Learning Something New

I’m going to be starting a new project with the Central Jersey Woodworker’s Association that will allow me to add yet another new skill to my arsenal. Our club has been running what we call group builds for the last year and a half or so, and they’ve been very popular with the membership. Essentially, a mentor leads a small group (first come first served by signup sheet) on a project and everyone builds their own version of the same piece. You might recall the joint stool build that we started earlier this year that I am also participating in. These projects are a fantastic way to learn new skills and a great excuse to get together with like minded friends with the same passion for cutting up large, fibrous plants.

This new piece that we will be working on is a reproduction of a box from the early 18th century. Some will call it a bible box, but it is doubtful that they were so called during the period. This one was made some time during the early 1700s in Pennsylvania and is distinctly of the William & Mary period style. It features walnut primary wood with a poplar bottom. The front also has a veneer banding around the perimeter and the center may also be veneered (it’s tough to tell from the pictures if the banding is inlaid into a rabbet in a solid walnut front or if there is a plain sawn walnut veneer on the front).

William & Mary Bible Box

William & Mary Bible Box Open

This will be a fun project because I will be co-mentoring the build of this box with our club president, who happens to be an extremely talented period furniture maker who focuses primarily on the Federal period. Having built quite a selection of Federal pieces, he has plenty of experience with using veneer and different veneering techniques. So I get to learn something new that I’ve wanted to try for some time now. In fact, I keep telling Frank that if he keeps showing me all of his Federal work, he’s eventually going to convince me to build a Federal piece, even though Federal is not really my style. Thankfully for me, William & Mary is my style, and they used quite a bit of veneer during that period too, so I get to learn a new skill and build a piece from one of my favorite periods in furniture history. Cool!

But first, before I can learn to veneer, I needed to build another new project. The veneer hammer is made from cherry with a mystery wood dowel for the handle, a walnut wedge, and a folded brass face (I knew that old folded saw back that I screwed up would come in handy for something). It was a fun little project that I built in a couple of hours last night. Tonight I prepared a few veneers that I can practice with. The poplar veneer is about 1/8″ thick. That’s a bit thicker than what was commonly used. The walnut veneer is 3/32″ thick. This is closer to the veneer thickness that was common during the period. Both of these veneers were sawn with my large Roubo frame saw and planed down to final thickness. I have one pine substrate board prepared. I might prepare one or two more for some additional practice before we veneer the real thing. We’re going to be using a burl veneer, which is much more fragile than plain sawn, but also much more beautiful. Can’t wait to get started!

Have a Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Veneer Hammer


6 thoughts on “Learning Something New

  1. Bob, that is a sweet veneer hammer!

    I thought the deal was that since I’m doing a William & Mary piece, you do a Federal next time?


  2. Bob: An inspiring post. I really want to know how you sawed and planed walnut burl veneer to those dimensions with the the hand tools I know you have. What was the size off the saw and did you use any unique setup with the plane or an appliance? I look forward to this project. Thanks. Dan

  3. Do you know where I can get the harware for that large frame saw you had shown in a previous video? I could probably get my local machinest to make one but I haven’t been able to open the video to get another look at it. Do you have a picture?

    • You have to make it yourself, but the materials are all pretty much available through McMaster Carr and similar type suppliers. You might have to get the square tubing some place like Metals Depot. The iron screw is available at Lowes. The guys at Minnesota SAPFM who gave me the hardware made a run of them for their group. They sourced all the metal parts, including the blade stock, from McMaster Carr.

      As an alternative, Shannon Rogers of The Hand Tool School and The Renaissance Woodworker has been working with a blacksmith to make hardware kits available. You might touch base with him for the details.

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