I know that I’m one of many in saying this, but I am getting progressively more interested in the carving designs utilized in the 1600s. Perhaps in some way I’m feeling a connection with some of my dad’s Scandinavian family who arrived in Delaware in the 1656 timeframe. They were around English style oak furniture in the colonies and became more and more assimilated into English culture though political changes and intermarriage. Anyway, I finally acquired a copy of Living with Oak: Seventeenth Century English Furniture Then and Now by John Fiske and Lisa Freeman, 2005, and as I flipped the pages I was thrilled to learn more about English oak carving from that period. The Belmont Press out of Belmont, Vermont is the publisher. I’ve clearly got the bug to master this kind of carving. I like it enough to order the more recent book on the same subject, When Oak was New, again by Fiske (2013). I’m looking forward to scouring the many hundreds of photos in it. After looking at other sources, I purchased it through the Fiske and Freeman website and even spoke with John Fiske over the telephone.
Like many woodcarvers, I find it helpful to know the history behind various designs becoming fashionable and then seeing the many examples of various carving motifs applied on, chests, chairs, etc. Peter Follansbee, formerly an artisan at the Plimoth Plantation of Massachusetts, gets much of the credit for this renaissance of interest in 17th Century woodcarving/woodworking tradition. He also worked with Lie-Nielsen tools to provide many instructional DVDs and his wonderful blog also regularly includes instruction.
Woodcarving and woodworking are basically constructive activities in the sense that useful endearing products hopefully are the outcome. Trees are sacrificed for our activities, but responsible management of natural resources can provide for it being renewable. Like many others, I find this creative work with wood to be therapeutic and not a waste of resources. In addition, to the craftsmanship of fashioning wood into useful and attractive objects, I am amazed at the creativity that goes into tool making which corresponds to replicating period furniture as well. For example, I rediscovered that using a scratch stock, or in my case making the filed profile blade, can be quite fun. It just takes a small piece of steel, some files, and a bit of time. In my case, I already had a scratch stock made by Veritas, but never filed my own blades. It’s been in my tool box for awhile. Personally, I am thankful that we have resources in our country to do this and all it takes is some research and willingness to try it. The really cool thing is that outside of some overhead lighting, it didn’t take much electricity to add a decorate edge to my till lids for a carved oak desk project.
If this style of carving peaks your interest, rest assured that there are blacksmiths out there who can supply your needs for hardware and tools, and there are all kinds of sources for chisels and carving tools. You might have to wait for suppliers to fill your orders because of high demand. You might have to wait for them to fill a bunch of orders ahead of you on their order list, but it will be worth it. I now have a greater appreciation for the beauty and quality of hand forged nails and dovetail hinges after obtaining them from blacksmith Peter Ross.
Likewise, I continue to appreciate watching Follansbee’s DVDs on oak box carving as I learn something new each time. I look forward to posting my assembled carved desk box real soon.