Box of dooooom.. I mean, a beautiful, hand carved chest.

So I decided that I wanted to try some relief carving for this round’s East Kingdom Artisan Exchange project. My matched person wanted a “chest”. This leaves a lot of room for interpretation. I mean in period, a chest could be anything from a tiny casket for ritual items to a large sideboard like item where you’d keep the china. Clothing/Blanket chests existed, but are relatively rare in museums because they were more utilitarian objects. There are a few marriage chests available to study, but they tend to be pretty simple.

So looking at the chests at the Met that are within time period (roughly) and of the materials I have at hand we have these five beauties:

(1) A local, slightly out of period chest – http://www.metmuseum.org/collection/the-collection-online/search/1997
(2) A 16th century wooden chest that shows its construction methods (Dovetail) – http://www.metmuseum.org/collection/the-collection-online/search/463014
(3) Another 16th century wooden chest, this one in the panel style – http://www.metmuseum.org/collection/the-collection-online/search/197174
(4) A 15th century wooden chest with amazing relief work – http://www.metmuseum.org/collection/the-collection-online/search/467789
(5) An early 16th century wooden chest done in the panel style – http://www.metmuseum.org/collection/the-collection-online/search/467748

Given time constraints, my budget, my current skill level and the needs of the modern Scadian, I decided to go with a simplified version of (1) and (3) that would be big enough to put a coronet inside, along with other precious items, but not so big that it couldn’t be brought along to an event. I was specifically inspired by the wooden mirror boxes I saw at gulf wars. I then contemplated various pre-made box options that I could embellish, and discarded them all as not right.

So I’d have to make my own box! I then found this fascinating website about early joinery (the act of making boxes, cabinets and other things like that) – http://www.buildingconservation.com/articles/earlyjoinery/early_joinery.htm and decided that the best technique for this project would be frame and panel. The carving design is based on strapwork images from the late 1500s.

The easy way to do this is with cope and stick joinery. The way we see this most often in our daily lives is through IKEA: pegs and holes are used in place of nails. This made up the frame portion of the box. After fitting the whole thing together, I marked all the pieces and then took it apart so I could carve it.

2015-06-03 19.30.56 2015-06-03 20.23.56 One of the nice things about this method allowed me to take the uprights with me to various events and such to work on them in any spare time I managed to find. I went with a simple quatrefoil tracery design that would have been common in period on a middle class person’s small chest.

Despite having much better tools, most of the carving done on these frame pieces were done with my cheapest knives, the ever helpful Niji knives. I ended up using them so much that I had to round the end of them to be more ergonomic because I was using them for so many hours every day. But in comparison to all the rest of my much nicer knives, these were the ones that were small enough to get into the tiny spots and were best suited to incising the design and then 2015-07-03 14.28.07removing the extra material. 2015-07-08 20.41.12  2015-06-17 14.48.59

The individual flowers are approximately an inch across, and have about a 1/8 of an inch of space between the flower and the 1/8 inch border. I had originally planned on carving the front panel and the top and bottom frames on the front, but I ran out of time. I think it ended up looking good in the more simple form. (Which is our modern fashion speaking) I had also planned on carving out each petal and the center bit, and my test piece shows this option, but it just proved too time intensive. I definitely want to a similar project again with more relief carving, but let’s remember this was my first time doing this. The first upright took me about a week, the second a weekend, the third two evenings and the fourth took most of one day. And most of my increased speed was due to realizing that it worked much better to incise everything first and then do one whole side assembly line style – cut out the top bar on all seven, then cut out the bottom bar on all seven, then cut out the side bar on all seven, then the other side, then the triangles on the edges of the flowers and then smoothing the background into a unified surface. 2015-07-08 20.41.18

Luckily we learned a very important skill during the reign – always complete everything to the same state before going on to more detail – that way if you run out of time (And boy did we ever run out of time, over and over again) you have something that is balanced rather than one highly ornate sleeve and no collar, cuffs or hems done. So I built the frame fully, then I built the panels fully, then I did the incising, then the bulk of the material removal, then a few rounds of detailing and smoothing, and then I put the whole thing together and stained it. Then I applied the wax finish to protect it.

Though I did leave one big detail out- the lid!

Due to the nature of poplar trees (they aren’t very big) I was unable to get a board that was wide enough to be the lid on its own. My initial plan had been to biscuit join to boards together and then cut out the lid from that larger piece, but I was reminded by my laural that that would take quite a bit longer and there were plenty of pieces of scrap wood hanging out around the shop that I could use instead. I climbed up to the wood storage and found a lovely piece of cedar that was exactly the right width. I then pieced the whole box back together again and glued it in place using wood glue (Animal glue was used in period for small wooden things (and cabinetry) like this as the pieces are too small to use just wood expansion to hold everything in place, and the glue made it much more stable in a variety of weather conditions.) and a framing jig to keep everything square while it dried.

2015-07-03 16.59.042015-07-03 17.02.13    2015-07-03 17.55.03

Once it was dry I took it home and fitted tiny carved splinters of wood into all the holes and gaps to improve the structural integrity and make it more secure for use. I then sanded it down and went over all the flowers with a fine finishing tool to make sure there the surface was ready for staining. I chose to use a light stain over the poplar to make it “match” the cedar a bit better. I decided to stain it in general because the wood has an interesting grain pattern and it would make the color more even, while providing it with a finish that will help the wood age more evenly. In period this box would probably have been varnished. But varnish is a pain to work with and requires chemicals to clean up afterwards, so I finished the whole box with a light coat of wax paste and buffed it out, leaving a finish that seals the wood’s pores and makes it more durable for every day use. Here is the finished box with the cedar lid with the arms of the recipient on the lid.  2015-07-09 20.12.362015-07-09 20.12.28    2015-07-09 21.17.03

Kinsley’s Tigger sweatshirt/dress

Cause I am so easily talked into making adorable, snuggly clothes for small children, I present to you my birthday present for Kins this year:

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I mean, how can you resist that grin?

Maple blunt end spoon? Spatula? Saute tool?

I’m not really sure what the technical term for this kitchen tool is, but it’s my favorite go to tool. It’s wooden with a nice sturdy handle, a blunt end, curved inner surface and open ended. It’s great for sauteing in pans where you are concerned about scratching the non-stick surface. It’s capable of “scraping” up the edges and getting the crispy bits, while also being useful for flipping and not terrible for serving. (Though it is often pointed out that we have many better tools for serving)

This I made from a maple board I bought at home depot. The wood is quite nice, hard but carvable, and very pretty when oiled. I cut the general shape out on the bandsaw and then carved it down to size using my knives, gouges and sweeps. I then made the surface smooth by scraping it with the cabinet scrapers, which were perfect for removing the tool marks without sanding the wood. They also leave the surface with a bit of a burnished feeling, which I quite like, particularly on this soft maple.

The neck is offset by a bit to make it easier to use, and to provide better control.

2015-02-26 20.42.292015-02-26 20.26.572015-02-26 20.34.25

new keyboard

Thanks to my habit of painting and carving over my keyboard, it needed cleaning this morning. When I pried off the spacebar I snapped a bit of the plastic holding it properly in place, expediting my need for a new keyboard.

I looked at my options, most of which were either way too big, way too expensive or just way too much until I found a reasonable shaped and sized wireless keyboard. It’s not quite full sized, which currently is a little bit of a pain, but it does have a full number pad which is important to me. Also it has chiclet keys like a laptop, which means that the larger pieces of dirt and such won’t get stuck in it. But more so, being smaller and wireless, I can put it away when I’m not using it!

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yay calligraphy practice.

Uncial Capitals – first half of Rumi’s A Community of Spirit – perhaps tomorrow I’ll do the second half, but tonight my arm hurt from this much effort. Really need to work on Ts and Ss. Also Fs. Entirely up for help/critique. I’m playing with a staedtler calligraphy marker and (obviously) graph paper for the sake of practice and trying to remember to keep my letters both straight, even and spaced properly.

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New hybrid loom!

2015-02-10 18.40.28Aren’t computer keyboards supposed to be used as wood-shaving collectors? I added a beater edge to one of the shuttles I cut out on Sunday. Which came out rather well. It could probably use a bit of sanding, but it’s entirely functional currently!

The glue on my loom had finished curing, so I took the tension peg from my large loom and warped it up with some black and copper thread. I’m hoping to manage to figure out pick up work this time, but given my luck with it thus far, I’ll probably just have Halloween trim.

Which really, not a bad thing! I’ll probably use it for something. The total warp length appears to be around 8 feet, though I haven’t actually measured it yet. I just estimated with the fingertip to nose trick. I think it’s just about the same as my big loom, and yet weighs so much less and is much easier to work with since it’s about half the size. It’s only a little bit bigger than Carly’s tiny loom, but I made the shed area longer so I can better try to do tablet weaving on it. (that’s one issue with the tiny ones, the distance you have to work with is not very useful for any fancy card weaving/double heddle/weird non straightforward inkle weaving. But the small size is much better for experimenting and travel.. I’m hoping with this loom I’ll have the best of both worlds.

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Today’s woodworking, brought to you by the letter S for snow

So while I was over at Alex’s on Wednesday I borrowed his jigsaw to cut out the first loom iteration from some half inch plywood I had purchased a while back.

Lessons learned:

* Don’t use sharpies for lines, it’s a pain to “erase” since it seeps into the wood (I knew this, I just keep screwing up and need to remember this)

*Curved lines are easier, plan with this in mind

*Plywood will de-laminate. Need to figure out how to avoid this when cutting or drilling into it.

So with that part done, I put everything else I’d need for the loom into my car to wait for my next available time to borrow Rozi’s shop and drill holes for the pegs. Also I needed to cut pegs. And sand them.

When the snow today ended up not being that bad during the daylight hours, I emailed Rozi to see if I could come over and use the shop for a little while. She said yes and so I was off and running.

I had two dowel sizes to work with 3/4″ and 1/2″. Alex and I discussed my options and we thought it might be a good idea to use the larger ones on the outside corners since they seem to get more stress than the inside pegs on the loom, but when I got to the shop I failed to find a way of drilling 3/4″ holes, so I went with all 1/2″ inch holes.

I also had two choices, a regular drill bit and a spade bit. I tried both, both left splinters on the backside of the plywood. I’m still not sure what difference the two options made, but they both worked for my purposes.

2015-02-08 18.39.21Once I had all my holes drilled I cut my pegs and sanded off their sharp splintery bits on the ends. And then I remembered I had 4 shuttles to cut and drill also, so I went back and did that and then sanded them to be not spiky. Though at some point I need to put an edge on each of them as they currently aren’t terribly effective beaters since they are blunt. But I’m curious if my design for how the string goes on will work better for me since I have a hard time keeping the string from falling off. Also man Maple is pretty.

Then I headed to the hardware store to get a bolt for the tension peg, which is great and all, but I need to now make a tension peg and drill a hole in it for the bolt.. Perhaps Wednesday.. Or I might just use the one from my big loom for now. And then home to glue it all together.

2015-02-08 18.27.30

I expanded the tension peg hole a little with hand tools and softened the sharp edges of the peg holes with my hand tools. I then put gaffer tape (it was what I could find, I wanted masking) on the back and put some wood glue in each hole and then put the pegs in, twisting them up and down to best distribute the glue. It’s sitting on a shelf now drying. We’ll see in 24 hours if it’s good enough. I really should have cut holes slightly smaller than my pegs and then forced them into the holes, as it was they slide in easily and I’m not sure if the glue will be enough to hold them properly.

While I had my hand tools out I worked a bit more on my ceder spoon. It’s coming along beautifully. It’s so light and petite. The bottom picture shows it with some butcher block oil on it, and a bit of burnishing work on the bowl to make it smooth and remove all the tool marks. It’s amazing how much adding the oil and burnishing makes it feel more substantial and sturdy. It weighs about as much as a soda bottle cap, but no longer feels like it would break with use. The bend in the handle is based off of one of the Uppland finds, and it really makes for a rather comfortable eating spoon.

2015-02-08 16.22.07 2015-02-08 16.22.13 2015-02-08 18.33.45

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