Riving, hewing & drawknife at Plymouth CRAFT


Riving, hewing & drawknife class at Plymouth CRAFT is done. Great group of people, I didn’t even need to be there today, except there were some of my tools. Weather & food were excellent too.

thanks again to our hosts, Plymouth Antiquarian Society, at the Harlow House. (Iron work on the sign by our friend Mark Atchison, timber work by ditto Justin Keegan.)


Next woodsy ones are baskets in November and spoons in December. Website is here: http://plymouthcraft.org/?post_type=tribe_events

here’s photos of this weekend:

Our local inspiration was Pret Woodburn’s gate at the Harlow House:

pret's gate

Great clear red oak logs (thanks Michael D) – we had almost no waste at all. Could have used every split, but got picky..


One objective was to get the hang of the riving & steering of a split with the froe & brake.

riving on a fall day 2

The drawknife is a simple tool to learn, but then to get the real technique down takes some practice:


Sometimes there’s people you don’t want to have sharp tools. Pret’s work was well-burnished (it’s a joke – he had just finished his 60-minute shaving horse, and I asked him to show me how it worked, but that wasn’t a drawknife in his hands…)
sometimes we don't let him have sharp tools


Boring the holes to start the mortises.



Thankfully, I can project my voice, because I had to yell across the yard to Matt, “the block plane is not the tool to trim the rails…get a hatchet”

trim w a hatchet not a block plane

One of the many hurdles, test fitted. Laying out the braces.

test fit

The moody-shot, complete with old-timey cooperage.

mood shot

I was all for posing on our hands & knees, but the general consensus was we’d not be able to get up again.

folded in

Is a third of a hurdle a thirdle?

I decided I’d better work at making a hurdle, to practice up for this weekend’s class with Plymouth CRAFT http://plymouthcraft.org/?tribe_events=riving-now-two-days

After splitting & riving the stock, there’s drawknife work at a shaving horse.


Then I laid out where I wanted mortises, how many, etc. and bored holes to start ’em.


And chopped between these holes with a chisel to make the rest of the mortise.


finished mortise

Next I’ll shave a slew of horizontal rails, and then fit braces and pin the whole thing together. I quit there, to leave some for show & tell with the students.


Then, we’ll see how Rick McKee makes them, and we’ll confound the students as much as we can. Still room if you have nothing on this weekend, and are eager to learn riving, drawknife work, and more.


I made a quick trip out West

Well, west for someone from eastern Massachusetts. Delivered this chest with drawers to the Windsor Historical Society, Windsor, Connecticut. http://www.windsorhistoricalsociety.org/  I stained it red with iron oxide mixed in linseed oil. Added drying medium from artist’s supply store, and some raw umber, which also speeds up drying. If I had been ahead of the deadline, things might have been different.

chest w drawers

Here’s a view inside the upper drawer, with its dividing slats. Not sure what these little cubbies would be used for…It was based on notches cut in the drawer on the original that is the source for this repro. but the dividers are gone on the old one.

one drawer w dividers

I also got to install one of Mark Atchison’s locks on this chest, because curator Christina Vida wanted everything just exactly perfect for the Strong Howard house opening. http://www.windsorhistoricalsociety.org/strong_house.html

Here I’m cutting away the top rail inside the chest for the lock recess.

lock excavation 2

And the finished excavation, just needs some chisel work for the keyhole. This one gets no escutcheon.

almost cut

Mark’s lock & key:

mark's lock

Mark’s mark, MMA, on the inside face of the lock:

mark's mark

This chest was the model for the class we did at Bob Van Dyke’s Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking. If you want to see the chest, and the other pieces made by the school’s instructors and students, go to the open house at the school this Saturday. I can’t make it, but a gang of folks will be there, with bells on.

here’s the blurb Bob sent out the other day:

Don’t miss it!
Saturday, September 12, 9:00am – 4:00pm
Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking 15th Annual Open House

 Come celebrate CVSW as we enter our 15th year of great hands-on furniture making, woodturning, cabinetmaking, blacksmithing and more!

Furniture Exhibit- See Some of the Spectacular work from Students, including furniture made for the Windsor Historical Society Strong Howard House/ CVSW collaboration

Get in on the fun. We will be demonstrating furniture making, woodturning, blacksmithing, inlay, sharpening, guitar building and more, all day.

More than 22 tables of Antique Tools for Sale!!!

6 different antique Tool dealers

The whole idea of the event is to get a bunch of people who are interested in woodworking together and have a good time!

A partial list of demonstrators/ exhibitors is below:

CVSW Gallery of Student work

Central Ct Woodturners

Mystic Woodcarvers
Tico Vogt- Shooting boards

Mike South, Windjammer Instruments
Matt Cianci- “the Saw Wright”
Isaac Smith- Blackburn Tools
Mike Mascelli- Traditional Upholstering

Bill Rittner- Handmade replacement knobs & Totes for handplanes

Greg Massicotte- Behlen Finishing Products

Catharine Kennedy- engraved handplanes

Walt Scadden – Blacksmithing

Windsor Historical Society

Cape forge carving knives

Ben Barrett- Berkshire Veneers

Mike Pekovich from Fine Woodworking Magazine

CVSW Instructors:

Bob Van Dyke, Will Neptune, Mickey Callahan, Walt Scadden & more



Half-signed copies of Make a Joint Stool from a Tree – sold out


UPDATE – 3pm Eastern time, Tuesday Aug 18

This batch of books is sold out.  There are 3 orders that are international, so I have to get quotes for shipping there. Thus, those books might fall back into circulation. But as of right now, if you want to order this book, go to Lost Art Press (some of its retailers also carry the book). Then just find me somewhere &  I’ll sign it. If the international orders fall through, I’ll re-post them. Thanks, everyone. I appreciate it. I’ll get these in the mail this week.

Here’s the Lost Art Press link, and its international ordering page too:



I’m so far behind I’m doing spring cleaning. And, a box full of the joint stool book came to light…

joint stool book

There’s a continuing stream of new readers to the blog (thanks & welcome folks) and I thought I’d remind people of this book. For many years, Jennie Alexander & I were immersed in studying the background and techniques of 17th century joined furniture. We hit upon the joined stool as a means for students to learn the ins & outs of this craft without getting too crazed, like you do with a joined chest or cupboard, or chair for that matter. We worked on the book off & on for many years, then it languished a while after that. Then someone told me I should meet Chris Schwarz…and things unfolded from there.  

We were thrilled when the book was published by Lost Art Press a few years ago. I’m pleased as can be with the result, and have a second book on joinery underway. I just had a look through this book now, and I like it a lot. It’s a how-to book with lots of the research behind how we arrived at our techniques. So you see how we do things this way, and why.

I don’t usually sell the book, but as I said, these just poked their heads up. If  you’d like them signed, say so & I’ll scribble in it. Then it’s up to you to catch up to Alexander. So from here, they’d be half-signed.


Peter Follansbee

3 Landing Rd

Kingston MA 02364


You can read more about through these links:





One of the parts we dealt with the other day in class was the drawer construction. In the chest we’re making, the sides join the drawer front just with a nailed rabbet. It’s stupid that I wrote “just” – as if I’m apologizing for some 2nd-class approach to drawer-making, because it’s not dovetailed. The fact is most English (including New England) drawers in this period are rabbeted and nailed. Even when the side-to-front joint is dovetailed (and nailed) the rear is rabbeted. And they work just fine. No more excuses and apologies. here’s some period drawer details.

Because I’m going to show some rough & tumble sort of drawers, I thought I’d compensate by showing some nicely-made ones too. We’ll start there. A drawer from a chest made south of Boston, c. 1660-1700. Half-blind dovetails join the side to the front. Nailed too, those aren’t added later, they’re the real thing. Bottom nailed up to the sides and rear, toe-nailed into a rabbet in the drawer front. Groove in side engages a runner let into the inside of the chest framing. “side-hung” is what this drawer construction is called. All of the drawers I’m showing you today are side-hung. 

dt drawer w nailsEven with dovetails at the front, the rear is rabbeted & nailed. Same drawer.

drawer back no DTs


A rabbeted side-to-front. Nailed. Bottom in a rabbet too.


SI table drawer detail 2




Now let’s get to where it’s at: these 2 drawers I photographed at Yale University’s Furniture Study. the cupboard they come from might be New Haven or Guilford, CT. Bottoms run parallel to the drawer front. Single board on one, multi-board on the other. Drawer sides were too thick for the nails, so were cut down where they rabbet into the front. Drawer front is thicker at its bottom edge than at its top edge, remnants from riving wedge-shaped pieces from the log. Turned pulls fit through the front and are wedged inside.

new haven drawers


New Haven drawer sides & front

These drawer backs are thin, really like a riven clapboard. Dressed (planed) on the inside, rough outside. Nailed & pegged in some cases.

drawer back (2)


for contrast, here’s the front of one of those drawers.





drawer front incl knob

These two are from a Boston chest of drawers. Showing the contrast between the front & back. Finished molded decoration on the deep drawer front, the back of the shallow, smaller drawer is almost just as it came out of the log.


drawer contrast


Here’s a chest with drawer from Ipswich Massachusetts, same time frame. No drawer pulls. No rail below drawer. No framing on the side of the chest covering the drawer. How’s that for simple?


mfa loan (2)


Usually the drawers are full-width of the case. Here’s two side-by-side drawers. With one removed, you can see the runner set in the muntin in this case. The other runner is set in the stiles at the other end of the drawer.


MFA chest drawer detail small

These runners are not anything special. Notches are cut with a saw & chisel, the runners set in. Often toe-nailed too. (this one is not)


As I was picking out pictures, I saw this one & don’t remember seeing drawers done like this before. The drawer front/side is notched – you can just make it out in the top right in this photo. No drawer rail below. I’ll have to go look at this one again, it’s right down the street from my house. Make locally, same period, mid-to-late 17th century.





Joined chest class, final session

overviewLast weekend we finished up the chest-class at the Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking. Five months, one weekend per month. It’s a great format for tackling a complex project, but requires a serious commitment of time & money from the students. I am very thankful for the 9 folks who signed on for this ride. Thanks, Leo, Larry, Chris, Phil, Dwight, Matt, Bill, Dylan, Russ and sometimes Michael. And of course Bob Van Dyke for being willing to take the project on in the first place. We’re talking about doing it again next year. Set aside some time…

here’s photos. It was fun to see so many chests coming together. Students worked at their own pace, I showed the steps, and then went around to see where each person did or didn’t need my help. Here’s one chest, next up for it is the panels:

panels next

Phil’s watching his closely, making sure it doesn’t make any sudden moves.

phil takes a breath


Matt was able to put in the time for the homework, so his chest moved ahead of some others. He’s pinning it together here:




His bottom boards are inserted, and next he trimmed them from behind.


bottoms up


trimming bottom


There was a lot of carving for this chest, every piece in the chest front: rails, stiles, muntins, panels, drawer front.



some sub-assemblies. Lots of parts to keep track of, from back when they were coming out of the log to now.

sub assemblies

For me, a fun sideshow was watching Bob Van Dyke driving nails into a trestle table he’s built. Out of his element for sure…

bob w nails



Here’s his finished table:bob's trestle table

The reason he was uncomfortable nailing table tops – this is his usual sort of work, in this case all done with mirrors (he’s using 2 mirrors to compose the inlay decoration for the table top.) the top will not be nailed on from above.

it's all done w mirrors


here’s some posts from earlier in the series on this class.










another wainscot chair project

some years ago, I had two projects making copies of wainscot chairs. Both were projects based on chairs from Hingham, Massachusetts. First, a copy of a wainscot chair at the Brooklyn Museum, here’s the original:

Brooklyn Museum wainscot chair, made in Hingham Massachusetts, 1650-1700

I can’t find my shot of the finished repro right now, but here’s an in-progress shot:

wainscot chair detail b

I called this chair the Edvard Munch chair, because these designs on the vertical panels reminded me of “The Scream.”

That led to making a chair for the town of Hingham. This one stood for much of the twentieth century in the Old Ship Church. Last I knew it was on loan to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Hingham wainscot chair
Hingham wainscot chair

Here’s my copy, which I think is on display in the town library in Hingham:

Lincoln chair, red oak, walnut & maple
Lincoln chair, red oak, walnut & maple

Now comes another project, copying the well-known King Philip chair, or the Cole family chair, depending on what legend you believe. Maybe it’s southeastern Massachusetts, maybe it’s Providence, Rhode Island. I’ve known of the chair for many years, but had never seen it in person. It was published in Robert Blair St George’s book The Wrought Covenant in 1979, and Trent discussed it in the 1999 edition of American Furniture. I went yesterday to the Martin House Farm in Swansea, Massachusetts http://nscdama.org/martin-house-farm/ to see the chair and take notes & measurements. here’s some shots of it.

Front view, feet chopped/worn down. The bottom-most turned bits added at front.


full view of chair

Rear panel carving. Eight divisions on this one, the crest rail is divided into 7s.

back panel

How’s this for brackets? Amazing they have survived.


Molding detail, front apron

molding detail

I find the back of this chair more interesting than the front. “Tabled” panel, sort of a variation on a raised panel. The field is then run with a molding around its perimeter. Molded edges to the framing as well…

rear view

A detail, including an early repair, iron braces nailed on.

back detail