carved box class last week at LAP

Clint planing oak

I ventured a long ways from home last week to teach a carved box class at Lost Art Press. 6 great students, some of whom were new to hand tools and almost all new to carving. They did great work. We started with a stack of quartersawn oak boards, planed them up a bit and dove into carving.

seeing patterns in addition to carving them

I brought my usual pile of sample carvings & photos. We spent a day doing practice patterns then on the 2nd afternoon they were carving their box fronts for keeps. Often there’s a student who has their own ideas – unlike me, the copyist. Below is the box front by Peter from Boulder, CO. A little bit of everything.

I’ve never seen this before

When I first taught a carved box class many years ago I would not include the lidded till inside. Once I gave in & let them make tills all hell broke loose. Three little boards (bottom, side & lid) wreak such havoc with an assembly. This group aced them. Below Clint is chopping out the notches for his till.

till work

I told Gary the hardest part of using winding sticks is getting up & down. He did better than me, I didn’t hear him groan once.

winding sticks

He & Pat were neck-and-neck trimming the pegs that secure the glued rabbet joints. Being by the large front windows gets them in lots of photos.

bevel down

All in all a nice stack of boxes – by the end of the 5th day we heard all the lids go “plunk” just as they should. This photo was a bit before the last couple were done, one student had a flight to catch…

6 excellent oak & pine boxes

I don’t have any other classes planned yet for 2022 – might tuck something into the fall. May is for birding, summer’s too hot. We’ll see. I’ll post anything that comes up here on the blog. Thanks to Chris & Megan for making it happen. “Such a a long, long time to be gone & a short time to be there…”

carved box details

carved box, 2006

I’m about to go out on my 2nd teaching gig in the past 2-plus years. Carved box class at Lost Art Press. I’ve spent a chunk of today sorting reference material and other junk for the trip. I’ve looked at a lot of box-photos today. I have a folder here that includes photos of over 109 boxes I’ve made, but I know there’s lots that got away sans-photos. (there’s 109 sub-folders, but some have more than one box in them.)

The carving above is copied from two boxes I’ve seen that were made in Braintree, Massachusetts c. 1660-1690. I have carved this design many times over the years. I tend to look closely at the originals as I learn a pattern, then once I feel I know it – I just go ahead and carve it. But I found out lately it’s good to go back & review the source material. Turns out I’ve done the layout wrong for ages.

I got it in my head that those inner arcs swept all the way out to the edges of the half-circle down at the bottom margin. (they mostly do on one other example) And often wondered why I had a hard time fitting all the detail inside the pattern! I fiddled around with the photo and a compass this morning – I’d go carve one but my tools are packed already. I used to strike a 45-degree line from the bottom center to locate the new centerpoint for the upside-down arcs. But now I think that centerpoint is not on a diagonal line, but just off it, tucked up under the top margin. Leaves more room inside.

possible layout

These joiners, William Savell and his sons John and William – always made lunettes with concave outlines – what Jennie Alexander called a “marble run.” But it never continued over the top of the design – it’s always broken. Here’s two examples, the front of a chest:

upper rail, joined chest c. 1660-1680

and the front of a box

carved box, John Savell 1642-1687

We often wondered where are the English examples that are the source for this work? The closest I have come is a tossed-off Instagram post showing something like their work – so a poor photo, grabbed from IG and cropped heavily. (I wrote to the antiques dealer whose photo it is & never heard back.)

But it has all the earmarks of the Savell/Braintree work –

  • Broken concave outline
  • Alternating upside-down/right-side-up V-shapes in that outline (seagulls)
  • Punched decoration – in the New England work a Maltese cross. Too indistinct to see here.
  • Alternating light & heavy chopped decoration with a gouge.

Many of these things happen in other 17th century carvings too, but combining them this way leads me to think there’s a connection. This detail from one of the New England chests shows some of those bullet points –

But the design between the lunettes on the English piece? What about that? It shows up on one of the New England chests – and a box too.

joined chest detail Smithsonian Institution

Well. It gives me something to think about while I drive from here to Lost Art Press. I’ll be making carvings of these lunettes as part of the joined chest I have underway – they’ll appear here on the blog and on the video series about the chest. But next post in both those places won’t be til the end of the first week of April.

waiting for some paint to dry

I’ve been doing a couple different things as I wait for this oil paint to dry on these pillars. This is the second coat, put on today. So these should be ready in 2 or 3 more days.

upper case pillars

I spent today planing oak panels for the joined chest project and shooting video about cleanup & sharpening of the wooden planes after working green oak.

newly ground bevel on smooth plane

I hate talking about sharpening, but it has to happen. In for a penny, in for a pound – when I get to editing the video from today about sharpening I’ll write a blog post for here too. I’ve never done one in all these years. Maybe bits & pieces, but not a full-blown discussion of what I do.

The video clips will be for the joined chest series I started last month. Yesterday was going to be the day I upped the price, but I’ll keep the introductory price ($85 – about to be $100) for the rest of this week anyway. I’m finishing up the next video, which is the beginning of planing the riven pieces into chest parts. I plan on posting it on the weekend. If you’d like to know more about the video series, here’s the post where I introduced it. https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/2022/02/07/joined-chest-video-series/

most of 2021’s carvings

Last year was probably the least amount of oak carvings I’ve done since 1994. That photo above is easily 90% of the output for the year! I have my first carved box class in 2 years coming up the end of March. So I’ve got to get practicing. I carved this one yesterday –

back at carving

but totally ruined the first attempt, then planed it off & carved this. Not terrible, but not great either.

I will get back to the Youtube videos that accompany the carving drawings – I have several more to do for the 2nd set of drawings. Those all got interrupted by the cupboard. I see that at least one of the carvings above was done as a video/drawing. https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/carving-drawings-17th-century-work-from-devon-england-and-ipswich-massachusetts-set-1/

Tulip pattern drawing
tulip pattern as a box front

The class I mentioned is at Lost Art Press – and is one of only two classes I have scheduled for 2022. The other is a JA chair class at Pete Galbert’s in April. When I figure out if and where I’m adding more, I’ll be sure to post about it here first. I want to see how these two go first, then take it from there.

Sometime recently I dug out this old sackback of mine to repair it. I made it in 1989 and used it for years & years. Its form is from Curtis Buchanan’s sackback, which is from Dave Sawyer’s – but I shaved the legs, stretchers and arm posts instead of turning them. A mish-mash of woods – tulip poplar seat, ash arm, hickory spindles, white oak bow and cherry for the understructure & arm posts.

old PF sackback

Over time the spindles poked through the bow – they must not have been dry enough at assembly. So I knocked them about some, split them with a chisel & drove in new wedges. Then trimmed them flush with the bow.

double wedges

A bigger problem was a break in the back of the arm. It hadn’t popped apart but threatened to. I had seen old Windsors with braces attached outside fractured bends – so figured I had nothing to lose. Scrounged up in the loft for something I could cobble together. Raided some cheap hardware-store hinge, a bit of hacksaw work (I like it less than sharpening…) and two screws. Not beautiful, but you can’t see it when you sit in the chair.

not hidden at all

a carved box and two brettstuhls for sale

walnut brettstuhl Nov 2021

I shot a few photos today, a desk box going out to a customer and a new brettstuhl. I have updated the “furniture for sale” page – there’s not much there, 2 brettstuhls and one carved box. I was shooting the photos today because it was overcast – but the sun poked through for a dramatic effect for a minute when the new brettstuhl was in place…

carved box, fall 2021

I often tell people “I make things no one needs…” but in case there’s something you want… here’s the link https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/furniture-for-sale-november-29-2021/

I have two classes announced for 2022

I get a lot of questions about when and where I’m teaching in the near future. I find it very hard to plan stuff these days. All I’ve committed to so far are two small classes – one at Lost Art Press and one at Pete Galbert’s. I’m not planning on many classes, there might be a couple more in 2022. It all depends on how things go as things move along. Or don’t.

carved oak box class at Lost Art Press

Lost Art Press – I’m looking forward to going back to LAP – it’s the carved box class. Making the parts, doing a whole slew of carving and then assembly. An interior till adds to the fun. 5 days, Mar 28-Apr 1, the Feast of Fools. What could go wrong? Tickets go on sale Mon Nov 29th at 10am.

https://www.tickettailor.com/events/covingtonmechanicals/613699/

chairs underway at Pete Galbert’s

I taught a JA chair class at Pete’s in October and we had such fun that I said yes to doing it again. April 18-23, he just posted it on his website. Tickets go on sale Wednesday Nov 24 at 8am. Here’s the link:

https://www.petergalbert.com/schedule/2020/7/13/make-a-chair-from-a-tree-with-peter-follansbee-8brcj

I can save you some trouble beyond those two listings – I don’t know where or when any other classes I might teach will be. The only other one I have in mind right now is un-scheduled and it’s at Roy Underhill’s. He & I need to get together and suss out the timing. But it won’t be before these two. That’s all I know right now.

new carving video

“decorated” S-scrolls

After that last video I did, the 2-hour seat weaving one, I wanted to tackle something shorter. One afternoon I got out some oak to carve one of the new patterns I have available – I set up at about 3pm, knowing I had to work quickly before it got too dark to see..

The result is this short (for me) 26 minute carving video. Warts n’ all. When I set up the camera for a closer view, it was too close & I kept stepping in front of it. Time for more video practice, I’ve not been at it much. But you’ll get the gist of how to carve this pattern. Here it is on the top rail of a chest –

top rail of this chest has the pattern here

this is the link to the drawing sets https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/carving-drawings-17th-century-work-from-devon-england-and-ipswich-massachusetts-set-1/

And here is the video

I hope to get to more of these soon. Thanks for watching.

work in progress

well, the verdict is that I will try to run that video series I asked about last time, building a carved chest with a drawer. Lots of stuff to figure out before then, none of which is woodworking. But today I started riving and planing a few pieces for the chest.

riven stile

I have a desk box underway, ordered as a present. Time for the guts and then the top & bottom.

desk box, red oak

This is “made-up” – not a copy of an existing desk box. The size and proportion are derived from one I studied. The carvings – the front is based on one I saw on Marhamchurch Antiques’s site, or his Instagram page.

front carving

The ends I made up based on some New England work, as well as the Devon work that so often appears on Marhamchurch’s site.

detail carving

Paul Fitzsimmons is the man behind Marhamchurch Antiques – and he’s even more fanatical about oak furniture from Devon than I am – https://www.marhamchurchantiques.com/ and his Instagram page https://www.instagram.com/marhamchurchantiques/?hl=en I owe Paul a lot – I benefit greatly from his postings and photographs.

The cupboard is still on-going. I’ve been making moldings and doing test-samples for coloring it. I don’t remember what it looked like last time I posted it -but here it is today.

cupboard lower case

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

—————-

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