More thoughts on turning

When I was first learning about 17th-century furniture, Jennie Alexander used to send me titles of books to find or in some cases, the books themselves. And several of them I read over and over again. One was Benno Forman’s American Seating Furniture 1630-1730. As I’ve been at the lathe lately (not turning chairs, but the pillars for a cupboard) I was thinking about turners’ work. Forman cited some detailed records about chairmaking from the Boston area. 

Forman, ASF

One was about the number of chair frames a turner could produce. When Trent & I worked on an article about Boston furniture, I spent a lot of time reviewing Forman’s writings about Boston area joiners and turners. One turner he wrote about was Thomas Edsall. We had better genealogical reference materials than Forman did, he mistakenly identified Edsall as a London turner arriving here in the mid-1630s. He was a turner, just not necessarily from London and his first New England record is a marriage in 1652. He often appears in court records, which is good for us. I like when they all argue and go to court, it provides a source of details about the work. 

There’s several court records about a dispute between Thomas Edsall and Henry Harris, a turner who was contracted to work with him for a year. 

“This indenture witnesseth that Henry Harris doth covenant and promise to dwell with and serve Thomas Edsall in the art and trade of a turner, according to the best of his skill and his master’s instruction for & during one whole year, from the day & the date hereof. And the said Thomas Edsall doth for him ___ and his ____ and administrators covenant  to pay unto his said servant for the service aforesaid three pounds and to give him sufficient meate drink washing & lodging during the said [___] and the pay is to be made in one third part money (current?) in New England and one other third part in merchantable provisions and one other third part in English goods. And that the payments be made proportionally at the ends of every three months. In witness whereof the parties [_____] to their hands to these indentures this 19th day of March 1666/7″

But it didn’t work out that way. In April of 1673 Harris said Edsall owed him 40 or 50 shillings (out of 60 total) 

“The deposition of Henry Fane aged about 83 years

This deponent witnesseth that about a month [____] Henry Harris of Charlestown, turner wrought with this deponent in bottoming of chayres at which said tyme he the said Henry Harris was [____] of some difference that was likely [____] between his master Edsall [______] and [___] this deponent asked him what the difference was  and he the said Harris then said afterwards that he was a servant to the said Mr Edsall [____] further that the said Edsall had not payd all for his (year’s service?) to the value of about 40 or 50, but said that 40 or fifty shillings was still due to him and further this deponent sayeth not. Dated 25 of April 1673″

“Bottoming” chairs is weaving the seats, in most cases with rushes or flags – long-leafed plants found at the water’s edge. Like in my back yard.

photo by Rick McKee

In between the original contract and Fane’s deposition, there was a judgment in Edsall’s favor: 

“According to a covenant . . . dated the 19th day of March, 1666/7 . . . I judge and order the said Harris either to dwell with & serve the said Edsell eight whole weeks beginning on the 17th Day of this June [1672] & to make every of the said weekes fifteen chair frames [illegible] good and merchantable or else shall make one whole hundred and twenty such frames in the whole eight week [illegible] the said Edsell finding & allowing unto him the said Harris sufficient place, tooles & stuff to make them.”

So – fifteen chair frames a week – yikes. But it doesn’t tell us what the chairs look like. One thing I often cite is a London record that distinguishes between “turned matted chairs” and “plain matted chairs” – speculating what plain matted chairs might be. 

“20th February 1615 It was directed that the makers of chairs about the City, who were strangers and foreigners, were to bring them to the Hall to be searched according to the ordinances. When they were thus brought and searched, they were to be bought by the Master and Wardens at a price fixed by them, which was 6s per dozen for plain matted chairs and 7s per dozen for turned matted chairs. The effect of such an order…all chairs which came into London had to be submitted to the Company and if approved, were taken over at the fixed price. The Turners reaped the benefit by the removal of possible competition. (The Worshipful Company of Turners of London – Its Origin and History A.C. Stanley-Stone, (London: Lindley-Jones & Brother, 1925), p. 121)”

Here’s one of my versions of what I took to be a “plain” matted chair – made back when I was working in a museum, where it got a lot of use.  

plain matted chair, PF

I used to make a frame for those in a day, about 6 hours or so. But I couldn’t weave the seat quickly at all – never did it enough to get fast or good. Which brings us to rush seating. Rush seating is something I wish there was more of these days. In his book, Forman goes through some computations based on prices of chairs and “flags” (the rushes for seat-weaving) to arrive at how many seats a weaver could produce in a day. 

” …an efficient bottomer might have been expected to complete perhaps nine seats in a long, seventeenth-century working day. While we may assume that this sort of work could be done by anyone without particular skills, we know that at least in one instance an “old and decayed” turner, Henry Fane of Boston, was bottoming chairs in the year 1672 when he was 83.”

Forman was up a tree – there’s no way you can weave 9 seats in even a long day. And the notion that it could be done by “anyone without particular skills” is just plain offensive. Forman should have spoken to someone who had woven seats. Lawrence Neal does it exceptionally well – as did his father Neville Neal.

Here’s Jan (or Caspar?) Luyken, 1690s showing a Dutch chairmaker’s shop, preseumably in Amsterdam. No way to tell from here if that seat-weaver is “old and decayed” – but fascinating to think about old Henry Fane in Boston weaving those seats at 83.

Luyken “Stoelemaaker”

One type of chair that I learned about from Alexander and Bob Trent is what we now call a “board-seated turned chair.” I showed one of mine here on the previous post. The seat is a beveled board that fits in grooves in the seat rails. Below I’m putting the seat in during the assembly of one in 2018.

assembly of PF copy of Bradford chair

A few things line up to make this happen. The seat rails are all at the same height, unlike the staggered-height rungs on turned chairs with woven seats. So those rails’ tenons intersect. Like this 3-legged version I did – a 3/4″ diameter round tenon piercing a rectangular tenon:

joinery on PF triangular chair

Another factor is the size of those seat rails – to accommodate those intersecting tenons, they’re beefy. The examples above are
1 3/4″ in diameter. Which in turn means the posts are bulky too, over 2″ in diameter. Furthermore, the groove for that seat –

plowing a groove in seat rails

I only know how to do that with a plow plane. No reason to think of another method. Except that turners (i.e. chairmakers) in London were not supposed to use the plow plane, by regulations established separating their work from joiners’ work.

1633   We have called before us as well the Master & Warden of the Compy of Turners as also the M & W of the Compy of Joyners. It appeareth that the Compy of Turners be grieved that the Compy of Joyners assume unto themselves the art of turning to the wrong of the Turners. It appeareth to us that the arts of turning & joyning are two several & distinct trades and we conceive it very inconvenient that either of these trades should encroach upon the other and we find that the Turners have constantly for the most part turned bed posts & feet of joyned stools for the Joyners and of late some Joyners who never used to turn their own bedposts and stool feet have set on work in their houses some poor decayed Turners & of them have learned the feate & art of turning which they could not do before. And it appeareth unto us by custom that the turning of Bedposts Feet of tables joyned stools do properly belong to the trade of a Turner and not to the art of a Joyner and whatsoever is done with the foot as have treddle or wheele for turning of any wood we are of the opinion and do find that it properly belongs to the Turner’s and we find that the Turners ought not to use the gage or gages, grouffe plaine or plough plaine and mortising chisells or any of them for that the same do belong to the Joyners trade.

Henry Laverock Phillips, Annals of the Worshipful Company of Joiners of the City of London, (London: privately printed, 1915) pp. 27, 28.   

All that really means is one of a few things. One possibility is these chairs were not made in London. Or they were, and people ignored the rules. Or the turners who made them paid a fine for using the plow plane (when caught) – or they jobbed that part out to the joiners. We’ll never know, nor does it matter. Interesting again that there’s a mention of a poor “decayed” turner, this time in joiners’ shops showing them how to turn parts.

Some brief background to these recent blog posts. For many years my work included lots of research and writing on the overall subject of 17th-century furniture and furniture-makers. And I loved it, the subject still holds my attention all these years later. I don’t do much of that research anymore – but I still have piles and piles of reference materials on the shelves and hard drives here. Usually my blog posts are written around photos I shoot in the shop, but lately I haven’t been taking many pictures. Mostly because I’m building the same cupboard I built last year so mostly have it covered. So I got on this string of posts lately and there’s lots of fodder for more. 


Jan and Caspar Luyken’s Book of Trades

PF & Trent on Boston furniture

and with Alexander, on post & rung chairs

thoughts at the lathe

lower case pillar

I spent some time at the lathe recently, starting to turn the pillars for the lower case of my cupboard. (here’s a look at last year’s version to show you where these go )

While I was turning this pillar, I got to thinking about Nehemiah Wallington (1598-1658). I often prattle on about how we don’t know what period makers or users had to say about the furniture, the work – any of it. Except for Wallington. He was a turner in London, clinically depressed and obsessive about writing his thoughts in notebooks. Several of which have survived. Maybe 25 or so years ago I read a book called Wallington’s World: A Puritan Artisan in Seventeenth-Century London by Paul Seaver. Seaver pored through the available notebooks and captured a lot of Wallington’s thoughts. So at this point, all I have is Seaver’s filter – what he chose to capture and put in his book. He does sometimes touch on Wallington’s work – a little. A little is better than nothing. The first thing I remember is this – he didn’t care for it.

From Seaver’s book, my emphasis: On one occasion Wallington confessed: “At night after examination how I have spent the day, after a chapter read I went to prayer with my family; then I went into my shop to my employment more out of conscience to God’s commands than of any love I had unto it.”

Mostly Seaver makes note of Wallington citing hazards in the shop – another Seaver quote, partially quoting Wallington:

“…but the shop in particular remained a place of danger. On a Saturday late in November 1630, when all but the infant Samuel were in the shop – Wallington and his father, Grace and little Sarah, and the two apprentices, Obediah Seeley and Theophilus Ward – who was showing chairs in the back room, dislodged a heavy one with his “bustling” about, apparently one at the top of a stack, which crashed down into the shop through the doorway and demolished a powdering tub that Wallington was in the process of selling to another customer. “It was God’s great mercy that it hit none of us, for if it had, it would have maimed us, if not killed us.”

Well, I’ve made some heavy chairs that could kill if they fell on people.

PF copy of Gov Bradford’s chair

But I’d love to know more about Wallington’s – and what a stack of chairs looks like. They don’t stack well. And how about showing a customer a tub when all of a sudden a chair falls on it & destroys it? Pretty exciting shopping experience.

One more –

two years later while “my sweet child Sarah was playing in the shop, and as I was shewing of bed staves” to a customer, a huge ash log, propped against the wall, was dislodged and fell towards Sarah and “had I not by God’s providence caught hold of it – it would have knocked her down and killed her” 

Wallington’s father John was Master of the Turner’s Company of London for some years. Nehemiah entered the Company through patrimony, that is, his father was in the company so he in turn could be. He didn’t finish his apprenticeship, but once he settled down he remained working in his trade throughout the rest of his life. I was thinking about him selling a powdering tub – a term usually referring to a tub for salting meat – Randle Holme is probably being facetious when he describes a doctor’s tub as a powdering tub –

Doctor’s tub

…a Doctors Tub, (otherwise calle a Cleansing Tub,) Hooped. In this Pockifyed and such Diseased Persons, are for a certain time put into, to Stew, not to Boyl up to an height, but to Par-boyl); from which Diseases of Morbus Gallicus, Noli me tangere, Miserere mei, &c. and from such a Purgatory, Libera nos Domine; let it be the Prayers of all good people to be delivered from such a Poudering Tub.”

The bigger question there for me is what is a turner doing selling tubs? Assuming they’re coopered, I would think the coopers would have something to say about it. We know turners sold lots of goods not made in their shops. Wallington mentions several times buying wares from “chapmen” – who traveled into the city selling goods to shop-keepers.

The Turners’ Company ordinances of 1608 run down a lot of the possible items to be found in turner’s shops – not necessarily made there. These documents always sound like they’re written by lawyers – but they’re an interesting look at the period just the same:

“The Master & Wardens together with so many of the Assistants as they shall appoint shall four times in the year or oftener if necessary at convenient times, enter into the Shops, Sollars, Cellars, Booths and Warehouses of any person using the Misterie who shall make, buy, or sell anything thereunto apertaining within the City or suburbs, either Free or Foreign, there to search & survey all manner of Bushel measures, Wood Wares, Works, and also their Journeymen, Servants & apprentices and all their staffs & workmanship and if in their search they shall find any shovels, scoops, busheltrees, washing bowls, chairs, wheels, pails, trays, truggers, wares, wooden measures or any other commodities belonging to the Misterie slightly or not substantially & workmanly wrought with good and sound stuff or any other matter of abuse or misdemeanor, either in Master, Mistress, Apprentice, or Servants, it shall be lawful for those making the search, to seize and carry away the same faulty & deceitful wares, into their Common Hall, that the same may be considered & defaced if cause shall appear and the Master, Wardens & Assistants or the greater part of them may assess a reasonable fine upon the offender so as it exceed not 40 shillings for any one offence, so that others may be warned from making or selling deceitful ware to the discredit of the Misterie, and if any whether free or foreign, be found disobedient to the Master Wardens and Assistants or any three of them in any of their searches, he or they shall be fined not exceeding 40 shillings for every offence.”   (The Worshipful Company of Turners of London – Its Origin and History A.C. Stanley-Stone, (London: Lindley-Jones & Brother, 1925) pp. 264-5.

They left out pulleys and blocks – both of which were found in great quantities in London. Other records from the Company make frequent mention of block-makers/pulley-makers. A wood carving from Rotterdam in that period shows a block-maker’s shop

blockmaker’s sign, 1690s Rotterdam

And look – there above the lathe, the skew chisel

detail, blockmaker’s sign

Then I got to thinking about how guilty Wallington must have felt when he cursed after losing control of a skew chisel. All it takes is a fraction of a section’s inattention…shit, we’ve all done it.

skew finish

I got away with it yesterday.


Here’s the link to more about the carved sign

Some of Wallington’s notebooks have been transcribed. The hardcover is too rich for my taste, I did get a kindle rental (I hate reading that way & have hardly ever done it) – and found no references to his work yet. I got the kindle rental through amazon. Here’s the hardcover

The manuscript notebook I got through here and here

applied turnings continued

egg-shaped, ovals & rounds

It’s been almost 12 years since I’ve written about making the applied turnings that we sometimes erroneously call “bosses.” So here goes – this cupboard I’m building has just under 50 applied turnings that are either ovals, egg-shaped, round or somewhere in between. Here’s a couple of the larger ones, on the lower case’s side panels – this is the 1680s original cupboard not my repro.

applied turnings inside the rectangular panels

There’s some funny, squat-shaped ones on the upper case’s side panels, as well as some round ones. (The round ones get their own discussion later.)

squat turnings sitting on top of the pointed moldings

I start with some geometry to figure out what thickness stock I need – these turnings are chunkier than some period examples so I’m using maple blanks 5/8″ – 7/8″ thick. They get glued to a middle strip so they don’t blow up in the pole lathe’s pointed centers. Once the blank is glued up and hide glue has dried, I plane the corners off at the bench. One end is sitting in a cradle (a “joiner’s saddle” in 17th century phrasing).

planing a rough octagon shape

Then mark the center to mount it on the lathe.

1/2″ strips w a 1/2″ spacer

I round the blank with a large gouge, then from that point on, it’s skew-work.

roughing out the shapes

At first it seems daunting because of the quantity – I think I counted 25 ovals/eggs – but they go very quickly. The largest ones are only 2 3/4″ long so you can get a good number of them on a stick.

The part I don’t understand is why there are so many different shapes – some 1″ wide by 1 1/4″ long and others 7/8″ x 1 3/8″. And on & on. I’m just going to turn a whole lot of them and toss the ugly ones. I’m making them in between turning the upper case’s pilasters.

ready ti be separated

Then comes the round ones and the “drumstick” shapes – Oh, and the arches…this batch might be turned rather than scraped. We’ll see.

upper case side panels

Here’s the earlier post about applied turnings – I thought it was last week – it was almost a month ago!

And one from 2010 –

(pt 26 Essex County cupboard project 2021)

turning & molding

bird’s eye view

I have the construction of the cupboard just about finished. Now it’s time for moldings and turnings, then color. And on & on. Turning the large pillars is a particular challenge, but photographing turning in my shop is more of a challenge. To get the shot above, I climbed up into the loft, set up the tripod and camera and hoped I had it aimed well. Then clambered back down and went to work. The pillars are about 4″-4 1/2″ in diameter. This set for the lower case are 13″ long. This stock is cherry – I couldn’t find any maple worth bothering with.

lower case pillar and rough hewn blank

The photo above shows a rough-turned pillar. Dead-green, I’ll let it dry some before finishing the details. It doesn’t have to be bone-dry. As it dries, the round becomes oval. I just want it to not be too oval so I’ll finish the turning when it’s lost some moisture.

turning the coves

As soon as I can I establish the narrower cove areas – by wrapping the cord around one of them I get more revolutions per tromp than when the cord was around the full 4 1/2″ diameter. For this shot, the camera was outside the shop on a temporary shelf out the window. And up a ladder to set it up…there won’t be many of these.

deep drawer decoration

I don’t work at the pole lathe all day. I try to split that work up into half-days. So I worked on decorating the deep drawer (the last of the four drawers). After the 2″ wide beveled strips that frame each half of the drawer comes these little maple triangles. They’re 1 3/8″ across the base and 1 5/8″ long. Centered on each end.

next step – long moldings

The two long moldings across the top and bottom of this area are easy. 45 degrees at each end. I miter one end, hold it in place and mark the length. Then miter that. I use a miter box I got from Alexander – a modern German one – at first I thought I’d get rid of it, but I’m so glad I kept it. It comes in handy.

now some scribing

Next I cut the moldings that surround the triangles. I marked a centerline along the field of the drawer front – from the point of one triangle to the other. Then held a piece of the molding in place against the maple block and marked where it hits that centerline. Then cut it. This one I cut freehand, after clamping the molding to a piece of scrap.

if all goes well

When it’s going well, it looks about like this. The last little bits are mitered on one end, and scribed to some weird angle on the other. I didn’t get photos at that point because by then I was gluing things in place as I cut them – you get better results that way. And with sticky, hide-gluey hands I didn’t want to mess up the camera.

So that will be a chunk of my work coming up – turnings part of the day, moldings the rest of the day.

(pt 21 Essex County cupboard project 2021)

“Send out for some pillars…

& Cecil B. DeMille.”

the “Stent” panel, early 17th century England

Yesterday Michael Burrey dropped off some maple bolts – so today I got to turn a pillar, either for the cupboard or for practice. It’s been over 20 years since I turned one of these big pieces.

Maple isn’t my favorite riving wood by a long shot, but every now & then you find one that splits well enough. This section was fairly cooperative.

the larger section is the one I need

I scribed a 5” circle on the end and rived & hewed away the excess. Somewhere in there, I trimmed it to about 18” long. 

To prep it for turning, I wanted to make it as even as I could without getting too crazy time-wise. Last time I did this, I didn’t know Dave Fisher’s great methods for prepping his bowl blanks. This time, I used some ideas based on Dave’s work. I struck a line through the middle of my 5” circle, and shimmed the bolt on the bench til that line was plumb.

line up this end & that end

Then struck a related line on the other end. From there, I could measure how high the centerpoint of the first circle was (3” off the bench) and scribe one in the same position on the other end. And strike that circle. Then shave down to those circles. 

roughing it out w a drawknife

I then struck a new 3” circle on one end, to hew and shave a taper to the bottom end of the pillar. 

hewn taper at one end

Then it went on the lathe. At that point, it weighed 11 lbs 6 oz. (5.16 kg they tell me). Wrapping the cord around something even 3” in diameter means you’re turning slowly at first. So my objective early on is to determine the location of a cove and start to rough it out. That way I can move the cord there ASAP. Get more revolutions per tromp, and a smoother cut as the piece spins faster. 

well underway

I spent a long time on this piece; between being out of practice, out of shape, taking still photos & video, and checking dimensions – I plodded along. Hadn’t turned maple in so long, and I’m always astounded at the long ribbon shavings you get, even from a pole lathe.

a horrible photo

I live in a fantasy in which I’m about one afternoon’s cleaning away from being organized. Nothing is further from the truth though. And using the lathe drives that point home. My shop is on the small side, 12′ x 16′ – the local building codes allowed me to do it without permits & inspections if I kept it under 200 sq ft. The price I pay is that the lathe is tucked against the back wall, and I have to pull it out about 2 feet when I need it. And I don’t do a lot of turning, so often junk gets piled on the lathe temporarily. So this photo above shows some of the mayhem that ensues when I dig out the lathe. It’s one of the worst photos I’ve taken in the shop in ages – too cluttered and the photo of the pillar propped up at the lathe is extremely helpful to me, but so disorienting to look at here, with the open door beyond.

the pillar roughed out

I got the pillar to a good point for quitting for the day. About 1/4″-3/8″ oversized for now. I’m aiming for a greater diameter of 4 1/2″ and the coves are about 1″ plus. The bits just inside the tenons will be 2 1/2″. Overall length between the tenons is 14 1/2″. At this stage, the general form is established. I put it in a paper bag with some of the shavings to hopefully dry it slowly and not have it crack apart. I’ll put it back on the lathe in a few days to turn the final size and the details. Weight at this point – 5 lbs. (2.27 kg). I didn’t weigh the shavings. Tomorrow is that cleaning day, I’m going to get organized this time…

(pt 5 Essex County cupboard project 2021)

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 videos – Turning the Stiles

About the Joined Stool video series. Some of these videos made it up to youtube before I fully hatched the idea of making this a connected how-to series. So far then, there’s been mostly repetition as Daniel & I work on cutting & piecing them together. I’ve been deleting the first uploads over at Youtube as he & I finish up each video. Don’t worry, the whole thing will come back, one-by-one. Today’s is turning the stiles. Then comes decoration – carving & scratch-stock molding together. Then after that, it’ll all be stuff that’s not been posted before. Tenons, test-fitting, drawboring, the seat, etc. 

Turning the stiles for the joined stool is a long one. First thing to know – I’m no great turner. I think of myself as a joiner who does some turning. I don’t get as much practice as I used to do. Somewhere I recommended two friends’ videos – Curtis Buchanan’s youtube series has some of his turning And Pete Galbert did a nice video a couple years ago with Lost Art Press 

Both will help a lot. If only I would practice more… so – if you have the stomach for it, here’s my assault on one of the stiles for this joined stool. Including some mishaps that are not fatal at all. 

I got a note from a reader who blew up a still shot of the stool stick – which made me realize some might want that information. This stool is one I made up, but some of the details are similar to one in the book I wrote on the subject with Jennie Alexander. I’m not going to draw up a whole diagram of the stool – it’s not necessary. The stiles are 2” x 2” squares – and here’s the stick against a ruler (in inches) so you can suss out the details. Change them at your will. Use the photo above for further reference. (I noticed that photo & this have the top of the stool in different directions…sorry about that.)

The aprons & stretchers on the front & back are 10 1/2” from shoulder to shoulder. I made the tenons 1 1/2” long. The short aprons are 4 1/4” shoulder to shoulder at their top edge. Their angle is 1:6 1/2. The rest comes from a test-fit. You’ll see those videos as Daniel & I work to spit them out. Thanks for watching…

here’s the book on the subject


I have some carving videos planned after the stool series; (some are already shot) – like this strapwork pattern:

if there’s particular things you’d like to see, leave a comment. If I can, I’ll try to tailor things some…but my scope is pretty narrow. Oak furniture, carved decoration, mortise & tenons, beyond that…hmm.

The videos are free. There is a donate button on the side of this blog for those able & willing to help keep things running ’til classes start up again. Thanks so much for all the support, I greatly appreciate it.


Make a Joined Stool Video series – the pole lathe tour

Shaving horses and pole lathes – I’ve got lots of questions about both over the years. The next step after mortising in making the joined stool is turning the decoration on the stiles. So before I get to those videos, I’ll put this one here – a general overview of the lathe & its few parts. Thanks to Daniel for putting up with me having him edit one version of this, then I said, “No, I can do the look at the lathe better.” So I re-shot it, then he had to re-edit.

Joined stool videos begin

To elaborate on a post I wrote last week – the Joined Stool video series I’ve been shooting is now starting to get posted. It took me a bit to figure out some basic snipping here & there, but thankfully Daniel took over and sorted it for me. So he gets some credit. Curtis Buchanan gets the nod for the inspiration with all his chairmaking videos. When travelling to teach workshops came to a halt, I scrambled trying to figure out what’s next. I was almost going to do one of those subscription video instruction sites…but decided it’s not my bag. Too much pressure to produce in a timely fashion and to a standard that I am not up to, video-wise.

Then I thought of Curtis and how he developed his series of chairmaking videos. I love how those come across as if you’re in his shop and he’s explaining what he’s doing as he goes about making each chair.

For the joined stool, today I posted the intro and a 20-30 minute section on layout & mortising. There’s maybe 5 or 6 more to come for this project; some carving and scratch stock molding, turning on the pole lathe, tenons, test fitting & assembly, and more. From there, I plan on some carving patterns that haven’t made it to video before. Strapwork designs, panels, and more.

Watch them here, watch them over at youtube – many have subscribed there as I’ve been getting more active – but I doubt you need both. Anything worthwhile will get copied here eventually. There’s no charge – they’re free. That way there’s no pressure on me if they stink, and you won’t feel like you’re getting taken. There is a “donate” button here on the sidebar of this blog. So if you like the videos, and are in a position to help keep things running around here, I’d be very grateful. But I’m also perfectly happy having you watch without any obligation on your part. I have tried with this blog to always have content here for sharing – and these are no exception.

OK, enough explanation. Here’s the videos. Hope you like them.

videos of joined stool work

Back when the book Make a Joint Stool from a Tree came out, I was making how-to videos with Lie-Nielsen. Made a bunch of them over a few years. For a couple of reasons, we never did one on the joined stool. I have a stool underway now, and a recent post brought a question about how the story stick is used. So I tried to cover it in a video – my video capabilities are limited and challenged. I am not going to try to learn video editing…there’s only so many hours in a day. I’m the camera man and the woodworker in these – so there’s your warning. I won’t cover every aspect of making the stool, but will try to hit many of them.

Once I had that stile marked out, I put one on the lathe & set the camera up to try to catch that work. I AM NO GREAT TURNER! – but I can do enough for joiner’s work. So to really learn turning, find someone else. (I like Pete Galbert’s video on turning…) – but here’s my series on turning this stile on the pole lathe. I chopped it up into 3 videos – mostly so I could fumble around & get what I need as I was working. You’ll see, warts n’ all. For short videos, they’re pretty long. Tom Lie-Nielsen used to ask me if I could make a video shorter than Ben Hur.

Part one is mostly turning the cylinder from the square.

Now some of the details; cove, baluster, etc.

I re-jigged the camera for the foot, to try to get some detail. The sun came on very strong, and made things both better and worse.

Links –

the book Make a Joint Stool from a Tree

The video series from Lie-Nielsen;

Pete Galbert’s video on turning –

Curtis Buchanan’s video series – he’s got turning in there somewhere.