I spent the day wrestling with the blog pages/posts. They changed it around to make it easier, which makes it harder. But I got mostly what I needed in the end, or something like it. I finally have the 2nd set of my carving drawings done – 8 months late at least.
This batch is 5 pages this time, the strapwork designs got their own page of step-by-step instructions. That was the hangup, Jeff Lefkowitz had already done his wizardry, then I added the 5th page. Back to Jeff for more layout, etc. But we’re done now.
Yesterday just as the wind began to blow around here, I crawled out of bed and shot an introductory video showing the contents of the pages. Not much action, but it’ll show you what’s what.
I’ll begin shooting videos to go with these in the next week or so. In between the cupboard bits…
Earlier today, I posted a free PDF of the various gouge shapes I use regularly. It’s here https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/carving-gouge-chart/ – it’s part of the set of drawings, but also a stand-alone bit. You can print it out and it should be the right scale to show the various curves…
Well, I have a few blog posts coming through the pipeline. First thing is I got the sensor on my camera cleaned. So for a little while the photos will have fewer spots. I’ve been working on the upper case of the cupboard and fitted the door the other day. Today I took it back apart and began the process of figuring out the moldings that mount on it. for review, here’s the original’s door.
There’s three frames that create quite a dynamic effect – the outermost one is simple, a 1 1/4” wide oak molding mounted on the door frame. I used a rabbet plane and a hollow to form it. I got the technique and the plane from Matt Bickford, the molding wiz. My main decorative bag is carving. I can make moldings but it’s not something I do frequently. So each time, I have to review what Matt’s book does. https://lostartpress.com/products/mouldings-in-practice
For the middle frame I decided to take my own advice and practice first. In pine. Aside from the shape of this molding, it has another feature that I had never done before. It’s hard to see in the black & white photo above, but this molding covers (& hides) the drop between the door frame and the panel. I learned to call this sort of molding a “bolection” molding. It doesn’t refer to the profile, but to the manner of mounting it.
Many years ago, Jennie Alexander used to keep a copy of Cyril Harris’ Illustrated Dictionary of Historic Architecture in her bathroom. Sent me a copy so I could do the same. I did for a while, but nowadays it’s in the shop bookcase. There, I looked up the definition of “bolection”:
“Bolections, balection, belection, bellexion, bilection, bolexion – A molding projecting beyond the surface of the work which it decorates, as that covering the joint between a panel and the surrounding stiles and rails; often used to conceal a joint where the joining surfaces are at different levels.”
And Harris’ illustration:
That’s clearly what’s happening on the Essex County cupboard door. I went to the Massachusetts Historical Society last week to take some more measurements and notes – and shot another view of the door showing just a snippet of the three frames on the door. That escutcheon is a replacement. At the bottom corner, behind the outer black frame you can just see a peg securing the mortise & tenon joint and the junction of the stile & bottom rail. And the next 2″ wide molding sits on the frame at its outer edge and on the panel at its inner edge.
Here’s a not-so-detailed view of my progress late yesterday. it took doing it to make my head wrap around how the miters and the back rabbet co-exist. Turns out it’s dead simple.
But somewhere there are bolection planes – even in the 17th century. Randle Holme’s Academy of Armory (1688) notes:
“The several sorts of plains.
The Strike Block, is a Plain shorter than the Joynter, having the Sole made exactly flat and streight, and is used for the shooting of a short Joint; because it is more ready by the hand than the long Joynter; It is also used for the fitting and framing of Miter and Bevil Joynts.
The Revaile Plain.
The Scurging Plain.
The Moulding Plains, are for the working off of several sorts of Moulding works, which Plains have names according to their several Operations; as
The Hallow Plain.
The Round, or Half Round Plain.
The Belection Plain.
The O-gee Plain.
The Back O-gee Plain. The Cornish Plain.
The Phalister Plain. [An undated note in the copy of Randle Holme in the Bodleian Library, Oxford, reads “Carpenters have a plane called a phalister or feliciter, a corruption of the Italian falcitello.”]”
Well, the only thing that makes a molding a bolection according to Harris is a rabbet on its back surface so it can slip from the panel to the frame. But what is a bolection plane then? Holme says nothing more about it. I don’t think it’s in Joseph Moxon’s book, I haven’t looked in a while. I don’t remember it there.
Colonial Williamsburg has some early 18th century planes they call bolection planes, referring in these cases to the shapes. Here’s one of theirs by Francis Nicholson
I looked in John Whalen’s book The Wooden Plane (Astragal Press, 1993) to see what he said about bolection planes. He’s got the same definition as Harris, but then segues into talking about profiles and their complexity. One thing he notes is a construction I’ve not seen – a rabbet to fit the panel, then the molding to pin it in place. But he doesn’t cite where/when this is used.
One last stop – Goodman’s British Planemaker’s 4th Edition edited by Jane Rees (Astragal Press, 2020) – but all that one cites is the Randle Holme quote. But I think somewhere, very early on, the profile became the marker for a “bolection” molding – possibly in addition to the mounting format. Otherwise how could you have a bolection plane?
But if you’ve made it this far, I have something for one of you. I just got Jane Rees’ new edition of Goodman’s book, which means I have the 3rd edition (1993) to send free to a good home. First one that wants it & leaves a comment gets it. Today I’m off to split a new log, then hopefully make some oak bolection moldings.
Today’s post is about the Essex County cupboard project, not about birds. For a change…
The end frames to the lower case are characterized by the tall/deep/wide upper & lower rails. My notes from the research we did all those years ago note that these rails use double tenons, instead of one great 7 1/2”” to 8” tenon. There’s no “haunch” or filler between the tenons. In one of the cupboards I was able to see light between them. So here’s how I cut them. It’s like most tenons I cut, with one or two extra steps. But there’s lots of new readers here, so I’ll show most of the process.
To start with, I layout a full-width tenon with a mortise gauge. In this case, a 3/8″ tenon set in 7/16″ from the face.
Cutting it is just like any of my tenons, starting with slightly undercutting the front tenon shoulder.
Then instead of sawing the cheeks, I split them off.
And pare the resulting tenon faces front & back. Usually I choose a heavy, 2″ framing chisel.
Now comes the extra step – sawing out the stuff between the tenons. I use a fine-tooth turning, or bow, saw to cut out the waste. I stay above the shoulder, leaving some to be chopped out with the chisel.
a detail of that step –
Daniel & I put together a video that shows some of the steps. and it’s less than half-an-hour for once.
But I didn’t show you the (yellow-shafted) northern flickers (Colaptes auratus) outside the shop window two days ago:
Well, I told you this was a practice piece. yesterday was one of those afternoons when all craft skills evaded me. But I can show you the steps to finish the so-called “small panel” decoration. Just not a neat job of it. This first photo is using the same molding cutter, now mounted to scrape the profile on the edges of a thin strip (1/4″ or less in thickness) to be cut into the inserts.
Holding that thin strip is tricky. I simply nailed it down to a piece of scrap pine. That gets it up high enough to clear the fence portion of the scratch stock. Cutting the first two miters on a blank is easy – there’s a length of material to hold. I got this miter box from Jennie Alexander umpteen years ago, tried to sell it. No dice, but glad now I didn’t get rid of it.
Once those two miters are cut, I lay the piece in place, and scribe its length based on the distance between two rows of molding. Ideally, it’s the same from row to row. Mine aren’t. They’re close. When I do a box front like this for keeps, I’d cut up a number of blanks and scribe all the housings in one pass. I was going back & forth for the photos & videos I was shooting. So a bit clunky and inefficient.
I didn’t shoot photos of cutting the 2nd set of miters, on a piece that’s now about 1″ to 1 1/4″ long. Hard to hold that little devil in the miter box. I fumbled around with a couple of options using clamps. Too cumbersome. Finally just pinned it in place with my left hand and LIGHTLY sawed. Key word is lightly. Any extra pressure shifts the blank aside & ruins the miter. Next, I used a square to line it up, as preparation for scribing its placement.
Make sure it doesn’t shift on this next step either, scribing its edges and miters.
Then comes the chisel work. Chopping down to sever the fibers. I’m working inside my scribed lines. I’ll sneak up to them.
Now, bevel down. chop out the waste. Some back & forth with chopping down into the fibers, then cutting out the waste.
Once you’ve got that bottom flattened out, and all the bits removed it’s time to cut to the scribed lines. Set the chisel right on the line, and chop it.
It will take some practice to get to the point where I can cut the inserts spot-on, then the housing ditto. But this shot gives you the concept of alternating these faux muntins to divide up the rows of moldings.
In many cases, it seems that these mini-panel frames were painted black. To me, that seems to defeat the effect of the molding. But it does hide a multitude of sins. Here’s a chest of drawers I made back about 2002, showing that black paint scheme. (the low light in that room is giving the black that blue cast…) Paint might save yesterday’s efforts, but I still think I’ll do it over.
Took some photos today. First turn was Daniel’s – shooting some of his recent LEGO builds.
Then mine was shooting semi-proper shots of the recent spate of seating furniture. A couple of things come to me as I sorted these photos. Among them is that I actually do have to go have my camera’s sensor cleaned. I’ve been putting it off due to the pandemic, figuring it’s not that important…but I’m sick of all these spots all over the photos.
This chair is one I assembled either in late December or early January. I forget. I’m mostly happy with it, but I look forward to the next one. Those rear posts are ash, one heartwood, one sapwood. Give them time and they’ll blend together. I didn’t feel like painting it. Now it goes to the kitchen to replace the very first version of this chair that I did.
Below is the arm-chair version. Both of these are Curtis Buchanan’s design, with my change to the crest rail joint. And on the arms, I made a through tenon into the rear post – which you can’t really assemble unless you put some intentional slop in that joint. It’s glued & wedged. I’ll let you know how it holds up. I did some like it in the early 1990s that have held up.
The crest rail joint is a 3/8″ wide tenon, made by just tapering the crest’s thickness. There’s no tapering top & bottom. The mortise I made by boring a couple of holes, and paring it with a chisel. Then it’s pinned through the post. You could just as easily wedge it from outside post too.
Then going back and making a joined stool was a walk in the park. Red oak stool, white oak seat. On this subject, I’ve been splitting out stock for more of these – which gave me a chance to shoot some videos of the beginning of that process. When I did the youtube series about joined stools last year, I got the idea when I was already underway. So now I’ve backed up to shoot the beginning. They’ll be ready soon. Daniel is coming back as video-editor – he’s broke and wants some money.
I had to make a chair so I could shoot some missing photos for Jennie Alexander’s Make a Chair from a Tree. Red oak with hickory rungs. Hickory bark seat. Megan just sent me the most recent set of corrections, so now I go over them again – then we see where we are. We really are getting closer, you’ll see.
We didn’t get as much snow as I hoped for; but beggars can’t be choosers my mother would say. I like being holed up in the shop or the house during a snowstorm, it keeps things nice and quiet out there. I haven’t shot any photos lately because I’ve made three boxes in a row that were essentially the same patterns. Here’s the 2nd yellow cedar box, done for a customer who missed out on the first one, so ordered one.
These strapwork patterns vary only in the details, but generally follow a basic format.
One thing I learned about using carved lids is that you have to line up the centerline of the lid with the centerline of the front. Another step when fastening the lid. I took to marking the center of the edge with a pencil then planing it off after assembly.
I make the back of these boxes in oak still, so the wooden pin that engages the cleat to form a hinge has the necessary strength. The cedar would probably be OK, but I know the oak does the trick.
That’s it for boxes for now, I have one more on order – in January. Meanwhile, I have some clean-up to do, a joined stool for a customer and some chairs to get back to. I’d like to thank all the blog readers for their support during this strange year – I’m grateful to you all.
Well, classes cancelled. Travel to a halt. If that’s the worst that happens, we’ll be fine here. I like being at home. I’ll get to spend more time writing and photographing blog posts I guess. I carved this yesterday, one of my North House students ordered it so he would have something to work from in his carving.
I tried some video while I was at it. Warts ‘n all; but there’s some techniques in these. It amounts to about 12 minutes of video, but is chopped up into bits:
It’s in the first one in that series, which is called “17th Century New England Carving” – that one has maybe 4 patterns, the S-scroll one has several variations on one theme, and the carved box one has some carving in it as well.
Then it grew & grew, to include a slew of carving, several different boxes, the original idea of the joined chest, then a chest with a drawer. But not a chest of drawers. But…if you read the book, all you need to know about making a chest of drawers is in there. The chest of drawers I have underway right now is only the 2nd one I’ve ever built, a good reason to not include it in a book. Here it was a couple weeks ago – not much different from today.
Today I was making the drawers for the lower case. These have half-blind dovetails joining the sides to the front, but rabbets (with nails) joining the back to the sides. I didn’t shoot photos of how I cut dovetails; there’s qualified people for that. I’m strictly an amateur at dovetails. This photo shows the half blind joint on the drawer front, with the groove below for the drawer bottoms. The drawer is “side-hung” – it slides on runners inside the carcase. The drawer side has a groove plowed for this runner. In this case, the groove is wide, 9/16″. At the back end of the drawer side, nothing. The rear board has a rabbet that will be nailed together. Typical drawer construction of the period.
This is looking into the lower case’s guts. I have started installing the drawer runners; the bottom & middle drawers are ready, you can see the notches for the upper drawer’s runner chopped into the front & rear stiles.
Now two of the drawers are tested into the case, and the drawer sides for the upper drawer are tested before I cut any joints in them.
The drawers have figured maple inserts, that will then be framed by Spanish cedar moldings. The whole effect will be to mimic two side-by-side drawers. Here’s a detail of one of the upper case drawers including a drawer knob of East Indian rosewood.
I got the middle drawer assembled & fitted, and the upper drawer glued up right at 6pm; but it was a tad out-of-square, so I threw a clamp across the corners & left the room. Tomorrow is another day. I’ll inset the maple in this drawer, then work on the cedar moldings for all three of them. Then on & on, more rosewood turnings, big moldings & small, more & more details. No carvings, but still no blank space.
It was going to be bowl week. But I think it turned into box week. I don’t know what happened. Some of it stems from the great, not-quite-finished loft cleaning of spring 2019.
When I make a carved oak box they can go one of two ways. Some are reproductions/copies of existing boxes, as close as I can get them. This desk box is an example of that work. The measurements, decoration, construction are all based on an examination of a late 17th-century example.
Here’s a look inside, showing one of two lidded tills, in front of a long tray at the back of the box. There’s four of those small drawers above.
When I’m just making boxes without any specific model, then I do things just a little differently. All the carvings are still derived from period work, as are the construction techniques. For instance, most New England boxes (& English ones) are joined with rabbets at the corners, not dovetails.
Unless I’m making a strict reproduction though, I tend to use glue and wooden pins to secure the rabbet, instead of the more common nailed rabbets. Just saves some handmade nails. There are some period boxes that are glued and pegged, but they are the exception rather than the rule. Here I’m driving the wooden pins into the box front-to-side joints.
In this next photo you see the square oak pegs, and then the finishing touches of gouged decoration along the ends of the box front. I saw this on a few boxes, but I usually put it on all of mine.
In these two new boxes you can see the extended pintle at the top rear corner. This becomes part of a wooden hinge. Again, I’ve seen this on period boxes, but it’s pretty rare, compared to iron hinges.
Here’s the cleat, attached to the underside of the lid, engaging that pintle. If you’re looking at details, you’ll see this box is sawn stock, not riven.
The class features lots of carving; a full day of practice, followed by a day carving the front and sides for the box. Here’s 7 of the 9 boxes the Australians carved last fall when I was there in the spring:
Back when I made furniture in a living history museum I got to practice all day long – a pretty good way to learn. Sometimes the chests I made there were based on careful examination of period examples, other times all I had to go by was a photograph & I had to fill in the details based on what I know of period practices. Lots of leeway. Here’s a few that aren’t in the book:
This one is loosely based on a picture in Chinnery’s book Oak Furniture: The British Tradition. I remember when Vic and Jan Chinnery came to visit, Jan was surprised to see this chest – the original was in their house!
This one is totally “made-up” in that it is not copied from any one source. I made it in 1997. All white oak. Probably pitsawn; I was younger then, we all were.
H:25” W:47 ¼” D:16 1/8”
Here’s part of my inlay phase! Also made-up. Also pitsawn, or mostly so. These all got used hard, and for most years got a new coat of linseed oil every year. That’s part of why they darken so. Some of the secondary wood on this one is elm, the lid panels & the end panels. Maybe the floor boards too.
These photographs came about because I was forgetting which ones I had made or my co-workers made before me – so at one point I started shooting them each winter as I cleaned them and tried to catalog them. Some we shot when they were new – this one was late in my career there – I’d guess around 2004-2005, which is when I first saw chests with that wide center muntin.
There’s one of these “5-panel” (really 14 panels!) chests in the book. This one I made for a PBS series called Colonial House in 2003. It’s a copy of two chests from Marshfield, Massachusetts…
One more from that Colonial House batch – I built four houses’ worth of furniture for that project. I remember later working on the motif that’s carved on this top rail & muntins – thinking I had never done it before. Clean forgot about this chest!
H:29” W:47 ¾” D:19”
There’s no measured drawings in the book, but it shows you how to make a chest, and how to figure out the dimensions. Each one’s different, as you can see in this sampling. So glad I don’t have to move them around and clean them every winter anymore…but I’m glad I have even these basic photos.
OK – one more. In process, April 2011 it says. This one’s in the book incidentally; some process shots show it underway.