the wainscot chair panel & more

Some catch up about the wainscot chair underway. First off, the back of the panel is decorated, unlike most (all?) New England wainscots – in this case a raised/tabled panel. The raising is quite distinct, leaving a high rectangle (the table) that is then set off by scraping a molded edge to it. Here, I have the panel on the bench, pausing in mid-bevelling.

raised tabled panel

Here it is, test-fitted into the rear stiles & crest rail. The stiles still need moldings scraped along their long edges. This section is leaning against the front section, so you see the scrolled apron peeking through behind. I can’t wait to work in the new shop, where I hope to have some room for photos!

back of the back

 

The front of the panel has 4 “crop circles” (I had to give them some name…) – you might have seen an earlier post where I showed a couple of period examples of this decoration.

front of the back

I had no evidence regarding what tool might have made these shapes – I’ve only seen the circles a few times… so I made a tool much like a wooden brace, or “wimble” as it’s sometimes called. But instead of a boring bit in the bottom, I inserted a scraper, like we use on scratch stocks for molding.

crop circle wimble

Here’s the head. I left it loose, thinking I might like to use this head for an actual brace (that’s what I cut it for ages ago, was just lucky I could find it now, & thus didn’t have to make it)

head of wimble

Here’s the scraping profile, and the result. If I had time to spend, I would have rounded the end of the tool, and installed a ferrule to keep the cutter in place. I tried a screw like I use on scratch stocks, but it split the maple. So I temporarily clamped the end closed, cut the circles & moved on.

crop circle & cutter

Our neighbor Sara invited us to see Sara & Brad, fish monitors from the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries checking the smelt coming up the river. We had quite a time. Birds I know because they fly right around where you can see them, but the fish rarely poke their heads out of the water…

here’s the fyke net:

fike net

Here’s one of the smelt. I think I heard them say they caught 190 overnight, and over 400 in 4 days this week. They told us it has been the best year (out of 14 or so) they have had for smelt. they do the whole “record-them, measure them, toss them back” thing.

smelt

some chair making in between all the excitement

crest

In between the raising and moving & stacking roughly 160 white pine boards I got some work in on the wainscot chair(s) I have underway. Soon, I’ll set up my lathe (yes, even before the shop is closed in) and get on with turning the front stiles in these chairs. But before that, I can do all the joinery and other decoration. There’s some rather pedestrian carving, some scroll work on the lower edge of the aprons, and top of the crest, and some scratched moldings on the rails and stiles.

The scroll work on the aprons is simply a matter of boring a few holes, connecting some dots with a turning saw, and clean-up with a chisel. One nice feature almost every time I see this detail is that the scroll work is cut into an angled rabbet on the bottom of the rail. This tilts the scroll work upwards to the viewer’s eyes, and thins out the piece to be pierced. Those old guys knew what they were about.

scrolled apron
One detail on the carved panel of the original chair is something I have only seen a few times before – these little round bits (bottom corners in this photo) – they look like turned decoration, but that’s nuts of course. They aren’t carved, that’s for sure. They seem to be made like “scratch stock” moldings, but around an axis.

back panel

Here’s a detail of some on an English box I saw years ago:

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Carved box detail

After some head-scratching, I decided I’m going to make a wooden brace fitted out with a molding scraper, like a scratch stock. Now that the pine boards are all stickered, I can go back to working  on the chairs. If the brace does the job, you’ll hear about it

Next up it’s time to hide the frame

I really like the look of a timber frame against the sky; a giant wooden skeleton, all pegged together.

finished frame
finished frame

Pret designed this one with asymmetrical braces – often braces are at 45-degrees, but these are laid out two feet out from the vertical post, and three feet from the horizontal (either the tie-beam or the plate). He’s right, they look very nice, now that all the mind-crushing & teeth-gnashing is over and the joints all pegged.

It’s been fun this past week having the frame in our view. But this ain’t the old world, with its half-timbered framing tradition, wattle & daub and brick infill.

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mythical or not – an attractive look

Here in New England the tradition is to cover the frame with sheathing – the frame only showing inside the building. Not as romantic, not as attractive; but I rarely mess with tradition. Thus, it’s time to cover that thing up.

Yesterday, Nathan Goodwin, a regular at some Plymouth CRAFT events, kindly hauled me in his truck and trailer down to East Freetown Massachusetts, to Gurney’s Sawmill to pick up our order of white pine sheathing/siding and floor boards.

gurney's
I didn’t see Paul at the mill, looks like he’s posing for the sign

I usually buy wood as a log – thus one piece, or a few boards at a time. But this framed building is the largest thing I eve made…so I need more boards than usual.

wow that's a load
wow – that’s a lot of boards for me…

I stacked and stickered the boards, and our next move will be to sheath around the corners of the building, to tie the frame to the sills. Then tackle sheathing the roof, which will then be covered with wooden shingles. And no, I am not making the shingles. There’s only so many hours in the day.

stack 1
stack one of two

If you’re around this area, try Gurney’s – they’re the nicest folks. It’s like stepping back in time… http://www.gurneyssawmill.com/

Did this one go twice?

Yesterday was the day we’ve been waiting for – frame-raising day. Pret & I laid out & cut joinery a little more than part-time for almost 3 months. So many friends gathered on Saturday here by the river, neighbors came to watch (& got roped into driving pins) – and we had a great time assembling & raising the frame.

Back when I did a lot of research into 17th century woodworking, I read M. Halsey Thomas, editor, The Diary of Samuel Sewall 1674-1729 2 volumes, (New York: Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 1973). On page 11 I found: “Saturday, May 15. (1675) Brother’s house was raised, at the raising of which I was. Two Pins lower Summer. [footnote: Throughout the Diary, Sewall records driving nails or wooden pins in buildings under construction. This gesture of good will and voluntary association with the enterprise is traced by H. W. Haynes to Roman and Old Testament sources…]

I tried to include as many of the visitors as would be willingly led to the deck to drive pins. When else are they going to get a chance to do that? The first timber-frame raising I took part in was at Drew Langsner’s in the mid-1980s. Daniel O’Hagan was the instructor for that class…back in 1959 Daniel wrote a letter to the Catholic Worker newspaper which included this snippet:

“I went to a neighbor’s barn raising last week, and after the heavy beams had gone up and were pinned together, we stopped for a bite to eat. Most of the men were Mennonites, and most came by horse-drawn vehicles.

What an eye-opener and lesson in cooperation, to see 20 men walk over to an enormous oak timber and, after placing stout sticks under it, how gently, how quietly and easily, the great beam rose off the ground and was carried and laid at its destination! No shouting, no profanity, not rattling engines or gears grinding, not even an order to start heaving!

If only co-operation would be ingrained in us as competition has been!”

Yesterday, Maureen, the kids & I were delighted to be hosts to a large group of friends and neighbors, all working together and sharing a great experience. No nail guns or compressors could hold a candle to it!   

I’ll write more about it this week, here’s a gallery of photos, no particular order:

wainscot chairs, front stiles & side rails

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

In between working on the shop frame, I’ve been slowly working on 2 wainscot chairs. It’s been a while since I have made any of these, (the one above is now in the Hingham Massachusetts public library, so I’m told) – a long hiatus means they are again worth a look. The aspect to cover today is the shape of the front stiles, and the resulting configuration of the side rail’s tenon shoulders.

Wainscot chair’s seats are wider at the front than at the rear, so the side rails are angled. So – do you cut angled mortises? Tenons? Or what?

Some have front stiles with a square cross-section. In cutting the front rails’ tenons, it means nothing. 90-degree shoulders, and away you go. On the side rails – what to do? The ones I’ve studied closely have angled tenon shoulders, but the tenon itself is in line with the rail. This keeps the long fibers intact, making a strong tenon. Requires some geometry to get the angles right on those shoulders, I just scribe the whole chair seat full-scale on either the bench top, some clear wide piece of wood, or any other handy surface. Then take the angles from there with an adjustable bevel.

The real challenge is cutting the mortise at an angle. I’m spoiled by cutting most of my joinery in perfect straight grained wood, in which case mortising is easy. In this case, I have to chop the mortise at an angle, so across the fibers. Like those with ordinary wood. Aggghhh.

Back when I made the DVD with Lie-Nielsen on making these chairs, I made two sample joints. Here’s the square stile version, closed and opened.

sq stile angled rail

sq stile angled shoulder open

One hazard with the square stiles and angled mortises is the chance to bust your mortise out the side face of the stile. I’ve done it, and seen it on old chairs. Another way to do it is to plane the front stile to a weird cr0ss-section, and then your rails have 90-degree shoulders no matter whether they are front rails or side rails. And your mortises are parallel to the face they are struck from. Like this:

shaped stile

shaped stile joint open

Sorry that side rail is not quite in focus, but it’s not worth setting it up again! You get the gist of it, the shoulders on that rail are cut at 90-degrees. It’s a weird piece to plane, two corners are 90-degrees, and the others are not. The chairs I’m making now use this kind of front stile. I promptly forgot that & cut one side rail with angled shoulders! Out of practice, but now I’m getting more…

Here’s a somewhat poor shot from the chair I’m now copying, showing the side rail on our right, and the front rail across the top of the photo. You get an idea of the front stile’s cross-section, and the applied molding shows the general angle too.

seat angle

At the side-rail-to-rear-stile joint, it’s immaterial. You have to use an angled shoulder there, because the flat front face of the rear stiles is parallel to the flat front face of the front stiles. too confusing? When I make the rear stiles I’ll show some of that geometry .

The DVD on making wainscot chairs is available from Lie-Nielsen, and I have some copies for sale as well. It’s long, but in it I make parts for 2 chairs, showing both these arrangements. https://www.lie-nielsen.com/product/home-education-videos/17th-century-wainscot-chair-with-peter-follansbee?node=4243

Connect the dots

Remember the other night when I showed some drawings and carvings, I included this one that I was working for the frame I’m cutting.

devon pattern cropped

Here is the brace with that design on it – done in pine, frustrating carving softwood. It’s not like carving oak.

brace

I know this pattern from surviving carvings on oak furniture made in Devon in the 2nd half of the seventeenth century. I have a fair number of reference photographs of works I studied over there, and related ones made here in Massachusetts. But by far, the best on-line reference for Devon oak furniture is Paul Fitzsimmons’ Marhamchurch Antiques website. I always open his emails, and always take the time to look at his newest offerings. They never disappoint. http://www.marhamchurchantiques.com/current-stock/all/

Here’s that motif from a chest Paul posted some time back:

OSM chest

The bottom rail is the one I’m thinking of, the top rail is related, but a variation. Here’s another, I forget where this photo came from, the chest is Devon, c. 1660-1700.

chest w drawer feb 2010

While scrolling through some reference materials here at home the other day, I remembered Thomas Trevelyon. His story is complicated, but he produced perhaps 3 manuscripts, c. 1608-1616 of various subjects. Astounding stuff. In some of my last years at the museum, our reference library received a facsimile copy of one of these, I think I might have been one of only two  people to even look at it. These aren’t pattern books, because they were never printed – they’re manuscripts. I never got straight what the purpose was.  BUT – purpose or not, here, the border of this illustration is what I was remembering:

124v-125r

This one’s from University College, London – I got it from here,  http://collation.folger.edu/2012/12/a-third-manuscript-by-thomas-trevelyontrevelian/

where you can read much of the story about Trevelyon. One of his manuscripts is now digitized & available here:  http://folgerpedia.folger.edu/Word_%26_Image:_The_Trevelyon_Miscellany_of_1608

He uses this border a lot in the UCL manuscript. Sometimes there’s a flower between the S-scrolls. This pattern will make its way into all of my furniture-carving classes this year. It’s great fun to connect the dots like this.

 

 

Leftover photos

flight

It’s a busy time of year for most everybody…here’s some scattered stuff I haven’t got around to posting. These shots from Plymouth Beach are now a week or more old – I wish I was there right now, the most peaceful spot nearby…the birds are almost all dunlin. We saw a few sanderlings mixed with them.

flight 2

feeding

dunlin

dunlin & sanderling flight

 

prints

We took the kids to the Museum of Fine Arts the other day. I’ve been going to this museum since my high school days, early 1970s. The kids always want to see the stuff they’ve seen before, so we always need to factor that in for our time allowance. The ship-model exhibit is always a big hit. we try to remember to bring a sketchbook too.

other note taker

sketching

Follansbee pointing to Follansbee-under-glass.

follansbee under glass

[Here’s that upper case back when I was making it – ]

helpers test-fitting the cupboard section

In the Art of the Americas exhibit, I ran across this New York/Western New England splint basket –

ash basket

ash basket detail

There’s a large exhibit for another few weeks of Dutch paintings – the sort of thing we used to study in detail at our museum jobs – no photography allowed in that exhibit, but outside it, there’s a painting you can pose in & take a picture. Museums love this sort of drek these days.

 

 

 

in a painting

Back at home, the principal reason for building a “tool shed” is that there’s no room to work in the house. To compound the small space problem, I brought into the room a 12′ white pine 6×6 for carving. Made a small room smaller. When the holiday’s festivities are out of the way, we’ll get on with framing it.

small space even smaller

carving done

The feeder birds are around, usual participants. But some numbers are noticeable – counted 8 male cardinals the other morning, along with some females. Every once in a while we get lots of them. Usually just four or five…it was a dreary, rainy day – I could only get a couple in each photo. Plus they don’t sit still.

other 2 of 8

2 of 8

The red tail hawk sits in a cherry tree in Marshfield, pretty reliable. Lotta spoon crooks in that tree.

rt hawk

That’s enough. I must have stuff I’m supposed to be doing. Distracting the children most likely the priority.

egypt