some recent work

In between rounds on the cupboard I have got some other joined and carved things done. And now with the cleaned sensor on my camera, photographing them is a treat.

carved box, butternut & oak

This one is a box that is headed tomorrow to New Hampshire as part of an exhibit/gallery show at The Two Villages Art Society called “Into the Woods” https://www.twovillagesart.org/into-the-woods a new venture for me. Dave Fisher, Kenneth Kortemeier, Dan Dustin and many others have submitted pieces as well. Worth a look if you’re in the area, opens Sept 17.

A couple of joined stools for a patient customer –

red oak joined stool

The other – he asked for two stools that didn’t have to be a pair. Good thing…

red oak joined stool

This box you’ve seen here before, I shot a video of carving its front. Now it’s done & delivered. It was a retirement gift for a curator I’ve known for eons – Dean Lahikainen at Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, MA. It’s based on a box in their collection.

carved & painted box, oak & pine

That box and the tops of the two joined stools finished off my stash of quartersawn oak. So today I ventured out into the world to get some more. Thanks to Rick for letting me be so picky. Sunday is white pine day for the same reason – my larder is empty. I guess Monday is stacking & stickering day. Then it’s back to the cupboard full-time. Assembly is on the horizon.

30 pieces of quartersawn oak random lengths & widths

New Carving video

box front

I began shooting videos to go along with the new set of carving patterns. No telling how frequently I’ll be able to do these, I’m hoping for every 2 weeks. Lots of stuff in the shop right now though. This design is on page 1, the first pattern – the “tulip.” That’s my name for it, we have no idea if it even had a name in the mid-1600s in Devon.

It’s adaptable to fit different spaces, to a degree. If you watch the video, you’ll see that I dive off the deep end right away – not following the drawing verbatim. But it all works out. It’s a bit repetitious -but I tried to get some tight shots after showing each step…

If you would like to get the set of drawings – there are 5 pages in the set, 24″ x 36″. Patterns, step-by-step diagrams & more. Link is here -(it says “set 1” but set #2 is the new one) https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/carving-drawings-17th-century-work-from-devon-england-and-ipswich-massachusetts-set-1/

Drawers

1680s cupboard, Massachusetts Historical Society

The lower case of the cupboard houses 4 drawers. I started making them in the last few days. They are all oak, some period drawers have softwood bottoms but these use thin oak boards running front-to-back. 

The drawer sides are 3/4” thick and join the fronts with a half-blind dovetail on three of the drawers.  At the back, a rabbet joint. Both joints are nailed. Yes, right through the dovetail. The bottoms tuck behind a rabbet in the drawer front. (I’ve yet to make the deep drawer, it has through dovetails front & back. Who knows why? Not me.)

These, like most 17th-century drawers in case furniture, are side-hung. Meaning there’s a groove in the outside faces of the drawer sides that engages a runner set between the front and rear stiles. First step after prepping the stock is plowing the groove in the sides for the drawer runner. Mine’s 1/2” wide, set roughly in the midst of the drawer side’s height. It’s about 5/16” deep. 

plowing the groove in the drawer side

Me showing step-by-step of dovetailling is absurd. Go see someone who actually does it more than every other year or two. After plowing the groove, I laid out the single dovetail on each drawer side. I estimated the angle based on photos of the originals. Steep. Then sawed that out,

single dovetail

and transferred it to the end of the drawer front. Chopped that out. 

Some back & forth fitting the joint. Below is good enough for me. All it needs is a rabbet in the drawer front, then nails through the dovetail.

Like this. Next step from here is installing the bottoms.

As I said, the bottoms run front-to-back (some 17th century shops ran them parallel to the drawer front). I rive out thin oak boards, aiming for 6″-9″ wide. I rough-planed them, then aired them out in the sun to dry for a couple of weeks. Then I re-planed the top/inside surface and hewed and scrub-planed the bottom surface until they were either 3/8″ thick or slightly less. The boards for the top & bottom drawers are about 20″ long. For the smaller recessed drawers about 16″ long. At this point, I just nailed boards to each end of each drawer – these serve to keep the drawer square & solid while I rive and plane more of this thin stock. Below I’ve lined up the board just inside the drawer side and bumped up to the rabbet in front. This board has not been squared off to its edges, so I set it in place and scribed the front end to trim it. Then I nailed it in place and trimmed the back end.

Here’s the top drawer in place. I’ve been recording some videos about the drawers – it’ll take a bit of doing. But in the end it will include the runners/grooves and the vee-shaped tongue & groove between the drawer bottoms.

Then I went & rived some more thin stock.

(pt 19 Essex County cupboard project 2021)

Carving Drawings, set #2

detail from set #2 Carving Drawings

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…

To order the set, which is $75 plus $6 shipping in the US, see https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/carving-drawings-17th-century-work-from-devon-england-and-ipswich-massachusetts-set-1/ (disregard that the link says “set 1” – I finally gave up, close enough!) As it stands, set one is out of stock right now, but should be back before long. Really.

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…

The Cupboard project; carved drawer front

carved drawer front finished

I worked on the only carving in the whole cupboard just about. This is the front of the 2nd drawer from the top – of the lower case. Here’s the original –

It’s 3 repeats of one pattern – here’s the pattern isolated:

I made a video of the work, it’s chopped with a gouge rather than cut with a V-tool. So something a bit different.

But one of the first things I said in the video is a lie – turns out I found afterwards measurements of the carved bits. Partial measurements anyway. I came close to what I measured in 1999 – close enough.

(pt 18 Essex County cupboard project 2021)

a video and some blog upkeep

carved box front

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.

The Blog

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/

The Drawings

strapwork pattern

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

and part 2

Bolection molding

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.

cupboard door Massachusetts Historical Society coll. Photo Gavin Ashworth

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

simple molding

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 Miter-Plain.

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 

photo from Colonial Williamsburg’s website

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.

Whalen illustration

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.

(pt 17 Essex County cupboard project 2021)

the cupboard project test assembly

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.

upper case partially assembled

(pt 16 Essex County cupboard project 2021)

Carved box and 2 chairs for sale

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

carved box red oak white pine
open showing till

The till parts were scrounged from what was in the shop at the time, a walnut lid and red cedar bottom & side.

detail of front corner

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.

H: 33 1/2″ W: (across front posts) 17 1/2″ D: (overall) 18″ Seat height 17 3/4″

ladderback chair

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.

front view

Here’s the hickory bark seat.

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.

Kid’s ladderback

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.

plugged mortise

—————-

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 

brettstuhl walnut & ash

Cupboard project: next video

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.

(pt 15 Essex County cupboard project 2021)