I can do that…

I spent two days recently ferrying around Long Island with my friends Bob Trent and Mack Truax. We were researching furniture for a project there in Cutchogue. More later about that, but I wanted to get this picture out into the world.

The back of a joined chest with drawer. Never touched by a plane at any spot, it’s all riven or hewn. And the hatchet had a run-in with some iron object, chipping the cutting edge. Blow the photo up and you can “read” each stroke of the hatchet based on the tracking made by the notch in the edge. This surface is not un-heard-of; but is a somewhat extreme example. Rougher than most…I love it.

Here’s a detail from the front. The arch fits in like a framed panel, then below it the columns, with their capitals and bases, are thicker, reaching back behind the plane of the arch/panel. (the column/base/capital on our right is original, the others replaced). THEN – the carved bit with the leafy-flower shape is nailed from inside to the backs of the frame. A pretty involved series of moves to create a great deal of depth. Needs a thick bottom rail.

Shooting in the tight spaces was hard, I didn’t even try to shoot inside the chest with the camera. Used an Ipad to shoot this grainy photo, but it gives you the idea of what is going on.

Not the craziest thing I’ve ever seen, but it’s not far off.

Bonus item was this New Haven box, with S-scrolls running all one way, rather than opposing/symmetrically. Trent files this under “Plan ahead!”

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Carving the next wainscot chair stile

I’ve got my joinery book just about finished, I have a few things to photograph, and a couple of paragraphs to write. This carving pattern came after I was done writing, so it goes here instead of in the book. It’s a rear stile for a wainscot chair, 3″ wide.

After striking margins and a centerline, I struck the outline of the diamond shape with a broad chisel & mallet.

The inner part of that design is outlined again with the chisel.

These half-circle bits get 2 strikes of this deeply curved gouge. These are stuck to the margin…

Next, I took a large #5 Swiss-made gouge and used it to outline the large rosette. These photos are too close to see, but just about all of this is mallet work.

After outline, then I use the same tool to relieve the bits right around the rosette. Then a smaller #5 to finish removing background.

Inside the rosette, a small circle right in the middle, defined with 3 strikes of a small curved gouge.

Then remove a chip right up against that incised outline to begin hollowing the shape.

Then I can step back and use a large tool to remove more of that hollowing. By cutting the bit right near the center first, I’ve decreased the chances of knocking the middle out with this gouge. 

Once that rosette is hollowed, I use a very narrow gouge to define the outline of the petals.

Then remove a chip behind the 2 cuts that form the intersection of 2 petals.

Then a straight chisel to connect the parts, to define the edges of the petals.

A narrower chisel makes a straight line through the petal, followed by a punch (a fine nailset in this case) at the tip. 

Here’s a short (amateur) video done with the ipad, warts & all. It shows me carving the diamond/lozenge part:

strapwork carvings

I’ve been carving a lot of oak lately. Boxes and drawer fronts in this pile.

As I mentioned the other day, I have a box with a drawer underway; for a descendant of William Searle, one of the Ipswich joiners. These pieces get big and heavy – about 15″ tall, 26″ wide. Maybe 16″ deep.

I’ve only seen one & 1/2 period examples of this form, this one is based on the full example. The 1/2 example has lost its drawer; got cut in half at some point. Both were by the same maker(s); sometimes attributed to William Searle, sometimes to Thomas Dennis.

Lots of layout involved, and the outlines are struck with gouges and chisels, not cut with a V-tool. Centerlines, margins, arcs – all measured off with a compass. In this case, I’m trying to make a close copy, usually I make my own versions of this “strapwork” design.

 

But I got ahead of the story. While I had the box with drawer underway; I got an email asking if I would make a copy of the “other” one, the one that’s lost its drawer! And it had nothing to do with my having the first one on the bench. What are the odds that I’d get that note while working on a related box? I’ve got the first one to the point where all the hard parts are left – the drawer, applied moldings around the middle and base, and turned feet for underneath. Then the lid. I need to shoot some of that for the book I have underway, so rather than get involved in that right now, I got out a board to start carving the next box front.

It’s fun to see how the strapwork designs relate to each other, and how they are different. Scale is quite similar, about 5 1/2″ to 6″ high x 25″ wide.

 

I wrote in detail about strapwork back in 2013 – I found it by searching “strapwork” on the blog’s sidebar. https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/2013/02/08/strapwork-carving-designs/ 

Update, oak furniture & spoons for sale etc

I started some blog housekeeping today. I never get around to cleaning up the pages on the blog. First thing is there were spoons and a bowl left last week. So I made a page for them and posted it in the header. I added two pieces of oak furniture for sale as well. Certainly not an impulse purchase like some of the spoons – but better they’re posted here than just collecting dust. This chest is one of them – and it’s at a slightly reduced price; $3,600.  Here’s the link to the page. The chest, a large box, spoons & a bowl.    https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/spoons-for-sale-march-2018/

 

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The other thing I am working on, woefully late, is my teaching schedule. I created a page for that as well. I’ll update it as I get my act together. There will be the usual Plymouth CRAFT stuff in the fall; and more at Bob Van Dyke’s Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking. The page is also in the blog’s header and here’s the link:  https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/teaching-schedule-2018/ 

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For those inclined, a reminder that I take custom orders also. I’m chipping away at my list. Among them is this box with a drawer, for a descendant of William Searle, the joiner in Ispwich, Massachusetts. This afternoon was one of those days in the shop where everything went exactly as planned. No hitches anywhere, smoothly flowing all day long. But… I shot no photos in the shop as I worked. I planed and cut the end boards, rabbets front & back, made the till, bored all the pilot holes, fit the hinges in the back board, and assembled the box.  All red oak, except the till side & bottom, Atlantic white cedar.

The drawer front caught some raking light as I was leaving the shop.

And while I was outside hewing, this cooper’s hawk strafed the mourning doves. Missed.

Wainscot chair rear leg

I’m working on a few things at once; including another wainscot chair. Making the “rake” to the rear legs is the largest output of labor for a single piece of wood in my repertoire. And, the most conspicuous waste of material. But, it has to be done. I rived this white oak billet about 3 1/2″-4″ square, maybe 45″ long or so. I start then by hewing the tangential plane into something close to flat.

This is a departure from my standard practice – I usually always work the radial face first. It’s easiest to plane, and often rives quite flat. But in this case, I’m planing the side-plane of the rear post – so I can then layout the shape on this face. If you enlarge the photo below, you can see the growth ring orientation on the end grain.

Each wainscot chair I have seen is different in its angle/rake/cant – what ever we might call the shape hewn and planed above the seat. I like to align the top end with the grain – it makes plowing the panel groove easier. Chopping mortises too. But to do this, like in the photo below, it means the chunk of wood to give you this shape is pretty hefty. This particular chair isn’t raked all that much…some have a greater angle than this.

There have been times when I have shifted the template on the stock, to squeak the leg out of a thinner piece of wood. To do that, you bump it so the leg angles back both above and below the seat. Sometimes a riven piece of wood will have some blowout here or there so you have no choice but to do this. The downside is all the joinery is mis-aligned with the fibers of the wood. There’s no way around that to some degree, but the orientation in the first photo minimizes it.

After having determined the layout, I hew off the bottom/front and then bring the piece to the bench to plane the top front face. This is the radial face. On this chair, the surface will be carved.

 

Once I’ve planed the top and bottom front face (the top & bottom here are in relation to the seat height – above and below the seat.) Then I mark the thickness on the side view, and saw a relief cut from the back, at the point where the leg angles back. This is the same height as the top of the seat rails. But that’s later.

Now – depending on how straight the wood is, how tough your nerves are – you can rive off the bulk of that waste. I knocked the froe in, but left a chunk of wood for caution.

I jammed it in the riving brake, and it split as perfect as can be. It popped off right after I took this photo. Almost hit the camera.

 

I had left some wood that needed hewing; I did the top end first, that way if the hatchet slips it won’t hit the bottom end of the leg.

After hewing both ends, I set it up on the bench like this to shave each end in turn. There’s some fiddling around right where the angles diverge, but skewing the plane helps, and I got in there with a spokeshave too.

This is the finished planed leg. Once I do the other one, I’ll let them dry for a couple of weeks. At that point, I fine-tune the shape, matching one to the other more than to the template. As long as they’re close to the template, but closer to each other it will be fine. Then I cut the carving and joinery.

 


After lunch I worked on a carving for a box I’m making. A good day all around.

Carving a Wainscot chair panel

We’re up above the water here at the Jones River. Here’s the 2nd day’s high tide, a few feet less than the day before. The only other time it got this high was early January this year. That conifer in the foreground is on the river bank…

We did get a picnic table and Adirondack chair float in during the flood tide on the first day…so if you’re down river from us and lost them, come get ’em. I hate Adirondack chairs…and picnic tables for that matter.

Back to working oak. I carved the panel for a wainscot chair today. This is a copy of a New Haven chair I saw at Sotheby’s this winter. A couple of noteworthy things about this panel. I carved the forward half entirely before going across the centerline –

That’s because this panel, like the original, is glued-up from two boards. Totals 14 3/8″ x 17 3/4″. I dislike working glued-up stock. The backs of these two boards are not even, thus the panel doesn’t sit perfectly flat. So I clamped it to the bench, instead of pounding a holdfast down onto it; and carved it in halves. There’s very little layout. A centerline and margins as usual. Then large half-arcs at each end. And a small full circle inside those arcs. That’s it. I chalked a sketch of what I was carving. Again, a bit cautious – this is the only white oak I have to do this chair panel, so I wanted to be sure there were no mishaps.

Using a #5 Swiss-made gouge to remove the background. This is my standard tool for this work. It and the V-tool are the only tools I used for 99% of this carving.


The V-tool cutting in the veins in this leafy shape.

Another view of the background removal, now on the 2nd half.

Two gouges to cut 4 leaf-highlights – this is the only use of anything other than the V-tool and the shallow gouge for background. So 4 strikes from 2 tools…to do a tiny fraction of this panel.

It’s very shallow carving. Now to build a chair around it.

Here’s some Ipad video of the carving – until Paula Marcoux called about Greenwood Fest. Inverted by some Ipad/youtube business. I’m video-challenged.

 

Forgot about these November/December projects

Back in the late fall, I worked on some commission work that I kept off the blog. Didn’t want to let the cat out of the bag…these things being presents. Then I forgot to show them once the holidays were over. A Shakespeare enthusiast asked me to make a joined chest and joined stool, to commemorate 25 years of he & his wife reading Shakespeare together. Thus, the “WS” carved on the muntins.

As I was making the front of this chest, I wrote about the mitered joints for Popular Woodworking Magazine. The current issue (April 2018) has the whole run-down on cutting the joint. I think I added it to the upcoming book too. Here’s the layout of the tenon.

It’s one really leaned-over sawcut to get that mitered shoulder.

A marking gauge defines the bevel on each edge of this muntin. Then plane it down.

The tenon partway home, make sure the grooves line up, then the mitered shoulder slides over the beveled edge of the stile. Whew.

Then, to make matters even more complicated, I undertook a painting on the inside of the lid. I haven’t really done any painting since about 1981…What was I thinking?

The finished painting. I felt like Alec Guinness in The Horse’s Mouth – It never comes out like it is in my head.

When that was done, I got to make my own wife a present. A much-needed book rack, for library books used in home-schooling. It looks so Arts & Crafts; quartersawn white oak, through mortise & tenon joints…Look at that wild medullary ray pattern on those uprights. Who could dislike that?

Me. I couldn’t leave it like that. Too blank. Horror vacui.