This picture is a little hard to read, but it’s a step called “kerfing” the joint. In this case, the rear shoulder was in the way, keeping the front shoulder from pulling up tight. So you go in there with a backsaw, and re-saw the rear shoulder. Sometimes it takes a single pass, sometimes more.
Then you knock it all together again, I have already pinned the front section and rear section separately. I was looking to get a general overall photo…but this wasn’t it.
I went to the other end of the shop, and that’s the angle. Better anyway.
Then I went higher.
Here’s the frame. This one gets a crest, two applied figures one on each side of the rear posts, then seat, then arms.
Here’s the crest, with conjectural attachment. It gets nails through the ends, down into the integral crest rail. But I never felt like those were enough to hold it in place. So I added a loose tenon between the two crests. I chopped one mortise in the wrong spot, so you see it runs wide/long.
I did a couple of presentations last weekend at Fine Woodworking Live; a seminar put on by the magazine. It was a sold-out affair, and seems like everyone had a good time. With the magazine staff, the presenters and the attendees there were close to 300 people there. All trying to consume as much information about woodworking and furniture-making as possible.
My talks were 90 minutes, and it’s hard to cram everything I know into that time slot. Because my work is so closely based on studying period pieces, I tried to show some examples prior to my demonstrations. This blog post will flesh out some of what I was talking about.
Al Breed came to one of my sessions, and asked about the insides of the mortises; is there any indication that the joiners bored them first? My reading of the evidence is that these narrow mortises, typically about 5/16″, are just chopped. No need to bore them first. These shots (scanned from slides, thus not as sharp as they might be) show the inside of the top front rail of a chest from the Smithsonian. The chest was made c. 1640-1670. Oak. The joint is broken open near where the till parts fit. One of the nice things about oak is how well it splits, but that’s a drawback too.
Here’s a detail of that joint, showing the chopped bottom of the mortise, in the first photo you can also see the angle of the mortise’s end grain cuts, and the trimming of the tenon’s edges.
This chest has a joined front fixed to board sides and back. So a blending of a board-chest and a joined chest. Two pieces built this way survive from this shop.
To me it’s not a surprise that this joint blew apart, the surprising part is that more didn’t. I have written before about how much wood is cut away right were all these parts converge – the mortises for the top rails, the grooves for panels on front & side, the notches for the till side and till bottom, and the mortise bored for the till lid. It’s like a game of connect-the-dots.
here is part of that earlier post:
This next photo is the front stile for the chest I’m building now. This stile is red oak, and it’s about 3 1/4″ wide by 1 3/4″ thick. Clustered up near the top end of the stile are several cuts into the stock.
First, the two mortises, for the front and side upper rails. These are 5/16″ wide by about 3 3/4″ high. The one for the front rail is about 1 1/2″ deep, the other about 1 1/4″ deep.
Each has two 1/4″ holes bored in them, those for the front rail go all the way through the stile.
There is a groove running along each edge, into these mortises, for the beveled panels.
Additionally there is a notch cut across the inner face of the stile for the till bottom. this notch is about 3/8″ wide and about the same depth. It is positioned so that the till bottom is flush with the bottom edge of the upper rails.
What is missing from this photo is one more assault on this piece of wood – the hole bored into the stile for the hinged end of the till lid. This hole is usually about 3/8″ in diameter and about 1/2″ deep, and right near what will be the top end of the stile, after the extra wood is trimmed off the top. It will be about 3/8″ away from the mortise for the side rail.
That’s a lot of cuts into this piece of wood, all in the same neighborhood. Sometimes I am amazed that the stile can take it.
Another thing we discussed (I think this was a breakfast discussion…) was the backs of pieces. Chris Becksvoort was telling us about Shaker work, Al Breed about Newport 18th-century work – I chimed in with a group of chests and cupboards from Plymouth Colony from the 2nd half of the 17th century. Here’s the surviving section of a chest with four drawers; in “as found” condition.
Look inside, the inner face of the rear section is a bit firewood-like. (the strap hinges are replacements) Narrow oak panels, with muntins that have large torn-out sections from riving them:
And a knot in one, and panels with riven texture – not planed smooth.
Sometimes the insides have fully-formed moldings on the framing parts. These get covered up as soon as the chest is filled with textiles. Some Boston joiners did the same thing.
All the chests and cupboards from this large body of work use employ chamfers on the framing parts on the side elevations; usually stopped chamfers. You see it below on the lower edge of the horizontal rail:
But they did it too on the rear elevation. Sometimes smooth transitions, sometimes stopped chamfers. This is the part of the cupboard or chest that gets shoved against the wall! Hard to understand the outside being so neat when sometimes the inside is just this side of firewood.
I have been cutting some moldings lately for a chest with drawers I’m building. The moldings surround the panels, and the drawer fronts. While I was cutting these, I was thinking about this blog. I started it in 2008, and never thought it would keep going this long. Because I didn’t know what I was doing, I never really organized it well. So there’s lots of photos spread out all over the blog that are useful…but sometimes hard to find. Today, I thought I could just post some photos of period moldings found on New England joined works. So here’s pictures.
a chest from Salem, Massachusetts: Tearout, anyone?
a chest with drawers, Plymouth Colony. This large molding (2″ tall) is integral to the rail, not applied.
Inside one of the Plymouth Colony chests, moldings on the rails and muntins:
Here’s a panel detail from Plymouth Colony. This is a common profile for the period, technically an ogee with a fillet, I think:
This one’s from Chipstone’s website – a Boston chest panel:
This is a muntin from a chest made in Braintree, Massachusetts. I used to make this molding with a scratch stock. I think that cutter is gone now…
This Connecticut (Wethersfield? Windsor? I can never get it straight) chest with drawers was the model we copied last time at Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking. These moldings are oak:
A lousy photo, but if you squint at the ruler’s shadow, you can see the profile of this molding. Dedham Massachusetts chest.
Also Dedham, different chest:
Back to Connecticut, more Wethersfield, Windsor, etc.
a drawer from a Woburn, Massachusetts cupboard:
An ogee on the bottom edge of a table’s apron. Maybe this square table is Boston?
I feel like I’m moving. I guess I am…I’ve been sifting through boxes of stuff that I stashed almost 3 years ago when I moved out of my old shop. The new one is nearing completion, so I keep sorting boxes…
People give me stuff every now & then, and somewhere along the line I got these small drawings. I forget who gave them to me. I scanned a few of them tonight. I don’t usually work from this sort of drawing, but I appreciate the skill that it takes to make them. They’re quite nice.
this first batch are all (except the cane chair) about 5″ x 7″ – but they’re not from one notebook, so the sizes vary. one seems like it says “drawn by C. M. Bill. I scanned them & darkened them a little…some are marked either “Albert & Vic” or “Al & Victoria” – thus the V&A in london…others are unmarked as to what collection they’re drawn from…
the cane chair drawing is 6 3/4″ x 10 1/4″.
There’s about 10 more. I’ll scan those some point soon.
I finished this wainscot chair and delivered it to the Martin House Farm in Swansea, Massachusetts yesterday. I should say I “completed” the chair, I applied no finish to it. They are looking into having it stained to look like the original. Speaking of which…
I don’t often get to compare my results to the originals that I study. I sometimes don’t want to see the contrast. It can leave me feeling like I missed some obvious feature, muffed another one, etc. There’s a couple of things I’d do differently next time, but not too drastic.
I added some height to mine, to bring the seat more level, or slightly canted to the rear. The original tilts forward now.
The original chair descended in the Cole family in Rehoboth and Swansea. Maybe dates from 165-1700. All oak. Some think it was made in Providence, some think it’s a Plymouth Colony joiner. Hard to say, there’s so little to go on. One very distinctive feature of this chair is the rear of the large panel. Instead of just beveling it to fit, the joiner made a tabled” or raised panel. Here’s mine before assembly:
Unusual in New England wainscots, but very common in Wiltshire, England. I have seen many wainscot chairs there done with a tabled panel in front, then the raised area carved. Here’s one from Salisbury, not a great photo but you can just make out the tabled/molded raised area, then carved.
A post about the raised panel, and the circular decoration on the carved side.
Seeing the recent post on Lost Art Press’ blog about misericords was great. https://blog.lostartpress.com/2016/04/28/a-gallery-of-misericords-the-woodworkers/ Suzanne Ellison has rounded up images of a bunch of woodworkers – nice to have them in one place. Misericords are always an eye-opener. The thing about them that gets me is the piece of oak they come from…really large pie-shaped chunks. Makes me think riven. makes me wonder why these large pieces have no checks & splits in them. Nobody ever talks about how they were made, only about the carvings and the irreverence of them. Her’e’s a photo I shot on our 2005 trip, so maybe Yorkshire, or en route.
Another thing her post did for me was to remind me that I wanted to show this carved panel to Roy Underhill. He & I were boring end-grain recently (shrink pots), and were crowing about how lucky we were to not be boring water pipes.
This carving is thought to be a shop sign for blockmakers in Amsterdam. I think it’s late 1680s/90s if I recall correctly. A friend gave me the photo years ago, and I never have posted it. Was waiting for him to publish it…but time moves on. It’s in one of the Amsterdam museums, I forget which.
I broke it down into 2 detail shots too – this one with the lathe, skew chisel & gouges, planes, drawknives, calipers – great detail.
Here’s the other half.
The dog; the kid putting shavings in the basket, boring tools, hatchets, saws – it’s all here in great detail. Enjoy it.
It’s a busy time of year for most everybody…here’s some scattered stuff I haven’t got around to posting. These shots from Plymouth Beach are now a week or more old – I wish I was there right now, the most peaceful spot nearby…the birds are almost all dunlin. We saw a few sanderlings mixed with them.
We took the kids to the Museum of Fine Arts the other day. I’ve been going to this museum since my high school days, early 1970s. The kids always want to see the stuff they’ve seen before, so we always need to factor that in for our time allowance. The ship-model exhibit is always a big hit. we try to remember to bring a sketchbook too.
Follansbee pointing to Follansbee-under-glass.
[Here’s that upper case back when I was making it – ]
In the Art of the Americas exhibit, I ran across this New York/Western New England splint basket –
There’s a large exhibit for another few weeks of Dutch paintings – the sort of thing we used to study in detail at our museum jobs – no photography allowed in that exhibit, but outside it, there’s a painting you can pose in & take a picture. Museums love this sort of drek these days.
Back at home, the principal reason for building a “tool shed” is that there’s no room to work in the house. To compound the small space problem, I brought into the room a 12′ white pine 6×6 for carving. Made a small room smaller. When the holiday’s festivities are out of the way, we’ll get on with framing it.
The feeder birds are around, usual participants. But some numbers are noticeable – counted 8 male cardinals the other morning, along with some females. Every once in a while we get lots of them. Usually just four or five…it was a dreary, rainy day – I could only get a couple in each photo. Plus they don’t sit still.
The red tail hawk sits in a cherry tree in Marshfield, pretty reliable. Lotta spoon crooks in that tree.
That’s enough. I must have stuff I’m supposed to be doing. Distracting the children most likely the priority.