Daniel & I went over some snippets of video on the cupboard project the other day. It’s a mish-mash of how to hold those funny-shaped stiles for mortising & plowing grooves. Then the beginnings of setting in the cornice joinery.
I’m headed out to the shop momentarily to pick up this project where I left off. It’ll take some head-scratching to see where I am. Below is a mock-up of the cornice rail on one side, and a test-piece of the soffit. This step will locate the groove on the inside face of that cornice – to fit those soffit boards.
Soon I hope to have the framing of the upper case all cut. Fingers crossed.
It was April 10th when I wrote here on the blog about the previous assembly of one of these chairs. I was too busy in May with the Essex County cupboard project and birding to spend much time chairmaking. So it wasn’t until today that I assembled the next one – 6 or 7 weeks apart. That’s a long enough gap to un-learn things for me.
One thing I changed this time is the seat – a thumbnail molded edge instead of just a bevel. And the front corners snipped off – something I saw scrolling through photos of antiques and museum pieces online.
I bored the mortises for the rear legs with the back in place – an attempt to keep the rear leg from bumping into the through-tenon of the back under the seat. It almost worked – I must have wiggled on one of them. But a minor wiggle.
I turned the leg’s tenons to their final dimension (in this case 15/16″ x 1 3/8″ long), Then sawed a kerf in them for a wedge and knocked them into the battens. With glue too. The batten is lifted off the bench top so the tenon can protrude through the top of the batten.
My notes from last time said “make the tenons longer so they all exit completely.” A combination of the angle the mortise is bored at and the length of the tenon can leave the tenon either through like this one, or not quite all the way through like some of the others today. Oh well. Not the end of the world. I still wedged them and they glue helps too.
Driving in the tapered beveled battens is pure fun. They’re very loose for a good stretch, then all of a sudden they get as tight as can be. Brilliant concept.
Then I insert the back in its mortises through the seat and the battens. I don’t use a mallet, it’d be easy to split that back right in half. I’ve done it, a very discouraging move. After it’s all the way in, I scribe for the wedge mortises in the through tenons.
I consulted the previous chair when I laid out the mortise for this wedge. I made it 5/16″ wide and just eyeballed cutting out the wedge angle. Then I used the wedge to lay out the angle of the mortise.
Knocking the wedge in from the back. I drive it in, mark where I want to trim it front & back, then knock it out, trim it & put it back.
Here’s today’s walnut one beside April’s butternut example. These chairs are a great combination of challenging and fun.
The impetus for this diversion into these German/Austrian/Italian/Swiss etc chairs was first of all Drew Langsner’s article “Two Board Chairs” in the Jul/Aug 1981 issue of Fine Woodworking. At first, I felt skittish making them because I’ve never studied an old example. But 2020 blew that notion out of the water anyway. So I started in, figuring I’d make some blunders here & there, some changes to Drew’s instructions and find my way into them. One thing I have seen online is the wedging that fastens the back under the seat is usually a pin, not a wedge. I like the wedge idea that Drew learned in Switzerland, but I run mine from the back toward the front – not side-to-side like the way Drew learned. All those options work of course. I have enough walnut boards to make three more. But they’ll take me some time. There’s that cupboard to get back to…
For any new readers, or to re-cap for anyone – the major work I have underway for this year is a copy of a large 1680s press cupboard made in Essex County Massachusetts. The original is now at the Massachusetts Historical Society in Boston. https://www.masshist.org/highlights/index.php#id=3231
My notes in the blog show that I first posted about the cupboard project in mid-February. At that point, I planed what oak I had on hand, which wasn’t much. Then in early March got a short log and began planing stock. And kept on, in between other projects. Now much of that planed stock has reached the point where I can take the next steps. So now it will begin to look like something. If you want to see what’s come before, I went back to the blog posts about it and added the line “Essex County cupboard project 2021” so a search on the blog for that phrase will get all the posts (except this one, because I’m still writing it) – https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/?s=Essex+County+cupboard+project+2021
I’m a little out of sequence between what’s happening in the shop and here on the blog. That’s due to a couple things; there’s more work in editing & sorting video than posting photos on the blog – and spring migration got me out birding a lot this month. But stuff is trickling out, and I cut a bunch of joinery on it yesterday. More coming today.
Some questions I’ve got about the project. It’s for a private client, who will remain private. That’s all we need to say about that. As far as plans/drawings, specs – I can’t really publish those for a couple of reasons. First, the object I’m copying is in a museum collection here in Massachusetts. I got permission from that institution to make this repro. But I didn’t ask for, and won’t ask for, permission to publish all the specifics like a measured set of drawings. Regardless of how I see the “who owns these things” debate, I try to not run afoul of the museums & collections I study – I like to be invited back. So I try to play by their rules. Some institutions don’t like you copying their stuff. No sense arguing with them.
The other angle I came at these cupboards is through my friends Rob Tarule and Ted Curtin. In 1999 they were making a copy of a related one for the Saugus Iron Works, and included me in the project. I don’t have a photo of that cupboard, but it used to be on view there, and if I remember right, there was a film about us making it. Ahh, found a corner of it on their website https://www.nps.gov/sair/index.htm
So where’d I get yesterday? Started the joinery for the lower case. Framed the back (photo at the top of the post), which is very straight forward – two upright stiles, two horizontal rails and a vertical muntin. This frame has chamfers and bevels on its outer face (the muntin needs molded edges still) – but the corresponding upper case frame is not decorated. Everyone who knows why is dead.
Then I got to start in on the side framing, which is where the fun begins. Lots of little joinery – four 2” long mortises.
Double tenons on the wide rails.
I got one set done, tested the framing and quit for the day. The next set will take a bit more time because I’ll shoot video of it. So extra fumbling around. But it’s fun.
I spent some time the other day scratching my head as I was ready to begin cutting joints for the cupboard project. Up first are the 4 deep (or tall, depending on how you look at it) side rails in the lower case. These rails are a distinctive feature of this cupboard and several of the related ones. Here, they are 7 1/2″ high – with integral moldings run on their faces and applied moldings too. But first, the mortises.
I started with a basic question – how best to hold the rails for chopping the mortises. You can see that it’s thinner on one edge than the other. Naturally, I want the mortises in the thicker (1 1/4″) edge. So it needs to sit up on its thin edge, which might be closer to 7/8″ – 1″.
Often when mortising I grab the stock in the double-bench-screw (aka Moxon vise these days) and use a holdfast to secure it against the planing stop/bench hook. (the photo below is a mock-up, I didn’t shove it against the bench hook…but it gives you the sense of the setup.)
My holdfasts aren’t long enough to reach up & grab the rail itself, so I wasn’t entirely sold on this idea. Another disadvantage is the height of that rail means I’m mortising into something that’s about 40″ high. A bit uncomfortable for little ol’ me. Then I remembered a photo of our friend Rob Tarule pictured in Scott Landis’ The Workbench Book. Rob had a bearing strip or ledger fastened to the front legs of his Roubo bench and sat his workpiece on that. So I clipped that idea.
I didn’t have any hardwood over 6′ long, so just used a crappy piece of framing lumber. It sits on the holdfast on our left, is pinched by the one on the far right. The middle & left holdfasts are fixing the rail against the bench’s edge. Now the mortising happens just higher than the bench. The wooden fixture with the screw (the bench screw) just stops any forward movement. Much better. Below is a detail. This was the tail end of yesterday, and I didn’t work in the shop today. So tomorrow I’ll get the other three to this point, then it’s on to cutting double tenons on each end.
Scott Landis’ book was just republished by (who else?) Lost Art Press https://lostartpress.com/collections/all-books/products/the-workbench-book – if you’re not familiar with it, you might like it. Benches of all sorts, historical and otherwise. Rob Tarule made a Roubo bench long before we knew who Chris Schwarz was…there’s also a chapter on green woodworking fixtures too, featuring Jennie Alexander, Drew Langsner & Daniel O’Hagan – three people who had a huge impact on me. As did Tarule, but that was later. And I’ve known Scott since he & I (& Alexander) were in Curtis Buchanan’s first windsor chair class in 1987. Oh no, I sound like I’m on the porch of the old folks’ home – I’ll stop now.
For a couple of weeks or more I’ve been splitting, hewing & planing oak for this cupboard I have to build. In the blog here and in videos I mention various parts of the cupboard by name (the stiles, the cornice rails, inner stiles, etc) – all without having introduced the various parts to the audience. I have the cupboard frame in my head but realize that few here do. So here I’ll try to identify the bits – which for right now are just a growing pile of boards in the shop.
One way to see this frame more easily is to strip off all that applied decoration. I took a photo of one of the related cupboards and traced its framing as best I could. It’s built in two cases; lower & upper. The lower case contains 4 drawers. The distinctive feature of the lower cases in this group is the overhang at the front that is created in the side framing. That leaves room for the lower pillars you see here. The two middle drawers are tucked behind these pillars. Those drawers are narrower than the top & bottom drawers by about 3″-4″.
This sketch shows the basics of that side framing in the lower case. It’s clearly not to any scale, it’s just a sketch. The inner stile marked on both of these drawings is about 1 7/8″ thick x 4+” wide.
It might make sense in the photo below showing the four drawers open. That’s the edge of the inner stile beside the pillar.
The upper case’s format is pretty standard, but its embellishments are top-of-the-line. Its overall shape is sort of an interrupted octagon. At the front is a central door, loaded up with applied moldings that create a great sense of depth. Then the angled sides of the cupboard reach back to the rear stiles. Next, the top over the cupboard is back to rectangular, a 3-sided cornice creating another overhang. Those corner blocks that I refer to as “cornice stiles” are supported by the pillars. The pillars have tenons at both ends and are loose-fitted into the top of the lower case and the underside of those cornice stiles.
I think I’ve said before, but here goes again. More than 20 years ago, Bob Trent, Alan Miller & I studied about 12-13 of these and related chests of drawers for an article for American Furniture. A staggering body of work that really doesn’t span all that many years, 1670s & ’80s mainly if my memory is right.
I got a new log last week, and have started in on planing it. Daniel & I are finishing up a video about splitting and planing, but there’s lots of that to be done – so here’s a short post about the planes I’m using this week. When I have a lot of pieces to plane, I usually keep several planes going at once. In this case, 5 of them.
From the top left to bottom right – an American jointer 28 7/8″ long, a German jointer, 223 1/2″ long. Then another American plane, just a bit shorter, 22″, and an Ulmia (German) smooth plane 9 1/2″ long and a Dutch-style plane ground as a scrub plane. Its body is only 6″ long. Why so many? I tend to set a couple to different depths-of-cut, so that I switch planes rather than adjust irons when I want either a heavier or lighter cut. Depending.
I dragged this German plane out of the tool chest recently, and have been using it as the primary plane the last few days. I got it years ago from Josh Clark, I bought it because it’s oak. It feels pretty heavy, I weighed it today – it’s 7 lbs 9 oz. The American jointer behind it is more than 5″ longer and weighs just about the same.
Working 4-foot long rails, I was finding this plane easier to get full-length shavings. At first I thought it was about the weight, but I then looked at the placement of the iron in the body.
The American one on top is 22″ long, its cutting edge is 7″ from the end. The German one at 23 1/2″ long has its edge 9 7/8″ from the end. Finally, the large jointer is 28 7/8″ and its iron is 9 1/8″ from the front end. So the German one has more mass ahead of its iron than the other two. Maybe that accounts for the different feel. The angles the irons bed at are pretty similar. I didn’t measure those…
Here’s the maker’s mark from Holst.
The internet search I just did wanted to take me to Gustav Holst’s “The Planets” instead of Holst planes. I found one hit, what’s listed as a hornbeam plane – https://www.holzwerken.de/museum/profilhobel/treppenhobel3.phtml One of those views seems to show pronounced medullary rays – similar to the plane I have. I looked up European hornbeam in the wood database – that entry doesn’t mention ray fleck figure – it does discuss the end grain – but I can’t see anything on the end grain of this plane. So I keep thinking it’s oak, the medullary rays look like white oak to me – but maybe it is hornbeam – which is what someone told me 9 years ago – I’m a slow learner. https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/2012/10/24/im-an-oak-man/
I had put the ash legs in a kiln powered by one light bulb. Over time I weighed them, and they stopped losing weight a couple of days ago. Hence, dry. I didn’t get photos of the first half of today’s work, boring the mortises in the battens for the legs. I had the battens in place in the seat, and bored from below. Used 2 adjustable bevels to set the rake & splay. Here’s photos of the rest of the day. First a front & rear leg fitted into a batten. Through-wedged tenons, 15/16″ in diameter. Ash legs, white oak batten.
Before fitting the battens into the seat, I chamfered the edges of the front & sides of the seat. This could be a molded edge (it is in Drew Langsner’s article I used to build from) – but a chamfer works too.
Once I had the two battens fitted with their legs, time to knock them back into the seat. They are not interchangable. I marked them inside the housing.
Then slide/heave/push, but don’t pound the back into the mortises cut in the seat & battens.
From there, I scribed the baseline for the mortises in the back’s tenons. Then back out it comes.
I bored these mortises, then pared with a chisel. I felt the butternut was a somewhat fragile wood, and it’s tight quarters in there for chopping a mortise. So brace & bit and paring chisel work. Make sure the top end of that mortise is ABOVE the baseline scribed. The wedge needs to bear on the batten’s surface, not the end grain of this mortise.
The other end is angled some, maybe 6-8 degrees or so. Too steep is less likely to grab.
then I pared the end grain and the walls inside that mortise. It’s 5/16″ wide. Centered on the tenon’s thickness, which is about an inch. Then I planed some wedge stock, I used hickory in this case. I just wanted something harder than the butternut. Not sure it’s necessary. I always chamfer the ends of wedges like this – both ends. That way if you ever have to adjust them, you can knock them this way & that without beating them to bits.
Then put the thing back together & drive the wedges in. These next two photos are a bit out of order – the wedges are still extra-long, and not yet chamfered. And the batten too is extra long. I took the wedges out to trim their length, then chamfered them. Took the back out so I could easily trim the battens flush with the back edge of the seat.
Then put it all back together. This is an earlier test-assembly. One nice thing is there’s no hurry and you can take the back in & out to make whatever adjustments you need.
Here’s the other view of the finished chair.
I want to do another one soon, otherwise everything I learned doing this one will go out the window & I’ll have to learn it again. Next time, more taper to the legs. More rake & splay.
while in England, a few times in conversation I mentioned a well-known court record, attempting to resolve a dispute between the Carpenters’ Company and the Joiners’ Company. The City Aldermen issued a decision in 1632 that outlined who-makes-what. I first heard it referenced in Benno Forman’s work I think; but I found a lengthy (full length?) version in a history of the Carpenters’ Company. here’s what I have. Typos are mine.
the source is B. Jupp, An Historical Account of the Worshipful Company of Carpenters, (London, Pickering & Chatto, 1887) appendices B and C, pp. 295-302
September 1632…Committees formerly appointed to heare the differences between the Company of Carpenters and Company of Joyners London did deliver into this Court a Reporte in writeing…
According to an Order of this Honoble Court of the last day of May…we have called before us as well the Mr and Wardens and others of the Chiefe of the Company of Carpenters as the Mr Wardens and others of the Chiefe of the Company of Joyners and diverse tymes heard the matters in difference betweene the said Companyes and the reasons and Allegacons on either side produced And doe Certifye to this Honoble Court our opinions concerning the same as hereunder followeth vizt
That these workes next following doe pperly belong to the Joyners
Impris all sorts of Bedsteads whatsoever (onlie except Boarded Bedsteads and nayled together)
Item all sorts of Chayres and stooles which are made with mortesses or tennants
Item all tables of Wainscoate Wallnutt or other Stuffe glewed with frames mortesses or tennants
Item all sorts of formes framed made of boards with the sides pinned or glewed
Item all sorts of Chests being framed duftalled pynned or Glued
Item all sorts of Cabinetts or Boxes duftalled pynned glued or Joyned
Item all Sorte of Cupboards framed duftalled pynned or glued
Item all Sorte of presses for wearinge apparell Mercers Silkmen Haberdashers Gouldsmiths Millenors or Napkin presses being pannelled duftalled pynned or Glued
Item all Sorts of Wainscott and sealing of Howses and setling made by the use of Two Iages (PF:gauges)
Item all Sorts of Shopp Windows that are made for ornament or beautie which cannott bee made without Glew
Item all Sorts of Doores framed pannelled or Glued
Item all hatches iaged framed or Glued
Item all pewes pulpitts and seates with the Deskes belonging to them framed pannelled or Glued
Item all Sorts of frames upon Stalls being framed or Glued
Item all frames for picturs Latesses for Scrivenors or the Like
Item all lyning of Walls or frering for Wainscott
Item all signe boards of Wainscott or carved
Item all worke whatsoever already invented or that hereafter shall bee invented being made by one or two iages with the use of all manner of nayles
Item all carved workes either raised or Cutt through or sunck in with the grounde taken out being wrought and cutt with carving Tooles without the use of Plaines
That all Coffins made of Wainscott but if they bee made of other woode wee conceive fitt that the making thereof be left indifferent either to the Joyners or Carpenters
And these workes following doe properlie belong to the Carpenter
Imprimis all Drapers Tables, all Tables for Tavernes Victuallers Chandlers Compting house Tables and all other Tables made of Deale Elme Oake Beeche or other woode nayled together without Glue except all sorts of Tables either nayled framed or glued being moveable
Item all Sesterne Stooles washing Stooles bucking Stooles and all other Stooles whatsoever that are to be headed with Oake Elme Beeche or Deale and footed with square or round feete Except all framed stooles glued or pinned
Item all sortes of frames [forms?] made of Elme Oake beeche or deale heads with Square or round feete or with feete of Boards or planks with sides of boards to bee nayled or braded soe as they not bee turned feete
Item the Laying of all fflowers of Elme or Oake except such floores of Elme or Oake as are grobed (PF: grooved) which wee conceive properly to belong to the Joyners and if the floore bee of Deale wee conceive fitt that the workmr be left at Liberty to make choyce whether he will have a Carpenter or Joyner to lay the same
Item the dividing of ware-houses and Chambers and other roomes unwainscotted and unpannelled with slitt or whole deales or any other materials Wainscott excepted and except all pticons grooved glued battened or framed
Item the Shelving of all Roomes unwainscotted and unpannelled with Seates and bracketts except worke in Studdies which wee conceive fitt to bee left indifferent to both Companies
Item all Signe Boards not made of Wainscott not glued or carved
Item we conceive fitt that the setting up of all Pillars or ballasters for lights in a particon of what wood soever if the particon be made by the Carpenters doe belong to them but if the particon bee of the Joyners making them do belong to them
Item all Galleries in Churches and other places unlesse of wainscott or pannelled or Carved
Item the shelving in a Kitchen with Racks for Spitts and other Racks for hanging upp of furniture except all peeles
Item the laying of plates and floores for pewes in Churches if they be Laid with Oake or Elme but if with deale the the worke mr to bee at his Choise whether he will have a Carpenter or Joyner to lay them
Item all frames of Skreenes for halls or other Roomes not made of wainscott glued carved or pannelled
And lastly wee think fitt that the Iage be indifferently used by the Carpenters soe as they use the same in the making and perfecting such worke only as before expressed to belong unto them and not otherwise all wch nevertheless wee leave to grave Judgements of this Honoble Court
the humble Peticon of the Mr and Wardens of the Company of Carpenters London…
May it please your honor and worpps to be informed by us…that wee conceive…That theis workes hereafter following doe properly belong unto the Company of Carpenters and not any wayes unto the Company of Joyners which are not formerly expressed in the reporte
Imprimis the building erecting and repairing of all manner of howses & edifices whatsoever of any kinde of timber whatsoever
Item the framing and setting upp of all manner of timber windowes that stand or are to stande in howses built of stone brick or timber.
Item the making and framing of all manner of staires that are to be done of timber board or plancks
Item the making of all manner of penthowses
Item the making and setting up of all manner of postes and seates at gates or Dores
Item the making of cases and plancks for Cellar Dores
Item the making of bulkes or stalles
Item ythe making of all cases for the enclosinge of cesternes
Item the making and setting up of all manner of sheds and hovells
Item the layeing of joysts and planking of stables – And making of racks and mangers
Item the boarding and weatherboarding of howses shedds and hovells
Item the making of all manner of signepostes
Item the making framing and setting upp of postes railes and ballesters in gardens, Leades betwixt houses or elsewhere
Item the making of all mantletrees tassels and footepaces of timber
Item the making of all manner of pales
Item the making of Wharves Camshedds Cranes & bridges of timber and piling and planckinge of foundacons for Wharves and Bridges
Item the makinge of ladders stocks cages and whipping postes
Item the making of poncoiloises
Item the making of frames and stocks for bells and making of bellwheeles
Item the making of all manner of presses made of timber or plancke for Clothworkers Hottpressers Chandlers or any other the like
Item the making of all manner of traughts (PF: troughs?) for Bakers or other professions or for conveyance of water and all manner of truncks for bringing in of light into mens howses shopps or warehouses as also the making of all manner of truncks for Jackwaights or conveyance of water
Item the making of porches and making of lattices and barrs for Taverns and other victualling howses
Item the making of banquetting howses and Arbours of timber or boardes and postes and seates in gardens
Item all manner of or Turretts or Lanthornes to bee sett on Churches Steeples Halls or elsewhere being made of timber
Item the setting up of all Hattmakers plancks
Item the makng and layeing of all manner of beare Joysts Stillimgs & Scantlyngs for Vinteners Brewhouses Victualling howses and in or for anye other howses whatsoever
All which workes wee humblie desire to be allowed unto us the Carpenters as aforesaid being meerly Carpenters worke and done in his mats worke in his howses at Westmr and elsewhere by his mats Carpenter And wee are still charged for the working and pforming thereof and not the Joyners
The Company of Carpenters humbly desire this honorable Court that theis Artickles reported for the Company of Joyners may be altered and qualified for the reasons hereunder and before mentioned vizt:
To the tenth artickle reported wee answere that all Shopwindowes have alwayes belonged unto the Carpenters (except of waynscott) and not unto the Joyners. To the eleaventh that all sortes of Dores whether battoned or unbattoned (except Dores made of waynscott) belonge to the Carpenters and not the the Joyners. To the twelveth that all hatches (except made of waynscott) belong to the Carpenters and not to the Joyners. To the sixteenth that all furring of walls and flowers belonge to the Carpenters. To the eighteenth there is almost noe carpenters worke to be done but they may and doe use the Iage and nailes both in invented and to be invented which being allowed to the Joyner they will doe any Carpenters worke. And therefore wee desire that that article maie be soe qualified & explaned that the Joyner shall not intermeddle in the Carpenters worke. To the nyneteenth the Carpenters saie that they have alwaies used to have the Cutting of postes at Dores, and for staires and to stand in gardens or grassplotts the cutting of ballesters hances tafferells pendants and piramides and the Joyners have not done the same except they be of wainscott.
Also for the Carpenters to be altered for the reasons followinge in theis artickles in the reporte
To the first all tables in that artickle are moveable (and the word except nailed) to be left out for wee cann make none of them without nailes. To the second and third wee cannott make bucking stooles cesterne stooles washing stooles nor formes with square feet but they must be framed and pynned together with pynns which is excepted against the Carpenters. To the fourth the layeng of flowers with oake elme boards or any other boards whether grooved drawen or layed otherwise is Carpenters worke and have ever byn layd by the Carpenter. To the ninth galleries in Churches or elsewhere cannott be made without groovings and being pannelled and the postes to be cutt by the Carpenter. To the tenth all peeles not made of waynskott have alwayes belonged unto the Carpenters. To the eleaventh the layeing of all plates & flowers in Churches of what wood soever doth belonge to the Carpenters. To the twelveth skreenes in halls or elsewhere cannott be made without grooving and pannelling and glueing of some pannells and yett have ever byn made by the Carpenters as witness the making of all ancient skreenes.