carving video posted

I’ve been working on a series of carving videos to go with the upcoming drawings/patterns (out for what we figure is the final test-print now) – I’ll write more about these series of drawings soon. One thing about them is that they are grouped according to bodies of work I have studied for 30 years now. The first set will be called “Devon, England and Ipswich, Massachusetts – set 1.”  If things go well (polite-speak for “if they sell…”) there will be at least one, maybe two more from that group, and many others besides. There’s lots of groups/shop-traditions/locales – when I was studying surviving furniture, the goal was to see as many related works as possible, to better understand what is “normal” versus what is an aberration.

But there were/are times when I come across an object for which there is no known history and no obvious related works. My friend Trent and I used to use an informal shorthand for these – UFOs.

The carving at the top of this post is my version of one of these UFO patterns. It’s a typical format – the use of lunettes above and below a horizontal centerline – I carved a different take on it in my first Lie-Nielsen video years ago, and in the book Joiner’s Work. But this “infill” is slightly made up by me, using a photo from Vic Chinnery’s Oak Furniture: The British Tradition as a starting point.

So this one doesn’t fit into any grouping – thus I shot a video of it just because I had a wide enough board. And it gives us a carving video-tease until the real thing comes along… I shot some new footage for an opening sequence and Daniel put it together perfectly…we hope you like it.

We’ll still finish the basket-making series, but I’ve been up to my eyeballs in carving lately and wanted to show some. Here goes:

 

Joined Stool video series: Carving the apron

Today’s offering is an appendix to the joined stool video series; carving the apron. It’s a pattern I use frequently; it’s covered in my first video with Lie-Nielsen “17th Century New England   Carvings” https://www.lie-nielsen.com/nodes/4243/home-education-videos 

It’s also featured in my book Joiner’s Work with Lost Art Press – https://lostartpress.com/collections/books/products/joiners-work

That’s the blurbs out of the way. This video is pretty simple, it’s just 17 minutes of me carving a swath of this pattern. In this example, it’s about 10″ wide and maybe 2 3/4″ high. (I forget. I’m guessing, but I’m close.) One nice thing about these patterns (most of them anyway) is you can scale them up or down to some degree. This way you can accommodate different-sized spaces.

Here’s the tools I used – widest is maybe 3/4″ – 7/8″ – the narrow shallow one is 1/2″. Different makers, so different sweep numbers. But you just need something close, not exact.

That’s it for the joined stool series. One more oak-ish one, then onto baskets. And after that, I have a red oak log up next to open, so I’ll be able to show splitting, hewing & planing – stuff I left out of the joined stool because I hatched the idea after the stool was begun.

And I had requests for sharpening (ugh) and coloring. I’ll tackle those too. And lots more, I’ll be here talking to myself all year.

Joined Stool video series – prepping the seat board

Winding down the joined stool video series. Prepping the seat board took more time, both in reality and in getting this video done, than I wished. Some days it’s like that.

After this one comes making the molded edge & pegging the seat down. I expect that to be one video, but we’ll know more when Daniel & I sit down to work that one out.

After that, I have a few stand-alone videos I shot a few weeks ago, and right now I’m starting to shoot a series on making ash baskets. I had a couple of requests too, and I’ll try to get to those.

Thanks, everyone, for watching, commenting, supporting. I appreciate it.


The book version is here – https://lostartpress.com/products/make-a-joint-stool-from-a-tree

Make a Joined Stool videos – the End Frames

Then it was May. And the sun came out.

Daniel is on a two-video edits a week schedule. Today’s was a bit of a clunker, which was my fault. It’s a combination of too many things, all related to working the end frames of the joined stool.

This part of making the stool was one of Alexander’s favorite exercises; because it allowed her to pontificate about construction dimensions and resulting dimensions. I could usually follow along to a degree, so here I show how to calculate the length of the side stretchers.

(and today, for some stupid reason, the video wants to start part way into it. I clicked all the same buttons, etc. – skip back to the beginning.)

All of this stuff I’m doing in these videos is covered in detail in the book JA & I did some years ago –

Make a Joint Stool from a Tree

for anyone new to this blog and this work, the book is here https://lostartpress.com/products/make-a-joint-stool-from-a-tree

(when I went to get that link, I accidentally followed one to Amazon – $130. Weird. I think it’s a good book, but it’s not that good…)

Joined stool videos begin

To elaborate on a post I wrote last week – the Joined Stool video series I’ve been shooting is now starting to get posted. It took me a bit to figure out some basic snipping here & there, but thankfully Daniel took over and sorted it for me. So he gets some credit. Curtis Buchanan gets the nod for the inspiration with all his chairmaking videos. When travelling to teach workshops came to a halt, I scrambled trying to figure out what’s next. I was almost going to do one of those subscription video instruction sites…but decided it’s not my bag. Too much pressure to produce in a timely fashion and to a standard that I am not up to, video-wise.

Then I thought of Curtis and how he developed his series of chairmaking videos. I love how those come across as if you’re in his shop and he’s explaining what he’s doing as he goes about making each chair.

For the joined stool, today I posted the intro and a 20-30 minute section on layout & mortising. There’s maybe 5 or 6 more to come for this project; some carving and scratch stock molding, turning on the pole lathe, tenons, test fitting & assembly, and more. From there, I plan on some carving patterns that haven’t made it to video before. Strapwork designs, panels, and more.

Watch them here, watch them over at youtube – many have subscribed there as I’ve been getting more active – but I doubt you need both. Anything worthwhile will get copied here eventually. There’s no charge – they’re free. That way there’s no pressure on me if they stink, and you won’t feel like you’re getting taken. There is a “donate” button here on the sidebar of this blog. So if you like the videos, and are in a position to help keep things running around here, I’d be very grateful. But I’m also perfectly happy having you watch without any obligation on your part. I have tried with this blog to always have content here for sharing – and these are no exception.

OK, enough explanation. Here’s the videos. Hope you like them.

The new John Brown book and dimensions

I feel right at home reading Chris Williams’ new book Good Work, about John Brown. I’m sure I first heard of John Brown from Drew Langsner; he taught at Drew’s school a couple of times. His book Welsh Stick Chairs is quite an inspiration. Today I was reading one JB’s columns reprinted in the new book, about his disdain for measured drawings and plans. His thrust is to learn to trust your eye(s); and have that as a guide while you make your chair.

I have similar feelings about drawings for the joined furniture I make. Once I had a job for the US government, making a few pieces of furniture for an historic house in Connecticut. The major stumbling block for me was the feds wanted measured drawings and specs. I asked if I could do the drawings after making the furniture. They didn’t understand. I got through it, but it wasn’t fun.

My joined furniture falls into two general categories; one is direct copies of existing pieces. Then I measure the original, and produce parts that will get me stock of the proper size to build that piece. The other is to make a piece based on period practices, using construction, decoration and proportions based on what I’ve studied in various collections. I have notebooks filled with detailed notes to draw from. Then I get to work making my version of a box, stool, chest, etc.

Here’s the next carved box underway. The determining factor for the size of this box was my suitcase! I took the white oak board for the box front to North House and carved the front as a demonstration. Then brought it back home and made the box sides accordingly. So this is not a reproduction of an existing box, but made in all the same manner as a period box.

My next joined stool is underway as well. The customer didn’t have any particular stool in mind, but we talked about stools from Connecticut and from Northern Massachusetts…so I climbed up on the ladder to look over the story sticks hanging in the shop. Here’s just a few of them; one problem is many are two-sided. That’s now one of those rainy-day projects, to copy any “backs” and make them all one-sided, so they’re easier to find.

I picked one from Essex County, Massachusetts – the first thing I do after prepping the stock is layout and cut the mortises.

But I wanted to change a couple of things. The previous stools I just did were a customer request for stools just a tad higher than usual. I liked that look, and wanted to make this stool just 1 1/2″ or so taller. So you see here I’ve bumped things up (to our right) to increase the foot for this stool. I’ll tinker with the foot shape when I get to the lathe. I also beefed up the stretcher from 1 3/4″ high to 2″ high. Slight changes, but this is the sort of thing John Brown was writing about.. and some of his thoughts on this subject “keep it simple”…”use the eyes” – good advice.  I drive some of my students crazy when they ask for specifics and my reply is “just a little bit more” or “about like that” with my fingers showing the amount. Rulers – bah!

 

Once I struck the dimensions on the first stool leg/stile, I put the story stick away and marked the rest from that existing stile. It became the standard for this particular joined stool.

In the book, I also saw a variation on a favorite quote – “Experience is the best teacher but the fees can be very high.” I learned it from Daniel O’Hagan, “Experience keeps a dear school but fools will learn from no other.” That version is often attributed to Ben Franklin. Citations are hard to come by. Apparently, if you go by the internet, everybody said everything. 

Get the new John Brown book, well, the Chris Williams book from Lost Art Press

Good Work: The Chairmaking Life of John Brown

They brought John Brown’s book back into print as well.

Welsh Stick Chairs <BR>by John Brown

 

carving lunettes in white oak

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:

This pattern is in the book Joiners Work https://lostartpress.com/products/joiners-work

and it was professionally shot on video with Lie-Nielsen https://www.lie-nielsen.com/nodes/4243/home-education-videos

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.

More soon. Keep safe.

Never carved this one before

Nine years ago, Maurice Pommier sent me some photos he shot at a museum in Bretagne.  https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/2010/03/27/bretagne-joinery-an-english-book-stand/

I’ve studied these few photos as closely as I could; they’re great stuff. A couple years back, I spent some time trying to suss out how to layout some of the patterns; but it took til today for me to carve a pattern based on one of his photos and my sketch. The board is a piece of butternut; about 7″ x 22″.

 

No photo description available.

After all the compass-and-awl/marking gauge work, I used a couple different gouges to strike the outlines. No v-tool at this point, some #7 and #5 gouges, and one old one flatter than a #5.

All this “over-and-under” business is not willy-nilly. There’s a pattern to keep. So I spent some time talking to myself, and even tracked my finger along, thinking “It goes over here & under there…”  Then picked up a gouge & struck it. Quick, before I got confused again.

Here it’s nearly done, just need to find an ending.

This is what I came up with. It’s not a copy of Maurice’s photo, but follows the general scheme of it. Only 2 small mistakes to this point.

Then cutting it is no big deal; particularly in this butternut. I try to use the widest gouge I can fit in there to remove the background. I want as few moves as possible; the approach I try to avoid is picking at it with endless tiny movements. I cut right next to all the incised bits, then back up & knock out the waste.

It was a lot of work – there’s a ton of background to a design like this.

I punched the background with a textured punch; it really emphasizes the foreground/background distinction. This is the first time I thought I was finished. I was wrong.

See why?

I fixed the 2 strokes I forgot, then found two more. Then added a V-tool line through all the bands. Now I think it’s done. One v-tool line stopped short… I usually leave “mistakes” at this point; but this time I might actually fix it – tomorrow.

 

This is one of two sliding-lid boxes underway. The other is Spanish cedar; that one’s chip-carved. That goes on forever too.

Back in October Lost Art Press ran a very nice feature about Maurice in their “meet the author” series – if you missed it, here it is:

https://blog.lostartpress.com/2019/10/18/meet-the-author-and-illustrator-maurice-pommier/ 

Chester Cornett chairs

I first saw photos of Chester Cornett’s chairs in Alexander’s Make a Chair from a Tree in 1978; but didn’t know it. For various reasons, some of the chairs in that book are attributed, some are not. There’s three of them in there; here’s one:  

 

Some years later, Drew Langsner showed us a VHS of Chester, called “Hand Carved” produced by Appalshop, a non-profit dedicated to “document, disseminate, and revitalize the lasting traditions and contemporary creativity of the region.”  That film is where I first learned the story of Chester. I guess Alexander then showed me The Hand-Made Object and Its Maker a book by Michael Owen Jones. This was published in 1975, and expanded and revised as Craftsmen of the Cumberlands: Tradition and Creativity in 1989. 

So when I went out to Lost Art Press last week for our box-making class, the day off after the class entailed a trip to the Kentucky Folk Art Center https://www.moreheadstate.edu/Caudill-College-of-Arts,-Humanities-and-Social-Sci/Kentucky-Folk-Art-Center in Morehead to see some of Chester’s chairs.Chris Schwarz and Brendan Gaffney had been on a Chester binge in recent years – here’s a blog search at Lost Art Press for Chester Cornett https://blog.lostartpress.com/?s=chester+cornett 

Brendan was my guide, and he’s not only seen a lot of Chester’s chairs; he’s made a version of one of the 4-rocker/8-legged chairs – https://www.burn-heart.com/fatman-poptart-rocker/onf4ok366nyfz8kmkjpyi2rd4c3cft

This white oak rocker astounded me. Virtuoso craft.

Those rear posts are probably around 1 3/4″ or more in “diameter”; we estimated the mortises for the arms and stretchers to be about 3/4″ – so not delicate in any way.

I forget the whole inscription; Brendan translated it for me. This is some of it, I might have some of it garbled. The price, $90, is also written the top slat.

“Made Buy
Chester Cornett
______ ________
Engles Mill
Trouble Creek Kentucky”

Now -before anyone makes fun of this chair – I’d like to see you make it with a handful of tools. A four-rocker, eight-legged walnut rocking chair with hickory bark seat.

This one is walnut & hickory bark. The seat rungs might be hickory too.

The most basic chair is itself a beauty. I think this is what Chester called a “settin’ chair”.

The relief shaved in the rear post to make it easier to bend is in the radial plane here, not the growth ring plane like JA always did. I just was looking at some of Kenneth Kortemeier’s chairs, and was planning on swiping this idea from him. Then here it is on Chester’s too.

The front post, oriented just like JA taught us, medullary rays bisecting the angle between the front and side rungs.

It was amazing to see these chairs in person. Regardless of the design debate about his over-blown rockers, Chester was often in full control of his tools in making a chair. The oak rocker here is a perfect example. I’ve thought of him as an idiot-savant whose gift is chair-making. His sad life was a struggle; but he was a natural with a drawknife and brace and bit. 

Here’s a feature on Chester from the Cincinnati Magazine https://www.cincinnatimagazine.com/features/chester-cornett-humble-chair-maker-mad-genius/ 

 

Joined chests

I’ve been reading through the pages of my new book “Joiner’s Work” https://lostartpress.com/collections/books/products/joiners-work recently, and was thinking about how many joined chests I have made over the past 30 years. I don’t have an exact number, but a careful guess is over 60 of them.

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!

oak chest, two panel front

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”

joined chest

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.

a small oak chest

 

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”

joined chest, oak & pine

 

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.

wainscot chest