the drawer

I found the nails. they were in the chest’s till; safely stored where I forgot them. After boring pilot holes, I nailed the sides to the front. In most cases, the nails go through the drawer side, into the end grain of the front. They sometimes go through the front, then to be covered by applied moldings. I could have done that, (these drawers will have applied moldings framing them), but the original is nailed this way.




But at the back, the nails go through the back into the end grain of the sides.

drawer assembly


Notice in this next photo, the drawer back closes the groove in the sides. So you have to open up a notch for the drawer to engage the runners.

drawer backstart with a saw, then a chisel.

notching the back

This one’s ready to drive the nails down.

back done



The bottoms run front-to-back. here’s one installed, fitting behind a rabbet in the drawer front, nailed up to the higher edges of the sides & back.



drawer bottom


Preliminary test drive of the drawer. Then I took it back out for the rest of the bottom boards.

test fit

There’s a false muntin glued onto the drawer front, then moldings surround the “two” drawer fronts. Here, the muntin is just placed there, when I glued it on, I made sure it was straight. Enough. (turned drawer pulls will fit into holes not-yet-bored in the drawer fronts. On to the next drawer.



I hope to post some spoons & boxes for sale tomorrow. we’ll see…

In between times

It’s coming up on a year since I left my job as the joiner at Plimoth Plantation. While I was there, I often taught workshops during my vacations and other time off. Lie-Nielsen, Roy Underhill’s place, CVSWW, Country Workshops – but in that format, I only had a few weeks (or weekends) each year available to travel & teach.

Matt riving w Plymouth CRAFT last weekend


When I announced I was leaving the museum, I got offers to come teach in various places, in addition to the usual outfits. When I arranged my schedule last winter, I had no idea how it would work – on paper it seemed fine, once or twice a month, travel to teach. One long, maybe one short class each month. Now I’m in the midst of it, and while it’s great fun (Alaska! Are you kidding?) what I didn’t compute is the time between to unpack, decompress and then turn around & get ready for the next one.

matanuska trip

I’m not complaining, just saying “here’s why there’s little on the blog these days…”

I was thinking, I’m home now for 3 1/2 weeks, before I head down for to Roy’s. Except this coming weekend I’m at Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking, then next weekend I have a one-day presentation with the Plymouth CRAFT group, then the weekend after that, I’m back at my 2nd home this summer – Lie-Nielsen for making a carved box. THEN, I have to hit the road & go to North Carolina!

mortising from on high
Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking

The plan is to do some woodworking tomorrow & shoot some pictures. I’ll let you know what happens.

How am I supposed to get some birding in? I haven’t even had time to ID this warbler from Maine…


Finally something I haven’t already covered on the blog

Often when choosing a subject for the blog, I sound like a broken record (we can use that expression now, because people are using vinyl again) – spoons, carved oak, chests, boxes, chairs. Birds. After 7 years, it’s pretty rare when I have a woodworking project that I haven’t covered before on the blog. I tend to make the same things over & over. Mostly. But I know I haven’t made one of these cupboards in all that time, so here goes nothing. These are simple affairs; a combination of a carcass like a six-board chest, but with a joined front. Here’s one I did 12 years ago, when we worked on PBS’ Colonial House.



For the new one, I had worked the oak frame up last week, then took it to the shop to saw out & fit the pine ends, shelves and back. I have some nice wide pine boards to use, here I’m ripping the sapwood off, to bring it down to 18″ wide. I tend to do ripping like this, at the workbench, upright. 2 hands. Easy to see my line this way, and I like not being hunched over.

2 handed sawing


then I marked out the cut-outs for the feet. These are just based on looking at several board chests, but aren’t specific copies of any one foot pattern.

you do it like that


The resulting end board.



This photo goes backwards in time; I’m rabbeting the inside face of the front stile, to insert the edge of the end board. rabbetThis cupboard will have a central door, opening on wooden pintle hinges. Here’s the mortise for a muntin; and to the left of it, a hole bored for the pintle the door will swing on. To the right, a panel groove.


The other muntin with a rabbet planed in it, to stop the door from swinging into the cupboard.



I cut notches in the inside faces of the ends, for shelves at the bottom & halfway up the height of the cupboard. I rarely make these, so don’t have a router plane. I just make two saw kerfs, and pare out between them with a chisel. You can see I lean the chisel this way & that, to come down to the saw kerf, then I’ll remove the peaked middle. Not as neat as a router plane…


Here’s the cupboard front and one end leaning side by side while I worked on the other end.

front & one end


Then I bored pilot holes, and nailed the front to the edges of the ends. You can either assemble the front frame around the door, or insert the door afterwards. Because I haven’t made the door yet, I chose option B. All in all, a little bit of joinery, a few rabbets, and a bunch of stout nails.

assembly begun

Later today I got the shelves in, and cut out the board for the top. I’ve had to change the way the back will fit, because I cut one shelf 1″ too short! So had to switch some stock around. I had zero extra pine boards. Friday and next week I’ll finish this up & show you what happened.

On the bank’s green edge…

Saw a book at the library the other day – Blue Mind: The Surprising Science That Shows How Being Near, In, On, or Under Water Can Make You Happier, Healthier, More Connected, and Better at What You Do – but I didn’t take it home. I already know I like living within sight of  the water.

Looking down the Jones River


As an added bonus, the borrowed shop I’m using has a water view as well. As you might know, I had a great time this winter. But…I’m not sad to see it going away now…today was the first day I could sit outside and feel warm enough in just a sweater. So I sat by the edge of Town Brook and ate my lunch. And watched the water.

Up the Town Brook


For ten minutes, I was transported. I was Huck Finn, drifting down his Mississippi. Then I was Henry David Thoreau, philosophizing beside Walden Pond. I heard Garcia singing Brokedown Palace.  I was that red-tail hawk, floating above the Brook…then I was me, thinking of the Jones River at home…was the tide low or high?

that way to the sea


Then an emergency vehicle came screaming down the road, my reverie was snapped. Water view or not, it was time to go back to work. But it sure was a great ten minutes.


I don’t know how to juggle for real

but I do it with oak all the time. I have three active oak projects going right now. Active means I’m working on them all at once. A couple more are semi-active. Like the desk box, that got back-burner-ed for a video shoot this spring. I’ll save the final assembly for the cameras.


This chest has been around a long time, but it’s going forward now at a regular clip.

chest test fit

Its purpose is to illustrate in the joinery book how to make & fit drawers. Hence, “chest with drawers.” The front is mostly pinned, the sides are test-fitted, I have to finish cutting and fitting the till, and a little more work on the rear frame. Mortises are cut, need to cut the tenons; plow grooves, etc. I’d say this chest is about 8 or 10 hours’ work from final assembly, including the floor. Then comes the drawers. And lid.

rear rails & stiles

A related chest with drawers is the model for the joined chest class at Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking. I’ve cut the front frame, and started the carving the other day. It too will have 2 drawers, there are drawer rails not yet fitted in this photo…



I used to like to start the day with large movements, like planing. Then I’d save the carving for late in the day, when I wanted to take it easy. But here in the (walk-out) basement, the light is best early in the morning – so I carved yesterday AM. But it’s a lousy way to begin your day. Too tight a posture. So this carving got left for later. and today I planed and mortised the front rails for the NEXT joinery project!  


A cupboard for Plimoth Plantation. This one will have a joined front fitted to a board carcass. No decoration to speak of, other than chamfers, etc. So the opening in the middle is for a door. Below are off-cuts from the panels in this cupboard; 10″ long, they have a limited use. Usually they would just get tossed, but these will get planed to 1/4″ thickness for drawer parts for the desk box. Good use for such wide, flat stuff that is otherwise firewood. 


Next week I hope to move all of these over to the shop I’m doing my photography in, and get some good pictures going. Goal is to have the first chest with drawers and the cupboard all assembled this time next week. we’ll see. 


winter time & the living is easy

For green woodworkers anyway. In summer, working in the wood pile can be unpleasant sometimes. Buggy, hot, humid. The wood storage can get to be a problem. Insects can get in your wood, decay can set into some species pretty quickly.

But in winter….it’s another story. This pile is against a steep embankment in my yard. 

wood storage


4 footers and up


Storing green wood in the log this time of year is a breeze. It’s like suspended animation, even better than Ted Williams’ head. (this is a sure thing, Ted’s head, I doubt it)  I try to store the stuff I need the most upright. There’s a few benefits. You don’t have to lift and heave big heavy log sections around to get at the one that’s just exactly perfect for what you need. And when it snows, it’s easier to uncover the stash. The short stuff in this pile is just over four feet, the birch might be over 6′. (I don’t know what that is in the other measuring system)

split & rived & ready to go in

Here’s some I split out today, broke it down further at the riving brake, and now will bring it in to plane  the long stuff for some joined chests & a cupboard. There’s other less-pressing stock under the snow. It can wait. 

The kids took a jaunt around the yard to test-drive their new snowshoes. More snow on the way, we’ll hit the woods tomorrow or the next day. 

REF snow shoes

DRF snow shoes

Spooked a great blue heron down by the river. 

GBH away

Winter light

winter light

I do woodworking year-round. For me though, winter is the best time for it. I still don’t have a “proper” workshop, i.e. one that is mine, with all my tools and wood in it. But I have spent a lot of time in my head thinking about what it might be like. The borrowed shop I am using to shoot pictures is real nice…it’s on the 2nd floor – which at first I thought was stupid. But with windows at each gable end, there’s lots of light. Winter light can be quite amazing. I saw this chest front bathed in raking light today. Couldn’t resist. I was there to resume working on joinery stuff. This oak chest with 2 drawers has been underway for a long time. Today I started framing the sides. 


I worked that project along some, and then picked up the walnut joined stool interruption. I had the rail stock planed, just had to lay and cut the tenons and do a test-fit. There was little I did differently than when I do these in oak. But some.

Not planing, it’s just the same in walnut as in oak, although easier. 

planing walnut


Laid out the tenons. Like I said, lots of light here. Sometimes I have a hard time seeing my lines in walnut, but not today. 

stool rails


I was thinking I’d chicken out & saw the tenon cheeks, but decided the stock was riven because it was straight-grained, so why not go for broke? Worked like a charm. 

split tenons

the driving point for me was the ease of working this riven walnut. Nothing like my first experience with its kiln-dried relative some years ago. Paring across these tenon cheeks was a snap. 

stool aprons

HERE”s the major departure from my normal practice – I put a piece of scrap wood between the stool & the mallet when I test-assembled! You can’t hit walnut as hard as you can oak. Period. (well, you can – but you’ll mess it up.)

assembly w block

The stool needs a little tweaking to clean up some wracking – but they all need that at some point. This is as far as I got today…

walnut stool





I won’t have spoons for sale until late January. I do have a few furniture items that I have discounted. Time to make some room in this old house of ours so I can bring these new pieces home when they’re done. So if you’d like to have a look, I’ve added a page here:

While we’re at it, Maureen is doing the same with her textile work – we’re overrun with stuff!