Monday, April 27, 2015

forays into the 1750's

I'm officially [again] a probationary member of a reenacting group that I'd begun joining as a college student.  While I've found plenty of information on clothing [I did a stint as a costumer after all, and most of my friends sew], I'm coming up so short in the furniture department.

You know who loves to kit themselves out? Viking reenactors and the SCA. For the purposes of portraying the French and Indian War, I have to be a little more specific than hitting the entirety of the Dark Ages with the back of a broad sword.

You know who doesn't like to talk about kitting themselves out? Historical reenactors. What's up with that, guys and gals? Do we not use the internets? I know people sat down to eat in the 1750s. There's evidence of it. I draw your attention to extant furniture, woodblock prints, descriptions and paintings that people have based their pieces from. But there aren't pictures of modern people's camp and campaign furniture, or the plans to make it. Unless I just haven't discovered the correct combination of words to search for it under.

I was assured that this blanket chest [PDF link], also known as a 6 board chest, is fine, in fact, maybe a little too fine, for something being hauled out into the 'wild'. The best part about this chest is that I can make it with my chisels from Wood 2 plus the single pipe clamp I can find at present and the router I got for my birthday, as the chest itself does not need to be glued up. I will not have the fancy molding work because I don't have fancier tools other than the ones noted. Friends over at Popular Woodworking make assurances that again, I don't have to be so fru-fru, and also explain why the mechanics of this chest work. If you know anything about how to put a piece of wood furniture together, you know this chest shouldn't work. And yet it does.

Of course, I got part way through hand planning with a dull planer and said nuts on that and made a few phone calls.

What the article writer doesn't say, but you can pick up from the context clues in the pictures, is that he has a shop to die for, with all the thing-a-ma-jigs, hooshmados, and dinglehoppers to keep any person with more time on their hands than they know what to do with happy.  I have one type of hand plane. One. And it's old. This article writer has about six different types of hand planes, and probably several sizes, depending on which one you are looking for. He's also working at an actual wood bench, not a few 2 by 4's bolted together with a piece of quarter inch thick chip ply laid across the top. Not that I'm complaining, but I'm saying that I'm not up to the calibre of this article writer's shop quality. I am saying that it can be done with a fixed base router, an antique hand plane, and an incomplete set of hand chisels. You can do this! Just make sure you also have a boat load of 3 1/2" and larger c clamps, and maybe more than one pipe clamp! Okay, if ther happens to be a mitre saw laying around also, don't say I didn't say it wasn't helpful [how's that for a triple negative?] and do know either a friend with a jointer and wide planer, or the number of someone who can do some mill work for you if all you have is one hand planer. Local cabinetmakers are usually the people to call, but they will charge. 

I do have a circular saw, but without navicable space in the basement to really set up an effective fence, I called up a friend to make some rip and cross cuts on their table saw. A few weeks later, I made a trip to Pittsburgh and visited another friend with an 18" planer and 140" belt sander of amazing [I don't have the correct number, but it was huge and as promised, worked like a charm]

The article promised that this chest could be put up in a few afternoons... I'm not sure what constitutes an afternoon, but I started working on this in January and it's April now and still not done. Granted, I have had a few things going on like a day job and rehersals and weeks long migraines so I have not always been able to work on this project.

Using a hand held router and not hand tools also presents it's own set of issues, like having to set up a fence, as I do not have a router table [let's add that to the wish list...] Since the dados go from end to end of the side panels and box legs, it was fairly easy to set up the pieces side by side, clamp them together with a fence on the guide lines and route away to the specified depth. Ditto for the rabbets across the bottom of the front and back panels. I set up my fence with an 8 foot board, clamped it down and routed away. Let's talk about getting things done in a few afternoons now...

Setting up fences was the most difficult part of the process. I borrowed a lot of c clamps from my dad. I also ended up borrowing my parents man power, as we own 3 bar clamps, which was not enough to hold the box together and keep it from popping apart in other key areas at the same time...

And then one of the feet decided to sliver off when I was tapping the side into place with the box bottom. There are now two Kregg cover pegs and two 90 degree dowels pegged into the foot to keep it in place. 

As you can see from this picture, the box has finally been assembled! My fingers are fully extended at the bottom of the box and my elbow is hitting the top lip. I'm an average size woman. The till went together with minimal trouble, though there is a squeak coming from one end when you open it. Still trying to sand that out. And yes, I know you're supposed to do all the cut work first an paint last but the paint is burning a hole in the paper bag. It's bayberry green. 

The article writer mentioned the the original chest this plan had been based from utilized snipe hinges, which I priced at $40 a pair. A quick web search told me that I could make my own from cotter pins, which while not materially historically accurate is functionally so. There was a very helpful article from Peter Follansbee about setting snipe hinges, or gimmels which we referred to several times Sunday afternoon as we made and set the snipe hinges into the box. The pine began tearing out in the box interior as we set the hinge pins, so to help hide the damage and reinforce the hole in the lid, we slipped a washer over the pin before splitting and clinching them.  

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Good wool is hard to find

I picked this up at the second hand store for $14. No tags, and I haven't done a burn test to see if it's 100% wool, but gee golly is it toasty, and my alergic to wool friends itch when they touch it.
We have wool blankets from my grandmother's estate, the kind from the 50's with the satin blanket binding and pastel colors that just won't quite pass 1750's muster.
For resons as yet unknown to me, herringbone would have been used as a blanket, but not apparel. Maybe because a plain weave was easier to set up than a herringbone, thus making plain weave cheaper and herringbone dearer...? Again I don't know.