right now it’s baskets; but spoons & more for sale

The spoons, a frame-and-panel and one spoon rack for sale now – the top of the blog, or this link. . https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/spoons-more-august-2014/  If you’d like to order something, leave a comment. I can send a paypal invoice, or you can send a check. As always, I appreciate everyone’s interest in my work.

 

Meanwhile, but here’s today’s blog post. I have some stuff underway that I haven’t put on the blog much, because I haven’t made more than a few baskets a year in 2 decades. This is the scene these days. Baskets, and more baskets. I used to make these a lot, before there was joinery. It really is exciting to explore them again; but I’m having to re-learn stuff I used to know pretty well.  Today I had to make a slitting tool too, to slice up the narrow horizontal weavers. I’ll shoot it tomorrow when I use it again. I had one once, but it got lost in the shuffle 20 years ago I guess.

 

the scene

I decided to dedicate a whole week, maybe more, to making baskets. It’s been so long since I made more than one or two…and the only way it’s going to come back to me is for me to do it over & over.

 

basketry 1

basketry 2

basketry 3

Earlier in the week, I was shaving and bending some white oak for handles & rims. I’ll fit those on this weekend. I like the white oak even better than hickory for bending. The King of Woods, Daniel O’Hagan used to say…

riving white oak

shaving horse work

 

the “other” New England furniture of the seventeenth century

Readers of this blog will be quite familiar with the oak furniture that I have made over the years, based on English & New England examples. These feature lots of carved decoration, along with some integral moldings, sometimes enhanced with paint as well. Like this:

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

Happening at the same time as this style is the “applied molding” style – for lack of a better term. Here in New England these are pretty common – many years ago I co-authored with Bob Trent and Alan Miller an article about a series of large joined cupboards in this style, http://www.chipstone.org/framesetAFintro.html These cupboards, made in northern Essex County, Massachusetts in the 1680s or so, were really some of the most involved constructions. Many feature jettied overhangs like timber buildings of the period. they have some carved work, but the bulk of their decoration is applied turnings and moldings. Here’s a plain one from this group – from the MFA, Boston

Essex County cupboard
Essex County cupboard

And this really amazing one from the Massachusetts Historical Society – look at the effect of the moldings on the door in the upper case.

Essex County cupboard, MHS
Essex County cupboard, MHS

I think we ended up with 13 cupboards or so. Numerous chests of drawers and chests with drawers were made by the same shop(s) – and some tables, etc.

Similar, but simpler examples were found made in Salem, Massachusetts and down in Plymouth Colony (later a county of Massachusetts, 1692). Here’s the best Salem cupboard:

Salem cupboard
Salem cupboard

and a typical Plymouth chest with drawers. These are distinctive because they use two narrow side-by-side drawers. Everyone else used full-width drawers mostly.

Plymouth Colony chest with 2 drawers
Plymouth Colony chest with 2 drawers

But by far the most articulate and finely executed versions were the works we now associate with 17th-c Boston. In 2010 Trent & I published an article that really for me only touches on what’s going on in Boston then…but it’s a start. Here’s a Boston chest from Chipstone’s collection.

Boston chest w false drawer
Boston chest w false drawer

And the cream of the crop – the chest of drawers with doors at Yale:

chest of drawers with doors
chest of drawers with doors

I keep thinking that making this stuff is so much more work than carving – on a carved chest, you make 30-40 pieces of wood, carve them, then fit them together. On one of these applied molding/turning jobs, you make the 30-40 bits that form the carcass – then make a slew more of other woods, and cut & piece them together. Maybe hundreds once you have them cut to bits…

Over the years I have built a few pieces in this manner; a Plymouth style chest with drawers back in 1995, then copies of the Pope family cabinet in the early part of this century.

PF version Pope family cabinet
PF version Pope family cabinet

I built a made-up version of a chest of drawers when my wife & I got married in 2003.

chest of drawers, 2003
PF chest of drawers, 2003

I’m fast at carving, but pretty slow at this stuff. So now my goal is to do enough of this so I can get quicker. That’s how it works. So I’m hoping we’ll see me making more work like this in the coming months…

Make a Joint Stool at Roy Underhill’s July 15-19

Well, now it’s April, which means it’s practically May. Might as well be June, which makes me wonder what you’re doing this summer.

What you could do is come to Pittsboro, North Carolina to make a joint stool at Roy Underhill’s Woodwright’s School. http://www.woodwrightschool.com/elizabethian-joint-stool-w-pet/

Out at the mill, we’ll split out an oak, and get to use a lot of wedges, hatchets and other big tools.

splitting oak w wedges
splitting oak w wedges
hewing at the mill
hewing at the mill

Maybe the owls will come out to watch.

Roy's barred owl
Roy’s barred owl

Next, we’ll take the pieces into the school’s bench-room in town and get to planing.

If we make enough shavings, the Bag Man appears.

lots of planing to do
lots of planing to do

the Bag Man
the Bag Man

Mortise & tenon joinery, drawboring, chamfering (turning for those full-tilt crazies) – it’ll be like the book come to life. I don’t remember what’s in the book, so I’ll be making it up as I go along.

chamfered frame
chamfered frame
pole lathe practice
pole lathe practice

There’ll be tools galore, I’ll bring mine, Roy’s school has tons, then there’s Ed’s store upstairs!

overall ed's

some of ed's planes

If you wanted to know about green woodworking, then a week with me & Roy ought to do it. It reminds me of Twain’s quote about Kipling: “Between us, we cover all knowledge; he knows all that can be known, and I know the rest.”

 

Seriously, it’s a great week there. if you are interested in learning the craft of oak joinery with old-style tools, here’s your chance. My box-carving class at Drew Langsner’s is full, with a waiting list – so this is the only other week-long class I have this summer. Unless you’re in Germany in June! http://www.mehr-als-werkzeug.de/course/KU1631301/Carved-Box.htm

So get going. Get over to Roy’s website: http://www.woodwrightschool.com/elizabethian-joint-stool-w-pet/

get goin'
get goin’

splitting a nine-foot log

They should all split like this one. Nine feet long, 21″ at the top, 23″ at the bottom. Red oak.  I split this one from the bottom, it just worked out that way. Usually, I’d split down from the top. Two steel wedges, two wooden wedges. A little snipping with a hatchet. Less than half-an-hour to get it into one-half, one-quarter and two eighths. I later counted about 100+ years on the rings, still quite fresh in the heartwood, sapwood is all decayed. Must have been down for a while to lose the sapwood completely.

here’s the photos, including a juvenile yellow-shafted flicker, rounding out a woodpecker trio at the house. Haven’t seen or heard a red-bellied here lately:

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It’s what’s inside that counts

I have been working with an excellent red oak log. It’s dead-straight, even, clear. Everything I want. The boards I have been riving and planing are around 8” wide, some 10” wide panels came earlier from it as well.

This week, I have been working a short section that I crosscut for panels and other 2-foot stuff. I got to the last quarter of it yesterday. From the outside, it looks great.

I split it with wedges and a sledgehammer, and it busted right open. 

….Then, I pulled it apart & looked inside

Yikes. what a mess.

Turns out rather than 10” wide panels, I got a bunch of 2” square stuff for some joined stools.

From two of  these sections, I managed to plane 7 stiles. (one’s leaning upright) Something happened to number 8. Oh well. 


Meanwhile, there is another log I have also been working. This is narrower stuff, maybe 6 1/2” wide pieces on average. There was a weird growth pattern, lots of straight-grained wood in the first half of the tree’s growth, then some strange wiggle to the grain. It’s throughout a lot of what I have seen in this log. It might be hard to see in this photo, but the bottom half of the shot has a very rippled grain to it…

 

Found part of the problem this week. No hardware that I have found, but some localized injury to the tree.

 

I have used some of this stock in a joined chest I just finished; but these pieces are junk. Here’s the chest, I am planning on shooting some details of it soon. 

Now, some birds. First up, some downy woodpeckers. One feeding another, but I couldn’t decide if it’s a male/female pair feeding, or an adult feeding a juvenile.  

Then, tonight I saw a certain juvenile scooting into a roosting hole, or is it the nest? 

Actually, he/she looked into this hole, then moved up one flight, into a hole just above this one. The tree is a locust. (can’t decide if the bird is a hairy woodpecker, not a downy. The bill looks a bit long for downy…but I’d need better views)

 Is this goodnight? 

Meanwhile, there was a trio of white-breasted nuthatches scooting all around…I saw them being fed too, but didn’t get a shot. Here’s one of them:

ring them bells

Although my main work is done with riven oak, I sometimes work with millsawn stock too. Particularly white pine boards that I use as secondary timber in joined chests & carved boxes. I really like white pine, and I have been lucky to have access to a good selection of wide & clear, air-dried stuff. It’s a tremendous wood to use.

wide pine boards

I have just about finished up the board chest I made this summer, done in air-dried millsawn walnut. And I almost got to the point where I like that wood, even. I have some left-over quartersawn walnut, wide and short sections, so I might be making some walnut boxes this winter.

But…still for me, the wood of choice is riven oak. I get to do a lot of hand-tool woodworking; spring, summer, fall, & winter. By far, my favorite time of year for this work is the fall & winter. Yesterday was a beautiful day in Southeastern Massachusetts; I got a chance to go out & split out some remaining red oak sections, into framing parts for a joined chest. The light has changed now, and the weather and the oak just combined to really speak to me.

I will never feel about rough-sawn boards the way I do about riven bolts of oak or ash. Opening up the log this way is so full of potential, I’ve stood by a saw, and watched each board come off, but it’s not the same. I’ve been the pitsawyer doing the same thing – but splitting it and seeing those fibers opened up, that’s it for me…

fresh riven oak

I am reminded of a phrase that runs throughout Ken Kesey’s book Sometimes a Great Notion. Kesey describes in detail various aspects of different character’s lives; and when he wants to highlight the significance of a place or feeling, he writes: “This is Hank’s bell…” (or Henry, or Joe-Ben….)

 

Standing in a woodpile, golden leaves falling through splintered sunlight, busting open vinegar-smelling oak, that’s my bell…one of them anyway.

Then a log truck arrived, the carpenters at the museum had picked out a bunch of logs for various tasks, and I spied some worth chasing. Once the useful logs were loaded, they filled the truck with firewood, and I saw a white ash in that pile…some beech too. A nice winter ahead.

One other bell…

video of splitting a large oak

Not me tonight, it’s a link that was sent to me by SAPFM member Joe Barry. I did my demo for the Society of American Period Furniture Makers at Phil Lowe’s shop last weekend, and while I was splitting a section of white oak, someone mentioned this Danish project. It’s a very nice short film, most of the sounds are a giant oak busting open, and lots of birds making a ruckus. How can you beat that?

 

Note that they use a technique taught to me by Jennie Alexander and Drew Langsner; to split the log, first score it along its diameter – in this case they use a wooden beetle driving their axe; Alexander used a large, dull hatchet. I use my wedges, and just tap them along to score the end grain. Really helps get the split started.

http://vikingeskibsmuseet.dk/index.php?id=1364&L=1&no_cache=1&sword_list[0]=oak

one weird log

as far as I got

This strange-looking white oak is on my to-do list; probably not until after Xmas though. As I was splitting it, it cracked right along a growth-ring. I eventually busted part of it into quarters. and there it sits. It’s about 30″ in diameter, and somewhere around 5 feet long.

Today my friend Rick McKee & I were talking about this log, & he decided to split the next length of this tree.

the next section

It splits quite easily, really. Might be because the juvenile wood is taken out of the equation. No crossed fibers to speak of. Here, Rick has driven his wedges in, and it just needs a slight snip with an axe.

Rick w axe

 

in two

I have the easier task ahead of me. I am making wainscot chairs from my section, Rick has to make an oak door for a repro house. We wondered what did this to this tree, maybe lightning, but later I guessed fire.

detail

Not the best log, but there’s a lot of oak in it. We expect to get some good stuff from these, and some firewood and other secondary stuff…I’ll show more of it as we work it, but not til 2011.

joined chest proportions

While I am churning through a zillion images & ideas for my talk this weekend at Historic Deerfield, I have been trying to make a concise explanaiton of the way the Savell joiners in Braintree, Massachusetts laid out their chest components. These chests show a slight variation in the widths of the panels and muntins; essentialy to arrive at an overall width somewhere near 52″.

the heights of the parts do not vary enough to matter, usually the top rail is 4″ high, the panels are 13″, next rail is 3″ and so on…(most of these chests have drawers, two do not.)

I argue (or present, I guess) that the tree determines the width of the panels, and when faced with narrower panels, the joiners here made wider muntins, and vice-versa. Not unusual; except that the adjustments they made are so slight, that there has to be a reason behind it…

Here’s notes scribbled on two chest photos, followed by a chart outlining 12 chests. 10 out of 12 chests are within 13/16″ in their overall width.

dimensions for Savell chest front
dimensions for another Savell chest example

[in this version of the chart, I did not give the measurements of each muntin & each panel; variations usually around 1/16″ result in the long rails’ shoulder-to-shoulder dimension maybe not adding up from the numbers here. but it’s close]

Chest
Stile
Panel
Muntin
Rail
overall
Aetna Ins
3 ¼”
8 ¾”
3 ½”
45 ½”
52”
Private coll 2008
3 ¼”
8 7/8”
3 3/8”
45 5/8”
52 3/16”
Private coll fig 1
3 3/8”
8 7/8”
3 3/8”
45 9/16”
52 5/16”
PF coll
3 3/8”
8 3/8”
3 ¾”
44 13/16”
51 9/16”
Gardner Museum Boston
3 5/16”
8 5/16”
3 15/16”
44 15/16”
51 9/16”
Wadsworth Atheneum
3 3/8”
8 ¾”
3 3/8”
45 1/16”
51 13/16”
MFA, Boston
3 5/16”
8 7/16”
3 ¾”
45 1/8”
51 ¾”
Fiske chest, private coll.
3”
8 9/16”
3 ¾”
45 ½”
51 ½”
Bracket chest, private coll.
3 ¼”
8 1/8”
3 ½”
42 7/8”
47 1/8”
Private coll, 2010
3 1/8”
8 ¾”
3 ½”
45 ½”
 51 ¾”
Chipstone
3 ¼”
8 9/16”
3 3/16”
 
50 ¼”
Two drawers, private coll.
3 3/8”
8 5/16”
3 7/8”
44 7/8”
51 5/8”

 

This is in contrast to, say Thomas Dennis’ shop; where in just three chests that I include in the talk, there is a variation in overall width by 42 1/4″ to 46 3/4″  – in those three, panel widths vary from 8″ (picture here) to 10 1/8″.  the one with the 10″-plus panels has muntins only 4 1/4″ wide, so there are adjustments here too, but of a much more generous nature.

Thomas Dennis chest w drawer
This chest has an overall width = 44 3/4”  and its panels = 8” wide; muntins 6 ¼”.
What does it all mean? Who knows…and it’s not science, but it is fun to see how two different shops approach similar tasks…