This one falls under odds n’ ends. I dug out this cupboard door to study its panel carving; but shot the mitered mortise & tenon too. I guess it’s really a bit of a bridle joint, more than a proper mortise and tenon. I have only cut this joint for one door, it’s not all that common, but something you do see once in a while in 17th-century English work. Notice that the framing material here is quartered, nice & stable. the panel is fast-grown oak by contrast. This joint really needs the stable material; best done in dry stock. When I did a door this way, I drawbored it just for good measure. I assume that’s the case here too.
It often seems to me that many woodworkers/furnituremakers either don’t know this journal or they think it’s not for them. It’s sometimes seen as aimed at museum/curator/antiques collectors/dealers – but woodworkers studying furniture made prior to industrial revolution will get a ton of information and inspiration from it. If you are inclined towards “period” furniture, (whatever that is) it’s a fabulous reference to have. American Furniture comes out once a year, costs somewhere between $45 to $60 (based on what I saw on the web tonight). It’s produced by the Chipstone Foundation in Milwaukee, WI. – first issue was 1993.
The production is first-rate; high quality work throughout. The photos are mostly the work of Gavin Ashworth, http://www.gavinashworth.com/and often the pieces are presented in detail, including construction details, decorative aspects, etc. Comparisons between related pieces are frequently shown. There are usually between 5-10 articles in each issue, a number of detailed book reviews and a long bibliography of works on furniture studies.
While some issues are presented on Chipstone’s website, http://www.chipstone.org/framesetsiteindexp.html I always recommend getting the printed version. There are photos that only appear in print, Chipstone doesn’t have permission to post some of it online. It usually comes out in the early winter for the previous year, thus the 2010 issue is about a month or so away. That one has an article I worked on with Bob Trent on Boston chests of drawers. Chipstone also does the journal Ceramics in America, same execution, just pots, not furniture.
I’ve really cut way back on book buying over the past two years, but there are two that I make sure I get every year, American Furniture is one, the journal Regional Furniture (from England) is the 0ther. I’ll give you the lowdown on that maybe next week.
Now, how about another annual occurence, a photo from me of a heron in the snowy Jones River in December.
This strange-looking white oak is on my to-do list; probably not until after Xmas though. As I was splitting it, it cracked right along a growth-ring. I eventually busted part of it into quarters. and there it sits. It’s about 30″ in diameter, and somewhere around 5 feet long.
Today my friend Rick McKee & I were talking about this log, & he decided to split the next length of this tree.
It splits quite easily, really. Might be because the juvenile wood is taken out of the equation. No crossed fibers to speak of. Here, Rick has driven his wedges in, and it just needs a slight snip with an axe.
I have the easier task ahead of me. I am making wainscot chairs from my section, Rick has to make an oak door for a repro house. We wondered what did this to this tree, maybe lightning, but later I guessed fire.
Not the best log, but there’s a lot of oak in it. We expect to get some good stuff from these, and some firewood and other secondary stuff…I’ll show more of it as we work it, but not til 2011.
I have some unanswered questions from last week…I’ll get to them, and for now here is one about the compass I use to layout many of my carved patterns. Mine is quite simple, and fairly stout. That way it doesn’t wiggle at all. I have had some in the past that the shanks, or legs, were too thin & could flex. I sharpen it with a file, just eyeballing the points; might sharpen it twice a year, maybe a little more. It has a fine adjustment screw that I never use, I just use the thumbscrew that pins the leg against the semi-circular piece. If you are looking to buy old ones, I would say look for those with thicker legs like this one; I have shelved the compasses I have with thin flexible legs.
In use, for me it’s a two-hand job. I keep the stationary leg still with one hand, and use the other to swing the arc I need. it might seem fussy to use a compass this way, but I don’t want to strike a line in the wrong spot, the eraser is a plane…
Some of the period sources – Here’s Moxon, with little to say. He does describe its use in a few places, the one I remember best is marking out timber to be sawn.
“Of the Compasses marked E in Plate 5.
aa The Joint, bb the Cheeks of the joint, cc the Shanks dd the Points. Their Office isto describe Circles, and let of Distances from their Rule, or any other Measure, to their Work.”
Then Randle Holme. His first bit sounds pretty familiar:
…a Pair of Compasses, … The Joynt is the place where the Compasses move and turn; The Cheeks of the Joynt is where they go in one to the other; The Shanks, The Points
But when he illustrates them, he describes several kinds. Some tool historians make a big deal out of the distinction between compasses and dividers; I think generally the idea is that those that can be fixed in position are dividers; but note that here Randle H0lme says these dividers “are Compasses which open…” so forth.
a Pair of Sliding or Circle Dividers, these are Compasses which open upon a Brass semi-circle, and by a small screw is made fast at any station.
a Pair of Screw Dividers, or Pointed… These are Compasses opened and shut with a screw, so that there is noe danger of their moveing from their station. By all these foresaid Compasses, are described Circles, Ovals, &c, and also Distances are measured and set off from the Rule, or from any other divided Rod or Staffe, to the thing to be wrought upon.
Remember the Stent panel, both workmen depicted there have their own set of compasses, hanging on the wall behind them:
Alexander is always after me about the term “compass.” In the seventeenth century, it’s mostly called “a paire of compasses” – but you do sometimes see it mentioned as “a compass.”
Here are some tools listed in a Bristol, England apprenticeship contract:
1611 Thomas Thomas to Thomas Phelpes Howsecarpenter & Marie:
. . one axe one Addys two Chezilles one Mallet two boorriers one Squire & one Compasse one joynter one foreplane one Rabbett plane on bowltle plane & one Cadgment plane one smoothing plane . .
Here a just a few shots of the recent carvings I mentioned in earlier posts…
This panel will be a box front; it’s the one I carved on Thanksgiving Day. The shot I posted the other night was just the incised beginnings. I was not able to take any photos of the work itself, so this is just the finished panel. Art historians like to call this sort of pattern “strapwork” – I have carved variants on this design for over ten years now & I still enjoy them. The possibilities are probably endless. This one’s red oak. Some details follow, one with a ruler, and one showing a close detail, including the small pinwheels that are trickiest to cut. They want to pop off when I come in to chop the gouge-cuts in them.
This panel is laid out with a horizontal and vertical centerline. Then the spacings are marked off the vertical line. Some compass work defined parts; and the gouges and chisels marked the details. No V-tool at all. Here’s an old photo of an earlier version, showing the gouge defining the pattern.
To contrast, here is the panel I showed last week; now oiled. This design is freehand, and almost all marked with a V-tool. A little compass work to set out some of the flowers, but only in a general sense. Even those, I just eyeballed where to place the centerpoint to mark out the circles.
So starting next week I plan to include some shop photos of works in progress. Stay tuned.
Whoops. I meant to show this as well…the view out the back windows. Hard to resist. Hard to get work done around the place sometimes…
People often ask about the carved designs I use, specifically whether they are laid out with a template or pattern of some sort. The short answer is almost always no; principally because the work I am copying was not done that way, and one reason for that might be seen on this wainscot chair back.
lunettes, 2 different sizes on one chair
It is an excellent example of why a compass is easier than a template for this sort of work. The compass allows you to vary the scale of the design; if this carver used a template he’d need two different-sized templates to carve the panel and the rail below it…but by adjusting the opening of his “pair of compasses” he can then go on and carve it whatever size the stock or the project dictates.
Alexander shot this photo years ago when the chair was in a private collection, it’s now at the Metropolitan Museum in New York. For the whole rundown on this chair and the fiveclosely related examples, see Frances Gruber Safford, American Furniture in the Metropolitan Museum of Art: 1: Early Colonial Period: the Seventeenth-Century and William and Mary Styles (the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 2007) entry #18; and Benno M. Forman, American Seating Furniture 1630-1730, (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1988) ; curiously enough, also catalog #18.
As to the use of templates, the group of so-called Hadley chests used a template to mark out the carved designs. Here is one a former apprentice in my shop, Brian Weldy, made about 9 years ago, along with a sample of the carved pattern. No telling what the original templates were made from, but this thin piece of oak works just fine.
Meanwhile, I made it through Thanksgiving, here is a carving I did that day, at this stage it shows the layout and incised beginnings of the pattern. I cut the whole thing, as a box front…but with the large crowds at the museum that day, I didn’t get any photos beyond this…
and then came down with an awful cold…trying to do the annual shop clean-up now, then there’s lots of joinery to come. I’ll shoot the completed pattern when I get back to the shop.
Last week I was thinking about scale, proportion and things along those lines, in prepartion for the talk I gave at Deerfield. It went OK, I faked my way through it… there also were one or two posts about dimensions of stock, and how the tree determines some of the decisions a joiner might make.
The original box that I based that on is from Devon; here is the original.
This year, Paul Fitzsimmons, the fellow who runs Marhamchurch Antiques in Cornwall sent me photos of two related boxes to this one. (Paul specializes in oak furniture, his site is worth checking from time to time http://www.marhamchurchantiques.com/ )
Yesterday, I started carving a version of one of these “new” ones in the aftern0on, with no prepartion at all. Scads of school kids around, so I just grabbed a board that looked about right size-wise, and started in. What a mess I made of it…
I knew pretty quickly that I was not happy with this design; so I hurried through it, and even left off after a while. Spent some time last night sketching the design, and working out what the proportions might need to be to fit all the details in. Here, the curves are quite clunky, and have no shape at all.
So I decided to tackle it again today. Using a panel just two inches longer really gave me all the room I needed just about, to get the correct shape. the flowers could be bigger, but I will sleep well regardless.
so, while I don’t work from drawings to make the furniture, or to carved the stuff, I still feel that some time spent sketching really can help get the hang of a new pattern…especially helpful on ones like these where all the shapes are free-handed, no compass work at all. I hoped to shoot the process, but it was too hectic in the shop today. All the layout amounts to a centerline, and margins on all four edges. The entire outline is cut with a V-tool…
Last, tonight it’s happy #5 for the pirate and the princess…
well, if you can stand it, here’s more about the pins that secure drawbored mortise-and-tenon joinery in 17th-century oak furniture. Pin shape, splits in the stock, deformation in the holes as a result of using the period bits, what Jennie Alexander & I call “piercer” bits, based on the most common term for bits in joiners’ inventories at that time. Not that the phrase is all that common, just that it’s used more than others. Here, see the pins have split the stile in a joined chest, this happens mostly on the tangential face of the oak. The splits start at the point in the hole where the bit tears up the end grain as it comes around…
Some joiners make very carefully-shaped pins, others use faceted ovals, even square shapes. As Alexander has pointed out, the facet/point usually hugs into the “spruck” where the bit comes around from long grain to end grain; you can see it here on this joined chest from Dedham, MA.
Another Dedham chest shows pins that are effectively square. The split here is from a pin too large for its hole, and the use of the mitered shoulder, which has less bearing surface than a 90-degree shoulder.
Here’s a slide shot by JA years ago, showing three types of bits, and their respective holes bored in oak.
gimlet & piercers
Next one’s pretty grubby, but shows the pin filling the weird shape of the hole. (See the top right hand part, just past 12 0’clock on this pin)
The next one has two kinds of pins; round-ish ones to secure the M&T joints, and square ones to attach the joined front of this chest to the board sides. Note the top round pin snapped when it was being trimmed, probably with a chisel.
My take on pins is this. They are usually round, mostly, sometimes almost square, and often octagonal-to-round. there’s a lot of them in a joined chest. It does not pay to get too carried away making them carefully shaped. One detail that Alexander is always after me about, and rightfully so, is that the pin fills the holes. Mine tend to be tapered too quickly and therefore fill the hole sooner on the face of the joint, and not so much on the inside. Here is a joined stool from Essex County MA showing the pins on the inside. I’m working on mine.
I often have thought that Yogi Berra should have picked the title for Thoreau’s journal – “You can observe a lot by watching” – now and again I dip into Thoreau’s writings; and one of my favorites is this compilation about birds.
the other day I was sitting here at my desk working on a book review, when this guy plopped down right outside the window. came up empty this time, but I saw a mourning dove get it the other day…