Joined chests – a proposed video series


From the sounds of it, looks like I’ll tackle this project. Thanks for all the encouraging support. A few things to wrap up first. but I’ll look into getting this started early in the new year. I’ll try to address many of the suggestions here, and more to come. PF


If you read this blog much, you’ve seen some posts about the carving drawing sets I’ve developed with Jeff Lefkowitz. I’m planning a new project for Jeff & I to work up early in 2022 – a set of detailed drawings about a particular chest that I have studied since 1990. 

chest with drawer made in Braintree Massachusetts 1660-1680

When I shot a “make a chest” video with Lie-Nielsen some years ago, I worked on two different chests, each of which might be considered a “typical” 17th-century English/New England chest. That video is still available from them, and is still valid. I probably do things much the same way I did in that video.

But the chests made in Braintree, Massachusetts from about 1640-1700 are different enough to warrant a separate look at them. First, most of them have one drawer under the chest (a few have two drawers, one above the other). The construction details have some nice features and in particular the floor and back of the chest are unlike most others in New England. There’s molding details, an interior till, iron “snipebill” hinges. 

I have studied them as a group since about 1990. Back then I was working on an article about them with Jennie Alexander. At that time, we’d seen maybe 12 of them –  all by one family, William Savell and his sons John and William. Since our article came out in 1996, there have been about 6 more chests with drawers that have shown up at auctions (a few I’ve found because people just sent me photos of chests in their families.) 

Back in 2005 I even got to buy one for our house. A rather poorly-restored example, I re-restored it and now our off-season clothing is in it. (It wasn’t expensive for something 350 years old – about the same as I charge for my versions. You can see I’ve never colored the new bits. Some day…) 

Braintree chest w drawer, restored by PF c. 2006

So my plan is to send Jeff the details he needs to do the drawings, then I’ll draw the carving patterns and their layout. 

Then I got to thinking about Pete Galbert’s Foundations of Chairmaking video-on-demand.

If you’re not familiar with Pete’s project, it’s a video-on-demand series of about 15 hours of chairmaking. I subscribed as soon as he announced it and I’ve watched the whole thing. He has released it in about 11 videos so far, each around an hour to an hour & 1/2 in length. 

I’ve posted over 30 “warts n’ all” videos on youtube since the spring of 2020. Those are free and will continue to be so – I still have some carving videos to come, that are based on the 2nd set of my drawings that I’ve worked with Jeff Lefkowitiz on. 

But as I’m coming to the end of my cupboard project, I’m looking to tackle something for this winter. I’d like to try the video-on-demand idea. I thought the Braintree chest with a drawer would be an excellent project to take on for that format. The Lie-Nielsen video is about 3 1/2 hours long – the idea I have now would not be restricted by time, I’d be able to delve into more detail about the wood, the chests, tools, techniques, etc. I’d be able to include much more detail about how and why the chest is formatted the way it is. We could look at different planes and where to use this or that one, discussions about moisture content of the stock and where it matters and where it does not.  Even some history if people want it!

muntin to upper rail joint

In the woodpile and shop, I’d show how I split up an oak and sort the pieces as I hew and plane the stock. There’s more attention to detail in the stock prep in these chests than most. Working through the steps, I’d show how I make a scratch stock for the molding on some of the framing parts, layout & cutting the joinery.

And the carving. I can show you the layout and details of how to carve the designs – the top rail’s lunette I have carved (in my carved box video with Lie-Nielsen) but I’ve never carved the panels on video before. I can show you the two different “hands” involved in the original chests, how I see which one is which – (through still photos interspersed in the video) – there’s a lot of nuance in these carvings. Only a few patterns but great detail. 

chest panel, attributed to John Savell

The point of this blog post is to see if there’s interest in something like this. A joined and carved chest is a very different project from Pete’s Windsor chairs. The chest with a drawer involves about 40-50 pieces of wood, Pete’s stool is 6! (His chair is way more, 15.) And it takes up a lot of space. Finished size is 54” wide by about 32” high by 22” deep. The Lie-Nielsen video about making a chest is $40 – Pete’s Foundation of Chairmaking is $99 (the introductory price was $79) – so – the question is, anyone game? Because it’s such a large undertaking, I’m putting out this feeler to see if it’s feasible.

50 thoughts on “Joined chests – a proposed video series

  1. Just wanted to say thanks for your carving videos. I was always impressed by carving but somewhat scared to attempt it. Seeing you illustrate how simple techniques and elements come together to create something greater than their sum makes it much more approachable.

    Re video on demand: If I ever get myself started working wood on a regular basis, I’d be interested. At the moment I spend much more time watching and reading woodworking material — and complaining that I haven’t finished reorganizing my workshop — than actually reorganizing the workshop and making sawdust. So I’m about 60% likely to buy when I’m ready to tackle it, but realistically it may be several years before reaching that point. At $40 I’m interested even if I’m not going to build immediately; $80-90 is approaching my personal pain point — not that I can’t afford it or that I think it’s really unreasonable, just that it would cause me to dither for an extended time before convincing myself.

    Hope something in that incoherent mess is at least vaguely useful.

    • Just a thought: You might or might not want to offer a combined package of the video plus the printed patterns/plans. Might be easier for some of us to talk ourselves into buying that than either separately.

  2. Very interested! I especially like the idea of including history and side lessons about making a scratch stock. I’ve always found the extra bits you discuss very helpful. How you clean your planes after working green oak, how you sharpen your hewing hatchet- these extra bits are wonderful.

  3. I am all in. If there is a way for me to get you some white oak logs I will do it. Otherwise I think it is a great idea and would be a bargain at twice the price of whatever you decide on.

  4. Put me down as enthusiastic “Yes!” Peter. I have enjoyed Pete Galbert’s chair-making series and continue to learn a lot from them. I own your Lie-Nielsen chest-making video and have watched it many times. I will definitely subscribe to your Savell chest building videos and will start looking for an adequate log at the same time.

    Mike Davis-Cheshire

  5. I’m in. I live in North FL and just can’t get to the New England states to take these classes. I have subscribed to PG’s chair-making series and find it very insightful.

    One request….can you include sections on how to make your chest using kiln dried wood? If it is as all possible. It’s a bit of challenge for me to get an oak log.

    Thank you,

  6. Please count me in as “definitely interested”! I like the idea of an earlier comment on the idea of combining the videos and drawings in one price. It will be a while before I actually try a chest, but to have the videos and drawings available would be great for when the time comes.

    Like a couple of other people have commented, I too am getting started on green woodworking. That is to say that have gotten a Red Oak log, 9 and 1/2 feet long by 18″ one end and 19″ the other, split and quartered. My first project will either be a box, as outlined in your “Joiners Notes” book or a ladder back chair, as outlined in MACFAT, a 1st edition of which I was able to source on a used book website. I wasn’t even aware of a third edition until well after I got my copy.

  7. I am in, Peter.
    Wood alternatives to Oak (yes, I know …) would be nice, the green stuff that I can get here in Europe is Pines, Beeches, soft Maples, … I don’t think I can get my hands on any sizeable green Oak.
    On-demand Video ok, download preferred.
    How many do you think you’ll need to cover the cost?

  8. Peter,
    I am definitely interested, especially in the construction details and the drawings,
    And, as always thanks for the blog!
    Pete Magoon

  9. Count me in. I strongly doubt I’ll ever build a carved chest (too many other potential projects) but I still get a lot from watching Peter’s overall approach and philosophy as well as the techniques. And I always enjoy watching and listening to Peter.

  10. WOW its a definite for me, I think you could teach a whole college class on the subject. Yes I am very interested and love to hear in-depth of Braintree carved oak chest

  11. I’m extremely interested Peter! I’ve started my Braintree chest using the photo and drawing you sent a few months back and I was down at Greg Pennington’s shop recently building a chair with Eric Cannizzario and Greg was excited to split a beautiful White Oak log when I mentioned this project and showed him the photos you shared.

    So now I have more than enough gorgeous green White Oak to work with. I’m at the point of getting the stock ready and I’m curious what you mean by, this chest requires more attention to detail than most?

    I know it’s probably information that you’ll share soon but any insight would be helpful!


  12. I’d be in for sure – I have one chest done (from the class at Roy’s) but Could definitely use more instruction on the carving and a refresher on the construction details (drawers are cool).

  13. Yes! I have done two projects carving in this style, and it seems to be just right for me. That chest is beautiful and has captured my imagination. I am anxious to reproduce it.
    Your thoughts on kiln dried and different wood choices would be great, too!

  14. I would be interested in paying for this. I’ve started prepping stock to make a chest from Joiner’s Work.

    In regard to striking the balance of getting paid and reaching a wide audience, I know that Curtis Buchanan puts up some plans, and I believe instructional videos, that are “pay what you can.” Perhaps giving a suggested cost of X, with the option to “pay what you can” would both provide you an appropriate income and reach a wide audience, e.g. instead of 5 people paying $100 = $500 and 5 people, you’d have 2 people paying $100, 3 people paying $75, 5 people paying $50, 10 paying $25 = $925 and 20 people. I wonder if Curtis would have data or at least a notion about the returns on the plans that are pay what you can vs. fixed amount.

  15. If you think this could be adaptable for use with air dried Alaska Yellow cedar I would be interested. That would be my ‘local’ Wood of choice.

  16. I’d be interested – I’m always amazed at the cost of some historical pieces when one thinks of the work that went into them.
    I would like to make my own chest.

  17. Hi Peter,

    I tried to comment last night, but it never showed up. You can add me to list of “Yeahs” for your idea. Don’t know what you’d settle on for pricing, but I would go up to probably the $250 range if the videos were available for repeat viewing/rewinding/reviewing over time, as tackling a project like this would be a long term endeavor for me.

    Hope all is well.

  18. Hey Peter,
    That’s a beautiful chest, and (please don’t take this to heart) I’m not drawn to 17th century furniture. Especially the lines of the one you restored—lovely, an eye magnet for sure. The idea of more time on details (carving, tools, wood selection, whatever) and getting into the histories — great! Elia Bizarri has some similar classes—long form, done in a few chunks—where you can pay by each part. Try before you buy sort of, lower point of entry if that helps some get started. Maybe an option to consider? Either way this sounds fantastic.

  19. I’m late to the party – but 100% interested. This chest has always been one of my favorites. Looking forward to seeing what you come up with! Good luck

  20. Add me to the interested list. One thing I’ve found lacking in the various books and videos on green woodworking is dealing with the log itself and splitting out the parts. I’m getting better at it just from trial and error, but still struggle with that some.

  21. Sounds very interesting. Look at the format Tom McLaughlin uses for his courses, so much for the course, so much for the drawing and a discount for both. And I second the interest in KD material.

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