applied turnings continued

egg-shaped, ovals & rounds

It’s been almost 12 years since I’ve written about making the applied turnings that we sometimes erroneously call “bosses.” So here goes – this cupboard I’m building has just under 50 applied turnings that are either ovals, egg-shaped, round or somewhere in between. Here’s a couple of the larger ones, on the lower case’s side panels – this is the 1680s original cupboard not my repro.

applied turnings inside the rectangular panels

There’s some funny, squat-shaped ones on the upper case’s side panels, as well as some round ones. (The round ones get their own discussion later.)

squat turnings sitting on top of the pointed moldings

I start with some geometry to figure out what thickness stock I need – these turnings are chunkier than some period examples so I’m using maple blanks 5/8″ – 7/8″ thick. They get glued to a middle strip so they don’t blow up in the pole lathe’s pointed centers. Once the blank is glued up and hide glue has dried, I plane the corners off at the bench. One end is sitting in a cradle (a “joiner’s saddle” in 17th century phrasing).

planing a rough octagon shape

Then mark the center to mount it on the lathe.

1/2″ strips w a 1/2″ spacer

I round the blank with a large gouge, then from that point on, it’s skew-work.

roughing out the shapes

At first it seems daunting because of the quantity – I think I counted 25 ovals/eggs – but they go very quickly. The largest ones are only 2 3/4″ long so you can get a good number of them on a stick.

The part I don’t understand is why there are so many different shapes – some 1″ wide by 1 1/4″ long and others 7/8″ x 1 3/8″. And on & on. I’m just going to turn a whole lot of them and toss the ugly ones. I’m making them in between turning the upper case’s pilasters.

ready ti be separated

Then comes the round ones and the “drumstick” shapes – Oh, and the arches…this batch might be turned rather than scraped. We’ll see.

upper case side panels

Here’s the earlier post about applied turnings – I thought it was last week – it was almost a month ago!

And one from 2010 –

(pt 26 Essex County cupboard project 2021)

cupboard project: upper case floor

floor to upper case

This afternoon I fit the floor boards into the upper case of the cupboard. They’re 3/8″ thick red oak boards I rived and planed a long time ago. Random widths, often tapered in width. They sit on rabbets in the front and side rails and on top of the lower rear rail. I started at each end and then filled in the middle. I have no idea how 17th century joiners went about fitting this sort of work. And I don’t bother speculating. I use matboard scraps from a picture-framing shop to make templates. Stiff enough to sit flat and thin enough to cut easily.

first template

After I got that first template fitting the way I liked it, I made the first oak board to do the same. Then cannibalized the template for the next piece, the one that fits around the front stile. I can’t remember how the boards in the original cupboard fit around the stiles. This notching was not too difficult, but maybe harder than it needs to be. (on the other stile, I split the board so the notch is on two adjacent boards – easier.) Because the rear panel is already in place, there’s no forgiveness in the length of these boards. They have to be right in their angles and their size.

template # 2

And this one was not –

a gap around the stile

That gap isn’t the worst thing – but I decided to re-do it. Because I knew I could do better, it was worth the extra piece of wood and the time. Rejecting that board left me with an odd-shaped leftover, but the upper case’s soffit has some funny shapes, so I’ll probably be able to use it there. Below is the replacement.

that’s better

Then it’s just more of the same. These boards have a V-shaped tongue and groove connecting their edges. This shows up in the drawer bottoms (and eventually that soffit I just mentioned) too.

V-shaped tongue & groove

Because the boards are varied and uneven widths, the angle between the ends and the edges is not necessarily 90 degrees. So out comes the adjustable bevel (I just got a new one from Blue Spruce a month before Lost Art Press/Crucible Tools started selling them, sorry Chris.) The opening between these two boards is wider at the back than at the front. In this case it doesn’t matter – the rear panel is already in place. Often you knock the tapered-width board in from behind and it forces things side-to-side.

getting the angle

Eventually it’s time to force the boards in place. Here I have one butted up to the other front stile. Because of the tongue & groove, you have to tip them in and press down in the middle of these two to get them in place.

filling in the spaces

I got them all in and then ran out of light. Next they get pilot holes and nailed down into the rails. Then I’ll be able to tip it over and show you underneath. Another time…

ran out of light

(pt 25 Essex County cupboard project 2021)

Cupboard assembly; part-something-or-other

Tab A into slot B

The upper and lower cases are fully assembled, but not connected. That comes later. Here’s what’s happened lately. I forget which came first. Let’s say it was the lower case. That might be right. In all the test-fits I must have tried about every way to put this together. I finally decided to make it simple. After the main body of it was pinned (a couple of weeks ago) what remained was the upper and lower drawer frames, connected by the turned pillars. Previously I had pictured this as a full unit. But what I finally did was attach the upper drawer’s stiles and rails – then insert the pillars and the shelf they sit in/on – then knock on the bottom drawer frame – that’s what’s happening in the photo below. To make that happen, I trimmed the bottom tenons on the pillars so they just engage the shelf and not those lower stiles. It still works – they’re trapped now.

final assembly

Before the lower case’s top can be pinned on, the soffit needs to be installed. It is a narrow thin piece of oak about 40″ long x 5″ wide. Sits on top of the rail above the recessed drawers and is beveled to fit into a groove in the overhanging lower rail of the top drawer. Then I’ll nail it down to the recessed rail. The one in the photo below is a reject. It’s actually twice-rejected. It was the shelf under the pillars – but it got too thin at one end and there was a gap between the pillar and shelf. So I replaced it, thinking I could make the soffit from it. But the holes for the pillars’ tenons show – so one of tomorrow’s tasks is to rive and plane a thin clapboard-like piece of oak to be the actual soffit.


Here’s where you see the soffit, when you drop something on the floor and happen to look up under the top drawer.

soffit above carved drawer

The upper case had fewer wrinkles. First I had to check my 20-yr-old notes for the tenon on the bottom of the rear stiles. 1/2″, set back 1/2″.

I knew what I needed then

I left that joint til assembly so it didn’t get knocked about in the shop. It’s only 3/4″ long, my notes weren’t perfect, they left that bit out. But it only needs to fit into the top boards of the lower case to keep the upper case from shifting about.

stub tenon

Then putting together the oddball shape. I pinned an oak strip to the bench to shove the case against to bring it together.

get in there

Then pinning the joints.

pinning the back joints

I started putting the oak floor boards in the upper case, but I don’t see any photos of it. So I’ll add “shoot floor” to the list.

(pt 24 Essex County cupboard project 2021)

a carving video, Maureen’s Etsy shop and more

Maureen’s silk scarf

I’ll start with Maureen’s stuff. While I’m poking around in the shop, she’s in the house home-schooling the kids, running the kitchen AND creating various textile things in her spare time. Many of you have already been to her Etsy site and we’re very grateful. For those who are new – here’s the link if you’d like to have a look.

eco printed cards

The cupboard – it’s moving right along now, there’s no turning back. I haven’t posted much about it for a couple of reasons. Mostly it’s because the steps happening now are all jumbled – a little painting here and there, some fussing with the fit of drawers, then making a couple of moldings. The other reason is the color. The plan is to make the cupboard look like it’s not brand-new. The moldings and turnings are simple, they’re black. Linseed oil, black pigment and Japan drier.

blue tape, milk paint – what’s next?

The oak now has step 1 in its coloring – a very thin wash of milk paint (not a 17th-century method…) that looks awful until I then add a coating of linseed oil over it. But that doesn’t happen until the moldings and turnings are ALL applied. So for the time being, it looks like mud. But today or tomorrow I plan on assembling the upper case – that’ll be a big job so it will get a blog post all its own.

Next up this morning – We finished another carving video to go with set # 2 of the drawings.

carved rosettes

As you see, it’s a row of rosettes. The linked circles are called a guilloche. A popular form with a lot of options in the midst of the circles. This is just 3 versions. After the cupboard’s done I’ll shoot the more complicated videos – 2 panels and some strapwork. That will finish set #2. Both sets of drawings are still available –

Set # 1 is 4 pages, 24″ x 36″ and there’s a whole series on youtube of the carvings in it. Set #2 is 5 pages, same size. Here’s today’s video

applied turnings

applied turnings

First off – great turnings on the original cupboard I’m copying, and a great photo by Gavin Ashworth. There’s a really stupid debate among maybe 4 or 5 idiots about how these turnings were made. I used to get involved. No longer. Here’s how I made them on my pole lathe. Start with the maple blanks, glued up with a center strip between them.

making turning blanks

The function of the center strip is to engage the points of the lathe – and to keep said points away from the glue line. Way back when I turned a glued-up blank without the strip – it blew up before I was done turning it. The points are wedge-shaped. Tighten the blank in the lathe & stand back.

Here’s the centerpoint in that oak strip.


And then onto the lathe. The photo below is from one of the many other times I’ve written up this same subject.

lathe points on center strip of turning

The turnings are beyond my actual ability, but I can wrestle my way through them. This batch is 1 3/8″ in diameter, about 7 1/2″ long. I leave a section on one end to wrap the cord around.

easy does it

Then time to steam them so the hide glue lets go – this time of year there’s a fire in the stove most days. And when the stove is running, there’s always a pot of water on top of it to keep the shop from getting too dry. So I just rest them on the rim of that pot.


When they look like they’re opening up, I take a chisel to begin the split at the extra bit on the end. But I didn’t get the chisel in the photo.

starting the split

I don’t want to do the whole job with the chisel. It can be too wedge-ish and break the turning at the thin bits. So I switch to a thin knife – in this case a filthy putty knife.

coming apart

It’s a lot of fun getting a batch of these together. There’s eight of this pattern on the lower case of the cupboard.

two of eight

and they get painted black.

one set of turnings

there’s lots more of these to do. All different profiles, but lots of turning to come. Here’s a short video of peeling them apart.

(pt 23 Essex County cupboard project 2021)

a carved box and two brettstuhls for sale

walnut brettstuhl Nov 2021

I shot a few photos today, a desk box going out to a customer and a new brettstuhl. I have updated the “furniture for sale” page – there’s not much there, 2 brettstuhls and one carved box. I was shooting the photos today because it was overcast – but the sun poked through for a dramatic effect for a minute when the new brettstuhl was in place…

carved box, fall 2021

I often tell people “I make things no one needs…” but in case there’s something you want… here’s the link

I have two classes announced for 2022

I get a lot of questions about when and where I’m teaching in the near future. I find it very hard to plan stuff these days. All I’ve committed to so far are two small classes – one at Lost Art Press and one at Pete Galbert’s. I’m not planning on many classes, there might be a couple more in 2022. It all depends on how things go as things move along. Or don’t.

carved oak box class at Lost Art Press

Lost Art Press – I’m looking forward to going back to LAP – it’s the carved box class. Making the parts, doing a whole slew of carving and then assembly. An interior till adds to the fun. 5 days, Mar 28-Apr 1, the Feast of Fools. What could go wrong? Tickets go on sale Mon Nov 29th at 10am.

chairs underway at Pete Galbert’s

I taught a JA chair class at Pete’s in October and we had such fun that I said yes to doing it again. April 18-23, he just posted it on his website. Tickets go on sale Wednesday Nov 24 at 8am. Here’s the link:

I can save you some trouble beyond those two listings – I don’t know where or when any other classes I might teach will be. The only other one I have in mind right now is un-scheduled and it’s at Roy Underhill’s. He & I need to get together and suss out the timing. But it won’t be before these two. That’s all I know right now.

Test-fitting the pillars

The lower case pillars. This section is getting close to assembly. Today I bored the blocks for the pillars’s tenons and wrestled the whole thing together. First thing I did was slightly undercut the ends of the pillars.

cutting the ends

Then some layout and boring the holes in the ends of the blocks for the tenons. They aren’t a tight fit, but I still don’t want them too loose. My tenons were only 7/8″ long, I’d have liked them longer, but the stock was real close to the finished size.

aligning the bit

But they came out alright – this is how they should look.

If they all looked like that…

So some wrestling with an unwieldy assembly.

the top drawer’s frame going onto the tops of the pillars

Because the tenons were so short, I couldn’t pick this whole thing up as one. The bottom tenons barely make it through that shelf. So the next time I get to make a cupboard like this…

I stuck the top drawer frame, pillars & shelf onto the side frame’s tenons.

just about manageable

Then knocked the bottom drawer-frame in place.

Looks like it’ll work

Some pulling here, knocking there and it came together. For now…

lower case tested again

It’s been through so many test-fits I’m sick of it. Next up is coloring the lower case parts. So I’ll knock it back apart to a degree, color it and then actual assembly.

(pt 22 Essex County cupboard project 2021)

new carving video

“decorated” S-scrolls

After that last video I did, the 2-hour seat weaving one, I wanted to tackle something shorter. One afternoon I got out some oak to carve one of the new patterns I have available – I set up at about 3pm, knowing I had to work quickly before it got too dark to see..

The result is this short (for me) 26 minute carving video. Warts n’ all. When I set up the camera for a closer view, it was too close & I kept stepping in front of it. Time for more video practice, I’ve not been at it much. But you’ll get the gist of how to carve this pattern. Here it is on the top rail of a chest –

top rail of this chest has the pattern here

this is the link to the drawing sets

And here is the video

I hope to get to more of these soon. Thanks for watching.

Vacation days

I resisted as long as I could, but I finally caved & took a couple days for some chairmaking. I’ve had the parts for this brettstuhl hanging around since mid-summer, almost all made. Just needed to finish the carving, cut out the back, trim the seat board, cut the housings for the battens, chop the mortises for the back & wedges then put it together.

half a brettstuhl

It started back in the summer, when I got it into my head to get a grathobel. Some help from some friends in Germany and I got one on the German ebay. An indulgence, but not a terrible one.

grathobel -in English a dovetail plane

So back in July or so I made the legs, battens and started carving the back. Then let it sit. I finished the carving yesterday and cut out the shape of the back. Then started in on the housings under the seat for the battens. Sawn & chiseled, then got out a router plane to bring things down to a finished depth.

router plane

The battens are tapered in width – so the best way I found to fit them is to make them extra long and then test them, and make a mark where the front of the batten stops.

first test fit
marking the progress

Then I take it out, and shave it some. Two or three shavings for a timid approach. Last thing I want is it to be loose.

trimming the edge

Then it goes back and I knock it forward & make a new mark. And repeat until it drives all the way to the end. I crept up on it.

four or five attempts

Then mortising for the back.

boring the waste for mortises

This time I cut the mortises in two steps. I had them in the walnut seat to begin with – it helped me locate where I wanted the battens. Now I’m boring through the battens – then follow this with chisels to finish the mortises for the back. It took a good bit of test-fitting & fussing. That’s what happens when months & months go by between chairs. For me, anyway.

fitting the back

I want to have to force the back through the seat, but not drive it with a mallet. I found out the hard way once that knocking that on its top end can connect the dots & split the whole back apart. I don’t want to learn that lesson again.

mortising for wedges

Then more boring & chiseling for the wedge mortises. Seems some old chairs use pegs instead of wedges. I decided I like the wedges. Might not make a difference.

back & seat wedged together

The battens I’ll trim after assembly, might need to trim the wedges too. But by the time I got to this point, it was too late for the next step – boring the leg mortises. Tomorrow.

tomorrow’s another day