Summer’s over, I go to the beach

Once summer’s over, we head to the beach more frequently. It’s the best place there is. I pored through a bunch of photos I’ve taken there lately. Some came out better than I thought at the time.

Low tide is the best for walking. A bunch of gulls just hanging around.

Higher tides are best for bird-watching. Semi-palmated plovers (Charadrius semipalmatus) coming in for a landing.

Sanderling (Calidris alba) on the run.

And in flight.

This was last month, one of the osprey (Pandion haliaetus) making a last-minute appearance before migration.

More sanderlings, with a dunlin (Calidris alpina) mixed in

and no, I don’t know all these Latin/scientific names – I look them up on Cornell’s site – https://www.allaboutbirds.org/

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PF chair class at Pete Galbert’s chairmaking shop

I’m slowly getting my 2020 schedule together. Each year, I swear I’ll travel less but so far it still looks like about once a month I’m somewhere. I wish I could be in two places at once.

But this one’s easy – teaching chairmaking in a chairmaker’s shop. Not just any chairmaker, but Pete Galbert. July 13-18, 2020. Only 6 slots, they go on sale at Pete’s site Friday Oct 18 at 8am eastern time.

https://www.petergalbert.com/schedule/2020/7/13/make-a-chair-from-a-tree-with-peter-follansbee

 

Plymouth CRAFT’s weekend of spoons & bowls

It’s taken me a while, but here’s my post about Plymouth CRAFT’s recent weekend of woodworking. We had JoJo Wood back for her Pocket Spoon class; and Darrick Sanderson came back to help folks dive into bowl turning on pole (really bungee) lathes. That’s JoJo’s students above, deep in concentration, also following the sunshine as the day went on.

If Plymouth CRAFT had a spiritual home, it would be Overbrook House. http://www.overbrookhouse.com/  It was here that we had our first workshops, and we’ve returned many times. In real life, it’s a wedding venue & more, but we turn it into something altogether different. The Ingersolls, our tolerant hosts there, are the greatest. The students know they’re close when they see this sign by our board member David Berman http://trustworth.com/index.shtml

It points them up to the house; which is the center of our world there. Paula’s lunches happen here…

All right, back to the woodsy bits. JoJo’s pocket spoon is a revolution in the making. Go read what JoJo says about it, I don’t need to repeat all that. She started the whole idea of pocket spoons, as I recall…  https://pocketspoon.co.uk/

Here, she’s showing (at my request) the 7 blanks she just split out of this one quarter section of black birch. She squeezes out a lot of spoons from a small section of wood.

Hewing the shape with her hatchet.

A new pocket spoon in the making.

Meanwhile, down at the dance hall, the bowl turners were hewing out blanks

Darrick Sanderson showing them how to rough-turn the outside of the bowl.

A shot showing the hook as Darrick comes up toward the bowl’s rim.

We (well, Pret really – I had nothing to do with it) recently adapted our 8 lathes so they could work without a pole. Two uprights are dropped into mortises in the bed, then heavy-duty bungee strapped between them. The lathes worked very well, and the students worked very hard. Two full days of kicking that treadle is no joke.

Our friend Marie Pelletier always shoots photos at our events, and they end up here: https://www.facebook.com/PlymouthCRAFT/

Cedrela odorata

We took a few days for a trip to Maine; went to the Common Ground Fair and generally bumped around. Now back in the shop, I am getting ready for the next round of workshops, mine & otherwise. Connecticut Valley, Plymouth CRAFT and then Connecticut Valley again. But I squeezed in some time on the chest of drawers before our Maine trip and again yesterday.

Here’s before, from the previous blog post:

And now after making and installing a slew of moldings on the lower case. Makes a huge difference:

 

All these moldings are made from Spanish cedar, which is not from Spain and isn’t a cedar tree. Its scientific name is Cedrela odorata and it’s part of the same family as mahogany. Spanish cedar, or Cedro, grows in Central and South America. It’s not even a soft wood, although it is very soft. It’s a deciduous tree, losing its leaves during the dry season. Cedrela is semi-ring-porous:

Some of the stock in the period chests in Boston was riven, see the lower rail inside this chest of drawers:

Riven Cedrela

I typically use local woods; oak, ash, white pine, a few others. I am using Cedrela here because of the study I did of the Boston chests of drawers that used it back in the 17th century. It’s amazingly nice wood to work, but is considered “threatened” – the next step on that chart is “endangered.” https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/32292/68080590 – so I won’t be buying it again. This whole project is an environmental time bomb – next up on this project is another troubled timber – East Indian rosewood, a dalbergia species. Yikes.

Now, onto the work I just did on the lower case. When I have a few feet of molding to make, like on a typical joined chest, I use a scratch stock. When I have dozens and dozens of feet and many different profiles, I get out Matt Bickford’s book and go to town. https://lostartpress.com/products/mouldings-in-practice

Matt’s work breaks down any molding into a series of rabbets and chamfers as guides for hollows and rounds. It’s a very methodical approach that works very well, with some patience. The bulk of the work is preparation; the hollows and rounds come in right near the end for all the glory. Here, I’m using a fillester plane to begin setting out some rabbets to remove the bulk of the stock.

It’s hard to see with all those shavings on the bench, but the molding is pressed against a long board that is fixed in place by a holdfast. Maybe 2.

I missed photographing the chamfer that set out the bearing for running this hollow plane. Now the molding is pressed into a “sticking board” – a ledger strip with a stop at one end (in this case, a screw that can be driven higher or lower to stop the molding from shifting forward under the plane.)

this is the base molding for the lower case, it’s 2″ thick by maybe 2 1/2″-2 3/4″ high. A whole series of rabbets provides support for running a large round plane to make a sweeping concavity.

here’s the round plane working down those rabbets until it blends the whole series together.

You can see some of those moldings on this lower case; I have yet to make the base molding for the sides. One more drawer rail molding will go in between the middle and upper drawer next time I work on this project. They’re glued on right now, and the larger ones will get square wooden pins driven through them as well.

A few more moldings to go, then comes turnings.

chest of drawers, some background & history

 

More about the chest of drawers. The above photo shows how far I got this week. There’s a staggering number of pieces of wood in this thing, and several dozen more to come. Trent got me thinking about it in these terms, and I wasted a lot of time counting the individual bits – somewhere near 230 thus far. 

But, back to the chest of drawers itself, time for some background. This project was begun ages ago, and got stashed for an interminable period. The original that it’s based on was made in Boston, and is now at the Museum of Fine Arts. Mine’s not a direct copy, but its format, proportions and general overall look is taken from that piece. Here’s their photo: 

Years ago, I worked with Bob Trent on a long-winded article about chests of drawers, you can read it (and see most of the photos, but not all of them) here, http://www.chipstone.org/article.php/612/American-Furniture-2010/Reassessing-the-London-Style-Joinery-and-Turning-of-Seventeenth-Century-Boston 

A chest of drawers like this is a significant item in that period. The only way it could be “better” is if it had doors, like the related one at Yale University’s Art Gallery. The lower case is two square, or nearly square doors, with three drawers behind them. The upper case is much like the MFA’s; two shallow, side-by-side drawers above a very deep single drawer. Both feature various “exotic” woods; Spanish cedar, lignum vitae, rosewood, ebony, etc. 

Thankfully, I didn’t set out all those years ago to make a copy of the Yale one! The MFA one is involved enough. 

Long-time readers of the blog might remember my greatest hit, “Riven Cedrela” about the chest of drawers at the MFA:

https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/2013/03/07/riven-cedrela-to-the-tune-of-on-top-of-old-smokey/

I have lots of research material we collected when writing that American Furniture article, mine mostly centered on identifying the men in Boston who followed the trades of joinery, turning, and some other woodworkers too. The joiners Henry Messinger and Ralph Mason seemed to be at the top of the heap, several of their sons followed them in the trade. Probate records for several of them survive and contain some high-style furniture forms. 

I’ll post inventories for Henry Messenger and his son Henry Messenger, Jr. here – the prices listed are pounds/shillings/pence. 12 pence to a shilling, 20 shillings to a pound. A tradesman’s wages in New England then might have been around 2 or 3 shillings a day…

Henry Messenger –

An inventory of the estate of Henry Messenger deceased taken by us whose names underwritten the 30 of April 1681

In the Parlor

A featherbed a boulster & too pillows a payer of blankets a coverlid & curtins & valling & bedstead £08:00:00

A framed bedsted a woolbed & boulster 2 coverlits 01:05:00

A press cubberd wth drawers

A table & seven joint stooles 01:10:00

A small round table five elbo chayrs 00:18:00

Two framde Elbo chayrs 00:08:00

Close stoole with a pewter pan in it & stone mortar 01:10:00

2 small boxes 1 case of quart bottles 10/ three stone juggs 1 Earthen 8/ 00:18:00

9 cushions & a warming pann 18/ A cote of Armes & Joynrs Armes 40/ 02:18:00

a parcel of glas & Earthen ware 12/ A silver spoon &  dram cup 10/ 01:02:00

A looking glass 2/6 Eight pr of sheets & five pr of pillobeers 7:10:00 07:12:06

Three dozn napkins of several sorts five small pillobeers & cupboard cloth 02:01:00

A Large diaper table cloth & three Linnen ditto 01:00:00

A pr darnick curtains & vallents 00:10:00

Two Darnick carpets and cupboard cuishion 00:12:00

A pr andirons fire shovel and tongs 8/ a Rapier & Childs blankett 10/ 00:18:00

In the Parlor chamber  

A feather bed, Boulster a pillow a pr sheets a pr blanketts Rugg and Bedsteed 04:00:00

Two Searge chaires a stand & pr of andirons 01:00:00

A small box of drawers a chest and looking glass 01:00:00

 

In the hall

A pr of andirons a fire shovel, tongs, a trammell pr of bellows 01:05:00

One cupboard, one chest and a screen 01:10:00

One table 3 joint stooles 4 chaires & a forme 01:00:00

Three framed chaires & 2 other chaire & one leather 00:15:00

A looking glass and a parcel of Earthen ware 00:05:00

Three Bibles and other bookes 00:10:00

A pr andirons tongs & fire shovel and tramell 01:05:00

A gridiron, fire Iron, toasting Iron and four Spits 00:15:00

Three Iron candlesticks and two frying pans 00:08:00

Five Brass kettles three skillets and a brass morter 02:10:00

Six pewter dishes, six pewter pots, two salts, three porringers a plate, 

seven small dishes and one chamber pot 02:05:00

Three dripping pans one sawce pan one funnell 00:07:00

A punch Bowle lign vitae 00:10:00

A parcel of wooden and Earthen ware & one piggin 00:10:00

Two pr scales and twelve pounds lead weights & meale barrel 00:10:00

In Kitchen chamber

Two spinning wheels a cradle, a table wth other lumber 01:10:00

In the Cellar

A powdering tubb with other tubbs and barrells 01:00:00

In the hall chamber

A flock bed and two feather pillows a pr blanketts a pr sheets two small pillows an old Rugg Bedsteed and a pillowbeer 02:10:00

In the middle room over the Hall  

Another flock Bed, one Bolster a pr blanketts a pr sheets a Rugg and 

Bedsteed 02:10:00

A feather bed a Bolster a pillow a pr blanketts a pr sheets a Rugg a Bedstead 05:00:00

One table three chests a small box a close stool wth Earthen pan 01:10:00

A parcel of glue and Nurces skins 02:10:00

In the shop chambr

A wicker glass case, a chest of drawers a large bedsteed and trundlebedsteed 02:10:00

In the shop

All sorts of Joyners Tools 05:00:00

A table and Chest of Drawers not finished 01:00:00

Timber within and without Doors wrought and unwrought 10:00:00

Two cows and hay 06:00:00

Land and housing in all 400:00:00

About 20 gallons of trayn oyl 01:00:00

John Fayerweather Edw Wyllys

Sarah Messinger Exec made Oath in Court 5 May 1681 that this is a just and true Inventory of the Estate of her late husband Henry Messinger decd to the best of her knowledge and that if more appears she will discover it. 

Attests Js Addington

 

Henry Messenger, Jr.

{PF: When Henry Messenger died in 1681, his sons Henry, John, Simeon and Thomas were all practicing joiners. The first of these, John, born in 1641, could have been working on his own from the early 1660s, thus his career and that of his father could have overlapped for almost 20 years. At the other end of the range, Thomas, born in 1662 might have just finished his apprenticeship by the time of his father’s death. 

The younger Henry Messinger died in 1686, just a few years after his father. His shop included at least two apprentices, based on his calling Benjamin Threeneedle his “eldest apprentice” in his will: 

“I give to my Eldest apprentice Benjamin Threeneedle the remainder of his time he hath yet to serve with me; and if his friends thinke he have not sufficient cloathing I would have my wife give him one suit of Apparell suitable for him.”]

Inventory of the Estate of Henry Messenger late of Boston, Joyner decd taken & apprized by us whose names are underwritten, 30th Nov 1686

Impr. His wearing Apparell, hatts, shoes, stockins, shirts etc 

and his Armes, given away by will amongst his Brethren

25:4:00

In the Halle:

1 doz. Russia Leather chaires at 11/8 6:12:00

2 Tables at 24s a ps 1:08:00

 

In the Chamber over the halle:

8 Turkey worke chaires at 14s 5:12:00

1 Chest of drawers 2:10:00

1 feather bed, boulster, pillows, ffurniture of coverings, curtains,

 vallents and bedestead 17:00:00

1 table 25s  1 looking glass & brasses 18 2:03:00

1 pr brasses for the chimney 20s 2 stands 8 1:08:00

In the Chamber over the Kitchin

One feather bed, furniture and bedstead 6-00-00

1 ???att table, one chest & deske and Trunke 1-10-00

In the Kitchin

1 Table (price) eight sedge bottom chaires (price) 1-12-00

1 Hamaker and Morings (price) one Chest 2-00-00

A dwelling house & garden and land the apprces 200-00-00

Timber, Boards, planks workeing tooles (etc) at the 

Shop, apprized by Mr Cunnibell and Tho: Warren, Joyners

At Eleven pounds 16/8 11-16-8

A parcel of glew -12-10

Money since the death of my husband for worke done for 

Some frenchmen 2-05-00

I spent a lot of time trying to determine if the joiners were all grouped in one area in the city. It seemed that several did live pretty close to each other, but whether this was just how things worked out or was intentional & somehow effected their work habits could never be established. One joiner, Jeremiah Bumstead, lived right next to Henry Messenger, Sr. But they weren’t exactly best friends, according to: 

“The testimony of Thomas Varrin, aged about 16 years… 

That he has heard Jerimyah Bumstead caull henery Messinger senior a wicked base mallitious fellow and the devill had set him a work and he would finish it for him and further testifyeth I have heard him call him a prateing Logarhed” 

I found the above testimony in an unpublished manuscript by Benno Forman, 

Boston Furniture Craftsman, citing Suffolk Superior Court Files 10:149. I don’t remember if I followed up & read the original record. 

 

This ain’t in the book

When I was working on the book Joiner’s Work, I started out thinking it was going to be a book about making a joined chest. https://lostartpress.com/products/joiners-work

Then it grew & grew, to include a slew of carving, several different boxes, the original idea of the joined chest, then a chest with a drawer. But not a chest of drawers. But…if you read the book, all you need to know about making a chest of drawers is in there. The chest of drawers I have underway right now is only the 2nd one I’ve ever built, a good reason to not include it in a book. Here it was a couple weeks ago – not much different from today.

Today I was making the drawers for the lower case. These have half-blind dovetails joining the sides to the front, but rabbets (with nails) joining the back to the sides. I didn’t shoot photos of how I cut dovetails; there’s qualified people for that. I’m strictly an amateur at dovetails. This photo shows the half blind joint on the drawer front, with the groove below for the drawer bottoms. The drawer is “side-hung” – it slides on runners inside the carcase. The drawer side has a groove plowed for this runner.  In this case, the groove is wide, 9/16″. At the back end of the drawer side, nothing. The rear board has a rabbet that will be nailed together. Typical drawer construction of the period.

 

 

This is looking into the lower case’s guts. I have started installing the drawer runners; the bottom & middle drawers are ready, you can see the notches for the upper drawer’s runner chopped into the front & rear stiles.

 

Now two of the drawers are tested into the case, and the drawer sides for the upper drawer are tested before I cut any joints in them.

The drawers have figured maple inserts, that will then be framed by Spanish cedar moldings. The whole effect will be to mimic two side-by-side drawers. Here’s a detail of one of the upper case drawers including a drawer knob of East Indian rosewood.

I got the middle drawer assembled & fitted, and the upper drawer glued up right at 6pm; but it was a tad out-of-square, so I threw a clamp across the corners & left the room. Tomorrow is another day. I’ll inset the maple in this drawer, then work on the cedar moldings for all three of them. Then on & on, more rosewood turnings, big moldings & small, more & more details. No carvings, but still no blank space.

Beginning the basket/cradle

Today was basket weaving, or more accurately, cradle-weaving. The project is a woven cradle for the Old House in Cutchogue, Long Island. I’m using white ash splints I pounded off a log some time ago. I soaked them in water for a while, then began “dressing” them. Sometimes this means scraping the splint by pulling it under a heavy slojd knife; like this:

Other times it’s peeling them apart. Score across the splint, bend the “tab” back to begin to divide it, then pull. Here’s an old, brief clip:

Once they are cleaned up, I cut them to the widths I need. Sometimes just a pair of scissors is all that’s needed. The uprights are heavier; both thicker & wider, than the weavers (horizontals). I had measured and photographed an old woven cradle at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, that was the basis for this one. I started in with the base woven like a large placemat. Below I’m adding in the short uprights:

Then measuring to arrive at the right size base. My uprights were a little wider than those on the old cradle, so I used slightly fewer of them, but just stopped when I hit the right dimensions.

I need lots of weavers for this project. I made a slitter for slicing the weavers. I’ve never seen one of these tools in the flesh, so I made this one up. It has a series of X-acto knife blades embedded into the end of a narrow pine offcut. Then I screwed a cap of oak to the end grain to keep the blades from slipping:

Then I pull a splint across it, slicing the ash into weavers. I’ve rarely used such a tool, I usually just use scissors. But this basket requires a lot of weavers…

 

Because I’m pretty new to using a tool like this, I don’t really quite “have the technique” yet. Here’s a short view of the action

 

It’s always cumbersome getting the big ones going. They want to flop around a lot…I keep it moist, and bend each side as I weave around it.

After a while, it begins to take shape and I can coerce each “wall” upright, then weave around & around.

It’s beginning to hold its shape on its own.

I weave with a continuous spiral around the basket; here I’m overlapping a new weaver under the end of the previous one.

Next up is figuring out how to weave the hood; I’m splicing in 9 side uprights so they’ll reach across and loop over the top. The long bits to my right form part of the hood at one end of the cradle.

I got this far & quit to take Rose to her violin lesson. Tomorrow I’ll pack these rows down tighter (after they dry overnight) then add a few more to bring the main body of the cradle to its finished height. Then tackle the hood.