period carvings; arches/arcading: what-have-you

That carving pattern I worked on the other day https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/2018/02/19/carved-arcading/ is very common, except in my work & my photo files! I have rarely used it, but that will change; I’m planning to take a whack at a few versions of it. Here’s what mine was generally based on, a walnut box, made c. 1600-1610. London? This is the drawer front to the box…I’d say maybe 4″ high. Look how much detail is crammed into a small space.

arcading

This one was sent to me by a reader of the blog – I know, because I’ve never been to Suffolk. Simple version, cut very well.

Suffolk arcading

A few years back I had 2 workshops in England. Jon Bayes attended one, and this is his version of that carving in progress. https://www.riversjoinery.co.uk/workshop

 

Jon Bayes’ arcading

Here’s a row of it, over some nice spindles in a church in Great Durnford, Wiltshire.

Great Durnford, Wiltshire

A wainscot chair now in the Merchant’s House in Marlborough, Wiltshire. Even has the pattern upside-down.

wainscot chair Merchant’s House

One for the dish-people. V&A in London:

It’s as old as the hills. But so are all the other patterns I know…here it is from Sebastiano Serlio’s 16th century book on architecture:

Same book, different section. This time a fireplace/hearth:

I’ve seen it on boxes quite often, or the top rail of a chest. Here’s one more from a book called “A Discourse on Boxes of the 16th, 17th & 18th Centuries” by Andrew Coneybeare. Nice detail shots of carving in that book. Published in 1992 by Rosca Publications, Worcestershire. Like the first one, look at all the detail jammed into a tiny space. The other versions seem blank…

I remember learning its name as “nulling” but I see no reference to that anywhere. Harris’ Illustrated Dictionary of Historic Architecture had a definition of nulling with no illustration. Said it was part of a molding. Coneybeare cited just above calls it “fluting.” Makes some sense. I’ve called it “arcading” but my kids thought I was talking about the crazy places with video games and noisy rides. So now I don’t talk about it.

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Locks

Chests, cupboards, boxes, cabinets – most any wooden furniture that opened and closed had an iron lock in 17th-century New England (& old England for that matter). It’s rare that they survive, even more unusual is a customer who wants to pay what it takes to get locks on their custom furniture. I have such a client right now, for 2 boxes and a chest. So I get to a.) show how I install a handmade lock, and b.) first, re-learn how I install a handmade lock. I do them so rarely that each time is like doing it for the first time. The lock above was made by Peter Ross, blacksmith. http://peterrossblacksmith.com/ His website is perpetually under construction. His iron work is top flight. We’ll get the tacky stuff out of the way first – if you want locks that are so-called “museum-quality/period-correct”, expect to pay for them. This lock, with escutcheon and 2 keys was $650. I suspect Peter still undercharged me, given the amount of work that goes into these. OK. Now to install it.

I cut a test-mortise in a piece of scrap to make sure I was on the right track. Then proceeded to the box. First, bore the main part of the keyhole.

The real dumb thing was to build the box, then decide it wanted a lock. So now, how to hold it for all the chopping, paring, etc? Because of the overhang of the bottom/front, I had to prop the box up on a piece of 7/8″ thick pine. I put some bubblewrap between them so as to not mess up the carved front too much. Then to hold the lid open with something other than my forehead, I cut an angle on a piece of scrap, and clamped it with a spring clamp. Not traditional, but worked well.

After scribing the layout based on the lock, I sawed two ends as deeply as I could.

After chopping some of that waste out, I had to re-score the end grain. I switched to a very sharp knife for this part. worked great.

Alternated scoring with the knife and paring with this long-bladed paring chisel.

Once I got to the stage for testing the fit, I realized I needed a hole bored in the scrap below for the sleeve to fit through. Once that was in place, I swiped a black sharpie over the lock, and then tested it. Left black marks where I needed to adjust things.

Some back & forth til it fit the way I wanted it. The slot on the top edge of the lock is for the staple from the lid to engage the bolt. So I needed to get the wood out of that slot.

Ready to be nailed in place. I bored pilot holes, and drove the nails in. I backed them up out front, thinking some might poke through. As it happened only one did, in a low point in the carving. So no trouble at all.

Then needed to open up the keyhole a bit. A rare appearance of a file in my woodworking. I bored a small hole first, then opened it up with the file.

The escutcheon, nailed in place. I had to snip the ends of these nails off, so they wouldn’t mess up the lock. In this application, they are as short as a wrought nail can be just about.

Then, some fussing to locate and excavate the housing for the staple. Here, I locked the staple to the lock and impressed its position by using the sharpie, and closing the lid & leaning on it. That left a mark so I could see where to cut into the lid.

Knife and chisel work again.

 

I got this part done, then had to pick up speed because it was getting dark. So the final photos will be another day. It’s 99.9% done. An adjustment is all that’s left.

 

December spoons; two boxes

Last spring Jogge Sundqvist & I were talking about Amy Umbel’s painted spoons & bowls. https://www.fiddleheadwoodworking.com/gallery We both enjoyed how she “found” the styles/patterns that suited her. Amy’s work was the inspiration for me to branch out and impose my furniture carvings on the handles of my spoons. Once I started this, I haven’t chip-carved one since. And I keep searching through boxes of tools for smaller carving gouges!

I’ve been busy with furniture work lately, I have had these spoons for a couple of weeks, then my kids relentlessly reminded me that Christmas is soon (10 days Daniel tells me). So here are the last few spoons I have for right now. If you would like to order one, leave a comment. Paypal is usually easiest. If you want to send a check that’s fine too – but it will slow things down for delivery. Prices include shipping in the US. Thanks as always.

 

Nov spoon 06 –

Almost a pie-serving shape. American sycamore crook. Very flat “bowl” to this one…
L: 9 3/4″  W: 1 1/2″
$75

———————

Dec spoon 01 – cherry crook. Small serving spoon, mostly right-handed.

L:  9 3/8″  W:  2 1/8″
$85

 

—————————–

Dec spoon 02; larger cherry crook. SOLD

L:  10 5/8″  W: 2 3/8″
$90

———————

Dec spoon 03;  SOLD

Cherry crook, serving spoon. A very dark heartwood to this cherry tree.

L: 9 5/8″   W:  2 1/4″
$90

—————

Dec spoon 04; Cherry serving spoon, decidedly lefty.

L:  13 1/2″ W: 2 3/4″
$100

——————-

Dec spoon 05;  SOLD

A small cherry spoon this time. That same dark heartwood as one above.

L: 7 1/8″  W: 1 7/8″
$75

———————

Dec spoon 06. Cherry, crook. This is the spoon I like to make the most of all. The best of this batch, and of the past few months. a curved crook, this spoon has shapes and angles in several directions. This one still works, I’m known for carving some “challenging” shaped-spoons.

L:  7 1/2″  W:  2″
$125

 

 

————————–

Nov spoon 07; cherry, large serving spoon. The last of a batch of oversized serving spoons in cherry. Too late for Thanksgiving…
L:13 7/8″   W”  3 1/2″
$150

——————-

Carved & painted box.  SOLD

I made this box a while ago, and was keeping it to photograph for my upcoming book with Lost Art Press on joined furniture. Oak with pine lid & bottom. Paint is iron oxide, lampblack and chalk. Red wash (iron oxide thinned in linseed oil) overall. Iron hinges.

My photos are done, so the box is now available.
H: 6 1/2″  W: 15 1/2″  D: 12″
$600.

——————

Desk box. I made two of these; starting on Roy Underhill’s show, then a Lie-Nielsen DVD. Finally, an article for Popular Woodworking coming soon. One sold, one is left.

red & white oak, white pine bottom. 4 drawers inside, 2 tills, with a narrow tray area behind. Handmade “dovetail” hinges. Based on an original from Massachusetts, c. 1670-1700.

H: 11 1/2 ” W: 24 1/4″ D: 15 3/4″

$2.000 plus shipping.

desk box

front view desk box

side view desk box

2 tills 4 drawers

17th-century carved oak from Braintree, Massachusetts

I have a student here this week, we’re studying period carving while making an oak box. Scattered all over this blog (10 years’ worth, over 1,000 posts) are photos of period work. Carving, turning, moldings, mess-ups, etc. But I never knew when I started what a potential resource this could be. And now I’m too busy to organize it. But if you want to see some oak carvings…they’re in here! I’ll stick a few here, some of what Nathan & I are using for reference this week.

This one from a private collection; lots of gloppy finish on it, making it hard to see exact details. But one of my favorites over the years. My notes said that Bob Trent & I examined this back in 1998.

carved box, William Savell, 1590s-1669

Related to the above is this one, another I’ve copied many times over. Carved by the eldest son of William Savell above, John Savell, 1642-1687 or so.

Jn Savell box, side carving

This lunette, (this one’s on the top rail of a chest) is also by John Savell. To carve these, you need to practice your V-tool work. Lots of concentric arcs.

carved lunette, attr John Savell

One of my boxes, “made up” in the sense that it’s not copied from a period piece. But the box front is a direct copy of a drawer front by the Savells. As is the construction – pegged & glued rabbets instead of the typical nailed rabbets for joining the box parts.

PF box

Here’s one of the chests with two drawers. This one was from an auction website. I’ve lost track of where it went. Although I’ve made chests with two drawers, I never made one in this style…maybe 2018. 

The elder William Savell came to Braintree, Massachusetts by the late 1630s. He was first in Cambridge, working on the “college” that became Harvard. In his will dated 1669, he leaves to his wife a “chest with drawers” – with, not of, and drawers plural. There are at least three we’ve seen with 2 drawers. Most have just one. Only a couple were chests – no drawers.

I discovered this one in research done for a 1996 article about these objects. All I had to go by was this 1930s photograph and the owner’s name & hometown. Lots of dead ends, but I found it in the long run.

The article from 1996, but if you track down the volume itself, you get all the pictures

http://www.chipstone.org/article.php/222/American-Furniture-1996/Seventeenth-Century-Joinery-from-Braintree,-Massachusetts:-The-Savell-Shop-Tradition

Earlier looks at this work from the blog:

https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/2009/04/23/three-hands/

https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/2009/04/24/three-hands-carving-again/

carving some oak

I have several days, even weeks maybe, to work on oak furniture now. Some carving yesterday & this morning. here’s a quick photo tour of cutting one lozenge/diamond shape, with tulips in it.

After laying out a diamond shape on horizontal & vertical centerlines, I strike an inner diamond with a small gouge, approximately a #7 sweep. Maybe it’s a 1/4″ wide. Just connect the dots, hitting the vertical & horizontal centerlines with the corners of the gouge.

Then I use the same gouge to “echo” this making an outline around it, these do not connect.

A more deeply curved gouge now comes off these outlines, beginning to form the undersides of the flowers.

Then the same gouge reverses, making an “S”-curve going out to the border. Or just about out to the border…

When you repeat this step on all four quadrants, your negative shape becomes quite prominent – it reminds me of those Goldfish snacks small children eat –

 

Now a larger gouge, approximately a #8 – reverses again, forming the tops of the lower flower petals.

 

Then a #7 about 3/4″ wide does more connect-the-dots – reaching from where I left off to the borders. that’s the whole outline. This one is quite small, the piece of wood is 6″ wide, and there’s a 3/4″ margin on both edges. You can use the same pattern on a panel, then some of this outline is cut with a v-tool instead of struck with the gouges.

 

Then I cut out the background. In this case, it was tight quarters in there, so I used a couple different tools, depending on where I had to get..

The end result. about 15 minutes of carving for the lozenge/diamond. This is going to be one of three muntins for the footboard of a bedstead I’m making.

Here’s the top rail I started back at the Lie-Nielsen Open House…they always show up better once they’re oiled.

another view.

Yesterday I started painting a desk box I have underway; but found out I was out of red pigment (iron oxide) – ordered some, and did the black for starters.

Oak furniture from Dedham & Medfield Massachusetts

For a number of reasons, I was looking through some photo files here tonight. During the past year I have had a couple of chances to revisit some old favorite piece of oak furniture, and saw a couple related fragments for the first time. There is a group of chests and boxes made in Dedham and Medfield, Massachusetts during the 17th century. Years ago they were the focus of a study by Robert St. George, culminating in his article “Style and Structure in the Joinery of Dedham and Medfield, Massachusetts, 1635-1685” Winterthur Portfolio; vol. 13, American Furniture and Its Makers (1979), pp. 1-46. You can join JSTOR and read it here – https://www.jstor.org/stable/1180600?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents

But like all oak of the period, our friend Robert Trent was all over them too – thus several examples were featured in the exhibition New England Begins at the Museum of Fine Arts too.   (Boy, did that set come down in price – https://www.amazon.com/New-England-Begins-Seventeenth-Century/dp/0878462104  -If you don’t have it, and you like the furniture and decorative arts of the period, get it. Used to be way more than $90…)

This chest is in a private collection, I had it years ago to make a new oak lid for it. Typical for this group, 3 carved panels, moldings on the framing parts. Not great work, but real nice. Black paint in the backgrounds, originally bright red on the oak, dyed with logwood or brazilwood dye.

This one was made for the Fairbanks house in Dedham, was illustrated in a late 19th/early 20th century article about that house. For many years it was MIA – then the Fairbanks Family was able to buy it at auction either late 1990s or early 2000s…I forget which. Has the only oddball center panel. (see the detail, top of the blog post) Refinished.

 

A reader sent me these photos once, shot at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NY. These boxes are often pretty tall – maybe 9″ high. Pine lids and bottom, oak box. I made a copy of this one for a descendant of one of the joiners credited with this work, John Thurston of Dedham and elsewhere.

Now it gets really wiggy. I cropped this shot from an overall of a chest in a museum collection. Notice the panels on the left & right. They look good, right?

Here’s one – then compare it to its cousin below…

The other. Amazing what your eyes & brain can tolerate and still accept as a repeating pattern. I’ve carved this design a lot, and I can carve a panel about 10″ x 14″ or so in under an hour. I bet this guy was flying right along. Or old and infirm. Or somehow incapacitated, or compromised. Or something. Notice too the holes in the corners where I presume the panel was nailed down to hold it still for carving. I nail mine to a back board, and fasten that to the bench with holdfasts. That way I don’t have to move the holdfasts – they’re out of the way.

A related, but dead-simple version. Why all that blank margin? No applied molding, the framing is beveled around the panel. Ahh, everyone who knows why is dead.

These next two are the lynch pins for the attribution to John Houghton, joiner. These are fragments from a meetinghouse in Medfield from 1655/6. The town records cite a payment made to Houghton for work on the desk, a table and more. The “deske” in the records is the pulpit. These panels are believed to be part of that pulpit. This panel is about 6 5/8″ x 14″.

a detail of the  rectangular panel.

This diamond-shaped panel is nailed to a piece of oak that looks like some framing stock – but it tapers in width. Tradition says that these pieces were saved when the 1655/6 meeting house was demolished in 1706.

One more – this one’s in Nutting’s books, now at Wadsworth Atheneum. “Refreshed” paint, or completely re-painted. I forget which. Really nicely carved.

Carving today before I carve this weekend

I am working on another desk box; an oak box with a slanted lid. Mainly I need this for the photos, for an article in the works. The annoying part is that the photos I needed to shoot were the slots/dadoes/what-have-yous on the inside faces of the box’s end boards. But…I don’t like to do the carving after cutting voids into the board. So first, I had to carve them.

This time, I made up the design, drawing from my research (and others’) into the varied carvings coming out of Devon, England. The same style appeared in Ipswich, Massachusetts during the last 3rd of the 17th century. I carve this stuff more than any other grouping, mostly because of its variety. Once you learn the “vocabulary” it’s easy to make up designs willy-nilly.

The desk box ends are weird shapes though. Took a little sketching with some chalk, and some wiping away with a damp cloth – but I got something I like. So then the front board is simple enough – a plain ol’ rectangle. There are three boxes from Devon that seem to be the same carver, or the same general pattern anyway. One of these I photographed back when I worked at Plimoth Plantation, the other two are from a website I subscribe to, Marhamchurch Antiques – http://www.marhamchurchantiques.com/ Paul Fitzsimmons there is a magnet for this Devon/Exeter oak furniture.

I’m going to carve the box front at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston on Sunday July 9. from noon to 3pm. I’ll be demonstrating the carving, and some joinery and other oak-y stuff.  http://www.mfa.org/programs/gallery-activities-and-tours/early-american-furniture-carving

 

Here are a few details from the Devon boxes that were the inspiration for my sketch – (the first two from Marhamchurch Antiques, thanks Paul, the 3rd is my photo).

This one had a later escutcheon on it, covering up the pattern. I took it off, so we could see the shape. At that time, I had never seen the previous two.

 

But before I go to Boston to work  on Sunday, I’m off to Maine for the Open House at Lie-Nielsen Friday & Saturday. https://www.lie-nielsen.com/hand-tool-events/USA/146

These events are legendary; the lineup this summer is killer. I try to do this show every July…it’s like old home week, seeing all my friends from the hand-tool circus. I guess I was there last summer – found my picture on their Facebook page –

Image may contain: one or more people, people standing, shoes and outdoor

This time I’ll mostly be carving oak for a bedstead I’m working on. But I have a talk on Saturday about green woodworking, so I’ll do some spoon carving too. See you there I hope.