storage

these have to go somewhere

Wood storage in a small shop is a challenge. When I brought home all that quartersawn oak last week, I had to dedicate some time to sorting and sifting it and tucking it out of the way so I could get back to work. I had a question about it, not a terribly exciting subject, but here’s how I tackle it.

First – I sort the piles into the best stuff, lesser so, etc. Some of the things I’m looking at is how straight is it? Is it quartersawn or riftsawn? Defects? Here’s two really wide boards, 15″ or more. About 5′ long. I need this sort of stock for the tops of both cases to the cupboard. These tops end up about 23″ x 50″ – I’ll glue them up from 3 or 4 boards. You can see in the photo that these two boards have large knots and cracks near the inner part of the log. I split that stuff off – I’m never going to use it, so why store it? Get rid of it now.

as they came off the saw

Here is one of them with its split section detached. The good stuff runs about 10″-11″ wide, straight & clear. That it tapers in width doesn’t matter. The glued-up top will be evened out, the individual bits don’t need to be.

better now

I do the same sort of culling on lengths too. Looking for knots, curved grain and other problems. The board below I crosscut before splitting off the inner wavy bit. A large knot an the end would make that splitting a hassle. So I cut it first, then split it. Got rid of the rough end cut too, where there can be checks and splits from when the board was stacked outside.

crosscut at the green line

so it goes on & on. There were 30 pieces I think. They had been cut to different lengths to fit in my car, I have no truck. Nor do I want one. I like to mark the position of the growth rings on the end grain so I can look in the stack and see right away the orientation of each board.

good ones

I also took off the sapwood edge, it can be buggy and rotten. Same principle applies, I don’t want to store something I’m not going to use. I don’t have the room.

got my exercise

Then where does it go? Some went in the loft, stickered. Some was even labeled for its use. I don’t like to add too much weight up there, most of these will get used within a couple of months. This wood was sawn well over a year ago, but has been outdoors all that time. And it was wet in southeastern New England this summer. So these need some time to settle before I use them.

first stack

Over near the eaves of the building, but in the loft, I store dry wide stuff on edge. Some walnut up there, some wide pine that just came in and some leftover butternut.

dry stuff

The worst place to stack some is under the 2nd bench in the shop – but it takes up no floor space. This will be boxes later in the year and next winter.

under the bench

I lied. That’s the 2nd worst place. The worst is standing in the corner. I’m guilty of that too, but I’ve got it down to one corner this summer. That’s progress.

Essex County cupboards – related examples

lower case test assembly

Working on this reproduction cupboard project this year is more fun than I can stand. As part of it, I’ve been reviewing the notes from about 1998-2001 when I worked with Bob Trent and Alan Miller to research our article on the group. I dug out a few photos; I mostly shot slides then and they have since been tossed. But I have a few photos or color photocopies from the slides. 

much of this cupboard is original, much is not

The cupboard above was on loan to the Historical Society of Old Newbury (Massachusetts) when we spent a day or two studying it. It’s like the Gates of Eden – “the princess and the prince discuss what’s real and what is not.” Easy – the door is later. Some of the drawers too, although the arrangement of drawers is original. In fact the whole concept of the framing is original. And that’s the real kicker. Below is a side view

stack upon stack

This shop tradition (we don’t know who the joiners were who made these) loved the notion of overhanging segments. In this cupboard they outdid themselves. I tried time & time again to understand the sequence and relationship among the sections. One of my drawings to help me suss it out is below

part of the lower case

Here’s a detail of that rear section

up & over up & over

The one below isn’t really a cupboard, it’s a weird chest of drawers. That looks something like a cupboard. This photo is from a 1999 auction catalog when it was for sale. It had been restored in the late 19th/early 20th century and has since been re-restored. Trent & I wrote the catalog entry for the sale. It’s a stunning piece of work.

Now it’s part of the Chipstone collection in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, restored by our other co-author Alan Miller and his shop. Here’s the photo from Chipstone’s site showing what Alan came up with for the informed conjecture as to its possible original configuration.

These two examples make the one I’m doing look tame. Anybody wants to hire me, I’m ready to make one of these two next year – I’ll be all warmed up!

more cupboard work; drawer bottoms

V-shaped tongue & groove joint

A while back I took the cupboard’s lower case apart and began painting the integral moldings black, as well as the carved drawer front. Carbon pigment in linseed oil. So they’ve been sitting & drying while I tended to some other stuff. Today I got out one of the drawers and shot some photos while I worked on it. I’ll start with the drawer bottoms.

Last time I wrote about the drawers, I barely mentioned the bottoms. Thin oak boards, nailed to the bottom edges of the drawer sides & back. And in a rabbet in the front. At their adjoining edges, there’s a V-shaped joint that lets one board slip into the edge of its neighbor. Much like a tongue & groove; but not as precise. I have no idea how this was made in the 1680s – but I figured out a method that works pretty well. It starts with the V-groove. I made a scratch stock to create it.

scraping the V-groove

Here’s a bit closer shot of the cutter.

scratch stock

Then plane a bevel on both sides of the neighboring board.

beveling the edges of a floor board

Then test them with a scrap that has the groove in it.

good enough

I also worked on some of the applied moldings that decorate some of the drawer fronts. I had a custom molding plane made by Matt Bickford – https://msbickford.com/ I showed him some of the measurements and drawings from the cupboard & we settled on this plane. Its molding is on the drawer fronts, the side panels of the lower case and with some additional detail on the upper case as well. So I’ll get a lot of use out of this beautiful plane. What a joy to use a plane made so well. I would have taken days & days to fumble through a much-less-functional plane…

new molding plane & some of its result

First, I choose the best stock I can find for the applied moldings. Strength is not an issue – this is about looks and ease of working. I want slow-growing, straight-grained oak. The blank on the left below would be good if I was making chairs (that’s next month) – but I want the one on the right. Another reason for choosing that stock for this reproduction is that it looks like the oak I see in New England furniture of the 1600s.

fast & slow

The “fast” one has 7 growth rings in about 1 1/4″ width; the other over 30 rings in 1 7/8″ width. I ran the 5/8″ wide molding on each edge of this strip of oak. Thickness is 3/8″. I am holding it in a sticking board of sorts. I need all the help I can get, so I grabbed the blank with the holdfast to keep it steady.

molding the edge

Then once they both were done, I sawed the piece apart. This is very careful work. Lightly does it. Any extra pressure from the saw can split that thin stock, then I’ve wasted not only the work to make the molding but the work to make the blank to begin with. I ran that sawn edge across an upside-down plane to clean up that surface & bring it to the final width.

separating the moldings

Back when Jennie Alexander & I were selling off her extra tools, I tried to unload this miter box. And I am glad now I had no takers…

Ulmia miter box

Here’s the top drawer front, nearly done. 27 pieces of wood so far to decorate that drawer front.

(pt 20 Essex County cupboard project 2021)

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)

The Essex County cupboard project: recessed front stiles

Many irons in the fire. Between brettstuhls and other things, we spit out the next video for the cupboard project. This one’s about the short, wide recessed front stiles in the lower case. This photo below shows a partially-assembled end section to the lower case. On the bench is the rear stile, the two wide/tall rails we’ve seen before. Between them is the muntin in the middle, and near the top of the photo the piece I’m calling the “recessed front stile” (for lack of a better term, and that’s what it is.)

These stiles are, in New England furniture, unique to this shop’s production as far as I can remember. I started them by laying out and chopping the mortises for the drawer rails. These stiles frame a section that houses two drawers – the lower one about 7″ deep, the upper one about 4″. Between and above & below the drawers are narrow/short rails – 1 1/4″-1 1/2″. Once the mortises were cut, I laid out and cut the tenons that fit this stile between the rails.

The photo below is a bit dark, but you can see perhaps the layout of the near tenon. The odd thing about it to me is that it’s in the tangential plane. Most tenons are in the radial plane in stock like this – so I drew all over it with pencil. Didn’t want any more mishaps. You can see the pin holes bored in the stile’s face where I have the mortises chopped.

Now for the rear shoulder. Switched to a bigger saw and cut those shoulders down to the line. This opens up the top bottom mortises, turning them into what I think of as bridle joints. But these will never show regardless.

Then it’s just a matter of splitting off the waste & paring it, like I do for most of my tenons.

These stiles are chunky, 1 7/8″ x 4 7/8″ – so inside there’s still some moisture. I got some resulting checks on the newly-exposed end grain once I formed the tenons of the first one. (I cut one for still photos, one for videos and there might have been a day in between). Nothing fatal, but on the 2nd one I glued those ends after cutting it. Just to reduce the chance of a split carrying into the edge of the stile.

Below is the whole thing in a short 11-minute video. A new record for me, usually I go on & on. It shows how they all fit together, so might help make sense of this slightly-weird construction. I hope by the end of the month to be able to test-fit the bulk of the framing, both upper & lower cases.

(pt 14 Essex County cupboard project 2021)

a snowy day is perfect in the shop

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.

yellow cedar box # 2

These strapwork patterns vary only in the details, but generally follow a basic format.

box front detail

Earlier this year, I wrote about some of the background of this pattern https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/2020/06/19/strapwork/

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.

carving pattern on the lid

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.

Sash making

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.

Here’s the links of stuff I mentioned up above.

https://www.instagram.com/rgd62/?hl=en

https://www.pbs.org/video/woodwrights-shop-double-casement-window/

https://woodandshop.com/the-house-jointer-make-sash-windows/

Carving Crossed S-scrolls video

Daniel started school lessons recently, so I have to compete for his spare time. Promised him money, that worked this time. We got the next video in the Carving Oak Patterns series – these are to accompany the Carving Drawings https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/carving-drawings-17th-century-work-from-devon-england-and-ipswich-massachusetts-set-1/

 

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.

 

It’s not that big a loft…

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.