Simple, rugged, masculine and awesome – this sometimes-forgotten style of furniture is great for beginning and advanced woodworkers.
By Christopher Schwarz
Campaign-style furniture is as sturdy and simple as Shaker. It is as masculine as Arts & Crafts. And it is free of adornment, like Bauhaus pieces. Yet many woodworkers are unaware of this furniture style, which was popular for more than 150 years in Great Britain, its colonies and North America.
Perhaps the problem is that campaign furniture goes by many names: military furniture, “patent” furniture or traveling furniture. Perhaps enough original examples of the style haven’t survived or been featured at major museums. Or maybe there just aren’t enough books written about it. For whatever reason, campaign furniture is rarely discussed or built by modern woodworkers, and I would like to change that.
Blog: See an array of historical campaign chests with unusual drawer arrangements.
Video: Watch a video of the author installing the L-brackets on this chest.
Blog: The author reviews several brands of campaign hardware here, here and here.
Hardware: The hardware used on this chest is from Horton Brasses. You’ll also find a full range of excellent hardware for campaign-style pieces at Londonderry Brasses.
To Read: “British Campaign Furniture” by Nicholas A. Brawer (check at your library).
In Our Store: “The Joiner & Cabinet Maker,” a British book that will introduce you to traditional casework techniques.. Read more
The editors present some of their favorite designs.
By Matthew Teague, Robert W. Lang, Megan Fitzpatrick & Steve Shanesy
Whether we spend most of our time building 18th-century highboys, production cabinetry or toys for our kids and grandchildren, we all build small boxes from time to time. Because we produce so many small offcuts of beautifully grained and highly figured woods, to do otherwise would be a shame. Building small boxes can be the mainstay of our shops – or simply a nice diversion from our usual work.
Often, a simple box can be made in just a few hours, either to break up the work on a more involved project, or simply to test our skills with a miniature masterpiece. Boxes can be customized for display, built to house jewelry, cigars or various keepsakes and collections. Plus, small boxes are lightweight, which makes them a nice respite if we’ve logged hours muscling larger timbers around the shop.
strong>Blog: View a series of step photos that show how to assemble a solid box then cut the top off using the table saw.
In our store: “Box Builder’s Handbook,” by A.J. Hamler. Read more
Three variations on a carved foot offer high style.
By Charles Bender
Access to information provides the modern woodworker with greater variety, and it challenges their skills more than their 18th-century counterparts. When we consider how fashion-conscious both producers and consumers were in the 1700s, it’s truly amazing to think how quickly the word spread of stylistic changes such as cyma-curved backsplats in chairs, cabriole legs and ball-and-claw feet.
Over the course of a few decades, furniture construction methods and aesthetics shifted between simple, unadorned pieces to richly carved and decorated pieces – then back again. Even with all this tumult in the furniture fashion world, period cabinetmakers were limited by regional taste and tradition.
While they may have known about ball-and-claw feet, per se, they may not have understood the regional variations that took place between areas such as Boston, New York and Philadelphia. Fashion changed from the rigid Jacobean to the more curvilinear William & Mary style and, eventually, to the dainty, feminine style of Queen Anne. Throughout the Colonies, cabriole legs were all the rage. Pad feet ran rampant – everywhere except in Philadelphia and its surrounding environs.
Blog: Read Charles Bender’s blog, “Parings: A Woodworker’s Journal.”
TV: Subscribe to Charles Bender’s online TV show, “No B.S. Woodworking.”
Class: Take a class with Charles Bender at Acanthus Workshop.
In our store: “Cabriole Legs Simplified,” a DVD by Charles Bender.
In our store: “Carve a Ball & Claw Foot,” a DVD by Charles Bender. Read more
Expose your joinery skills with this Arts & Crafts classic.
By Robert Lang
In the early 1900s, furniture maker Gustav Stickley began producing a unique style of furniture that he called “Craftsman.” At the time, the world was coming into the modern industrial age, and Stickley, among others, began to question the value of mass-produced furniture and its effect on those who made or owned it.
Victorian furniture featured many machine-made elements that sought to mimic the handwork of earlier times. In most cases these adornments detracted rather than added. Just because machines could produce intricate imitation carvings and mouldings didn’t mean that they should. Stickley decided to get back to basics.
This simple book rack is a good example of the style. The joinery, along with the character of the quartersawn white oak, becomes the decoration. Function comes first, and the form is a combination of nice wood, good proportions and honest joinery.
Article: Learn to create an authentic-looking finish with modern materials.
Patterns: Download Full-size Patterns for the Book Rack sides
In our store: Buy the “Great Book of Shop Drawings for Craftsman Furniture.” Read more
No matter how you cut them, understand their subtleties to make a smooth-moving joint.
By Willard Anderson
The rule joint is elegant in its apparent simplicity and is a classic element of fine furniture. Much of what has been written on rule joints – or table joints as they’re often called – is from the power-tool perspective. While there’s nothing wrong with cutting this joint using power tools – a process I’ll discuss later – the way to truly learn about this joint is to cut it by hand using layout techniques and tools that craftsmen of the 18th and 19th century used. Once you understand the subtleties of this joint, you’ll be able to achieve better results no matter how you cut them.
What is a Rule Joint?
The rule joint gets its name from its similarity to the brass joint in folding rules. With a rule joint, the round portion of the joint provides support for the drop leaf and, when the drop leaf is lowered, eliminates the unsightly gap between the drop leaf and the tabletop. The joint is composed of a fillet at the top, a quarter-round profile on the tabletop side of the joint, a mating cove and a land on the drop-leaf side (see the illustration at right on the next page).
Blog: Get more information on hinge placement and how it affects the joint.
Video: Episode 3203 (Table Joints Rule!) of “The Woodwright’s Shop” features Willard Anderson and will air later this year.
Blog: Discover more good resources for drop-leaf hinges in many finishes and price ranges.
Plot an ellipse using simple geometry in 4 minutes or less – really!
By Freddy Roman
As a furniture maker with a fondness for the Federal period, I’m interested in the ellipse-shaped decorative details that regularly appear in furniture from the era. When I study these details, I think of master craftsmen of the day and wonder how they drew and cut elliptical shapes.
So I turned to one of today’s masters, Will Neptune, to learn more about drawing and cutting this intriguing shape. Here, I’ll share with you several of the tricks and techniques he taught me.
Like the old masters, you need to have a basic working knowledge of geometry that can be used to lay out the cavities for ellipse-shaped inlays and stringing, and to generate pleasing elliptical shapes for tabletops, door panels and more.
Video: See an ellipse plotted in less than four minutes using “Method 1″ as described in this article.
More video: See a true ellipse drawn using two sticks that slide in perpendicular grooves.
Web site: Visit Freddy Roman’s site to see his furniture, cabinetry and restoration work. Read more
By Bruce Davis
I was looking for a safer way to use my trim router for everyday chores around the shop. My solution was to build a router table that hangs off the end of my bench on a French cleat. When I’m not using the router table, I store it under the end of the bench on the floor. When I need to use the table, I simply hang it on the French cleat.
The router table is light enough that it is quite secure when mounted this way. This setup is great for doing small roundovers, chamfers, flush-trimming and the like. A standard router base plate is used in the table, so it’s easy to pop the router out of the table for freehand work.
It’s been a great addition to my shop, it doesn’t take up much space and it is a good way to store the router when not in use.
Tricks online: We post tricks from the past and film videos of some Tricks of the Trade in use in our shop. They’re available online, free. Visit popularwoodworking.com/tricks to read and watch. Read more