Joined chest class

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.

chest-front
Matt’s chest front assembled

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.

carving
Rick doing more carving

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.

detail
molded edge, peg holes. panel

A pile of chest parts; ready for test-fitting

stack-of-chest

White balance out the window – but framed now, & panels cut to size.

frame

Stock prep. Dwight lays his planes on their sides, I see.

stock-prep

what are these guys doing rooting around in my chest?

thieves

Oh, trying to suss out the till lid scenario.

tills

Tidy bevels on panels.

beveled-panels

Rick’s tool box – dynamite from 30 Rockefeller Plaza.

tool-box

Pine lid installed

lid

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.

daylight-again

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…

 

Hey, you – your tongue is too long!

 

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…

middle-board

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…

floor-board-tested

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…

tongue-too-long

I pulled it back out, and a few shavings off each edge left a little space for things to work better.

trimmed-tongue

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.

trimmed-tongue-tested

Beveling the front end of the floor boardbevel-front-end

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…

tongue-detail

Drive it in for real.

hammer-home

Then trim the extra length out back…here I’m bending the saw so my knuckles don’t get chewed up.

sawing

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…

rabbet

Here the hollow plane is making a rounded profile on this ogee with fillet molding…

dark-hollow

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:


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.

tested-frame

I forgot to add – still a few spoons left… https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/spoons-for-sale-jan-15-2017/

 

a fest, a chest, some spoons

scribing

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.

paula

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.

shaving-pins

And I need a lot of them. I think 56 in this particular chest. Some are already driven; the front is mostly assembled.

still-not-enough

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.

boring

Then drive the pins home. driving-pins

The shoulder pulls up nice & tight.

pegged

I’ll cut & fit the till and install the floor during the class. I’ll try to get shots during the weekend.

SPOON-CARVING –

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.

new-old-spoons

new-old-spoons-rear

a look at some favorite joined chests

a detail of a carving I did last year…

carving detail

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.

This photograph from 1932 (I think, early ’30s anyway) I saw in the object files at the Gardner Museum in Boston back in the early 1990s. I eventually chased down this chest in a private collection in Maine. Alexander & I published it in our article in American Furniture in 1996. http://www.chipstone.org/article.php/222/American-Furniture-1996/Seventeenth-Century-Joinery-from-Braintree,-Massachusetts:-The-Savell-Shop-Tradition

 

fiske-1932-bw

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….

fiske-chest-color-slide_edited-1

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.

joined chest, Jn Savell 1660-1690
joined chest, John Savell 1660-1690

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.

floor boards in chest
floor boards in chest

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)

bottom boards, joined chest
bottom boards, joined chest

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.

rear-panel

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. rear-panel-detail

The same joiners made this desk box, missing its drawers in the upper section. I made one & 1/2 of these a year or so ago..shot it with Roy Underhill, then later at Lie-Nielsen. (Or vise versa, I forget) The Woodwright’s Shop episode is out now, the LN one hopefully before too long. http://www.pbs.org/woodwrightsshop/watch-on-line/watch-season-episodes/2016-2017-episodes/ 

savell-desk-box

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.

John Savell, c. 1660s-1690
John Savell, c. 1660s-1690

and one with two drawers – we saw only two of those in our research, there might be four now

braintree chest w drawers
braintree chest w drawers

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.

two New Haven Colony chests at Yale

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.

yale-19302265-overall
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.

yale-chest-overall

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.

yale-19302265-front-panel

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.

 

yale-19302265-lid-and-rear

Nobody spent much time working the backs of these chests. Hatchet, and a little bit of planing. Not much.

yale-19302265-rear-detail

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.

yale-195068-detail-panel

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…

yale-195068-inside-2

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…

yale-195068-nail-in-panel

 

shifting to the Greenwood Fest next

carved panel

My days have shifted some, from a focus on the workshop to now a focus on preparation for Greenwood Fest. Time to get some tools & projects together, and after the weekend, time to start moving wood, benches, tools & finally people into the site. The photo above is a carved panel, and one to-be-carved panel for my work at the Festival. I’m going to be working on a joined chest (just the front of it, I expect). Like this one:

white oak chest 2009

I have some great red oak for it, the other day I carved one panel, and the wide center muntin. I’ll carve the rails, stiles and one panel at the event.

carved chest prep

Work on the shop has slowed down now as part of this shift in priority. We got a lot of the sheathing up, leaving openings where the windows will go:

sheathing view 1

The front will have a window on each side of the door, and a pair of them just above. so we did almost no sheathing there yet…just enough to keep it connected to the sills.

sheathing view 2

This side has several windows along it, the one on our left is actually wider than this present opening, we’ll cut some of that sheathing away when the windows go in.

north side

Tucked under the north side of the building is some red oak I just rived for my upcoming class at Lie-Nielsen later this month. https://www.lie-nielsen.com/workshop/USA/129

sheathing view front

Here’s a better view of the front. When things settle down a bit, it will be up on the roof – to install red cedar shingles. Right now, the place reeks from these piles of cedar.

red cedar

I want to take a moment to thank all of you who donated towards my building project – with your help I was able to get all the sheathing & shingles to help keep this project moving along. It means a lot to me, the way folks have responded to this work. I can see the inside of the shop in my head, and I can’t wait to show it to you here on the blog.

The sheathing is locally sawn white pine, from Gurney’s, our favorite sawmill down in Freetown Massachusetts – http://www.gurneyssawmill.com/ – sixth generation of a family owned & operated sawmill.

wow that's a load

 

gurney's

 

The shingles were bought locally, but they are western red cedar – I got them from Taylor Forest Products – they treated me very well. Delivery charge was only $10!! How could that be?  http://www.taylorforest.com/application/home/index.aspx

Connect the dots

Remember the other night when I showed some drawings and carvings, I included this one that I was working for the frame I’m cutting.

devon pattern cropped

Here is the brace with that design on it – done in pine, frustrating carving softwood. It’s not like carving oak.

brace

I know this pattern from surviving carvings on oak furniture made in Devon in the 2nd half of the seventeenth century. I have a fair number of reference photographs of works I studied over there, and related ones made here in Massachusetts. But by far, the best on-line reference for Devon oak furniture is Paul Fitzsimmons’ Marhamchurch Antiques website. I always open his emails, and always take the time to look at his newest offerings. They never disappoint. http://www.marhamchurchantiques.com/current-stock/all/

Here’s that motif from a chest Paul posted some time back:

OSM chest

The bottom rail is the one I’m thinking of, the top rail is related, but a variation. Here’s another, I forget where this photo came from, the chest is Devon, c. 1660-1700.

chest w drawer feb 2010

While scrolling through some reference materials here at home the other day, I remembered Thomas Trevelyon. His story is complicated, but he produced perhaps 3 manuscripts, c. 1608-1616 of various subjects. Astounding stuff. In some of my last years at the museum, our reference library received a facsimile copy of one of these, I think I might have been one of only two  people to even look at it. These aren’t pattern books, because they were never printed – they’re manuscripts. I never got straight what the purpose was.  BUT – purpose or not, here, the border of this illustration is what I was remembering:

124v-125r

This one’s from University College, London – I got it from here,  http://collation.folger.edu/2012/12/a-third-manuscript-by-thomas-trevelyontrevelian/

where you can read much of the story about Trevelyon. One of his manuscripts is now digitized & available here:  http://folgerpedia.folger.edu/Word_%26_Image:_The_Trevelyon_Miscellany_of_1608

He uses this border a lot in the UCL manuscript. Sometimes there’s a flower between the S-scrolls. This pattern will make its way into all of my furniture-carving classes this year. It’s great fun to connect the dots like this.