Essex County cupboard anatomy

Essex County cupboard

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.

side framing lower case

It might make sense in the photo below showing the four drawers open. That’s the edge of the inner stile beside the pillar.

side view lower case

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.

photo by Gavin Ashworth

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.

You can read it online, with photos shot by Gavin Ashworth. http://www.chipstone.org/article.php/554/American-Furniture-2001/First-Flowers-of-the-Wilderness:-Mannerist-Furniture-from-a-Northern-Essex-County,-Massachusetts,-Shop-

I can’t wait to start framing it; but for now the parts are stickered & drying some. I’m planing up the drawer parts now. Then on to some incidental bits – this oak log is going fast.

Planing oak joinery stock

planing a long rail

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.

5 planes

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.

German plane, marked J Holst Hamburg

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.

compare iron placement

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.

J Holst Hamburg

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/

this picture is from when I bought the plane in 2012

Here’s Josh’s site, if you’ve not seen it before https://www.hyperkitten.com/

Brettstuhl assembled

Spent the day fitting the brettstuhl together.

Brettstuhl assembled

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.

legs & 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.

chamfer w drawknife

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.

one good use of too much bulk

From there, I scribed the baseline for the mortises in the back’s tenons. Then back out it comes.

scribing for mortises

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.

more boring

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.

brettstuhl side view

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.

London Carpenters v Joyners 1632

Carpenters drawing
Carpenters’ Company records, 1573

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

  1. Impris all sorts of Bedsteads whatsoever (onlie except Boarded Bedsteads and nayled together)
  1. Item all sorts of Chayres and stooles which are made with mortesses or tennants
  1. Item all tables of Wainscoate Wallnutt or other Stuffe glewed with frames mortesses or tennants
  1. Item all sorts of formes framed made of boards with the sides pinned or glewed
  1. Item all sorts of Chests being framed duftalled pynned or Glued
  1. Item all sorts of Cabinetts or Boxes duftalled pynned glued or Joyned
  1. Item all Sorte of Cupboards framed duftalled pynned or glued
  1. Item all Sorte of presses for wearinge apparell Mercers Silkmen Haberdashers Gouldsmiths Millenors or Napkin presses being pannelled duftalled pynned or Glued
  1. Item all Sorts of Wainscott and sealing of Howses and setling made by the use of Two Iages (PF:gauges)
  1. Item all Sorts of Shopp Windows that are made for ornament or beautie which cannott bee made without Glew
  1. Item all Sorts of Doores framed pannelled or Glued
  1. Item all hatches iaged framed or Glued
  1. Item all pewes pulpitts and seates with the Deskes belonging to them framed pannelled or Glued
  1. Item all Sorts of frames upon Stalls being framed or Glued
  1. Item all frames for picturs Latesses for Scrivenors or the Like
  1. Item all lyning of Walls or frering for Wainscott
  1. Item all signe boards of Wainscott or carved
  1. 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
  1. 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
  1. 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

  1. 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
  1. 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
  1. 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
  1. 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
  1. 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
  1. 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
  1. Item all Signe Boards not made of Wainscott not glued or carved
  1. 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
  1. Item all Galleries in Churches and other places unlesse of wainscott or pannelled or Carved
  1. Item the shelving in a Kitchen with Racks for Spitts and other Racks for hanging upp of furniture except all peeles
  1. 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
  1. Item all frames of Skreenes for halls or other Roomes not made of wainscott glued carved or pannelled
  1. 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.