From journeyman to elder, a craftsman redefines his role.
By Matthew Teague
The story of Brian Boggs’ first foray into building chairs has become almost mythical among furniture makers: Then a struggling artist in his early 20s who picked tobacco in the fall and did occasional carpentry, Brian stumbled across a copy of John D. Alexander’s “Make a Chair from a Tree.” Having little money for tools, Brian sharpened the end of a screwdriver to function as a chisel and set about building his first stool, and soon after he built his first chair – both using exactly the same processes Alexander taught.
Almost 30 years later, walking through the door of his current shop and gallery, 4,000 square feet at Biltmore Village in Asheville, N.C., those humble beginnings could seem a distant memory. It’s quite the opposite. The three-slat ladder-back, perhaps Brian’s most iconic design, is prominently placed and shows a clear but refined lineage to that first greenwood, Appalachian ladderback design. The other chairs and furniture in the room – a full line of outdoor seating, a heavily sculptural musician’s chair, a six-slat rocker, a couple of dining tables, a headboard and a few others – have veered drastically in form from Brian’s early chairs, but even at a glance something ties them all together. Perhaps it’s the consistency of the lines in the backs of Brian’s chairs, the attention to detail in the joinery or the hand-textured surfaces that adorn many of the pieces. Whatever it is, Brian’s designs long ago became his own, both structurally and aesthetically. Taking a seat in a quartersawn oak outdoor chair that has recently gone into production, I’m reminded that not only are Brian’s chairs stunning works of art, they also are arguably the most comfortable wooden chairs ever made.
Video: Find Brian Boggs’ DVDs, “Hickory Bark from Tree to Chair: Weaving Hickory Bark Seats,” and “Drawknives, Spokeshaves and Travishers: A Chairmaker’s Tool Kit.”
Blog: Read an excerpt from the interview for this article in which Brian Boggs discusses his design theory and methods.
Web Site: Read Brian Boggs’ article, “The Myth of Original Design,” from the December 2011 issue, #194. Read more
By Matthew Teague Page 16 Festool recently released the Domino XL DF 700, big brother to its revolutionary Domino DF 500, one of the most innovative tools of the last few decades. Aside from the size, the loose-tenon joints created by the XL are the same as with the earlier version. From a machine that … Read more
This contemporary design is an easy, affordable introduction to curved work and veneer.
By Matthew Teague
Learning to work with veneers and curves enables you to design and build almost anything. This bow-front entry table serves as a good introduction to both – without costing a small fortune or requiring you to attempt an overly intimidating project. Veneer introduces to you to a world of beautiful grain patterns and species that are prohibitively expensive to buy in solid hardwoods. Having the confidence to add curved and veneered surfaces to your work also allows you to tackle a wide range of period, contemporary and original designs that were previously off limits.
This petite design teeters somewhere between a traditional bow-front table and a sleeker modern piece. The veneered bird’s-eye maple top panel and aprons are framed and highlighted by the darker, contrasting solid cherry used for the legs and top frame. A subtle but graceful detail is that the front faces of the front legs are angled to visually extend the curve of the front apron. Like this little detail, which you may not notice at first, I think all furniture should have a few secrets to be discovered only on closer inspection. The hidden drawer on this table qualifies as well; its non-traditional placement on the side of the table is completely disguised by a drawer front that is piston-fit between the legs. Unless someone points it out, you’d never know it was there.
Article: “It’s a Secret,” by Charles Bender.
Plan: Download a SketchUp model of the bow-front entry table.
Blog: Learn a quick method for dovetailing the upper drawer stretcher. 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
This shop-made table saw jig makes quick work of reinforcing miter joints.
By Matthew Teague
I love the clean look of a mitered box that has continuous grain wrapping around the corners. It’s an easy detail to create, but a sure sign that the maker is paying close attention to the details. The downside of a mitered box? Miter joints are notoriously weak because they have no real mechanical strength; glue is all that holds them together.
You can reinforce miter joints in a few different ways, but my favorite method is to use exposed keys. These hardwood keys are nothing more than thin lengths of wood glued into slots that span both sides of the joint to help hold everything together. To cut the slots for these keys at the table saw you need only a small jig that runs against the saw’s fence. The jig cradles the assembled box at a 45° angle and allows you to guide it through the cut.
Keys not only add great strength to miter joints, they also provide a decorative effect. Once the jig is made, you can arrange the keys in any number of ways, using either a matching or contrasting wood. For a slightly different look, you can cut wider key slots by simply adjusting the table saw fence to take two or more passes for each slot. For angled keys, which create joints that arguably are even stronger, simply angle the blade. You can even use this same jig at the router table to create dovetailed key slots – just be sure to hog out the bulk of the waste in the jig itself before you cut the actual box.
Blog: See more on building mitered boxes and a slide show on installing the keys.
Model: Download a 3D SketchUp model of the box seen here.
Articles: Find plans and instructions for making and using a wide variety of jigs.
by Matthew Teague Page 16 The first time I installed knife hinges I did so with an inexpensive pair, thinking it would be a good way to learn the process without wasting a lot of money on what is a notoriously finicky piece of hardware. Instead, I learned why quality knife hinges are worth every … Read more
An angular front and glass doors lend visual interest to this classic Krenov design.
by Matthew Teague
From the April 2012 issue, #196
Through the early stages of my woodworking, when I was sweating away evenings in a Mississippi basement trying to learn the craft using a $99 table saw and an $18 block plane, I devoured the books of James Krenov. They represented an artistic, if idealized, approach to a hands-on craft that appealed to an angst-filled editor and writer in his 20s. Even if I wasn’t up to the tasks, I knew my aim. Then life took over. After editing, writing and running a furniture business for a number of years, I still looked at the Krenov books from time to time, but my tastes and styles slowly became my own. When I started this job, however, I was inspired to revisit Krenov and the designs that kept me wide-eyed in earlier days. I’m glad I did.
Blog: Read about some clever doormaking assembly jigs.
Slideshow: See additional step photos on tapered sliding dovetails.
In our store: “A Cabinetmaker’s Notebook,” by James Krenov.
Download the free SketchUp Model of this project. Read more