a little more chair work, then back to the chest

Recently I did a little more chair work on the next brettstuhl. Laid out & chopped the housings for the dovetailed cleats (or battens) that fit under the seat. I foolishly let months go by between versions of this chair so have to re-learn the layout. These battens have dovetailed edges, so I fumbled around figuring out the layout. Once I got it though – then it’s just cutting it. Below I’m sawing the shoulders of the housings & using a beveled guide for the saw. I’ve removed the holdfasts/clamps so you can see the way the saw banks against that angled edge to cut the shoulder.

cutting the shoulders

Then two steps of chisel work. One to chop out the edges –

bevel down chisel work

The next to use a large 2″ framing chisel to break out the bulk of the waste.

shaving butternut with a framing chisel

I do the final cleanup and flattening of that housing with a router plane. I’m getting there, it’s a new tool for me. I used to do this step with a couple of chisels. But once you’re past where the handle bumps against the back edge of the board, you have to flip the chisel over & pare with the bevel down. Works, but gets tricky. This tool makes easy work of flattening this housing.


Then some trial & error in fitting the tapered battens. I got them both done, but didn’t shoot the results. Here’s one most of the way in place. It always surprises me how loose they are until the last few inches, then I really have to drive them in. The power of a wedge I guess.

almost home

The tapered ash legs have been drying on the dashboard of my parked car. Hot as blazes in there lately, they should be ready for the final sizing of the tenons next chance I get to work on the chair. Today was back to the chest – fit the rear panel & drove the last pins. A trim here & there, then the drawer & lid to go.

next is the drawer, then the lid

Plymouth CRAFT spoon classes with JoJo Wood

Twain didn’t really say “reports of my death are greatly exaggerated” but it’s a good line. In a similar vein, if you’ve heard that Plymouth CRAFT is defunct – it ain’t so. We just sat out the pandemic and then some. There was no need for us to dive in earlier, so we just waited. But one thing or another has happened lately and we’re pleased as punch to have JoJo Wood coming back to teach our first next workshop. I’m late in getting this notice out so I’ll just shut up & put the links in.


There’s two classes, 2 days each. One is the pocket spoon – https://www.plymouthcraft.org/pocket-spoon-with-jojo-wood

The other is an eating spoon intensive – https://www.plymouthcraft.org/jojo-wood-forms-and-motifs

Dates are Aug 1 & 2 and 4 & 5. At the Wildlands Trust building in Plymouth Massachusetts.

JoJo hewing a spoon

I see on the events page that Paula has posted that I’m teaching the JA chair this fall. That’s true, but I think the dates listed there are speculation. I guess she & I need to get our shit together. We’re out of practice. Come take a class with JoJo – I’ll see you there.

Sneaking a chair into the mix

In between long sessions trying to get video of the heron striking chipmunks and even longer sessions working on the videos for the joined chest series, I’ve begun another Alpine chair/brettstuhl/stabelle/what-do-you-call-’em chairs. I found a couple more boards of butternut for the seat and back(s) and have some ash legs I roughed out a while ago.

The shape of these uprights & crest pieces is derived from a photo Chris Schwarz and his Chair-Chat friends Rudy & Klaus sent me. The carvings I made up – and it’s weird to have chip carving mixed with gouge-cut carvings. But I wanted to fill the spaces as quickly as I could. So that’s what I ended up with.

back assembly

This time the battens are dovetailed with a plane. My notebook tells me it was 7 months ago when I last did one this way. So some head-scratching coming up to cut the housings accurately. I guess the problem is laying them out accurately. Once that’s done cutting them shouldn’t be that big a deal.

using the Ulmia dovetail plane

I bore the waste out of these mortises for the back. First in the seat itself. Then once I’ve cut the housings, I’ll insert the battens and finish boring & cutting those mortises. Clunky approach but it helps me get cleaner results.

13/16″ auger bit & Spofford brace

Today I posted the next video in the chest series. Making the floor boards. 5/8″ white pine, tongue & grooved edges. It’s always a fun part of making the chest.

test-fitting the floor

The tongue & groove is a funny one. Not made with matched planes. Nor is it just a rabbet on the top & bottom face – for some reason they rabbeted the top and beveled the bottom to make the tongue. So that’s what I did.

tongue & groove

I didn’t bother with a trailer, I was tired of computer work & wanted to go work on the chair. There’s plenty of trailers for other episodes if you would like to see what the videos look like. You can find the trailers here https://www.youtube.com/user/MrFollansbee/featured

And the full series – now at 11 episodes and 13 1/2 hours. With lots more to come. vimeo.com/ondemand/follansbeejoinedchest

I went to the end of the shop for a tool & spooked the heron the other day. A relief for the chipmunks. Got a couple of flight shots, which I rarely get in focus.

gone for now but back before you know it

Gotta go see if he’s out there now.

Carving Panels video available

one of these panels I carved some time ago

I just uploaded to vimeo-on-demand the most recent video in my series on making a carved joined chest. This one is carving the panels. It’s about 90 minutes long and took me a ridiculous amount of time to put together. These chests have 4 panels of the same pattern across the front. So I shot video of carving 3 of them. On 2 cameras. And had a crazy number of clips (over 80!) to choose from, trying to get just the right angle, just the right detail, etc. 

joined chest w drawer, 1660-1690

I always say this, but these chests are my certified favorites. Back in the late 1980s when Jennie Alexander first hooked me into studying 17th-century oak furniture, the subject was a cupboard by these joiners – William Savell and his sons John & William.

one of JA’s slides of the Winterthur cupboard

Well, we didn’t know that part then, all we knew was there was this cupboard fragment at Winterthur and some related chests here & there in public collections. So we began a long journey to study about 12 of them and research their history. The result was a 1996 article in Chipstone’s American Furniture. https://www.chipstone.org/article.php/222/American-Furniture-1996/Seventeenth-Century-Joinery-from-Braintree,-Massachusetts:-The-Savell-Shop-Tradition

Since then, I’ve acquired and restored a beat-up one and seen a few other beauties. 

Braintree chest restored

The first carvings I learned to do were the lunettes and panels in these chests. And I’ve carved them here & there ever since. There’s a section in my book on carving them – but I’ve never carved the panels on video until now. 

leaf tips

When I started this video series last winter, after seeing Pete Galbert’s series, I expected it to run about 12 videos and maybe 20 hours. RIght now this is the 11th video and it’ll be up to about 12 1/2 hours thus far. So much for my estimates – the chest isn’t even assembled yet. Videos to come include cutting & fitting the floor (next time), ditto the till, fitting the rear panel, then assembling the chest. Making, carving & fitting the drawer. Making & hinging the lid. I’m sure I’ve forgotten one or two. Sharpening carving tools – I can’t believe I agreed to that, but it’s about time I dealt with it. 

Meanwhile here’s today’s trailer about the Panel-Carving video. The video is available as a stand-alone (each episode is) for $15 or as part of the whole kit and caboodle for $100. See vimeo.com/ondemand/follansbeejoinedchest 

There is a condensed video that’s a different chest. Years ago I shot a video with Lie-Nielsen. It’s just under 4 hours https://www.lie-nielsen.com/products/joined-chest-stream?path=home-education-videos&node=4243

Pete Galbert’s Foundation of  Chairmaking is the piece that got me on this path. I bought it, it’s excellent.  vimeo.com/ondemand/galbertfoundations 

If chipmunks are a problem in your garden

Get one of these.

heron in the garden 2019
today’s heron

During the past week, a great blue heron (Ardea herodias) has been coming into our yard hunting chipmunks (Tamias striatus). [GRAPHIC WARNING – IF YOU DON’T WANT TO SEE A CHIPMUNK GET IT, DON’T LOOK TOO FAR DOWN THIS POST.]

I’ve been noticing this behavior each spring/summer lately, so I checked my files and found the earliest picture I had of one in the yard was 2013 – that was before the shop was built (2016) and before the gardens went in, starting about the same time. 

So for at least nine years there’s been a heron stalking small mammals in the yard.

The shop functions as an excellent blind for viewing & photographing these birds. If you have the patience. Sometimes it takes 30 minutes for the heron to get in position, sometimes only 5. And sometimes the slightest movement from me – and off they go.

empty handed, so to speak

This week, out the back windows I saw the heron come into the garden. So I got in position inside the shop and waited for it to make its way to the bird feeders.

through the garden

I got lucky & got the shots as it found its prey under the bird feeders.

Even I won’t post the photos of what happens next – the heron takes the chipmunk & drowns it before swallowing it. My kids hate that I watch this drama, they think I should scare the heron away. But it’s the only chance I get to see a heron up close – they spook so easily otherwise.

Is it the same heron all these years? Well, it certainly could be. Or it isn’t. Take your pick. The longest-living great blue heron on record was about 23-24 years old. They typically live about 15 years, according to some websites I saw. But those same sites pointed out that many birds don’t live through their first year, including herons. 

I was only in the shop a few hours yesterday and a heron was here at least 3 times. Scored once, got spooked away twice. But who knows how many times there’s a heron there when I’m not looking? I looked out from the house last evening as I was writing this post & it was back. And there’s parts of the yard I can’t see from the shop or the house…and there’s chipmunks all over.

under the feeders, from the house

The photo below is post-bath in the river, coming looking for another meal.

They’re here year-round, night & day. Our river is tidal so they feed according to the tides. Except in the garden. One of the best overall sites I read about them was here https://www.heronconservation.org/herons-of-the-world/list-of-herons/great-blue-heron/

There I read about their feeding sites – “These herons typically defend their feeding sites, either a large territory held alone or individual areas when feeding in an aggregation. Territories are defended in both winter and summer. In Oregon, territories averaged 8.4 ha on the coast and 0.6 ha inland; In Canada, males defended territories while females and juveniles fed communally (Butler 1992).”

I thought that I only ever see multiple herons in the autumn, and one-heron-at-a-time otherwise. But I knew of the photo below and when I found it saw it’s dated early August. But maybe this is the juveniles and females.

4 herons

Like Riding a Bike

Easier, even. Last week some friends came by for a long-delayed visit with a distinct focus. Lately, Rick McKee https://www.instagram.com/medullary_rick/?hl=en & Justin Keegan have been carving spoons a lot and they came over to see a pile of them for ideas & inspiration. Pret came too, but he’s got a slew of spoons at his house that parallels my pile. I haven’t carved any spoons for over a year so I wasn’t sure what I had to add other than access.

PF, Justin & Pret
some of that heap

We spent quite a bit of time looking at examples from makers known & unknown. Tip of the iceberg. In the course of things, Justin found one he really loved and asked who made it. “Oh, an English carver named Adam Hawker.” He about flipped out – has apparently been stalking Adam’s spoons on the web. https://www.instagram.com/adamhawker1/?hl=en

Justin freaks out over Adam’s spoon

What I didn’t expect is that I’d be inspired as well. Their excitement got me to dig through my basket & carve an old dry cherry spoon, then I got out some fresh apple & hewed & carved another the next day. It remains to be seen if I finish either of them – but at this point I still like them. Why risk that by finishing them?

cherry on top as they say

I’ve been working away on the joined chest video series. I made the floor boards last week – white pine, tongue & grooved.

Test fitting the floor boards

Then yesterday I carved the first 2 of four panels.

two of four

Hopefully next week I’ll cut the till parts and do the assembly. Meanwhile, I added a video yesterday to the site – cutting the joinery for the rear section and fitting panels in the ends. I hope to have these next 2 videos (the floor and the carvings) next week as well. There’s a link in the sidebar – for some reason I can’t make it link in here today. Instead it throws in this trailer for the overview of the project…

One more thing – one of the carved boxes from the other day, but there’s still the chair and an oak box. I moved them to a page “furniture for sale, June 2022” – link is in the header and here https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/furniture-for-sale-june-2022/

and a couple of birds – a female common yellowthroat (Geothlypis trichas) down by the river

and a great crested flycatcher (Myiarchus crinitus) that almost flew into the shop last month

great crested flycatcher

And while I hate, loathe & despise smart phones, I like the ipad. I loaded the Merlin app on mine, stick it in the window & let it listen for what birds are out in the yard. What fun…


Boxes & a chair for sale

It’s been a while since I had stock on hand to sell. I finished an oak box recently and dug out a butternut one from the loft. Up there was a ladderback chair as well. So here goes. If you’d like any of these, leave me a comment and we’ll sort out the details, usually it’s either paypal or a check. Prices include shipping in US. And just a reminder that I take custom orders as well – I have some chairs underway for people who ordered them.

H: 8″ W: 24″ D: 13 1/2″

white pine lid & bottom
$1,400 includes shipping in US.

oak box spring 2022
end view oak box spring 2022

The inside features a lidded till. The sides and bottoms of tills are made from what I find around the shop. In this case, a black walnut till side.



butternut and oak
H: 9 1/4″ W: 23 3/4″ D: 15″
$1,400 includes shipping in US

This box is butternut (juglans cinerea) except for the rear board & cleats under the lid, which are red oak. It’s a big box, the boards I had on hand dictated the size. And in turn allowed a lot of carving…

butternut box

The end view

end view

And a detail of the front –

carved box


red oak posts & slats, hickory rungs. Shaker tape seat
H: 33 1/4″ W: (across front posts): 17 1/4″ D: (from rear post-tops to front posts): 16″ Seat height 17 1/4″

This is one of my chairs patterned after Jennie Alexander’s chair. Mine’s a bit heavier in its parts (& overall) than JA’s. But hers were the lightest of all.

red oak & hickory chair

front view

front view ladderback chair