joined chest done

Ah! A flat surface! Quick, pile stuff on it…

this chest was next in my “finish all that leftover stuff” campaign. All it needed was its lid; and I had a piece of white pine perfectly suited for the job. As soon as it was done I started piling stuff on it. When the weather clears (should say “if the weather clears..”) I’ll make enough space in the shop to get proper photographs of it. The chest itself was from back when I was finishing up the book Joiner’s Work, it’s on the back cover of the dust jacket.

Its inspiration began 20 years ago on my first trip to England. There Victor Chinnery showed me a chest fragment he had just acquired for an American collector. I measured its parts – the framing of 2 stiles & 2 long rails; then the center wide (10″ -plus) muntin, dividing the chest front into two panels. Here is the center panel, dated 1669 & initialed EC.

1669 chest

One of the panels

panel of 1669 chest

I’ve made a chest before based on this example and another I saw by the same maker, that one dated 1682. Here’s my previous version.

 

I change stuff around from the originals – like the bottom rail’s carving of the ones I saw. I get what this is; and I could carve it. But I’ve never liked it. This pattern shows up regularly in this broad group of Devon furniture (and its relatives in Ipswich, Massachusetts) – but it does not show up in my work.

bottom rail of 1669 chest

If you follow Marhamchurch Antiques’ website https://www.marhamchurchantiques.com/ you might have seen another chest that I assume is the same maker. This one’s dated 1666.

 

One more – this from an advertisement dated 1988 – while I figure this is the same maker, I’ve never seen it in the flesh. Haven’t even seen a good photo of it. Also dated 1669/EC. Hard to see from here, but those date/initials are in the corners of the right & left panels.

It takes a large log to rive out panels like these, overall they’re about 14″ x 17″. The original I studied was sawn stock, as was my first one. This new one is all riven – but I rarely see oak that good.

 

When I was working on the book, I had no photos of making brackets that fit under the front bottom rail. I made some for this chest so I could shoot them. One test-fitted into the stile:

BLOG UPDATE:

The past couple of posts have included more videos  – As we all scramble around to figure out what’s next in the woodworking circus, I’ve decided to take some of this “at-home” time to focus on shooting more videos at the bench. I have nice cameras that can do it, just haven’t put enough time into it before now. So you’ll see me tinkering with that more, even did some housekeeping on my youtube channel = https://www.youtube.com/user/MrFollansbee/videos 

I don’t know why it’s called “Mr Follansbee” but I hate it. I changed what it says on the page – but that hasn’t changed the web address. Oh well. Mostly the youtube uploads are so I can copy things over to here; but some will just stay there. Either extras, redundant or one reason or another.

As I get further along this route, I’ll keep you posted about it. I had looked at a patreon site – but I don’t want more websites to keep up – the blog & Instagram is about all I can handle. And I decided I’m not keen on the subscription idea. I have always posted free content on the blog and will continue to do so. However, I do need to make a living like most of us – and traveling and teaching is a big part of my income each year. So I’m aiming to put a donate button on the blog for any who are in a position to help keep things rolling around here. Curtis Buchanan is my inspiration in that regard, there’s worse leads to follow.

I hope you’re all hanging in there,
PF

videos of joined stool work

Back when the book Make a Joint Stool from a Tree came out, I was making how-to videos with Lie-Nielsen. Made a bunch of them over a few years. For a couple of reasons, we never did one on the joined stool. I have a stool underway now, and a recent post brought a question about how the story stick is used. So I tried to cover it in a video – my video capabilities are limited and challenged. I am not going to try to learn video editing…there’s only so many hours in a day. I’m the camera man and the woodworker in these – so there’s your warning. I won’t cover every aspect of making the stool, but will try to hit many of them.

Once I had that stile marked out, I put one on the lathe & set the camera up to try to catch that work. I AM NO GREAT TURNER! – but I can do enough for joiner’s work. So to really learn turning, find someone else. (I like Pete Galbert’s video on turning…) – but here’s my series on turning this stile on the pole lathe. I chopped it up into 3 videos – mostly so I could fumble around & get what I need as I was working. You’ll see, warts n’ all. For short videos, they’re pretty long. Tom Lie-Nielsen used to ask me if I could make a video shorter than Ben Hur.

Part one is mostly turning the cylinder from the square.

Now some of the details; cove, baluster, etc.

I re-jigged the camera for the foot, to try to get some detail. The sun came on very strong, and made things both better and worse.

Links –

the book Make a Joint Stool from a Tree https://lostartpress.com/products/make-a-joint-stool-from-a-tree

The video series from Lie-Nielsen; https://www.lie-nielsen.com/nodes/4243/home-education-videos

Pete Galbert’s video on turning – https://lostartpress.com/collections/dvds/products/galbert-turning

Curtis Buchanan’s video series – he’s got turning in there somewhere. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC2QCOxzGYG6gAqtF-1S7orw

a few birds

A large flock of brant (Branta bernicla) at Plymouth Beach

A smaller group further down the beach…

First osprey (Pandion haliaetus) of the season

A few sanderlings, (Calidris alba) these birds winter here…

Back at the house – a male bufflehead (Bucephala albeola) on the river. (updated post – I had mistakenly listed this as a common goldeneye, and it was caught by one of the readers. Thanks, Kevin.)

A female Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) at the feeder outside the shop window.

The male –

A red-tailed hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) up above the shop, sat there for fifteen minutes…

 

Everybody kind of held their breath…

Then the hawk quickly dispatched a chipmunk that had gone up pretty high in the tree. Flew across the yard to eat it…

DVD – “BUILD A SHAVING HORSE WITH PETER FOLLANSBEE”

UPDATE – MARCH 25: THERE’S A DOZEN OF THESE LEFT HERE. INTERNATIONAL ORDERS ARE PROBABLY BEST SERVED BY ORDERING THE STREAMING VERSION DIRECTLY FROM LIE-NIELSEN. OTHERWISE, I HAVE TO ADD EXTRA POSTAGE. 

Like many people, I’ve been cleaning parts of the house. Under the table behind my desk, I found more copies of the new Shaving Horse DVD. Here’s the blurb and a preview…

Some time ago, I shot a video with my friends at Lie-Nielsen about making the type of shaving horse I use. They released it right near the end of 2019.  I still have some for sale. It’s 2 DVDs, time is 162 minutes (I could never do short videos…)

The shaving horse is my version of Jennie Alexander’s design. I’ve been using mine since the late 1980s, and find it works just fine. Here’s a preview from LN –

You can order it directly from Lie-Nielsen either in streaming format or as discs. https://www.lie-nielsen.com/products/build-a-shaving-horse

There you will see all the DVDs I’ve done with them as well.

I have about a dozen of the Shaving Horse discs still. If I get this setup right, you can just click the paypal link below to buy it from me. Once mine are gone, it should redirect to Lie-Nielsen. If I’ve done it right…

https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=8QEQ885J2WKEE

the Arkansas Test

Many of you know I’ve been editing Jennie Alexander’s Make a Chair from a Tree for Lost Art Press. (yes, I know you want me to hurry…) At the same time, I’ve begun a meandering sort of research project that is only partially formed in my head. For a year or more now, I’ve referred to it as my “Craft Genealogy.” This is the first blog post on that subject. 

Much of this parallel project draws on the Jennie Alexander Papers, now housed at Winterthur Museum’s research library. JA kept notebooks from nearly the beginning of her chairmaking work, the earliest is dated 1973/4. There are other papers, notes and letters that I have here. Eventually, I’ll add these to the Winterthur collection. 

At North House, I gave a talk outlining some of it. It was mostly for me, but some of the audience claimed to like it. But they’re midwestern, they’re very polite. The focus of the talk was mostly about JA, Daniel O’Hagan and Bill Coperthwaite. All letter-writers. Many other people are involved – certainly Drew Langsner who is my connection to all of these folks.  While I was at North House, I stumbled onto a piece by surprise. 

In Daniel O’Hagan’s notes is a description of a stress-test Dave Sawyer used to apply to his ladderbacks, dated 1974: 

His chairs are so strong that he recommends what he calls the Arkansas test having learned it with other techniques from Arkansas craftsmen. The test is to tilt the chair on one leg and taking hold of a back post exert all one’s weight downwards on the chair which supports it all on one leg; by this any weak point will soon creak or break. ” 

The only Arkansas chairmaker mentioned so far in the Alexander letters was Charles Christian. More about him another time. JA eventually visited Christian, but I think had first  heard of him through Dave Sawyer. JA introduced himself to Sawyer in a letter dated May 1976 – but in an Oct 1976 letter to Sawyer, JA noted:

“It is a small world. I was going over my old notes the other day and saw that the Woody Brothers of Spruce Pine N. Car. had given me your name 2 years ago but I never got around to writing.”   

I don’t know how JA got onto the Woody Brothers of Spruce Pine, N.C. – Arval & Walter. Then-John and his wife Joyce had visited them in spring of 1974, and then traded a few letters back and forth. 

While at North House, I was browsing the bookshelves in one of the workshops. A variety of Scandinavian stuff, boatbuilding, timber-framing, etc. One little coffee-table National Geographic book “The Craftsman in America” (1975) – so I opened that, and found a photo that I recognized right away, but had never seen before. Arval Woody testing the chair just the way Daniel described Dave’s test. 

Chairmaking in the US is now is a small world, in the mid-1970s, it was even smaller. I see several explanations, none of which we really need. One is that Daniel mixed up Dave’s chairmaking friends, thus the Arkansas test might really be the NC test. Another is that the Woodys and Charles Christian knew each other, and they both did it. Another is that Dave is the transmission of this show-stopping demo – bringing it from the Christian shop to the Woodys. None of it matters. All I know for sure is when I opened that book at North House, and saw that photo, I knew right away I was on the right track. I heard Daniel O’Hagan’s voice say “It is providential!” 

PS:

I tried it yesterday and almost broke my neck.

I couldn’t balance, needed one hand on the bench. There’s plenty of weight on the chair still, I have enough to go around.

Brendan Gaffney got a better photo than I did; he’s still young & more nimble than me. 

 

PPS: The Woody’s Chair Shop is still going. https://www.woodyschairshop.com/

 

 

 

The new John Brown book and dimensions

I feel right at home reading Chris Williams’ new book Good Work, about John Brown. I’m sure I first heard of John Brown from Drew Langsner; he taught at Drew’s school a couple of times. His book Welsh Stick Chairs is quite an inspiration. Today I was reading one JB’s columns reprinted in the new book, about his disdain for measured drawings and plans. His thrust is to learn to trust your eye(s); and have that as a guide while you make your chair.

I have similar feelings about drawings for the joined furniture I make. Once I had a job for the US government, making a few pieces of furniture for an historic house in Connecticut. The major stumbling block for me was the feds wanted measured drawings and specs. I asked if I could do the drawings after making the furniture. They didn’t understand. I got through it, but it wasn’t fun.

My joined furniture falls into two general categories; one is direct copies of existing pieces. Then I measure the original, and produce parts that will get me stock of the proper size to build that piece. The other is to make a piece based on period practices, using construction, decoration and proportions based on what I’ve studied in various collections. I have notebooks filled with detailed notes to draw from. Then I get to work making my version of a box, stool, chest, etc.

Here’s the next carved box underway. The determining factor for the size of this box was my suitcase! I took the white oak board for the box front to North House and carved the front as a demonstration. Then brought it back home and made the box sides accordingly. So this is not a reproduction of an existing box, but made in all the same manner as a period box.

My next joined stool is underway as well. The customer didn’t have any particular stool in mind, but we talked about stools from Connecticut and from Northern Massachusetts…so I climbed up on the ladder to look over the story sticks hanging in the shop. Here’s just a few of them; one problem is many are two-sided. That’s now one of those rainy-day projects, to copy any “backs” and make them all one-sided, so they’re easier to find.

I picked one from Essex County, Massachusetts – the first thing I do after prepping the stock is layout and cut the mortises.

But I wanted to change a couple of things. The previous stools I just did were a customer request for stools just a tad higher than usual. I liked that look, and wanted to make this stool just 1 1/2″ or so taller. So you see here I’ve bumped things up (to our right) to increase the foot for this stool. I’ll tinker with the foot shape when I get to the lathe. I also beefed up the stretcher from 1 3/4″ high to 2″ high. Slight changes, but this is the sort of thing John Brown was writing about.. and some of his thoughts on this subject “keep it simple”…”use the eyes” – good advice.  I drive some of my students crazy when they ask for specifics and my reply is “just a little bit more” or “about like that” with my fingers showing the amount. Rulers – bah!

 

Once I struck the dimensions on the first stool leg/stile, I put the story stick away and marked the rest from that existing stile. It became the standard for this particular joined stool.

In the book, I also saw a variation on a favorite quote – “Experience is the best teacher but the fees can be very high.” I learned it from Daniel O’Hagan, “Experience keeps a dear school but fools will learn from no other.” That version is often attributed to Ben Franklin. Citations are hard to come by. Apparently, if you go by the internet, everybody said everything. 

Get the new John Brown book, well, the Chris Williams book from Lost Art Press

Good Work: The Chairmaking Life of John Brown

They brought John Brown’s book back into print as well.

Welsh Stick Chairs <BR>by John Brown

 

carving lunettes in white oak

Well, classes cancelled. Travel to a halt. If that’s the worst that happens, we’ll be fine here. I like being at home. I’ll get to spend more time writing and photographing blog posts I guess. I carved this yesterday, one of my North House students ordered it so he would have something to work from in his carving.

I tried some video while I was at it. Warts ‘n all; but there’s some techniques in these. It amounts to about 12 minutes of video, but is chopped up into bits:

This pattern is in the book Joiners Work https://lostartpress.com/products/joiners-work

and it was professionally shot on video with Lie-Nielsen https://www.lie-nielsen.com/nodes/4243/home-education-videos

It’s in the first one in that series, which is called “17th Century New England Carving” – that one has maybe 4 patterns, the S-scroll one has several variations on one theme, and the carved box one has some carving in it as well.

More soon. Keep safe.