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I had the base together now it was time to put the details together to finish it up
While I had the base sitting on the underside of the bench top I flipped it over and straightened, squared, measured, and fussed to get the bench sitting exactly where I wanted it to end up. Then I took a Sharpie and traced around the locations for all the legs. This would help me locate the stub tenons that would eventually connect the top and base.
The top moved back over to sit on the stools and I moved the base onto my low saw horses to work on it.
I measured and face glued two pieces of 1 by and 2 by 6 to make the deadman. Once things were set up I decided to make it a little pretty with a bead detail reminiscent of the detail you can find on the Anarchist Square that Chris Schwarz builds (The one most of us have prominently hanging in our shops) I marked it out and cut it out on the bandsaw.
I liked it so much on the deadman I dug out the jigsaw and repeated the detail on the front rail of the base.
The I decided to split from the script a bit.
I said it here before but I'm lucky that Don Williams has asked me to help him with the Studley Tool Chest and Workbench Exhibition this coming May in Cedar Rapids Iowa. This means I've been paying particular attention to every picture that comes across his blog (Don's Barn) or the Lost Art Press blog. As well as corresponding with Don and others about the exhibition. I'm very excited and I had the tool chest and workbench on my mind these days in the shop. I decided to have my first go at inlaying anything. A dot and darts similar to those that are in mother of pearl and ivory on the bandings of the chest.
I laid out the shape on the rail with chisels and a marking knife. used those lines to make paper templates which I transferred to a piece of (I think) mahogany veneer. I excavated a the thin recesses in the rail by chisel and router plane and glued the inlays into place.
The only thing left to do was nail in some cleats to the bases rails to hold the bottom shelf boards in place.
I also marked the centers of the legs and drilled a corresponding 1 1/2" radius by 1 1/2" deep hole, and cut some 1 1/2" maple dowel I had sitting around into four 3" long sections. I shaved and sanded those down a bit and rubbed canning wax on them until they cried for mercy.
Then, as if building a huge bench in a one man shop doesn't throw things into disarray enough. I had to clear out one whole wall, old bench and all, to slide the new bench into place.
Here's a slightly doctored shot of the place in disarray. With some help from physics and a wife who was willing to move saw horses in and out of place while I held up one end of the top I got the beast maneuvered into it's new home.
Did the dowels all fit? Well not perfectly, one out of four was off by just enough it wouldn't drop in smooth. A piece of sacrificial 1x6 and a good smack with the 8 lbs sledge and it stopped arguing.
If at first you don't succeed . . . get a bigger hammer.
My measurement was off on the deadman by a slim 1/4" But I can fix that with a shim. It won't help me much until I get my hands on some leg vise hardware. I'm leaning towards the ones made over at Lake Erie Toolworks. I just have to save a few pennies first because I already ordered a custom plane stop from Blacksmith Tom Latane. I should get it by the end of the month and I can't wait to show it off.
It was a long day finishing up the bench but from a pile of reclaimed barn beams to the final dimension of 12 foot long, 22 1/2" wide. 33 1/2" tall and solid as a freaking mountain. Definitely an upgrade for me.
That was enough for one night. The next day I would shiplap some 1x12 pine and line the bottom shelf but for now I was just looking to lay down and rest.
Ratine et Passionis
No sooner did I mention making a wainscot chair, than I got an email from Lie-Nielsen’s youtube channel – they’ve posted a preview of the new DVD, (as well as a couple of others)
here’s the chair one – you can order it from them, or I have a few left as well. But from them, you can get the disc and all that other good stuff too.
For me, good projects come from good parts. Woodworkers will often work with material that isn’t quite square, isn’t quite the right size or isn’t in quite the right place. I’m at the precise and persnickety end of the spectrum, but that’s my way of making complex projects go together easily. Quality marking, measuring and layout tools are essential, and if you’re just starting to put your tool set together, this isn’t the place to scrimp. If you don’t know that the piece you just cut is square, and you don’t have the means to tell, you’re in for frustration. My grandfather was a tool and die maker, so I grew up with an appreciation for Starrett squares. My grandfather was also an immigrant from Scotland, so I also inherited a fair amount of what we call “frugality” in my family.
In an upcoming story for 360 Woodworking I will be discussing all sorts of marking, measuring and layout tools. For several years I’ve been reading online about a source for good tools at good prices, the Harry J. Epstein Company of Kansas City, Missouri. In the interests of science I went online a couple of weeks ago and purchased both a 4″ and a 6″ double square. With shipping, I spent less than $40 and the tools arrived in a couple of days. In the photo above, the new square is on the left, and a Starrett I’ve had for 25 years or so is on the right. In the photo at right, I’m using the new square to mark a line 1/2″ from the end of the board. Before these tools were invented, most woodworkers used a marking gauge. Marking gauges are still useful, but an adjustable square is a lot more versatile.
You can do the same thing with a standard combination square that has one side of the stock angled at 45 degrees. But the combination square falls short, quite literally, if you need to check to see if a corner is square, or if you need to mark a line at a right angle after you’ve set it to gauge a short distance . The double square allows you to perform both tasks, so (in theory at least) you can do the same amount of work with fewer tools. If you’re laying out a complex project and have several increments that need to be marked on several pieces, it makes sense to have several adjustable squares available. Under that scenario you can leave different tools set at different distances. Size also comes into play, and the 4″ double square fits easily into a pocket.
The squares sold by Epstein are “seconds” manufactured by PEC in the United States. PEC makes quality tools, including some house brands. They don’t have the reputation of Starrett, Brown & Sharpe or Mitutoyo but they are respectable tools. These tools are cosmetic seconds or “blems” with some slight flaw in the appearance that doesn’t affect the functionality or accuracy of the tool. If you’ve been getting by with a combination square that came from one of the big box stores, you’ll notice a huge improvement. If you’re used to machinist-quality, top of the line tools you’ll see that these aren’t quite as pretty or refined, but you’ll find that they adjust easily, hold their settings and are quite capable for day-in, day-out work. Here is a link to the Harry Epstein website, which is well worth investigating.
The first “issue” of 360 WoodWorking” is on it’s way and will be available free of charge as our way of demonstrating our approach to woodworking media. Look for it in mid-December. If we’ve impressed you so far, and you’d like to go ahead and subscribe you can do that here. Your credit card won’t be charged until January 2015.
I needed some oak today for the drawer bottom for my box.
Something in the range of 7″ wide, 22″ long. So I went out to the collection of oak bolts in the yard to get something to work with.
I picked out a few panels; and brought them in to rough-plane them. These had split so well they needed little hewing. Here’s some…
But the problem? Most of the stuff I had on hand was too wide! That almost never happens – it’s usually quite the opposite. The narrow one in the photo above is almost 10″ wide at the bottom end…
the wide ones are over 15″ wide and flat – great stock. (thanks, MD for setting me up with it…) -
I’ll save these for the rear panels to a wainscot chair I have to make. Like this:
Most of the time, I don’t have such wide stock; the one above was similar width, but quartersawn, not riven. You can make a wainscot chair w 2 panels & a muntin too -
to make such a chair, see http://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/book-dvds/
Now I have to go find some narrower oak.
I’ve taught many classes and built quite a number of projects that have string inlay. And even though the stringing in the furniture that I’m reproducing is most likely holly (even some of the string inlay that is black was holly that was dyed black), I’ve developed a passion for using tiger maple as my stringing. I know that takes the project out of the race for being a true reproduction, but I like the characteristics of tiger maple. Plus, I like the extra smack you get when using it.
Take a look at the opening photo (click it to see an enlarged image). It’s the corner of a sugar chest I built many years ago. The stringing is tiger maple. Notice the extra play you see in the string. Not only does the lighter wood stand out off the walnut background, the stripes in the string add to the overall look.
I’ve been working on a piece of inlay for a Pennsylvania desk on frame that I’m building for a project in 360Woodworking. It, too, is a walnut piece from the early 1800s. In the lid of the desk is a bold piece of inlay, so I’ve been trying to reproduce the look for my piece. The original has maple inlaid into walnut, and there is evidence that the maple may have been sand shaded. When I shaded my inlay pieces, I was unhappy with the results.
What to do?
I decided to play around with the stripes in the tiger maple and did away with the attempts at proper shading. If you select the right piece of stock from which to make your inlay, you can manipulate the pieces to have the stripes dance. The piece of inlay shown here is a hurried attempt to get the look I was after. So far, so good. My hope is that when it’s combined with the other pieces, the inlay will look great set into the walnut. But will the design be too stripy (is that a word)?
Build Something Great!
Recently I presented at my home woodworking posse, the Washington Woodworker’s Guild. I have been making presentations there for almost thirty years, since I first moved to the DC area, and even though I no longer live quite so close I enjoy it enough to keep coming back. I think this was either the 12th or 13th presentation for them.
A couple of old friends came; Tom, my Wednesday night woodworking pal for many years, and Daniela, one of my furniture conservation proteges and the gifted hand holding the brush for the peacock feather on my Gragg chairs.
My topic(s) for the evening were pewter inlays, about which I am completing an article for an upcoming Popular Woodworking, and the progress of The Studley Project. That book is now in editing, and development of the accompanying exhibit of the Studley Tool Cabinet is progressing nicely. There are still plenty of tickets available, and the combination of it with the Handworks tool extravaganza in nearby Amana, Iowa, makes for a memorable woodworker’s weekend.
Next Thursday evening I will be presenting an overview of The Studley Project for Central Virginia woodworkers Guild in the Lynchburg area.
Apparently Brother Cadfael feels we need a nifty dovetail saw for our virtual dovetail toolkit too.
This is modeled on the Kenyon dovetail saw from the Seaton tool chest. The front of the handle is different on the Seaton saw than on most of the “reproduction” Kenyon-patterned dovetail saws I’ve seen.
There are a few details I want to nudge, then I’ll make some patterns. Just for fun, mind.
that is the question I wish to cover here tonight.
It is a well guarded secret that I have a fascination with dovetails. Not enough to measure and analyze them but enough to take a picture of everyone I see. Part of the continuing fascination is the amount of “common knowledge” out there that is not borne out by the historical record. I am hear to say that there are other accepted methods of drawer construction. But you really can use dovetails if you want to.
I had an earlier blog about our friend, The Knapp Joint.
Let’s say that you have a drawer front that extends beyond the drawer box to hide some structural details.
(Note: Click on the below joints to see their parent pieces of furniture)
Actually, it is a sliding half dovetail. Other end of the drawer is conventionally dovetailed.
Or a drawer front with dimensional profile.
Again the sliding half dovetail. A rabbet would also work.
But some work hard and do the same. Like this drawer. Offset to allow for two improbable drawers.
In the above instance, the builder removed half the thickness of the drawer front and cut a half blind dovetail into the edge. Kindly ignore the nail.
Here’s another example of a reduction on a complex shape.
This one is unremarkable but I like it.
A while back, Dom of Two Guys in a Garage (TGIAG) sent me a couple of prototype steel folded backs for my review, which can be seen at this link:
They were good - not perfect, but good. I did end up making a couple saws from the backs they sent:
Well, good news for all of you do-it-yourselfers out there who have been itching to make your own saw, but have backed away because bending or slotting a back was beyond what you wanted to do ... They have just made folded backs available for purchase on their web site.
Not only that - but what they are selling is substantially improved from what they sent me. The profile they are bending is more like the classic profile of the classic era of saws, if not identical to it. And - available in both brass and steel.
They also have split nuts and pre-toothed saw plates available. All reasonably priced besides! I recommend these guys completely.
Check it out!
I’ve had some more questions from readers about axes recently, so time to delve into this subject again. There’s lots of tools you can use; some better, some less-so. But don’t despair – the magic is not in the tools, it comes with practice. You can learn to hew with a crap hatchet, if you can make it sharp.
Here’s an earlier take on the subject – http://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/2012/12/13/the-endless-look-at-hewing-hatchets/
First off, for joiner’s work, my mainstay – I have shown several times that I like a hatchet that is large, heavy, single-bevel, and curved cutting edge. This one weighs 3 lbs 7 oz. and is about 7 ¾” along its cutting edge. Hard to find. Really hard.
Take note of the relationship of the eye to the cutting edge – for hewing flat stuff, this is the best scenario. Others will work; but this is the best.
What do I use it for? Taking rough split stock and preparing it for planing;
The Kent pattern (below) is one of the most common old ones you will find in both the US and the UK. Elsewhere, there are other similar tools. Nice thing about the Kent design is it’s symmetrical, so lefties can remove the handle, make a new one & insert it from the other side of the head.
Before anyone tells me that Gransfors Bruks makes a carving axe available as leftie or rightie – let me save you some trouble. They offer some of their hatchets right-handed or left-handed; but the eyes on these tools are centered on the head, not shifted over to one side. Their tools’ bevels might be asymmetrical; but these aren’t single-bevel tools with a properly placed eye. I have used one of the Gransfors Bruks Broad Axes – it’s a nice tool, but a double-bevel.
And for some reason, their axes and hatchets have convex bevels; for hewing, I like a flat bevel. That’s the principal complaint about the GB carving hatchet…Drew Langsner writes on the Country Workshops axe page how to fix a GB carving axe’s bevels; (file them flat) too bad they don’t just make it right
I also have a large Wetterlings axe, it’s nice. (called at LN the “broad axe, short handle”) A bit heavier than the GB broad axes; but good at removing a lot of stock… Lie-Nielsen sells a line of their axes in the US; we use some for spoon work when I’m up there. https://www.lie-nielsen.com/nodes/4085/wetterlings-axes
Some have shown me the Oxhead hatchet, from Austria. It’s a bit clunky; it will work. I would hacksaw off the nail puller/claw. It could be better; but for the money, it’s not terrible.
For the spoon work, my favorite is a Hans Karlsson hatchet I got from Country Workshops years ago. They have a new one now, I have one of these too, and it’s excellent.
I just ordered 2 new hatchets for spoon work; one from Drew and one from Robin Wood. I’ll let you know when they get here. Some readers have reported success at the German ebay site for old hatchets. A gamble if you’re shipping to another country, but they go for reasonable prices. I like to see old tools before I buy them, but that’s getting harder to do. So I wouldn’t want to pay a lot for a hatchet that way…
Here’s more, some of which is repeats.
Casting about for additional resources to corroborate the design and construction decisions I'm making can be difficult. Often I have to tease the details out of a dozen varied other sources, other times I have to make an educated guess. But often I the other resources I find are like little Lewis Carol's rabbit holes and they threaten to swallow me up in an afternoon of distraction.
Today I found one page that nearly distracted the whole project. It's a surviving Miniature from the Turin-Milan Book of Hours created around 1420 - 1425. A book of hours is a devotional book, illustrating specific scenes or lessons from the bible In the days of yore they were often beautifully illuminated (fancy artful calligraphy) and contained miniatures (illustrated depiction of a certain passage). It's a depiction of the birth of John The Baptist and I think there's enough information in this one page to write an entire project furniture book. Let's take a closer look.
Here's the full page, but let's look a little closer at the larger top portion that depicts the birthing bed chamber.
I count up eight different builds within this one frame. That's enough for a book! Let me show you.
First there's this obviously central aumbry. It's fantastic with the details and the carvings, It looks nearly as tall as the woman standing next to it. You can see the hardware and even tell which way the grain is running. I may have to build this piece eventually anyway.
Next obvious is the hutch chest on the left hand side. I have built one of these before and I plan to build more in the future, possibly even offering them as a class.
That's just two, but its a really great start.
The woman in the green dress is seated on a triangle shaped stool with a cushion. I can tell it's a triangle shaped stool because there's another one all the way to the right.
A good depiction and evidence of the existence of this style of chair back to early 1400's in France. Standing before the chair I believe is a distaff for the drop spindle spinning of flax fibers into linen thread.
In the back doorway is a Gandalf looking figure sitting upon a cushioned chest and reading his signed copy of The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe. These low boxes can be found in the furniture record. To Gandalf's left looks to be another triangle stool.
Above the door is a cool knick-nack shelf.
Last, but not least, there's a turned bowl and wooden spoon on the floor in the foreground.
1: The aumbry
2. The hutch chest
3. The three legged stool
4. The distaff
5. Gandalf's chest seat
6: The wall shelf
7: The turned bowl
8: The wooden spoon
That doesn't count the obvious objects like the bed, which is lacking in details other than the textiles that cover it, and what is undoubtedly another chest like Gandalf's under a red cloth to the left of the doorway. Off the top of my head the skills you can cover in this book starts with: mortise and tenon joinery, tongue and groove joinery, simple carvings, spindle turning, face plate turning, and spoon carving
Maybe another time.
I have to remind myself of the mission at hand and keep my head above water or things like this will carry me out with the tide and I'll never finish.
Ratione et Passionis
Over the past few weeks I’ve received several nice emails (even some from family) asking me where the rant-driven, vitriolic, cynical version of my woodworking blog has gone. It’s still here, somewhere. But the truth is that I’ve stopped reading nearly every “professional” woodworking blog, and when I do happen to read a professional blog, those readings have been few and far between. In other words, I haven’t read anything supremely stupid lately, at least not stupid enough to piss me off. So that’s the answer.
Don’t worry, this has happened before. I know sooner or later I will stumble upon something a “professional” has written, it will be really stupid or condescending, or both, and I will write a post about it. In fact, I can guarantee it. It is an inevitability. So please don’t despair; I’m still here.
Highland is selling large dividers and I got one this week to try it out. I think it is a test, because everybody knows that the only thing you can do with these things is draw, in this case, a very big circle. The pair I have opens to 24-1/4 inches for a circle diameter of 48-1/2 inches and that is the next to small size. The big one opens to 50 inches for a 100 inch (that is over 8 feet, Ralph!) circle. They come with no pencil holder on the end, just two really sharp points, but you can tape a pencil, a pen, a very large crayon or a six inch paint brush to the end of the leg and you are right where you want to be.
I kept trying to think what I might use these things for and I started to do some research. I suppose you could use them to do the navigation for a very large ship. If you need to lay out rafters on a roof, you could step the 24 inch spacing for marking. I remember in geometry learning how to set off a perpendicular to a line with only a divider. When we lay out batter boards for a house, we could use this to make sure the house is square, though a 3, 4, 5 triangle would probably be better. If I were a cooper, I could draw the top of my barrel with this tool. If I were a wheelwright, I could step off the circumference of the felloes in my wagon wheel to see what length the steel rim needs to be. How about painting a sign for the Lottery advertising a $100,000,000 prize? How about making a decorative sunburst? How about an arch for a kitchen entry inside your house? You can do a One-Centered Arch., a Two-Centered Gothic Arch, a Three-Centered Basket Handle Arch, a Four Centered Tudor Arch, a Segmental Arch, a Pointed Segmental Arch, a Pseudo Three Centered Arch, and a Pseudo Four Centered Arch, all with dividers and a square. How about an eyebrow dormer for your house? How about a Traditional Tangent Handrail?
Now if you want to see what a divider can really do in construction and woodworking, get yourself a copy of “By Hand and Eye” by Walker and Tolpin from Lost Art Press. Note the cover imprint if you want a sense of what this book is all about. The main premise of the book is proportion. Our eye moves to proper proportion and we can learn to see good design in furniture and columns and buildings. It is amazing when you are able to quantify what you are seeing in design and much of it only requires dividers. Go to Section III of the book and learn a huge amount about constructing elements with a straight edge and a compass/divider. You can also go to George Walker’s web site to see animated constructions of the elements. Join with the ancient Egyptians and the Masons and the Greeks and the Romans and the classical furniture makers of England and France and start using these ancient and wonderful tools.
Now I know you can design all this stuff in Sketch-Up, but let me see you find a printer big enough to make yourself a Four Centered Tudor Arch pattern to trace on the sheetrock for your kitchen wall. You can do it all with one of these honking compaii plus a straight edge. Besides, what kind of fun would it be to do it on a computer ?!!
I might even start a woodworking book publishing company and use it for a logo.
And you thought I was stumped.
As I write this, I have just completed my longest day of driving ever. I turned the ignition key at 7.30 this morning, well, yesterday morning to be technically accurate, and exactly 16 hours and 999.4 miles later, I turned it off. That’s the distance from Topeka, Kansas, to my Fortress of Solitude in the Virginia Highlands. Three refills of gas, four chili cheese-dogs from Pilot, a handful of celery and carrots and two apples, and here I am.
If I could stand up straight I would have a bit of a strut.
Little did I know last year when I agreed to make a presentation to the Washington Woodworker’s Guild it would be the day following this trip, but I am not about to shirk my commitment. They are my woodworking peeps, after all.
Now, on the the hard part of tying up all those loose threads from Henry Studley’s apron.
Seeing furniture in the flesh is much better than looking at photographs or drawings. A visit to a museum is good, but seeing furniture in context, in relation to other pieces and in an appropriate interior is better still. The Roycroft Inn and adjacent campus, Elbert Hubbard’s utopian community, offer that in abundance, and if you are fascinated with the Arts & Crafts period of the early 20th century, a visit to East Aurora, New York should be on your bucket list.
The inn, originally opened in 1905 and restored in 1995, offers the opportunity to enjoy a meal or spend the night surrounded by the best examples of the period in furniture, metalwork, glass and architecture. When you step into one of the public areas, dining rooms or guest rooms, it is like stepping back one hundred years to when the Arts & Crafts period was the height of fashion.
If you like the furniture by itself, you’ll enjoy it more when you sit in an original Stickley morris chair, look out the window at the garden and enjoy coffee and conversation surrounded by murals, exposed wood construction and art glass lighting. At the Roycroft Inn, you are surrounded by the real thing and invited to make yourself at home.
Elbert Hubbard was one of the leading figures of the Arts & Crafts period, best know for his writing and publishing. In 1895, he sold his interest in the Larkin Soap Company and founded the Roycrofters. His skill in promotion and marketing had put him in a position to cash out and retire while in his mid-thirties. Some of the most commonly used marketing strategies of the 20th century, such as offering premiums with products, “cutting out the middle man” and celebrity endorsements are ideas that originated with Hubbard.
Extremely successful at marketing and salesmanship, he saw himself as a writer and philosopher, and the main focus at Roycroft was publishing. He traveled to Europe, enrolled in Harvard and wrote a few books before returning to East Aurora, about 20 miles east of Buffalo.
He set up a print shop and book-bindery modeled after William Morris’ Kelmscott Press. He wrote several books titled “Little Journeys” and founded two magazines, “The Fra” and “The Philistine”. An essay in “The Philistine” in 1899 called “A Message to Garcia” struck a chord with the American people, sold millions of copies when reprinted as a pamphlet, and enabled Hubbard to expand his campus and businesses. Hubbard was also popular on the lecture circuit, often setting out to tour when cash was needed for one of the many enterprises at the growing Roycroft campus.Success Begets Growth
In 1901 A new stone building was erected for the printing operation, and the original print shop became the Roycroft Inn. Around this time, several other buildings were constructed to house other crafts, including a furniture shop. There is also a Chapel that was originally used for community meetings and a powerhouse that suppled electricity and steam heat to the Campus. The woodworking operation at Roycroft originally supplied furniture for the community and the inn, and pieces were offered for sale through a printed catalog.
Roycroft furniture was nicely made, and the designs were typical of the period without being direct imitations of other makers. The easy way to identify a Roycroft piece is the presence of either the Roycroft orb, or the name itself carved in a prominent place. This type of branding, the forerunner of today’s Nike “swoosh,” is also one of Hubbard’s innovations. Construction was generally of quartersawn white oak, stained in shades of brown.
The feet on Roycroft pieces often have some detail, either tapering to a bell shaped foot (known as a Mackmurdo foot) or with a carved recess above a curved foot. The influence of English Arts & Crafts designers, as well as Medieval and Gothic designs is seen both in Roycroft furniture and in the interior and exterior details of the buildings.
In Hubbard’s writings he talks about hiring local carpenters to build the buildings at Roycroft, then keeping them on to make furniture. When the buildings were furnished, pieces were then made for sale. Hubbard never designed any furniture himself, and never made that claim. No individual has been clearly identified as a Roycroft furniture designer, and it is likely that the cabinetmakers collaborated with artists and designers at Roycroft to work out the details of specific designs.
Roycroft was never a major player in furniture production of the period. Bruce Johnson’s book “Grove Park Inn Arts & Crafts Furniture” (Popular Woodworking Books), which is now unfortunately out of print, tells the story of the furniture industry at Roycroft in detail. Elbert Hubbard’s main focus was on printing; the print shop had the largest and best equipped facility on the Roycroft campus, and printing and bookbinding brought in the most revenue. Works in copper, glass and furniture (and for a brief period, pottery) were also produced, but in smaller shops with fewer employees. Work in these secondary crafts was well done. The Roycroft woodworking shop, however, was tiny in comparison to Gustav Stickley’s Craftsman Workshops a few hours away in Syracuse, New York.
In 1904, as work on the Inn began in earnest and in hopes of establishing a foothold in the furniture market, a three story building was erected to house the woodworking shop. Machinery was located on the first floor, powered by a generator in the basement. The second floor contained a bench room and assembly areas, with finishing and storage of completed projects on the top level.
Hubbard’s marketing philosophy of selling direct to the consumer through catalogs may well have limited the growth of the furniture shop. At its busiest, there may have been as many as a dozen workers. For most of its active period, however, as few as three or four cabinetmakers was the norm. Roycroft furniture is not as common as that made by the major companies active in the period.
Hubbard and his wife Alice both died in the sinking of the Lusitania in 1915. Hubbard’s son Bert took over management of the various Roycroft enterprises, staying active until the great depression.What’s in the Roycroft Inn Today
Many of the original furnishings in the Roycroft Inn were produced by one of the Stickleys, with pieces from both Gustav Stickley’s Craftsman Workshops and L. & J.G. Stickley, the company headed by Gustav’s younger brother Leopold. Today, the furniture inside the inn is a mix of old pieces and current reproductions. Most of the originals are in the lobbies, and most of the new pieces are in the dining rooms and guest suites. It’s a nice collection, and pieces see daily use. It’s a refreshing change for the furniture lover; no velvet ropes and no “do not touch” signs.
In the period between the 1930s and the 1970s, the inn and the other buildings on the campus saw various uses and several owners, none of whom were successful in the long run. Much of the original furniture was sold locally along the way. In the 1970s the inn was purchased by an owner committed to restoring the property. Part of that owner’s effort was tracking down and purchasing original pieces of furniture that were still in the area.
In 1986, the campus and the inn were granted status as a National Historic Landmark, and a major restoration effort began. Restoration of the inn was completed in 1995. Several of the other buildings have also been restored. The second print shop building, the copper shop and the Chapel across the street from the inn look as if they had been transported from the English countryside. The front facade of the inn is in the Prairie style, and the interior is a pleasing blend of exposed beams, wood panels and floors and other elements that were popular trends in the early 1900s.
The Roycroft Inn began as a single building, the original print and bindery shop. Between 1901 and 1905, additions were made to the original structure. Two wings are added to the front and back of the building, connecting it to a three-story structure that contains the hotel lobby on the ground floor with guest suites above. Both wings are now dining areas, with the front wing open to the air and a garden area in the space between the wings and the hotel.
Behind the rear wing is an additional dining room, and there is a small dining room behind the lobby of the original building. A bar is to one side of that lobby. It all has a definite feeling of a building that grew rather than one that was completely planned at the outset. It works, but it can be confusing to the first time visitor. Plus, some of the dining areas are far removed from the kitchen; the serving staff gets their exercise.
There are two entrances to the inn. One is to the original building, a few steps up from the stone wall that separates the sidewalk from the street. The second entrance is at the opposite end of the building, around the corner facing a parking area. Beyond each entrance is a large room. These rooms are of particular interest to woodworkers and furniture collectors.
Inside the door at the street entrance, the room has groups of side chairs around circular tables. In the center, two L. & J.G. Stickley prairie settles with paneled sides and backs face each other across a modern cocktail table. To the right, the wall has windows that open to a central garden and is anchored with a brick fireplace at the middle.
To the right of the fireplace is a high-back bench and to the left is a grouping of two Gustav Stickley bent-arm Morris chairs with an art-glass-shaded lamp atop a circular table placed between them. These chairs have numerous small spindles below the arms; a style that was short-lived, but the latest thing in 1905. On the opposite wall are more groupings of chairs and an elegant tall clock, custom made to celebrate the restoration of the inn.
At the far end of the room is a stairway, flanked by arched openings to a small dining room beyond. At the top of the stairs is another room, currently set up as a private dining room, and stairs to a private suite above. At the top of the stairs are carved newel posts and a wonderful view of the room below, as well as the exposed beams with glass lanterns hanging from them. The upstairs rooms have served different purposes as the inn has grown and evolved.
Beside the Morris chairs at the far end of the room is a handsome glass door Roycroft cabinet, and there are several side boards and serving tables where the transition is made from the lobby to the connecting wing and the large dining room behind it. Today this wing is where breakfast is served. At the far end of the wing is a paneled vestibule with doors leading to the hotel lobby, and to the garden area between the wings.
The hotel lobby was originally used as a performing area for music, or for Hubbard or a visitor to speak from a raised platform. Today it is arranged in several discrete seating areas, with a massive Roycroft table in the middle of the room. Upon entering the room from outside, the check-in desk is to the right and a massive partners desk to the left. Above the paneled walls are murals, with windows on three sides of the room.
Two of the windows have built-in seats, surrounded by a nice assortment of chairs from several makers. There is also a variety of interesting occasional tables throughout the room, including L. & J.G. Stickley “encyclopedia” tables and round tabourets. Near the doorways are sideboards, desks and serving tables. As in most areas of the inn, it takes a while to take in everything that is there. It’s easy to focus on one piece and miss several others nearby.
At the end of the room is another seating area, by the windows that face the street. Here you’ll find a spindle side version of the prairie settle, a nice Roycroft drop front desk and a most interesting Morris chair. This chair, made in the woodworking shop across the street about 100 years ago is wide enough for two to sit in cozy comfort. Throughout the inn are original pieces that see daily use, a testament to the longevity of this style of furniture.
The large table in the middle of the room is an interesting variation of a hay rake table, with an additional leg in the center of the long top. The end stretchers are bow-shaped curves that join the legs with pegged tenons. The square legs terminate in bulbous feet, a detail that softens the imposing appearance of this piece.
Many of the doors in the inn have mottos carved in them, and there are carved plaques with pithy sayings in the main dining room and in the lobby in the original building. Hubbard was fond of these short quotations, both in coining them and in using them. In rooms with exposed beams in the ceiling a plaque hangs from each beam.
The hallways leading to the guest suites are also home to several nice original pieces. Between the lobby and the elevator is an original “Little Journeys” bookstand, complete with a set of original books. These stands were one of the bread and butter items of the woodshop; made to knock down for flat shipping to catalog customers. Near the elevator on the first floor is a hall tree with a full length mirror, and the elevator lobby on the second floor is home to a Stickley bench and a Gothic style chair.
The guest suites have been returned to their original appearance, and are named for luminaries of philosophy and English literature. Upon entering the room, there is a sitting area ahead and a large tiled bath to the side. Beyond the sitting room is a bedroom with a small nook equipped with a desk. The bedroom and nook have windows across the outside wall, and there are also windows between the front and back rooms of the suite. The suites are compact, but comfortable and functional. Staying overnight adds to the experience of visiting the Roycroft Inn. Plan on spending a couple of days because there’s enough to see to make it worthwhile.
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Cyber Monday: All around our office and warehouse are boxes of tools that for one reason or another aren't on the website. So on Sunday November 30th at 10:00PM(ish) Brooklyn Time, we are putting all this excess stuff on line for a massive Cyber Monday Blowout Sale. Over 200 items will be available! For the first time. you will be able to put something in your cart, and have it reserved for you for 20 minutes or so to give you time to shop some more and then check out. After the 20 minutes, if you don't check out, the items will be removed from your cart so other people can snag them. My big project for the next week is writing the software to make this reservation system work. So details might vary in the final execution. But it's a fair system so two people can't buy the same thing only to have one person disappointed.
Diamond Sharpening: For the past year, we have introduced a new product every week. In the past weeks. DMT diamond sharpening products has been a big new category for us. After years of being on the fence about diamond sharpening I am working on testing and figuring out a sequence of stones to get a great edge for a minimal cost. So far I don't think diamonds are great for the final finish, but they certainly do a fine, fast job of roughing out an edge and staying flat. I'll have a real how-to soon.
Festool: New stuff from Festool will be coming out on December 1st, with pre-orders starting (we hope) next week. The big new tool is the Festool Vecturo Oscillating Multitool, which is a Festool branded Fein Super Cut tool. The Super Cut, which is the top end of the Fein Multi-Master tool, is very popular, and the Vecturo cutters will be interchangeable with the Supercut Tool (not the regular Multi-master). The Big Festool innovation will be several versions of cutting stops that will also fit the Super Cut Tool. The attachments will be available separately for Fein Supercut owners.
Also new from Festool this fall is the return of the Toolie - a wrench with all the metric Allen and screw keys you need for Festool. A hose attachment to give you a third hand, And drawers slides to turn any cabinet into a SysPort.
We will have full information and be ready for pre-order next week or so. Stay tuned for more details!
The picture above, which has nothing to do with any of this, is of one of my favorite new products - our set of mini colored pencils (see photo above). They are cute, portable, and a great stocking stuffer. It even comes with a sharpener, an eraser, and it fits in a wallet. Some people use them in pencil holders - which sounds like it might be a fun lathe project.
Brother Cadfael has been distracted lately with thoughts of participating in the ongoing Dovetail Tool Swap on Lumberjocks.
Background: Apparently the lumberjocks community does these “swap” events a couple of times a year. The premise is simple; you sign up to make a particular thing, you have a few months to get it done by a fixed deadline, you mail a picture to the moderator and they tell you who to send your widget to. In return you get something back. They recently did a saw swap, and there were some pretty nice saws built as part of that event.
I’ve never participated in one of these “swap” events, and I’m not yet participating in this one. Yet. Most likely.
But it’s fun to think about what I might make. Ya know…if I was participating. I’ve looked at more marking knives, marking gauges and dovetail saws in the past week than I have in a long time. For fun, I thought I’d model a small chisel for chopping and paring dovetails. It had to be something most guys could make with tools they’d have on hand — no forging or machining allowed. It had to look good, and be able to chop as well as pare. Here is what I came up with:
The business end is ground from a 1/4″ square O1 tool steel blank, and it’s probably the hardest part. The handle is styled in the London pattern, but with a retaining hoop on the back. The brass fittings are made from common brass tube and a small piece of 1/8″ sheet brass…like the one laying on the floor of my metal shop…which is just a coincidence. I don’t have any O1 steel anywhere. Really.
I even drew up some plans so *you* could build one. Please build one, and send me a picture so I’m not tempted.
In the above video you’ll learn how to make a simple dovetailed tool box that I designed a couple years ago for Christmas presents for my two sons. This is a great starter project for anyone wanting to get started using hand tools…and a great place to store your hand tools!
In the video I reference my dovetail tutorial videos (in case you need a tutorial). You can find it here at this link.
I designed this dovetail tool tote to be cut from one pre-dimensioned 1x8x8 tulip poplar board, which can easily be found at your local home center (like Lowes or Home Depot…here’s what I bought). Want advice on how to choose your board? See my video “How to Choose Lumber for Woodworking“.
Obviously you can use other types of wood. If you want to learn how to dimension your own board from rough lumber, refer to my tutorial for squaring boards.
A 1x8x8 board’s real dimensions are 3/4″ thick x 7 1/4″ wide x 8′ long. Of course, you can make this dovetail tool tote any size you like. Here is the cut list for my panels:
- Two longer boards: 3/4″ x 7-1/4″ x 18″
- Four shorter boards: 3/4″ x 7-1/4″ x 10″
- The handle just needs to be longer than the assembled box, and can be cut from the leftover wood.
- 1/4″ thick wood for the box bottom. If you can’t find real wood this thin, then you can easily find small 1/4″ plywood panels for a good price.
After you’ve joined the rectangular box together with dovetail joinery, then you can take it apart and glue on the angled top. You would then cut the handle and mortises, plow the grooves, cut the bottom, and finally glue it all together…don’t worry, the video covers it all.
TOOLS THAT YOU’LL NEED
Even though I’ve written a nice hand tool buying guide (here), I’m still often asked for links to the tools that I use in my videos, so here is a list of tools that I used (or mentioned) in this video:WORKBENCH:
- Lie-Nielsen Low Angle Rabbet Block Plane
- Vintage Stanley No. 5 Jack Plane
- Vintage Stanley No. 4 Smoothing Plane
- Vintage Stanley No. 7 Jointer Plane
- Vintage Stanley No. 45 Combination Plane
- Lie-Nielsen dovetail saw
- Lie-Nielsen’s thin plate 16″ Tenon Rip Saw
- Lie-Nielsen cross cut back saw
- Chris Yonker’s 12″ bow saw on ebay or a simple coping saw like this.
- Vintage Disston No. 16 Cross Cut Panel Saw
- Vintage Disston No. D-8 Rip Panel Saw
- Vintage Millers Falls Miter box and miter saw
- Robert Larson Coping Saw
- Starrett 6-inch combination square
- Veritas Wheel Marking Gauge or Veritas Dual Wheel Marking Gauge
- Marking knife (chip carving knife)
- Crown No. 106 20-Oz Beechwood Mallet
- Small Cross Peen Hammer (to adjust plane iron)
- TEKTON 3165 16-oz. White Rubber Mallet