a look at some favorite joined chests

a detail of a carving I did last year…

carving detail

Each time I’m at a museum to study furniture, I ask permission to post my shots of the objects here…some say yes, some say no. I feel like I’ve been very lucky to have so much access to 17th-century furniture, and I know many folks either haven’t got the time or inclination to go search it out. (it’s also heavily skewed to the east coast here in the US…)

I thought I could review some stuff that’s been over on the blog before, there’s always new readers, and it never hurts to see details – even ones you’ve seen before. The following objects are from a group that I studied many years ago with Jennie Alexander and Bob Trent. These were the first oak chests I ever learned about…so I always enjoy looking at them again.

This photograph from 1932 (I think, early ’30s anyway) I saw in the object files at the Gardner Museum in Boston back in the early 1990s. I eventually chased down this chest in a private collection in Maine. Alexander & I published it in our article in American Furniture in 1996. http://www.chipstone.org/article.php/222/American-Furniture-1996/Seventeenth-Century-Joinery-from-Braintree,-Massachusetts:-The-Savell-Shop-Tradition

 

fiske-1932-bw

When I think back on the leg-work to find this – staggering. I also searched for who might have been the original owners in the late 1600s. From our research, we knew the group of chests came from Braintree, Massachusetts, so I had to do some genealogical research stretching back from the 1880s to the 1680s – eventually found some likely candidates, it’s in the article somewhere.

Here’s the same chest, scanned from one of my color slides. Until this one, all but one of the joined chests we had seen had one (sometimes two) drawers underneath. I’ve built copies of this chest many times….

fiske-chest-color-slide_edited-1

Here’s the other w/o drawer-chest, with brackets under the bottom rail. Lost some height of its feet, and has a horrible replaced lid.

joined chest, Jn Savell 1660-1690
joined chest, John Savell 1660-1690

One distinctive feature of these chests is the way the floor fits into the chest. Instead of a higher rear rail that the floor is nailed up to, these guys use a lower rear rail, and sit the floor on it. And nail it. Here’s one I restored, with some white pine floor boards, sliding over the lower rear rail, and fitting into grooves in the side and front rails. The back panel is not yet installed, making it easy to see what’s going on. Tongue & groove joints between the floor boards.

floor boards in chest
floor boards in chest

Same thing on a repro I did, better view of the lower rear rail. sorry for the garish light. (just think, when my new shop is done soon, only-daylight)

bottom boards, joined chest
bottom boards, joined chest

Then the back panel slides up from the feet, fitting into grooves in the stiles & upper rear rail. Here’s an overall view of one lying on its face. A white pine panel, (glued-up to get enough width to fill behind the drawer) – bevelled on its ends and top edge to fit the grooves. Slides behind the lower rear rail(s) – and is nailed to the bottom-most rear rail.

rear-panel

Here’s a detail. It requires some careful layout of the joinery for that/those rear rail(s).  The tenon is “barefaced” – it has only one shoulder. Fun stuff. rear-panel-detail

The same joiners made this desk box, missing its drawers in the upper section. I made one & 1/2 of these a year or so ago..shot it with Roy Underhill, then later at Lie-Nielsen. (Or vise versa, I forget) The Woodwright’s Shop episode is out now, the LN one hopefully before too long. http://www.pbs.org/woodwrightsshop/watch-on-line/watch-season-episodes/2016-2017-episodes/ 

savell-desk-box

Since the 1996 article there have been maybe 6 more of these chests that have shown up in auction houses. etc…I never saw this one, from James Julia Auctions in Maine. Clearly weird drawer pulls, something funny about the lid, but otherwise looks great.

John Savell, c. 1660s-1690
John Savell, c. 1660s-1690

and one with two drawers – we saw only two of those in our research, there might be four now

braintree chest w drawers
braintree chest w drawers

I’ve written about these chests and boxes many times…here’s a search for “Savell” (the name of the joiners who we think made them) https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/?s=Savell  – there’s other stuff mixed in there, but lots of stuff about the chests and the carvings.

two New Haven Colony chests at Yale

carpentry, carpentry, carpentry. I’m thrilled to be making my own workshop, but I’m sick of it. I decided that carpentry is a lot like joinery, just done in uncomfortable positions, and I drop stuff more in carpentry. I can’t wait to be back at the bench full-tilt.

yale-19302265-overall
Meanwhile, I got to go with Bob Van Dyke to the Yale Furniture Study recently in preparation for the joined chest class we’re doing at the Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking. I’ve been very fortunate over the years to get to handle a lot of period furniture; studying the details. It’s still always fun to go over these things. It sounds like an old cliche, but you really do see new stuff with each visit.  The Furniture Study is a great place, one of my favorite stops on the early oak circuit. http://artgallery.yale.edu/furniture-study  The staff there are very helpful, great scene altogether.

We focused on two chests, the one above and this probably related one.

yale-chest-overall

Typical frame & panel format, all oak in both cases. No secondary wood. Here’s some details:

The panels and muntins on the first chest. Scratch-stock moldings; interrupted where the muntins meet the rails.

yale-19302265-front-panel

This one features a paneled lid. The long rails on the lid alternated how they meet the “stiles” – at the back of the lid, the rail is between the stiles, at the front, the stiles join into the rail. Trickier to layout than one that’s symmetrical.

 

yale-19302265-lid-and-rear

Nobody spent much time working the backs of these chests. Hatchet, and a little bit of planing. Not much.

yale-19302265-rear-detail

The other chest is quite similar, but has some distinctions too. Narrower framing parts for one. Here’s the interrupted molding again, and the panel carving using the S-scroll rather than the “double-heart” motif.

yale-195068-detail-panel

This lid is 3 boards, edge jointed together. Very heavy. 2nd set of hinges. Note the molding around the panels on the inside of the rear framing. You don’t see this once you fill the chest with linens. Till is missing, you still see the trenches and hole for it on our right…

yale-195068-inside-2

I often find holes in the carved panels, which are presumed to be for nailing the panel down while carving it. (on the double-heart motif detail, if you click that photo to enlarge it, you can see some of these holes)  This one has a broken-off nail still in it. See, something new all the time…

yale-195068-nail-in-panel

 

shifting to the Greenwood Fest next

carved panel

My days have shifted some, from a focus on the workshop to now a focus on preparation for Greenwood Fest. Time to get some tools & projects together, and after the weekend, time to start moving wood, benches, tools & finally people into the site. The photo above is a carved panel, and one to-be-carved panel for my work at the Festival. I’m going to be working on a joined chest (just the front of it, I expect). Like this one:

white oak chest 2009

I have some great red oak for it, the other day I carved one panel, and the wide center muntin. I’ll carve the rails, stiles and one panel at the event.

carved chest prep

Work on the shop has slowed down now as part of this shift in priority. We got a lot of the sheathing up, leaving openings where the windows will go:

sheathing view 1

The front will have a window on each side of the door, and a pair of them just above. so we did almost no sheathing there yet…just enough to keep it connected to the sills.

sheathing view 2

This side has several windows along it, the one on our left is actually wider than this present opening, we’ll cut some of that sheathing away when the windows go in.

north side

Tucked under the north side of the building is some red oak I just rived for my upcoming class at Lie-Nielsen later this month. https://www.lie-nielsen.com/workshop/USA/129

sheathing view front

Here’s a better view of the front. When things settle down a bit, it will be up on the roof – to install red cedar shingles. Right now, the place reeks from these piles of cedar.

red cedar

I want to take a moment to thank all of you who donated towards my building project – with your help I was able to get all the sheathing & shingles to help keep this project moving along. It means a lot to me, the way folks have responded to this work. I can see the inside of the shop in my head, and I can’t wait to show it to you here on the blog.

The sheathing is locally sawn white pine, from Gurney’s, our favorite sawmill down in Freetown Massachusetts – http://www.gurneyssawmill.com/ – sixth generation of a family owned & operated sawmill.

wow that's a load

 

gurney's

 

The shingles were bought locally, but they are western red cedar – I got them from Taylor Forest Products – they treated me very well. Delivery charge was only $10!! How could that be?  http://www.taylorforest.com/application/home/index.aspx

more about the riven chests of Tamas Gyenes

More photos from Tamas Gyenes, See the first post here: https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/2015/11/30/tamas-gyenes-riven-beech-chests/

Carving through the surface to expose the lighter wood –

04_fotoGyenesTamas_IMGP4287

Here’s how the surface is prepared for that work:

05_fotoGyenesTamas_IMG_8416

The grooves aren’t cut with a plow plane, but with this tool. It seems to me like a small twybill. Detail of the grooving follows.

07_IMGP7691_fotoGyenesTamas

Shaving of the week right here:

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA
cutting the groove
KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA
hewing

03_fotoGyenesTamas_IMG_1595

His note told me he’s working on his 69th chest! And that’s in addition to working a job, having a family, restoring old pieces and writing & researching about the chests. Hmm. seems familiar. Thanks again, Tamas. I’ll keep in touch.

looking back at some joined chests

Sorting through some photos today, and found this chest. Photographed in spring 2005. Not sure when I built it, my guess is i was new when I shot it. It’s at the museum, I think in their education sites. Probably a lot darker than this now. I might have put it on the blog before, but if so, I forget it.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

It was one of a few I did with 2 panels, usually with wide central muntins. I plan on doing one again sometime.

Here’s two more in a similar vein. The first one is my favorite in this series:

white oak chest 2009

three-quarter view

Joined chest class, final session

overviewLast weekend we finished up the chest-class at the Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking. Five months, one weekend per month. It’s a great format for tackling a complex project, but requires a serious commitment of time & money from the students. I am very thankful for the 9 folks who signed on for this ride. Thanks, Leo, Larry, Chris, Phil, Dwight, Matt, Bill, Dylan, Russ and sometimes Michael. And of course Bob Van Dyke for being willing to take the project on in the first place. We’re talking about doing it again next year. Set aside some time…

here’s photos. It was fun to see so many chests coming together. Students worked at their own pace, I showed the steps, and then went around to see where each person did or didn’t need my help. Here’s one chest, next up for it is the panels:

panels next

Phil’s watching his closely, making sure it doesn’t make any sudden moves.

phil takes a breath

 

Matt was able to put in the time for the homework, so his chest moved ahead of some others. He’s pinning it together here:

 

pegging

 

His bottom boards are inserted, and next he trimmed them from behind.

 

bottoms up

 

trimming bottom

 

There was a lot of carving for this chest, every piece in the chest front: rails, stiles, muntins, panels, drawer front.

 

carving

some sub-assemblies. Lots of parts to keep track of, from back when they were coming out of the log to now.

sub assemblies

For me, a fun sideshow was watching Bob Van Dyke driving nails into a trestle table he’s built. Out of his element for sure…

bob w nails

 

 

Here’s his finished table:bob's trestle table

The reason he was uncomfortable nailing table tops – this is his usual sort of work, in this case all done with mirrors (he’s using 2 mirrors to compose the inlay decoration for the table top.) the top will not be nailed on from above.

it's all done w mirrors

 

here’s some posts from earlier in the series on this class.

https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/2015/01/12/2-birds-1-stone-joined-chest-class-at-cvsww-2015/

https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/2015/04/15/joined-chest-class-session-2/

https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/2015/05/26/one-pill-makes-you-larger/

 

 

 

 

 

 

drawers, pt 1

Finally got to working on the drawers for one of the Connecticut chest with drawers. Inside the chest are slats for the side-hung drawers to ride on. One’s installed here, and below it are the notches where the lower drawer will fit. (above the drawer runner is the groove for the chest floor. It’s easier to see what you’re doing if the floor is not yet installed.)

interior

 

 

the drawer sides are thick, nearly 1″. Even thickness makes them easier to handle too. Here, I’m plowing the 3/8″ groove that will ride on the drawer slat/runner. About 1/2″ deep. I’ve got the drawer sides stacked on top of one another, making sure the top piece’s edge is bumped out towards me, for the plow plane’s fence to run…

plowing drawer sides

 

 

Next, I scribe the thickness of the side on the rear face of the drawer front. scribing rabbet

Then saw & split a rabbet in the drawer front. Clean it up and test fit it.

splitting

needs nails

The drawer side is not as tall as the drawer front. This rabbet is for the drawer bottoms to tuck behind.

 

rabbet

 

Here is a test fit of the drawer side – the slat is in place, and I’ve hung the side on it & slide it in & out to see how it rides. It was at this point that I realized I’ve misplaced the handmade nails I’ll use to assemble this drawer. So I started making the 2nd drawer while I hope the nails miraculously re-appear .

 

test fit

Below is the “other one” – a dovetailed drawer. Similar time frame, late 17th century. Just another way of doing things.

the other one