One of the interesting features of Campaign Furniture is that some of it is assembled with rivets. Well, that’s what the antique dealers call the fastener.
While the brass or copper fasteners might look like the rivets found in wooden boat construction, it’s unlikely (a nice way of saying “flipping impossible”) that these pieces are riveted.
Why? Because a traditional rivet (or nail and rove) is a joint that requires access to both ends of the fastener. It works much like a clinched nail. (Here’s a description with a drawing.) With these campaign pieces, the “rivets” are put into a blind hole.
My suspicion is that these “rivets” are likely brass screws that have had their heads filed off after they were driven in. However I am keeping an open mind to other ideas that are as simple or even simpler.
This morning I installed the lockset on this folding bookcase and decided to mess around with the riveted look. I had to use longer and bigger screws to do this, so I reamed out the countersinks in the lock. Then I bored the pilot holes all the way through the case and installed the screws.
I used some old brass screws from my grandfather’s stash. Well, I thought they were brass. They actually were brass-plated steel. I found this out when I sawed off the tips of the screws and saw shiny steel instead of shiny brass. Oh well, a coat of stain should take care of that detail.
I think it looks OK. I might try building a small chest using screws and then filing off the heads.
This post has nothing to do with woodworking. But it has everything to do with the way that I approach life. So if you are one of the people who appreciated “The Anarchist’s Tool Chest,” read on. Otherwise, there’s nothing to see here.
I don’t buy a lot of stuff. Basically, I wear stuff until it falls off of me or breaks. I still have sweatshirts, jackets and vests from high school – and I graduated in 1986. So durability is important to me. Here are some of the things I really like.
Pointer Jeans: I wear blue jeans every day. I hope to be buried in them. While there are lots of stupidly expensive domestic blue jeans out there, you can’t beat Pointer jeans. This company is almost 100 years old, operates out of Tennessee and produces outstanding jeans at the same price as the imported stuff.
I have their slim cut jeans and carpenter’s jeans. Awesome stuff. Fits great. Looks great. Wears like iron.
Red Wing shoes: You can still get good shoes that are made in the United States and are designed for real work. I have a pair of Red Wing boots that are simply awesome. The Maine company has a less-expensive Chinese line of shoes, but those don’t interest me.
American Apparel: For me, this is the Lie-Nielsen of the T-shirt world. This California company defies every stereotypical business model and produces fantastic clothing at reasonable prices. Half of my clothing – T-shirts, sweatshirts, underwear – is American Apparel. We have a retail store here in Cincinnati, and it amuses me greatly to shop there. All the employees and customers are college hipsters, except me. I don’t care. It’s comfortable, made well and well-priced.
Orient watches: Confession time. I’m a watch whore. I love mechanical watches, as opposed to the quartz battery-powered stuff. I have some old 1960s-era Hamilton watches that I love, but nothing – nothing – beats an Orient watch. These Japanese-made mechanical watches are durable, priced well and beat the pants off all the European stuff. I think they are better than the Swiss movements. Orient has a long history of making mechanical movements, and the company weathered the quartz movement while other makers shuttered their doors or switched to making digital crap.
Saddleback Leather: Pretty much everything I want in a commercial good is embodied by the Saddleback Leather company. This family-run operation makes incredible leather goods of the highest quality and at reasonable prices. My wallet, shoulder bag, laptop case and suitcase are all Saddleback. They know how to make stuff. They know how to treat customers. Enough said.
Question from a reader: “I have seen websites like Mr. Follansbee’s with instructions on making these [joint stools] using absolute period techniques and tools or offers to buy one. I’ve seen stools that look (in pictures) to be authentic but which are noted as being early 20th century. So – once it had acquired an old patina – how would you know how old it really was if someone used authentic tools and techniques? Could you tell from the oak itself? Just curious.”
Many years later I learned a lot about museum pieces, antiques, early reproductions and various other permutations of historic furniture (restorations, repairs, “marriages” etc). To be really comfortable making judgment calls takes a lot of exposure to period pieces – not just photographs, but hands-on time with numerous pieces. Even then, there are times when someone shows me a piece of joined furniture reportedly of the 17th century, and I am left with nothing to say. Sometimes, it just “feels wrong.”
As far as the stuff I make, how can one tell after years of use that it’s late 20th/early 21st-century work and not a 17th-century piece? I believe that dendrochronology (tree-ring dating) requires sapwood to be able to tell the approximate date that the timber was felled – and I remove most or all sapwood, because it’s not strong enough and sometimes prone to decay. A few of my joined chests have some sapwood in the panels – but you’d have to disassemble the piece to test these. If you were at all convinced the piece was a period piece, then you’d be reluctant to disassemble it to test it.
The piece’s surface finish could be tested and would probably be identified as modern linseed oil (hardware store’s boiled linseed oil with its additives, versus period linseed oil, made from flax seeds and little else). But again, you’d have to spend some money to have such tests done, and even then an argument could be made that the finish was added afterwards.
So when it comes down to tool marks, style (carving patterns, turnings, moulding shapes), wood selection and form, it takes a trained eye to evaluate a piece. My carved boxes, for instance, are easy to spot in most cases. I tend to carve the fronts and sides of the boxes, whereas most period ones I have seen are carved on the front only, with a few exceptions. I often use wooden pegs to join the box’s carcase, again only rarely encountered on period examples. These usually are nailed.
Joint stools are easier to sneak by because there’s little to go on. When we were working on our study of the joint stools that eventually became the book “Make a Joint Stool from a Tree,” Jennie Alexander concocted a method in which we could embed a coin in one of the mortises so that half of it was exposed and half was entrenched in such a way that it was clearly part of the construction process. I’m not sure she ever employed any of the proposed methods. I would need to consult our archived correspondence, and there’s no time to delve into those reams of papers. I’ll leave that to my kids.
Some of the stuff I have made for 19 years at Plimoth Plantation might cause a ruckus if it ever gets out in the antique market. There it’s used in such a manner that it shows wear and tear, develops a deep patina and even shows decay, repairs and other features common in 350-year old antiques. The pieces have accession numbers stamped on them, but so do most museum pieces. I have photographed most of my work over the years, and so one could match up my photos against a piece that might show up for sale as an antique, but that’s pretty extreme.
For an example of the kind of patina my pieces develop at Plimoth, click here.
The early 20th-century reproductions are usually easy to spot. They rarely use riven stock, and English ones would likewise not exhibit pitsawn stock…so the smooth interior surfaces of a joint stool, for example, are often a giveaway. I have seen other examples wherein the pins in the joints don’t exit inside the stiles… things like that are a dead giveaway.
I’ve never understood people who build furniture using pallet wood and an Altendorf table saw. Well, I guess I understand them, I just don’t happen to sympathize.
When I buy materials for my projects, I can’t imagine skimping on the wood, the hardware or the tools I use in the shop. For me, it’s a lot like cooking. Getting a good meal from a typical grocery-store steak is difficult to impossible.
Today I made a trip to Midwest Woodworking in Norwood, Ohio, with woodworker Andy Brownell to score a teak board that I have been dreaming about for some months now.
I spotted the board during my first trip to Midwest (read about that here). It was stashed away in a storeroom filled with old doors and other unidentifiable stuff. It’s huge – 24” wide, 1-1/4” thick and 12’ long. Clear. Flat. And at least 40 years old.
I’m going to use this board to build another campaign chest for this book I’m working on – teak was one of the common woods used for these pieces. But there is nothing common about this board.
The owner, Frank David, was kind enough to have one of his employees surface the board on the company’s 24”-wide Italian planer. My jack plane was most grateful of this gesture. As the board emerged from the planer, I got that tingling feeling in my underpants that we are all familiar with. The tingling that comes with good wood.
If you can make any excuse to come to Cincinnati, make sure to visit Midwest Woodworking Co. and then go to Gordo’s down the street for a microbrew and and burger. You will not regret the trip. Bring cash and a big truck. And be sure to call Frank beforehand to set things up: 513-631-6684. His prices are as reasonable as his wood is incredible.
When it comes to assembling casework, space is tight in my small shop and time is short. So I do bad things. Things I should be punished for. Repeatedly.
Crime No. 1: Suspect violated the laws of time, space and adhesion by microwaving liquid hide glue. Suspect removed lid of glue, which is brown in color, and released three giant globs of adhesive, which is cow in smell, into a coffee mug, white in color.
Suspect then placed said mug into a household microwave, set the microwave for 15 seconds and then glanced around to see if he was being observed by family members who use the machine to heat up other non-food items, such as Hot Pockets. He pressed start.
After three beeps, which were beepy in sound, suspect removed the glue, which had become Mrs. Butterworths-like in consistency instead of molasses. He then immediately brushed on the thinned adhesive on the wood.
In his defense, suspect indicated he had been engaging in said illegal activity for years, which as we know, is no defense.
Crime No. 2: Suspect is charged with violating the laws of gravity and seasonal wood shrinkage by hanging his clamps on his ceiling joists. Suspect had been warned repeatedly by visitors to his shop that said behavior would result in the clamps falling on his head, his tools, his work or crush some small animal, such as a migrating wombat or hedgehog.
In his defense, suspect indicated he had been hanging his clamps in this manner for 10 years without incident. When asked if the clamps did not all fall during the winter season when the joists shrink. Suspect took the 5th and rolled his eyes.