Tuesday 24 December 2013

Strange reindeer and rude joints

I put the current chest together the other day, fitting the till and the floor boards. I will leave the last board out until after Christmas to allow the others to season a little, then drive it in to tighten them all up. I can't really do it yet anyway. Richard Bent is making me some rosehead nails, but they won't be ready until the New Year.

After this I started prepping the rails and stiles for the panelled top. I opened up this log which I had been saving for the lid panels, but disaster struck, the log was twisted and unusable inside.

A typical case of not counting your panels before they are hutched. Not the first this week as I found out the other day I had not been accepted to show at Bovey Tracey Craft Fair. If this is not Devon craft I don't know what is!

Anyway, onwards. I need to clear some space and use up the more twisted oak, so I can get some more suitable stuff for riving in.

I am meandering from hand tools on this job, its not like I'm out to make a seventeenth century pole lathe. I must confess to never having turned anything in my life before, but I will need to turn the front legs on the settle I am going to join next.

A nice piece of holly for the bed.

 Some riven oak billets for the legs.

I have based this on a pole lathe made by Sean Hellman. I bow to his greater experience in turning matters. The joints are rude but appear to function well enough. I don't want to spend weeks fashioning a perfect lathe. I am very much into the functionality of tools and not so bothered what they look like. I prefer to put the effort into what I am making with them.

My modern electric drill succmbed to its inbuilt obsolence yesterday and I didn't fancy a hand auger or brace to go through the six inches of not very green holly, so it was out with this beauty. Presumably a 1950's beast that was made before some fool thought of IO. It reminds me of black and white Flash Gordon rocket ships.

Next for a length of hawthorn for the swing arm pivot. I was aiming for a reindeer but ended up with this strange beast. A treadle, a swing arm and some centres to add but that's another story.

Best wishes to all for the festive season.

Saturday 14 December 2013

Is the chest half full or half empty?

Last week I came to trial assemble the chest I am working on. Ooops, I had made the back 3/4" too short. I was a tad miffed to start with, until I realised that instead of one chest being only half-finished I was almost halfway to having made two chests!

I did not have a tree wide enough to make another three panel back, but a four panel back will do. Today I have been making the till. This needs to be fitted at the same time as the front, back and sides are drawbored together, as its parts are sandwiched between the front and back.

I picked up a few books from Oxfam bookshop yesterday.


which was written in 1888 or thereabouts in Karlsruhe, Germany. 1000's of designs for everything from a guilloche to to a handbell.

Friday 29 November 2013

Bovey Tracey Craft Fair 2014

So, just got my application in for Bovey. Its quite a big step. It means that I am going to be spending a lot of time over the winter, in the workshop. Making!

Taking seventeenth century methods and applying my own designs.

Set course for Bovey Tracey. A six month voyage. Weigh anchor. Hoist the main sail!

Tuesday 19 November 2013

Joined chest front....joined

This week has seen the carving on the front of the present chest being finished and edge mouldings being  applied with a scratch stock. After trial fitting it is time to drill the mortice and tenons and then hammer the pegs home.

Carving double s scrolls


Monday 11 November 2013

Freestyle v-gouge

There has been a bit of a break from the carving on this chest. I jumped the gun and carved the front panels several weeks ago now, but then realised that several framing members which I had prepared earlier had worm in them. New stiles knocked up. Rewind.

Back to the point where I can start carving again. The top rail on the photos I took of the Dennis chest seem to have no layout showing. I am assuming that the carver must have at least laid out the centres for the flower stems at equal distances along the rail with compasses.

Then chopped with a gouge the flower centres and intermediate circles. The rest appears to be freehand with the v-gouge.

I am roughing out the freestyle bits with chalk until I get used to this pattern.

Pattern outlined and background removed.

Background will need matting, chamfers and some punch work still to do tomorrow. 


We went to Exeter car boot sale today where I picked up this chip-carved table for £4.

Oak top which seems to have been re-used from an earlier table. The carver has left all the compass layout lines. I love it!

Underneath has possible signs of riving, axe marks etc.

 Also picked up this sunken handled plane for £1.50. Bargain.

Saturday 9 November 2013

Getting a handle on it.

You will probably have gathered by now that one of my interests is 17th century joined furniture of  England and New England, so I was very happy to acquire and read this book last week.

Full of back story to the woodworking going on in Ipswich Massachusetts in its early years as a colony and some suggestions about English woodworking of the same period. There are details of construction which differentiate the hand of Thomas Dennis/William Searle from other joiners working in New England at the time. For instance the use of half inch tenons on the ends of the rails. It is possible that either of them (if indeed they both originated in Devon, England) would have carried this habit when they emigrated to New England, meaning that any chest made here in Devon, and ascribed to them may have those half inch tenons. I will have to get another look at the Dennis chest I am using as inspiration for the current chest I am working on, to see if this is so.

Anyway, my chest is going to have half inch rail tenons, so this week I dug out my half inch mortice chisel and gave it a sharpen.

With this split in the handle I didn't hold much hope for the pounding I was about to give it.

And sure enough, half way through the second mortice, it gave up the ghost - or should I say ghosts; the ghosts of  Mr. Sedlen and Mr. Lake RIP. I wonder when and where they used this chisel!

A small chunk of well-seasoned ash, a couple of  sections of scaffold bar and we have the new uberhandle. I don't think I'm going to split this one in a hurry.

Also following the advice of Mr. Tarule, although I haven't had a problem with it before, I cut all the tenons first the other day, to give them maximum time for drying out before the chest is drawbored. Using the newly handled half inch chisel I chopped the mortices for the front frame of the chest today.

All achieved in the warmth provided by my new woodburner. Thanks Judy!

Wednesday 23 October 2013

Pews, pews, pews!

Trying to get to Axminster today, a road closure caused me to follow a diversion which lead me to Ottery St. Mary, birthplace of William Searle. I took the opportunity to have a look round the church. Beautiful pew ends which have recently been restored.

Searle must have seen these and been influenced by them. Not sure, but I think he may have been married in this church.

Very pleased to have been diverted.

The other day I was walking from the workshop down Totnes high street and thought I would get a few photos of the pews, because I had my camera with me.

Tuesday 15 October 2013

Building bridges

I have been completing a few projects in the past week.

A bridge across a nature reserve river.

And a larch-framed and clad sun room.

So, back in the workshop last Thursday, and very happy to be so. Temperatures dropped about the same time and it very much felt like October. First lighting of the woodburner! Leaves falling onto the roof.

I had planned to make a 4 foot wide chest this time. Meanwhile, I had come across this Dennis/Searle chest in a private collection not far from where I live. The owners were more than happy for me to study it. A lot of  the dimensions are the same as the timber I have already prepared; it seems fated. The chest is constructed from sawn timber but I will be using riven oak. With the sound of geese heading south overhead I can get stuck into the stock I prepared six weeks ago.

Here's the first two panels.