my name in lights, almost

Many years ago, I used to make American style Windsor chairs. With softwood seats, it was easy enough to carve my initials in the underside of the seat to mark the chairs. For hardwood work, I never was very good at carving letters in small sizes.

Alexander has a wonderful name stamp with the J and A joined at the hip. Makes for a small, distinct impression. It’s quite nice.

For many years I have tried to come up with some catchy pairing of my initials PF and made a few feeble attempts to design something. Always dumped that project.

Like many folks that troll through RoyUnderhill’s place, the Woodwright’s School, I had the great pleasure of meeting Peter Ross while I was there.

We spent a lot of time comparing notes & wounds from working in living history museums, and talked a lot about our crafts. Peter showed me some name stamps he’d been working on, he teaches a class through Roy’s school in making name stamps.

I took the easy way out & bought one instead. It arrived last week. “Follansbee” takes some effort to strike, but it will work out fine.  It works very nicely on the maple in this plane, but I wiggled when I hit it…

So now I can actually mark my stuff, after all these years of anonymous woodwork.

stools and tables

joined stool, red oak


This is one of the joined stools I have around the house and I had it out the other day to make some notes  for the book – and Rose did this drawing of it:

Maybe she’ll be the next Eleanor Underhill.

I got a question last week about a trestle table that I made. Here’s the table first of all:

more pictures of it here:

The question was about the stock, and in this case it’s sawn oak, not riven. I forget off the top of my head the dimensions of this stuff, but they are in the range of maybe 3 x 5s – something like that.  For a table with riven stock for the framing, here’s our kitchen table:

It’s oak for the framing parts, with a white pine top. The top is 2 boards, edge-glued together. Then the whole top is pinned to the stiles and rails. the top is about 41″ x 67″ and it is never really that clear of stuff.

the stiles are 3″ squares, and the aprons are 4 1/2″ high and maybe about 1 1/4″ thick,  or so. The end stretchers are thick as well, and because I used a central stretcher,  they need to be a little more carefully squared than some.  Here’s the apron and a bracket. It had brackets on the long sides, but they got in the way, so I removed them.

so there. Now you can go rive a table, it’s like a joined stool, but no angles.

2 planes I don’t use

There’s two wooden planes that I don’t use – they sit in my house instead of in the shop. They aren’t particularly valuable (at least I don’t think they are…) and neither are they very rare…

The first one is a small plane, with an unusual beech body, very fine grain in it. The length is 9” and the overall width is 2”. The iron is just shy of 1 ¾”. The strike button is some exotic hardwood, maybe lignum vitae? The iron is marked W Greaves & Sons Warranted Cast Steel. The web tells me Greaves was a Sheffield firm, early 19th century.

The 2nd plane is a dado plane; cuts a 3/8” dado. Has a knicker, (or is that nicker?) and a depth stop. A garden variety molding plane; in fine shape. Little if any use. Has a hole bored in it to hang on the wall…

So what’s the story with these? I have them because they are both struck with the maker’s mark “A J Wilkinson & Co Boston.”  Wilkinson’s was a hardware store & supplier, for many years titled “Boston’s Oldest Hardware Store.” The firm began in 1842. The smoothing plane, with the Greaves iron, might date from nearly that early.

Here’s the dado’s imprint:

My father worked at Wilkinson’s from the day after he graduated high school, c. 1942 until his death in 1975. I can remember him telling us stories about “old man Wilkinson” who must have been the 2nd or 3rd generation…the Wilkinsons sold the place in the early 1950s…and it eventually got absorbed by some chain and floundered, I think in the 1990s. I’ve lost track.

Just last week I got a reprint of a catalogue of Wilkinson’s from Josh Clark at – Josh sells old tools there, and it’s site worth looking over from time to time. The catalog dates from 1867. It has great stuff in it, you could buy a gentlemen’s’ tool chest from them, made of chestnut, w: 34” h: 18” depth 18”. I gather with the following tools:

“Short jointer, jack plane, smooth plane, block plane, mallet, plumb and level, broad hatchet, nail hammer, brad hammer, tack hammer, draw knife, splitting saw, cutting saw, panel saw, back saw, compass saw, oiler, brace, oil stone, chalk line, chalk line reel, shingling hatchet, 1 pr pincers, bench vise, 2 ft four fold rule, scratch awl, spoke shave, marking gauge, large brad awl, small brad awl, 3 gimlets, 1 sliding T bevel, small try square, large try square, 2 ft steel square, saw file, large screw driver, small screw driver, 5 auger bitts, 4 gimlet bitts, 2 countersink bitts, 1 pr compasses, 6 firmer chisels, 3 firmer gouges, 1 bottle liquid glue & brush, chalk, pencil.

Had 2 sliding tills and a saw rack. $50.”

Here’s the list of some of the planes they offered in the catalog

here’s more:

Most of my tools that came from my father are now gone, I upgraded many of them, except for household stuff like screwdrivers, etc. I do have a couple of tools in the shop that came from his days at Wilkinson’s – this set of wooden spokeshaves for instance. I doubt he ever used them. They are Marples, who knows how old. Not as old as the planes…I used the hollowing one a lot when I made Windsor chairs.

It’s a little funny to think about these tools & that firm. My father never lived to see me become a woodworker…his work at home was all tablesaw & drill press oriented. But I like to think about him as a young man, working at what was, even in the 1940s, a 19th-century firm. He told me that old man Wilkinson had “long whiskers” and he used to wonder did he tuck them inside or outside the covers when he went to bed. I can answer that now…but I couldn’t at 17!

where did that time go?

I’ ve been busy frittering away my time, (here: ) and then come to find out Woodworking in America is coming right up. And I am going to be part of it…which means I have work to do to get ready. Yikes.  Here’s the lowdown on the conference

I’ve started sorting through some pictures, one of my assignments is a slide talk/lecture sort of thing one evening. Some of what I like to include for a presentation like this  is  a lot of period work – I’ve been very fortunate to have a lot of access to old stuff…and I know woodworkers always like to look at furniture. Here’s a couple of pieces that are in the slides right now, doesn’t mean they’ll make it in the end. Most of these photos are by Gavin Ashworth, for the journal American Furniture.

Probably my friend Trent’s all-time favorite wainscot chair.  Most likely from Rhode Island…it’s a real beauty.

And here is a detail of the back rail/panel view – note the “tabled” panel, with its molded edges, set above the beveled section that fits in the frame.

This one is northern Essex County Massachusetts; Trent, Alan Miller & I wrote about a slew of these cupboards 10 years ago. When I saw Gavin’s photo, the central door really hit me – I had seen this cupboard in great detail, but never got the effect til Gavin lit it up. Then here’s a detail from an engraving by Sebastiano Serlio – showing a similar effect.

But my gig always has carving in it, so here’s a taste…

and me  striking a similar pattern…

Well, that’s enough for now. I have lots to do. If you’re in Cincinnati, maybe I’ll see you there.

the news is out…all over town

well, there you have it.  I have been kinda busy lately, thus not much action on the blog. But Alexander & I both think you’ll like the joined stool book. Finally.

adjusting joined stool assembly


Now you can go over to Chris’ site to see why.




lamb’s tongue chamfered stiles

lamb's tongue & zig zag

It’s been quite a while since I made a joined stool with chamfered stiles, instead of turned ones. I think the last time was the early 1990s, when Jennie Alexander & I taught it at Country Workshops. This past season, I taught a class at Roy Underhill’s, and most students (wisely) chose to chamfer their stiles, rather than turn them. So I decided I needed a recent model for next time. Here’s how I do them.

I scribe the layout with an awl & square, defining the ends of the chamfer, just as I would if it were a turning. Then I mark the edges with a marking gauge, eyeballing the breadth of the chamfer. I think I use about ½” setting on the gauge, maybe a little less. This line is struck twice on each face of the stile – once from each edge.

I make one more mark with the square & awl, to define the ends of the “stops.” Then I chop with a chisel & mallet straight down into the chamfer just inside the stop. Bevel towards the waste. It sometimes takes a couple of blows to get to the depth I want.

stop cut

Then I chisel away the waste, down to the scribed lines. I prefer a chisel for a number of reasons, but you can use a drawknife and/or spokeshave too. I start with a chisel and mallet.  One end of the stile is propped up in the corner blocks, or “joiners’ saddles” as they are called in Moxon & Holme. The other is jammed against the bench hook.

I finish paring with a long-bladed chisel and hand pressure. Here’s one grip I use for this:

I like the weight of this chisel for work like this, and the long blade is easier to shave a flat surface with than a shorter chisel. Here’s another way to hold it, with your fingers under the stile, and your thumb pushing down on the blade, as your hand drives it forward. Very steady. It’s a slicing cut too, the tool is skewed to the stock.

Finish the chamfer by taking light cuts right up against the stop. Here I am using a smaller chisel & have flipped it down on its bevel again to get the last shavings off.

Once you have the chamfer itself defined, it’s time to make the stops. Now, using the smaller chisel bevel down, come in at the corner and just scoop a bit off, towards the chamfer. I keep this from cutting all the way down to the depth of the chamfer, which leaves a little demarcation between this scooping and the flat chamfer.

You can stop right there, and this is what I believe is called a “stopped chamfer.” I have seen these done many times on the framing of Plymouth Colony joined furniture.

stopped chamfer

For the stool, I prefer a “lamb’s tongue” stop, it’s only one more step. Now flip the chisel over, so you are using it with the bevel towards the chamfer, and start with its handle low, pare a tiny bit of wood, while raising the chisel all the way to plumb. You are making a convex shape at the transition from the scoop to the chamfer. It’s quick, so easy does it.

here’s the finished stop:

simple chopped decoration








This wren was hanging around the riving brake the other day…


In the shop, the electrics were out all week. Made for some nice low-light woodworking. Today  I was prepping a rail for a rabbet along its bottom edge, to be enhanced with some zig-zag decoration chopped with a chisel. Furniture historians have called this “serrated” decoration. It is found in a slew of Plymouth Colony furniture. Other times I have seen it called “sawtooth” decoration.

well, whatever we call it,  here’s how I cut it. First I planed a rabbet in the face of the stock, along the lower edge. I eyeballed the depth of the rabbet, cutting it just a bit shallower than the markings for the tenons.



Then laid out the sawteeth/serrations/zig zag with a miter square and awl. You can pace the spacing out with the compass, but this is pretty easy.


Then I used a chisel to incise the oak along the layout. Struck once, pretty hard to chop down into the stock.


Now, using hand pressure, I just pare into the incised marks. Presto.  Later, one set of “teeth” will get painted. Black.





In another week or so, I will be able to take a couple hours to walk the beach, to see all the shorebirds that are migrating though these parts. Here’s a few of the little guys from last week.