The Essex County cupboard project: recessed front stiles

Many irons in the fire. Between brettstuhls and other things, we spit out the next video for the cupboard project. This one’s about the short, wide recessed front stiles in the lower case. This photo below shows a partially-assembled end section to the lower case. On the bench is the rear stile, the two wide/tall rails we’ve seen before. Between them is the muntin in the middle, and near the top of the photo the piece I’m calling the “recessed front stile” (for lack of a better term, and that’s what it is.)

These stiles are, in New England furniture, unique to this shop’s production as far as I can remember. I started them by laying out and chopping the mortises for the drawer rails. These stiles frame a section that houses two drawers – the lower one about 7″ deep, the upper one about 4″. Between and above & below the drawers are narrow/short rails – 1 1/4″-1 1/2″. Once the mortises were cut, I laid out and cut the tenons that fit this stile between the rails.

The photo below is a bit dark, but you can see perhaps the layout of the near tenon. The odd thing about it to me is that it’s in the tangential plane. Most tenons are in the radial plane in stock like this – so I drew all over it with pencil. Didn’t want any more mishaps. You can see the pin holes bored in the stile’s face where I have the mortises chopped.

Now for the rear shoulder. Switched to a bigger saw and cut those shoulders down to the line. This opens up the top bottom mortises, turning them into what I think of as bridle joints. But these will never show regardless.

Then it’s just a matter of splitting off the waste & paring it, like I do for most of my tenons.

These stiles are chunky, 1 7/8″ x 4 7/8″ – so inside there’s still some moisture. I got some resulting checks on the newly-exposed end grain once I formed the tenons of the first one. (I cut one for still photos, one for videos and there might have been a day in between). Nothing fatal, but on the 2nd one I glued those ends after cutting it. Just to reduce the chance of a split carrying into the edge of the stile.

Below is the whole thing in a short 11-minute video. A new record for me, usually I go on & on. It shows how they all fit together, so might help make sense of this slightly-weird construction. I hope by the end of the month to be able to test-fit the bulk of the framing, both upper & lower cases.

(pt 14 Essex County cupboard project 2021)

Cupboard project: upper case rear stiles

The back of the cupboard’s upper case has an interesting detail in its construction. The frame consists of the two upright stiles, two long horizontal rails and one horizontal panel. Simple. Except for the details of the layout. The bottom rail is set in front of the panel (and ultimately under the floor of this section.) This requires some extra thought when laying out the mortises. It begins by laying out & cutting the mortise for the upper rear rail.

upper mortise

Then I lightly strike the beginnings of the panel groove. This is to give me the layout for the bottom mortise – it’s set inside this groove.

strike the beginning of the panel groove

This next photo is a bit confusing, for good reason. The stile on our left is a total disaster. I chopped mortises in the wrong face of one of the rear stiles, a fatal error – I had to rive out & plane a replacement. These things happen, my mind was on the next step, not on the very basic step of layout & mortising. So to concentrate on the correct stile, on our right below. The bottom mortise is closest to the camera – follow the panel groove and see that it’s in front of this bottom mortise and falls in the middle/toward the front of the upper mortise.

forget the one on the left

This construction allows the rear panel to be inserted after this frame is assembled. You slide it up from below, in front of the bottom rail, and tuck it up into the groove in the top rail. Then it’s nailed to the bottom rail from the back/outside. This small B&W photo is a related cupboard that uses this construction but with several vertical boards rather than one horizontal board.

back of related cupboard

The bottom rail uses a “barefaced” tenon, a tenon with only one shoulder, in this case the rear shoulder. Here’s the layout – penciled in after my great mishap. I was then taking no chances.

barefaced layout

And test-fitted in place.

in front of (or behind I guess) the panel groove

Here’s one more view

3/4 of the rear frame

I first saw this method in a group of chests I studied from Braintree, Massachusetts – here’s one on its back, showing the bottom rear rail – under the floor and with the panel outside it.

bottom of Braintree chest

A detail of the same chest –

rear rail under the floor and panel behind it

Trent showed me the same sort of construction on American kasten – the Dutch-style cupboards made in New York and New Jersey. There clapboards are often substituted for the back panel.

My pride is just about recovered from my blunder and when the replacement stile is ready, I’ll finish framing this rear section. Meanwhile, I moved onto the sides of the upper case, but that’s another post.

(pt 13 Essex County cupboard project 2021)

update on the Essex County cupboard project 2021

rear frame, lower case

For any new readers, or to re-cap for anyone – the major work I have underway for this year is a copy of a large 1680s press cupboard made in Essex County Massachusetts. The original is now at the Massachusetts Historical Society in Boston. https://www.masshist.org/highlights/index.php#id=3231

My notes in the blog show that I first posted about the cupboard project in mid-February. At that point, I planed what oak I had on hand, which wasn’t much. Then in early March got a short log and began planing stock. And kept on, in between other projects. Now much of that planed stock has reached the point where I can take the next steps. So now it will begin to look like something. If you want to see what’s come before, I went back to the blog posts about it and added the line “Essex County cupboard project 2021” so a search on the blog for that phrase will get all the posts (except this one, because I’m still writing it) –  https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/?s=Essex+County+cupboard+project+2021

test fitting

I’m a little out of sequence between what’s happening in the shop and here on the blog. That’s due to a couple things; there’s more work in editing & sorting video than posting photos on the blog – and spring migration got me out birding a lot this month. But stuff is trickling out, and I cut a bunch of joinery on it yesterday. More coming today. 

Some questions I’ve got about the project. It’s for a private client, who will remain private. That’s all we need to say about that. As far as plans/drawings, specs – I can’t really publish those for a couple of reasons. First, the object I’m copying is in a museum collection here in Massachusetts. I got permission from that institution to make this repro. But I didn’t ask for, and won’t ask for, permission to publish all the specifics like a measured set of drawings. Regardless of how I see the “who owns these things” debate, I try to not run afoul of the museums & collections I study – I like to be invited back. So I try to play by their rules. Some institutions don’t like you copying their stuff. No sense arguing with them.

Another reason is that this particular body of work is not solely my research. I collaborated with two groups when studying these pieces 20 years ago – I have mentioned & linked the article I worked on with Robert Trent and Alan Miller – here it is again http://www.chipstone.org/article.php/554/American-Furniture-2001/First-Flowers-of-the-Wilderness:-Mannerist-Furniture-from-a-Northern-Essex-County,-Massachusetts,-Shop-

The other angle I came at these cupboards is through my friends Rob Tarule and Ted Curtin. In 1999 they were making a copy of a related one for the Saugus Iron Works, and included me in the project. I don’t have a photo of that cupboard, but it used to be on view there, and if I remember right, there was a film about us making it. Ahh, found a corner of it on their website   https://www.nps.gov/sair/index.htm

c. 1999 Tarule/Curtin/PF cupboard at the edge of the photo

The article above has lots of photos, but they’re now 20 years old. Some of these cupboards are posted on the web, two at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston – they have good photos of one in particular – https://collections.mfa.org/objects/44557/court-cupboard

(they had more photos last time I looked. That cupboard is accession #51.53   and the other is #32.226)

This one from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NY was also in our article, at that time it was in a private collection. https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/20612  – the Met’s photos are public domain, how nice.

Cupboard, Oak, maple, yellow poplar, with oak and pine, American
Metropolitan Museum of Art cupboard

——————-

So where’d I get yesterday? Started the joinery for the lower case. Framed the back (photo at the top of the post), which is very straight forward – two upright stiles, two horizontal rails and a vertical muntin. This frame has chamfers and bevels on its outer face (the muntin needs molded edges still) – but the corresponding upper case frame is not decorated. Everyone who knows why is dead. 

Then I got to start in on the side framing, which is where the fun begins. Lots of little joinery – four 2” long mortises.

double mortises for double tenons

Double tenons on the wide rails.

the bottom rail almost fitted

I got one set done, tested the framing and quit for the day. The next set will take a bit more time because I’ll shoot video of it. So extra fumbling around. But it’s fun. 

panels next, then the front section(s)

(pt 11 Essex County cupboard project 2021)

Splitting & planing video

new red oak log

First off, my thanks to my friend Rick McKee https://www.instagram.com/medullary_rick/ for helping me at Gurney’s Sawmill last week – we picked out & split up a red oak log & hauled it home. Now I’m back in the thick of planing stuff for the cupboard I’m building. I shot some video & photos there & here at the shop, showing how we split it, then how I choose & plan one of the pieces…

There’s noise at the sawmill (imagine that…) and wind like crazy here, so some caveat emptor with this video. There’s more in the works.

some seating furniture

Took some photos today. First turn was Daniel’s – shooting some of his recent LEGO builds.

Daniel at work
Rivendell

Then mine was shooting semi-proper shots of the recent spate of seating furniture. A couple of things come to me as I sorted these photos. Among them is that I actually do have to go have my camera’s sensor cleaned. I’ve been putting it off due to the pandemic, figuring it’s not that important…but I’m sick of all these spots all over the photos.

This chair is one I assembled either in late December or early January. I forget. I’m mostly happy with it, but I look forward to the next one. Those rear posts are ash, one heartwood, one sapwood. Give them time and they’ll blend together. I didn’t feel like painting it. Now it goes to the kitchen to replace the very first version of this chair that I did.

“democratic” arm chair

Below is the arm-chair version. Both of these are Curtis Buchanan’s design, with my change to the crest rail joint. And on the arms, I made a through tenon into the rear post – which you can’t really assemble unless you put some intentional slop in that joint. It’s glued & wedged. I’ll let you know how it holds up. I did some like it in the early 1990s that have held up.

crest rail joint

The crest rail joint is a 3/8″ wide tenon, made by just tapering the crest’s thickness. There’s no tapering top & bottom. The mortise I made by boring a couple of holes, and paring it with a chisel. Then it’s pinned through the post. You could just as easily wedge it from outside post too.

first joined stool of the year

Then going back and making a joined stool was a walk in the park. Red oak stool, white oak seat. On this subject, I’ve been splitting out stock for more of these – which gave me a chance to shoot some videos of the beginning of that process. When I did the youtube series about joined stools last year, I got the idea when I was already underway. So now I’ve backed up to shoot the beginning. They’ll be ready soon. Daniel is coming back as video-editor – he’s broke and wants some money.

First ladderback of 2021

I had to make a chair so I could shoot some missing photos for Jennie Alexander’s Make a Chair from a Tree. Red oak with hickory rungs. Hickory bark seat. Megan just sent me the most recent set of corrections, so now I go over them again – then we see where we are. We really are getting closer, you’ll see.

Carved box for sale: Alaska yellow cedar – SOLD

carved box; Alaska yellow cedar, white pine, red oak.

I found some quartersawn Alaska yellow cedar for sale on the web last month, and decided to make a special box from it. The carved lid is a dust-magnet; but I couldn’t leave that much blank space in that beautiful wood.

H: 7″ W: 22″ D: 11 3/4″
$1,400 includes shipping in US.

SOLD

It’s a higher price than usual, but it’s not my everyday box. I had only carved a lid on a box like this once or twice before. Some time ago, Paul Fitzsimmons of Marhamchurch Antiques sent me a photo of a box from Exeter, England that used strapwork designs all over like this. I didn’t copy that box, but copied the idea.

As expected, there’s a till inside, this time with red cedar for the bottom & side, ash for the lid.

I tend to mostly use a wooden cleat/hinge arrangement for the lid. For this reason I made the back of the box from red oak – its strength is lent to the extended pin that engages the cleat, which is also oak.

I just finished it today and shot a series of photos once the lid was attached.

the lid; fun to carve. Nice to look at. A demon to dust.

The rabbet joints are glued and pegged. I scrounged an off-cut from the lid to make these yellow cedar pegs for the front.

corner detail

And one more view of the carving on the lid.

The cover and the box

It was 1976. I was eighteen years old. My father had died the year before, and among his effects that came to me by default (I still lived at home) was a tablesaw & jointer, drill press, router, lathe, hand-held “power” tools and an assortment of handtools. I was an art student, aspiring to be a painter. I learned from a neighbor how to use the tablesaw and began to make picture frames for my paintings. Somehow made a bookcase, surfaced with a belt sander. 

That summer I accompanied my mother on a trip to Doylestown, PA to visit her childhood friend. We did the tourism routine there, including the Mercer Museum – so I saw rooms full of antique woodworking tools, but have no recollection of it. I have a vague memory that we visited Nakashima’s showroom – but I might have imagined that. But one thing I know for certain – on that trip someone showed me an early issue of Fine Woodworking magazine. And I subscribed when I got home. Back then, information trickled out, unlike today’s barrage. I used to read every word in each issue, several times in many cases. I still have many of those old copies. And I know many people who tell a similar story. It was through Fine Woodworking that I got onto John Alexander and Drew Langsner. 

The other day, Dave Fisher wrote to me to congratulate me on being on the cover of the new issue. I hadn’t seen the email from FWW and although I knew my box article was in the works, I had no idea it was going to be the cover. I remember when Pete Galbert wrote his version of this blog post – and now it’s my turn. Thanks to everybody at the magazine for making it  happen, I appreciate it. 

Barry Dima came up here in the beginning of this year to shoot the article about making the carved box. Because the whole world flipped upside down shortly after that, I forgot about it. Every now & then it would come up again and I’d be surprised. Recently I was sorting photographs and saw that box & couldn’t place it. Then I remembered I had sent the box down to them to photograph – now they’re done with it, so it’s available for sale. 

Approx dimensions are H: 8 1/2”  W: 24” D: 12 5/8”

Red oak box, pine lid and bottom. Till inside. SOLD
$900 includes shipping in US. Leave a comment or send an email if you’d like it. Check or paypal ($927 through paypal.) Or when the magazine comes out, you can make your own.

Make a Joint Stool from a Tree

2012. That’s when the Joint Stool book appeared with Lost Art Press. I forget, but I think it was one of their first “outside” books, i.e. authors other than Chris/or reprints. It is a book that is near & dear to me, representing 20-plus years of my collaboration with Jennie Alexander – I learned so much in that period it’s always fun to look back on the whole ride. 

Chris wrote to me recently, saying it’s time for the 2nd printing, and would I write something about JA for it. So I added a new short intro – that’s all that’s changed for content. Chris made some changes in paper choice, and we switched it to a board cover. The aim was to lower the price of it from here on out. 

But there’s still some hardcover copies left, and they have put them on sale to move them ahead of the new printing coming in. So if you want the original hardcover – now’s the time to get it for $27 – I think it was $43, so not insignificant. Have at it.  https://lostartpress.com/collections/books/products/make-a-joint-stool-from-a-tree 

In my back & forth with Chris, I mentioned that I had wanted to add a shaved baluster instead of a turned one. But never had the time. So I said maybe we could do it as a blog post – then I searched & realized we had already done it! I knew it was a good idea.

 https://blog.lostartpress.com/2012/07/02/joint-stools-without-a-lathe/

Carving Crossed S-scrolls video

Daniel started school lessons recently, so I have to compete for his spare time. Promised him money, that worked this time. We got the next video in the Carving Oak Patterns series – these are to accompany the Carving Drawings https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/carving-drawings-17th-century-work-from-devon-england-and-ipswich-massachusetts-set-1/

 

This is the third video in the series; fourth if you count the intro to the drawings. I have several more to go, some of which have already been shot and just need editing. The floral panel I plan on shooting in the next week or so. Then it’s on to finishing the next set of drawings. I post all of the videos here on the blog as well as on youtube.

This one I shot the steps and discussed them as I went along, then carved the whole pattern a second time with little commentary, trying to just carve it in “real” time. (I hate that expression). So the back 12 minutes or so is a bit redundant. You’re warned, repetition is the mother of retention.

 

Two carved boxes for sale

A couple of carved boxes available for sale. If you’re interested in one, email me or leave a comment. Peterfollansbee7@gmail.com

(for some reason, when I previewed this post, to enlarge the photos I have to click them twice. It’s worth it.)

I’m making some chairs next; and still have two of those for sale. https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/ladderback-chairs-oak-boxes-for-sale/

CARVED BUTTERNUT BOX – SOLD

The first one is made from butternut (Juglans cinerea) – a relative of walnut. This was a wide board that I cut apart to make quartersawn stock. I chose a strapwork pattern for the front and sides – I wanted to make the most of this fabulous wood for carving. Wooden hinges (the back board and the cleats under the lid are oak), a till inside. Pine bottom as usual.

H: 9 1/2″   W: 24 1/4″ D: 14 1/2″
$1,200 including shipping in US.

———————–

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

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