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/ 

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Update, oak furniture & spoons for sale etc

I started some blog housekeeping today. I never get around to cleaning up the pages on the blog. First thing is there were spoons and a bowl left last week. So I made a page for them and posted it in the header. I added two pieces of oak furniture for sale as well. Certainly not an impulse purchase like some of the spoons – but better they’re posted here than just collecting dust. This chest is one of them – and it’s at a slightly reduced price; $3,600.  Here’s the link to the page. The chest, a large box, spoons & a bowl.    https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/spoons-for-sale-march-2018/

 

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The other thing I am working on, woefully late, is my teaching schedule. I created a page for that as well. I’ll update it as I get my act together. There will be the usual Plymouth CRAFT stuff in the fall; and more at Bob Van Dyke’s Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking. The page is also in the blog’s header and here’s the link:  https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/teaching-schedule-2018/ 

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For those inclined, a reminder that I take custom orders also. I’m chipping away at my list. Among them is this box with a drawer, for a descendant of William Searle, the joiner in Ispwich, Massachusetts. This afternoon was one of those days in the shop where everything went exactly as planned. No hitches anywhere, smoothly flowing all day long. But… I shot no photos in the shop as I worked. I planed and cut the end boards, rabbets front & back, made the till, bored all the pilot holes, fit the hinges in the back board, and assembled the box.  All red oak, except the till side & bottom, Atlantic white cedar.

The drawer front caught some raking light as I was leaving the shop.

And while I was outside hewing, this cooper’s hawk strafed the mourning doves. Missed.

Spoons and more for sale

Some stuff for sale this time. Box, book stand, bowl & spoons. Just leave a comment if you’d like to order any of these; all of these prices include shipping in the US. Further afield, we can figure out a shipping charge. Paypal is simplest, but I’ll take a check too , just let me know. The bowl and spoons are finished with food-grade flax oil. Thanks to all for the support, past and present.

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Oak box, SOLD

S-scroll carving. This box is mostly based on a period one I studied many years ago. Rare to see a New England one this small. It’s based on the work of Thomas Dennis, the joiner from Ipswich, Massachusetts. I carved the ends, which was not the case on the old one. Iron nails and hinges, red oak box & lid, which oak bottom. Till inside.

H: 5 3/4″  W: 14″  D:  9″

$525 includes shipping in US.

Here is the inside, showing the small till within. It’s made of Atlantic white cedar, with a chestnut lid.

The oak lid to the box.

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Carved Book Stand; black walnut.  SOLD

Not a stand for carved books…you get the idea. I’ve made a few of these. I based the dimensions on a turned one I studied once. The idea of this is from an English one I saw only in a photo. So I made up some of the format; the joinery around where the shelf meets the stiles, that sort of thing.

I keep one on my desk and it holds papers, etc that I work with as I’m writing…some people even use them for tablets. (there’s no stopping progress)

H: 16 1/2″  W: 15 1/2″ D: varies – about 15″

$450 including shipping – this doesn’t fold dead-flat so I make a wooden crate inside a box for it.

 

 

 

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Bowl – butternut. This bowl has been around a while. I carved it from a large butternut limb; bent and twisted. Once I finished it, I chip-carved around the rim. Then here it sat for quite a while, something was always a bit off about it. I showed it to Dave Fisher and he said, “easy, just carve away this bit & that bit & it’ll be fine.” I did, and it was. Then it went in a chest and I forgot about it until a cleaning of the shop recently.

H: 4″-5″  L:  13 1/2″  W:  6″

$350 including shipping in US.

 

 

SPOONS –

A few months back, I began to carve my spoon handles with designs derived and adapted from furniture carvings. I have never shown this process yet on the blog, but shot a couple photos of this one underway…  I’m going to write and shoot more of this soon, but thought this was a good place to introduce the subject.

I always start with margins. These I incise with this knife by Del Stubbs. He stopped making it, and I’ve never found anything as good since.

Then I use a gouge to begin incising the pattern. This is an old gouge with a very short handle, maybe 3″ long. I found it that way & it’s perfect. I can’t drive these with a mallet like in furniture work. It’s all hand-pressure. I oil the spoon first, that helps. So I’m pressing down and rocking the gouge side-to side.

Then an angled chip behind that incised cut.

This one I further highlighted with a punch. It was a bit scary whacking it with a hammer to punch those dots. But I haven’t broken one yet.

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Here’s the spoons for sale:

spoon 18-01; cherry. Very pronounced crook; I love making this kind of spoon.

L: 9″ W: 2 3/8″
$125

 

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spoon 18-02; Cherry, crook. This is the spoon I like to make the most of all. 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

 

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spoon 18-03: Cherry crook again.

L: 7″  W: 2 3/8″
$75

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spoon 18-04; Almost a pie-serving shape, but quite narrow. A small slice of pie. American sycamore crook. Very flat “bowl” to this one…
L: 9 3/4″  W: 1 1/2″
$75

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spoon 18-05: SOLD

a long, cherry serving/cooking spoon. Lefty, mostly.

L:  13 1/2″ W: 2 3/4″
$100

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spoon 18-06: SOLD

a big spoon. A deep bowl. Cherry again.

L: 13 3/8″  W: 3 3/4″

$100

 

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spoon 18-07: SOLD

Large cherry server.

L:13 7/8″   W”  3 1/2″
$125

 

spoon 18-08:  Ornamental cherry

L: 10 3/4″   W: 2 1/4″

$90

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spoon 18-09: Small birch spoon. Straight grain.

L:  7 1/2″  W: 2 1/4″
$85

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spoon 18-10; black birch serving/cooking spoon. This one is straight-grained. I based it and the next two on one I made years ago that gets frequent use in our kitchen.

L:  10 1/2″  W: 2 3/4″
$85

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Spoon 18-11; Another black birch. Same story as above

L:  10 3/8″  W:  2 3/4″
$85

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Spoon 18-12; One more as above

L:  9 5/8″  W:  2 3/4″
$85

 

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.

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

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

L:  9 3/8″  W:  2 1/8″
$85

 

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Dec spoon 02; larger cherry crook. SOLD

L:  10 5/8″  W: 2 3/8″
$90

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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

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Dec spoon 04; Cherry serving spoon, decidedly lefty.

L:  13 1/2″ W: 2 3/4″
$100

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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

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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

 

 

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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

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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.

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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/