“warts and all” workshop views

I had this foolish notion that at some point, my new workshop would be all organized and tidy. Presentable. Then I was going to photograph it and post a tour of the shop here on the blog. But…it keeps gathering junk in piles, only to be cleaned up so I could work – and make another mess. I guess that means my shop is “done” as much as it’s going to get. I did write a short piece in Popular Woodworking about it – but here is a short glimpse of what it looks like these days.

Might as well start at the beginning. here’s the view to the door:

Looking through the door, into the room. The carving over the door is a place-holder. there’s a new one coming.


The main workbench. 8′ long. shelves underneath for large planes, boxes of tools like chalkline, hammers, mallets, bench hook and other bench accessories. Racks in the window for marking gauges, awls, chisels, squares – etc.

Same view, but extended to the left – showing the neglected lathe. More later on that.

Looking back toward the door – showing my version of Chris Schwarz’ tool chest.  I couldn’t bear to paint it a solid color…small shelves wedged between the braces and corner posts. Auger bits, sharpening stuff, other odds n ends.


Here is that corner straight on – spoon knives and scratch stocks in boxes… random junk sitting on ledges til I figure it out. Could be years…

The view into the corner beyond the workbench. Cabinet for hatchets, chopping block below.

Patterns and story sticks. they’re everywhere.

I’ve taken this picture many times – it’s just beyond my workbench, the cabinet that houses the hatchets. Recycled wall paneling for the doors.


Half of a Connecticut River carved panel – couldn’t leave that stored in a box…

Inside the cabinet – hatchets, adze, twca cam in 2 sizes –

Like I said, the lathe has had little attention. The current plan is to make a set of shorter beds for it. Right now I can turn a 48″ chair post, but most of my turnings are under 32″ – so I’ll store these beds, make shorter ones, and save a bit of space. Right now, it is a place to pile stuff out of the way. Well, it’s not really out of the way. It’s just a mess. Books and notes to the left.

The old Ulmia workbench is not much better off than the lathe. There’s a shaving horse stuck behind the bedstead-in-progress. The oak desk box will go out of here soon. The baskets too. this junk-gathering place at least changes a lot, unlike the lathe.

that’s it mostly. A stove just after the Ulmia bench. A 12′ x 16′ building doesn’t require a lengthy tour…there is the loft, but I’m not going up there right now. It’s a rabbit hole…

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spring tradition pt 1 – Brimfield

In some circles, all you need to say is one word – “Brimfield” and people know you mean the 3-times-a-year event in the Massachusetts town of that name. Flea market, antiques fair – not sure what to call it. Home-schooling means you can haul your kids to something like this & call it “cultural history”, “sociology”, “economics” or just a nice spring day looking at all kinds of who-knows-what you’ll see. we just stayed a few hours, which means we saw a fraction of it. May, July & September. Runs for days…a great slice of the world…

a very nice, small Windsor chair. $25. I left it there, we’re over-run with chairs at home.

Saw some very nice baskets – again, I don’t need to start collecting old baskets. This one I shoulda bought, though…

These southern ones are also very nice.

we used to see lots of eastern-European woodwork there, now there’s an influx of sub-Continental stuff. Or so a general overview seems. I’m mostly ignorant about this work, But these carved panels in this door were excellent.


There’s too many other pictures. if you’re inclined, they’re loaded here as a gallery.

stopped chamfer and more

Some of what’s been going on here. Greenwood Fest is just over a month away – we have some lathes to build for the bowl turners. We got some great sawn 4″ x 10″ timbers (thanks, Rick) and I started in on boring out the slot on a couple of them. A very nice 2″ auger I got last year or the year before from Ed Lebetkin’s tool store down at the Woodwright’s School.

And Roy fine-tuned it for me; I can’t believe I’ve taken another photo of shavings. Am I becoming one of them?


I’m working over the text of the upcoming book on joinery; it’s had one first-run-through edit already. So I’m addressing some junk, and shooting some replacement photos. here’s stopped chamfers on long rails w mortises. This is a rail for a bedstead, but it looks just like a chest. First, drive the chisel in to make the “stop”.

Then, the chamfer. Lots of tools can do this, I tend to use a spokeshave to start, and a chisel to finish.

Now, the flourishing bit, a scoop cut with the bevel down.

The result.

In the joint stool book is this photo, that goes one step further and has a lamb’s tongue – but that doesn’t “go” on a rail w panels…

It being May, it’s very distracting. The migratory birds are coming north, some to stay, some keep going. We haven’t had much here in the yard yet – the Baltimore orioles (Icterus galbula) started arriving. They nest here. I always stop to look at them, they’re amazing.

this female eastern towhee (Pipilo erythrophthalmus) was just passing through our yard, they nest in the area, but we don’t have enough woods for them.

This white throated sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis) has its spring colors on –

The others are year-rounders – but getting more lively every day. Female Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) and the male after…

They’re all in & out of the apple trees right outside the shop window. Makes it hard to get work done.

Wednesday & Thursday look sunny. More birds then, I hope.

 

wainscot chair assembly

I assembled the frame of the wainscot chair the other day. First, I had a few tenons to fine-tune. This step includes beveling the ends with a large framing chisel.

Then inserting each tenon, marking it for drawboring, removing it & boring the hole. 18 joints, 2 pins each, I get 36 holes.

Here’s an old look at drawboring – it looks like some of that is from the book I did with Jennie Alexander, Make a Joint Stool from a Tree. https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/2009/01/25/drawbored-mortise-and-tenon/

This picture is a little hard to read, but it’s a step called “kerfing” the joint. In this case, the rear shoulder was in the way, keeping the front shoulder from pulling up tight. So you go in there with a backsaw, and re-saw the rear shoulder. Sometimes it takes a single pass, sometimes more.

Then you knock it all together again, I have already pinned the front section and rear section separately. I was looking to get a general overall photo…but this wasn’t it.

I went to the other end of the shop, and that’s the angle. Better anyway.

Then I went higher.

Here’s the frame. This one gets a crest, two applied figures one on each side of the rear posts, then seat, then arms.

Here’s the crest, with conjectural attachment. It gets nails through the ends, down into the integral crest rail. But I never felt like those were enough to hold it in place. So I added a loose tenon between the two crests. I chopped one mortise in the wrong spot, so you see it runs wide/long.

This is as far as I got yesterday.

a further look at some period joinery work

I did a couple of presentations last weekend at Fine Woodworking Live; a seminar put on by the magazine. It was a sold-out affair, and seems like everyone had a good time. With the magazine staff, the presenters and the attendees there were close to 300 people there. All trying to consume as much information about woodworking and furniture-making as possible.

My talks were 90 minutes, and it’s hard to cram everything I know into that time slot. Because my work is so closely based on studying period pieces, I tried to show some examples prior to my demonstrations. This blog post will flesh out some of what I was talking about.

Al Breed came to one of my sessions, and asked about the insides of the mortises; is there any indication that the joiners bored them first? My reading of the evidence is that these narrow mortises, typically about 5/16″, are just chopped. No need to bore them first. These shots (scanned from slides, thus not as sharp as they might be) show the inside of the top front rail of a chest from the Smithsonian. The chest was made c. 1640-1670. Oak. The joint is broken open near where the till parts fit. One of the nice things about oak is how well it splits, but that’s a drawback too.

inner front rail, smithsonian chest

Here’s a detail of that joint, showing the chopped bottom of the mortise, in the first photo you can also see the angle of the mortise’s end grain cuts, and the trimming of the tenon’s edges.

 

This chest has a joined front fixed to board sides and back. So a blending of a board-chest and a joined chest. Two pieces built this way survive from this shop.

Figure 9

(the photo above is from http://www.chipstone.org/article.php/222/American-Furniture-1996/Seventeenth-Century-Joinery-from-Braintree,-Massachusetts:-The-Savell-Shop-Tradition )

To me it’s not a surprise that this joint blew apart, the surprising part is that more didn’t. I have written before about how much wood is cut away right were all these parts converge – the mortises for the top rails, the grooves for panels on front & side, the notches for the till side and till bottom, and the mortise bored for the till lid. It’s like a game of connect-the-dots.

here is part of that earlier post:

This next photo is the front stile for the chest I’m building now. This stile is red oak, and it’s about 3 1/4″ wide by 1 3/4″ thick. Clustered up near the top end of the stile are several cuts into the stock.
  • First, the two mortises, for the front and side upper rails. These are 5/16″ wide by about 3 3/4″ high. The one for the front rail is about 1 1/2″ deep, the other about 1 1/4″ deep.
  • Each has two 1/4″ holes bored in them, those for the front rail go all the way through the stile.
  • There is a groove running along each edge, into these mortises, for the beveled panels.
  • Additionally there is a notch cut across the inner face of the stile for the till bottom. this notch is about 3/8″ wide and about the same depth. It is positioned so that the till bottom is flush with the bottom edge of the upper rails.
  • What is missing from this photo is one more assault on this piece of wood – the hole bored into the stile for the hinged end of the till lid. This hole is usually about 3/8″ in diameter and about 1/2″ deep, and right near what will be the top end of the stile, after the extra wood is trimmed off the top. It will be about 3/8″ away from the mortise for the side rail.
That’s a lot of cuts into this piece of wood, all in the same neighborhood. Sometimes I am amazed that the stile can take it.

 

Another thing we discussed (I think this was a breakfast discussion…) was the backs of pieces. Chris Becksvoort was telling us about Shaker work, Al Breed about Newport 18th-century work – I chimed in with a group of chests and cupboards from Plymouth Colony from the 2nd half of the 17th century. Here’s the surviving section of a chest with four drawers; in “as found” condition. 

Look inside, the inner face of the rear section is a bit firewood-like. (the strap hinges are replacements) Narrow oak panels, with muntins that have large torn-out sections from riving them:

And a knot in one, and panels with riven texture – not planed smooth.

Sometimes the insides have fully-formed moldings on the framing parts. These get covered up as soon as the chest is filled with textiles. Some Boston joiners did the same thing.

All the chests and cupboards from this large body of work use employ chamfers on the framing parts on the side elevations; usually stopped chamfers. You see it below on the lower edge of the horizontal rail:

stopped chamfers

But they did it too on the rear elevation. Sometimes smooth transitions, sometimes stopped chamfers. This is the part of the cupboard or chest that gets shoved against the wall! Hard to understand the outside being so neat when sometimes the inside is just this side of firewood.

 

 

 

a bunch of carved stuff, some intentionally half-done

I have been doing some carving lately…I have a number of half-finished (some 7/8 finished) stuff around. The oak I’ve been carving lately is intentionally half-finished, so I have stuff to demonstrate at the Fine Woodworking Live event this coming weekend.

In the 7/8 finished department, there is this – what’s different? It’s maple. Slated to be a cutting board (the blank side, of course). I’ll cut out a handle at one end, with a hole for hanging it, carving-facing-out, when it’s not in use. Here’s one from before – (I thought it was pretty new. But 1 1/2 years have gone by since I made that one.)https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/2015/11/20/why-did-this-take-so-long/

As I was sorting & organizing this shop, I squirreled away some walnut scraps leftover from a joint stool…and last week I started making this book stand. Just a little trimming here & there (the finials for instance), and pinning the joints left.

This chair frame is mostly done – maybe it’s less than 7/8s there, but it’s close. There’s a crest rail all carved, but it doesn’t go on until after assembly. I just have to cut the rear stretcher, then add two figures that get attached to the rear stiles, and the crest. Oh, and the seat. But that’s plain…

The past couple of days I’ve been cutting parts for the headboard of a bedstead I’m making for a very patient customer (thanks, Wendy!) This is what I will demonstrate on at FWW Live. I have 2 long rails cut, one is all carved. The other has enough of its pattern for people to see what it’s headed toward…so I’ll have some of that carving to do, and some mortises & tenons to cut. I fitted one muntin today, and planed & laid out another.

Closer view of the same grouping.

Here’s the muntin. All this work is in oak, as it should be.

A detail of the patterns on the two long rails.

some more prep work tomorrow. Then off to Southbridge MA on Friday for the event.

photos from this week

We got out early on the vernal equinox, to see the sunrise over the trees on the riverbank. While we waited, these red-breasted mergansers came along, chasing the fish along the river.  The other fish-chaser, great blue heron left the scene, water was too high for him.

The sun hit the workshop before it hit us down at the river.

Inside, I’m a sucker for raking light.Now that I finished the chest with drawers, this one is next. Needs some trimming here & there, and fitting the lid. Then when someone buys it, initials carved in the blank area on the center muntin.

Here’s the first 2 (of 8) panels I carved for a bedstead I am making for a customer.

A couple of boxes underway. The front of this one was a carving sample for my recent class in North House Folk School.

Here I’m working on cutting the rabbets for another, smaller box. 

Here it is, test-fitted. Next is to make the till parts, and assemble it.

we went to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston the other day. the kids are studying Greek myths, and we went to look at Greek art, mostly sculpture & pottery. I saw patterns everywhere. I probably hadn’t been in those galleries since the 1980s. Amazing stuff.