Boxes & more for sale; last for December

First off, thanks to those who responded to Maureen’s work yesterday & today. I greatly appreciate it. Now, a blog update. I know I’ve been posting lots of stuff for sale recently. Being off the road for the past nine months has been very nice, but it also dried up a great portion of my income. The other flip side of that is it gave me lots of time to make things. I hope to return to teaching in person in 2021, we’ll see how things unfold. I am planning an on-line class with Elia Bizzarri where we’ll cover some spoon carving. He & I are planning on testing some stuff this month. We’ll both post details when we have them. It’ll be partially modeled after what Elia & Curtis Buchanan have done with their recent chairmaking stint; but I’ll have axes & knives in hand too.

In January (probably before) I’ll be concentrating on blog posts again, some carving, some chairmaking and spoon carving. I also have a 2nd set of carving drawings pretty much ready to go, but the timing was such that I’d be posting them maybe a week from now. I decided to hold them back til after the holidays. I didn’t want to add to any frenzy – no one needs it this year.

I also plan on getting back to some more video work in January. I’ve been busy trying to get the boxes done for December, but haven’t given up on the video work.

Meantime – I have three boxes and some other craft items as well as some videos & drawings available. Leave me a comment if you’d like to claim any of these, or send an email to

Here goes:

white & red oak, white pine bottom.
H: 8 1/2″ W: 23 3/8″  D: 13″
$1,000 includes shipping in US.

This first box got posted some time ago, but it didn’t sell right off, then other blog posts pushed it aside, and I put it in a chest & forgot it. Found it the other day…the box is some great riven white oak, the lid quartersawn red oak.

This pattern is often found on 17th-century work – a surprising amount of detail in small spaces. Glued & pegged at the corners, bottom nailed on w handmade nails. Handmade iron hinges as well. A lidded till inside.

arcading pattern box
arcading pattern box open

Carved box; oak & pine. Strapwork design with carved lid. SOLD
H: 8 1/4″ W: 23 1/2″ D: 11 3/4″
$1,500 includes shipping in US.

strapwork pattern, with carved lid

This box is a slightly new direction for some of my work. Until recently, I had mostly avoided carving the lids, but last month I made a box from yellow cedar and decided to carve its lid. I had seen a photograph of an English box with a “strapwork” pattern carved in its lid, and decided to do that. I loved the way it looked, and so did two other people at least (it sold & I took an order for a 2nd). My friend Rick DeWolf provides me with great quartersawn oak for my box-carving classes – this year he brought me the wood, but with no classes, I dove into making boxes & boxes. Among that stash was a great piece of 12″ wide perfect quartersawn stock. Bang! Carved the lid, then make a box to go under it.

the lid
open, with till inside
carved ends of box. Wooden hinge

You can see some streakiness through the oak on this box, the result of something or other in the tree. Time will mute all these oak colors together. Patience and patina rule the oaks. For that matter, the pine too. Here’s a photo I’ve posted before, showing a new box on the left, and one about 12 years old on the right. Both red oak and white pine. Both with linseed oil finish. The one on the right has been in use in our house now for 15 years.


CARVED BOX, S-scroll design – SOLD
H: 7 1/4″ W: 17″ D: 11″
$850 includes shipping in US.

This one’s just a bit smaller than usual. I think the box front carving was either a demo or maybe a video I did this year…however it happened, I found the board all carved – so rather than waste it I made a box to go around it.

S-scroll box
S-scroll box

This one has an extra carving too – the till lid I made from a leftover white oak carving. You’ll only see it when you go fumbling around in the till.

till surprise


Catalpa bowl
H: 5 3/4″-6″ L: 20 1/2″ W: 12″
$600 includes shipping in US.

I’ve made bowls with axes, adzes & gouges going back to the late 1980s. From time to time I take another stab at them, but usually just winging it. Then, I met Dave Fisher. I’ve watched Dave teach bowl carving a number of times, but I would usually see just some of the steps, not in order. This time, I tried to just follow Dave’s instructions based on his video with Fine Woodworking

It began when Joel Paul kindly gave me 2 chunks of catalpa back in June – the first bowl I made was a gift, this one’s available.

catalpa bowl
catalpa growth rings

You can flip it over and wear it as a helmet. When I shot this photo, I realized I need to carve my initials on the bottom.



rhododendron, L: 9 1/2″ W: 2 1/2″
$100 includes shipping in US

This spoon is made from a “crook” – a naturally bent or curved section from which the spoon derives its shape. The most fun spoons there are to make…

rhododendron spoon #1
side view
carved handle


large round basket – white ash splints; hickory rims & handle. Hickory bark lashing
14″ diameter at rims, basket height 9″ to handle 18″
$600 including shipping in US.

handle & rims with hickory bark lashing
bottom view, showing spiral weave up the sides


DVD – Build a Shaving Horse

$42 includes shipping in US
2 discs; 162 minutes.

I have 9 copies left of this video I shot with Lie-Nielsen Toolworks. They have plenty I’m sure, and they offer it as streaming video too. How to make the style of shaving horse developed by Jennie Alexander and adapted by me. Mine’s been in use since the late 1980s. I still use it all the time…


Carving Drawings
17th-century Style Carving: Devon, England and Ipswich, Massachusetts, set #1
4 pages, 24″ x 36″, rolled in a cardboard tube. 
$66 includes shipping in US.

These have their own page describing them, but in summary – 4 pages 24″ x 36″ of drawings showing several designs I carve in my oak furniture. Full-scale chest panels, framing parts, box front. Step-by-step drawings showing how to establish the patterns…

You can order them directly on this page:

a bad day of geometry c. 1605

box w drawer, walnut & inlay
box w drawer, walnut & inlay

Having looked the other day at some scratched graffiti on a molding plane;

I was reminded of an English box I’ve seen with some geometry scribed on the inside face of the box front. This particular example survives in a corrupted configuration; it was once a box with a drawer, and is now just a very deep box.

On the inside face of the bottom section carved with the arcading is a series of attempted spirals, laid out with “a pair of compasses.” The original layout called for three spirals, and only one is complete. The center one is poorly-thought-out, and the one on the proper left end of the box is barely begun. Here are the two better examples:

two spiral patterns
two spiral patterns

And a detail of the one on the left above:

compass-formed spiral
compass-formed spiral

 This spiral is marked out with two center points; with some help today, it was not too much trouble to figure out the layout. 

But my next question – what happened? This face of the board is laid out with a vertical center line, (which is not centered on the present length of the board) and two equidistant lines marked out from that. These all serve as centers for the spirals. One spiral got nowhere fast, two partial arcs. The center one is not a consistent spiral, there are mistakes in its layout. The one on the proper right-hand end is fully-formed, and “correct” in that it follows a system to produce a continuing spiral.  Here’s a sketch showing the layout with two center points:

compass-drawn spiral
compass-drawn spiral












So I wonder, was it was practice? Did the joiner/carver start out wanting a “three-spiral” motif on his drawer front, get frustrated with the geometry, give up & flip the board over to carve the simpler arcading? Maybe it was just a bad day for geometry c. 1605.


The carving, in walnut, is excellent, first-rate work. This box dates from about 1600-1610. A nearly identical example, dated 1605, is at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Another is in a private collection.

(I can’t think of a carved pattern with spirals that continue outwards so much, most are just one or two turns around…I’ll be on the lookout.)

misc notes

I want to stop & thank folks for their comments here. I’m relatively new to this sort of thing, and like many, often wonder if anyone is listening. Several people have commented regularly, & I appreciate it, Mike, Heather, etc.

One comment from James runs thus: 

“Love your blog, as a collector, i have always been fascinated by the construction details of early american furniture. Many thanks to you for taking the time to present this information as well as the fabulous joinery. I follow with great interest.”

James, I appreciate your interest. I have greatly benefited from working with collectors as well as curators in my efforts to study period work. Having access to the original material is essential to being able to understand the construction and decorative details. We’ll work out details for your joined stool soon.

Robin Fawcett, a turner in England, wrote about safety in the shop:

“I love your workshop Peter, and feel quite jealous. But you really shouldn’t stack those tools across the lathe bed . . .

As part of my “Risk Assessment” for Public Liability I have to mention that I never do this as there may be:-
a. Possible damage to operators feet ! & b. You might damage your carefully sharpened edges if they fall !

The oak looks very nice…How do YOU deal with the affects of oak (tannin) on your hands ?
I was recently talking with a guy who works with 200 year old oak from the HMS Victory and his hands were terrible !

PS The carved panel in the background of the lathe picture looks v. interesting”


Thanks Robin for the note. I’m very fortunate working in the museum, I have plenty of space…but by November it is always quite cluttered. It only gets a proper cleaning twice a year, December & March. So right now, it’s tough getting around. there’s about 10 or more nearly finished pieces of furniture in there.

I always have kept the turning tools on the lathe bed – that’s where they go. The ones that are in racks on the wall rarely get used…the others are always at hand. See Van Vliet’s engraving from 1635. I’m pretty careful about not knocking things about. I don’t remember any great trauma from dropping tools, some have fallen before, but nothing serious. I’ve never been knicked…

van Vliet's turner, 1635
van Vliet



  The tannin issue I have heard you mention in your use of Chestnut in England. The oak here, like all of them I think, has a high tannin content; and when totally green can wreack havoc on tools and people too. By the time I am turning the oak it’s been planed for a few weeks anyway, it’s never right out of the log to the lathe. So that initial surface drying helps matters. I have seen staining from tannic acid to be a problem mostly in real hot, humid weather, which we have our share of in June-August.

Thanks for the compliment on the carved chest front as well. It’s one I did this spring with my now-gone apprentice. I did the front of the chest, he did the rear framing, and assembly. It belongs to Plimoth Plantation. It’s based on work made in Ipswich, Massachusetts c. 1660-1700.

joined chest 2008
joined chest 2008


 The Ipswich joined work is derived from Devon, same period. The nicest examples of that work that I have seen are in a church in Totnes, Devon. Beautiful carving, some of the best I have seen of English joiners’ work. I just did another box front the other day with related carvings.

box front
box front

That’s it for now. thanks again all. Joined stool pictures soon.

turned chair assembly pt 1

joiners' saddle & chair post
joiners' saddle & post

Here’s some more steps in the turned chairs I’m making. I assembled a front section for one of the four-legged chairs, which will have a woven seat. To bore the holes for the front rungs I fix the post on my workbench with a holdfast. The post is cradled in two Vee-blocks, what Joseph Moxon called a “joiner’s saddle” in the seventeenth century. There’s many ways to hold these things for boring, but I have taken to this one – I find it comfortable. Then I use a brace and bit, in this case a 3/4″ reproduction spoon bit. The square is to help align the bit; I line it up, bore a little, then squat down to sight the square & bit again…then make any necessary adjustments, and keep boring. The only complaint I have with these repro spoon bits is that the shaft is too short. Seems they are made for Windsor chairmakers, and the rest of us are stuck with them…I’d like it longer.

 Once the holes are bored, I drive the rungs in place. The seat rung is not turned on the lathe, it’s just shaved with a drawknife. Then I start driving them in place. Usually I work without glue; this chair I glued, it’s going to Arizona, so I figured the glue won’t hurt. 

drawkinfe work
drawkinfe work


boring front post
boring front post


chair assembly begun
chair assembly begun