I’m going to try the online class routine in January. Not that it will be that hard a stretch, I’ve opted to go with the most relaxed task-master going – Elia Bizzarri. He & Curtis Buchanan struck a pretty casual pose in their chair class, which I learned a lot from.
It will be 2 sessions, on Saturday afternoons. Then usually Elia makes the video of it available shortly thereafter. So you can watch it live, watch it later or both. One nice feature they’ve cooked up is the “pay what you can” notion. Details here: http://handtoolwoodworking.com/online-classes/
All of my commute is in this photo, minus about three steps. I have a joined stool cut out, but waiting for the turned parts – some of the wood is still too green for crisp detail at the lathe. So while I wait for that, I thought I’d take a vacation and work on the windsor chairs I’ve been picking away at.
These are Curtis Buchanan’s “democratic” chairs (I’m making one side chair, and one arm chair – I hope) – so shaved, not turned. In the photo above, I bored & reamed a test hole, scribbled inside it with a soft pencil and tried the shaved tenon in the hole. Bumps and high spots get smeared with the graphite, to show you where to shave next.
Once I had the legs’ tenons ready, I reamed the seat. Here, I’m testing the depth – according to the plans Curtis drew up – that stretcher location should be something like 9 3/4″ above (below, really) the seat. This one is for the arm chair version.
Got ’em where I mostly liked them. Then measured for the stretchers. Because I’ve been fumbling around at these chairs, I hadn’t made the stretchers yet. Here, I’m back on the side chair – making its stretchers out of a mix of dry-ish wood and green wood.
Once I got them where I liked them, I put them in the kiln to dry the tenons, and will go back to finishing the arm chair’s seat while those get to the right moisture content.
One reason to see these versus (or in addition to) the ones Curtis already had on youtube is because he has changed things over several versions of making this chair. I think he said he’s done a dozen of them. I saw some things that were either changed, or more detailed in this set of videos.
AND – then there’s Pete Galbert https://vimeo.com/ondemand/galbertfoundations – I can see I’m down a rabbit hole. Pete’s a great teacher, so I’m planning on getting that video series as well – but right now I have to have breakfast, then go light the fire. Or vice-versa.
I first learned about Beethoven through Peanuts and Huntley/Brinkley. I was awake in the night last night, and thought of this wonderful video – I first saw it 6 years ago, and posted it then at Christmastime. It has nothing to do with Christmas, but that doesn’t matter. We could all use a little joy today no doubt.
I think I made about 6 carved boxes in the last month. I love making them, but some variety is nice too. So it was fun to go into the shop today and pick out some squared stock for a joined stool I have coming up next. At the end of the bench you can see 4 of 5 blanks for the stiles. I’m checking the first one against the story stick for the stool I’m making. I’ll pick the best 4 of the batch, and put the 5th one back in the pile.
Some of these 2″ squares were planed from green wood in late September and they are just right now for working further. Not bone-dry, not sopping wet. In the photo above, I’m truing up the two outside faces. I called them 2″ squares, but they’re initially planed a bit over that, 2 1/8″ or so. That leaves room for this step, getting them nice & straight, with the outside faces at 90 degrees to each other.
After I like those two faces, I mark the 2″ dimension, and plane down to that.
From there, I go ahead to layout and mortising. I didn’t shoot any photos of that today. I’ve covered that at length here, in the book with Jennie Alexander and in the video series I shot last spring on making a joined stool.
Here’s the real thing I want to talk about – case hardening. I might be the only woodworker you’re going to hear extol the virtues of case-hardened oak. I trimmed about 2″ off the end of this stile – and could clearly see the darker middle of the blank, surrounded by lighter-colored, drier outer edges. A nightmare for some, heaven for me.
The next step for me is to chop four mortises in this piece – two of them 5/16″ wide by 3 1/4″ long, the other two only 2″ long. About 1 1/2″ deep. I can chop mortises in dry stock, but it’s easier when that stock has more moisture in it. (Usually a mortise takes me about 4-6 minutes – unless I get distracted by action out at the birdfeeders.) In this stock, I’ll quickly chop past the drier wood into the slightly wetter interior.
So why not just chop those joints back in September when it was sopping wet? I used to do so, but it’s a bit trickier. Really wet wood is a bit fuzzy to cut, the fibers mush around more so than cutting cleanly. And that touches on the really great feature of this in-between material. After mortising, I’m going to turn these stiles on the lathe – and that drier, outer wood cuts more cleanly – allowing more crisp detail (as much as you can get in red oak) than if the wood were just out of the log. (here’s a photo from way back when I was working on the book w JA )
We didn’t get as much snow as I hoped for; but beggars can’t be choosers my mother would say. I like being holed up in the shop or the house during a snowstorm, it keeps things nice and quiet out there. I haven’t shot any photos lately because I’ve made three boxes in a row that were essentially the same patterns. Here’s the 2nd yellow cedar box, done for a customer who missed out on the first one, so ordered one.
These strapwork patterns vary only in the details, but generally follow a basic format.
One thing I learned about using carved lids is that you have to line up the centerline of the lid with the centerline of the front. Another step when fastening the lid. I took to marking the center of the edge with a pencil then planing it off after assembly.
I make the back of these boxes in oak still, so the wooden pin that engages the cleat to form a hinge has the necessary strength. The cedar would probably be OK, but I know the oak does the trick.
That’s it for boxes for now, I have one more on order – in January. Meanwhile, I have some clean-up to do, a joined stool for a customer and some chairs to get back to. I’d like to thank all the blog readers for their support during this strange year – I’m grateful to you all.
First off, thanks to those who responded to Maureen’s work yesterday & today. I greatly appreciate it. Now, a blog update. I know I’ve been posting lots of stuff for sale recently. Being off the road for the past nine months has been very nice, but it also dried up a great portion of my income. The other flip side of that is it gave me lots of time to make things. I hope to return to teaching in person in 2021, we’ll see how things unfold. I am planning an on-line class with Elia Bizzarri http://handtoolwoodworking.com/ where we’ll cover some spoon carving. He & I are planning on testing some stuff this month. We’ll both post details when we have them. It’ll be partially modeled after what Elia & Curtis Buchanan have done with their recent chairmaking stint; but I’ll have axes & knives in hand too.
In January (probably before) I’ll be concentrating on blog posts again, some carving, some chairmaking and spoon carving. I also have a 2nd set of carving drawings pretty much ready to go, but the timing was such that I’d be posting them maybe a week from now. I decided to hold them back til after the holidays. I didn’t want to add to any frenzy – no one needs it this year.
I also plan on getting back to some more video work in January. I’ve been busy trying to get the boxes done for December, but haven’t given up on the video work.
Meantime – I have three boxes and some other craft items as well as some videos & drawings available. Leave me a comment if you’d like to claim any of these, or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
CARVED OAK BOX – SOLD white & red oak, white pine bottom. H: 8 1/2″ W: 23 3/8″ D: 13″ $1,000 includes shipping in US.
This first box got posted some time ago, but it didn’t sell right off, then other blog posts pushed it aside, and I put it in a chest & forgot it. Found it the other day…the box is some great riven white oak, the lid quartersawn red oak.
This pattern is often found on 17th-century work – a surprising amount of detail in small spaces. Glued & pegged at the corners, bottom nailed on w handmade nails. Handmade iron hinges as well. A lidded till inside.
Carved box; oak & pine. Strapwork design with carved lid. SOLD H: 8 1/4″ W: 23 1/2″ D: 11 3/4″ $1,500 includes shipping in US.
This box is a slightly new direction for some of my work. Until recently, I had mostly avoided carving the lids, but last month I made a box from yellow cedar and decided to carve its lid. I had seen a photograph of an English box with a “strapwork” pattern carved in its lid, and decided to do that. I loved the way it looked, and so did two other people at least (it sold & I took an order for a 2nd). My friend Rick DeWolf provides me with great quartersawn oak for my box-carving classes – this year he brought me the wood, but with no classes, I dove into making boxes & boxes. Among that stash was a great piece of 12″ wide perfect quartersawn stock. Bang! Carved the lid, then make a box to go under it.
You can see some streakiness through the oak on this box, the result of something or other in the tree. Time will mute all these oak colors together. Patience and patina rule the oaks. For that matter, the pine too. Here’s a photo I’ve posted before, showing a new box on the left, and one about 12 years old on the right. Both red oak and white pine. Both with linseed oil finish. The one on the right has been in use in our house now for 15 years.
CARVED BOX, S-scroll design – SOLD H: 7 1/4″ W: 17″ D: 11″ $850 includes shipping in US.
This one’s just a bit smaller than usual. I think the box front carving was either a demo or maybe a video I did this year…however it happened, I found the board all carved – so rather than waste it I made a box to go around it.
This one has an extra carving too – the till lid I made from a leftover white oak carving. You’ll only see it when you go fumbling around in the till.
Catalpa bowl H: 5 3/4″-6″ L: 20 1/2″ W: 12″ $600 includes shipping in US.
I’ve made bowls with axes, adzes & gouges going back to the late 1980s. From time to time I take another stab at them, but usually just winging it. Then, I met Dave Fisher. I’ve watched Dave teach bowl carving a number of times, but I would usually see just some of the steps, not in order. This time, I tried to just follow Dave’s instructions based on his video with Fine Woodworking https://www.finewoodworking.com/videoworkshop/2017/11/carve-greenwood-bowl-david-fisher
You can flip it over and wear it as a helmet. When I shot this photo, I realized I need to carve my initials on the bottom.
CARVED SPOON #1 – SOLD rhododendron, L: 9 1/2″ W: 2 1/2″ $100 includes shipping in US
This spoon is made from a “crook” – a naturally bent or curved section from which the spoon derives its shape. The most fun spoons there are to make…
large round basket – white ash splints; hickory rims & handle. Hickory bark lashing 14″ diameter at rims, basket height 9″ to handle 18″ $600 including shipping in US.
DVD – Build a Shaving Horse
$42 includes shipping in US 2 discs; 162 minutes.
I have 9 copies left of this video I shot with Lie-Nielsen Toolworks. They have plenty I’m sure, and they offer it as streaming video too. How to make the style of shaving horse developed by Jennie Alexander and adapted by me. Mine’s been in use since the late 1980s. I still use it all the time…
Carving Drawings 17th-century Style Carving: Devon, England and Ipswich, Massachusetts, set #1 4 pages, 24″ x 36″, rolled in a cardboard tube. $66 includes shipping in US.
These have their own page describing them, but in summary – 4 pages 24″ x 36″ of drawings showing several designs I carve in my oak furniture. Full-scale chest panels, framing parts, box front. Step-by-step drawings showing how to establish the patterns…
I’ve been taking & sorting photos today; boxes and some odds & ends for sale tomorrow. In the meantime, upstairs Maureen’s been knitting and felting away and has posted a slew of things on her etsy site. Now I know what’s going on in the house while I’m out in the shop. https://www.etsy.com/shop/MaureensFiberArts
She’s adding shibori bags, knitted scarfs, and felted bowls (& more besides) – if you’re going shopping, have a look…
Scarfs, scarves – I looked it up – either works. Today is a good day for one here…
We’re both very appreciative of the support of her work from readers of this blog. Frequently, I see someone’s name I recognize from here on her outgoing mail – it’s a great feeling, thanks everybody.
In 1978, I had never even been to the country. I was born & raised in the suburbs. When I was little, we had to come in when the streetlights came on…so what was I doing reading a book called “Country Woodcraft” by Drew Langsner? Unknowingly, I was re-directing my just-dropped-out-of-art-school life.
Drew’s updated version of this book is now available through Lost Art Press, and what a brilliant move to update it rather than just reprint it. Now we get the culmination of 40 years’ worth of workshops held at Drew & Louise’s Country Workshops. I wrote a bit of an introduction to go with this book and in it I mentioned how often you’d hear the words “life-changing” regarding students’ reactions to their experiences there. Fits me to a tee. I’ve written many times over the years about my experiences there; and the impact Drew & Louise have had on my life and career. The book was the seed of that, along with Jennie Alexander’s Make a Chair from a Tree (the 3rd edition of which is in the works at LAP, don’t worry.)
First off, the new one won’t fall apart – I have 2 broken paperbacks of the 1978 book. For the spoon-crazies – this is where America first heard of Wille Sundqvist and carving spoons with axes and knives. 9 pages in the old book, 43 pages now, something like that. Similar story with the “half-log bowls” as they are called in the new edition. And on & on – I’ve just got it this week, and am looking forward to reading both the old and new parts again & again.
And my connection to Drew & Louise is only part of this heap-o’-praise. I’m completely biased, having worked with Lost Art Press now for quite a few years. They have done their usual great job – read Chris’ blurb about the book, including how LAP & Drew both agreed to keep the price of the book accessible for beginners & students – did you ever hear a publisher/author say that? Get it here
I have this great piece of red oak; quartersawn, 12″ x 24″, clear, pretty straight (thanks, Rick) – and after seeing the carved lid on the cedar box the other day, I decided to try a large panel of a strapwork design again. Usually when I undertake these patterns, I only have a partial idea of what it will be. Much of it I work out as I go.
The top and bottom edges are easy, they’re always those linked arches. I divided up the space, put a circle in the middle and struck all the arches with gouges and a chisel. Then I knew that this time I wanted these long, vertical leafy things. You can see in the photo below that I carved one all the way before continuing. That way, if it didn’t work – I could quit, or flip the board over. Or plane it all away. (all extreme choices that rarely get employed.)
But I liked it, so I went on from there. Here, I’m setting a marking gauge to strike lines that will connect the right and left sides of the panel at the middle.
Below – using a 3/4″ wide gouge to strike circles in some empty spaces around the middle.
This time the area where those left & right halves come together get volutes carved as the ends of each section. I strike their outlines with 3 different gouges.
These patterns usually flow outward from the center – up & down, left & right. Here I’m using a compass to mark the height of one element from the horizontal centerline. Then I’ll swing it around to hit the bottom of the same form.
Most of the work is striking out the design. Removing the background is easy, there’s just a lot of it.
But you only have to solve one-quarter of it when doing the design part. Then it’s a matter of flipping it over in your mind to “see” the other 3/4. This is as far as I got yesterday afternoon, but the fire’s now lit, so time to finish this carving.
I found some quartersawn Alaska yellow cedar for sale on the web last month, and decided to make a special box from it. The carved lid is a dust-magnet; but I couldn’t leave that much blank space in that beautiful wood.
H: 7″ W: 22″ D: 11 3/4″ $1,400 includes shipping in US.
It’s a higher price than usual, but it’s not my everyday box. I had only carved a lid on a box like this once or twice before. Some time ago, Paul Fitzsimmons of Marhamchurch Antiques sent me a photo of a box from Exeter, England that used strapwork designs all over like this. I didn’t copy that box, but copied the idea.
As expected, there’s a till inside, this time with red cedar for the bottom & side, ash for the lid.
I tend to mostly use a wooden cleat/hinge arrangement for the lid. For this reason I made the back of the box from red oak – its strength is lent to the extended pin that engages the cleat, which is also oak.
I just finished it today and shot a series of photos once the lid was attached.
The rabbet joints are glued and pegged. I scrounged an off-cut from the lid to make these yellow cedar pegs for the front.