where do I get logs?

It’s a very common question. I usually suggest small sawmills, firewood dealers, tree-cutters, etc. For many years, my friends & I have worked with the folks at Gurney’s Sawmill in East Freetown, Massachusetts. They’re very patient with us, I am extremely picky when it comes to oak logs, and am never buying more than one at a time…

Pret & I went there yesterday to shop for Plymouth CRAFT’s ladderback chair class coming up in August. Here’s the first pile we saw; but there was another pile just before it.

 

 

For once, I’m not looking for the largest diameter log I can find; for many reasons. The heaviest parts of the JA chair are just 1 3/4″ or less in diameter when we split them. So straight & clear were more of a priority than wide. Straight & clear is always a priority. The logs in this pile were 12-footers (over 3.5 meters for some of you). I didn’t think to take the camera out until after they plucked our log off this pile, but it was near the front, on top. That NEVER happens. They’re usually buried under lots of other logs.

 

The crew at Gurney’s moved the log to a spot where we could split it into pieces we could manage. Here’s a clean cut on the end; showing just how centered this log is, nicely round. Even growth rings – looks great.

The log was 12 feet long, about 20″ in diameter. Pret cut it into two five-foot sections, with the remaining 2 feet in the swelled butt of the log. Here’s the wedges driven into the end of that first cut.

 

Honestly, I did work at splitting too – he just doesn’t work the camera. It’s OK, I don’t like to work the chainsaw, so we’re even. Using a peavey to lever apart the first split.

Hard to read in this photo, but Pret’s using a slick to get in there & snip the crossed fibers in the red oak. I’m sorry I didn’t get a better shot of this. It’s quite an innovation to use that wide chisel this way. We’ve always used a hatchet or small axe for this, but he came up with the slick for it. The cutting edge is just where you want it for this job. The hatchet can bounce around in there, the slick doesn’t.

We first thought we’d load the quarters in the car. Then came to our senses and split them into eighths. Took one five-foot section in this load. Will return for the rest later. Total time splitting was just under an hour probably. 165 board feet in the log and I paid .75 per board foot. I hope this section will make the six chairs we need for the class, with a few extras. We’ll see in August. But first, I’m off to Lost Art Press for box-making.

This one’s for McKee – when I’m back 2nd week of August. If you can handle the program….

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chair seat, basket find, carved oak

Some snippets of odds & ends. Last week, I worked for a time on hollowing the seat for my version of Curtis Buchanan’s democratic chair. His video series on this chair is here https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLL_KlogKd1xf9GYjSfBVLKTp8KngC8q7j

The plans are here https://www.curtisbuchananchairmaker.com/store/p31/Full-Scale_Drawings%3A_How_to_Make_a_Democratic_Side_Chair.html 

I often hear people say to me, or about me, “he makes it look easy..” and that’s how I feel about Curtis’ video – but of course he makes it look easy, he’s done it for 35 years or so. It’s fun to delve into something that I don’t know all that well anymore. I saw Pete Galbert last week & told him “don’t lay off Windsors for 25 years and then think you can just fall back into it…”

That’s about where I got in one session. I need to really hone the inshave better, then finish the hollowing before I start in on shaping the exterior.

I had the distinct advantage of having Curtis’ model on hand. I bought one of the prototype versions of this chair. When I measure it against his plans, it’s different. Makes me feel better.

On my way to Lie-Nielsen’s Open House last week, I stopped at an antique mall & found this inexpensive black ash basket. It’s a beauty. It’s maybe 15″-18″ in diameter.

The handle detail.

The base. Each upright is split in two about halfway out from the center. Makes a tighter weave. At first I thought it was every other one, but it looks like all of them. Very fine work. It’s pretty tattered, but still quite nice.

I worked oak at the Open House, took no photos at all. (swiped this one from LN’s Facebook page – where they have several photos of the event. https://www.facebook.com/lie.nielsen.toolworks/

Image may contain: one or more people, people sitting and beard

If you’ve never been to LN’s open house, it’s great. Maybe 30 demonstrators. Go next year. I’ll see you there. This is the layout and initial carving of one of the box fronts I made (I started 3 of them; finished this last one at home yesterday.)

Here it is finished.

Before I went up to Maine, I finished another carved and painted box; I’ll post this for sale in the next couple days.

Now I’m back to the chest of drawers. I’m on the lower case now, but here’s one of the drawer pulls on the deep (10″) drawer. East Indian rosewood.

applied decoration; Triglyphs

Part of my loft-clean out goal has been to finish building a chest of drawers I started eons ago. I searched this blog, and saw I was assembling the upper case (all I’ve got so far) back in March 2013. And it never got further than that…til now.

I started the lower case, I had one front stile made & mortised, and I chopped its mate the other day. Then I began planing rail stock for it. Meanwhile, I glued up some quartersawn oak for the upper case’s top, and did some fussy fitting of the side-hung drawers.

Late yesterday I worked on some small details; making and trimming some of the applied decoration; in this case pieces furniture historians call “glyphs.” This row of glyphs decorate a small muntin between the two side-by-side upper drawers.  They’re usually “trigylphs” in architecture, mine are corrupted no doubt. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Triglyph 

Here’s a set from a chest made in Boston mid-to-late 17th century:

I made some for a box in the new book Joiner’s Work. https://lostartpress.com/products/joiners-work  There, I planed the beveled shape on the edge of a board, then ripped the bits off that board. It’s a real nice way to make these, one length can get a whole slew of them, depending on the board’s length.

planing edge

For this set of glyphs, I started with some short offcuts that were good for nothing else. These are Spanish cedar, not a wood I have on hand in any considerable quantity.  I cut out the blanks 3/4″ wide, 3/8″ thick, they’re just under 6″ long. Then I beveled them by holding the plane still and sliding the blank across the plane’s iron. You have to give this work your full attention, or you pay with your fingertips’ blood.

The various stages with this method; the blank on the left, a piece trimmed to size just above the ruler and some planed and trimmed.

I need 14 of them about 2 3/4″ long, I was getting 2 per length from this stock.

Here’s a short video showing how I trim the ends with a chisel.

Now to practice a little turning; find that rosewood up in the loft and make the drawer pulls. Then I can fasten the top and finish the applied bits later, when it’s too hot for any real work. No carving at all, but still “no blank space” is the goal.

It’s staggering for me to think about the time that has gone by since I began work on this piece. In studying museum furniture and other period works, we often speculate about why this piece or that piece looks the way it does. I remember often hearing “maybe the apprentice did this part, the master came in & did that part…” and other theories about variations in a given work. Someone might look at this one day and have plenty to puzzle over. I wonder if they will come up with “Maybe his job changed, he quit, put things in storage, waited a couple years, built his own shop & never had time to pursue this till several years later he went on a cleaning binge and cleared out the loft…”

Just a box of rain

Well, it’s Friday of box week, which started out as bowl week. I don’t know how it got to Friday so quickly, but I managed to finish fitting bottoms and lids on two boxes yesterday. Some of it spilled into this morning.

 

I usually use white pine for bottoms and lids; many New England boxes from the period did just that. Otherwise, oak lids. I tend to save the oak for more carved parts, i.e. the next box. Thicknessing and flattening white pine is pretty easy; I don’t even use a hatchet. The scrub or fore plane is effective enough at quickly removing excess material. It comes to me usually a full inch thick. Flatten one side. 

Then, having laid out the intended thickness, I start in on the 2nd face. At first, just a wide bevel all around down to just above the scribed line.

For this work, I use a plane that has its iron re-ground to a wide curve. Set to take a thick shaving. You can see the bevel planed on this board, just under the back end of the plane.

Then I can go right across the board, using the bevels as a sighting aid. This quickly removes the excess thickness.

Shoot one edge, then trim to size.

And it goes on & on. Some lids get thumbnail moldings around their edges, some just a bevel. The bottom boards are beveled where they extend beyond the box to form a base.

These boxes mostly started life as a carving demonstration. then got stashed until I had time to make them into boxes. So I finished assembling two of them this week, some painting to finish up on this one from a week or so ago, but that has to wait for the rain to quit. Then it’s onto the next thing, which really is hewn bowls. The loft is crawling with them. You’ll see that next week.

One more box class that has space in it, at Connecticut Valley School of woodworking. October 12-16. Last I’ll speak of it… https://www.schoolofwoodworking.com/class-schedule/29-speciality-weekend-classes/635-make-a-carved-oak-box-with-peter-follansbee.html 

sooner or later one of us must know

I interrupted myself today to take care of a long-put-off task. Earlier this year, I took my lathe apart so I could build a trio of over-sized projects; a queen-size bed, a 7-foot high dresser and a large settle. My intention was when I finished those projects, I’d put the lathe back. Sooner or later.

A  couple of months went by…til today. I was enjoying having some extra floor space in the shop, but the plan all along was to make a new, shorter bed for it. This one is ash and fits 30″ between the centers, so I can turn joined stool parts, the front stiles of a wainscot chair and any small stuff I might need, like tool handles, etc.

The original bed is stashed up in the loft. It fits 50″ between centers, so takes up considerable room in the end of the shop. I’ll switch them around when I get occasion to turn those giant 17th-century style chairs.

This next photo shows the upright that forms the “headstock” if a lathe like this has one. The bed is fixed to the uprights by large iron bolts with washers & square nuts. All the hardware; these bolts, the centers, and the tool rest brackets were made by Mark Atchison back in 1994 when I was first working at my old shop in the museum.

Here’s the moveable “poppet” with its tool rest bracket inserted through it. You can see the wedge just below the bed that fastens the poppet in place.

The tool rest propped in the brackets.

I have no turner’s work coming up, so for now the lathe is shoved back against the rear wall. It fits 2 JA chairs tucked under it; waiting to be finished. And junk collects on the chair seats, an unfinished basket in this case. The foot treadle is stashed behind the lathe, and the spring pole is up in the peak of the ceiling.

For the time being, there’s easy access to the notebooks and other reference works. Many of you didn’t even know there was a bookcase in the shop probably.

Also important is access to the window looking out over the garden and the river. One day last week we looked out from the house and a great blue heron was under the bird feeders. He spooked and took off, but shortly after that came back & hung around the garden. Wouldn’t want to be a chipmunk that day…

 

A couple of years ago, Maureen planted milkweed to attract monarch butterflies. Today she found a caterpillar on one of the plants…

Box week

It was going to be bowl week. But I think it turned into box week. I don’t know what happened. Some of it stems from the great, not-quite-finished loft cleaning of spring 2019.

When I make a carved oak box they can go one of two ways. Some are reproductions/copies of existing boxes, as close as I can get them. This desk box is an example of that work. The measurements, decoration, construction are all based on an examination of a late 17th-century example.

This is one of the projects in the new book Joiner’s Work https://lostartpress.com/collections/books/products/joiners-work 

Here’s a look inside, showing one of two lidded tills, in front of a long tray at the back of the box. There’s four of those small drawers above.

When I’m just making boxes without any specific model, then I do things just a little differently. All the carvings are still derived from period work, as are the construction techniques. For instance, most New England boxes (& English ones) are joined with rabbets at the corners, not dovetails.

Unless I’m making a strict reproduction though, I tend to use glue and wooden pins to secure the rabbet, instead of the more common nailed rabbets. Just saves some handmade nails. There are some period boxes that are glued and pegged, but they are the exception rather than the rule. Here I’m driving the wooden pins into the box front-to-side joints.

In this next photo you see the square oak pegs, and then the finishing touches of gouged decoration along the ends of the box front. I saw this on a few boxes, but I usually put it on all of mine.

In these two new boxes you can see the extended pintle at the top rear corner. This becomes part of a wooden hinge. Again, I’ve seen this on period boxes, but it’s pretty rare, compared to iron hinges.

Here’s the cleat, attached to the underside of the lid, engaging that pintle. If you’re looking at details, you’ll see this box is sawn stock, not riven.

I’m teaching the carved box class a couple more times this year, the first Lost Art Press box class (late July) just sold out last week. After that is a week long class at Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking – October 12-16 https://www.schoolofwoodworking.com/class-schedule/29-speciality-weekend-classes/635-make-a-carved-oak-box-with-peter-follansbee.html 

Then the finale for the year back at Lost Art Press’ storefront in December – https://www.eventbrite.com/e/make-a-carved-oak-box-with-peter-follansbee-december-2019-tickets-54260677146

The class features lots of carving; a full day of practice, followed by a day carving the front and sides for the box. Here’s 7 of the 9 boxes the Australians carved last fall when I was there in the spring:

(The desk box shown above is also covered in the video I shot a few years ago with Lie-Nielsen about making boxes)  https://www.lie-nielsen.com/product/home-education-videos/carved-oak-boxes-with-peter-follansbee?node=4243

 

finally some birds

Finally, some walks in the mornings, so some birds. I thought it would never happen. If you use a computer, you can click the photos to enlarge them. I don’t know what happens on your phones.

We’ll start with large & showy – wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) the males are displaying lately. Front view:

Rear  view:

And a very metallic side view:

More iridescence – tree swallow, (Tachycineta bicolor) not often I find them standing still.

That’s about as close as I can get to the American kestrel (Falco sparverius) 

Right near where I saw the kestrels, this Northern mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos) did a whole range of every neighborhood bird it could think of. If only I had the camera that does video…but there’s only so much gear I care to tote…


A young red-tailed hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) – this bird almost hit me when it flew by; buzzed right over my shoulder.

Here he is going by…

 

Probably the same hawk harassed by a red-winged blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus)

A red-winged blackbird up close, they’re all loudmouths.

Finished out this morning’s walk with a great blue heron (Ardea herodias) just as I was getting back in the car to come home…