We all miss somebody these days. Well, many somebodies. One I miss in particular is my friend Heather Neill. But every year about this time there’s a daily dose of Heather’s paintings as she prepares for her show at the Granary Gallery on Martha’s Vineyard. And lo and behold, I made another appearance. I had completely forgotten posing for this one.
Since Wille Sundqvist passed away in 2018, I have from time to time talked with Jogge about his tools – what will happen to them, etc. It’s a long story but right now the pressing part is that there is an auction in a few days. Ty Thornock has set up a GoFundMe page with the idea that we’ll help Jogge get these tools so he can then do with them what he sees fit. Time is of the essence – if you can help Jogge preserve his father’s incredible legacy, follow the link below. thank you very much
The carved box front above is the subject of the most recent video. It’s a mostly-free-hand drawing/carving. Some basic centerlines, then jump in from there. The video runs about 80 minutes and shows just about the whole process. I’ll insert it at the bottom of this blog post. I tried to post it yesterday & this morning to youtube, but the file I was uploading was incomplete. Hopefully it will be corrected now.
I rarely tinker with the blog and it shows. Too often there’s out-of-date pages left up and then it seems that WordPress changes stuff on me. Recently (really months ago) the title & header of the blog became unreadable against the photo – so I spent what felt like an eternity trying to change the font color on the title – finally gave up & changed the background photo to a drawing of a carving. I hope I don’t have to mess with it again for a while.
Right now I have several custom pieces to make, but often have stuff ready-made too. So while I was housekeeping in the blog, I created a page “Furniture for Sale” – there I’ll stick the stuff I have kicking around that’s available for purchase. The link to it is up in the header or here https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/furniture-for-sale/
It was months & months ago that I said set #2 of the carving drawings was almost ready. But then I hesitated. The then 4-page set contained some drawings of strapwork designs and I decided they needed some step-by-step explanations. So I waffled around a bit, then drew them up step-by-step. Jeff Lefkowitz and I then went back & forth with captions, etc. At the same time, we monkeyed with the gouge-ID stuff. All of which is to say we’re just about done now, and have sent the set out for some test-prints. Once we see those, Jeff makes whatever last-minute changes we need, then I’ll have them printed & available. For real this time. This set will be 5 pages, 24″ x 36″ – details soon. Should be later this month I hope.
The video – Carving a box front.
I hadn’t done much carving lately at all, then got an order for a carved box. Perfect time for a carving video. I had some trouble uploading this, so broke it into two parts. I call them part 1 and part 2. Here’s part 1
You probably already know about Pete Galbert’s video series but in case some of you have missed it here’s a blurb about it. Back in the spring of 2020 when it became apparent that we’d all be home for quite a while, Pete & I both started shooting videos in our shops. My approach was seat-of-the-pants, Pete’s was to go full-tilt – and it shows. His series Foundations in Chairmaking is excellent – https://www.petergalbert.com/videos
I bought a subscription to it when he announced it and have watched almost every minute of it. Pete covers details and nuances very well. He uses some very helpful graphics to illustrate some of the fine points he’s after about things like fiber/grain direction, what the drawknife is really doing when you slice through the wood and more.
Below is a shot from a section about gluing up a seat blank. PG shows you how to orient the 3 (not 2) sections of the board to make joints that pretty much disappear – it’s been years and years since I’ve done this for a chair, but it was a real eye-opener to watch his process.
Recently someone wrote to me asking about kiln dried wood for chairmaking. They don’t have access to green wood and wanted to make a JA chair. Pete had just posted a video about that very subject – something I’ve never done and never will – but I know several folks who do just that. Galbert covered the subject in great detail so I just pointed the person there.
Here’s a snippet from that video, showing the fibers outlined with a Sharpie so you can see what he’s after.
If you like chairmaking or want to start in chairmaking there’s lots of fodder out there. Add Pete’s videos to the pile, it’s money well spent.
Might be two weeks ago now, I test-assembled the cupboard. Daniel & I just finished a short (for me) video showing how I work those large 3 1/4″ square blocks and then test-fit the lower case.
The upper case didn’t get much video-time. There was an earlier video showing how I cut some of the joints for it, and a short bit tacked on today’s showing how I fit the cornice on…we’ll see it all again over & over in time.
I got the cupboard all framed finally. Here’s the lower case, resting on its back. Now it makes much more sense, you can see the openings for the recessed drawers between the upper and lower drawers.
I tried to get a shot showing the whole thing – but the shop’s too small for that. I’ll have to go outside & shoot through the window next time.
Next up, I have to find some new logs; oak, maple – plus some pine boards. Meanwhile, I’m making a list of things to check when I go see the original again. It’s been 20 years since I’ve seen it. So I shifted gears just a bit while that project is in waiting. A joined stool framed, and parts for the next one freshly planed.
I still have some of that hickory I’m working through. I got out Drew Langsner’s Country Woodcraft: Then & Now and made a few pitchforks – not because I need them, but just to practice some bits of green woodworking that I don’t get to much these days, including bending. After shaving the blank to shape, I ripped the tines down.
Drew’s instructions show how to make a rivet from a 10d nail & some washers. Then it’s into the steambox. Once it comes out, time to spread the tines, then bend the whole thing.
The most encouraging part of Drew’s description was something along the lines of “after some clumsy first attempts…” A lot happens in rapid succession – driving in the dowels between the tines, spreading the tines, then bending the fork. It’s been 30 years since my last pitchfork projects…and it shows.
I made about four of them. Here’s the first two. One is four tines, one is three – but the real difference is that they were each bent on a different form – resulting in a different shape. Drew’s form is the 4-tine one in front.
Last view – the tines.
Then comes the next barrage of brettstuhl doings. Friends in Germany did my bidding, literally, and got me a slightly-used Ulmia grathobel – a dovetail plane. Time to practice with this and get onto my next brettstuhl.
That’s enough for now. We’re working on the next video, showing the test-assembly of the cupboard. And on & on.
A couple of things for sale, brought down from the loft. If you’d like any of these, leave a comment and we’ll take it from there. Paypal or check is fine, I add the fees to the paypal charges. If someone beats you to it, I can always make these sort of things on order.
I’ll start with the box. I made quite a few boxes last year, particularly in the fall. This box is #12 of 11, or something like that. I made the body of it then, but didn’t finish it until a week ago or so. It’s quartersawn red oak, with a white pine bottom. The carvings are based on boxes made in Dedham, Massachusetts in the 2nd half of the 17th century.
My schedule is pretty full with the large cupboard I’m making and some stools and chairs. I know I’ll make more boxes this year but don’t know when. And there won’t be as many as last year.
H: 10 1/2″ W: 26 1/2″ D: 14 3/4″ $1,200 includes shipping in US
The till parts were scrounged from what was in the shop at the time, a walnut lid and red cedar bottom & side.
The boxes I make depart from “typical” period boxes in that the sides are carved in addition to the front. This is seen on some period boxes, but most are just carved on the front. I use wooden pegs and glue to secure the rabbets – same story – most period boxes are nailed there, some are pegged. And I use a wooden hinge, again, you see that sometimes, but more often iron hinges.
Ladderback chair Hickory rungs and posts, red oak slats, hickory bark seat.
There’s a story to this chair. I fumbled around a bit when I was re-learning how to make these chairs. This one I got the orientation of a rear post a bit off, resulting in what Drew Langsner calls a “windswept” back to the chair. Just a bit asymmetrical. It’s perfectly sound and sits fine. It’s just not a top-flight chair. But neither is it a “second.” I guess it’s a “second & 1/2.” When I assembled it, I saw the problem and stuck it in the loft and made another. Recently I got it out & decided it’s not that bad – so I put a hickory bark seat on it and took $200 off the price.
$1,000 including shipping in US.
You can see the post on our right is kicked out too far. Not fatal.
Here’s the hickory bark seat.
Kid’s size ladderback chair
H: 26″ W: (across front) 14 1/4″ D: (overall) 14″ Seat height 14″ $800 including shipping in US.
A colored chair? From me? Yup, it’s to hide another mishap. Bored a hole in the wrong spot, plugged it & carried on. But it was right in a front post. So I practiced coloring this one. Even with the plugged joint, the chair is perfectly sound. Here’s the plugged mortise, at the rung that’s running down to the right in this photo.
I still have two brettstuhls here, Alpine chairs, board-chairs – whatever you might call them. It’s funny to think about me making Alpine chairs down here at sea level. They might seem like quite a departure from my normal work, but with carved decoration, mortise & tenon joinery and a long tradition, they are right up my alley. If anyone is interested in one, send me an email at PeterFollansbee7@gmail.com
Daniel & I went over some snippets of video on the cupboard project the other day. It’s a mish-mash of how to hold those funny-shaped stiles for mortising & plowing grooves. Then the beginnings of setting in the cornice joinery.
I’m headed out to the shop momentarily to pick up this project where I left off. It’ll take some head-scratching to see where I am. Below is a mock-up of the cornice rail on one side, and a test-piece of the soffit. This step will locate the groove on the inside face of that cornice – to fit those soffit boards.
Soon I hope to have the framing of the upper case all cut. Fingers crossed.
Recently Pete Galbert wrote about the coming 3rd edition of MACFAT “It’s no exaggeration to say that this book changed my life…” – I too have used that expression in talking about that book. As I’ve been thinking about it lately, one person whose life changed immensely because of the book was Alexander. John, Jennie, JA, Alexander – I feel like Billy Pilgrim, unstuck in time. So some of what I think about involves John Alexander, some Jennie. Before anyone gets in a snit over it – I mean no disrespect. I was as close to JA as you can get.
Lately, I’ve been working on the beginnings of a book that I hope will come to pass. It involves some threads and stories of how the people who taught me woodworking learned themselves, how they intersected – and one of the central players is Alexander. To that end, I’ve been reading about 700-900 pages of what could be a couple thousand pages (I haven’t seen all the notebooks yet, the pandemic put a halt to that research for 1 1/2 years) of notes and letters in Alexander’s papers. It tells quite a story.
I wrote a short intro to the new edition, noting that in the first edition JA wrote: “I’ve made more friends in the past year than I had in the previous five years.” – and that was before Alexander went to Drew Langsner’s & began teaching chairmaking. From that point (1979) on, things really took off.
In one letter, JA wrote “I am an attorney by profession, that is my cash crop so to speak. However I am equally concerned with my craft.” Well, that’s not strictly true. I never saw JA take time from woodworking to do legal work, but the reverse was often the case. He’d write letters and notes while waiting for his case to be called in court. Lots and lots of them. Always woodworking was churning around in his head; even when his professional life kept him busy and out of the shop.
I never have known anyone who read as much as JA did, nor I guess have I known anyone who wrote as much as she did. But one thing is very clear, the woodworking and the relationships developed through it were the most important and significant part of JA’s life outside of the family.
All those phone calls in Jennie’s last years were about excruciating minutiae about making the chair. Always questioning, always pushing to make it easier, better, more accurate. It really did give her something to live for, long after shop work was out of the question, the chair kept JA alive. She knew she’d not see the book. It didn’t matter, for her – it wasn’t the end, it was the journey. She knew we’d take care of the rest.
And now 42/43 years later, MACFAT & Drew Langsner’s Country Woodcraft are back to life and better than before, thanks to Chris and the rest of the Lost Art Press gang. Boy, do I feel old. And grateful.
A long stretch here without a blog post. That means I wasn’t shooting many photos in the shop. well, not woodworking photos anyway. The shop has been a bird blind lately, more about that later. But I have done some woodworking, mostly stock prep. Sorting the hickory, I’ve been splitting and shaving it into chair parts.
The photo above shows just some of it. In that heap are parts for shaved windsor chairs (Curtis Buchanan’s “democratic chair”), some ladderback chair rungs, tapered legs for brettstuhls, some shaved stuff to make basket handles and rims, and some oak for a joined stool. There was more work that didn’t make it into this photo, some back posts bent on forms for ladderbacks and two pitchforks from Drew Langsner’s Country Woodcraft: Then & Now. https://lostartpress.com/products/country-woodcraft-then-now
During the recent heat wave (we had it easier here than most, but it was still pretty warm) I wove a few baskets from some ash splints I had stored. Easy work and you slosh around in a bucket of water. Next I’ll finish off the tops of them, then make handles & rims from the hickory.
These two chairs were kicking around, so I wove hickory bark seats on them from some of the last bunches of old bark I had around. The kids’ chair had a boring error that needed plugging, so I experimented with coloring it to hide my sins. The chair behind it is hickory with oak slats. It has been in the loft for a year or more, and I finally decided it was either getting burned or getting a seat. It too had a boring error, no real harm other than to my pride.
Also down from the loft is this box.
The box was maybe #12 of 11 boxes I made last fall (or 11 of 10, I can’t remember). I got the body made & then stuck it up in the loft. There it sat til I was cleaning up there last week. Found a wide piece of pine and glued up 2 quartersawn boards for the lid. So this is sort of the first box for 2021 – except I made the box in 2020. It’s a big one, I’ll get the measurements when I do proper photos in the next few days.
OK – the birds. Out one window has been the house wren (Troglodytes aedon) nest in one of the gourds Maureen grew last year. They kept me pretty occupied with their comings & goings. Here’s an adult with a chick in the gourd, mouth opened wide.
out the same window, but closer to the shop, a robin (Turdus migratorius) was building its nest for a 2nd brood of the season.
I also kept an eye out on the other side of the shop for the great blue heron (Ardea herodias) who was hunting in our yard for chipmunks and other critters.
This strike was a mole or vole down in the shavings pile by the garden.
It’s gone on like this for a month, day in & day out. The wrens have fledged but I hear the male singing again. Time for a new mate for him and a last brood of the season. The robins hatched just one chick this time, and it’s growing daily. The heron keeps coming back. There’s no shortage of chipmunks.