Get well, Drew Langsner

I’ve been finishing up some stuff in the shop, pegging the slats in this hickory ladderback chair this afternoon. It’s nearly impossible for me to work on projects like this one & not think of my friend Drew Langsner. I sound like a broken record over the years, but Drew and his wife Louise changed my life.

l.-r. Drew Langsner, Jögge Sundqvist, Louise Langsner, Peter Follansbee

Many others too I’m sure. 2020 has not been a good year for anyone, or if it has, they had best keep quiet about it. For Drew, it featured a long medical hassle that he’d just come through when two weeks ago as a coda he had emergency bypass surgery. I spoke to him the other day, and he was happy to be home after his time in the hospital. He had great praise for the staff at the Mission Hospital in Asheville, N.C. – and was relating to me all the new challenges; (“if your butt goes down, your feet come up” is the new mantra). Finding a flat place to walk around their farm is the trick now…

If you’re not familiar with Drew’s work; it’s a long story, but from about 1977 onward for 40 years, he & Louise ran a hand-tool woodworking school  on their place in western North Carolina. Starting with just a few week-long classes in the summer, eventually they added workshops year-round. Chair-making, basketry, timber framing, spoon & bowl carving, Japanese woodworking tools, and on & on. If you carve spoons in slojd/sloyd style in America – it’s because of them, whether you know it or not. I’ve written about their place a number of times over the years – https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/?s=country+workshops

He’s written several books, the first one I saw was Country Woodcraft back in 1978. Lost Art Press is working on the new edition of that book, slated to come out this year. I’ll be sure to post a notice when it’s available. Back at Greenwood Fest #2 in 2017, we were lucky enough to be able to host Drew & Louise as a way of honoring their enduring contribution to our craft. This is a group photo from our Greenwood Fest of folks who had been to Country Workshops at some point over the years…

It was a highlight for me to be able to include them that way in that event, after all they’ve done for me. They gave a talk there about the 40-year history of their school Country Workshops. It was great to view those old, and not-so-old, photos, but few have Drew in them…someone sent me this one of Drew from that visit in Plymouth in 2017. 

So, now Drew is hanging around the house recuperating from heart surgery. I know he reads this blog, so if you’d like to leave a comment for him here, I’ll be sure he sees them. Even better though – if you’d like to send a card or a note in the US mail – they’ll make their way out to the mailbox at some point…that address is
Drew Langsner
775 Black Pine Ridge Rd
Marshall, N.C. 28753

 

All right, let’s send some healing best wishes down to that mountain…

carving video posted

I’ve been working on a series of carving videos to go with the upcoming drawings/patterns (out for what we figure is the final test-print now) – I’ll write more about these series of drawings soon. One thing about them is that they are grouped according to bodies of work I have studied for 30 years now. The first set will be called “Devon, England and Ipswich, Massachusetts – set 1.”  If things go well (polite-speak for “if they sell…”) there will be at least one, maybe two more from that group, and many others besides. There’s lots of groups/shop-traditions/locales – when I was studying surviving furniture, the goal was to see as many related works as possible, to better understand what is “normal” versus what is an aberration.

But there were/are times when I come across an object for which there is no known history and no obvious related works. My friend Trent and I used to use an informal shorthand for these – UFOs.

The carving at the top of this post is my version of one of these UFO patterns. It’s a typical format – the use of lunettes above and below a horizontal centerline – I carved a different take on it in my first Lie-Nielsen video years ago, and in the book Joiner’s Work. But this “infill” is slightly made up by me, using a photo from Vic Chinnery’s Oak Furniture: The British Tradition as a starting point.

So this one doesn’t fit into any grouping – thus I shot a video of it just because I had a wide enough board. And it gives us a carving video-tease until the real thing comes along… I shot some new footage for an opening sequence and Daniel put it together perfectly…we hope you like it.

We’ll still finish the basket-making series, but I’ve been up to my eyeballs in carving lately and wanted to show some. Here goes:

 

OAK FURNITURE & ASH BASKETS FOR SALE

I have some baskets & a few pieces of oak furniture for sale.

The furniture is all joined & carved by hand. Almost all the oak was split from a log, hewn & planed, etc. (except for the box lid and chair seat – those are quartersawn stock) Construction details are throughout the blog here, in my videos w Lie-Nielsen and books with Lost Art Press.

The carved box I can pack & ship. The larger pieces I will have to take somewhere (UPS probably) to be packed & shipped. Or I can deliver them within a couple hours’ drive of Kingston MA. (or you can come pick them up if you wear a mask…)

The baskets are all ash, with hickory rims & handles. There’s videos on the blog recently, showing all the steps in making baskets, from pounding the log apart, weaving, (and next up for the videos) shaving and bending handles & rims.

If you’d like to purchase anything, leave a comment here or send an email peterfollansbee7@gmail.com  you can pay through paypal (with additional fees) or send a check. Just let me know which you prefer.

The carved box is the only one ready for sale right now, but I have two more underway, and will take orders for boxes anytime. They’re something I keep stock for all the time, so there’s never too long a wait for one. Email me if you’d like to order something.

Thanks as always,
PF

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CARVED OAK BOX –

white & red oak, white pine bottom.
H: 8 1/2″ W: 23 3/8″  D: 13″
$1,050 includes shipping in US.

This pattern is often found on 17th-century work – a surprising amount of detail in small spaces. (the bottom photo shows the detail well…)
Glued & pegged at the corners, bottom nailed on w handmade nails. Handmade hinges as well. A lidded till inside.

 

 

 

JOINED & CARVED CHEST
red oak & white pine. Handmade hinges & nails. Lidded till inside.
H: 30 1/2″   W: 45″  D: 21 1/4″
$4,000 plus shipping.

I was recently trying to estimate how many joined chests I’ve made. It’s well over 60. This is one of my favorites – the wide front panels separated by an extra-wide muntin is an unusual format. I based mine on a Devon chest I saw 20 years ago, and have seen others presumably by the same maker since then in photographs. Back when I was writing my book, I wanted to include a short detour on making the “brackets” that fit under the bottom rail. So I made this chest just to get the photos for the book! Then it sat around unfinished for years. Now it’s done, and there’s no room in the house for it. Room for your (or someone’s) initials or date on the muntin…

Here it is with junk piled on it:

I cleared out some room in the shop today to take “proper” photographs (as proper as I’m going to get…) – but there’s only room for the 53″ wide paper, and the chest is 45″ wide. Technically, it fits on the paper, but not for a photo…so here is what I call a “half-view” –

 

The lidded till inside, and the handmade hinges visible in the rear rail.

The only way it fit, but you can’t see the front. Two-panel ends, typical of my chests. Single-board white pine lid.

One of the panels in this chest:

WAINSCOT CHAIR

red and white oak. Finial is ash.
H: 47 1/2″ W: (widest point across front of seat) 25 1/2″  D: c. 24″  Seat height: 18 1/2″
$4,000 plus shipping

I’ve made versions of this chair three times before. This one I designed the panel as well as the top rear rail, just below the crest. Otherwise, it’s a close copy to two originals made in Ipswich Massachusetts, probably by Thomas Dennis, between the late 1660s and 1700.

Sometimes it seems from photos that these chairs are huge, there’s a shot in this gallery of me in the chair & you’ll get a sense of its actual size.

 

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BASKETS – All of these are ash splints, with hickory handles and rims. Most, maybe all, have hickory bark lashing around the rims. These baskets are made for use; I’ve been using baskets like these around the shop and house for over 30 years.

If you’d like to purchase one, leave a comment here. Prices include shipping in the US – you can pay through paypal or send a check. Just let me know which you prefer.

 

large round basket –
14″ diameter at rims, basket height 9″ to handle 18″
$600 including shipping in US.

 

——————–

rectangular basket  – SOLD
10″ x 13″ at rims; basket height is 8″, to handle about 15″
$400 including shipping in US.

———————

Swing-handle round basket  –  SOLD
12 1/2″ – 13″ diameter at rims; basket height 8 3/4″, overall 16″ high.
$500 including shipping in US.

This form is a favorite of mine, based on baskets made in eastern New York state in the early 20th century.

——————

long rectangular basket
10″ x 16 1/2″ at rims, basket height 6″, to handle 14″
$400 including shipping in US.

 

———————-

square-to-round basket   SOLD
10″ diameter at rims, basket height 9″, to handle 17″
$350 including shipping in US.

next basket-making video

This one took some effort. It had been a while since I looked at the video footage I had of the next step in basket-making. And there were some holes in the sequence. So this one might be a bit choppy, maybe too long in some places and too short in others, but such as it is, here’s the last steps in weaving the basket.

That means next time it’s handles & rims…

 

 

wainscot chair terminus/termes

a lot of photographs today. I got some nice quartersawn oak (thanks Rick D) – and have been using it for box lids and now the seat to my wainscot chair that’s been hanging around waiting to get finished.

I didn’t shoot the whole sequence of test-fitting the seat over those front stiles. A lot of wriggling around to get it just right…then you peg it to the side and front rails.

Then the arms can go back on, and get pegged to the rear & front stiles. Above you can see why the arms go on after the seat, you couldn’t peg the seat down if the arms were in place.

After the arms are pinned, it’s time to carve & install these figures that adorn the edges of the rear stiles. All I know about the two originals these are based on is that there are two or three large nails fixing these things in place. Whether there’s anything more than that is conjecture. But I’ll show you what I did.

This is one case where I use a template to outline the pattern.

Then I use a V-tool to cut just outside this outline, I find this helps when sawing the shape out.

A turning saw, used carefully, does a good job of roughing out the scrolls and other bits.

Then I clean up with a large #5 carving gouge. Often with the bevel up.

Carving some of the details.

Installing it – I add some belt-and-suspenders action. I use pegs between the stile and this appliled ornament. To locate them, I drove two small wire brads into the applied bit, then snipped off their heads.

Then blammed it in place and the brads made prick marks where I then want to bore holes. I pulled the brads and bored 3/8″ holes in the applied bit and the stiles.

then shaved a couple of small pins, and glued the whole thing & knocked it in place. Then clamped it and came in for lunch. Later I’ll add a couple of toe-nailed wrought nails.

I’ve heard many names for these figures. We often refer to them as “Easter Island” figures, which is of course nonsense. I learned of Atlantes/Atlas, carytids, and probably other names too. Jennie Alexander gave me a copy of Cyril Harris’ Illustrated Dictionary of Historic Architecture many years ago. Told me to keep it in the bathroom. I did for a while. But now it’s in the shop. There, I looked up “termes” – what I knew as another name for these figures. Harris has “terminus” – “the upper part of a human body springing out of a plain block…pilaster, console, bracket OR THE LIKE”!

 

Basket-making video posted

It’s high summer here now, but back when I shot this video of basket-making, it was still cool enough for long-sleeve shirts, etc.
Daniel has just finished editing the next installment, weaving a rectangular basket, part 1. There’ll be more of these, I’m finishing up handles and rims these days, between other stuff.

Baskets for sale coming up as well…

back at it

I got back to some bench work the other day. Began fitting bottoms to three boxes that have been waiting around…

Sharpened the planes, thicknessed some white pine (above) and trimmed it to size. Jointing the edge here, prior to planing the bevels where the bottom will overhang the box’s sides & front.

Here’s the bevels, and pilot holes for the nails that will secure the bottom in place.

This small, 4-square reamer is one of my favorite tools. Here I used it to open up those pilot holes from below, to match the tapered shanks of the hand-made nails.

Nailing the bottom on – two in each side. Sometimes I add a 3rd in the front edge. Depends on how nail-rich I feel.

This one gets iron hinges too. Here’s the holdfast pinning the box down to the bench so I can bore and install the hinges.

A detail of hammering the gimmal/snipe-bill hinges in. That same reamer opened up this pilot hole as well.

Bent on the inside, about to be clinched.

Lids for these boxes before too long. Here’s a snapshot of the three underway…that desk box goes all the way back to my book Joiner’s Work. I needed a few photos for that book, and had to make this box to get the shots. It’s been waiting to get finished since then, maybe 3 years?

No photo description available.

All the details about making boxes like this are in my book Joiner’s Work and a DVD I did with Lie-Nielsen – and scattered throughout this blog over the years too. If you need to know more, here’s links and don’t forget the search button in the sidebar –

Joiner's Work

https://www.lie-nielsen.com/products/carved-oak-boxes-with-peter-follansbee?path=home-education-videos&node=4243

Then yesterday I took some time to go birding with Marie Pelletier & Paula Marcoux – lousy light for photos, but a nice day down at the beach. Saw piping plovers (Charadrius melodus), including 3 chicks. Here’s one of those chicks. Paula’s been one of the monitors for this beach, these chicks are now just shy of 3 weeks old.

There’s maybe 3 pairs of killdeer (Charadrius vociferus) nesting there too. Here’s one of them.

On our way out, we saw a black & white warbler (Mniotilta varia) feeding a chick – deep in the bushes it was hard to get enough light for a shot. This is the juvenile.

 

Speaking of  Paula – she’s done a couple videos recently, one about making chive pancakes and the other about brown bread – see them here – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCbDDMEyH2wQ57gpgS1gDv8Q 

Some patterns I carve, some I don’t

I’m still nursing a sore back. slowly working away at one thing or another. Past couple of days it’s been the next set of drawings for this project – https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/2020/06/17/working-on-drawings/

(Yes, I know the first set’s not ready yet, but I have to do something…)

Over the years, there are some things that I just won’t bother carving. This chest of mine is an example –

I copied the two panels and wide muntin as closely as I could from an original I measured 20 years ago. But the bottom rail is made up from related works. Here’s the bottom rail from the original:

bottom rail, 1669 Devon chest; 2 panels

It’s clearly accomplished carving, all those curves flow nicely, nothing too abrupt to jar the eye. But it’s so boring. No background, no shaping. Just the repeating leaf-shapes. So I’ve never carved that pattern – and it appears again & again in the overall works. Here it is on one of the New England examples, running up the stiles also. I guess the only way I’d bother with this pattern is if I were hired to copy verbatim an existing work with it.

here’s a variation, with an extra outline and some textured punch work where you might remove background otherwise. This one’s a vertical muntin.

muntin Devon chest

A student at Lost Art Press last fall showed me these photos taken from the web – I had never seen this chest before. I really liked that center panel, but the bottom rail is a dud.

One  I have tinkered with a number of times is sort of in between. Here’s an original example, a muntin from a chest in Darlington, Devon.

 

And a chest at Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford, Connecticut. Made in Ipswich, MA. Both stiles, top rail & both muntins use this pattern.

 

Below I cropped the top rail from that photo – not sure it will come through in detail.

A drawing I did of that pattern a couple of years ago. Either mine, or the original, is upside-down. I’ve seen it carved both ways.

This pattern is a bit hard to wrap my head around. I broke it down to three elements, (here in black, green & blue) and then these just lay against each other as the pattern repeats. (my full drawing above is 2 1/3 repeats).

It’s a weird one. I’ve only carved it a few times –

joined chest, c. 2001
detail

Most recently I carved this design when I built the shop in 2016. Did it twice then, because this one’s on the wrong side of the brace, now covered with sheathing for a few decades.

So keep in mind that my “take” on these Devon, England/Ipswich, Massachusetts carvings are skewed. I take what I need, and leave the rest.

Basket Making video: Pounding and Peeling Splints

This one is long. And the first 10 minutes have too much background noise; wind & traffic. When the wind is from the east here, I get more traffic noise from rte 3. And just above the area I’m working in outdoors is our road, so I was sort of wedged between the devil & the deep blue sea.

But I hope it’s worth it – this video shows how I pound apart the billets to make splints, then how to “dress” them, both by scraping them with a knife, and splitting them in half. Then how to trim them to width. All this work, combined with the previous video, is preparation of the material. Then comes weaving…

I think I wore Daniel out editing this one. So I have to give him some time off before the next one…

There will be a few baskets for sale soon. Save up…

Strapwork

I haven’t been carving lately, but I’ve been thinking a lot about it as I work on the patterns’ drawings. Earlier this week, it was “strapwork.”

That’s a term art historians apply to a group of carvings (& other decoration) that mimic iron straps bound around woodwork. Or so it seems to me, anyway. This style of engraving by de Vries is often cited as an example when discussing (the few) New England examples, or the English ones – but it is only related in concept, not in details.

I first carved it about 20 years ago, one of my early attempts is incorporated in the headboard of this bedstead; two large horizontal panels:

bedstead headboard

My most recent example went into this wainscot chair that’s now in the loft waiting to be finished. 

 

The most extensive research into this particular pattern is Anthony Wells-Cole’s 1981 article “Oak Bed at Montacute: A Study in Mannerist Decoration” in Furniture History. That article runs down a lot of examples in and around Exeter, England. Recently, I sat down with some of the illustrations from that article and searched the web for newer photographs of some of the monuments Wells-Cole cited. (if you have access through JSTOR you can read it here https://www.jstor.org/stable/23404733?seq=1 )

(I’ve not seen any of these monuments – I clipped all these photos off the web. Some wikipedia, some travel blogs, etc)

Carew family monument, 1589 Exeter Cathedrel

Fulford monument, Dunsford, Devon – Thomas Fulford died 1610.

 

Sir Thomas Harris, Cornworthy, Devon, died 1610. Monument said to be erected in 1611.

A pulpit from Iddesleigh Devon –

Many, many years ago I did see some excellent examples in Totnes, Devon:

carved panel, Totnes pews

carved pews, Totnes, Devon

The only person I know of in England these days studying this work in detail is Paul Fitzsimmons, owner of Marhamchurch Antiques. He’s a magnet for Exeter/Devon carved furniture in general, and has clustered together a great group of strapwork examples. Sadly, these days you can buy original oak furniture from him cheaper than you can buy reproductions from me! https://www.marhamchurchantiques.com/current-stock/