well, not really today, but I have been at the museum for 20 years. I moved my tools down there in April 1994…and since then have concentrated pretty much entirely on 17th-century style English and New England furniture. I love doing it, the stuff is great & there is a lot to learn still…formerly I made ladderback chairs, baskets, Windsor chairs and other “green woodworking” stuff. I set almost all that aside, except for the spoons (done mostly at home) and an occasional basket.

But in recent years, I have had a pull to make other furniture…the catch is at the museum, except in the off-season, I can’t have a bunch of non-17th-c furniture sitting around distracting attention. A further complication is that there is no shop at home. Here’s one reason why:

IMG_0139

There are restrictions about what we can build so close to the river. I have never pursued whether or not we can get permission – because I haven’t the time nor money to build anyway…and that’s not even mentioning the need for more room in the house with 2 growing-nearly-8-yr olds.

But these nagging furniture ideas keep coming up, a while back there was an exhibit at Winterthur of Pennsylvania furniture that had lots of stuff I liked. I sort of incorporated some of that into my tool box…but the paint was 17th-c English patterns.

I can't believe how long this takes

I can’t believe how long this takes

The variety bug has gotten stronger in recent months. A trip to Drew & Louise’s certainly helped it along. I always am drawn to this chair of Drew’s – my all-time favorite of his.

drew's lowback chair

I started one a few winters back, but botched the reaming of the leg mortises in the seat. Might be salvageable…

En route home from Drew’s, I stopped to see Curtis Buchanan…that didn’t stem any tide either.

There’s 4 of us in the household, and we have 4 chairs around the kitchen table.  It’s a small kitchen. Forget this trumped-up photo, it doesn’t really look this neat & tidy. We tuck 2 chairs where this stool is…and one at each end. 

kitched table overall b

Three of them are old windsors of mine, from the early 1990s. A bowback sidechair, a sackback armchair, and a continuous armchair. So chair # 4? Something like my wainscot chair is pure stupid for use at the table, when you actually have to use the table for other stuff between meals. Godawful heavy. So that’s out. I have one more windsor, but it’s a high back comback armchair. It’s in the way, so it sits here at my desk. I had a sort of oversized ladderback chair, and everyone here hated it. so the 4th person to the table always got stuck with it & complained. A Boston-style leather chair (see the photo)  is comfortable to me, but heavy – and the others don’t like it much. I have a large turned armchair in ash, hickory bark seat. Great chair, literally; but we need another side chair, not another armchair.

Then, a hickory log showed up at work. I thought, “it will bend” – so I decided to try another windsor. I used to really like the fanback sidechair, and I didn’t have one. I think they went to some grandchildren when my mother died. I forget. So I searched around the house & shop for my notes from before 1994. Found some paper patterns, seat shapes, etc for the fanback. but not the whole set.

Got to the shop, and remembered that I had tucked some windsor seat templates behind a bookcase in 1994. The bookcase in this most cluttered section of the shop:

gotta deal with this corner at some point

gotta deal with this corner at some point

I thought the stuff I wanted was in the corner, so I moved the bundle of rushes, and cleared some room, held my breath & tugged. Out came several plywood (I think you heard me right) templates based on designs Curtis gave me many years ago. Maybe 4 or 5 different chairs. The 7 spindle fanback was one of them. Great. All the angles recorded, spindle & post length. 

fanback seat template

fanback seat template

One night after work, I quickly split and shaved a batch of rough spindles. A breeze down memory lane, working at a shaving horse. Nothing better than good hickory. 

shaving hickory

shaving hickory

Now I have hickory for the spindles, comb, and rear posts. Just gotta shave, turn & otherwise get it together. i’ll figure out the legs & stretchers, but for the seat? I knew there was some chainsaw-milled elm around. Big huge beastly boards. Would require 2 people to sift that pile, dig out those monsters, cut them down to size, etc. I thought I still had a small piece of it around. Found it, but too narrow & cracked.  Back to the drawing board. Some 3” thick pine planks around. Seemed extreme.

Oh, well. I shifted my thoughts to the fan – I knew the hickory will make a great fan. But where’s the pattern? Maybe it’s behind the other end of the bookcase. (to the left in the photo) So I moved a huge pile of oak planks, and got near the back of the bookcase. Too dark to see. No flashlight. One of the young guys had a phone with a flashlight on it. Could see something back there, maybe it’s a bending form. Stretched, grunted & pulled. 

Out came a fanback sidechair seat – all carved, bored, reamed. WIth a tailpiece. 20+ years old. Older than the kid with the flashlight on his phone.

older than some co-workers

pine seat, c. 1993 or so

Curtis is sending the plans with the fan shape, bending form pattern.

Ol’ Daniel would say “It is providential”

much more to this story to come.

PS: There was a comb-back seat also all carved, bored, etc. 

LInks:

curtis’ DVDs

http://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/2013/03/15/how-to-make-a-comb-back-windsor-chair-w-curtis-buchanan/

http://www.curtisbuchananchairmaker.com/store.html

Drew Langsner’s Chairmaker’s Workshop book  http://countryworkshops.org/books.html

A while back i showed some snapshots of these wainscot chairs. Before I left town for trip # 2 to North Carolina and then came back & made a trip to Maine, (over 4,000 miles in 3 trips)  I got a chance to shoot them without the shop in the background. The first one is a copy of a Thomas Dennis chair, generally. I changed a few things here & there; but the proportions, carving style, construction, etc all stem from the originals at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, MA and the Bowdoin College Art Museum in Brunswick, ME. Here goes:

TD chair three quarters

TD chair overall

TD chair detail crest

 

The next one I made for the museum last month. Its proportions and dimensions are based on one I copied some time ago, made in Hngham, MA in the mid-17th century. The original had simple V-tool carvings and checkered inlay. I opted to just make up some carvings based on the Thomas Dennis material…so the resulting chair is a mish-mash of period work. All oak as usual for these chairs. 

PF design three quarters

 

PF design overall rear

PF design detail

I rarely chase free logs. I get calls pretty often, and just as often the logs are not up to snuff. Folks mean well, and I appreciate them wanting to find a use for their trees, logs, etc. But I’m fiercely demanding when it comes to picking a log. 

But this one, I decided I had to take a chance. I got a call from Nathan  Goodwin, a finish carpenter up on the South Shore…about an oak 42″ in diameter, x 3′ long. Would I like it? No, not really thinks me, then come to find out, he’s got it in his truck & is willing to drive by my house so I can see it. I figured then I had nothing to lose, nothing much anyway. 

But, I says, I have no way to get it out of your truck. He’s got chains & a come-along. And will drive it to the shop. So how could I say no?

big 'un

big ‘un

There’s some metal inside somewhere, and rot near the middle. But even if only half of it is good, there’s a lot of wood in it. I was busy beyond compare, but had to split it open to see if it would yield anything. 

starting split

I wouldn’t park next to one of these

Indeed, I wouldn’t park there. But fortunately I’m a “tapper” not a swinger when it comes to the sledge hammer. 

radial plane pretty flat

 

Pretty flat radial plane on much of this thing. Some of these faces approach 14″ wide. 

 

further splitting

 

I only had time to break part of it open. So once it was mostly quartered, I broke one section into bolts. 

wide stuff 2

The narrow ones here are 8″-9″ wide and the others are 12″ wide.  I had to split off a bunch of the wood towards the juvenile stuff, that’s where the decay was.  The stock is mostly nice & flat in the riven radial plane. 

I know this log is red oak, and I think it’s specifically a black oak called yellow-bark . So if it’s yellow, that means it’s black, in which  case it’s red. Tell Roy.  Rick McKee always used to rave about yellowbarks for riving clapboards, unless he was saying he hated them.  I can’t remember. I just look for straight oaks is all. 

Thanks to Nathan for bringing me the log. 

 

As many of you know, no visit to the Woodwright’s School is complete without a trip upstairs to Ed Lebetkin’s tool store… http://www.woodwrightschool.com/the-tool-store/

I long ago gave up the notion of trying to get away without spending any money; it’s easier to just accept your fate if you go there. I really don’t know of many physical places anymore that have this many tools worth plowing through. At Ed’s it’s not like you have to sift through boxes of junk to get at the good stuff. It’s all worthy, good stuff. 

Here’s some general views 

ed's store p 2

 

ed's store

 

ed's chisels

 

I came away with an interesting plow plane, and my usual half-dozen piercer bits. I was looking at a European model, when Ed showed me this very simple one. So back went the Euro plow, and this one’s now here in New England, ready for tinkering at some point – next month. I have no time for fiddling with it right now. Looks like birch to me. 

 

simple plow overall

detail 1

detail 2

detail 3

detail 4

 

First there is a joined chest

mini chest

then there is no joined chest…

no joined chest

then there is…

then there is

Ahh, the miracle of television (& ear worms…)

Just back from teaching the joint stool class at Roy Underhill’s Woodwright’s School. This class went better than any joined stool class I have done. My thanks to all the students who came from near & far (Dave from New Zealand took the mileage prize -if there was one. Other than he had to eat all the local food they put in front of him. “What, no possum?”) Very nice people, and all worked very hard in tough weather…

When I travel I don’t usually check email, blogs, etc. It’s nice to be disconnected, but also I have lots to focus on when teaching. We had 9 students making joined stools at Roy’s last week. That’s lots of chances for stuff to go wrong. So night-times I was trying to figure out the next move. And recover from the heat & humidity. So now I’ll run down some of what we did. Here’s a look at the first day’s work. First off, we had a great batch of oak logs. Three sections that were 24″ long, and almost that wide. AND they split flat in the radial plane. That meant no twist, thus easy planing. But these guys didn’t know that yet. 

first splits

splitting open the oak sections

It looks like this one got opened into thirds, then broken down into the eighths I had marked out. I only saw this now while sorting photos. And I took the picture! The humidity was so high that my camera lens fogged up at one point. 

 

 

 

 

 

split how

the peace oak

Here’s Jamie using a very large froe to bust out some stiles from the 1/8ths. We wanted 40 stiles and got ‘em. 

froe

Then it was into town for lunch, then some bench work begun – starting to plane the rail stock. Very green oak, with an extremely high tannic acid content. We learned about cleaning tools quickly. 

planing

 

http://www.woodwrightschool.com/

http://www.lostartpress.com/Make_a_Joint_Stool_from_a_Tree_p/bk-majsfat.htm

 

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

 

I’ve been working….prepping stock for some chests, a chair or two and some stools.

Ooh, look at the shavings

Ooh, look at the shavings

 

here’s a panel for an upcoming joined chest. I usually think of this as a vase or pot full of flowers & foliage. Nowadays some see faces in it. A similar panel was in the wainscot chair I posted a few days ago.

rorschach test in oak

rorschach test in oak

Here’s the beginning of one that I copied just from a poor photograph. So I made a lot of the detail up. Used gouges & chisels to outline, instead of a V-tool. It requires several consecutive thoughts to establish the pattern in the middle. You can make your mistakes out where the leaves are…

interlace beginning

interwoven design

interwoven design

Here’s the finished panel. Mostly, might add some details around the edges.

interlaced design finished

interlaced design finished

Probably you saw the update from Jogge about the Wille film. Thanks to all who chimed in… http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/761142325/the-spoon-the-bowl-and-the-knife-craftsman-wille-s/posts/500426?ref=email&show_token=b2ed6e52d7f7db05

 

 

015

 

You’ll remember I used to constantly badger people about a blog called  “The Riven Word”. Well, it is no more. My friend Rick McKee is no longer at the museum, as they say. But the good news is he has landed with some old cohorts of ours and is up to some pretty interesting hijinks. And has started a new blog about it. Right now, it’s off to a slow start, but I know he’ll bring some interesting stuff to the web…so sign up and drop Rick a note. Maybe we can guilt-trip him into writing frequently. Of course, I should speak, with my one-post-a-week of late. 

here’s Rick’s new site: http://blueoakblog.wordpress.com/

 

 

half a pair

half a pair

I have two joint stools to finish to go along with a table and joined form I am making. For the seven-foot long table top I opted for quartersawn white oak. So I made the tops of the stools and form from the same material. Yesterday I planed the board for the stool tops. I kept it at double-length to make handling it easier while I planed it flat and dressed the thickness. I decided to keep it that way while I ran the molding too.

 I trimmed it to width, then dressed both faces and trued up the edges. I then crosscut both ends and marked out the middle where I eventually would crosscut it in two.

 I marked out the 7/8” wide thumbnail molding spacing with a marking gauge along both long edges. Then I followed the steps I outlined in the joint stool book for making the molding; a rabbet plane (in this case, a filester) to begin to define the depth, then bevelling off the shape with smooth plane/jointer. I fiddled a little with a hollow plane like what Matt Bickford does; I had the rabbet, then I chamfered that, then ran the hollow a bit. It was just a bit shy of the right size, and was not perfectly fettled. So it served to further rough out the shape, but I still did the final definition with the smooth plane.

filester plane

filester filetster plane

hollow plane

hollow plane

 

shaping molding

shaping molding

I ran this molding along both edges, then did the two outside ends. Here, I marked the width with a knife and square, rather than a gauge. Then cut it apart and finished each seat with one more molding. Usually I do the end-grain moldings first, but in this case it was worth reversing that order.

quartersawn stock

quartersawn stock

The wood is amazing quality; clear, wide and perfectly quartersawn. Air dried. The next best thing to riven. I then finished shaping the seats, and bored one & fit it on the stool. Just like in the book…. http://www.lostartpress.com/Make_a_Joint_Stool_from_a_Tree_p/bk-majsfat.htm

boring & pegging

boring & pegging

 Now, fresh on the success of “Riven Cedrela” I have the phrase “half-a-pair of joint stools” ringing in my head like “four-and-twenty blackbirds…” so stay tuned. It could be my first nursery rhyme. 

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