a carving video, Maureen’s Etsy shop and more

Maureen’s silk scarf

I’ll start with Maureen’s stuff. While I’m poking around in the shop, she’s in the house home-schooling the kids, running the kitchen AND creating various textile things in her spare time. Many of you have already been to her Etsy site and we’re very grateful. For those who are new – here’s the link https://www.etsy.com/shop/MaureensFiberArts if you’d like to have a look.

eco printed cards

The cupboard – it’s moving right along now, there’s no turning back. I haven’t posted much about it for a couple of reasons. Mostly it’s because the steps happening now are all jumbled – a little painting here and there, some fussing with the fit of drawers, then making a couple of moldings. The other reason is the color. The plan is to make the cupboard look like it’s not brand-new. The moldings and turnings are simple, they’re black. Linseed oil, black pigment and Japan drier.

blue tape, milk paint – what’s next?

The oak now has step 1 in its coloring – a very thin wash of milk paint (not a 17th-century method…) that looks awful until I then add a coating of linseed oil over it. But that doesn’t happen until the moldings and turnings are ALL applied. So for the time being, it looks like mud. But today or tomorrow I plan on assembling the upper case – that’ll be a big job so it will get a blog post all its own.

Next up this morning – We finished another carving video to go with set # 2 of the drawings.

carved rosettes

As you see, it’s a row of rosettes. The linked circles are called a guilloche. A popular form with a lot of options in the midst of the circles. This is just 3 versions. After the cupboard’s done I’ll shoot the more complicated videos – 2 panels and some strapwork. That will finish set #2. Both sets of drawings are still available – https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/carving-drawings-17th-century-work-from-devon-england-and-ipswich-massachusetts-set-1/

Set # 1 is 4 pages, 24″ x 36″ and there’s a whole series on youtube of the carvings in it. Set #2 is 5 pages, same size. Here’s today’s video

new carving video

“decorated” S-scrolls

After that last video I did, the 2-hour seat weaving one, I wanted to tackle something shorter. One afternoon I got out some oak to carve one of the new patterns I have available – I set up at about 3pm, knowing I had to work quickly before it got too dark to see..

The result is this short (for me) 26 minute carving video. Warts n’ all. When I set up the camera for a closer view, it was too close & I kept stepping in front of it. Time for more video practice, I’ve not been at it much. But you’ll get the gist of how to carve this pattern. Here it is on the top rail of a chest –

top rail of this chest has the pattern here

this is the link to the drawing sets https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/carving-drawings-17th-century-work-from-devon-england-and-ipswich-massachusetts-set-1/

And here is the video

I hope to get to more of these soon. Thanks for watching.

Looking closely at chests and boxes

I’m way behind with the blog, mostly due to lack of good photos. I spent a week at Pete Galbert’s where we taught 6 1/2 people how to make the iconic Jennie Alexander style ladderback chair. My photos stunk, so Pete’s sending me some & then I’ll show you more about that later. 

chairmakers at Pete Galbert’s

One thing I had an eye on lately was an auction of chests, chairs, boxes and more that belonged to an antiques dealer that I was acquainted with. She passed away a year or so ago and much of her stuff was sold online recently. Seventeenth-century furniture is not terribly abundant, and it’s hard to find pieces that have survived 350+ years without some repairs or outright alterations. When such pieces do show up they command pretty high prices (for some people, all things being relative). But there are often problematic pieces – over-restored, refinished beyond recognition, and then there’s things that are made up of old (& new) pieces.

This collection had some of all of those, some from New England and many from old England. English pieces aren’t terribly expensive, especially over here.  I thought it might be interesting to look at a few of the items that caught my eye. It doesn’t matter what auction house it is – I’m not trying to pick on anyone, just to show what I look at when I see these things.

turned 3-legged stool

First is simple – a turned, 3-legged board-seated stool. Nearly ubiquitous in Dutch paintings of the period. But none have ever been discovered or identified as a 17th-century piece. This one had the following, pretty-accurate description – 

Turned Triangular Stool, probably England, 17th century style, with subtle incised and ball turnings to posts and spindles, ht. 21 1/4, wd. 21 in.”

Key phrase is “17th century style” which is their caveat that it was NOT made in the 17th century. But, it wasn’t made in England either – I made it in 2016. It was the first piece I made in my shop, before the windows were even in. Sold at the auction for $225 dollars – a bargain. I’d charge way more than that. 

look Ma, no windows
I sold it unfinished. A mutual friend colored it.

This one is a Plymouth Colony chest with 2 side-by-side drawers.

a Plymouth Colony chest with 2 drawers

It sold for $17,000 which isn’t a lot for what it is. There was a lot of damage to the back, drawers and floor – moisture and pests – but other than the lid much of what we see in this view is original. I imagine the finish is old, but not the original. A nice example of an interesting group of joined works. 

But this piece sold for almost as much – and is a real problem in my eyes. I’ll start with the photo and description – 

“Carved and Joined Oak Sunflower Cupboard, Wethersfield, Connecticut, or vicinity, 1675-1700, the molded top above a converted cupboard section with carved floral panels and turned applied ebonized half-baluster spindles, on a lower cupboard section with applied ornament, all on a molded base and turned feet, ht. 46, wd. 46 1/2, dp. 20 1/2 in.”

Well, that’s carefully phrased. The “converted cupboard section” is a chest that’s been cannibalized into a cupboard. That happens – I’ve seen several that got that treatment. It’s always a shame. This one then got stuck on top of an unrelated cupboard – if in fact it’s a period piece of work. How we know the base is unrelated is that there are in fact “sunflower” cupboards – here’s one from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

photo from MFA.org

The base has the carved sunflower pattern – not the upper case. All the known “sunflower” cupboards look much like this one. 

Back to the converted one – see the two weird moldings between the upper & lower cases? One of those looks to be a shallow drawer – unheard of. This was the only picture in the catalog – and I can’t tell if it’s one case or two. It almost looks to be one. Which is in keeping with the sunflower cupboards. But it’s still not right. So part of this object comes from 17th century Wethersfield, but where & when the rest of it happened is an open question. 

This next one I can’t make up my mind about –

refinished chest

first off, rare as can be to find these Wethersfield sunflower chests with no drawers. This one does not seem to be cut down, though I’ve seen that before. What stands out here is how bad the carving is. I kept staring at it trying to figure out how it could be so awful. 

“sunflower” pattern

Here’s a good one for comparison. Note particularly the details in the flower’s petals. 

more like it

Well, the finish might be the answer. We know the chest is completely refinished – a common thing in the early 20th century to take them and clean them up to look new. So my theory – and it’s only a theory – is that the carved panel was planed down. I have taken carved bits before and planed them (needing a board more than a carved sample at the time) and to see the carving get shallower and shallower as the plane keeps swiping away shavings is interesting. The alternative (equally plausible) is that someone took a plain oak chest and did all the carving to make it look like a Wethersfield chest. I go back & forth between the two explanations. As I type this, I like scenario #2 more now.

One more, then I’ll finish with something positive.

pine chest

This pine chest was carved to look as if it was a framed chest – with carvings based on a group of chests always made in oak. I studied the actual chests way back when and they were the subject of the first publication I ever did, with Jennie Alexander – http://www.chipstone.org/article.php/222/American-Furniture-1996/Seventeenth-Century-Joinery-from-Braintree,-Massachusetts:-The-Savell-Shop-Tradition

I’ll eat my hat if someone could show me that this carving is original to the pine chest. When pine chests are decorated in early New England it’s with scratched, punched or incised carvings. Like this board chest with a drawer:

Now I’ll finish with my favorite piece in the auction.

carved box, Dedham Massachusetts 2nd half of the 17th century

Small Red-painted Pine and Oak Blanket Chest, possibly New England, 18th century, the facade with molded and carved details, on a molded cutout base, ht. 16, wd. 26 1/2, dp. 14 1/2 in.

It’s not 18th-century, it was made between about 1640-1700 in Dedham or Medfield Massachusetts. And it’s not a small chest, but a big box (26″ across the front.) It belongs to a large body of chests and boxes that have been well-documented. It’s an oak box with a pine lid – the silly base can be taken off & thrown away and you’re left with an outstanding example of that work. This one I saw in person some years back – it’s the best box from that group. I’ve dabbled at carving that pattern and will have another go at it this fall or winter.

more cupboard work; drawer bottoms

V-shaped tongue & groove joint

A while back I took the cupboard’s lower case apart and began painting the integral moldings black, as well as the carved drawer front. Carbon pigment in linseed oil. So they’ve been sitting & drying while I tended to some other stuff. Today I got out one of the drawers and shot some photos while I worked on it. I’ll start with the drawer bottoms.

Last time I wrote about the drawers, I barely mentioned the bottoms. Thin oak boards, nailed to the bottom edges of the drawer sides & back. And in a rabbet in the front. At their adjoining edges, there’s a V-shaped joint that lets one board slip into the edge of its neighbor. Much like a tongue & groove; but not as precise. I have no idea how this was made in the 1680s – but I figured out a method that works pretty well. It starts with the V-groove. I made a scratch stock to create it.

scraping the V-groove

Here’s a bit closer shot of the cutter.

scratch stock

Then plane a bevel on both sides of the neighboring board.

beveling the edges of a floor board

Then test them with a scrap that has the groove in it.

good enough

I also worked on some of the applied moldings that decorate some of the drawer fronts. I had a custom molding plane made by Matt Bickford – https://msbickford.com/ I showed him some of the measurements and drawings from the cupboard & we settled on this plane. Its molding is on the drawer fronts, the side panels of the lower case and with some additional detail on the upper case as well. So I’ll get a lot of use out of this beautiful plane. What a joy to use a plane made so well. I would have taken days & days to fumble through a much-less-functional plane…

new molding plane & some of its result

First, I choose the best stock I can find for the applied moldings. Strength is not an issue – this is about looks and ease of working. I want slow-growing, straight-grained oak. The blank on the left below would be good if I was making chairs (that’s next month) – but I want the one on the right. Another reason for choosing that stock for this reproduction is that it looks like the oak I see in New England furniture of the 1600s.

fast & slow

The “fast” one has 7 growth rings in about 1 1/4″ width; the other over 30 rings in 1 7/8″ width. I ran the 5/8″ wide molding on each edge of this strip of oak. Thickness is 3/8″. I am holding it in a sticking board of sorts. I need all the help I can get, so I grabbed the blank with the holdfast to keep it steady.

molding the edge

Then once they both were done, I sawed the piece apart. This is very careful work. Lightly does it. Any extra pressure from the saw can split that thin stock, then I’ve wasted not only the work to make the molding but the work to make the blank to begin with. I ran that sawn edge across an upside-down plane to clean up that surface & bring it to the final width.

separating the moldings

Back when Jennie Alexander & I were selling off her extra tools, I tried to unload this miter box. And I am glad now I had no takers…

Ulmia miter box

Here’s the top drawer front, nearly done. 27 pieces of wood so far to decorate that drawer front.

(pt 20 Essex County cupboard project 2021)

New Carving video

box front

I began shooting videos to go along with the new set of carving patterns. No telling how frequently I’ll be able to do these, I’m hoping for every 2 weeks. Lots of stuff in the shop right now though. This design is on page 1, the first pattern – the “tulip.” That’s my name for it, we have no idea if it even had a name in the mid-1600s in Devon.

It’s adaptable to fit different spaces, to a degree. If you watch the video, you’ll see that I dive off the deep end right away – not following the drawing verbatim. But it all works out. It’s a bit repetitious -but I tried to get some tight shots after showing each step…

If you would like to get the set of drawings – there are 5 pages in the set, 24″ x 36″. Patterns, step-by-step diagrams & more. Link is here -(it says “set 1” but set #2 is the new one) https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/carving-drawings-17th-century-work-from-devon-england-and-ipswich-massachusetts-set-1/

Carving Drawings, set #2

detail from set #2 Carving Drawings

I spent the day wrestling with the blog pages/posts. They changed it around to make it easier, which makes it harder. But I got mostly what I needed in the end, or something like it. I finally have the 2nd set of my carving drawings done – 8 months late at least.

This batch is 5 pages this time, the strapwork designs got their own page of step-by-step instructions. That was the hangup, Jeff Lefkowitz had already done his wizardry, then I added the 5th page. Back to Jeff for more layout, etc. But we’re done now.

Yesterday just as the wind began to blow around here, I crawled out of bed and shot an introductory video showing the contents of the pages. Not much action, but it’ll show you what’s what.

I’ll begin shooting videos to go with these in the next week or so. In between the cupboard bits…

To order the set, which is $75 plus $6 shipping in the US, see https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/carving-drawings-17th-century-work-from-devon-england-and-ipswich-massachusetts-set-1/ (disregard that the link says “set 1” – I finally gave up, close enough!) As it stands, set one is out of stock right now, but should be back before long. Really.

Earlier today, I posted a free PDF of the various gouge shapes I use regularly. It’s here https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/carving-gouge-chart/ – it’s part of the set of drawings, but also a stand-alone bit. You can print it out and it should be the right scale to show the various curves…

a snowy day is perfect in the shop

We didn’t get as much snow as I hoped for; but beggars can’t be choosers my mother would say. I like being holed up in the shop or the house during a snowstorm, it keeps things nice and quiet out there. I haven’t shot any photos lately because I’ve made three boxes in a row that were essentially the same patterns. Here’s the 2nd yellow cedar box, done for a customer who missed out on the first one, so ordered one.

yellow cedar box # 2

These strapwork patterns vary only in the details, but generally follow a basic format.

box front detail

Earlier this year, I wrote about some of the background of this pattern https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/2020/06/19/strapwork/

One thing I learned about using carved lids is that you have to line up the centerline of the lid with the centerline of the front. Another step when fastening the lid. I took to marking the center of the edge with a pencil then planing it off after assembly.

carving pattern on the lid

I make the back of these boxes in oak still, so the wooden pin that engages the cleat to form a hinge has the necessary strength. The cedar would probably be OK, but I know the oak does the trick.

That’s it for boxes for now, I have one more on order – in January. Meanwhile, I have some clean-up to do, a joined stool for a customer and some chairs to get back to. I’d like to thank all the blog readers for their support during this strange year – I’m grateful to you all.

Boxes & more for sale; last for December

First off, thanks to those who responded to Maureen’s work yesterday & today. I greatly appreciate it. Now, a blog update. I know I’ve been posting lots of stuff for sale recently. Being off the road for the past nine months has been very nice, but it also dried up a great portion of my income. The other flip side of that is it gave me lots of time to make things. I hope to return to teaching in person in 2021, we’ll see how things unfold. I am planning an on-line class with Elia Bizzarri http://handtoolwoodworking.com/ where we’ll cover some spoon carving. He & I are planning on testing some stuff this month. We’ll both post details when we have them. It’ll be partially modeled after what Elia & Curtis Buchanan have done with their recent chairmaking stint; but I’ll have axes & knives in hand too.

In January (probably before) I’ll be concentrating on blog posts again, some carving, some chairmaking and spoon carving. I also have a 2nd set of carving drawings pretty much ready to go, but the timing was such that I’d be posting them maybe a week from now. I decided to hold them back til after the holidays. I didn’t want to add to any frenzy – no one needs it this year.

I also plan on getting back to some more video work in January. I’ve been busy trying to get the boxes done for December, but haven’t given up on the video work.

Meantime – I have three boxes and some other craft items as well as some videos & drawings available. Leave me a comment if you’d like to claim any of these, or send an email to peterfollansbee7@gmail.com

Here goes:

CARVED OAK BOX – SOLD
white & red oak, white pine bottom.
H: 8 1/2″ W: 23 3/8″  D: 13″
$1,000 includes shipping in US.

This first box got posted some time ago, but it didn’t sell right off, then other blog posts pushed it aside, and I put it in a chest & forgot it. Found it the other day…the box is some great riven white oak, the lid quartersawn red oak.

This pattern is often found on 17th-century work – a surprising amount of detail in small spaces. Glued & pegged at the corners, bottom nailed on w handmade nails. Handmade iron hinges as well. A lidded till inside.

arcading pattern box
arcading pattern box open

Carved box; oak & pine. Strapwork design with carved lid. SOLD
H: 8 1/4″ W: 23 1/2″ D: 11 3/4″
$1,500 includes shipping in US.

strapwork pattern, with carved lid

This box is a slightly new direction for some of my work. Until recently, I had mostly avoided carving the lids, but last month I made a box from yellow cedar and decided to carve its lid. I had seen a photograph of an English box with a “strapwork” pattern carved in its lid, and decided to do that. I loved the way it looked, and so did two other people at least (it sold & I took an order for a 2nd). My friend Rick DeWolf provides me with great quartersawn oak for my box-carving classes – this year he brought me the wood, but with no classes, I dove into making boxes & boxes. Among that stash was a great piece of 12″ wide perfect quartersawn stock. Bang! Carved the lid, then make a box to go under it.

the lid
open, with till inside
carved ends of box. Wooden hinge

You can see some streakiness through the oak on this box, the result of something or other in the tree. Time will mute all these oak colors together. Patience and patina rule the oaks. For that matter, the pine too. Here’s a photo I’ve posted before, showing a new box on the left, and one about 12 years old on the right. Both red oak and white pine. Both with linseed oil finish. The one on the right has been in use in our house now for 15 years.

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CARVED BOX, S-scroll design – SOLD
H: 7 1/4″ W: 17″ D: 11″
$850 includes shipping in US.

This one’s just a bit smaller than usual. I think the box front carving was either a demo or maybe a video I did this year…however it happened, I found the board all carved – so rather than waste it I made a box to go around it.

S-scroll box
S-scroll box

This one has an extra carving too – the till lid I made from a leftover white oak carving. You’ll only see it when you go fumbling around in the till.

till surprise

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Catalpa bowl
H: 5 3/4″-6″ L: 20 1/2″ W: 12″
$600 includes shipping in US.

I’ve made bowls with axes, adzes & gouges going back to the late 1980s. From time to time I take another stab at them, but usually just winging it. Then, I met Dave Fisher. I’ve watched Dave teach bowl carving a number of times, but I would usually see just some of the steps, not in order. This time, I tried to just follow Dave’s instructions based on his video with Fine Woodworking https://www.finewoodworking.com/videoworkshop/2017/11/carve-greenwood-bowl-david-fisher

It began when Joel Paul https://www.instagram.com/thepunkrockshaker/ kindly gave me 2 chunks of catalpa back in June – the first bowl I made was a gift, this one’s available.

catalpa bowl
catalpa growth rings

You can flip it over and wear it as a helmet. When I shot this photo, I realized I need to carve my initials on the bottom.

underside

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CARVED SPOON #1 – SOLD
rhododendron, L: 9 1/2″ W: 2 1/2″
$100 includes shipping in US

This spoon is made from a “crook” – a naturally bent or curved section from which the spoon derives its shape. The most fun spoons there are to make…

rhododendron spoon #1
side view
carved handle

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large round basket – white ash splints; hickory rims & handle. Hickory bark lashing
14″ diameter at rims, basket height 9″ to handle 18″
$600 including shipping in US.

handle & rims with hickory bark lashing
bottom view, showing spiral weave up the sides

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DVD – Build a Shaving Horse

$42 includes shipping in US
2 discs; 162 minutes.

I have 9 copies left of this video I shot with Lie-Nielsen Toolworks. They have plenty I’m sure, and they offer it as streaming video too. How to make the style of shaving horse developed by Jennie Alexander and adapted by me. Mine’s been in use since the late 1980s. I still use it all the time…


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Carving Drawings
17th-century Style Carving: Devon, England and Ipswich, Massachusetts, set #1
4 pages, 24″ x 36″, rolled in a cardboard tube. 
$66 includes shipping in US.

These have their own page describing them, but in summary – 4 pages 24″ x 36″ of drawings showing several designs I carve in my oak furniture. Full-scale chest panels, framing parts, box front. Step-by-step drawings showing how to establish the patterns…

You can order them directly on this page: https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/carving-drawings-17th-century-work-from-devon-england-and-ipswich-massachusetts-set-1/

Strapwork design & carving

Strapwork pattern in progress

I have this great piece of red oak; quartersawn, 12″ x 24″, clear, pretty straight (thanks, Rick) – and after seeing the carved lid on the cedar box the other day, I decided to try a large panel of a strapwork design again. Usually when I undertake these patterns, I only have a partial idea of what it will be. Much of it I work out as I go.

The top and bottom edges are easy, they’re always those linked arches. I divided up the space, put a circle in the middle and struck all the arches with gouges and a chisel. Then I knew that this time I wanted these long, vertical leafy things. You can see in the photo below that I carved one all the way before continuing. That way, if it didn’t work – I could quit, or flip the board over. Or plane it all away. (all extreme choices that rarely get employed.)

initial pattern

But I liked it, so I went on from there. Here, I’m setting a marking gauge to strike lines that will connect the right and left sides of the panel at the middle.

striking layout w marking gauge

Below – using a 3/4″ wide gouge to strike circles in some empty spaces around the middle.

using a gouge to define elements

This time the area where those left & right halves come together get volutes carved as the ends of each section. I strike their outlines with 3 different gouges.

volutes

These patterns usually flow outward from the center – up & down, left & right. Here I’m using a compass to mark the height of one element from the horizontal centerline. Then I’ll swing it around to hit the bottom of the same form.

compass work

Most of the work is striking out the design. Removing the background is easy, there’s just a lot of it.

background removal

But you only have to solve one-quarter of it when doing the design part. Then it’s a matter of flipping it over in your mind to “see” the other 3/4. This is as far as I got yesterday afternoon, but the fire’s now lit, so time to finish this carving.

The cover and the box

It was 1976. I was eighteen years old. My father had died the year before, and among his effects that came to me by default (I still lived at home) was a tablesaw & jointer, drill press, router, lathe, hand-held “power” tools and an assortment of handtools. I was an art student, aspiring to be a painter. I learned from a neighbor how to use the tablesaw and began to make picture frames for my paintings. Somehow made a bookcase, surfaced with a belt sander. 

That summer I accompanied my mother on a trip to Doylestown, PA to visit her childhood friend. We did the tourism routine there, including the Mercer Museum – so I saw rooms full of antique woodworking tools, but have no recollection of it. I have a vague memory that we visited Nakashima’s showroom – but I might have imagined that. But one thing I know for certain – on that trip someone showed me an early issue of Fine Woodworking magazine. And I subscribed when I got home. Back then, information trickled out, unlike today’s barrage. I used to read every word in each issue, several times in many cases. I still have many of those old copies. And I know many people who tell a similar story. It was through Fine Woodworking that I got onto John Alexander and Drew Langsner. 

The other day, Dave Fisher wrote to me to congratulate me on being on the cover of the new issue. I hadn’t seen the email from FWW and although I knew my box article was in the works, I had no idea it was going to be the cover. I remember when Pete Galbert wrote his version of this blog post – and now it’s my turn. Thanks to everybody at the magazine for making it  happen, I appreciate it. 

Barry Dima came up here in the beginning of this year to shoot the article about making the carved box. Because the whole world flipped upside down shortly after that, I forgot about it. Every now & then it would come up again and I’d be surprised. Recently I was sorting photographs and saw that box & couldn’t place it. Then I remembered I had sent the box down to them to photograph – now they’re done with it, so it’s available for sale. 

Approx dimensions are H: 8 1/2”  W: 24” D: 12 5/8”

Red oak box, pine lid and bottom. Till inside. SOLD
$900 includes shipping in US. Leave a comment or send an email if you’d like it. Check or paypal ($927 through paypal.) Or when the magazine comes out, you can make your own.