Saturday, 16 January 2021

Here's one I made 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.


Monday, 4 January 2021


So, on with the chest. Pegs made.

 Pegholes drilled through mortices.

And tenons.

This is the backside of the back of the chest. It looks rough, but this is how they were made; only surfaces on show were finished; non-visible surfaces left scrub-planed or even sideaxed; most of these chests werde made to back against a wall. 

Back assembled and drawbored.


 Now the main carcass of the chest is joined, time to fit the floorboards.

 Nailed up to the back centre rail.

Boards trimmed. Back board fitted and nailed to bottom rail. Turned right way up.

Fitting the floorboards gives extra strength and rigidity to the chest. Boards from inside.

The stiles were left long during the making; it prevents breaking out when chopping the mortices at the top of the stiles. So now it's time to trim those of, in preparation for making and fitting the chest lid.

I was re-visiting the photos I took of this beauty the other day.

The framing members can't be much more then 3/4" thick. My version of this iconic chest has a frame  1 1/2" thick.

This new chest has a frame not much thinner than that, but the lid is going to be 13/16".



Thursday, 31 December 2020

Mule chest continued. A good time to set intentions.

I have recently been working, after a considerable interlude, on a mule chest (chest with drawer).

I think some explanation as to the why and wherefore of  this creation is necessary, for clarity and by way of setting intentions for the year ahead. The methods used to make it are seventeenth century. Hand conversion of green oak by riving radially, then subsequent axing, planing and joining by use of exclusively hand tools to create a piece of furniture as it was made in the 1600s; in joinery shops across England, Wales, Scotland and New England, USA. English furniture of the time was most likely to be made from sawn oak, New English from riven oak. I choose to use the riven method.

I have previously made pieces which are re-creations of actual 17th century furniture. They have followed the designs and the patterns, true to the originals joiner's vocabulary of learnt motifs. With this mule chest, I am using those 17th century construction methods, and patterns, as inspiration, but creating my own, new, original pattern designs. As though 350 years had not passed by....

The panels that had been made were not up to scratch, so some more had to be made. Here they are trial fitted.

 The next task was making the drawer.

Ploughing a groove in the bottom back of the drawer to take the bottom boards.

I realised my bowl horse was ideal for ripsawing the drawer rails.

Having made the drawer rails, the drawer sides can be ploughed.

This will slide on the rails, once they have been fitted into the main stiles of the chest. Pre-drilling the back of the drawer, before assembly.

The drawer is simply held against the bench leg, for further drilling and nailing.

Trial-fitting of the drawer rails, prior to the final drawboring and assembly of the chest.

 The drawer in the chest. 

Monday, 21 December 2020

Happy Saturn/Jupiter Conjunction. When worlds collide.

It's almost four hundred years ago, since Saturn and Jupiter came so close together in the sky, in 1623. And nearly 800 years, 1226, since they came so close and were observable with the naked eye. 

A lot has changed in how we view the world. One thing that stays the same, though, is that we need light to see by.


Sunday, 15 November 2020

Now where was I?

I haven't done anything to this chest in a few years. I drawbored the front together last time I was working on it , but the rest was in bits. So today was a bit like I had been and bought a 17th century riven joined chest Airfix kit, and all I had to do was assemble it. 


An airfix kit which I had made earlier!

The stile grooves were already ploughed. I marked on the rails and muntins with chalk, so I knew which side I was grooving when dis-assembled. It's fairly obvious because the back side of this furniture is not dressed as well as the front, but after a 3 year hiatus, I don't really want to start back at the beginning

Then secured the framing members against the planing stop, using the bench screw and holdfasts for extra stability. My plough plane had the right iron and was set right; this was the last task it did, so that's no surprise. Neither was the accumulation of dust on it!

I had to sort through this pile to find the panels. There are most of the pieces for this chest, and the beginnings of a smaller one.

Then I dressed the front and chamfered the back down to fairly thin, to fit into the groove in the frame.

First panel in the back.

The thrill of hand conversion of oak is still there. Taking it from the woods. Riving it. Axing and planing. Carving. Pegging it together. My happy place.