Make a Joint Stool from a Tree…soon

Today is February 25th, the Lost Art Press website says that free shipping on orders of the joint stool book end on February 27th.

So if you haven’t ordered the book yet, and want to save a few dollars …order in the next couple of days.

then go get a log…

scoring the end grain

A couple of planes for sale – SOLD





Last June I stopped in Baltimore to visit with Jennie Alexander. We talked of many things; the joint stool book, life, death – and worst of all – clean-up. For many years JA & I have talked about our friend Nathaniel & I dealing with the tool collection once Alexander goes to the boneyard. My shop is already full of tools, and Nathaniel has much of what he needs as well. Many of our tools came from JA’s collection. There are a few tools that Nathaniel or I will keep, but for now we’re all set. Well, JA is in fine health as of last night; but we thought it might make sense to sell off some of the tools now, rather than wait X number of years, and have the estate get the proceeds.

So from time to time I am going to offer a few tools here for sale, with the proceeds going right into Alexander’s pocket. I’m going to keep it pretty simple. First one who emails that they want such-and-such a tool gets it. Send a check for the tool & shipping & I will box it up & mail it.

here’s the first two:

An Ulmia scrub plane. 1 1/4″ iron, plane is 1 7/8″ wide, x 9 1/2″ long. A single-iron plane, no chipbreaker. Simple to use & adjust. Almost perfectly brand-new, never used. Beech with a hornbeam sole. We used this type of plane for many years. This one must have been extra. It did shave a little bit of green oak, the wedge has a stain on it. But that’s the only evidence that it ever got any use at all. Brand-new this plane sells these days for $145. We’re selling it for $95.

Ulmia scrub plane

a detail:

Scrub plane, iron & wedge

A modern Dutch “fore” plane. Like the Ulmia above, this one is beech with a hornbeam sole, single-iron.  This one is a maker I don’t know; Nooitgedagt of Holland. It’s  2 1/2″ wide, with an iron just under 2″. Length of the plane body is 9 1/4″. Never used. The iron has a curved cutting edge, rendering this like a fore plane, or wide scrub plane. This is the size JA & I both have used as our preferred plane for gross removal of stock. Similar size by Ulmia is $175. This one is $100.

Dutch plane


Nooitgedagt from Holland iron & wedge

Email me or send a comment if you have questions. Thanks,


joined chest progress

I’ve been working some on the joined chest I started a month ago…here I am fitting one of the panels into the frame. The panel is beveled on its rear face, all around, to fit into the grooves in the frame.

inserting beveled panel

Then knocking the stile in place. This is all a test-fit; I don’t even have the center panel yet.

on goes the stile

I had a little time left the other day, so cut some of the details on the framing parts, starting with this chamfer on the top edge of the bottom rail. I start it with a spokeshave, one of the few times I use these tools any more. In my chairmaking days I used them constantly; but now rarely.


Then finished it with a chisel.

paring the bevel or chamfer

and then cut a molding on the bottom edge of the top rail – this molding runs out at the juncture of the muntin-to-rail joint; so I use a scratch stock for it. We call it a “scratch” stock, but it’s really a scraper I think.

scratched molding


See this post for more about this these moldings that fade out:

by then I was done for the day. More to follow at some point…



some more mistakes

I have some more period mistakes for you. These have proven popular, so why not? The two for tonight are ones I have used in lectures many times, and they were in an article I did for American Furniture in 2002. (but that’s now 10 years ago – I guess I better stop thinking of that article as recent.)

First up, a nice chair/table from Plymouth Colony; probably late 17th century. Maple & oak. Looks good from here, right?

When I saw this years ago, I scootched down underneath it, and found this mortise chopped in the turned section.

It took me a while to understand it, but my guess is that the joiner did his mortising in the squared stock, then did his turned decoration. 

In this case, the mortise was chopped in the wrong place, he went ahead & re-cut the proper mortise, then turned the stile as if nothing had happened. Didn’t plug it, patch it – nothing. Just left a gaping hole in the stile. I like it. 

I got very excited when I deduced this order of work; mortising, then turning. So much so that I have done it that way in my shop ever since. Then,  after about 6 years of doing it that way, I finally thought, “Great – now I’m taking lessons from some guy who couldn’t even get it right!” (and he was using maple…)

At least this next one is oak…

side view cabinet; w crack at upper hinge

This side view of a small cabinet shows a nice crack where the upper hinge is nailed onto the case. Being a semi-coherent joiner, the guy skipped the nail that lined right up with the crack; leaving that hinge with just 3 nails to hold it in place. I couldn’t decide whether the crack stemmed from boring & nailing the hinge in place, or nailing the top board down onto the ends of the sides. Either could have split the 3/8” -1/2” thick stock.

But, open the door to the cabinet & you see that the joiner, just to be safe, took the extra nail & drove it through the edge of the cabinet side, effectively closing the crack. It’s held since 1679. not bad.

nail driven into edge of cabinet side

Here’s a detail:

So these are some of the reasons why I don’t get too worried about woodworking. It’s easy once you relax…and then, whoops. 

Horror Vacui

stamped impression in oak

I just about never sign my furniture. Last summer I got this name stamp from Peter Ross  and have been trying that out on a few pieces. My name is pretty long, so I have to hit it hard!

For the insane tool chest project, I opted for an exception, and signed it as part of the decoration.

Painting this thing has taken a life of its own.  I keep finding things to add here & there.

A pair of these pinwheels flank the name section; but polka dots to follow…

It truly is becoming a case of horror vacui – the fear of an open space. Soon it will be filled, or the hinges will be done. then I’ll be finished.

years of hard living

This chest was in my shop this week for some repairs. All white oak; two panels in front. traces of red & black paint.

chest front view

Here is the rear view, showing the floor boards dropping out the bottom. Simple enough repair.

rear view

Here are details; pitsawn surfaces, riven ditto. Some hatchet work.

rear detail

Even an earlier repair done in softwood. Note the rotten feet from sitting in damp conditions.

earlier repair

So this is a chest that shows signs of years of hard living.


are you curious yet?







Of course the kicker is that I’ve seen this chest before. Here it is when I made it in 1998 (from a slide) :

1998 new chest

These things sit on dirt floors in the living history museum; and get a new coat of boiled linseed oil/turpentine every year or so. Lots of patina from frequent handling; both from staff & visitors to the museum… eventually the dirt rots the feet, and/or admits termites. these things are doomed from the start. But they have given me sort of an insight into an accelerated view of period chest’s condition/history of use. This sort of setting shows you pretty clearly how things wear & tear. Similar to the post the carpenters did the other day about the house with the falling chimney. Here it is again in case you missed it:


it’s getting closer…

Chances are many of you already read Chris Schwarz’ Lost Art Press blog (unless you’re my sisters here to see pictures of the kids…) – but in case you didn’t see Lost Art’s blog today, they have made an excerpt from the joint stool book available for download. So now you can see what it’s going to look like.

Hop on over & have a look, if inclined. Two weeks left for free shipping. “Free” is Ted Curtin’s favorite color.




first strokes with a plane

To be able to plane boards all day, you need the right posture and grip:

put your body into it

And you need to follow through:

finish the stroke

(Daniel said he had used a plane before, but never one with a blade in it. I gave my kids some trashed wooden-bodied planes to play with a couple of years ago…after taking the irons out. And while I had fun with my 6-yr old the other day, it was just one-on-one, Rose was elsewhere. I don’t have the nerve the Bickford family has: )

round 2 of mistakes

joined chest, Massachusetts mid-17th-century

Two things to look at on this one; then it’s off to work with me. The stile-to-rail is 90-degrees at the bottom edge of the rail.

side top rail

Here is the front top rail. I’ll say no more. Trent & I shot this chest back in the late 1990s…and we came up with a plausible scenario – let’s see what you folks think.  Or read American Furniture 2002…it’s in there. that’s where the B&W photo came from…

top front rail to muntin



a new blog for folks interested in 17th-century woodworking


to the sea


My friends at Plimoth Plantation have started a dedicated blog about the various carpentry works they do. I have worked parallel to that department since 1994, and what they do is amazing – hewing, pitsawing, clapboards, thatching, and more… the faces have changed over the years, with a few exceptions, but the work goes on.

You might want to look it over, and subscribe if inclined. I have always wanted to feature their work here, and now I don’t have to.  there’s a couple of posts so far, and if you write to them, that will encourage them to continue…nudge, nudge.

Here’s the link:

Keep ’em coming guys.