a challenge for Jennie Alexander re “green woodworking”

devon chest front view

devon chest w distorted stile

Devil’s Advocate time for me.

Jennie Alexander wrote today commenting about the recent post “what is green woodworking” – https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/2015/02/18/what-is-green-woodworking-2/

Here is her comment:

“I am fascinated by the continuing dialogue about green woodworking crafts. They are crafts where wood of substantial moisture content is initially processed by riving, not sawing, in the direction of its long fibers. Glossary, Make a Chair from a Tree, Third Edition, Lost Art Press…..when it gets published. So there. Jennie”

JA – by your definition today, the chest above is not green woodworking. i.e. it’s sawn stock. Not riven.

just to keep things lively…on a cold winter day.

By the way, I can’t remember the last time I mentioned it, but if readers want to see lots of oak furniture of this period, do sign up for Marhamchurch Antiques emails. I always stop and look at what Paul Fitzsimmons has churned up over there. Great stuff. I swiped these photos from him. Thanks, Paul.

http://www.marhamchurchantiques.com/

 

Chairs

cod 2003

At my house, the carved joined stuff is in every room. I have tried many times, and always failed, to count the pieces of furniture in this 4 1/2 room house. You’d be amazed at how much stuff you can cram in here. (I’m in the kitchen right now – 9 pieces of free-standing furniture, 3 hanging on the wall, and all the built-in cupboards above the counters)

 plain chair

This week, I have been making this little, big rush-seated chair. Little because it’s a low seat, generally small-size chair. Big because it’s not subtle – the posts are almost 2” square, the rungs fit in holes that are 15/16” in diameter. So little big chair. It’s based on 17th-century chairs that we mostly know from Dutch artwork, more-so than from surviving examples. (next up for it is trimming the posts here & there, weaving the seat…) These are ancestors of the ladderback chairs that I first learned back in the late 1970s/80s. Here’s one that I did about 1984 or so. A more recent kid’s version too.

ladderback

kids

 

I began as a chairmaker. Made ladderbacks, rockers, Windsors – then got into the 17th century & made wainscot chairs, 3-legged & 4-legged. Turned chairs ditto. Leather chairs. Chairs w boxes in the seat. Kid’s chairs, high chairs. My semi-latest chair was the walnut brettstuhl.

But at our kitchen table, the chairs we use at every meal and then some are Windsor chairs I made 20-25 years ago.

c a chair

At my desk too. I once had one of those stupid office chairs, then I came to my senses & remembered that I am a chairmaker. Windsors are lightweight, comfortable, attractive. Sturdy. Fun and challenging to build; carving, turning, shaved work, sculpted seats. good all around projects. And so much variety.

Two things happened this week to remind me of how much I like good Windsor chairs. Lost Art Press announced the release of Pete Galbert’s long-awaited book on Windsor chairs. You already know about that…

One of the days that the mail got through here, I received Curtis Buchanan’s next installment in his printed plans for his chairs, this one a fanback side chair, one of my favorites.

Curtis Buchanan fanback side chair

c b plans

I learned Windsors from Curtis, starting in 1987. I really like his approach, both to his chairs and to his life. If you’ve seen his youtube series on making a Windsor chair – then you’ve seen Curtis’ style, very human, simple, direct – and he makes especially beautiful chairs. This set of plans is 4 pages; some 1/2 scale, some full scale. Two different turning patterns, bending forms, seat profile & plan. Boring angles – a course in Windsor chair making in 4 pages. I’m ordering Pete’s book, but I’m keeping Curtis’ plans too – you never know when I might reach into my past & make some more chairs. We must be able to squeeze one or two more in here…

links:

Curtis’ plans & videos http://www.curtisbuchananchairmaker.com/store/c1/Featured_Products.html

Pete’s book: http://lostartpress.com/collections/books/products/chairmakers-notebook

my wainscot chair video  https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/book-dvds/

 

 

 

 

Here’s what Chris was talking about

the other day, Chris Schwarz wrote about a new double-screw vise he’s been making for Jennie Alexander. In that post, Chris mentioned that JA & I used these devices in ways different from what we’re now used to seeing. http://blog.lostartpress.com/2015/01/07/a-prototype-double-screw-vise/

Chris made quite a splash with these things (think Moxon vise…) but it’s funny how different craftsmen come at at thing like this. Schwarz, Alexander & I all read the same passages in Moxon’s book, and Randle Holme’s about these bench fittings. 

But what we made depended on what we wanted to do. JA & I were interested in frame & panel joinery. Mortise & tenon; narrow framing parts; panels that might be a maximum of 10″ wide. So our double-bench screws were small compared to what Chris came up with for his work that featured lots of dovetailing of large carcasses. 

Just the other day I was using one JA made to plow grooves in a chest frame. Here a short, narrow muntin. This gives you an idea of the scale of my bench screw = and this is my large one! The muntin might be 15″ long. I have it clamped in the double screw, which is held down by the holdfast. Then the muntin is jammed up against the bench hook. 

 

double screw w plow plane

 

Here is another version, even smaller. This is the one I made when Alexander made that above. Here I’m splitting tenon cheeks on a joint stool apron. (this exact photo might be in the joint stool book – I know the tool/device is…(http://lostartpress.com/collections/books/products/make-a-joint-stool-from-a-tree )

I think of these like their descendants, the hand-screw. They come in many sizes, for many functions. 

 

tenon splitting

 

One more. This setup is for mortising the chest rail. It’s probably four feet long. Hold fast secures the rail in place, but its 1″ thickness can wobble a little. So I stabilize it by clamping the double screw to its nether end. 

double screw in use

 

JA has now adapted this joiner’s device for ladderback chairmaking. So we’ll see that surface some day..but while it was on my mind, I wanted to give you some ideas of how we used them in joiner’s work. 

(as usual lately, when I sit down to write a post, I see I’ve written it before – here’s tonight’s post only from 3 years ago!  https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/2011/12/30/you-say-moxon-vise-i-say-double-screw/

another piece of the story about my axe

best fuchs hatchet

 

I know I’m lucky to have the hewing hatchets I do…I got mine from Alexander, and the legend is that Drew Langsner and Jennie (then-John) Alexander got them as partial payment for demos/lectures at Woodcraft back in 1979/80. I found this while down at Bob Van Dyke’s place this week: 

 

1971 Woodcraft catalog axe

 

 – a 1971 Woodcraft Catalog, that listed the limited quantity axe heads they were then offering. Says the first 100 orders will be filled, but 9 years later, they still had leftovers? $12 must have been too steep a price…

I have written about this/these hatchets many times – here’s one post about them https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/2012/12/13/the-endless-look-at-hewing-hatchets/

Now, if there was 100 of them 40 years ago, where are they now? I had 3, gave one away….

co-inspiration

I greatly appreciate the notes & emails, etc that I get from readers, students and more. It’s nice to hear that my work inspires some folks to go shave wood. Woodworking has saved many a man’s life (woman’s too…) – and I am glad that my work sometimes gives others a nudge. Likewise, when I hear these things, it inspires me to keep posting my stuff here – someone might get something from it. Co-inspiration.

I’m very late as usual with this post. I owe some of you answers; and had promised to show your stuff to the blog readers. Keep ‘em coming, I like to show this stuff you folks are making. That way, someone else might be inspired to have a go at it. How hard can it be?

In absolutely no particular order – here’s a stool-in-progress from Jason Estes of Iowa. Look at his details; nice chamfers; and square “turned” decoration. Great work, Jason.

Jason Estes Iowa

 

Jason had a question about seats = it’s probably too late now (sorry Jason)  – but for next time here goes.

“If two boards are used for a seat, are they fastened to each other in any way, or just to the aprons or stiles?”

Alexander & I did them just butted up against each other in the book, but in period work, usually they are glued edge-to-edge, sometimes with registration pins between them. I have seen chest lids done with splines in grooved edges of mating boards. No tongue & groove in chest lids, table tops, etc –  they are used in chest bottoms, however.

When I make a wainscot chair seat, I usually edge glue two narrow riven boards together. sometimes w 5/16″ pins between them; maybe 2 in the whole seat.

“If I elect to go with a single board of quartersawn oak, it will likely be kiln-dried – does that require any accommodation, or can it go on like a tree-wet board?”

Nope – if it’s well-quartersawn, it should behave perfectly well.

 

Sean Fitzgerald (I think I got that right) of parts unknown made a joined & chamfered dish rack…why didn’t I make one of these? Here’s a case I often talk about – my work is 17th-century reproduction, but you can adapt these construction and decoration ideas in new formats; designs, etc – the mortise & tenon is timeless, as is oak.

sean fitzgerald chamfered dish rack

 

Here’s a bunch from Matthew LeBlanc – we finally met this past July up in Maine. We had corresponded many times, then finally connected. Matt’s made a slew of stuff – great going. For a teacher to have students like these, I’m a lucky person.

Matt stretched out his stool, made it wider side-to-side. Poplar & sawn oak. If you have no green wood, don’t let that stop you!

 

Matthew Leblanc stool_edited-1

 

Matt also made one of Jennie Alexander’s post & rung chairs – or maybe it’s from Drew Langsner’s book. either way, all the same gene pool. Nice chair. Looks like red oak to me.

 

Matthew leblanc JA chair

 

And then he sent along this trestle table w carved stretcher. & these were a while ago – I bet he’s kept on going. Nice work, Matt.

matthew leBlanc table

Here’s Matthew making a pile of shavings while we were at Lie-Nielsen this summer..

House of Chairs

 

black finial

My family & I took a quick trip to visit friends in Maine. No class, no workshop, lecture, etc.  Just plain fun. Scattered about the self-proclaimed “house of chairs”  is a great mis-mash of ladderback chairs. When I began woodworking in 1978, I started with this book.

MACFAT cover

 

It showed how to make a “shaved” chair. Same format as a turned chair, but no turnings.

Here’s a turned Shaker chair –

shaker rocker

 

 

Many years later, I learned some about furniture history & found references to “plain matted chairs” and “turned matted chairs” – matted referring to the woven seats. (See American Furniture, 2008 for an article on shaved chairs – “Early American Shaved Post and Rung Chairs” by Alexander, Follansbee & Trent. )

Here’s a nice $15 version, from French Canada. Through mortises all over, rungs & slats. Probably birch. Posts rectangular, not square. Did they shrink that way, or were they rectangles to begin with? 

 

 

sq post 1b

sq post 1a

 

Rear posts shaved, not bent. 

 

sq popst side

sq post rear

 

Tool marks, sawing off the through tenon, hatchet marks from hewing the post. 

 

sq post tool marks

 

Small wooden pins secure the rungs in the post. Did not see wedges in the through tenons. Tool kit for a chair like this is pretty small, riving & hewing tools – drawkinfe, maybe a shaving horse? – tools for boring a couple of sizes of holes. what else? A knife? a chisel for the slat mortises…

 

sq posat thru t

 

Here’s an armchair – also shaved.  Big. the curved rear posts angle outwards. the arms meet the arris of this post…one front post has a nice sweep to it. I forget if the other does…

sq post armchair

It was a tight spot that had enough light…so I had to tilt to get the whole chair in this shot. 

sq post armchair overall

The side seat rungs and the arms both have this bowed shape…

sq post armchair overall rear above

Although the arms have been moved down in the rear stiles. 

sq post armchair mortise in rear

I couldn’t get high enough to really capture the shape of the rear stile… I’d guess these stiles are bent this time, not shaved. 

sq post armchair rear stile

The front stile, swept outwards. 

 

 

sq post armchair front post

 

You should see the cheese press. A masterwork of mortise-and-tenon joinery.  Next time I’ll empty it and shoot the whole thing. 

cheese press detail

 

cheese press detail 2

 

half a pair of joint stools

half a pair
half a pair

I have two joint stools to finish to go along with a table and joined form I am making. For the seven-foot long table top I opted for quartersawn white oak. So I made the tops of the stools and form from the same material. Yesterday I planed the board for the stool tops. I kept it at double-length to make handling it easier while I planed it flat and dressed the thickness. I decided to keep it that way while I ran the molding too.

 I trimmed it to width, then dressed both faces and trued up the edges. I then crosscut both ends and marked out the middle where I eventually would crosscut it in two.

 I marked out the 7/8” wide thumbnail molding spacing with a marking gauge along both long edges. Then I followed the steps I outlined in the joint stool book for making the molding; a rabbet plane (in this case, a filester) to begin to define the depth, then bevelling off the shape with smooth plane/jointer. I fiddled a little with a hollow plane like what Matt Bickford does; I had the rabbet, then I chamfered that, then ran the hollow a bit. It was just a bit shy of the right size, and was not perfectly fettled. So it served to further rough out the shape, but I still did the final definition with the smooth plane.

filester plane
filester filetster plane
hollow plane
hollow plane

 

shaping molding
shaping molding

I ran this molding along both edges, then did the two outside ends. Here, I marked the width with a knife and square, rather than a gauge. Then cut it apart and finished each seat with one more molding. Usually I do the end-grain moldings first, but in this case it was worth reversing that order.

quartersawn stock
quartersawn stock

The wood is amazing quality; clear, wide and perfectly quartersawn. Air dried. The next best thing to riven. I then finished shaping the seats, and bored one & fit it on the stool. Just like in the book…. http://www.lostartpress.com/Make_a_Joint_Stool_from_a_Tree_p/bk-majsfat.htm

boring & pegging
boring & pegging

 Now, fresh on the success of “Riven Cedrela” I have the phrase “half-a-pair of joint stools” ringing in my head like “four-and-twenty blackbirds…” so stay tuned. It could be my first nursery rhyme.