drawers, pt 1

Finally got to working on the drawers for one of the Connecticut chest with drawers. Inside the chest are slats for the side-hung drawers to ride on. One’s installed here, and below it are the notches where the lower drawer will fit. (above the drawer runner is the groove for the chest floor. It’s easier to see what you’re doing if the floor is not yet installed.)




the drawer sides are thick, nearly 1″. Even thickness makes them easier to handle too. Here, I’m plowing the 3/8″ groove that will ride on the drawer slat/runner. About 1/2″ deep. I’ve got the drawer sides stacked on top of one another, making sure the top piece’s edge is bumped out towards me, for the plow plane’s fence to run…

plowing drawer sides



Next, I scribe the thickness of the side on the rear face of the drawer front. scribing rabbet

Then saw & split a rabbet in the drawer front. Clean it up and test fit it.


needs nails

The drawer side is not as tall as the drawer front. This rabbet is for the drawer bottoms to tuck behind.




Here is a test fit of the drawer side – the slat is in place, and I’ve hung the side on it & slide it in & out to see how it rides. It was at this point that I realized I’ve misplaced the handmade nails I’ll use to assemble this drawer. So I started making the 2nd drawer while I hope the nails miraculously re-appear .


test fit

Below is the “other one” – a dovetailed drawer. Similar time frame, late 17th century. Just another way of doing things.

the other one


I am not un-busy

Well. No sooner did I return from Alaska, and I had to prep for a trip to Lie-Nielsen in Maine. Taught 2 days of spoon carving,



then shot a new video for 4 days.


Came home Thursday evening, and on Friday got organized somewhat for teaching today with Plymouth CRAFT http://plymouthcraft.org/ = a class in riving, co-taught with Rick McKee, of Blue Oak fame – https://blueoakblog.wordpress.com/

Many nuances of using ring-porous hardwoods and splitting wedges and froes. (also helping us out was Michael Doherty, “the Source-of-All-Wood” – in the floppy hat. Thanks, MD)

overall splitting PAS CRAFT


Some hatchet work, some detours.



It was held at the Harlow house, part of the Plymouth Antiquarian Society. http://www.plymouthantiquariansociety.org/ Our friend Donna Curtin gave us a tour inside the c. 1670s Harlow house during lunch. We almost didn’t come back to riving there was so much to see inside.

As usual for Plymouth CRAFT, we had a 2-ring circus today, there was spinning going on inside too. I missed that, but Marie shot many photos, I’m sure.

There were birds in Maine, but grey skies…


osprey no fish 
what does the fish think
what is this fish thinking?
magnolia warbler
magnolia warbler
black & white warbler

Time for some non-woodsy bits, before I hit Connecticut next Saturday.

new rides

easy rider



joined chest class session 2

Last weekend was the 2nd session (of 5) of the joined chest class I’m teaching at Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking. These guys are working pretty hard…here’s pictures and captions –

mortising detail
mortising the front stiles – 6 mortises per stile
mortising from on high
mortising from on high


test fitting
test fitting a front frame
joined stool
a student tried to butter me up, showing me his joined stool (nice work, Larry)

The 2nd day we met at the yard where we’ve been splitting the logs into parts. Time for the students to do some heavy work.

I kicked it off, a 10′ log, nearly 30″ in diameter. We need lots of oak
you gotta watch them
as you can see, you gotta watch these logs.





the first split in a long one is often tough
now it looks big
this view shows its true size – it’s big.
laying out panels
marking out panels
half & half again
then split along the dotted lines
later we got to some froe work


premium material
I guarded the wide panel stock closely. we need panels 11″ and 13″ wide at least


fragrant load
a whole bunch of stinky smelling cars left that site. Back in 6 weeks for round 3





oak and birds

This weekend we worked on the joined chest project at Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking. I’ll write a post about it tomorrow, but in the aftermath of that weekend, I had a few wide oak panels to rive out for planing this week. As they were busted from the log, they were grossly thick for one panel, but most were too thin at the inside edge for two. This calls for some tricky froe-work.

these bolts were 22″ long or so. and in this photo, just over 13″ wide. This one was thick enough to split in two, one panel might come out just narrower than 12″ = once I hew & plane them, they’ll be in the range of 3/4″ thick.

two wides


The others weren’t quite the same original thickness, so I had to split them off-center. This gets one wide panel, and one narrower panel. It saves wood, saves hewing, and is all-around well worth it. When it works. Below you see I’ve driven the froe in parallel to the wide face, but it doesn’t reach all the way to the inner edge. To split successfully this way requires the straightest grain, and most agreeable oak. This inner, narrow panel will finish about 6″ or 7″ wide.

extra splits


Here’s a detail of how the two panels lie in the oak:
wide & narrow



I did about four of them this afternoon, while unpacking the car & tools from the weekend. Here’s a detail showing a 14″ panel and its 12″ neighbor.

two parts of one

Once I drive the froe into the split, I jam the bolt in the riving brake – I wouldn’t like to attempt this without one. When it goes right, you hear a SNAP when the froe is twisted and the oak breaks free. I’d only try this on short lengths in these widths.



off splits

Earlier in the day, look who I found – the redtail hawk from the other day:



If we hadn’t seen him drop down to the ground, we’d never have found him among the beat-down grass –





He caught something there, and we watched him for a while. Then decided to leave him to his brunch… (or her…we don’t know. It is a good size bird, might be female…doesn’t really matter, to me anyway.)

well matched

Later, a kestrel, lousy photo though. Can’t get anywhere near them.


ditto for a bluebird.


But almost every year about this time, I photograph & post a picture of a snipe. Usually I pair it with photos of the hinges I use for boxes and chests. https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/2011/12/14/setting-gimmals-you-might-know-them-as-snipe-bills/  (Ahh, that post was from Dec, but I found photos of snipe from April 5, 2013. everything is late this year)

Maureen found this one (then a 2nd one) right in front of us in the blind at the Audubon place where we were walking…

One snipe.


Two snipes. they blend in more than the hawk did.





some leftover photos & more

I took today off, which means I only did woodworking for half the day so far. A few things rambling around during the last week. We made it out to the beach the other day for the first time since the winter hit hard.

first beach trip

The usual beach-combing, sand-building, and scenery-viewing. Then on the walk back, Daniel noticed this skull. I put the keys in the shot for scale.

skull scale

My what lovely teeth you had…really small, but fierce teeth. I woulda brought it home for the skull & bones collection, but it was still fleshy in places…

what teeth you had


Saw this in the yard today, it was cause for excitement.

first one


The view up the river, no ice.




I finished this bowl yesterday & today. Mostly finished, I’ll carved some stuff along its rim. Butternut, (Juglans cinerea)


Here’s one way I hold it for final shaping of the rims’ edge. Just some scrap blocks inside the bowl, to keep the vise from pressing against the upper edge.

trimming sides of bowl

Like the spoons, I lean towards odd-ball shapes. This one’s a bent limb, which results in the pith being off-center. So I made the centerline of the bowl ever further out-of-whack. That results in some unusual shapes. Which can be good, or can be fatal. Worked this time, I think.

top view bowl

If you are at all interested in hewing bowls, two things. I’m teaching it this August at Lie-Nielsen, https://www.lie-nielsen.com/workshop/USA/71

and otherwise, you might if you haven’t already look at Dave Fisher’s new blog about his carvings. Dave’s stuff is really inspiring. https://davidffisherblog.wordpress.com/

One other Lie-Nielsen thing – we have decided to try something new(ish) for my carving class this June. Usually we rive and plane some oak, and carve patterns based on the 17th-century stuff. This time, we’re attempting to carve and assemble a small box.

So instead of riving the stuff, it will be riven & prepped ahead of time. Then we’ll concentrate on carving and cutting & assembling. 2 days – whew. https://www.lie-nielsen.com/workshop/USA/61

I’ll be doing the whole-soup-to-nuts version of the carved box at Marc Adams’ school as well as the New English Workshops in England. I’ll write in detail about those workshops later this week.






I’ve been living in my head…

well there’s a lot going on here, it just doesn’t look it according to the blog. Much of the activity is in my head anyway. Let’s see…recently I’ve been preparing to teach classes, or teaching them. The spoon class at Plymouth CRAFT went very well, at least I think it did. some of the students thought so too. It was a hoppin’ scene, and I’m too out of breath to run it all down. here’s some pictures I swiped from Marie Pelletier who shot a bunch for us. One or two are mine. spoon carving, knitting, sausage-making (well, my shot was cooking some…) and egg-decoration. And lunch. http://plymouthcraft.org/


At the same time as that, I was (with help, thanks to Michael Doherty) prepping material for the upcoming chest-building insanity coming up at Bob Van Dyke’s. I hear today the first 150 or so pieces have been delivered and are ready for students tomorrow to begin planing them. when Roy Underhill & I tried a chest class last summer, we both said within 15 minutes of being underway, “this is nuts” and we’d never do it again. Then Bob called, cooked up his scheme, and the log piece fell into place…so here goes again. Impromptu riving brake:

makeshift riving brake

Half of 10 or 12 chests’ worth:half of 12 chests


but all the while, I’ve been thinking about workspaces. it’s 8 or so months since I left my shop at the museum. Luckily I was lent a shop where I can work & shoot photographs for the upcoming book on joinery. That’s a great space, but it’s not mine…

trimming scraps

and then the winter struck. I loved it, but one thing that much snow did here was make anything you want to do take longer. So I stuck close to home, and worked at the workbench I have in the basement here. That space is multi-purpose to say the least. Effectively the part I work in amounts to about 7’ x 10’ – with a little extra if I move stuff out of the way…but then it’s in the way for something else. I counted one day – I needed a chisel, and it was 9 steps to the tool chest, 9 steps back. I know I’m not alone in this regard, but it sure is crazy-making.

that’s one reason why there’s been so little on the blog – no room to take decent pictures. Here’s one I shot with an Ipad, of a chest test-fitted. I’d have to go out the window if I had to move quickly. And I had to move stuff just to shoot this with an Ipad!

chest test fit

I’ve been busy with Instagram and Facebook, but to me those aren’t as satisfying as this. to me, this becomes like a journal or record of my work..

but I’m cautiously optimistic that 2015 will change some of that. Sounds like I might be able to build a shop (whoops – not a shop, an “auxiliary building”) – I have more checking to do, but the first round with the town sounded hopeful. I did not tell them what it was for, just a “tool shed”. so in my mind, I’m designing a 12 1/2’ x 16’ building. I already am thinking of what to carve on the frame! I know – “nothing’s for certain, it can always go wrong” – but I said cautiously optimistic.

I always wanted to be this guy:

Carl Larsson


Or the joiner-equivalent of this British chair maker:

british windsor chair maker

We’ll see how it goes.

Maureen has moved onto Spring, just like today’s calendar. https://www.etsy.com/shop/MaureensFiberArts  lotsa colors…

Spring green felted wool bowl, small Easter basket, spring decor,

I didn’t mean to do this…


I didn’t set out to make this at all. I only saw the original once, back in the early 1990s when I was researching the furniture made in 17th century Braintree, Massachusetts, by William Savell and his sons John & William.  But then recently I was given (thanks Michael) some really wide red oak bolts…so  I rived & planed up stuff & decided to tackle this form. (10″ high, 22″ wide, and about 16″ deep) I had built one once but I think it had no insides, I forget.

In the photo above, I have test-fitted the fixed top board, it will be trimmed after attaching it with wooden pins. It won’t get installed until the hinges are attached to it. First things first.

Many English boxes are just plain inside, but New England ones often (usually) have a till inside. The Savell shop had tills and drawers inside theirs, even their flat-top boxes like this one, I forget right now if there were drawers under the till nearest the camera:

Braintree box interior
Braintree box interior

It’s a particularly stupid arrangement – if you stuff things in the box, then you can’t pull the drawers out. But it has an obsessive compulsive appeal.

A desk/slant-lid box almost always is divided up inside. This one features two tills, a long open tray in the rear, and four drawers up above. One of the tills, closed – English oak for the till lid:

till closed


Same till, open:

till open

The original is missing its drawers, maybe they were cubbies w/o drawers –


but mine will have small oak drawers. I just ordered the dovetail hinges for it, and some curtain rings for the drawer pulls. When I get this far on a new project, I always wish I could make the 2nd one first – just made some trial & error sort of mistakes. Nothing major, but next time….

Now while I wait for the hardware from the blacksmith, I’ll plane up the board for the hinged lid, then I can go back to the joined chests I was making.

Spoons & more for sale here: https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/spoons-baskets-bowls-for-sale-march-2015/