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.
Even with dovetails at the front, the rear is rabbeted & nailed. Same drawer.
A rabbeted side-to-front. Nailed. Bottom in a rabbet too.
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.
These drawer backs are thin, really like a riven clapboard. Dressed (planed) on the inside, rough outside. Nailed & pegged in some cases.
for contrast, here’s the front of one of those drawers.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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:
I can’t find my shot of the finished repro right now, but here’s an in-progress shot:
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
Here’s my copy, which I think is on display in the town library in Hingham:
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.
Rear panel carving. Eight divisions on this one, the crest rail is divided into 7s.
How’s this for brackets? Amazing they have survived.
Molding detail, front apron
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…
A detail, including an early repair, iron braces nailed on.
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)
while in England, a few times in conversation I mentioned a well-known court record, attempting to resolve a dispute between the Carpenters’ Company and the Joiners’ Company. The City Aldermen issued a decision in 1632 that outlined who-makes-what. I first heard it referenced in Benno Forman’s work I think; but I found a lengthy (full length?) version in a history of the Carpenters’ Company. here’s what I have. Typos are mine.
the source is B. Jupp, An Historical Account of the Worshipful Company of Carpenters, (London, Pickering & Chatto, 1887) appendices B and C, pp. 295-302
September 1632…Committees formerly appointed to heare the differences between the Company of Carpenters and Company of Joyners London did deliver into this Court a Reporte in writeing…
According to an Order of this Honoble Court of the last day of May…we have called before us as well the Mr and Wardens and others of the Chiefe of the Company of Carpenters as the Mr Wardens and others of the Chiefe of the Company of Joyners and diverse tymes heard the matters in difference betweene the said Companyes and the reasons and Allegacons on either side produced And doe Certifye to this Honoble Court our opinions concerning the same as hereunder followeth vizt
That these workes next following doe pperly belong to the Joyners
Impris all sorts of Bedsteads whatsoever (onlie except Boarded Bedsteads and nayled together)
Item all sorts of Chayres and stooles which are made with mortesses or tennants
Item all tables of Wainscoate Wallnutt or other Stuffe glewed with frames mortesses or tennants
Item all sorts of formes framed made of boards with the sides pinned or glewed
Item all sorts of Chests being framed duftalled pynned or Glued
Item all sorts of Cabinetts or Boxes duftalled pynned glued or Joyned
Item all Sorte of Cupboards framed duftalled pynned or glued
Item all Sorte of presses for wearinge apparell Mercers Silkmen Haberdashers Gouldsmiths Millenors or Napkin presses being pannelled duftalled pynned or Glued
Item all Sorts of Wainscott and sealing of Howses and setling made by the use of Two Iages (PF:gauges)
Item all Sorts of Shopp Windows that are made for ornament or beautie which cannott bee made without Glew
Item all Sorts of Doores framed pannelled or Glued
Item all hatches iaged framed or Glued
Item all pewes pulpitts and seates with the Deskes belonging to them framed pannelled or Glued
Item all Sorts of frames upon Stalls being framed or Glued
Item all frames for picturs Latesses for Scrivenors or the Like
Item all lyning of Walls or frering for Wainscott
Item all signe boards of Wainscott or carved
Item all worke whatsoever already invented or that hereafter shall bee invented being made by one or two iages with the use of all manner of nayles
Item all carved workes either raised or Cutt through or sunck in with the grounde taken out being wrought and cutt with carving Tooles without the use of Plaines
That all Coffins made of Wainscott but if they bee made of other woode wee conceive fitt that the making thereof be left indifferent either to the Joyners or Carpenters
And these workes following doe properlie belong to the Carpenter
Imprimis all Drapers Tables, all Tables for Tavernes Victuallers Chandlers Compting house Tables and all other Tables made of Deale Elme Oake Beeche or other woode nayled together without Glue except all sorts of Tables either nayled framed or glued being moveable
Item all Sesterne Stooles washing Stooles bucking Stooles and all other Stooles whatsoever that are to be headed with Oake Elme Beeche or Deale and footed with square or round feete Except all framed stooles glued or pinned
Item all sortes of frames [forms?] made of Elme Oake beeche or deale heads with Square or round feete or with feete of Boards or planks with sides of boards to bee nayled or braded soe as they not bee turned feete
Item the Laying of all fflowers of Elme or Oake except such floores of Elme or Oake as are grobed (PF: grooved) which wee conceive properly to belong to the Joyners and if the floore bee of Deale wee conceive fitt that the workmr be left at Liberty to make choyce whether he will have a Carpenter or Joyner to lay the same
Item the dividing of ware-houses and Chambers and other roomes unwainscotted and unpannelled with slitt or whole deales or any other materials Wainscott excepted and except all pticons grooved glued battened or framed
Item the Shelving of all Roomes unwainscotted and unpannelled with Seates and bracketts except worke in Studdies which wee conceive fitt to bee left indifferent to both Companies
Item all Signe Boards not made of Wainscott not glued or carved
Item we conceive fitt that the setting up of all Pillars or ballasters for lights in a particon of what wood soever if the particon be made by the Carpenters doe belong to them but if the particon bee of the Joyners making them do belong to them
Item all Galleries in Churches and other places unlesse of wainscott or pannelled or Carved
Item the shelving in a Kitchen with Racks for Spitts and other Racks for hanging upp of furniture except all peeles
Item the laying of plates and floores for pewes in Churches if they be Laid with Oake or Elme but if with deale the the worke mr to bee at his Choise whether he will have a Carpenter or Joyner to lay them
Item all frames of Skreenes for halls or other Roomes not made of wainscott glued carved or pannelled
And lastly wee think fitt that the Iage be indifferently used by the Carpenters soe as they use the same in the making and perfecting such worke only as before expressed to belong unto them and not otherwise all wch nevertheless wee leave to grave Judgements of this Honoble Court
the humble Peticon of the Mr and Wardens of the Company of Carpenters London…
May it please your honor and worpps to be informed by us…that wee conceive…That theis workes hereafter following doe properly belong unto the Company of Carpenters and not any wayes unto the Company of Joyners which are not formerly expressed in the reporte
Imprimis the building erecting and repairing of all manner of howses & edifices whatsoever of any kinde of timber whatsoever
Item the framing and setting upp of all manner of timber windowes that stand or are to stande in howses built of stone brick or timber.
Item the making and framing of all manner of staires that are to be done of timber board or plancks
Item the making of all manner of penthowses
Item the making and setting up of all manner of postes and seates at gates or Dores
Item the making of cases and plancks for Cellar Dores
Item the making of bulkes or stalles
Item ythe making of all cases for the enclosinge of cesternes
Item the making and setting up of all manner of sheds and hovells
Item the layeing of joysts and planking of stables – And making of racks and mangers
Item the boarding and weatherboarding of howses shedds and hovells
Item the making of all manner of signepostes
Item the making framing and setting upp of postes railes and ballesters in gardens, Leades betwixt houses or elsewhere
Item the making of all mantletrees tassels and footepaces of timber
Item the making of all manner of pales
Item the making of Wharves Camshedds Cranes & bridges of timber and piling and planckinge of foundacons for Wharves and Bridges
Item the makinge of ladders stocks cages and whipping postes
Item the making of poncoiloises
Item the making of frames and stocks for bells and making of bellwheeles
Item the making of all manner of presses made of timber or plancke for Clothworkers Hottpressers Chandlers or any other the like
Item the making of all manner of traughts (PF: troughs?) for Bakers or other professions or for conveyance of water and all manner of truncks for bringing in of light into mens howses shopps or warehouses as also the making of all manner of truncks for Jackwaights or conveyance of water
Item the making of porches and making of lattices and barrs for Taverns and other victualling howses
Item the making of banquetting howses and Arbours of timber or boardes and postes and seates in gardens
Item all manner of or Turretts or Lanthornes to bee sett on Churches Steeples Halls or elsewhere being made of timber
Item the setting up of all Hattmakers plancks
Item the makng and layeing of all manner of beare Joysts Stillimgs & Scantlyngs for Vinteners Brewhouses Victualling howses and in or for anye other howses whatsoever
All which workes wee humblie desire to be allowed unto us the Carpenters as aforesaid being meerly Carpenters worke and done in his mats worke in his howses at Westmr and elsewhere by his mats Carpenter And wee are still charged for the working and pforming thereof and not the Joyners
The Company of Carpenters humbly desire this honorable Court that theis Artickles reported for the Company of Joyners may be altered and qualified for the reasons hereunder and before mentioned vizt:
To the tenth artickle reported wee answere that all Shopwindowes have alwayes belonged unto the Carpenters (except of waynscott) and not unto the Joyners. To the eleaventh that all sortes of Dores whether battoned or unbattoned (except Dores made of waynscott) belonge to the Carpenters and not the the Joyners. To the twelveth that all hatches (except made of waynscott) belong to the Carpenters and not to the Joyners. To the sixteenth that all furring of walls and flowers belonge to the Carpenters. To the eighteenth there is almost noe carpenters worke to be done but they may and doe use the Iage and nailes both in invented and to be invented which being allowed to the Joyner they will doe any Carpenters worke. And therefore wee desire that that article maie be soe qualified & explaned that the Joyner shall not intermeddle in the Carpenters worke. To the nyneteenth the Carpenters saie that they have alwaies used to have the Cutting of postes at Dores, and for staires and to stand in gardens or grassplotts the cutting of ballesters hances tafferells pendants and piramides and the Joyners have not done the same except they be of wainscott.
Also for the Carpenters to be altered for the reasons followinge in theis artickles in the reporte
To the first all tables in that artickle are moveable (and the word except nailed) to be left out for wee cann make none of them without nailes. To the second and third wee cannott make bucking stooles cesterne stooles washing stooles nor formes with square feet but they must be framed and pynned together with pynns which is excepted against the Carpenters. To the fourth the layeng of flowers with oake elme boards or any other boards whether grooved drawen or layed otherwise is Carpenters worke and have ever byn layd by the Carpenter. To the ninth galleries in Churches or elsewhere cannott be made without groovings and being pannelled and the postes to be cutt by the Carpenter. To the tenth all peeles not made of waynskott have alwayes belonged unto the Carpenters. To the eleaventh the layeing of all plates & flowers in Churches of what wood soever doth belonge to the Carpenters. To the twelveth skreenes in halls or elsewhere cannott be made without grooving and pannelling and glueing of some pannells and yett have ever byn made by the Carpenters as witness the making of all ancient skreenes.
I can usually swing with some general symmetry, or “approximate symmetry” as I often call it. This chest of drawers I’ve been building just fooled me, almost knocked me off my feet. I knew it was 2 different designs on the drawer fronts, but for some stupid reason I expected the carving on each drawer front to be symmetrical left-to-right. What was I thinking?
here’s the original – I didn’t even notice how random it is until I began to lay it out today.
I’m back from teaching two classes with the New English Workshop. It was my first trip to England to do woodworking, my previous visits had been for furniture study. It’s an amazing place, a rural little island filled with hobbits and badgers and twitchers and train spotters.
The classes were held at two colleges, my first at Warwick College in Royal Leamington Spa, Warwickshire. Jamie Ward of the College was very helpful and the students there were quite flexible as we worked out the kinks. The first of which was some oak logs that looked like bad firewood. Poor Paul Mayon – he picked me up the first morning, brought me to the school, and we’d known each other for all of 20 minutes when I was telling him that the oak bolts they had were next to useless. Undaunted, Paul trucked off in his typically British tiny car and bought a new section of giant oak (2 really, the 2nd arrived the next day.) installed into Paul’s car with a forklift, I wasn’t sure it would ever come out. Paul’s car was riding low, for a 2-plus hour drive. Meanwhile the students dove in & split what we had so we could get started at least. They were great.
Our class was at one end of the room, while Tom Fidgen’s was at the other end. It was diffuse porous vs ring porous (cherry v oak) all week. You could hear our shavings hit the floor, while theirs floated down to the bottom.
Lots of camaraderie in the evenings, we even had a token American who had been traded to the RAF…
Boxes got made, carving patterns all over the place. Tricia was adamant that she would finish her box, I think her first woodworking project.
The English oak,which by habit I kept calling white oak, was different than our white oak. I know it’s sacrilege to say it, but it felt lighter weight, a bit softer, and certainly easier to split. Even the better logs had knots in them and we were able to split right through them like I never can in American white oak (Quercia alba)
On the weekend, I met up w Mr & Mrs Underhill of Graham, NC, who were there for Roy to teach week 2 in Leamington. We had dinner one night, then the old switcheroo was scheduled for that Saturday – Paul was bringing Chris Schwarz who had been teaching down in Somerset up to Leamington, then turning around to take me down to Zummerzet so I could do week 2 there at Bridgwater College. A too-short round-table lunch was had by all before we headed south…the only other times Roy, Chris & I had all been together had been WIA events, in which case we never saw each other. Hand tool freaks unite!
Bridgwater also boasted a great & helpful staff…and a group of students who were serious about carved oak. Ringers Jon Bayes http://www.riversjoinery.co.uk/ and Richard Francis http://www.flyingshavings.co.uk/ represented England well… I barely had to teach this crew any English terms at all. Like rabbet/”re-bate” or clamp/cramp. The first group insisted that some are clamps, and I insisted that you’re British dammit, call it a cramp.
One thing I was missing was old oak carvings, and the students took care of that. Joel, hewer extroidinaire, scouted out several churches and even arranged for us to get in them after 5 pm…130-odd steps up a circular staircase afforded us a heck of a view of somerset. One pulpit wasn’t oak, I said I wanted my money back. we saw three churches, carved pulpits, bench ends, a chest, and who knows what else. This pulpit is oak:
Tim came down from County Durham, and lent me binocs and a good bird book…I had a simple little bird guide book with me…I saw some nice birds, some well, some fleeting. This’ll be the only time you’ll hear the word tit on this blog. As in blue tit, long tailed tit, willow tit, etc. I didn’t see a great tit. Then of course the day we drove over/down to Heathrow we saw several kites, much larger than I thought…musta seen 6 of them. No pictures, highway driving…
I was invited by Robin Wood to be part of Spoonfest, but that would have meant another week & 1/2 away from home. So, another time. Thanks to all who made my trip a success, especially the ones who waited at home. Why did it take me so long to get hip to Skype?
well, I was going to have some spoons for sale this week, but now I’m shuffling off to Lie-Nielsen for a box-carving class. Figuring I wouldn’t be around to pack & ship, so I’ll wait til next week. A couple of bowls too.
chests with drawers, spoons, bowls, boxes – baskets and more – I hardly know which tools to pick up in the morning. Coming up on a year since I went out on my own, woodworking-wise. what fun…thanks to all of you out there who help me make it happen.