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.

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period carvings; arches/arcading: what-have-you

That carving pattern I worked on the other day https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/2018/02/19/carved-arcading/ is very common, except in my work & my photo files! I have rarely used it, but that will change; I’m planning to take a whack at a few versions of it. Here’s what mine was generally based on, a walnut box, made c. 1600-1610. London? This is the drawer front to the box…I’d say maybe 4″ high. Look how much detail is crammed into a small space.

arcading

This one was sent to me by a reader of the blog – I know, because I’ve never been to Suffolk. Simple version, cut very well.

Suffolk arcading

A few years back I had 2 workshops in England. Jon Bayes attended one, and this is his version of that carving in progress. https://www.riversjoinery.co.uk/workshop

 

Jon Bayes’ arcading

Here’s a row of it, over some nice spindles in a church in Great Durnford, Wiltshire.

Great Durnford, Wiltshire

A wainscot chair now in the Merchant’s House in Marlborough, Wiltshire. Even has the pattern upside-down.

wainscot chair Merchant’s House

One for the dish-people. V&A in London:

It’s as old as the hills. But so are all the other patterns I know…here it is from Sebastiano Serlio’s 16th century book on architecture:

Same book, different section. This time a fireplace/hearth:

I’ve seen it on boxes quite often, or the top rail of a chest. Here’s one more from a book called “A Discourse on Boxes of the 16th, 17th & 18th Centuries” by Andrew Coneybeare. Nice detail shots of carving in that book. Published in 1992 by Rosca Publications, Worcestershire. Like the first one, look at all the detail jammed into a tiny space. The other versions seem blank…

I remember learning its name as “nulling” but I see no reference to that anywhere. Harris’ Illustrated Dictionary of Historic Architecture had a definition of nulling with no illustration. Said it was part of a molding. Coneybeare cited just above calls it “fluting.” Makes some sense. I’ve called it “arcading” but my kids thought I was talking about the crazy places with video games and noisy rides. So now I don’t talk about it.

Carved arcading

I spent the weekend at the Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking, teaching 13 students to carve oak patterns…but I forgot my camera. One design I hoped to include, but ran out of time for, is this “nulling” or arcading pattern. It’s very common, there’s lots of variations on it. This is my recent version, in walnut instead of oak. This example is only about 3 1/2″ between the bottom and top margin.

Here’s how I carved a section of it today, after unpacking. This pattern has no free-hand aspect of it, very different from my usual work. All the elements are struck first with an awl, square and marking gauge. Spacing is marked off with a ruler and compass/dividers. Once I know the spacing (that’s some trial & error, based on the size of your stock, and the tools available) – I strike the chisel work to define the spaces between the arches.

Then I use my #7, 3/4″ wide gouge to strike the tops of the arches and the peaked leaf that falls behind them. 3 strikes of the gouge outline the tops of the arches. There’s a marking gauge line at the top & bottom of these, so they all line up properly.

This leaf tip that fits behind them starts about 1/2 way up one side of the arch, and hits a centerline struck through the chiseled portion.

Once the outlines are struck, I use the chisel with its bevel down to chop these sections. Sometimes I have to go back & forth between the vertical strikes and the beveled ones to get the chip out.

Then comes some background removal. I use the #7 to chop behind its original strikes.

Then a #5, about 1/2″ wide to smooth off this background. It leans down from the top margin to the arches/leaves.

Then I hollow the leaves with the #7.  Makes them look like they fall behind the arches a bit.

Now to hollow the arches. I start with a narrow, deeply-curved gouge. (old, no before they were numbered. It’s between a #8 & #9.) Two strikes  define the bottom of the hollow. Previously I struck inner margins for this hollow.

I chop right behind this to remove a chip. This will help protect the bottom solid bit when I finish hollowing.

Now a larger gouge hollows out the whole thing. This takes a few cuts. I don’t go to the full depth in one go. In the end, I want this tool to hollow all the way to the outlines I struck.

Here is the pattern after the shaping. But it looks pretty blank…

Gotta fill all the blank spaces. Start with a small #7 to chop details in the leaves.

A straight chisel to highlight the peaked bits.

A large gouge just strikes an incised line around the top of the arches. A punch fills in other spaces.

This really narrow gouge chops little patterns inside the hollows.

 

I always like to see what they look like after applying some linseed oil –

 

(I’ve 

I’ve heard it called “nulling” but my copy of Cyril Harris’ Illustrated Dictionary of Historic Architecture is out in the shop. That’s where I would check the name. Maybe I’ll remember tomorrow.

Installing a lock on a joined chest

I installed the 2nd lock the other day. The first one was here – https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/2018/02/08/locks

This one was easier because I was fitting it in a chest, not a box. I don’t often do these so I cut an entire housing in a piece of scrap first.

After taking some measurements from the lock, I scribed a centerline and then located the keyhole. When I bored it, I used a square to help align the bit.

One step I forgot on the box lock the other day was the housing on the top edge of the rail/box front. Here I marked it out with a chisel, then chopped & pared it. This notch is quite shallow, but helps snug the lock down into place.

Next comes sawing, chopping and paring to cut the multi-tiered housing for the lock and its moving parts. I scribed the limits with an awl & square, and marking gauge.

When chopping, I braced my hip/gut against the chest front to support it while knocking against it. I wish I had cut this when the parts were un-assembled…but if wishes were horses, beggars would ride.

It’s easy to cut the depth of this housing un-even. I kept chopping and then paring across the grain.

This is the housing just about done – it needs to go lower to reach down to the scribed line.

At this point, I got the lock ready to install, but first had to extend the keyhole. I scribed about the bottom of the key, and bored & chopped the rest.

Still not installed; I get it this far – then scribe the rectangle where the staple from the lid will fall into the lock. That wood needs to be cut away.

At this stage, I’ve nailed the lock in place, and added the escutcheon too. Its nails are quite short, if they are too long, they can interfere with the lock. Once it’s done, I lock the staple in place and mark the underside of its plate with a Sharpie/felt marker – then close the chest lid. And lean on it.

That leaves some impressions in the underside of the chest lid. Two divots from the feet of the staple. And a smudgy black rectangle showing where to pare the lid to engage the plate. I took a small carving gouge to hollow out a spot for the staple’s feet.

A benefit of a pine lid is that this operation is easily done. Well, still awkward up in the air, but it’s not oak at least.

Once I had it where I wanted it, I bored pilot holes for the nails. Reamed those holes, and drove the nails.

Then, test the lock & key. If all goes well, then you clinch those nails on top of the lid.

I wanted to see how the lock worked from the inside. But it’s very dark in there. If you’re going to be locked inside for any duration, I suggest bringing a light.

 

Locks

Chests, cupboards, boxes, cabinets – most any wooden furniture that opened and closed had an iron lock in 17th-century New England (& old England for that matter). It’s rare that they survive, even more unusual is a customer who wants to pay what it takes to get locks on their custom furniture. I have such a client right now, for 2 boxes and a chest. So I get to a.) show how I install a handmade lock, and b.) first, re-learn how I install a handmade lock. I do them so rarely that each time is like doing it for the first time. The lock above was made by Peter Ross, blacksmith. http://peterrossblacksmith.com/ His website is perpetually under construction. His iron work is top flight. We’ll get the tacky stuff out of the way first – if you want locks that are so-called “museum-quality/period-correct”, expect to pay for them. This lock, with escutcheon and 2 keys was $650. I suspect Peter still undercharged me, given the amount of work that goes into these. OK. Now to install it.

I cut a test-mortise in a piece of scrap to make sure I was on the right track. Then proceeded to the box. First, bore the main part of the keyhole.

The real dumb thing was to build the box, then decide it wanted a lock. So now, how to hold it for all the chopping, paring, etc? Because of the overhang of the bottom/front, I had to prop the box up on a piece of 7/8″ thick pine. I put some bubblewrap between them so as to not mess up the carved front too much. Then to hold the lid open with something other than my forehead, I cut an angle on a piece of scrap, and clamped it with a spring clamp. Not traditional, but worked well.

After scribing the layout based on the lock, I sawed two ends as deeply as I could.

After chopping some of that waste out, I had to re-score the end grain. I switched to a very sharp knife for this part. worked great.

Alternated scoring with the knife and paring with this long-bladed paring chisel.

Once I got to the stage for testing the fit, I realized I needed a hole bored in the scrap below for the sleeve to fit through. Once that was in place, I swiped a black sharpie over the lock, and then tested it. Left black marks where I needed to adjust things.

Some back & forth til it fit the way I wanted it. The slot on the top edge of the lock is for the staple from the lid to engage the bolt. So I needed to get the wood out of that slot.

Ready to be nailed in place. I bored pilot holes, and drove the nails in. I backed them up out front, thinking some might poke through. As it happened only one did, in a low point in the carving. So no trouble at all.

Then needed to open up the keyhole a bit. A rare appearance of a file in my woodworking. I bored a small hole first, then opened it up with the file.

The escutcheon, nailed in place. I had to snip the ends of these nails off, so they wouldn’t mess up the lock. In this application, they are as short as a wrought nail can be just about.

Then, some fussing to locate and excavate the housing for the staple. Here, I locked the staple to the lock and impressed its position by using the sharpie, and closing the lid & leaning on it. That left a mark so I could see where to cut into the lid.

Knife and chisel work again.

 

I got this part done, then had to pick up speed because it was getting dark. So the final photos will be another day. It’s 99.9% done. An adjustment is all that’s left.

 

Back in the shop

First off – my holdfast is bigger than yours. Being back at Colonial Williamsburg last week reminded me of my previous visit there 11 years ago. I was using the 18th-century style holdfasts, and made an off-hand comment along the lines of “boy, these high holdfasts get in the way…” Ken Schwartz, the head blacksmith offered to make me a low one like I use at home…but I said “No – don’t go to all that trouble..”  – then I guess I made another comment about the height of the holdfast. So after lunch, Ken came on stage and presented me with a custom-made holdfast.

He & I met up again last week, both remembering that event. Seems we’ve both told the story many times – but I’ve never posted the holdfast before. I find it a couple times every year during deep cleaning of the shop.

I finished a carved box for a customer today. One of my “usual” boxes; oak with a pine lid & bottom. Wooden hinges.

I have a number of custom pieces to build this year, so I’ll be doing a lot of furniture work. I get questions sometimes about “do you take commissions?” – and the answer is yes. I have a list right now that will take me through the first half of the year, but this box is an example of something that can jump the queue – I can usually work one of these into my schedule pretty easily. As it happened in this case, the box was made, I just had to finish the lid & bottom.

Finished this walnut book stand today too – which was just the finish; linseed oil. This one is spoken for, but there’s another right behind it.

One of the custom pieces I’m working on now is a chest of drawers. This one is not based on any particular period example, it will be carved and have moldings between the four drawers. I don’t want to use applied moldings in this case (it’s going to a very dry climate, compared to here by the ocean) so I have opted to adapt this “lipped tenon” seen in Plymouth Colony work of the 17th century. In this shot, you see the joint halfway home, leaving a piece about 7/8″ thick riding over the stile’s face. That section will get the molding cut in it.

Here’s how I cut it. Pencil layout for the camera’s benefit. This blank is laying on its face, that will be the molding.

I’ve made the rip cut that sets off the molding, and cut the tenon to length. Now I’m cutting the rear shoulder.

Splitting the waste off. 

Sawing the other cheek of the tenon.

Then chopping the end grain between the tenon and the molding.

The joint once it’s cut & pared.

Fitted into the mortise. There’s 3 rails like this, the other two will have scratched moldings. I’ll shoot more of this project soon.

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.