mitered bridle joint

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.

cupboard door, oak
mitered bridle joint
mitered bridle joint rear view
mitered bridle joint, edge

I had shown my attempts at this joint back when I discussed the miter gauge.

and now, I can’t resist. here’s two recent shots from the workshop.

Daniel shaving white cedar


Rose's plane stroke

add to furniture makers’ reading list

Only a little bit of shop time these days. Two five-year olds and Christmas tend to keep someone pretty busy…

Last week when I was at Lie-Nielsen’s Open House, I spent some time with folks I had only met electronically previously; Tico Vogt and Raney Nelson While talking with them, I mentioned the journal American Furniture; which somehow I have nevered discussed in detail here on the blog. then I saw that Adam Cherubini mentioned it in the comments on his recent post about woodworking magazines (not that it’s a woodworking magazine; but Adam wandered a bit… and no, now is not the time for me to discuss Fine Woodworking Magazine)

American Furniture journal

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, 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,  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 year's December Heron snow picture

one weird log

as far as I got

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.

the next section

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.

Rick w axe


in two

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.

a paire of compasses

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.

PF compass

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…

striking an arc

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 is to 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.

Holme's circle dividers

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.

Holme screw dividers

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:

Stent panel

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 . .

And a cooper in Salem, Massachusetts, 1654:

George Williams, Salem 

          In Coopers timber 6£-10   3 axes 6s & 3 Coopers axes 12s 

3 frowes 5s  a hatchett & bill 2s  4 addses 15s  8 Drawing knives 10s  2 augers & bung borers 2s  3 pr Compasses 3s  2 Round shaves & an ould Adds 3s  1 handsaw 12d  2 thwart Sawes 10s  3 howells 3s  percer bitts 1s6d  2 Joynters 4s  Trussing hoopes 2s  2 Cresses 2s6d  2 Cressetts 5s  a grindstone 2s  100 hewed staves 5s

some more carvings

Here a just a few shots of the recent carvings I mentioned in earlier posts…

Thanksgiving box front

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.

Thanksgiving w ruler

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.

defining the pattern w gouge


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.

Freehand box front

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…

backyard view, Dec 2010

compass – yes, template – no. Mostly.

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.  

template Hadley carving


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…

incised pattern, scribe lines, etc.

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.