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

 

 

Well. I opened my email tonight & found one from Geoff Chapman, one of last year’s students in the carved box class I did at Roy’s place. This sort of thing makes all that driving worth while.  

We’ll start with an earlier note from Geoff, about some boxes he finished after taking the class.

“I  took the carved box class from you last year at Roy’s, and loved it.  I am the guy who wanted to get your help doing a strap work panel instead of finishing my box.  By the time Christmas came I’d made a bunch of them for my kids, and threw in some designs from a celtic cross, from an ancient icon of an angel, and a couple panels from designs from the Book of Kells (photo enclosed).  I have studied the Book of Kells a good bit, and also wanted to try a panel from the famous “8 Circle Cross” illustration (another photo enclosed) which I framed with draw bored joinery – you taught me how in the carved chest dvd..    I lurk around your blog often, and love the work you do.  I am about to try my hand at a carved chest, and have watched your dvd twice.  A friend took down an oak this winter that was 42″ wide in the lower trunk, 150 years old, straight trunk for the first 30 feet.  He gave me the trunk, so I split it accd to your instructions, got it down into 16ths, hauled it home in 2.5′ and 4′ ft lengths, did some preliminary milling to get the pieces ready for the chest and the rest of it – a lot! – is stacked, drying, and awaiting another run of boxes or maybe another chest.  

 

All of that is to say, Peter, that you have opened a wonderful door for me in carving and especially in 17th century green woodworking, and I am grateful.  I don’t do this for a living (I would starve!); I am a pastor of a very busy church here in Pittsburgh, and a full time dad and grampa.  Woodworking has been a 20 year hobby for me, a great balance to my life, and one that has taken a new and wonderful direction since I started carving and working with green oak early last year.  

 

Thanks again.  What you do matters to people like me!”

 

 

geoff's panel & frame

 

geoff's boxes

Then tonight’s really knocked me out – here’s his note & photos. 

“Peter,

 Well, I went after a three-panel carved chest using your DVD.  I took a couple vacation weeks in July to get it moving, then managed to get it completed this week.  It’s 20″ deep, 30″ high, 40″ wide (or close to that), all Q’sawn or rived oak from the tree trunk I got in January, except a pine floor and till parts.  No glue (never done anything close to that before!), but drawbored.  I copied the wainscot chest you have copied, and added a paneled top.  I love the design, and the way it came out.  Will finish it w linseed oil and turpentine in a couple of weeks.

 I was full of questions along the way, like ‘How dry does the wood need to be?” and “Why don’t you have to worry about wood movement in a pine floor if you drive the final board in?” and at least 30 others – but I muddled my way through.   Today I received a copy of your “Joint Stool” book and flipped through it.  I would have been wise to have read it before taking on the chest!  But most things seemed to work out well enough and I learned a ton from the DVD, the joiner’s notes that came with it, and from going back repeatedly to your posts on your blog – and then when I still had worries – just thinking it through and doing what seemed to make sense.  

 One of my other constant questions was “How exact do I need to be?”  Your repeated encouragement to pay attention to the things that matter and relax about a lot of the other stuff gave me permission to do the same.  I remember when I first heard you say, “The eye is very forgiving.”  So is this style of woodworking!  Drawboring is forgiving, for example.  I know where all the mistakes are on the chest, but no one else has noticed them yet and no one has pulled it out to look at the back or turned it over to look at the bottom.  Yet the result of the whole effort has a real beauty and strength that will last.  So, thanks for your attitude.  I will almost certainly do another one, and my kids are all eager to have me do one for them…

 I also had a thought on the small chest you did and took to Roy’s to film for a show (I look forward to seeing that!).  I was astounded at the amount of work that went into making my own first chest, and I thought over and again, “There’s no way I could do this in a week long class, even without the carving or the paneled top…”  Depending, perhaps on the readiness of the stock – and the pins (shaving 71 of them for my chest took a long time!! – don’t ask why it is an odd number ;-)  ).  But a small chest in a week!  Would be quite a challenge for me, especially if we were planing every piece to finished size.  I will look forward to seeing the episode w. Roy and whether you offer a class.

Anyway, the project was a genuine joy, and a further step along a wonderful path in woodworking.  I want to thank you again for what you are doing and what you put within reach of people like me. “

 

 

geoff's chest 1

 

geoff's chest 2

 

geoff's chest lid

 

Geoff – nice going. I can’t thank you enough for your kind words, and for your outstanding work. Thanks for sending it along & letting me post it here. 

Slogging through some progress on the small joined chest. Here you can see its simple decoration – chamfers around the panels.

front view

 

Looking into the chest, I have yet to fit the rear panel. The two outer floor boards (white pine) are test-fitted, and after assembly a final tapered board will fit between them. These all will have tongue & groove treatments on their edges.

inside view

 

 

yesterday I worked on joining the frame for the lid. Today I will put panels in this and the rear section of the chest.

frame for lid

But it was so humid yesterday that the shavings didn’t curl as I was planing the oak. They came limping out of the plane, all wet & weak. I felt just like them…

flat shavings

flat shavings 2

 

Here’s where it is now. Off I go.

on bench_edited-1

 

A few very quick things. I do make furniture, believe it or not. Too much lately in fact, the shop is jammed. I see daylight at the end of August. Here is a small joined chest that I am making as a test-case for a few upcoming gigs. More on that later…it’s about 20″ high, x 30″ wide. It is a mixture of riven & sawn oak, and I’ll use some sawn pine for the bottom and rear panel.  Just like the full-blown joined chests, http://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/2012/10/20/joined-chest-dvd-now-available/  all the same steps, just smaller scale. Like for a workshop sometime?

 

tiny joined chest

 

tiny joined chest B

 

The other day I was out walking in the park (like Muddy Waters, I guess) and saw an uprooted tree cluster. The trees were gone, and the roots hauled up, soon to be chipped. I grabbed some real curved pieces. I thought it was maple, but it seems closer to ring-porous. but not quite…

anyway, the next spoon is brought to us by the letter J. Boy, are roots wet!

The letter J

The letter J

Here are two views as I worked this one up. I can’t shoot spoon work like I can joinery. The setup is trickier. I had Daniel shoot some last week, I have to load those and sort them.

rough root spoon

hewn root spoon

carved root spoon

initial carving root spoon

While on the subject of unknown spoon woods, I thought I’d take the easy way out & ask you folks what wood this is. It ended up in my pile, and it’s excellent for spoons. Tough, but not as hard as the cherry I often use. very white, no heartwood. I never saw the leaves, so only have this stuff to look at. I’ll take it to the shop and cut the end grain cleanly to see its structure.

spoon wood mystery

spoon wood question

spoon & wood

 

Just finished this version of the dragon box, or is it a serpent box? red oak, white pine. It’s about 23 1/2″ x 14 1/2″ x 7″.

dragon 2013 front view

M box end view

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 – http://www.doylenewyork.com/asp/fullCatalogue.asp?salelot=12AM02+++313+&refno=++907166

 

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 – http://www.chipstone.org/framesetAFintro.html

Fun stuff. 


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

I’ve been sorting photos here, filing a bunch of stuff into more coherent folders. Sometimes the oak, birds & kids are all mixed together. I ran into more shots of that 2-panel chest I showed the other day. (lots of other chests too. I keep forgetting them). Several folks wrote and commented on that chest, so here’s the rest of it. The scratched moldings on the framing here cast a funny shadow, making it look bowed. It’s just a factor of the varying depth of the scratched moldings…and the raking light.

 

end view

It’s pretty narrow from front to back, and I totally forgot that I carved the side upper rails as well.

 

interior

The inner faces of the rear section are the flat faces. I scratched a molding on the edges of the stiles and upper rail, and used a single pine panel for the rear.

 

till open

Here’s the till, open. Pine side & bottom, oak lid.

 

till closed

Now closed.

 

rear view

A view of the rear section shows the notch cut in the top end of the rear stiles. When the flat face of this stile is inside the chest, you often have to cut away the top of the stile for the lid to open. You can see the floor boards here too, nailed up to the higher rear rail.

a small oak chest
Sometimes I forget them altogether. Found this photo today while looking thru some folders here; and I haven’t seen this chest in a couple of years. I assume it’s in a repro house at the museum, so I’ll go looking for it one of these days.
It’s based on some tw0-panel chests I saw from Devon about 5 years ago. I really like the idea of these and want to make one for my house. I’ve seen them done with horizontal panels like this, or sometimes with wide vertical panels set apart by the wide muntin. Overall width is in the vicinity of 36″ – so a good 10″ or so smaller than most joined chests I make; some are even wider, the Savell shop in Braintree Massachusetts made them about 52″ wide. 
 
 here’s a Devon one I saw in a National Trust house in Cornwall in 2004.  Its lid has been altered to hinge in the midst of it, rather than at the rear…
 

Devon chest in Cothele

 

and here is one more I did in 2009. These are mostly made from sawn oak, the panels are about 12″ wide or so.

white oak chest 2009

 

I have shown the original this is based on in detail before, the flatsawn stock was really tough quality.

central muntin, joined oak chest, Devon

 

and one detail of my panel from the repro above:

flatsawn white oak carved panel

 

I’ve never seen a New England one with only two panels, Trent mentions one that got away…maybe it will show up someday.

For those hankering for details about chests, (or anything else) remember to search the blog. There’s 3 years’ worth of stuff here. For some ideas about dimensions, see http://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/2010/11/11/joined-chest-proportions/

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