This ain’t in the book

When I was working on the book Joiner’s Work, I started out thinking it was going to be a book about making a joined chest. https://lostartpress.com/products/joiners-work

Then it grew & grew, to include a slew of carving, several different boxes, the original idea of the joined chest, then a chest with a drawer. But not a chest of drawers. But…if you read the book, all you need to know about making a chest of drawers is in there. The chest of drawers I have underway right now is only the 2nd one I’ve ever built, a good reason to not include it in a book. Here it was a couple weeks ago – not much different from today.

Today I was making the drawers for the lower case. These have half-blind dovetails joining the sides to the front, but rabbets (with nails) joining the back to the sides. I didn’t shoot photos of how I cut dovetails; there’s qualified people for that. I’m strictly an amateur at dovetails. This photo shows the half blind joint on the drawer front, with the groove below for the drawer bottoms. The drawer is “side-hung” – it slides on runners inside the carcase. The drawer side has a groove plowed for this runner.  In this case, the groove is wide, 9/16″. At the back end of the drawer side, nothing. The rear board has a rabbet that will be nailed together. Typical drawer construction of the period.

 

 

This is looking into the lower case’s guts. I have started installing the drawer runners; the bottom & middle drawers are ready, you can see the notches for the upper drawer’s runner chopped into the front & rear stiles.

 

Now two of the drawers are tested into the case, and the drawer sides for the upper drawer are tested before I cut any joints in them.

The drawers have figured maple inserts, that will then be framed by Spanish cedar moldings. The whole effect will be to mimic two side-by-side drawers. Here’s a detail of one of the upper case drawers including a drawer knob of East Indian rosewood.

I got the middle drawer assembled & fitted, and the upper drawer glued up right at 6pm; but it was a tad out-of-square, so I threw a clamp across the corners & left the room. Tomorrow is another day. I’ll inset the maple in this drawer, then work on the cedar moldings for all three of them. Then on & on, more rosewood turnings, big moldings & small, more & more details. No carvings, but still no blank space.

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Beginning the basket/cradle

Today was basket weaving, or more accurately, cradle-weaving. The project is a woven cradle for the Old House in Cutchogue, Long Island. I’m using white ash splints I pounded off a log some time ago. I soaked them in water for a while, then began “dressing” them. Sometimes this means scraping the splint by pulling it under a heavy slojd knife; like this:

Other times it’s peeling them apart. Score across the splint, bend the “tab” back to begin to divide it, then pull. Here’s an old, brief clip:

Once they are cleaned up, I cut them to the widths I need. Sometimes just a pair of scissors is all that’s needed. The uprights are heavier; both thicker & wider, than the weavers (horizontals). I had measured and photographed an old woven cradle at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, that was the basis for this one. I started in with the base woven like a large placemat. Below I’m adding in the short uprights:

Then measuring to arrive at the right size base. My uprights were a little wider than those on the old cradle, so I used slightly fewer of them, but just stopped when I hit the right dimensions.

I need lots of weavers for this project. I made a slitter for slicing the weavers. I’ve never seen one of these tools in the flesh, so I made this one up. It has a series of X-acto knife blades embedded into the end of a narrow pine offcut. Then I screwed a cap of oak to the end grain to keep the blades from slipping:

Then I pull a splint across it, slicing the ash into weavers. I’ve rarely used such a tool, I usually just use scissors. But this basket requires a lot of weavers…

 

Because I’m pretty new to using a tool like this, I don’t really quite “have the technique” yet. Here’s a short view of the action

 

It’s always cumbersome getting the big ones going. They want to flop around a lot…I keep it moist, and bend each side as I weave around it.

After a while, it begins to take shape and I can coerce each “wall” upright, then weave around & around.

It’s beginning to hold its shape on its own.

I weave with a continuous spiral around the basket; here I’m overlapping a new weaver under the end of the previous one.

Next up is figuring out how to weave the hood; I’m splicing in 9 side uprights so they’ll reach across and loop over the top. The long bits to my right form part of the hood at one end of the cradle.

I got this far & quit to take Rose to her violin lesson. Tomorrow I’ll pack these rows down tighter (after they dry overnight) then add a few more to bring the main body of the cradle to its finished height. Then tackle the hood.

Chairs, stools, boxes – for sale; some on sale

The house is full, the shop is pretty full as well. So I went up in the loft and here goes a few things for sale, a couple on sale. Some prices include shipping, in the smaller and/or lighter stuff. Heavier & bigger, shipping is additional. Come pick them up if you’re nearby.

If you’d like something, leave a comment. I can send a paypal invoice, or you can send a check.

thanks, PF

Ladderback chair

The latest version of my JA chairs; this one I started last month during Plymouth CRAFT’s chair class & finished it up right after. Red oak, some ash rungs. Hickory bark seat.

H: 33 1/2″ seat is 17″ wide at front, 13″ deep. Seat height about 18″
$1200 plus shipping; which runs around $150 here in the US.

 

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Post & rung stool

Related to the above; I made this for a recent article in Fine Woodworking; when that photo shoot was over I stashed it in the loft & promptly forgot about it. Found it today in a pile of chairs and things. I own a John Alexander version of this item; so this one’s extra. The bark seat will last decades; but it’s just a step or so off from what it should be – strips vary a bit too much in width; and are spaced a bit too far apart. There – I’ve told you what’s wrong with it; but it’s a perfectly fine stool really. I’ve priced it to reflect my take on it –

seat height:  18″ frame is 14 1/4″ x 17″
$500 plus shipping

 

 

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Joined stool; oak with red wash – SOLD

H: 20 1/2″ top is 14″ x 15″
I had it at $850; now $750 plus shipping

This stool is like a pair I made recently for an historic house museum in that the stiles/legs are plumb, not canted in one direction like many joined stools. I added carving to the aprons of this one; two different, but related patterns from Connecticut.

 

Single-board quartersawn oak top.

Carved oak box; pine lid & bottom  – SOLD

I made this box earlier this summer; took it with me to Lost Art Press when I taught my first box class there. It’s not a copy of an existing box, but the carvings are based on some work from Connecticut.

It got a bit battered in transit; then back here in the shop something fell on the pine lid & scarred it. So a ding or two. It’s either make a new lid or lower the price. This one works just fine, and now you don’t have to worry about banging it around. Been done for you..

H: 6 1/2″  W: 18 3/4″  D: 12″
was $850, now $750  including shipping

 

Below are the two main detractions on the lid – right dead center on the end molding something fell on it. Looks like it was a chisel! Out along the back edge is some minor denting…

Desk boxSOLD

This one’s been around the block a few times. Most recently it’s featured in my book Joiners’ Work – (get the book here & make your own desk box, https://lostartpress.com/products/joiners-work )

I really like this box, but am seriously jammed for room in the house. Plus I have a very large chest of drawers to bring in the house soon, so I’d be pushing my luck to get this & that in. It’s a copy of one I saw many years ago, made in Braintree, Massachusetts about 1670-1700. Red and white oak, white pine bottom. Hand-made iron hinges. 4 drawers inside, two tills and a tray. Great thing about it is your family can’t pile anything on top of it, so you can get at its contents easily.

H: 11 1/2″ W: 24 1/2″  D: 16 1/4″  height at the front is 6 1/2″

Was $2,000. Now $1,600 plus shipping.

 

 

Carved panel; Alaskan Yellow cedar – SOLD

I’ve said it before, but this is really & truly the last piece of this wood that I have. Working this wood was like nothing I’ve ever seen or felt before. Or since. There wasn’t enough wood to re-saw and make a small box, so I carved this large panel with a design found in a room at the Victoria & Albert Museum. The room came from Bromley-by-Bow; maybe early 1600s.

If you’d like, I can put some screw eyes & wire on the back, or you can decide on how to display it when you get it.

H: 21 3/4″  W:  10 1/2″
$450 including shipping

 

Upcoming classes in October

Last week we announced a couple short-notice classes with Plymouth CRAFT. https://www.plymouthcraft.org/events

The lineup is Pocket Spoons with JoJo Wood and Bowl Turning with Darrick Sanderson. Two great instructors, one weekend, fabulous venue – October 5 & 6, 2019 at Overbrook House, Buzzards Bay, Massachusetts.

JoJo Wood returns for 2 days of spoon carving. JoJo is a great teacher, and has spent a tremendous amount of time perfecting her techniques in carving. Noted for clear, distinct facets and beautiful shapes, her spoons are easily picked out of a crowd. She was here in June to teach two classes and those went over very well. This class will focus on her “pocket spoon” – it’s a social movement – you make great spoons and improve the planet at the same time.

Pocket Spoon

There’s still room in this class, so you can sign up now. October is coming soon. At some point, she’ll get sick of that trans-Atlantic flight and we won’t see her as much. Get it while you can.

Image may contain: one or more people and outdoor

Darrick’s class is essentially sold out – (there’s a waiting list) EXCEPT – we’ve kept a spot in both Darrick’s and JoJo’s for a scholarship applicant. Maybe we’ve been too quiet about this, but here’s the story, clipped from our website:

“We get it that registration fees can be a stretch for plenty of people. A community conversation about how to foster broader, more diverse, participation in green woodworking began at Greenwood Fest 2018 and is still ongoing; many present last June made donations to support that goal. Since then we at CRAFT have been trying to figure out the best way to extend the largesse of those generous folks who can afford it to those who cannot.”

Our audience has responded very well to our request for help in offering these scholarships, for which we are grateful.

Read about it here: https://www.plymouthcraft.org/craft-green-woodworking-sch

At the bottom of that page are two buttons – one for “apply” and one for “donate”

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My own classes – I have two left for this year that have space. Both at Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking. One’s a 2-day class in carving oak patterns; Sept 28 & 29;  https://www.schoolofwoodworking.com/class-schedule/29-speciality-weekend-classes/626-carving-in-the-17th-century-style-with-peter-follansbee-2.html

carvings for new chest

the other is a 5-day class in making (& carving) an oak box with a pine lid; October 12-16.

https://www.schoolofwoodworking.com/class-schedule/37-week-long-classes/635-make-a-carved-oak-box-with-peter-follansbee.html

 

 

Chair assembly pt 1

I spent some time recently working on the undercarriage of the “democratic” chair designed by Curtis Buchanan. First, a very modern convenience; an Ipad on the bench, running Curtis’ excellent video series on youtube, so I can follow along with what he’s doing. https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLL_KlogKd1xf9GYjSfBVLKTp8KngC8q7j

 

Here, I’m set up to bore the legs for the side stretchers.

I flipped the chair seat around to get at the other legs – Curtis’ bench is in the midst of the shop, so he can get around the whole frame. I shoved some short alignment pegs in the bored mortises, to help line up the bit extension for the next set of holes. We used to use these in the JA chairs; not necessary but they don’t hurt.

I got smart & got the Ipad off the bench  – clamped it to the window frame. I got afraid I was going to smack into it. I can fix a busted chair part…but not the electronics.

Here I’m test-fitting the legs with their side stretchers in place. Gotta spring them a bit to get them in the seat mortises.

It’s been over 25 years since I made Windsor chairs with any regularity; and much of the process has been simplified since then. I spoke with Curtis last week, and we talked about how we used to bore this stuff, how to find the angles, etc. It’s all so much more direct now. The center stretcher angle he finds by setting two sticks (in my case, 2 rulers) = one across the side stretchers right above the mortise locations, the other sighted to line up with the first. Then strike a line across the seat – that’s the angle! I added a square to double-check the alignment of the two sticks.

Here’s where I got to – the rear posts are just jammed in place. I’ve caught up to Curtis’ videos. (well, except for leveling the feet) I could just bop ahead, but I might as well wait & see what he’s got up to in fitting the crest and spindles. I have plenty to do in the meantime.

This chair has a white pine seat, ash legs & stretchers. Posts are red oak, the spindles and crest I have made for it are hickory.

 

still doing to-be-dones

In between teaching and other commitments, I’m still plugging away at unfinished projects. This morning I went out to the shop and had a look around. I’m back to working on this chest of drawers. The morning sun created a visual assault on the moldings and turnings.

I’ve been cutting the joinery in the lower case – it’ll be three drawers of just about equal height. Then the upper case (above) is technically three as well, but two shallow side-by-side drawers, over a very deep single drawer. The lower case is just about done framing now. I have two horizontal pine panels to make for the rear. Then it’s onto the drawers. The side panels are re-sawn Spanish cedar, to match the side panels of the upper case.

There’s mortises chopped into the top edges of the lower case’s upper side rails. Tenons will project above the rail to engage related mortises in the bottom edges of the upper case. This will keep the cases aligned. Gravity does the rest.

I’ve sort of made up the format of the drawer fronts. I stumbled across a quilted/rippled board of maple one day ages ago. So I’ve resawn it as well, making thin plaques that get housed flush in the drawer front. Then Spanish cedar moldings will frame around them. And I’ll have leftovers of both that I’ll make into small boxes…

Meanwhile, I’ve been following along with Curtis Buchanan’s democratic chair videos – https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLL_KlogKd1xf9GYjSfBVLKTp8KngC8q7j and I’m almost caught up. Next up is  boring for the stretchers and assembling the undercarriage.

For that I just got this Millers Falls 18″ bit extension – it fits both auger bits and the more modern straight-shank bits. (or the ones I’ve tried so far, at least.)

An auger bit and an old (30 year old?) Stanley power-bore bit, with the business end of the Millers Falls extension.

I thought it said No 3; but I put my glasses on and see that it’s No 35. I think they came in other sizes too, 24″ maybe…

and last, this amount to just about my entire summer’s worth of spoon carving – 3/4 done rhododendron spoon. I’ll add it to the “to be finished” stuff.

Looking at some chairs

I first learned how to make ladderback chairs based on Alexander’s book, Make a Chair from a Tree. Then later, I studied a thin slice of furniture history from the perspective of those who made it. So what I know, or think I know, is pretty narrowly focused. There’s lots of kinds of chairs; generally I break them down into two forms – Joined chairs, like this one:

And turned chairs, like this one: 

turned chair, ash w rush seat

For now, I’ll concentrate on turned chairs.  Whether they have a board seat, fiber seat; spindles in the back, or slats – the common feature they all have is the round mortise & tenon joint. I think of JA’s chair as a turned chair that isn’t turned. Alexander’s earliest chairs were turned; here is a one-slat Alexander chair all in hickory, with a paper imitation rush seat. Made c. 1974. 

By 1976, Alexander’s chairs parts were shaved with a drawknife rather than turned. There is a long tradition of “un-turned” turned chairs, some reaching back to the 16th & 17th centuries. One helpful reference I found when studying London records was this, from the Company of Turners:

“20th February 1615 It was directed that the makers of chairs about the City, who were strangers and foreigners, were to bring them to the Hall to be searched according to the ordinances. When they were thus brought and searched, they were to be bought by the Master and Wardens at a price fixed by them, which was 6s per dozen for plain matted chairs and 7s per dozen for turned matted chairs. The effect of such an order…all chairs which came into London had to be submitted to the Company and if approved, were taken over at the fixed price. The Turners reaped the benefit by the removal of possible competition.” – this quote is from The Worshipful Company of Turners of London – Its Origin and History A.C. Stanley-Stone, (London: Lindley-Jones & Brother, 1925)

My italics. If “plain” matted chairs are distinct from “turned” matted chairs, then I conclude they aren’t turned. “Matted” refers to the fiber seat, usually rush. Paintings & prints are helpful to a degree in seeing what sort of chairs were in use at a given time. There’s loads of examples. This painting by Cornelius Decker (1618-1678) shows a 2-slat shaved chair in the lower right corner. 

Looking at it in detail, I see a few things. Square posts (well, sometimes they’re rectangular, but not round, thus “square”). Only 8 rungs, and the lower ones are quite close to the seat rungs. Doesn’t offer much strength that way. Either the chair has wracked so the rear posts are now canted back, or it was bored to achieve that. Rush seat. Moving those lower rungs down would strengthen the chair.

 

Meeting in a tavern, by De Jongh (1616-1679)

The chair in the lower right hand corner, has some perspective problems. But we can see several details. Might be 12 rungs, it’s at least 11; through mortises; a cushion; square posts.

this detail from Michiel Sweets’ (1618-1664) “The Academy”: 8 rungs, through mortises, rush seat, 3 slats. No bend to rear posts. Small chair.

Sweerts, The Academy

A mezzotint by Wallerent Vallaint (1623-1677). This is a detail; all we can tell is the chair has square posts, round side rungs, through mortise for a very tall slat. Either intentionally bored to cant the rear posts back, or wracked to just-about-falling-down.

Same artist, different chair. Note the raked rear post, clearly shown here. I’m of the opinion this is intentional to give the chair a bit more comfort than if it were bored so the rear posts were plumb. This time, two rear rails, with turned spindles between them. Discard any notion this chair was shaved/square posts because there was no lathe! Very low seat, allows you to work easily in your lap. Only 8 rungs. Rush seat.

Vallaint, boy in the studio

I made lots of shaved chairs in the years when I wasn’t making JA style chairs – mine were more like these period-style chairs. I could make the chair frame in a day, maybe 6 hours. The rush seat took me as long or longer! This one is maple posts and white oak slats. Rungs might be white oak or ash. Rear posts hewn above the seat to cant them back just a bit.

plain matted chair, PF

more of this sort of stuff here; Alexander, Trent & I (mostly Trent driving this article) on shaved chairs – http://www.chipstone.org/article.php/581/American-Furniture-2008/Early-American-Shaved-Post-and-Rung-Chairs