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For the first time in seven years, I’m taking an actual vacation. Sort of.

My neighbors have agreed to feed the cats, so I’m packing up my car and heading to Pittsboro, N.C., at the end of the month to take a class at Roy Underhill’s The Woodwright’s School. I’m very much looking forward to a week in Peter Follansbee’s class on making an Elizabethan Joint Stool (and I believe there’s still room for another student or two, if you happen to have July 25-29 free – and I’ve been assured the shop is air-conditioned).

The joint stool form appeals to me for several reasons. I think most of you know that I study the literature from the Elizabethan period (which we call early modern…but I won’t bore you with an explanation), so the form speaks to my “other life.” And there’s a great (and bawdy) scene in “The Taming of the Shrew” that involves joint stools (Act 2, scene 1, beginning with line 179, if like me you like that kind of thing).

I also find joint stools interesting because they transcended class. It was a form ubiquitous in the period that could be found everywhere from a farmer’s cottage to a castle. It could also be found in many sizes – from footstool (or child-size) to “stool tables,” which were taller and had thinner legs.

It’s a simple form, made in the period by a joiner (as opposed to a turner or carpenter) with four turned legs joined by stretchers just above the floor and aprons (rails) at the top, using pegged mortise-and-tenon joints.

Could I make one without taking the class? Probably – but then I’d miss out on spending a week with Peter and Roy. And a week of actual woodworking, as opposed to a week of an hour in the shop here and there in between meetings? Heaven! And I’d also miss the prep work, which sounds mighty fun. We’re starting with an oak log; I get to bring my hatchet. And use it.

I do get to see both Peter and Roy again soon though; they’re both teaching at Woodworking in America 2011 and giving evening talks in the “extracurricular events category” (those extras are almost sold out). But I’m teaching, too. I just hope I was smart enough to arrange my schedule so that I can catch a couple of their sessions.

— Megan Fitzpatrick

BTW – The top photo (and I apologize for the poor photography), is from my faded copy of Wallace Nutting’s “Furniture Treasury,” Vol. II. Nutting is a must-have, and it’s fairly easy to find decent copies at used booksellers for a reasonable price. Another must-have if you like old-school instruction (as opposed to old school instruction, which meant memorizing Latin declensions) is Joseph Moxon’s “Mechanick Exercises.”


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Showing 4 comments
  • josephg

    Perhaps it is just me, but “Nutting (nothing) is a must-have” sounds very Zen. No offense intended to Mr. Nutting for my bad pun.

  • Rev John

    Megan, I know the story well. I was at Stratford and have done the Shrew. Even played the father. I constructed a stool in the same design, but it had to be a brake-a-way.
    Have a great time with Roy and company. I’ll be at Marc Adam’s doing carving for period furniture – 17-18C.

  • dmac4870

    Looks like fun, I’ll see you there. Frankly, I’m surprised there is still room in the class.

    Nice reference to “Shrew,” too….a fun back and forth between K and P.


  • rooshoutLeon Nolte

    Enjoy !!

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