It’s 2 days in May in Maine. That should be enough, but it’s fun w axes, knives and hook knives. So how can you go wrong? It’s my first time teaching this class & I am very excited about it. I think this will be the third year in a row I’ve spent a week in May in Maine. It’s hard to beat.
They tell me there’s several sign-ups already, maybe half-full or more. So if you’re thinking about it…don’t take too long.
Dates are May 10 & 11, 2014. I’ll be out birding in the early hours, then we hew & carved from 9am…
Today my friends Paula & Marie & I went out to Plymouth Beach in search of the snowy owls. It was the best viewing of these birds we have ever seen…there were at least 4, including the first one we were too stupid to even be watching for. It’s about a 10 minute drive out to where we then walk the end of the beach. We didn’t expect any owls way down near the beginning of the beach road, so we weren’t even looking. So owl # 1 we drove right up to it – didn’t even see it until it flushed & flew.
Then we found three more out near the beach’s tip. All easy viewing, and at one point all three were in the air at once, seemingly just to shift positions. They all landed again and went back to just sitting around being snowy owls.
When they all flew, it was like a game of musical chairs, then they all settled in on various dune tops. Here, it’s like when my kids screech “I was here first”
Marie’s shot is way better than mine:
these were two of a very large flock of shorebirds.
The flock was split apart at one point by a merlin – it was great to see the merlin whiz past, buzzing the owls for good measure, then later we saw it bust apart the flock of maybe 200 shorebirds…at top speed.
We knew on our walk back there was one owl that we left behind, so picked him up en route back to the car. I’ll close w Marie’s shot of this one:
I have been carving spoons steadily, while on vacation from the shop. I’ll be back there in some capacity soon, but hewing & carving away at spoons meanwhile. Also, the end-of-the-year sorting of photos, many that never made it anywhere.
First, some spoon wood. Snow is now gone, I hope it comes back.
I finished a few of these cherry serving spoons, two were sold, and we kept one – here they are chip-carved & oiled. Shows the patterns in the bowls I spoke of earlier.
Now, leftover photos. I will never get around to telling the story of this stupid holdfast. Presented to me by Ken Schwarz at Colonial Williamsburg in 2007, mostly just to shut me up…you had to be there…
I have a large oak table waiting to be shipped out to its customer. I flew blind as far as fitting the end boards – nothing to go by. It’s probably overkill, certainly is for the period, but it should hold.
Late Oct I took part in a program at Historic New England, and we got to see this chest up-close. Boston work, real nice.
At the back, there is wood-extraction galore – riven, fore-planed, millsawn, and frame-0r-pitsawn. The whole show.
Saw this sticker in Lexington back in the spring. It never fit in a blog post, but been thinking about Maine lately…and the GD a consistent soundtrack.
Even lacking snow, the river is always worth watching. Resident mallards, few winter ducks thus far.
So how do I reckon the beginning of winter? Well, I walk down to the riverbank and turn left. Then I see this – and know it’s now winter.
Look closer – up in the upper left corner, two redtails sitting side-by-each. That’s winter.
I really want to offer my most sincere thanks for all the great support I have received here from the blog-readers. I never expected such a response when I started this back in 2008. You have been great, I appreciate it. Back to the spoons now.
Now I am trying to go back to some ideas I had for blog posts that never got written in the last two months. First up is “wainscot.” I’ve always had it in mind to write about wainscot, then after reading Richard Law’s post about his reading of Wolsley & Luff’s Age of the Joiner it got in my noggin again. The book is a real mixed bag; but worth having if you’re careful. What Richard found out is that wainscot means different things at different times/places and needs.
One basic meaning of the word is paneled walls – a series of connected frame-and-panel constructions to sheath interior walls. Simple, right?
Well, it also means imported oak from the Baltic. Or from elsewhere, through the Dutch territories. Or is means oak quartered, usually riven, as the Baltic oak mostly was.
It can also mean an object made with either these materials or this construction method. A wainscot chair can be an oak chair, it can also be a walnut chair, made with a joined frame and a paneled back.
The absolute best discussion of it is now Adam Bowett’s entries for oak, wainscot etc in his newest book Woods Used in British Furniture-Making 1400-1900. I had mentioned this book a while back, it really is a great reference book. Costly, but worth the money. If money’s tight, absolutely get the library to hunt it down for you. But then you’ll want to buy it. I saved up and got one. The introduction and the entries on oak, mahogany and walnut are excellent research and writing. The other stuff too, but those are the ones I read first. His entry for wainscot is 9 pages long…you can skip my post here about it & go read Adam’s book instead.
There are records in England of the word wainscot being a noun – an early record is one I first saw in Wolsey & Luff’s book – an excerpt from the will of John Henryson of Kingston-upon-Hull, 1525, mentioning:
“I gif to William Henryson, the carver, at the next comying of the hulkes oute of Danske a c [hundred] wayne scottes”
These wainscots are either bolts or logs of oak to be worked at their destination.
Here’s Reverend William Harrison’s note about imported wainscot – in A Description of England of the late sixteenth century: (1577 1st edition, or 1587 2nd)
“Of all oke growing in England, the parke oke is the softest, and far more spalt and brittle than the hedge oke. And of all in Essex, that growing in Bardfield parke is the finest for joiner’s craft: for oftentimes have I seene of their workes made of that oke so fine and faire, as most of the wainescot that is brought thither out of Danske, for our wainescot is not made in England.”
John Evelyn, Sylva ( I think this is from the 1661 edition, but not sure) :
With Fir we likewise make Wainscot, Floors, Laths, Boxes, and wherever we use the Deal; nor does there any Wood so well agree with the Glew as it, or so easie to be wrought: It is also excellent for Beams, and other Timber-work in Houses, being both light, and exceedingly strong, where it may lie dry everlasting, and an extraordinary saver of Oak where it may be had at reasonable price.
Nor are we to over-pass those memorable Trees which so lately flourished in Dennington Park neer Newberry: amongst which three were most remarkable from the ingenious Planter, and dedication (if Tradition hold) the famous English bard, Jeofry Chaucer; of which one was call’d the Kings, another the Queens. and a third Chaucers-Oak. The first of these was fifty foot in height before any bough or knot appear’d, and cut five foot square at the butt end, all clear Timber. The Queens was fell’d since the Wars, and held forty foot excellent Timber, straight as an arrow in growth and grain, and cutting four foot at the stub, and neer a yard at the top; besides a fork of almost ten foot clear timber above the shaft, which was crown’d with a shady tuft of boughs, amongst which, some were on each side curved like Rams-horns, as if they had been so industriously bent by hand. This Oak was of a kind so excellent, cutting a grain clear as any Clap-board (as appear’d in the Wainscot which was made thereof) that a thousand pities it is some seminary of the Acorns had not been propagated, to preserve the species.
(Ahh, Evelyn brings up the word “clap-board” – we’ll get to that another day…)
In 17th-c New England they surely weren’t using any imported Baltic oak. There the word applied to local oak, probably riven on the quarter. Sometimes, though, it was about the paneling, In Massachusetts Bay Colony’s earliest days, Governor John Winthrop chastised one of his deputies for being lavish with his own house.
“May 1, 1632 …upon this there arose another Question, about his howse: the Governor havinge formerly tould him, that he did not well to bestowe such cost about wainscottinge & addorninge his howse, in the beginning of a plantation, bothe in regarde of the necessitye of public charges & for example &c: his answeare now was, that it was for the warmthe of his howse, & the Charge was little, beinge but clapbordes nayled to the walles in the forme of wainscott.”
(Richard S. Dunn, James Savage, Laetitia Yeandle, editors, The Journal of John Winthrop 1630-1649 (Cambridge, Massachusetts: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1996) p.66.)
I’d say that’s the earliest use of that word in New England. And in that case, while clapboards were usually oak, the term wainscot here is about the wall-panelling. Faux wall paneling to boot. There’s a pine board chest at the Plymouth Antiquarian Society with narrow boards nailed to the front of it to mimic a joined chest. Sounds like the paneling Winthrop’s deputy had…
Otherwise, New England inventories usually use the word as an adjective – wainscot chest, wainscot chair, etc. I can’t think of any examples like numerous English inventories where they list the wainscoting as a “moveable” like furniture.
Here’s an English one, from 1672, Abraham Brecknock, Writtle, uses “wainscot” as both noun & adjective:
“One drawing table, 6 joint stooles, and a forme and a Bible £2; One presse-cubbord, another wainscot cubbord and all the wainscot about the Hall, and the long bench joyning to the wainscot £7-10; Three chaires , 6 cushions & other implements £1 “
For the record of sawyers working the imported material, here’s a piece from London, 1633 – from Henry Laverock Phillips, Annals of the Worshipful Company of Joiners of the City of London, (London: privately printed, 1915) we get a petition filed by the Joiners Company against the Freemen Sawyers of London:
“1633 Petition of the Compy of Joyners &c to the C of Aldermen against Freemen Sawyers
Report to the C of Aldermen…we caused to come before us as well divers of the Cy of Joyners as other freemen Boxmakers as also the Sawyers we conferred also with the Wardens of the Carpenters Cy touching the matters complained.
That within these twentie years the prices of sawing is so exceedingly increased by means that the freemen Sawyers have appropriated the performance of the work & that only forreyners have served under them as that there is now taken sometimes three pence and sometimes four pence for sawing a Curfe of Wainscott which was then done for three half pence and no more.” (p. 25, 26)
Longer than I have known her, my wife Maureen has been knitting. I remember when I got to the museum 20 years ago…every staff meeting would be punctuated by clicking of needles. All these women were knitting away constantly.
When the cold weather hit here recently, out came sweaters, scarfs (or scarves) hats – all knitted by Maureen. What could be better than handmade clothing? My favorite sweater even appeared in the joint stool book, the back part where Schwarz said we needed head shots…
My friend Bill Coperthwaite wrote about knitting in his book A Handmade Life, calling “hand knitting one of the most efficient methods of production ever developed” I won’t copy it all here, you can read it, pp. 97, 98. He talks about the portability of the craft, the ability to knit while visiting. talking, etc – “it is quiet work and does not interfere with conversation.” And “the quality of timelessness adds to the knitting’s incomparable, unquantifiable beauty.”
When our kids were very young, there was not much time for knitting, but Maureen has taken it up steadily again, and it’s great to see. These days the items are small-scale; part of being a full-time mom cutting into available time for larger projects like sweaters. As I mentioned recently, she was part of a craft sale in Plymouth. Now that’s over, so her Etsy site has gone up and is ready for visitors. It’s cutting it close for Xmas presents, but with some quick shipping it’s still possible. But her site will continue past the season, and she plans to keep on knitting & felting. So if you know someone interested in these crafts and items, please send them the link. http://www.etsy.com/shop/MaureensFiberArts
These felted bowls are something new to me, I really like them. Lousy for breakfast, but a great tactile thing. Not yet on the site, but soon:
I dug out my copy I started some time ago. It was at the point where I needed to turn the roller that tightens the two frames of the vise. It works by twisting the roller – it has an off-center round tenon fitted into the two front stiles. Here’s the old one showing the roller at the bottom of the front frame.
After turning the cylinder, I thought some about how to make the off-center tenons. I’m not Roy Underhill, so that means I did not mark new centers, re-mount it on the lathe, and turn it off-center . Instead, I marked it out with an awl & compass, and sawed, split & shaved it. Quick & accurate if you take it step by step.
I started by marking plumb lines through the center of the roller’s ends. This helps me get both ends marked out so they agree. I set the roller in the “joiner’s saddles” or V-blocks for any moderns out there. Hit a holdfast, then used a square and awl to strike a vertical line on the end grain, through the centerpoint. Check that w the square, then mark the other end
Now it’s simply a matter of setting a compass to 5/16” to strike a circle of 5/8” on that line, bumped up to the top of the roller…
then some saw kerfs, and splitting off the waste. One:
Then shaving the roughed-out tenon by using the spoon carver’s “crossed thumbs” grip.
Test fit in a hole bored in a piece of scrap hard wood. trim to fit.
Here’s the front assembly.
The roller bears against two strips of hardwood glued to the rear stile’s inner faces. I keep a box of short off-cuts of straight-grained hickory and ash. The box is labeled “tool handle stock” – but I dip into it whenver I need dry, hard clear stuff. Hickory is my first choice for these. The originals were repositioned, after wearing out one side/edge.
right now mine are just glued on. The old ones are glued & nailed. Next time I’ll start testing the action of the cam-roller, and see how well it closes the jaws of the vise.
As I was ready to leave, here’s the view out the window. I love it this time of year.
I have been carving up the last of 2013’s spoons – some serving spoons in cherry heartwood. When cherry logs lay around too long, the sapwood goes off, but the heartwood is still good in this log after 8 months –
I shot these two spoon bowls together to show the variation in the grain pattern inside the bowl. The centerline on the spoon on the right is mostly centered on the piece of wood – so you get a nice, even concentric pattern as you cut into the succeeding layers to hollow out the bowl.
The one on the left was a bit whacky, I forget why now. Some defect caused me to line up the centerline of the spoon to one side of the centerline of the split billet. So now the grain pattern inside the bowl is one-sided. I like this effect; but I like the other one too. All this becomes horridly small details that matter to few…but it helps to know how & why different patterns emerge.
All the spoon blanks have to be split in such a way that the central section of the tree, the pith, is avoided. Usually it is hewn away. Leave it in, and the spoon will crack, probably more than 99% of the time.
But do you then hollow the side towards the bark, or towards the pith? Well, you can do either – one will get this pattern, one that. Here is a 3rd spoon dropped into the photo above, showing the pattern resulting from hollowing the face towards the pith. Usually I hollow the wood near the bark side, like the middle spoon.
When you hollow them in green wood (almost always the case) – the bark side bowl gets narrower, but deeper upon drying. The other gets wider, but shallower. This is the effect of differential shrinkage in the wood. More minutiae, though. The amount they shrink & distort is not great, to my way of thinking. I’m more concerned about the grain pattern, or quirks of the individual spoon blank. I generally work them all bark-side up, but if the tree has another idea…I’ll follow the tree’s lead.
Here’s some furniture that made it to the background paper today. First is the chest I made for the museum. Every year they have a raffle for one of these. This is the one I made piece-meal – started in April, finished in Oct/Nov. Never again. Finishing it up in the last few weeks was an ordeal.
Here’s the little 2-panel chest I made for the Woodwright’s Shop episode. It still needs its hinges installed, but that’s manageable. A combination of red oak, with 2 white oak sawn panels in front. Pine floor boards.
Here’s a detail of the next version of that little chest…I just couldn’t leave all that blank oak around. This one’s for me…riven matched panels in front.
The gouge-cut carvings. one tool, two moves.
a joinefd form, red & white oak. A little more than 5 feet long, I think. I forget. The seat is quartersawn white oak.
I am starting to assemble the schedule for where and when I will be teaching in 2014. This list is partial; as of right now (Dec 2013) – I will update it as things get sorted out. Some of these places have their schedules posted, some are still in the works. I’ll also keep it as a separate page here on the blog for later access. Hope to see you out & about…
February 8 & 9, 2014 – Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking, Manchester, CT. Carving 17th-century style. http://www.schoolofwoodworking.com/woodworking-classes.html#Speciality_Weekend_Classes Bob Van Dyke runs a great place there. Fun will be had. Watch in horror as Bob loses it when we look at period carvings, “All I see is faces” says Bob. 2 days of learning the tools to use, how to work with them this way & that, and generate different patterns. Layout, execution – folks usually carve about 5 different patterns, including one full-size panel version.
May 11 & 12, 2 days of spoon carving instruction at Lie-Nielsen in Warren, ME. My first-ever attempt at teaching spoon carving. I am really excited to tackle this. If you read the blog, you know I have been carving spoons for many years, and every day for the past few. Axes, knives & more – what fun. They will have the details up on their website soon. http://www.lie-nielsen.com/workshops/
August 4-8, 2014 – The Woodwright’s School, Pittsboro, NC. – This time, Roy has been kind enough (or nuts enough) to agree to us trying to make a small joined chest in a week. A mix of riven oak and sawn boards (maybe pine – we have some details to work out…) – it will be much like the joined chest we did on his show this past season. (flat lid instead of panels though – enough joinery already) Riving, hewing, planing – mortise & tenon, then grooves & panels. If it works, it’ll be something. Well, it’ll be something anyway…
September 22-26 – Heartwood School for the Homebuilding Crafts – http://www.heartwoodschool.com/coursefr.html WOW – I’ll teach right here in Massachusetts. I was a student at Heartwood back in 1984 – and now 30 years later I’ll be teaching the make-a-carved-box class there. Riving oak, planing, carving, assembly – another mix of riven oak & sawn pine. Assembly with hand-wrought nails, wooden pins, and a wooden hinge. I’m really looking forward to returning to Heartwood.
(Will Beemer was able to find a photo that had me in it from 1984 – I’m the skinny longhair sorta just behind/above the fellow in white overalls…head down, arms up.)
There are other things coming up, some museum lecture/demos; one at Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts in NC – in March. Haven’t been there in ages. I’ll also add another class at CVSWW – this one a 3-day class in making a carved frame-and-panel. So some carving, and some joinery for those too smart to tackle 16 or more mortise & tenons! I’ll get that sorted soon, sorry Bob. The 2-day open house at Lie-Nielsen in July – I missed it in 2013, so cleared room in 2014.
I’ll flesh this listing out as it gets more details.
Moving is a good time to sort junk & throw out some stuff. Moving the shop is no exception. I got to the small bookcase & sifted through some magazines…I had long intended to go through the back issues of Antiques & Fine Art and snip out the photos and articles that might be useful, and ditch the rest. I can save 2 feet of shelf space by doing just that. I ran across this advertisement from a 2004 issue of the magazine:
I had never seen this box before it appeared in this ad…and I have never seen it otherwise for that matter. But to me, it resembles the work in the cupboard at the MFA that I worked on some years ago. https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/?s=MFA+cupboard
To review that project – the MFA owns a 1680s/90s cupboard base. They asked me to make a top to go with it, but worked to look “as new.” It was a great project, one in which I had lots of help from their conservation people and those at Winterthur Museum as well. Here’s my result, before it was installed at the MFA.
To get to that, we studied the related objects. In all, we only knew of 4 pieces from this un-identified shop. Here they are:
First is the MFA cupboard base. The top drawer is carved on a shaped drawer front applique – and the stiles are carved below this drawer. Plus false muntins on the 2nd & 3rd drawers. Highlighted w paint.
The chest wth drawers at Concord (MA) Museum is a great example of this guy’s work. It’s all kinds of weird in its construction, but the carving and paint are immediately recognized.
A detail of the carving:
This old photo of the cupboard head at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NY shows what was left c. 1900 or so. They had the base too, but this one I cropped when I was studying the cupboard’s upper case.
The box at Winterthur is a fine example, I especially like its small size. It’s dated in paint on the side, I think it’s 1698.
You might remember one of my interpretations of this box just the other day:
When I ran across the photo at the top of this page in the shop today, I started to make out in my head how to lay it out…within a few minutes I figured it would be quicker & easier just to lay it out on wood & carve it. so I did.
I tilted the board a bit, to try to show the layout scribed w a compass…it’s a bit hard to pick out. But it’s there.
What fun! Once I got that out of my system, I went back to sorting & cleaning.