Current work

May this year I bought a big log of oak, about ½ a tonnes worth to make a joined chest, 17th century design, techniques and tools (only made possible for me thanks to the work of Peter Follansbee …more on that in the future). The idea was that in the process I would find the best way to set up my shed (4m2) and figure out the tools needed as I went. The plan has worked mostly, but it has been slow. I felt I reached a milestone last weekend (nearly 6 months in) when I put together the framing for the front of the chest, although there is still a long way to go. In my defence I have made a lot of other stuff, travelled abroad a few times, and got married in that period!

Oak sections split out
Oak sections split out

I had to split the log into 9 pieces weighing 40-70kg’s each to get it into the back garden. Thankfully not a single knot in sight, beautiful clean sections of wood. After a period of axing and planing this wood when it was still at its greenest I had to leave the project aside to work on the pole lathe, so stacked the prepared timber out of the way in various corners of my shed.

Returning again to bench work, the pole lathe went out of use and I uncovered all the oak that had been drying out a bit. The shed is too small for me to keep both pole-lathe and bench at the ready, has to be one or the other.

Here is that stock on the bench all uncovered to be sorted, it constitutes 2/3rds of the log:

Stock from the oak log

The chest stock includes 4 stiles, 6 rails, 11 panels up to 10” wide, and 7 muntins. I don’t know the dimensions of all these pieces because you never really use a measuring tape for this work but I guess the rails are about 3’ long considering the log was just a bit longer than that. I couldn’t help turning a few bowls, a Swedish style platter, and some plates out of spare wide sections; the ones in the photo below are 12” diameter.

plates turned in the radial plane

I have had enough stock to do some practice carvings, and enough boards for 2 large boxes are waiting to be carved. I still have spare wood that should allow me to make a frame and panel lid for the chest, although I am tempted to carry on turning those extra sections into lidded boxes and other items that are best turned facing the radial plane. My point is I can’t believe the volume of material I have been able to extract from this one log. It all looks like a rather small amount stacked on my bench, but it is heavy, dense wood covered all over with medullary rays and is the best I have ever worked with.

Light catching the medullary rays
Light catching the medullary rays

Here is the front frame of the chest. The mortices were cut first, then the grooves for the panels, then the scratch stock and plough plane decoration before the tenons on the rails and muntins were cut.

Front framing

The framing came together very nicely first time, these joints are pretty easy and very forgiving. I will however need to do some fine tuning as the right muntin doesn’t meet the bottom rail snugly as you can see in the photo. The next stage is to carve the rails and panels, and cut a chamfer on the bottom rail. Then I’ll frame the back and sides.

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