These are loaners, but now I’m cooked. Once you touch them & use them, you have to order some…


Matt's plane

molding plane detail


I am in a hurry now, so I won’t get to it til next week or so…therefore you can go here & get ahead of me in line.

Once again, remember this place? I’ve posted it a couple of times, and and one more:


18th-century shop


Now you can read part of the story, from today’s Boston Globe:

(Ahhh…the link now only gives me a preview – says I need to subscribe. If the link fails you, do a search for “Luther Sampson Duxbury shop” or something like that. Might be that I reached the monthly limit on freebies at…)

I hope you can read it, it’s exciting stuff. Kudos to Michael Burrey for seeing it for what it is…and to the many who have worked thus far on documentation, research, etc.




Long-time readers of this blog know that I follow closely the work that Robin Wood does over in England.  Robin’s blog was the one that inspired me to do this one…

Just last week, he (and many others)  finished the first-ever spoon fest in Derbyshire. Robin posted a bunch of photos, as well as links to other blog posts about the event. I wished I could have gone, but I deserted my family enough this year with woodworking travels.  Be sure to follow the link that takes you to the audio portion of Jogge Sundqvist’s talk that opened the event. Great stuff, thanks for making it happen, Robin et al. Sounds like a good time was had by all.

here’s the link, read through about the past five posts or more. Great, great stuff:

Robin Wood & Jogge Sundqvist

Now, another piece that you folks that have been here a while might remember is these fabulous drawings from Maurice Pommier.



French sawing

They came with very kind words from Maurice. His work intrigued me, so I looked up his books. He had a children’s book that I added to my list, and I finally ordered it. I couldn’t read a lick of it mostly…but I loved it. I showed it around at a Lie-Nielsen gig one time, & described it as a cross between Mad Magazine & Eric Sloane. I sent images to Chris Schwarz, and he replied that he already had the book in the works. Now it’s ready to go, so trot over to Lost Art Press and see for yourself.  I assume that Chris never sleeps.

Grampa’s Workshop


This follows almost instantly on the heels of Matt Bickford’s book on using hollows and rounds.

Matt Bickford Mouldings in Practice

I had read the book in a near-finished draft, and was knocked out. Even if you haven’t used molding planes, or especially if you haven’t, this book will make you want to.  Hollows & rounds are some of the next batch of JA tools here, later this week. Matt’s book makes the use of them so basic & simple. He really has demystified the use of these tools. If you have ever seen Matt at one of the Lie-Nielsen Hand Tool Events, then you understand. A nice guy, a great book. Lost Art Press, the hits just keep comin’.



I’ve been working some on the joined chest I started a month ago…here I am fitting one of the panels into the frame. The panel is beveled on its rear face, all around, to fit into the grooves in the frame.

inserting beveled panel

Then knocking the stile in place. This is all a test-fit; I don’t even have the center panel yet.

on goes the stile

I had a little time left the other day, so cut some of the details on the framing parts, starting with this chamfer on the top edge of the bottom rail. I start it with a spokeshave, one of the few times I use these tools any more. In my chairmaking days I used them constantly; but now rarely.


Then finished it with a chisel.

paring the bevel or chamfer

and then cut a molding on the bottom edge of the top rail – this molding runs out at the juncture of the muntin-to-rail joint; so I use a scratch stock for it. We call it a “scratch” stock, but it’s really a scraper I think.

scratched molding


See this post for more about this these moldings that fade out:

by then I was done for the day. More to follow at some point…



OK – so about scratch stocks in the 17th century. How did they make moldings on joined works? We know they had molding planes, there are a few from the 16th-century shipwreck the Mary Rose. And they appear in many probate inventories too; the following are some examples of molding planes found in New England inventories:

2 revolving plains

4 round plains

3 rabet plains

3 holou plains

9 Cresing plains

inboring plaines

Joseph Moxon & Randle Holme both call them by classical names too; ogees, bolection, and so on.

But look at the molding above the center panel in this detail shot of a joined chest from New Haven, CT.  (I clipped this photo out of Victor Chinnery’s book Oak Furniture: the British Tradition. If you don’t have that book & you like this blog, get it)

New Haven chest detail

The molding fades in & out at the juncture between the horizontal rails and the vertical muntins flanking the panel. This amounts to a run of about 9” or so. Not more than 10”.

In that length, the molding reaches its full profile in the middle, but is shallower and not fully defined at each end. I think you can’t do that with a molding plane – the length of the plane’s sole would prevent you from reaching that full-depth in such a short run, while still fading out before the muntins. Says me.  One of mine:

PF joined chest

To do this in my shop, I use a scratch stock. But I don’t know the history of this tool. I do know I have never seen it by that name in any 17th-century records. There is one reference I know of that describes using a scraping action to define moldings – in Moxon, but on Turning, not Joinery.

“Of laying Moldings either upon Mettal, or Wood, without fitting the Work in a Lathe.

I Had, soon after the Fire of London, occasion to lay Moldings upon the Verges of several round and weighty flat pieces of BrassL And being at that time, by reason of the said Fire, unaccomodated of a Lathe of my own, I intended to put them out to be Turned: But then Turners were all full of Employment, which made them so unreasonable in their Prizes, that I was forc’d to contrive this following way to lay Moldings on their Verges.

I provided a strong Iron Bar for the Beam of a Sweep: (For the whole Tool marked in Plate 16, is by Mathematical Instrument-Makers called a Sweep) To this Tool is filed a Tooth of Steel with such Roundings  and Hollows in the bottom of it, as I intended to have Hollows and Roundings upon my Work: For an Hollow on the Tooth, makes a Round upon the Work; and a Round upon the Tooth, makes an Hollow on the Work, even as they do in the Molding-Plains Joyners use…”

He goes on in great detail, talks about using this sweep to shape moldings in brass, then having success at that, took on wood too. (it’s pp. 217-219 in the section on turning).  Here is the tool Moxon’s engraving of the tool he claims to have invented; probably adapted would be a better term.

Moxon's sweep

Here’s one Bob Trent & I had made by Tom Latane back in 2001 when we did an exhibition at Chipstone’s installation in the Milwaukee Art Museum. Latane does some of the nicest blacksmith work I know.

sweep by Tom Latane

I know the sweep is a rather specific tool, but for me the idea is that with it, the workman scrapes moldings, rather than shave them as you would with a plane. that’s the driving point in the search for scratch stocks…

Here is an 18th-century engraving, from Roubo, about a tool like our modern scratch stock. I got it from Greber’s History of the Woodworking Plane. I didn’t look up the translation.

Roubo, from Greber's History of the Woodworking Plane

Here is a funny old tool I bought one day, because it almost is a scratch stock. It’s probably a coach-maker’s molding cutter. It’s sort of like a spokeshave, its blade is not perpendicular like a scratch stock, but more pitched like a true plane. But clearly a home-made job. Screwed together. The sole of this tool is quite short, maybe an inch long. Curved too.

a detail

One more

In this last view, you can see that it’s one piece of wood that’s been sawn in half, then screwed back together. I would look in Salaman’s Dictionary of Woodworking Tools, but it’s in the shop – and I’ll probably forget once I get there.

I’m sure there’s more, but that’s enough for today. I have a book to finish up.

…when I plane Atlantic White Cedar.

It’s a joy to work this stuff. It’s not really a cedar, but a cypress tree. The Latin name is Chamaecyparis thyoides, here’s a website with some details about the tree

I rarely get to handle it. Where we buy logs this timber is usually snatched up by boatbuilders. But once it a while we get some. This one was a small-diameter tree, riven out ages ago. Then I let the rough-split bolts dry outside until I needed them. The riving process is just as it is for oak or other hardwoods. Select a straight-grained log, break it into sections with wedges and a maul, then use the froe to split out the rough billets.

twisting the froe

I have seen it used on lots of 17th-centuryNew England furniture, often as chest floor boards, drawer bottoms, but sometimes panels – like the rear panels in this Plymouth Colony chest.

These panels are easily 9” wide, thus a pretty large tree. Oak framing, pine floor boards, and cedar rear panels. (photo is a scan of an old slide…hence not the best.)

Here is the same chest, this time the side of the till is cedar:

The stock I have is quite narrow, so I am using it for the moldings I need for the German chest I am making…first up is just planing the stock flat and straight. It’s like proverbial candy-from-a-baby.

It’s more fun than you can imagine. I’m near the end of this log, but I will keep my eye out for more…

Back when Adam Cherubini invented nails at WIA last month; I paid little heed. I was glad he was tackling that subject; but I must have been running up & down the escalator or something. So I didn’t get to see it. Kari did

There has been a lot of bandwidth lately of folks digesting what AC said, and I see people wanting to nail things together. Not a bad thing at all.

Here is a board chest, decorated to look like a joined one. I doubt it fooled anybody in its day, but it must have fit some aesthetic. It’s not unusual. (picture is from St. George’s The Wrought Covenant)

BUT how about some knucklehead (me, for instance) making a DOVETAILED chest, then nailing moldings all over the front & sides to frame carved sections that become divided as if they were panels in frames? If you are weak of stomach, look away.

I didn’t make it up. It’s a copy I am making for a client. Totally whacky. I didn’t get to see the original, but have a lousy photo of it. And honest-to-goodness, I didn’t make the construction or decorative scheme up. How could I? Who would think of such a thing?

There’s more moldings to come. Smaller frames surround the carved “panels” and then carry around the sides to form large frames there too. A heavy base molding finishes the bottom edges (after I nail in the bottom boards). Then three sides of moldings attach to the underside of the lid. Perfectly stupid. BUT, it does give me a chance to hide 90% of my dovetails. In the end, the only ones that show are those flanking the carved inscription.

For those of you heading off to faux-wrought-nail land, do yourself a favor and see if there’s a blacksmith somewhere that you could help support. The difference between a real wrought nail and the Tremont ones is like the difference between any handmade object and its assembly-line counterpart, i.e. all the difference in the world. Try them, you’ll like them. For wrought nails, Tremonts stink. They are clunky, thick and lifeless. I have no stake in cut nails. I have used tiny ones on this chest to fix the oak moldings in place, so for that, Tremont makes sense. Here’s a couple of hand-made nails. Rectangular in section. thin, tapered. Thin heads. One’s a “T-head” – in that case, the full-sized head is bashed on two opposing sides to make a nail that buries its head into the grain of the wood.

And, in use:

And finally, the T-head in use as well:

well, like I mentioned the other night, if you enjoyed watching me struggle with the walnut high chair, you get another chance to see me wince. I am making two wainscot chairs in oak for a customer – here’s one underway.

wainscot chair in oak

Same customer added two board chests to the gig, neither is Anglo, and only one might be 17th-century. But, to get to do the chairs, I took the chests too – it’s a long story that I won’t go into in public, but here is the original of the walnut board chest.

walnut chest, probably 19th c


Simple board chest, nailed together. finished off with applied moldings framing the boards, a two-piece base molding, carved feet, and carved cleats and a lip fitted to the underside of the lid.

the applied molding:

applied molding

the carved pattern attached to the lid:

Maybe you saw the boards loaded in the car in the post this week. I got the timber from Paul Lelito, after meeting him at a SAPFM demo. He had just what I needed, saved me from buying kiln-dried stuff, so now I get to try working air-dried walnut. Here’s a post from Steve Branam’s blog about Paul’s woodcutting business:

I didn’t get any shots yet of the chest nailed up, but tonight I started sawing stock for the cleats and base moldings. After I  jointed one edge, I used a marking gauge to strike the widths I wanted, then ripped them. I like to rip short stuff like this standing up, so I use the holdfast to secure it to the front leg of my bench.


I roughed out a few sections,


then planed them.

That was enough, after working all day, then working into the evening. So then I went home.


I often get requests for measured drawings of furniture forms, most often lately of the three-legged chair I was making in a recent article in Popular Woodworking Magazine.  I don’t usually work with drawings, especially measured & scaled drawings. The closest I come is a set of sketches on which I record the details of a given piece.

 Many years ago, Alexander ran across copies of the Dover Publication of John Weymouth Hurrell’s Measured Drawings of Old English Oak Furniture (NY: Dover Publications, 1983) a reprint of an early 20th-century London publication. I think the original publisher was Batsford. I dug mine out recently, because I need to make some drawings to submit for some work I have coming up. (two of which are wainscot chairs, so more on that subject to follow)


Here is a chair in Hurrell’s book. It is clearly a carefully-done drawing, full of details – molding profiles, turning details, carving patterns. All scaled. What’s lacking is the feeling of the piece. No period chair is this clean, this precise. There’s no way in a drawing like these to record surface textures, tolerances, thickness variations, things like that.

Hurrell, wainscot chair

Hurrell’s drawings are first-rate; but personally I have a hard time reading this sort of thing. I had a little training in mechanical drawing/drafting, whatever it’s called these days. But they are so lifeless & stiff that my eyes struggle with them. I do much better with a photograph for a carving pattern for instance. Another place where Hurrell leaves me confused is the molding details. Here’s one of his moldings:

Hurrell, molding detail

It isn’t until I flip it over, either in my mind, or turn the book upside down, that I “see” the molding. At first, I can’t tell what’s positive & what’s negative. Others see it just fine. Here’s the flipped version. Reads better to me…I think because it looks more like it does on the workbench.

upside down looks right to me

Alexander & I have been very fortunate over the years to have first-hand access to many pieces of 17th-century furniture, in both public and private collections. Without these chances to handle the objects, and make detailed examinations, we would never have got as far as we have in understanding the period work.  For folks who can’t get to see this sort of material, books like Hurrell’s can be really helpful. They can get you close, but still several steps away. I hope the images on the blog provide people with some notion of what we look for when we see a piece of this furniture. For folks waiting to hear from me about the three-legged chair, I’ll see what I can do. No promises.

a short detour tonight from the recent spate of plane-related posts.

I have been thinking today about Plymouth Colony furniture…this chest is for sale this month at Sotheby’s in New York. It’s lot #458

Plymouth Colony chest with 2 drawers

detail, Plymouth Colony chest w drawers

Plymouth Colony chest w drawers, rear view

I really like these chests, they have several characteristics that have intruiged me for years. The reference book for this work is still Robert Blair St. George, The Wrought Covenant: Source Material for the Study of Craftsmen and Community in Southeastern New England 1620-1700, (Brockton, Massachusetts: Fuller Art Museum, 1979). The joined chest above is closely related to one I wrote about in this article: Peter Follansbee, “Unpacking the Little Chest” in Old Time New England, vol 78, number 268 (Spring/Summer 2000): 5-23.  (I didn’t make the title. It’s not a little chest, it belonged to Nina Fletcher Little.) Here’s what’s left of it:

Plymouth Colony chest, missing 4 drawers

In his book, St. George ran down a huge number of surviving pieces of furniture, ranging from full-blown press cupboards to simple benches and everything in between. A few things stand out about the joined work. First is the large moldings above and below the drawers – these are integral, not applied. This requires some careful layout of the joinery and the molding. Here is one of my repro joints, disassembled:

unassembled view of "lipped" tenon

This joint is the exception to the rule – it is not drawbored. Square pins secure it, sometimes one, sometimes two.

PF sample repro of "lipped" tenon

We have really only seen this “lipped” tenon on one other N.E. piece, the chest of drawers with doors at Yale. In that case, the lipped tenon is used to bump out a rail that then supports an applied molding.

Other ways the Plymouth Colony stuff stands out is the degree of finish inside and back of the chest. Some of the chests have crease moldings throughout the inside of the chest. I have seen this on some Boston stuff too, but it’s often on the Plymouth stuff. Sometimes just chamfers and stops, sometimes fully-formed moldings. Here is one from the MFA. (sorry for the poor slide)

interior, Ply Col chest w drawers

Here’s the stopped chamfers on the exterior framing parts, a very neat treatment:

stopped chamfers

There’s lots to the Plymouth Colony work, chests, chairs, cupboards. Few boxes that can be indentified with the rest of this stuff. Some very plain pieces, like this chest at the Smithsonian:

joined chest, Marshfield

All the way to things like this cupboard at Winterthur:

press cupboard

That’s really the tip of an iceberg. I hope to get around to studying Plymouth Colony joinery more. Last time I looked at it was for the Kenelm Winslow article; and the furniture that might be attributable to Winslow is not part of this main group of work.  Here’s a link to the article:

There, I guess this makes up for the other night when I posted something with no pictures. There’s more of this, but for another night.


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