/2. (HA! When I went digging for photos I shot the other day, he’s got one of Nic’s knives in his hands – so much for continuity…)

birch & ash sheath

sheath on knife

straight knives

 

Daniel

I also made a couple completely from ash, and tried some in hickory bark. The bark had been harvested quickly, and was too thick really. Good hickory bark is great for these things.  The material I have in the best supply is ash splints, so I will bring some along in case some students want to take the time to make a sheath for their knives. 

While we’re looking at spoon knives, now is a good time to show the hooks I’ve been using most often lately. Here’s three, Robin Wood’s “open” hook, the Nic Westerman one I mentioned, and in the back, a lefty by Hans Karlsson.

hooks

 

Next up after this trip is Columbus Day weekend at Bob Van Dyke’s Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking, make a frame & panel in oak – carved. Bob says room for one more. http://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/2014/07/30/bob-van-dyke-doesnt-know-which-end-is-up/

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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