Colonial Williamsburg Working Wood conference

I got home yesterday from my trip to Colonial Williamsburg’s Working Wood in the 18th Century conference. Or was it a symposium? This was the 20th year, quite an accomplishment. I had previously attended in 2007; I was especially pleased to be back. Lots of old friends, lots of familiar faces both on stage and in the audience. I took a few lousy photos, but found many on the facebook site from https://www.facebook.com/CWhistorictrades/ – so I “borrowed” many from them. Go to the link to see their whole pile of photos; they got good ones.

First thing I noticed upon loading my gear into the auditorium was that I had left my green wood billets at home. If there is anyplace you can go & expect to get green wood upon asking, Williamsburg is it. One of the carpenters’ crew found me some white oak that was so good that it needed no hewing when I split it. So I showed the camera just how flat the good stuff is when it splits:

 

 

The Williamsburg woodworking crowd; Kaare Loftheim, Bill Pavlak, Ted Boscana, Garland Wood, and my old cohort Brian Weldy all had presentations. Here’s Brian & Bill during the tool chest presentation…

And Kaare Loftheim showing the saw till under the lid of a tool chest the crew worked on several years back:

Ted Boscana and his crew of apprentices went through the steps to make some architectural moldings, including some crown/cornice molding. I didn’t get a shot of it, but there was a great demo of the apprentices pulling Ted through the air as he provided the weight to push down on the plane.

Ken Schwartz, the master blacksmith, led a presentation showing through slides and video how a drawknife and axe were made, then he had members of the coopers’ and wheelwrights’ shops briefly show the tools in use. Here’s a shot showing the axe “bit” and the eye/head:

For me, one great highlight was seeing W. Patrick Edwards’ presentation on Sunday morning.

His introductory story about an abrupt change of career early on in his life made me grin from ear to ear. If you get a chance to see Patrick as a presenter, jump. http://wpatrickedwards.blogspot.com/2017/09/the-risk-of-living-as-process-of-life.html

Don Williams de-mystified finishing on Sunday – (yes, it finished with finishing) – Don made it so accessible that I wanted to try some, instead of my usual cop-out linseed oil. http://donsbarn.com/the-barn/  His demonstration of the winding sticks-with-feet was especially good.

 

Jane Rees is often a fixture at the Williamsburg conference,and it was great to catch up with her again. So many historic tool questions were diverted from the audience to the stage, then down to the front row with “I don’t know, let’s ask Jane”  http://www.reestools.co.uk/books/

Jane understood when she heard I ducked out for half a day to go see eagles on the James River.

and then there was Roy Underhill. Do I have to say anything? Keynote speaker, moderator of a discussion panel, all around helpful schlepping on & off stage, native guide around CW; and poker-of-sacred-cows. When Roy is around, I stick close, because something worth seeing is going to happen.

My presentation was sponsored by EAIA; other sponsors were SAPFM and Fine Woodworking. My thanks to them for helping make it happen.

On any of my southerly trips, I try to get over to see my greatest friends; Heather Neill and her wife Pat. It’s always too much fun in too short a time when we visit. Here’s a sampling of Heather’s work, both painting & writing:  http://heatherneill.com/studio-blog/2017/07/18/in-my-element/ 

Her Instragram is here https://www.instagram.com/hnartisan/

I woke up to this idyllic sight today. Won’t make it to working in the shop today…but tomorrow I will.

moldings

I have been cutting some moldings lately for a chest with drawers I’m building. The moldings surround the panels, and the drawer fronts. While I was cutting these, I was thinking about this blog. I started it in 2008, and never thought it would keep going this long. Because I didn’t know what I was doing, I never really organized it well. So there’s lots of photos spread out all over the blog that are useful…but sometimes hard to find. Today, I thought I could just post some photos of period moldings found on New England joined works. So here’s pictures.

a chest from Salem, Massachusetts: Tearout, anyone?

moldings detail

a chest with drawers, Plymouth Colony. This large molding (2″ tall) is integral to the rail, not applied.

molding details, Plymouth Colony chest
molding details, Plymouth Colony chest

Inside one of the Plymouth Colony chests, moldings on the rails and muntins:

interior, Ply Col chest w drawers
interior, Ply Col chest w drawers

Here’s a panel detail from Plymouth Colony. This is a common profile for the period, technically an ogee with a fillet, I think:

molding-details

This one’s from Chipstone’s website – a Boston chest panel:

cf-chest-middle-panel-just-moldings

This is a muntin from a chest made in Braintree, Massachusetts. I used to make this molding with a scratch stock. I think that cutter is gone now…

molding

This Connecticut (Wethersfield? Windsor? I can never get it straight) chest with drawers was the model we copied last time at Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking. These moldings are oak:

center panel_edited-1

A lousy photo, but if you squint at the ruler’s shadow, you can see the profile of this molding. Dedham Massachusetts chest.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Also Dedham, different chest:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Back to Connecticut, more Wethersfield, Windsor, etc.

vine-carving-3

a drawer from a Woburn, Massachusetts cupboard:

molding-detail

An ogee on the bottom edge of a table’s apron. Maybe this square table is Boston?

ogee-and-bracket

 

I have more fun than I can stand

I keep plugging away. Yesterday I got to use some planes!

planes gauges

 

What a blast – the spoons and bowls are great fun, challenging, etc…but no planes. I need to make a molding to run around my most recent frame & panel – it’s one like this, all I have left is to make the molding & cut & glue it in. 

frame & panel
frame & panel

I keep a stash of riven Atlantic White Cedar, just for this purpose. First, I planed the stock to the proper thickness, in this case 1/2″

planing w jointer

Then I dig out one of those special wheelie gauges to mark out the rabbets, a la Matt Bickford. You already know I’m a fan; his book & video show you how to tackle this work easily. http://lostartpress.com/collections/books/products/mouldings-in-practice  & http://www.lie-nielsen.com/dvds/moldings-in-practice/

The gauge I got from the Alexander collection – thanks once again JA. 

wheelie gaiugethen rabbets. 

rabbet plane

and bevels, then hollows and rounds. 

round

 

Then it was time to pack it away & off to the Cape Cod League Baseball – we went to Wareham to see the Gatemen take on the Falmouth Commodores. We were there early, so Daniel watched batting practice – I carved spoons. Then we watched the game. Gatemen blew the lead in the ninth – took it on the chin. 

gatemen 1

gatemen 2

 

One of many great things about working at home is that I get to see stuff I only used to hear about. Here’s a marble game from yesterday:

marble game

That then turned into a painting by Daniel, who was learning about shadows and light sources this week.

daniesl watercolor marbles
Daniel’s watercolor of marbles in dirt

This one’s just thrown in there – it’s part of an ongoing series of raking light shots.

ongoing raking lght series

 

 

the cat’s out of the bag: that old joiner’s shop you saw here this fall….

Once again, remember this place? I’ve posted it a couple of times, https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/2012/08/10/workbenches-lathe/ and https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/2012/10/21/tool-racks/ and one more: https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/2012/10/26/photos-from-a-great-day-of-study/

 

18th-century shop

 

Now you can read part of the story, from today’s Boston Globe:

http://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/regionals/south/2012/11/23/eighteenth-century-woodworker-shop-found-duxbury-said-one-kind/ou50acy7YQ5xwTlEFI05XK/story.html

(Ahhh…the link now only gives me a preview – says I need to subscribe. If the link fails you, do a search for “Luther Sampson Duxbury shop” or something like that. Might be that I reached the monthly limit on freebies at Boston.com…)

I hope you can read it, it’s exciting stuff. Kudos to Michael Burrey for seeing it for what it is…and to the many who have worked thus far on documentation, research, etc.

 

 

My shop is still a mess, so here’s what I have been looking at

 

Long-time readers of this blog know that I follow closely the work that Robin Wood does over in England.  Robin’s blog was the one that inspired me to do this one…

Just last week, he (and many others)  finished the first-ever spoon fest in Derbyshire. Robin posted a bunch of photos, as well as links to other blog posts about the event. I wished I could have gone, but I deserted my family enough this year with woodworking travels.  Be sure to follow the link that takes you to the audio portion of Jogge Sundqvist’s talk that opened the event. Great stuff, thanks for making it happen, Robin et al. Sounds like a good time was had by all.

here’s the link, read through about the past five posts or more. Great, great stuff: http://greenwood-carving.blogspot.com/

Robin Wood & Jogge Sundqvist

Now, another piece that you folks that have been here a while might remember is these fabulous drawings from Maurice Pommier.

feuilardier

 

French sawing

They came with very kind words from Maurice. His work intrigued me, so I looked up his books. He had a children’s book that I added to my list, and I finally ordered it. I couldn’t read a lick of it mostly…but I loved it. I showed it around at a Lie-Nielsen gig one time, & described it as a cross between Mad Magazine & Eric Sloane. I sent images to Chris Schwarz, and he replied that he already had the book in the works. Now it’s ready to go, so trot over to Lost Art Press and see for yourself.  I assume that Chris never sleeps. http://blog.lostartpress.com/2012/08/26/new-from-lost-art-press-grandpas-workshop/

Grampa’s Workshop

 

This follows almost instantly on the heels of Matt Bickford’s book on using hollows and rounds. http://www.lostartpress.com/Mouldings_in_Practice_p/bk-mip.htm

Matt Bickford Mouldings in Practice

I had read the book in a near-finished draft, and was knocked out. Even if you haven’t used molding planes, or especially if you haven’t, this book will make you want to.  Hollows & rounds are some of the next batch of JA tools here, later this week. Matt’s book makes the use of them so basic & simple. He really has demystified the use of these tools. If you have ever seen Matt at one of the Lie-Nielsen Hand Tool Events, then you understand. A nice guy, a great book. Lost Art Press, the hits just keep comin’.

 

 

joined chest progress

I’ve been working some on the joined chest I started a month ago…here I am fitting one of the panels into the frame. The panel is beveled on its rear face, all around, to fit into the grooves in the frame.

inserting beveled panel

Then knocking the stile in place. This is all a test-fit; I don’t even have the center panel yet.

on goes the stile

I had a little time left the other day, so cut some of the details on the framing parts, starting with this chamfer on the top edge of the bottom rail. I start it with a spokeshave, one of the few times I use these tools any more. In my chairmaking days I used them constantly; but now rarely.

spokeshave

Then finished it with a chisel.

paring the bevel or chamfer

and then cut a molding on the bottom edge of the top rail – this molding runs out at the juncture of the muntin-to-rail joint; so I use a scratch stock for it. We call it a “scratch” stock, but it’s really a scraper I think.

scratched molding

 

See this post for more about this these moldings that fade out:  https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/2012/01/14/scratch-stock-evidence/

by then I was done for the day. More to follow at some point…

 

 

scratch stock evidence

OK – so about scratch stocks in the 17th century. How did they make moldings on joined works? We know they had molding planes, there are a few from the 16th-century shipwreck the Mary Rose. And they appear in many probate inventories too; the following are some examples of molding planes found in New England inventories:

2 revolving plains

4 round plains

3 rabet plains

3 holou plains

9 Cresing plains

inboring plaines

Joseph Moxon & Randle Holme both call them by classical names too; ogees, bolection, and so on.

But look at the molding above the center panel in this detail shot of a joined chest from New Haven, CT.  (I clipped this photo out of Victor Chinnery’s book Oak Furniture: the British Tradition. If you don’t have that book & you like this blog, get it)

New Haven chest detail

The molding fades in & out at the juncture between the horizontal rails and the vertical muntins flanking the panel. This amounts to a run of about 9” or so. Not more than 10”.

In that length, the molding reaches its full profile in the middle, but is shallower and not fully defined at each end. I think you can’t do that with a molding plane – the length of the plane’s sole would prevent you from reaching that full-depth in such a short run, while still fading out before the muntins. Says me.  One of mine:

PF joined chest

To do this in my shop, I use a scratch stock. But I don’t know the history of this tool. I do know I have never seen it by that name in any 17th-century records. There is one reference I know of that describes using a scraping action to define moldings – in Moxon, but on Turning, not Joinery.

“Of laying Moldings either upon Mettal, or Wood, without fitting the Work in a Lathe.

I Had, soon after the Fire of London, occasion to lay Moldings upon the Verges of several round and weighty flat pieces of BrassL And being at that time, by reason of the said Fire, unaccomodated of a Lathe of my own, I intended to put them out to be Turned: But then Turners were all full of Employment, which made them so unreasonable in their Prizes, that I was forc’d to contrive this following way to lay Moldings on their Verges.

I provided a strong Iron Bar for the Beam of a Sweep: (For the whole Tool marked in Plate 16, is by Mathematical Instrument-Makers called a Sweep) To this Tool is filed a Tooth of Steel with such Roundings  and Hollows in the bottom of it, as I intended to have Hollows and Roundings upon my Work: For an Hollow on the Tooth, makes a Round upon the Work; and a Round upon the Tooth, makes an Hollow on the Work, even as they do in the Molding-Plains Joyners use…”

He goes on in great detail, talks about using this sweep to shape moldings in brass, then having success at that, took on wood too. (it’s pp. 217-219 in the section on turning).  Here is the tool Moxon’s engraving of the tool he claims to have invented; probably adapted would be a better term.

Moxon's sweep

Here’s one Bob Trent & I had made by Tom Latane back in 2001 when we did an exhibition at Chipstone’s installation in the Milwaukee Art Museum. Latane does some of the nicest blacksmith work I know.

sweep by Tom Latane

I know the sweep is a rather specific tool, but for me the idea is that with it, the workman scrapes moldings, rather than shave them as you would with a plane. that’s the driving point in the search for scratch stocks…

Here is an 18th-century engraving, from Roubo, about a tool like our modern scratch stock. I got it from Greber’s History of the Woodworking Plane. I didn’t look up the translation.

Roubo, from Greber's History of the Woodworking Plane

Here is a funny old tool I bought one day, because it almost is a scratch stock. It’s probably a coach-maker’s molding cutter. It’s sort of like a spokeshave, its blade is not perpendicular like a scratch stock, but more pitched like a true plane. But clearly a home-made job. Screwed together. The sole of this tool is quite short, maybe an inch long. Curved too.

a detail

One more

In this last view, you can see that it’s one piece of wood that’s been sawn in half, then screwed back together. I would look in Salaman’s Dictionary of Woodworking Tools, but it’s in the shop – and I’ll probably forget once I get there.

I’m sure there’s more, but that’s enough for today. I have a book to finish up.

I feel like Superman….

…when I plane Atlantic White Cedar.

It’s a joy to work this stuff. It’s not really a cedar, but a cypress tree. The Latin name is Chamaecyparis thyoides, here’s a website with some details about the tree http://www.na.fs.fed.us/pubs/silvics_manual/volume_1/chamaecyparis/thyoides.htm

I rarely get to handle it. Where we buy logs this timber is usually snatched up by boatbuilders. But once it a while we get some. This one was a small-diameter tree, riven out ages ago. Then I let the rough-split bolts dry outside until I needed them. The riving process is just as it is for oak or other hardwoods. Select a straight-grained log, break it into sections with wedges and a maul, then use the froe to split out the rough billets.

twisting the froe

I have seen it used on lots of 17th-centuryNew England furniture, often as chest floor boards, drawer bottoms, but sometimes panels – like the rear panels in this Plymouth Colony chest.

These panels are easily 9” wide, thus a pretty large tree. Oak framing, pine floor boards, and cedar rear panels. (photo is a scan of an old slide…hence not the best.)

Here is the same chest, this time the side of the till is cedar:

The stock I have is quite narrow, so I am using it for the moldings I need for the German chest I am making…first up is just planing the stock flat and straight. It’s like proverbial candy-from-a-baby.

It’s more fun than you can imagine. I’m near the end of this log, but I will keep my eye out for more…

who could make this up? One way to make hidden dovetails…

Back when Adam Cherubini invented nails at WIA last month; I paid little heed. I was glad he was tackling that subject; but I must have been running up & down the escalator or something. So I didn’t get to see it. Kari did http://villagecarpenter.blogspot.com/2011/10/repeat-after-me.html

There has been a lot of bandwidth lately of folks digesting what AC said, and I see people wanting to nail things together. Not a bad thing at all.

Here is a board chest, decorated to look like a joined one. I doubt it fooled anybody in its day, but it must have fit some aesthetic. It’s not unusual. (picture is from St. George’s The Wrought Covenant)

BUT how about some knucklehead (me, for instance) making a DOVETAILED chest, then nailing moldings all over the front & sides to frame carved sections that become divided as if they were panels in frames? If you are weak of stomach, look away.

I didn’t make it up. It’s a copy I am making for a client. Totally whacky. I didn’t get to see the original, but have a lousy photo of it. And honest-to-goodness, I didn’t make the construction or decorative scheme up. How could I? Who would think of such a thing?

There’s more moldings to come. Smaller frames surround the carved “panels” and then carry around the sides to form large frames there too. A heavy base molding finishes the bottom edges (after I nail in the bottom boards). Then three sides of moldings attach to the underside of the lid. Perfectly stupid. BUT, it does give me a chance to hide 90% of my dovetails. In the end, the only ones that show are those flanking the carved inscription.

For those of you heading off to faux-wrought-nail land, do yourself a favor and see if there’s a blacksmith somewhere that you could help support. The difference between a real wrought nail and the Tremont ones is like the difference between any handmade object and its assembly-line counterpart, i.e. all the difference in the world. Try them, you’ll like them. For wrought nails, Tremonts stink. They are clunky, thick and lifeless. I have no stake in cut nails. I have used tiny ones on this chest to fix the oak moldings in place, so for that, Tremont makes sense. Here’s a couple of hand-made nails. Rectangular in section. thin, tapered. Thin heads. One’s a “T-head” – in that case, the full-sized head is bashed on two opposing sides to make a nail that buries its head into the grain of the wood.

And, in use:

And finally, the T-head in use as well: