Readers of this blog will be quite familiar with the oak furniture that I have made over the years, based on English & New England examples. These feature lots of carved decoration, along with some integral moldings, sometimes enhanced with paint as well. Like this:

joined & carved chest, 2010

joined & carved chest, 2010

Happening at the same time as this style is the “applied molding” style – for lack of a better term. Here in New England these are pretty common – many years ago I co-authored with Bob Trent and Alan Miller an article about a series of large joined cupboards in this style, http://www.chipstone.org/framesetAFintro.html These cupboards, made in northern Essex County, Massachusetts in the 1680s or so, were really some of the most involved constructions. Many feature jettied overhangs like timber buildings of the period. they have some carved work, but the bulk of their decoration is applied turnings and moldings. Here’s a plain one from this group – from the MFA, Boston

Essex County cupboard

Essex County cupboard

And this really amazing one from the Massachusetts Historical Society – look at the effect of the moldings on the door in the upper case.

Essex County cupboard, MHS

Essex County cupboard, MHS

I think we ended up with 13 cupboards or so. Numerous chests of drawers and chests with drawers were made by the same shop(s) – and some tables, etc.

Similar, but simpler examples were found made in Salem, Massachusetts and down in Plymouth Colony (later a county of Massachusetts, 1692). Here’s the best Salem cupboard:

Salem cupboard

Salem cupboard

and a typical Plymouth chest with drawers. These are distinctive because they use two narrow side-by-side drawers. Everyone else used full-width drawers mostly.

Plymouth Colony chest with 2 drawers

Plymouth Colony chest with 2 drawers

But by far the most articulate and finely executed versions were the works we now associate with 17th-c Boston. In 2010 Trent & I published an article that really for me only touches on what’s going on in Boston then…but it’s a start. Here’s a Boston chest from Chipstone’s collection.

Boston chest w false drawer

Boston chest w false drawer

And the cream of the crop – the chest of drawers with doors at Yale:

chest of drawers with doors

chest of drawers with doors

I keep thinking that making this stuff is so much more work than carving – on a carved chest, you make 30-40 pieces of wood, carve them, then fit them together. On one of these applied molding/turning jobs, you make the 30-40 bits that form the carcass – then make a slew more of other woods, and cut & piece them together. Maybe hundreds once you have them cut to bits…

Over the years I have built a few pieces in this manner; a Plymouth style chest with drawers back in 1995, then copies of the Pope family cabinet in the early part of this century.

PF version Pope family cabinet

PF version Pope family cabinet

I built a made-up version of a chest of drawers when my wife & I got married in 2003.

chest of drawers, 2003

PF chest of drawers, 2003

I’m fast at carving, but pretty slow at this stuff. So now my goal is to do enough of this so I can get quicker. That’s how it works. So I’m hoping we’ll see me making more work like this in the coming months…

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. 

Packing to go to Roy’s this week. Joint stool class, followed by TV shooting…so I have been very busy, but not much to write or show…

 

here is a neat little thing a friend brought in the other day for me to look at. I had nothing concrete to say about it, other than it’s really nice. Said to have been brought from England or Wales, guessing by the family story late 19th/early 20th century. Looks like it’s seen a lot of use, for some reason or other. Hung on the wall…

front viuew

slider

painted panel

mini cupboard

 

Here is my small joined chest. It was really hard to not carve this. It’s semi-assembled, but I knocked it apart today to pack in the car. We’ll build it on Roy’s show. If all goes well…

mini chest

joined chest, H: 20″ W: 30″ D: 15″

 

chest floor

inside, showing till & floor

Meanwhile, at the house – “PLAY BALL!”

PLAY BALL

PLAY BALL

Just read Phil House’s book Perfect Once Removed. A reminiscence about 10-yr old Phil, finding out his cousin was Don Larsen, who later that year (1956) pitched a perfect game in the World Series.

 

 

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

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

 

 

By now, you know I am a big fan of this style of carved oak furniture. This chest is being offered at an auction in North Carolina, http://www.brunkauctions.com/lot-detail/?id=94982

It’s in pretty beat-up shape, lost its feet, top is trimmed and patched here & there, etc. But so what? The carving is all there. What fun. This is listed as attributed to the Mason/Messenger shops in Boston, but that’s a mistake. It’s Thomas Dennis from Ipswich, Massachusetts; 1660s-1700. It has never been published before in any of the numerous treatments on Dennis’ work…this one literally came out of the woodwork.

 

carved chest

carved chest

dennis fragment

 

I noticed they have added a few more pictures from when I first saw it two weeks ago. These two show each end of the chest. Clearly one set is oak, with the ray-fleck pattern from the riven quartered stock. The first pair here seem very plain for riven, quartered oak. Now it’s really difficult to judge a piece by the photos; and these are snapshots rather than the good quality shots above..but if I had a chance to see this chest, I’d look at these end panels to try to understand why they are different from one set to the other. It almost looks like the figured set are sycamore/plane tree.

side panels side panels b

Someone will get a nice chunk of New England joinery history at a discount price. The condition will keep it from getting into the stratosphere. Me, I’ll have to carve my own – after the wainscot chair I have underway now.

 

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