I started my journey into green woodworking in 2008. One of the early items I made was a thrown stool, in fact I made a few. Here’s the my first stool, not turned at all, just branchwood fastened to the underside of half a log. It’s actually a stock for use about the workshop – it’s still kicking about in the bodgery, had a few new legs etc.
Can’t imagine how I managed it with no guidance, just working from a picture. Twenty four round mortise and tenon joints, twelve of ‘em at an unrightangle. I don’t know why I didn’t either put three burnt rings on all the stretchers or one, two and three – lost in the mists of memory.
I copied a tiny stool we acquired in an old house we bought in Halifax. This was one of my favourites. Still have them both. Just the right size to sit a 5 gallon stockpot on whilst filling with water (or liquor as we brewers perversely call water).
I upscaled the pattern of the legs and this is now incorporated into my stock children’s stools.
Back in those early days I also made this stool with applewood legs and a joined elm slab top, good job I put a spline in the slab joint – it has survived much brewing and welly-putting-on-sitting-on where it resides in our conservatory.
Looks like I wasn’t so hot at getting photos in focus in that period. Nor aligning the wedges in the leg tops correctly!
I’ve done a lot of turning over those years, but weirdly very little turning of coves, beads by the hundred, but hardly any coves. It’s rather strange to find turning something hard after all this time, but the book rest project and the joined stool at the top of this post both required four coves, and I struggled. At this time in an apprenticeship, I would be coming out of my time, so I was rather dismayed, but we never cease learning eh?
I was also rather challenged by the sixteen ‘proper’ M&T joints in the stool atop. I started this project when I’d acquired Peter Folansbee’s excellent book “Make a Joint Stool from a Tree”. I had done some beefy 3/4 inch M&Ts in my shepherd’s chairs which had their own challenges, but the nature of the beast allowed quite wide a leeway with accuracy:
I enjoyed the splitting out of the green oak for the stool, but I must say the initial splitting of a 3 foot diameter butt four foot long tested my metal, and not just of my wedges. So much green oak is too heavy to manoeuvre single-handed but I found my Lugall winch came in very useful. I learnt that a good way to start the split is to beat an axe in right at the edge using, of course, a wooden maul. Once a small split opens I could get a steel wedge in there, and finally, as the split grew, revert to wooden wedges so that wood fibres adhering across the chasm could be severed with the axe without fear on axing into a steel wedge.
The planing was enjoyable too and that smell of green oak became addictive.
Then I started on the 16 mortises in the stiles (you may call ‘em legs – Ed). I messed up on the first one and put the work aside, for quite a long time – too long really – much of the greenness was gone by the time I had time and determination to tackle them again. This made the job harder – like the oak. But I got there, made a few more mistakes, taught myself not to trust my setting out and to check it carefully.
Besides learning cove turning, I had to learn how to cut into square stock on the lathe – again made more difficult by delay causing unwanted seasoning (Do stop moaning – Ed). Had to teach myself carving too, as well as sharpening gouges and V-tools.
It’s been a good trip, but I think I now need to start over as a joiner/carver in place of a bodger. Watch this space! Back to the Future – say 1633?