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One of the ideas that’s been crashing around in my head for years is that vernacular furniture – what I call the “furniture of necessity” – is divorced, separate and independent from the high styles of furniture that crowd the books in my office.
This idea is not commonly held.
The conventional wisdom is this: Chippenton Sheradale invents a style of furniture that is Neo-Classical Chinese. So he publishes a pattern book to illustrate his new pieces, and the style becomes all the rage. All of the rich people want pieces in Neo-Classical Chinese to replace all the pieces in their houses that were Neo-Chinese Classical.
So the local cabinetmakers oblige and (as a result) can all afford new chrome rims for their carriages.
Rich rural farmers see the pieces in the new style and return home with the crazy idea that they should also have pieces in the latest Neo-Classical Chinese style. So they get Festus, the local cabinetmaker, to build them a Neo-Classical Chinese chair. But Festus uses Redneck Maple (Holdimus beericus) because Festus can’t get New Money Mahogany (Stickusis inbutticus).
Oh, and Festus takes some liberties with the new furniture style to please his rural customers, who want a series of cupholders in the arms that can accommodate a Bigus Gulpus.
Then the poor farmers see the Redneck Maple Neo-Classical Chairs owned by the rich farmers and ask their local carpenters to make copies, who also make changes to the design (a gun rack on the back). And then the dirt farmers see that chair. And so on.
Meanwhile, back in the city, a furniture designer draws up a pattern book for Neo-Gothic Romanian furniture. The cycle begins again.
All this sounds plausible because it has been written down in almost every book of furniture history ever published. The rich make something fashionable, and the poor imitate it until the rich become annoyed or bored. So then the rich find a new style, which the poor imitate again.
The only problem with this theory of degenerate furniture forms is that the furniture record doesn’t always go along with the theory.
I think there’s furniture that is divorced from the gentry. Furniture that is divorced from architecture. Instead of beginning with a pattern book, it begins with these questions: What do I need? What materials do I have? What can I make that will take little time to build but will endure (so I don’t have to frickin’ build it again)?
For several months now I have been plowing through “Welsh Furniture 1250-1950” (Saer Books) by Richard Bebb and have been thrilled to find someone who thinks the same way. Bebb has done the research on the matter when it comes to Welsh furniture. And he has convinced me that I’m not nuts.
In the first section of Vol. I, Bebb deftly eviscerates these ideas like a fishmonger filleting a brook trout. It’s an amazing thing to read. I’ll be writing more about Bebb’s research in future entries, but if you want to get right to the source, I recommend you snag your own copy of this impressive work.
— Christopher Schwarz
Filed under: The Anarchist's Design Book, Uncategorized
Kenosuke Hayakawa, Japanese wood worker.
Friday is the only day I get to be in the workshop. Due to circumstances beyond my control, I had to take a day job to cover our bills and with this job I have to work four ten hour days, thus Friday is really the only day I get to myself. Weekends are just that, trying to catch up on yard and house work along with having some fun.
Don't worry, by mid-November I will be back in the studio workshop cranking out guitars and capos/cejillas!
My studio workshop is a bit of a mess because I have no proper storage for the likes of fretting tools, sandpaper, wood cauls, etc., etc., many of these things make up an organized chaotic mess on the floor underneath the window, or are cached away in cardboard boxes.
To remedy this situation and help make the studio workshop look like a real studio workshop, on Fridays I have been making two sets of drawers that will support a work surface.
You won't find any dovetails in these drawers, twenty five years ago I discovered that I find cutting squashed triangles a very, very boring task. Rectangles and squares really don't excite me, either. Curves and circles, the shape of a guitar, are much more pleasing to me.
A trim nail gun, a router, a table saw and some glue helped me put this very basic, rough and tumble set together.
The nail holes were filled, now the set awaits primer and paint. I still need to build a base and the work top.
Yesterday, I was able to do some work on a guitar neck that I made about four years ago. It is Spanish cedar with an East Indian rosewood face plate and it is for a guitar with about a 25 5/16" string length or 643mm. When I first made it I tried a different technique for carving the heel, that was using a short knife on a long handle instead of chisels. I almost ruined the neck because of a slip of the knife.
The headstock crest started out in the style of Santos Hernandez, but since I am focusing on making near bench copies of guitars by Hernandez y Aguado, and that there was enough wood left, I cut a HyA style crest. The field between the tuning machine slots will get rabbeted and stippled just like some of the original HyA guitars.
It is nice work to do and a bit of a challenge.
We have had over ten days of thunderstorms and rain here in this part of Colorado, a very soggy start to August. It's been so damp that I had to fire up the furnace! Lots of mushrooms are popping up and in the above photo you can see that the woodland pinedrops are growing at a phenomenal rate! This is less than one week's worth of growth!
This photo shows the saw filer for the Sierra Lumber Company at Lyonsville, California, circa 1900. This was an important job in a logging camp, as you can well imagine, especially for the men who worked as buckers. This photo is from the Digital Collections at CSU Chico.
This flume carried rough cut lumber from the Champion Mill in Lyonsville to a planing mill in Red Bluff, California, a distance of over 30 miles. The flume was abandoned in 1914, this photo shows a crew of men dismantling the flume. I was told that my grandfather, Rufus Wilson, helped dismantle this flume, I like to think that he is somewhere in this photo. Photo from the Digital Collections, CSU Chico.
I’m speechless, gob smacked, never saw it coming. I’m honoured and humbled.
Getting ready to go over all the types of Japanese saws at Frank Klausz’s shop.
I had a bad one yesterday where 3 days of working on a drawer got flushed. I thought I was doing good but not looking to check myself cost me big time. I made an error today (different than a mistake) based on an assumption. I thought something was square but it turned out it wasn't. I didn't lose anything there but it could have been as painful as yesterday's.
Mistakes and making them are part of life and woodworking. I kind of thought I made enough in woodworking already but that keep on a coming. At least the flavor of them is changing but it would nice to finally meet my quota on them.
|making drawer slips|
|didn't come out too good|
|lot of work on this one|
|got a bead I can use elsewhere|
|one set of slips done|
|plow a groove on both edges|
|saw them out on the inboard side of the groove|
|clean up the faces next|
|ganged together and planed|
|this part matters|
|final check and tweaking the fit|
|labeled and stowed|
|new small drawer front on the right|
|planed to thickness|
|thought I was planing square with this|
|loose fit in the opening|
|two drawer sides|
|I have some cup to remove|
|one side is flat and not rocking|
|this side is twist free|
|this side has some twist|
|found my assumption was wrong now|
|from the LN 51|
|I can see the chip without help|
|new small drawer front|
|a me box|
Here I finally got it, so I gave it a try. It is definitely a time saver and speeds up things over doing each one separately.
|sawed and chopped|
|off the saw|
|grooves done and the interior cleaned up|
|went nutso on the clamping|
|more spare parts|
|for Bob D|
Who is Nolan Bushnell?
answer - the founder of ATARI and Chuck E Cheese
Taking online courses in any subject, including woodworking courses, is the future of learning. It’s convenient. Bring the course directly to you. (There’s a free example posted below.) But in woodworking, being tied to your computer when you need to be in the shop practicing your new found skills is problematic. This week 360Woodworking.com took steps to alleviate that problem. The newest offerings are downloadable courses presented as a PDF with embedded video that plays whenever opened in Adobe Reader.
This week we released a brand new episode of I Can Do That! In this episode, Chad Stanton walks us through a hall table build using lumber purchased at the local home center. The project is stunning and we hope that it encourages our viewers to leave their excuses behind and to build something incredible! You can watch the video and download the plans on the I Can Do That […]
Thanks to Edith Klausz for the treats!
Getting ready to do my best to convince woodworkers to use Japanese chisels.
After taking the pics I did some web surfacing and found out the filters I have won't remove the fluorescent white halo glare from pics. The filter for fluorescent lights removes a green tint that is associated with pics taken under fluorescent lints. Tonight after work I took some pics of the finishing cabinet that came out a bit better.
|my last pic|
|much better pic of the finishing cabinet|
|the open shot|
|this side is down a 32nd|
|flushed up the bottom|
|fits almost all the way - got stuck here at this point|
|cleaned up the back last|
|layout for the finger grab hole|
|last visual check|
|laid out and made relief saw kits|
|not a good note to end the day on|
There is no way I can fix or patch it. It is burnt toast and it pissed me off that I made such a stupid mistake. I was paying attention and being careful to make sure I was working off my reference but I didn't put the finger hole where it was supposed to be.
|the before pic|
|the after pic|
What is the largest one day sporting event in the world?
answer - The Indy 500
My car is all loaded with tools and props for shooting Japanese woodworking tool videos with Popular Woodworking Magazine this weekend at Frank Klausz’s shop.
In 1559 Richard Dale, a local carpenter, completed an addition to Little Moreton Hall that included a large bay window to light the new dining room. The estate owner was apparently very pleased with the job and allowed Dale to sign his work. Although a bit garish, his signature adds to the history and character of this fine old house.
In combination with construction methods, woods used, a signature and a date we can learn a lot about the maker and the communities in which he or she worked. For the owner, the signature of the maker extends a hand into the future and forms a connection.
Between 1510 and 1530 Robert Daye carved 79 bench ends in the Church of St. Nonna on Bodmin Moor in Altarnun, England.
I think he deserved to make one bench end to commemorate his efforts.
Phillip D. Zimmerman’s article, ‘Early American Furniture Maker’s Marks’ (Chipstone) provides many good examples of signatures and where they have been found (undersides of drawers, the top, etc).
On the back of this high chest both makers signed their work. Top: ‘Made by Josha Morss/Jany 1748/9.’ Bottom: ‘Made by Moses Bayley Newbury February AD 1748/9. Just to make sure they both put two signatures on the chest. They worked in what is now Newburyport, Massachusetts.
In another example the signature at the top of this chest was deciphered as ‘Walter Edge’ in the 1940s. Who was Walter Edge? No telling, because decades later Walter Edge turned out to be ‘Upper Edge’ a shipping mark!
Zimmerman also made note of signatures that provide other details about the maker. Although he didn’t provide a photo (and I couldn’t find one), somewhere out there is a Philadelphia-made table with the following written on the underside: ‘Made by Elias Reed in the year 1831 this table caused me to give Black Eye to a frenchman.’
Although he knew few people would see his work, a bell framer left his mark high up in the bell tower of St. Botolph’s Church in Slapton, Northamptonshire.
The tower is too fragile to bear the weight of the two bells it previously held, but the bell frame and its plaque are still there. It reads, ‘Be it knowen unto all that see this same. That Thomas Cowper of Woodend made this frame. 1634.’
Earlier this year a mahogany bow-front Charleston-made chest was aquired by the Charleston Museum. The chest is from the workshop of the well-known and prolific Robert Walker and is on display at the Joseph Manigault House.
Prior to going to auction the previous owner thought the chest might be a Robert Walker Charleston piece. He disassembled the chest to inspect it and found written on the top support rail under the chest top the following: ‘Boston, October the 18th, 1805.’
Boston was once a slave and freed by 1790 or 1795. Even though the signature was hidden, some articles have termed the act of a 19th-century freed black craftsmen signing his name to something he made as ‘audaciously indiscreet.’ To me, it was a determined affirmation of, ‘I made this’ and also, ‘I exist.’
Filed under: Personal Favorites
A simple project from home-center wood is transformed with faux graining. by Catharine C. Kennedy Pages 51-54 August 2014 Buy the issue here. Faux graining is the art of illusion. Use this technique, and your choices aren’t constrained by what woods are available or what’s shown in the veneering catalogs (or your bank account); you are limited only by your imagination. With the use of simple tools and materials you […]
The post Painted Bucket Bench – Home Center Wood Transformed with Faux Graining appeared first on Popular Woodworking Magazine.
We weren’t happy with the paper thickness of our H.O. Studley posters that went up for sale in May. So we found a new printer that would work with thicker paper. We reprinted the entire run and have sent replacements to everyone who ordered posters through the Lost Art Press website.
Almost everyone should have received their replacement posters by now. If you haven’t, give it until Monday’s mail arrives and then send a message to email@example.com and we’ll check your order. If you bought one of the posters at Handworks, please send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org, and we’ll send you a replacement immediately.
The Studley posters now in the store (click here) are printed on the new, thicker paper by a company a few blocks from our storefront in Covington, Ky. The posters are significantly heavier (they were a bit of a struggle to roll to get into tubes) and still $20, which includes domestic shipping.
— Christopher Schwarz
Filed under: Uncategorized
Most old tools are anonymous–unless you knew the previous owner personally, there’s no way to tell who owned them before you did. But there are happy exceptions. Two of my handplanes have a previous owner’s name on them. And while the names don’t exactly give me a full history of these tools, they do tell me something about the men who owned them.
Mr. A. Robertson
My wooden jack plane was once owned by Mr. A. Robertson.
I know Mr. Robertson only by his name stamp on this handplane. I got the plane from a guy in Alaska, but I have no way of knowing whether Mr. Robertson lived in Alaska, or whether the plane was brought up there by someone else later.
Mr. Robertson really liked his name stamp.
I mean, he REALLY liked it.
He stamped his name on this plane no fewer than 26 times!
There are at least four name stamps on every side except the sole. On the top, there are six.
Mr. Robertson also stamped the wedge, and he punched his initials into the top of the iron.
At first, I thought that this was just a guy who was excited about a new name stamp, and that he got carried away marking his name on his handplane. But the more I look at the stamps, the more I think differently. This man was methodical–to the point of being obsessive.
If he had been merely trying out a new stamp, I would expect more irregularity in the depth of the stamps. But the depth is quite regular. Plus, he always stamps his name in pairs, and in each pair of stamps, one stamp is inverted. That suggests a very deliberate method. I think that Mr. Robertson was determined that nobody would steal his tool and be able to sand off (or otherwise disfigure) all the name stamps. After all, it would be relatively simple for a thief to do away with one or two stamps, but not 26. It wouldn’t be worth a thief’s time to erase that much evidence. The fact that Mr. Robertson had a name stamp at all indicates that he was a professional, probably working alongside other professionals–a situation in which it is all too likely for tools to disappear.
The general condition of the plane confirms Mr. Robertson’s meticulous character. The tool is quite well cared for, given its probable age. It was made by the Sandusky Tool Co., which operated from 1869 to 1929. That would place this wooden plane at over 88 years old at the very least. The iron has not been ground down very much. In a plane this old, I would expect more of the iron to be gone due to regrinding. But if the user is careful–as I think Mr. Robertson was–an iron need not be ground very often.
Yet the plane does show wear from regular use. The ends have been tapped regularly with a mallet, which is how these wooden planes are adjusted. When I acquired the plane, the sole was not quite level. It had been inexpertly resurfaced after some wear. I doubt that the sole had been planed down by Mr. Robertson, who was far too conscientious a man to have done a job like that.
I wish I knew more about Mr. Robertson. I wish I could compliment him on taking such good care of his tools. I hope that he would be pleased to know that his old jack plane is still in regular use, nearly a hundred years later. But I really, really want to know why he stamped his name on his plane 26 times. I’m sure there’s quite a story behind that.
Mr. R. Kendall
The second handplane is about the same age as the wooden jack plane. I picked up this Stanley #3C smoothing plane at an antique mall in Indiana. The plane is an early type 9, which means it was made sometime between 1902 and 1907. (Note for handplane nerds: I know it’s an early type 9 because it has a type-9 frog and body, but the lateral adjustment lever is that of a type 8, which means that the plane was probably one of the first type 9s produced, and the factory was still using the last of some of its type-8 parts.) The plane was in remarkably good condition for its age–it merely required some cleaning and the gentle removal of a little surface rust.
This is what the plane looks like after some cleaning.
And this is what it looked like before the cleaning, but after total disassembly.
When I first bought the plane, I didn’t even noticed it was marked. But as I was cleaning off the tote with some Murphy Oil Soap, I noticed something on the top. It seemed to be some initials punched into the wood:
I could just make out an RK. Perhaps you can, too.
I was intrigued. What could RK stand for? I thought it must be the original owner’s initials. I didn’t think much more of it until I started cleaning the rest of the parts.
As I cleaned the lever cap, I found that under a light coating of rust, there was an etch, faint but distinct. It was difficult to photograph, but in just the right light, you can read the name R. Kendall.
Now I knew what RK stood for!
Like Mr. A Robertson, Mr. R. Kendall is mostly a mystery. Yet I can deduce a few things about him from this tool. Like Mr. Robertson, he cared for his tools very much.
I would guess that Mr. Kendall was a small man, or at least that he had small hands. The #3 is a fairly small smoothing plane, and my average-sized hands are not altogether comfortable on the tote. It is true that the #3 cost a little less than the #4, so it could be that Mr. Kendall was merely pinching pennies when he bought it. In Stanley’s 1934 catalog, the #3 with a corrugated sole cost $7.10 and the #4 cost $7.45–not an insubstantial price difference back then. Yet Mr. Kendall opted for the corrugated sole, an extra expense that a true cheapskate would have avoided. I think that the #3 fit Mr. Kendall’s hands, or perhaps his usual scale of work.
I do know that Mr. Kendall was a craftsman. The plane is expertly cared for. Despite its age, the wooden parts are in excellent condition, and the Japanning (the black paint on the inside of the body) is almost completely intact.
Also, the neat, cursive etching on the lever cap suggests a solid grammar-school education. His penmanship is precise. And the fact that this is a neat etch rather than, say, a shaky engraving indicates that he cared for the general appearance of his tools.
Mr, Kendall also knew how to adjust his plane for maximum performance. When I got the plane, the frog had been set pretty far forward, making the mouth very tight. Set that way, the plane will produce a fine shaving with minimal tear-out. While it is possible that a later owner re-set the frog, I doubt it. Frogs are not normally repositioned unless there is trouble with the plane’s performance. If Mr. Kendall was the one who positioned the frog, it is clear that he was knowledgable and experienced with handplanes.
It is highly likely that Mr. Kendall, like Mr. Robertson, was a professional woodworker of some kind–perhaps a furniture maker or a trim carpenter. An amateur has little need to put his name on his tools. But on a job site or in a busy shop, tools have a way of “taking legs,” as they say. Mr. Kendall valued his tools too highly to let them go easily.
One of the biggest changes in woodworking over the last century has been the de-professionalization of the craft. There are still a lot of professional cabinet shops as well as a few individual artisans carving out a living for themselves (sometimes literally), but I would guess that, today, the vast majority of woodworking tools, and especially high-quality hand tools, are bought by amateurs, not by professionals.
That means that, when we find high-quality, antique tools for sale today, there’s a good chance that they were originally owned and used by professionals. These were men who knew the value of hard work and good tools, and that’s why we have so many good antique tools available to us today. Without perhaps realizing it, these bygone professionals have left us a rich inheritance in their tools.
So here’s to you, Mr. Robertson and Mr. Kendall! I’m much obliged to you.
Tagged: #3, A Robertson, etch, handplane, jack plane, name stamp, plane, R Kendall, restortation, smoothing plane, Stanley 3C
This week’s giveaway is the 2-DVD set (or the download version, if the lucky winner prefers) of our recent video “Build a Welsh Stick Chair with Don Weber” (& Friends). Confession time: I’m one of the “friends”…but I have yet to complete my Welsh stick chair. I’d set aside that week for filming and blocked off my calendar accordingly so as to keep anyone from calling me into a meeting. […]
The post Video Giveaway: ‘Build a Welsh Stick Chair with Don Weber’ appeared first on Popular Woodworking Magazine.
An abandoned wardrobe lay bereft of its doors on a burn pile and I tugged on it to lift one end from the pallets below as if the pallets deserved to be there but the massive wardrobe didn’t. It was pine, only pine! I remember hearing the man say. But I tugged on it anyway, …