stevenbunn Sat, 08/06/2016 - 13:31

A Shaker Chest of Drawers with Seven Drawers


The glued up frame and panel back for the chest of drawers drying.
A quick update on what's been going on in the shop recently. After building a new cabinet for the laundry sink, I turned to working on a Seven-Drawer Chest for my son's room. He moved back in last month. Apartment living in Portland was too expensive. And, with a year and a half of college left, he needed to save some money. Hello Mom and Dad! His old chest of drawers, once mine and a hand-me-down thru the generations was toast after being moved any number of times. Something new was called for.
Eons ago when I worked for Thos. Moser, I picked up a rejected carcase for a Moser pattern 7-drawer chest. There was a repaired crack in one of the case sides. Repaired but not really sellable, so it was put up for sale to the employees. I bought it. Brought it home. Moved it into the attic of my shop, anf let it sit for around twenty-five years. Exact dates are sketchy. I was about to go looking for an antique chest to fit my son's room when I remembered the carcase lurking in the attic. The partially assembled carcase consisted of a dovetailed top and sides, with a bottom fitted into machine cut dados. I spent part of last week making pegged mortise and tenoned drawer dividers, and installing them. This week, I constructed a frame and panel back for the chest. The case back is pictured above. STB
stevenbunn Fri, 06/17/2016 - 07:34
Bending Jig for a Tracy Sack-back back bow
An ash bow steamed and bent around the bending jig for a Tracy Sack-back
I am currently working on several Tracy pattern Sack-back chairs. As I work, I have been snapping pictures for a book on the subject of making a Tracy Sack-back. My wife, who now does my photography, deserves my  thanks fo her willingness to put up with my demands to go out to the shop to take just "one more picture".
In the past, I have used a strap from a band-clamp to act as a backer to help prevent tear-out as I bend a steamed blank of ash around a jig. The flexible strap did a good job of reducing grain tear-out. However, I still had a higher failure rate than I would like, because in the process of bending the wood, the bending force on the outer face of the hot blank cause the grain to stretc. (The wood on the inside face against the jig is compressed.) The outer grain if overstretched can let go and tear. The band clamp strap I have been using does help suppport the grain as it is bent, but didn't counter act the stretching, which is the major cause of tear out. Somewhere, I wish I  could give credit here, I saw a picture of another chair-maker using a flexible metal band with fixed stop blocks. The stop blocks limit the stretch forces on the bow as it is bent. It looked like a good idea, so I tried it out. The results are pictured above. A successfully bent bow. I used an inexpensive strip of aluminium carpet molding as my flexible backer band. To save valuable time trying to fit a hot bow blank in the backer, I tied the dry bow to the metal band with twist ties. This allowed me to get the grain orientation right. No fiddling around with a piece of hot wood fresh ut of the steam box. Then I put the whole thing, bow and banding, in the steam box and steamed it as a unit. It worked beautifully.
In other news, I was once again juried into the Early American Life Magazine's 2016 Directory of Traditional Craftsmen. This is their list of the top two-hundred traditional craftmen which they publish yearly. I have been fortunate to be chosen for EAL's Directory a number of times over my career. It is a great honor.
Thanks for dropping by. STB
stevenbunn Sun, 06/05/2016 - 09:38

Stuff Going on in the Shop


With the latest chair finished I have turned my focus to the next thing. The problem is that there are so many 'things' on my agenda that focusing on any one is difficult. I have once again returned to my effort to write a book about building Windsor chairs. This is either my third or fourth start. Previous attempts were stymed by uninterested publishers. Editors who told me I had three books attempting to fit into one. Another time I found out that Ed Churchill, of the Maine State Museum, was researching the history of Windsor chairs in Maine. The same subject I had started work on, ad-nausium-cetera. I have finally decided to concentrate on a single subject, building a Tracy Sack-back. I have come up with a list of the photographs needed to document the construction process. Think of the layout of Jim Rendi's book Traditional Windsor Chair Making, with Jim Rendi, published in 1993. I intend to photograph the step by step process of creating a Tracy Sack-back. The draft photo list now stretches to over 400 images. I know once I really get started that this number will go up. The photographs showing me carving of making a Tracy carved knuckle hand rest, posted over the last two months on this blog, were a trial effort. In the evenings I am writing draft captions and text for the book. Good luck finding a publisher!

In the mean time, I have two Tracy Sack-backs started, plus several small repairs of other antiques brought to me by long time customers. I hate repair work and usually point folks inquiring about repairs to several of my friends who specialize in that line of work. It is hard to refuse people who have come back time and again and asked me to build another piece of furniture for them. Spring/Summer has finally broken out in Maine. This means black flies, brown tailed moth catipillars (think little bags of sulfuric acid) and lots of lawn mowing. All cut into time in the shop. And, when I get there which way do I turn. I forgot to mention the ninteen plane bodies sitting on the bench, eyeing me accusingly for ignoring them the last few months.

I have to satisfy myself with getting something, anything accomplished. Other than that everything is fine...

Thanks for dropping by. STB

stevenbunn Mon, 05/30/2016 - 17:10
Make a Tracy Hand Rest
A final view of the hand rest installed and painted, after I spent a little more time deepening the webs between the knuckles.
stevenbunn Sun, 05/08/2016 - 15:04


Make a Tracy Hand-Rest (Cont'd)


The arm bow and completed hand-rest set back on the arm-post.

This is a perfectly acceptable hand-rest as a one-off effort. But, as I said earlier, checking a photograph of an original Tracy rest against what I created here, revealed that the webs between the knuckles need to be deeper. Deepening the webs also reduces the center knuckle's apparent width, another thing that the photo showed. I will post another 'final' shot after I sand the re-worked rests.

The eighteen photographs published in this series of blog posts are a trial run for a chapter in a book describing the construction of an Ebenezer Tracy Sack-back Windsor chair. The problem with these images is that first, they are all static. After all, I couldn't use a camera at the same time that I was carving. This means that some information, visible in a picture but not easily explained verbally was lost. Second, the pictures show the hand-rest fitted to a different chair than the Tracy Sack-back. A Tracy arm-post is different than the one seen in these pictures. Which means I can't use several of these pictures, even though they are OK in other respects. The Staples box in the back ground of the last picture would drive Tim to distraction. The book I am working on will have over 500 pictures. I have been working on a Photo List of all the pictures I need. And, if my experience with publishing an article for a magazine is any guide, I will add many more to the list as I work through the steps of building a Tracy Sack-back.

As usual your comments are always welcome. STB

Thanks for stopping by. STB

stevenbunn Sun, 05/08/2016 - 14:28


Make a Tracy Hand-Rest (Cont'd


Round the edges on the flat section of the hand-rest
With the knuckles and volutes carved, clamp the hand-rest in the bench vise and round over the corners of the rest where it dies back into the arm bow.
The Staples box in the back ground needs to disappear when I get around to reshooting this image.
stevenbunn Sat, 05/07/2016 - 09:29


Make a Tracy Hand-rest (Cont'd)


Use the small gouge to carve back to the stop. Cut deeper as you cut toward the stop. Make a second, or even a third pass with the chisel, cutting deeper each time.
A quick note. I said in an earlier post that sanding the hand-rests never stops. Boy was I right. The Sack-back is done and ready to be painted. This week I was looking again through Nancy Evans book on Windsor chairs. A close up photo of a Tracy Carved-Knuckle hand-rest caught my eye. The depth of the webs between the knuckles appeared deeper in that picture than the ones on the Sack-back. So Friday morning I found myself back in the shop, working madly with a rasp to deepen the webs. Of course this means more sanding today.
Thanks for dropping by. STB
stevenbunn Fri, 05/06/2016 - 07:34

Make a Tracy Hand-Rest


Start by sketching in the volutes on the sides of each hand-rest. The long grain at top and bottom are very prone to chipping out. To prevent this I start my stopping cut, which outlines the center field of the volute, in the stronger cross grain on the sides of the volute. Then gently work my way around the outline. The final depth of the stop cut should be 1/8 inch to 3/16 inch.
stevenbunn Sat, 04/30/2016 - 13:14

Goings on in the shop


We interrupt our regularly scheduled program (the Tracy hand-rest series) to show you one of my large Sack-backs.

One of my New York pattern Sack-back Windsor chairs.


This is the chair for which I made the Tracy carved-knuckle hand rests. The legs are a Gottshall pattern. The arm-posts pattern was taken from Wallace Nutting's book on Windsor chairs. The seat profile is the same pattern as my version of the Nantucket Fan-back arm-chair. As I said in my last post, assembled, but now the sanding.... And yes, I do sweep the floor once in a blue moon. Thanks for stopping by. STB
stevenbunn Sat, 04/30/2016 - 09:48

Tracy Carved Knuckle Hand Rest (Cont'd)


Continue to shape the knuckles using a rasp and finish smoothing the knuckles with sand paper.
Sanding and shaping the knuckle hand-rests is a never quite done kind of thing. This is the first of a number of sanding sessions that I find myself doing. After I carve the volutes on the sides of the knuckles, I sand. Sanding the volutes, and then gently rounding over the outer knuckles and blending these fearures with the volutes...well more sanding. Even after assembling the chair, I find myself sitting in the chair with a pad of sand paper in each hand sanding, deepening the webs to high light the the knuckles, and smooth any remaining chisel marks.