Spring trip to the Woodwright’s School

I poked around here all winter, then spring came (according to the calendar) and things got busy. Over 3 weekends between March 22 and April 9, I spent 6 full days driving. That’s getting a bit crazy. The 2nd leg of that trip was my annual trip to Roy Underhill’s Woodwright’s School. Like always, it was worth the long haul. Here’s pictures.

Because I’m going to be in the car for hours & hours anyway, I take the scenic route. I hate I-95, so here’s a leg-stretching stop among the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia.

The project was an oak carved box. We used quartersawn red oak, with white pine lids and bottoms. Here’s Paul, carving his box front. On his messy bench, like everyone else’s. It made me come home & clean my shop.

Another box front off to a great start. Carving the box fronts comes after a full day of practice carving.

 

Our host had some saw sharpening that needed doing. Plenty of light out here.

No trip to Roy’s is complete without a stop or two upstairs at Ed Lebetkin’s tool store. I got out mostly unscathed, I didn’t need a box to haul my tools out like many do.

A snippet of squares.

I warned them that fitting the till is the fussiest part of making this box. They were not disappointed. It was fussy.

Here’s Scott’s wild carving and a deep till.

I’ve had students come to class barefoot, in sandals, flip-flops, etc – but never in spurs. Something new…I had to look up where Montana is, it’s way up there.

All the times I’ve been down there, I’ve never made it out to Elia Bizzari’s shop. We rectified that. What a nice place, great setting. My renewed chair fixation got more inspiration… http://handtoolwoodworking.com/ and https://www.instagram.com/eliabizzarri/?hl=en

Things kept getting busier and busier as the week went on. That’s the point, I guess.

The mornings weren’t great for birding, but some nice views down the creek at one point.

Then back home, jumped into a Plymouth CRAFT demo. Now finishing some furniture, then off to Winterthur later this month. More box classes later in the year, at Lost Art Press’ storefront not-a-school, and at Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking. (I guess I better send Bob the photos & blurb…) – I think there’s one or two spaces still in the December version at Lost Art.  https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/pf-2019-teaching-schedule/

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A look at carved boxes

I’m getting ready to head down to Roy Underhill’s for the first carved box class of the season. It’s full, but there’s room in others at Lost Art Press, and later at Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking too – here’s the schedule https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/pf-2019-teaching-schedule/

The new joinery book features making three carved boxes in detail. There’s others shown incidentally in the carving section. But I’ve made over 100 of them I imagine. Here’s some from various years, most of these are not in the book. These are all scattered to the four winds; but I’m always happy to make carved oak boxes for customers.

This one is mostly made-up, but the carving pattern is copied from a walnut box in Victor Chinnery’s book Oak Furniture: the British Tradition. I really like this pattern, usually I do it on a pretty wide piece of wood, maybe 7″ high.

 

red oak box, fall 2008

I did it in walnut once, made a terrible mess of making that box, but the carving is OK when the light hits it right.

Two small boxes, one motif. These are only about 5″ high by 15″ wide or so. Same design, just aiming this way on one, the other one on the second example. Garish electric light, I don’t miss it.

small oak boxes

Just a raking-light shot of a box underway. A design I always like, based on an original from Braintree, Massachusetts, right next to where I grew up.

 

Another fairly large box; the carving is from a drawer front based on the same Braintree joinery. This box might be about 8″ high I’d guess; 20+” wide.

guilloche carving on oak box

This little one was one of my favorites; carving, molding, color and squiggles & dots. I plan on doing some carved & painted ones this spring.

 

Here’s one before the box lid was installed, showing the till inside.

 

 

Some of these pictures have been on the blog before; here are two views of the wooden pintle hinge. I use it most often on my boxes, although in the seventeenth century it’s the exception rather than the rule.

 

This one is from just last year or the year before, a carving sample re-used as a box. I assume that’s the inside of the front. I carve the samples over & over in classes and only need them at the moment. So sometimes they get recycled.

 

Red oak boxes with white pine bottoms and lids. Very distinct color and texture difference when new (on the left), but 10-15 years later (right) they blend quite well. Have patience.

 

a detail:

 

Two boxes for sale

 

Two boxes start off the year for me. I’m about to start a few large projects;  but in cleaning up the shop after delivering the square table I came across some wood that wanted using up. The bottom one is a box made of quartersawn black walnut. The top one a dovetailed box with sliding lid and drawer in catalpa. Both of these boxes are available if anyone would like them. Email me if you’re interested; new address is peterfollansbee7@gmail.com

Both of these showed up on Instagram as I worked them, but I still favor the blog – more room for details and text. I have had the catalpa hanging around as two thin boards for over 2 years. I used some 2 1/2″ thick catalpa when I built the shop, seen here as the carved spandrels around the doors:

CATALPA BOX:  SOLD
5″ high, 6 3/4″ x 15″ overall. White oak bottom; riven, quartered. Drawer is 2″ high.
$600 plus shipping.

The box is loosely based on Scandinavian examples; but only in a very general sense – the carving patterns and the basic format; I never studied any originals in detail. It’s

Catalpa (Catalpa speciosa) is a very interesting wood – not native to New England but it grows here easily. Ring-porous; splits easily, very decay resistant. Very light weight. The tiniest band of sapwood in the log. A friend sawed up this log, it was the straightest either of us had ever seen of catalpa. Usually the trunk is curved, twisted, knotty, etc. I think that’s why it’s rarely sawn at all.

I made the sliding lid from the best piece of the batch. But when I got to rabbeting it for the tongues that slide in the box’s grooved sides, I was concerned that it wouldn’t hold up. And I was right. So I made an oak sliding lid, and planed down the catalpa carving and glued it to the lid. Best of both worlds sort of thing.

The drawer is locked by a little ash pin that slips down through a hole in the box front that relates to a hole in the drawer front. There’s a notch in the pin to sneak your fingernail in to slip it up & out.

It was getting pretty dim in the shop when I shot these photos; this is a better representation of the color:

WALNUT BOX:  SOLD
H: 6 1/2″  W: 16 3/4″  D: 12 3/8″
$900 plus shipping.

The walnut one is a pretty straight-forward 17th-century style box. I re-sawed all the walnut from 3 pieces that were 1 1/4″ thick; but nice & straight quartersawn material. I sharpened the saw first. A good way to warm up on a cold morning.

The box is glued & pegged at the corners; the bottom is nailed on. Top is hinged with wooden cleats and pintles. Arcading design on 3 sides; carved, punched & incised decoration on the lid. An ogee across the front edge.

Inside is a till made from walnut, oak & American sycamore. Every piece of wood in this box is quartersawn – except the till bottom, which is better – it’s radially-split oak.

A detail showing the side carving and the lid’s cleat that forms part of the hinge.

Linseed oil finish on both of them, I just need to add a 2nd coat next time I’m in the shop.

pictures from the box making class in Kyneton Australia

The 2nd half of my Australia trip was with Glen Rundell, chairmaker in Kyneton, Victoria. Glen kindly hosted a class on making carved oak boxes. Here’s Glen & his son Tom working at carving during one  of our lunch breaks. 

He just happened to have some English oak he milled years ago, so we dove into carving; filling spaces as much as we could.

practice carving

 

heads down, everybody at work

Nine students worked all week; learning the carving patterns, then sizing the oak for each box. Working out the wooden hinge; fitting a till – it’s a deceptive project. Lots has to happen just right.

raking light

 

notches for the till

The corners were glued and pegged, Glen made short work of shaving enough pegs for everyone…

square peg round hole

 

box ready for lid

We used Peter Ross’ hand-made nails (a bag of nails in your luggage gives the folks in the X-ray area at the airport something to look at…) to attach the bottoms, and the cleats under the lids.

nailing the bottom

 

who’s the rubber-necker on the left?

The students did great work. Here’s a shot of 7 boxes – one got away before the photo, one student took his box home to assemble. 

 


It would take more than one blog post to cover Glen’s work. His website is here: https://www.rundellandrundell.com.au/  and Instragram https://www.instagram.com/rundellandrundell/?hl=en

Glen & his wife Lisa also run the Lost Trades Fair – an astounding event that I hope to see some day ttps://www.rundellandrundell.com.au/lost-trades-australia

There’s also a retail shop in Kyneton, used to be called “The Chairmaker’s Wife” but now I think it’s Lost Trades: The Artisans Store – https://www.rundellandrundell.com.au/shop

and a few more Australian birds:

First, New Holland honeyeater

Eastern spinebill

 

Red wattlebird

Yellow faced honeyeater

yellow faced honeyeater

Rainbow lorikeet

rainbow lorikeet

Oz

Australia. Imagine that I went there…

When I started woodworking for real in the late 1970s, I had never been out of New England by myself. Barely out of Massachusetts. Then in 1980, I somehow made my way down to Drew & Louise Langsner’s in western North Carolina. Some years later, I started regularly going between here (Massachusetts), Pennsylvania and Langsner’s.

By now, woodworking has taken me to some great places; 5 trips to England, one to Sweden, one to Alaska, a couple times to North House Folk School in Grand Marais, Minnesota and numerous trips to Virginia, North Carolina and more.

But Australia is light years beyond all that. Boston to Anchorage Alaska is 4,558 miles. Sätergläntan (the craft school in Sweden) is closer, 3,612 miles. But to Kyneton, Victoria is 10,526 miles. Then over to Pambula Beach, then back to Kyneton. Then home.

Thanks to my hosts in Australia; Jeff & Jules Donne & the kids, Paul Boyer & Rachel Clarke and Glen, Lisa & Tom Rundell. (they should all be asleep as I write this.) You all took care of my every need, and made sure I saw more astounding birds than I could fathom. Oh, and we did some woodworking too. I’m starting to get night & day straight here, and got out my cold-weather clothes. As I sort the photos, there will be posts to come about the whole trip.

I can do that…

I spent two days recently ferrying around Long Island with my friends Bob Trent and Mack Truax. We were researching furniture for a project there in Cutchogue. More later about that, but I wanted to get this picture out into the world.

The back of a joined chest with drawer. Never touched by a plane at any spot, it’s all riven or hewn. And the hatchet had a run-in with some iron object, chipping the cutting edge. Blow the photo up and you can “read” each stroke of the hatchet based on the tracking made by the notch in the edge. This surface is not un-heard-of; but is a somewhat extreme example. Rougher than most…I love it.

Here’s a detail from the front. The arch fits in like a framed panel, then below it the columns, with their capitals and bases, are thicker, reaching back behind the plane of the arch/panel. (the column/base/capital on our right is original, the others replaced). THEN – the carved bit with the leafy-flower shape is nailed from inside to the backs of the frame. A pretty involved series of moves to create a great deal of depth. Needs a thick bottom rail.

Shooting in the tight spaces was hard, I didn’t even try to shoot inside the chest with the camera. Used an Ipad to shoot this grainy photo, but it gives you the idea of what is going on.

Not the craziest thing I’ve ever seen, but it’s not far off.

Bonus item was this New Haven box, with S-scrolls running all one way, rather than opposing/symmetrically. Trent files this under “Plan ahead!”

strapwork carvings

I’ve been carving a lot of oak lately. Boxes and drawer fronts in this pile.

As I mentioned the other day, I have a box with a drawer underway; for a descendant of William Searle, one of the Ipswich joiners. These pieces get big and heavy – about 15″ tall, 26″ wide. Maybe 16″ deep.

I’ve only seen one & 1/2 period examples of this form, this one is based on the full example. The 1/2 example has lost its drawer; got cut in half at some point. Both were by the same maker(s); sometimes attributed to William Searle, sometimes to Thomas Dennis.

Lots of layout involved, and the outlines are struck with gouges and chisels, not cut with a V-tool. Centerlines, margins, arcs – all measured off with a compass. In this case, I’m trying to make a close copy, usually I make my own versions of this “strapwork” design.

 

But I got ahead of the story. While I had the box with drawer underway; I got an email asking if I would make a copy of the “other” one, the one that’s lost its drawer! And it had nothing to do with my having the first one on the bench. What are the odds that I’d get that note while working on a related box? I’ve got the first one to the point where all the hard parts are left – the drawer, applied moldings around the middle and base, and turned feet for underneath. Then the lid. I need to shoot some of that for the book I have underway, so rather than get involved in that right now, I got out a board to start carving the next box front.

It’s fun to see how the strapwork designs relate to each other, and how they are different. Scale is quite similar, about 5 1/2″ to 6″ high x 25″ wide.

 

I wrote in detail about strapwork back in 2013 – I found it by searching “strapwork” on the blog’s sidebar. https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/2013/02/08/strapwork-carving-designs/