I am often telling readers of the blog to remember there’s a search button on the sidebar of the blog, to help you find stuff buried in the mists of time. But don’t search for “sharpening” because I almost never write about it. Today I was sharpening some chisels for this weekend’s session in joinery at the Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking. Lately, I’ve been using a honing guide from Lie-Nielsen and experimenting again (after 20+ years) with water stones.
I use a broad range of sharpening stuff – still use natural oilstones for many things (drawknives, hatchets, turning gouges). I never teach sharpening as a stand-alone course for several reasons. Principally, I feel like I’m a student of it, not an instructor. And there’s people better qualified than me to teach sharpening.
One of whom is Tim Manney, and he’s coming down to Plymouth Craft to teach a 2-day class in grinding, sharpening, honing – the works.
I remember seeing Tim at Woodworking in America one time, and he was cutting end grain pine with a drawknife – it was as smooth a surface as I had ever seen. Tim isn’t magical, just methodical. And good. Good teacher, good craftsman. Come join us November 12 & 13 – bring your derelict and dull tools. You’ll be amazed at what can be done with them. I’ll be peeking over some shoulders to see what I can learn…
It’s coming on a whole year I’ve been building the workshop. I hope to finish just under that measure.
Lately it’s been windows – 15 windows in a building 12 feet by 16. It’s like I’m Tom Lie-Neilsen or something. They’re all in now, keeping out the dreadful wind and rain.
I’ve been making frames, (Justin Keegan made the first batch) fitting old sash to said frames, and trimming them inside & out. Work I know nothing about. Once I got going, I only had to re-do a small percentage of the work each day…Still more battens outside, some trim framing here & there inside. The battens need doing, the trim can wait til a bit later.
I did get to use planes a good bit, a relief from hammers, screwdrivers, etc. Reminded me of joinery.
With that many windows, there’s lots of light. Here’s an old box, fresh out of a 2-year stint in storage.
More pictures. The place is still a jumble, but each day it looks different. After this next photo, I cleaned it out. The floor is next, so I needed to get stuff out of there. Here, looking past the lathe, towards the river. In this photo, the lathe is just a place to pile junk.
Turning around, looking the other way, towards the door. Loft above. Main bench on our left.
more raking light.
begun hanging things here & there. Some will move when I find out they’re in the wrong spot.
As soon as the loft was done, it got filled. A couple of times. Here’s loft-left:
There’s carvings scattered around the outside too. Mostly under the window frames, but the red-painted one got temporarily hung above where the door will go. When the door goes in, it will come down to get trimmed, then re-hung.
A recent one under one of the front windows.
Today I started working on the floor boards. Two layers of 7/8″ white pine. Insulation underneath. First, I’ve been cutting tongue-and-groove joints on the finish floor boards. Bought this really nice pair of planes from Patrick Leach. All I had to do was sharpen them.
The floor boards are 16′ long. Got to work both edges of 18 boards. I’ll walk some ways in this task, but what fun. The near end of the board sits in a notched stick held in the end vice. It works.
Each time I’m at a museum to study furniture, I ask permission to post my shots of the objects here…some say yes, some say no. I feel like I’ve been very lucky to have so much access to 17th-century furniture, and I know many folks either haven’t got the time or inclination to go search it out. (it’s also heavily skewed to the east coast here in the US…)
I thought I could review some stuff that’s been over on the blog before, there’s always new readers, and it never hurts to see details – even ones you’ve seen before. The following objects are from a group that I studied many years ago with Jennie Alexander and Bob Trent. These were the first oak chests I ever learned about…so I always enjoy looking at them again.
When I think back on the leg-work to find this – staggering. I also searched for who might have been the original owners in the late 1600s. From our research, we knew the group of chests came from Braintree, Massachusetts, so I had to do some genealogical research stretching back from the 1880s to the 1680s – eventually found some likely candidates, it’s in the article somewhere.
Here’s the same chest, scanned from one of my color slides. Until this one, all but one of the joined chests we had seen had one (sometimes two) drawers underneath. I’ve built copies of this chest many times….
Here’s the other w/o drawer-chest, with brackets under the bottom rail. Lost some height of its feet, and has a horrible replaced lid.
One distinctive feature of these chests is the way the floor fits into the chest. Instead of a higher rear rail that the floor is nailed up to, these guys use a lower rear rail, and sit the floor on it. And nail it. Here’s one I restored, with some white pine floor boards, sliding over the lower rear rail, and fitting into grooves in the side and front rails. The back panel is not yet installed, making it easy to see what’s going on. Tongue & groove joints between the floor boards.
Same thing on a repro I did, better view of the lower rear rail. sorry for the garish light. (just think, when my new shop is done soon, only-daylight)
Then the back panel slides up from the feet, fitting into grooves in the stiles & upper rear rail. Here’s an overall view of one lying on its face. A white pine panel, (glued-up to get enough width to fill behind the drawer) – bevelled on its ends and top edge to fit the grooves. Slides behind the lower rear rail(s) – and is nailed to the bottom-most rear rail.
Here’s a detail. It requires some careful layout of the joinery for that/those rear rail(s). The tenon is “barefaced” – it has only one shoulder. Fun stuff.
Since the 1996 article there have been maybe 6 more of these chests that have shown up in auction houses. etc…I never saw this one, from James Julia Auctions in Maine. Clearly weird drawer pulls, something funny about the lid, but otherwise looks great.
and one with two drawers – we saw only two of those in our research, there might be four now
I’ve written about these chests and boxes many times…here’s a search for “Savell” (the name of the joiners who we think made them) https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/?s=Savell – there’s other stuff mixed in there, but lots of stuff about the chests and the carvings.
I’ve been lots of places in recent years, but somehow hadn’t made it back to Vermont since 2003. So I combined a family trip with a research visit to Shelburne Museum in Shelburne, VT to see this square table. The museum is great, Maureen and the kids saw more of it than I did, but what I saw I really liked. Hope to get back before 15 more years go by…
The table is a great example, all oak, all riven. The feet have been worn and/or cut down, and as you see the top is missing. But what is there is very nice.
One of the first features is the integral brackets on the aprons, and the corresponding central scroll. Here’s one of the brackets, set off nicely by the ogee molding run along the apron.
This is the part along the center of each apron, essentially a back-to-back bracket. The total height of the apron is about 4 3/8″. The brackets are about 1 3/4″ of that height.
You can see the inside shoulders of the rails cut away, leaving as the only contact point the front shoulder. Makes a nice neat looking joint. Enlarge this photo and you can see some joint ID marks done with a narrow chisel, on the inside of the apron. This one is number IIII.
In addition so various peg holes, etc there are many channels dug by wood-eating insects. This damage was not done to the table, but to the timber before the joiner worked it. I think we found evidence of this on just about every part of the table. This view also clearly shows the brackets as integral to the rail, not attached with joinery and nails like many are…
The symmetrical turning on the stiles, a related but different turning is used on the stretchers.
All four stretchers are turned squares; some have the radial face forward, some have it upward. I was surprised by this…I expected them to all agree one way or another.
All four stiles are cut right through the joinery. There’s no step cut down on the tenon. Usually the mortise height here is not the full height of the apron. That configuration leaves the top of the stile “closed” so the joint doesn’t show. Once the top is fixed to the frame it doesn’t matter anyway. But another surprise. I expected otherwise…
another weird puzzle – what is this little block of riven oak nailed to one apron?
There’s several patched holes bored in the aprons’ upper edges. And there’s mortises like this in three aprons. Yes, three, not four. They look like sure-’nuff mortises, presumably for tabs that attach to the underside of the top. Or are they later additions? There’s no holes I could see in the stiles.
My thanks to Tom Denenberg and Katie Wood Kirchhoff from Shelburne Museum, they were very helpful. And Rob Tarule came to help measure and examine the table, it was fun to look at stuff with Rob again, it’s been a long time…
carpentry, carpentry, carpentry. I’m thrilled to be making my own workshop, but I’m sick of it. I decided that carpentry is a lot like joinery, just done in uncomfortable positions, and I drop stuff more in carpentry. I can’t wait to be back at the bench full-tilt.
Meanwhile, I got to go with Bob Van Dyke to the Yale Furniture Study recently in preparation for the joined chest class we’re doing at the Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking. I’ve been very fortunate over the years to get to handle a lot of period furniture; studying the details. It’s still always fun to go over these things. It sounds like an old cliche, but you really do see new stuff with each visit. The Furniture Study is a great place, one of my favorite stops on the early oak circuit. http://artgallery.yale.edu/furniture-study The staff there are very helpful, great scene altogether.
We focused on two chests, the one above and this probably related one.
Typical frame & panel format, all oak in both cases. No secondary wood. Here’s some details:
The panels and muntins on the first chest. Scratch-stock moldings; interrupted where the muntins meet the rails.
This one features a paneled lid. The long rails on the lid alternated how they meet the “stiles” – at the back of the lid, the rail is between the stiles, at the front, the stiles join into the rail. Trickier to layout than one that’s symmetrical.
Nobody spent much time working the backs of these chests. Hatchet, and a little bit of planing. Not much.
The other chest is quite similar, but has some distinctions too. Narrower framing parts for one. Here’s the interrupted molding again, and the panel carving using the S-scroll rather than the “double-heart” motif.
This lid is 3 boards, edge jointed together. Very heavy. 2nd set of hinges. Note the molding around the panels on the inside of the rear framing. You don’t see this once you fill the chest with linens. Till is missing, you still see the trenches and hole for it on our right…
I often find holes in the carved panels, which are presumed to be for nailing the panel down while carving it. (on the double-heart motif detail, if you click that photo to enlarge it, you can see some of these holes) This one has a broken-off nail still in it. See, something new all the time…
there’s some shop work going on. Windows now. Floor next. Yes, there will be a stove. Stop worrying about me being cold.
One question I got a bit was about the wooden hinge on the hatchet cabinet I showed a while back. Here’s the details:
it starts with a “pintle” in this case, a small block of maple, with a hole bored part way into it. Nailed to a board running beside where the door fits. Oak pin dropped into this hole.
Then the cleat or hinge itself, I guess. In this case, a strip of walnut. It’s screwed to the door from inside. Could be nailed, but I didn’t have any nails long enough.
Here’s the whole view – one critical part is the relief cut right in the back of the cleat, right where the door/stile junction is. this allows the door to swing without binding. The pins can either sit in the block, or be tapered so they drop in from above the cleat/hinge. simple, really.
For my part, I made a copy of a 17th-century joined chair that is featured in the exhibition. The video of my work is partly taken from my Lie-Nielsen DVD on making a wainscot chair, and the carving bits were shot in my unfinished workshop.
Recently I wrote about inspiration in the form of a slew of new books. There was more inspiration stemming from the Season of the Fest – Greenwood Fest, Spoonfest, Täljfest and beyond. Here’s a few items I gathered; some gifts, most purchased, from some of the people I worked alongside.
Jarrod Stone Dahl’s birch work. My 2nd one of his, this one is a birch sleeve, slipped off the log intact. That forms the inside, then it’s wrapped with a sheet of bark that is joined together with the decorative interlocking tabs. https://www.instagram.com/jarrodstonedahl/