Mostly I have been just splitting and planing red oak stock lately; but I did get a chance to do a little carving and turning. the carving is a practice piece for a cupboard I have to build this coming winter. the posts (or stiles) for the joined stool is something I just started for a client. More of both to come very soon.
In seventeenth-century London, and several other locations, tradesmen were required to submit to inspections, called “searches” of their workshops and wares, by the Masters and Wardens of the trade companies, (what we would now call “guilds”) The Worshipful Company of Turners of London in their Ordinances of 1608 outline these searches:
“The Master & Wardens together with so many of the Assistants as they shall appoint shall four times in the year or oftener if necessary at convenient times, enter into the Shops, Sollars, Cellars, Booths and Warehouses of any person using the Misterie who shall make, buy, or sell anything thereunto apertaining within the City or suburbs, either Free or Foreign, there to search & survey all manner of Bushel measures, Wood Wares, Works, and also their Journeymen, Servants & apprentices and all their staffs & workmanship and if in their search they shall find any shovels, scoops, busheltrees, washing bowls, chairs, wheels, pails, trays, truggers, wares, wooden measures or any other commodities belonging to the Misterie slightly or not substantially & workmanly wrought with good and sound stuff or any other matter of abuse or misdemeanor, either in Master, Mistress, Apprentice, or Servants, it shall be lawful for those making the search, to seize and carry away the same faulty & deceitful wares, into their Common Hall, that the same may be considered & defaced if cause shall appear and the Master, Wardens & Assistants or the greater part of them may assess a reasonable fine upon the offender so as it exceed not 40 shillings for any one offence, so that others may be warned from making or selling deceitful ware to the discredit of the Misterie, and if any whether free or foreign, be found disobedient to the Master Wardens and Assistants or any three of them in any of their searches, he or they shall be fined not exceeding 40 shillings for every offence.”(Stone, Worshipful Company of Turners, pp. 264-5)
It happened to me the other day, just after Rose & Daniel’s 3rd birthday. Seems I passed, but I had to clean up after them.
I’ve been rumaging around a bunch of off-cuts of oak lately, and have planed a lot of nice quality short stock…it’s great autum work, being outside splitting. Nice to rescue some oak from the firewood pile as well.
But now I have a new red oak log I started splitting the other day. Usually I split the best material first, but right now my time is limited, so I wanted to start at the top of the log, and work through some short sections before I get to splitting the long stock. The log is 16 1/2 feet long, and at the tip it’s 22″ in diameter. There’s a nice clear log near the bottom that’s about 7 feet long at least. Beyond that the butt swell, or flared base of the tree is 30″ in diameter, and from that I hope to get panels and seats for joined stools. The top third is hit-or-miss; whatever I get out of it is a bonus.
I was surprised (pleasantly) by the quality of the wood even in the worst cut in the log. Below I have a short section cut from the tip of the log, 29″ in length. There’s some big knots in it, but also enought straight grained timber to make it well worth the effort. It split nice & flat, which makes planing quick work.
The techniques I use to split this stuff is to score the log with a wedge right across the midst of it. This scoring really helps the wedges enter the wood, and encourage the split to follow the “fault” you create with the scoring. Then I drive 2 wedges into the end grain, just inside from the sapwood. A large wooden wedge then is inserted once the steel wedges have opened up the log enough. I try to not tear it apart once it’s split, that way it stands up better while I proceed with the successive splits.
I want to stop & thank folks for their comments here. I’m relatively new to this sort of thing, and like many, often wonder if anyone is listening. Several people have commented regularly, & I appreciate it, Mike, Heather, etc.
One comment from James runs thus:
“Love your blog, as a collector, i have always been fascinated by the construction details of early american furniture. Many thanks to you for taking the time to present this information as well as the fabulous joinery. I follow with great interest.”
James, I appreciate your interest. I have greatly benefited from working with collectors as well as curators in my efforts to study period work. Having access to the original material is essential to being able to understand the construction and decorative details. We’ll work out details for your joined stool soon.
Robin Fawcett, a turner in England, wrote about safety in the shop:
“I love your workshop Peter, and feel quite jealous. But you really shouldn’t stack those tools across the lathe bed . . .
As part of my “Risk Assessment” for Public Liability I have to mention that I never do this as there may be:-
a. Possible damage to operators feet ! & b. You might damage your carefully sharpened edges if they fall !
The oak looks very nice…How do YOU deal with the affects of oak (tannin) on your hands ?
I was recently talking with a guy who works with 200 year old oak from the HMS Victory and his hands were terrible !
PS The carved panel in the background of the lathe picture looks v. interesting”
Thanks Robin for the note. I’m very fortunate working in the museum, I have plenty of space…but by November it is always quite cluttered. It only gets a proper cleaning twice a year, December & March. So right now, it’s tough getting around. there’s about 10 or more nearly finished pieces of furniture in there.
I always have kept the turning tools on the lathe bed – that’s where they go. The ones that are in racks on the wall rarely get used…the others are always at hand. See Van Vliet’s engraving from 1635. I’m pretty careful about not knocking things about. I don’t remember any great trauma from dropping tools, some have fallen before, but nothing serious. I’ve never been knicked…
The tannin issue I have heard you mention in your use of Chestnut in England. The oak here, like all of them I think, has a high tannin content; and when totally green can wreack havoc on tools and people too. By the time I am turning the oak it’s been planed for a few weeks anyway, it’s never right out of the log to the lathe. So that initial surface drying helps matters. I have seen staining from tannic acid to be a problem mostly in real hot, humid weather, which we have our share of in June-August.
Thanks for the compliment on the carved chest front as well. It’s one I did this spring with my now-gone apprentice. I did the front of the chest, he did the rear framing, and assembly. It belongs to Plimoth Plantation. It’s based on work made in Ipswich, Massachusetts c. 1660-1700.
The Ipswich joined work is derived from Devon, same period. The nicest examples of that work that I have seen are in a church in Totnes, Devon. Beautiful carving, some of the best I have seen of English joiners’ work. I just did another box front the other day with related carvings.
That’s it for now. thanks again all. Joined stool pictures soon.
Fall is a pretty busy time at the museum where I work, so although I have been doing a lot of woodworking, I have had little time for photography, hence no new posts here in a while. As you can see, the shop is full of furniture-in-progress.
One of the first things I have planned when the dust settles is a series of joined stools, for which I have just started planing the square stiles. One of the photos shows a stile that has been mortised and turned, in white oak this time.
I’ll try to keep up with posting my work here, but at the least, I’ll have stuff coming after Thanksgiving.