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.

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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.

teaching schedule for 2018

I’ve been meaning to get my teaching schedule posted here; but have been too busy getting stuff together…Next week I’ll be part of Colonial Williamsburg’s Working Wood Conference. I haven’t been there since 2007, here’s a shot from then, with Jennie Alexander pontificating while I get set to turn something.

JA & PF at Colonial Williamsburg 2007

It’s sold out, so if you got a ticket, I’ll see you there. https://www.colonialwilliamsburg.com/learn/conferences/working-wood

Next month, I’ll be back at Bob Van Dyke’s Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking for a 2-day class in carving oak; February 17 & 18.  https://www.schoolofwoodworking.com/woodworking-classes.html#Speciality_Weekend_Classes The exercises we’ll carve are all based on ones I learned from studying period furniture; chests, boxes, cupboards, church furniture in England and more. Here’s a snippet of what to expect.

In April I’ll be down to Roy Underhill’s Woodwright’s School for 3 days of spoon carving. It’s full, but I think you can get on a waiting list. More fun than a barrel of monkeys. http://www.woodwrightschool.com/classes/spoon-carving-plus-with-peter-follansbee

spoon rack
I’m not touching those spoons

Later in April (20-22nd) ’ll be part of Fine Woodworking Live in Southbridge Massachusetts; including a one-day intro to spoon carving. With Dave Fisher as assistant!! I’m just going to step back & watch Dave… http://www.finewoodworkinglive.com/about-fww-live/

I think I’m doing furniture-related stuff too, maybe a talk as well. I’d look into it, but I still have next week’s thing to prep!

May – getting ready for June.

June 5-10; Greenwood Fest 2018. Plymouth CRAFT’s 3rd time around with Greenwood Fest. Held at Pinewoods Dance Camp in Plymouth Massachusetts. 2-day workshops beforehand and a 3-day festival. Demonstrations, hands-on sessions, big pile of spoon wood (or bowls if you’re inclined); lodging & meals all part of the scene. Tickets go on sale February 2nd, 10am eastern time. https://www.greenwoodfest.org/ How fast will it sell out? I predict less than a day…so don’t hesitate.

here’s last year’s group shot:

July – Can’t forget Lie-Nielsen. Spoon carving, July 21 & 22. https://www.lie-nielsen.com/workshop/USA/191

dave & the crook

That’s all I have for certain right now. We’re planning a long session for making a joint stool at Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking. Like the chest project we did there twice, this would be one-weekend-per month for a few months. Maybe 4. So 8 days of classes. Unlike the chest, this project would require little or no homework. Split the log, make the boards, cut joinery, do turning! And make the stool. Haven’t figure the time frame yet. I might have a trip overseas in November, so I’m waiting to get that sorted first.

I also offer one-on-one classes here at my shop in Kingston Massachusetts.

Spoon carving, the oak furniture carvings I do, or various projects – like a carved box. Rate is $500 a day. I have all the tools necessary, wood and reference materials. We have lunch together, lodging and other meals on your own; but Plymouth is 10 minutes away with all its options for both. Expensive, yes. But one-on-one instruction can cover a lot of ground. I have time available in March, then again starting in September. July and August are too hot to share a small space!

Lots of oak furniture in New York this week

I went to another world the other day. Attended part of Americana Week at Sotheby’s in New York. I was there to give a talk, but I got to see some great oak furniture offered for sale this week…and got to see some friends and colleagues I haven’t seen in quite a while. Here’s the link to the auction listings; http://www.sothebys.com/en/auctions/2018/important-americana-n09805.html#

Auction previews are great – unlike museums, here you can open stuff and peek inside. Lot #723 is a New Haven wainscot chair that has people all excited. (Some of these photos I shot hand-held in the galleries; the best ones were given to me by Sotheby’s) 

A detail of one of the arms.

and of the carvings;  I need the detail shots because I’m going to make one of these chairs this year.

I got to look this chair over with my friend Bob Trent – and neither of us had ever seen a groove like the one cut in the outside of the stile

I saw this box in 1998, now lot 727, on another research trip with Trent. And as soon as we started looking it over, we realized it was part of the group of boxes and chests by William Savell and his sons John and William from Braintree, Massachusetts. Even though we hadn’t seen this particular pattern before.

 

Many things connect this box to the others – square wooden pins instead of nails to secure the rabbets. Gouge-chopped accents here & there are direct quotes from the others. And the scribed lines above and below the carving; with diagonal chisel cuts zig-zagging across the box. Maltese cross punched inside the zig-zag.


Here’s the side of a related box at the MFA in Boston. You can see the zig-zags clearly here.

 

Jn Savell box, side carving

The box now at Sotheby’s again – look especially at the area outside the arches –

Now from a chest at the Smithsonian – this exact same motif outside the lunettes from the top rail

lunette, William Savell Sr 1590s-1669

and above & below the opposing lunettes is a pattern from the panels on these chests – look at the very bottom of the panel:

panel, joined chest, c. 1660-1680s

Then back at the box front –

I don’t know what’s the story behind these till trenches. If it’s a till w a drawer, why does the vertical notch extend below what would be the till bottom? There is no hole for a till lid…

Inside, it stops just short of being labelled “This end up”.

Lots more stuff in the sale; a Boston chest of drawers, walnut and cedrela

a chest with drawers, Wethersfield, CT

And – me. Poor Mark Atchison gets no glory for all the hard blacksmith work he did back when we made a slew of these cabinets. Trent had us make this one as a gift to his friends Dudley & Constance Godfrey – and now a foundation they started is selling it, and several of these items as a fund-raiser for educational programming at the Milwaukee Art Museum… I didn’t do the coloring…