back at it

I got back to some bench work the other day. Began fitting bottoms to three boxes that have been waiting around…

Sharpened the planes, thicknessed some white pine (above) and trimmed it to size. Jointing the edge here, prior to planing the bevels where the bottom will overhang the box’s sides & front.

Here’s the bevels, and pilot holes for the nails that will secure the bottom in place.

This small, 4-square reamer is one of my favorite tools. Here I used it to open up those pilot holes from below, to match the tapered shanks of the hand-made nails.

Nailing the bottom on – two in each side. Sometimes I add a 3rd in the front edge. Depends on how nail-rich I feel.

This one gets iron hinges too. Here’s the holdfast pinning the box down to the bench so I can bore and install the hinges.

A detail of hammering the gimmal/snipe-bill hinges in. That same reamer opened up this pilot hole as well.

Bent on the inside, about to be clinched.

Lids for these boxes before too long. Here’s a snapshot of the three underway…that desk box goes all the way back to my book Joiner’s Work. I needed a few photos for that book, and had to make this box to get the shots. It’s been waiting to get finished since then, maybe 3 years?

No photo description available.

All the details about making boxes like this are in my book Joiner’s Work and a DVD I did with Lie-Nielsen – and scattered throughout this blog over the years too. If you need to know more, here’s links and don’t forget the search button in the sidebar –

Joiner's Work

https://www.lie-nielsen.com/products/carved-oak-boxes-with-peter-follansbee?path=home-education-videos&node=4243

Then yesterday I took some time to go birding with Marie Pelletier & Paula Marcoux – lousy light for photos, but a nice day down at the beach. Saw piping plovers (Charadrius melodus), including 3 chicks. Here’s one of those chicks. Paula’s been one of the monitors for this beach, these chicks are now just shy of 3 weeks old.

There’s maybe 3 pairs of killdeer (Charadrius vociferus) nesting there too. Here’s one of them.

On our way out, we saw a black & white warbler (Mniotilta varia) feeding a chick – deep in the bushes it was hard to get enough light for a shot. This is the juvenile.

 

Speaking of  Paula – she’s done a couple videos recently, one about making chive pancakes and the other about brown bread – see them here – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCbDDMEyH2wQ57gpgS1gDv8Q 

Some patterns I carve, some I don’t

I’m still nursing a sore back. slowly working away at one thing or another. Past couple of days it’s been the next set of drawings for this project – https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/2020/06/17/working-on-drawings/

(Yes, I know the first set’s not ready yet, but I have to do something…)

Over the years, there are some things that I just won’t bother carving. This chest of mine is an example –

I copied the two panels and wide muntin as closely as I could from an original I measured 20 years ago. But the bottom rail is made up from related works. Here’s the bottom rail from the original:

bottom rail, 1669 Devon chest; 2 panels

It’s clearly accomplished carving, all those curves flow nicely, nothing too abrupt to jar the eye. But it’s so boring. No background, no shaping. Just the repeating leaf-shapes. So I’ve never carved that pattern – and it appears again & again in the overall works. Here it is on one of the New England examples, running up the stiles also. I guess the only way I’d bother with this pattern is if I were hired to copy verbatim an existing work with it.

here’s a variation, with an extra outline and some textured punch work where you might remove background otherwise. This one’s a vertical muntin.

muntin Devon chest

A student at Lost Art Press last fall showed me these photos taken from the web – I had never seen this chest before. I really liked that center panel, but the bottom rail is a dud.

One  I have tinkered with a number of times is sort of in between. Here’s an original example, a muntin from a chest in Darlington, Devon.

 

And a chest at Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford, Connecticut. Made in Ipswich, MA. Both stiles, top rail & both muntins use this pattern.

 

Below I cropped the top rail from that photo – not sure it will come through in detail.

A drawing I did of that pattern a couple of years ago. Either mine, or the original, is upside-down. I’ve seen it carved both ways.

This pattern is a bit hard to wrap my head around. I broke it down to three elements, (here in black, green & blue) and then these just lay against each other as the pattern repeats. (my full drawing above is 2 1/3 repeats).

It’s a weird one. I’ve only carved it a few times –

joined chest, c. 2001
detail

Most recently I carved this design when I built the shop in 2016. Did it twice then, because this one’s on the wrong side of the brace, now covered with sheathing for a few decades.

So keep in mind that my “take” on these Devon, England/Ipswich, Massachusetts carvings are skewed. I take what I need, and leave the rest.

Basket Making video: Pounding and Peeling Splints

This one is long. And the first 10 minutes have too much background noise; wind & traffic. When the wind is from the east here, I get more traffic noise from rte 3. And just above the area I’m working in outdoors is our road, so I was sort of wedged between the devil & the deep blue sea.

But I hope it’s worth it – this video shows how I pound apart the billets to make splints, then how to “dress” them, both by scraping them with a knife, and splitting them in half. Then how to trim them to width. All this work, combined with the previous video, is preparation of the material. Then comes weaving…

I think I wore Daniel out editing this one. So I have to give him some time off before the next one…

There will be a few baskets for sale soon. Save up…

Strapwork

I haven’t been carving lately, but I’ve been thinking a lot about it as I work on the patterns’ drawings. Earlier this week, it was “strapwork.”

That’s a term art historians apply to a group of carvings (& other decoration) that mimic iron straps bound around woodwork. Or so it seems to me, anyway. This style of engraving by de Vries is often cited as an example when discussing (the few) New England examples, or the English ones – but it is only related in concept, not in details.

I first carved it about 20 years ago, one of my early attempts is incorporated in the headboard of this bedstead; two large horizontal panels:

bedstead headboard

My most recent example went into this wainscot chair that’s now in the loft waiting to be finished. 

 

The most extensive research into this particular pattern is Anthony Wells-Cole’s 1981 article “Oak Bed at Montacute: A Study in Mannerist Decoration” in Furniture History. That article runs down a lot of examples in and around Exeter, England. Recently, I sat down with some of the illustrations from that article and searched the web for newer photographs of some of the monuments Wells-Cole cited. (if you have access through JSTOR you can read it here https://www.jstor.org/stable/23404733?seq=1 )

(I’ve not seen any of these monuments – I clipped all these photos off the web. Some wikipedia, some travel blogs, etc)

Carew family monument, 1589 Exeter Cathedrel

Fulford monument, Dunsford, Devon – Thomas Fulford died 1610.

 

Sir Thomas Harris, Cornworthy, Devon, died 1610. Monument said to be erected in 1611.

A pulpit from Iddesleigh Devon –

Many, many years ago I did see some excellent examples in Totnes, Devon:

carved panel, Totnes pews

carved pews, Totnes, Devon

The only person I know of in England these days studying this work in detail is Paul Fitzsimmons, owner of Marhamchurch Antiques. He’s a magnet for Exeter/Devon carved furniture in general, and has clustered together a great group of strapwork examples. Sadly, these days you can buy original oak furniture from him cheaper than you can buy reproductions from me! https://www.marhamchurchantiques.com/current-stock/

 

Working on Drawings

I’m on a lower-back imposed hiatus from working in the shop. (after thinking I felt better, and hewing a Dave Fisher-style bowl for a couple of days – turns out I wasn’t better yet…)

A few times here and on Instagram/FB I have mentioned a drawing project I’ve been picking at for a couple of years. During hands-on classes in carving designs, a question I often got was “Where can I get more patterns to carve?” – and I never had a good, easy answer (until my book Joiner’s Work came out).

The period furniture is found in expensive, usually out-of-print furniture history books, this blog, (un-indexed, randomly place photos of carvings) – and other less-than-ideal places. But one thing I do have is a great example/inspiration from Curtis Buchanan. For years, Curtis has had free videos on his youtube channel, showing how to make his Windsor chairs. And over on his website, measured drawings available for sale, showing all the details for each chair.

and Curtis put me onto Jeff Lefkowitz. In addition to making excellent chairs, Jeff is a drawings/plans wizard. He’s been doing Curtis’ drawings for a while, Tim Manney’s shaving horse plans, Dawson Moore’s Spoon Mule, Pete Galbert’s curved leg stool. Jeff makes everybody look good…

BUT – I don’t use measured drawings! I might carve this design today on stock 5″ wide, and next time on stock 4″ or 7″ etc.

 

 

 

I wrote to Jeff, sent him some sketches, and asked if he’d be willing to try something different. I’m doing the drawings and he’s working on the layout, format, etc. Together we’re working on getting the first set of these drawings in a coherent form that carvers can then adapt and adjust according to their needs at hand. Some of the challenges will be to convey the low-relief carvings in the drawings, but there will be (free) youtube videos accompanying the drawings.

To make them, I approach it just like I do the carvings – centerlines, compass-work, etc – but many (or most) of the shapes are achieved by tracing the gouges themselves – (this one is part of round-two, was working on it yesterday)

There will be some step-by-step outlines, some short sections of text/captions – but mostly full-scale drawings of panels, box fronts, framing members  – all meant to be a guide, not a template. The reasons I don’t use templates are principally that’s not how period work was carved. You’d then either need uniform stock from one object to the next, or a host of templates to fit different-sized panels for instance. It’s quicker to learn how to compose the designs. I’ll show you that you don’t need to be artistically-trained or gifted to do these drawings. I think it’s easier to do the carvings than the drawings. Some designs do require some free-hand lines, probably the most frightening leap of faith. I’ve brought students through it in person. That’s where I’ll use the step-by-step outlines to walk you through the difficult parts. Then things like the leaves inside this diamond-shape here are just struck with gouges:

One key is learning what I call the “vocabulary” of these patterns. The first two sets I have planned all stem from oak furniture from Devon, England and Ipswich, Massachusetts. When you study these details, you’ll see various forms repeating and combining lots of ways – thus you’ll be able to fill all kinds of spaces. Here’s a drawing I did before I carved the spandrels around the doors to my shop:

 

We don’t know how long this part of the process takes, so I have no information for you about availabilty & timing. But you’ll hear about it when I know more. Jeff just got a test-printing yesterday of a sample, so we’ll know what we’re aiming for. Now to work on composing, formatting and figuring out what goes in, what gets tossed.

Lots of links so I put them all down here –

 

Links:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC2QCOxzGYG6gAqtF-1S7orw

https://www.curtisbuchananchairmaker.com/store/c1/Featured_Products.html

http://www.jefflefkowitzchairmaker.com/

https://www.timmanney.com/work/shavinghorseplans

Spoon Mule Plans

https://www.petergalbert.com/books-and-plans

Joiner's Work

the first of the basket-making videos

Daniel & I got the first video in the basket-making series done yesterday. I’ve been working almost exclusively on basket-making for a month & 1/2 or more. I shot lots of videos about it, and we’re going to sift through them and hopefully show how to make two different forms; a rectangular basket with a fixed handle,

and a round-bottom basket with a hinged, or swing, handle.

This first video is just how to split out the “billets” and then shave them all in preparation of pounding the growth rings loose from the section.


Lots to cover, I’m still making them now and shooting more as I go.

 

Basket tour pt 2

This is the bedlam that basket-making creates.

Baskets to the left:

Baskets to the right:

I grabbed this laundry basket and brought it out to the shop to measure the handles so I can copy them. I made this one in 1988.

The handles are white oak, the basket is ash. Lashing around the rims is hickory bark. That might be the 2nd lashing, it looks newer than the basket, but I forget if I re-did it.

 

It once had a braided foot running around the bottom, When that wore out, I put white oak and hickory bark “skids” on it. These save the wear & tear on the basket’s bottom.

I bought two baskets on ebay, so I could study them in detail. When I’m done I’ll sell them on to the next person, I don’t need to be collecting baskets. This one’s a real beauty, just as simple as can be. White oak throughout. Round bottom, eight uprights, seven of which are split in half to give an odd number of uprights. That way the weaving winds around and around alternating over one/under one as it goes. It’s about 10″ in diameter, and 5″+ up to the rim.

It’s in great shape, nothing missing, no major cracks that I can see yet.

The outside of the bottom:

The handle isn’t notched for the rim. It is woven into the body, and then it pokes out, gets split in half. One half weaves down the bottom, one half turns up & weaves in on itself.

The other is a rib-style basket, usually associated with Appalachia. All white oak as well.

It’s quite small, I forgot to measure it but it fits inside the other one. Just…

I made a few baskets of this form back in the 1980s, but haven’t made one since. I got fixated on New England/New York style baskets, and stuck with those. This is a fine example of that type of basket, very “workmanlike” – not a precious piece of weaving (neither of these two).

 

If anyone wants to buy the old ones, let me know. I paid $94 total for both & shipping. I’ll sell them for $35 each plus shipping. I’ll have some of my own baskets for sale in a week or two. They’ll be way more than that!

Hewing & beveling a framed panel

Daniel & I finished a video today. It’s not a new series, it’s just a stand-alone about how I hew and bevel a panel for framed work, in this case, a wainscot chair. But the steps are the same no matter what the frame & panel is for..

I’ve shot a whole multi-hour video with Lie-Nielsen about making a wainscot chair before, so for those who want to make one of these chairs, I’d aim you to LN https://www.lie-nielsen.com/products/17th-century-wainscot-chair-with-peter-follansbee?path=home-education-videos&node=4243 

thanks as always for watching, I appreciate it.

Joined Stool video series: Carving the apron

Today’s offering is an appendix to the joined stool video series; carving the apron. It’s a pattern I use frequently; it’s covered in my first video with Lie-Nielsen “17th Century New England   Carvings” https://www.lie-nielsen.com/nodes/4243/home-education-videos 

It’s also featured in my book Joiner’s Work with Lost Art Press – https://lostartpress.com/collections/books/products/joiners-work

That’s the blurbs out of the way. This video is pretty simple, it’s just 17 minutes of me carving a swath of this pattern. In this example, it’s about 10″ wide and maybe 2 3/4″ high. (I forget. I’m guessing, but I’m close.) One nice thing about these patterns (most of them anyway) is you can scale them up or down to some degree. This way you can accommodate different-sized spaces.

Here’s the tools I used – widest is maybe 3/4″ – 7/8″ – the narrow shallow one is 1/2″. Different makers, so different sweep numbers. But you just need something close, not exact.

That’s it for the joined stool series. One more oak-ish one, then onto baskets. And after that, I have a red oak log up next to open, so I’ll be able to show splitting, hewing & planing – stuff I left out of the joined stool because I hatched the idea after the stool was begun.

And I had requests for sharpening (ugh) and coloring. I’ll tackle those too. And lots more, I’ll be here talking to myself all year.

Basket-making continues

I’ve had this ash log for a month now. I’m just about done pounding splints from it. I had made some chair parts early on, too, but most of it is basket stuff. I have two more 5 or 6-foot sections to work up. And about 16 baskets in the works. Below is one of the remaining billets, you see it’s as straight as a tree can grow.

But not all the material in it is usable. The first 1 1/2″ below the bark grew so slowly as to be useless. Those splints were breaking on me as I tried to pound them. I reached a point where I gave up, there’s only so much time in a day, and it’s not worth fighting over.

The good parts of that stock I split into three billets, and shaved them to then pound them apart.

I use a 3-lb. hammer to pound the billet along its top & bottom surface. Overlapping hammer blows all over.

Then I hang an end of the billet over a rounded piece of wood (in this case, a reject chair part) and smack it. The growth rings then begin to separate.

Then start pulling them apart. Over & over.

Coil ’em up and soak in water before using. Can be stored for ages & ages.

When it comes to the basket-making, I approach it differently than I do the oak furniture I make. When I make furniture, I try to keep close to the originals I study. I don’t mix a Connecticut carving on a box based on one from northern Massachusetts for example. But with the baskets, I’ll pick this or that characteristic and throw them into most any combination.

Many baskets are woven with a continuous weaver going around and around the basket. To be able to alternate the “over/under” scheme as each row climbs up the basket, you need an odd number of uprights. Often this is achieved by splitting an upright, like the one here just to the left of the right corner of the basket.

Another way to get the continuous weaving is to add a “twill” or a skip in each row. At one point, I go over two, instead of just over one. Then each succeeding row this “skip” moves over one upright. The finished effect is a spiral trailing around the basket. No split upright, continuous weaving. You see it here about 11 rows up on the right, then winding to our left.

From the book Shaker Baskets by Martha Wetherbee & Nathan Taylor I learned about added uprights – a method the Shakers used to get an odd number of uprights. The first weaver has a long tail winding up at a corner, and when the weaver comes around, it treats the end of itself as the odd upright – it’s the narrow one here at the corner. It comes down from the top, turns left as it begins weaving around the uprights.

Time to finish some of these so I can make some more. All this basket stuff will be covered in videos – I’ve shot lots of it.

My basketry library is pretty small, but all of these are must-haves if you’re interested in this sort of basket.

Legend of the Bushwacker Basket, Wetherbee & Taylor, Appalachian White Oak Basketmaking, Rachel Nash Law & Cynthia Taylor, Key into the Language of Woodsplint Baskets, various authors, Shaker Baskets, Wetherbee & Taylor.

reference materials

Ha! While looking for that photo of those books, I found that, as usual, I wrote this same blog post before – five years ago – https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/2015/10/29/some-basketry-thoughts/