small chest

It’s been about 6 months that I’ve been “out on my own” (I think Roy Underhill called it “free at last”) but I still haven’t really settled into a woodworking routine like I once had…Today, I picked up where I left off over a year and a half ago – finishing a small joined chest I made for Roy’s show in 2013…  http://video.pbs.org/video/2365021510/ and http://video.pbs.org/video/2365079634/

I’ve only had it kicking around for I don’t know how long, and it took all of an hour to finish it off. Needed to drive four nails, trim the floor boards, and set one hinge.

trimming floor boards

hinges

inside chest

 

How stupid that I left it so long! It’s been on the blog in pieces a number of times, I even took it back to Roy’s this past summer, where it was the model for our week-long chest class. Now – it’s done. I copied its proportions from some English examples, it’s quite small. 30″ w x 20″ h x 17″ d. A mixture of sawn and riven oak, with pine floor boards and rear panel. No decoration other than the bevels around the panels. Paneled lid, interior till. It’s for sale if anyone’s interested; send an email if you’d like to talk about it. $2,000 plus shipping. or pick it up. 

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I finished this carved rail for the upcoming wainscot chair – started this carving as a museum demonstration at Historic New England in early December – at least it’s not waiting around 18 months. I’m working now on getting that chair moving along steadily; doing some joinery on it tomorrow. The panel is mostly carved, that should be done tomorrow too. 

carved rail 

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Updated the teaching schedule – http://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/2015-teaching-schedule/  a couple of additions,

a hewn bowl class at Lie-Nielsen in late August, https://www.lie-nielsen.com/workshop/USA/71

a splitting & riving class with Plymouth CRAFT in May in Plymouth Massachusetts; http://plymouthcraft.org/?tribe_events=splitting-a-log-into-boards

and we’re adding a 2nd 3-day class at Roy’s (it’s not posted yet) the first one sold out so quickly that we figured let’s add one…so mid-June in Pittsboro, NC. http://www.woodwrightschool.com/spoon-carving-w-peter-f/

Here’s some bowl shots from the other day. 

hewn bowl

hewn catalpa & birch

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While on the subject of classes – I was talking to the fellow who’s lining up the oak for the joined chest class at Bob Van Dyke’s Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking – this is oak like you won’t believe. If you’ve seen the posts I’ve done recently about the extra-wide oak – same source. Wow. This class is maybe half-full, or nearly so. A time commitment, but a project that will really be something. http://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/2014/12/16/one-of-next-years-projects-a-carved-chest-w-drawers-at-cvsww/

panels

 

http://schoolofwoodworking.com/woodworking-classes.html

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Maureen is still willing to mail stuff in time – https://www.etsy.com/shop/MaureensFiberArts

 

not oak

well, I never really was a true monoculture anyway. But close. Mostly oak, lots of white pine, ash. some maple (mostly turned), but there’s even mention in the back pages of this blog of Spanish cedar, East Indian Rosewood, Atlantic white cedar – and the spoons are a range of woods that never include oak. That’s where you’ll see me use cherry and apple – not in furniture.

walnut bolt

But my recent foray further into walnut is really out of this world, for me anyway. Riven, radial, high moisture content. Now I have run the gamut with this wood, from my first experience with that awful kiln-dried randomly sawn lousy stock, to air-dried straight-grained clear stuff – now to the true beast – riven radial stuff. Wow. Hewing it is so much fun I almost just chopped it all up just for the thrill. It’s going to be a joined stool, which I need like a hole in the head – but the book needs joined work that’s not oak. And…the walnut was a gift. Thanks, Michael D.

hewing walnut

Here are the stool parts, planed. Why 5 aprons & only 3 stretchers? Because I had just a little bit of extra wood. This way, I’ll make the aprons. If all goes well, apron #5 will get chopped down to a stretcher. Something goes haywire, I make #5 an apron & return to the wood pile to hopefully scrounge a stretcher. Timid, I know. But I don’t usually have riven walnut around. This is New England, not the mid-west. 

walnut joined stool parts

Part 3 of the “what happened to my monoculture” is really out of this world – this wood was like nothing I have ever seen. I got a sampling of it in the mail – to test it for a carving class. 11 1/2” wide quartersawn stuff – with over 360 growth rings!

200 to 300 yrs

300 yr mark

Alaskan yellow cedar – is not a cedar and might be from British Columbia…but it is yellow. http://www.wood-database.com/lumber-identification/softwoods/alaskan-yellow-cedar/

I just could not wrap my head around the growth rate of this tree. Turns out as I read more about it, the tree grows for upwards of 1,000-1,500 years. That’s old. It’s a tree that has been in decline for 100 years, dying off due to climate change. Seems it’s so warm these days that the trees are freezing – sounds like Stephen Foster wrote the story of it. http://www.fs.fed.us/pnw/research/climate-change/yellow-cedar/yellow-cedar_and_climate_change.pdf

We’re hopefully using this for the box class I’m teaching in Alaska next spring. Thanks to the guys up there for sending it down…

carvings

It carves very well, planes to a beautiful finish, except for some tearout difficulties. I’m mesmerized by it. Density is a bit softer than the black walnut; specific gravity is .42,  as compared to the walnut at .51. I did much of the carving without the mallet. Once all the V-tool outlining was done, I used hand pressure for a great deal of this design.

detail

spandrel

panel full view

 

But I have been working up some oak stock recently to replenish what I have used. I only have about 6 or 8 more of this crazy-wide oak panels to prep…the offset handle on this hatchet is especially useful when working wide stuff. this one’s 14” wide. That’s knuckle-scraping wide if you’re not careful.

oak

 

Couple of spoons left, the bowls, etc. The wainscot chair video too – http://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/spoons-more-december-2014/

over at Plymouth Craft – if you’re thinking of the spoon class, it’s about half-full now. So don’t delay…  http://plymouthcraft.org/  (3PM – Eastern time, that website is having a problem. We’ll get on it, or it will fix itself miraculously…) 

 

I’m not ashamed, I can admit it – I now officially carve smiley faces. It’s Bob Van Dyke’s fault.

smily

I watched the new Mary May/Lie-Nielsen carving video last night – https://www.lie-nielsen.com/product/basic-woodcarving-techniques-with-mary-may and wanted to pick up some tools & get carving. But it was 11:30 pm, & I didn’t want to wake up the kids. Had to wait for today. I started in on the next wainscot chair panel. You’ll see something you rarely see here; pencil and chalk. This was one of those 14″ wide radial panels – I didn’t want to mess it up. There’s no layout that I can discern on the original; so I sketched here & there, and started outlining with the V-tool. I spent almost 40 minutes to get it roughed out, but that included shooting photographs too.

I worked one half side at a time – and on each of those broke it into 3 segments that are not quite thirds. But it helps to establish the major elements.

outlining

 

This one below is the bulk of the pattern; missing a large flower in the middle. So then I just carried the same general scheme across to the other half.

outlining 2

 

Here’s the outline mostly done. Tomorrow I’ll add the flowers and then remove background & fit details.

full outline

 

Here’s a taste of the layering of this panel, showing some of these leaves falling under others. Simple and effective.

detail

 

When I left Plimoth Plantation in June, I wrote that I would be pursuing other aspects of woodworking beyond 17th-century joined oak furniture. But I also laid out that I wasn’t giving up the oak stuff, just adding to it. Bowls, spoons, baskets, weirdo boxes (coming soon) and more…

test only a test

And I have had the best summer ever, picking away at aspects of woodworking both old and new to me…but now it’s time to bring back to the blog some joined oak furniture, carved all over.

I dug my “real” workbench out of storage, and some tools and borrowed a work-space from my friend Ted Curtin – who thankfully almost never makes joined furniture anymore, (he’s a school teacher now – that’s good, because he’s better than me at oak stuff!)

Today I shuffled some stuff around, and will start in soon on shooting carved boxes, chests and more for an upcoming book on joinery.

Between travels that is…

This fall I’ll be teaching a class at Heartwood in making one of my carved oak boxes; and this might be the best shot yet at this class. The class size is small, about 6 students. As of right now, we are short of that number – we could use a couple more, so you could sign up and get in on a chance to delve into this subject in greater-than-usual detail. The class is Sept 22-26. The fall is my favorite time of year… 

We’ll be riving, carving and assembling boxes such as this:

carved box 2011

carved box 2011

 

Maybe this is the class to finally fit a till inside their box!

till

till

 

The setting is out of this world – I often get asked “when are you teaching in Massachusetts?” and this is my one-and-only right now. But it’s not eastern-MA with its congestion, noise, strip-mall mentality; this is bucolic western, far-western Massachusetts. It’s at the Heartwood School for the Homebuilding Crafts in Washington, Massachusetts. Those of us out in eastern MA have to look Washington up, because  we’ve never heard of it. It’s that nice. It’s all uphill for me, Washington in in the Berkshires, near the highest point of I-90 east of South Dakota. I live on the Jones River, about 15 feet above sea level.

I was a student in a timber-framing class there in 1984 – Will Beemer dug out a photo to prove it. Bottom center, head down, arms up. skinny, scruffy me. 

PF at Heartwood

Here’s more about the school – it’s quite a place.

http://www.heartwoodschool.com/index.html

Here’s the photo tour of the place: 

https://plus.google.com/photos/104180060919131710792/albums/5964402473095440321?banner=pwa

Fall in the Berkshires – I’m bringing my binoculars too. Come join us.

 

 

It quickly became apparent that we needed to hustle if we were to get anywhere in this class. Roy found a way to speed things up.

I once had a t-shirt I got at an Arlo Guthrie concert that read “we know it’s stupid, that’s why we’re here.” goodness only knows what it meant, but a similar notion must have run through the minds of these students -a very good-natured group of would-be joiners who came down to Roy Underhill’s school to attempt to make a joined chest in a week. 10 students means 10 chests. each chest with about 25 pieces of riven oak in it. Plus extras in case something goes wrong…

more oak 2

Roy & I dreamed up this idiotic course, “let’s make a joined chest in a week!” And we booked it & it filled up. well, it became a reality (of sorts) and on the first day, these students split, crosscut, & rived out over 200 piece of oak for said chests. That’s a lot of oak. Here’s the beginning of just one small pile of parts:

growing piles of oak

 

We tried to sort and count them as we went, but it was doomed.

more oak

 

We need over 70 panels; about 8″ wide by 12-14″ long. SEVENTY!

panels

We scurried back to the woods to get more of this amazingly straight-grained oak. what a tree!

cross cut 2

I don’t know who this is, but he was not alone.

creature

Thankfully, we found that with proper supervision, it only took Kat a short while to bust out all the oak. it’s not that hard, really.

it's not that hard really

 

Next, they plane all the long rails, layout the joinery, chop mortises, plow grooves & cut tenons.

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