Made room in the shop for turning

Since I moved into my new shop a year & a half ago, I have shuffled semi-finished projects in & out of the way as I worked. I have a chest that has no customer; I made it for photos I needed for my book. I kept thinking I’d find a spot for it in the house. Seemed unlikely, meanwhile it fit nicely under the lathe. So, out of sight, out of mind. Until I needed to turn something. In fact, fitting under there it collected lots of stuff inside it, then I even put boards across the top for more storage. Terrible idea. 

With a lot of turned components coming up in my work, I had to finally deal with it. Spent several hours shuffling stuff around here & there – fitted the chest (still lid-less, still unsold) into the basement and cleaned up the shop. Now, all I need to do is re-learn turning.

Here’s a view from outside, through the open door. All that open space means I can get at the lathe when I need to. I have plans to make a shorter bed for it, so it takes up less floor space. But for now, I need the full-length for some long turning projects in the near future.

 

Prior to turning, I chop all the mortises.

Even bore the pin holes.

Mark the centers.

Turn ’em.

on a good day, I can make them look like this:

Here’s the square table frame, test fitted. Like an over-sized joined stool.

After this one, there’s a large turned chair coming up. That calls for ash. This is a five-footer, splits like it’s perforated. The rear posts will be 4′ long, 2 1/4″ in diameter. Whew.

Shaved octagonal with a drawknife, then mark the center and turn it.

The straight clear ash works like a dream. what a wood…

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3-footed turned stool

 

It feels like a long time since I’ve written about furniture-making. Shop-building & spoon carving have taken up a lot of space here. This week, I’m building a stool that reaches back to the beginnings of this blog in 2008. Here’s one I made many years ago for the museum where I used to work.  These things don’t exist in the wild – not 17th century ones anyway. Chairs built along these lines are common in England and elsewhere. Not New England. These stools are found frequently in Dutch paintings. Note that the three stretchers are at different heights. The seat rails are all at the same height. More on this below.

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I am a joiner who does some turning, not a turner by any means. Especially these days. My lathe had been packed away in storage for 18 months. That’s a long hiatus between turnings! This is almost where the lathe will be in the shop, I plan on moving it further back into the corner when the real setup happens. The pole is up in the peak, about 14′ above my head.

turning

These turnings are pretty basic, just a large gouge & a couple of skew chisels. Wood is straight-grained ash. Riven & hewn before mounting on the lathe.

gouge

skew

one main feature of these stools, and the related chairs, is the joinery at the seat level. All the seat rails are at the same height, so the joints intersect. A large rectangular tenon gets pierced by a smaller turned tenon. Like this:

joint-detail

Here I am scribing a centerline on the end grain of the seat rail. This is the basis for the layout of the tenon.

centerline

Sawing the shoulders.

sawing

Splitting the cheeks.

splitting

Paring to the finished dimension.

paring

The seat rails get a groove plowed in them to receive the beveled panel that is the seat. Here’s how I held it to the bench for cutting with the plow plane. The rectangular tenon is pressed into the teeth of the bench hook, and a notched stock pressed against the round tenon. Holdfast keeps that stick in place. I eyeball that the rectangular tenon is parallel to the benchtop, then the groove goes in the resulting top center of the rail’s surface.

setup for plowing

groove

boring and chopping joinery next time.

here is the same information, in one of my first posts  https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/2008/07/05/three-footed-chair/

https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/2008/09/03/board-seated-turned-chair/

 

Chairs

cod 2003

At my house, the carved joined stuff is in every room. I have tried many times, and always failed, to count the pieces of furniture in this 4 1/2 room house. You’d be amazed at how much stuff you can cram in here. (I’m in the kitchen right now – 9 pieces of free-standing furniture, 3 hanging on the wall, and all the built-in cupboards above the counters)

 plain chair

This week, I have been making this little, big rush-seated chair. Little because it’s a low seat, generally small-size chair. Big because it’s not subtle – the posts are almost 2” square, the rungs fit in holes that are 15/16” in diameter. So little big chair. It’s based on 17th-century chairs that we mostly know from Dutch artwork, more-so than from surviving examples. (next up for it is trimming the posts here & there, weaving the seat…) These are ancestors of the ladderback chairs that I first learned back in the late 1970s/80s. Here’s one that I did about 1984 or so. A more recent kid’s version too.

ladderback

kids

 

I began as a chairmaker. Made ladderbacks, rockers, Windsors – then got into the 17th century & made wainscot chairs, 3-legged & 4-legged. Turned chairs ditto. Leather chairs. Chairs w boxes in the seat. Kid’s chairs, high chairs. My semi-latest chair was the walnut brettstuhl.

But at our kitchen table, the chairs we use at every meal and then some are Windsor chairs I made 20-25 years ago.

c a chair

At my desk too. I once had one of those stupid office chairs, then I came to my senses & remembered that I am a chairmaker. Windsors are lightweight, comfortable, attractive. Sturdy. Fun and challenging to build; carving, turning, shaved work, sculpted seats. good all around projects. And so much variety.

Two things happened this week to remind me of how much I like good Windsor chairs. Lost Art Press announced the release of Pete Galbert’s long-awaited book on Windsor chairs. You already know about that…

One of the days that the mail got through here, I received Curtis Buchanan’s next installment in his printed plans for his chairs, this one a fanback side chair, one of my favorites.

Curtis Buchanan fanback side chair

c b plans

I learned Windsors from Curtis, starting in 1987. I really like his approach, both to his chairs and to his life. If you’ve seen his youtube series on making a Windsor chair – then you’ve seen Curtis’ style, very human, simple, direct – and he makes especially beautiful chairs. This set of plans is 4 pages; some 1/2 scale, some full scale. Two different turning patterns, bending forms, seat profile & plan. Boring angles – a course in Windsor chair making in 4 pages. I’m ordering Pete’s book, but I’m keeping Curtis’ plans too – you never know when I might reach into my past & make some more chairs. We must be able to squeeze one or two more in here…

links:

Curtis’ plans & videos http://www.curtisbuchananchairmaker.com/store/c1/Featured_Products.html

Pete’s book: http://lostartpress.com/collections/books/products/chairmakers-notebook

my wainscot chair video  https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/book-dvds/

 

 

 

 

some chair terms illustrated w period examples

some pictures, spurred on by Chris Schwarz’ last 2 posts on his blog, and my earlier one from today.

A stool. common as can be, but early ones (16th/17th centuries) are less common than hen’s teeth. This one’s from the Mary Rose (1545)

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Joined stool. simple, you’ve seen this sort of thing here hundreds of times.

MET stool small file

Its cousin – the joined form. same thing, just stretched out.

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While we’re at it, let’s get the wainscot chair out of the way.

wainscot chair Pil Hall

 

a variant – the “close” chair, “settle chair” of Randle Holme, although his illustration might be a different version.

metcalfe chair

 

This is what Holme illustrated, I can’t imagine a more difficult way to build a chair.

dug out chair 001

Turned chairs. Ugh. these get weird. First, the “turned chair”  “great (meaning large) chair” “rush chair” – lots of names could mean this item.

BARTLETT CHAIR (2)

This is the one Holme said made by turners or wheelwrights, “wrought with Knops, and rings ouer the feete, these and the chaires, are generally made with three feete.’ = I would say, except when the have four feet.

welsh chair overall 2 welsh chair 12

 

Like this one: the real kicker here is that these chairs have beveled panels for seats, captured in grooves in the seat rails. Thus, sometimes called: a “wooden chair” = chairs often being categorized by their seating materials.

DUTCH turned chair

 

 

Now we have a “wrought” chair, “turkey-work chair” – and so forth. I mentioned in a comment on Chris’ blog the other day, forget the construction here, (joiner’s work, w turned, and in this case, twist-carved bits) it’s the upholstery that makes the splash. These were top-flight items in the 17th century.

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Same gig, only leather. (this photo is I think from Marhamchurch Antiques)

_ALG5130

 

Randle Holme’s turner’s chopping block looks a lot like Chris’ image today from Van Ostade, of a “country stool” – I’d have a chopping block in my kitchen if I could…but we’re out of space.

turners chopping block

 

 

That was fun, I never get to use much of that research these days.

Back to spoon stuff tomorrow…there’s a mess of them available here = https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/spoons-a-bowl-or-two-jan-2015/

 

16th & 17th century English terms for chairs

I hate to do posts without pictures, but this one’s easier that way. I’ll do pictures in a separate post.

if you read Chris Schwarz’ blog, http://blog.lostartpress.com/  you’ve seen his posts about Randle Holme’s seating furniture, and today a discussion between Chris & Suzanne Ellison about stools in particular. Randle Holme’s work has always been one of my favorite resources when studying 17th-century stuff. Another is probate records, particularly the household inventories compiled at the time of a person’s death. One reason these are so helpful is that they are the work of many people, thus we get a wider snapshot than just Randle Holme’s ideas. When you study inventories from a wide geographic range, you get various uses of terms. Once you study New England records, they’re even more mixed up, because you have immigrants from all over England thrown together in a small area. The language gets funny.

here’s some terms I have noted about seating furniture. These go way beyond the limits of Chris’ “furniture of necessity” but are still worthwhile.

My comments in brackets.

Chris – note: “beere stoole” and “ale stole” –

This first set I compiled from J. H. Wilson, editor, Wymondham Inventories (Norwich: Centre of East Anglian Studies, date?)

 

Long forme

Two little buffett stooles

Turned chayer

Litle old stoole

Old close stoole

Cushion stoole

Beere stoole

Back chaiers

Seeled settle

Wicker chaier

Little chaier

Forme

Bench

Three footed stole

Ould chayer

Ale stole

Joyned form

Framed stooles  [not sure how or if a “framed” stool is different from a “joyned” form…the form is long. Framed & joined are usually thought to mean the same thing, joined w mortise & tenons]

Cushin stooles

Back chayers

Cushion chayer with a back

Great back chayers

Footstoole

A forme of joyned worke

Great chayre

Close-chayre

 

Plymouth Colony, (New England) :

1 old brodred stoole  [I think “boarded” in this case, not “embroidered” – but might be…]

2 busted stools 1s6d

3 bossed stooles [I think this is an upholstered stool, trimmed w large headed tacks…]

a close stoole 8s [not just a stool or ease, but any stool w a compartment in its bottom]

a large stoole Covering and many borderings for stooles 10s,

2 wrought stooles [wrought is upholstered]

2 Cushen stooles

six buffitt stooles 10s

Essex County, Massachusetts:

3 Leather stooles 5s

foot stoole

a brewing stoole 1s6d  [“brewing stool” which might clarify the English “beer” and “ale” stools above.]

 

6 cushion stooles & 2 chaires £2

6s  a great stoole or table 3s

an old stoole table

4 Lowe cuchin stools

Back in England, from A. D. Dyer, editor, Probate Inventories of Worcester Tradesmen, 1545-1614 (Worcestershire: W. S. Manley & Son LTD, for the Worcestershire Historical Society, 1967)

Settelles

Forme

Joyned stoles

Chaire

Benche

Gyne/geynyd stoole [think phonetic, thus “joined”]

Small settell of waynscote with a bench

One bench with a back of waynscote

Chayre stooles

Joyned formes

Framed formes

Waineskott benche  [in all of these wainscot means either oak, or frame & panel work.]

 

Peter C. D. Brears, editor, Yorkshire Probate Inventories 1542-1689 (Yorkshire: Yorkshire Archaeological Society, 1972)

 

Formes

Long furram [form?]

Buffet/buffet stooles

Close stoole

Low stoole

Covered stoole

Long settle

Chaires

Sewed cheare

Seald/seeled cheare [this is “ceiled” a term meaning “joined” – joiners were sometimes called “ceilers”

Wanded chaire  [willow/wicker]

 

Francis W. Steer, editor, Farm and Cottage Inventories of Mid-Essex, 1635-1749, (Colchester: Wiles & Son, Ltd., 1950)

Chaire

little chaires

great joyned chayer

high Chairs

low chairs

Joyne inlaid Chaire

Wainscot chair

one Chaire with turn’d pins

leather chaires

Russia lather Chairs

blew cloth Chaires

green chair

chaires bottom’d with rushes

chayre table

turkey worke stooles

stooles

letle Stooles

bucket stools  [seen paintings of chairs made from barrels. never seen an old one surviving]

Joyned stooles/ joint stooles

2 foote stooles

green stooles

join’d stooles buffeded

one settle with 3 boxes in it

bench boards

long bench joyning to the wainscot

long forme

Settell

joyned forme

Great Wicker Chair

low Wicker chair

wicker chayer

 

Michael Reed, editor, The Ipswich Probate Inventories 1583-1631 (Woodbridge, Suffolk, England: Boydell Press for the Suffolk Records Society, 1981)

Form/forme

Buffet stoole/forme

Joyned forme

Frame for a stoole

Stole of easment  – [this one’s clear – a chair w a chamber pot. a shitter]

Lowe ymbrydred stooles

Footestooles/ Ould footstooles

Two round stooles

Green frindged high stooles

Lyttle stoole with a green cover

Ould stooles covered with blue cloth

Three footed stooles

A brasse foot stoole

Joyned stoole

Gyned stole

Small wyndd stooles

6 heigh stoles covered with lether

Old tressell stooles

Six wrought stooles

heigh stooles covered with lether

6 joyned stooles covered with scottish work

5 heigh buffet stoles

Settle

seeld bench-parlor

One high bench with a backe

Chayers litle and great

Oulde chayers

Great chaire

chair table

Wekar/wicker chayer

Wicker chaire with a back

Matted chayers  [chairs w rush seats]

Six old segging chayers

18 chayers of seg cist 7s (?)  [are these serge chairs? i.e. upholstered ?]

Wooden chayer – [Wooden? aren’t they all wooden? This means a wooden seat, not a woven seat.]

Turned chaires

Three green turned chaires

Great turne chayer

One turnors chayre

Old turne chayer

hye turned chayer

hipp turned chayer (?) [I assume bad transcription]

Closse chaire

Back chayrs

one hopp chayer

Childrens chayers

Old backt chair

Joyned chaires great and small

A small Flanders chayer with a backe of green cloth

Great joyned chaire covered with lether

Lether backe chayers, 2 heygh and 2 lower

One chaire covered with scottish work

One great green frindged chaire

One high green chaire

One settworke chaire

Wrought chaires

chayers covered with greene kersye

1 couch as it standeth

House of Chairs

 

black finial

My family & I took a quick trip to visit friends in Maine. No class, no workshop, lecture, etc.  Just plain fun. Scattered about the self-proclaimed “house of chairs”  is a great mis-mash of ladderback chairs. When I began woodworking in 1978, I started with this book.

MACFAT cover

 

It showed how to make a “shaved” chair. Same format as a turned chair, but no turnings.

Here’s a turned Shaker chair –

shaker rocker

 

 

Many years later, I learned some about furniture history & found references to “plain matted chairs” and “turned matted chairs” – matted referring to the woven seats. (See American Furniture, 2008 for an article on shaved chairs – “Early American Shaved Post and Rung Chairs” by Alexander, Follansbee & Trent. )

Here’s a nice $15 version, from French Canada. Through mortises all over, rungs & slats. Probably birch. Posts rectangular, not square. Did they shrink that way, or were they rectangles to begin with? 

 

 

sq post 1b

sq post 1a

 

Rear posts shaved, not bent. 

 

sq popst side

sq post rear

 

Tool marks, sawing off the through tenon, hatchet marks from hewing the post. 

 

sq post tool marks

 

Small wooden pins secure the rungs in the post. Did not see wedges in the through tenons. Tool kit for a chair like this is pretty small, riving & hewing tools – drawkinfe, maybe a shaving horse? – tools for boring a couple of sizes of holes. what else? A knife? a chisel for the slat mortises…

 

sq posat thru t

 

Here’s an armchair – also shaved.  Big. the curved rear posts angle outwards. the arms meet the arris of this post…one front post has a nice sweep to it. I forget if the other does…

sq post armchair

It was a tight spot that had enough light…so I had to tilt to get the whole chair in this shot. 

sq post armchair overall

The side seat rungs and the arms both have this bowed shape…

sq post armchair overall rear above

Although the arms have been moved down in the rear stiles. 

sq post armchair mortise in rear

I couldn’t get high enough to really capture the shape of the rear stile… I’d guess these stiles are bent this time, not shaved. 

sq post armchair rear stile

The front stile, swept outwards. 

 

 

sq post armchair front post

 

You should see the cheese press. A masterwork of mortise-and-tenon joinery.  Next time I’ll empty it and shoot the whole thing. 

cheese press detail

 

cheese press detail 2

 

three-footed chairs again

three-footed chair

 

I’ve been making one of these chairs again lately; and took some time to get some new photos of the old one the museum owns. This is a small chair; and quite nicely done. It has a new seat rail, so at some point it must have been apart…

It looks like either a fruitwood or maybe beech in the posts. The seat board is oak. No idea if it’s original or dates from the time of the new seat rail.

Notice the movement of the rear post. Lots of angles to be bored here; and this chair is fairly plain – i.e. not many pieces. Some have double arms, multiple braces, additional spindles below the seat, etc.
rear view three-footed chair

 

These chairs are common survivors in England. They also appear with frequency in Dutch artwork of the 16th & 17th centuries; but seem to have not been made in early New England. Four-legged chairs with board seats are well-known in New England; but the 3-legged version just seems to drop out of use. Can it be that they were made here & ALL the New England ones didn’t survive? Seems far-fetched.  

One of the little mysteries surrounding New England furniture studies…

Here I am one hot night putting together the frame of the new one. I am making a turned crest rail for this one. I’ll try to get some shots of the rest of the process.

Meanwhile, remember that American Furniture often has great photos of stuff, details & all. Alexander and Trent had a piece about “board-seated turned chairs” not too long ago…

“American Board-Seated Turned Chairs, 1640–1740” by Robert F. Trent and John D. Alexander in American Furniture 2007, edited by Luke Beckerdite. I always encourage more woodworkers to read this journal, even if it’s just for Gavin Ashworth’s photos.