I have been trying my hand at low relief carving. Part of the learning process was to do some of the sample exercises from Peter Follansbee’s DVDs. I just used some random planks of green oak left over from the joined stool project. Once I had made a few I declared them to be “pretty firewood.” After receiving a stern glare from my wife, I promised not to toss them out, but to make a box out of them.
This is the results of that process. I patterned it off of the boxes that Peter F. makes; there is no risk of confusing the two. There are 1500s boxes generally called Bible Boxes that are carved in the same manner, although they tend to be only carved on one face (front), or sometimes three faces (front and sides). The top and bottom are pine in the colonial American fashion. It looks a little strange to my modern eye. I thinned out the pine with planes and then chamfered it using a rabbet plane .
The box is nailed together with cut nails because the carved planks are too thin to use wood pegs. They are rabbeted and over all seal pretty well. I really like the pattern on the top of the till: A row of bullets, centered on the piece. The parallel lines are done with the scratch stock that I made.
The “front” has mostly V tool carving (it was an exercise in using that tool). I added little U shaped cuts one the corners, a detail that I really liked and have seen on several pieces in auction catalogs.
The sides are “S Leaf” patterns from the second DVD by Peter F. I like this design; it is a bit more complex, so the design uses all 5 of the carving tools that I own. The wooden peg hinge was pretty easy to make. I did run into trouble because the back is not flat so a little of the top of the carving got removed.
The finish is a linseed oil, no stain was used on it.
The sides are roughly an hour each to carve. The front and back were quicker, about twenty minutes each. It takes longer to square up and plane the board to prepare it for carving than it does to do the actual carving. I’d guess that whole box has 10 or 15 hours of work it in.
This was a successful project using mostly leftover or reclaimed pieces. I’ll do more carved boxes in the future.
The long plane on the left is my joiner. I made it a few years ago using the “Philly Method” of laminated bodies. The shape is a “Razzy” plane; the tote is a step down from the top of the plane. The balance is not the greatest– the blade should be further towards to the toe– but all in all it works so well that I have not messed with it. One side note: When making this plane I tried an “easier” method that involved gluing in the cheeks; I will never do that again as it was a pain in the neck to line up.
The little plane in the center is a “smoother” based off of the profile from the Mary Rose. This is the most recent plane that I have made. It works well, but is almost too small for my hands; it feels like it was made for a child. With a little bit of tweaking it will shave off very thin shavings.
The mid-sized plane on the right is my general bench plane. I have done a lot of experimenting on it. This was the first plane I made with the laminated method. The mouth was very wide so I closed it up with a small piece of wood. The next major change was to thicken the blade. Previously I was using a cheap Buck Brothers plane blade from Home Depot. I found that gluing an 1/8″ or 3/16″ piece of steel to the blade allowed the plane to be adjusted by whacking on the back and front of the plane body. Previously the only way to adjust it was by tapping the blade directly.
While the laminated method of making planes is not historically correct, it works so well that to date I have not ventured to try to cut the mortice out with a chisel. Now that I have better practical skills I’ll need to give that a try.
Things that I have learned over time:
- Laminate the store-bought blade to make it heavier, 1/8″ hot rolled steel works well. 5 min epoxy is all it takes to bond the metal forever. The extra weight is needed.
- The wedge is the hardest part to get right. Make the first one out of pine so that it is easy to work. Then, some day, you can remake it in a hard wood.
- It is better to have a too wide mouth than too small; you can always correct a too wide mouth with an insert, you can’t do much with a too small mouth.
- Just do it. There are a number of sets of directions out there, so pick one that makes sense and try it. You’ll need a blade and bar stock from a home improvement store, two pieces of 1/4″ wood, something to make the body from and a tote (handle). If you are concerned about cost, make it all out of pine and use 1/4″ plywood; it will still work. Start with a “jack plane” because it is the most forgiving.
These are an 18th century French design. These are a couple of years old, a very simple robust design. It was one of the first hand-tool-only projects that I did. When I made them I did not have very many tools.
These don’t look like much, but they are my mortice marking gauges. The one that says “PIG” (top, darker) is for a “pig sticker chisel”. These were used to mark out all of the mortices on the joined stools.
Two carving mallets, and one general purpose mallet.
The two carving mallets are turned maple. These were made for doing the low relief carving; they are more for tapping than pounding. They are both sections of a 3″ maple blank from Rockler that was supposed to be a bench screw but it was too hard to work with.
I use the large mallet (top right) all of the time. It was one of my first projects several years ago when I got back into wood working. It is a simple laminated design in beech, tough as nails and delivers a fairly stout blow. Goes well with a mortice chisel.
This was second jointed stool. One of my other posts is a day by day work log of all the various actions involved to make it.
All total about 28 hours of work.
This one is a little “fancier.” I put a little decoration on this one and put stop chamfers on the bottom rails so that my lady can rest her feet on them. The tennons are nearly 3/8″ verses the 1/4″ from the first one, also the mortices are much deeper. This time none of the tennons cracked when I used the spoon bit to bore the holes (something I really struggled with on the first one), so this stool got assembled without the glue. A coat of linseed oil and it was done.
As with the first one, this stool was made from the white pine trees at the back of my city lot. The next one will be in oak.