A Simple Looking Glass Molding

The following write-up describes the making of a conventional looking glass molding that can be scaled up or down to suit the size of the frame. For better examination click on any of the images for an enlarged view.

IMG_3088

Generally I find it easier to work a molding on the edge or face of a larger piece of stock, and saw it off when done. It’s more convenient to hold in the vice or down on the bench. It always saves a lot of aggravation to make sure you have a straight reference face and square edge.

Straight stock with square edge
A beading plane (side bead) runs in the first element of this molding. It automatically registers on the edge of the stock.

Running in the side bead

Running in the side bead

The next element is the concavity of the ogee profile cut in with the appropriate round plane. ( Molding planes take the name of the molding they cut, with the exception of hollows and rounds. They take the name of the profile of the plane.) Position the plane flush with the edge of the stock. Take a light first pass using your fingers as a fence to hold the plane in position. The plane will track in that first cut. Take the necessary passes to bring the profile down to the silhouette drawn on the ends of the stock.

IMG_3095
Before describing the use of the hollow plane it’s important to consider the orientation of the blade to the stock of the plane. Generally the blade of the hollow cuts very little if at all at the inside edge. On the outside and open face of the plane the blade will cut.3124a
Use the outside cutting edge of the plane to lay over the round profile just inside the bead. (Notice that I’m planning in the opposite direction. This works only if the grain allows you to do so.)IMG_3096

At this point the hollow is used to bring the convex portion of the molding down till the flat just disappears.IMG_3105

Any score marks left from using the hollow can be cleaned up with a few light passes of the round. Note that I continue to use my fingers as a fence to ensure that the plane tracks flush with the edge of the stock

IMG_3109
The final element of this profile is a small cove along the inside of the molding. Create an angled chamfer (for the small round plane to ride on) using a rabbet plane. IMG_3116
Plane in the cove with a small round plane using a board to register the plane against.IMG_3122
The profile now complete, the molding can be sawn off the stock and the back side planed clean to the scribed thickness. I used the straight edge just under the low side of the molding so that it’s supported and level with the bench.IMG_3090
Important points to consider: When using hand planes, working with the grain is much more convenient. Sharp and properly adjusted planes are a must. Finally there is no substitute for practice. Enjoy the process!

IMG_3088

Here’s the finished molding applied to the frame. Carving the indented corners, and applying the fret-sawn decoration is still to come.

IMG_3127

Kaare

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

CONGRATULATIONS TO KAARE AND BILL

On July 8th at our Annual Trade Luncheon, Bill Pavlak and Kaare Loftheim received recognition for reaching individual milestones with Colonial Williamsburg.

Bill Pavlak achieved Journeyman status.

BILLJOURNEYMANKaare, the Anthony Hay Shop supervisor, congratulates Bill while Jay Gaynor looks on.  Bill’s “Initiation Hazing” will come later.

 Kaare Loftheim received recognition for 35 years of service.

KAARES]Which means Kaare has worked at the shop 10 years longer than the 18th century shop existed.

Anyone who has stopped by the shop will agree Kaare and Bill are tremendous assets. On a personal note, they make coming to work a pleasure.

All their bad jokes aside.

bill1_n 1986-WW-5775-21s

 

Thanks again guys and here’s to many years to come.

Brian

 

 

Image | Posted on by | 5 Comments

My, what big feet you have…

Foot of the 1707 Philadelphia Escritoire.

Foot of the 1707 Philadelphia Escritoire.

As I begin working on the 1707 Philadelphia Escritoire (the English also call this a scriptor, if you lack confidence in your French pronunciation), I am scrambling to find material of sufficient thickness.  The case parts on this are really heavy as are the bun feet.  At 4 1/2 inches in diameter, these feet have to come out of a substantial block of walnut.  Unfortunately, our inventory of seasoned walnut only goes up to 4 inch thick stock – we are not timber framers after all.  When Hurricane Irene shoved through Williamsburg three years ago we ended up with quite a bit of walnut to be sawn and seasoned.  At the time, Mack Headley decided that we ought to have a few heavy timbers  cut and set aside for those unusual projects that come along now and then.  So out there in the stacks are some really heavy boards (8 inches square) and some less heavy, heavy boards (5 inches square).  That is good news for my feet, but you know the rule for air drying lumber: one year for every inch of thickness.  Hurricane Irene was in 2011, it is now 2014, this board is 5 inches thick, and it has been at the bottom of the stack – raised off the ground, but next to the soggy Williamsburg earth nonetheless – sucking in moisture while it is losing moisture.

Well I think we’ll be able to use one of these five inch boards, but I need to treat things a little differently than usual.  Because the feet are independent of the case itself, it should be reasonable to work them somewhat green and have them get along with the more seasoned wood in the case.  I wanted to get this stuff inside and cut up as soon as possible then do something to retard the drying somewhat.  Here are some shots of how I am handling this.

The 5" square blank was lurking in the shadows at the bottom of this stack.

The 5″ square blank was lurking in the shadows at the bottom of this stack.

Just under 5" square this board was ready for rough planing and then cutting into three lengths.

Just under 5″ square this board was ready for rough planing and then sawing to length.  I cut enough for the four feet plus one extra, just in case.  I cut this up in three lengths: two which contain enough wood for two feet and one for the extra.

I think this is nicely quartered stuff, Brian says it looks really flat sawn.  Tilt your head Brian.

I think this is nicely quartered stuff, Brian says it looks really flat sawn. Tilt your head Brian.

Blanks with two faces squared and then corners knocked off.

Blanks with two faces squared and then their corners knocked off.

I sealed the end grain with leftover seed lac varnish (the nasty stuff at the bottom of the jar with all the dregs and dross.

I sealed the end grain with leftover seed lac varnish (the nasty stuff at the bottom of the jar with all the dregs and dross).

I packed the blanks in a box with shavings.  Hopefully this will allow them to dry, but slow things down enough to reduce the risk of checking, splitting, cracking...   We'll see how they look  in a few weeks.

I packed the blanks in a box with shavings (I was lacking a period appropriate container). Hopefully this will allow them to dry, but slow things down enough to reduce the risk of checking, splitting, cracking…
We’ll see how they look in a couple of months.

In other words, I got some material that looks sound and inherently stable.  I have roughed it out and will now leave it in the shop environment to adjust.  Because there is such a big risk of checking, I took steps to reduce it (sealing the end grain and packing them in shavings). If this doesn’t work, the odds are that I will find out when I take them out of the box and not after I have turned them…I hope.

Bill Pavlak.

Posted in Casework, Turning, Wood | Tagged , , , , , | 7 Comments

Did somebody sign something in Philadelphia?

Drawing, Studying, Thinking...

Drawing, Studying, Thinking…


I have spent a good portion of this Independence Day thinking about something signed in Philadelphia in the eighteenth century.  No, it’s not what you think.  It’s Edward Evans, not John Hancock et al.  It’s 1707, not 1776. It is a walnut escritoire, the earliest documented signed and dated piece of Philadelphia furniture. (Note: if you click on that last link search 1958-468 to get our curator’s write up and photos of the piece.)

An escritoire made in Philadelphia by Edward Evans in 1707.  Here it is on display at the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum at Colonial Williamsburg.

An escritoire made in Philadelphia by Edward Evans in 1707. Here it is on display at the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum at Colonial Williamsburg (accession number 1958-468).

Here's the name stamp and date on the bottom of an interior drawer.

Here’s the name stamp and date on the bottom of an interior drawer.

I will be building and presenting this piece at the next Working Wood in the Eighteenth Century Symposium.  It looks like this coming year’s theme will be desks.  We are pretty excited about this really early piece of American cabinet work and another impressive example from our collection that we’ll reveal in the coming weeks.  Outside speakers and additional pieces are still being worked out, so look out for more information soon.

I look forward to sharing many interesting details about the escritoire with you online and at the symposium.  The construction techniques, workmanship, multitude of secret compartments, and design are all pretty fascinating and a bit different from the “normal” ways of working we like to imagine existed.  For now, I need to figure this thing out and start making some sawdust and shavings.  Really, I need to figure this out – I confess, I spent two full days with this behind the scenes and still managed to miss a secret compartment!

Here is my version of the piece so far:

You gotta start somewhere...

You gotta start somewhere…

Best wishes to all of you on this day of celebration and reflection.

Bill Pavlak.

Posted in Casework, Desks, Shop Happenings, Symposium | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

I love wood! (I mean that with sincerity and sarcasm)

You know those people who wear t-shirts with “I Love Wood” printed across the chest?  Perhaps you are one of those people – it’s okay, I’m not making fun.  Even if it is not a part of my wardrobe, I, and hopefully all woodworkers, share the sentiment.  Wood is great for a lot of reasons – of course.  The thing is, and this rarely gets expressed in t-shirt form, wood is also one of the most obstinate, frustrating, temperamental, and, well, horrible materials to work with.  Everybody knows that too.  Here is my little story about wood’s dual nature.

Back on Election Day of 2008 I began work on a pair of mahogany cradles for the 2009 Working Wood in the 18th Century Symposium (bedroom furniture was that year’s topic).  The idea was to take this beautiful piece of mahogany, 8′ x 20″ x 1 1/2″, and break it down into two 4′ lengths and then resaw each of those sections for the sides and ends of each cradle.

Here's the rough sawn mahogany board that was supposed to yield head, foot, and side boards for two cradles.  This board was well seasoned and had been in our inventory for about twenty years at this point.  Though rough in texture, it was remarkably free of cup, bow, and twist.

Here’s the rough-sawn mahogany board that was supposed to yield head, foot, and side boards for two cradles. This board was well seasoned and had been in our inventory for about twenty years at this point. Though rough in texture, it was remarkably free of cup, bow, and twist.

It took about two hours to resaw each of these four foot lengths – or roughly one half hour per foot.  We thought that was a pretty good speed – twenty inches is a lot of width to move the frame saw through and such wood is best not treated cavalierly.  This is marathon sawing, not sprinting.

Here former journeyman cabinetmaker and current joiner, David Salisbury and I resaw the first of two four foot lengths.

Here, former journeyman cabinetmaker and current joiner, David Salisbury and I resaw the first of two four foot lengths.  Notice the wedges to open up the kerf a little bit.

Almost there!  After making our way through a little over half of the board's length we flipped it end for end in the vise and started sawing from the other direction.  Things seemed to be going very well...

Almost there! After making our way through a little over half of the board’s length we flipped it end for end in the vise and started sawing from the other direction. Things seemed to be going very well…

Sometimes with resawing, as with all sawing, things start to bind as tensions in the wood reveal themselves.  We noticed a little of this with the first board and placed wedges in the kerf to open things up (as is visible in the second photo above).  The second board seemed to have a good deal more tension.  When things really start binding and the saw seems to be fighting with me, I normally assume I am doing something wrong, or, with this saw, that the other person is doing something wrong (sorry other person, but you probably blame me too).  In truth this is one of the greatest difficulties with a two-person frame saw: if the two sawyers are not completely in synch, things start binding.  When this happens we troubleshoot the problem, make corrections, and saw forth.  If no corrective measures work then we start to worry about the board being ill tempered.  We drove our wedges deeper and kept cutting.

With the sawing complete and the boards given a few days to adjust to their new thickness, I commenced to plane them flat and smooth.  Head, foot, and side boards were all coming along nicely until I learned that it wasn’t bad sawing that caused all of that binding.  It was something in the wood.  Of the four boards produced by the resawing, three were beautiful and well behaved while one was decidedly difficult.  That 4′ x 20″ x 5/8″ board developed a horrible bow, cup and twist.  I planed as best I could, but there was no way to remove these defects and keep my thickness.  Before rejecting this piece – it was pretty enough for more effort – we decided to wet and over-clamp it in an effort to bring it back in line.  (N.B., this technique deserves a full explanation in a separate post.) This worked, but after a few days the board sprung back to its deformed state.  Perhaps more water and more clamping would do the trick.  Nope.  By this point we had decided extraordinary measures were needed to make this board flat.  If damp rags and over-clamping worked on occasion, perhaps it was time to make use of that stream that runs under the shop.  In early 2009 I pulled out a nonpartisan and timely pun to make this thing conform: water boarding.

Water boarding

We saturated this board by submerging it in the stream outside the shop for a day. Surely we could make it give up the bow, cup and twist.

After a week of aggressive over-clamping we had a much flatter board.  Over another week of waiting we watched some irregularity creep back in.  At this point, I decided to make a go of it and cut out two cradle sides.  They nested together in the board in this way:

The two cradle sides nested together in the board like this.

The two cradle sides nested together in the board like this.

Most of our trouble was in the middle of this board.  Some of it got cut out, but most of it came right back after the sides were sawn apart. For reasons other than this piece of wood, I decided that one cradle was enough and went back to worrying about cutting compound angled dovetails (more on that in a future post).  These two cradle sides have kicked around the shop for the past five years and in a flurry of spring cleaning I came across them again.  Here is the cradle that I made from this beautiful piece of mahogany:

Mahogany cradle constructed by the author (2009).

Mahogany cradle constructed by the author (2009).

Here’s the cradle I didn’t make out of that same beautiful piece of mahogany:

It was not supposed to be a Bombay cradle.

It was not supposed to be a Bombay cradle.

I bet someone can explain this scientifically, but for most of us this is the nature of our chosen material, indescribably beautiful and infuriatingly difficult.  The sides of the good cradle were cut from the same section of the original board as the bad sides: they were essentially book-matched.  How could one half of that thickness stay so flat while the other went so wonky?

I don’t know, but I do know to account for surprise.  It is part of the job.

I love wood!

Cradle

Yeh, I #@$!%& love wood.

This board has problems!

Maybe something like that last sentiment should be added to the back of those t-shirts…

Bill Pavlak.

Posted in Casework, Miscellaneous Forms, Shop Happenings, Symposium, Wood | 7 Comments

Inaugural Meeting of the Tidewater SAPFM chapter

The Society of American Period Furniture Makers has a new chapter catering to eastern Virginia and North Carolina.

First of all, a special thanks to Bill Caillet and the folks at the Norfolk Woodcraft for their hospitality and letting SAPFM use their classroom space. Also, getting woodworkers out of the shop can be a Herculean task, but thanks to Roger Hall, we had over 30 people.

Roger Hall opens the meeting.

Kaare Loftheim answers questions about the Benjamin Seaton Tool Chest. In the background to the left you can see the full chest with saw till. The chest is on permanent display in the Hay shop and if you’re interested, Jane Rees’ book on the Seaton tool chest can be purchased through The Tools and Trades History Society, www.taths.org.uk.

IMG_2147

Ben Hobbs of Hertford, North Carolina and the 2011 Cartouche Award winner brought 2 chairs. He discussed the process of measuring a chair and important measurements used to build templates.  Mr. Hobbs has a bespoke furniture business and conducts workshops at his shop in North Carolina on building these chairs, hobbsfurniture.com 

IMG_2168

Mr. Hobbs’ Reproduction of an Edenton, North Carolina Armchair, 1745-1765 MESDA and Colonial Williamsburg both have versions of the 18th century chair.

IMG_2151

Kaare and I brought a van full of furniture made by the Hay shop over the years. I’m showing a drawer pulled from the Gentlemen’s writing Desk from the Hay shop wareroom.

IMG_2164

Ray Journigan demonstrates the layout for a flame finial that sits atop a tall case clock he’s built. Ray also discussed the process of carving a swan neck pediment and matching it to the side molding. Ray teaches classes on these subjects at the Woodcraft in Norfolk.

 

Ray’s Clock.

IMG_2167

Shawn Nystrom brought in his 19th century cabinetmaker’s tool chest complete with tools. It proved these things were not lightweight and portable. Forgive the comparison, but it was like a circus clown car. Tools kept coming out of this box. In the photo to the left, there are 4 trays packed with drill bits, chisels and small hand tools.

The mission of SAPFM is to pursue the following goals:

  • To create a forum for the understanding, education, and appreciation of American period furniture.
  • To develop and encourage the use of standards and ethical practices in the reproduction and conservation of period furniture
  • To offer membership to all with an interest in period furniture
  • To assist members with the identification and location of resources including people or organizations having specialized expertise
  • To conduct public exhibitions for the recognition of members’ work.

If you’re interested in information on SAPFM, goto their webpage: www.SAPFM.org 

Brian

 

Posted in Shop Happenings | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Every Piece Has a Story

IMG_2018

Our Gracious Hosts

Several weeks ago we had the opportunity to visit the home of a friend. I had understood  that he had a significant collection of period furniture, but we were unprepared for what we saw.  After his wife treated us to a cup of coffee, fresh fruit and a delicious piece of sweet bread we started to explore. The walnut drop leaf table in the dining room had rails and legs very similar to tables attributed to the Anthony Hay shop in Williamsburg.

IMG_1897

A Williamsburg Table?

“And those side chairs next to it. Aren’t they from the ‘Walker school'”.

IMG_1900

Walker Side Chair

We weren’t out of the dining room yet and there were still more Virginia pieces. On the other side of the dining table stood a Thomas Miller side chair from Fredericksburg, Virginia. I replicated a more ornate version of the same chair more than twenty years ago. I was really starting to feel at home.

IMG_1893

Miller Side Chair

We moved into the living room.  More surprises to come. Two  beautiful Philadelphia side chairs with shell carved crest rails and trifid feet. The tilt top table between the chairs looked familiar; our host confirmed that it was Norfolk, Virginia.

IMG_1932

Norfolk Tilt Top and Philadelphia Chair

IMG_1981IMG_1978

On the other side of the room stood another very familiar piece. If you have ever been by our shop in Colonial Williamsburg you’ve seen it just inside the door, a John Seldon chest of drawers. The original that we replicated seventeen years ago has been at Shirley Plantation since the 1770’s, and here was another almost identical to it. This case piece has the same pull out under the top with scratched cock bead, the same progression of drawer heights with applied cock bead, the same drawer construction, etc., etc.. I felt like I was back in Colonial Williamsburg.

IMG_1989

John Seldon Chest of Drawers

We all enjoyed the exploration.  Here, Brian is looking at a nineteenth century New York sewing table, and Bill and Ted are inspecting an early stretcher base table.

 

IMG_1929

Bill and Ted

IMG_1931

New York Sewing Table

You might have recognized the corner cupboard at the beginning of the blog.  That was the first of several eastern shore pieces that we had the opportunity to see.

IMG_1892

Inside the Eastern Shore Corner Cupboard

IMG_1975

The Paint History of Another Eastern Shore Piece

IMG_1973

Paneled Six Board Chest

After a delicious lunch served by our gracious hostess, there was more to come. Being in the business of replicating eighteenth century work, we were especially interested in period tools.

IMG_1906

There were examples of just about every category of woodworking tool,

Claw Hammer

Claw Hammer

Wedge arm Plough

Wedge arm Plough

 

 

 

 

Wooden Brace

Wooden Brace

and some that completely stumped us. Any ideas?

IMG_1905

What is it?

There was much more, but I’ve got to stop somewhere. Museum collections are just a big tip of the iceberg. Get out there and explore period homes, private collections, auctions. You never know what you will find.  For me, it’s the story behind the pieces that I find so interesting. Material culture is not dead. Every piece has a story!

IMG_1980

 Kaare

Posted in Shop Happenings | Leave a comment