a look at some favorite joined chests

a detail of a carving I did last year…

carving detail

Each time I’m at a museum to study furniture, I ask permission to post my shots of the objects here…some say yes, some say no. I feel like I’ve been very lucky to have so much access to 17th-century furniture, and I know many folks either haven’t got the time or inclination to go search it out. (it’s also heavily skewed to the east coast here in the US…)

I thought I could review some stuff that’s been over on the blog before, there’s always new readers, and it never hurts to see details – even ones you’ve seen before. The following objects are from a group that I studied many years ago with Jennie Alexander and Bob Trent. These were the first oak chests I ever learned about…so I always enjoy looking at them again.

This photograph from 1932 (I think, early ’30s anyway) I saw in the object files at the Gardner Museum in Boston back in the early 1990s. I eventually chased down this chest in a private collection in Maine. Alexander & I published it in our article in American Furniture in 1996. http://www.chipstone.org/article.php/222/American-Furniture-1996/Seventeenth-Century-Joinery-from-Braintree,-Massachusetts:-The-Savell-Shop-Tradition



When I think back on the leg-work to find this – staggering. I also searched for who might have been the original owners in the late 1600s. From our research, we knew the group of chests came from Braintree, Massachusetts, so I had to do some genealogical research stretching back from the 1880s to the 1680s – eventually found some likely candidates, it’s in the article somewhere.

Here’s the same chest, scanned from one of my color slides. Until this one, all but one of the joined chests we had seen had one (sometimes two) drawers underneath. I’ve built copies of this chest many times….


Here’s the other w/o drawer-chest, with brackets under the bottom rail. Lost some height of its feet, and has a horrible replaced lid.

joined chest, Jn Savell 1660-1690
joined chest, John Savell 1660-1690

One distinctive feature of these chests is the way the floor fits into the chest. Instead of a higher rear rail that the floor is nailed up to, these guys use a lower rear rail, and sit the floor on it. And nail it. Here’s one I restored, with some white pine floor boards, sliding over the lower rear rail, and fitting into grooves in the side and front rails. The back panel is not yet installed, making it easy to see what’s going on. Tongue & groove joints between the floor boards.

floor boards in chest
floor boards in chest

Same thing on a repro I did, better view of the lower rear rail. sorry for the garish light. (just think, when my new shop is done soon, only-daylight)

bottom boards, joined chest
bottom boards, joined chest

Then the back panel slides up from the feet, fitting into grooves in the stiles & upper rear rail. Here’s an overall view of one lying on its face. A white pine panel, (glued-up to get enough width to fill behind the drawer) – bevelled on its ends and top edge to fit the grooves. Slides behind the lower rear rail(s) – and is nailed to the bottom-most rear rail.


Here’s a detail. It requires some careful layout of the joinery for that/those rear rail(s).  The tenon is “barefaced” – it has only one shoulder. Fun stuff. rear-panel-detail

The same joiners made this desk box, missing its drawers in the upper section. I made one & 1/2 of these a year or so ago..shot it with Roy Underhill, then later at Lie-Nielsen. (Or vise versa, I forget) The Woodwright’s Shop episode is out now, the LN one hopefully before too long. http://www.pbs.org/woodwrightsshop/watch-on-line/watch-season-episodes/2016-2017-episodes/ 


Since the 1996 article there have been maybe 6 more of these chests that have shown up in auction houses. etc…I never saw this one, from James Julia Auctions in Maine. Clearly weird drawer pulls, something funny about the lid, but otherwise looks great.

John Savell, c. 1660s-1690
John Savell, c. 1660s-1690

and one with two drawers – we saw only two of those in our research, there might be four now

braintree chest w drawers
braintree chest w drawers

I’ve written about these chests and boxes many times…here’s a search for “Savell” (the name of the joiners who we think made them) https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/?s=Savell  – there’s other stuff mixed in there, but lots of stuff about the chests and the carvings.

Shelburne Museum square table


I’ve been lots of places in recent years, but somehow hadn’t made it back to Vermont since 2003. So I combined a family trip with a research visit to Shelburne Museum in Shelburne, VT to see this square table. The museum is great, Maureen and the kids saw more of it than I did, but what I saw I really liked. Hope to get back before 15 more years go by…

The table is a great example, all oak, all riven. The feet have been worn and/or cut down, and as you see the top is missing. But what is there is very nice.

One of the first features is the integral brackets on the aprons, and the corresponding central scroll. Here’s one of the brackets, set off nicely by the ogee molding run along the apron.


This is the part along the center of each apron, essentially a back-to-back bracket. The total height of the apron is about 4 3/8″. The brackets are about 1 3/4″ of that height.


You can see the inside shoulders of the rails cut away, leaving as the only contact point  the front shoulder. Makes a nice neat looking joint. Enlarge this photo and you can see some joint ID marks done with a narrow chisel, on the inside of the apron. This one is number IIII.


In addition so various peg holes, etc there are many channels dug by wood-eating insects. This damage was not done to the table, but to the timber before the joiner worked it. I think we found evidence of this on just about every part of the table. This view also clearly shows the brackets as integral to the rail, not attached with joinery and nails like many are…


The symmetrical turning on the stiles, a related but different turning is used on the stretchers.


All four stretchers are turned squares; some have the radial face forward, some have it upward. I was surprised by this…I expected them to all agree one way or another.


All four stiles are cut right through the joinery. There’s no step cut down on the tenon. Usually the mortise height here is not the full height of the apron. That configuration leaves the top of the stile “closed” so the joint doesn’t show. Once the top is fixed to the frame it doesn’t matter anyway. But another surprise. I expected otherwise…


another weird puzzle – what is this little block of riven oak nailed to one apron?


There’s several patched holes bored in the aprons’ upper edges. And there’s  mortises like this in three aprons. Yes, three, not four. They look like sure-’nuff mortises, presumably for tabs that attach to the underside of the top. Or are they later additions? There’s no holes I could see in the stiles.


My thanks to Tom Denenberg and Katie Wood Kirchhoff from Shelburne Museum, they were very helpful. And Rob Tarule came to help measure and examine the table, it was fun to look at stuff with Rob again, it’s been a long time…

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. http://artgallery.yale.edu/furniture-study  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…



more inspiration from the Season of Fests


Recently I wrote about inspiration in the form of a slew of new books. There was more inspiration stemming from the Season of the Fest – Greenwood Fest, Spoonfest, Täljfest and beyond. Here’s a few items I gathered; some gifts, most purchased, from some of the people I worked alongside.

Many of the spoons came from Spoonfest. First (for no reason other than I photographed it first) is a large serving spoon by Jan Harm ter Brugge. http://www.houtvanbomen.com/HoutvanBomen/houtvanbomen-_English_summary.html

Jan harm ter Brugge

A nice beech plate from Owen Thomas, nice person, nice plate. https://www.instagram.com/owenthomaswoodcraft/

Owen Thomas

Eating spoons – one from Simon Hill. Part of the “internet came alive” phenomenon for me, was seeing Simon’s work. https://simonhillgreenwoodwork.wordpress.com/gallery/

Simon Hill
Simon Hill

Another eater. Magnus Sundelin made it. Forgot he sold it to me, & panicked, thinking it was lost when he went to show it to his students! https://www.instagram.com/sloydmagnus/

Magnus Sundelin
Magnus Sundelin

Another British wonder – Adam Hawker. https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100005448825480  great stuff.

Adam Hawker

2 by Beth Moen, https://www.instagram.com/bethsusana/ bookended my Season of Fests w Beth at Greenwood Fest in June & Täljfest in August.

Beth Moen
Beth Moen

A wooden spoon finished with urushi lacquer by Madoka, Masashi Kutsuwa’s wife. Wow. Here’s Masashi’s page, I can’t find anything by Madoka… https://www.instagram.com/masashi_kutsuwa/ and https://www.facebook.com/masashi.kutsuwa


Dave Fisher’s duck bowl. You’ve seen his work by now, right? https://davidffisherblog.wordpress.com/

Dave Fisher
Dave Fisher

Jarrod Stone Dahl’s birch work. My 2nd one of his, this one is a birch sleeve, slipped off the log intact. That forms the inside, then it’s wrapped with a sheet of bark that is joined together with the decorative interlocking tabs. https://www.instagram.com/jarrodstonedahl/

Jarrod Stone Dahl
Jarrod Stone Dahl

A small eating spoon by Derek Sanderson – in cherry. Derek can stop himself.. https://www.instagram.com/dcsandersoninc/

Derek Sanderson

While looking a few things up for this post, I found this video from Taljfest, by Niklas Karlsson – here’s his Instagram page https://www.instagram.com/_ahardslojdlife/

Thanks for posting it Niklas, I got to see stuff I missed!

some progress on the shop

I have another post to do about my trip, but today shot a few lousy photos while I was working inside the shop.


You can see, it’s still very much a construction site, but some of the time I’m working on furniture in it, other times, working on it. today, on it.

a new cabinet that will hold hatchets, right above the chopping block. A dovetailed case, with board doors & wooden hinges. recycled paneling for the doors. You can also see the first few windows that went in, complete with leftover carvings trimming the framing around them. Next will be a shallow shelf under these windows. 

Here’s the cabinet – 24″ x 36″ – about 4″ deep. Right now it has no fittings inside, I won’t put the hatchets in until all the windows are in. It hasn’t rained here in southern New England all summer, but I don’t want to push my luck…


Just above the tie beam there is a poster & certificate from my trip to Saterglantan. Jarrod Stone Dahl & I were the 3rd & 4th recipients of the Wille Sundqvist & Bill Coperthwaite Slojd Fellowship awards. Quite an honor…here’s some text from a note Peter Lamb sent out in the spring, giving an idea of the fellowship:

“The Wille Sundqvist and Bill Coperthwaite Slöjd  Fellowship is awarded to craftspeople to further deepen the meaning, skills, and connections among those passionate about simple living and handmade objects. The Fellowship provides financial support to green woodworkers and other craftspeople to travel from their home country and share their thinking about handcraft, showcase their skills and design work, further their own research, and extend the international community of interest.”

I am very grateful to Jogge Sundqvist and Peter Lamb for all their work making this award a reality, and to Norman Stevens for his contribution as well. (JoJo Wood & Beth Moen were the first two, at Greenwood Fest this spring) –


Outside, I started putting battens on, got most of the south side done. One more narrow window to be framed on our left here, then I can finish the battens.


Our neighbor Dave made the bird house on the right, and a downy woodpecker has been enlarging Dave’s holes…

He was at it quite a while.


2 years ago, when I left my job & old shop behind, I put a bunch of stuff into storage. Now I’m beginning to get it back. Here’s part of the wood supply, tucked up in the rafters. And our snowshoes, which got zero use in 2016.


Back outside, I couldn’t resist, especially after seeing Sweden. If I had been there first, this would be a different building.


Lunch time for Ardea herodias. 



Summer/fall reading; new pile of books


It’s been a summer of inspiration for me in many ways. One way is books. So much book inspiration that I’m building a new bookcase. Just have to see where I can fit it. Here’s a few titles I’m rummaging around in these days.

First up, a gift. Thanks, Jögge.



It’s  Jögge Sundqvist’s book Slöjda I Trä  (something like “Handicrafts made in wood”) – the publisher is Natur & Kultur, Stockholm. It’s a revised edition of an earlier book of the same title. More projects, more text. Nice clear drawings and diagrams, great photos and COLOR! As you expect from Jögge… it’s in Swedish. http://www.bokus.com/bok/9789127148833/slojda-i-tra/

Another revised edition that just arrived here this week is Victor Chinnery’s Oak Furniture: The British Tradition.

bigger & better


One of the great thrills of my joinery career was getting to know Vic. His book originally came out in 1979, and stayed in print for eons. But since Vic’s death, his wife Jan has been working on revising it for a new edition, and they’ve taken a great book and made it better. When Jan wrote to me asking for help contacting American museums for photos, I thought it was mostly to just add more color. But the new edition is way more than that, there’s better photos all around, lots of color added, it’s true. But many new figures. The old photo numbering system is still there. Each photo is numbered according to the chapter it’s in, thus fig. 3:210. When Jan and the editors have added new items, they get a small letter after the figure number, thus there is a fig. 3:210a, where there wasn’t before.

Most of the pictures are bigger, thank-you very much. The book is bigger, which helps. In an age where it seems like everyone but me is running around looking at things on small screens, it’s nice to have some images get bigger rather than smaller. If you are serious about oak furniture, then you’ll want to get this new edition. I’m glad I did…it’s well worth it. (and yes, the cover of Oak Furniture is still a walnut chair. Nice one, Vic). http://www.antiquecollectorsclub.com/uk/store/productdatasheet/9781851497157

I had mentioned some time ago about Lost Art Press’ new edition of Ants Viires’ Woodworking in Estonia. (I just now realized that’s 3 revised books in a row…weird) 



I wrote a short intro to it, just some notes about my exposure to the original English edition. Now we get better, clearer illustrations, and a text that is related to what the author wrote. And you can buy it easily, whereas the 1969 edition was like hen’s teeth. Suzanne Ellison wrote a nice history of the book, and how it got to be translated and published by the US government back in the 1960s. If you’re not familiar with the book, the author travelled his native countryside in the 1950s and 60s, recording in photographs, drawings and notes the woodworking practices in the countryside, which he reckoned were soon to disappear. Much of the work presented relates to agricultural work; but lots of it is things for the home – cooperage, boxes, some spoons, some furniture. What always strikes me is the familiarity with the material these craftsmen had. A must-have for green woodworkers… https://lostartpress.com/collections/books/products/woodworking-in-estonia

In some ways, this next book is similar, in that it’s about knowing the properties of trees.



This one, however, is new, and written by woodworkers, it is the Swedish book Slöjden börjar i skogen – The title roughly translates to “Craft begins in the Woods.” How to use what sort of tree where, what sort of growth – straight, crooked, hard wood vs soft. I bought mine at Sätergläntan’s great craft store, an amazingly inspiring place. I have just started to work out some of the text via Google translate. It’s enough to get the gist of it. (here’s the link to Sätergläntan’s store; it’s available elsewhere, but I know nothing about who ships where… http://www.saterglantan.com/butik/butiken/litteratur-sv/slojden-borjar-i-skogen/ )

At the same time, I bought a book about turned vessels in Sweden Vackert svarvat-skönt målat. Folkkonst ur skålaknallens fässing under tre sekler.



I had seen this one on Jarrod Stone Dahl’s blog, after one of his earlier trips to Sweden. I haven’t turned a bowl in 2 years, but hope to get to it again before too long. This book was one of those things where I thought, I’m not going to see this again, so better get it now. Might need it later.

Continuing the Swedish theme, when I got home, I was searching used books for one on Swedish vernacular furniture. I didn’t find one yet, but I did find Swedish Folk Art: All Tradition is Change.



(edited by Barbara Klein and Mats Widbom, published by Harry Abrams, 1994) It’s an exhibition catalog of sorts. Lots of great painted interiors for one thing, and there is a good deal of furniture and other decorative arts in it. It’s a very nice book. Makes me want to decorate everything in sight.

I also got the Lost Art Press edition of Charles Hayward’s articles titled The Woodworker: the Charles Hayward Years. I got both volumes, seems silly to scrimp on this sort of reference material. Lots of depth to the ideas, there’s both fundamental and advanced information in there. With this much content, every woodworker is going to come across stuff they don’t agree with, but there’s still many good concepts. (For instance, I hate the way 20th-century woodworkers scribble all over their stock with pencils – all those stupid wiggly lines. Ugh.) All in all well worth having, it gets the usual Lost Art Press treatment, nice production.  



One last woodworking book, a gift from our friend Masashi Kutsuwa.


It’s about a chair he’s been studying in Japan, based on a Vincent Van Gogh painting; https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/vincent-van-gogh-van-goghs-chair hence the nickname “Van Gogh chair”. Masashi’s facebook page has some details about the project, starting with Tatsuaki Kuroda’s 1967 trip to Spain to see these chairs being made…this link includes a short film of one of the Spanish chairmakers.


The book traces the introduction of this chair, via imports, into Japan; all the way to Masashi and students making them now in Japan.

And while I was in Sweden, I got 2 books on birds there – I used this one a lot; and I didn’t see the woodpeckers shown below, but I was ready for them…it’s a very good bird book. One thing, the maps are large enough to see…




The next one was pure indulgence. I have a couple other Lars Jonsson books; they’re bird books and art books. I like both.



the rest of my teaching schedule for 2016

An update about classes remaining for 2016, and slightly beyond.

spoons & bowl

First up is spoon-carving at Lie-Nielsen, on Sept 24 & 25 https://www.lie-nielsen.com/workshop/USA/126


I have lots of new tricks I learned at Spoonfest and Täljfest, so come to Maine & we’ll explore all kinds of ideas. I also have some new spoons by outstanding makers to study, as well as a couple old ones.


October begins with the opening of the full-tilt chest class at Bob Van Dyke’s Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking. http://www.schoolofwoodworking.com/class-schedule/29-speciality-weekend-classes/534-build-a-17th-century-joined-chest-with-peter-follansbee.html    We did this last year, one-weekend-a-month, for five months. One by one, students from last year have finished their chests, here’s one from Dwight Beebe:

This class is the best way to learn all the steps in making a joined chest with drawer.

This year, we’ll include a trip down to the Yale University Furniture Study, to examine the chest we’ll base ours on. Riving, hewing, planing, joinery, carving – the whole thing. One weekend at a time. First class is coming up, Oct 1 & 2.


Later in October, we’ll do the riving class with Plymouth CRAFT – right now we don’t have it listed yet, but a weekend in October, I think the 15/16 . (I’ll post it here, and Plymouth CRAFT will send out its email as well, if you’re not on their list, you want to be, even if it’s just for Greenwood Fest next year! http://www.plymouthcraft.org/  )

UPDATE: Here is hurdlemaking: http://www.plymouthcraft.org/?tribe_events=riving-now-two-days
We are excited to be returning to the wonderful venue we used for Dave Fisher’s bowl carving class in July. That massive marsh should be gorgeous in the autumn light.


In this class, we split apart an oak log, learning how to “read” the log for best results. Then using a froe, we further break the stock down, and make garden hurdles. So, riving, hewing, shaving at a shaving horse, mortising – a busy weekend full of old techniques still applicable today.

test fit

THEN – Paula Marcoux reminded me about the spoon carving at Plymouth CRAFT on Dec 10 & 11,  at Overbrook house in Buzzard’s Bay, Massachusetts.

stay tuned to Plymouth CRAFT for details… http://www.plymouthcraft.org/

UPDATE: And here is spoon carving: http://www.plymouthcraft.org/?tribe_events=spoon-carving-with-peter-follansbee
For this one we’ll be back at our beloved winter home, Overbrook House. Always cozy; always fun.