Now I am trying to go back to some ideas I had for blog posts that never got written in the last two months. First up is “wainscot.” I’ve always had it in mind to write about wainscot, then after reading Richard Law’s post about his reading of Wolsley & Luff’s Age of the Joiner it got in my noggin again. The book is a real mixed bag; but worth having if you’re careful. What Richard found out is that wainscot means different things at different times/places and needs.

One basic meaning of the word is paneled walls – a series of connected frame-and-panel constructions to sheath interior walls. Simple, right?

wainscot, Merchant's House, Wiltshire

wainscot, Merchant’s House, Wiltshire

Well, it also means imported oak from the Baltic. Or from elsewhere, through the Dutch territories. Or is means oak quartered, usually riven, as the Baltic oak mostly was.

muntin from wainscot of wainscot

muntin from wainscot of wainscot

muntin rear view

muntin rear view

It can also mean an object made with either these materials or this construction method. A wainscot chair can be an oak chair, it can also be a walnut chair, made with a joined frame and a paneled back.

wainscot chair

wainscot chair in oak

wainscot chair, walnut

wainscot chair, walnut

The absolute best discussion of it is now Adam Bowett’s entries for oak, wainscot etc in his newest book Woods Used in British Furniture-Making 1400-1900. I had mentioned this book a while back, it really is a great reference book. Costly, but worth the money. If money’s tight, absolutely get the library to hunt it down for you. But then you’ll want to buy it. I saved up and got one. The introduction and the entries on oak, mahogany and walnut are excellent research and writing. The other stuff too, but those are the ones I read first. His entry for wainscot is 9 pages long…you can skip my post here about it & go read Adam’s book instead. 

There are records in England of the word wainscot being a noun –  an early record is one I first saw in Wolsey & Luff’s book – an excerpt from the will of John Henryson of Kingston-upon-Hull, 1525, mentioning:       

 “I gif to William Henryson, the carver, at the next comying of the hulkes oute of Danske a c [hundred] wayne scottes”

These wainscots  are either bolts or logs of oak to be worked at their destination. 

Here’s Reverend William Harrison’s note about imported wainscot  – in A Description of England of the late sixteenth century: (1577 1st edition, or 1587 2nd)

“Of all oke growing in England, the parke oke is the softest, and far more spalt and brittle than the hedge oke. And of all in Essex, that growing in Bardfield parke is the finest for joiner’s craft: for oftentimes have I seene of their workes made of that oke so fine and faire, as most of the wainescot that is brought thither out of Danske, for our wainescot is not made in England.” 

John Evelyn, Sylva ( I think this is from the 1661 edition, but not sure) :

With Fir we likewise  make Wainscot, Floors, Laths, Boxes, and wherever we use the Deal; nor does there any Wood so well agree with the Glew as it, or so easie to be wrought: It is also excellent for Beams, and other Timber-work in Houses, being both light, and exceedingly strong, where it may lie dry everlasting, and an extraordinary saver of Oak where it may be had at reasonable price.

Nor are we to over-pass those memorable Trees which so lately flourished in Dennington Park neer Newberry: amongst which three were most remarkable from the ingenious Planter, and dedication (if Tradition hold) the famous English bard, Jeofry Chaucer; of which one was call’d the Kings, another the Queens. and a third Chaucers-Oak. The first of these was fifty foot in height before any bough or knot appear’d, and cut five foot square at the butt end, all clear Timber. The Queens was fell’d since the Wars, and held forty foot excellent Timber, straight as an arrow in growth and grain, and cutting four foot at the stub, and neer a yard at the top; besides a fork of almost ten foot clear timber above the shaft, which was crown’d with a shady tuft of boughs, amongst which, some were on each side curved like Rams-horns, as if they had been so industriously bent by hand. This Oak was of a kind so excellent, cutting a grain clear as any Clap-board (as appear’d in the Wainscot which was made thereof) that a thousand pities it is some seminary of the Acorns had not been propagated, to preserve the species.

 (Ahh, Evelyn brings up the word “clap-board” – we’ll get to that another day…)

In 17th-c New England they surely weren’t using any imported Baltic oak. There the word applied to local oak, probably riven on the quarter. Sometimes,  though, it was about the paneling, In Massachusetts Bay Colony’s earliest days, Governor John Winthrop chastised one of his deputies for being lavish with his own house.

“May 1, 1632  …upon this there arose another Question, about his howse: the Governor havinge formerly tould him, that he did not well to bestowe such cost about wainscottinge & addorninge his howse, in the beginning of a plantation, bothe in regarde of the necessitye of public charges & for example &c: his answeare now was, that it was for the warmthe of his howse, & the Charge was little, beinge but clapbordes nayled to the walles in the forme of wainscott.”  

(Richard S. Dunn, James Savage, Laetitia Yeandle, editors, The Journal of John Winthrop 1630-1649 (Cambridge, Massachusetts: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1996) p.66.)

I’d say that’s the earliest use of that word in New England. And in that case, while clapboards were usually oak, the term wainscot here is about the wall-panelling. Faux wall paneling to boot. There’s a pine board chest at the Plymouth Antiquarian Society with narrow boards nailed to the front of it to mimic a joined chest. Sounds like the paneling Winthrop’s deputy had…

ply ant chest

 

Otherwise, New England inventories usually use the word as an adjective – wainscot chest, wainscot chair, etc. I can’t think of any examples like numerous English inventories where they list the wainscoting as a “moveable” like furniture.

Here’s an English one, from 1672,   Abraham Brecknock, Writtle, uses “wainscot” as both noun & adjective:

 “One drawing table, 6 joint stooles, and a forme and a Bible £2; One presse-cubbord, another wainscot cubbord and all the wainscot about the Hall, and the long bench joyning to the wainscot £7-10; Three chaires , 6 cushions & other implements £1 “

For the record of sawyers working the imported material, here’s a piece from London, 1633 – from Henry Laverock Phillips, Annals of the Worshipful Company of Joiners of the City of London, (London: privately printed, 1915) we get a petition filed by the Joiners Company against the Freemen Sawyers of London:

 “1633  Petition of the Compy of Joyners &c to the C of Aldermen against Freemen Sawyers

 Report to the C of Aldermen…we caused to come before us as well divers of the Cy of Joyners as other freemen Boxmakers as also the Sawyers we conferred also with the Wardens of the Carpenters Cy touching the matters complained.

 That within these twentie years the prices of sawing is so exceedingly increased by means that the freemen Sawyers have appropriated the performance of the work & that only forreyners have served under them as that there is now taken sometimes three pence and sometimes four pence for sawing a Curfe of Wainscott which was then done for three half pence and no more.” (p. 25, 26)

Links: 

Here’s Richard’s post from some time ago, that got me to thinking about this: http://www.flyingshavings.co.uk/believe-words-words-words-hamlet-act-ii-sc-2/

In it, our friend Tico Vogt mentioned the blog written down under by “Jack Plane” – I have been remiss to never bring this blog up here. It’s outstanding, just great. No idea who this fellow really is, but his work is great, and he knows period work quite well. You probably already read it, but if you don’t, you’d like it. Here’s the one Tico remembered about wainscot  http://pegsandtails.wordpress.com/2010/08/31/oak-in-the-seventeenth-and-eighteenth-centuries/

 

 

Remember this creature? http://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/2013/10/10/wooden-saw-vise/

wooden saw vise

wooden saw vise

I dug out my copy I started some time ago. It was at the point where I needed to turn the roller that tightens the two frames of the vise. It works by twisting the roller – it has an off-center round tenon fitted into the two front stiles. Here’s the old one showing the roller at the bottom of the front frame. 

saw vise showing cam action

After turning the cylinder, I thought some about how to make the off-center tenons. I’m not Roy Underhill, so that means I did not mark new centers, re-mount it on the lathe, and turn it off-center . Instead, I marked it out with an awl & compass, and sawed, split & shaved it. Quick & accurate if you take it step by step.

I started by marking plumb lines through the center of the roller’s ends. This helps me get both ends marked out so they agree. I set the roller in the “joiner’s saddles” or V-blocks for any moderns out there. Hit a holdfast, then used a square and awl to strike a vertical line on the end grain, through the centerpoint. Check that w the square, then mark the other end

scribing plumb

Joyner’s saddle

 Now it’s simply a matter of setting a compass to 5/16” to strike a circle of 5/8” on that line, bumped up to the top of the roller…

scribed round tenon off center

layout

then some saw kerfs, and splitting off the waste. One:

split rough out tenon

Two, three..

split tenon 2

split tenon

roughed-out

rough round tenon

roughed-out tenon

 Then shaving the roughed-out tenon by using the spoon carver’s “crossed thumbs” grip.

fine tuning tenon

cross-thumbs

Test fit in a hole bored in a piece of scrap hard wood. trim to fit.

test fit

Here’s the front assembly.

front frame

off-center tenon

off-center tenon

The roller bears against two strips of hardwood glued to the rear stile’s inner faces. I keep a box of short off-cuts of straight-grained hickory and ash. The box is labeled “tool handle stock” – but I dip into it whenver I need dry, hard clear stuff. Hickory is my first choice for these. The originals were repositioned, after wearing out one side/edge.

hickory

right now mine are just glued on. The old ones are glued & nailed. Next time I’ll start testing the action of the cam-roller, and see how well it closes the jaws of the vise.

glue up

As I was ready to leave, here’s the view out the window. I love it this time of year.

 new snow

I shot some more stuff today…

I have been carving up the last of 2013’s spoons – some serving spoons in cherry heartwood. When cherry logs lay around too long, the sapwood goes off, but the heartwood is still good in this log after 8 months -

I shot these two spoon bowls together to show the variation in the grain pattern inside the bowl. The centerline on the spoon on the right is mostly centered on the piece of wood – so you get a nice, even concentric pattern as you cut into the succeeding layers to hollow out the bowl.

The one on the left was a bit whacky, I forget why now. Some defect caused me to line up the centerline of the spoon to one side of the centerline of the split billet. So now the grain pattern inside the bowl is one-sided. I like this effect; but I like the other one too. All this becomes horridly small details that matter to few…but it helps to know how & why different patterns emerge.

cherry spoons underway

cherry spoons underway

All the spoon blanks have to be split in such a way that the central section of the tree, the pith, is avoided. Usually it is hewn away. Leave it in, and the spoon will crack, probably more than 99% of the time.

But do you then hollow the side towards the bark, or towards the pith? Well, you can do either – one will get this pattern, one that. Here is a 3rd spoon dropped into the photo above, showing the pattern resulting from hollowing the face towards the pith. Usually I hollow the wood near the bark side, like the middle spoon.

3rd spoon

3rd spoon

When you hollow them in green wood (almost always the case) – the bark side bowl gets narrower, but deeper upon drying. The other gets wider, but shallower. This is the effect of differential shrinkage in the wood. More minutiae, though. The amount they shrink & distort is not great, to my way of thinking. I’m more concerned about the grain pattern, or quirks of the individual spoon blank. I generally work them all bark-side up, but if the tree has another idea…I’ll follow the tree’s lead.

 

Here’s some furniture that made it to the background paper today. First is the chest I made for the museum. Every year they have a raffle for one of these. This is the one I made piece-meal – started in April, finished in Oct/Nov. Never again. Finishing it up in the last few weeks was an ordeal.

raffle chest 2013

joined carving chest, 2013 – oak & pine

Here’s the little 2-panel chest I made for the Woodwright’s Shop episode. It still needs its hinges installed, but that’s manageable. A combination of red oak, with 2 white oak sawn panels in front. Pine floor boards.

two-sie chest

small joined chest, red & white oak, white pine

Here’s a detail of the next version of that little chest…I just couldn’t leave all that blank oak around. This one’s for me…riven matched panels in front.

next two-sie chest

gouge-carved chest in progress

The gouge-cut carvings. one tool, two moves.

next two-sie detail

detail carving

a joinefd form, red & white oak. A little more than 5 feet long, I think. I forget. The seat is quartersawn white oak.

joined form

joined form, red & white oak

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.

 

A few notes from the shop – it turns out I will not have any more spoons for sale this month.  A couple of people wrote & ordered some, and those I have just about done. But I decided not to tackle more. It was getting too hectic, and I have enough to grapple, cleaning out this stuff.

where to begin

where to begin

I will have one more carved framed panel, if anyone is interested. I cut the frame at the Lie-Nielsen event at Phil Lowe’s the other day…so I just have to clean it up a bit, and take proper photographs.

last one for 2013

last one for 2013

Meanwhile, the best day in the shop in ages was Sunday, Daniel came back. Can’t say too much, he’s making a Xmas present. But we had a great time. Being in the public eye 8 months out of the year means the kids only get to the shop during the 0ff-season. So we’re making the most of it right now.

 

Then, this red-bellied woodpecker sat right out the upstairs window at home. You can tell he’s a red-bellied, because the red head is not all-over. I didn’t name these creatures…in the last shot you can actually see a smudge of red down near his nether parts. That’s where his name comes from. His belly is mostly white, with a streak of red. a faint streak.

I’ll be posting my teaching schedule for 2014 soon. It’s a busy one…

Well, last week you saw what one student did with my carving lessons, (http://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/2013/09/10/this-makes-teaching-more-fun/ ) and now I have taught two more classes of carving in the past 2 months; I thought it might be helpful to show some period work here. All oak of course.

There’s a lot of new readers showing up, so I might do some review of stuff that’s gone before. I started by looking at photos that are already loaded into the blog’s till…it’s always nice to review, you might see something you missed before.

This one’s England, marked out with compasses to outline the framing; the panel is most likely freehand around a vertical centerline.

 

 

cupboard door, oak

cupboard door, oak

Some basic geometry behind this design, also England, probably the Lakes District, dated 1691.

carved panel nail holes lakes 2

 

Another carving from the same piece of furniture.

torn-up moldings on cupboard door panel, 1691

Some of my favorite English stuff, this is a pew carving from Totnes, Devon. Early 17th-c.

 

carved panel, Totnes pews

 

An old favorite from Braintree, Massachusetts – a panel from a cupboard. About 9″ x 12″.

door panel, attributed to William Savell, Sr.

door panel, attributed to William Savell, Sr.

This one a chest panel from the son of above; this time John Savell, c. 1660-1689.

 

panel, joined chest, c. 1660-1680s

panel, joined chest, c. 1660-1680s

Now, some of my own favorites – might help the new carvers with ideas.

crossed S-scroll pattern

crossed S-scroll pattern

box front, red oak

box front, red oak

carving detail

carving detail

PF carving strapwork

reproduction 17th-century furniture

carving “sunflower” chest panel

box b detail carving

 

The DVDs on carving are available from Lie-Nielsen…for more info on them and the joint stool book, see this page:

http://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/book-dvds/

 

 

 

 

 

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. 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,177 other followers