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…

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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…

Spring trip to the Woodwright’s School

I poked around here all winter, then spring came (according to the calendar) and things got busy. Over 3 weekends between March 22 and April 9, I spent 6 full days driving. That’s getting a bit crazy. The 2nd leg of that trip was my annual trip to Roy Underhill’s Woodwright’s School. Like always, it was worth the long haul. Here’s pictures.

Because I’m going to be in the car for hours & hours anyway, I take the scenic route. I hate I-95, so here’s a leg-stretching stop among the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia.

The project was an oak carved box. We used quartersawn red oak, with white pine lids and bottoms. Here’s Paul, carving his box front. On his messy bench, like everyone else’s. It made me come home & clean my shop.

Another box front off to a great start. Carving the box fronts comes after a full day of practice carving.

 

Our host had some saw sharpening that needed doing. Plenty of light out here.

No trip to Roy’s is complete without a stop or two upstairs at Ed Lebetkin’s tool store. I got out mostly unscathed, I didn’t need a box to haul my tools out like many do.

A snippet of squares.

I warned them that fitting the till is the fussiest part of making this box. They were not disappointed. It was fussy.

Here’s Scott’s wild carving and a deep till.

I’ve had students come to class barefoot, in sandals, flip-flops, etc – but never in spurs. Something new…I had to look up where Montana is, it’s way up there.

All the times I’ve been down there, I’ve never made it out to Elia Bizzari’s shop. We rectified that. What a nice place, great setting. My renewed chair fixation got more inspiration… http://handtoolwoodworking.com/ and https://www.instagram.com/eliabizzarri/?hl=en

Things kept getting busier and busier as the week went on. That’s the point, I guess.

The mornings weren’t great for birding, but some nice views down the creek at one point.

Then back home, jumped into a Plymouth CRAFT demo. Now finishing some furniture, then off to Winterthur later this month. More box classes later in the year, at Lost Art Press’ storefront not-a-school, and at Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking. (I guess I better send Bob the photos & blurb…) – I think there’s one or two spaces still in the December version at Lost Art.  https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/pf-2019-teaching-schedule/

A look at carved boxes

I’m getting ready to head down to Roy Underhill’s for the first carved box class of the season. It’s full, but there’s room in others at Lost Art Press, and later at Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking too – here’s the schedule https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/pf-2019-teaching-schedule/

The new joinery book features making three carved boxes in detail. There’s others shown incidentally in the carving section. But I’ve made over 100 of them I imagine. Here’s some from various years, most of these are not in the book. These are all scattered to the four winds; but I’m always happy to make carved oak boxes for customers.

This one is mostly made-up, but the carving pattern is copied from a walnut box in Victor Chinnery’s book Oak Furniture: the British Tradition. I really like this pattern, usually I do it on a pretty wide piece of wood, maybe 7″ high.

 

red oak box, fall 2008

I did it in walnut once, made a terrible mess of making that box, but the carving is OK when the light hits it right.

Two small boxes, one motif. These are only about 5″ high by 15″ wide or so. Same design, just aiming this way on one, the other one on the second example. Garish electric light, I don’t miss it.

small oak boxes

Just a raking-light shot of a box underway. A design I always like, based on an original from Braintree, Massachusetts, right next to where I grew up.

 

Another fairly large box; the carving is from a drawer front based on the same Braintree joinery. This box might be about 8″ high I’d guess; 20+” wide.

guilloche carving on oak box

This little one was one of my favorites; carving, molding, color and squiggles & dots. I plan on doing some carved & painted ones this spring.

 

Here’s one before the box lid was installed, showing the till inside.

 

 

Some of these pictures have been on the blog before; here are two views of the wooden pintle hinge. I use it most often on my boxes, although in the seventeenth century it’s the exception rather than the rule.

 

This one is from just last year or the year before, a carving sample re-used as a box. I assume that’s the inside of the front. I carve the samples over & over in classes and only need them at the moment. So sometimes they get recycled.

 

Red oak boxes with white pine bottoms and lids. Very distinct color and texture difference when new (on the left), but 10-15 years later (right) they blend quite well. Have patience.

 

a detail:

 

Joined chests

I’ve been reading through the pages of my new book “Joiner’s Work” https://lostartpress.com/collections/books/products/joiners-work recently, and was thinking about how many joined chests I have made over the past 30 years. I don’t have an exact number, but a careful guess is over 60 of them.

Back when I made furniture in a living history museum I got to practice all day long – a pretty good way to learn. Sometimes the chests I made there were based on careful examination of period examples, other times all I had to go by was a photograph & I had to fill in the details based on what I know of period practices. Lots of leeway. Here’s a few that aren’t in the book:

This one is loosely based on a picture in Chinnery’s book Oak Furniture: The British Tradition. I remember when Vic and Jan Chinnery came to visit, Jan was surprised to see this chest – the original was in their house!

oak chest, two panel front

This one is totally “made-up” in that it is not copied from any one source. I made it in 1997. All white oak. Probably pitsawn; I was younger then, we all were.

H:25” W:47 ¼” D:16 1/8”

joined chest

Here’s part of my inlay phase! Also made-up. Also pitsawn, or mostly so. These all got used hard, and for most years got a new coat of linseed oil every year. That’s part of why they darken so. Some of the secondary wood on this one is elm, the lid panels & the end panels. Maybe the floor boards too.

 

These photographs came about because I was forgetting which ones I had made or my co-workers made before me – so at one point I started shooting them each winter as I cleaned them and tried to catalog them. Some we shot when they were new – this one was late in my career there – I’d guess around 2004-2005, which is when I first saw chests with that wide center muntin.

a small oak chest

 

There’s one of these “5-panel” (really 14 panels!) chests in the book. This one I made for a PBS series called Colonial House in 2003. It’s a copy of two chests from Marshfield, Massachusetts…

 

One more from that Colonial House batch – I built four houses’ worth of furniture for that project.  I remember later working on the motif that’s carved on this top rail & muntins – thinking I had never done it before. Clean forgot about this chest!

H:29” W:47 ¾” D:19”

joined chest, oak & pine

 

There’s no measured drawings in the book, but it shows you how to make a chest, and how to figure out the dimensions. Each one’s different, as you can see in this sampling. So glad I don’t have to move them around and clean them every winter anymore…but I’m glad I have even these basic photos.

OK – one more. In process, April 2011 it says. This one’s in the book incidentally; some process shots show it underway.

wainscot chest

Joiner’s Work available for ordering from Lost Art Press

No photo description available.

Well, I guess I’m not writing a book anymore – Chris just posted last  night that “Joiner’s Work” is available for “pre-publication order.” (Not “pre-order” – ask Roy Underhill about “pre-drilling” a hole sometime…) https://lostartpress.com/collections/books/products/joiners-work

Like most of my work, there’s a story behind this book. For eons, Jennie Alexander & I worked on “the book” – our collaboration about making a joined stool. It was to serve as “an introduction to joinery”. We spent so long on it that I used to drop out for years at a time, “you finish it” I’d say. Then JA’s health got dicey and s/he said “When I go to the boneyard, promise me you’ll finish the book.” Gladly, says I, knowing it’d be easier that way…

One thing led to another, and I wanted to write a book about making joined chests; complete with carving…but first, I had to get Alexander’s book out of the way. The plan was that I would provide the text and photos for the joined stool book, then JA could do with it as s/he pleased. Chris Schwarz has told the story of how one night after some woodworking show, he held court in a local pizza joint – “trying to start a publishing empire” I think was his recent quote. I was about starved to death, and was just looking for someone to have dinner with, but that meal really opened up a new world for me.

I had never written a how-to book before; I had been published a good bit, but it was all academic furniture history stuff. When Chris told me how LAP worked, I was thrilled with the idea of being a part of it – so I went down to Baltimore, wrestled with Alexander and we ended up finishing the Joint Stool book finally.

Then I went back to the carved chest book; and all kinds of hell broke loose. Somewhere in there, I started teaching, which meant I traveled. For someone who’d never driven a car until age 24 or so, I started to get around some. I ended up in places I’d never even heard of – imagine that Australia is actually real. Also mixed in there, I quit the job I never imagined I’d leave. So at that point, I had to figure out where I was going to set up shop. My good friend Ted Curtin lent me his for a while, then Pret Woodburn & I built mine here…so this book, like the first one, had a long gestation period. Lots of interruptions. But now it’s done.

I was splitting out parts for ladderback chairs yesterday afternoon, and there was one piece that was too good for chairs – dead-flat radial plane, 6” wide by three feet long – so today I’ll begin planing that stuff and in May I’ll make a box from it. The trees talk to Jögge Sundqvist. I get it. They make decisions for me sometimes. I might want one thing, but the tree has another thing in mind. It’d be stupid to not listen.