red tail hawk

Today I was photographing some stools, when I got called outside to see this red-tail hawk. These guys often are quite tame around the museum – I think they’re just used to lots of people, and there’s loads of food. I don’t know if they’ve got any of the chickens, but I know they try for them…

here’s a few in a slideshow

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PS: regarding his feet, nope – both are fine. Here’s another view:

I have a merlin, Robin has oak

drove out to walk the end of the beach yesterday = and saw this merlin sitting on a post.


You want oak? Go see Robin’s stuff about his trip to Norway. I’d like to make some joke about “Norwegian Wood, isn’t it good?” – but they get the oak from Denmark…  there’s a bunch of posts, so scroll through them. I don’t even care about boats & I like this.  Amazing stuff. One shot shows the  growth rate of the oak – it’s really nice wood.

a couple of used books for sale

I have been cleaning again – came up with a few duplicates.

The first one is not a furniture book, but a study of sources for decoration in the 16th & 17th centuries in England. Anthony Wells-Cole, Art and Decoration in Elizabethan and Jacobean England (Yale University Press, 1997) Great condition, hardcover. $65.

Here’s some inside:

one more:

Next ones are either all or mostly furniture.

First of this batch is American Furniture 1998 – The Chipstone journal, edited by Luke Beckerdite. This one has articles by me and Trent on 17th-century chairs. $40.  SOLD

American Furniture, 1998

This one is a used copy, somewhat worn but still intact & all there. Brian Cullity, A Cubberd, a joyne stool & other small things: Material Culture of Plymouth Colony. An exhibition catalog from 1994 in Heritage Plantation in Sandwich Mass. Better condition these start around $60 on the web. This one’s $45.  SOLD

Plymouth Colony exhib

Here’s an inside view:

Here’s the best furniture book in this lot:  This one’s in great shape, un-used. Robert Blair St. George, The Wrought Covenant: Source Material for the Study of Craftsmen and Community in Southeastern New England, 1620-1700. A must-have for anyone interested in 17th-c furniture of New England. $150.  SOLD

Wrought Covenant

The prices include shipping in the US. Elsewhere, shipping’s extra, on you. I’ll be in the shop today, so away from my desk, so send a comment here, and/or an email – first come, etc. Email is

ring them bells

Although my main work is done with riven oak, I sometimes work with millsawn stock too. Particularly white pine boards that I use as secondary timber in joined chests & carved boxes. I really like white pine, and I have been lucky to have access to a good selection of wide & clear, air-dried stuff. It’s a tremendous wood to use.

wide pine boards

I have just about finished up the board chest I made this summer, done in air-dried millsawn walnut. And I almost got to the point where I like that wood, even. I have some left-over quartersawn walnut, wide and short sections, so I might be making some walnut boxes this winter.

But…still for me, the wood of choice is riven oak. I get to do a lot of hand-tool woodworking; spring, summer, fall, & winter. By far, my favorite time of year for this work is the fall & winter. Yesterday was a beautiful day in Southeastern Massachusetts; I got a chance to go out & split out some remaining red oak sections, into framing parts for a joined chest. The light has changed now, and the weather and the oak just combined to really speak to me.

I will never feel about rough-sawn boards the way I do about riven bolts of oak or ash. Opening up the log this way is so full of potential, I’ve stood by a saw, and watched each board come off, but it’s not the same. I’ve been the pitsawyer doing the same thing – but splitting it and seeing those fibers opened up, that’s it for me…

fresh riven oak

I am reminded of a phrase that runs throughout Ken Kesey’s book Sometimes a Great Notion. Kesey describes in detail various aspects of different character’s lives; and when he wants to highlight the significance of a place or feeling, he writes: “This is Hank’s bell…” (or Henry, or Joe-Ben….)


Standing in a woodpile, golden leaves falling through splintered sunlight, busting open vinegar-smelling oak, that’s my bell…one of them anyway.

Then a log truck arrived, the carpenters at the museum had picked out a bunch of logs for various tasks, and I spied some worth chasing. Once the useful logs were loaded, they filled the truck with firewood, and I saw a white ash in that pile…some beech too. A nice winter ahead.

One other bell…

these drawers seem normal to me…

Today Chris Schwarz wrote about a drawer he made for a table he’s got underway.  Said it was somehow unusual. Seemed pretty normal to me, but I rarely make stuff with drawers. I have hopes of a new chest of drawers this winter; but we’ll see. Here’s the last full chest of drawers I made, for my wife the year before we got married.

chest of drawers, 2003

In 17th-century New England joined furniture, drawers are usually nailed together, rabbets front & back. Then the bottoms typically are nailed up to the sides & back, and fit in either a rabbet in the front, or in better versions, a groove in the front.

drawer side-to-front, rabbet w nails.

Here’s one with a half-blind dovetail where the front & sides are joined, then the bottom in a rabbet planed in the front. Nails secure the dovetail. belt & suspenders, this is. This drawer height is 6″, the full width of the drawer is about 45″.

dovetailed drawer, c. 1660s

Now a dovetailed one with a groove in the drawer front for the bottom boards.

Boston chest of drawers, detail


But the back? Those are almost ALWAYS rabbets w nails. Seen just one or two that were dovetailed there.

rabbeted back, nailed

Here’s another view:

rabbet, drawer back-to-side joint

17th-century drawers in this work are almost always side-hung; they have grooves plowed in the sides, that engage slats fitted into the interior of the framed carcass.

slats inside the case, for side-hung drawers

For drawers in chests with drawers, and chests of drawers, usually the bottoms are multi-board affairs, with the boards running front-to-back.

riven Atlantic white cedar drawer bottoms


These boards are fitted side-to-side with a tongue & groove between them:

tongue & groove boards, Savell chest

sometimes you find a drawer that has a single bottom board running along its width. This New Haven drawer is a freak; its multi-board bottom runs along the width of the drawer. These are riven oak clapboards that make up this drawer. Very thin.

oak clapboard drawer bottoms

There. Now you know how to make 17th-century New England drawers.