some recent work

In between rounds on the cupboard I have got some other joined and carved things done. And now with the cleaned sensor on my camera, photographing them is a treat.

carved box, butternut & oak

This one is a box that is headed tomorrow to New Hampshire as part of an exhibit/gallery show at The Two Villages Art Society called “Into the Woods” https://www.twovillagesart.org/into-the-woods a new venture for me. Dave Fisher, Kenneth Kortemeier, Dan Dustin and many others have submitted pieces as well. Worth a look if you’re in the area, opens Sept 17.

A couple of joined stools for a patient customer –

red oak joined stool

The other – he asked for two stools that didn’t have to be a pair. Good thing…

red oak joined stool

This box you’ve seen here before, I shot a video of carving its front. Now it’s done & delivered. It was a retirement gift for a curator I’ve known for eons – Dean Lahikainen at Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, MA. It’s based on a box in their collection.

carved & painted box, oak & pine

That box and the tops of the two joined stools finished off my stash of quartersawn oak. So today I ventured out into the world to get some more. Thanks to Rick for letting me be so picky. Sunday is white pine day for the same reason – my larder is empty. I guess Monday is stacking & stickering day. Then it’s back to the cupboard full-time. Assembly is on the horizon.

30 pieces of quartersawn oak random lengths & widths

a video and some blog upkeep

carved box front

The carved box front above is the subject of the most recent video. It’s a mostly-free-hand drawing/carving. Some basic centerlines, then jump in from there. The video runs about 80 minutes and shows just about the whole process. I’ll insert it at the bottom of this blog post. I tried to post it yesterday & this morning to youtube, but the file I was uploading was incomplete. Hopefully it will be corrected now.

The Blog

I rarely tinker with the blog and it shows. Too often there’s out-of-date pages left up and then it seems that WordPress changes stuff on me. Recently (really months ago) the title & header of the blog became unreadable against the photo – so I spent what felt like an eternity trying to change the font color on the title – finally gave up & changed the background photo to a drawing of a carving. I hope I don’t have to mess with it again for a while.

Right now I have several custom pieces to make, but often have stuff ready-made too. So while I was housekeeping in the blog, I created a page “Furniture for Sale” – there I’ll stick the stuff I have kicking around that’s available for purchase. The link to it is up in the header or here https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/furniture-for-sale/

The Drawings

strapwork pattern

It was months & months ago that I said set #2 of the carving drawings was almost ready. But then I hesitated. The then 4-page set contained some drawings of strapwork designs and I decided they needed some step-by-step explanations. So I waffled around a bit, then drew them up step-by-step. Jeff Lefkowitz and I then went back & forth with captions, etc. At the same time, we monkeyed with the gouge-ID stuff. All of which is to say we’re just about done now, and have sent the set out for some test-prints. Once we see those, Jeff makes whatever last-minute changes we need, then I’ll have them printed & available. For real this time. This set will be 5 pages, 24″ x 36″ – details soon. Should be later this month I hope.

The video – Carving a box front.

I hadn’t done much carving lately at all, then got an order for a carved box. Perfect time for a carving video. I had some trouble uploading this, so broke it into two parts. I call them part 1 and part 2. Here’s part 1

and part 2

Carved box and 2 chairs for sale

A couple of things for sale, brought down from the loft. If you’d like any of these, leave a comment and we’ll take it from there. Paypal or check is fine, I add the fees to the paypal charges. If someone beats you to it, I can always make these sort of things on order.

I’ll start with the box. I made quite a few boxes last year, particularly in the fall. This box is #12 of 11, or something like that. I made the body of it then, but didn’t finish it until a week ago or so. It’s quartersawn red oak, with a white pine bottom. The carvings are based on boxes made in Dedham, Massachusetts in the 2nd half of the 17th century.

My schedule is pretty full with the large cupboard I’m making and some stools and chairs. I know I’ll make more boxes this year but don’t know when. And there won’t be as many as last year.

H: 10 1/2″ W: 26 1/2″ D: 14 3/4″
$1,200 includes shipping in US

carved box red oak white pine
open showing till

The till parts were scrounged from what was in the shop at the time, a walnut lid and red cedar bottom & side.

detail of front corner

The boxes I make depart from “typical” period boxes in that the sides are carved in addition to the front. This is seen on some period boxes, but most are just carved on the front. I use wooden pegs and glue to secure the rabbets – same story – most period boxes are nailed there, some are pegged. And I use a wooden hinge, again, you see that sometimes, but more often iron hinges.

——————

Ladderback chair
Hickory rungs and posts, red oak slats, hickory bark seat.

H: 33 1/2″ W: (across front posts) 17 1/2″ D: (overall) 18″ Seat height 17 3/4″

ladderback chair

There’s a story to this chair. I fumbled around a bit when I was re-learning how to make these chairs. This one I got the orientation of a rear post a bit off, resulting in what Drew Langsner calls a “windswept” back to the chair. Just a bit asymmetrical. It’s perfectly sound and sits fine. It’s just not a top-flight chair. But neither is it a “second.” I guess it’s a “second & 1/2.” When I assembled it, I saw the problem and stuck it in the loft and made another. Recently I got it out & decided it’s not that bad – so I put a hickory bark seat on it and took $200 off the price.

$1,000 including shipping in US.

You can see the post on our right is kicked out too far. Not fatal.

front view

Here’s the hickory bark seat.

hickory bark seat

———————–

Kid’s size ladderback chair

H: 26″ W: (across front) 14 1/4″ D: (overall) 14″ Seat height 14″
$800 including shipping in US.

Kid’s ladderback

A colored chair? From me? Yup, it’s to hide another mishap. Bored a hole in the wrong spot, plugged it & carried on. But it was right in a front post. So I practiced coloring this one. Even with the plugged joint, the chair is perfectly sound. Here’s the plugged mortise, at the rung that’s running down to the right in this photo.

plugged mortise

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I still have two brettstuhls here, Alpine chairs, board-chairs – whatever you might call them. It’s funny to think about me making Alpine chairs down here at sea level. They might seem like quite a departure from my normal work, but with carved decoration, mortise & tenon joinery and a long tradition, they are right up my alley. If anyone is interested in one, send me an email at PeterFollansbee7@gmail.com 

brettstuhl walnut & ash

recent projects-in-the-works

A long stretch here without a blog post. That means I wasn’t shooting many photos in the shop. well, not woodworking photos anyway. The shop has been a bird blind lately, more about that later. But I have done some woodworking, mostly stock prep. Sorting the hickory, I’ve been splitting and shaving it into chair parts.

some of the hickory

The photo above shows just some of it. In that heap are parts for shaved windsor chairs (Curtis Buchanan’s “democratic chair”), some ladderback chair rungs, tapered legs for brettstuhls, some shaved stuff to make basket handles and rims, and some oak for a joined stool. There was more work that didn’t make it into this photo, some back posts bent on forms for ladderbacks and two pitchforks from Drew Langsner’s Country Woodcraft: Then & Now. https://lostartpress.com/products/country-woodcraft-then-now

a few baskets woven

During the recent heat wave (we had it easier here than most, but it was still pretty warm) I wove a few baskets from some ash splints I had stored. Easy work and you slosh around in a bucket of water. Next I’ll finish off the tops of them, then make handles & rims from the hickory.

kids’ chair & full sized version

These two chairs were kicking around, so I wove hickory bark seats on them from some of the last bunches of old bark I had around. The kids’ chair had a boring error that needed plugging, so I experimented with coloring it to hide my sins. The chair behind it is hickory with oak slats. It has been in the loft for a year or more, and I finally decided it was either getting burned or getting a seat. It too had a boring error, no real harm other than to my pride.

hickory bark seat

Also down from the loft is this box.

carved oak box

The box was maybe #12 of 11 boxes I made last fall (or 11 of 10, I can’t remember). I got the body made & then stuck it up in the loft. There it sat til I was cleaning up there last week. Found a wide piece of pine and glued up 2 quartersawn boards for the lid. So this is sort of the first box for 2021 – except I made the box in 2020. It’s a big one, I’ll get the measurements when I do proper photos in the next few days.

OK – the birds. Out one window has been the house wren (Troglodytes aedon) nest in one of the gourds Maureen grew last year. They kept me pretty occupied with their comings & goings. Here’s an adult with a chick in the gourd, mouth opened wide.

begging for more

out the same window, but closer to the shop, a robin (Turdus migratorius) was building its nest for a 2nd brood of the season.

working on the nest

I also kept an eye out on the other side of the shop for the great blue heron (Ardea herodias) who was hunting in our yard for chipmunks and other critters.

looking out from the hurdle

This strike was a mole or vole down in the shavings pile by the garden.

gotcha

It’s gone on like this for a month, day in & day out. The wrens have fledged but I hear the male singing again. Time for a new mate for him and a last brood of the season. The robins hatched just one chick this time, and it’s growing daily. The heron keeps coming back. There’s no shortage of chipmunks.

a snowy day is perfect in the shop

We didn’t get as much snow as I hoped for; but beggars can’t be choosers my mother would say. I like being holed up in the shop or the house during a snowstorm, it keeps things nice and quiet out there. I haven’t shot any photos lately because I’ve made three boxes in a row that were essentially the same patterns. Here’s the 2nd yellow cedar box, done for a customer who missed out on the first one, so ordered one.

yellow cedar box # 2

These strapwork patterns vary only in the details, but generally follow a basic format.

box front detail

Earlier this year, I wrote about some of the background of this pattern https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/2020/06/19/strapwork/

One thing I learned about using carved lids is that you have to line up the centerline of the lid with the centerline of the front. Another step when fastening the lid. I took to marking the center of the edge with a pencil then planing it off after assembly.

carving pattern on the lid

I make the back of these boxes in oak still, so the wooden pin that engages the cleat to form a hinge has the necessary strength. The cedar would probably be OK, but I know the oak does the trick.

That’s it for boxes for now, I have one more on order – in January. Meanwhile, I have some clean-up to do, a joined stool for a customer and some chairs to get back to. I’d like to thank all the blog readers for their support during this strange year – I’m grateful to you all.

Strapwork design & carving

Strapwork pattern in progress

I have this great piece of red oak; quartersawn, 12″ x 24″, clear, pretty straight (thanks, Rick) – and after seeing the carved lid on the cedar box the other day, I decided to try a large panel of a strapwork design again. Usually when I undertake these patterns, I only have a partial idea of what it will be. Much of it I work out as I go.

The top and bottom edges are easy, they’re always those linked arches. I divided up the space, put a circle in the middle and struck all the arches with gouges and a chisel. Then I knew that this time I wanted these long, vertical leafy things. You can see in the photo below that I carved one all the way before continuing. That way, if it didn’t work – I could quit, or flip the board over. Or plane it all away. (all extreme choices that rarely get employed.)

initial pattern

But I liked it, so I went on from there. Here, I’m setting a marking gauge to strike lines that will connect the right and left sides of the panel at the middle.

striking layout w marking gauge

Below – using a 3/4″ wide gouge to strike circles in some empty spaces around the middle.

using a gouge to define elements

This time the area where those left & right halves come together get volutes carved as the ends of each section. I strike their outlines with 3 different gouges.

volutes

These patterns usually flow outward from the center – up & down, left & right. Here I’m using a compass to mark the height of one element from the horizontal centerline. Then I’ll swing it around to hit the bottom of the same form.

compass work

Most of the work is striking out the design. Removing the background is easy, there’s just a lot of it.

background removal

But you only have to solve one-quarter of it when doing the design part. Then it’s a matter of flipping it over in your mind to “see” the other 3/4. This is as far as I got yesterday afternoon, but the fire’s now lit, so time to finish this carving.

Carved box for sale: Alaska yellow cedar – SOLD

carved box; Alaska yellow cedar, white pine, red oak.

I found some quartersawn Alaska yellow cedar for sale on the web last month, and decided to make a special box from it. The carved lid is a dust-magnet; but I couldn’t leave that much blank space in that beautiful wood.

H: 7″ W: 22″ D: 11 3/4″
$1,400 includes shipping in US.

SOLD

It’s a higher price than usual, but it’s not my everyday box. I had only carved a lid on a box like this once or twice before. Some time ago, Paul Fitzsimmons of Marhamchurch Antiques sent me a photo of a box from Exeter, England that used strapwork designs all over like this. I didn’t copy that box, but copied the idea.

As expected, there’s a till inside, this time with red cedar for the bottom & side, ash for the lid.

I tend to mostly use a wooden cleat/hinge arrangement for the lid. For this reason I made the back of the box from red oak – its strength is lent to the extended pin that engages the cleat, which is also oak.

I just finished it today and shot a series of photos once the lid was attached.

the lid; fun to carve. Nice to look at. A demon to dust.

The rabbet joints are glued and pegged. I scrounged an off-cut from the lid to make these yellow cedar pegs for the front.

corner detail

And one more view of the carving on the lid.

The cover and the box

It was 1976. I was eighteen years old. My father had died the year before, and among his effects that came to me by default (I still lived at home) was a tablesaw & jointer, drill press, router, lathe, hand-held “power” tools and an assortment of handtools. I was an art student, aspiring to be a painter. I learned from a neighbor how to use the tablesaw and began to make picture frames for my paintings. Somehow made a bookcase, surfaced with a belt sander. 

That summer I accompanied my mother on a trip to Doylestown, PA to visit her childhood friend. We did the tourism routine there, including the Mercer Museum – so I saw rooms full of antique woodworking tools, but have no recollection of it. I have a vague memory that we visited Nakashima’s showroom – but I might have imagined that. But one thing I know for certain – on that trip someone showed me an early issue of Fine Woodworking magazine. And I subscribed when I got home. Back then, information trickled out, unlike today’s barrage. I used to read every word in each issue, several times in many cases. I still have many of those old copies. And I know many people who tell a similar story. It was through Fine Woodworking that I got onto John Alexander and Drew Langsner. 

The other day, Dave Fisher wrote to me to congratulate me on being on the cover of the new issue. I hadn’t seen the email from FWW and although I knew my box article was in the works, I had no idea it was going to be the cover. I remember when Pete Galbert wrote his version of this blog post – and now it’s my turn. Thanks to everybody at the magazine for making it  happen, I appreciate it. 

Barry Dima came up here in the beginning of this year to shoot the article about making the carved box. Because the whole world flipped upside down shortly after that, I forgot about it. Every now & then it would come up again and I’d be surprised. Recently I was sorting photographs and saw that box & couldn’t place it. Then I remembered I had sent the box down to them to photograph – now they’re done with it, so it’s available for sale. 

Approx dimensions are H: 8 1/2”  W: 24” D: 12 5/8”

Red oak box, pine lid and bottom. Till inside. SOLD
$900 includes shipping in US. Leave a comment or send an email if you’d like it. Check or paypal ($927 through paypal.) Or when the magazine comes out, you can make your own.

Two boxes for sale

I photographed the two boxes I’ve worked on lately. These are made from quartersawn red oak, with white pine bottoms. There’s a couple things about my boxes that are different from most seventeenth-century boxes. I’ve seen a few period boxes with pegged corners instead of nailed. Mine are almost always glued & pegged. The bottoms are nailed on with handmade nails. Similarly, a few period boxes are carved on the ends, but most have plain ends and carved fronts. Mine almost always are carved on the ends too. I tend to use a wooden hinge on most of mine, another feature sometimes seen on seventeenth-century boxes. I sometimes use iron hinges, which is more typical of period work.

November box #1 – SOLD
H: 8 5/8″ W: 23 1/4″ D: 13 7/8″
$1,000 includes shipping in US.

Nov. box #1
Nov box #1 open
till, walnut lid, red cedar side & bottom
Nov. box #1; end carving & wooden hinge

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Nov. box #2 SOLD
H: 7 5/8″ W: 23 1/2″ D: 14 3/4″
$1,000 includes shipping in US.

The second box actually came first. The carvings on these boxes are based on work from Devon, England and Ipswich, Massachusetts. This one has a zig-zag design with what I guess are tulip shapes.

The paint is iron oxide (red) and lampblack mixed in linseed oil.

Nov. box #2
Nov. box #2, end view
Nov. box # 2 till; walnut & red cedar
Nov. box #2, detail

If you’d like either of these boxes, leave a comment or send an email. Payment by check or paypal – if paypal the invoice will be $1.030. Shipping in US included.

I take orders as well, so if there’s a box (or other joiner’s work) you see here & miss, send a note. I’ll be home all winter making stuff…

My most recent box and my first one from 1994

carved box, Nov 2020

Today I’ll finish this box by adding cleats under the lid; they’ll form part of the hinges too. As I’ve worked on it, I’ve thought about my first carved box. Between 1989 & 1994, I was a chairmaker/basketmaker learning joinery in my spare time. Now it’s flipped around just the other way. My first joinery projects were carved chests and then joined stools and a wainscot chair. I didn’t make a box until I got the job at Plimoth Plantation in 1994. They had an original box and one of my first projects was to study it & make a copy to use there. Flatsawn white oak, Mark Atchison made the hinges and nails. I hadn’t yet made a background punch, so I textured the background by repeatedly striking a nail into the recessed ground. 

my first box, 1994

I kept looking for a scheme to the layout of the design. I tried striking segments of arcs here & there, combining them this way & that. It wasn’t until I carved this design a few times that I realized it’s just freehanded. It was Victor Chinnery who told me that this box belonged to the overall group of carved works from Devon England – the material that New England works done in Ipswich, Massachusetts by Thomas Dennis and William Searle stems from. 

carved box, Devon; detail

Jump ahead quite a few years and enter Paul Fitzsimmons and Marhamchurch Antiques. He specializes in oak furniture in general, and the Exeter/Devon works specifically. https://www.marhamchurchantiques.com/

He’s been great about posting photos of his finds and I don’t miss a post from him. Over the years he’s handled a number of related boxes to this one – and nearly every one of them is different, but clearly the same general elements/composition. 

The box I made the past few days is one of my versions of these designs. I had a photo of one from Paul’s site and switched things around here and there to come up with a “new” design.

V-tool outline, over chalk
chopping a flower with a gouge

The variations depend on the scale of the board I have, and what I plan to improvise in the middle – the old ones always had locks there, and a big part of the upper middle of the design got covered. On my first take above I hadn’t yet removed the lock plate on the old box, so didn’t know what design was under there. 

Here’s a later version I did of that first box. I have no idea when this was – photo stamp says 2008. Pine lid this time, that means the museum was selling it – I kept the oak lids for use in the recreated period houses.

PF version, Devon box

This one was earlier this year. I’ve carved it a few times since Paul first posted his photo of the original.

carved box, 2020

When Pret & I built the shop, we scabbed framing in to mount the windows. I didn’t want to look at that framing all the time, so I dug out a box of carved samples and nailed them up all over the shop. From time to time, I paint them – mostly to use up extra paint I’ve mixed. Here’s some box fronts mounted now vertically.

This box is from 2013 back when I was still at the museum. Might be the last one I made there. It was for an EAIA raffle, I think. Or auction.

carved box, May 2013

It’s funny, I never drew any carving designs when I was learning them. I always worked from photos (still do mostly). But several years ago I started drawing them. These pages show a couple of these designs; the top one done as a 1/2 box front full-scale and the full box front half-scale. If that makes sense…

notebook