works in progress & practice

Here’s a couple of unrelated items that are slogging around on my workbench and brain these days. The wainscot chair I have underway is coming along; I got a photo of it when I did the first arm, since then I have cut & fit the other. The rest of the work includes the seat , some moldings and boring the rest of the pin holes. Then final assembly.

wainscot chair, test fit one arm

 After this wainscot, I have one to do for the museum in walnut – a wood I rarely use. I decided to cut some sample carvings yesterday, to get a handle on what to do differently from carving oak. One thing that comes immediately to mind is the scribed lines show up much more here than in oak.  This particular piece is darker than most of what I have on hand for the wainscot chair.

walnut carvings

 The gouge stuff looks good in any wood. It really is fool-proof almost, and yet very effective. (this is from the batch of timber for the chair; a bit browner than that above.)

gouge-cut molding

 here’s how I cut these, from a post way back in the blog.  This will also be covered in the DVD, which should be out next month or so.

While on the subject of walnut furniture, keep in mind my friend Victor Chinnery’s book about Oak Furniture, with a walnut chair on the cover!

Chinnery, Oak Furniture: The British Tradition

Walnut figures in one of my favorite records concerning carpenters’ work, c. 1620 in Yorkshire. Now we can read Henry Best’s account book online at

Best hired a carpenter to make first a pig stye, then some walnut chairs; quite a spectrum of work.

1620, Apr. 4. Agreed with Matthewe Carter, for paylinge the swyne stye with sawen ashe payles, to give him for his worke 9d. yeardes, and hee is to sawe them, and to sawe the rayles ■ and postes, and sett them in a groundsel 1, and rabbitt them in to the rayle above; agreed also with him to pale the yearde, and hee is to sawe the rayles and postes, and to have 4d. per yearde, for his labor, and for making Austin’s howse, 20s.—

Dec. 13. Bargained with Matthewe Carter and John Carter his sonne, of Greate Driffeylde, carpenters, to digg upp a walnutt tree of myne, and to sawe it into 2 ynch and a half plankes, and the rest of the small peeces into such peeces as it is fittest for; and to make mee two chayres, one for my selfe, and the other a lesser, well turned and wrought, and I am to give them for doing these things above mencioned, workman like, 10s. in money, a bushell of barley, and a pecke of oatemeale, and give them in money 3d. for their godspenny.

The book is worth reading, there’s instructions on buying deal boards too…

My favorite craft project this past month was not in the shop, though. I have some basket splints around the house that I have been slowly trimming & smoothing. Mostly I soaked them in the kids’ wading pool this summer. I started to weave a few baskets for the house & one day Rose asked if she could make a basket. We took our time, and in 3 sessions got it done. Here we are finishing it up, lashing the rims with ash splints. Daniel took the picture for us, their mother was out at the time. Putting the D-80 in the hands of a not-quite-5-year old was dicey, but I needed the picture and it worked out fine.

Rose's first basket

7 thoughts on “works in progress & practice

  1. Thanks for the link to the Best book Peter.

    I too have always found the Walnut chair on the cover of Victor’s book slightly amusing – and the ash bureau on the spine!But then I am not sure I’ve come across another, better, name for what has become known as ‘oak’ furniture – nor see it catching on if it I did. Country, vernacular and even joined all miss the mark somewhere or other. Any suggestions?


  2. its refreshing to find other people like yourself that find the same things interesting as I and I thank you for validating those interests

    • Oh! I am looking forward to this discussion if it gets going – I have wondered about this for years. It is a very common feature and I have heard several suggestions for it but none have really seemed that likely to me.


      • Me Too! Guesses its a decorative way to break the line on bottom of chair arm but i really have no clue why they did this.

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