Here in America, we just celebrated a holiday called Thanksgiving. It used to be about over-eating, now it’s mostly about shopping for mass-produced stuff. I try to stay out of it. The other day I was reading the blog from Mortise & Tenon magazine, in which they asked the rhetorical question “Why would you labor at something you don’t love?” – I realize there are many of us who do just that, for various reasons….I’ve done it myself. Making a living sometimes requires that we spend time doing things we’d rather not do…
I am especially aware how lucky I am to work the way I do & make my living that way. I have great friends who have helped me along the way, a wife who doesn’t need all the latest gadgets and baubles (my kids would like them, though!), readers of this blog & IG, clients, and students in my classes who all help support my work. I appreciate it all, and am eternally thankful. I am unbelievably lucky to spend my days the way I do. Thanks, all.
I went out this morning, lit the fire, filled the bird feeders and took some photos. Now for breakfast, then I get to go to work.
First off, nice going to those who pitched in to help that Vermont school teacher with the fundraiser to buy spoon tools. They met their goal quite easily, I think thanks to you blog readers here. These on-screen connections can be alienating sometimes, but at times like this one, it truly is a community feeling. I really do appreciate the feedback I get from this blog, it means a lot.
I did the bulk of the last-minute junk last week, and a good thing too. Just been knocked out with a flu-ish thing for 5 days. All 4 of us have had it in various forms – so it’s felt like a long time since we’ve had our heads above water.
After watching all the bowl turners at North House a couple of weeks ago, I wanted to come home & turn bowls. But instead, I turned drawer pulls in white oak.
The drove them through the hole I bored in the drawer front, and split the tenon with a chisel.
and drove an oak wedge into the resulting split.
Here is the wedged tenon, just prior to trimming.
These pulls are about 1 1/4″ in diameter.
I made some adjustments to the drawer runners. These things are always fussy…they fit into notches in the stiles, and often I toe-nail through them into the stile. You can see one of those nails out at the rear stile in this shot:
Here you can see one of the drawer runners in the drawer opening above, and the groove in the drawer side below. When all goes well, this is a nice way for a drawer to slide. Especially these heavy oak drawers. There will be a pine panel behind these drawers, but that will have to wait til the exhibit is over. Mid-June I think. After Greenwood Fest…
This past weekend was the wrap-up to the joined chest class at Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking. http://www.schoolofwoodworking.com/ One weekend a month, for five months, with homework is a tall order.
In addition to the outlay of cash, these students made the commitment of time – that is really striking to me. I appreciate them signing on for this class, and Bob Van Dyke for making it possible. We had some struggles, mostly related to wood supply; and also had a lot of fun making these chests. When I was a student many years ago, Jennie Alexander used to have us all make the same ladderback chair in the class, there was no deviation. I remember once JA suggested just making the chairs, piling them in a heap, and each student taking one home. That didn’t fly, but it illustrated the general notion of a class project.
My workshops are usually nothing like that. I seem to be dumb enough to say to each student, yea – you could add this or that, make this change – why not carve the side frames and panels – so there’s a lot of variation in these projects. And because of the amount of work involved, each student was at a different point in their chest. The way the class worked, I’d cover two topics each weekend, – layout, joinery/carving, decoration/tills, floors, etc.
Then I’d wander from bench to bench to see where the students were, and what they needed. In between classes, I’d often send them blog posts that served as notes for what we just did, or what was coming up. When it ran smoothly anyway…here’s pictures. Some awful. some ok.
A pile of chest parts; ready for test-fitting
White balance out the window – but framed now, & panels cut to size.
Stock prep. Dwight lays his planes on their sides, I see.
what are these guys doing rooting around in my chest?
Oh, trying to suss out the till lid scenario.
Tidy bevels on panels.
Rick’s tool box – dynamite from 30 Rockefeller Plaza.
Pine lid installed
Back home in daylight again. Started linseed oil. A few moldings left, some drawer pulls & done. then it goes to Fuller Craft Museum for the exhibition about Plymouth CRAFT.
I have two more oak classes at CVSWW – a weekend of carving in May, and later in the fall, a 4-day class in making a carved oak box. Link at the top. Box dates aren’t set yet, but I think it will be late September or early October. I forget…
If your tongue is too long, it can lead to problems. As I found out today when I was fitting the center floor board in a joined chest. Here is the first test-fit of the middle board. It slides under the rear floor rail, and it has tongues cut on each edge, to engage grooves in the boards left & right of it. Seems to be going well, but…
It got tight before it came near the front rail, where it will fit into a groove. Front of the chest is to our left in this photo…
So I checked a few things to see what was holding things up. Made sure the thickness of the board wasn’t binding against the drawer below this floor. Nope, that was fine. But, I noticed the tongues were bottoming out in the grooves…
I pulled it back out, and a few shavings off each edge left a little space for things to work better.
Here is the next test-fit, and at this point I can see that with a good whack it will go all the way into the front rail. (this time front is to the right) But to this point, I hadn’t trimmed the front end yet. So back out again. And that’s why I haven’t beveled the front end yet – if it has to be knocked back out, right now the front end is thick enough to strike it with a mallet. If it were trimmed to fit the groove, it would be too fragile to hit. Yes, I learned this the hard way.
Beveling the front end of the floor board
This one is out of sequence – but this is what the “tongue” looks like. A rabbet on the top face, and a broad bevel on the bottom to form the tongue. I saw this version on some chests I first studied way back when, & I use it whenever I’m not copying a specific chest’s construction…you could use a dedicated tongue & groove matched set of planes too. Or one of many other ways to do this…
Drive it in for real.
Then trim the extra length out back…here I’m bending the saw so my knuckles don’t get chewed up.
This chest will have 2 full-width drawers. I didn’t have time left to begin tackling the 2nd drawer, (first one’s done) so instead I dug out some molding tools and began cutting the applied moldings that decorate 3 sides of this chest. I hadn’t worked moldings with planes in quite a while…it was fun. For this work, I use methods I learned from Matt Bickford, both from his book & video, and from classes with him. His book is so clear, it’s a great explanation of what can be complicated. work. https://lostartpress.com/products/mouldings-in-practice and https://www.lie-nielsen.com/product/moldings-in-practice
To begin (after preparing the blanks) first step is to cut rabbets and chamfers for the hollows & rounds to ride on…
Here the hollow plane is making a rounded profile on this ogee with fillet molding…
I was running out of daylight, so I cut three moldings, then began to miter enough to frame one panel. Here’s the planes & moldings:
And here’s the test-fitted framing. The vertical one on our left will have to be re-done…but it can be used elsewhere, or chopped down for a horizontal. It was nearly dark in the room by this point. Time to come in & write this post. That crooked panel is just plain tough luck. But, as always, I can find old ones that look like that too…I’ll sleep fine tonight.
First off, the Greenwood Fest http://www.greenwoodfest.org/ sold out in just about 1 day. There are still spaces in several of the pre-fest courses; scroll down on the link to read about those offerings. If you missed a ticket to the fest, do get on the waiting list. June is a long ways off, lots can happen between now & then. Last year, many on the waiting list got in. Maybe all. Thanks to all who support Plymouth CRAFT’s programs, we appreciate it. A special hearty thanks to Paula Marcoux, who runs Plymouth CRAFT, organizes the festival and created the website – and answered every question sent to Plymouth CRAFT …and on & on. The rest of us just goof around, Paula does all the work.
In the workshop, I’m getting prepared for this weekend’s edition of the joined chest class at Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking. http://www.schoolofwoodworking.com/ I’m going to assemble the chest I’m working on, so the students can see what happens when they get to that step. First, I make a lot of tapered oak pins. Shaved, not driven through a dowel plate. These pins are the most critical part of the joinery. They need to be straight-grained, and cleanly cut.
And I need a lot of them. I think 56 in this particular chest. Some are already driven; the front is mostly assembled.
the photo at the top of this post shows me scribing the pin hole on the side rails’ tenons. Here, I’ve knocked those joints apart enough to get in there & bore the holes in the tenons.
Then drive the pins home.
The shoulder pulls up nice & tight.
I’ll cut & fit the till and install the floor during the class. I’ll try to get shots during the weekend.
I carved some spoons recently – one a shape I’ve carved many times – here is the new spoon alongside one about 10 years old. Similar shape, one with a nice broken-in feel, the other brand-spankin’-new. Both birch, both flax oil finish. that’s what using them does to them…I like the look of time & use… I think it also helps to know as you’re carving spoons that what the color & grain look like today is not what they will look like down the line.
Each time I’m at a museum to study furniture, I ask permission to post my shots of the objects here…some say yes, some say no. I feel like I’ve been very lucky to have so much access to 17th-century furniture, and I know many folks either haven’t got the time or inclination to go search it out. (it’s also heavily skewed to the east coast here in the US…)
I thought I could review some stuff that’s been over on the blog before, there’s always new readers, and it never hurts to see details – even ones you’ve seen before. The following objects are from a group that I studied many years ago with Jennie Alexander and Bob Trent. These were the first oak chests I ever learned about…so I always enjoy looking at them again.
When I think back on the leg-work to find this – staggering. I also searched for who might have been the original owners in the late 1600s. From our research, we knew the group of chests came from Braintree, Massachusetts, so I had to do some genealogical research stretching back from the 1880s to the 1680s – eventually found some likely candidates, it’s in the article somewhere.
Here’s the same chest, scanned from one of my color slides. Until this one, all but one of the joined chests we had seen had one (sometimes two) drawers underneath. I’ve built copies of this chest many times….
Here’s the other w/o drawer-chest, with brackets under the bottom rail. Lost some height of its feet, and has a horrible replaced lid.
One distinctive feature of these chests is the way the floor fits into the chest. Instead of a higher rear rail that the floor is nailed up to, these guys use a lower rear rail, and sit the floor on it. And nail it. Here’s one I restored, with some white pine floor boards, sliding over the lower rear rail, and fitting into grooves in the side and front rails. The back panel is not yet installed, making it easy to see what’s going on. Tongue & groove joints between the floor boards.
Same thing on a repro I did, better view of the lower rear rail. sorry for the garish light. (just think, when my new shop is done soon, only-daylight)
Then the back panel slides up from the feet, fitting into grooves in the stiles & upper rear rail. Here’s an overall view of one lying on its face. A white pine panel, (glued-up to get enough width to fill behind the drawer) – bevelled on its ends and top edge to fit the grooves. Slides behind the lower rear rail(s) – and is nailed to the bottom-most rear rail.
Here’s a detail. It requires some careful layout of the joinery for that/those rear rail(s). The tenon is “barefaced” – it has only one shoulder. Fun stuff.
Since the 1996 article there have been maybe 6 more of these chests that have shown up in auction houses. etc…I never saw this one, from James Julia Auctions in Maine. Clearly weird drawer pulls, something funny about the lid, but otherwise looks great.
and one with two drawers – we saw only two of those in our research, there might be four now
I’ve written about these chests and boxes many times…here’s a search for “Savell” (the name of the joiners who we think made them) https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/?s=Savell – there’s other stuff mixed in there, but lots of stuff about the chests and the carvings.
carpentry, carpentry, carpentry. I’m thrilled to be making my own workshop, but I’m sick of it. I decided that carpentry is a lot like joinery, just done in uncomfortable positions, and I drop stuff more in carpentry. I can’t wait to be back at the bench full-tilt.
Meanwhile, I got to go with Bob Van Dyke to the Yale Furniture Study recently in preparation for the joined chest class we’re doing at the Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking. I’ve been very fortunate over the years to get to handle a lot of period furniture; studying the details. It’s still always fun to go over these things. It sounds like an old cliche, but you really do see new stuff with each visit. The Furniture Study is a great place, one of my favorite stops on the early oak circuit. http://artgallery.yale.edu/furniture-study The staff there are very helpful, great scene altogether.
We focused on two chests, the one above and this probably related one.
Typical frame & panel format, all oak in both cases. No secondary wood. Here’s some details:
The panels and muntins on the first chest. Scratch-stock moldings; interrupted where the muntins meet the rails.
This one features a paneled lid. The long rails on the lid alternated how they meet the “stiles” – at the back of the lid, the rail is between the stiles, at the front, the stiles join into the rail. Trickier to layout than one that’s symmetrical.
Nobody spent much time working the backs of these chests. Hatchet, and a little bit of planing. Not much.
The other chest is quite similar, but has some distinctions too. Narrower framing parts for one. Here’s the interrupted molding again, and the panel carving using the S-scroll rather than the “double-heart” motif.
This lid is 3 boards, edge jointed together. Very heavy. 2nd set of hinges. Note the molding around the panels on the inside of the rear framing. You don’t see this once you fill the chest with linens. Till is missing, you still see the trenches and hole for it on our right…
I often find holes in the carved panels, which are presumed to be for nailing the panel down while carving it. (on the double-heart motif detail, if you click that photo to enlarge it, you can see some of these holes) This one has a broken-off nail still in it. See, something new all the time…