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The Woodworking Blogs Aggregator
This "aggregator" collects all of the woodworking blogs I read every day - or try to anyway! Enjoy!
Thank you to everyone who contributed towards Walt Quadrato's battle against cancer! Their fundraising goal was met. Our prayers are with you, Walt!
I love my job!
I get to work with amazing furniture makers, and at the same time, I get to experience lovely and historical parts of the country.
I have been working with Greg Guenther, a highly skilled furniture maker and restorer out of Savannah, GA for nearly 17 years now. He often calls me in to help him with the carved elements of period furniture projects he is either reproducing or restoring. Some of the jobs we have worked on are reproducing a Goddard-Townsend 6-shell secretary, several carved 4-post beds, a beautiful shell niche, numerous repairs on period pieces, and currently a 1830’s peer mirror reproduction. I have several photos of work we have done together in my gallery.
Here are some photos of the first corner I carved on Friday – it is a very 3-dimensional fluer de lis design. I only have 3 more to carve!
Then I had the opportunity to walk around Savannah as a tourist and see some beautiful examples of acanthus leaves in architecture and wrought iron (I have acanthus leaves on the brain because of my book I’m writing). I hope to use several of these photos as reference and examples for the book.
Once you start looking for acanthus leaves, you see them everywhere!
Also, please sign up for my acanthus book newsletter. As I complete chapters, there will be free things to win!
The final steps to the conservation of the chairs was the reassembly, which first required me to replace most of the screws that were in the chair when it arrived on my door step.
I’ve got a can of miscellaneous screws that accumulate over the years. You’ve probably got one too. I know the guy who worked on these chairs before had one too, because it looks like he just poured it out on the bench and used the first few dozen screws that were within reach with no effort to match screws to each other or to the tasks involved.
I tried to carefully match the screws to the tasks they were executing, and within that function, matched the screws to each other. It was not much of a problem really, as I am the kind of guy who, when he needs a screw or two, goes to the hardware store and buys a box of the size he needs. Because of that I have a pretty good hardware store shelf under the shop stairs.
One of the problems I found in a handful of locations, and which I encounter with some regularity since I spend so much time working on old furniture, is the wallowed out screw hole, where the damage is such that any reasonable sized screw will be ineffectual. To solve that problem I use the following strategy.
First, I establish the depth of the screw hole, usually with a bamboo skewer, then cut a strip of 100% linen rag stationary paper so that the width of the strip of paper is equal to the depth of the existing hole. The I roll up the strip into a curl, so that it fits snugly into the wallowed out hole. I press the rolled fill into the hole, then wick dilute hide glue onto the rolled up paper fill so that it becomes pretty well saturated, then I set the piece aside overnight to let the glue penetrate and harden. When I return to the task the next day, I find that the proper sized screw fits and bites perfectly. If anything goes wrong, I just dampen the fill and gently remove it all with the pointed end of the skewer or a dental pick and start it all over again. It’s a high strength, high utility archival repair. What’s not to like about it?
I returned the chairs to the client’s home where they were placed alongside her exquisite Breuer leather and chrome chairs, where they complete the living room ensemble with real class.
Though I had a busy day planned today, in particular with a blizzard impending, I managed to get in just a few more minutes with my beading plane, and it was well worth it.
To sharpen the actual bead on the plane iron I decided to give the sandpaper a try. I wrapped a piece of 220 grit around a 3/8 dowel and proceeded to hone. In roughly 5 minutes, I managed to get a nice looking iron. I proceeded to give another practice bead a go, and the results were impressive. The shavings were a lot more even and the bead more crisp. When I get more time, I will hone to a higher grit as well as use the slip stone. All in all, this rehab seems to be going very well.
some pictures, spurred on by Chris Schwarz’ last 2 posts on his blog, and my earlier one from today.
A stool. common as can be, but early ones (16th/17th centuries) are less common than hen’s teeth. This one’s from the Mary Rose (1545)
Joined stool. simple, you’ve seen this sort of thing here hundreds of times.
Its cousin – the joined form. same thing, just stretched out.
While we’re at it, let’s get the wainscot chair out of the way.
a variant – the “close” chair, “settle chair” of Randle Holme, although his illustration might be a different version.
This is what Holme illustrated, I can’t imagine a more difficult way to build a chair.
Turned chairs. Ugh. these get weird. First, the “turned chair” “great (meaning large) chair” “rush chair” – lots of names could mean this item.
This is the one Holme said made by turners or wheelwrights, “wrought with Knops, and rings ouer the feete, these and the chaires, are generally made with three feete.’ = I would say, except when the have four feet.
Like this one: the real kicker here is that these chairs have beveled panels for seats, captured in grooves in the seat rails. Thus, sometimes called: a “wooden chair” = chairs often being categorized by their seating materials.
Now we have a “wrought” chair, “turkey-work chair” – and so forth. I mentioned in a comment on Chris’ blog the other day, forget the construction here, (joiner’s work, w turned, and in this case, twist-carved bits) it’s the upholstery that makes the splash. These were top-flight items in the 17th century.
Same gig, only leather. (this photo is I think from Marhamchurch Antiques)
Randle Holme’s turner’s chopping block looks a lot like Chris’ image today from Van Ostade, of a “country stool” – I’d have a chopping block in my kitchen if I could…but we’re out of space.
That was fun, I never get to use much of that research these days.
Back to spoon stuff tomorrow…there’s a mess of them available here = https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/spoons-a-bowl-or-two-jan-2015/
In my drawer are awkward to place tools I rely on just for a minute or two throughout the days of work. Pliers and thickness callipers, different pencils saw files. You can see that it seems jumbled but it’s really not at all a problem. I found it best to have one front cross divider that keeps my much used tools where I want them; the brass brush and the burnishers for sharpening scrapers, some small saw files and two dozen other small tools. I then have two long dividers running front to back that simply to prevent the continents from slipping diagonally or across the drawer. I counted the contents once and came out with 107 items. The drawer is recessed just below flush and the handle I made protrudes. Because the vise stands forward from the benchtop and apron it rarely if ever gets in the way. Many have said how they don’t like the drawer because you can never get in it when you want to because of what’s often clamped in the vise. That’s really not true at all. It’s minor convenience from time to time far outweighs the inability to forward plan and critically think through things ahead of time.
On all of my benches I have usually added the drawers after completion of the bench build. That’s because it’s of only marginal advantage to install it as you go. Adding the drawer in no way affects or indeed compromises the structural stability of this remarkable workbench. In a past workbench I had a push-me-pull-you drawer that could be accessed from both sides.
I hate to do posts without pictures, but this one’s easier that way. I’ll do pictures in a separate post.
if you read Chris Schwarz’ blog, http://blog.lostartpress.com/ you’ve seen his posts about Randle Holme’s seating furniture, and today a discussion between Chris & Suzanne Ellison about stools in particular. Randle Holme’s work has always been one of my favorite resources when studying 17th-century stuff. Another is probate records, particularly the household inventories compiled at the time of a person’s death. One reason these are so helpful is that they are the work of many people, thus we get a wider snapshot than just Randle Holme’s ideas. When you study inventories from a wide geographic range, you get various uses of terms. Once you study New England records, they’re even more mixed up, because you have immigrants from all over England thrown together in a small area. The language gets funny.
here’s some terms I have noted about seating furniture. These go way beyond the limits of Chris’ “furniture of necessity” but are still worthwhile.
My comments in brackets.
Chris – note: “beere stoole” and “ale stole” –
This first set I compiled from J. H. Wilson, editor, Wymondham Inventories (Norwich: Centre of East Anglian Studies, date?)
Two little buffett stooles
Litle old stoole
Old close stoole
Three footed stole
Framed stooles [not sure how or if a “framed” stool is different from a “joyned” form…the form is long. Framed & joined are usually thought to mean the same thing, joined w mortise & tenons]
Cushion chayer with a back
Great back chayers
A forme of joyned worke
Plymouth Colony, (New England) :
1 old brodred stoole [I think “boarded” in this case, not “embroidered” – but might be…]
2 busted stools 1s6d
3 bossed stooles [I think this is an upholstered stool, trimmed w large headed tacks…]
a close stoole 8s [not just a stool or ease, but any stool w a compartment in its bottom]
a large stoole Covering and many borderings for stooles 10s,
2 wrought stooles [wrought is upholstered]
2 Cushen stooles
six buffitt stooles 10s
Essex County, Massachusetts:
3 Leather stooles 5s
a brewing stoole 1s6d [“brewing stool” which might clarify the English “beer” and “ale” stools above.]
6 cushion stooles & 2 chaires £2
6s a great stoole or table 3s
an old stoole table
4 Lowe cuchin stools
Back in England, from A. D. Dyer, editor, Probate Inventories of Worcester Tradesmen, 1545-1614 (Worcestershire: W. S. Manley & Son LTD, for the Worcestershire Historical Society, 1967)
Gyne/geynyd stoole [think phonetic, thus “joined”]
Small settell of waynscote with a bench
One bench with a back of waynscote
Waineskott benche [in all of these wainscot means either oak, or frame & panel work.]
Peter C. D. Brears, editor, Yorkshire Probate Inventories 1542-1689 (Yorkshire: Yorkshire Archaeological Society, 1972)
Long furram [form?]
Seald/seeled cheare [this is “ceiled” a term meaning “joined” – joiners were sometimes called “ceilers”
Wanded chaire [willow/wicker]
Francis W. Steer, editor, Farm and Cottage Inventories of Mid-Essex, 1635-1749, (Colchester: Wiles & Son, Ltd., 1950)
great joyned chayer
Joyne inlaid Chaire
one Chaire with turn’d pins
Russia lather Chairs
blew cloth Chaires
chaires bottom’d with rushes
turkey worke stooles
bucket stools [seen paintings of chairs made from barrels. never seen an old one surviving]
Joyned stooles/ joint stooles
2 foote stooles
join’d stooles buffeded
one settle with 3 boxes in it
long bench joyning to the wainscot
Great Wicker Chair
low Wicker chair
Michael Reed, editor, The Ipswich Probate Inventories 1583-1631 (Woodbridge, Suffolk, England: Boydell Press for the Suffolk Records Society, 1981)
Frame for a stoole
Stole of easment – [this one’s clear – a chair w a chamber pot. a shitter]
Lowe ymbrydred stooles
Footestooles/ Ould footstooles
Two round stooles
Green frindged high stooles
Lyttle stoole with a green cover
Ould stooles covered with blue cloth
Three footed stooles
A brasse foot stoole
Small wyndd stooles
6 heigh stoles covered with lether
Old tressell stooles
Six wrought stooles
heigh stooles covered with lether
6 joyned stooles covered with scottish work
5 heigh buffet stoles
One high bench with a backe
Chayers litle and great
Wicker chaire with a back
Matted chayers [chairs w rush seats]
Six old segging chayers
18 chayers of seg cist 7s (?) [are these serge chairs? i.e. upholstered ?]
Wooden chayer – [Wooden? aren’t they all wooden? This means a wooden seat, not a woven seat.]
Three green turned chaires
Great turne chayer
One turnors chayre
Old turne chayer
hye turned chayer
hipp turned chayer (?) [I assume bad transcription]
one hopp chayer
Old backt chair
Joyned chaires great and small
A small Flanders chayer with a backe of green cloth
Great joyned chaire covered with lether
Lether backe chayers, 2 heygh and 2 lower
One chaire covered with scottish work
One great green frindged chaire
One high green chaire
One settworke chaire
chayers covered with greene kersye
1 couch as it standeth
In yesterday’s action packed blog cleverly titled The Met You Haven’t Met, I show a picture of the Blessing Bishop and speculated as to why he was hollowed.
Looking around the web some more, I came up with a possible explanation. In Italian Medieval Sculpture in the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Cloisters by Lisbeth Castelnuovo-Tedesco and Jack Soultanian, it is suggested that is might have been included as part of a framing structure. Probably an altarpiece with painted wings showing episodes from the life of St. Nicholas, to whom the church from which the sculpture came was dedicated.
Since I am on the road and didn’t have my copy with me, I found the book at Google Books.
Well, that’s one explanation. I like it.
Here is a fine cabinet by John from Switzerland, it is made with Barbados mahogany and demonstrates a wide range of woodworking skills.
Barbados mahogany is a very close relative of Cuban mahogany and is not commercially available any more.
A heavy duty pestle and mortar made from true lignum another banned wood. This must weigh a ton!
Some more lignum.
Wonderful book matched doors from more of the barbados mahogany, it looks like a monster rising from the flames! Thanks John for sharing the pictures.
To finish we have a couple of before and after shots from a happy customer in New Hampshire.
Below are some dovetails without the guide...
...and here is Shauns first attempt with the guide, much better!!
Earlier this week, contributing editor Suzanne Ellison suggested a short Q&A on early seating furniture, which she has been helping me research for “The Furniture of Necessity.” I consented, as long as the interview was conducted nude. This is my new condition for all interviews, except when it comes to Rosie O’Donnell. The following is the transcript of the chat.
Suzanne: The only condition you have for this email chat was it be done in the nude. Due to the low thermostat setting in my place I asked for a slight change of terms. I will be unclothed but draped (artistically) with a fleece blanket. You agreed this change was fair as you are already covered in fur.
You have written often of your admiration for John Brown and through him you discovered, and became enamored of, Welsh stick chairs. When did you build your first stick chair and how did it turn out? Was this the first chair you made? What did you learn from that first stick chair build?
Chris: I first learned of John Brown in the late 1990s when he was writing columns for Good Woodworking magazine in England. I was completely smitten by his chairs – unlike Windsor chairs, these looked like an animal that would pounce on you.
At the time I’d built quite a number of chairs, but they were all “frame” chairs – built using rectangular mortise-and-tenon joinery. Lots of Morris chairs (too many, really) and other Arts & Crafts arm chairs, settles and cube chairs.
I wanted to go to England to take a class with Brown, but I couldn’t afford the trip, so John Hoffman and I found a chairmaker in rural Cobden, Ontario, who taught Welsh chairs. We went up there for a week, and Dave Fleming introduced us to many of the skills that would change my thinking – turning on a pole lathe, working green stock with a hatchet and froe, all the wacky geometry and (most important) the wedged, conical mortise-and-tenon joint that is the foundation of Windsor chairs and staked furniture.
Suzanne: What, if any, modifications have you made to your stick chairs through the years? Do you have any photos of some of your early stick chairs?
I’ve tried lots of variations – different kinds of arm bows, different spindle shapes, different crest rails. I even tried a couple that had a solid backsplat (those were a design failure and so we sit on those at our house). Mostly, I’ve just been trying to expand the range of chairs that I can build. This book is getting me into three-legged variations and the backstools.
Suzanne: When it comes to necessary furniture it made sense to first have some sort of box or chest to store valuables. Eventually, something to sit on and get off the dirt floor was needed. Can you compare the Countrey Stoole and the staked stool? What are some of the earliest examples of these you have found? (In the van Ostade painting from 1661 the little girl to the left is at a countrey stool, to the left of her is a staked stool or small bench.)
Chris: These forms of furniture are hard to date because they remained unchanged for so long. So the furniture record is murky – stools made in the 1500s look identical to those in the 1800s, so we look to painings and drawings for clues. The Countrey Stool shows up in Randle Holme’s “Academy of Armory,” which I believe is the first written reference to the form. Holme shows it with a thick top and three legs that pierce the top – just like the photo you have.
The van Ostade paintings implies this stool – which could also be a table or work surface – was made from a section of a log that has been crosscut. The end grain is the top. It’s an easy way to make a work surface that can take abuse – the earliest butcher block. Holme’s drawing does not give me the impression that his stool was made from a stump, however.
In contrast, the staked stool or sawbench or whatever, is clearly made from a flat board and the face grain of the board is the working or sitting surface. In the painting, you can also see how some material has been added below the top to create more joinery surface and stiffen the top. This is also pretty typical and is still used today in what we call Moravian stools or chairs – the high form of staked furniture.
Suzanne: You’re not kidding about how long these forms have been around. D-shaped three-legged and rectangular four-legged stools dating to the 10th and 11th century have been found in Britain and Ireland. Since the Vikings left their DNA in large parts of Europe and the Mediterranean, who knows where else this form was used. We don’t know if it was their invention or if it was found on one of their expeditions and adapted for their use.
John Gloag wrote that the two furniture forms are a box and a platform. Despite the 17th-19th century “cheery peasant” paintings complete with dramatic lighting and smiling faces, life and living conditions were pretty grim. How did the stool, a form of platform, improve the life of the peasant?
Chris: Social hierarchy at the time had a lot to do with where you were sitting – hence the word “chairman.” The lowest class sat on the floor. Then you get stools, backstools and forms for the working people – these got you off the floor and in a position to do some work by the fire. The highest class of people got chairs. There’s little doubt that the progression – from floor to armchair – was all about comfort for the human body and was something you earned (or perhaps inherited).
Suzanne: Where actual peasant homes have been preserved, and in paintings, we often see a variety of stools (creepies, D-shaped, square), low benches, backstools and chairs. What does that tell you?
I see a family hierarchy. The stools and benches were multi-purpose – so-called “pig benches” could be used for slaughter and sitting. The chairs were for the heads of the family.
In looking at all these forms in one household you also get the impression that they were user-made. They look like they were made using found materials – sometimes roots, sticks and stumps. And the joinery is basic. You can make a stool with just an auger or brace (which has been around since the 1400s) and a hatchet.
Suzanne: I think it also shows a progression of furniture through the generations of a family. As a new piece was made, or possibly obtained through a dowry, the older stools or benches became available for younger members of a family to use. Subsequent generations had more seating and work surfaces and life was a bit more comfortable. It also speaks to how sturdy these pieces were. They stood up to a lot of use.
You have written about at least three different sawbenches; the most recent is the staked sawbench. What variations have you used in building this sawbench and have you determined your “best build?”
Chris: I’ve been messing around with staked sawbenches to explore the form a bit, inside and out. I’ve been changing the legs, the materials, the way the joint is made and then cutting them apart to see how things work inside the joint. In all likelihood, the original builders didn’t over-think it as much. But I can’t help myself.
The sawbench is the first project in “The Furniture of Necessity,” and it introduces people to the joint and the geometry. Once you build the sawbench, all the other staked forms are a cinch to construct. So I’m trying to start readers off on the right foot – hence the building of the same piece over and over. I don’t know if there is a “best” way to do, but I do have some clues about what makes a good staked joint.
Suzanne: In the last week you have been working on your trademarked Staked Chair, really a backstool. Can you explain the significance of the backstool in the family tree of seating? With the back added how does that change leg angles (rake and splay), if any?
Chris: The geometry of chairs is different than stools. You don’t have to use much rake and splay on a stool because all of the force applied to a stool comes from above – the buttocks. You need just enough of an angle to keep the stool from tipping over, but not so much angle that you trip over the thing constantly.
Adding a back to a stool – a backstool – changes the forces. Suddenly you have lateral forces (your back pressing on the crest and spindles) plus downward pressure.
The historical solution is to keep the front legs minimally raked and splayed like a stool. But you rake the rear feet (or foot) more dramatically backward. Ideally, I like to put the foot of the rear leg under the head of the sitter.
So this form adds comfort and complexity to the construction.
Incidentally, I’m building this three-legged version to test the assertion of furniture historians who say it takes “skill” to sit in a three-legged chair without toppling. That smells of crap.
Suzanne: You also have a three-legged stick chair (from one of the Temple Newson Stable Court exhibitions) planned as a future build. This looks to be a transition piece from backstool to chair. You got pretty excited about this little piece when you saw it. What are you looking forward to with this project?
I love Welsh chairs. I don’t think I have a drop of Welsh blood in me, but something about their shape speaks to me. The Cwm Tudu chair (what does that rhyme with?) is particularly enchanting because of its arm bow. It might be made from a found piece of wood with a natural crook. I’m trying to work up the guts to make the chair with a branch for an armbow, but I don’t want it to look like a driftwood sculpture you’d find for sale at Panama City, Fla.
The biggest joy for me is finishing a chair that looks sculptural, sits well and is built using dirt-simple geometry. It’s almost like knowing a secret that has been obscured for many years. And every chair form is a slightly different riddle to solve.
Suzanne: I like the idea of a favored chair as sculpture rather than just a holder of bodies. Experimentation is necessary for the maker to find the balance of design, materials and construction. Mies van der Rohe said, “The chair is a very difficult object. Everyone who has ever tried to make one knows that. There are endless possibilities – the chair has to be light, it has to be strong, it has to be comfortable….”
On the other hand we need to find out how to pronounce “Cwm Tudu.” I can’t use it in a limerick until then.
Last year I sent you an image of a child’s four-legged Welsh stick chair and quickly got a reply from you that the chair had five legs. You were correct, it had five legs. Without being able to examine the chair in person, what do you think was going on with that chair? Three legs too tippy, four still not enough, let’s go with five? Have you come across any other five-legged chairs?
Chris: I can only guess as to why you would make a chair with more than five legs. It uses more material and complicates construction. Here are some guesses, which are probably wrong: Perhaps it started life as a four-legged chair and one leg became loose or weak, so a fifth leg was added as an easier solution to replacing the bum leg. Second theory: It was built for a corpulent person. When dealing with furniture that was made by self-trained woodworkers, non-standard construction methods are the standard.
I have seen folk chairs (and rockers) with many more legs. Chester Cornett was famous for this.
Suzanne: OK, let’s look at the wacky “Sculpstoel” or “Men Shoveling Chairs,” Flemish, by the Circle of Rogier van der Weyden from 1444-50 in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. It is earlier than Randle Holme’s history of 17th century seating which you recently posted. What do you see and please give your interpretation of why they are shoveling chairs.
Chris: Once again, I see social hierarchy. This was a drawing for a sculpture for the Brussels town hall. One of the best explanations of its meaning (by Erwin Panofsky) is that the men with shovels are the city fathers creating social order amongst all the classes of people in the city, which are represented by the different kinds of chairs. There are curules and a fancy frame chair that represent the upper classes and staked stools and the like for the lower classes.
As a chairmaker, I see all the forms that were extant at the time. And different construction techniques, from the rectangular mortise-and-tenon on down to the staked stool. What is most important – in terms of the “Furniture of Necessity” – is that these 15th-century forms are indistinguishable from Holme’s 17th-century forms or the extant 19th-century forms in Wales.
— Christopher Schwarz & Suzanne Ellison
Filed under: Furniture of Necessity
Yesterday afternoon I began the refurbishing of my old beading plane that I “rediscovered” in my garage a few weeks back. Going into this, I don’t have high hopes to turn this tool into a precision piece of equipment that I purchased for peanuts. But I am hoping to learn more about moulding planes, as in how they work, how they are made, and what their potential happens to be.
I started by clamping the plane to the workbench and lightly sanding down any breakouts in the wood. There was some minor splintering that I managed to remove, and the boxwood does have a small chunk missing, but at the moment there is little I can do about it. I then turned my attention to the wedge, which I sanded by placing the sheets on my table saw, and going from 40 grit up to 220. I did a test fit with the sanded wedge and it was perfect, so I moved on to the iron.
Because I’ve never sharpened a profiled plane iron before, this was obviously going to be the most difficult part. I started by working on the back. I spent around 5 minutes on the diasharp with both grits, and then used the 8000 grit water stone to finish it. It definitely polished up nicely, and considering this plane is probably close to 150 years old I can live with that.
To sharpen the bevel, I once again used the diasharp and 8000 grit water stone, and just like all of my sharpening lately, I did it freehand. I’ve come to a conclusion that will contradict my earlier beliefs, but I truly think that freehand sharpening is just as easy as using a honing guide, and in some cases it is actually easier. Anyway, once I got the bevel sharp and square I used a slipstone to sharpen the actual bead. I have only one slipstone, which is a 4000 grit. That should be fine for most steel as long as it doesn’t need to be reground. In this case, I will probably have to go to a lower grit, or perhaps some sandpaper and a dowel, because I did manage to improve the bead, but it took tool long a time, and it still needs work.
I did a test bead on a piece of scrap pine and I am encouraged by the results. The shoulder of the bead is very crisp and smooth, which hopefully means that I managed to get it sharpened the way it was meant to be sharpened. The bead, on the other hand, isn’t too bad, but still needs work. The purpose of these planes was to produce profiles that would not need additional work for finish. As of now the bead would probably need a light sanding before I could apply a stain, but I’m definitely not unhappy with the effort. As I said, I believe that some 220 sandpaper wrapped around a dowel would do wonders. Now I need only to keep using the tool and learn its peculiarities, such as how tightly I should set the wedge and how thick the shavings should be. But I like the profile, it has much more character than a bead made on a router table, and its less messy and a hell of a lot quieter. If all goes well, I may just have to attempt to build one of these for myself.
How do you know when a company has pride in its work and is experienced? Take a look at how products are shipped. Around the end of 2014, I received, for a customer, a hand-painted tall clock dial from Dial House II in Temple, Georgia. I knew the painting would be exquisite because I’ve used them and seen their work numerous times. It was. What surprised me, however, was the packaging. Strange, huh?
The dial pan and moon dial were packed in a custom box, which had added support inside. The extra strip of cardboard surrounded the contents. After I removed the packed-in newspaper, I pulled out the package. Everything was nestled in multiple layers of bubble wrap. At this point I’m almost sure that a FedEx or UPS driver having an impossible day could not have damaged the dial.
Once the bubble wrap was stripped, the pan and dial were covered in clean, neatly folded paper. As the paper came off, I got a look at the paintings. Needless to say, I was once again happy with the folks at Dial House II – as was my customer.
The dial pan and moon dial are for a Federal tall clock that I built for a customer. The original was an Egerton clock from New Jersey. After I began the project I decided to build a second for myself – at this time, my clock has a reproduced paper dial that I pulled off an antique clock website. I posted a number of blogs on my time building the clock, all of which have been ported to the new 360 WoodWorking blog (search tall clock).
In case you haven’t looked at a painted clock dial and moon dial, below are photos of the two. My customer asked that there be a theme to the painting, which was focused on shorebirds and shrimp boats.
If you didn’t know – and I have to admit that I didn’t until recently – there are two moons painted on the moon dial.
If you need a dial for your tall clock, I suggest Dial House II. There are three generations of artists working on all phases of clock dials from new work to restoration of antique works. You can find them online, here.
Build Something Great!
That doesn't mean I've stopped researching, reading, and drawing. In my mind the work becomes more and more organized with every day.
Outside of religion and politics, I have never known anything to be more the victim of preconceived judgement and notions than medieval Europe. People love trivia and they like to display their intelligence, (I'm no different) so they spout off whatever the last thing they saw on the history channel, or in a movie, or read in a dogeared copy of John's Bathroom Reader. One of my goals spending the last two decades as a medieval reenactor, has been to try and gently add some common sense to the weird things people believe.
Buy me a beer and I will tell you some of the conversations I've had.
Furniture is no different a victim, perhaps it's even worse because it settles into the background on most people's tapestries. When was the last time you gave any real thought to your dining room chair? It's simply there when you need it. Most of us see people and stories, I spend the Lord of The Rings movies trying to decipher the joinery of the chairs in Rivendell.
So what was furniture like in the Middle Ages? The Dark Ages? How about more specifically in France around the years 1240 - 1260 AD? How can anyone know? What has survived.
The answers are there in front of us, you just have to open your eyes and mind to see them.
I saw a video this morning on a man named Lars Andersen who has taken an eyes open approach to medieval archery. Take a quick few minutes and watch it. It will impress you.
The evidence and answers to Lar's questions were in ancient writings and manuscripts. He wasn't the first person in a thousand years to read the words or observe the manuscript representations of archers. But he looked at things with his eyes open and thought maybe he should try to do things like he sees them instead of doing them like he'd always been told he should.
But how can we trust the artisans of medieval times. We all know the term "artistic license" means those bastards can make up anything they choose. Besides their perspective is all wonky, how can you trust them.
I had the same thoughts and worries until I was studying some pages from the Morgan bible one late night and found a detail that made me a believer.
This is Folio 39 Recto. It displays King David leading a crushing rout of the Palestinians on the top and below the good people of Israel celebrate the victory around the Arc of the Covenant.
Let's look closer.
As we look closer at King David and the battle more details in the armor, weapons, and attitudes come to light. I think it's fun to realize the Israelites are shown dressed in what would have been considered "State of the Art" armor in 1250 AD France and the Palestinians are depicted wearing what would probably have been considered "outdated."
There's an interesting commentary there I'm not interested in wading into.
Let's look closer still.
We're starting to focus in on King David. resplendent in his painted full face helm and accessorizing crown. The epitome of masculinity and virile combat prowess.
Closer . . .
As we look below King David's mount we can really begin to see some details present in the work. Representations of the individual rings of steel in the maile armor. Fluting for added strength on the nasal helm of the prostrate warrior and and etching or decoration present on the helm of the oddly smiling character behind him.
I particularly like the leather straps at the ankles of both King David and the trampled Palestinian. From experience I would surmise these are either to help tie the maile chausses (armored leggings) in place to keep them from slipping and binding at the ankle joint and/or to tie on a symbol of knighthood. A set of spurs.
But the details go further . . .
As I was looking at the picture my eyes settled on these red brush strokes on the underside of King David's mount. After pondering it for a few moments it occurred to me . . . these were representing the marks that would have been made by the King's royal spurs as he urged his mount into battle.
My mind was blown.
I woke up my wife to show her I was so excited.
I'm still paying for that. . . .
Seeing this was my second Ah Ha moment chasing this subject. This is the kind of thing the person who created this page of the manuscript would have seen commonly. The men who illustrated the Morgan Bible were drawing snapshots of the world they experienced, and they were doing it in great detail. It's the closest thing I can hope for outside of finding photography or film footage from that time.
Come to think of it, the only thing that could be better is a Delorean, a Flux Capacitor, and 1.21 Gigawatts of power.
So I've decided to do my best to trust the artists who created the Morgan Bible. To just try and look with my eyes open at their work and try not to pile my own baggage and ideas into it.
It's difficult. In the end we will see how well I do. Eventually I have to trust my own filter and focus too. Maybe the best I can hope for is a balance between both visions.
Moving forward . . . Eyes wide open.
Ratione et Passionis
This my not be important, but looking at your pencils in the jar in the tool well, I wondered how you sharpened your pencils?
Most of my life I used a chisel to sharpen my pencils but `i felt the graphite wasn’t good for my chisels. I use pencil sharpeners in the school for convenience for the students who are not used to chisel sharpening and switched from using the chisel to the sharpener. Anyway we used one made by Swordfish and it has proven the best of all as it’s a simple hand wound one that always gets a good point even with soft leads for drawing and even coloured pencils too. Phil found a new one from Swordfish called the Swordfish Pointi. It creates a beautiful long and slender point and for around £6 it is good value for money.
On a side issue:
My boss always irritated me whenever I sharpened my pencil, about ten times a day working on wood, by saying, “The problem with blunt pencils is there’s just no point to them.” I lean across my bench for the sharpener now and every time I hear his Irish lilting voice saying, “The problem with blunt pencils is there’s just no point to them.”, but now I smile to myself and everyone I work with wonders why I always smile when I sharpen my pencil.
Have a nice day everyone. Oh, and always try to get your point across. Make someone in the dim and distant future smile. It’s nearly 50 years since I heard Patrick’s voice. One day someone will chuckle to themselves I’m sure.
If you are at all like me, no trip to New York is complete without spending half a day at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The $25 admission means you really don’t want to treat this as a fly by. More importantly, in the American Wing they host a fabulous collection of American furniture in galleries and period rooms. Regular readers have already seen some of the overflow collection in a previous blog, Gallery 774 – Luce Center Visible Storage. My wife tells me that they also have paintings, ceramics, textiles, Asian, African and Egyptian art, armor as well as the Costume Institute. I believe I remember seeing some of this while looking for the men’s room.
What you may not know is that there is another branch of the Met in Fort Tryon Park in the Washington Heights section of Upper Manhattan. There you will find The Cloisters, a building that contains the Met’s extensive collection of 12th to 15th century European Medieval art, architecture and artifacts. The building itself was built by John D. Rockefeller, Jr. from 1934 to 1939 using parts from five European abbeys that were disassembled and shipped to New York. For more information, check the Wikipedia article HERE.
The first thing to see is the building itself:
They have lots of carved wooden statuary. This is Blessing Bishop (Saint Nicholas of Bari), 1350 to 1375, probably made in Umbria, Italy of poplar:
And he’s not all there:
Aside from that which is obviously broken off, he has been hollowed out. I am curious as to why. Was it to control shrinkage and movement? Done during conservation? Just the custom of the area? I just don’t know. Any reasonable theories will be entertained.
FYI, European poplar is not the same wood as American yellow poplar. American yellow poplar is actually tulipwood (Liriodendron tulipifera). True American poplars are aspen and cottonwood. I am only sharing this because the blog looked a bit short.
And there is furniture:
hence the name of the blog.
Admission to The Cloisters will also cover admission to the main building and vice versa. To get there by subway, take the A train to 190th Street. Exit and it’s a short walk along Margaret Corbin Drive.
You now have no reason not to go. Unless it’s the whole getting to New York thing.
To see the first set of pictures from The Cloisters, click HERE.
|Mr. Cope's Patent Bed Wheels|
Six months ago I posted information about some nice antique hardware, specifically wheels marked "COPE'S PATENT". You can find this post using the search tool; it was July 5, 2014.
Well, yesterday I finally found another example of this type of wheel, from an email sent to me by an English antique dealer. It is amazing and wonderful how internet searches can bring people together.
He had been searching the internet to find out information and discovered my post searching for help.
Thomas Franklin wrote to me stating that he has been in the antique business for 50 years in England and had seen numerous examples of Cope's castors over his career. He indicated that many of these pieces were from the Regency period, which makes sense, since the rosewood table I restored was exactly from that period.
As Mr. Franklin now lives in France he is finding a good supply of English furniture which the aristocracy brought over from England some 150 years ago.
He sent me photos, which I post here, of wheels which were original to a Hepplewhite bed he purchased in France. He said the bed could not be later than 1830, and that the Cope's wheels are "definitely English."
I have seen similar wheels (not marked Cope however) on bed frames from Lannuier (Empire period) to Herter Brothers (Late Victorian period). Most of the high end beds during the 19th century had wheels, either brass or porcelain, mounted under the frame inside the rails or foot/head boards. These wheels allowed the rather heavy beds to be more easily moved away from the walls or around the room if necessary.
|Height Adjustment Possible|
Mr. Franklin notes that the wheels he has on his bed were the first he had seen with a method to adjust the height.
I am curious as to what exactly did Mr. Cope do to wheel design to gain the advantage of a patent?
The drawers at the end of my bench, the ones directly adjacent to my vise, are really tills. Tills are narrow drawers for we woodworkers. They are handier than drawers for some things and we like them because they can be lifted to the bench top, looked into, kept there or put back. My chisels, some are my more special chisels, are kept there. In another till I keep my vintage wooden spokeshaves. About ten or so of them. These are quite special too, you know. History kept as the better of all the ages. They’re better in my view than any ever made in the last hundred years. How can that be? Why? Well, once you use one you understand, once you master one I mean. Sharp, refined, light, effective. No one has improved on them. People talk to me of this maker or that, or a new one here and another there, but they don’t really know. The nice thing is that eBay seems to have three or four for sale each day cycling through.
The middle till drawer is where I keep my stash of old fourfold rulers safe and a few more besides together with more of my old chisels. I also keep my collection of old made-in-Sheffield, Sheffield-steel scissors here too. You know, the ones people can’t be bothered sharpening because the Chinese ones come in plastic packs of three for £3 and when they go dull you just toss them and buy more. The old ones sell for 50 pence a pair here and with a saw file you can sharpen them in under a minute usually. There’s a video here to show you how too. I did that one with John last year. What I like about them is how fine they feel and lovely in the hand. My mother was a seamstress and used the same pair of scissors throughout her life making wedding dresses. About 50 years.
In the long well on the farside of my benchtop I keep all of my tape measures in a small dovetails box. The tapes start in the box and get pulled out as I work around the shop. I take one to the bandsaw and leave it there forgetfully so I pull out another and leave it one of my carts nearby. Then I leave one inside a drawer I am making and before i know it I’ve lost them all. I clean up and pick up and at the end of the day they are all back safely in their box. All except one that is. This one I find in my pocket when I get home.
Next to the end of the well is a box of beeswax filler sticks which I use to fill flaws, gaps and nail heads as needed. Beside this tray is a tray of boxwood-handled bevelled-edge chisels. 1/8”, 3/16”, 1/4”, 3/8”, 7/16”, 1/2”, 5/8”, 3/4”, 7/8” and 1 1/4”. A second chisel tray holds more chisels, two by Aldi, some Wards and an I Sorby. These last two are 1 1/4” bevelled-edge chisels that are hard steel that retain their edge better than any I know of. Not so common as my old Boxwood handled Marples. I keep a cup of pencils ready and sharp. Ticonderoga #2s. The keeps them handy and I have a couple of steel rules and pens and other bits to work with. At the far end of the trough are my gauges. Mixed ones but usually they are either combination gauges or marking gauges. About centre to the length of the bench I have a row of oval handled screwdrivers with boxwood handles. These and the gauges poke through holes in the bottom of the well.
Next I sawed the pieces for the case to their finished lengths + a small bit for squaring up on the shooting board.
The shooting board was out of square. I knew it was last time I used it, but I never did anything about it. But this time I had the fillister that could work as a rabbet plane. So I dismounted the fence and the rod and used it it adjust the shooting board with.
After that the ends were squared up.
I remounted the fence on the moving fillister and planed the rabbets for containing the bottom of the chest. This went surprisingly smooth.
Next I engaged the nicker iron of the moving fillister, and made a rabbet on each end of the tail boards. I discovered that I had a tendency to tilt the plane a bit, so the rabbet isn't completely level. It is a bit deeper on the outside which could result in visible gap once I assemble the case, but time will tell.
To try something new out here, I decided to go the "tails first" route. It is what I prefer to do while at home, but with my new rabbet making possibilities I figured that I would give it a go out here as well.
The tails were laid out using a divider. Given that this is supposed to be a tool chest I made them a bit sturdy. I used my old cardboard dovetail marker for laying out the angles, I think the slope is 1:6, but I can't really remember. Anyway that used to be the traditional slope in Denmark for soft wood, so it should be OK.
Instead of using a hack saw for sawing out the tails I tried using my dozuki saw. It is not the best saw for the job, possibly because it is filed for cross cutting. But nevertheless it got the job done. An advantage of using such a narrow blade for the tails is that the corners become more crisp compared to when I use a hack saw.
For the tails I think I'll go back to the hack saw, as it is easier to control, and the corners at the bottom of the pins will be square to the ends of the boards so a fat kerf doesn't matter here.
The waste between the tails were chopped out with a chisel.
I almost feel sorry for mentioning this again, but the Crown chisels I have in this set have steel that is as soft as tin foil. They are easy to sharp, but they very quickly get a damaged edge which would be understandable if it was iron wood, elm, superdry pitch pine or something along those lines. But this is soft spruce, so the edge ought to hold for more than 3 tails.
I think that I'll might find a 1/2" and a 1" E.A. Berg chisel at home and substitute the two Crown chisels with those. Thaw way I won't have to become irritated every time I need to chisel across the grain.
At the next opportunity I'll work on the pins and hopefully be able to glue the case together.