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.
Quite some time ago, my friend Rick DeWolf posted a window he’d made for his barn. I was astounded, wondering “How did he do that?” So I wrote to him & asked “How did you do that?” and he told me he watched Roy Underhill make one.
I have several windows that have seen better days, long ago. I wanted to tackle making new ones, but never thought I could do it. I have a vague memory of working on some with Michael Burrey – way back in 1994. My tools, and my skills, were not sharp enough for softwood. I dropped it for decades. It seemed so complicated. Roy offered to show me how, but we never found the time…
But 2020 seems to offer me lots of time with nothing to do. So I decided this is it – time to learn how to make these things. I watched Roy’s episode, read Lost Art Press’ reprint of Doormaking & Windowmaking. I even browsed some on the web – there I found a nice video of Ted Ingraham making sash. I used to run into Ted here & there in the tool/museum world.
So here goes. Lots of pictures again. I can chop mortises – that’s easy. These are 3/8″ wide – the longest is under 2″. For these, a typical mortise chisel seemed like overkill, so I just used a bench chisel. I have a “sash mortise” chisel that I dislike for my oak joinery. Too light. They’d be great here. I don’t have a 3/8″ one…
One thing that Roy did is to intentionally overcut the front cheek of the tenons. This helps when you cope it to meet the molded edge.
I added one step to Roy’s sequence. I scribed a line on the end grain of that front shoulder, that’s where the coping cuts begins. Or ends, depends on how you look at it. But I keep that narrow shoulder square. Roy didn’t need that step because he used a coping plane, I used a gouge. The block on our left is to keep the stock from blasting apart as I pare across it.
And here is the gouge, starting to cut that coped shoulder. It’s more forgiving than I thought…
After coping the shoulders, I ran the molding & rabbet – but didn’t shoot any photos of it. Here is the plane cutting both edges – in this case, after mortising the stiles.
The plane is by J & L Denison, brothers who worked in Saybrook, Connecticut circa 1830s.
After chopping mortises, cutting tenons, running moldings, it’s time for some test-fitting. Once I had the stiles and horizontal rails tested together, I scribed the length of the vertical muntins. Or are they mullions? Whichever they are, I made them more stout than many – decided I didn’t need the extra challenge of thin muntins on my first go-round.
Knocking it together here & there. Some test-fit, some adjustments. Nothing major.
I checked it. Flat & square & 1/8″ oversized. I got right out of there before I messed anything up.
This is the third video in the series; fourth if you count the intro to the drawings. I have several more to go, some of which have already been shot and just need editing. The floral panel I plan on shooting in the next week or so. Then it’s on to finishing the next set of drawings. I post all of the videos here on the blog as well as on youtube.
This one I shot the steps and discussed them as I went along, then carved the whole pattern a second time with little commentary, trying to just carve it in “real” time. (I hate that expression). So the back 12 minutes or so is a bit redundant. You’re warned, repetition is the mother of retention.
the loft isn’t all that large; only 12′ x 8′. But I manage to pull a lot of stuff down from there…lately it’s been butternut boards. I have operated essentially as a mono-culture in furniture work, maybe a duo-culture. Oak and pine. Every once in a while something slightly different; usually that means ash.
Years ago, I got a job to make a walnut high chair – customer’s wood. Big mistake. Then I built a chest with walnut I selected. Better. Then quartersawn walnut – now I started to get it. Riven- even better. But it’s still very dark, and for someone who relies on shadows to see what I’m carving, that gets tricky. I finally got the hang of it, but I don’t come across it very much. I just finished this little walnut box – it was in the loft and just needed some molding here & there. And a cleaning…
I always joke that the best thing walnut does is sell. And I stubbornly keep making things from oak…then I went back into the loft and pulled down some butternut boards. I have often said, but maybe not often enough, I have great friends. In this case, Michael Burrey, https://www.instagram.com/mlbrestorations/?hl=en who pretty much made me take these butternut boards from him. I might have paid him a pittance for one of them, but I think I got several in a couple of trips there…
Butternut (Juglans cinerea) is related to walnut, softer wood, lighter in color. On the left below is a board that has about 16″ of usable width, by 4′ in length. The narrower one I split apart from a wider board, to yield quartersawn material.
Looking at the end grain – the quartersawn one on top, its annular rings are perpendicular to the board’s face. It has very straight, boring grain. I love it, it’s perfect. The bottom one is the wider stock, flatsawn. You can see the growth rings wiggle this way & that. The fibers in the board’s face have a corresponding waviness to them…
The quartersawn face –
Even though this flatsawn face has some wild grain pattern, it planes easily and cleanly.
I had very limited experience with butternut before – this chip-carved box has butternut sides and ends, but a pine lid & bottom. I keep sharpening stuff in it. This butternut was radially riven – and worked like a dream.
I didn’t push the material too far, just the simplest of chip carving work.
I posted something on Instagram about butternut the other day, and Ouida Vincent reminded me that up in the loft is this not-finished sliding lid box with a drawer. So all the easy parts are done, now just the hard bits. This I made out of boards like the wavy one – I remember some of the carving digging in here & there, tearing things up when I wasn’t careful.
But I jumped ahead and started a new box from the quartersawn agreeable stuff. And I had the best time working this one so far…the detail at the top of the post is the ends of this box…
So, if you run across some butternut, grab it. Amazingly nice wood. Now, back to what I was doing…I’m not going up into the loft til these are done & gone.
The black walnut box is for sale – $800 shipped in US. Size is 11 1/4″ x 15 1/2″ x 4 3/4″ high. white oak back & bottom, blacksmith hinges.
I have some baskets & a few pieces of oak furniture for sale.
The furniture is all joined & carved by hand. Almost all the oak was split from a log, hewn & planed, etc. (except for the box lid and chair seat – those are quartersawn stock) Construction details are throughout the blog here, in my videos w Lie-Nielsen and books with Lost Art Press.
The carved box I can pack & ship. The larger pieces I will have to take somewhere (UPS probably) to be packed & shipped. Or I can deliver them within a couple hours’ drive of Kingston MA. (or you can come pick them up if you wear a mask…)
The baskets are all ash, with hickory rims & handles. There’s videos on the blog recently, showing all the steps in making baskets, from pounding the log apart, weaving, (and next up for the videos) shaving and bending handles & rims.
If you’d like to purchase anything, leave a comment here or send an email firstname.lastname@example.org you can pay through paypal (with additional fees) or send a check. Just let me know which you prefer.
The carved box is the only one ready for sale right now, but I have two more underway, and will take orders for boxes anytime. They’re something I keep stock for all the time, so there’s never too long a wait for one. Email me if you’d like to order something.
Thanks as always,
CARVED OAK BOX –
white & red oak, white pine bottom.
H: 8 1/2″ W: 23 3/8″ D: 13″
$1,050 includes shipping in US.
This pattern is often found on 17th-century work – a surprising amount of detail in small spaces. (the bottom photo shows the detail well…)
Glued & pegged at the corners, bottom nailed on w handmade nails. Handmade hinges as well. A lidded till inside.
JOINED & CARVED CHEST
red oak & white pine. Handmade hinges & nails. Lidded till inside.
H: 30 1/2″ W: 45″ D: 21 1/4″
$4,000 plus shipping.
I was recently trying to estimate how many joined chests I’ve made. It’s well over 60. This is one of my favorites – the wide front panels separated by an extra-wide muntin is an unusual format. I based mine on a Devon chest I saw 20 years ago, and have seen others presumably by the same maker since then in photographs. Back when I was writing my book, I wanted to include a short detour on making the “brackets” that fit under the bottom rail. So I made this chest just to get the photos for the book! Then it sat around unfinished for years. Now it’s done, and there’s no room in the house for it. Room for your (or someone’s) initials or date on the muntin…
Here it is with junk piled on it:
I cleared out some room in the shop today to take “proper” photographs (as proper as I’m going to get…) – but there’s only room for the 53″ wide paper, and the chest is 45″ wide. Technically, it fits on the paper, but not for a photo…so here is what I call a “half-view” –
The lidded till inside, and the handmade hinges visible in the rear rail.
The only way it fit, but you can’t see the front. Two-panel ends, typical of my chests. Single-board white pine lid.
One of the panels in this chest:
red and white oak. Finial is ash.
H: 47 1/2″ W: (widest point across front of seat) 25 1/2″ D: c. 24″ Seat height: 18 1/2″
$4,000 plus shipping
I’ve made versions of this chair three times before. This one I designed the panel as well as the top rear rail, just below the crest. Otherwise, it’s a close copy to two originals made in Ipswich Massachusetts, probably by Thomas Dennis, between the late 1660s and 1700.
Sometimes it seems from photos that these chairs are huge, there’s a shot in this gallery of me in the chair & you’ll get a sense of its actual size.
BASKETS – All of these are ash splints, with hickory handles and rims. Most, maybe all, have hickory bark lashing around the rims. These baskets are made for use; I’ve been using baskets like these around the shop and house for over 30 years.
If you’d like to purchase one, leave a comment here. Prices include shipping in the US – you can pay through paypal or send a check. Just let me know which you prefer.
large round basket –
14″ diameter at rims, basket height 9″ to handle 18″
$600 including shipping in US.
rectangular basket – SOLD
10″ x 13″ at rims; basket height is 8″, to handle about 15″
$400 including shipping in US.
Swing-handle round basket – SOLD
12 1/2″ – 13″ diameter at rims; basket height 8 3/4″, overall 16″ high.
$500 including shipping in US.
This form is a favorite of mine, based on baskets made in eastern New York state in the early 20th century.
long rectangular basket SOLD
10″ x 16 1/2″ at rims, basket height 6″, to handle 14″
$400 including shipping in US.
square-to-round basket SOLD
10″ diameter at rims, basket height 9″, to handle 17″
$350 including shipping in US.
(Yes, I know the first set’s not ready yet, but I have to do something…)
Over the years, there are some things that I just won’t bother carving. This chest of mine is an example –
I copied the two panels and wide muntin as closely as I could from an original I measured 20 years ago. But the bottom rail is made up from related works. Here’s the bottom rail from the original:
It’s clearly accomplished carving, all those curves flow nicely, nothing too abrupt to jar the eye. But it’s so boring. No background, no shaping. Just the repeating leaf-shapes. So I’ve never carved that pattern – and it appears again & again in the overall works. Here it is on one of the New England examples, running up the stiles also. I guess the only way I’d bother with this pattern is if I were hired to copy verbatim an existing work with it.
here’s a variation, with an extra outline and some textured punch work where you might remove background otherwise. This one’s a vertical muntin.
A student at Lost Art Press last fall showed me these photos taken from the web – I had never seen this chest before. I really liked that center panel, but the bottom rail is a dud.
One I have tinkered with a number of times is sort of in between. Here’s an original example, a muntin from a chest in Darlington, Devon.
And a chest at Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford, Connecticut. Made in Ipswich, MA. Both stiles, top rail & both muntins use this pattern.
Below I cropped the top rail from that photo – not sure it will come through in detail.
A drawing I did of that pattern a couple of years ago. Either mine, or the original, is upside-down. I’ve seen it carved both ways.
This pattern is a bit hard to wrap my head around. I broke it down to three elements, (here in black, green & blue) and then these just lay against each other as the pattern repeats. (my full drawing above is 2 1/3 repeats).
It’s a weird one. I’ve only carved it a few times –
Most recently I carved this design when I built the shop in 2016. Did it twice then, because this one’s on the wrong side of the brace, now covered with sheathing for a few decades.
So keep in mind that my “take” on these Devon, England/Ipswich, Massachusetts carvings are skewed. I take what I need, and leave the rest.
I haven’t been carving lately, but I’ve been thinking a lot about it as I work on the patterns’ drawings. Earlier this week, it was “strapwork.”
That’s a term art historians apply to a group of carvings (& other decoration) that mimic iron straps bound around woodwork. Or so it seems to me, anyway. This style of engraving by de Vries is often cited as an example when discussing (the few) New England examples, or the English ones – but it is only related in concept, not in details.
I first carved it about 20 years ago, one of my early attempts is incorporated in the headboard of this bedstead; two large horizontal panels:
My most recent example went into this wainscot chair that’s now in the loft waiting to be finished.
The most extensive research into this particular pattern is Anthony Wells-Cole’s 1981 article “Oak Bed at Montacute: A Study in Mannerist Decoration” in Furniture History. That article runs down a lot of examples in and around Exeter, England. Recently, I sat down with some of the illustrations from that article and searched the web for newer photographs of some of the monuments Wells-Cole cited. (if you have access through JSTOR you can read it here https://www.jstor.org/stable/23404733?seq=1 )
(I’ve not seen any of these monuments – I clipped all these photos off the web. Some wikipedia, some travel blogs, etc)
Carew family monument, 1589 Exeter Cathedrel
Fulford monument, Dunsford, Devon – Thomas Fulford died 1610.
Sir Thomas Harris, Cornworthy, Devon, died 1610. Monument said to be erected in 1611.
A pulpit from Iddesleigh Devon –
Many, many years ago I did see some excellent examples in Totnes, Devon:
The only person I know of in England these days studying this work in detail is Paul Fitzsimmons, owner of Marhamchurch Antiques. He’s a magnet for Exeter/Devon carved furniture in general, and has clustered together a great group of strapwork examples. Sadly, these days you can buy original oak furniture from him cheaper than you can buy reproductions from me! https://www.marhamchurchantiques.com/current-stock/
Daniel & I finished a video today. It’s not a new series, it’s just a stand-alone about how I hew and bevel a panel for framed work, in this case, a wainscot chair. But the steps are the same no matter what the frame & panel is for..
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.
Well, we finally finished the joined stool video set. This is the one where Daniel inadvertently discovered an echo chamber effect when he blended two shots together. Much to his delight…
I’ll do some blog housekeeping one of these days, and make a page with all the videos in this series together. But they’re on youtube in a playlist there too…
I was going to put a gallery of joined stools in the video, but it was already pretty long. So here are some stools over the years. Most of these have been here before.
There’s some stand-alone videos I shot a while back, I’ll get to those soon. Nowadays, I’m shooting several about making baskets from an ash log. I also got a couple of requests, so I have plenty in the pipeline. They’re fun to do, but a bit time-consuming. I need to remember to shoot ordinary photos too…
Here’s the highlight of the past week for me – a rare sighting of a mink around the shop. They’re here a lot, but usually the only view I get is a fleeting glimpse. This one was in constant motion, but stayed in view long enough for me to get some photos…