a joiner’s life is tough…

Chris Schwarz has it easy writing about how to make six-board chests. Cut four joints and get out a bunch of nails. Simple enough to make several for a book and video. http://blog.lostartpress.com/2012/11/04/help-build-the-furniture-of-necessity/

But a joined oak chest is another matter. 

carved chest fall 2011

When I went to Maine last spring to shoot the DVD on making a joined chest, (here: https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/2012/11/26/new-dvd-is-back-again-make-an-oak-joined-chest/ )  I had a finished chest, two partially-built ones and then as part of the shoot, I split out some parts for another. Even the smallest one has about 35 pieces of wood in it! Not counting the till, so make that 38. Oh, brackets on this one, make it 40. 

And now I’m in the midst of shooting more stuff for a follow-up book on the subject…which means another batch of joined chests. Hewing and riving all those pieces, planing it…trying to remember which stock is for which chest. It’s a tough life.

stacked riven & planed oak

I just finished one, and am wrapping up the smallest one from the video shoot. But I just started one with two drawers like this one I built a few years ago. It’s based on one from the Connecticut River area, around 1650-1680 or so.

chest w drawers

This one is going in the book to show the framing and construction of basic drawers. Another key feature of this chest is that the carving is wrapped around the framing parts, continuing from one piece to the next. Most carved chests are like that in the top photo, where the carved elements are stand-alone designs.

So to layout the design on this one, I had to test-fit the chest’s front frame, then use two compasses to mark the undulating vine that winds its way around the chest front.

test-fit & carving layout
compass layout

Here’s a sample of some of the carving. Each flower/leaf shape is free-hand, determined by the gouges used to outline it. No two are alike, and there’s no symmetry to the design. You can’t go wrong. 

sample carving

I’ll be starting the carving this weekend at the Lie-Nielsen Hand Tool Event at Phil Lowe’s Furniture Institute of Massachusetts. If you’re in the area, come by…. http://www.lie-nielsen.com/?pg=98

12 thoughts on “a joiner’s life is tough…

  1. I just finished reading the Artisan of Ipswich about Dennys work, and wow there are a lot of parts to a joined chest as you say. One of these days I am going to start work on one of these, but first I have a lot of other skills I need to practice on smaller projects.

    Looking forward to the book!

  2. What does Carpenter Schwarz know anyway?- he doesn’t even cut his own white pine and then he paints perfectly nice wood. Joyner Follansbee, you’re the real thing! Keep up the beautiful work!

  3. The layout on the Hadley looks like a nightmare. This is the first time, to my knowledge, that anybody who is historically informed has done this, although the 17C people all took it for granted all these years. Are the flower heads on this stuff really that intuitive? I’ll have to study the CHS and HD chest pictures again. At some point you might want to study the Dutchie guy’s chest and table at CHS.

  4. Peter, the chests are all stunning. They are like sensory overload in a world of otherwise plain things. So pleasing to see, and the efforts at good photography makes it all the better.

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