a few posts in one


I’m reading some big books lately. One is the deluxe edition of the Roubo book from Lost Art Press. I sold a lot of spoons to buy a book like that; but I knew I wanted volume 2, so it made sense to get in at the beginning too. The book is intoxicating; it makes me want to fiddle with inlays and other foreign (to me) ideas. Great great accomplishment from a host of people to produce this book. It will take time to really digest the scope of it; some of the images remind me of Serlio’s books on architecture. http://yalepress.yale.edu/book.asp?isbn=9780300113051 .  See Jameel’s take on it, he wrote a nice piece about it. http://benchcrafted.blogspot.com/2013/10/to-make-as-perfectly-as-possible.html

I’m also reminded of a giant reproduction book I viewed some years ago, one of two manuscripts by Thomas Trevelyon – a bunch of early English images; including patterns and designs. Now there’s been a third manuscript of his discovered http://collation.folger.edu/2012/12/a-third-manuscript-by-thomas-trevelyontrevelian/

Another biggie is Adam Bowett, Woods in British Furniture Making 1400-1900: An Illustrated Historical Dictionary. 

Bowett's book

I had seen this book back in the spring while at Winterthur’s Furniture Forum. I also had the opportunity to hear Adam speak on the last day of that seminar. His presentation was great- it generally was the subject of the book, what woods are found in British furniture. Could be pretty dry, but Adam made it quite interesting. So I saved up, & got the book. His introductory essay is the best discussion about Britain’s timber situation; use of domestics, importation, etc. There’s several pages on “wainscot” so that in itself made it worth my time. Great book.

Then comes the last big book I’m currently reading – vol 2 of the Autobiography of Mark Twain. (Not about woodworking of course, but hickory bark is mentioned in vol 1.) He rambles through whatever crosses his mind, knowing he can speak freely. His instructions were for the book to by published 100 years after his death. So no one would be offended by him telling the truth. The books are not linear in any way, he’s all over the map. So I didn’t read it with any concern about keeping pace, or trying to follow the narrative. I picked away at vol 1 whenever I thought of it. By the time I was done fiddling with it, vol 2 came out. Perfect timing.


I stink at sawing. I can use a hatchet pretty well. Can do some oak-ish carving in a particular style easily. But saws I struggle with. Just not enough practice. I’m working on it. Matt Cianci has helped a lot. When he visited my shop one day, I showed him a new saw I had from the folks at Lie-Nielsen. I told him that I held it funny to get it working the way I wanted…I grabbed it low down on the handle. Matt suggested re-fitting a newer handle with different “hang”. So I handed him the saw & that’s what he did.

I’m sure lots of people use this saw just as is, with fine results. But I didn’t want to treat it like a relic, and I felt that I wasn’t getting what I could from the saw. I was interested in learning how it would behave with the lower fitting handle.

PF sawing

I like it, and use it regularly these days on the chest of drawers I am building. Matt brought the original handle back so it can be reversed if ever I wanted to…

Here’s Matt’s take on what he did… http://thesawblog.com/?p=2312


It’s not that I have frequented the House of the Rising Sun, but that I have left half-finished furniture around for months & months. It makes it very difficult to pick up the thread & see where it’s going. Here’s a couple more shots of the chest of drawers’ upper case. I have not really begun the lower case yet. Here it is with some ornament applied, but the case not yet fully assembled. This one is not a copy, but truly an “inspired-by” situation. That means I am making it up as I go along, and that I didn’t measure and examine the originals in detail enough to copy them. Red oak frame, cedrela panels on the side. Drawer fronts are pine, with figured maple inserts. Surrounded by cedrela moldings. Rosewood turnings.

upper case side front view

Rear view just before I inserted a single pine panel. The drawer back is a re-used sheathing board; this side-hung drawer is about 10″ deep, so gets 2 sets of runners. I have yet to install the lower drawer runner.

upper case rear view

Here’s a clear shot of the smaller upper drawer back; this time oak. Riven, sawn-off drawer bottoms scarred the drawer back. Just like some old ones I see. The rear joints are rabbets, nailed. Fronts are half-blind dovetails. Glued. Sometimes nailed.

small drawer rear view

When the upper case is tipped on its back, you see the mortise in the bottom edge of the side rails. This is for a registration loose tenon that will align the lower case & upper case. The front lower rail is only 1″ high, maybe 1 1/2″ I forget. It has a rabbet in its inner lower edge, for dust boards that will seal the bottom of this case. The tenon runs the whole height of the rail, so when I cut off the excess end of the stile, the tenon is exposed.

upper case bottom of stiles

Now I have to put it down again, & finish some stuff for the museum. It’s a hard life wherever you go…

Speaking of which, wherever I go to set up shop, I intend to have a sign. So I started carving one like I did for Lie-Nielsen a couple of years ago.

Lie-Nielsen Weekend Workshops

Here’s the beginnings of mine, the piece of red oak courtesy of Bob Van Dyke:

PF sign

8 thoughts on “a few posts in one

  1. As always a great post.
    In regards to saw hang… this could be the top reason why so many people give up on hand tool woodworking.
    Certain tools just don’t feel right and they give up.
    I wonder if a saw could be made with adjustable hang?
    I do know you can adjust the height of approach to the work and the saw feels better too.

  2. Peter, did I detect a reference to a Nanci Griffith song? “It’s a hard life wherever you go…..” Love your work and your posts!

  3. I can see the day coming when you might just use one of those “contraptions” to build your furniture with drawers. You will have seen them in historical reference books used in Roubo’s day and throughout British cabinetmaking. You know, shooting boards.

  4. The last few posts have had some great looking strapwork, Peter. What references or techniques do you find useful for design and layout? My attempts this far have left me believing it’s more involved than the techniques you taught at CW.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s