Hey, you – your tongue is too long!


If your tongue is too long, it can lead to problems. As I found out today when I was fitting the center floor board in a joined chest. Here is the first test-fit of the middle board. It slides under the rear floor rail, and it has tongues cut on each edge, to engage grooves in the boards left & right of it. Seems to be going well, but…


It got tight before it came near the front rail, where it will fit into a groove. Front of the chest is to our left in this photo…


So I checked a few things to see what was holding things up. Made sure the thickness of the board wasn’t binding against the drawer below this floor. Nope, that was fine. But, I noticed the tongues were bottoming out in the grooves…


I pulled it back out, and a few shavings off each edge left a little space for things to work better.


Here is the next test-fit, and at this point I can see that with a good whack it will go all the way into the front rail. (this time front is to the right) But to this point, I hadn’t trimmed the front end yet. So back out again. And that’s why I haven’t beveled the front end yet – if it has to be knocked back out, right now the front end is thick enough to strike it with a mallet. If it were trimmed to fit the groove, it would be too fragile to hit. Yes, I learned this the hard way.


Beveling the front end of the floor boardbevel-front-end

This one is out of sequence – but this is what the “tongue” looks like. A rabbet on the top face, and a broad bevel on the bottom to form the tongue. I saw this version on some chests I first studied way back when, & I use it whenever I’m not copying a specific chest’s construction…you could use a dedicated tongue & groove matched set of planes too. Or one of many other ways to do this…


Drive it in for real.


Then trim the extra length out back…here I’m bending the saw so my knuckles don’t get chewed up.


This chest will have 2 full-width drawers. I didn’t have time left to begin tackling the 2nd drawer, (first one’s done) so instead I dug out some molding tools and began cutting the applied moldings that decorate 3 sides of this chest. I hadn’t worked moldings with planes in quite a while…it was fun. For this work, I use methods I learned from Matt Bickford, both from his book & video, and from classes with him. His book is so clear, it’s a great explanation of what can be complicated. work. https://lostartpress.com/products/mouldings-in-practice  and https://www.lie-nielsen.com/product/moldings-in-practice

To begin (after preparing the blanks) first step is to cut rabbets and chamfers for the hollows & rounds to ride on…


Here the hollow plane is making a rounded profile on this ogee with fillet molding…


I was running out of daylight, so I cut three moldings, then began to miter enough to frame one panel. Here’s the planes & moldings:


And here’s the test-fitted framing. The vertical one on our left will have to be re-done…but it can be used elsewhere, or chopped down for a horizontal. It was nearly dark in the room by this point. Time to come in & write this post. That crooked panel is just plain tough luck. But, as always, I can find old ones that look like that too…I’ll sleep fine tonight.


I forgot to add – still a few spoons left… https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/spoons-for-sale-jan-15-2017/


pick ’em off one by one

the good thing about starting too many projects at once is that when you finally get around to dealing with them, it looks like you build stuff in record time, knocking off projects on a two-a-week basis.

Here’s what’s coming down the pike:

This chest – it falls in the House of the Rising Sun category – I started it in April or May, left it alone until July or August, then picked it back up in Oct. Only to leave it til now. So it’s all over the map. But it will work out. I have to panel the other end, then fit the till. That’s tomorrow.


I have a bunch of book stands underway. And this is the last joint stool to come out of this shop in its present configuration.

stand & stool

Here’s one that will fall by the wayside – it’s aiming to be a box; but it will have to wait. there’s priorities you know.

box on hold

This one should be do-able. Just some funny paint left to finish up.

box wants paint

Those are all I could get near with a camera today. there’s more in there, I think. Two more chests, the chest of drawers will wait – it’s a long-term project. And lots of stuff rattling around in my head.

strapwork carving designs

Sometimes I buy two copies of a book on purpose, other times it’s because I can’t find it, buy the replacement and then later find the first. So a while back I sent George Walker http://georgewalkerdesign.wordpress.com/ a copy of the 1981 journal “Furniture History” because it has an article by Anthony Wells-Cole about the “strapwork” design found on oak furniture in Devon, England and Ipswich, Massachusetts from the seventeenth century. Wells-Cole ran down the existing work in oak, then looked at possible sources for it, including stone monuments and print sources. The article is titled “An Oak Bed at Montacute: A Study in Mannerist Decoration.”

Hans Vredeman de Vries, 16th c
Hans Vredeman de Vries, 16th c

I’ve been prepping lately for my now-postponed carving class, so had the chance to review a lot of photos of various carving patterns. The strapwork one in the Wells-Cole study in particular always fascinates me. I have carved it umpteen times. Never the same twice.

strapwork boxes big & small

Based on markings still visible on the old ones, one method for layout seems to be horizontal and vertical centerlines, then spacing things outward from there in four directions according to the size of the timber, and the size & shape of the tools.

carved box, Thomas Dennis, 1660s-1700, Ipswich, Massachusetts
carved box, Thomas Dennis, 1660s-1700, Ipswich, Massachusetts


this next box has an abandoned layout partially struck on its inner face of the front board. I always get excited by this sort of evidence, march off & adopt it at my bench, then I pull up and think, “wait a minute, this is a mistake – that’s why it’s not done!”

Dennis - 193

dennis deed box

I usually work outwards from the center, and most often start with a circle there, then the bands/straps working east/west/north/south.

PF in process
PF in process
adding leaves inside the strapwork
adding leaves inside the strapwork

This time, I marked the pattern left and right, but only on the top half of the board. Then it’s easy enough to copy from there to the bottom half. Then remove the background. 

the second half
the second half
removing background
removing background

Depending on a number of factors, one of which might be whim, you can make the curved straps that run along the top and bottom margins either broad and shallow, or taller and tighter. Once you learn the vocabulary, you can combine these parts in a streaming run of designs, never to be repeated…

Here’s broad & shallow:

Dennis -broad layoutversus taller and tighter:

Dennis - 209

Those are both the same maker, Thomas Dennis again. Here’s more variations:


strapwork panel

winterthur top rail box HNE

hennock strapwork (2)


Then, don’t forget this one: https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/2010/03/04/thomas-dennis-eat-your-heart-out-this-is-oak-furniture/

(The photos in tonight’s post run the gamut from my own, others from Trent, Rob Tarule, and a couple clipped from books. thanks to all…)


Some recently finished work

rear view joined chest
rear view joined chest

Got some photography done the other day…this one’s a joined chest that I have had around a while. I was waiting to hinge it until I could photograph the process. This is the one with the wooden hinges. Here’s the front view

joined chest
joined chest

You can see this chest in process during the Lie-Nielsen video I did on making a joined chest.  https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/2012/11/26/new-dvd-is-back-again-make-an-oak-joined-chest/

First the wooden hinge; then the interior view, with the till.

chest open hinge
wooden hinge
chest open till

Finishing up a couple of customer’s boxes at the same time…

box 2013 finished

box 2013 open

box 2013 B open

box b detail carving


Carved oak panel

Back to some carving. The riven oak panels I made a month-plus back are in perfect condition now for carving. This pattern is a panel for the chest with drawers I am building. https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/2012/11/29/a-joiners-life-is-tough/

panel finished
This style of carving uses no V-tool for outlines. The shapes are all derived from the gouges & chisels. For me, that means it’s slower than using the V-tool. But a distinctive look to it… There is for some the inclination to make a template for a design like this, but clearly the period ones were not done that way; the approximate symmetry indicates that this stuff is freehanded. 

Folks who have seen me work, or worse, have taken a class from me, know that I won’t use a pencil on a carving. But I will use chalk to rough out a pattern like this one.

chalk yes pencil no
starting to incise pattern, following chalk outline

There is no layout that I could discern on the original this is based on. I strike a centerline and margins. Then go in with some chalk, and block out three sections. These aren’t really thirds; the top tier is quite a bit shorter than the middle and bottom section. I just eyeballed this off the photo of the original. Then I use the gouges to start defining the curves and shapes, aiming generally for the chalked-in outline. But the gouges rule, the chalk is just a sketch.

first section chopped in

I tend to tackle one side of the bottom section first, then work that same design on the other side of the center line. Then I move up a bit to define the large flower head at the top of the panel.

matching right & left, mostly


blocked out
defining major elements of the design

The scrolled volutes that flank the flower are another area that deserve concentration to get them “right”. Then you fill in the spaces between with leaves, etc.

next scrolls
defining the upper volutes/scrolls

Once the whole thing is outlined,

finished outline
finished outline



then I remove the background with a shallow gouge (a #5 in the Pfiel measuring system, for those of you who want specifics). This background need not be dead flat – in fact it shouldn’t be if you want your work to look like 17th-century carvings.

removing background
removing background

The nice thing about chalk versus the pencil is that removing the chalk lines just requires a slightly damp cloth to wipe them away. A few gouge-cut details decorate the main surface, usually I texture the background with a punch. Or you can paint the background too.

gouge-cut details
gouge-cut details

I think this one used 5 gouges for 99% of the design, then I picked up a very small gouge to finish some detail here & there. And a broad chisel for the outline, and chopping along the center stalk of the design. 





wooden hinges for a joined chest

Tool-selling is making me crazy. If you hi-hosied a tool, you will hear more from me early this week. I packed 20+ boxes today, with about that many more tomorrow. so hang in there. 

Meanwhile, here I am, back to actual woodworking. I have made wooden hinges on many of my boxes over the years. I over-represent them based on 17th-century surviving examples, but people nowadays are drawn to the idea of a wooden hinge.


I have rarely used them on joined chests, but shot the process this week for the book I’m writing about chests. I might have mentioned them in the DVD but didn’t show one. So here goes.

First, here it is all done. The turned bit goes loosely through a hole bored in the enlarged end of the cleat. Then it fits tightly in a corresponding hole bored in the rear stile.

wooden hinge

They require a bit of fussing. First, you need to plane or shave a rounded edge on the top rear rail’s outside arris. This is to allow the lid to slide by when it’s opening & closing. You can use a plane, or a spokeshave. I worked with both tools the other day. I start with a bevel then continue to round it over by eye. There will be some adjustments made when you test-fit the lid. I just tilted the chest up on its front feet, and jammed it against the bench to get at it. 

planing bevel

spokeshave bevel

I have made cleats to fit the lid, with an enlarged end at the back. This will have room for the hole bored in it, in this case I made the hole 9/16”. To bore pilot holes in the cleat, I clamp it in the double screw, to lessen the risk of splitting the cleat.

boring the cleat

Then, I set the whole shebang upside down on the bench. Set the chest on the lid, check the amount of overhang this way & that, then set the cleats in place & mark the lid for the nails that fasten the cleats.

locating cleat holes on lid

Then I nail the cleats to the lid, but don’t clinch them yet. Set the lid in place, mark where the holes go in the stiles. bore these.


I turned the pintles, and tested the fit in the hole in the cleat. I want the end of the pintle a very tight fit in the stile, but the part near the pintle’s head loose in the cleat…so more fussing this way & that. 

turning pintle overall

turning pintle

Here, I am testing the pintle end in the hole. It burnishes a mark that shows me where to shave with a knife to get the fit I need. I don’t want it so tight it splits the stile or the cleat. 



Then a test-fit with the turned pintles in place. Try the lid. Watch for any rubbing of the lid on the rear rail. Fine-tune this, making clearance for the lid to swing by. On & off with the lid. It’s annoying, but if the lid binds anywhere on the rear rail, it will get ruined in time. It’s tempting to say “good enough” – but anything less than totally cleared is not good enough…it has to be right. 

it opens


Once I was satisfied, I took the lid back off, clinched the nails, then put it back & glued the pintles into the rear stiles. 

final assembly w pintle


Spoons & more for sale: updated pages

I added some things to the static pages on the blog tonight.

white oak box, detail
white oak box, detail

This box I just finished photographing the other day, I had finished the box up in Maine when I taught at CFC in Rockport last summer. https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/carved-boxes-fall-2012/

a few spoons
a few spoons

I had great plans to make a slew of spoons for Christmas presents…but that didn’t happen. The road to hell, etc… As a result, there are only a few spoons available this month. Here’s the sampling:  https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/spoons-for-sale-the-only-ones-i-will-have-this-month/

BK-MAJSFAT-2T smallA reminder about the Joint Stool book, and the DVDs, including the newest one from Lie-Nielsen about making a joined chest…


This one doesn’t need its own page, but I have another turned book stand for sale. Once again, it’s part of the “here’s the end of that walnut stash” department. This one really is the end, unless you count the four wide but short quartersawn pieces I found while cleaning the other day…

I end up crating these inside a cardboard box to protect them during shipping. So the total is $180 shipped in the U.S. Email me with questions if you are interested… SOLD

walnut book stand walnut book stand w owls walnut book stand rear

H: 18 1/2″   W: 14 1/2″  D: c. 15″

paneled lid on joined chest

carved chest, paneled lid, 2012
carved chest, paneled lid, 2012

Now that the Joined Chest DVD is out & among us, https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/2012/11/26/new-dvd-is-back-again-make-an-oak-joined-chest/ In the video we included a photo gallery that has a paneled lidded chest, but I don’t go into detail about how to make one…Now I am shifting back to work on the accompanying book. In the book, I plan on having variations that were beyond the scope of the video. One variation will be detailed discussion and illustration of paneled lids. I wrote a bit about them a while ago https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/2012/10/15/joined-chest-till-parts-paneled-lid/ but I finished this chest a couple of weeks ago & got some final photos of it yesterday. 

detail paneled lid
detail paneled lid

This one I made with the front and rear “rails” full-width of the chest. Sometimes the left & right “stiles” run the full depth of the chest, so the long rails fit between them. There is no right or wrong on the formatting of a paneled lid like this. I recall one which has the rear rail full-width and the front rail fits between the stiles. That’s complicated when it comes time for layout. 

I used chamfers around the panels, moldings on the framing parts. Then a thumbnail all around the lid. 

another view
another view

It wasn’t’ until I was viewing these photos that I noticed some carving details that I guess are mistakes….but I can live just fine with them. Notes on this photo:

carving details picked out
carving details picked out

(Agghh – WordPress switched gears on me & now I have to go re-figure how to make photos able to click & enlarge…I like the pictures to go BIG. My apologies) – THANKS TO ERIC IT’S FIXED. YOU CAN NOW SEE THESE PHOTOS LARGER IF INCLINED. JUST CLICK ‘EM. THANKS, ERIC. 

Joined chest, copped from the web

I get regular updates from some auction and antique sites, and this one is one I always look it. http://www.marhamchurchantiques.com/current-stock/all/

Paul Fitzsimmons specializes in oak 17th-century furniture… if you like oak stuff, don’t miss his website. 

You might recognize some of my carvings being based on patterns I have seen on his website. Here’s a joined & carved chest he had the other day. Looks great, right?

Devon chest, front view
Devon chest, front view

Well, let’s look around the corner before we jump to conclusions…

rear stile - wood movement
rear stile – wood movement


Note the wriggled shape of the rear stile! How’s this for green woodworking? Or as a testament to the power of drawbored mortise & tenon joinery? Imagine, they pinned those joints, then the thing took off…but didn’t bust the joints.Imagine working stock of this quality…it’s enough of a challenge when I use good timber…

Here’s a panel’s carving:

carved panel
carved panel

I have seen some related pieces in the flesh, and noted they were made of poor quality flatsawn wood. This one has oak and elm in it. Elm is notorious for not staying flat. Yet they have held up & held together. A rather extreme example, but worth seeing because the lesson is, if you don’t have perfect, rive-able green oak – don’t hold back. Dive in, no glue, no clamps. Mortise & tenon, and drawboring. It will make a believer of you. Have no fear….