Joined (& Adorned) Bookstand

01pwm1013bookstandSimple carvings transform scraps into a 17th-century-style work of art.

By Peter Follansbee
Pages 37-41

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Scraps, offcuts, shorts and odds and ends are bits of wood that accumulate around the shops of most woodworkers I know. Reminiscent of Donald Hall’s book, “String Too Short to Be Saved,” they are a lignin guilt trip, collecting dust and taking up space.

Mine lean in piles along the walls of the shop. They are found under the benches, stored in boxes and tucked in corners. Tool handles? I have ash, hickory and yew at the ready for chisels to scythes. Applied turnings for chests of drawers? That section of straight-grained maple rescued from the firewood pile is perfect. On and on it goes, until one day it’s housecleaning time and I sort them all again.

As I get older, I feel a greater responsibility to turn these sections of old trees into something that lasts. I’ve seen, I guess, too much wood go into too many chippers.
As a result, I added a new form to my repertoire that uses some of my small sections of straight-grained hardwood.

This joined bookstand is based only on a photograph of a 17th-century example; I have never seen the original. I based its proportions on a turned example that I studied and measured many years ago.

I forget what the carving pattern was on the original, so I chose to carve two simple, repeating patterns that I use for introductory carving lessons – these techniques are well within reach of the complete beginner. Very few gouges are necessary to cut these designs, and once you get the two moves down, no flat surface is safe. You’ll be carving everything in sight.

Start with the Stiles
I start by riving and planing the stock.(You can substitute sawn stock if you have no riven wood.) The stand is composed of two stiles, one crest rail and a shelf. Between the stiles are two crosspieces, each fit with parts that form the ratchet mechanism that adjusts to the perfect reading angle.

After dressing the stock, I carve the design. I’d rather carve first, then chop and bore for the joints. That way, I’m not pounding the carving gouge on a surface that has a mortise cut below. (You can do it either way, but this has become my default approach.)

Blog: Learn more from the author about 17th-century joined furniture, green wood and hand tools.
Article: Discover the techniques to become better at drawboring your joints.
In Our Store: Learn to rive oak in “The Best Oak Money Can’t Buy.
To Buy:Make a Joint Stool from a Tree: An Introduction to 17th-century Joinery.

From the October 2013 issue, #206
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