England 2015

england 1

I’m back from teaching two classes with the New English Workshop. It was my first trip to England to do woodworking, my previous visits had been for furniture study. It’s an amazing place, a rural little island filled with hobbits and badgers and twitchers and train spotters.

The classes were held at two colleges, my first at Warwick College in Royal Leamington Spa, Warwickshire. Jamie Ward of the College was very helpful and the students there were quite flexible as we worked out the kinks. The first of which was some oak logs that looked like bad firewood. Poor Paul Mayon – he picked me up the first morning, brought me to the school, and we’d known each other for all of 20 minutes when I was telling him that the oak bolts they had were next to useless. Undaunted, Paul trucked off in his typically British tiny car and bought a new section of giant oak (2 really, the 2nd arrived the next day.) installed into Paul’s car with a forklift, I wasn’t sure it would ever come out. Paul’s car was riding low, for a 2-plus hour drive. Meanwhile the students dove in & split what we had so we could get started at least. They were great.

hewing week 1
hewing

Our class was at one end of the room, while Tom Fidgen’s was at the other end. It was diffuse porous vs ring porous (cherry v oak) all week. You could hear our shavings hit the floor, while theirs floated down to the bottom.

caught among the ring porous
Tom Fidgen scurrying back to diffuse porous land

Lots of camaraderie in the evenings, we even had a token American who had been traded to the RAF…

Boxes got made, carving patterns all over the place. Tricia was adamant that she would finish her box, I think her first woodworking project.

photo
Tricia got a photo, so that means it must have happened

The English oak,which by habit I kept calling white oak, was different than our white oak. I know it’s sacrilege to say it, but it felt lighter weight, a bit softer, and certainly easier to split. Even the better logs had knots in them and we were able to split right through them like I never can in American white oak (Quercia alba)

On the weekend, I met up w Mr & Mrs Underhill of Graham, NC, who were there for Roy to teach week 2 in Leamington. We had dinner one night, then the old switcheroo was scheduled for that Saturday – Paul was bringing Chris Schwarz who had been teaching down in Somerset up to Leamington, then turning around to take me down to Zummerzet so I could do week 2 there at Bridgwater College. A too-short round-table lunch was had by all before we headed south…the only other times Roy, Chris & I had all been together had been WIA events, in which case we never saw each other. Hand tool freaks unite!

trio

Bridgwater also boasted a great & helpful staff…and a group of students who were serious about carved oak. Ringers Jon Bayes http://www.riversjoinery.co.uk/ and Richard Francis http://www.flyingshavings.co.uk/ represented England well… I barely had to teach this crew any English terms at all. Like rabbet/”re-bate” or clamp/cramp. The first group insisted that some are clamps, and I insisted that you’re British dammit, call it a cramp.

One thing I was missing was old oak carvings, and the students took care of that. Joel, hewer extroidinaire, scouted out several churches and even arranged for us to get in them after 5 pm…130-odd steps up a circular staircase afforded us a heck of a view of somerset. One pulpit wasn’t oak, I said I wanted my money back. we saw three churches, carved pulpits, bench ends, a chest, and who knows what else. This pulpit is oak:

pulpit 1

Tim came down from County Durham, and lent me binocs and a good bird book…I had a simple little bird guide book with me…I saw some nice birds, some well, some fleeting. This’ll be the only time you’ll hear the word tit on this blog. As in blue tit, long tailed tit, willow tit, etc. I didn’t see a great tit. Then of course the day we drove over/down to Heathrow we saw several kites, much larger than I thought…musta seen 6 of them. No pictures, highway driving…

blue tit 2
juvy blue tit
blue tit
even better, juvy blue tit in oak

I was invited by Robin Wood to be part of Spoonfest, but that would have meant another week & 1/2 away from home. So, another time. Thanks to all who made my trip a success, especially the ones who waited at home. Why did it take me so long to get hip to Skype?

skype
here’s what it looked like each night

More photos here:

 

fitting the cupboard door

As promised – fitting a wooden hinge on a cupboard door. Again, I think I’ve never covered this on the blog. Here’s the cupboard, sans door: note the rabbet in the muntin beside the door opening.

assembly begun

To hinge this door with wooden pins is easy. Bore holes in the upper and lower rails’ inside edges. Here’s the top rail – I haven’t finished pinning the joints in the frame, but ignore that. See the hole bored in the upper rail’s lower edge:

top rail hole for pin

Corresponding hole in the upper edge of the door, note bevels on outer corners of door stile:

top of door

 

 

The wooden pin on the top of the door bottoms out in the stile, and protrudes up into the upper rail. Here it is in the stile:

top pin

 

here’s the bottom edge of the door – note the pin here fits (loosely) all the way up into the stile:

 

bottom of door

 

With my finger covering the hole in the bottom of the door, I tilt the upper pin in place, and then lean the door into its opening.

 

tilt in the top

 

Then knock it about some with a hammer, to jar the pin loose so it drops down into the bottom rail.

knock the bottom edge

The hole in the bottom rail is shallow, so the pin bottoms out in the rail and sticks up into the door’s hole –

open

 

I planed a rabbet in the door’s other stile, to overlap the rabbet in the frame. This stops the door from going all the way into the cupboard. You can (& I have sometimes) make rabbets on the hinge stile too – so the door is a little more snug = this one just butts up against the muntin.

door knob, couple of pins, linseed oil & this one’s crossed off.

Saw this guy this AM on my walk –

strut

 

 

 

 

I don’t know how to juggle for real

but I do it with oak all the time. I have three active oak projects going right now. Active means I’m working on them all at once. A couple more are semi-active. Like the desk box, that got back-burner-ed for a video shoot this spring. I’ll save the final assembly for the cameras.

desk

This chest has been around a long time, but it’s going forward now at a regular clip.

chest test fit

Its purpose is to illustrate in the joinery book how to make & fit drawers. Hence, “chest with drawers.” The front is mostly pinned, the sides are test-fitted, I have to finish cutting and fitting the till, and a little more work on the rear frame. Mortises are cut, need to cut the tenons; plow grooves, etc. I’d say this chest is about 8 or 10 hours’ work from final assembly, including the floor. Then comes the drawers. And lid.

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rear rails & stiles


A related chest with drawers is the model for the joined chest class at Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking. I’ve cut the front frame, and started the carving the other day. It too will have 2 drawers, there are drawer rails not yet fitted in this photo…

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I used to like to start the day with large movements, like planing. Then I’d save the carving for late in the day, when I wanted to take it easy. But here in the (walk-out) basement, the light is best early in the morning – so I carved yesterday AM. But it’s a lousy way to begin your day. Too tight a posture. So this carving got left for later. and today I planed and mortised the front rails for the NEXT joinery project!  

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A cupboard for Plimoth Plantation. This one will have a joined front fitted to a board carcass. No decoration to speak of, other than chamfers, etc. So the opening in the middle is for a door. Below are off-cuts from the panels in this cupboard; 10″ long, they have a limited use. Usually they would just get tossed, but these will get planed to 1/4″ thickness for drawer parts for the desk box. Good use for such wide, flat stuff that is otherwise firewood. 

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Next week I hope to move all of these over to the shop I’m doing my photography in, and get some good pictures going. Goal is to have the first chest with drawers and the cupboard all assembled this time next week. we’ll see. 

 

March – time to get going

March. Hmm… it means two things to me right now. One is turn the page on the Yurt Foundation calendar, the other is to march, get going, quit fooling around. This is the month that my schedule picks up. So rather than just picking up whatever project happens to catch my fancy at any given moment, it’s time to knuckle down and get some stuff done.

Oak:

oak lunette

spoons:

spoons

 

oak:

partly done 2

spoons:

ignore these spoons

I keep shifting back & forth. I have to ignore these spoons in the daylight right now, and get to work on my desk box, and the 2 chests with drawers I have underway. At least by having these spoons roughed out, I can carve them at night.

Spoons and baskets for sale today – here: https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/spoons-baskets-bowls-for-sale-march-2015/

Daylight is for heavier bench work…so the goal for this week is to get the desk box all cut and ready to assemble, then work on cutting joinery and laying out carving for the chest with drawer that’s the focus of my class beginning later this month.

desk box parts

Enough. Here’s details on the 2 classes coming up this month. The first is a 2-day class in spoon carving at Plymouth CRAFT – 2 spaces left they tell me. The class is March 14 & 15 – details here. http://plymouthcraft.org/?tribe_events=carving-wooden-spoons-with-peter-follansbee  There’s knitting, cooking & egg decorating classes at the same time – http://plymouthcraft.org/?post_type=tribe_events


The other class is the first entry in the 5-month “build a chest with drawer” class at Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking. We can squeeze another joiner or two in…If all goes well, I’ll be showing you some of oak for that class tomorrow. http://www.schoolofwoodworking.com/woodworking-classes/29-speciality-weekend-classes/534-build-a-17th-century-joined-chest-with-peter-follansbee.html

and the rest of the schedule is here: https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/2015-teaching-schedule/ including two weeks teaching in Olde England – I’ll write about that next week. 

 

 

 

what is “green woodworking”?

Some time ago, I wrote a column for Popular Woodworking and asked the question “what is green woodworking?” (December 2014, #215) I’m not going to repeat the article here, but want to look at the subject. The column stemmed from a talk I gave at Lie-Nielsen’s Open House last summer.

I used to know pretty clearly what “green woodworking” meant. But the older I get, the more I realize the less I know.

spoon 14-109 new photo side viewMaking a carved spoon is a great example of green woodworking – you can make them from dry wood, (I wouldn’t) but the best ones come from trees, and are worked while the wood still has a high moisture content. More direct, easier to cut, exploiting the fibers of the riven/split form – all of these are hallmarks of green woodworking. Hewn bowls, and many turned ones fall into a similar category. But bowls and spoons are single pieces of wood. what about furniture, when you put stuff together?

Robin Wood's bowl
Robin Wood’s bowl

When I first learned of this method of woodworking, it was Drew Langsner’s Country Woodcraft, Roy Underhill’s Woodwright’s Shop – and the book that coined the term for the modern day – Make a Chair from a Tree: An Introduction to Green Woodworking by John (now Jennie) Alexander. What puts the green in green woodworking? Is it moisture content? Is it riving the wood? Is it “country crafts” like the British books that inspired all of the authors listed above – Jenkins’ Traditional Country Craftsmen” and Edlin “Woodland Crafts in Britain”. Alexander felt left out of the “country” aspect of this traditional woodworking, living in the heart of the city. Hence her book’s subtitle has “green woodworking” – not country anything.

JA chair

The ladderback style chair Alexander learned even got a great deal of its strength from the moisture content manipulation – dry tenons in wetter mortises. the mortise shrinks, the tenon swells. Presto! You’re a chairmaker and have never been to a lumberyard. The way I remember it, in the 1980s  green woodworking was ladderback  chairs, some bowl-turning (I remember folks used to turn them green, let them dry, the re-turn them round again!) and a few other disciplines. Timber framing comes to mind.

cooperage
cooperage

I think about coopering – is that green woodworking? Usually riven stock, worked with a hatchet, drawkinives, shaving horses – but the critical parts are either executed or at least assembled when the stock is bone-dry. Or else.

c a chair

Windsor chairs? In America, these usually had, and have, softwood seats. Often white pine. That ain’t worked green. But the hardwood components are often riven from green stock. They’re selectively dried, like parts of Alexander’s ladderback chair, before assembly. Even the hardwood seats of British Windsors can’t be dead-green…

Some approach the “green” like the modern use of the term, renewable energy; careful use of resources, that sort of thing. Coppice crafts, are perfectly aligned with this idea. This work has long been very popular in the Old World, yet to my knowledge, never caught on here in the New World.

 

joined & carved chest, 2010
joined & carved chest, 2010

Starting in 1989, Alexander and I explored another furniture craft, seemingly more complex, until we got through with it & stripped it down – joiner’s work of the 17th century. It had riven stock, high moisture content – but some of it was not “country” in its format – some were very elaborate forms; with lots of decoration. This work has been my main focus since then. It does not fit the eco-groovy definition at all. I call it “Imperialist Swine” woodworking – you need a whole new forest to sustain it. The oak trees I want take 200 years to grow to size. And I will only use a small percentage of the tree. The rest goes in the fire.

In the end, I decided I don’t think of myself as a “green woodworker” although probably three-quarters of my stock is riven from green logs, and primarily worked up while it has a high moisture content. Trees are wood, I’m a woodworker. Sometimes I use stock fresh from the log, other times I need stuff that’s air-dried. I work the wood at various stages between wet & dry. Most of my furniture is a combination of the two. I think that’s a traditional approach….

Oh, no! What’s “traditional” woodworking????

 

A box and a Box

yc box

I finished making the two carved boxes I’ve been working on. The first one is this yellow cedar “sampler” box for my class in Alaska. Jonathan and the rest of the Alaska Creative Woodworkers Association sent me some Alaska yellow cedar so I could test it out before we ordered it for the class. The wood will work fine, and I carved this one with a range of patterns – hence “sampler.” The side, and the pintle hinge:

yc box open

The inside of the lid:yc box open carved lid

What’s weird about it is the proportions. Not weird really. Just ugly. there’s a reason you don’t see 17th century boxes this size – because they’re both ugly and stupid. But it maximized what I got out of the boards they sent down. overall size is 6 1/4″ H, 11 1/2″ W and 7 1/2′ D. So I made a proper oak and white pine box, just to make me feel less unsettled.

oak & pine box

 

Someone yesterday commented that this design reminded them of Northwest coast work – well, it is northwest – but northwest of Boston Massachusetts, c. 1680s/90s. Look at the side I carved = even more so. This one is H: 7″  W: 17″  D:  11″

oak box side

 

Here are some of the period carvings I was following somewhat

box ad

concord detail

I’ll paint mine, but maybe not right now. I have to send them by dogsled to Anchorage – whoops – we have more snow than them. I’ll use UPS I guess. Here’s the two side-by-side.

 

 

both boxes

 

 

 

The End

The end. (quite a way to start a blog post, huh?)

cf chest end view

On a piece of case furniture, some call it the side. I think of them as ends, as in “help me move this chest, grab the other end.”

I’m not one for measured drawings, but I am working some up for this chest project. Today I was laying out the end view of the chest we’ll build at the CT Valley School of Woodworking this season. http://www.schoolofwoodworking.com/woodworking-classes/29-speciality-weekend-classes/534-build-a-17th-century-joined-chest-with-peter-follansbee.html

In the class, we will delve deeply into the period chest we’re studying/copying, but will also look at numerous variations. These chests (Wethersfield/Windsor/Hartford area of CT) often have one large horizontal panel over 2 vertical panels. the upper panel is glued up in every one I’ve seen and made notes on… but the students will be making single-drawer versions. So that changes how we format the end view. I’ll offer them 2 versions & they can decide which to use.

CHS chest w drawers

 

There is no typical arrangement – but there are several that we see over & over. Like these:

a joined chest, one large horizontal panel on the ends. This panel is about 14″ wide (top to bottom) It requires a tree in the range of 36″ in diameter, straight as can be.

WA Dedham chest

 

 

 

One way around that issue is to divide the end with a muntin, and use two narrower vertical panels. Two more joints, but not a big deal. I do this most commonly. Note here the side top rail and the front top rail are different dimensions.
guilford chest

 

This next one is a chest with a single drawer. So two side-by-side panels above a single horizontal panel. In some cases, these panels all end up the same width – nice & neat for stock preparation.

 

braintree chest w drawerHere’s a chest of drawers, and I have found this arrangement on chests with 2 drawers too – two sets of vertical side-by-side panels. or 2 over 2 if you want to phrase it that way. You can cover a lot of ground this way.

PEM chest of drawers Essex Co
How these side views relate to the front view and more interestingly, to the rear view is a study in itself. Come take the class – we’ll be able to really explore joined chests in excruciating detail. You’ll be well-versed in joined chests by the end. The End.