Spalted Maple Box

Over labor day weekend of 2015, some family came for a visit and my brother-in-law brought me a gift of some spalted maple.  The boards were from a tree that died at his work and were sawn on the Woodmizer there.  Since they were still pretty green, I stacked them in my shed workshop.  This past June or July (2016) I went through all the boards and sawed the rough pieces for a bible box similar to many of Peter Follansbee’s designs.  I stacked the pieces for the box in my house for more than a month to help get the moisture content as low as I could before starting to final dimension the pieces.

At summer’s end I began work on the box.  I had planned to construct the box using rabbet and nail construction.   I even found a local blacksmith to make some hand wrought nails for the piece.  However, I blew out the side of the maple box with the first of those nails.  This splitting issue occurred even after I drill a tapered pilot hole of what I thought was the appropriate width and depth.  Clearly my experience with nailed pieces in poplar and pine didn’t translate well to this maple; learned a good lesson about hard hardwoods.  So I decide to switch gears, remade one of the box carcass pieces, and opted for dovetail construction.  Also learned that fitting hand sawn dovetail joints with such a hard wood is also more challenging than the softer woods I typically use.  Working through the fall it is now competed.  Finished with two coats of Danish oil and looking good.

Sash Building at the Woodwright’s School

In November I had the pleasure of attending a two-day class on window sash construction at Roy Underhill’s school in Pittsboro, NC.  It was an absolute joy to be in the workshop there, visit Ed’s tool store upstairs, and hangout with some remarkable people I met.

The course opened with an introduction to the characteristics of window sash completed with hand tools.  We discussed the American approach with ‘stick and rabbet’ planes as well as the English approach of using sash ovolos and sash fillisters to separately complete the moulding and glazing rabbet.  Much of the first morning after this introduction was related to tuning and using the ‘stick and rabbet’ planes.  Roy and the group went to each bench to set-up and troubleshoot our planes to make sure they were cutting an appropriate profile.  Once set, we cut an example profile to measure the depth of the ovolo and rabbet for our layout of the guide sticks and determined the mortise chisel width from the resulting fillet.

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Photo courtesy of G. Lucko

The next step of the course was to use our created guide sticks to layout the joinery for a 4-light divided window sash.  Roy stressed the importance of this layout and the students viewed each others work to make sure we all had are layout lines correctly executed. The first joinery steps were then to chop the mortises and saw the tenon shoulders on the rail and stiles.  The mortise in the upright muntin bar was also chopped.

Day two began with another excellent breakfast as the Small Cafe BB and a pleasant walk to the school.  Upon Roy’s arrival, I inquired about the frame saw hanging in the school window that I had been pondering about with a fellow classmate while we were waiting.  Roy graciously gave me a brief tutorial on the saw and let me have a go at it.

Once class began this second day it flew by with a fury of activity.  We finished up any work from the day before and then worked to mould the rails, stiles, and two muntin bars.  It sure was a joy to use a beautiful, well-tuned wooden sash moulding plane!  Tenon cheeks were then saw and the assembly began following a tutorial by Roy on the scribed joints of sash with ovolo moulding.  This process involved the use of several other remarkable antique tools, sash templates and long in-cannel paring gouges.  After completing the scribing of each mortise and tenon joint in the window sash (10 in total), I began putting my sash together.  A little paring and a bit of sawing was needed, but when the clamps were put on Roy and I watched as the joints pulled together.

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Completed sash and the end of a great two days!
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Picture my daughter drew for Roy which he promptly hung on his bulletin board. What a nice moment.