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Peter Follansbee, joiner's notes

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seventeenth-century joined furniture; green wood, hand tools
Updated: 4 hours 55 min ago

Carpenters’ bowling alley expenses

Wed, 01/10/2018 - 6:09pm

I’m supposed to be putting together 3 lectures and planning 2 demonstrations. And finishing an article. And more. So I’m susceptible to distraction tonight. While looking for slides, I ran across these old notes I took about 15 years ago. Many years ago, I bought a few volumes of the Records of the Worshipful Company of Carpenters. An extravagant purchase, but with some great details about their goings-on. Here’s a snippet, I wrote a “translation” in parentheses for the many folks who might not be so nimble at deciphering the original:

Bower Marsh, editor, Records of the Worshipful Company of Carpenters, vol 4, Warden’s account book, 1546-1571

payd to Rychard burdn for iij plankes for the bowlyng ale xviijd  (paid to Richard Burden for 3 planks for the bowling alley, 18 pence)

payd for iiij lode of funders yearthe & the caryag for the bowlyng ale vs vjd  (paid for 4 loads of founders earth and the carriage for the bowling alley, 5 shillings, 6 pence)

payd to ij laborars for a day & di for caryeng owte of the funders yerthe in to the strett Redy for ye cartes & for caryeng yt in to or well yard xviijd

(paid to 2 laborers for a day & a half for carrying out of the fuller’s earth into the street ready for the carts & for carrying it in to our well yard – 17 pence)

payd for iiij lod of sope ahysses & the caryag iijs xd (paid for 4 loads of soap ashes and the carriage 3 shillings 10 pence)

payd for v busschelles of howse ahysses for the bowlyng ale xd (paid for 5 bushels of house ashes for the bowling alley 10 pence)

payd to ij men for the makyng of the bowlyng aly xxjs xjd  (paid to 2 men for the making of the bowling alley 21 shillings 11 pence)

Randle Holme’s description of bowling, from 1688 is:

Bowling is a Game, or recreation which if moderately used very healthfull for the body, and would be much more commendable then it is, were it not for those swarms of Rooks, which so pester Bowling greens, where in three things are thrown away by such persons, besides the Bowls, viz: Tyme, Money, and Curses, and the last ten for one.
Seuerall places for Bowling.
First, Bowling greens, are open wide places made smooth and euen, these are generally palled or walled about.
Secondly, Bares, are open wide places on Mores or commons.
Thirdly, Bowling-alleys, are close places, set apart in made more for privett persons, than publick uses.
Fourthly, Table Bowling, this is, Tables of a good length in Halls or dineing roomes, on which for exercise and diuertisement gentlemen and their assosiates bowle with little round balls or bullets.

Here’s Jan Steen’s skittle players, not technically bowling. But what we in the US think of as bowling these days.

Randle Holme again, describing the types of bowls:

Several sorts of Bowles.
Where note in Bowling the chusing of the Bowls is the greatest cunning, for
Flat Bowles, are best for close Narrow alleys.
Round Byassed Bowles for open grounds of advantage.
Bowles as round as a ball for green swarths that are plain and Levell.
Chees-cake bowles, which are round and flat like cheeses.
Jack Bowles, little bowles cast forth to bowl att, of some termed a Block.
Studded Bowles, such as are sett full of pewter nayles, and are used to run at streight Markes.
Marvels, or round Ivory balls, used by gentlemen to play on long tables, or smooth board Romes.

I saw these bowlers during my trip to England a few years back. I think this was near Royal Leamington Spa

Here is a 17th-century bowling ball, found during Boston’s famous Big Dig:

Read about it here: http://www.sec.state.ma.us/mhc/mhcarchexhibitsonline/crossstreetbacklot.htm 

 


First photos for 2018

Tue, 01/02/2018 - 6:25am

As I write this blog, I sort the photos into folders, sorted first by the year. Yesterday I started the 11th folder – “BLOG 2018” – whew. So here goes year 11 of this collection of stuff about my oak furniture and more.  Remember when I wrote about finding my stuff on the 2nd-hand market?  https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/2017/08/02/i-got-it-second-hand/

Well, now I’ve made it to the big-time second-hand market!  http://www.sothebys.com/en/auctions/ecatalogue/2018/important-americana-n09805/lot.732.html

Bob Trent had me make this cabinet for his friends Constance & Dudley Godfrey; and now some of their collection is being sold at Sotheby’s this month. I didn’t do the color. Ours looks new, like this:

This picture is of course a lie. Ever clean up your house when company is coming? I cleaned mine yesterday to shoot some furniture photos. I used to shoot every piece I made at my old shop; getting out background paper, lights – all that stuff. Now I have no room for that. And I decided to try to shoot the stuff in its normal settings. That means either in the shop or the house. To shoot it in the house means remove all the extraneous junk piled here & there – it’s a small house, we home-school the kids – and we both worked in museums, which means we keep everything, thinking it’s important.

Here’s another lie:

I have one of these boxes-with-a-drawer to make for a customer this year. This one usually has horses and funko-pops on it. And other 12-yr-old girl stuff.

Outdoors is perfectly honest chaos. Down river, nearly high tide.

Up river. flooded marsh. 

 

Spending these fiercely cold days working at the desk.

Lectures coming up in Colonial Williamsburg, Sotheby’s, Fine Woodworking Live in April, and more. I’ll post my schedule for teaching soon. It will include some slots here for one-on-one classes. Keep warm…except you folks in the southern hemisphere, you keep cool.

 


“Advanced” spoon carving, one-day class w Plymouth CRAFT

Fri, 12/29/2017 - 8:51am

I’m working out my teaching schedule for 2018, and will post it soon. But the first class is coming right up. We’re trying something new with Plymouth CRAFT – on Monday January 15, 2018 we’re offering a one-day “advanced” spoon carving class. All that advanced means in this case is you’ve carved spoons before, know some of the grips and the ways around the tools. We’ll look at crooks in particular; working with them to concentrate on the shape of the spoon.

2

It’s going to be a small class, but there’s room still. We’ll have chopping blocks, a pile of crooks, a box of tools and a fire in the stove. This is a chance to delve into some of the details that often elude us in the usual class that features a lot of beginners. I’ll have a pile of spoons by carvers far & wide as reference materials, and the usual array of books, articles, photos – lots of inspiration.

The class is tacked onto a full weekend of offerings – Tim Manney’s now-sold-out sharpening class, Chinese dumplings, https://www.plymouthcraft.org/chinese-dumplings and Embroidery with Elizabeth Creeden https://www.plymouthcraft.org/introduction-to-surface-embroidery   Lunch by Paula Marcoux is included. Come and join us –


Greenwood Fest instructor Curtis Buchanan

Wed, 12/27/2017 - 5:32pm

The other day I wrote about Robin Wood coming to teach at Plymouth CRAFT’s Greenwood Fest  – the other “new” instructor is Curtis Buchanan. It’s yet another great pleasure for me to have Curtis come and join us. I met Curtis in 1987 when I was a student in his first class in making Windsor chairs, at Country Workshops.

Picture

If you aren’t up-to-speed on who’s who in American Windsor chairmaking, the best Windsors in modern-day America begin with Dave Sawyer of Vermont. It was Dave who taught Curtis back in the early 1980s; and Curtis took what Dave taught him and ran with it. He’s been making chairs now for 35 years or so…and making just the most beautiful chairs you can imagine. He’s taught all over creation; but rarely if ever goes out on the road anymore to work…so it’s an extra treat to get him up to New England.

Part of what Curtis will be doing at the Fest is demonstrating all the steps in making a basic version of one of his fanback chairs. He calls it a “democratic” chair – in that the tool kit is small, and the operations are simple to learn. But don’t think crude – his chairs are graceful and comfortable beyond expectations. I think he said riving tools, drawknife, brace & bit, and a scorp for the seat. Must be a saw in there somewhere…but not much else. I can’t wait to see it happen. He’ll also teach a short session on his 2nd-favorite tool – using the froe. (the drawknife is his first, but we have Pete Galbert repeating some of what he did this year…)

As he’s working, I betcha Curtis will tell some stories too…

Curtis’ website has some video well worth watching http://www.curtisbuchananchairmaker.com/

And this from Jon Binzen of Fine Woodworking – “Anyone who has met Curtis will know that it’s as much fun to listen to him as it is to watch him work.” See the audio slideshow they put together during one of the sessions FWW did with Curtis. I had posted this before and described him as the happiest woodworker I know. And I still feel that he’s wrong in this audio, where he’s says “I’m not the best…” – Nonsense, he’s the best.  – http://www.finewoodworking.com/2014/10/08/curtis-buchanan-windsor-master 

Greenwood Fest will be held in Plymouth Massachusetts – pre-fest courses June 5-7 and the Fest from June 7-10. https://www.greenwoodfest.org/ It will be announced, here and elsewhere – sign up for Plymouth CRAFT’s newsletter to keep up-to-date on Greenwood Fest and our other programming – https://www.plymouthcraft.org/contact 

 

 


Greenwood Fest 2018 Instructor Robin Wood

Thu, 12/21/2017 - 6:26am

Back in 2008 I started this blog; being inspired by a blog I read regularly then – that of Robin Wood. Sometime in the early/mid 1990s, my friend Ned Cooke sent me this postcard, showing Robin Wood turning a huge nest of bowls in beech on his pole lathe. I tacked it up in my workshop and it’s been there ever since. Even made the move to my new shop…

I had heard about Robin’s work and somewhere along the line Jennie Alexander traded letters back & forth with him back then. For a while there was a very active forum on the web called the Bodgers’ Ask and Answer forum. (it’s still there, going back quite a ways with lots of information. Some of it is quite good. https://www.bodgers.org.uk/BB/ ) Robin was a regular contributor there, and that’s where he & I started talking directly to each other. I can’t remember if I found his blog through the forum or vice-versa. Doesn’t matter now.

What matters to me is that Robin is perhaps THE person responsible for reviving the craft of turning wooden bowls on a pole lathe, using hook tools. Right now there are lots of people taking up this work – and I hope they recognize Robin’s contribution to its revival. (Somewhere in those years, I first met Roger Abrahamson http://www.rogerabrahamson.com/index.html when he appeared at my shop & introduced himself. His work parallels some of Robin’s very well. Roger is another story someday.)

We finally met in 2014, when I was a student in his first course at North House Folk School. (met Jarrod & JoJo there at the same time – 3 birds, one stone).  With Barn the Spoon, Robin started another inspiration of ours – Spoonfest https://spoonfest.co.uk/ and that’s where he & I next met up. He’d invited me a couple of times and I begged off due to scheduling problems. Then in 2016 I decided I’d better go before the invites dried up.  

I’m thrilled that Robin is coming to Greenwood Fest. He’ll be teaching a 2-day class in bowl turning on a pole lathe, with hook tools. Then during the fest, we’ll have him in various capacities; these days much of his time is spent making tools for spoon carving. We’re still working out the details of some aspects of the schedule. One piece we have planned with him is a slide talk/presentation about his various green woodworking exploits over the years. Worth seeing.

Robin Wood’s bowl

One of the hardest parts of Greenwood Fest planning for us is the instructor roster. Because our venue has a limit on the number of people allowed, the size of the Fest will not grow. And because we love all our instructors equally – it becomes difficult to work in new ones. To make space for Robin, Jarrod Dahl has kindly agreed to shift from Greenwood Fest this year to a course with Plymouth CRAFT later in the season – early to mid-September. BUT Jarrod & Jazmin plan on attending the Fest, so if you see Jarrod there, take it easy on him with the questions, it’s his vacation!

Greenwood Fest will be held in Plymouth Massachusetts June 5-10, 2018. Those dates include the pre-fest courses. Tickets on sale starting February 2, 2018  https://www.greenwoodfest.org/

 


December spoons; two boxes

Fri, 12/15/2017 - 7:53am

Last spring Jogge Sundqvist & I were talking about Amy Umbel’s painted spoons & bowls. https://www.fiddleheadwoodworking.com/gallery We both enjoyed how she “found” the styles/patterns that suited her. Amy’s work was the inspiration for me to branch out and impose my furniture carvings on the handles of my spoons. Once I started this, I haven’t chip-carved one since. And I keep searching through boxes of tools for smaller carving gouges!

I’ve been busy with furniture work lately, I have had these spoons for a couple of weeks, then my kids relentlessly reminded me that Christmas is soon (10 days Daniel tells me). So here are the last few spoons I have for right now. If you would like to order one, leave a comment. Paypal is usually easiest. If you want to send a check that’s fine too – but it will slow things down for delivery. Prices include shipping in the US. Thanks as always.

 

Nov spoon 06 –

Almost a pie-serving shape. American sycamore crook. Very flat “bowl” to this one…
L: 9 3/4″  W: 1 1/2″
$75

———————

Dec spoon 01 – cherry crook. Small serving spoon, mostly right-handed.

L:  9 3/8″  W:  2 1/8″
$85

 

—————————–

Dec spoon 02; larger cherry crook.

L:  10 5/8″  W: 2 3/8″
$90

———————

Dec spoon 03; Cherry crook, serving spoon. A very dark heartwood to this cherry tree.

L: 9 5/8″   W:  2 1/4″
$90

—————

Dec spoon 04; Cherry serving spoon, decidedly lefty.

L:  13 1/2″ W: 2 3/4″
$100

——————-

Dec spoon 05; A small cherry spoon this time. That same dark heartwood as one above.

L: 7 1/8″  W: 1 7/8″
$75

———————

Dec spoon 06. Cherry, crook. This is the spoon I like to make the most of all. The best of this batch, and of the past few months. a curved crook, this spoon has shapes and angles in several directions. This one still works, I’m known for carving some “challenging” shaped-spoons.

L:  7 1/2″  W:  2″
$125

 

 

————————–

Nov spoon 07; cherry, large serving spoon. The last of a batch of oversized serving spoons in cherry. Too late for Thanksgiving…
L:13 7/8″   W”  3 1/2″
$150

——————-

Carved & painted box. I made this box a while ago, and was keeping it to photograph for my upcoming book with Lost Art Press on joined furniture. Oak with pine lid & bottom. Paint is iron oxide, lampblack and chalk. Red wash (iron oxide thinned in linseed oil) overall. Iron hinges.

My photos are done, so the box is now available.
H: 6 1/2″  W: 15 1/2″  D: 12″
$600.

——————

Desk box. I made two of these; starting on Roy Underhill’s show, then a Lie-Nielsen DVD. Finally, an article for Popular Woodworking coming soon. One sold, one is left.

red & white oak, white pine bottom. 4 drawers inside, 2 tills, with a narrow tray area behind. Handmade “dovetail” hinges. Based on an original from Massachusetts, c. 1670-1700.

H: 11 1/2 ” W: 24 1/4″ D: 15 3/4″

$2.000 plus shipping.

desk box

front view desk box

side view desk box

2 tills 4 drawers


Beach walking; late fall

Tue, 12/12/2017 - 2:51pm

I try to not go out in December. Certainly when I do, I try to only go to places without Christmas music, chaos, traffic and the other trappings of the “season.” The actual season; late fall/early winter, is one of my favorites. Marie & I went to the beach yesterday. I shot a few photos, and when I uploaded them, found some from a beach walk about two weeks ago. (click the photos to enlarge)

Marie & I saw a few scattered sanderlings (Calidris alba) – but this photo of mine is from the earlier walk.

We couldn’t find any loons yesterday; I got this one earlier. I think it’s a red-throated loon (Gavia stellata) – we’ll see.

There were many, many eiders out on the water. Hundreds of them…this photo is a fraction of the flock.  (Somateria mollissima)

What we came for was this figure in the dunes:

The first snowy owl (Bubo scandiacus) of the season for us:

Marie’s shot:

snowy owl by Marie Pelletier

While I’m raiding her photo stash, here’s her sanderling shot of the day:

Sanderling by Marie Pelletier

Time to turn around and head back;

 

The sun was going down as we made our way back down the beach. I turned & got a shot of the clouds over the Gurnet:

 

 

 

A rare view of Marie – she’s usually behind the camera at Plymouth CRAFT:

 

One last one, from the earlier trip, Daniel drawing in the sand:

 


Spoons and bowls for sale

Wed, 11/29/2017 - 7:04am

Maureen has been finishing stuff lately and posting them on her etsy site, https://www.etsy.com/shop/MaureensFiberArts and she got me poking around my spoon basket. I haven’t had much time for spoon carving, but have a few I’ve finished in the past month or so. If you would like to pick any of these, just leave a comment. Usually paypal is the easiest way to pay; I’ll send an invoice. Or you can mail a check, just let me know. Finish is food-grade flax oil on all of these. Prices include shipping in US, further afield requires an extra charge for shipping.

———————

November spoon 01; an American sycamore crook, with S-scroll carving

L: 9 5/8″ W: 2 1/8″
$75

——————-

Nov spoon 02; birch serving spoon
L: 11″ W: 2 1/2″
$85

———————-

Nov spoon o3; birch crook. serving spoon. One of my favorite kinds, following both the crook of the branch as well as the curve.
L: 9″ W: 2 3/*”
$80

 

———————-

Nov spoon 04; birch serving spoon.
L: 10 7/8″  W:2 1/2″
$85

——————–

Nov spoon 05; cherry crook serving spoon. Maybe my favorite of the batch.
L: 12 3/8″  W: 2 1/4″
$100

—————–

Nov spoon 06: Not sure what to call this one. Almost a pie-serving shape. American sycamore crook. Very flat “bowl” to this one…(clouds came out, photo is darker than the spoon really is…)
L: 9 3/4″  W: 1 1/2″
$75

 

———————

Nov spoon 07; cherry, large serving spoon. The last of a batch of oversized serving spoons in cherry. Too late for Thanksgiving…
L:13 7/8″   W”  3 1/2″
$150

 

——————

Nov tray; birch. When I was carving it, I thought of it as a bowl, but now I see it done, it’s a tray.
L: 15 3/4″   W: 5 7/8″
$375

 

——————–

Nov bird bowl, cherry. The last one of these I have done for quite a while. I have unfinished ones lurking at me in the shop, but no time for them now…
L: 15″  H: (at front) 7 1/4″
$500


Winter light

Mon, 11/27/2017 - 2:54pm

I have 14 windows down in this small workshop, and here in New England as winter solstice is approaching, I can’t see well enough to do any significant work by 4:30 in the afternoon. By 4pm it’s getting dim, but I can sweep, sort stuff – can’t cut joinery or do carving. I  think about the joiners of the 17th century with the small (& few) windows in their buildings, how did they do any work in this light? Maybe they didn’t work much in the winter?

A notion that shows up in several 20th-century writings about 17th-century joiners is that they concentrated their joinery work in the winter; being too occupied with crops and livestock the rest of the year. That’s a quaint notion, and might even have some merit. One way to see if this is valid is to see tradesmen’s probate inventories to see if there’s work underway. There’s lots of reasons stuff might be un-finished…but it’s a start.

One bit of evidence in favor of this argument is the inventory of Edward Brown of Ipswich, Massachusetts, his inventory is from February 1659/60:

3 wheeles, finished lennen 13s6d, wheeles woolen & linnen not finisht £1-16  work done toward chaires 3s  &  15—ills 6s9d  shope tooles £3-6

John Symonds of Salem, Massachusetts also had unfinished work when he died. His inventory was presented in court 19:7:1671 – so September according to the old calendar.

will: “…to my son James Symonds…I do assigne my servant John Pease to him dureing the term of time expressed in the Indenture… Further I give all my workinge tooles belonginge to my trade to my son James Symonds…”

inv:  Joyners Tools benches and lare £5-5-6  2 Bedsteds almost finished £3  3 stools and one half of a Box 12s6d  1/2 Grindstone & windlass & a Small grindstone 5s  Timber planke & board £5-12

part of a Chest… 3 Chests 3 Boxes and a wooden Tunnil 14s  2 Tables a forum & Chayres 16s  a Vice and an old Hatchet 10s  nayles 10d  an Ax 6s10d   …a p of Jemmils…5 wedges…one half of a Crosscut Saw…  Timber in the Woods £1-2  an apprentice of 17 years old who hath 3 year and 9 moneths and 2 weekes to serve

George Cole died in 1675. His inventory is dated 30:9:1675, back when the 9th month was November…his work is not called “unfinished” but he had “work done in his shop…”

will:  “…I give to my master John Davis all my timber…”

3 saues 8s,  2 goynters & foreplaine 6s, 3 smothing plains & a draing knife 3s6d, 2 plans & 2 revolvong plains 10s,  4 round plains 5s, 3 rabet plains 4s,  3 holou plains 3s6d,  9 Cresing plains 10s6d,  6 torning tools 9s,  3 plaine irons & 3 bits 1s6d,  1 brase stok, 2 squares & gorges 1s6d,  1 brod ax & 1 fro 2s, holdfast 1s6d,  hamer 1s6d,  6 gouges 2s,  9 Chisels 5s,  2 ogers & 1 draing knife 3s,  1 bench hooks, 2 yoyet irons 1s,  a gluepot 1s6d,  for what work he has done in his shop £1-10

My notes include a date of “1676/7” for  Matthew Macomber  of Taunton, in Plymouth Colony. The double-dating falls between January and mid-March, so this is another one for the “winter” crowd.

a parsell of cooper’s tooles 9s  (illegible) hoopes not finished 10d  five hundred of cedar bolts att the swamp £1-10  hewen timber in the woods 8s9d  200 of cooper stuff in the woods 5s  more in tooles and arms £2-10

Another vote for winter is William Savell, of Braintree, Massachusetts. He died February 1, 1699/1700. Included in his inventory are:

a green carpitt & covers for chairs  01-08-00

a douzen painted chairs & a sealskin trunk  01-18-00

a wainscott chest and a box  01-01-00

a square table a wainscott chest and a bedstead  02-12-00

tooles  02-10-00

timber and weare begun  03-00-00

Well, here’s one more – what I always call “When Things Go Wrong”  – court cases sometimes shed light on period practice. John Davis was asked to make 4 chests, did so, and had them delivered. But it all ended up in court. All I can see is that Davis was both pissed and pissed off in May of 1681, and things got messy…but these depositions tell us exactly nothing about what time of year John Davis made these chests:

Writ: John Davis v. John Tolly; debt; for four wainscot chests made by his order and delivered to him in his house, dated June 23, 1681; signed by John Fuller, for the court and town of Lyn; and served by Richard Prytherch, constable of Salem, by attachment of the bed of the defendant, the summons being left with Mrs. Tauly.

Nathaniall Kirtland, aged about thirty-four years, deposed that he brought from John Davis’ shop at Lyn four chests and delivered them to John Tauly at his house in Salem. Davis told the deponent that Tauly had them to carry to Newfoundland. Sworn in court.

Bill of cost 3£

Eleaser Lenesey, aged about thirty-five years, deposed that Davis looked at a chest in Tawleay’s house and the latter told him to make two or three as good as that for 25s. each. Sworn in court before William Browne, assistant, and owned in court.

Richard Croade, aged about fifty-two years, testified that, on May 7, 1681, he heard Mr John Tally read from his book his account with John Davis, and the latter did not disown it. Sworn, May 11, 1681, before William Browne, assistant.

Samll Blyghe, aged about twenty-two years, deposed that, being in the house of Mr Wing of Boston in company with John Tawly of Salem and Joseph Cawly, he heard Tawly ask John Davis, joiner, of Lynn, to make the chests, saying he would rather Davis have his money than any one else, at the same time giving him 5s. Sworn, June 23, 1681, before William Browne, assistant.

John Longley, aged about forty-two years, testified that on May 6, 1681, he heard Davis at Taulely’s house call the latter a cheating knave, with many other absurd expressions, challenging him out of his own house to fight, threatening him. He also took hold of a wainscot chest in the room, threw it up and down the room, breaking several pieces of the front of the chest, etc. Davis was very much in drink. Elizabeth Tawley testified to the same. Sworn, June 28, 1681 before Bartho Gedney, assistant.

Joseph Calley, aged about thirty-seven years, deposed. Sworn, June 7, 1681, before John Richards, assistant.

Eleazer Lenesey, aged about thirty-five years, testified that, being in John Davis’ house at Line, after he had brought home the cloth, a whole piece of kersey, he said he had bought it of John Tawleay of Salem. Sworn before William Browne, assistant.

Mary Ivory, aged about forty-two years, deposed that she was at Taulie’s house when he received the chests. Sworn in court.

Samuell Ingols, aged about twenty-seven years, and Nathanil Willson, aged about nineteen years, deposed that the chests were worth 30s. each. Sworn in court.

John Longley, aged about forty-two years, and Thomas Eleat, aged about twent-six years, deposed concerning the assault and that neither Tawley nor his wife could have any peace while Davis was in the house. Sworn. May 9, 1681, before Bartho Gedney, assistant.”

 


Thank-full

Sat, 11/25/2017 - 5:05am
red oak

Here in America, we just celebrated a holiday called Thanksgiving. It used to be about over-eating, now it’s mostly about shopping for mass-produced stuff. I try to stay out of it. The other day I was reading the blog from Mortise & Tenon magazine, in which they asked the rhetorical question “Why would you labor at something you don’t love?” – I realize there are many of us who do just that, for various reasons….I’ve done it myself. Making a living sometimes requires that we spend time doing things we’d rather not do…

shop doors

 

above the bench

I am especially aware how lucky I am to work the way I do & make my living that way. I have great friends who have helped me along the way, a wife who doesn’t need all the latest gadgets and baubles (my kids would like them, though!), readers of this blog & IG, clients, and students in my classes who all help support my work. I appreciate it all, and am eternally thankful. I am unbelievably lucky to spend my days the way I do. Thanks, all.

I went out this morning, lit the fire, filled the bird feeders and took some photos. Now for breakfast, then I get to go to work.

“WS”chest frame test fitted

 

“WS” chest frame, mitered M&T shop from the riverbank

 

down river

 

from the riverbank light frost

 


The Slöjd Tradition with Jögge Sundqvist 

Mon, 11/20/2017 - 1:01pm

Well, this has nothing to do with me, other than I was there to watch it happen. Now I get to see it again, from the comfort of my own home.

Here’s the blurb:

The Slöjd Tradition

with Jögge Sundqvist 

Learn some of the methods and techniques behind Slöjd, the self sufficient tradition from Sweden that emphasizes hand work and handicraft. Jögge Sundqvist walks you through the process of making a spatula and a cheese board from green wood. He also demonstrates different types of letter carving and decorative carving.

Jögge Sundqvist is a Swedish woodworker and carver who started learning knife and axe work at the age of four, at the side of his father, Wille Sundqvist. Jögge works in the Slöjd fine craft tradition making stools, chairs, knives, spoons, and sculptures painted with artists’ oil color. Jögge is also a teacher, writer, and gives lectures about Slöjd tradition and techniques.

And the preview:

https://www.lie-nielsen.com/product/whats-new/slojd-tradition-streaming?node=4128

 


two recent herons

Sun, 11/19/2017 - 10:39am

Fall is maybe my favorite time around here. Great Blue Herons are a daily occurence lately. This first one Rose found on a walk we took recently.

The other morning I went out to start the fire in the shop, and spooked three of them before I knew it. So the next day, I looked before barging out the door. Wouldn’t have seen this one, but for the reflection in the river:

 

 

And of course, turkeys.

Back to work for me now. Too many distractions…


Raking light, great carvings. Not mine

Thu, 11/16/2017 - 5:47pm

Took the kids for a walk in Burial Hill, Plymouth recently. Was a great sunny morning, perfect raking light. Cold though, up on top of that hill.

This is a well-known gravestone, among those who talk about such things. Patience Watson, d. 1767. Very nice carving, in fabulous shape.

 

 

 

These days Daniel is five-feet and change; so that’s a large stone above ground there. I wonder how deep it is below ground to be standing so long…


I went there for a decorative arts outing; but you end up reading the stones & get another angle too. This one is a sad story, a 2-week old child…

But the lettering! We owe Dave Fisher a trip to this cemetery when he comes up in June… https://davidffisherblog.wordpress.com/2017/11/13/learning-from-lettering/

detail:

one more:

This one is a family – husband, wife and child, all died within 3 weeks of each other. Has a great skull, with wavy hair/feathering/what-have-you behind it. Scrolling leaves along the sides. 1730.

Here’s the same carver – better condition. Better lighting…same year.

This one’s 1715, it and the one above were encased in new stone at some point. Being the home of ancestor worship means Plymouth’s graveyard gets some attention over the years. So many old graveyards suffer from neglect…

I dug out a couple stones from elsewhere – Henry Messenger, 1686. He was a Boston joiner, this stone is in the Granary Burying Ground, a famous cemetery in Boston

This one I’ve never seen, photo was given to me by my friend Rob Tarule. Thomas Dennis, joiner of Ipswich. Died 1706.

 

Here’s an ancestor of ours; Ebenezer Fisk of Lexington Massachusetts. Died 1775. Yup, that Lexington. One of the battles was on his farm, but he was pretty old and apparently dying. so probably of no concern to him…other things on his mind I bet.


I haven’t read too much about gravestones, but there is an excellent book I recommend “Graven Images: New England Stonecarving and its Symbols, 1650-1815, by Allan I. Ludwig. Wesleyan Univ Press, 1966. My copy is dated 1999, so reprinted at that point.


Plymouth CRAFT – spoon carving in December and Sharpening in January

Mon, 11/06/2017 - 8:40am

The closer you get to the end of the year, the faster time goes by. Maybe the older you get the faster it goes too. Paula, Pret and I have started sorting out stuff for Greenwood Fest, who’s doing what, etc. But in the meantime, we have a few courses closer to the horizon. There’s a spoon carving class coming up in early December at Overbrook in Buzzard’s Bay.

P1170104_f_6x4.jpg

We have held classes there a lot, it’s a wonderful place. 2 days, lots of spoon wood and Paula’s lunches. December 9 & 10, 2017. https://www.plymouthcraft.org/spoon-carving – plus both afternoons there’s a German Holiday baking class going on with Kirsten Atchison – maybe if you’re good they’ll let you sample some goodies https://www.plymouthcraft.org/german-holiday-baking and https://www.plymouthcraft.org/more-german-holiday-baking

 

Then the following month, after all the hubbub dies down, is Tim Manney’s sharpening class. This class is a deceptive thing. Sharpening classes are not as glamourous as a project-based class, but the skills you develop in this class reach into every aspect of your woodworking.

knife-detail

 

diamond-paddle

 

Tim gets things fiercely sharp, and is an excellent teacher.  https://www.plymouthcraft.org/an-axe-to-grind Last year, people were scooting around asking “what else can we sharpen?” – I’m going to be around for it, and I’ve been cleaning my loft out in the shop. I plan on bringing a box of tools that will be free for the taking – but you’ve got to sharpen them!

Hope to see some of you there…or beyond.


Greenwood Fest June 5-10, 2018

Wed, 11/01/2017 - 11:57am
photo Marie Pelletier

People’s lives get busier every year. Ours too. Good thing we have all these time-saving devices…

today’s post is just a “save the date” sort of thing. Plymouth CRAFT’s Greenwood Fest will be early June again, same venue = Pinewoods Dance Camp, Plymouth, Massachusetts, USA.

Festival June 8-10; pre-Fest courses June 5-7. TICKETS GO ON SALE FEBRUARY 2, 2018. We will let you know details as we get it together – this is just so you can get the time off of work, quit your job, cancel graduation/wedding, etc and tell your family you’ll be in the woods.

2017 group photo, Marie Pelletier

Here’s the beginnings of the website. https://www.greenwoodfest.org/

Dave Fisher, photo Marie Pelletier

See you there, OK?


We’ll see Summer come again…

Tue, 10/31/2017 - 6:03pm

the title is for Michael Rogen, just to let him know I’m thinking of him. I like that summer’s gone. Fall is a beautiful time of year here. I am especially enjoying seeing how the light in the shop changes now. Today the light caught my eye a number of times. If I’m not careful, I’ll take as many photos as Rick McKee https://www.instagram.com/medullary_rick/ 

I used some auger bits this past weekend, and again today. I had the box of them out on the bench…

I’ve started the next project recently, and two carvings for it were standing up out of the way…

Today I got to work some in the shop, after teaching for 7 days straight (a student here for a week, and Plymouth CRAFT for the weekend). Time to finish off some stuff, first up is the wainscot chair. For this seat, I do use a template, in this case to map out the square mortises chopped in the seat board so it slips over the stiles. Here’s the seat board with its template off to the left. Complete with dust in the sunlight..

I’ve done lots of these, but it’s always worth it to go slowly – you have to get the holes just right, or they have gaps, or worse, the seat splits at the very narrow area beside the stile. Once I’m satisfied with the template’s fit, I scribe the locations of the mortises on the seat. That short grain right between the upper right hand corner of this mortise and the end grain is the fragile part. I’ve split them there, and seen them split on old ones.

Then I bore around the perimeter of the mortise with an auger bit.

Then chop with the chisel to bring the mortise to the proper shape. I scored the lines with a knife and/or awl. Very careful work with the chisel.

Once I have the mortise squared off, I bevel underneath, paring the walls of the mortise so it’s undercut. I only want the mortise tight on the stiles right at the top where it shows. I’ve never checked the underside of this joint on a period chair – but I like the idea of under-cutting it & beveling it. It relieves any un-necessary pressure there.

Then slip the seat down to test it.

Then I do the molding around the front and sides. Sides (end grain) first. A rabbet plane followed by a smooth plane. In this case, a moving filletster and the LN low angle jack plane.

I scored the line ahead of the filletster so I got a clean shoulder to this rabbet. The nicker on that plane is defunct. Then I used this Lie-Nielsen plane to round over the corner of the rabbet to create the thumbnail molding.

I work the front edge after the two ends, to clean up any tear-out. This seat is a nice clear radially-riven oak, two boards edge-glued together. Works great.

Then for good measure, I threw the arms in place, so I could test it out. The seat will be pegged into the three rails; square pegs in round holes.

These chairs are smaller than they look. They’re so imposing because of all the decoration, the bulk of the parts – but they’re really pretty snug chairs.

Here’s the important view – looks pretty tight around the stiles. Whew.

If you made it this far, thanks. 15 pictures – for me that’s over 2 weeks of Instagram. I like IG, but the blog is my favorite way to show what I’m up to…more detail, more depth. More work – but it’s fun. thanks for keeping up with me…


17th-century carved oak from Braintree, Massachusetts

Wed, 10/25/2017 - 7:00pm

I have a student here this week, we’re studying period carving while making an oak box. Scattered all over this blog (10 years’ worth, over 1,000 posts) are photos of period work. Carving, turning, moldings, mess-ups, etc. But I never knew when I started what a potential resource this could be. And now I’m too busy to organize it. But if you want to see some oak carvings…they’re in here! I’ll stick a few here, some of what Nathan & I are using for reference this week.

This one from a private collection; lots of gloppy finish on it, making it hard to see exact details. But one of my favorites over the years. My notes said that Bob Trent & I examined this back in 1998.

carved box, William Savell, 1590s-1669

Related to the above is this one, another I’ve copied many times over. Carved by the eldest son of William Savell above, John Savell, 1642-1687 or so.

Jn Savell box, side carving

This lunette, (this one’s on the top rail of a chest) is also by John Savell. To carve these, you need to practice your V-tool work. Lots of concentric arcs.

carved lunette, attr John Savell

One of my boxes, “made up” in the sense that it’s not copied from a period piece. But the box front is a direct copy of a drawer front by the Savells. As is the construction – pegged & glued rabbets instead of the typical nailed rabbets for joining the box parts.

PF box

Here’s one of the chests with two drawers. This one was from an auction website. I’ve lost track of where it went. Although I’ve made chests with two drawers, I never made one in this style…maybe 2018. 

The elder William Savell came to Braintree, Massachusetts by the late 1630s. He was first in Cambridge, working on the “college” that became Harvard. In his will dated 1669, he leaves to his wife a “chest with drawers” – with, not of, and drawers plural. There are at least three we’ve seen with 2 drawers. Most have just one. Only a couple were chests – no drawers.

I discovered this one in research done for a 1996 article about these objects. All I had to go by was this 1930s photograph and the owner’s name & hometown. Lots of dead ends, but I found it in the long run.

The article from 1996, but if you track down the volume itself, you get all the pictures

http://www.chipstone.org/article.php/222/American-Furniture-1996/Seventeenth-Century-Joinery-from-Braintree,-Massachusetts:-The-Savell-Shop-Tradition

Earlier looks at this work from the blog:

https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/2009/04/23/three-hands/

https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/2009/04/24/three-hands-carving-again/


three books I’ve been meaning to show here

Mon, 10/23/2017 - 6:43pm

It’s been a long time since I wrote about any books I’ve been studying. Since my museum career ended, my book habit has slowed way down. For 2 reasons, no steady paycheck and fewer research-related works. But there are still books coming in now & then. Here’s three, no particular order, no particular relationship between them. Just good books.

I have lots of field guides to birds, and get on with them just fine. But for trees, I have always struggled. I picked this one up some time ago, but have just never got to writing about it. “Bark: A Field Guide to Trees of the Northeast” by Michael Wojtech. Published by University Press of New England, 2011. So it’s not new, just new to me last year sometime. It’s excellent. Just about the bark, some leaf shapes, range of where the tree is found, that sort of thing.

 

 


A page spread showing white oak (Quercus alba L.) Wojtech shows us 6 different views of white oak bark: young, mature, mature & old, diseased

His book helped me sort out the spoon-mad fascination with all birches. This one is paper birch; (Betula papyrifera) aka white birch or canoe birch. What I thought was white birch around here is really gray birch (Betula populifolia) also, confusingly, called white birch or wire birch.  Neither of which are to be confused with yellow birch (Betula alleghaniensis) – sometimes confusingly called, gray birch or silver birch! Then, there’s black birch (Betula lenta L.) sometimes called sweet birch, which makes sense due to the smell, but listed as well is the name cherry birch. That’s just stupid. It’s like calling something maple oak. Anyway, this is a good tree book. Says me.

 

This next one is a nostalgic book for me in many ways. I was lucky enough to get to know Victor Chinnery. He was a great friend, and my native guide to English oak furniture. I will always fondly remember the trips I made with Vic travelling around to churches and other collections in England so he could show me what I needed to know to put the New England furniture I knew so well into context. His wife Jan spent some years working to get his period terminology glossary finished after his death, and it was published a year or two ago. “Names for Things: A Description of Household Stuff, Furniture and Interiors, 1500-1700” by Victor Chinnery. Published by Oblong Press, 2016. If I still did museum work or regular research this book would never be on the shelf.

There’s an illustrated introduction that runs about 15 pages, a foreword by Jan, some notes on using the glossary. Some illustrations from Randle Holme’s Academy of Armory 1688. Then about 240 or more pages the glossary.

So not a picture book, not a page-turner. But a resource and reference book that for material culture folks should be on their list of must-have books.

The next one is a picture book. Especially for me, as I don’t read Swedish. Last year, I traveled some in Sweden, and Jogge Sundqvist showed me so many great things my head exploded. When I got home, I wanted to know more about Swedish furniture history. So I asked him what one book would be the best to have. This is it. Published in 1938.

It’s something like Popular Furniture Culture in Swedish areas/districts…filled with great drawings, diagrams of the house’s floor plans and elevations, and photo after photo of furniture, grouped according to form. Here’s a type of bench I saw here and there in museums. The top/back flips over so you can sit facing this way, then flip it & face the other way.

I saw numerous trestle tables that knocked out any of the English or New England ones I know. Here’s a half-page of sketches for trestle table shapes. These are all from one area, Darlana.

 

These large cupboards in form look reminiscent of Dutch or English examples. The one on the right has no blank space of any size. Painted, carved, moldings, turnings. Frame & panel. All feels perfectly familiar.

These chairs are 16th & 17th century. Combination of joined and turned.

More trestle tables.

There’s several tipped-in color plates, like this cupboard dated 1670.

Besides which, it’s a very nicely-produced book. I’d say look in international used book sites for it. I googled it just now, and found an auction that had ended and it was only 45 euros or so. I think I paid $100 for it, something like that…well worth it. here, I found it for you –

https://www.bookfinder.com/search/?ac=sl&st=sl&ref=bf_s2_a1_t1_1&qi=6mdTm2ZP7iZnsX.yQDCR6C2bYNY_1497963026_1:1:2&bq=author%3Dsigurd%2520erixon%26title%3Dfolklig%2520mobelkultur%2520i%2520svenska%2520bygder

My last book review-type post was just over a year ago, fresh back from Sweden. But it includes Victor Chinnery’s Oak Furniture book’s new edition:
https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/2016/09/13/summerfall-reading-new-pile-of-books/


How to Read, by an Oak-snob

Thu, 10/19/2017 - 11:14am

I’ve been slow to add stuff to the blog here. Time to correct some of that. Today’s chore is splitting up some leftover bits of oak, and some newly dropped-off bits. Here’s how I read these, and how I decide what to split from a few different bolts. the first one is an old one, been split & hanging around a long time, over a year I’d say. It was given to me about 2 months ago. Free wood is sometimes not worth it. this is one of those cases. Note how the radial plane is cupped. This isn’t from drying, it’s the way the tree grew. The medullary rays curve from the center of the tree to the bark. So if I want wide flat stuff from this, I have my work cut out for me. What I do with such a piece of wood depends on several things: what I need at the time, how much effort I want to put into it, and how much other wood I have around. These days, wood is in pretty good supply, time much less so. Thus, I want to get the best piece I can from this as quickly as possible.

The ruler shows how “un-flat” the split is.

The piece was 26″ long, but with the checking at each end, I expect to get about 22″ length out of it. Just right for a joined stool stile (leg). So I opted to split a 2″x 2″ square out from right below the sapwood. First split with the froe gets off the inner twisted bits.

Next I split off the sapwood & bark. Surprise, the sapwood sheared off across the grain. Usually a log that has been around this long has punky rotten sapwood – I expect that. But to shear off like that means there’s something underneath…

And there was – some deformity curving the grain near one end. So didn’t get my 2″ x 2″ x 22″ stile. The resulting piece could be a ladderback chair front post (something I want to build, but have no time for right now. I’ve made parts for 3 of them so far this fall.) or the leg to a workbench out in the yard. I already have maybe 4 of those benches. On to the next split.

This one’s big & fresh. Just came in yesterday. Bark looks good. Very wide bolt, maybe 12″ or more.

But a big knot creating disturbed grain all around it, the full bottom third or more.

I always am working between getting the biggest piece (widest) I can, or getting the best piece of wood I can. Usually I want the best one. Which in this case, is much narrower than what I first expected from a section like this. See the ruler here, the best (straightest, flattest, least-work) piece is from the 10″ mark to 15″. So that’s what I split.

 

Now the distorted stuff is isolated in the right-hand section, destined for firewood.

Then I further split the remaining stuff into four thin boards for carved boxes, or narrow panels for the sides of some chests. Once I don’t think about where they came from, these are excellent clear, straight boards. This is a case of free wood that is worth it.

One of the older bits looked promising: wide, maybe 7″ or more. 24″ long.

But when I sighted down its length, lots of twist from one end to the other. I didn’t shoot it well enough, but you can generally read the twist down at the far end. Its right hand corner is high, as is the left corner nearest us. Means some hewing before planing. Not fatal, but maybe there’s better wood out here.

Yup. Fresh too. (that means easier to work…) Shorter, but wider.

When I scooch down and sight its radial plane, dead flat! That’s the stuff I’m after…

Gonna have lunch and find some more like this one.

 

Want to learn more about how to read these logs – Plymouth CRAFT has a weekend class coming up that’s just the ticket.  https://www.plymouthcraft.org/riving-hurdlemaking-weekend

Riving, hewing, drawknife work. Me, Rick McKee ( https://www.instagram.com/medullary_rick/  and https://blueoakblog.wordpress.com/  ) and our friend Pret Woodburn will show you all we know about opening oak logs and what to do with them.

 

 


mostly birds, back to wooden stuff next week

Wed, 10/11/2017 - 6:48pm

I’ve been back & forth lately. Maine, here, North Carolina – now here, then Martha’s Vineyard. Then here for a few weeks. Here’s some non-woodsy shots, mostly. This flock of shorebirds wheeled & spun – moments later Marie & I spotted a peregrine falcon bearing down on them. I love how they turn this way & that – and the color changes. this is the backs of these birds:

This is the same flock a split-split second later, from the fronts/bellies. So when you get to see this, it’s light/dark/light/dark until they land again to feed some more.

Semipalmated plover (Charadrius semipalmatus)

Dunlin (Calidris alpina) silhouetted against the water.

Those were at Plymouth beach. We went to Maine to see the Common Ground fair – took the kids for a walk one evening. The ocean is always the best place for playing – no place we go is more consistently engaging.

This is an island reached by a causeway. Lots of driftwood, which we don’t see at Plymouth much. Daniel peeked inside. I noted what happened to this log – the growth rings are separating completely. Some mad twist too.

Spoons growing everywhere. No cutting allowed though…

Back at Plymouth Beach, stretching is important. This is, I think, a Laughing gull (Leucophaeus atricilla)

And we hit the beach just right to see a bunch of migrating butterflies – many were monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus)

A couple weeks later, I was at Roy Underhill’s to teach a spoon carving class. Long drought has dried up the creek at the dam. Fish were dying, and black vultures (Coragyps atratus) came to clean up. There were turkey vultures there too – but these were the smaller black vultures. 

Earlier, at home, found this cooper’s hawk (Accipiter cooperii) under the bird feeders one day.

and a rare moment when the blue jay (Cyanocitta cristata) was quiet and still.

Our friend Rick DeWolf has been infected with the horror vacuii – and made this gate to keep his dog in (or out, I forget which). Despite being able to make this, Rick is still coming to our hurdle-making class later this month. A couple of spaces left. there will be no carving though. https://www.plymouthcraft.org/riving-hurdlemaking-weekend