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.


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:




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.



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.










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.)




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.


needs nails

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




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


one pill makes you larger…


poor russ

Poor Russ. I have no proof that Bob Van Dyke dosed him, but there was Jefferson Airplane music playing much of the afternoon; I heard “White Rabbit” at least 3 times. When we got to the demo of me carving the central part of the design below, Russ struggled with the photograph – his eye & mind were seeing “innie” when it should be “outie” & vice-versa. 

center panel_edited-1


Here’s the same panel flipped upside-down. Sometimes the shadows being above the design make things weird. Right now, I can’t see it “wrong” – but sometimes I can. Russ couldn’t see it right at the time. Often I tell people to close their eyes, then look again. That often fixes it, but the best thing to do is put the photograph right-side up. Or like Alice, just bite from the other side of the mushroom. 

center panel_pside down



joined chest class session 2

Last weekend was the 2nd session (of 5) of the joined chest class I’m teaching at Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking. These guys are working pretty hard…here’s pictures and captions –

mortising detail
mortising the front stiles – 6 mortises per stile
mortising from on high
mortising from on high


test fitting
test fitting a front frame
joined stool
a student tried to butter me up, showing me his joined stool (nice work, Larry)

The 2nd day we met at the yard where we’ve been splitting the logs into parts. Time for the students to do some heavy work.

I kicked it off, a 10′ log, nearly 30″ in diameter. We need lots of oak
you gotta watch them
as you can see, you gotta watch these logs.





the first split in a long one is often tough
now it looks big
this view shows its true size – it’s big.
laying out panels
marking out panels
half & half again
then split along the dotted lines
later we got to some froe work


premium material
I guarded the wide panel stock closely. we need panels 11″ and 13″ wide at least


fragrant load
a whole bunch of stinky smelling cars left that site. Back in 6 weeks for round 3





oak and birds

This weekend we worked on the joined chest project at Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking. I’ll write a post about it tomorrow, but in the aftermath of that weekend, I had a few wide oak panels to rive out for planing this week. As they were busted from the log, they were grossly thick for one panel, but most were too thin at the inside edge for two. This calls for some tricky froe-work.

these bolts were 22″ long or so. and in this photo, just over 13″ wide. This one was thick enough to split in two, one panel might come out just narrower than 12″ = once I hew & plane them, they’ll be in the range of 3/4″ thick.

two wides


The others weren’t quite the same original thickness, so I had to split them off-center. This gets one wide panel, and one narrower panel. It saves wood, saves hewing, and is all-around well worth it. When it works. Below you see I’ve driven the froe in parallel to the wide face, but it doesn’t reach all the way to the inner edge. To split successfully this way requires the straightest grain, and most agreeable oak. This inner, narrow panel will finish about 6″ or 7″ wide.

extra splits


Here’s a detail of how the two panels lie in the oak:
wide & narrow



I did about four of them this afternoon, while unpacking the car & tools from the weekend. Here’s a detail showing a 14″ panel and its 12″ neighbor.

two parts of one

Once I drive the froe into the split, I jam the bolt in the riving brake – I wouldn’t like to attempt this without one. When it goes right, you hear a SNAP when the froe is twisted and the oak breaks free. I’d only try this on short lengths in these widths.



off splits

Earlier in the day, look who I found – the redtail hawk from the other day:



If we hadn’t seen him drop down to the ground, we’d never have found him among the beat-down grass –





He caught something there, and we watched him for a while. Then decided to leave him to his brunch… (or her…we don’t know. It is a good size bird, might be female…doesn’t really matter, to me anyway.)

well matched

Later, a kestrel, lousy photo though. Can’t get anywhere near them.


ditto for a bluebird.


But almost every year about this time, I photograph & post a picture of a snipe. Usually I pair it with photos of the hinges I use for boxes and chests. https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/2011/12/14/setting-gimmals-you-might-know-them-as-snipe-bills/  (Ahh, that post was from Dec, but I found photos of snipe from April 5, 2013. everything is late this year)

Maureen found this one (then a 2nd one) right in front of us in the blind at the Audubon place where we were walking…

One snipe.


Two snipes. they blend in more than the hawk did.





winter time & the living is easy

For green woodworkers anyway. In summer, working in the wood pile can be unpleasant sometimes. Buggy, hot, humid. The wood storage can get to be a problem. Insects can get in your wood, decay can set into some species pretty quickly.

But in winter….it’s another story. This pile is against a steep embankment in my yard. 

wood storage


4 footers and up


Storing green wood in the log this time of year is a breeze. It’s like suspended animation, even better than Ted Williams’ head. (this is a sure thing, Ted’s head, I doubt it)  I try to store the stuff I need the most upright. There’s a few benefits. You don’t have to lift and heave big heavy log sections around to get at the one that’s just exactly perfect for what you need. And when it snows, it’s easier to uncover the stash. The short stuff in this pile is just over four feet, the birch might be over 6′. (I don’t know what that is in the other measuring system)

split & rived & ready to go in

Here’s some I split out today, broke it down further at the riving brake, and now will bring it in to plane  the long stuff for some joined chests & a cupboard. There’s other less-pressing stock under the snow. It can wait. 

The kids took a jaunt around the yard to test-drive their new snowshoes. More snow on the way, we’ll hit the woods tomorrow or the next day. 

REF snow shoes

DRF snow shoes

Spooked a great blue heron down by the river. 

GBH away