the start of something big

It’s the sort of call you can’t believe you’re having. “I’m fine with the price – my main concern is that it’s done right, and well-documented. If it takes all year, it takes all year.” I’m the luckiest joiner you know. I’ve been wishing for something complex and now I’ve got it. The cupboard above is what I’m going to tackle, it’s at the Massachusetts Historical Society. I took that photo in 1998 when I was there, studying it for an article I did with Bob Trent and Alan Miller. http://www.chipstone.org/article.php/554/American-Furniture-2001/First-Flowers-of-the-Wilderness:-Mannerist-Furniture-from-a-Northern-Essex-County,-Massachusetts,-Shop-

As soon as the fire was lit this morning, I got to work. I only had a couple short bolts of oak left, so that’s what I started with. That surface that’s facing up is a split! It’s as perfect as it can be. This piece is about 8″ wide and 18″ long – destined for the panels on the ends of the lower case.

a perfect bolt of red oak

It might as well have been perforated it split so well.

Snowy weather is ideal for green woodworking – no worries about the heat & sunlight causing unwanted splits.

ready to go inside

Then some skimming with the planes to make one face flat. I try to get the shavings into the basket, but there’s too many.

warming up

Then I scootch down and check the face with winding sticks and proceed.

These cupboards (the one pictured is one of 12-13 related cupboards) are the most complex pieces I know of from early New England. It’s more than I can keep track of in my head, so I began a checklist of which part is planed. These are the first 8; four panels, 2 muntins and 2 cornice rails.

if they could only keep that color

I marked each one of the framing parts on its end. Dated too. They’re planed slightly oversized, they’ll shrink a little.

names & dates

I cleaned up & sharpened the planes after that – the tannic acid made a mess of them. Then had a little time to figure out the angles I’ll need to plane up the upper case stiles. I never use drawings for joined chests, stools – even the wainscot chairs. But this upper case is a bit more complicated. I won’t need a drawing for the other parts – just to get those funny-shaped stiles. Now to find the next oak log.

maybe the only drawing I’ll need

Here’s the link to the Massachusetts Historical Society’s page about the cupboard – https://www.masshist.org/database/viewer.php?item_id=3231&pid=36

16 thoughts on “the start of something big

  1. Congratulations! I love seeing your posts and knowing that there are people like you caring for treasures like these.

  2. P.S. The Mass Hist Soc photo has the urn-shaped pillar in the upper part flipped vertically compared to the one in the photo you posted (wide part at bottom). Is it a different piece? Same shop? Which orientation do you prefer, out of curiosity?

    • Hi Andy – I have a lot of review to do. I studied this group in 1998-2000 as we prepared that article. The pillars get flip-flopped a lot, I forget what’s “right” and will have to look it up. I’ll spend some time here looking at other cupboards from the group too. Lots of variety.

  3. Wow!!! Where do you source your trees? Just finished Tarules book! Had me looking for where Peter Blinn’s shop was here in Old Wethersfield.

  4. Looking forward to seeing you make this one Peter. All the best with it. Those first splits are a good omen!

  5. WOW!!
    I know you will enjoy, and I am really looking forward to reading about/viewing your progress.
    When do you expect to have the second set of your carving drawings for sale? I hope to buy both sets, if possible.
    thanks for sharing!
    Pete

  6. Congratulations, Peter, on an exciting and, hopefully, rewarding commission! No one could do a better job than you on a piece like this nor does anyone have a better background.

  7. I sure would like to learn to prepare wood the way you do. I’ve made a few Shaker stools with green wood but would like to learn more. Any tips on how to learn more would be appreciated. Books?

  8. Fantastic opportunity Peter. How do you avoid end checking on the wider boards? I’ve had some issue with that on my joint stool seat boards. Rick

  9. AMAZING!!!! Amazing piece of furniture! Looking forward to viewing the play by play of your progress … should be most informative, as are all your posts!

  10. Looking forward to this! Whenever I’m NYC, I always make a point of visiting this sort of stuff in the Luce display at the Met. On my (hopefully not) last trip from Toronto, also I stopped by the Brooklyn museum and was surprised to be able to sit in a chair you’d made for them. Nice work.

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