Thursday, 2 June 2011

Another guessing game & a Seymour obsession

It appears that my “guess what this is?” photo was not nearly as challenging as I thought it would be. Most people guessed it right away - a rebate panel plane/carriage maker’s plane/No.10. I am waiting for the blade to arrive and will post photos of it as soon as they are completed.

In the meantime - here is another guessing game;




I have always loved American Federal furniture, and the work of John and Thomas Seymour in particular. There are a few reasons for this - the first is their use of truly exquisite materials. I can think of only a few other makers who could combine such strong grain, figure and color and do so in such a harmonious way. And this touches on another one of their great skills - design. The proportions of their work is, for all intents and purposes - perfect. Part of that perfection comes from the balancing act between basic (and complex) proportions, but also the consideration of the materials they were using. Take a sideboard for example. I have seen examples of their work where the entire surface is covered in quite dark woods - mainly Mahogany and lots of Mahogany crotches. The drawer fronts across the top were likely scaled in such a way as to take into account the overall “gray value” of the piece and proportioned accordingly. Switch those drawer fronts for ones with Satinwood or Birch crotch, and you will have an entirely different look - and one that might not be as pleasing. The proportions may need adjusting to help lessen the effects of such graphically strong drawer fronts. This speaks to a really challenging part of design - knowing just how elastic the “rules” really are. The Seymour’s are a perfect example of makers who knew all the rules - and only then, the knowledge of how to break them.

So as I build up the courage to build a Seymour inspired piece(s) - I have begun collecting the materials required. Satinwood crotch appears to be out of the question, but there is a very good substitute - Birch crotch.

I have been collecting small sections of Birch crotches from various firewood piles over the years and a few of them were seasoned enough to open them up.



This is a rather small piece - maybe 5" wide and 12" long, but it is exactly what I was hoping for. I should be able to re-saw at least five, 1/8" thick pieces from each half. With the success of this crotch, I have increased my search to a fevered pace, and am collecting much larger crotch sections.

A few weeks ago we were up at the family cottage and I noticed that someone had cleared out a large number trees in an adjacent vacant lot. I walked through the forest to find quite a few birch trees were taken down and they had only taken the trunks. The forest floor was littered with branches and crotch sections. As I skipped back to the cottage my mind was filled with visions of drawer fronts dancing in my head. We were without a chainsaw - but no matter - we had a small handsaw. My brother-in-law Jeff helped me with the cutting, and we saved this rather amazing section. It is 14" wide and a little over 24" long. Drawer front madness!





The hardest part is going to be waiting for it to season. Once it is though - I should have everything I need to start.

21 Comments:

Blogger Adrian Baird Ba Than said...

How long until we get to see inside those insane,conjoined branches,18 months,2 years???
B

2 June 2011 at 09:39  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was wondering which way do you slice the crotch in order to get the the pattern in your photo. Across the face or down into the "V"?

2 June 2011 at 09:58  
Blogger matt@thuja said...

I'm guessing it's a side panel on a Bayfield style rebate plane...I might have peaked at the filename on the picture though;)

Great stuff as always,

Matt

2 June 2011 at 11:41  
Blogger Konrad said...

Hi Black,

Not 100% sure how long it will take to be honest. It depends on how humid the summer is and when exactly it was cut. If it was cut before the sap was running that will be good... not too much water in a hibernating tree. This is another case where more time is better than rushing it. I am just glad I don't have to wait for a Rosewood crotch to dry... that would take decades.

Cheers,
Konrad

2 June 2011 at 21:50  
Blogger Konrad said...

I have always sliced them across the face. Or put another way - draw a line from the pith of each branch of the crotch and cut along that line.

Cheers,
Konrad

2 June 2011 at 21:52  
Blogger Cory said...

This one took me a while, but i think the image is of a measuring or marking tool of some kind? Possibly a bevel or square? That's the only time i can think of seeing the wood surrounded by the steel like that.

Good to see you've caught the prototyping bug again!

-Cory

3 June 2011 at 01:46  
Blogger Tom Fidgen said...

Konrad,
Another great post.
I love the birch crotch and will enjoy as this one unfolds.
cheers!

3 June 2011 at 07:00  
Blogger JW said...

Yeah, I'm totally guessing sliding bevel gauge.

3 June 2011 at 07:49  
Anonymous robert said...

You may want to open that up fairly quickly. Just to avoid destructive end-checking creeping into the figure.

Seems to me I remember reading an article or book by Bruce Hoadley who has some thoughts on short whole logs splitting if left un-opened, without good air circulation.

3 June 2011 at 12:26  
Blogger Konrad said...

Hi Cory,

Glad this one is causing some problems:) Your first guess is incorrect... but your second is getting closer. And yes - you do get 2 guesses.

The prototyping bug has bit hard. Really hard. Lots more for show and tell.

Thanks for playing along.

Cheers,
Konrad

3 June 2011 at 13:40  
Blogger Konrad said...

Thanks Tom - cheers,
Konrad

3 June 2011 at 13:40  
Blogger Konrad said...

JW - not quite - Cory’s second try was much closer:)

Cheers,
Konrad

3 June 2011 at 13:41  
Blogger Konrad said...

Hi Robert,

Thanks for the comment. I will double check Hoadley's book to review what he says. I have had good success with all the other crotch sections I have - and all of them were left whole. That being said - I will look into it - thanks for the tip.

Cheers,
Konrad

3 June 2011 at 13:43  
Blogger JoePowers said...

Konrad,
I've had great luck sawing the veneer green and then stacking with paper towels between veneers (under pressure of course). That veneer should be ready in days or weeks with paper towel changes every few days.

Before Jain the veneer you can apply veneer softener and leave the veneer in a press overnight to dry out.

5 June 2011 at 08:57  
Blogger Jay said...

I knew this looked familiar, and finally remembered -- It's one of the side infill panels of a skewed rabbet, right? That's gonna be beautiful. Can't wait to see the finished product!
Best,
Jay

5 June 2011 at 21:56  
Anonymous Chris Bame said...

Konrad,
Love your work. been following you for a few years now I'm a restorer in Dallas that has the same affliction for Federal furniture. Do you know what is up with Rob Millard. Found him thru you and was really diggin on the breakfront he was doing. Keep up he great work
Chris

6 June 2011 at 23:01  
Blogger Konrad said...

Thanks for the advise Joe,

I have a smaller "wet" section that I will try this out on.

cheers,
Konrad

7 June 2011 at 18:49  
Blogger Konrad said...

Hi Jay,

Yup - you got it. Now... for the bonus question... can you name the original maker? :)

Cheers,
Konrad

7 June 2011 at 18:50  
Blogger Konrad said...

Hi Chris,

Glad you have been enjoying the blog and thanks for the post. I have not spoken with Rob for a while - I will check in with him.

Cheers,
Konrad

7 June 2011 at 18:51  
Blogger Jay said...

Hi Konrad,
Well, I can name the maker, but only because I found a photo online when I remembered that shape came from a skewed rabbet. (It's C. Bayfield of Nottingham.)
Are the side panels inset, or does the infill protrude through cutouts in the metal? Beautiful plane -- looks like it will be a challenging build.
Thanks for sharing it!
Jay

7 June 2011 at 22:42  
Blogger Konrad said...

Hi Jay,

That's the one! It was a challenge to make - but a good kinda challenge. I will be writing a lengthy post about it in the coming week.

Cheers,
Konrad

9 June 2011 at 21:15  

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