In the class, we will delve deeply into the period chest we’re studying/copying, but will also look at numerous variations. These chests (Wethersfield/Windsor/Hartford area of CT) often have one large horizontal panel over 2 vertical panels. the upper panel is glued up in every one I’ve seen and made notes on… but the students will be making single-drawer versions. So that changes how we format the end view. I’ll offer them 2 versions & they can decide which to use.
There is no typical arrangement – but there are several that we see over & over. Like these:
a joined chest, one large horizontal panel on the ends. This panel is about 14″ wide (top to bottom) It requires a tree in the range of 36″ in diameter, straight as can be.
One way around that issue is to divide the end with a muntin, and use two narrower vertical panels. Two more joints, but not a big deal. I do this most commonly. Note here the side top rail and the front top rail are different dimensions.
This next one is a chest with a single drawer. So two side-by-side panels above a single horizontal panel. In some cases, these panels all end up the same width – nice & neat for stock preparation.
Here’s a chest of drawers, and I have found this arrangement on chests with 2 drawers too – two sets of vertical side-by-side panels. or 2 over 2 if you want to phrase it that way. You can cover a lot of ground this way.
How these side views relate to the front view and more interestingly, to the rear view is a study in itself. Come take the class – we’ll be able to really explore joined chests in excruciating detail. You’ll be well-versed in joined chests by the end. The End.
Today I spent a good deal of time on my hands & knees. I was with Bob Van Dyke, Will Neptune and Christina Vida collecting information for the joined chest class we’re doing at the Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking this year. (to read the class description, follow this link,
We’re building a version of this Connecticut chest with drawers. For the class, it will be “chest w drawer” – it’s a crazy enough undertaking as it is.
Here’s some of the materials, Michael Doherty took me to the wall of wood. These were maybe 12′ high, I’d say 10′ long logs, maybe longer.
Some of the larger oaks had been pulled out for us already. Michael had picked out more too. I’ve never ordered wood for so many full-sized chests before. But if we need more, it’s there. Below are some of the oaks (the red cedar top right is Michael’s):
So if you want to see how to turn those logs into a chest, sign up to take the class. It’s a time commitment; one weekend a month for 5 months. But you’ll get to go through the whole process, and learn all the details of a chest like this. (our plan is to start with a field trip – we’ll go to the woodyard, and work the logs in the picture just above – the students will split the logs apart to begin gathering rough stock).
I taught a chest class at Roy Underhill’s last year, but it was a scaled-down simple frame & panel chest. This one is full-size, carvings and molding. All the bells & whistles. There will be at least one field trip to examine the original chest in detail. (Hopefully a 2nd trip to see other 17th-c chests at Windsor Historical Society…) I’m not going into detail on the whole chest now; but it has a lot of interesting features. Of course the carving is a big part of it – almost no blank space at all.
It’s been about 6 months that I’ve been “out on my own” (I think Roy Underhill called it “free at last”) but I still haven’t really settled into a woodworking routine like I once had…Today, I picked up where I left off over a year and a half ago – finishing a small joined chest I made for Roy’s show in 2013… http://video.pbs.org/video/2365021510/ and http://video.pbs.org/video/2365079634/
I’ve only had it kicking around for I don’t know how long, and it took all of an hour to finish it off. Needed to drive four nails, trim the floor boards, and set one hinge.
How stupid that I left it so long! It’s been on the blog in pieces a number of times, I even took it back to Roy’s this past summer, where it was the model for our week-long chest class. Now – it’s done. I copied its proportions from some English examples, it’s quite small. 30″ w x 20″ h x 17″ d. A mixture of sawn and riven oak, with pine floor boards and rear panel. No decoration other than the bevels around the panels. Paneled lid, interior till. It’s for sale if anyone’s interested; send an email if you’d like to talk about it. $2,000 plus shipping. or pick it up.
I finished this carved rail for the upcoming wainscot chair – started this carving as a museum demonstration at Historic New England in early December – at least it’s not waiting around 18 months. I’m working now on getting that chair moving along steadily; doing some joinery on it tomorrow. The panel is mostly carved, that should be done tomorrow too.
I have a few things underway right now, yesterday I wedged the bretstuhl. Too dark to shoot the finished result today. The kids approve, and it’s in use at our kitchen table now. Before I go further, some house-keeping. I had two presentations last week, and am now cleaning & sorting some bits before I get back to the wainscot chair project.
Next, Plymouth CRAFT. http://plymouthcraft.org/ We’re underway, with some workshops scheduled and sign-ups begun. So if spoons, succotash or card weaving entice you, head over & click the buttons…
My spoon class is 2 days in January, winter is a perfect time for spoon carving. Along the lines of “give a man a spoon, or teach him to make his spoon…” or whatever that quote is. After these 2 days, you’ll be spoon-mad. The same applies for succotash or card weaving of course. We have started a blog there too…so sign up for that is you don’t have enough stuff to read as it is. http://plymouthcraft.org/category/blog/
Their annual journal comes out (or gets to me in the US) in December. I always look forward to it, and this year’s issue is just great. Maybe 6 articles on oak furniture – how could I not like it? their newsletters are even better. If you listened to me last year, then you’re reading yours now…if not…click the link.
That’s the links – there’s one other thing. A reader wrote yesterday and asked for more pictures of some 2-panel chests from Devon that I once posted. I have few shots of these creatures – I’ve seen 2 of them. I plan on putting one my versions of these in the upcoming (a year from now) book. Here’s some of what I have:
this one just exists as a chest-front…now separated from the rest of the object. I first saw it in England, then it sold to an American collector. Dated on the 10″wide center muntin “EC 1669”.
Here’s one of the panels; these are over 12″ wide.
The other one is still a chest, still in England. “R A P 1682” on the muntin. These are both made from flatsawn stock, or varying quality. This one retains some of the pained background; photos are not as good as what I got above, no tripod on that trip. To my eye, these are the same maker.
When I made one, I changed a few things, as I often do. I hate the carved lower rail – I think it’s ugly. So I never do that one.
Here’s an oldie that got away, I think the same guy. We’ve never seen it. Also initialed “EC 1669” – food for thought. Anyone sees this one, let me know. I’d love to see it.
back to the week that was…when we attempted to make 10 or 11 joined chests in no time at all. Knuckleheads.
after all the riving and hewing; we hauled some of the stock into town to begin the task of planing it into boards. I’ll just bop the pictures in, then add whatever I can remember about it. Here’s Steven planing just like I showed him…
Roy was astounded at the amount of shavings produced by working green wood
One of our un-named students works in a pointy building on the east coast, and to help him out, Roy put up surveillance cameras throughout the classroom..
A broom wouldn’t do it, so Roy got out a pitchfork…
Elia couldn’t stand the idea of sending those shavings to the landfill, so we piled them in his truck.
We did get further along eventually; chopping mortises, over & over & over again.
Then plowing grooves, cutting tenons, test-fitting.
There was lots of documentation,
until the last couple days, when I lost track of all – I spent 1/2 of the last 2 days with a checklist, “do you have all your muntin stock?” I never did get it all straight. it’s hard to keep track of 250 piece of oak that all look pretty much the same.
Then one day Steven emerged from Ed’s store upstairs and everyone ran to his bench like it was Xmas morning – “whaddja get?” – so we had a show & tell…
Just another week at the Woodwright’s School…
For those keeping track, some spoons and things for sale tomorrow…including this new piece:
Now I am trying to go back to some ideas I had for blog posts that never got written in the last two months. First up is “wainscot.” I’ve always had it in mind to write about wainscot, then after reading Richard Law’s post about his reading of Wolsley & Luff’s Age of the Joiner it got in my noggin again. The book is a real mixed bag; but worth having if you’re careful. What Richard found out is that wainscot means different things at different times/places and needs.
One basic meaning of the word is paneled walls – a series of connected frame-and-panel constructions to sheath interior walls. Simple, right?
Well, it also means imported oak from the Baltic. Or from elsewhere, through the Dutch territories. Or is means oak quartered, usually riven, as the Baltic oak mostly was.
It can also mean an object made with either these materials or this construction method. A wainscot chair can be an oak chair, it can also be a walnut chair, made with a joined frame and a paneled back.
The absolute best discussion of it is now Adam Bowett’s entries for oak, wainscot etc in his newest book Woods Used in British Furniture-Making 1400-1900. I had mentioned this book a while back, it really is a great reference book. Costly, but worth the money. If money’s tight, absolutely get the library to hunt it down for you. But then you’ll want to buy it. I saved up and got one. The introduction and the entries on oak, mahogany and walnut are excellent research and writing. The other stuff too, but those are the ones I read first. His entry for wainscot is 9 pages long…you can skip my post here about it & go read Adam’s book instead.
There are records in England of the word wainscot being a noun – an early record is one I first saw in Wolsey & Luff’s book – an excerpt from the will of John Henryson of Kingston-upon-Hull, 1525, mentioning:
“I gif to William Henryson, the carver, at the next comying of the hulkes oute of Danske a c [hundred] wayne scottes”
These wainscots are either bolts or logs of oak to be worked at their destination.
Here’s Reverend William Harrison’s note about imported wainscot – in A Description of England of the late sixteenth century: (1577 1st edition, or 1587 2nd)
“Of all oke growing in England, the parke oke is the softest, and far more spalt and brittle than the hedge oke. And of all in Essex, that growing in Bardfield parke is the finest for joiner’s craft: for oftentimes have I seene of their workes made of that oke so fine and faire, as most of the wainescot that is brought thither out of Danske, for our wainescot is not made in England.”
John Evelyn, Sylva ( I think this is from the 1661 edition, but not sure) :
With Fir we likewise make Wainscot, Floors, Laths, Boxes, and wherever we use the Deal; nor does there any Wood so well agree with the Glew as it, or so easie to be wrought: It is also excellent for Beams, and other Timber-work in Houses, being both light, and exceedingly strong, where it may lie dry everlasting, and an extraordinary saver of Oak where it may be had at reasonable price.
Nor are we to over-pass those memorable Trees which so lately flourished in Dennington Park neer Newberry: amongst which three were most remarkable from the ingenious Planter, and dedication (if Tradition hold) the famous English bard, Jeofry Chaucer; of which one was call’d the Kings, another the Queens. and a third Chaucers-Oak. The first of these was fifty foot in height before any bough or knot appear’d, and cut five foot square at the butt end, all clear Timber. The Queens was fell’d since the Wars, and held forty foot excellent Timber, straight as an arrow in growth and grain, and cutting four foot at the stub, and neer a yard at the top; besides a fork of almost ten foot clear timber above the shaft, which was crown’d with a shady tuft of boughs, amongst which, some were on each side curved like Rams-horns, as if they had been so industriously bent by hand. This Oak was of a kind so excellent, cutting a grain clear as any Clap-board (as appear’d in the Wainscot which was made thereof) that a thousand pities it is some seminary of the Acorns had not been propagated, to preserve the species.
(Ahh, Evelyn brings up the word “clap-board” – we’ll get to that another day…)
In 17th-c New England they surely weren’t using any imported Baltic oak. There the word applied to local oak, probably riven on the quarter. Sometimes, though, it was about the paneling, In Massachusetts Bay Colony’s earliest days, Governor John Winthrop chastised one of his deputies for being lavish with his own house.
“May 1, 1632 …upon this there arose another Question, about his howse: the Governor havinge formerly tould him, that he did not well to bestowe such cost about wainscottinge & addorninge his howse, in the beginning of a plantation, bothe in regarde of the necessitye of public charges & for example &c: his answeare now was, that it was for the warmthe of his howse, & the Charge was little, beinge but clapbordes nayled to the walles in the forme of wainscott.”
(Richard S. Dunn, James Savage, Laetitia Yeandle, editors, The Journal of John Winthrop 1630-1649 (Cambridge, Massachusetts: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1996) p.66.)
I’d say that’s the earliest use of that word in New England. And in that case, while clapboards were usually oak, the term wainscot here is about the wall-panelling. Faux wall paneling to boot. There’s a pine board chest at the Plymouth Antiquarian Society with narrow boards nailed to the front of it to mimic a joined chest. Sounds like the paneling Winthrop’s deputy had…
Otherwise, New England inventories usually use the word as an adjective – wainscot chest, wainscot chair, etc. I can’t think of any examples like numerous English inventories where they list the wainscoting as a “moveable” like furniture.
Here’s an English one, from 1672, Abraham Brecknock, Writtle, uses “wainscot” as both noun & adjective:
“One drawing table, 6 joint stooles, and a forme and a Bible £2; One presse-cubbord, another wainscot cubbord and all the wainscot about the Hall, and the long bench joyning to the wainscot £7-10; Three chaires , 6 cushions & other implements £1 “
For the record of sawyers working the imported material, here’s a piece from London, 1633 – from Henry Laverock Phillips, Annals of the Worshipful Company of Joiners of the City of London, (London: privately printed, 1915) we get a petition filed by the Joiners Company against the Freemen Sawyers of London:
“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.
That within these twentie years the prices of sawing is so exceedingly increased by means that the freemen 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.” (p. 25, 26)