a small joined & carved chest for sale

I’ve taught the style of carving I do many times, shot a few videos about it and included a slew of it (almost 50 pages) in the book Joiner’s Work that was published this year. https://lostartpress.com/products/joiners-work The first “pattern” I have students do is a simple exercise that uses one tool and two moves. If you go crazy with it, it can look like this:

That’s a detail from a small joined chest I started many years ago. Ah, I can check – it was 2013, because it was preparation for a pair of episodes on Roy Underhill’s show – https://www.pbs.org/video/woodwrights-shop-paneled-chest-peter-follansbee/  Roy always wanted backup materials in case something went wrong, so I started two of these chests prior to going down to shoot.

They both ended up in the book, the first one was a dead-plain one that’s in the section on fitting lids to a chest. This one, sans lid, is on page 40, in the carving section, complete with a caption that says “Someday I hope to actually finish this chest…”  Today was that day. Thankfully, unlike the chest of drawers, this one only took the morning to finish. The pine lid is quite bright, but given time it catches up to the oak in tone. I’ve just given the whole thing a going-over with linseed oil. I don’t usually go on about the figure in oak, it’s always there in my stock, but I never think about it. This chest, though, has some really nice red oak. The two-tone effect in the front panels was there the day I split the log, something in the tree, I guess.

 

Here it’s open, with the till lid propping up the chest lid. The lid is a single-board of white pine. Red oak chest, white pine bottom board too.

When I turned it around, I saw more practice carvings re-used, here one of the rear panels and the bottom rail. Iron gimmal (snipe-bill to many of you) hinges. I forget who made them, either Peter Ross, Tom Latane or Mark Atchison.

The till lid inside, molded edge.

I opened the lid & saw that the side & bottom to the till are American chestnut. Leftovers from a restoration project I did that year.

I really like this little chest, but I’m supposed to making this stuff to make a living. So it’s for sale.

Dimensions are H:  21″  W: 30 3/4″  D: 16 1/2″
$3,000 plus shipping.

Finished the chest of drawers

The chest of drawers is too large to photograph in the shop, I was outside the front door to shoot this one. And I see I left a can of WD-40 in the window. Oh well. It feels good to have this done. Forget the notion that I started it 10 years ago; I feel like I was working on it forever this summer & fall. But, I can tell roughly how long I worked on it, thanks to Chris Becksvoort. I bought his book Shaker Inspirations from Lost Art Press https://lostartpress.com/products/shaker-inspirations. Not because I care about Shaker furniture, not because I want to convert my shop to a mixture of hand & electric tools. Not because of any reason except I really admire Chris’ dedication and skills and was sure there’d be stuff in there that’s useful, regardless of his minimalism and my horror vaccui. In that book, he notes that he keeps records of all his time on a given piece. Careful detailed notes…

I used to many years ago write on a calendar what I worked on each given day, roughly how much time, etc. When I was in the museum world, the most common question we ever got, no matter what, was “how long does that take?” I realized the question was not going to go away, so in the winters, I would carefully keep track of my time for making a piece, a joined carved chest – 75-85 hours; joined stool, 12-14 hours. And so on. 

But after a while, I got out of the habit. After reading Chris’ book, I started at least writing what work I did each day, and roughly how much time I was in the shop. So  I was able to go back and calculate that I worked on the chest of drawers 14 full days and 17 partial days this year. Some of those “partial” days were 1/2 days – in other cases, I listed three or four projects I flipped back & forth on a given day, so might just be an hour or two. But let’s call them all half-days to simplify the math. That comes out to 8 1/2 more days. So just over 3 weeks to make the lower case entirely; and finish work on the upper case. Umpteen zillion pieces of wood. Plenty of mistakes, poor miters, irregular moldings – but no blank spaces to speak of.

A slew of photos; with captions.

The cedar base molding mitered and applied to the end rail.

And pegged w a square peg. I did this to all the large moldings.

this turning blank is the first of many steps to make the final 2 pieces of decoration – 2 oval applied turnings. 3/8″ thick rosewood glued to sacrificial oak.

On the lathe, you just turn beads of various proportions; here’s the initial shaping. Ordinarily, I’d apply thin pieces to every face of the oak & end up with lots of these things. I just needed 2, so I got on with it.

You see them taking shape now.

I turned a few so I’d have some to choose from…

Not the best skew work, but it will do.

The rear of the lower case. Pine panels, oak frame.

End view of the lower case – Spanish cedar panels, resawn, bookmatched. Same wood for the moldings.

Lower case, empty. East Indian rosewood turnings.

 

Looking into the empty lower case. Tenons in end rail engage mortises in lower edge of upper case to keep the two pieces aligned.

Drawer construction. Side hung, half-blind dovetails at front, nailed rabbets at rear. Pine bottoms, ship-lapped. Beveled at front into groove in drawer front. Nailed up to drawer’s bottom edges.

First two drawers inserted, the only carving thus far, a recycled box-front-as-drawer-side.

The lower case, filled w drawers now.

The upper case. Empty. Here’s the oval turnings applied on the top end rails.

Bottom edge of upper case. Mortises for those tenons to align the cases. Another recycled carving, as drawer runner for side-by-side upper drawers. I left out a dust board that should be in rabbets in the lower front & side rails. I ran out of 1/2″ pine boards, so let it go.

the WD-40 shot again.

The sunlight on the rosewood is something else. I had heard nightmare stories about using this wood. Too hard, allergic reactions, etc. I got lucky, had no problem. It turns like nothing I’ve ever seen.

Make a Carved Oak Box; at Lost Art Press Dec 9-13

There’s a nearly-last-minute opening in the final carved oak box class for the year – I’m returning to Lost Art Press for a small class (6 students) in making these boxes. There’s few versions in my book Joiner’s Work https://lostartpress.com/products/joiners-work and this class will follow much of what’s in there – but there’s always more to add. Different patterns, more details. I have taught the class four times in the past 12 months; this is the last time for this year and there’s only one shot at it next year. So…if you’re free December 9-13 and able to come to Covington, KY – have at it. Here’s the blurb, contact Megan Fitzpatrick to register…

“In this workshop, we’ll explore the construction techniques and decorative carving styles of oak boxes made in New England during the 17th century. Using quartersawn red oak and white pine, we’ll size the materials, cut rabbets to join the corners and fasten them with square wooden pins. Fitted inside the box is a lidded compartment called a till. The white pine bottom is attached with hand-made iron nails. The lid, also white pine, opens on a wooden pintle & cleat hinge.

 

Much of the focus is learning the carving style. Using about a half-dozen different gouges and simple layout tools including an awl, square, compass and marking gauge, we’ll go through numerous patterns in practice sessions prior to carving the actual box. We’ll study reference photographs of period carvings, learning how to lay out and cut them based on the tools and some basic geometry.

No experience necessary. Some basic tools required; a list will be sent to participants. (Follansbee will have some extra carving tools for students’ use.)

The fee for the weeklong class is $1,200, plus a materials fee for the wood and hand-forged iron nails. Register by sending an email to Megan Fitzaptrick at Lost Art Press: fitz@lostartpress.com.

Never carved this one before

Nine years ago, Maurice Pommier sent me some photos he shot at a museum in Bretagne.  https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/2010/03/27/bretagne-joinery-an-english-book-stand/

I’ve studied these few photos as closely as I could; they’re great stuff. A couple years back, I spent some time trying to suss out how to layout some of the patterns; but it took til today for me to carve a pattern based on one of his photos and my sketch. The board is a piece of butternut; about 7″ x 22″.

 

No photo description available.

After all the compass-and-awl/marking gauge work, I used a couple different gouges to strike the outlines. No v-tool at this point, some #7 and #5 gouges, and one old one flatter than a #5.

All this “over-and-under” business is not willy-nilly. There’s a pattern to keep. So I spent some time talking to myself, and even tracked my finger along, thinking “It goes over here & under there…”  Then picked up a gouge & struck it. Quick, before I got confused again.

Here it’s nearly done, just need to find an ending.

This is what I came up with. It’s not a copy of Maurice’s photo, but follows the general scheme of it. Only 2 small mistakes to this point.

Then cutting it is no big deal; particularly in this butternut. I try to use the widest gouge I can fit in there to remove the background. I want as few moves as possible; the approach I try to avoid is picking at it with endless tiny movements. I cut right next to all the incised bits, then back up & knock out the waste.

It was a lot of work – there’s a ton of background to a design like this.

I punched the background with a textured punch; it really emphasizes the foreground/background distinction. This is the first time I thought I was finished. I was wrong.

See why?

I fixed the 2 strokes I forgot, then found two more. Then added a V-tool line through all the bands. Now I think it’s done. One v-tool line stopped short… I usually leave “mistakes” at this point; but this time I might actually fix it – tomorrow.

 

This is one of two sliding-lid boxes underway. The other is Spanish cedar; that one’s chip-carved. That goes on forever too.

Back in October Lost Art Press ran a very nice feature about Maurice in their “meet the author” series – if you missed it, here it is:

https://blog.lostartpress.com/2019/10/18/meet-the-author-and-illustrator-maurice-pommier/ 

I took the late afternoon sitting down

I’m strictly a mortise-and-tenon sort of woodworker. But some years ago, when Chris Schwarz wrote his tool chest book, I decided to learn how to cut dovetails. Chris Becksvoort has nothing to worry about, that’s for sure. But I can work my way through them. It’s the only furniture work I can think of that I do sitting down, except maybe seat weaving.

Sometimes I get some odd species of wood across my bench, and then I undertake some “different” furniture. Today I started in on 2 sliding-lid boxes.  Below is a small box assembled, in leftover Spanish cedar (Cedrela odorata). It takes chip carving very nicely. The stacked up pieces are butternut (Juglans cinerea), headed for a larger version. The plan is to include a hidden drawer on this one, like I did a few years back https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/2017/07/03/chip-carved-box-for-bowl-gouges/

Here’s the older one, in tulip poplar. I know I started it in 2014, not sure when I finished it.

This is the cedar one – I have come to the conclusion (many times) that softer woods are harder. To work, that is. One false move and you’ve blasted the thing to bits. This one looks like it will make it. More chip carving to come, then a pine bottom & cedar lid.

This is as far as I got on the butternut today. I ripped and planed these boards to a shy 3/4″ thick, and trimmed them to 7″ high by 22″ long.

So tomorrow I’ll pick up where I left off. I do have some oak furniture to make, but the white oak needs to wait just a bit longer…

Fields of November

Started the day by taking a walk in the Daniel Webster Wildlife Sanctuary in Marshfield, Massachusetts. This area has had outbreaks of Easter Equine Encephalitis in recent years, so late summer/early fall I stay out of this place. But it’s one of my favorite walks, so now that we’ve had a good freeze it’s back in the rotation. the red-tailed hawk above was there to greet us as the sun was just beginning to light things up.

When you get to DWWS early in the morning, you’re sure to see lots of white-tailed deer. And this is a typical view – the doe staring at us, the young one (is it still a fawn when it has no spots?) looking a bit surprised.

But today, near the end of our walk, we almost literally ran into this youngster. All alone…standing right in the path. And un-spooked by us. I was surprised there were no other deer nearby…

We needed to get going, so we trudged forward and it went off just a bit into the woods. I had to peel the 300mm lens back to 140mm to get this one in focus.

Posted this one on Instagram earlier today. After we moved on, about 5 minutes along that path we spooked about 4 deer. I wonder if this one belonged with them?

I did some shop work today – I’ll do that as a separate post. While I was in the shop, I thought of Norman Blake’s album “Fields of November” all day. Great light and color today. Lots of earth tones.

it depends who you ask…

 

Here’s how I make these applied turnings. Other people use other methods. I did not devise this method, but I think a few of us came to the same conclusion at the same time. I first stumbled onto this method in the mid-1990s, and I recall discussing it with Alan Miller back 20 years ago when he, Trent & I wrote a long article about Essex County (Massachusetts) cupboards that use lots of applied decoration. http://www.chipstone.org/article.php/554/American-Furniture-2001/First-Flowers-of-the-Wilderness:-Mannerist-Furniture-from-a-Northern-Essex-County,-Massachusetts,-Shop- 

The concept is: How to get a pair of turnings that consist of just under-half-cylinders. There’s lots of ways to get there, but when using period style tools, including a pole lathe, there are challenges. Some turn a solid, saw it in half, then clean up the flat backs with a plane. That’ll get you there, but how to hold the piece for sawing & planing?

I do it this way. My first step is to glue up a turning blank with a spacer between the two halves. The spacer’s true function is to provide a solid material for the lathe’s center points. Without it, the centers are driven right into the glue line, and acting like a wedge, they can split the piece apart too soon. I know this for a fact. Remember, “Good Judgement is the Result of Experience, and Experience is the Result of Poor Judgement.”

I don’t use hide glue enough to bother keeping a glue pot running. The past week or so there have been some damp and some cool mornings, so I lit a fire in the stove. Perfect, I’ll heat up some glue while I’m at it.

Once the piece is glued up, I mark the center in the middle of that strip, in this case oak. Then scribe a circle.


Next, I make it octagonal; these short ones I find it easiest to hold them between bench dogs in the cabinetmaker’s bench. I’ve done them loose on my joiner’s bench, but this way is easier.

and then turning. I used to do some turning every day at my old museum job. Visitors to the museum would want to see the lathe work, so I’d stop what I was doing and show them. Now, weeks can go by without me touching the lathe…makes for rusty skills. I can see why people would like turning rosewood, it takes detail very well, and burnishes like no native wood I know.

But like I said, I’m out of practice. These two are OK, but need to go back on the lathe to be thinned down. For their length, (6 1/4″ long) they’re too chunky. Makes their proportions out-of-whack.