we started spring cleaning here yesterday. I spent the day in the back yard, burning the winter’s collection of brush/branches, etc. It’s a once-a-year chance to spend the entire day by the riverbank…with nothing to do but feed and watch a fire.
I saw lots of birds during the day’s fire. Didn’t get shots of most of them, but here’s a few. (I don’t know what this looks like on your end, but when I preview it, if I click on the photos, they get pretty large, makes them easier to see. sometimes 2 clicks.) There were ospreys around much of the day, but only briefly when I had a camera in my hands:
The cormorants were fishing; but they were quite skittish. Here they are high-tailing it away:
If I was sitting on the riverbank, the red-breasted mergansers paid no attention to me;
when I was standing they either went up the other side of the river, or flew off.
This week I have a few things coming up. Going out to answer a call “Do you want some wide red oak?” – pretty simple question to answer. So some log-splitting coming up. Then I have to plan out my demo/talk for Fine Woodworking Live http://www.finewoodworkinglive.com/ – it’s my first time working with them. Looks like it will be quite an event.
thanks for all the support from those who have ordered the new videos. I really appreciate it. My setup was a bit clunky, but I went in & made it so those ordering both titles are only paying one shipping fee. I refunded any who got caught in the earlier “double-shipping” debacle. https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/new-dvds-carved-oak-boxes-hewing-wooden-bowls-spring-2017/ I have some oak boxes underway, and some hewn bowls. I’ll shoot some of it soon & post some stuff here so any who have not seen the details can get an idea of what the fuss is about…
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.
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.
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.
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)
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.
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.
and one with two drawers – we saw only two of those in our research, there might be four now
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.
It feels like a long time since I’ve written about furniture-making. Shop-building & spoon carving have taken up a lot of space here. This week, I’m building a stool that reaches back to the beginnings of this blog in 2008. Here’s one I made many years ago for the museum where I used to work. These things don’t exist in the wild – not 17th century ones anyway. Chairs built along these lines are common in England and elsewhere. Not New England. These stools are found frequently in Dutch paintings. Note that the three stretchers are at different heights. The seat rails are all at the same height. More on this below.
I am a joiner who does some turning, not a turner by any means. Especially these days. My lathe had been packed away in storage for 18 months. That’s a long hiatus between turnings! This is almost where the lathe will be in the shop, I plan on moving it further back into the corner when the real setup happens. The pole is up in the peak, about 14′ above my head.
These turnings are pretty basic, just a large gouge & a couple of skew chisels. Wood is straight-grained ash. Riven & hewn before mounting on the lathe.
one main feature of these stools, and the related chairs, is the joinery at the seat level. All the seat rails are at the same height, so the joints intersect. A large rectangular tenon gets pierced by a smaller turned tenon. Like this:
Here I am scribing a centerline on the end grain of the seat rail. This is the basis for the layout of the tenon.
Sawing the shoulders.
Splitting the cheeks.
Paring to the finished dimension.
The seat rails get a groove plowed in them to receive the beveled panel that is the seat. Here’s how I held it to the bench for cutting with the plow plane. The rectangular tenon is pressed into the teeth of the bench hook, and a notched stock pressed against the round tenon. Holdfast keeps that stick in place. I eyeball that the rectangular tenon is parallel to the benchtop, then the groove goes in the resulting top center of the rail’s surface.
Just a pointer to go read about Terence McSweeney’s visit to Tamás Gyenes’ house in Hungary. Terence & I met last year when he came to a box-making class I taught in Somerset, England. I was thrilled to hear he made it over to Hungary. What an experience that must have been! I swiped his photo above…but for the real thing, just go see his write up. It says part 1, which implies there’ll be a part 2…thanks, Terence & Tamas.
After Plymouth CRAFT’s Greenwood Fest 2016, the biggest problem I have is what to do with all that inspiration. I remember the first evening all the instructors were on-site- it struck me that we had a great lineup assembled, and that I wouldn’t be able to see much of it/them. It’s the nature of working an event like this, rather than attending it. But it was so exciting seeing everyone, and comparing ideas, thoughts, plans – and then the snippets I did see really got the juices flowing.
We had Beth Moen and Dave Fisher carving bowls with axe and adze, contrasted with Derek (non-stop) Sanderson and Jarrod Stone Dahl turning them on Jarrod’s pole lathe. The spoon contrast was between the Woodland Pixie and the Viking – JoJo Wood and Jögge Sundqvist. Two very different approaches, but both so engrossing that I wished I had eight arms, so I could carve more spoons every day. I showed JoJo a large crook I was going to make a spoon from. “What would you do?” I asked. “Throw that out and carve some straight-grained spoons” came the reply. And yet I hear Jögge talking about “form follows fibers” – there ain’t no one way, I guess.
After the event, a bunch of us were talking about what worked, and what could stand some tweaking. April Stone Dahl said earlier she wondered why she was included, not being a spoon carver. Nonsense, says me. I wanted basketry to be a big part of the Greenwood theme, and April’s are some of the nicest baskets I know, without being precious and dainty.
Tim Manney’s approach to both spoon carving and chair making are so different from my own, but he has a tremendous grasp of both crafts. I really like Tim’s work, and his teaching style is very engrossing. He always had a crowd around his bench.
Pret Woodburn and Rick McKee are not as well-known to the web-based woodworking community as our other instructors. But if you’ve been around a Plymouth CRAFT event, then you got to know them. Together they have hewn more wood & talked to more people than anyone except maybe me (well, Roy Underhill too…but you get the point) and they taught these skills for years beyond count. It was a great thrill for me to combine them with these far-flung friends. I knew the fit would be perfect, and it was.
When we decided to call our festival “greenwood” something seemed familiar…and that’s how I thought of having Scott Landis come give us a glimpse into the organization known as Greenwood, and the wonderful work they do, making the world a better place through woodworking and green wood. http://www.greenwoodglobal.org/
The classes afterwards were an added bonus, Tim, Dave and I hung around, while JoJo and Jögge had to work. So we got to rubberneck in their classes, and keep on exploring what to do with sharp edges and lignin fibers.
Back home, I’m working on oak furniture, spoon and bowl carving, a bench in catalpa and white oak, and Pret & I are about to resume some carpentry on the workshop. And I’m eyeing some half-finished baskets, too. If I could only skip sleeping….then I could utilize all this inspiration.
Here’s two views – first, the video our friend Harry Kavouksorian put together for us. Thanks, Harry.
Back when I started green woodworking, chairs were my thing. I learned them first from John (Jennie) Alexander’s book Make a Chair from a Tree, then slightly later from Alexander first-hand. In that book is the incredibly amazing technique of stripping hickory saplings for the inner bark, to be used as a seat-weaving material. To me, the best seating material going – looks and feels better the more you use it. (the notion for this photo came from one Tim Manney did a few weeks ago – thanks, Tim)
Like pounding ash splints for basket-making, peeling hickory for the inner bark is a concept that amazes me every time I do it. I rarely get to harvest any hickory bark these days, but keep a stash of strips for basket work. I was lashing the rims onto some baskets the other day, and although I have some very fine smooth ash splints that are ideal for this work, I also have some leftover hickory bark. Unbeatable.
Working with it reminded me of two references to it in Mark Twain’s work – the first one I remembered is from the Autobiography, (the modern vol 1; for that matter the old volume 1 too) When describing his uncle’s farm in Missouri, he mentioned:
“Down the forest slopes to the left were the swings. They were made of bark stripped from hickory saplings. When they became dry they were dangerous. They usually broke when a child was forty feet in the air, and this was why so many bones had to be mended every year.”
In the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Tom Sawyer is advising Huck Finn to get a sheet with which Jim will make a rope ladder in planning his escape. Huck has other ideas:
“Why, Tom Sawyer, how you talk,” I says; “Jim ain’t got no use for a rope ladder.”
“He has got use for it. How you talk, you better say; you don’t know nothing about it. He’s got to have a rope ladder; they all do.”
“What in the nation can he do with it?”
“Do with it? He can hide it in his bed, can’t he?” That’s what they all do; and he’s got to, too. Huck, you don’t ever seem to want to do anything that’s regular; you want to be starting something fresh all the time. S’pose he don’t do nothing with it? ain’t it there in his bed, for a clew, after he’s gone? and don’t you reckon they’ll want clews? Of course they will. And you wouldn’t leave them any? That would be a pretty howdy-do, wouldn’tit! I never heard of such a thing.”
“Well,” I says, “if it’s in the regulations, and he’s got to have it, all right, let him have it; because I don’t wish to go back on no regulations; but there’s one thing, Tom Sawyer—if we go to tearing up our sheets to make Jim a rope ladder, we’re going to get into trouble with Aunt Sally, just as sure as you’re born. Now, the way I look at it, a hickry-bark ladder don’t cost nothing, and don’t waste nothing, and is just as good to load up a pie with, and hide in a straw tick, as any rag ladder you can start; and as for Jim, he ain’t had no experience, and so he don’t care what kind of a—”
“Oh, shucks, Huck Finn, if I was as ignorant as you I’d keep still—that’s what I’d do. Who ever heard of a state prisoner escaping by a hickry-bark ladder? Why, it’s perfectly ridiculous.”
It’s November here now, no time for harvesting any bark. But come spring, I’m going to keep my eyes out for a good hickory sapling. My stash is getting low.