Sittin’ pretty

Wow, nearly two months since my last post.  Well, hey, I’ve been doing other things.  But I’m back now…so here it is.

My most recent project of note has been an English joynt stool.  This little bit of utilitarian furniture has been around since the time of Queen Elizabeth I (if not before) and remained popular in both the British Isles and The North American colonies well into the early eighteenth century.  Most of you will recognize it as a small table and a form used for the basis of many colonial table styles.

Actually, the joynt stool served a number of purposes.  It’s height of 22″ would lead most modern furniture designers to classify it as a table.  But, it’s original purpose was to provide a place upon which to sit.  That being said, it could, of course, be used as a side table.  But historical speculators seem to agree that the joynt stool could also have been used as a sawhorse and, when used in pairs, as coffin biers.  Remembered funeral homes didn’t exist until well into the twentieth centure.  The departed were laid out at home.

A great place to find out much more about the construction of joined furniture is at Peter Follansbees blog. Peter is the Master Joiner at Plymouth Plantation in Massachusetts. His blog is an amazing compendium of information about green woodworking, life in early colonial America and amazingly interesting information on the history of woodworking. All of us who are interested in traditional woodworking owe Peter a tremendous debt of gratitude for his work and his faithfulness in contributing to his blog.

Most orignal joynt stools were constructed of oak, and “built green”.  I chose to build my first from walnut due to the ease with which the wood can be worked by hand, carved and turned on an unpowered lathe.  And, I had a bunch of walnut on hand.  Those of you who have read the article on the springpole lathe may well recognize the legs. 

The construction of the stool was done as faithfully as possible to seventeenth century practice.  No tool with a cord was used in its construction.  No glue, no sandpaper.  Planing, scraping and draw pinning were the tasks at hand.  As always, the tactility of working by hand provides me with the greatest pleasure.

The carving on the long skirts is a very traditional pattern of lunettes and fleur-de-lis.  Ego took over as I carved my initials and the year on the short skirts.  The stretchers are carved in a simple “arcade” pattern.  As one author posited, most Jacobean furniture designs include low relief carving to provide “cheap ornamentation” (I hope he meant “inexpensive”).  The carving really “makes it” and looks great, especially when viewed from a distance greater than ten feet!

More to come.

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