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.

Saturday 14 November 2020

Harvestman and spoons

It was blowing a gale this morning and lashing down (across) with rain. So I lit the burner, tidied the bench and while the sheep stood out in the field getting wet, this harvestman and I took shelter.

After a while I got bored of looking at the wet sheep, so I carved some black walnut spoons.

Sunday 8 November 2020

Waste not want not

Last week's attempt at making chestnut shakes was in vain. The customer has decided that they want sawn shingles instead, which leaves me with a pile of flat pieces of riven chestnut.

I've never carved chestnut before, but there's always a first time.


I've not really been able to do any riven, joined furniture for the past few years; we've been moving house and sorting that out. And of course all of the everyday work. This summer I have been building a dedicated hand tool workshop, and now I have my bench and tools installed, time to crack on. First on the slab, this piece of chestnut.



Sunday 1 November 2020

Sunday riving battens

 Sunday riving chestnut battens and carving a cherry spoon.

Halloween Saturday Splitting Shingles

After a stormy, rain-battered morning, the sun shone bright. Time to try out making sweet chestnut shingles/shakes. Similar to making wide panels from oak....but much easier; split, flatten, chamfer, done.

After splitting the round of sweet chestnut, on the horse chestnut chopping block. Maul in the giant's froe and into the riving brake. 

As I finished the sky was darkening and rain starting once more.

Come little leaves said the wind one day

Over the fields with me and play

Put on your colours of red and gold

Summer has gone and the days grow old

Wednesday 11 March 2020

"Put't wood in't hole"

What I love about the general joinery side of my work, is finding fragments of the past in the buildings that I work on. When installing new window, doors and staircases that we have made, we find packing made from old neswpapers.

This one relates to a story from 1978, when a section of the Chesterfield canal was accidentally drained when workmen inadvertently removed a giant wooden plug, which had been installed 200 years previously to allow for maintenance.

The new oak door was being installed in Roc House, in Broadhempston.

Double-skinned, insulated, double-glazed with new pointing around the frame to match the existing lime mortar. It had to be oak, really, to match the panelling in the hallway.

As we say in Yorkshire, "Put't wood in't hole"

Tuesday 3 March 2020

Tulip scoops

Sat waiting for a timber delivery. Making the most of some spring sunshine, carving tulip scoops from field maple.

Saturday 18 January 2020

Sauna/Sweatlodge Spoon

This is the first time I have carved field maple. I didn't notice the side branch until the log was halved, but it's a happy accident; it will make a good spillway for the water.