Tag Archives: lowboy

A Teaching Week

The past two Sundays (the day I regularly post) I was either on my way to the Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking, or on my way to New York city for a day at the Metropolitan Museum. Today I’m sharing photos of the class. In coming posts, I’ll share photos from the Met and from the Connecticut Historical Society – where we first discovered the class project (read more about that here).

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Class began with a brief discussion of how to pull leg patterns from photos using SketchUp, then the class made patterns and began their legs. IMG_1777After layout, everyone took turns at the band saws so they were immediately plunged into leg work.  In expectation of the legs taking two days to wrap up, head schoolmaster Bob Van Dyke arranged a trip to the Connecticut Historical Society (CHS) for Tuesday afternoon. (If you haven’t had the opportunity to visit CHS, do yourself a favor and do so. The staff is first rate and CHS is very reproduction-craftsman friendly.) If you plan to build this lowboy from the article in Popular Woodworking Magazine (February 2014, #209), I suggest that you take an extra 1/8″ off the leg pattern before you begin. When I saw the original lowboy at CHS for the second time, I realized that the legs on the antique lowboy were much finer, giving it a lightness that I missed while sizing from the many photos I had.

IMG_1781After the legs were shaped so far, a trip to the lathe was in order. Turning the feet and pad took a long time for the class – seven class members was 28 individual feet to turn. Everyone survived without problems, Right Jon? Here you can see Janice using pair of outside calipers to bring the foot to diameter. In all we used two caliper setups and only four or five basic turning tools. And it was nice to have a variable-speed lathe to work on; there’s a lot of wobble when you first turn the leg to shape the foot.

IMG_1801From the lathe the next step was to mortise the legs for the aprons, back and ends. While this work can be done while the leg is still as a blank, I think it’s better to actually see what the leg looks like before making a call as to where it will fit. After the legs are shaped, you can easily see which legs look best – those go to the front, while others move to the back. We had two mortisers setup and working, plus I demonstrated how to use a plunge router to do the work. Of the seven taking the class, only one used a plunge router for his mortises. (It’s great during classes to use tools you don’t have in your shop, as long as you know how to do the work when you’re at home.) One additional hint is to make sure that you’re cutting to the necessary depth – a couple of woodworkers had to make a return trip to the mortiser. Sorry I didn’t catch that sooner Mike.

IMG_1813By Wednesday everyone had knocked out the remaining outside case pieces and the lowboys were beginning to take shape. Jon spent extra time on his legs – he also noticed the finer look of the lowboy at CHS. After cutting the designs for the ends and front apron, we worked on bending the cock bead. I was happy that the bends for the longer end-panel beads went so well. Most everyone got those pieces bent using a soaked piece of wood and a heat guy set on high – if you take your time, you can feel the wood give up as it melts into position. If you apply the heat for a bit longer, you actually set the bend just as if you left a steamed piece in the mold until it dried. Smaller, tighter pieces were made using a router with a specifically paired guide bushing and router bit. (Read the article to learn the setup.)

IMG_1820Work on the inside of the lowboy went smooth, aside from the occasional misplaced screw pocket. There were a couple of hand-cut dovetail sockets that needed attention, but overall the class breezed through the interiors. As the cases were coming along, the lowboy tops came into focus. A little router work was all that was needed. It took, however, two passes around the top to get the profile complete. And with this project, the profile continued on all four edges; I checked the original lowboy to make sure. Many tops from the period are molded only on three edges.

IMG_1825Late of Friday and most of Saturday, drawers were the topic at hand. Of the seven in the class, three decided to build the drawers with the slanted sides and back – a challenging task even if you’re experienced in dovetail work. As you may have guessed from the opening photo, not all the drawers were completed during the class. As it is with many classes, there is homework. Also, most of the class members decided not to glue up their lowboys. Flat-packing the pieces home is much easier than trying to cram a lowboy into the back seat.

The class went great. I worked with a lot of talented woodworkers. I’m amazed at how good many of the folks are who take classes. If they had more time in the shop, their work could easily rival many of the top woodworkers in the country. Take a class. It’s fun and it’s sure to improve your woodworking.

Build Something Great!

Glen

 

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Different Dovetailed Drawers

IMG_0622The drawers on the Connecticut lowboy that Bob Van Dyke and I found in the back room of the Connecticut Historical Society are tapered from bottom to top. I’ve mentioned in blogs (either here on my blog or on the Popular Woodworking Magazine (PWM) editor’s blog) that I’ve seen this treatment of drawers only one other place, and that was on Grove Wright’s Shaker work, including the Shaker Counter I copied and built in the June 2012 issue (#197) of Popular Woodworking Magazine.

The process of making these drawers is a bit different from regular hand-cut dovetailed drawers. To begin, the material for the drawers sides and back are tapered. Because there are two drawer depths on the one lowboy, there are two different tapers needed on the drawer parts. IMG_1280I set up my band saw to just leave the bottom of the parts uncut, and the top edge to cut leaving a 1/4″.

Off the band saw, the cut faces need to be smoothed. That could be a pass over the jointer. But with the narrow edge being only a 1/4″ in thickness, I think it was best to use a jointer plane. It’s from here that things get twisted. I used my marking gauges, but not in a way that is customary when dovetailing drawer parts. I set on gauge to 1/2″ and a second to 1/4″. I used the two gauges to place tick marks at the top (1/4″) and bottom (1/2″) to use as layout lines. IMG_1282The next step – where you would normally use a marking gauge – I used a straightedge and utility knife to score the baselines.

The trick to marking off the pins and tails is to use the square or outside face as a register. (If you use the inside face, your marks can be all kind of funky angles.) After the layout is complete, it’s a matter of sawing to the lines then chopping out the waste. Because I work pins first, I began with the pins in the drawer backs. To transfer the pins to my tail board, I set the completed back in position, making sure the orientation is correct. To cut the tails, I go back to the band saw and cut just off the layout lines, inside the pin waste area. Ordinarily, I would chop the waste at my bench, but because the parts are angled – and the waste area is so narrow – I stay at the band saw and trim the waste using power. Nibble. Nibble. Each time staying just tight to my baseline. Because this is a poplar-to-poplar fit, I get a little smash factor to make it all work.

IMG_1286The drawer fronts are not tapered, but the sides are. Again, I have to use the straightedge-and-utility-knife layout method, but from there the process is the same as with standard dovetailed drawers. The only difference is the tail sockets are tapered from top to bottom. To transfer my pins to the tail board (drawer sides), I set the front at my scribe lines, which is a consistent 1/2″, then transfer the lay out.

In the drawers of the Shaker Counter, the bottom was slid into the 1/2″ thickness of the bottom edge. The lowboy drawer bottoms at applied – it’s good to have the thickness at the bottom for nailing. I use the counter on a daily basis, and the drawers slide spectacularly. I’m wondering if it’s the design (heavy bottoms) or the yellow pine I used for drawer parts. I’ll have a better picture when the lowboy is wrapped up.

Build Something Great!

Glen

This lowboy is an upcoming project in Popular Woodworking Magazine. To see the entire project, pick up the February 2014 magazine – if you’re not a subscriber.

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To Scratch or Not

IMG_1276In a blended woodworking shop – how any woodworking shop should be set up – you make choices about when hand work is appropriate and when it makes better sense to use power tools. That decision should not necessarily be guided by a passion for any particular method or tool; as woodworkers, we face this whenever we hope to be productive in our shops.

In a post a few weeks back (read it here), I wrote about how easy it was to make a simple scratch beader (scratch stock) to profile the arched moldings on the Egerton clock hood. With that project on hold while I build a cover piece for an upcoming issue of Popular Woodworking Magazine, I faced a similar choice as I made drawer molding for the transitional lowboy. (If you’re a furniture purist, don’t tell me I’m not suppose to use the term transitional – that best describes the project on which I’m working.) IMG_1278The moldings are a double-bead design that signifies later William & Mary period work. And the fact that the lowboy has cabriole legs (Queen Anne) also indicates a transitional build.

I decided to make another simple beader, but this time the tool was a bit more involved. Not only did I drill the holes and sand the profile, I needed to set the blade into a handle to register the molding with each pass. Even with the handle added, making the tool was too easy.

In order to use the scratch beader, I ran a slot down the middle of my stock using a slot cutter setup in my router table. At the bench with the stock set in my vise, I scratched the double-bead profile into the edge. At my table saw, I set the cut for 1/4″ then ripped the first piece of molding free. Everything worked, but the process to get six pieces of molding was too long.

IMG_1270Using my router table with a 1/4″ corner-beading router bit installed, I ran a pass to form the bead, flipped the stock to rout a bead at the opposite face, then ripped the molding at my table saw. I was easily convinced that this was the process I would use. But what guided my decision? First there was the ease of the entire process. Router cut was far easier and quicker than walking through the steps needed to do the work by hand. Also, the pattern or profile was consistent with each piece of molding cut. This is important because there are a couple of places, as you can see in the opening photo, where these molding pieces meet and intersect with one another – matching profiles are easier to fit and blend (hand-cut work can require further shaping and sanding).

What did I give up? The original molding profile I was after was a 3/16″ bead at each edge of the 5/8″-wide stock, with a 1/4″ of flat between the two beads. What I made using power tools was a 1/4″ bead at both edges with an 1/8″ flat – not the same design. I could have found and purchased a 3/16″ corner-beading router bit, but I didn’t think it was that important. If this was a customer-purchased lowboy, I would have built the piece with the 3/16″ beads. But given the fact that it is a piece for me – as most of the projects you build are for you – I opted to be more productive in my shop.

Build Something Great!

Glen

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Filed under Hand Tools, Jigs, Methods of Work, Power Tools, Routers

Knee Surgery or Not

106If you build Queen Anne or Chippendale furniture, you most likely have made cabriole legs. If you’ve cut and finished cabriole legs, you most likely have work on knee blocks. Or have you? Over the years, I have run into three methods used to address knee blocks.There are knee blocks that fit in front of aprons, those that fit under aprons and there are cabriole legs that do not use blocks at all.

One habit I got into as I work on these curvy legs is to keep my cutoffs. The material you cut away from legs as you sculpt them from blanks perfectly matches the legs; the grain is right and the color is right. 110That’s the best material to use for your knee blocks.

In the opening photo you can see the first step in knee block fabrication. There are a few things to remember as you work on blocks. In the Massachusetts High Chest of Drawers DVD (the piece shown in the first two photos), the apron is behind the block. (You don’t, however, attach the blocks to the apron; they still attach to the legs.) As you make these leg add-ons, it’s important to match the grain. That can be difficult.

As you profile the knee blocks, each time you complete a step, the grain changes. When you make the cut to the pencil line in the photo, the grain moves. As you round the piece in the second step of the process, grain moves again. Dressing TableYou need to be able to read the grain as it appears in the finished blocks if you want to achieve the perfect appearance when you’ve completed the work. As you also see in the above photo, color matches are important – I didn’t do so good on that task.

Some blocks fit under the apron, as seen to the left in the cover project from the June 2010 issue of Popular Woodworking Magazine (#183). The importance of grain matching in this instance is the same. Even though the block fits under the apron, it still attaches to the leg and the grain should match. If the look and fit are correct, the connection appears seamless. That’s what you’re after.

This week I began building the Connecticut lowboy – and as always with me, I began with the legs. CT LowboyAnd I saved the cutoffs. As I got into the legs a bit farther, I realized that I didn’t need the extra material because these legs did not have knee blocks. What the maker did was round the material from the front of the knee to the inside edges. If you look at the legs straight on, you almost see a half circle as you view from the right side of the upper leg to the left side. It’s interesting when you first see it.

As you work the material to round the knee area, you also need to roll the material back toward the leg post. As I completed the shaping of the second leg, I realized that a #3, 20 carving gouge used inverted did a nice job rounding and rolling. (I used only my chisels sculpting the first leg.)

What struck me the hardest was that I was in the shop for about eight hours – probably worked for maybe five hours with all the talk and lunch – and two shaped legs was all that resulted. I could easily get all four legs complete a decade ago. I was reminded that my earlier shop was air-conditioned and working in the heat was most likely the cause for my lack of completion. Yeah. I’ll go with that. In my mind, though, I know it’s simply age.

Build Something Great!

Glen

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Make This Your First Lowboy

CT LowboyFor the past couple weeks, I’ve been working on SketchUp drawings for a Connecticut Lowboy discovered at the Connecticut Historical Society. The class happens at The Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking in September, immediately following the holiday weekend – the class runs from Tuesday through Saturday. (There are a few class spots left, so now would be a great time to contact Bob Van Dyke at the school to sign up.)

When I built The “Queen Anne Dressing Table” for the June 2010 cover of Popular Woodworking Magazine, I thought I had discovered the easiest-to-build lowboy ever. I was wrong. This project is easier, if you can believe that. And best of all, easy does not translate into ugly. IMG_0634In fact, when I wrote about my 2013 classes in January this year (read it here), I mentioned how this lowboy stopped both Van Dyke and me in our tracks.

What made the dressing table easy was that all the interior parts were nailed in place. What makes this piece easy is that there are few interior parts. Take a look at its inside. There is no top rail on the piece (the case top is the kicker to keep the drawers from tipping when extended), the two interior drawer dividers are solid pieces that run from front to back, drawer guides are nailed between the legs and the only runners are single pieces dovetailed into the front rail and centered in each opening.

Where a piece such as this picks up is pizazz is with details. One feature that makes this lowboy stand out is the cock-bead work at each of the cutouts in the front rail and at the sides. IMG_0623That work takes time to get right. But it adds a real punch to the finished piece. If you click to open the photo above, you can better see this detail. A second interesting detail, and one that makes me scratch my head and search for a connection, is the construction on the drawers. It’s not the fact that the bottoms are applied. That, along with the beaded moulding that wraps the drawer openings, indicates that this piece has an early origin. What I find interesting are the tapered drawer sides. This is nearly identical to the work found on the Shaker counter originally built by Grove Wright that I built for the June 2012 issue of Popular Woodworking Magazine. Is there a connection, or is this a construction method used in the region. Grove Wright spent time working at the Enfield, CT Shaker village.

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Above is another photo of the interior of the Connecticut lowboy. In this photo you can see a drawer divider. Check out how the divider is angled as it stretches from front to back. Was this a way to save on material? Also notice how oxidation affects the coloration on the divider. What you see is not two pieces of lumber with different colors joined together. It’s the fact that the upper section has, for more than a hundred years, been protected by the drawer with the lower section constantly exposed to the elements.

You really should take the time to join us at CVSW as we build a great looking, simply constructed and high in detail Connecticut Lowboy. Register here.

Build Something Great!

Glen

 

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Gorgeous Gams & Other 2013 Classes

I expect to have a busy 2013, so I limited my teaching weeks and weekends this year. Scheduled are only two classes that are week long, and one weekend class that begins on Friday. (Guess that would be a three day class.)

LegOnce again, Bob Van Dyke has invited me back to teach at his Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking (CVSW). April 5th through the 7th is Gorgeous Gams & Foot Fetishes: Its all about the Legs and the Feet- A 3 day weekend of fun and inspiration with Glen Huey. (Click here, then scroll about 2/3 down the page for additional class information.)

There is a lot to cover over the three days. Did you know you can get very accurate patterns from photos?  During the class we’ll rip leg and feet from actual furniture photos then learn how to develop those into full-size patterns. I’ll also show you how to shape cabriole legs. Where to start and what tools make the task easy and repeatable – we do want our four legs to match, right? After you get a leg shaped, it’s on to tapered legs. You may think you have a handle on tapered legs, but I’ll fill in a few blanks on what legs fit with what periods and I’ll demonstrate a couple techniques that are sure to add to your knowledge and abilities. And of course, we cannot bypass feet. An in-depth study of bracket and ogee-bracket feet is sure to bring discussion. Contact CVSW to register for the class.

SAMSUNGLater in April (April 29 through May 3), I show up at Chuck Bender’s Acanthus Workshops to teach the first week long class. Since Acanthus is in Chester County Pennsylvania, what better project could you build than a small chest that’s big with line & berry inlay. (A chest, by the way, that is featured in the June 2013 issue of Popular Woodworking Magazine, in case you get closed out of the class.) This chest, attributed to Moses Pyle and built for Hannah Darlington, is part of the collection at Winterthur Museum. Not only do you build this chest during the week, but you may get a chance to see the original in a day trip to the museum. If line & berry inlay is your weakness, this is the class to take. Construction is not over the top, so we’re sure to finish the project. (That will make the spouse happy, huh?) During the class we’ll use both power tools and hand tools to inlay the piece. (Acanthus has been plagued by website difficulties over the past few weeks. If the class listing cannot be found, give Chuck a couple days to get things corrected and posted.)

CT LowboyRounding out the year, except for Woodworking in America in October, I return to CVSW to instruct a class building a Connecticut Lowboy. This piece, discovered in a backroom tour of the Connecticut Historical Society, stopped both Bob and I in our tracks. I immediately said that this would be a great class. Great minds think alike. Bob added the class to his summer schedule. The class runs from September 3rd through the 8th.

If you are a study of period furniture designs, you see that this lowboy is a transitional piece – originating as we moved from the William & Mary style into Queen Anne period. I especially like the high arched aprons and the molded profile around the drawers. Also, there is a very interesting building technique used on the inside of this piece.

(Might I suggest a “twofor” at CVSW. Sign up for the legs class then return to build a great lowboy. Contact the school for more information.)

If you would like additional information on these classes, please contact me or the schools directly.

Build Something Great!
Glen

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