Inspired by Peter Folansbee’s accomplished oak work, I’ve been working on a joined oak stool, for quite some time now. In fact so long I doubt whether it would even qualify as green woodworking any longer. I don’t seem to have photographed the riving of the parts and planing the components, but it feels like ages ago. I got busy with other paid work and the oak sat there getting drier and drier.
The picture above isn’t oak at all, its sweet chestnut. Much softer than English oak. I used it to practise some gouge work, which is all new to me. I’m following Mr F’s great book Make a joint stool from a tree. I’ve also drawn some inspiration from photographs of beautiful work in Oak Furniture, the British tradition by Victor Chinnery. The flower design is taken from a stunning little hung cupboard.
Most of the flowers have seven petals, except the one centre left through which the key is inserted, and its opposite number on the right, oh yes and the centre bottom one … but not the centre top. These unexplained details fascinate me and give the work such a life of its own. As I look at this photograph now, I’m beginning to think there’s some punch work on the petals I hadn’t previously noticed. I’ve filed a cross-shaped punch to decorate the ground on my stool aprons.
So I began by shooting off the rather stained surface and checking everything was still square. Marked off the tenons and then laid out the pattern. I don’t have Peter’s confidence yet so I’m afraid the two foot was rather in evidence to get things in the right place.
I used an old moulding plane for the edge and then attacked with a suitable gouge.
Argh! Why do these photos always make the gouge cuts look inside out? Makes me feel a little sea sick. I was careful to follow the advice to make the gouge cuts into the solid, not into the last cut (got that one from The Woodwright’s Shop I can’t quite remember which of PF’s appearances that was). It’s a bit nerve-racking by this stage as there is quite a bit of time invested in each piece. Wow, turning the legs was scary after an epic mortising session spread over a couple of weeks.
Setting out the petals was an interesting exercise. I found a geometrical method set out in By Hand & Eye accompanying animations, but that just seemed far too over the top for my project. I ended up using the guessing method. Set the dividers to what you estimate will make sevenths of the scribed circle. Then divide up the remainder into sevenths by eye and increase/decrease the divider setting accordingly. This seemed to work out OK. Then I found a gouge that just about did the job with a little rotation at either end to fill out the space See how I cunningly made the space between two petals fall at the bottom where that little margin is rather vulnerable. Looks to me like the craftsman who made the cupberd above just went for it as the attitudes are quite varied, a bit like real flowers are!
Anyway this is what it looks like at the moment.
Like the coppicing. I’ve been working there three Winters now and the amount still to be cut is pretty intimidating.
Today I cut another five stools and an extraction way out.
Although from this shot I’m still deep in the woods – can you spot my red gloves in there?
There’s an old dry stone wall as derelict as the coppice running through the wood, and it’s a mixture of limestone and millstone grit, one of the Craven geological faults being nearby. Here is a nice bit of limestone that people used to like to take home and plonk on their wall tops (no longer allowed!).
Took me a while to find some hazel catkins that were not yet overblown.