looking back at some joined chests

Sorting through some photos today, and found this chest. Photographed in spring 2005. Not sure when I built it, my guess is i was new when I shot it. It’s at the museum, I think in their education sites. Probably a lot darker than this now. I might have put it on the blog before, but if so, I forget it.


It was one of a few I did with 2 panels, usually with wide central muntins. I plan on doing one again sometime.

Here’s two more in a similar vein. The first one is my favorite in this series:

white oak chest 2009

three-quarter view

I made a quick trip out West

Well, west for someone from eastern Massachusetts. Delivered this chest with drawers to the Windsor Historical Society, Windsor, Connecticut. http://www.windsorhistoricalsociety.org/  I stained it red with iron oxide mixed in linseed oil. Added drying medium from artist’s supply store, and some raw umber, which also speeds up drying. If I had been ahead of the deadline, things might have been different.

chest w drawers

Here’s a view inside the upper drawer, with its dividing slats. Not sure what these little cubbies would be used for…It was based on notches cut in the drawer on the original that is the source for this repro. but the dividers are gone on the old one.

one drawer w dividers

I also got to install one of Mark Atchison’s locks on this chest, because curator Christina Vida wanted everything just exactly perfect for the Strong Howard house opening. http://www.windsorhistoricalsociety.org/strong_house.html

Here I’m cutting away the top rail inside the chest for the lock recess.

lock excavation 2

And the finished excavation, just needs some chisel work for the keyhole. This one gets no escutcheon.

almost cut

Mark’s lock & key:

mark's lock

Mark’s mark, MMA, on the inside face of the lock:

mark's mark

This chest was the model for the class we did at Bob Van Dyke’s Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking. If you want to see the chest, and the other pieces made by the school’s instructors and students, go to the open house at the school this Saturday. I can’t make it, but a gang of folks will be there, with bells on.

here’s the blurb Bob sent out the other day:

Don’t miss it!
Saturday, September 12, 9:00am – 4:00pm
Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking 15th Annual Open House

 Come celebrate CVSW as we enter our 15th year of great hands-on furniture making, woodturning, cabinetmaking, blacksmithing and more!

Furniture Exhibit- See Some of the Spectacular work from Students, including furniture made for the Windsor Historical Society Strong Howard House/ CVSW collaboration

Get in on the fun. We will be demonstrating furniture making, woodturning, blacksmithing, inlay, sharpening, guitar building and more, all day.

More than 22 tables of Antique Tools for Sale!!!

6 different antique Tool dealers

The whole idea of the event is to get a bunch of people who are interested in woodworking together and have a good time!

A partial list of demonstrators/ exhibitors is below:

CVSW Gallery of Student work

Central Ct Woodturners

Mystic Woodcarvers
Tico Vogt- Shooting boards

Mike South, Windjammer Instruments
Matt Cianci- “the Saw Wright”
Isaac Smith- Blackburn Tools
Mike Mascelli- Traditional Upholstering

Bill Rittner- Handmade replacement knobs & Totes for handplanes

Greg Massicotte- Behlen Finishing Products

Catharine Kennedy- engraved handplanes

Walt Scadden – Blacksmithing

Windsor Historical Society

Cape forge carving knives

Ben Barrett- Berkshire Veneers

Mike Pekovich from Fine Woodworking Magazine

CVSW Instructors:

Bob Van Dyke, Will Neptune, Mickey Callahan, Walt Scadden & more



hawk & crab

I’ll have some woodworking stuff here next week. Back to that chest with drawers, some carving and hewn bowls. Meanwhile, here’s the hawk again. He successfully got a rabbit, but didn’t really do much with it. So I chucked it over the bushes, and he was back later in the same spot. Was he looking for his leftovers?

w prey

Well, it’s stupid to assign these human attributes to these guys…but we got great views of him in the afternoon. He was back the next day as well.

where's that rabbit

did you take it


On the beach, we saw this live crab re-digging itself into the sand.


Almost hidden all the way now…we got out of the way before the gulls got to it.

almost buried

Half-signed copies of Make a Joint Stool from a Tree – sold out


UPDATE – 3pm Eastern time, Tuesday Aug 18

This batch of books is sold out.  There are 3 orders that are international, so I have to get quotes for shipping there. Thus, those books might fall back into circulation. But as of right now, if you want to order this book, go to Lost Art Press (some of its retailers also carry the book). Then just find me somewhere &  I’ll sign it. If the international orders fall through, I’ll re-post them. Thanks, everyone. I appreciate it. I’ll get these in the mail this week.

Here’s the Lost Art Press link, and its international ordering page too:



I’m so far behind I’m doing spring cleaning. And, a box full of the joint stool book came to light…

joint stool book

There’s a continuing stream of new readers to the blog (thanks & welcome folks) and I thought I’d remind people of this book. For many years, Jennie Alexander & I were immersed in studying the background and techniques of 17th century joined furniture. We hit upon the joined stool as a means for students to learn the ins & outs of this craft without getting too crazed, like you do with a joined chest or cupboard, or chair for that matter. We worked on the book off & on for many years, then it languished a while after that. Then someone told me I should meet Chris Schwarz…and things unfolded from there.  

We were thrilled when the book was published by Lost Art Press a few years ago. I’m pleased as can be with the result, and have a second book on joinery underway. I just had a look through this book now, and I like it a lot. It’s a how-to book with lots of the research behind how we arrived at our techniques. So you see how we do things this way, and why.

I don’t usually sell the book, but as I said, these just poked their heads up. If  you’d like them signed, say so & I’ll scribble in it. Then it’s up to you to catch up to Alexander. So from here, they’d be half-signed.


Peter Follansbee

3 Landing Rd

Kingston MA 02364


You can read more about through these links:





One of the parts we dealt with the other day in class was the drawer construction. In the chest we’re making, the sides join the drawer front just with a nailed rabbet. It’s stupid that I wrote “just” – as if I’m apologizing for some 2nd-class approach to drawer-making, because it’s not dovetailed. The fact is most English (including New England) drawers in this period are rabbeted and nailed. Even when the side-to-front joint is dovetailed (and nailed) the rear is rabbeted. And they work just fine. No more excuses and apologies. here’s some period drawer details.

Because I’m going to show some rough & tumble sort of drawers, I thought I’d compensate by showing some nicely-made ones too. We’ll start there. A drawer from a chest made south of Boston, c. 1660-1700. Half-blind dovetails join the side to the front. Nailed too, those aren’t added later, they’re the real thing. Bottom nailed up to the sides and rear, toe-nailed into a rabbet in the drawer front. Groove in side engages a runner let into the inside of the chest framing. “side-hung” is what this drawer construction is called. All of the drawers I’m showing you today are side-hung. 

dt drawer w nailsEven with dovetails at the front, the rear is rabbeted & nailed. Same drawer.

drawer back no DTs


A rabbeted side-to-front. Nailed. Bottom in a rabbet too.


SI table drawer detail 2




Now let’s get to where it’s at: these 2 drawers I photographed at Yale University’s Furniture Study. the cupboard they come from might be New Haven or Guilford, CT. Bottoms run parallel to the drawer front. Single board on one, multi-board on the other. Drawer sides were too thick for the nails, so were cut down where they rabbet into the front. Drawer front is thicker at its bottom edge than at its top edge, remnants from riving wedge-shaped pieces from the log. Turned pulls fit through the front and are wedged inside.

new haven drawers


New Haven drawer sides & front

These drawer backs are thin, really like a riven clapboard. Dressed (planed) on the inside, rough outside. Nailed & pegged in some cases.

drawer back (2)


for contrast, here’s the front of one of those drawers.





drawer front incl knob

These two are from a Boston chest of drawers. Showing the contrast between the front & back. Finished molded decoration on the deep drawer front, the back of the shallow, smaller drawer is almost just as it came out of the log.


drawer contrast


Here’s a chest with drawer from Ipswich Massachusetts, same time frame. No drawer pulls. No rail below drawer. No framing on the side of the chest covering the drawer. How’s that for simple?


mfa loan (2)


Usually the drawers are full-width of the case. Here’s two side-by-side drawers. With one removed, you can see the runner set in the muntin in this case. The other runner is set in the stiles at the other end of the drawer.


MFA chest drawer detail small

These runners are not anything special. Notches are cut with a saw & chisel, the runners set in. Often toe-nailed too. (this one is not)


As I was picking out pictures, I saw this one & don’t remember seeing drawers done like this before. The drawer front/side is notched – you can just make it out in the top right in this photo. No drawer rail below. I’ll have to go look at this one again, it’s right down the street from my house. Make locally, same period, mid-to-late 17th century.





another wainscot chair project

some years ago, I had two projects making copies of wainscot chairs. Both were projects based on chairs from Hingham, Massachusetts. First, a copy of a wainscot chair at the Brooklyn Museum, here’s the original:

Brooklyn Museum wainscot chair, made in Hingham Massachusetts, 1650-1700

I can’t find my shot of the finished repro right now, but here’s an in-progress shot:

wainscot chair detail b

I called this chair the Edvard Munch chair, because these designs on the vertical panels reminded me of “The Scream.”

That led to making a chair for the town of Hingham. This one stood for much of the twentieth century in the Old Ship Church. Last I knew it was on loan to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Hingham wainscot chair
Hingham wainscot chair

Here’s my copy, which I think is on display in the town library in Hingham:

Lincoln chair, red oak, walnut & maple
Lincoln chair, red oak, walnut & maple

Now comes another project, copying the well-known King Philip chair, or the Cole family chair, depending on what legend you believe. Maybe it’s southeastern Massachusetts, maybe it’s Providence, Rhode Island. I’ve known of the chair for many years, but had never seen it in person. It was published in Robert Blair St George’s book The Wrought Covenant in 1979, and Trent discussed it in the 1999 edition of American Furniture. I went yesterday to the Martin House Farm in Swansea, Massachusetts http://nscdama.org/martin-house-farm/ to see the chair and take notes & measurements. here’s some shots of it.

Front view, feet chopped/worn down. The bottom-most turned bits added at front.


full view of chair

Rear panel carving. Eight divisions on this one, the crest rail is divided into 7s.

back panel

How’s this for brackets? Amazing they have survived.


Molding detail, front apron

molding detail

I find the back of this chair more interesting than the front. “Tabled” panel, sort of a variation on a raised panel. The field is then run with a molding around its perimeter. Molded edges to the framing as well…

rear view

A detail, including an early repair, iron braces nailed on.

back detail

London Joyners v Sawyers, Turners v Joyners

van Vliet's turner, 1635
van Vliet’s turner, 1635
van Vliet's carpenters, 1635
van Vliet’s carpenters, 1635

These two excerpts are from: Henry Laverock Phillips, Annals of the Worshipful Company of Joiners of the City of London, (London: privately printed, 1915)

1633 Petition of the Compy of Joyners &c to the C of Aldermen against Freemen Sawyers

Report to the C of Aldermen…we caused to come before us as well divers of the Cy of Joyners as other freemen Boxmakers as also the Sawyers  we conferred also with the Wardens of the Carpenters Cy touching the matters complained. We find that some few men who were first freemen sawyers of the City were brought up as Weavers bakers clothworkers & the like & afterwards learned the skill of sawing from forreine Sawyers did about twenty years past begin to take apprentices whereby the number of freemen Sawyers are now increased to about twentie persons and that those freemen with their apprentices that work with them are as the free sawyers themselves do affirm number about fifty & eight persons and we find that all the free sawyers are not able to perform the eighth part of the labor and business of sawing within this City &c for the works of his Majesty & others. That within these twentie years the prices of sawing is so exceedingly increased by means that the foremen Sawyers have appropriated the performance of the work & that only forreyners have served under them as that there is now taken sometimes three pence and sometimes four pence for sawing a Curfe of Wainscott which was then done for three half pence and no more. And because when less rates were taken a pair of sawyers were able to get 21/ or 22/ a week.  We think that some course be taken that sawyers may take more moderate rates. We think the full aim of the freesawyers is only to get into their own hands the whole labor of all the Sawing works within this City & be enabled to keep up the high prices for their labor & only to use the labor of Forreners to the prejudice of this City. We find that the freemen do put the forrener on work as servants for them  We find most part of the freemen sawyers are not so skilful neither will they work on any heavy work as in heavy timber but only in boards &c  It was instanced that one Anthony Messenger a Carpenter was arrested for putting a forreyn sawyer on work   Was compelled to go to freemen sawyers to have the work done. This freemen sawyer & his three apprentices after they had taken the work in hand were glad for want of skill to leave the said work & Messenger was enforced to go to a forreyner to perform the same to his loss.  And the Joyners Carpenters Boxmakers complained to us that when they have been compelled to put some free sawyers on work they have so ill performed it for want of skill that the owners of the work have sustained much damage and yet never recompenced We find the Cy of Carpenters have orders for the correction of Sawyers but the free Sawyers themselves have no authority for government of Sawyers. And we find that the Sawyers have been heretofore laborers to the Carpenters & Joyners   We find that the Carpenters have been much hindered by the freemen sawyers by the excessive number of apprentices as also by the number of Carpenters yards which these freemen sawyers keep, some as many as four Carpenters Yards thus engrossing the timber & wainscot and the Carpenters are compelled to get their supply from these Sawyers. The Committees opinion is that the Freemen Sawyers should be limited to the number of Apprentices and to keeping so many Carpenters yards and that the foreiyn Sawyers be not sued for working in this City as they have been. (pp. 25, 26)

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. (pp. 27, 28)