To Each His Own

Haven’t had much shop time these last few days due to the rains associated with hurricane Delta. Perhaps soon, I’ll have enough sunshine to start the mortise and tenon work on my joint stool. Taking advantage of the downtime, I managed to replenish a few shop supplies. Nails in particular!

Although I utilize dovetails and mortise and tenon joints a lot, I use nails on my 17th-century boxes. From time to time, I might use wooden pegs, but for the most part, it’s nails. The use of nails was quite common in the 1600s, and using them today adds another level of detail to my carved boxes. But not any old rusty nail will do!

There is a great deal written about antique nails. Enough so, it will make your head spin. “Wrought nails must look like this.” “Cut nails are not the right look for period work.” “If not hammered by the village smithy under a spreading chestnut tree…” Blah blah blah! Well, here’s what I have to say about that. I’m sure you will agree that anything made by hand will differ in appearance from hand to hand. I do not have ready access to a blacksmith, nor do I want to take up the art. With that said, I find that Tremont Nail Company nails, although cut nails, solve the problem and eliminate all the angst!

To date, I have used but three different Tremont nails. Not only do they look great, but they all seem to have phenomenal holding power. What else is there?

I use the wrought head hails (and sometimes the box nail) for carcase assembly. I use the box nail for attaching box bottoms and hinges. The headless brads or “sprigs” are great for reinforcing joints on drawers, attaching trim, and various repairs.

Now, putting erudite scholarship aside, I would be willing to bet that somewhere along the way, some village smithy hammered out a nail that looked just like one of these. Your thoughts?

Getting Things Crossed Up!

The scalloped and everted edges turned out fine. I love how they seem to flare outward. This detail gives a piece a certain sophistication.

Wanting to continue with this level of refinement, I needed for the carving pattern on the box sides to follow suit. I decided to expound upon the S-scrolls, carved on my last box, and try my hand at “crossing” them. The layout is the same as that of single scrolls. Just have them going in both directions!

Although the sides are slightly longer than half the length of the front, I think the proportions worked out nicely. Having eight scrolls on all four sides would have been a challenge at best!

Now it’s time for some joinery. Mortise and tenon joints to attach rails and stretchers before heading to the lathe. Back in a few days.

Stay tuned!

Everted and Scalloped

Once I had the rough dimensions of the seat rails, or in this case, the box sides, I loosely clamped everything together to check for squareness. After a few minutes of fettling with plane and file, I had what was starting to look like a boxed joint stool.

Scalloped and everted edges on seat rails are typical of early 17th-Century joint stools. Wanting to incorporate this decoration on the bottom edge of the box sides, I set out to create everted edges. Firstly, a 1/4″ saw kerf was cut 1-1/8″ from the bottom edge of each side.

Then an angled rebate approximately 1/4″ from the edge to the depth of the saw kerf forms the everted edge.

By definition, evert is to turn out. The shadow created by this decoration gives the illusion that the bottom edge of the piece flares outward.

Finally, a series of cutouts or scallops add even another level of detail.

Time to start carving some crossed S-scrolls. Stay tuned!


With the legs cut out and joined, I was able to establish some overall dimensions for my joint stool.

I then browsed through the inventory of Marhamchurch Antiques, looking for some period carving/turning details.

Image(s) used with permission, Paul Fitzsimmons, Marhamchurch Antiques (

As you can see, I’ll be building a boxed-stool, similar to the Charles I oak box stool, seen above. I’ve decided to try my hand at some crossed S-scrolls, as seen on the stiles of a 17th-century Devon carved chest. The carving on the angled sides of the stool should prove to be fun, trying to fit the scrolls. Although not shown very well in the line drawing, my turned legs will emulate the front legs of a James VI Scottish oak low armchair. At least these are my intentions. Hey! A boy can dream, right?

If my carvings go as planned and I’m able to pull off a nice scalloped and everted edge on the seat rails, my “joynt stoole” should look something like this.

Stay tuned!

Much Better…

Having powered through 8/4 ash with a not so sharp rip saw, I decided a tune-up was in order. After jointing the saw with a file, I took the time to “color” the teeth with a black Sharpie.

This technique helps to identify the teeth needing filing as you move along the saw. Before filing each tooth, I like to deepen the gullet ever so slightly with a hack saw. I believe this helps to maintain the shape of the teeth over time.

From my vantage point, shiny equals sharp!

Cutting the remaining billets was a breeze. It’s incredible how well a newly sharpened saw performs! Achieving “square” right off the saw means very little plane work.

With temperatures in the low seventies, I look forward to working with my spring-pole lathe again. But, first, I need to determine the width and depth of my stool and chop a few mortise and tenon joints.

Stay tuned!

Joynt Stoole

With Connie’s ambrosia maple and spruce trestle table pressed into service, I needed to find another project to fill the void left in the shop. Thumbing through John Fiske’s When Oak Was New, English Furniture & Daily Life 1530-1700, I decided to take on another joynt stoole. This time with 8/4 ash legs, red oak rails, and stretchers, and maybe a quarter-sawn white oak seat.

Many joint stools were made in sets, sometimes matching the long table around which they were used. Joint stools were usually ubiquitous: they were used in the homes of yeoman farmers and town burghers as well as in the most aristocratic houses.

Joint stools are occasionally called ‘coffin stools,’ and while two may be eminently well suited to supporting a coffin, this was certainly not their main use. Predictably, the Victorians are responsible for this misnomer, which may well trace back to an entry in Pepys’ diary (first published in 1825): “…my uncle’s corpse in a coffin standing upon two joint stools…” (6 July 1661). Note, however, that Pepys calls them “joint” stools. While joint stools are undeniably versatile, their primary function was to support the living, not the dead.

The variations among joint stools, particularly in height, suggest their various uses. Stools 20″ to 22″ high were used for sitting at a long table: their height enabled the sitter to rest his or her feet on the table stretchers, thus keeping them off the dirty and draughty floor (tables of the period were about 32″ high, compared to the 28″ height of eighteen-century ones, and the 30″ height of nineteenth-century and modern ones.) Stools 18″ high were used for seating in other places, or in workrooms such as the kitchen: people sitting on them rested their feet on the floor. There are also stools of 12″ to 16″ in height that were foot-stools or children’s stools. At the other end of the scale are a few stools taller than 22″: these were probably what [was] sometimes referred to at the time as “stoole tables.” These (much less common) stools often have thinner legs and occasionally a larger overhang of the top, indicating that their main use was as small, easily moveable tables.

The frame of a joint stool consists of four turned legs joined at the top by seat rails (also called an “apron” or “frieze”) and, just above the floor level, by stretchers.

Before about 1635, it was quite common for the lower edge of the seat rail to be scalloped. The legs on the short sides were always splayed, except on foot-stools and children’s stools of 15″ or less, where they were straight. All the joints are pegged mortise-and-tenons. The seat was a single board with molded edges and was pegged to the frame in one of three patterns: one peg into the top of each leg, or one into the middle of each rail, or two into each long rail and one into each short.

When Oak Was New – English Furniture & Daily Life 1530-1700, John Fiske, Belmont Press, Ipwich, MA, 2013

I have decided to make this stool to a height of 19-1/2″. I’ll determine the depth and width once ripping the ash billets. Speaking of ash billets, I do believe I need to give my rip saw a tune-up before proceeding any further. Sawing through the 8/4 ash was inordinately laborious!

Stay tuned!

Happy Birthday, Connie

Once the dye dried, I applied a few coats of shellac to the base and set it aside to cure for a couple of days. Cutting the ambrosia maple top was somewhat uneventful as I had to remove a slight crown at one end of the twelve-foot board. I eventually ended up with three forty-four inch boards, which together comprise the twenty-two inch wide top. The top was then slathered with boiled linseed oil and allowed to sit in the sun for a day before applying shellac.

I love the contrast between the base and the top.

My bride now has yet another horizontal surface to spread out her office equipment and supplies, making working from home a bit more comfortable.

Happy Birthday, Connie!

A Solid Foundation

Having shaped the feet and rails to satisfaction, I thought, why not add a bit to carving. Perhaps a string of running cable here and there. So, with Dad watching approvingly from afar, I dove right in.

The soft spruce responded well to the running cable pattern. Even the unsightly knots seemed to behave themselves.

With the carving completed on the stiles, I drawbored the rails and feet into place and applied a shop-made walnut dye/stain.

I decided to treat the stretcher a bit differently. I carved a zig-zag pattern along the bottom edge and added an S-braid flanked by running cable over the remaining face. This same pattern appears on both sides of the stretcher.

After a few drawbore pegs and some touch-up dying, the trestle table base was complete. Once the dye/stain dries, I’ll apply a few coats of shellac for good measure.

On to the ambrosia maple top! Stay tuned.

For My Bride

As a result of the pandemic, my bride has been working from home quite a lot. To help make things a bit more comfortable, I’m building a small table to hold a printer and various office supplies. It should free up space on our now crowded home computer table. I decided on a painted trestle base with an ambrosia maple top.

Using a bit of dimensional spruce, I roughed out the seven base members and started in on cutting mortises in the feet and rails.

Utilizing the brace and bit method for removing waste creates quite a mess!

After cleaning the sides, I ended up with some pretty decent mortise holes. As you can see, I never worry about the appearance of mortise bottoms. Besides, who’s going to see them anyway?

And of course, every mortise needs a tenon!

With the tenons cut and fitted, the base came together nicely. I still need to shape the feet and rails before drawboring and wedging.

This ambrosia maple board should make for a handsome tabletop.

Stay tuned.