I can usually swing with some general symmetry, or “approximate symmetry” as I often call it. This chest of drawers I’ve been building just fooled me, almost knocked me off my feet. I knew it was 2 different designs on the drawer fronts, but for some stupid reason I expected the carving on each drawer front to be symmetrical left-to-right. What was I thinking?
here’s the original – I didn’t even notice how random it is until I began to lay it out today.
I have been working the last few days getting some oak ready for this weekend’s installment in the joined-chest-with-drawer class at Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking. But the work has been here at home, where the workspace is too tight for photos. Hence, nothing to show. I just finished the test-fit of the carcass of my chest w/drawers. When you make them w drawers, they get BIG.
This one is related to the other 2-drawer chest I have underway. That one is nearly done. My goal is to assemble this one this weekend, so the students will see what they’re in for…so lots of drawboring to do first. One last side panel to tweak the fit, too. And the till. And the rabbets for the dust panel below the drawers. And the floor groove. Wow – lots to do still.
Then when I get back home Sunday night – it’s bowl-mania next. At Roy’s last week, I started 2 hewn bowls as demonstrations for the classes. Then we did an episode of the Woodwright’s Shop – so we split a tulip poplar in rehearsal, and began hewing one of those bowls. Then the next day, we did a run-through for the crew – so after that I had 4-partially hewn bowls, and 2 blanks. Then we shot the show, one more of each. I think that means I have 5 partially hewn bowls, and 3 blanks. But that doesn’t count the in-progress bowls I brought with me for show & tell…
I had never taught bowl carving before, and it was so exciting to see everyone “get it” – made me want to make some, but all I could do was start them! Next class in hewn bowls is at Lie-Nielsen in August. https://www.lie-nielsen.com/workshop/USA/71
I found the nails. they were in the chest’s till; safely stored where I forgot them. After boring pilot holes, I nailed the sides to the front. In most cases, the nails go through the drawer side, into the end grain of the front. They sometimes go through the front, then to be covered by applied moldings. I could have done that, (these drawers will have applied moldings framing them), but the original is nailed this way.
But at the back, the nails go through the back into the end grain of the sides.
Notice in this next photo, the drawer back closes the groove in the sides. So you have to open up a notch for the drawer to engage the runners.
start with a saw, then a chisel.
This one’s ready to drive the nails down.
The bottoms run front-to-back. here’s one installed, fitting behind a rabbet in the drawer front, nailed up to the higher edges of the sides & back.
Preliminary test drive of the drawer. Then I took it back out for the rest of the bottom boards.
There’s a false muntin glued onto the drawer front, then moldings surround the “two” drawer fronts. Here, the muntin is just placed there, when I glued it on, I made sure it was straight. Enough. (turned drawer pulls will fit into holes not-yet-bored in the drawer fronts. On to the next drawer.
I hope to post some spoons & boxes for sale tomorrow. we’ll see…
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.