Much of the material I have been posting on the blog in the past month or two is related to a project that has been underway for some time. Along with Jennie Alexander I am working on a book that will be an introduction to the craft of joinery, as we have practiced it for the past 20 years. The project in the book will be a joined stool, but the principles apply to most of the forms of joined furniture common in the seventeenth century. The book is still a ways off, but this winter I am working on some new photography for it, then we will start to pull it together from our copious notes and drafts.
A preview of that work is this carved panel, depicting a joiner and turner of the period. We have always come back to this panel as a cornerstone in our research. When we first conceived the idea to do a book, the first picture Alexander sought permission for was this panel. The present owner graciously granted it, and asked to credit “John Stent of Shere.” The panel is about 10 ½” x 24 ½.”
The “Stent” panel has been published a number of times. As far as we can tell, the first major publication to discuss the panel was W L Goodman’s excellent book The History of Woodworking Tools (1964). Goodman cited the saw handle as evidence that the panel is probably English.
The importance of this panel resides in its having been made by a seventeenth-century tradesman who worked in a similar shop rather than being an artist’s interpretation. All of the tools depicted in the carving are described in detail in Moxon’s Mechanick Exercises or Doctrine of Handyworks (1683) & Randle Holme’s Academy of Armory & Blazon (1688) and appear in early New England inventories. More importantly, marks left by similar tools are present on the interior and exterior surfaces of surviving furniture.
We intend to review the panel in detail in the book, and will sample some of that here. In light of recent posts, we note the joiner’s bench, bench hook and holdfast. The bench’s legs are bored to accept the holdfast, (or wooden pegs) in conjunction with the piece fitted on the bench’s edge for jamming a board edge-up for planing. If only we knew what to call it. Moxon’s & Holme’s are fitted with a wooden screw, and thus they call it a “bench screw.” This one clearly lacks the screw. Note the flat arm of the holdfast; very different from the curved one seem more commonly.