Next video for making a joined stool

stiles & planes

While I wait for the legs of the brettstuhl to dry, Daniel & I worked on catching up at the beginning of the joined stool video series. This one will do it, planing the stock. It’s got a couple of blips in the video, I had some trouble with one of the cameras. And some fumbling around on my part – had I been watching Daniel I probably would have had him edit some stumbling out – but in the end, it’s probably good to show it. Yes, I fumble around some too, looking for tools, setting the cap iron too close to the cutting edge & more.

I’ll organize the joined stool playlist when I think of it – now it should be the whole project. When I get going full-tilt on the joined press cupboard there’ll be a lot of videos about that – I’m really looking forward to it. I don’t have a log yet, but some ideas in the works.

brettstuhl batten-fitting, etc.

two boards, no legs

I worked all day, but you wouldn’t know it. I felt like I was moving in slow-motion. But I was being extra careful – I want this chair to come off without a hitch. The photo above is where I quit. I’ll show you what I did to get to that point.

The day started off laying out the housings for the two oak battens under the seat. Drew’s plans in the old FWW said the battens were 2 1/2″ in from the edges of the seat. I marked that line, then used an adjustable bevel to layout the angle from the beveled batten.

adjustable bevel & awl

But the battens are tapered in width, in addition to being beveled on their edges. So another adjustable bevel to find the inside edge of the batten-housing.

Lots of layout

After double-checking this layout, I began by sawing the edges of the housings, as far as I could. They stop about 1 3/4″ from the front. After a while, I was tilting the saw up a bit, and using the teeth just under the handle – the teeth you hardly ever use.

saw as much as I can

I chopped out what I could get at near the back of the seat. Just breaking out the waste between the two saw kerfs.

chisel work begins

Then more chisel work.

Then even more chisel work.

paring with a long wide chisel

There’s no need to see the whole blow-by-blow. That’s probably too much already. Check the depth…

I aimed for 3/8″ deep

Then tested the battens, made adjustments, and tested them again. I had to give these some pretty good whacks to get them in there. Satisfied.

Mortising was long & slow – after the layout, I bored two 7/8″ holes in each mortise. The bevel helps aim the brace & bit.

The butternut’s easy, then comes the oak battens

More chisel work, more test-fitting.

paring the mortises

That seemed to take a long time. But it was then past mid-afternoon & I was getting tired. That’s a good time to slow down, not speed up.

testing some more

It’s in place, I need to trim the shoulders of the tenons – I had cut them square, forgetting they compliment the angle of the back. Next time, some wedges for these through tenons, then the legs.

the start of something big

It’s the sort of call you can’t believe you’re having. “I’m fine with the price – my main concern is that it’s done right, and well-documented. If it takes all year, it takes all year.” I’m the luckiest joiner you know. I’ve been wishing for something complex and now I’ve got it. The cupboard above is what I’m going to tackle, it’s at the Massachusetts Historical Society. I took that photo in 1998 when I was there, studying it for an article I did with Bob Trent and Alan Miller. http://www.chipstone.org/article.php/554/American-Furniture-2001/First-Flowers-of-the-Wilderness:-Mannerist-Furniture-from-a-Northern-Essex-County,-Massachusetts,-Shop-

As soon as the fire was lit this morning, I got to work. I only had a couple short bolts of oak left, so that’s what I started with. That surface that’s facing up is a split! It’s as perfect as it can be. This piece is about 8″ wide and 18″ long – destined for the panels on the ends of the lower case.

a perfect bolt of red oak

It might as well have been perforated it split so well.

Snowy weather is ideal for green woodworking – no worries about the heat & sunlight causing unwanted splits.

ready to go inside

Then some skimming with the planes to make one face flat. I try to get the shavings into the basket, but there’s too many.

warming up

Then I scootch down and check the face with winding sticks and proceed.

These cupboards (the one pictured is one of 12-13 related cupboards) are the most complex pieces I know of from early New England. It’s more than I can keep track of in my head, so I began a checklist of which part is planed. These are the first 8; four panels, 2 muntins and 2 cornice rails.

if they could only keep that color

I marked each one of the framing parts on its end. Dated too. They’re planed slightly oversized, they’ll shrink a little.

names & dates

I cleaned up & sharpened the planes after that – the tannic acid made a mess of them. Then had a little time to figure out the angles I’ll need to plane up the upper case stiles. I never use drawings for joined chests, stools – even the wainscot chairs. But this upper case is a bit more complicated. I won’t need a drawing for the other parts – just to get those funny-shaped stiles. Now to find the next oak log.

maybe the only drawing I’ll need

Here’s the link to the Massachusetts Historical Society’s page about the cupboard – https://www.masshist.org/database/viewer.php?item_id=3231&pid=36

the brettstuhl continued

began carving the back

I worked some in the past week or so on the brettstuhl, or board chair. I didn’t want to copy my first carving exactly, so I just drew up part of it and dove in. The butternut carves like…well, butter. This board is quartersawn which makes it even more cooperative.

halfway there

In the photo above, I’ve made it halfway up the back. The designs and elements are taken from my 17th-century studies of oak furniture, just super-imposed on a different form. I didn’t shoot any photos beyond this one til I got one of the finished carving.

the carved back

Then I switched over to turning the leg tenons. I left them oversized and will turn their final dimension when they are dry.

roughing out

I followed that gouge with a skew chisel.

skew forming the tenon surface

I made eight of these legs, so if all goes well I’ll make another chair after this one. If all goes poorly, I have some extra legs just in case. Here’s set # 1. They’re in the kiln now.

oversized and ready to dry

So while those tenons dry, I got out some very long-stashed 6/4 white oak to make the battens that slot into the seat board. There’s two options (at least) for these – one is a shouldered sliding dovetail, and one is just a long bevel to form the sliding dovetail. I’ve opted for the bevel. Below I set the batten between bench dogs and tilted it over so the planing was pretty much just as it normally is.

beveling the batten edges

Here’s one edge done. Next time I work on this chair, it’ll be time for the bottom board – to make the tapered, beveled housings for these battens.

checking the angle

Joined stool video, back to the beginning almost

Well, I finally made a video that is short enough to actually watch. Back last year, when I began shooting the video series on making a joined stool, I got the idea for video after I had begun making the stool. So that series starts in the stock all prepped. I made a stool a month or so ago and got around to shooting some of the splitting-through-planing process.

This one is splitting with some wedges, a bit of froe-work, and some hatchet work. I shot the planing at the bench, that’s next on Daniel’s to-be-done list.

The video series is a “playlist” on the youtube channel. It’s here, I think – https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLB2LcmbKpkcZic8bc96QKMno2CdpFsNFX

(I don’t know what that will look like on your end. It might tell you that I watched them all…which was a painful experience.)

Next chair

(as I’ve been working on blog posts lately, things have been a bit weird. When I preview the post, to see the photos larger, I have to click them twice – first they go tiny, then the 2nd click enlarges them. That’s all I can tell you – otherwise, you’re on your own.)

I’ve made lots of kinds of chairs over the years, but the chair I started today is only my third attempt at a “brettstuhl”. Six or more years ago, I did one in walnut with hickory legs. As soon as I got this one done, I saw the flaw – I tapered the legs the wrong way!

walnut & hickory, 2014

It’s funny looking at that photo now – the chair is sitting right where my shop is now. So today I started in at the beginning, working some beautiful ash – and tapering those legs DOWN to the feet. The instructions I’m using on making this chair are from Drew Langsner’s Fine Woodworking article “Two Board Chairs” in the July/August 1981 issue. Below you see one leg done, the other riven oversized. You can make these at the shaving horse, but I did them today at the bench. (I sat at my desk all day yesterday & didn’t feel like sitting.)

First step is to plane two faces, then bring the whole thing to about 1 3/8″ square. This is very fresh wood, just split open a week ago. I want it to finish about 1 1/4″ at the thick end.

Then mark out the tapered foot, and plane down to that. See the end grain of this stick, I’ve drawn a 1″ square as my target to plane down to.

The fresh green wood planes so easily. Dead-straight makes it easy too. I make the octagonal cross-section after tapering. The piece is sitting up in a v-block behind me, and that brings it “corner up.” First shavings here are whisper thin (narrow, really, but who says “whisper-narrow?”)

I start near the foot and take a few strokes, then begin backing up as I plane forward. After a couple of strokes, the shavings get wider and wider.

There – I’ve got that mistake from six years ago remedied. Now on to the back board. I made a half-template out of 1/2″ thick pine and just traced around it. The board is quartersawn butternut, 7/8″ thick.

I’m no master with a bowsaw/turning saw. I get close, then fine-tune the result. I make stop cuts here & there, and apply beeswax to the tiny little teeth. And I keep telling myself, “easy does it.” This saw I made years ago with the hardware from Tools for Working Wood. https://toolsforworkingwood.com/store/item/GT-BOWS.XX?searchterm=bowsaw

Here, I followed some of the shape with a spokeshave.

Then I went over some of the detailed edges with a couple of carving gouges.

Here’s as far as I got – the holes I bored are to put the saw in to cut out the hand-hold. It was getting pretty low light in the shop, so I decided that was a good time to quit. Tomorrow’s another day.

some seating furniture

Took some photos today. First turn was Daniel’s – shooting some of his recent LEGO builds.

Daniel at work
Rivendell

Then mine was shooting semi-proper shots of the recent spate of seating furniture. A couple of things come to me as I sorted these photos. Among them is that I actually do have to go have my camera’s sensor cleaned. I’ve been putting it off due to the pandemic, figuring it’s not that important…but I’m sick of all these spots all over the photos.

This chair is one I assembled either in late December or early January. I forget. I’m mostly happy with it, but I look forward to the next one. Those rear posts are ash, one heartwood, one sapwood. Give them time and they’ll blend together. I didn’t feel like painting it. Now it goes to the kitchen to replace the very first version of this chair that I did.

“democratic” arm chair

Below is the arm-chair version. Both of these are Curtis Buchanan’s design, with my change to the crest rail joint. And on the arms, I made a through tenon into the rear post – which you can’t really assemble unless you put some intentional slop in that joint. It’s glued & wedged. I’ll let you know how it holds up. I did some like it in the early 1990s that have held up.

crest rail joint

The crest rail joint is a 3/8″ wide tenon, made by just tapering the crest’s thickness. There’s no tapering top & bottom. The mortise I made by boring a couple of holes, and paring it with a chisel. Then it’s pinned through the post. You could just as easily wedge it from outside post too.

first joined stool of the year

Then going back and making a joined stool was a walk in the park. Red oak stool, white oak seat. On this subject, I’ve been splitting out stock for more of these – which gave me a chance to shoot some videos of the beginning of that process. When I did the youtube series about joined stools last year, I got the idea when I was already underway. So now I’ve backed up to shoot the beginning. They’ll be ready soon. Daniel is coming back as video-editor – he’s broke and wants some money.

First ladderback of 2021

I had to make a chair so I could shoot some missing photos for Jennie Alexander’s Make a Chair from a Tree. Red oak with hickory rungs. Hickory bark seat. Megan just sent me the most recent set of corrections, so now I go over them again – then we see where we are. We really are getting closer, you’ll see.

a little snowfall, some chair & stool stuff

It is January, so it should look like this. And now, for a little while, it does.

Down by the river. It’s not much snow, but at least it’s something.

I’ll go light the fire, and pretend to work – while really I’ll be watching the bird feeders. This joined stool is ready for assembly, I guess I can fit that into my busy day.

Masashi Kutsuwa sent me a link to another video of the Spanish chairmakers. This one is more recent, and has amazing detail of some of the process. That push knife and spoon bit action is out of this world. The chair work starts at about the 11:00 mark.

from Masashi’s note: “The young chairmaker in the video, who made and assembled those chairs at incredible speed, is Mr. Manolo Rodriguez, who I met at Guadix in 2015! He appears in my book P132-135. (I realized the young man on youtube was Manolo after my book was published!) “

Masashi also tells me that Amazon JP does international delivery. So if you’re interested in his book about the “Van Gogh” chair – that’s one way to get it.

https://www.amazon.co.jp/-/en/%E4%B9%85%E6%B4%A5%E8%BC%AA-%E9%9B%85/dp/4416516061/ref=sr_1_5?dchild=1&keywords=%E3%82%B4%E3%83%83%E3%83%9B%E3%81%AE%E6%A4%85%E5%AD%90&qid=1611621775&sr=8-5

two chairs assembled

ladderback & Windsor

I got two chairs assembled recently – a couple of days ago it was the ladderback on the left – for some photos we needed for JA’s book. Today’s was the arm chair version of Curtis Buchanan’s Democratic chair. https://www.curtisbuchananchairmaker.com/store/p40/Full-Scale_Drawings%3A_How_to_Make_a_Democratic_Arm_Chair.html

this shouldn’t work

Once you have the undercarriage assembled, it really shouldn’t be able to then fit in the tapered mortises – but there is enough flex in the structure to pull the legs apart, so it can all go together.

double wedges

I saw Elia Bizzarri wedge the chair legs with two wedges in the video series he & Curtis did of the side chair. First you open up the top edge of the mortise fore & aft, I used a round file. Just a bit. Then you split it twice and drive the wedges in. Easy does it though, you can shear off part of the tenon if you try to spread it too much. Below is a test joint I made a few weeks ago & cut open to peek inside. That hourglass shape won’t come back out.

May be an image of woodwork

It turns out I’m a lousy student – I changed the crest rail tenon – and I did the arm-to-rear post joint differently from Curtis’ plan too. I bored a tapered through mortise in the post, and put enough slop in the tenon on the back end of the arm so I could get it installed into the rear post and down onto the front arm post. Then wedged it from behind (& above.)

The nice thing about making Windsor-style chairs is you don’t have to wait to sit in them. As soon as they’re assembled, you’re done. Next week I’ll have to weave a seat on the ladderback.

test drive

this is the chair that didn’t want to happen – but I kept at it. https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/2021/01/11/i-thought-you-were-supposed-to-be-good-at-this/

And here’s the crest rail joint, on a side chair I made earlier – down in the middle of this post – https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/2021/01/10/some-shop-work-today/

Chairs, chairs, chairs

or is it “books, books, books”?

I’m making windsor chairs. And re-reading Nancy Goyne Evans’ Windsor-Chairmaking in America: From Craft Shop to Consumer. Nancy read a staggering amount of period records in her research for her 3 volumes on American Windsor chairs. This is the 3rd volume.

Finishing up work on Jennie Alexander’’s book with Megan Fitzpatrick on JA chairs. Shooting some last-minute missing photos; so making a chair this week to do so. 

MACFAT

And reading Claudia Kinmonth’s Irish Country Furniture and Furnishings 1700-2000. In chapter 1, Stools and Chairs, she writes about súgán chairs – what I know of as a ladderback chair, but with a straw (súgán) seat. 

As I was looking at those chairs, I thought of our friend Masashi Kutsuwa – and I dug out his book Van Gogh’s Chair

Masashi Kutsuwa’s Van Gogh’s Chair

 https://www.seibundo-shinkosha.net/book/art/20106/

I can’t read Japanese, but Masashi gave me an English synopsis of his book. It involves Shoji Hamada, “one of the most famous Japanese potters”, Tatsuaki Kuroda, Japan’s first living national treasure woodworker, Soetsu Yanagi (author of The Unknown Craftsman) and a convoluted tale of chairs from Spain that look like a chair painted by a Dutchman in France 75 years earlier. The chair was introduced into Japan by Shoji Hamada in 1963, after his travels in Spain that year. A few years later, (1967) Tatsuaki Kuroda visited the same workshops, recording in photos and film some of the chairmaking process. 

Masashi’s book also includes a photo series of making copies of this chair form. In his notes he writes: “I visited Spain in 2015 and met the chairmaker’s family who welcomed Tatsuaki nearly 50 years ago. I also visited the last chairmaking shop in Guadix. 

The 1967 film is on youtube – I just re-watched it. Amazing. As far as I can tell, the chairmaker maybe uses 4 tools; a frame saw, a brace & bit, and a knife that he both pushes and pulls (thus not a “drawknife”) – I saw some more tools, but didn’t see him use them; the film isn’t the whole chair-making process I don’t think. The posts are pith-centered (I could see that in Masashi’s book too) and when he split a section to make rungs – he used his knife to split it. 

Back to Kinmonth’s book, she writes “Similar designs are also found on the continent, particularly in Spain and Portugal, linking them to a wider Atlantic European tradition. One celebrated version features in Van Gogh’s painting “Bedroom in Arles (1888).” Below is a sketch of the bedroom at Arles.

Van Gogh letter to Gauguin

(I read about the painting(s) – watch those chairs, in one version the chair on the left gets its rear feet kicked backwards – or one of them at least. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bedroom_in_Arles )

The súgán chairs also reminded me of a chair I photographed at my friends’ house a few years ago. This chair was bought at Brimfield, the famous Massachusetts antiques fair. Around here, these are usually thought of as being from French Canada – but it certainly has much in common with those other chairs – except the bowed seat rails; particularly the square or rectangular posts and narrow slats. This one has through tenons on the rungs and slats though. So different, but quite similar.