back at it

I got back to some bench work the other day. Began fitting bottoms to three boxes that have been waiting around…

Sharpened the planes, thicknessed some white pine (above) and trimmed it to size. Jointing the edge here, prior to planing the bevels where the bottom will overhang the box’s sides & front.

Here’s the bevels, and pilot holes for the nails that will secure the bottom in place.

This small, 4-square reamer is one of my favorite tools. Here I used it to open up those pilot holes from below, to match the tapered shanks of the hand-made nails.

Nailing the bottom on – two in each side. Sometimes I add a 3rd in the front edge. Depends on how nail-rich I feel.

This one gets iron hinges too. Here’s the holdfast pinning the box down to the bench so I can bore and install the hinges.

A detail of hammering the gimmal/snipe-bill hinges in. That same reamer opened up this pilot hole as well.

Bent on the inside, about to be clinched.

Lids for these boxes before too long. Here’s a snapshot of the three underway…that desk box goes all the way back to my book Joiner’s Work. I needed a few photos for that book, and had to make this box to get the shots. It’s been waiting to get finished since then, maybe 3 years?

No photo description available.

All the details about making boxes like this are in my book Joiner’s Work and a DVD I did with Lie-Nielsen – and scattered throughout this blog over the years too. If you need to know more, here’s links and don’t forget the search button in the sidebar –

Joiner's Work

https://www.lie-nielsen.com/products/carved-oak-boxes-with-peter-follansbee?path=home-education-videos&node=4243

Then yesterday I took some time to go birding with Marie Pelletier & Paula Marcoux – lousy light for photos, but a nice day down at the beach. Saw piping plovers (Charadrius melodus), including 3 chicks. Here’s one of those chicks. Paula’s been one of the monitors for this beach, these chicks are now just shy of 3 weeks old.

There’s maybe 3 pairs of killdeer (Charadrius vociferus) nesting there too. Here’s one of them.

On our way out, we saw a black & white warbler (Mniotilta varia) feeding a chick – deep in the bushes it was hard to get enough light for a shot. This is the juvenile.

 

Speaking of  Paula – she’s done a couple videos recently, one about making chive pancakes and the other about brown bread – see them here – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCbDDMEyH2wQ57gpgS1gDv8Q 

Some patterns I carve, some I don’t

I’m still nursing a sore back. slowly working away at one thing or another. Past couple of days it’s been the next set of drawings for this project – https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/2020/06/17/working-on-drawings/

(Yes, I know the first set’s not ready yet, but I have to do something…)

Over the years, there are some things that I just won’t bother carving. This chest of mine is an example –

I copied the two panels and wide muntin as closely as I could from an original I measured 20 years ago. But the bottom rail is made up from related works. Here’s the bottom rail from the original:

bottom rail, 1669 Devon chest; 2 panels

It’s clearly accomplished carving, all those curves flow nicely, nothing too abrupt to jar the eye. But it’s so boring. No background, no shaping. Just the repeating leaf-shapes. So I’ve never carved that pattern – and it appears again & again in the overall works. Here it is on one of the New England examples, running up the stiles also. I guess the only way I’d bother with this pattern is if I were hired to copy verbatim an existing work with it.

here’s a variation, with an extra outline and some textured punch work where you might remove background otherwise. This one’s a vertical muntin.

muntin Devon chest

A student at Lost Art Press last fall showed me these photos taken from the web – I had never seen this chest before. I really liked that center panel, but the bottom rail is a dud.

One  I have tinkered with a number of times is sort of in between. Here’s an original example, a muntin from a chest in Darlington, Devon.

 

And a chest at Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford, Connecticut. Made in Ipswich, MA. Both stiles, top rail & both muntins use this pattern.

 

Below I cropped the top rail from that photo – not sure it will come through in detail.

A drawing I did of that pattern a couple of years ago. Either mine, or the original, is upside-down. I’ve seen it carved both ways.

This pattern is a bit hard to wrap my head around. I broke it down to three elements, (here in black, green & blue) and then these just lay against each other as the pattern repeats. (my full drawing above is 2 1/3 repeats).

It’s a weird one. I’ve only carved it a few times –

joined chest, c. 2001
detail

Most recently I carved this design when I built the shop in 2016. Did it twice then, because this one’s on the wrong side of the brace, now covered with sheathing for a few decades.

So keep in mind that my “take” on these Devon, England/Ipswich, Massachusetts carvings are skewed. I take what I need, and leave the rest.

Strapwork

I haven’t been carving lately, but I’ve been thinking a lot about it as I work on the patterns’ drawings. Earlier this week, it was “strapwork.”

That’s a term art historians apply to a group of carvings (& other decoration) that mimic iron straps bound around woodwork. Or so it seems to me, anyway. This style of engraving by de Vries is often cited as an example when discussing (the few) New England examples, or the English ones – but it is only related in concept, not in details.

I first carved it about 20 years ago, one of my early attempts is incorporated in the headboard of this bedstead; two large horizontal panels:

bedstead headboard

My most recent example went into this wainscot chair that’s now in the loft waiting to be finished. 

 

The most extensive research into this particular pattern is Anthony Wells-Cole’s 1981 article “Oak Bed at Montacute: A Study in Mannerist Decoration” in Furniture History. That article runs down a lot of examples in and around Exeter, England. Recently, I sat down with some of the illustrations from that article and searched the web for newer photographs of some of the monuments Wells-Cole cited. (if you have access through JSTOR you can read it here https://www.jstor.org/stable/23404733?seq=1 )

(I’ve not seen any of these monuments – I clipped all these photos off the web. Some wikipedia, some travel blogs, etc)

Carew family monument, 1589 Exeter Cathedrel

Fulford monument, Dunsford, Devon – Thomas Fulford died 1610.

 

Sir Thomas Harris, Cornworthy, Devon, died 1610. Monument said to be erected in 1611.

A pulpit from Iddesleigh Devon –

Many, many years ago I did see some excellent examples in Totnes, Devon:

carved panel, Totnes pews

carved pews, Totnes, Devon

The only person I know of in England these days studying this work in detail is Paul Fitzsimmons, owner of Marhamchurch Antiques. He’s a magnet for Exeter/Devon carved furniture in general, and has clustered together a great group of strapwork examples. Sadly, these days you can buy original oak furniture from him cheaper than you can buy reproductions from me! https://www.marhamchurchantiques.com/current-stock/

 

Working on Drawings

I’m on a lower-back imposed hiatus from working in the shop. (after thinking I felt better, and hewing a Dave Fisher-style bowl for a couple of days – turns out I wasn’t better yet…)

A few times here and on Instagram/FB I have mentioned a drawing project I’ve been picking at for a couple of years. During hands-on classes in carving designs, a question I often got was “Where can I get more patterns to carve?” – and I never had a good, easy answer (until my book Joiner’s Work came out).

The period furniture is found in expensive, usually out-of-print furniture history books, this blog, (un-indexed, randomly place photos of carvings) – and other less-than-ideal places. But one thing I do have is a great example/inspiration from Curtis Buchanan. For years, Curtis has had free videos on his youtube channel, showing how to make his Windsor chairs. And over on his website, measured drawings available for sale, showing all the details for each chair.

and Curtis put me onto Jeff Lefkowitz. In addition to making excellent chairs, Jeff is a drawings/plans wizard. He’s been doing Curtis’ drawings for a while, Tim Manney’s shaving horse plans, Dawson Moore’s Spoon Mule, Pete Galbert’s curved leg stool. Jeff makes everybody look good…

BUT – I don’t use measured drawings! I might carve this design today on stock 5″ wide, and next time on stock 4″ or 7″ etc.

 

 

 

I wrote to Jeff, sent him some sketches, and asked if he’d be willing to try something different. I’m doing the drawings and he’s working on the layout, format, etc. Together we’re working on getting the first set of these drawings in a coherent form that carvers can then adapt and adjust according to their needs at hand. Some of the challenges will be to convey the low-relief carvings in the drawings, but there will be (free) youtube videos accompanying the drawings.

To make them, I approach it just like I do the carvings – centerlines, compass-work, etc – but many (or most) of the shapes are achieved by tracing the gouges themselves – (this one is part of round-two, was working on it yesterday)

There will be some step-by-step outlines, some short sections of text/captions – but mostly full-scale drawings of panels, box fronts, framing members  – all meant to be a guide, not a template. The reasons I don’t use templates are principally that’s not how period work was carved. You’d then either need uniform stock from one object to the next, or a host of templates to fit different-sized panels for instance. It’s quicker to learn how to compose the designs. I’ll show you that you don’t need to be artistically-trained or gifted to do these drawings. I think it’s easier to do the carvings than the drawings. Some designs do require some free-hand lines, probably the most frightening leap of faith. I’ve brought students through it in person. That’s where I’ll use the step-by-step outlines to walk you through the difficult parts. Then things like the leaves inside this diamond-shape here are just struck with gouges:

One key is learning what I call the “vocabulary” of these patterns. The first two sets I have planned all stem from oak furniture from Devon, England and Ipswich, Massachusetts. When you study these details, you’ll see various forms repeating and combining lots of ways – thus you’ll be able to fill all kinds of spaces. Here’s a drawing I did before I carved the spandrels around the doors to my shop:

 

We don’t know how long this part of the process takes, so I have no information for you about availabilty & timing. But you’ll hear about it when I know more. Jeff just got a test-printing yesterday of a sample, so we’ll know what we’re aiming for. Now to work on composing, formatting and figuring out what goes in, what gets tossed.

Lots of links so I put them all down here –

 

Links:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC2QCOxzGYG6gAqtF-1S7orw

https://www.curtisbuchananchairmaker.com/store/c1/Featured_Products.html

http://www.jefflefkowitzchairmaker.com/

https://www.timmanney.com/work/shavinghorseplans

Spoon Mule Plans

https://www.petergalbert.com/books-and-plans

Joiner's Work

Hewing & beveling a framed panel

Daniel & I finished a video today. It’s not a new series, it’s just a stand-alone about how I hew and bevel a panel for framed work, in this case, a wainscot chair. But the steps are the same no matter what the frame & panel is for..

I’ve shot a whole multi-hour video with Lie-Nielsen about making a wainscot chair before, so for those who want to make one of these chairs, I’d aim you to LN https://www.lie-nielsen.com/products/17th-century-wainscot-chair-with-peter-follansbee?path=home-education-videos&node=4243 

thanks as always for watching, I appreciate it.

Joined Stool video series: Carving the apron

Today’s offering is an appendix to the joined stool video series; carving the apron. It’s a pattern I use frequently; it’s covered in my first video with Lie-Nielsen “17th Century New England   Carvings” https://www.lie-nielsen.com/nodes/4243/home-education-videos 

It’s also featured in my book Joiner’s Work with Lost Art Press – https://lostartpress.com/collections/books/products/joiners-work

That’s the blurbs out of the way. This video is pretty simple, it’s just 17 minutes of me carving a swath of this pattern. In this example, it’s about 10″ wide and maybe 2 3/4″ high. (I forget. I’m guessing, but I’m close.) One nice thing about these patterns (most of them anyway) is you can scale them up or down to some degree. This way you can accommodate different-sized spaces.

Here’s the tools I used – widest is maybe 3/4″ – 7/8″ – the narrow shallow one is 1/2″. Different makers, so different sweep numbers. But you just need something close, not exact.

That’s it for the joined stool series. One more oak-ish one, then onto baskets. And after that, I have a red oak log up next to open, so I’ll be able to show splitting, hewing & planing – stuff I left out of the joined stool because I hatched the idea after the stool was begun.

And I had requests for sharpening (ugh) and coloring. I’ll tackle those too. And lots more, I’ll be here talking to myself all year.

Joined Stool Video series finale – Molding & Pegging the Seat

Well, we finally finished the joined stool video set. This is the one where Daniel inadvertently discovered an echo chamber effect when he blended two shots together. Much to his delight…

 

I’ll do some blog housekeeping one of these days, and make a page with all the videos in this series together. But they’re on youtube in a playlist there too…

I was going to put a gallery of joined stools in the video, but it was already pretty long. So here are some stools over the years. Most of these have been here before.

There’s some stand-alone videos I shot a while back, I’ll get to those soon. Nowadays, I’m shooting several about making baskets from an ash log. I also got a couple of requests, so I have plenty in the pipeline. They’re fun to do, but a bit time-consuming. I need to remember to shoot ordinary photos too…

Here’s the highlight of the past week for me – a rare sighting of a mink around the shop. They’re here a lot, but usually the only view I get is a fleeting glimpse. This one was in constant motion, but stayed in view long enough for me to get some photos…

 

Joined Stool video series – prepping the seat board

Winding down the joined stool video series. Prepping the seat board took more time, both in reality and in getting this video done, than I wished. Some days it’s like that.

After this one comes making the molded edge & pegging the seat down. I expect that to be one video, but we’ll know more when Daniel & I sit down to work that one out.

After that, I have a few stand-alone videos I shot a few weeks ago, and right now I’m starting to shoot a series on making ash baskets. I had a couple of requests too, and I’ll try to get to those.

Thanks, everyone, for watching, commenting, supporting. I appreciate it.


The book version is here – https://lostartpress.com/products/make-a-joint-stool-from-a-tree

wainscot chair angled joints

test-fitting the crest

Last weekend was supposed to be Fine Woodworking Live – an annual event that many look forward to all year. My demo this year was going to be building a wainscot chair. I can’t build one in 2 1/2 days, so I had much of the stock prepped when the gig got cancelled. I decided to go ahead & build it, rather than stash the parts in the loft…here’s a post about the angled joinery on the sides of the chair.

This one uses square front stiles. That means the mortises for the side rails need to be angled – here I have a full-scale pattern of the seat plan standing at the stile’s foot. An adjustable bevel set to the proper angle gives me something to eyeball my mortise chisel to when chopping these. You have to plan ahead with the mortise layout so when you reach your desired depth you don’t chop through the stile’s outside face. I’ve done that.

Same approach for the rear stiles. These are easier, you’re angling into the stile, so no risk of blowout. Here, I’m chopping the mortise for the arm-to-rear-stile joint.

The arms’ tenons at the rear are then angled in two directions – they slope down slightly from the rear to the front. And they mimic the seat plan.

Even with careful setting out of all the angles, I end up test-fitting the joint, and scribing the shoulders for trimming. The rear shoulder is hitting too soon here, and keeping the front shoulder from closing.

The tenon on top of the front stile is the only time I make a tenon that’s not in the radial plane. The outermost pencil line here will be shaved down to, once the arm is pinned in place. Rather than plane the whole stile to meet that angle, you just shave off a bit right near where the arm joins the stile.

The roughed-out tenon.

All the decorative bits on the arms are cut after the joinery. Now it’s all cut & test-fitted, I’ll pin the frame, but not the arms. The seat fits down over the front stiles. then the arms go on.

Then after the arms are pinned, the side carvings on the rear stiles….a detail from an earlier take on this chair:

This project is not going to be part of my video series, we shot it professionally at Lie-Nielsen years ago. If you really want to make one of these…

https://www.lie-nielsen.com/products/17th-century-wainscot-chair-with-peter-follansbee?path=home-education-videos&node=4243