He’s at It Again…

Back in the shop, for a bit more carving. I think I’m becoming obsessed with this style of carving, only wish I had started before starting my prie dieux! Here, I have laid-out the pattern with compass and awl, and made the first cuts with the V-tool. I don’t know why it is said cherry is hard to carve, this piece of cherry cuts like butter.


I thought before diving straight away into a coffer, that perhaps I’d try my hand at another box. This box will have a cherry carcass and lid, and maybe an alder bottom. The carving is overlapping lunettes with a braid in the upper and lower margins.


I really like how this pattern looks. How about you?



The Beckham Box

The official wedding photos are not in yet, so this somewhat fuzzy shot taken with my iPhone, will have to do for now! This past weekend, I had the pleasure of attending the wedding of my most beautiful niece, Vanessa, and the love of her life, Beckham. Please meet Mr. and Mrs. Zoeller.


I stole a more decent shot of Vanessa with her step-daughter, Kennedy, while they were standing still. Isn’t this a lovely photo?


Surely, you remember my 17th-century carved box? I also hope you remember the story of the Ron Box. If not, revisit the links to both under Categories.


Well… this  is now Vanessa’s Beckham Box. May it be filled with lots of loving memories. I wish nothing but the best for Beckham, Vanessa, and Kennedy.


Plans or No Plans?

I constantly hear of folks seeking plans to build this or that, but having no luck finding such. They have in their mind’s eye an image of what they want, but cannot seem to find it on paper, anywhere. Of course not! The project doesn’t exist. Even, if they did stumble upon a set of plans that is similar; it will never be what they had in mind, initially. Worst yet, the “plan” calls for equipment or tools they do not have, or perhaps skills not yet acquired.

A plan, in and of itself, is really nothing more than directions for how a thing is to be built, or a detailed record of how a particular thing was built. In regards to woodworking, a plan leads to the creation of a cut-list. Ultimately, the cut-list is what we seek. The cut-list answers two important questions. How much lumber do I need to acquire, or perhaps, do I have enough lumber on hand?

As a draftsman in the architectural casework and mill work industries for many years, I produced thousands upon thousands of shop drawings. From simple wall panel systems to the windows in the U.S. Capitol Building, from janitorial closet shelving to executive office furniture. With each and every one of those drawings came a cut-list. Although the drawings remained the same the cut-lists varied from shop to shop. As each shop employed different joinery techniques, they required their own unique cut-list.

For example: what is the length of part B?

exampleWe cannot answer the question until we know what the joint between part A and part B will be. For instance, if we use dowels we need a piece 12” long, but if we make a through tenon we’ll need a piece 15” long. Furthermore, if we make simple mortise and tenon joints, the length of the piece could be anywhere between 12” and 15”, depending on the depth of the mortises. Not only do we need to know what joinery, we also need to know what tools are being employed. Are we cutting the parts with hand tools or precisely calibrated machines? Do we leave some waste on the ends to allow for squaring, and if so how much, or are we going to cut square to start with?

So, picture your project in your mind’s eye. Think about the machines and/or tools at your disposal. Imagine all the parts and their placement within the project. Visualize the joinery between the parts. Then, based on the height, width, and depth of the project, determine the dimensions of the individual parts and create a cut-list.

Do you still think you need a plan?




More Period Carvings

As if I didn’t have enough choices, here’s five more coffers from Fiske & Freeman with carving patterns for consideration.

32 - Joined and Paneled Coffer 1625-1650
Joined and Paneled Coffer, English, 1625-1650. (photo courtesy of fiskeandfreeman.com)

This rather plain oak coffer measures, 41″ w x 17-1/2″ d (lid) x 27-1/2″h. The three panels are riven, whereas the frame is sawn. The carved lunettes are similar to what I carved on my sea-chest stand.

18 - Joined and Paneled Coffer c 1675
Joined and Paneled Coffer, English, probably Yorkshire, c.1675 (photo courtesy of fiskeandfreeman.com)

Here, we have another sawn oak coffer measuring, 48″ w x 20″ d x 24-1/2″ h. I find the punch decoration on the stiles and lower rail, and the inlaid on the muntins quite interesting. The different size lozenges on the panels is striking as well.

Joined and Paneled Coffer c 1675
Joined and Paneled Coffer, English, Cotswolds, c.1675 (photo courtesy of fiskeandfreeman.com)

This oak coffer measuring, 48″ l x 22″ d x 29″ h., just might be a bit outside my wheelhouse. At the least, until I gain more experience. The carved scrolls, foliage, pinwheels, and foliated lunettes are exquisite.

Joined and Paneled Coffer 1675-1700
Joined and Paneled Coffer, English, 1675-1700 (photo courtesy of fiskeandfreeman.com)

Another coffer measuring, 50″ l x 21″ d x 30″ h., with carving out of the ordinary. This would be quite an endeavor!

Boarded and Carved Coffer late 17th c
Boarded and Carved Coffer, English, Late 17th c. (photo courtesy of fiskeandfreeman.com)

Lastly, a plain sawn boarded coffer in elm measuring, 42″ w x 14″ d x 20-1/2″ h. The interlinked lunettes provided the inspiration for my latest carved box. Which reminds me… I have a wedding to attend!


Some Period Carvings

For my next endeavor, I’m considering either a boarded, or a joined and paneled coffer. I thought I would amass a collection of photos of coffers from Fiske & Freeman for consideration.

Tudor Linenfold Coffer c1525
Tudor Linen-fold Coffer, English, c.1525 (photo courtesy of fiskeandfreeman.com)

A rare Henry VIII coffer in oak measuring, 37-1/2” w x 18-1/2” d x 20” h. I’ve never tried my hand at linen-fold, it might be interesting.

Early Boarded Coffer 1590-1610
Early Boarded Coffer, English, 1590-1610 (photo courtesy of fiskeandfreeman.com)

This oak coffer measures, 47″ l x 17″ d x 27-1/2″ h. The front is carved with early motifs – a petal-filled roundel flanked by lozenges containing smaller petal filled roundels.

Joined and Paneled Coffer c 1625
Joined and Paneled Coffer, English, 1600-1625 (photo courtesy of fiskeandfreeman.com)

This coffer in oak measures, 49” w x 20” d x 25-1/2” h., has nulled panels and top rail, and a wide central muntin carved with guilloches. The nulling or arcading pattern is very common, and there are lots of variations.

Joined and Paneled Coffer 1640
Joined and Paneled Coffer, English, Cotswolds, c. 1640 (photo courtesy of fiskeandfreeman.com)

The oak coffer measuring, 48-1/2″ l x 21″ d x 25″ h., is the epitome of a traditional English coffer. It has arcaded panels under a top rail carved with strapwork. “Cotswold cable” on the bottom rail, strapwork on stiles and muntins. The strapwork looks to be a lot of fun to carve.

Small Boarded and Carved Coffer c1650
Small Boarded and Carved Coffer, English, c.1650 (photo courtesy of fiskeandfreeman.com)

This six board coffer measures, 39″ w (lid) x 14-1/2″ d x 19-1/2″ h. The chip decoration down each side, is akin to the detail I used for the edge of the shelf on my two-tier side table. The carved lunettes are quite similar as well.

Joined and Paneled Coffer c1675
Joined and Paneled Coffer, Somerset or Devon, c.1675 (photo courtesy of fiskeandfreeman.com)

A joined and paneled coffer in oak measuring, 43″ l x 19-1/2″ d x 25″ h., with arcaded top rail and two panels carved with quatrefoils. It was from this coffer that I drew inspiration for the quatrefoils on top of my two-tier side table. 

Coffer 1680-1700
Coffer, Northeast England, 1680-1700 (photo courtesy of fiskeandfreeman.com)

This rather simple oak coffer measuring 48″ l x 21″ w x 29-1/2″ h., has unusually intricate nulling on the top rail. 

So many patterns. I am also intrigued at the amount of plain sawn lumber. I may take inspiration from different ones, and come up with my own combination. I’ll just have to study these photos for a few more days!


Furniture of the Olden Time / SETTLES, SETTEES, AND SOFAS

Furniture of the Olden Time



THE first form of the long seat, afterward developed into the sofa, was the settle, which is found in the earliest inventories in this country, and still earlier in England. The settle oftenest seen in America is of simple construction, usually of pine, and painted; probably the work of a country cabinet-maker, or even a carpenter. It was made to stand by the great fireplace, to keep the draughts out and the heat in, with its tall back, and the front of the seat coming down to the floor ; and sadly was it needed in those days when the ink froze in the standish, as the minister sat by the fire to write his sermon. Illustration 16o shows a settle in the Deerfield Museum, in the kitchen. In front of the settle


Illus. 160. – Pine Settle, Eighteenth Century.

stands a flax-wheel, which kept the housewife busy on winter evenings, spinning by the firelight. Beside the settle is a rudely made light-stand, with a tin lamp, and a brass candlestick with the extinguisher on its top, and snuffers and tray beside it. Upon one side of the settle is fastened a candlestick with an extension frame. Behind the flaxwheel is a banister-back chair, the plain type of the chairs in Illustration 109, and at the right of the picture is a slat-back, flag-bottomed chair such as may be seen in Illustration 113.

Illustration 161 shows a settle of oak, which has


upon the back the carved date 1708. The front of the seat has four panels, while the back has five lower panels, with a row of small panels above. The top rail is carved in five groups, the middle design of each group being a crown, and between each small panel is a turned ornament.

Illus. 161. — Oak Settle, 1708.

The arms are like the arms of the wainscot chairs in Illustration 98 and Illustration 99. The top of the seat does not lift up, as was often the case, disclosing a box below, but is fastened to the frame, and probably there were provided for this settle the articles often mentioned in inventories, ” chusshings,” ” quysyns,” or cushions, which the hard seat made so necessary. This settle belongs to Dwight Blaney, Esq., of Boston.


The word “settee” is the diminutive of “settle,” and the long seat which corresponded to the chairs with the frame of turned wood was called a settee or small settle, being of so much lighter build than the settle.

Illus. 162. — Settee covered with Turkey work, 1670-1680.

Illustration 162 shows a settee owned by the Essex Institute of Salem, and said to have been brought to this country by a Huguenot family about 1686. It is upholstered, like the chairs of the same style, in Turkey work, the colors in which are still bright. Turkey work was very fashionable at that time, rugs being imported from Turkey in shapes to fit the seat and back of chairs or settees.

Another form of the long seat was one which was


intended to serve as a couch, or “day-bed.” It was really what its French name implies, chaise longue, or long chair, the back being an enlarged chair-back, and the body of the couch equaling three chair-seats. Illustration 163 shows a couch owned by the Concord Antiquarian Society, which formerly belonged to the descendants of the Rev. Peter Bulkeley.

Illus. 163. — Flemish Couch, 1680-1690.

It had originally a cane seat, and evidently formed part of a set of furniture, for a chair of the same style is with it, which also belonged to the Bulkeley family. Both couch and chair are Flemish in design, with the scroll foot turning backward. The braces between the legs are carved in the same design as the top of the back.

Illustration 164 shows a walnut couch made in the Dutch style about 1720-1730, with bandy legs and


Dutch feet. The splat in the back is Dutch, but instead of the side-posts curving into the top rail like the Dutch chairs, in which the top and the side-posts apparently form one piece, these posts run up, with a finish at the top like the Flemish chairs, and like
the posts in the back of the couch in Illustration 163.

Illus. 164. — Dutch Couch. 1720-1730.

It is interesting to compare this couch, which is owned by the Misses Hosmer of Concord, Massachusetts, with the

Illus. 165. — Chippendale Couch. 1760-1770.


following one, Illustration 165, which belongs to Mr. Walter Hosmer of Wethersfield, Connecticut, and was made about 1770. This couch, of mahogany, has a back like one of the familiar Chippendale chairs, somewhat higher than the back of the couch

Illus. 166. — Chippendale Sofa, 1765-1770.

in Illustration 164, which is longer than this Chippendale couch. The bandy legs with claw-and-ball feet are unusually well proportioned, and the effect of the piece of furniture is extremely elegant. The canvas seat is drawn tight by ropes laced over wooden knobs.


Illustration 166 shows a Chippendale sofa with beautifully carved cabriole legs, owned by Harry Harkness Flagler, Esq. The three front legs are carved with the scroll foot turned to the front. This foot was called the French foot by the cabinet-makers of that period, about 1 765-1 770.

Illus. 167. — Chippendale Double Chair, 1760.

Illustration 167 shows a double chair, also owned by Mr. Flagler. It has some Dutch characteristics, but is undoubtedly an early Chippendale piece made in England. The corners of the seats and the ends of the top rails are rounding after the Dutch style,


but the splats are Chippendale. The three front legs end in a small claw-and-ball, and the knees are carved. The most noticeable feature of this graceful piece is the rococo design at the top of the back and upon the front of the seat.

Illustration i68 shows a Chippendale double chair and one of four arm-chairs, formerly owned by Governor John Wentworth, whose household goods were confiscated and sold at auction by the Federal government, in 1776. Since that time these pieces have been in the Alexander Ladd house at Portsmouth, New Hampshire, where they now stand. They are a perfect exemplification of Chippendale’s furniture in the Chinese style, and are probably the finest examples of that style in this country. They are of mahogany, with cane seats. The design of the backs is more elaborate than any of the Chinese designs for furniture of either Chippendale, Manwaring, Ince, or Mayhew ; an unusual thing, for a majority of the designs in the old cabinet-makers’ books are far more elaborate than the furniture which has come down to us. Chippendale says that these ” Chinese chairs are very suitable for a lady’s boudoir, and will likewise suit a Chinese temple.” One wonders if Governor Wentworth had a Chinese temple for these beautiful pieces of furniture. He had, we know, splendid gardens, which were famous in those days, and possibly a Chinese temple may have been one of the adornments, with these chairs for its furniture.

Illustration 169 shows a double chair, which is well known from representations of it in various books.



Illus. 168. – Chippendale Double Chair and Chair, in “Chinese Taste,” 1760-1765.



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It is one of the finest examples existing of the Chippendale period, and was undoubtedly, like the double chair in Illustration 168, made in England. The carving upon the three front legs is unusually fine. The feet are carved with lions’ claws, and the knees with grotesque faces, while the arms end in dragons’ heads.

Illus. 169. — Chippendale Double Chair, 1750-1760.

The corners of the back are finished with a scroll, turning to the back. The wood of this double chair is walnut, and it is covered in gray horsehair. This chair formerly belonged to John Hancock, and was presented to the American Antiquarian Society in 1838, with other pieces bought from the Hancock house, by John Chandler, of Petersham, Massachusetts.


Illustration 170 shows a Sheraton settee, now In Girard College, Philadelphia. It was  part of the furniture belonging to Stephen Girard, the founder of that college. It has eight legs, the four in front being the typical fluted Sheraton legs. The back has five posts dividing it into four chair-backs. The seat is upholstered.

Illus. 170. — Sheraton Settee, 1790-1795.

The Sheraton sofa in Illustration 171 was probably made in England about 1790-1800. It is owned by Francis H. Bigelow, Esq., of Cambridge. The frame is of mahogany, and the rail at the top of the back is exquisitely carved with festoons and flowers. The front of the seat is slightly rounding at the ends, and the arm, which is carved upon the upper side, extends beyond the upholstered frame, and rests upon a pillar which continues up from the corner leg. This style of arm is quite characteristic of Sheraton. The legs of the sofa are


plainly turned, not fluted, as is usual upon Sheraton sofas.

Illus. 171.— Sheraton Sofa. 1790-1800.

The sofa in Illustration 172 is a typical Sheraton piece, of a style which must have been very fashionable about 1800, for such sofas are often found in this country. The frame is of mahogany, with

Illus. 172. — Sheraton Sofa, about 1800.


pieces of satinwood inlaid at the top of the end legs. The arms are like the arms of the sofa in Illustration 171, and they, the pillars supporting them, and the four front legs are all fluted. This sofa is owned by W. S. G. Kennedy, Esq., of Worcester.

Illus. 173. — Sheraton Settee about 1805.

Illustration 173 shows a Sheraton settee which came from the Flint mansion in Leicester, Massachusetts, and is now owned by the writer. It has a rush seat, and the frame was originally painted black, with gilt flowers. It is very long, settees of this style usually equaling three chairs, while this equals four. It measures seventy-six inches in length, and from front to back the seat measures seventeen inches. It makes an admirable hall settee, and seems to be substantial, although extremely light in effect.

Illustration 174 shows the influence of the fashion for heavier and more elaborate frames, which came in with the nineteenth century. The arms are made after the Sheraton type shown in Illustration 171 and


Illustration 172, but where a simple pillar was employed before, this sofa has a carved pineapple forming the support to the arm, which ends in a scroll. Instead of four front legs either plain or fluted, there are two of larger size carved with the same leaves which sheathe the pineapple. The covering is horsehair, which was probably the original cover. This sofa now belongs to the Concord Antiquarian Society, and was owned by Dr. Ezra Ripley, who was minister of the old Congregational Church of Concord from 1777 to 1840, and who lived in the Old Manse, afterward occupied by Hawthorne. The sofa remained in the manse until comparatively recent years.

Illus. 174. – Sheraton Sofa, 1800-1805.

The sofa in Illustration 175 belongs to the Misses Hosmer of Concord, and stands in their old house, filled with the furniture of generations past, and interesting with memories of the Concord philosophers. The lines of this sofa are extremely elegant and graceful, and its effect quite classic. The legs


are what is known as the Adam leg, which was designed by the Adam brothers, and which Sheraton used frequently. The style of the sofa is that of the Adam brothers, and it was probably made from their designs about 1 800-1810. The writer has seen a window seat which belonged to Charles Carroll of Carrollton, after exactly this design, without the back.

Illus. 175. – Sofa in Adam Style, 1800-1810.

The back of the sofa in Illustration 176 follows the same graceful curves as the one in Illustration 175. This sofa was found by the writer in the shed of a farmhouse, on top of a woodpile, which made it evident what its fate would be eventually, a fate which has robbed us of many a fine piece of old furniture. After climbing upon a chair, then a table, the sight of these carved feet protruding from the woodpile was almost enough to make the antique hunter lose her insecure footing; but with the duplicity learned in years of collecting, all emotion was concealed until the sofa had been secured. The writer knows of four sofas, all found near Worcester,



Illus. 176. – Sofa, 1815-1820



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measuring the same, seven feet in length, and with the same carving of oak leaves upon the legs and ends, but this is the only one of the four which has the carved oak leaves across the front of the seat, and the rows of incised carving upon the back rail. The sofa was covered with black haircloth, woven in an elaborate design, and around the edge of the covering ran the brass beading which may be seen in the illustration.

Illus. 177. — Sofa, about 1820.

This beading is three-eighths of an inch wide, and is of pressed brass, filled with lead, so that it is pliable and may be bent to go around a curve. Such beading or trimming was used in the place of brass-headed tacks or nails, and is found upon chairs and sofas of about this date, 1815-1820.

Illustration 177 shows one of a pair of sofas without backs. The frame is of mahogany with legs and arms carved rather coarsely. The covering is of stiff old brocade, probably the original cover


when these sofas were made, about 1820, for the Warner house in Portsmouth, where they still stand. The panelling of the old room, built in 1716, shows behind the sofa, and on the floor is the Brussels carpet upon which is a stain from wine spilt by Lafayette, when he visited the house in 1824.

The sofa in Illustration 178, known as a cornucopia sofa, from the design of the carving, shows the most ornate type of this style. The frame is of mahogany, and the ends of the arms are carved in large horns of plenty, the same design being repeated in the carving of the top rail of the back and in the legs, which end in a lion’s claw.

Illus. 178. — Cornucopia Sofa, about 1820.

The round hard pillows, called “squabs,” at each end, were always provided for sofas of this shape, to fit into the hollow made by the curves of the cornucopia. This sofa is owned by Dr. Charles Schoeflfer of Philadelphia.

Illustration 179 shows a sofa and miniature sofa made about 1820 for William T. Lane, Esq., of Boston, and now owned by his daughter, Mrs. Thomas


H. Gage of Worcester. Mr. Lane had two little daughters, and for them he had two little sofas made, that they might sit one each side of the large sofa. This fashion of making miniature pieces of furniture like the larger ones was much in vogue during the first quarter of the nineteenth century.

Illus. 179. — Sofa and Miniature Sofa, about 1820.

The sofa and chair in Illustration 180 are part of a set of furniture bought by the father and mother of the late Major Ben Perley Poore, for their house at Indian Hill, about 1840. These pieces are interesting not only for the design of the mahogany frames, carved with swans’ necks and heads, but for the covering, which is of colored haircloth, woven in a large figure in red and blue upon a gray ground. The seat of the sofa is worn and has a rug spread upon it, but the back and pillows and the chair-seat are perfect.

From 1844 to 1848 a cabinet-maker named John H. Belter had a shop in New York, where he manufactured furniture, chiefly from rosewood. The


backs of the chairs and sofas were deeply curved, and in order to obtain the strength necessary, thin

Illus. 180. — Sofa and Chair, about 1840.

pieces of rosewood were pressed into the desired curve, and the several thicknesses glued together,

Illus. 181. – Rosewood Sofa, 1844-1848.


and pressed again. The strong back made in this way was then elaborately carved, in an openwork pattern of vines and leaves. The sofas of these sets were usually in the shape shown in Illustration 181, which belongs to Mrs. M. Newman of New York, Many of the wealthy families of New York had this Belter furniture, which was always covered with a rich silk brocade. It is eagerly sought for now and brings large prices.





The Ron Box

When my bride and I were first married, she asked me to build her a box. Connie dictated the rough dimensions, and I was to come up with the design. I chose to build a dovetailed  sea chest in pine. This box was to be her Ron Box, a place to store all the mementos of our life together.


Over the years, the box has come to contain, bubble gum machine rings, movie ticket stubs, plane ticket receipts, wristbands from emergency room visits, parking passes to state parks, brochures about London, rain ponchos from Niagara Falls, playbills from Broadway musicals, tickets to concerts and theater, and much, much more.


Twenty-one years ago, the Ron Box weighted about five pounds. The original stand sufficed for a number of years. After years of rearranging furniture, ten plus pound cats, and the fact that the box now weighs about eighty pounds, wobbliness has prevailed. My recently built sea-chest stand now supports our mementos, and should last for many years to come.