Recent project from North Bennet Street School's Cabinet & Furniture Making Program. A low stool from the Georgian period with four different feet - a pad, slipper, trifid and a ball and claw, also with carved knees and an applied shell. Shown here in the finishing stages (two coats of linseed oil, garnet shellac to follow); all that is left is to upholster the slip seat.
Students who decide to take the footstool workshop will start to work and understand wood in a way that just is not a part of mortise and tenon or dovetail joinery. In fact, the footstool is not about joinery in the way that the toolbox is. It is about shaping: take a square blank, apply a pattern, rough it out. fair the curve and work to a final shape. Turned work and moldings bear some resemblance in that symmetry, proportion and light are in important part of the final piece, but as shaping occurs in three dimensions it is closer to carving.
The Georgian footstool is one project, although an optional one, that really begins to set North Bennet apart from other furniture making programs. It is a workshop that has been developed by instructors over the last fifteen years or so in an attempt to pack as much into a small project as possible - after all, everything needs at least three or four feet (although I grew up with one that had only two, and by design). Why not make each foot different? In the order which they are worked: a pad, a slipper, a trifid and a ball and claw.
There is one thing that each of the four legs has in common - the cabriole. This shape is what moves the eye from the knee to the foot. The cabriole leg is typified by the reverse S shape. When viewing the side profile there are two S curves - on the inside there is a tight concave which moves towards the floor and ends in a shallower convex on the back of the ankle while the outside starts with shallow convex on the knee and ends on the foot with a tight concave.
Once the patterns are cut and faired, there are a few options as to how to proceed. In the pad foot we work the blank until the leg has a circular cross section at any given point parallel to the floor. The slipper has a square profile while both the trifid and the ball and claw are treated differently for the carving that will be done on the knees. No matter how you decide to shape the leg, it is remarkable how compelling the shape that emerges can be.
Here are some photos of the work so far. More to come as the work progresses. I'm happy to answer any questions.
Thank you for stopping by!
1, 2 - skip a few - 99, 100 - skip a few more - 175, 176 dovetails later, quite a bit of sanding and the dresser (or is it a chest of drawers?) is ready for it's paint job. There are only two parts left to make - the drawer pulls and the tills that will go in the small drawers. I'm figuring that the pulls and tills will keep me busy while the paint dries. The inside will be finished with shellac. I only have another three days at school for the summer so we'll see how far I get.
176 dovetails (including the 12 that hold the horizontal and vertical dividers in place) with eight more in the two tills on the way. I'm in the 135 - 150 hour range.
The original plan was to just go with yellow and green but I spent some time with a color wheel and saw that yellow and green are the split complements of purple so I thought that this pink would work with the green and yellow I have chosen. I'm really hoping that the extra color and the detailed paint job will help this be a portfolio piece.
Here are the colors (taken from Farrow & Ball) that I will be using. After doing some samples these are not the real colors (the green is particularly off here but the color on the front of the sample pot is right on). I'll be using their eggshell finish.
Thank you for reading! I'm more than happy to answer any questions you may have.
Those of you who have read The Anarchist's Tool Chest may find the following story familiar. It was only after this project was underway that I realized that my life had strangely paralleled author Christopher Schwarz's for a moment.
It's morning. My wife and I are starting the day: sipping coffee, stirring oatmeal and wondering whether we should wake our nearly three year old. Our eleven month old is keeping us company in the kitchen of our 1 1/2 bedroom apartment. She is sitting in a seat that clamps onto the edge of a table as she has since she has been able to sit up. It allows us to squeeze her into the space between the table and the refrigerator so that this in the one place in the entire apartment that hasn't been rearranged as a result of her arrival last summer. That is about to change.
The table that she is strapped to is the one that my in-laws gave us when we got married - the same one that they used as newly weds. It's a drop leaf table (with only one leaf up at the moment) that we have used for three years now without incident. With her feet suspended Elizabeth manages to get the rest of her 25 pounds up in the air. As she lands safely back in her seat on one side, my coffee, on the other side of the table, lands safely in my lap.
That's when I decide to make a new table. My in-laws have already expressed interest in getting the table back (they like to have large parties for my father in-law's graduate students and the table has been missed as a buffet) and so I figure it's time for them to have it back. Starting the following week I had already rented space at school and had a project in mind (seven drawer dresser) but there didn't seem to be a reason not work on this as well.
Here are some photos the table I am working on as a result of that morning.
After an entire year of waiting and one false start last summer I am finally underway with my dresser. I started planning and attempted to build this dresser last summer in anticipation of our second child but the actual arrival of our daughter and the lack of any bench space was a real obstacle to making any progress. I had thought that this would be the perfect project to get ready for my time at North Bennet Street School but it just didn't happen.
I've been excited about getting back to this and starting over from scratch but it is hard to describe the emotion that comes with wanting to do something for a year and then finally doing it. Not exactly a let down but a sort of letting go. As it happens it is the perfect project for the end of the first year at NBSS. It is essentially another toolbox with just a few changes and on a larger scale to make it a functional piece of furniture. There are not many people renting space at the school this summer and it's been a lot of fun to just work all day, every day.
The design is taken almost exactly from Making Authentic Shaker Furniture. The only changes I've made are to the layout of the drawers, the addition of a chamfer on the underside of the top and an open top to the carcase, which may or may not be a change. The "measured drawings" don't go into much detail. It's a new construction technique for me and I just didn't like the idea of screwing two solid pieces of wood together; it seems like a bit of a waste although the open construction definitely takes longer. When it comes time to finish I'll say more about my paint plans. As with all my projects since starting at NBSS I've used only Old Brown Glue.
So far there are 50 hand cut dovetails plus 12 more in the horizontal and vertical dividers. At least 75 more to come in the drawers. If you trimmed all the fat it's been about 85-90 hours.
Here are some shots of the build so far.*
Thank you for stopping by!
*To those whose eyebrows go up when they see the picture of laying out the vertical dividers: I'm doing things out of order. I got a bit ahead of myself on the day I fit the horizontal dividers and just glued them in at the end of the day. Walking the dog that night I realized that I definitely should have fit and glued the vertical dividers in first. As it turns out I think I prefer doing in the way that I did, but only because the drawers are wide enough that I was still able to use my router plane.
Carved panel blanket chest in quarter-sawn red oak with a solid aromatic cedar bottom. In a style commonly called Hadley although carved panel chests certainly predate those made in Hadley, Massachusetts and are found throughout Europe. Check out Peter Follansbee's blog for the real deal.
The only major difference between the chests of the 1700s and this one is that this chest is made of sawn and dried oak rather than split, riven and green timber. The joints are also pinned post glue up rather than assembled with a draw bore. Panels are carved by hand (no routers Tommy Mac!) so that the carving shape is in many ways determined by the sweep of the gouges. (To make my template I just pressed the chisels down on heavy paper in the right sequence.) The background is then stamped for texture and so that it takes the wax differently than the smooth top layer. Turned maple pins between the back legs and the battens make up the hinge. Finished with a 1:4 mixture of caranuba and beeswax which I then colored to my taste. All the joints are glued with Old Brown Glue Liquid Hide Glue.
I'm more than happy to answer any questions although I feel like Follansbee has that pretty much covered.
I'm noticing some splotches of color that I will fix this week before having it photographed by instructor Lance Patterson.
This particular chest is a anniversary present for my wife who has been instrumental in making my time at North Bennet Street School work.
This project wraps up my first year (of two) at North Bennet Street School. I have full size drawings of this, the toolbox I've posted about and other pieces. Those are still on the way.
Lots of progress on the tool box in the past two weeks. I'll let the pictures and captions do most of the talking. Feel free to ask any questions, I'm happy to answer them all. Scanned copy of plans is still in the works.
Only other thing of note that is not evident from the photos is that I have used Old Brown Glue's Liquid Hide Glue for all of the joints in this box. Everyone at school uses yellow PVA glue but I'm attracted to hide glue for a lot of reasons, mostly related to dis-assembly but in part the naturalness of it as well. I was introduced to OBG by Peter Galbert in his Continuous Arm class. He gave each participant a small bottle and I've been using it since. Christopher Schwarz said on his blog that he is in favor of liquid hide glue but from the photo he uses the tite bond brand. I'd love to hear opinions of liquid hide glue and different brands, for or against.
My first semester at North Bennet Street School is officially over. Once the tool box in complete I'll have three requirements: a table, a case piece and a Chippendale chair. That is the minimum, if all goes well I'll have plenty of time left over to build a few more pieces.
Thanks for checking in.
If drafting is considered a form of hazing then the toolbox is a rite of passage. Every student that goes through the Cabinet & Furniture Making Program is required to make the toolbox.
The toolbox is the first large project that is designed to the student's practical and aesthetic choices. There are size and drawer number parameters, and wood species recommendations, but students are able to measure their own tools and plan the tool box accordingly.
I'll try to get the plans up for the toolbox at some point. For now I have some shots of the start of work on the carcass. It's a dovetailed box that will have stopped dadoes for the drawer divider frames. A lapped back and frame and panel lid (in the front) will enclose the box.
I settled on cherry for the primary wood and will be using pine for the drawer parts and poplar for the secondary wood in the divider frames and lapped back. I purchased the cherry from a fellow student, Timm Schlieff, and was pleasantly surprised to find that it was unlike any cherry I had ever seen. As it is an anomaly, I don't really think it would be appropriate for some other projects so I'm glad to be able to use it on the toolbox.
_Almost two full months of drafting make up the first part of the NBSS curriculum. Starting with a simple edge joint the lessons progress to more and more complicated joinery and culminates in full scale drawings of a desk-on-frame and a Chippendale chair. After these exercises students are required to include full scale drawings with their project proposals for the rest of their time at North Bennet.
The drawings shown here are just a few of those that I completed. I'll try to get the full scale drawings up as soon as I can. Note that as a part of the exercise we draw ALL of the visible and hidden lines which is much more than is really practical or even helpful.
we start simple:
and get increasingly complex:
this is one of the last drawings we do before moving on to drafting whole pieces of furniture:
Thanks for stopping by!
It's hard to describe what it's like to go to the North Bennet Street School every day. To leave the house, get to the front door, say Good Morning to Lillian, walk up the stairs past the Bookbinding, Piano and Jewelry departments and stop when I get to my bench. I have looked forward to this walk since I started the Three Month Intensive offered by North Bennet and would wonder, what is it that happens on the fourth floor? And since I have been honored to start here as a full time student this walk has lived up to all of my expectations. It doesn't seem like much, does it? Despite the straight forward routine, it is the surroundings that make this everyday event something special.
The atmosphere on the fourth floor, one that permeates the bench rooms, seeps from the demo room where a full wall of sample chair and table legs, in various stages of completion, is displayed, from the binders with photos of completed work by students past and present, from the floor boards as they creek in the same way that they have since students first started walking on them, from the four instructors who are either helping a student of consulting one another as to how best to demonstrate a technique and lastly from the benches and the students standing over them. The atmosphere is one of excellence. It makes the air thick and demands that you slow down as you walk through it.
So what have I done to participate in or contribute to this excellence? Well, I've been flattening this board:
In this photo you can see the difference between using the hand plane across the grain (on the right) which is easier but yields a rough surface and with the grain (on the left) which, with a well tuned plane, can leave behind a glassy, polished surface.
Traditionally a cabinet or furniture maker would have another, larger plane plane for srubbing across the grain but a No. 4 can be used to the same end. Next we'll joint an edge, progress aground the six sides and finally we'll thickness the board. Of course I didn't get it quite flat by the end of the day Friday so I'll probably have to start over on Monday.
Although most milling will occur on the jointer and planer in the future this exercise is a valuable one for learning how to use a hand plane (setting it up to cut and checking that the blade has been sharpened properly) and as an introduction to the way wood works.
In the four weeks leading up to the hand plane exercise the thirteen of us who began this semester have been drafting. Lots of drafting lap joints, dovetails, splined mortises, tapered dovetails, wedged tenons and more. At some point soon I hope to get my drawings scanned so that I can post them here.