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The Woodworking Blogs Aggregator

An aggregate of many different woodworking blog feeds from across the 'net all in one place!  These are my favorite blogs that I read everyday...


Trees with Meaning 1

The Sharpening Blog with Ron Hock - 4 hours 28 min ago
Sam's Redwood

Sam’s Redwood

When our 26-year old son Sam was in the first grade, the first and second grade classes went on a field trip to the Georgia Pacific lumber mill here in Fort Bragg. Designed primarily for processing the huge logs typical of the Coastal Redwood Sequoia Sempervirens, this mill closed shop some years back, having too few trees left to warrant continued operation.

But twenty years ago the mill was busy with its last gasp, and the staff there was always happy to host the wee bairns for Fire Safety Day. On display for those innocent wide-eyes was a California Department of Forestry helicopter to gawk at, fire trucks, big bulldozers used in fire fighting and, of course, fire fighters galore, many of whom were dads, brother, uncles of some of the kids (small town!)

Add hot dogs and ice cream and you’ve got a pretty good day out of the classroom.

At that time, GP maintained an enormous greenhouse where they grew gazillions of redwoods from seed. The seeds were harvested by helicopter with a big can-thing with grabby fingers — a little like a crab trap for really big crabs. This was lowered by helicopter down over the tops of tall trees and, when lifted back up, would rake off thousands of redwood cones. With precious tall-tree seeds in them.

Those seeds would be planted and nurtured and used in reforesting clear-cut timberland. Or you could buy them for your own property; it was open to the public for retail sales. (A styrofoam “flat” with a hundred one-year seedlings sold for only $40!) Anyway, for Fire Safety Day each kid got a two year seedling to take home.

I used to go along to all the field trips — one of the great perks of self-employment! When Sam and I got home we planted his little redwood in a pot. It got bigger. Then we planted it in the ground where it continued to do so.

Sam’s two-year seedling is now about 45 feet tall and measures 15″ in diameter at “breast height” (which I learned on the field trip is how you measure tree diameter — DBH is Diameter at Breast Height.)

We have several of these “Trees with Meaning” on our three acres of this pretty planet. I’ll write about them from time to time.

How about you? Any trees in your life that deserve recognition?

Categories: Hand Tools

The Art of Ancient Hands

Paul Sellers - 6 hours 36 min ago


A Chisel 1/16” slides into pine like a hot knife into butter. Mortising holes is not always for large work. Many years ago a customer brought hundreds of rosewood parts to me in a cardboard box. It was a multifaceted Chinese lantern made up of frames that housed painted glass panels. Each meeting point intersected with mitred tenons into mitred reception mortises on the adjacent stiles. The owner had missing parts by the dozen, but in the scheme and scale of things, what was missing seemed very small.


I made all of the parts, replicating the pristine mortise and tenons. It was a time-consuming work of love I admit. When i saw the work needed I couldn’t help myself but agree to repair the lantern because the work of a Chinese craftsman two centuries past would have come to an end. I most likely made $5 an hour or less by the time the work was.


Recreating the parts left me in awe of the accuracy of the workmanship. Not only did all of the joints fit interchangeably in any of the mortise holes, so too every mitre fit with a gapless perfection that challenged every ounce of my skill.


I didn’t want a workbench for the fine work. No vise could hold the fineness of the pieces. All plough planes were too big for the grooves and no moulding plane I ever knew of could recreate the moulded stock. I made the small knives and the scratch stocks from Zona saw blades and diamond files. Work I never charged for. I made my chisel from O1 but I am sure what I made would have seemed crude to the old craftsmen that made the lantern. The plane I made left me with little to hold on to but the work was worth any discomfort.


Sometimes your work draws you into deep, deep realms of workmanship we have lost connection with by substituting pathetic alternatives requiring skill-less, workless input through computers guiding styluses. A poor but skilled workman made this lantern and received small reward to establish it for the wealthy man and his family to live with. He was the contented man of depth and substance constrained by a humility I can never know and he lived by his hand work and few words. He lived in an age of no machines and never turned an electric switch to start a motor or even to light his way by. I turned out the work using the same techniques and patterns as I learned from my mentor’s tool marks and cuts. Each cut I made to replicate the work became my treasure and my wage in my heart. When my work was done I delivered it to the rich man who bought it for his son who loved Chinese art work and I closed the lid on my newfound treasure and locked it away until I brought it out to write this blog. The man who made the lantern hid himself in his work. Pride and being known meant nothing to him. This is the art of human life.


The post The Art of Ancient Hands appeared first on Paul Sellers' Blog.

Categories: Hand Tools

300 year old Brick

Full Chisel by Stephen Shepherd - 8 hours 21 min ago


Top viewbrick2

Side viewbrick2a

Other side view


End view

Eight and 1/2 inches long, 4 3/16 inches wide, and 2 3/16 inches thick, plus or minus a bit as it is 300 years old.   Sent to me by my friend Sir William from the East coast as an ingredient for an old recipe for cutler’s cement that calls for brick dust.

It is a very hard brick and if you look closely you can see the shells from the lime making process in the matrix of the brick.  The brick weighs 5 pounds. Seems a shame to grind it up, but it will give me a chance to test out my new cast iron mortar and pestle, and there apprently are more available.

I will report the results of the cutler’s cement recipe trials as they happen.


Categories: Hand Tools

One more example of how much glue surface provided by a dovetail...

Giant Cypress - 8 hours 42 min ago

One more example of how much glue surface provided by a dovetail joint. This crib certainly looks like it has fairly wide-spaced tails, but if you do the same analysis as I did in my thought experiment, you find that the total glue surface is nearly the entire length of the joint.

(Original crib photo from Mark Firley, on Flickr.)

someone will get the best hatchet they can imagine

Peter Follansbee, joiner's notes - 9 hours 23 min ago

Reggie Shaw, a left-handed blog reader, (he doesn’t read left-handed blogs…but is left-handed…oh, forget it)

sent a note that this right-handed J R Fuchs hatchet is for auction on ebay. I already have 2, and don’t have the money to get in a bidding war…but someone will get the best hatchet going. Lose that godawful red paint, and it looks ready to go.

here’s the link. maybe one of you?


Fly to Another Country & Raise Your IQ

Lost Art Press: Chris Schwarz - 9 hours 59 min ago


When David Charlesworth made his first trip to the United States, he flew into the cornfields of Indiana all jetlagged and hungry.

So we took him out to eat. And someone in our party (it was the genius, I suppose) decided that Longhorn steakhouse was a good idea. It’s a throw-your-peanut-shells-on-the-floor place. Big belt buckles are de rigueur. No snakeskin boots, no service.

When we walked in, we told David: “The women here will love your accent.” He looked doubtful, but we were correct. Not only did the 20-something hostess swoon when David said “Hello,” but several members of the wait staff came over to our table during the evening just to hear him speak.

It’s no secret that in the United States, having a British accent raises your IQ by at least 10 points. During my 25 years in publishing, I’ve learned that it is hopeless to argue with a British accent during a meeting. I might have fact and figures, but he has the accent. Case closed.

The pedestrian footbridge over the River Leam.

The pedestrian footbridge over the River Leam.

The same goes for South African accents. Australian accents, not so much. Many Americans can only picture “Crocodile Dundee” when an Australian speaks.

When I go overseas, I assume I sound like a hick. So I try to speak clearly, evenly and without any Arkansas idioms. Still, I imagine my students hear me as “Cooter” from “The Dukes of Hazzard” – a gun-toting, tobacco-chewing, redneck dufus.

Perhaps not.

During my recent trip to England, one of my English hosts commented that he had spent the previous evening listening to one of the American students talk about his philosophy of furniture design.

“It was fascinating,” the Brit said. “Or maybe it was just his deep voice and American accent that made me listen to him all night.”

— Christopher Schwarz

Filed under: Personal Favorites
Categories: Hand Tools

The ‘New Anarchist’ Tool Chests

Lost Art Press: Chris Schwarz - 10 hours 20 min ago


Asking a newly minted woodworker to build an Anarchist Tool Chest in five days is about like asking them to grow a tail.

During a five-day class, most students are working on the lid when we run out of time. This is somewhat frustrating for the students and myself because we both want the sucker done and ready to use.

One solution would be to add extra days to the course. But most students are so worn out after five days of high-pressure woodworking that the sixth day would be mostly nap time (we’ve tried it). There are other solutions I’ve pondered, all of which add time or cost or whatever. (This is my polite way of saying that I’m not looking for your suggestion to hold the class on Saturn, where the days are much longer.)

So this summer I have designed some different chests to build in 2015. One of the chests isn’t ready to unveil because it is part of a kooky-go-nuts low-cost new class I’m developing for 2015 (Hint: I hope you like the smell of B.O.).

The other chest is designed and ready to discuss. This chest is basically the same size as the Traveling Anarchist Tool Chest, but it has some simpler joinery and an additional cool feature.


1. Fewer dovetails. Students have dubbed my Anarchist Tool Chest classes as a dovetail death march. I don’t disagree. This new chest replaces the dovetails on both the lower and upper skirts with miters.

For the upper skirt, I think this is an overdue change. The upper skirt is a component of the chest that doesn’t see a lot of wear; it’s rare to see damage to this part of an old chest. Also, the upper skirt is now a three-piece assembly instead of going all the way around the carcase. This speeds assembly up and allows me to add a built-in stop for the lid (more one that in a minute).

Alas, the lower skirt does take a heap of abuse, so I resisted using miters here. Sure, I’ve seen miters survive just fine, but I’ve also seen them fail on old chests. So I’m recommending students add steel corner brackets, another feature I’ve seen on surviving tool chests.


2. A different lid. I love the lid on my old tool chest, but it has a lot of joinery and takes more than a day to build by hand for most people.

So here I’m using a lid design shown both in chests designed by Charles Hayward and Paul Hasluck. The lid is a simple flat panel with the grain running left to right. It is surrounded on three sides by a dovetailed dust seal (just like on my old chest). The flat panel is glued to the front of the dust seal and rabbeted into the ends. Cut nails keep the ends attached to the flat panel and allow it to move, pushing the wood movement to the back of the chest.


The other feature I like is that I have extended the width of the flat panel so it will act as a stop, keeping the lid upright when open. In the current drawing I have it open at 90°, but I can lean it back by planing a bevel on the lid.


This simpler lid also provides a nice canvas for a marquetry panel.

I’m still drawing out the interior of the chest, but it will be much like the Traveling Anarchist Tool Chest. There will be two sliding trays, a rack and two sawtills – one for panel saws and one for backsaws.

3. And finally, I have thinned down some components of this chest to make it lighter in weight, but still plenty strong. The thinner components – the bottoms, skirts and dust seal – are all things I’ve seen on old chests. Nothing new here. I’ve also thinned down the thickness of the carcase so that we can use off-the-rack white pine to save expense and reduce weight.

I’ve loaded my SketchUp drawing into the 3D warehouse. Be warned. This is the metric version. I’m not switching to metric. But I’m just back from England and I’m trying to train my brain to work better in metric. When I finish the Imperial version, I’ll post that as well.

— Christopher Schwarz

Filed under: The Anarchist's Tool Chest, Woodworking Classes
Categories: Hand Tools

New FREE beginning carving lesson

Mary May, Woodcarver - 12 hours 1 min ago

Mary May - Woodcarver

I have added another beginning video lesson to my online school. It is available to free members and shows how to carve a peach and leaf in shallow relief. I plan to add this lesson to my youtube channel also – hopefully by tomorrow.

peach png


You should be able to print the pattern below. If not, let me know.


Sunday I will be heading to Marc Adams School of Woodworking in Indianapolis to teach a class August 4 – 8 on relief carving. I believe there are still a few spaces available.

There are also a few spots available for the beginning carving class I will be teaching at Lie-Nielsen in Maine August 22 & 23.

I am actually going to get into my workshop today and carve! What a strange concept. I have been so busy with travelling, teaching, video editing, paperwork, taxes (yes, I just finished last year’s taxes) and other distractions, that I haven’t done much carving for the last 2 months. So I am going to take a deep breath, clamp down a piece of wood… and carve… I’m not even sure what I will carve, but I’m just going to see what happens. I have pieces I should work on – commissions and such – but today I just need one of those days where I disappear into carving an unplanned design of… something… I’ll let you know how it goes.

Finishing bits

Acorn House - 12 hours 5 min ago

At finishing time, a number of things are happening near simultaneously. The bridge needs to be made, so that its position can be masked off before the finish goes on. It also has to be positioned correctly, no slip ups here, since its position won’t be able to change once the finish is on. (Not without taking the finish off and starting again!) While the fingerboard was slotted according to a certain scale length (the distance from the nut to the saddle,) in order for the ukulele to be perfectly in tune, a small amount has to be added, to compensate for the stretching of the string as they’re pressed down on the frets. In the case of an ukulele, this is about 1/16″.

Here is the bridge after masking and after finishing. (Notice the difference between the finished and the unfinished koa. Now it has truly become a “golden child!”


Now, there are more choices when it comes to ukulele bridges; many use a tie-block bridge like that found on a classical guitar (just a little smaller!) After all, the ukulele is very similar to a classical in construction and playing. However, I decided to go with a more traditional ukulele bridge to keep with its Hawaiian heritage. (Actually, the ukulele originally evolved from a Portuguese instrument, brought over during the days of exploration. But, it has since become Hawaii’s national instrument and heritage.) With the traditional bridge, the strings (gut or nylon) are knotted at the ends and fit into a slot behind the saddle.


The overall size of the bridge needs to be quite small, after all, so it doesn’t dampen the soundboard too much.


Note how the saddle is filed differently for the second string. This allows a more precise compensation for the different sized strings so it will play in tune perfectly.

The frets were leveled and crowned and polished. Tuners (again, traditional friction tuners, although improved modern ones) were installed. The nut and saddle were shaped and adjusted for a low action. And now, the first pics of the complete Kulakeiki. (The headstock is actually darker, that is just a bad light reflection. I will be taking it’s “glamour” shots for its own page at a later date.)




Hmmm. I’ve done tiny instrument now, and huge ones. What to do next?

Categories: General Woodworking

Il Miglior Fabbro

She Works Wood - 12 hours 18 min ago
Originally posted on New English Workshop:
So DJ shows me a picture and says “What do you think of this tool chest?” I glance at the picture: it’s a neatly finished Anarchist’s Tool chest painted in de rigeur Bible black with all the trimmings. Nice. Nonchalantly, he shows me another pic’ of the interior: Equally…
Categories: General Woodworking

RakeMaker II status update

Blackburn Tools - 12 hours 30 min ago

At the risk of delving too deeply into personal details, let me say that it has been a frustrating (but very enlightening) journey to bring this saw filing guide to market.

Months ago, it became apparent that I was unable to keep up with demand by myself, so for some time I have been searching for a machine shop to make some of the parts for me. After striking out at more than a few shops, I believe I have finally found one that will work with me, and to my standards.

I am getting the money together to place a sizable order (well, sizable for me). It’s a big leap, but because a large order is the only real way to keep the unit cost low enough to make it economically viable, it’s one worth taking.

To answer the real question that most of you have:  once the order is placed, it will be two to three months before the finished guides are ready to ship. Thanks to everyone who has expressed interest and support, and thank you to all for your patience. I believe that it will be worth your wait.

Categories: Hand Tools

Woodworking in America Speakers – Wilbur Pan

Popular Woodworking Editors Blog - 13 hours 2 min ago

If you’ve been around Popular Woodworking Magazine recently, you know Wilbur Pan. You also may not think that he is new on the lectern at Woodworking in America (WIA) because he’s been to most of the conferences, but this is the first year he’s been asked to present. In the pages of PWM, Wilbur has contributed in many different columns and had a couple of features, too. In fact, he’s […]

The post Woodworking in America Speakers – Wilbur Pan appeared first on Popular Woodworking Magazine.

Categories: General Woodworking

The (Nearly?) Perfect Portable Workbench

The Barn on White Run - 14 hours 10 min ago

Portable Bench

Recently my friend Bill wrote me to ask if I had any thoughts about portable workstations, as he was about to embark on a project requiring him to work in the gallery of a museum.

photo courtesy of Joshua Klein

photo courtesy of Joshua Klein

I was able to help him, and in fact together we built a new bench for him to serve his purposes. I enjoyed it so much I built myself yet another one and am documenting it in great detail here.


Note: Like the “Parquetry Tutorial” this entire series of blog posts will be edited and packaged for download as a complete PDF once I have finished it.  WordPress is being obstreperous about the spacing of this post, but it will be corrected in the PDF.


Working as a furniture conservator requires me to frequently work “on-site”, that is, I go to the furniture rather than bring it to my studio. There are many reasons for this; the legal liability of transporting very valuable objects, the cost of renting a truck and hiring someone to help out (I usually work alone), the ability to call it quits at the end of the workday, etc. Regardless of the reason, I often found myself working in unfamiliar, and usually unequipped, surroundings.
Thus, several times a year I would move lock, stock and workbench to a new location. Loading and carting big sawhorses, plywood sheets and cardboard boxes full of supplies to the new site is a truly odious activity. Over the years of scraped knuckles and bashed shins carrying sawhorses and plywood up or down three flights of tight, winding stairs, I vowed to find a better way of setting up a temporary work station. Obtaining the perfect portable workbench was my original goal, but by the time I finished it turned out to be just one of several aspects to my quest.
In the end, that process of finding a “better way” resulted in the design and fabrication of a new workbench to make the task of working in a portable studio more manageable and productive. Through several generations of prototypes over twenty years I have it now refined to the point where I am not sure what more there is to improve.
What did I want?


The only thing I was sure of was that my sawhorse and plywood routine had to go. But what arrangement was to take its place? My first step was to acquire a suitable workbench. Being a lazy fellow, my first actions were to look around at the market to see if any of the available “portable” workbenches were suitable. I discovered only two real options; a small version of the European-style butcher-block-top bench, or a Workmate. I looked at a couple of the former, and own one of the latter.

tiny eurobench

I found the portable Eurobenches to be too small and unsteady for my use (and quite frankly, too “cheezy”). In addition, they still weighed-in at over 100 lbs., simply too heavy.

I tried my Workmate on a couple of projects, but it wasn’t exactly what I really wanted because it was too top-heavy and the work surface was too small. My search for a manufactured bench to suit my needs wasn’t exhaustive, but nevertheless, in the end I decided to design and build my own portable workbench.


The process of attempting to procure a new portable workbench began with the question of exactly what I wanted out of the bench, regardless of its source. When I decided to make my own, I had only to review those requirements and build to fit them. But back to the original question; what were my specifications for the bench? The answer was simple; 1) the top had to be perfectly flat and at least 2′x4′ (any smaller and I might as well stick to my Workmate), 2) it had to have an integral large capacity vise sturdy enough to take a modest beating, 3) the bench had to be very light, compact, and easy to set up and take down because I didn’t want to have to assemble a kit each time I moved, and 4) it couldn’t cost a fortune in time or money to acquire. It was also important to remember that the bench wouldn’t have to stand up to immense weight or stress, since the pounding necessary during general joinery is rarely required in a conservation project. Any heavy work dictated by a particular treatment would still have to be done at home.

The bench I ended up with was not an example of exquisite handworked joinery, but it did require precise machine woodworking .

In the next episode I will begin to walk you though the step-by-step process of making one for yourself.

The North Wind doth Blow…

Pegs and 'Tails - 16 hours 13 min ago
… And We shall have Snow (according to the sixteenth-century rhyme). In our case, however, it means our house blows away. We’ve had horrendous weather this week with record temperatures an howling winds. Luckily I was out when the roof … Continue reading
Categories: Hand Tools

Spoonfest 2013 – Spoon Olympics

Steve Tomlin Crafts - 17 hours 25 min ago
Last year saw the epic first ever Spoon Olympics. Words cannot capture the magnificent displays of athletic prowess and spoon heroism that were witnessed on the field of glory, so instead here’s a slideshow of the highlights. white text Oh, … Continue reading
Categories: General Woodworking

The next step.

Rundell & Rundell - 20 hours 28 min ago
I was impressed when Curtis Buchanan showed me how to use a piece of string and elastic bands to find the drilling angle for stretchers into legs. Even more so when Pete Galbert introduced me to his technique of utilising a generic angle to do the same thing. Jeff Lefkowitz does neither, but instead utilises a technique more closely associated with staircase builders than chair makers, but it's effective and accurate. It's rise and run.

Essentially, instead of using a protractor or bevel gauge and angle finder to measure an angle at the intersection of two lines, rise and run is the process of measuring the rise or height of a line over a measured distance. Just the same as a staircase.

 But instead of calculating the height of the riser ( rise ) and the width of the tread ( run ) in the case of a set of stairs, the run is the distance between the two rungs, in vertical height and the rise is the difference in length between the two rungs - divided by two. It sounds a little confusing but is really quite simple.

Rise and run works well in relation to making a ladder back chair in the manner that Jeff and Brian make it. That is with predetermined stretcher lengths and spacings as opposed to stretchers that are measured after legs have been fitted to a seat, such as a Windsor. 

It's also a technique that Jeff has developed to be used in conjunction with a drill press, ensuring very accurate drilling. All in all I guess what I'm trying to say is, it works well, it's supremely accurate and it worked without issue on Tony and my chairs. I'm also trying to explain all of this in a manner in which I don't jump the gun on Jeff's own blog posts on the subject here - http://www.brianboggschairmakers.com/category/chairmakers_journal/ 

It won't be long until Jeff is posting about the above subject, with some great diagrams to assist. As with the other posts in Jeff's series on the ladder back chair, the post will explain the process in depth. 

Here are my front legs and back legs after drilling. Crisp accurate mortises.

Top of Tony's back leg

After the mortises in all legs were drilled it was time to shape the tops of the front and back legs. This is largely a personal touch and Tony and I spent a bit of time playing around with some different shapes before finally shaping the tops of our respective legs.

Legs shaped, it was time to glue up.  Well for Tony at least. My chair would have to wait, as it had to be packed into a cardboard box to get it home. Hide glue was used, Old Brown Glue to be precise. Jeff has also created a sliding carriage clamping jig to clamp all the parts together. Given the tolerance of the mortise and tenon joinery, the clamping jig ensured a controlled fitting of the two stretchers simultaneously making up the front panel of the chair.

Tony's Walnut chair. Beautiful.

Next was the back panel, with it's 3 slats and 2 rungs. Seemless. Then the jig was finally used to assemble both front and back panels together, again without issue and in a very controlled manner. A quick check of the chair on the flat surface of the table saw revealed a perfectly stable chair, with no wracking. Next post the finishing touches and Hickory bark seat.

My Cherry chair, strapped in ready for the flight home.

Categories: General Woodworking

Three Chair Makers Walk into a Bar

Around The Shop - Wed, 07/30/2014 - 8:20pm
Ok, sounds like the beginning of a joke but it kinda happened. I had a visit from two incredible chair makers last week. Glen Rundell (far right). He builds and teaches windsors in Australia .He was here in the states visiting old friends and other chair makers. Jeff Lefkowitz (center) builds and teaches Brian Boggs classes on ladder back chairs. Glen took a class on ladder backs with Jeff the week before and they both drove here to hang out until Glen flew back home from Nashville the next afternoon. It was great to finally meet Glen and Jeff who previously I had only corresponded with by email. I guess this is sort of a rare picture. Very cool to have one of the best ladder back chair makers in the U.S. and one of the best windsor chair makers in Australia right here in my shop. 
  This is my student David who was also here last week. He was here to make a comb back chair but since it was just him I talked him into making a rocker. He did fantastic!
 Carving the shield seat.
 Carving knuckles
 Friday afternoon day 5 assembly.
 Saturday morning and all complete. Always a comfortable and nice looking chair. Great job David!
 Here is my latest venture, a 1951 Ford 8N tractor to restore. I bought this from Bill Nelson who just sold his farm up in Indiana. We have pulled a few logs from the woods with this old tractor.
 He had the original front rims with the original tires from 1951.
The tractor is in great shape and purrs like a kitten. For those that don't know before I made  chairs I was a diesel mechanic for 17 years so maybe this is my way to use those skills to completely restore this classic. (Hey Jameel I finally got some old American iron)
Categories: Hand Tools

The Primary Lumbers of Louisiana Furnishings - Q&A

L'ébénisterie Créole - Wed, 07/30/2014 - 8:17pm
A Pied de Biche Mahogany Table with Cypress
secondary lumber - built by the author.
I recently posted asking what I could do to make this blog more interesting to my readers. This was apparently seen as an opportunity to unload with a bunch of questions, (tongue in cheek) from one particular reader and I simply couldn't see posting that long of a reply in the comments section. Thomas, To answer your questions ~

What was the primary wood used in making creole furniture. I imagine cypress would make the list, was pecan or persimmon also used? What about traditional hardwoods, cherry, oak, maple, etc? Do you see a lot of furniture made with hardwood?...

To best answer this question we have to consider a couple of regional factors and answer a couple of others questions first.
1) What hardwoods were available whether domestically or by domestic importation?
There is a ridiculously diverse mix of lumbers growing in Louisiana. Cypress, Yellow Pine, White Cedar, Oaks, Live Oak, Walnut*, Hickory, Pecan, Cherry*, Tulips, Sycamore, Maple, Sassafras, Locust… The list goes on and on. The reason for the * on Walnut & Cherry is because while it does grow here it is of poor quality due to weather and soil conditions. The lumber to choose from is in no way lacking so let’s look at other determining factors.

2) What harvesting technology was available in a specific region / time period?
Cypress Crib

Primary lumber harvesting on the Gulf Coast and specifically Louisiana was limited to riving or pit sawing until nearly the mid 19thcentury. Water wheel driven saw mills were not possible as there is not sufficient elevation change to drive water with velocity enough to make this possible. There was one rather interesting exception to this, that I am aware of, which I will write about some time in the future.

So given this limitation of mechanization we either need lumber easily rived or sawn with human power OR just so coveted that strenuous sawing is worth it in the end. This knocks the list down a bit. 

We immediately lose Live Oak with its incredibly hard and twisted grain, though it was used extensively for ship building. Hickory and Pecan are out for similar reasons to however Hickory would have seen use in tool handles and cultivation implements whereas it’s cousin the Pecan is a terrible choice as it is an absolute honey put for every wood consuming insect on the planet.  Toss out Sycamore on early pieces, later it would become a common secondary lumber after the introduction of steam powered mills and it's stability was recognized. The local Maple is terribly soft and not very useful as lumber for construction or furnishings. Red oak is prone to rot so it is seldom seen in building or furnishings.

We are left with Cypress, Pine, White Cedar, White Oak, Cherry, Tulip Poplar and Sassafras.

 3) What of those above woods have characteristics conducive to furniture building?

Cypress & Yellow Pine
Two Petite Armories and a Corner Cupboard
utilizing Cypress and a primary lumber.
I lump these together for the simple reason that they are very similar. In regions where Cypress was available, very little pine was utilized. Cypress is strong, light and incredibly rot and bug resistant. In the sandy portions of the Louisiana Territories Pine was substituted for Cypress for both structures as well as furnishings. There Are many pieces in collections and in the wild that share nearly identical designs and form from South Louisiana up to more northern French territories of old Louisiana – again IL & MO for example. Cypress was commonly used as a primary lumber on country furnishings.  

Most 18-19th century South Louisiana furniture has Cypress somewhere on it be it as primary or a secondary lumber choice. The most elaborate of Mahogany armoires from this region featured Cypress backs and panels with veneers applied.

Another beneficial trait of Cypress is its ease of tooling. Power tool woodworkers lack an appreciation for
The Walnut and The Cherry Armories
here feature Cypress secondary lumber.
Notice Sassafras chairs in foreground. 
these qualities now days but Cypress possesses a quality that I can only describe as Pine-like but with a crispness not found with pine. It has straight grain wich is readily rived and cleaved yet good nail holding strength and the end grain responds well to a sharp chisel.

White Cedar
This one is a bit odd to me. This may be another lumber that was found in upper northern regions of the territories. I have not found any furnishings or structures made of it in South Louisiana. Early references do mention it however. Used in the Cooperage industry perhaps?

 Interior of a Walnut Armoire  showing the
prevalent use of Cypress in auspicious places
one could hardly consider "secondary."
White Oak
Seen in buildings in Northern areas, found in farm tools, ox yokes, door hinges (yes, I have a door in my shop at the moment waiting to be copied that has Pine boards with Oak battens and hinges)… but not found much in furniture here. Interesting when you consider its prevalent use in French Furnishings.

Cherry & Walnut
These were not abundant in lower Louisiana certainly not sufficient to supply the furniture trade. They both are susceptible to disease and rot in our climate and tend to die at a relatively juvenile age. It was abundant further north in Upper MS, AR, IL, and MO and was sent down river to supply the demand. Both sawn on site and sent down as logs it was coveted for Louisiana Furniture. The lack of local supply meant that it commanded a higher price and explains why Louisiana Ebiniste took the use of secondary lumber to such an extent - using stained Cypress in areas that were quite noticeable.

A common secondary wood. I see it less than Cypress but it is most certainly there. 

Sycamore was likely overlooked early on. It is impossible to split and not particularly worth sawing as once sawn it warps and twist terribly during drying. I have not seen any early pieces but I have come across late 19th Century High Post Beds to feature Sycamore lumber. It was not uncommon to use Sycamore for the corner post, once cured it is surprisingly stable. I see it as a secondary lumber on 20th century and later drawer sides and back panels. 

Though abundant in Louisiana I've only seen this one used for chairs - and quite early ones at that. 

Imported Hardwoods
The only imported lumber found in 18th Century South Louisiana, that I am aware of, was Mahogany imported from the West Indies. It was highly coveted and was brought in as lumber, logs and veneer. Craftsmen skilled in sawing veneer were employed as it allowed cabinet builders to produce their own veneers and veneer values were substantially higher than of lumber.

French Acadian Table in Pine,
typically Cypress further south.
Typical French Acadian
Table in Cypress
Exported Lumber
Louisiana exported a tremendous volume of lumber. The first real commercial sawing in Louisiana was actually to supply the cooperage industry with Cypress wood primarily for sugar crates. As crazy as it is, empty sugar crates were loaded onto vessels bound for the West Indies for use in packing sugar for export to the Americas and Europe as the sugar industry was at this time undeveloped and the process of crystallization would not make its way to Louisiana for quite some time.

This door is one single slab
of Cypress with battens.

Hopefully that answers the first part of your questions, Thomas. As for the rest of your questions, below, I will address that in yet another post after assembling some pictures for clarity.  

Additionally, could you post more pics of the furniture construction? Specific questions, regarding what joinery was used to make the carcass (full blind dovetails, half blind, etc?) Was nails or flat head screws used?


Jean N Becnel

© Jean Becnel, 2014. 
The material found herein is the sole intellectual property of it's author(s). 
Reproduction of this information is strictly forbidden without the written permission of it's author(s)

Categories: Hand Tools

The Fashioning Hand of Fisher

The Workbench Diary - Wed, 07/30/2014 - 6:58pm
Photo Credit: Nicole Lawton

Saturday’s lecture went well. I had to drive down from the campsite two hours each way so it was kind of a bummer to have to do that much traveling to a museum that is five minutes from my house. 

I started with a thirty minute talk overviewing Fisher’s furniture production. I discussed his tools, bench, and workshops as well as discussing a few of his pieces.  After the talk, I gave a 45 minute or so tour through the collection. The attendees were very engaged and asked many great questions.

Photo Credit: Nicole Lawton

Turnout was good. Including a few staff, there were just under thirty or so attendees. Pretty decent attendance for such an obscure topic in a rural coastal town. The 200th anniversary of Fisher’s house being raised is pretty significant in his legacy so I am honored to have been invited to present at this event.  

Photo Credit: Nicole Lawton

Photo Credit: Nicole Lawton

If you missed this one and were interested, I will be at the Wilson Museum in Castine, ME on August 13th at 1:00 (more info here) presenting on furniture making in pre-industrial Maine. I will be referring to some of my Fisher research as well. Hope to see you there.
Categories: Hand Tools

MJD Toolapalooza – Lots Lost (sort of)

The Barn on White Run - Wed, 07/30/2014 - 5:29pm

Through the first half day of the auction Thursday afternoon, there were several lots that went to the next highest bidder after I dropped out of the running.  I tend to be pretty disciplined about setting a bid ceiling and sticking to it.  I was beginning to suspect an Govcom conspiracy but thanks to Josh Clarke I was not being caught empty handed (I will detail the coolness of sitting alongside an active successful bidder tomorrow).


Friday morning at about 10.30 came the item I drove there to get, the Emmert Universal Benchtop Toolmakers Vise.  I’d looked it over carefully on Wednesday and Thursday (twice) and it was both a beast and a beauty.  Astonishingly, bidding started at $5, indicating there were no absentee (internet) bids.  I jumped in, hard.  At about $300 there was a lull and I could feel the thrill of victory rising in my chest.  Then another bidder jumped in and the price soon chased me off.  No, I did not win the bid, which was an out-the-door price of just under a grand.  The disappointment was bitter.



However, all was not lost as my friend Jon found a pristine sales brochure on that very tool out in the tailgating section and gifted it to me as a very nice consolation prize.  It was a truly thoughtful and generous gesture I will recall for a very long time.

I’ll keep looking, but so far this tool has eluded my wallet.  If someday I find one in good condition for a fair price I will get it.  If not, not.

The patternmaker’s chest also came and went above my limit.  At the end of the day I saw the buyer examining it and I congratulated him on it.  He knew nothing of the contents, and I spent several minutes explaining what each of the tools inside was.  In the end it was apparent he cared only for the chest, and I was only interested in the contents, or more specifically, the Buck patternmaker’s chisels with the interchangeable handles, shafts, and gouges.


He offered the set to me for a very modest price, and in moments I had them in a box and was toting them off to show my friends.  These high-chrome steel chisels are made only for gentle pushing to finish the surfaces of wooden patterns for foundry work, and I now have a pretty complete set as these joined my previous acquisitions from years past.


One last forlorn visit to say farewell to the Emmert on the buyer’s pallet (he was buying A LOT) and then we headed for the line to the pig roast.  Roast pork is the near-perfect conclusion to almost any kind of day.

Tomorrow, finally some winning bids and horse trading with Josh.



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