Twain didn’t really say “reports of my death are greatly exaggerated” but it’s a good line. In a similar vein, if you’ve heard that Plymouth CRAFT is defunct – it ain’t so. We just sat out the pandemic and then some. There was no need for us to dive in earlier, so we just waited. But one thing or another has happened lately and we’re pleased as punch to have JoJo Wood coming back to teach our first next workshop. I’m late in getting this notice out so I’ll just shut up & put the links in.
Dates are Aug 1 & 2 and 4 & 5. At the Wildlands Trust building in Plymouth Massachusetts.
I see on the events page that Paula has posted that I’m teaching the JA chair this fall. That’s true, but I think the dates listed there are speculation. I guess she & I need to get our shit together. We’re out of practice. Come take a class with JoJo – I’ll see you there.
In between long sessions trying to get video of the heron striking chipmunks and even longer sessions working on the videos for the joined chest series, I’ve begun another Alpine chair/brettstuhl/stabelle/what-do-you-call-’em chairs. I found a couple more boards of butternut for the seat and back(s) and have some ash legs I roughed out a while ago.
The shape of these uprights & crest pieces is derived from a photo Chris Schwarz and his Chair-Chat friends Rudy & Klaus sent me. The carvings I made up – and it’s weird to have chip carving mixed with gouge-cut carvings. But I wanted to fill the spaces as quickly as I could. So that’s what I ended up with.
This time the battens are dovetailed with a plane. My notebook tells me it was 7 months ago when I last did one this way. So some head-scratching coming up to cut the housings accurately. I guess the problem is laying them out accurately. Once that’s done cutting them shouldn’t be that big a deal.
I bore the waste out of these mortises for the back. First in the seat itself. Then once I’ve cut the housings, I’ll insert the battens and finish boring & cutting those mortises. Clunky approach but it helps me get cleaner results.
Today I posted the next video in the chest series. Making the floor boards. 5/8″ white pine, tongue & grooved edges. It’s always a fun part of making the chest.
The tongue & groove is a funny one. Not made with matched planes. Nor is it just a rabbet on the top & bottom face – for some reason they rabbeted the top and beveled the bottom to make the tongue. So that’s what I did.
I didn’t bother with a trailer, I was tired of computer work & wanted to go work on the chair. There’s plenty of trailers for other episodes if you would like to see what the videos look like. You can find the trailers here https://www.youtube.com/user/MrFollansbee/featured
I just uploaded to vimeo-on-demand the most recent video in my series on making a carved joined chest. This one is carving the panels. It’s about 90 minutes long and took me a ridiculous amount of time to put together. These chests have 4 panels of the same pattern across the front. So I shot video of carving 3 of them. On 2 cameras. And had a crazy number of clips (over 80!) to choose from, trying to get just the right angle, just the right detail, etc.
I always say this, but these chests are my certified favorites. Back in the late 1980s when Jennie Alexander first hooked me into studying 17th-century oak furniture, the subject was a cupboard by these joiners – William Savell and his sons John & William.
Since then, I’ve acquired and restored a beat-up one and seen a few other beauties.
The first carvings I learned to do were the lunettes and panels in these chests. And I’ve carved them here & there ever since. There’s a section in my book on carving them – but I’ve never carved the panels on video until now.
When I started this video series last winter, after seeing Pete Galbert’s series, I expected it to run about 12 videos and maybe 20 hours. RIght now this is the 11th video and it’ll be up to about 12 1/2 hours thus far. So much for my estimates – the chest isn’t even assembled yet. Videos to come include cutting & fitting the floor (next time), ditto the till, fitting the rear panel, then assembling the chest. Making, carving & fitting the drawer. Making & hinging the lid. I’m sure I’ve forgotten one or two. Sharpening carving tools – I can’t believe I agreed to that, but it’s about time I dealt with it.
Meanwhile here’s today’s trailer about the Panel-Carving video. The video is available as a stand-alone (each episode is) for $15 or as part of the whole kit and caboodle for $100. See vimeo.com/ondemand/follansbeejoinedchest
Easier, even. Last week some friends came by for a long-delayed visit with a distinct focus. Lately, Rick McKee https://www.instagram.com/medullary_rick/?hl=en & Justin Keegan have been carving spoons a lot and they came over to see a pile of them for ideas & inspiration. Pret came too, but he’s got a slew of spoons at his house that parallels my pile. I haven’t carved any spoons for over a year so I wasn’t sure what I had to add other than access.
We spent quite a bit of time looking at examples from makers known & unknown. Tip of the iceberg. In the course of things, Justin found one he really loved and asked who made it. “Oh, an English carver named Adam Hawker.” He about flipped out – has apparently been stalking Adam’s spoons on the web. https://www.instagram.com/adamhawker1/?hl=en
What I didn’t expect is that I’d be inspired as well. Their excitement got me to dig through my basket & carve an old dry cherry spoon, then I got out some fresh apple & hewed & carved another the next day. It remains to be seen if I finish either of them – but at this point I still like them. Why risk that by finishing them?
I’ve been working away on the joined chest video series. I made the floor boards last week – white pine, tongue & grooved.
Then yesterday I carved the first 2 of four panels.
Hopefully next week I’ll cut the till parts and do the assembly. Meanwhile, I added a video yesterday to the site – cutting the joinery for the rear section and fitting panels in the ends. I hope to have these next 2 videos (the floor and the carvings) next week as well. There’s a link in the sidebar – for some reason I can’t make it link in here today. Instead it throws in this trailer for the overview of the project…
It’s been a while since I had stock on hand to sell. I finished an oak box recently and dug out a butternut one from the loft. Up there was a ladderback chair as well. So here goes. If you’d like any of these, leave me a comment and we’ll sort out the details, usually it’s either paypal or a check. Prices include shipping in US. And just a reminder that I take custom orders as well – I have some chairs underway for people who ordered them.
CARVED OAK BOX H: 8″ W: 24″ D: 13 1/2″
white pine lid & bottom $1,400 includes shipping in US.
The inside features a lidded till. The sides and bottoms of tills are made from what I find around the shop. In this case, a black walnut till side.
CARVED BOX – SOLD butternut and oak H: 9 1/4″ W: 23 3/4″ D: 15″ $1,400 includes shipping in US
This box is butternut (juglans cinerea) except for the rear board & cleats under the lid, which are red oak. It’s a big box, the boards I had on hand dictated the size. And in turn allowed a lot of carving…
The end view
And a detail of the front –
LADDERBACK CHAIR red oak posts & slats, hickory rungs. Shaker tape seat H: 33 1/4″ W: (across front posts): 17 1/4″ D: (from rear post-tops to front posts): 16″ Seat height 17 1/4″ $1,200
This is one of my chairs patterned after Jennie Alexander’s chair. Mine’s a bit heavier in its parts (& overall) than JA’s. But hers were the lightest of all.
Roy Underhill is a bench-clutterer. There, I said it. But, I am as well. As hard as I try to not be – I am. Once I asked Roy about Peter Ross’ shop – it’s so neat & organized. “Why can’t we be like him?” Roy told me he asked Peter the secret one time and got the answer:
“Never put anything in a temporary place.”
I have no idea if Peter really said that. (maybe he’ll let us know…or maybe it’s better just thinking it’s true.) But I think of it all the time. Like today when I spent easily 90 minutes looking for a plow plane iron. The chest I’m building has 2 different size grooves. One for the oak panels, about 2 1/2-sixteenths. And one for the floor of the chest and the rear pine panel – about 1/4”.
I was working on a video about plowing the floor grooves last week or even the week before. I switched out my standard panel groove-iron and put it in a safe place. Inserted the 1/4” iron, plowed the floor grooves, finished the video. And set up to work on some chairs I had kicking around.
Today I went to resume the chest project, shooting the next video segment – about framing the rear section of the chest. So I cut the joinery for the side frame & panels – where they meet the rear stiles. And went looking for my narrower plow iron. I thought I had put it in a top tray in my tool chest, tucked in with some carving tools. Didn’t see it. Maybe the window-sill. Nope. On & on. Pulled the bench out away from the wall & swept under it. Lifted the tool chest up on some blocks and swept under it – that never happens.So the whole time I spent looking for it, I kept thinking this is what I get for not putting things away. Wondered did it get swept into a bag of shavings. Thought about going in & ordering a new (old) set from Patrick Leach. Then gave up & plowed a slightly wider groove in the rear stiles – it’ll work but it doesn’t match what meets it.
Then I found it. I had looked right at it, right where I first thought it was.
In between some lackluster birding outings this month, I’ve been building some ladderback chairs and weaving hickory bark seats. And working on my “Making a Joined Carved Chest” video series. Last week I uploaded the most recent episode, “Joinery Test-Fit pt. 1.
This one’s about test-fitting the joinery for the front and ends of the chest. Some plow plane work, paring the tenons, keeping track of what goes where. It’s “Joinery Test-Fit, part 1” because the rear section of these chests is a subject all its own. So that’ll be part 2.
So far there are 8 or 9 videos in the series, most are around an hour long, some 1 1/2 hours. After the first introductory episode they are:
Splitting, Riving & Hewing
Planing Riven Green Oak
Planes & Green Oak: cleaning & sharpening
Finish Planing & Layout of Joinery
Carving the Top Rail
There’s also one about Sharpening the Hewing Hatchet.
Still to come are two more on carving – the arched panels and the drawer front. One about sharpening the carving tools.
Cutting & fitting the till, same for the floor. Making & fitting the drawer. The lid, hinges & cleats. Making the pins and assembly. There’s probably more to it than that.
Right now it’s just under 10 hours. I had estimated about 15 hours, but I was way off. Now I guess it’s more like 20. It’s a lot to plow through for both me & the viewer. But if you’re interested in how these chests are made, all of it will be covered in detail.
Below is a 5-plus minute trailer of the newest episode. This can give you an idea of what the videos look and sound like. The videos themselves are at vimeo.com/ondemand/follansbeejoinedchest – there you can buy the whole series or individual videos.
A week ago I was still wearing wool sweaters. Yesterday shorts & a t-shirt. Warm weather is perfect for weaving a hickory bark seat. It’s one of my favorite parts of making the Jennie Alexander-style chairs.
Last year I peeled a few hickory trees with Brendan Gaffney. We got a lot of bark in just 2 days of work, but to do so we took it off the tree pretty thick.
I like to do it that way because I want to then split the bark in half before weaving with it. Thin bark makes a better seat than thicker bark – in my opinion. The photo up top shows two coils – on the right is the bark as we took it off the tree. The one on the left I just split in half lengthwise. Both are between 25′ and 30′ long.
Splitting it is a fine art – but it yields fabulous bark. I weave the seat with the inside half. So the inner bark of the inner bark. I score across it half-way with a knife, then peel the two halves apart. You have to watch carefully – it can run out like splitting wood with a froe. It’s slow-going but worth the time spent. Not all hickory bark will divide this way. If it won’t split, you can shave it down thinner with a spoke shave. That’s slower still…
Then weaving it is a walk in the park.
This is yesterday’s seat. Now it needs to dry, at which point the strips shrink in width. Then I pack the strips closer together and add a few filler strips. The thing I like best about hickory bark seats is that they look great the minute you finish them, then they continue to improve as you use them.
Last fall I shot a video of how I work a hickory bark seat. It’s long but covers splitting the bark & weaving the seat.
A couple of things. First is the next installment in the Joined Chest series on vimeo on demand is ready. It’s about some scratch-stock molding, then cutting mortise & tenon joints and plowing the panel grooves. Starting to look like chest parts now.
The next part is a note from Drew Langsner –
back in August 2020 I posted a note about Drew’s medical scene at the time – well the good news is he’s recovered and was catching up on some old internet-reading recently. He didn’t see all the well-wishes that came his way at the time. So here’s what he wrote:
Messing around with iPad I stumbled on your post of appreciation and hopes for recovery. And then came across all of the good wishes from so many friends. I wish I had seen and thanked everybody. Maybe it can still happen…
Thanks for the good thoughts and wishes! I’m doing well enough; and trying to do better. Taking care of our 100 acres is consuming much time and effort, But it’s where we want to be. My art project has become a series of sculptures — This is Not a Chair. From old chairs that are hand made and the Habitat ReStore. Still shaving kindling with a drawknife. This time of year -early May – I try for some small boat sailing once a week. With Covid lingering, climate change, and age, I’m reluctant to get into an aluminum tube so the travel kit is in the attic. It was great working with Lost Art Press on the new Country Woodcraft: Then and Now. Come by for a visit If you’re in western North Carolina. Drew”
Here’s a couple of Drew’s sculptures from the “This is Not a Chair” series:
I’ve been working on the chest-video series lately. I haven’t made a chest in a couple of years so this is a lot of fun to do again. The past few days I’ve been catching up on the joinery – the video footage is shot but I had more joints to cut before I can shoot the next steps.
I probably spent most of 2 days shooting various angles on mortising so once that was done it seemed easy to just go in and cut mortises. But as soon as I thought how nice it was to work without the camera, I realized I could use some still shots. So back to the tripod and camera angles, etc. But it was still fun and much easier to shoot stills than video. What I blather about doesn’t matter in still photos.
Now I’ve got the whole front frame (and much of the two side frames) cut. Time to finish the videos on the front framing and then I go on to the front panels. Those I’ve never carved on video before. They’re in the book Joiner’s Work but this will give me a chance to delve more deeply into that pattern.
The only other thing is that it’s May. Bird migration has begun for real here in New England. I’ve made a few short trips with our friend Marie to see what’s coming in. Yesterday’s haul included this wood thrush (Hylocichla mustelina) He was hard enough to find and I couldn’t get him in any good light. His song is one of the wonders of spring in the woods.
And whenever we hear thrushes in the woods, we know we’ll also hear and hopefully see, ovenbirds and towhees. This ovenbird (Seiurus aurocapilla) looked me right in the eye (in the lens, I guess)
The eastern towhees (Pipilo erythrophthalmus) were all throughout the woods, as were the ovenbirds. Each spring lately I get what I call the “one-day towhee” here at the shop.
Our yard is not the right habitat for them, not enough woods. But last week, one came out from under the holly tree, as it does each year, for one day. Back & forth, scratching in the leaves and junk. Gone the next day.
And the Baltimore orioles (Icterus galbula) are everywhere. Including outside my shop window. And that means yet another camera in the shop, so I can be ready. Binoculars too for the far-away birds.