detail knives

Another extracurricular post this morning. I have been meaning to write for ages about the knives I bought from Del Stubbs

Anyone interested in working spoons will hopefully know about Del’s Pinewood Forge. The website is a treasure trove of ideas, pictures and links. He makes unbelievable knives.

Del Stubbs' knives

I have three knives from Del; two are pictured here. One is this little thin number that I’ve been using for chip carving. Del calls it a detail knife. It’s really an impressive little piece of work.  

Stubbs' detail knife

Here you can see some of the chip carving on this little bowl I’ve been picking away at for ages…

chip carving


The other is a “sloyd” knife; an all-around carving knife that I use for shaping spoons. The perfectly honed and polished blade is like no other.

small sloyd knife

the knives come with nice sheaths, either bark or wood, depending I guess on the knife. Service is quick, price is cheap. what more can you ask?   I haven’t done much spoon work lately; but I did some of the chip carving on the bowl last week. I did see some cherry limbs that came down in a recent storm…might go see if they’re any good…

bowl & knives

Del’s knives are legendary, and for a reason. If you’re in the market, go to the website & see what’s what.

17th-century chest in Maine auction

anyone who regularly reads the comments here might recognize James Conrad as a regular contributor. James mentioned this morning that an auction house in Maine has a joined chest coming up that is a real nice example of a Braintree chest. I swiped the pictures from the auction – here’s their website.

John Savell, c. 1660s-1690

So the first thing is the lid and goofy hardware masquerading as drawer pulls, these are both replacements of course. But the rest is first-rate. I was in Maine last week, but did not get up to see the chest. I assume it’s refinished. here’s more:

rear view

The rear view shows the large pine panel (2 boards) fitted into grooves in the stiles & upper rail; nailed to an interior lower rail(s). The holes for the now-missing gimmal hinges are present. Notches in the top end of the rear stiles, for the lid to swing past…

Inside looks great, till is intact; tongue-and-groove floor boards (usually Atlantic White Cedar) nailed down to the rear floor rail. Nice to have it all there.
drawer bottom from below

This view is of the chest on its back; showing the same sort of work to make the drawer bottoms. so the floor & drawer bottoms are all original also. Here is the lower rear rail with the pine panel fitted behind it…

I was lucky enough to do some work on the previous one that James Julia sold a few years ago; made a new lid and drawer pulls for it. Even after all this time, these chests always impress me. Before we had a solid attribution for them to the shop of William Savell and his sons John & William, Alexander had dubbed these guys/this guy as the “Master Over-Builder” because the work so far exceeds much of what we see in New England work of this period.

See the Chipstone website for the online version of the 1996 article.

Someone will get a nice chest next week. For how much? If one of you buys it, I’d love to come see it & measure it. Remmber this post:

extra-curricular woodworking – Welsh style chair

I was out of the shop for the past week or so. When I have a bit of a hiatus like that I like to start back up with some physical work to loosen up again. Yesterday I chose a long-waiting extra-curricular project to warm up with. A few years back, I saw this chair made by Drew Langsner when I was teaching at Country Workshops.

Drew's Welsh chair

It’s the first Windsor chair I have really wanted to make in many years, after having first seen them in John Brown’s book, Welsh Stick Chairs, then I saw some old ones on my first visit to England in 2000.

Back in the 1980s I made lots of American style windsors; but left that work behind for joinery. But I knew when I sat in Drew’s chair that I wanted to make one or two for the house. There’s plans for it in his book The Chairmaker’s Workshop, so I generally based the one I started on the seat plan in the book. I had an elm plank that was nearly perfect for the seat. I made a cardboard template for the seat’s shape, and marked the positions for spindles and legs. This ain’t joinery, so those that know me might be surprised to see pencil lines – but they really help in boring these compound angles.

boring spindle holes
spindle boring detail

I bored most of the spindle holes, but a couple I wasn’t sure of the angles (from Drew’s book it looks like the angles are for the high-back version of this chair). So I left a few to be bored once I have the arm bow made & test-fitted.

 Next up was adze work. I clamped the seat in between bench dogs on my #2 bench, the German one with vices. Standing on a plank to raise myself higher, I worked mostly across the grain of the seat with my small curved adze.

adze work
detail adze

This tools works well, I used it a lot this summer making hewn bowls. Jogge Sundqvist taught me to swing or pivot it from the wrist, while ‘throwing” it too. I followed this tool with a curved drawknife, called an inshave. I have one I bought many years ago, it’s OK but not a great tool. It’s just that by the time good inshaves were available, I was getting out of Windsor chairmaking.

I have a small hollowing spokeshave I use to clean up the inshave work.

hollowing spokeshave
progress thus far

And that’s as far as I got, about 2 hrs all together, to make the template, mark the seat board, bore some of the holes and begin shaping the seat. It’ll take some more hollowing to finish the seat off, then comes cutting the shape. So it took 2 or 3 years to get started, but now my new Windsor chair is finally underway. Hopefully I’ll get some time to keep it moving along.

See Drew’s book, & I think they have John Brown’s back in print too.

about flatsawn stock again

About the flatsawn white oak I featured in the last post, got a number of comments discussing the tendency for this wood to distort upon drying. I fully expect it to do so, but there are few instances where I will use very wide boards. This log was 26″ wide when we sawed it, I think. I have to make a board chest in early summer, and the height of its carcass is going to be less than 20″ – so I will use the best boards to make its front, back & sides. lesser quality stuff to make its floor boards. In all likelihood I will make the lid from quartered stuff, glued-up into a wide panel. 

The bulk of a log like this then gets ripped to narrower widths; which gets me past the worst of the effects of distortion. England is full of very old furniture made from flatsawn oak. It’s certainly not the first choice; but it will work fine.

Read through this blog & you will know, my first choice is always the straightest-grain, riven, quartered clear oak. Green to boot…

But sometimes, as in the case of this log we bandsawed, it’s worth it to saw the log rather than turn the whole thing into firewood.

Jennie asked about how will it carve – we’ve been down this road before here; but it’s a chance to dig out some carvings for show & tell. all of these are carved in flatsawn oak. Some mine, some 17th-c English. worst case first, Devon, 1669 – the inside view shows a piece that should have been burned, then its carved front view.  

flatsawn oak, in joined chest


central muntin, joined oak chest, Devon

One of mine next; I don’t know what I did with this one, but it worked. Not as pleasant as carving the best quartered riven stock; but if it’s what you have, you can certainly work it.

carved flatsawn oak panel
These next two are from a cupboard from the Lakes District; c. 1690s. Some great variety in the stock in this cupboard; these are about average.
cupboard door with carved panel
carved flatsawn oak


white oak chest, 2009

This is a chest I made either in 2008 or 9; white oak with a white pine lid. The panels and central muntin are flatsawn white oak; the stiles and long rails are riven white oak.

So, we’ll check back in about 5 months on that pile of white oak. I expect some very good wood from it, and some real lousy stuff, and a lot of in-between.

sawn stock

well, I mentioned last week that this year I will be working some sawn stock. Already I have the walnut high chair that is underway; but recently the carpenters at work hired the local fellow who runs a bandsaw mill. While he was here, we had him saw up a white oak that didn’t quite make it as riving stock. There was enough twist in the log that made it obvious that riving it would waste a lot of wood. So I asked him to saw a bunch of 1″ and 2″ stuff from it.

squaring up the white oak

He had to slab off some of the flared end of the log. His mill handles 26″ wide, I think. so after running it through a bit to even things off, then it was a matter of what stock to cut where/when. I didn’t want to spend a lot of time agonizing about it, we had a number of people around to move this wood, and many other sawing projects for the day. I was essentially cutting in line. So quick was key. I chose to cut 2″ stuff off the top, I think we took 2 planks at that size, then one of 6/4 – by then we were nearing the middle of the log, so I switched to the 1″ stuff at that point.

sawyer's view

My plan was to then take these 1″ thick boards & rip them down the middle to approximate some quartersawn stock. We ripped three of these boards, the center board and one north & south of it.

ripping them down the middle

It was noisy, but quick. It’s been years since I have regularly pitsawn stock; so I’ll take what I can get. These sort of mills do real nice work, they have a fairly narrow kerf. We stickered & stacked the stuff right off the saw, onto the forks of the tractor, then just set the pile down on some bunks. I later broke it into two stacks. And there it sits. You”ll see this white oak later in the year.

stick & stack
white oak sawn stock

This is one of two piles from that log. The plank on top is an oldie, put there to cover the stack. The thinner stuff is in the middle of the pile. I rarely have wood like this on hand; it will take me quite a while to use this up.

white oak

the end view shows the quartered stock in the middle as well. Sandwiched between some wide stuff on bottom, with a heavy plank above.

thanks to the whole crew for making it happen, and Michael for snapping the pictures.

even more to read

Anthony Hay shop at Colonial Williamsburg

No, I haven’t defected, and I hope my readers don’t either – but the internet historical woodworking arena just got better recently when the folks at Colonial Williamsburg started a blog  –

so in your copious spare time, there’s even more to read. I’ll watch it when I can.