I spent a lot of time wtih Brendan Gaffney while I was at Lost Art Press last week, and chairs were our main subject. He’s gone bananas over Alexander’s (& Chester’s) chairs. https://www.instagram.com/burnheartmade/
After the carved box class at Lost Art Press, I came home & finished up a couple of boxes, then launched into preparation for the JA ladderback chair class starting tomorrow with Plymouth CRAFT. I’m looking forward to shaving up some nice fresh red oak, should be fun. Smelly, but fun.
Issue #277, Oct 2019 features an article I worked on about making a rectangular stool with a hickory bark seat. The focus is on the wet/dry joint so critical to this construction. It was Taunton Press that first published JA’s book back in 1978 that led to me being a woodworker in the first place. I’ve worked with FWW a few times, appearing at some of their events and it’s a thrill to now be presented in their magazine. Thanks to all on staff there that made it happen. It was an extra surprise to get a nice book review for Joiner’s Work from them as well, in the same issue. Thanks, Barry.
Back to the blog now. April has been a whirlwind month for me…and as I look back I see only 2 blog posts all month. When I counted up the final tally, I was out of the house & shop for 15 days out of the month. On top of that was packing and preparation for the various gigs, and unpacking & trying to sort out what’s what. I’m almost all set up again now. And it’s almost May.
I had posted about the barred owl at Roy Underhill’s place, but there was woodworking going on too. Two 3-day spoon carving classes. Lots of spoons underway; something like 18-20 students off & running. Or hewing, I guess.
The trip to Roy’s is a 2-day drive, so that was 10 days away. I came home, unpacked, put tools away and switched gears to prep for a demonstration & slide talk to the Timber Framers’ Guild at their meeting in Portsmouth, NH. https://www.tfguild.org/ Easy, this one was a up & back in one-day affair, but took time to prep. I shot no photos, because I was doing the slide-show bit, then I worked on the wainscot chair I have underway, I think. I honestly forget. It was a very nice crowd, friendly people who chop large mortise & tenons…
A one-day spoon carving class, followed by Friday night-Sunday afternoon conference. Hotel woodworking! I had little assigned to me there, a slide talk on Saturday morning, then loafing around hob-nobbing with woodsy types. They got me an assistant to help teach the spoon carving class – Dave Fisher! I wound him up & stood back & watched.
It was great to be able to see a lot of the event, at Greenwood Fest I never get to see the presentations for more than 10-15 minutes at a stretch, so I felt like I got away with something at this event. I didn’t take photos beyond Dave’s demo on bowl-carving. If for some reason you’ve missed Dave’s work thus far, go: https://davidffisherblog.wordpress.com/
As you see, it truly is hotel-woodworking. Wall-to-wall carpeting, cameras projecting onto screens. It all works out very well, but it’s hard to shoot coherent photos. So these were all I got.
Then we piled into see a very clear demo from Pete Galbert on turning. I’ve done almost no turning for 3 years so it was very helpful to get a breakdown on his approach. I have a lot of lathe-work coming up, so I went and bought Pete’s new video from Lost Art Press to help me get my turning muscles back. https://lostartpress.com/collections/dvds/products/galbert-turning
I did a couple of presentations last weekend at Fine Woodworking Live; a seminar put on by the magazine. It was a sold-out affair, and seems like everyone had a good time. With the magazine staff, the presenters and the attendees there were close to 300 people there. All trying to consume as much information about woodworking and furniture-making as possible.
My talks were 90 minutes, and it’s hard to cram everything I know into that time slot. Because my work is so closely based on studying period pieces, I tried to show some examples prior to my demonstrations. This blog post will flesh out some of what I was talking about.
Al Breed came to one of my sessions, and asked about the insides of the mortises; is there any indication that the joiners bored them first? My reading of the evidence is that these narrow mortises, typically about 5/16″, are just chopped. No need to bore them first. These shots (scanned from slides, thus not as sharp as they might be) show the inside of the top front rail of a chest from the Smithsonian. The chest was made c. 1640-1670. Oak. The joint is broken open near where the till parts fit. One of the nice things about oak is how well it splits, but that’s a drawback too.
Here’s a detail of that joint, showing the chopped bottom of the mortise, in the first photo you can also see the angle of the mortise’s end grain cuts, and the trimming of the tenon’s edges.
This chest has a joined front fixed to board sides and back. So a blending of a board-chest and a joined chest. Two pieces built this way survive from this shop.
To me it’s not a surprise that this joint blew apart, the surprising part is that more didn’t. I have written before about how much wood is cut away right were all these parts converge – the mortises for the top rails, the grooves for panels on front & side, the notches for the till side and till bottom, and the mortise bored for the till lid. It’s like a game of connect-the-dots.
here is part of that earlier post:
This next photo is the front stile for the chest I’m building now. This stile is red oak, and it’s about 3 1/4″ wide by 1 3/4″ thick. Clustered up near the top end of the stile are several cuts into the stock.
First, the two mortises, for the front and side upper rails. These are 5/16″ wide by about 3 3/4″ high. The one for the front rail is about 1 1/2″ deep, the other about 1 1/4″ deep.
Each has two 1/4″ holes bored in them, those for the front rail go all the way through the stile.
There is a groove running along each edge, into these mortises, for the beveled panels.
Additionally there is a notch cut across the inner face of the stile for the till bottom. this notch is about 3/8″ wide and about the same depth. It is positioned so that the till bottom is flush with the bottom edge of the upper rails.
What is missing from this photo is one more assault on this piece of wood – the hole bored into the stile for the hinged end of the till lid. This hole is usually about 3/8″ in diameter and about 1/2″ deep, and right near what will be the top end of the stile, after the extra wood is trimmed off the top. It will be about 3/8″ away from the mortise for the side rail.
That’s a lot of cuts into this piece of wood, all in the same neighborhood. Sometimes I am amazed that the stile can take it.
Another thing we discussed (I think this was a breakfast discussion…) was the backs of pieces. Chris Becksvoort was telling us about Shaker work, Al Breed about Newport 18th-century work – I chimed in with a group of chests and cupboards from Plymouth Colony from the 2nd half of the 17th century. Here’s the surviving section of a chest with four drawers; in “as found” condition.
Look inside, the inner face of the rear section is a bit firewood-like. (the strap hinges are replacements) Narrow oak panels, with muntins that have large torn-out sections from riving them:
And a knot in one, and panels with riven texture – not planed smooth.
Sometimes the insides have fully-formed moldings on the framing parts. These get covered up as soon as the chest is filled with textiles. Some Boston joiners did the same thing.
All the chests and cupboards from this large body of work use employ chamfers on the framing parts on the side elevations; usually stopped chamfers. You see it below on the lower edge of the horizontal rail:
But they did it too on the rear elevation. Sometimes smooth transitions, sometimes stopped chamfers. This is the part of the cupboard or chest that gets shoved against the wall! Hard to understand the outside being so neat when sometimes the inside is just this side of firewood.