a short note right now. Recent posts about moldings, etc brought up the issue of “tear-out” from planing. This chest is one Alexander & I saw some years ago at Colonial Williamsburg. It has been restored, but much of its original surface is left undisturbed. Notice the torn surface on the panel here that then has applied moldings fitted to it. This tear-out is original; nobody adds this texture to a period piece in restoration, it’s usually the opposite. This amount of tear-out is more than we are accustomed to seeing, especially on the face of the furniture. It can be attributed to a few factors; high moisture content of the wood, dull plane, or a wide mouth on the plane. Often it’s a combination of all of these. The timber itself does not appear to be at the root of the tear-out, it seems to be nice even grained riven oak.
the method we have finally settled on over the years is to split & plane the stock while it’s very green, but to come back to the boards after a short period of drying & plane the face again, lightly. This gets the bulk of the hard work done while the wood is easy to work; but a few passes with a sharp plane after the surface has lost some moisture gets a smoother surface than that seen here…the trick is how much drying time, how to measure the “right” moisture content, etc. It’s a little like Goldilocks & the 3 bears…
Here is more tear-out; same chest -this time on the applied flat stock between the molded sections. This piece is walnut. Note the moldings; the one on our left and the upper one are original, the right-hand one is replaced. I can’t decide about the bottom molding, I mostly think it’s replaced as well.
The previous post in this series showed photos of moldings on surviving seventeenth-century woodwork. Now I will present some evidence of molding planes in probate inventories and elsewhere.
And here a quick note. This topic is getting huge. I will cover some of how I cut moldings in a future post; I have done some of that in the blog before. Search for “scratch stock” for a partial discussion. Alexander asked me about drawings as well. Another discussion, another post.
Now to the written record.
William Carpenter, Sr. died in Plymouth Colony in 1659. He had a great many tools listed in his probate inventory, and among them were these planes:
“three Joynters 3 hand plaines one fore plain 10s”
“Rabbeting plaines and hollowing plaines and one plow att ₤1”
So, that does not tell us much; he’s got a few jointer planes, one fore plane, and rabbets and hollows, but who knows how many of these? Also one plow plane, and three “hand” planes. Hmmm.
In Essex County, Massachusetts, George Cole died in 1675, and left many tools. Planes listed in Cole’s inventory are:
So here it’s some phonetics employed to work out “goynter” as being the jointer planes. Fore plane, smoothing plane – simple. “Revolving” plane? The round planes go with the hollows (holou) of course. “Cresing” planes are thought to be molding planes, particularly those that make a molding on the face of the stock, set in from the edge. “Yoyet” irons? Who is to know? W.L. Goodman’s article, “Tools and Equipment of the Early Settlers in the New World” (EAIA Chronicle, v.29 #3, Sept 1976) discusses this inventory, among many others. Goodman speculates that the “revolving” is just a mis-reading of grooving planes.
In Malden in Middlesex County, Massachusetts, Abraham Hill, Sr, died in 1669/70. He has a great many tools as well, much like George Cole above. Again, I have only excerpted the planes, with a few things counted in among them.
“5 old small axes, 1 hay spade, 1 small iron crow, old iron, 1 Joynter, 2 foreplaines, 2 small foreplaines, 4 smoothing plaines, 2 small planes for gun stockes, 4 boulting plaines, 2 plow plaines to grove & tennant, 1£11s6d”
“4 Rabbet plaines, 2 Bevell plaines, 3 great crest plaines, 2 small crests 9s, 1 great plow stock & 12 other plaine stocks al without Irons – 1 small plow plaine & Iron, 4 wood squares 8s, 1 stock shave, 1 drawing knife, 1 spook shave 2 stock percers, & 2 gages etc 2 Inch & 1/2 Augurs & 1 inch & 1/2 & 1 inch & 4 under inch & Ry bitt 17s”
Some of the standard joiners’ planes appear again & again. Jointers, fore planes, smoothing planes/smooth planes, and plow planes. But here’s a few new ones; “bolting” planes, “bevel” planes, and “crest” planes. I think the “2 plow plaines to grove & tenant” could perhaps be a pair of tongue & groove planes. Are the “crest” planes just creasing planes again, or are they dedicated molding planes for a cornice?
The Goodman article cited above discusses a “bowtle” plane and a “Cadgment” plane, seen in an English apprenticeship contract. Here’s Goodman’s quote:
“Before the introduction of Italian names for moulded profiles, some time later in the seventeenth century, English masons (see Moxon, p. 267) and woodworkers used two types of molding: the “boltel” or “bowtell,” for projecting moldings such as beads or ovolos, and the “casement” or cove, later known as the scotia.”
Another term sometimes used for running moldings is “imbow” – seen here in this contract from Boston, 1685:
“Articles of Agreement Indented concluded the [blank] Day of Decemb anno Dom One Thousand Six hundred Eighty and ffive Between John White of Boston in New England joynor on the one part and Arthur Tanner of Boston afforesd marriner on the other part are as ffolloweth Imp[rimi]s The s[ai]d William [John?] White for the considerations herein exprest doth Covenant promise bind and oblige himself his heires estate and adm[inistrator]s to doe and performe all Such joynors worke in and upon the Ship Which william Greenough is now building for the sd Tanner on the Stocks in Sd Greenoughs Building yard as is herein mentioned & expressed.
To Plane and rabbit the upright of the Sterne
To Plane and rabbitt all necessaryes for the Territts
To Plane the great cabbin Deck
To make a Bulkhead & doors to that cabbin
With two Close cabbins & settlebed with turn’d ballasters and a Table in three parts with a Cupboard & all Lockers convenient with Shutters for the light and to ceile it after the best manner
To Imbow [i.e., run a molding upon] all railes that shall be placed on sd Ship with a ffife-raile
To Ceile [ceiling; a synonym for joining] the roundhouse & make in it two Cabbins and a Table with Lockers, and too lights wth Shutters to them
To plane the Bulkeheads & make a table on the Quarter Deck: and Chaire & binacle with Hen Coops convenient
To Plane the planks in the Steeridge & round the beames & to make foure hanging Cabbins and a binnacle will one Close Locker will a Lock to the Same
To make foure close Cabbins between decks & a Saile room wth a grateing bulkehead for the gun roome & to round the beames
To Plaine the Bulk head of the Steeridge & the Innboard plank along the side to make all such Gangways the master sees meet.
To plane all Gunwales & round house & bulk head of the forecastle & to make in the forecastle two Cabbins and Two Lockers & to plane the planks of the Beakc hedd All which abovementioned worke with what more Joynors work fill for sd Ship & not herein mentioned is to be done and finished to the masters content and in good and workemanlike order in every respect by the ffifteenth day of may next ensuing the day of the date hereof if required.
(from Benno M. Forman, American Seating Furniture 1630-1730, (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1988) p. 43.
And here is the list of molding planes from Randle Holme’s Academy of Armory (1688):
“The Moulding Plains, are for the working off of several sorts of Moulding works, which Plains have names according to their several Operations; as
The Hallow Plain.
The Round, or Half Round Plain.
The Belection Plain.
The O-gee Plain.
The Back O-gee Plain. The Cornish Plain.”
For those of you who are familiar with Joseph Moxon’s work on the manual trades; Randle Holme’s is well worth seeing also. It has been discussed here & there on this blog; but the best thing to do is to get the CD which features his manuscript drawings from which the engravings were made. The scope of his book is huge; but it includes many woodworking crafts, as well as the other trades too.
Randle Holme on CD: N. W. Alcock and Nancy Cox, Living and Working in Seventeenth-Century England: An Encyclopedia of Drawings and Descriptions from Randle Holme’s original manuscripts for The Academy of Armory (1688) (London: The British Library, 2000)
Last week I posted some photos of a wainscot chair I made. In that note, I mentioned that I had no idea what the crease molding on the framing parts was called. Jennie Alexander wrote to me later & we talked a bit about the conundrum of this work – what do we call the moldings, the turning patterns, the carving designs; versus what did they call them. In most cases, we have no idea what terms the joiners & turners of the seventeenth century used to describe their work.
So a look at moldings. First, the moldings themselves on surviving woodwork, then the tools mentioned in documents like Moxon & Holme, and probate inventories as well. Lastly there are early 20th-century books that have measured drawings of English furniture and woodwork. These are often useful, but have problems of their own. So to start, here are some photos of existing moldings run on oak furniture & woodwork.
The first one at the top of the post is a door frame from a cupboard dated 1691, from the Lakes District in England. Two moldings here, the “crease” molding as it’s called in the period, run on the midst of the framing parts. Then the molding that I was tempted to call an “edge” molding, although it’s not technically on the edge of the stock, but at the arris. Anyway, that molding appears to be an ogee, to my eye anyway. The crease molding seems to be more than a bead, and less than an ogee, flanking perhaps a flat section between the two moldings. Notice the tearout on both these moldings on the horizontal rail.
The next two photos are both joined chests from Dedham, MA about 1650-1680. The moldings are cut on all the framing parts of the front of the chests. This is perhaps the same molding on both examples, but survives better on the one with the ruler in the shot. The one above was strippped more aggressively, but still retains the layout lines struck with an awl. So not too much wood was removed in the refinishing. Note again, lots of tearout here…
The gilded moldings on this woodwork from Haddon Hall, Derbyshire are first-rate. The crease moldings even get connected where the muntin meets the upper rail. Great wood, great work, for a very well-to-do house in the period, light-years from the work in Dedham, MA.
The next one is a muntin from some English wainscoting; a complex molding – very crisp, fine detail.
Just a few more. Here is a joined stool from Essex County, MA; mid-to-late seventeenth century.
Here is another “crease” molding – this one from a joined chest from Braintree, MA c. 1660-1690.
All of the above are oak, all integral to the furniture, not applied moldings. That’s another whole batch of pictures. Maybe they will be part X.
Next time I will dig out some nomenclature; using Moxon, Randle Holme, and some probate inventories. More to come…
I have just been finishing up this wainscot chair, for the Brooklyn Museum. It’s a copy of an original they own…said to have descended in a Hingham, MA family. It has a few notable features, one being the beveled shoulders on the frames of the back section. Not exactly a coped joint, but there are scratched moldings that are blended a bit. The mortised members are beveled, and the tenon shoulders overlap this bevel. Then the moldings are just kind of fudged to look as if they meet properly. It helps that the molding just seems to be a double quarter-hollow. (I don’t know its real name, if it in fact has one…there certainly isn’t a seventeenth-century New England name for it…)
The carvings on the back panels are like no others I have ever seen. Early on in this project I got stuck on them reminding me of Edvard Munch’s The Scream and I never got past that…
The museum wanted me to copy the panels verbatim, so there is a strange lack of symmetry between the 2 panels, and within the one on the proper left of the chair.
Otherwise, there are some standard features, among them the riven surfaces seen on the inside faces of the seat rails.
One more. I haven’t measured it yet, but it’s a big chair. About four feet high at the back.
But the best picture I got yesterday was at Sandwich beach. I had some work down on Cape Cod, but got there early. So walked out to the beach for a bit..
I’m not bringing all the junk in the picture, I’ll just take some of these oak boards, and leave the firewood and shavings behind.
The other day I started some carved panels that will be part of my demonstration. I hope to cover some carving, joinery, stock preparation – that sort of thing. Anyone with specific ideas/requests, leave a comment & I will see if I can maybe tailor my demonstrations to suit some particular notion. No promise, but worth a shot.
WELL. THE TOOLS THEME HAS A LIFE OF ITS OWN. FOR THOSE OF YOU JUST STOPPING HERE; I HAVE DONE A COUPLE OF RECENT POSTS ON BASIC TOOLS FOR SEVENTEENTH-CENTURY JOINED WORK. THIS DOES NOT MEAN “HOW FEW TOOLS CAN YOU…” – BUT NEITHER DOES IT MEAN EVERY LAST TOOL POSSIBLY USED IN THE PERIOD.
TO GIVE YOU AN IDEA OF THE WAY THAT JENNIE ALEXANDER & I HAVE WORKED OVER THE YEARS, I HAVE TAKEN JA’S RECENT LENGTHY COMMENT & ADDED MY RESPONSE/REACTIONS, ETC IN THESE CAPITAL LETTERS. INSTEAD OF LEAVING IT IN COMMENT-LAND, I HAVE DECIDED TO TURN IT INTO THE UMPTEENTH POST ABOUT TOOLS & BENCHES….THERE ARE A COUPLE OF LINKS BACK TO EARLIER POSTS IN THIS BLOG; THERE IS A SEARCH BUTTON AS WELL. YOU MIGHT FIND MORE THAN I REMEMBER POSTING.
SO, HERE IS ALEXANDER’S COMMENT, BROKEN OUT INTO SUBJECTS.
SAWS: Mike’s comment about the small number of saws in the Everssen Inventory is well taken. Your suggestion that the deceased was working sawn, not split, stock is a possibility. It is Just as likely the larger saws, beetle, wedges and froe were gone at Everssen’s death. The Inventory only includes, “…suche tooles as remayned in ye Joyners Workehowse at Westhordon…” We often overlook that Inventoried tools may be those of an elderly or infirm craftsman and not necessarily represent his full kit. Large saws and riving tools may also be in another location and not inventoried. Large saws were sometimes owned jointly with others and may have wandered. Reading Inventories is fun! Recognizing that you do not fell trees, how many saws do you use?
ALL THE SAWS I NEED FOR A JOINED CHEST ARE TWO – I USE AN EARLY 20TH-C DISSTON BACKSAW FOR CUTTING TENON SHOULDERS. SIMILAR VINTAGE RIPSAW FOR ALL ELSE.
SQUARE: In your list you list only one. In your Post of 3-14-09 you showed Felibien’s print of squares: joiner’s (90 degrees), moving (adjustable bevel), and bevel (fixed 45 degrees). All are called “squares.” Holme also illustrates the mitre square with 30, 60, 45 and 90 degree angles. I happen to know that you possess all 4 types. Indeed, the Mail Bunny sent you some of them. How many of these thingees do you use?
I REGULARLY USE A JOINER’S SQUARE, TRY SQUARE, WHATEVER IT’S CALLED. AND A BEVEL GAUGE; I.E. BEVEL SQUARE IN 17TH C. MITER SQUARE IS A BONUS, BUT YOU CAN DO WITHOUT IT.
MITRE “BOX”: Holme illustrates a device for accurately sawing angles. It is shown in the drawing you set out at the beginning of this post. Though I like you don’t remember where we got this illustration, it seems clear that this is not “cribbed” from Holm but is a copy of actual pages of Holme’s drawings. What do you use when sawing moldings?
THE ILLUSTRATION IS HOLME’S DRAWING, I COPIED IT FROM THE CD. PROBABLY ILLEGAL. WHEN SAWING MOLDINGS; I DON’T USE A MITER BOX. I JUST SAW THEM AGAINST A WOODEN BENCH HOOK, (A TOOL/FITTING THAT WE HAVE NO PERIOD REFERENCE FOR…)
GIMBLET: We find this tool in Inventories and in Holme, Moxon and Felibien. Do you use one?
I HAVE 19TH C GIMBLET BITS THAT FIT A BRACE; I USE THEM SOME. I HAVE A TAPERED REAMER THAT I USE A LOT, IT’S ONE-HANDED LIKE THE PERIOD GIMBLET; MADE BY MARK ATCHISON, THE BLACKSMITH I WORK WITH A LOT.
PINCERS or PLIERS: Likewise. They are handy for installing and adjusting gemmels (wire hinges).
YES, & PULLING BENT NAILS.
KNIFE: Is rarely found in the Inventories. Perhaps it was used to eat with! I find it handy to clean up and point wooden pins. My pins are more carefully made than yours. I also score tenon shoulders with a knife rather than an awl because I am not as confident a sawyer as you. Do you use a knife in joinery?
I SOMETIMES SCORE SHOULDERS IN SOFT WOOD WITH A KNIFE; OR SCORING END GRAIN FOR MAKING THE THUMBNAIL MOLDINGS USED ON CHEST & BOX LIDS, AND JOINED STOOL SEATS. OTHERWISE I USE AN AWL, WHICH, BY OVERSIGHT, HAS BEEN LEFT OUT OF THE “LIST. ”
SINGLE BENCH SCREW: Last, but not least, you did not include the single bench screw. It is a screw affixed to the left hand side of the front of the work bench to hold workpieces vertically. … I find mine very useful for boring pin holes.
Many years ago, someone sent Alexander & I a list of joiners’ tools from Essex Record Office in England. While we’re on the subject of tools, why not post it here, I decided. (The image above is cribbed from a CD of Randle Holme’s Academy of Armory: N. W. Alcock and Nancy Cox, Living and Working in Seventeenth-Century England: An Encyclopedia of Drawings and Descriptions from Randle Holme’s original manuscripts for The Academy of Armory (1688) (London: The British Library, 2000)
Here’s the Essex list:
Essex Record Office – Transcript #48
(D/DP E2/23 Thorndon Hall inventory: tools in the joiner’s workhouse, 1592)
An Inventarye of all suche tooles as remayned in ye Joyners Workehowse at Westhordon after ye deathe of Cornelius Everssen, there taken by John Bentley and Water Madison the xvth daye of September, 1592
Chris and I traded notes today and he suggested it would be interesting to compare what tools were minimal in seventeenth century versus 200 years later…so here goes some notes about beginner’s and others’ tool kits in that period. For now, I will skip the turner, and just concentrate on the joiner.
W.L. Goodman pulled out all the itemized tools listed in some sixteenth-and-seventeenth-century apprenticeship contracts in England. This contract from Bristol is between joiner John Sparke, who contracted to provide the following tools to his apprentice Humfrey Bryne, upon the completion of his term of seven years. (the article’s citation is: W. L. Goodman, “Woodworking Apprentices and their Tools in Bristol, Norwich, Great Yarmouth, and Southampton, 1535-1650” Industrial Archaeology 9, no. 4, (November 1972) 376-411)
1594 John Sparke to Humfrey Bryne: . . .
a Rule a compass a hatchet a hansawe a fore plane a joynter a smothen plane two moulden planes a groven plane a paren chysell a mortisse chesell a wymble a Rabbet plane and six graven Tooles and a Strykinge plane
So, the translation for a few of the more cryptic terms. The first few are straightforward enough. The “fore” plane is the modern-day scrub plane, described by both Joseph Moxon and Randle Holme. Here is Moxon’s take on this tool:
“It is called the Fore Plain because it is used before you come to work either with the Smooth Plane, or with the Joynter. The edge of its Iron is not ground upon the straight, as the Smooth Plane, and the Joynter are, but rises with a Convex-Arch in the middle of it; for its Office being to prepare the Stuff for either the Smoothing Plane, or the Joynter, Workmen set the edge of it Ranker than the edge either of the Smoothing Plane or the Joynter”
The “groven” (grooving) plane is the plow plane, essential for a joiner who is going to make his furniture with frames and panels.
“Paren” chisel is phonetic for “paring” chisel.
A “wimble” is a brace and bit, sometimes one brace per bit, sometimes a brace and interchangeable bits, i.e. “a wimble and bitts” found in period probate inventories. Moxon calls it a piercer.
The rabbet plane somehow got separated from the other planes, but here it is.
The “graven” tools are “engraving” i.e. carving gouges.
The striking plane is discussed in Moxon, although it has always left me confused. He describes using it to trim miters and such. It’s too complicated to go into here & now.
In New England, one of the earliest probate inventories that itemizes woodworking tools is that for “John Thorp, Carpenter” of Plymouth Colony, who died in 1633. There are tools here for both joiner’s work and carpenter’s work too. The values are in pounds/shillings/pence, 12 pence to the shilling, 20 shillings to the pound.
1 Great gouge £00-00-06 ;one gr brush & 1 little brush at 00-00-10; 1 square 00-02-00; one hatchet 00-02-00; One Square 00-02-06; 1 short 2 handsaw 00-02-00; A broade Axe 00-02-00; An holdfast 00-01-06; A handsaw 00-02-00; 3 broade chisels 00-01-06; 2 gowges & 2 narrow chisels 00-01-00; 3 Augers Inch & ½ 00-01-00; 1 great auger 00-01-04; inboring plaines 00-04-00; 1 Joynter plaine 00-01-06; 1 foreplaine 00-00-00?; A smoothing plaine 00-00-00?; 1 halferound plaine 00-01-00; An Addes 00-02-06; a felling Axe 00-03-00
the appraisors of Thorpe’s inventory dropped the ball on the fore plane and the smoothing plane, not assigning a value to them. But the jointer plane is 1 shilling, 6 pence. To give an idea of the worth of these planes, here is a record from Massachusetts Bay roughly the same time, that lists wages for tradesmen:
“28 Septembr 1630: …that noe maister carpenter, mason, joyner, or brickelayer shall take above 16d a day for their worke, if they have meate and drinke, & the second sort not above 12d aday, under payne of xs both to giver & receaver”
This record was preceeded one month earlier by a declaration that these same tradesmen should not receive more than 2 shillings a day…so they took a pay cut right away. So in September of 1630, if the workmen are fed, they get 1 shilling, 4 pence per day…the “second sort” are not yet masters, thus amount perhaps to a journeyman. Note that the fine for charging more is 10 shillings, more than a week’s wages.
In Thorp’s inventory, the “holdfast” implies a bench, but none is listed. It’s not unusual to omit the fittings of the shop, i.e. a bench or a lathe. Many of these tools are simple enough, a little seventeenth-century linguistics helps. “Great” is opposite of small; and of course “narrow” and “broad.” The “inboring” planes are sometimes called “imbowing” planes as well; these amount to molding planes.
But there’s always tools missing…let me see if I can compile a list of minimal tools to build an oak carved chest from a tree. Let’s say the log is cut to length; I have no interest in felling large-diameter oak trees anymore.
Wedges & beetle (I substitute a sledge hammer for the wooden beetle)
Hatchet, froe & club (maybe add a brake)
Planes: fore, smooth, jointer, plow, and rabbet
Bench, bench hook (i.e. planing stop), holdfast(s), a “double-bench screw” which is comparable to a modern handscrew, but used differently.
Straightedge, winding sticks
Ruler (can act as the straightedge too)
Paring chisel, (broad chisel)
Brace & bits
Carving tools, maybe 6.
That might be it. I use more than that, drawbore pins for instance. But you don’t need them. I use a wooden bench hook for sawing tenons, but you can skip that too. I didn’t put molding planes in my list, but easily could. I often use scratch stocks instead. You could carve the whole facade, and skip moldings altogether. (whoops – I have moldings on the side frames of this chest, and turned drawer pulls…oh well. more tools.)
I’m sure there’s more I have left out, but not many. As you can see, it’s a lot of tools. But wait a minute, I have way more than that…we’ll see what Alexander says.
I’ve started the next batch of paint experiments for the cupboard I am doing for the MFA Boston. Their folks in the lab there have been working on some analysis of the painted finish of the original, and I have been trying to then translate their findings into something I can execute in the shop.
The gist of it, as I understand it, is that the pigments are mixed in “proteinaceous” material, (most likely animal hide glue), then covered with a natural resin varnish, with some pigment also mixed in that. So for this white oak panel, I painted the background with red iron oxide & bone black mixed in thin watery hide glue. then the next day I mixed a tiny bit of damar varnish with some turpentine, and tossed in just a few crumbs of red iron oxide…
It’s more apparent on this red oak framing stock. The first photo is just painted, the surface of the oak is unfinished. The next is painted then varnished with a slight amount of pigment, so the surface gets a thin translucent reddish color.
Here’s a piece from the existing cupboard base. The mix of the paint seems very gritty to me, so I have not used a muller to grind the pigment. At first I just used a pallette knife, on this batch I just mixed the pigment in with a brush. First thing I see is that I have switched the locations of some of the red/black backgrounds…and I need a few more pricked holes to highlight the carvings. that’s why these are still samples.
I’ll run all this by the folks at the MFA and see if I’m heading in the right direction. While we now know with some certainty what the finish is composed of, we still are left to fiddle around with what it might have looked like – with no way to ever tell if we are really on the money…but hopefully it will be close. No squiggles or dots on this batch…
It’s the year for me to travel to weirdo conferences, so I stupidly said yes…(maybe Schwarz didn’t hear about me dis-assembling a period piece at Winterthur & then not being able to get it back together…in front of an audience!)
So here I am just about getting settled back in the shop after coming from Drew’s place; and I have to get ready to pack a bunch of smelly red oak, some tools & furniture & go back out on the road. Not only that, but the roster of folks presenting is pretty impressive; enough to be intimidating, except for that Underhill guy – he’s hasn’t finished a piece of furniture in 30 years…
I think the only reason I get to go is that no one else will make this funny furniture, so they had to pick me. I told Schwarz I’d do it if he let me sit on on some of the saw-related stuff, so I can learn to use one. I’ll bring my hatchet just in case.
(Well, the disclaimer part is I am very much looking forward to this gig; it should be a lot of fun. Now, to get that oak open & planed this week so I can work it the end of the month…)