Poor Russ. I have no proof that Bob Van Dyke dosed him, but there was Jefferson Airplane music playing much of the afternoon; I heard “White Rabbit” at least 3 times. When we got to the demo of me carving the central part of the design below, Russ struggled with the photograph – his eye & mind were seeing “innie” when it should be “outie” & vice-versa.
Here’s the same panel flipped upside-down. Sometimes the shadows being above the design make things weird. Right now, I can’t see it “wrong” – but sometimes I can. Russ couldn’t see it right at the time. Often I tell people to close their eyes, then look again. That often fixes it, but the best thing to do is put the photograph right-side up. Or like Alice, just bite from the other side of the mushroom.
At my house, the carved joined stuff is in every room. I have tried many times, and always failed, to count the pieces of furniture in this 4 1/2 room house. You’d be amazed at how much stuff you can cram in here. (I’m in the kitchen right now – 9 pieces of free-standing furniture, 3 hanging on the wall, and all the built-in cupboards above the counters)
This week, I have been making this little, big rush-seated chair. Little because it’s a low seat, generally small-size chair. Big because it’s not subtle – the posts are almost 2” square, the rungs fit in holes that are 15/16” in diameter. So little big chair. It’s based on 17th-century chairs that we mostly know from Dutch artwork, more-so than from surviving examples. (next up for it is trimming the posts here & there, weaving the seat…) These are ancestors of the ladderback chairs that I first learned back in the late 1970s/80s. Here’s one that I did about 1984 or so. A more recent kid’s version too.
I began as a chairmaker. Made ladderbacks, rockers, Windsors – then got into the 17th century & made wainscot chairs, 3-legged & 4-legged. Turned chairs ditto. Leather chairs. Chairs w boxes in the seat. Kid’s chairs, high chairs. My semi-latest chair was the walnut brettstuhl.
But at our kitchen table, the chairs we use at every meal and then some are Windsor chairs I made 20-25 years ago.
At my desk too. I once had one of those stupid office chairs, then I came to my senses & remembered that I am a chairmaker. Windsors are lightweight, comfortable, attractive. Sturdy. Fun and challenging to build; carving, turning, shaved work, sculpted seats. good all around projects. And so much variety.
Two things happened this week to remind me of how much I like good Windsor chairs. Lost Art Press announced the release of Pete Galbert’s long-awaited book on Windsor chairs. You already know about that…
One of the days that the mail got through here, I received Curtis Buchanan’s next installment in his printed plans for his chairs, this one a fanback side chair, one of my favorites.
I learned Windsors from Curtis, starting in 1987. I really like his approach, both to his chairs and to his life. If you’ve seen his youtube series on making a Windsor chair – then you’ve seen Curtis’ style, very human, simple, direct – and he makes especially beautiful chairs. This set of plans is 4 pages; some 1/2 scale, some full scale. Two different turning patterns, bending forms, seat profile & plan. Boring angles – a course in Windsor chair making in 4 pages. I’m ordering Pete’s book, but I’m keeping Curtis’ plans too – you never know when I might reach into my past & make some more chairs. We must be able to squeeze one or two more in here…
I’m going to write up my Connecticut trips backwards. The 2nd stop was to a Friday afternoon demo at the Yale University Art Gallery’s Furniture Study. What a spot. Readers and students often want to know where they can see period pieces in person. The Furniture Study is just such a place.
These are the works that are not on display in the museum, but are there specifically for study. Tons of them. Over 1,000 items maybe.
You want to see some Guilford, Connecticut carved oak chests? Why not see 3 of them together – then you get to see what’s common, what’s idiosyncratic…
This one they had pulled out so we could look at it in detail; I have only generally studied Connecticut furniture, so it’s fun to look again at these. They are large, heavy stock – the stiles are over 2″ thick, by close to 4″ wide. Note the side top rail, how it has no relationship to the front one. Most often the top rails are equal in height, but they don’t have to be. The linen is not going to leak out of the chest.
I always refer to these chests as prime examples of the use of a scratch-stock to produce the abbreviated moldings above the panels here. A plane would not be able to get the full profile then blend out and in so quickly. This molding was scraped – we just don’t know what the tool looked like, nor what it was called. I’ve been working lately on carving these designs, they are so simple, but very effective too. Maybe 20 minutes of carving? Notice the nail holes in the panels – not from a now-missing applied molding – the beveled framing means there was no molding applied; so I think it’s to fix the piece to the bench for carving. Didn’t see those when I was there, just picked them out in the photos.
The till lid detail is nice; I usually put the pintle/hinge pin way out on spine of the till lid. Here the joiner shifted it about an inch or more in from the edge. Makes boring the holes for it easier; might make the whole thing simpler. I had done some like this years ago, then forgot it. So next time I make a till for a chest….
It goes on & on. I had wanted to concentrate my carving portion of my demo on these patterns – they are quite simple, but I like the result a lot. Some go for this understated approach to 17th-century carvings; unlike the “every-blessed-surface-carved” approach of my usual inspiration.
Let’s not forget these drawer fronts – always picked on because they show what can happen!
If you are in the area some time, contact the folks there through the website – once you start looking around, you’ll have a hard time leaving. My thanks to the staff there for such a nice visit.
I once had a t-shirt I got at an Arlo Guthrie concert that read “we know it’s stupid, that’s why we’re here.” goodness only knows what it meant, but a similar notion must have run through the minds of these students -a very good-natured group of would-be joiners who came down to Roy Underhill’s school to attempt to make a joined chest in a week. 10 students means 10 chests. each chest with about 25 pieces of riven oak in it. Plus extras in case something goes wrong…
Roy & I dreamed up this idiotic course, “let’s make a joined chest in a week!” And we booked it & it filled up. well, it became a reality (of sorts) and on the first day, these students split, crosscut, & rived out over 200 piece of oak for said chests. That’s a lot of oak. Here’s the beginning of just one small pile of parts:
We tried to sort and count them as we went, but it was doomed.
We need over 70 panels; about 8″ wide by 12-14″ long. SEVENTY!
We scurried back to the woods to get more of this amazingly straight-grained oak. what a tree!
I don’t know who this is, but he was not alone.
Thankfully, we found that with proper supervision, it only took Kat a short while to bust out all the oak. it’s not that hard, really.
Next, they plane all the long rails, layout the joinery, chop mortises, plow grooves & cut tenons.
I have been carving up the last of 2013’s spoons – some serving spoons in cherry heartwood. When cherry logs lay around too long, the sapwood goes off, but the heartwood is still good in this log after 8 months –
I shot these two spoon bowls together to show the variation in the grain pattern inside the bowl. The centerline on the spoon on the right is mostly centered on the piece of wood – so you get a nice, even concentric pattern as you cut into the succeeding layers to hollow out the bowl.
The one on the left was a bit whacky, I forget why now. Some defect caused me to line up the centerline of the spoon to one side of the centerline of the split billet. So now the grain pattern inside the bowl is one-sided. I like this effect; but I like the other one too. All this becomes horridly small details that matter to few…but it helps to know how & why different patterns emerge.
All the spoon blanks have to be split in such a way that the central section of the tree, the pith, is avoided. Usually it is hewn away. Leave it in, and the spoon will crack, probably more than 99% of the time.
But do you then hollow the side towards the bark, or towards the pith? Well, you can do either – one will get this pattern, one that. Here is a 3rd spoon dropped into the photo above, showing the pattern resulting from hollowing the face towards the pith. Usually I hollow the wood near the bark side, like the middle spoon.
When you hollow them in green wood (almost always the case) – the bark side bowl gets narrower, but deeper upon drying. The other gets wider, but shallower. This is the effect of differential shrinkage in the wood. More minutiae, though. The amount they shrink & distort is not great, to my way of thinking. I’m more concerned about the grain pattern, or quirks of the individual spoon blank. I generally work them all bark-side up, but if the tree has another idea…I’ll follow the tree’s lead.
Here’s some furniture that made it to the background paper today. First is the chest I made for the museum. Every year they have a raffle for one of these. This is the one I made piece-meal – started in April, finished in Oct/Nov. Never again. Finishing it up in the last few weeks was an ordeal.
Here’s the little 2-panel chest I made for the Woodwright’s Shop episode. It still needs its hinges installed, but that’s manageable. A combination of red oak, with 2 white oak sawn panels in front. Pine floor boards.
Here’s a detail of the next version of that little chest…I just couldn’t leave all that blank oak around. This one’s for me…riven matched panels in front.
The gouge-cut carvings. one tool, two moves.
a joinefd form, red & white oak. A little more than 5 feet long, I think. I forget. The seat is quartersawn white oak.
Got some photography done the other day…this one’s a joined chest that I have had around a while. I was waiting to hinge it until I could photograph the process. This is the one with the wooden hinges. Here’s the front view
Tool-selling is making me crazy. If you hi-hosied a tool, you will hear more from me early this week. I packed 20+ boxes today, with about that many more tomorrow. so hang in there.
Meanwhile, here I am, back to actual woodworking.I have made wooden hinges on many of my boxes over the years. I over-represent them based on 17th-century surviving examples, but people nowadays are drawn to the idea of a wooden hinge.
I have rarely used them on joined chests, but shot the process this week for the book I’m writing about chests. I might have mentioned them in the DVD but didn’t show one. So here goes.
First, here it is all done. The turned bit goes loosely through a hole bored in the enlarged end of the cleat. Then it fits tightly in a corresponding hole bored in the rear stile.
They require a bit of fussing. First, you need to plane or shave a rounded edge on the top rear rail’s outside arris. This is to allow the lid to slide by when it’s opening & closing. You can use a plane, or a spokeshave. I worked with both tools the other day. I start with a bevel then continue to round it over by eye. There will be some adjustments made when you test-fit the lid. I just tilted the chest up on its front feet, and jammed it against the bench to get at it.
I have made cleats to fit the lid, with an enlarged end at the back. This will have room for the hole bored in it, in this case I made the hole 9/16”. To bore pilot holes in the cleat, I clamp it in the double screw, to lessen the risk of splitting the cleat.
Then, I set the whole shebang upside down on the bench. Set the chest on the lid, check the amount of overhang this way & that, then set the cleats in place & mark the lid for the nails that fasten the cleats.
Then I nail the cleats to the lid, but don’t clinch them yet. Set the lid in place, mark where the holes go in the stiles. bore these.
I turned the pintles, and tested the fit in the hole in the cleat. I want the end of the pintle a very tight fit in the stile, but the part near the pintle’s head loose in the cleat…so more fussing this way & that.
Here, I am testing the pintle end in the hole. It burnishes a mark that shows me where to shave with a knife to get the fit I need. I don’t want it so tight it splits the stile or the cleat.
Then a test-fit with the turned pintles in place. Try the lid. Watch for any rubbing of the lid on the rear rail. Fine-tune this, making clearance for the lid to swing by. On & off with the lid. It’s annoying, but if the lid binds anywhere on the rear rail, it will get ruined in time. It’s tempting to say “good enough” – but anything less than totally cleared is not good enough…it has to be right.
Once I was satisfied, I took the lid back off, clinched the nails, then put it back & glued the pintles into the rear stiles.