On to the next thing

stamp by Peter Ross

I finished the joined carved chest. Finally. And mostly finished the video series about making it. The last bit was making the lid and attaching it. I sorted it into 2 videos – and I shot and edited the first one & forgot to post it. When I finished part 2 & posted it an astute member of the audience kindly pointed out there was no part 1…but now they’re done. I will post one more part -sharpening carving gouges. But not for a couple of weeks, I’m sick of the sound of my own voice. Right now it stands at 21 hours of video on making the chest. I used to figure a chest like this at about 80 hours of work, maybe more now. So be glad I didn’t shoot the whole thing.


joined chest with drawer, red and white oak, white pine 2022

One of the pieces I left til the end was the turned drawer knobs. With my recent cantankerous joints I wasn’t up to tromping on the spring pole lathe. But I’ve been on the mend, so took a stab at them. Worked out fine.

white oak drawer knob

On to the next thing – in spades.

cherry pillar, rough turning

I decided to push my luck and begin turning the pillars for the cupboard I’m building. I roughed out one in cherry yesterday. It’s aiming for 4 1/4″ thick at its greatest diameter. About 16″ long. At this point, I leave it quite rough and well oversized – about 1/2″ thicker in most places. It’s as green as can be. All that shaping exposes lots of end grain, so it’ll begin losing moisture quickly. Not too quickly, or it will crack. So in a bag full of shavings it goes. I’ll keep an eye on it and switch it to a paper bag soon. Too much moisture can create mold. It’s a balancing act.

I then went on to some lighter work – painting. For reasons unknown to me, 17th century New England joiners often created moldings that they then painted black. Sort of wipes out most shadows thrown by the shapes. Beats me, but my job is to copy this stuff. So some masking tape and black pigment mixed in linseed oil/turpentine/drying medium.

Here’s some of the rails for the upper case. The molding is a flat groove cut with a plow plane, then a cove scraped on each edge of that groove. But from this vantage point, it just looks like racing stripes.

black moldings on framing parts

“Send out for some pillars…

& Cecil B. DeMille.”

the “Stent” panel, early 17th century England

Yesterday Michael Burrey dropped off some maple bolts – so today I got to turn a pillar, either for the cupboard or for practice. It’s been over 20 years since I turned one of these big pieces.

Maple isn’t my favorite riving wood by a long shot, but every now & then you find one that splits well enough. This section was fairly cooperative.

the larger section is the one I need

I scribed a 5” circle on the end and rived & hewed away the excess. Somewhere in there, I trimmed it to about 18” long. 

To prep it for turning, I wanted to make it as even as I could without getting too crazy time-wise. Last time I did this, I didn’t know Dave Fisher’s great methods for prepping his bowl blanks. This time, I used some ideas based on Dave’s work. I struck a line through the middle of my 5” circle, and shimmed the bolt on the bench til that line was plumb.

line up this end & that end

Then struck a related line on the other end. From there, I could measure how high the centerpoint of the first circle was (3” off the bench) and scribe one in the same position on the other end. And strike that circle. Then shave down to those circles. 

roughing it out w a drawknife

I then struck a new 3” circle on one end, to hew and shave a taper to the bottom end of the pillar. 

hewn taper at one end

Then it went on the lathe. At that point, it weighed 11 lbs 6 oz. (5.16 kg they tell me). Wrapping the cord around something even 3” in diameter means you’re turning slowly at first. So my objective early on is to determine the location of a cove and start to rough it out. That way I can move the cord there ASAP. Get more revolutions per tromp, and a smoother cut as the piece spins faster. 

well underway

I spent a long time on this piece; between being out of practice, out of shape, taking still photos & video, and checking dimensions – I plodded along. Hadn’t turned maple in so long, and I’m always astounded at the long ribbon shavings you get, even from a pole lathe.

a horrible photo

I live in a fantasy in which I’m about one afternoon’s cleaning away from being organized. Nothing is further from the truth though. And using the lathe drives that point home. My shop is on the small side, 12′ x 16′ – the local building codes allowed me to do it without permits & inspections if I kept it under 200 sq ft. The price I pay is that the lathe is tucked against the back wall, and I have to pull it out about 2 feet when I need it. And I don’t do a lot of turning, so often junk gets piled on the lathe temporarily. So this photo above shows some of the mayhem that ensues when I dig out the lathe. It’s one of the worst photos I’ve taken in the shop in ages – too cluttered and the photo of the pillar propped up at the lathe is extremely helpful to me, but so disorienting to look at here, with the open door beyond.

the pillar roughed out

I got the pillar to a good point for quitting for the day. About 1/4″-3/8″ oversized for now. I’m aiming for a greater diameter of 4 1/2″ and the coves are about 1″ plus. The bits just inside the tenons will be 2 1/2″. Overall length between the tenons is 14 1/2″. At this stage, the general form is established. I put it in a paper bag with some of the shavings to hopefully dry it slowly and not have it crack apart. I’ll put it back on the lathe in a few days to turn the final size and the details. Weight at this point – 5 lbs. (2.27 kg). I didn’t weigh the shavings. Tomorrow is that cleaning day, I’m going to get organized this time…

(pt 5 Essex County cupboard project 2021)