‘Why, What’s a Moveable?’

In “Taming of the Shrew,” Petruchio asks Katherine, “Why, what’s a moveable?” Her answer: “A join’d-stool” (2.1). (And then there’s some stuff you can’t put on a family blog.) With one day to go in the joint stool class with Peter Follansbee, I have almost a complete “moveable” (a piece of furniture that can be easily moved around); the challenge is, it’s still in pieces.

But I think by the end of the day tomorrow, we’ll all have our projects done – which is surprising as I and nine other students started on Monday with fresh-cut red oak logs. We split them at Roy Underhill’s house (a fabulous late 19th-century mill that’s been converted to charming living space), then hauled all the rough pieces to the Woodwright’s School in Pittsboro, N.C., for hewing (gross stock removal) and planing. (I need a lot of practice hewing – but I’ll tackle that skill when the weather cools).

As far as planing, one delightful thing (among many) about 17th-century furniture is that not all the surfaces have to be smooth – or even flat. For this project, we planed the fronts of all pieces flat, then squared an adjacent edge to the front face. Even on the legs, as long as the front and exterior adjacent side are at 90° to each other, the other two surfaces need only be relatively smooth. Still, it was a lot of planing, so I had time to try out a number of wooden-stock and transitional planes.

Then, it was on to marking out and cutting the tenons, and this was revelatory – no cheek cuts. We sawed the shoulders, but the cheeks are split off, then pared as necessary. And with straight-grained riven oak, there was very little paring going on that I could see.

Then, it was on to the mortises – and cutting those by hand in wet red oak is a bit different than doing the same in dry stock. While the mortise chisel was fairly easy to drive, getting the gunk out was a challenge because it was stringy and wet, and didn’t want to let go. But by the end of Thursday, I think we all had all 16 of our mortises cut, the tenons were fit on the front and back, and the side tenons were cut.

And some students, including Bill Anderson (who is also an instructor at Roy’s school), were done with the fittings and able to move on to adding some decorative touches. Late on Thursday, Peter showed us some simple carving techniques that yield very nice results, as you can see from Bill’s carved aprons. If I can get my angled side tenons fit quickly enough tomorrow morning, I plan to give that a try.

But, there’s still legs to shape, either by turning or chamfering (that’s Peter giving one of the treadle lathes a go in the opening photo), stretchers and aprons to drawbore together and a top to plane and peg

We’ll see if I come back with a “join’d stool,” or a stool almost ready to be joined. I’ll let you know.

– Megan Fitzpatrick

• If you like the carving on Bill’s aprons pictured above (click on the picture to better see it), you have to check out Peter Follansbee’s story on making a carved panel from our June 2009 issue. And, Peter will be teaching at Woodworking in America 2011 on Sept. 30 and Oct. 1 – don’t miss it!

3 thoughts on “‘Why, What’s a Moveable?’

    1. Megan Fitzpatrick Post author

      Not to worry – I’m unlikely to keep sawing were my hair to get caught under my handsaw blade (and, I had it pulled back all week).

  1. McDara

    Megan, I cannot tell you how jealous I am. Every part of that experience that you describe would be something I would love to do, from the riving/chopping/shaping/carving.
    As much envy as I’m experiencing, and as much pain as it causes me, please keep writing about your class. Great stuff!

    Dan

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