Tuesday, 18 January 2022

Taking pride in your work

I sense a running theme for this January. It's all just lion, lions, lions. Lion posts, lion doors and when we were fitting windows at Furzeleigh Mill today, we looked up and lo and behold; cast iron lion gutters!


Not something you see every day (in fact never). The windows went in well, no doubt helped by the lion gods looking down.

Clearly, they wanted to give me time to get on with their friend's door.

Whether it's fitting windows or carving, it's good to take pride in your work.

Saturday, 15 January 2022


The livery cup-board's upper level has a cupboard with canted sides, made up of framing, a door and two panels. The door and panels have the same design, the panels being a bit bigger than the door, to allow for them being held in grooves in the frame.

All three have a raised section in the form of a lion, so in selecting stock for this, I am looking for a piece of oak that can accomodate this.

For the benefit of anyone reading this blog for the first time, I convert logs by splitting them in half, and then half again, and so on, leaving 'pieces of cake', from which I then extract the required 2x4, 2x1, or whatever.

This 'piece of cake' was riven some years ago. It is ideal for my needs, having a bump on the side.

I might get the door and one panel from it.

After isolating the raised area with a saw, I removed the waste with the side axe. I found a framing chisel quite useful for flattening the door around the central block.

After working out the actual shape of the lion's head, back to the saw, and then in with gouges.

Sunday, 9 January 2022

Livery cupboard

So the s-scroll from the last post belongs to the top rail for a livery cupboard. In Tudor times (16th century), in England, livery cupboards were used for the storage and distribution of food (livery) and probably the equipment for doling it out. The more extravagant pieces were status symbols, and possibly also used to display the best silver.

The livery cupboard I am making is based on a high-end example and will be extensively carved to reflect this. It will have tudor roses, lion posts and cockatrices/basilisks as per the original.

Livery cupboards from the earlier part of this period often have lions or mythological creatures as the corner posts and that is the case with this one. Later examples tended towards simpler turned posts.

The lion posts here have been taken to an almost finished stage. They are still a bit green and I will finish them completely once they have dried. I haven't finished the feet as I may need to adjust them when I assemble the cupboard; they need to line up with the corner of the middle shelf, all will become clear later.

The s-scroll rail which will go above the lion and shield posts, has scrolls over and beyond any I have carved before; they extend and interweave. Here is the whole rail, with the ground on most of it still to remove.

The middle shelf has a drawer below it, and what a drawer! It will have a running cockatrice design. Cockatrices were a mythological creature popular in Tudor times. A mix of cockerel, lion and reptile, you wouldn't want to bump into one on a dark night.


The side rails adjacent to the s-scroll rails and the drawer front are continuations of these designs, but there are lots of other unusual carvings, which make up the rest of this piece, to come.

Tuesday, 4 January 2022

Meander ahead!

I thought I was about to get stuck into making a riven chest, and then I got the go-ahead for several listed building jobs. Windows and doors, architectural joinery restoration. So last year was mostly taken up with those. 

Continuuing work on this Dartmoor house, the original parts of, being 15th century. Some new windows, sliding sash restoration, a new porch, new barge boards etc.

Some double stable doors and windows to replace the modern units on this 14th century farmhouse in Broadhempston.

One exception was this group of bookshelves from the Huxham's Cross oak I milled and laid up a few years back. So modern production, 17th century carving.

Some fun with cement board, creating this mock medieval fireplace for Ian's woodburner. It's always been there, honest governor!
And so to the close of the year, and finally back to the mainstream, a new log and some riven oak furniture to be made. Not a chest, but a livery cupboard. For cupboard, read cup-board. i.e. a 16th/17th piece of furniture for displaying your silver cups and plate on and maybe to store your other tableware.

Here is a sneak preview of the top rail. S-scrolls in overdrive.

Saturday, 16 January 2021

Here's one I made earlier...one chest back, one side axe, one stile...oh hang on that's more than one...

 I was sorting stuff out down at the main workshop, and came upon this chest back I made earlier.

That smoothing plane has been hanging around a while in a drawer,since I bought it at a boot sale, waiting to be re-conned. The seen side of the chest back is a bit rough, but half an hour with the new smoother and scraper plane has it looking more cheerful.

The back of the back is as rough as a badger's breakfast, but that's ok.

I bought this side axe a few years ago now. The handle was straight, not off-set (which is best for a side-axe) and there was no room for fingers in between the handle and beard. I made a new handle from ash, but never got round to fitting it. Today was the day for things I had made (or bought) earlier, so on with the new handle.

That inch and a half chisel was another boot sale acquisition; 50p. I assumed it must have belonged to a plumber; in place of a ferrule was a length of copper pipe, and it was badly beaten up. I had to grind it back flat 1/2", before I could grind a new bevel. Inside that ugly appearance was a lovely old Sorby chisel. I'll keep the copper handle until it gives up the ghost and then replace it.


I can fit my fingers in between the beard and handle now, for finer control and the offset will stop me rapping my knuckles against the timber being hewn.

Just a point. I will smooth the handle more, once I have used it a few times. It's not good to leave handles rough like this, unless you want blisters.

It will be good to have the option of a different side axe for hewing. The Stubai is good for stiles and rails, but a longer blade is better for panels.

This blog is given in the spirit of sharing. Please feel free to comment. I would rather it was a two way thing. Happy hewing!

Sunday, 10 January 2021

Lid, drawer and pulls

This furniture is normally started with green oak. That means fresh, unseasoned timber. It seasons and dries as the furniture is made; this works because of the way that the joints are cut; tenon backside shoulders are not tight to allow movement. Panels can move within the frame. The rails, stiles and tenons for this chest lid were roughed out some time ago; so the joints are somewhat tighter than with greener oak. More care needs to be taken with the drawboring, as the dry oak can break out more easily.

I made these snipe-bill or 'gimmal' hinges for this chest.

I am using some sawn oak for the floorboards, three boards fitted side-to-side. It's the only sawn stock in the chest.

I have ordered some brass repro drop pulls for the drawer, but I am not convinced they are right for this chest. They are more late 17th century. Whichever, they have not arrived, so I have hand-carved some black walnut pulls; a hole drilled, reamed and wedged from the back. I have left it long; that way if it loosens in time, the wedge can be knocked further in and then trimmed.

Some wax on the drawer-hangers and the chest is all but finished.