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.

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.  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…



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.

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 – – sixth generation of a family owned & operated sawmill.

wow that's a load




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?

wainscot chair

PF copy KP chair

I finished this wainscot chair and delivered it to the Martin House Farm in Swansea, Massachusetts yesterday. I should say I “completed” the chair, I applied no finish to it. They are looking into having it stained to look like the original. Speaking of  which…

side view chairs

I don’t often get to compare my results to the originals that I study. I sometimes don’t want to see the contrast. It can leave me feeling like I missed some obvious feature, muffed another one, etc. There’s a couple of things I’d do differently next time, but not too drastic.

chairs side by side

I added some height to mine, to bring the seat more level, or slightly canted to the rear. The original tilts forward now.

new & old

The original chair descended in the Cole family in Rehoboth and Swansea. Maybe dates from 165-1700. All oak. Some think it was made in Providence, some think it’s a Plymouth Colony joiner. Hard to say, there’s so little to go on. One very distinctive feature of this chair is the rear of the large panel. Instead of just beveling it to fit, the joiner made a tabled” or raised panel.  Here’s mine before assembly:

back of the back

Unusual in New England wainscots, but very common in Wiltshire, England. I have seen many wainscot chairs there done with a tabled panel in front, then the raised area carved. Here’s one from Salisbury, not a great photo but you can just make out the tabled/molded raised area, then carved.

Salisbury wainscot chair

A post about the raised panel, and the circular decoration on the carved side.

carved panel depicting tools

Seeing the recent post on Lost Art Press’ blog about misericords was great.  Suzanne Ellison has rounded up images of a bunch of woodworkers – nice to have them in one place. Misericords are always an eye-opener. The thing about them that gets me is the piece of oak they come from…really large pie-shaped chunks. Makes me think riven. makes me wonder why these large pieces have no checks & splits in them. Nobody ever talks about how they were made, only about the carvings and the irreverence of them. Her’e’s a photo I shot on our 2005 trip, so maybe Yorkshire, or en route.


Another thing her post did for me was to remind me that I wanted to show this carved panel to Roy Underhill. He & I were boring end-grain recently (shrink pots), and were crowing about how lucky we were to not be boring water pipes.

Dutch blockmakers sign

This carving is thought to be a shop sign for blockmakers in Amsterdam. I think it’s late 1680s/90s if I recall correctly. A friend gave me the photo years ago, and I never have posted it. Was waiting for him to publish it…but time moves on. It’s in one of the Amsterdam museums, I forget which.

I broke it down into 2 detail shots too – this one with the lathe, skew chisel & gouges, planes, drawknives, calipers – great detail.

Dutch blockmakers sign_lathe etc


Here’s the other half.

Dutch blockmakers sign_edited-1

The dog; the kid putting shavings in the basket,  boring tools, hatchets, saws – it’s all here in great detail. Enjoy it.

the summer of Fests

It’s quite a festive year for some of us – Going in reverse chronological order, the circus I’m in has expanded so that I’ll be travelling to Sweden & England this summer, in addition to my usual East Coast wanderings.

The last one is Täljfest at Sätergläntan in Sweden. Among the many participants are Del Stubbs, renowned knife-maker to the spoon world, working on his fan birds; Jögge Sundqvist, inspiring us all with his extraordinary work, Beth Moen, carver of giant bowls, (her favorite tools is the axe!); Anja Sundberg, whose work is almost as colorful (more colorful?) than Jögge’s; and Jojo Wood. (it’s the Year of JoJo).  There’s more craftspeople to come, too. It’s my first trip to that part of the world, I’m beside myself with excitement. I cant’ believe I get to be a part of this. and 



The middle festival for me is Spoonfest in Edale, Derbyshire, England.

It’s the reverse British invasion, four Americans coming for the pre-fest courses; me, Fred Livesay, Jarrod Stone Dahl, and Alexander Yerks. Among others are Magnus Sundelin- I’m thrilled to be in such company. that’s just the sessions beforehand, then the whole thing kicks off for 3 days…with Robin Wood, Barn Carder and I-don’t-know-who-else. Spoonfest is the legend, and this is my first time getting to it. I’m looking forward to meeting all those spoon-crazed people!


Plymouth CRAFT’s Greenwood Fest is the first, coming up in early June.

Plymouth CRAFT

Spoonfest was our inspiration; some common threads are JoJo Wood, Jarrod Stone Dahl, Jögge Sundqvist, Beth Moen – but we have Owen Thomas, Dave Fisher, Tim Manney, April Stone Dahl and others coming too. Later this month, I’ll be getting some lists of wood needs, and other preparations. It will be here before you know it, and before I’m ready. Thankfully, CRAFT is in better hands than mine, so I just have to show up & introduce some people and cut wood…

the wainscot chair panel & more

Some catch up about the wainscot chair underway. First off, the back of the panel is decorated, unlike most (all?) New England wainscots – in this case a raised/tabled panel. The raising is quite distinct, leaving a high rectangle (the table) that is then set off by scraping a molded edge to it. Here, I have the panel on the bench, pausing in mid-bevelling.

raised tabled panel

Here it is, test-fitted into the rear stiles & crest rail. The stiles still need moldings scraped along their long edges. This section is leaning against the front section, so you see the scrolled apron peeking through behind. I can’t wait to work in the new shop, where I hope to have some room for photos!

back of the back


The front of the panel has 4 “crop circles” (I had to give them some name…) – you might have seen an earlier post where I showed a couple of period examples of this decoration.

front of the back

I had no evidence regarding what tool might have made these shapes – I’ve only seen the circles a few times… so I made a tool much like a wooden brace, or “wimble” as it’s sometimes called. But instead of a boring bit in the bottom, I inserted a scraper, like we use on scratch stocks for molding.

crop circle wimble

Here’s the head. I left it loose, thinking I might like to use this head for an actual brace (that’s what I cut it for ages ago, was just lucky I could find it now, & thus didn’t have to make it)

head of wimble

Here’s the scraping profile, and the result. If I had time to spend, I would have rounded the end of the tool, and installed a ferrule to keep the cutter in place. I tried a screw like I use on scratch stocks, but it split the maple. So I temporarily clamped the end closed, cut the circles & moved on.

crop circle & cutter

Our neighbor Sara invited us to see Sara & Brad, fish monitors from the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries checking the smelt coming up the river. We had quite a time. Birds I know because they fly right around where you can see them, but the fish rarely poke their heads out of the water…

here’s the fyke net:

fike net

Here’s one of the smelt. I think I heard them say they caught 190 overnight, and over 400 in 4 days this week. They told us it has been the best year (out of 14 or so) they have had for smelt. they do the whole “record-them, measure them, toss them back” thing.


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.


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.

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:


This one’s from University College, London – I got it from here,

where you can read much of the story about Trevelyon. One of his manuscripts is now digitized & available here:

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.