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Constructing

ED EVAL
U NITU

27"

PLANS

and
INSTRUCTIONS

with
STORICAL NOTES

Daniel Diehl

Qonstructing
Nlrdirual Furniturr

Plans and Instructions with


Historical Notes

Daniel Diehl

STACKPOLE
BOOKS

Copyright 1997 by Stackpole Books

Published by
STACKPOLE BOOKS
5067 Ritter Road
Mechanicsburg, PA 17055

All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form or
by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher. All inquiries
should be addressed to Stackpole Books, 5067 Ritter Road, Mechanicsburg, PA 17055.
Printed in the United States of America
109876543
FIRST EDITION

Coverdesign by Caroline M . Miller

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Diehl, Daniel.
Constructing medieval furniture: plans and instructions with historical notes / Daniel
Diehl. - 1st ed.
p.
em.
ISBN 0-8117-2795-5
1. Furniture-Drawings. 2. Furniture-Reproduction. 3. Furniture, Medieval.
4. Measured drawing. I. Title.
TTI96.D54
1997
684.1-dc20
96-28404
CIP

To my mother,
who had great faith in me throughout her life,
but did not live to see this book published.

qontcnts

Acknowledgments

ix

11. Curule Chair

81

Introduction

xi

12. Candlestand

91

1. Woodworking Notes

13. Monastic Canopy Bed

101

2. Metalworking Notes

14. Fifteenth-Century Window Frame

111

3. Finishes

17

15. Wine Cabinet

119

4. Fifteenth-Century Bench

19

16. Gothic Cradle

131

5. Painted Wall Hanging

25

17. Fifteenth-Century Door

141

6. Fourteenth-Century Reading Desk

35

18. Glastonbury Chair

151

7. High Table

43

19. Mirrored Wall Sconce

161

8. Oxford Chest

51

Appendix A: Furniture Locations

173

9. Vestment Chest

63

10. Ambry Cupboard

73

Appendix B: Sources of Medieval


Accoutrements

177

Index

179

vii

acknowledgments

To accomplish truly worthwhile things, one must learn


to work and play well with others. Certainly a project
of this scope could never be accomplished by one person. lowe a tremendous debt of gratitude to all of the
people and institutions who generously allowed me
access to their property and records: Dr. William
Wixom of the Metropolitan Museum, Daniel Kletke at
the Cloisters, John O'Brien at Haddon Hall, Dave
Clodfelter of English Heritage, Dr. Sarah Bendall and
the Warden and Fellows of Merton College, Oxford,
Dr. Dean Walker of the Philadelphia Museum of Art,
Dan Mehn, and Nick Humphrey at the Victoria and
Albert Museum. Without their cooperation, this book

would not exist . Special thanks go to Bob Rich, who


provided background information and the artwork for
the chapter on painted wall hangings, as well as continuing assistance in research.
Thanks also to Sally Atwater and Kyle Weaver, my
editors at Stackpole Books, for their faith in this project; to Allison Leopold, who has helped in more ways
over the years than I can count; to 0. Tyler Huff, my
photographer; to my father, for a quarter century
together in the workshop; and especially to my friend
and literary partner Mark Donnelly, who corrected my
manuscript, clarified my construction notes, and is the
driving spirit that keeps the dream alive.

ix

Introduction

I did not set out to write a book about the construction


of medieval furn iture. It was only whe n I realized th at
one did not already exist th at I determined to und ertake the project. I was amazed, th roughout the cou rse
of my research, at how little documentation on
medieval furniture and its construction exists. Even
many of the better furniture encycloped ias pay little
atte ntion to the medieval period . From the furni shings
of the ancient Egyptian s, Greeks, and Roman s, the literature leaps int o the Italian Ren aissanc e. Ar e we then
to believe tha t no one sat down for more th an eigh t
hundred years?
Despite archaeo logical and documentary evidence
to the contrary, historians of the decorative arts would
have us believe th at our med ieval ancestors had no life
beyond building castles and but chering their
neighbors.
History needs to be more th an dates, places, and
names of famous people. Only by und erstanding the
daily lives of the people who populated it can we really
appreciate th e past as a living place where people were
very much like ourselves, but at the same tim e made
very different by their social and political surroundings.
Although I can no t imagine anyone wan ting to recreate the political cond itions of th e Middl e Ages, th e
social atmosphere of the age of chivalry still has a simplistic , roman tic appeal. Tournaments, courtly love,
and great feasts continue to capture our imagination
centuries after th ey have ceased to exist.
Though there is an endl ess flood of books on various
aspects of life in the Middl e Ages, there has not , to my
knowledge, been anything written on the most visible
surviving remn ants of domestic life of the periodhousehold furniture. Here, then , is a collection of

medieval furniture representative of almost every room


and use in the castle and man or house.
The furni shings in thi s book are among the finest
surviving examples from the golden age of ch ivalry.
These origina l, priceless pieces are housed in public
and private collections th roughou t th e United Sta tes
and England. Accomp anying each photograph is a
description of th e item and its current location, in
many cases still in th e English castl e or cathedral for
which it was origina lly made. A few pieces, however,
are probably from a north European country ot he r
th an England . C on sidering the cultural interc ha nge,
peaceful and otherwise, th at took place among England,
Fran ce, and the Low Coun tries th roughout much of
the Middl e Ages, similar furn iture styles must have
appeared simulta neously th roughout thi s part of the
world.
The measured drawings th at accompany the phot os
of each piece of furniture will be of interest to scho lars,
amateur histori an s, and woodworkers alike. Here for
the first time the reader can see how medieval furn ituremakers produced furniture that ha s withstood a th ousand years of service with out the benefit of glue, screws,
or, sometimes, even nails.
The illustration s show the methods used in con structing th e origina l furn ish ings. With few excep tions,
the drawings were taken directl y from the or igina l
pieces of medieval furniture. Because of th e methods
used in making the origina l furniture, and the wear
and tear of th e centuries, most of th e origina l pieces
are not in square, or even symmetrical. Consequently,
I have been forced to standard ize d imensions and
remove many of the sligh t variations in herent in primitive construction techniques. I have included the grain

Xl

pattern of the wood wherever possible, both to add


interest to the drawings and to indicate the direction
of the grain.
In the accompanying text, there are occasional suggestions for alterations that will make reproduction
easier for the modern woodworker. A few of the drawings differ slightly from the way the piece of furniture
appears today. These changes have been made to
reverse alterations that were made to some of the furniture over the years. I have also made a distinction
between marks from primitive construction techniques
and signs of wear and age, allowing the former to
remain but removing signs of the latter. There should
be virtually no difference in a finished reproduction
and the original from which it was copied, except for
the lack of six or seven centuries of wear and tear.
The drawings have all been done to accurate scale.
When there are complex bits of carving or other detail
shown on the drawings, they can be enlarged on a
photocopier to the size called for and used as a pattern
to be transferred directly onto the surface of the wood.
The level of skill required to execute the projects in
this book ranges from basic to fairly complex. The
chapters appear in order of complexity, beginning with

the simplest. The construction notes may at times


seem simplistic to advanced woodworkers, but they
should provide clarity for those who are still honing
their shop skills. On several pieces, the amount of work
required to produce the piece can be significantly
reduced simply by eliminating the ornamental carving.
In no instance, however, is an elaborately equipped
workshop required to produce this furniture. Remember, originally all of these pieces were made with hand
tools and without the benefit of electricity.
Before beginning any project, read the introductory
chapters on woodworking, metalworking, and finishes,
as well as the entire assembly instructions for the project. A firm understanding of the entire project will
help you avoid unnecessary problems along the way.
Several projects in the book are not, strictly speaking, furniture. They are, however, items that probably
would have been found in the homes that contained
the furniture represented here. For anyone planning to
execute an entire room in medieval style, these pieces
will give the room a historically authentic look.
Appendix B lists places that sell all kinds of medieval
accessories to provide the finishing touches necessary
to outfit any well-appointed castle.

xii

{ijoodmorkjng notes

Here are a few general observations and suggestions


about woodworking methods and materials th at hold
true for most of the project s conta ined in thi s book.

were felled, the workers avoided havin g to carry excess


wood to the final destination, thus avoiding needless
labor.

MEDIEVAL WOODWORKING
Most of the furn iture made dur ing the Middle Ages
was made from freshly cut, or green, wood. The process
of aging and curing wood was unknown , and working
with freshly cut wood was labor efficient . Because the
wood was worked green, the methods of const ruction
differed from those used when working with air-dried
or kiln-dried wood. For example, during the Middl e
Ages, sections of furn iture th at were to be joined with
dowel pins were drill ed so th at the holes were sligh tly
out of line. As the wood dried and sh rank, the pieces
were pulled tightl y together. Today, because the wood
will not shr ink with the passage of time, pieces to be
doweled are clamped together and holes are drill ed in
a straigh t line.
Medieval woodworkers often set up temporary manufacturing communities in the forest, where the y could
fell trees and immediatel y turn them into lumber and
then into furniture. Woodsmen would fell the trees,
and sawyers would cut them into boards either with
saws or by splitting them off the logs with wedges and
sledgeha mmers. Craftsmen of all types would immedi ately go to work turning the fresh lumber int o useful
items, coopers making buckets and barrels; carpenters
producing furniture and construct ion timb ers; and
wright s building carts and wheels.
Working the wood in its green state was easier for a
variety of reasons. Freshly cut wood may foul modern
power tools, but it is much easier to work with primi tive hand tools. By manufacturing the pieces of lumber
or finished furnishings at the locati on where the trees

REPRODUCTION TECHNIQUES
Though it may not be practi cal to set up shop in some
remot e forest to make copies of med ieval furni ture,
some of the period techniques can be adopted by the
modern woodworker. Most of the furn iture in th is
book will look better- or more authent ic-if the work
is executed with hand tools wherever possible. For
example, ch amfering th e edges of a board with drawkn ives and spokeshaves , rather th an with an electric
router, will give you not on ly a more accurate looking
finished product, but also a far better appreciation for
the way the original pieces were made.
If you are not famili ar with hand too ls, it will
require some practice to get th e han g of using them.
Practice on scrap lumber, not on th e custom milled
oak you just ordered for a project.
GENERAL CONSTRUCTION
Most of th e construct ion techniques in thi s book are
extremely basic. Because of th e limit ed ran ge of too ls
and technology available to the woodworker of the
Middl e Ages, it was essential th at construction be
quick and simple. The on ly procedure th at would not
be considered elementary is the use of dovetail joints
on a few of these pieces.
Doweling
Regardless of the type of wood used in making any
piece of furniture in thi s book, I recommend the use of
birch or maple dowels to hold it together. Maple is by
far the strongest wood for thi s purp ose, and it is the

carving very difficult and the results unpredictable.


White oak is also closer to the English oak used in the
origina l furniture.
If the project requires pine, choose a good-quality,
straigh t-grained fir. The straigh ter the grain in th e
wood , the better the finished project will look and the
less ch ance of the boards warping over time.
The major differen ce between the wood used today
and th at used eight hundred years ago is not the
species of tre e from which the boards are cut , but how
they are cut. In medieval times, when lumber was plen tiful and tools were primitive, the boards used in the
production of furniture tended to be much heavierboth thicker and wider-than tod ay's mill-cut lumber.
For many of the project s in thi s book, it will be necessary to have the lumber custom milled to obtain boards
of the correct thickness, which will, of course, be more
expensive than simply purch asing standard-dimension
lumber.
In some cases, the difference between makin g an
item from standa rd mill-cut lumber and using custommilled lumber will be purely aesthetic, to give your furniture an authent ic medieval look. In other cases, the
heavier lumber is necessary to the structural integ rity
of the piece, or at least to make it fi t together as shown
in th e drawings.
An opt ion to having the oversize boards specially
milled is to use old lumber. There are several companies th at recycle old construction materials such as
planks and beams salvaged from barns and houses th at
have been demolished. This wood is often available in
dimension s larger th an can be found in new material.
One of the largest of these companies in th e United
States is North Fields Restor ation, Hampton Falls, NH
03844, (603) 926-5383; ano ther is Architectural
ber & Millwork, 35 Mt. Warn er Rd., P.O. Box 719,
Hadley, MA 01035, (413) 586-3045. To find th e location of othe r such companies, look under "salvage" in
the yellow pages, or check with local historical or
preservation groups.
Another solution is to glue together standarddimension boards to produce thi cker or wider stock.
Many lumbermill s and most cabinet shops will glue up
sta ndard-dimension lumber to provide boards of any
width and thi ckn ess. Profession ally executed joints will
be as strong as the wood itself and barely noticeable
once th ey are incorporated into the furniture .
You can glue boards together for extra thickness
fairly easily yourself by spreading a thin, even coat of
cabinetmaker's glue on th e faces th at are to be glued

wood from which most comm ercial dowelin g is made.


You can purchase maple or birch doweling at any
lumberyard or hardware or hobby sto re.
To fasten a wood joint with a dowel, begin by aligning the two pieces to be join ed and clamp th em into
posit ion so th at they do not sh ift. Se lect a drill bit the
same size as the dowelin g called for in th e materials
list, and drill holes in the location s called for in th e
const ruction not es.
Prepare the dowel to be insert ed in the hole as
follows: C ut a len gth of dowel no more th an 1 inch
(25mm) lon ger th an the depth of the hole into
which it is to be seated. Slightly round the end of th e
dowel th at is to be driven into the hole to allow ease
of en try.
If th e hole has been drill ed to the actual size of the
dowel, the dowel may need to be sand ed lightly so
th at it can be tapped smoo thly int o place. The dowel
sho uld tap into the drill ed hole with a wooden mallet
with out undue force. A 2-in ch (51mm) dowel sho uld
seat itself with four or five light stro kes. If the dowel fits
too tightl y, it may break off before it is seated, or it
may split th e surround ing wood over tim e. If it is too
loose, it will not hold the piece of furn iture together.
Clamps
The construction not es in thi s book frequently call for
clamps to be used to hold pieces together while the
project is being assembled. Lon g bar clamps, or cabine t
clamps, are best for thi s purp ose. They will gene rally
open up far eno ugh to hold even the largest pieces of
furniture in thi s book.
When applying clamps to a piece of furniture, pad
the jaws of the clamp with a small piece of wood, such
as a shim. Padding the clamps will prevent the metal
jaws from biting into th e wood and leavin g deep scars
tha t will need to be sanded out later.

um-

WOOD
During the Middl e Ages, th e woods most commonl y
used for the con stru ct ion of furniture were oak and
pine, which still holds tru e to day to a great exten t.
A ny wood othe r th an oak or pin e used in th e furn iture
in th is book is not ed on an indi vidual basis in the
materials lists.
If a project calls for oak, 1 stro ngly suggest using
white oak rather th an red . Although it is more expen sive, whit e oak has a much finer and straigh ter grain ,
will cut smoo ther, and is a better cho ice if carving is
involved. The unevenness of the grain in red oak makes

SIM PLE DOWEL JOINT

-----I
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~ I/

MORTISE AN D
TENON JOINT

CORNER RABBET JOINT

.+

- _---JI

SPLINE JOINT

----------- ----------

~----

- - - --- -

~--

---

SURFACE RABBET JOINT

DOVETAIL JOINT

together, letting it set for three or four minutes, and


then pressing the glued surfaces together and clamping
tightly. Be careful when you are pulling the clamps
tight; the boards will tend to slide around as they are
being pulled together and if the layer of glue is too
heavy, large amounts may squeeze out. Have an assistant help with this process, and have a wet rag handy
to wipe off excess glue. After the glue has set overnight,
remove the clamps. The resultant board will be as
strong as if it were a single ,board .
Gluing boards together for additional width is trickier.
Joining boards along an edge can be done in several

ways. The simplest is by gluing the edges and clamping as described above. The boards must be not only
clamped tightly together, but also held absolutely flat
while the glue dries. The seam where the boards are
joined will never be as strong as the boards themselves,
and they may fracture along this seam as they age or if
subjected to stress. To strengthen this seam, the boards
can be joined with dowels or splines. This is not particularly difficult, but it does require the proper tools
and a bit of practice. Refer to a guide on basic cabinetry to learn the procedure, and then practice a few
times before using it for your project.

~ttalmorking

l10tts

Most of the hardware used on the furniture in this


book falls into one of several categories: hinges, banding straps, lock plates, forged nails, and several styles
of pulls and handles. Since the procedure for making
these items remains the same from project to project,
general metalworking instructions are provided in
this chapter. Any changes, alterations, or guidelines
for nonstandard work are covered in the individual
chapters.

provide great amounts of heat quickly and make the


job of working the metal fast and easy. A single-tank
acetylene gas torch will provide enough heat for most
of the work described in this book, but it will take considerably longer for the metal to reach malleability.
(The small, hand-held propane torches simply will not
provide sufficient heat.) You will also need a pair of
welder's gloves to protect your hands from the hot
metal.
For shaping the metal, you will need a mandrel, a
jig around which a piece of metal can be bent into
decorative shapes. If you do not already have a mandrel,
it is easy to make one. A mandrel is nothing more than
two round metal pins, each 1/ 8 inch (3mm) in diameter
and 2 inches (51mm) in length, inserted into a metal
base. The best material for making the mandrel is
stainless steel or cold rolled steel, as these metals will
not soften when exposed to the heat of the torch. Following the diagram, cut a base of steel, 1 inch (25mm)
thick and 4 or 5 inches (102-127mm) in length, to a
width that will fit into the jaws of your vise; 1 inch
(25mm) wide is sufficient. Using a drill bit the thickness of the metal pins, drill three holes into the
mounting block, I/ Z inch (13mm) in depth. Two of the
holes should be spaced 1;4 inch (6mm) apart and the
third Vz inch (13mm) from the second. The metal pins
should set firmly into these holes but remain loose
enough that they can be removed and repositioned if
necessary.
If you do not have access to metalworking equipment or feel that you do not have the skills to
undertake the metalwork necessary, contact a local
blacksmith or ironmonger to make the metal findings
for your furniture.

TOOLS
The type of metalwork used for medieval furniture
would have been executed by a blacksmith working
with forge and anvil. Although it is certainly possible
to reproduce this hardware by the original methods,
most of us do not have access to a forge. The same look
can be achieved with the aid of modern tools, however.
All of the metalwork in this book can be executed
with just a few simple tools. For cutting the metal, a
band saw with a metal cutting blade is ideal. A jigsaw
or reciprocal (saber) saw with a metal cutting blade
also will work. In addition to a saw, you will need a
heavy vise and two shaping hammers. The shaping
hammers should be ball peen hammers rather than
claw hammers. One should have a 10- to 12-ounce head
and the other a 16- to IS-ounce head. For finishing the
metal, you will need coarse and fine steel files in each
of three shapes: flat, round, and triangular. Having
both medium and small sizes of each shape will also
be a great help.
To heat the metal so that you can work it into
shape, you will need a welding torch. There are two
types that can be used for these projects. By far the
best is a combination oxygen-acetylene torch. It will

MANDREL

,...

< Vz"

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2" (51mm)

(l3mm)

W'(6mm) ~

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I" (25mm)

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4" (102mm)

1" (25mm)

W' (3mm) /

W' (13 mrn)

"

MATERIALS

three times directly at the angle of the bend where it


lies against the surface of the vise. This will give it a
good, sharp corner that will fit snugly against the edge
of the wood. This may take some practice, but the
results will be worth the effort.

Most of the metal used in these projects is of a type


called flat stock, which comes in straps or sheets that
are wider than they are thick. Metal also comes in
round stock and square stock. Round stock is a round
bar of steel and square stock is a square bar of steel. All
of these types of metal stock are commercially available
in all of the sizes necessary for the projects in this book.
For our purposes, the thickness of the metal will usually be given in standard dimensions of inches and
millimeters. The amount and dimensions necessary to
manufacture the hardware for each piece of furniture
are given in the materials lists in each chapter.

Using the Mandrel


The primary use of the mandrel is in forming the loops
on each half of the hinge by which they are joined
together with a pin. It is also used in forging ornamental curls on hinges and straps.
To practice using the mandrel, heat 2 or 3 inches
(51-76mm) at the end of a length of flat stock, and
insert the tip between two mandrel pins that are set as
close together as possible. While continuing to apply
heat, gently pull on the free end of the bar and tap on
the heated portion of the metal with a forging hammer.
The metal can slowly be pulled into loops of any size
desired . The hotter the metal, the more easily it can be
bent. With a little practice, you will be able to form
loops that fit snugly around the mandrel pin, a perfect
size for accepting hinge pins.
The ends of hinges, and their accompanying straps
and bands, are often forged into decorative shapes. To
reproduce these shapes, you will need to cut the hinge
out of a larger piece of flat stock than the overall width
of the hinge might seem to indicate. This is taken into
account in the materials list.
To illustrate how to cut and forge these decorative
shapes, let's look at the hardware on the Oxford Chest
and the Vestment Chest. The decorative Tshaped ends
on many of the metal bands on the Oxford Chest are
relatively easy to form. From flat stock Ya inch (Jrnm)
thick and 11,4 inches (32mm) in width, cut the basic
length of the hinge as shown in the hinge pattern. Split
the end of the strap into two tongues of equal width to
a depth of approximately 3 Yz inches (89mm), as shown
in the Oxford Chest hardware diagram. The stock can
be either cut with a metal saw or heated and split with
a chisel. The second method is how it was historically
done, although it involves quite a bit more labor. If the
end of the strap is sawn rather than split, you can cut
a 3 1,4 (82mm) long, V-shaped wedge from the end of
the strap to form the tapering ends. Once cut or split,
bend the tongues into semicircles, using the mandrel
with the pins spaced I/ Z inch (l3mm) apart. Be careful
when bending the metal outward; it will break rather
easily if not given enough heat. If you chose to split
the metal rather than saw it, you will need to narrow
the tips of the tongues as you stretch and pull them

FORGING METAL
If you are unfamiliar with forging metal, make several
practice pieces before you attempt any of the finished
hardware . A good place to begin is by bending a piece
of flat stock 11;4 inches (32mm) wide and Ya inch (3mm)
thick into a right angle . This is a stock size common to
many of the hinges and bands on the furniture in this
book. I suggest bending a right angle; this is a simple
procedure, and you will have to execute it every time
a hinge or band goes around a corner on a piece of
furniture .

Bending Right Angles


Place a section of flat stock, at least I foot (305mm) in
length, vertically into the jaws of the vise. Two or 3
inches (51-76mm) of stock should be below the jaws
of the vise and the remaining stock should project
above the vise. The stock must be at right angles (90
degrees) to the top of the vise, or the finished bend
will be crooked .
Heat the first 2 inches (5Imm) of the stock immediately above the jaws of the vise. Do not hold the point
of the flame in one spot on the metal. Move it around
on the area being heated, or the stock may melt at
the point of contact with the flame. When the metal
begins to glow a pink-red, it is ready to be formed . It is
best to have two people working on this project, one
heating the metal and the other doing the actual forging. In this way, the metal will retain its heat and can
be shaped more quickly and easily.
To shape the stock into a right angle, use the heavier
hammer to strike it at the point where the stock meets
the jaws of the vise while pulling the free end of the
stock gently toward the forging surface (the top of the
vise) with your other hand. When the metal has been
bent to a right angle, strike downward onto it two or

I. Lay out the to ngues

2. C ut and bend th e ton gues

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3Yz" (89mm)

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.....

3. Finished strap
6" (l S2mm)

OXFORD CHEST
HARDWARE

10

VESTMENT CHEST HARDWARE

I. Layou t the curl

2. C ut and bend the curl

3. Finished curl

.....

......

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II

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12" (305mm)

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3" (76mm)

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4Yl" (l l-lmm)

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so that the unshaped end is sticking upward. Heat thi s


end of th e pin and flare it with th e forging hammer. Do
not beat it too tightly against th e hinge, or the h inge
might bind.

outward and bend them around the mandrel. This may


take a bit of practice, so execute a few sample pieces
before working on your project. If your pieces do not
have perfect symmetry, do not be concerned; neither
do th ose executed by medieval craftsmen.
The tips of the decorative ears need to be bent into
loops just large enough to insert nail s through to tack
the strap in place against th e face of the chest. The
loops sho uld be formed on the mandrel. If th ey need
to be reduced in size to hold the nail, they can be
reheated and tightened with a pair or pliers.
Simil ar decorative treatment is used for some of the
Vestm ent Chest hardware .

Banding
When makin g hinges or band s th at extend around
several sides of a piece of furniture, allow several extra
inches of stock, as some of th e length will be lost in
the process of bending the met al at th e corners.
The heating and bending process will slightly alter
th e len gth of th e metal stock in unpredictable ways,
so do not try to make more th an one bend before
fitting the band onto th e furniture case. Bend one
corner, fit it into place, and mark the position of th e
next bend.

Making Hinges
Most of the chest lids and doors shown in thi s book
are held in place with lon g strap hinges, many of them
int egral to the banding that holds th e furniture together.
Most are made of V8-inch (3mm) thick flat stock.
In most cases, the two halves of the hinge are joined
together with a hinge pin passing through three interlocking loops, one loop being on th e sho rte r end of the
hinge and two loops on th e lon g end . This section of
th e hinge is called the spine . Using a band saw (or
other saw), cut out th e tangs, the metal fingers th at
are used to form the loops, as shown in th e drawings.
Remove th e burrs from th e sawn edges, th en sha pe
th em into loops on th e mandrel as described above.
There are slight variations in the len gth of the tangs
and positioning of th e loops, described as nece ssary for
each project. Follow the dir ection s closely so th at th e
hinge will operate properl y.
Two types of hinges are used on the furniture in thi s
book: butt hinges and flat hinges. They differ slightly
in the sha pe of the spine, but the basic construction,
including the basic arrangemen t of th e tan gs on th e
hinge stock, is th e same.
To make hinge pin s, use a length of round stock
that will fit snugly, but not tightly, into th e holes in
the hinge spine . Cut th e pin about 1 inch (25mm)
lon ger th an th e hinge. C lamp the pin tightly in th e
vise so th at on ly about 1/8 inch (3mm) protrudes above
th e vise. Heat the exposed end of th e pin. When it
becomes hot, strike the end with th e flat end of th e
sma ll forging hamm er until it flares out sligh tly, like
th e cap of a mushro om. Then use th e ball end of th e
hamm er to round th e edges. When th e pin has cooled ,
fit it into th e hinge. Ab out Y! inch (6mm) sho uld protrude beyond th e end of the hinge; cut it if necessary.
Assembl e th e hinge and invert it on a forging surface

Distressing the Metal


To give th e metal th e look of hand-forged iron, lay it
on the vise or an anvil, heat 3 to 4 inches (76 -102mm)
of its length at a time with th e to rch , and distress the
surface and edges with th e round end of your forging
hamm er. Merely eliminate th e factory clean edges of
th e metal; do not distort or misshape the stock. This is
most easily done after th e metal has been cut , but
before it has been bent to its final shape.
Lock Plates
Lock plates, or escutcheons, prot ect th e area around
the opening in th e wood through which the key is
insert ed. Escutcheons are usually made of far thinner
metal th an th e hinges and band s on a chest. Unless
otherwise indicated , use flat stock VI6 inch (Zmm)
thick. Patterns for the lock plat es are included with
th e drawings for th e project s.
LOCKS
Most of th e medieval locks th at origina lly protected
th e contents of th e chests and cupboards shown in
thi s book have long since been removed , and on ly the
decorative lock plates remain. For thi s reason , heavy
hasps or simple wooden turn buttons are used on several pieces of furniture th at appear to have a lock. In
re-creating the se pieces of furniture, th e simple solution to th e lock problem is to leave it off and use the
turn button.
For medieval cupboards with standard doors, such
as the Ambry Cupboard, th e Wine Chest, and the
Fourteenth-Century Reading Desk, real purists can
adapt a surface-mounted lock set, called a rim lock,

12

HINGE CONSTRUCTION

Laying out th e tan gs

,-:

-- - - --

~----u~
_

.L

Cutting the tang s

Forging the butt hinge

Completed sections of butt hinge (side view)

========
13

HINGE CONSTRUCT ION

Forging the flat hinge


/'

.....

.,/

.j,

,I

Completed sect ions of flat hinge (side view)

Completed sections of butt or flat hin ge (front view)

_ 5 9L.-----_
Forming the hinge pin

The comp leted h inge

14

heads. Although it is possible to make all of th e nails


by hand, I don't recommend it. Forged na ils may be
ordered from Tremont Nail, p.o. Box Ill, Wareh am ,
MA 025 71; (508) 295-0038, or Jamestown Distrib uto rs,
P.O. Box 348, Jamestown , RI 02835; (800) 423-0030.
O ne of the most useful nails for attachi ng the hardware and hinges is Tremont Nail's 1Vz-inch wrough t
head nail. Another resource for find ing forged nails is
th e Old House Journal Supply Catalogue, an an nual
publication of th e Old House Journal.
Many early nails were lon ger th an the thi ckn ess of
the wood into which th ey were driven. The med ieval
solut ion to thi s problem, either for added strengt h or
for expediency, was simply to bend over th e end of th e
nail on th e int erior of th e chest. Experiment with thi s
on a scrap of wood before trying it on a fin ished piece
of furniture, as some of th e modern reproducti on
forged nails are too brittle to bend without breaking.

from a nin eteenth-century int erior door. These lock


sets require on ly minor modificat ion to make authenticlooking locks for cupboa rd doors. These lock sets will
not work on chest lids, however.
Open th e lock box and remove th e ca tch and spring
tha t are normally operated by th e doorknob, leaving
on ly the key-operated dead bolt in place. Replace th e
cover on th e lock box and screw it to th e in ner surface
of the cupboard door so th at th e keyhole in th e door
aligns with the keyhole in th e lock box. (This may
require a sligh t repositioning of th e keyhole in th e
cupboard door.)

NAILS
Fairly large quantities of nails are required for th e
application of hinges and hardware. Simple cut nails
do not have th e large heads necessary to hold th e hard ware in place. Rather, use hand -forged nails with large

15

Finishes

The conce pt of a clear, translucent finish of the


type applied to most furniture today was completely
unknown to medieval furnituremakers. The finished
piece was made smooth by scraping the surface with
the edge of a flat piece of metal and was immediately
put into service, or it may have been painted in brigh t
colors with designs and figures.
To create the appearance of the wear and tear of
the cent uries, you can age your furni ture arti ficially.
Use a wood rasp to wear down th e corne rs, and strike
the surface here and th ere with a length ~f cha in or a
cloth bag holding a handful of various sized nails. The
entire piece can even be lightly sandblasted to remove
some of th e soft porti ons of th e wood grain . Once th e
aging process is finished , go over th e surface again with
the cabinet scraper so th at th e damage doesn't look
too new.

For a deep penetrating oil finish, begin with a mixture of four part s boiled linseed oil to one part spirits
of gum turpentine. Do not use min eral spirits, as th ey
will dry out the wood . For th e best penetrati on , warm
thi s mixture sligh tly; do not allow it to boil. For safety's
sake, warm it on an electric stove, not gas.
If you want to darken th e natural color of th e wood
to make it look older, you can add a bit of tinting color,
of th e type used to tint paint, to th e oil and turpentine
mixture. Use thi s sparingly; it will require on ly a few
drops to make a sign ificant ch an ge in th e color of a
pint of finishing oil. Appl y a second coa t of plain oil
on top of th e penetrating coat .
Ap ply additiona l coats of oil periodi cally to keep
th e wood from drying out. For th e first year or two , oil
sho uld be applied at three- or four-month intervals.
Subsequently, once or twice a year sho uld be sufficien t.
Between times, clean and polish your furniture with
good-quality furniture polish . One containing lemon
oil is best, as th e lemon oil helps th e polish soak into
th e wood. Do not use a polish th at contains wax. If
you want to continue darkening th e piece, use th e traditi on al formula of Genuine Old English brand polish.
It has a dark brown color th at will soak slowly into th e
wood and add a richness to th e finish slowly over successive applications.

CLEAR FINISHES
The mellow surface tones of surviving pieces of furni ture from thi s period are th e result of cent uries of use
and clean ing. Most of thi s cleaning was done with a
sligh tly oily rag, which, over th e cent uries, invested
the surface with a vast quantity of natural moisture.
By keeping th e wood from drying out, th is also helped
prevent cracking and splitt ing.
If you want your piece to have a trul y period look, do
not finish th e surface with sandpa per. The finish given
by the use of a good cabin et scraper is far more authentic looking, and adapts much better to an oil finish.
For a clear finish in keeping with th e origina l treat ment, use oil alone. C oat th e finished piece with either
tun g oil or boiled linseed oil. Appl y light coats until
the wood ceases to absorb the oil, and th en polish to a
low sheen with a soft cloth.

PAIN TED FINISHES


Before th e invention of oil-based paint in th e late
1400s, nearly all painting, with th e excep tion of fresco
work, was executed in egg tempera. Egg tempera was
used for painting on wood, metal, paper, leather, and
cloth, and thus can be used for any project in thi s book
calling for paint.
Many of th e ingredients used in th e Middle Ages to

17

Into the egg yolk, mix pure ground pigment until


the desired color is reached. For the best results, the
pigment should be ground into the egg to be certain
that they are thoroughly mixed. The grinding can be
done with a mortar and pestle, or on a glass palette
with a glass mulling tool. If the paint becomes too
thick to work easily, add a few drops of water to thin
it. Water will also tend to make the colors more translucent. Denatured alcohol can be substituted for the
water to speed up the drying process and act as a
preservative. Even with a few drops of alcohol, egg
tempera must be stored in the refrigerator and will
have a shelf life of only five or six days.
When dry, egg tempera should not need varnish as
long as it is not taken outside. The dried egg yolk is
almost as hard as varnish.
Getting the knack of working with egg tempera may
take a bit of practice, and it may seem like a lot of
work for large areas like an entire piece of furniture or
a painted wall hanging, but it is the proper medieval
approach to the work. As an alternative you can substitute artist's oil or latex paint for a wall hanging, or
regular interior oil or latex paint for a piece of furniture. If you use a commercial paint, get one with as flat
a finish as possible.

produce specific colors are extremely poisonous, but


there are safer pigments available today that will serve
the same purpose.
When egg tempera is used, it is necessary to first
apply a base coat of gesso, a water-based primer available
at art-supply stores. Apply an even coat of gesso to the
object, or area, to be painted. If a large area is being
gessoed, be sure that the brush strokes are even and all
run in the same direction.
The ingredients used to make modern egg tempera
are fresh egg yolks, pure ground pigments (available at
art-supply stores), and distilled water. The egg yolk
binds the pigment to the gesso. To get pure yolk, separate a fresh egg and slide the yolk into the palm of your
hand. Gently roll the yolk back and forth from one
palm to the other. Each time the yolk passes out of one
hand, dry the excess white from your palm.
After eight or ten passes from palm to palm, the yolk
will develop a tough surface as it begins to dry. Allow
the yolk to rest in the palm of one hand, and gently
pick it up by pinching the toughened yolk sac between
the thumb and forefinger of your other hand.
Suspend the yolk over a clean, shallow bowl and
pierce the sac with a sharp knife. The pure yolk will
drip into the bowl. Discard the yolk sac.

18

Fifteenth~qentury

:Bench

here show the piece as it would have appeared when it


was constructed.

Benches, such as this French example, were the single


most common type of furniture at all levels of medieval
society. In peasant homes, crude benches or stools were
often the only pieces of furniture other than a table.
At the merchant level of society, benches constituted
nearly all of the seating in the home, with the exception of one chair each for the master and mistress of
the house, and were also used for seating at worktables
and in trade stalls.
In abbeys and cloisters, monks sat on benches while
they were at prayer and during mass. Perched on elevated stools, they laboriously executed illuminated
manuscripts, and at long benches they ate, often in
total silence, in communal dining halls.
In the manor houses and castles of the nobility,
seating served as precise symbols of social status. The
lord of the manor, his wife, and honored guests sat on
elaborate armchairs during meals and at local court
proceedings . The marshal of the castle probably had
a chair with no arms, as did ranking local merchants
who were often guests of the lord. Lesser guests were
seated on stools, and servants and peasants sat on long
benches called bankettes.
This handsome stool is now in the collection of the
Metropolitan Museum of Art at the Cloisters.

Lumber
The five boards used in the construction of this stool
are all l-inch (25mm) thick white oak. The leg boards
are quite wide for such a small piece of furniture and
could easily be made by gluing two boards together
(the materials list reflects this approach).
Setting Up
Before beginning assembly, cut the legs, side rails, and
seat to size and shape according to the plans . If you
wish to cut the chamfer on the bottom edge of the side
rails with a router, do so before fitting the seat into
place; once the seat has been fitted onto the frame, the
bench cannot be taken apart again.
Legs and Side Rails
The legs and side rails of the bench interlock with
each other. The primary carrying grooves are in the
legs, and there are also small grooves in the side rails
to ensure that the pieces do not shift once the stool
has been assembled. Cut the leg pieces first, making
sure that the side rails fit snugly into the grooves. The
legs and side rails should fit together snugly enough
that they can be pushed together with the pressure of
two fingers. Note on the drawings that the tenons are
shown 1/ 8 inch (3mm) wider at the top than they are at
the bottom. They must be cut in this manner to hold
the seat onto the frame . An easy way to do this is to
square-cut the tenon to the wider dimension, and then
finish it to a slight dovetail shape with a knife or rasp.
For the side rails, you can enlarge the drawing on
a photocopier until it is the proper dimension and use

CONSTRUCTION NOTES
This finely crafted little bench is simple in construction and is made without metal fasteners or glue. Only
four small dowels hold the structure together. It is a
testament to medieval craftsmanship that after more
than five centuries, the bench is still in good condition.
This piece is an excellent choice for the beginner.
Although one end of the original bench was sawn
off and a notch was cut out of the other end, the plans

19

B EN CH, FRANCE, FIITEENTH CEN T U RY. OAK;

H. 21", W. 38", D. 121,4" .

CLOISTERS COLLECTION , M ET ROP O LIT A N

MUSEUM OF ART, N EW YO RK CITY. COURTESY M ETR OP O LIT A N M USEUM OF A RT .

tion s of th e mortises. When cutting the morti ses into


th e top, make th em 1 inch (2Smm) wide, like th e leg
board , but I/ S inch (3mm) sho rte r than th e length of
th e top of th e ten on. Simply put, th e mortise should be
the same dim en sions as the bottom dim ensions of the
ten on.
If you are unsure abo ut cutting such a precise mortise, it is best to cut it a bit smaller th an shown and
finish it by sanding or rasping away excess wood a little
at a time.

it as a pattern. When you are cutting the legs and side


rails, be cert ain that the points at which the two boards
intersect are th e same dimen sion , 3 inches (76mm).
The side rails and legs may be assembled and taken
apa rt to check for proper fit at any tim e before th e final
assembly of th e stool.
Seat
To locat e and cut th e mortise holes in th e seat, first
assemble the legs and side rails and turn them upside
down onto th e seat. Ali gn the side rails and the legs so
th at th ey are in square with th e seat and position ed as
show n on th e plan s. Mark th e locati on s of th e tenon s
on the surface of the seat to indicat e the exact loca-

Compressing the Tenons


To fit th e wedge-sha ped ten ons into th e mort ise, th e
wide ends must be compressed. Position a C-clamp or

20

MATERIALS
WOOD
All wood is o ak, except maple dowels.

PART

NUMBER
O F PIECES

top

THICKNESS

WIDTH

LENGTH

1" (25mm)

12 114" (311 mrn)

38" (965mm)

side rails

1" (25mm)

4Yz" (l14mm)

3 7" (940mm)

legs

I" (25mm)

I4 ljz" (368mm)

20 " (508mm)

18" (457mm)

dowel

W' ro un d

cabinet clamp around th e upper half of each tenon.


Tight en th e clamps until th e tenon s are at least as narrow at the top as th ey are at th e base. Leave th e clamps
in place for three or four hours to allow th e wood to
settle.

Once th e mortises and ten on s have been fitted


together, th e compressed wedges will slowly return to
th eir original sha pe, locking th e legs tightly, and permanently, into the top. They sho uld begin to resume
their original shape within three or four hours of bein g
taken out of th e clamp. If th ey have not expanded
eno ugh to lock th e stool together within twenty-four
hours, wet th e exposed ends of th e ten on s with water
and let th em dry slowly overn igh t.

Assembly
Final assembly must be completed within a matter
of ten minutes or so, because once th e clamps are
removed from the tenons, th ey will begin to spread
and resume th eir natural sha pe. First, assemble th e legs
and side rails. Then, with th e ben ch in an upright
position , align the morti se holes in the seat board over
the ends of the tenons. Place a scrap piece of wood
across the ten ons on one leg and tap it firmly with a
mallet or hammer. The scrap of wood will protect the
top of the stool from hammer blows. Do not strike too
hard. As soon as th e tenons on one leg begin to move
int o th eir morti ses, repeat th e procedure on th e other
leg. By moving back and forth from leg to leg, you can
tap the seat board into place without twisting th e
structure of th e stool.
If a ten on will not tap into its morti se, do not force
it. You may need to do a little sanding or shavin g, or
you may need to recompre ss the wedges if they have
been out of the clamps for more than a few minutes.
Getting the seat board into place may be a little tricky,
especially for the novice cabinetmaker, but the results
will be worth it.

Doweling
Followin g th e dowelin g instru ctions in cha pter 1, pin
the side rails and legs together. Before drilling th e
holes, ensure that the piece is square by pulling th e
legs snugly against the offset shoulders on the side rails
with a lon g cabinet clamp or bar clamp.
Finish
Although th e origina l bench has been severely weathered over th e centuries, I believe that it had a simple
oil finish, except for the ch amfered edge at th e bot tom
of the side rail, which appears to have been painted
dark green or possibly deep blue-green. The original
paint was probably an egg tempera, as described in
chapter 3, but a simple flat or low-sheen oil paint will
work. If you choose to include this decorativ e detail,
gesso the area to be painted, and apply th e paint before
oiling the rest of the bench. Paint only the ch amfer,
and not the bottom edge of the side rail.

21

SIDE VIEW

END VIEW

5mml

-,r~~~~T
20"

~~

26" (660mm)
38" (965mm)

TOP VIEW
~f------

~~___
--

-==-

. . . - - - -- "

2!;4"

._-

..

(57~)

-~

[}-

.~
r-1

_ .-

::::;::TI~ -'-"
~'. - _. __ ._-~
-~~

-'=-

22

r-

t---

5" (l27mm)

38" (965mm)

~-

2Y4" (57mm)

(533mm)

~C 1

5" (l27mm) ) ,

t- 12W Ollmm) -1

12 'A" Ollmm)

9"

(228mm) ~

14'11" 068mm)

-i

LEG

r- w'

~ I" (2smm)

(l 9mm)

1r
3" (76mm)

I" (2smm)
s '/ z"
(l40mm)

20" (s 08m m)

2 'It"
: (s7mm)
I

r %" 0

sYz"

i.;

9" (229mm)

14'/ z" (368 mm)

SECTION A

4" (1 20mm)

(I 24mm) (I4 0m m)

+---*---~ ~ ~

6mm

I
I
I

-~- "\

18 '/ z" (470mm)


to cente r

1
3W'

'\

2W' (70mm)

(9smm)
\

2" (Sl mrn)

I
I
I

I" ( 2smm)

SECTION A

~ ~

I" (2smm)

:\II.

2\4" J:/ ' 1

(s 7mm) t ~I ,
/ / ./1

//;

1
I

I;'

/ ),

'\

Yz" ( U mm)

23

'"

...___-=-----

4 %"
(Ill mm)

3" (76mm)

painttd {ijalllt\anging

Tapestries, whether embroidered, like the Bayeux


tapestry, or woven like a carpet, added bright colors
and provided insulation to cold castle walls. Prior to
the mercantile revolution of the 1300s, however, tapestries were rare and expensive items reserved for the
homes of kings and archbishops. Nobles with more
modest treasuries imitated the look of tapestries by
commissioning ecclesiastical scribes, or illuminators,
to execute painted wall hangings. These were usually
painted on linen, but occasionally on silk.
Because of their ecclesiastical origins, wall hangings
have the distinct look of manuscript illuminations. In
early works, the figures were outlined with heavy black
lines, which were then filled in with color and shaded
to give the figures a slightly three-dimensional look.
Later, the outlines were dropped. Unfortunately, as
such hangings were painted on relatively inexpensive,
lightweight ground cloth, there are virtually no surviving examples.
The facing page shows the January page from the
Ties Riches Heures du Duc de Berry, a medieval book
in the collection of the Louvre. Behind the feasting
duke, a painted hanging can be seen on the wall. This
project will reproduce the far left portion of this hanging. The technique presented here for reproducing
painted hangings, based on the 1437 work of! talian
master craftsman Cennino Cennini, was developed
by Bob Rich, and the illustrations in this chapter
are his.

Materials
Because of the nature of this piece there will be no
materials list at the end of this chapter. All necessary
materials are listed below. A medium-weight (l0- to
12-ounce) unprimed artist's canvas approximates heavy
linen and makes an ideal ground. How much you will
need depends on the size of the finished tapestry
desired. To be an effectively impressive and authentic
medieval tapestry, both in appearance and to serve its
function of keeping out drafts, it should be nearly wall
size. I have found that 4 feet (lm220mm) in height by
8 feet (2m440mm) in length gives an appropriately
medieval feel to a room but, basically, the piece should
visually fill a wall. Purchase slightly more canvas than
you need so that you have extra material for hemming
the edges and extra pieces on which to practice your
painting technique. If you are new to painting on canvas and don't want to start with a really large project,
you might try using these same techniques to produce
an armorial banner 2 by 3 feet (600 by 900mm).
A range of paintbrushes will be necessary to cover
the variety of techniques and different sized spaces
involved in the project. Because of the nature of the
painting techniques involved, I recommend buying
inexpensive brushes. The best brushes for this work are
made of hog bristle. They are cheap and durable, and
come in all shapes and sizes. You will need rounds in
sizes 00, 4, 8, and 12; flat brushes, also called brights,
in sizes 1, 4, 8, and 12; and eat's tongue brushes in sizes
2, 4, and 6. You may also want a stenciling brush.
You can use egg tempera, as described in chapter 3,
or standard artist's colors in either oil or acrylic . Oil
paint is a much more traditional medium, and although
it was not developed until the mid- to late 1400s, I rec-

EXECUTION NOTES
Medieval painted wall hangings and armorial banners
(flags bearing coats of arms) were executed on silk and
linen panels and colored with egg tempera.

25

LIMBOURG BROTHERS (FLEMISH, ACTIVE IN FRANCE


H EUR ES DU

D uc

DE B ERRY, FRANCE,

1413-16.

1380-1416).

JANUARY PAGE, TRES RICHES

COLLECTION OF THE L O U VRE, PARIS . COURTESY PHOTOGRAPHIE

GlRAUDON .

26

ommend it for thi s project. For a wall han ging of


approximately 4 by 8 feet (lm220mm by 2m440mm),
you will need between six and eigh t 2-ounce tub es of
paint in various colors. Begin with two tub es of the
background color and one tube each of th e other
colors.

are essentially stock cha racters th at are more representati ve of social position th an of ac tual indi viduals. It is
on ly hair color, beards, and othe r person al affecta tions
th at distinguish one indi vidual from another. Since
th ese works were often commissioned as van ity pieces,
don 't hesitat e to pain t yourself and your family mem bers in to th e design.

Preparing the Canvas


Hem all four edges of the canvas. Then eithe r stretch
the canvas on a frame made of 2-by-2-inch (50 -by50mm) pine, similar to th at used for an art ist's canvas,
or attach it to a large sheet of plywood. I prefer th e
solid easel board to th e stretcher frame, as th e solid
surface keeps the center of th e canvas from springing
when it is bein g painted. If your han ging is going to be
larger th an a shee t of plywood, you can join two shee ts
togeth er to give you an 8-by-8 -foot (2m44 0mm-by2m440mm) board.
To attach the canvas to the plywood, use push pins
or very small nails at 4-inch (lOOmm) intervals around
all four sides. Be sure th at it han gs square and level. Do
not distort th e canvas by stretch ing it outward at th e
corne rs. It will take several readjustments to have th e
entire canvas hanging square, but it is necessary so
that the finished painti ng will han g with out distort ion .
Lean the easel board against a wall at about 80 degrees.
This angle sho uld allow you to stand comfortably and
still see the ent ire painting at one time.

Reproducing the Design


Eith er of two methods can be employed to tran sfer the
design to th e canvas. The easy way is to use an opaque
projector to th row th e image directly onto the canvas,
and tr ace around th e project ed images with a penci l.
A more authentic medieval meth od of tran sferring
th e image is by mean s of a grid tran sfer. O n a photocopy of th e design, draw a grid pattern th at divides
th e picture into 3i4-inch (20mm) or l-inch (25mm)
squares. The size of th e squares to use depe nds on the
size of the design ; th e sma ller th e design, the sma ller
th e grid necessary to break the image down into
workable areas.
Next , cover th e stretched ca nvas with large pieces of
white paper (butcher's paper or newsprint will suffice).
Tape th e paper dir ectl y over th e face of th e canvas.
A rrange th em so th at you will be able to take them
down and put th em back in place in th eir proper order.
By working on paper, rather than dir ectly on th e canvas, you can make correction s as needed without .
smudging th e ca nvas ground.
Now divide th e paper covering th e canvas into a
grid tha t has a correspo nd ing number of squares, vert ica lly and hori zont ally, to th e gridwork on the photocopied design. For example, if your photocopy is
divided into l-in ch (25mm) squares, ten squares wide
and five squares high, divide th e paper covering your
canvas into a grid with larger squares, so that th ere are
ten squares in width and five squares in he igh t.
Carefully reproduce the pictur e in the photocopy
onto th e large grid by copying th e image one squa re at
a tim e. Pay close attention to the places on the grid
lines where th e images cross from one square into th e
next. By using thi s meth od , you ca n tran sfer any image
to a large-scale form at.
O nce you are happy with th e en larged image, mark
alignment points whe re the pieces of paper join so that
you will be able to reassemble th e image, th en remove
th e paper from the canvas.
With a sha rp object like a compass point, a too thpick, or a knitting needle, prick holes along all of the
lines in th e drawing. Space th ese holes from 1/2 to l

Priming the Canvas


Origina lly the material for these han gings would have
been given th in ground coats of a starch-based size an d
gesso. If you are using oil paints, a ground of modern
art ist's gesso is essent ial. If you are using acrylics, th e
gesso is optiona l. If you want your han ging to be fairly
rigid, or you do not want to paint on th e rough canvas
surface, apply a base coat of gesso. If you want a more
soft, draperylike look to the finished work, apply th e
acrylic paint directl y to th e canvas with out gessoing it.
Developing the Design
Use th e design provided here, or choose one from a
manuscript illum ination , medieva l painting, or tapestry. The design you select shou ld have similar proportions to your canvas. If not, you will need to sligh tly
alter the proporti ons of your canvas, or simply elimi nate a porti on of th e design.
Don't worry about your artistic ability; th e figures in
medieval tapestri es and illumination s tend to be as
much like cartoo ns as they are portraits. The figures

27

inch (l3-25mm) apart, depending on th e amount of


detail in th e area. The greater th e amount of detail,
th e closer th e holes shou ld be.
Now construct a pounce bag. Cut a piece of fine
linen, muslin , or othe r fabric of similar weave, 3 or 4
inches (75-100mm) square. Int o th e center of thi s piece
of cloth, pour a spoo nful of carp enter's line-m arking
cha lk (available at h ardware stores). Draw the cloth
around th e chalk dust and tie it sh ut with a string to
form a sma ll, tightly bound bag.
Replace one of the large sections of th e paper stencil onto th e ca nvas. G en erally, it is best to begin with
the sectio n at th e far left side. Hold th e paper stencil
securely against the canvas with one hand, and tap th e
pounce bag over the perforated line s in th e area immediatel y around your hand. Be certain that the bag is
tapped against each hole in th e stencil one or two
times to ensure proper tran sfer of th e design onto th e
surface of th e canvas. When th e ent ire section of stencil has been pounced, remove th e paper. The design in
thi s area has been neatl y transferred on to the canvas as
a series of dot s. Connect the dot pattern with a pencil
to define th e image on th e canvas. Repeat thi s process
with each sect ion of th e stencil, in order, until th e picture is completed.
To make th e pencil lines bold eno ugh to see clearly
and easy to follow when filling in th e areas with
color, use a size 00 round brush to go over th em with
a medium gray or gray-green paint.

on newspaper, and then scrub th e remaining color


onto th e canva s. The process becomes easy with a little
practice, although gett ing your tone s consistent may
take some time .
After the lightest tones have been painted, apply
th e middl e tones, not on ly to th eir own areas, but also
as a foundation or underpainting to th e areas th at will
be painted with the darkest tones.
You can use the dry-brush technique to soften the
edges between th e lightest tones and th e middle tones.
Do not spread th e middl e tone too far int o the area of
th e light tone ; just dry-brush th e middl e tone enough
to soften th e edge. Don 't tr y to blend th e two together.
Once th e light and middl e tones have been painted,
th e darkest tone s can be laid down . Because th ese
ton es define shadow areas, th ey should not be softened
at the edges. You may want to thin th e paint just a
little for th e dark tones so th at it will flow better and
create a crisper edge. Since th e darkest color is being
applied over an und ercoat of th e middl e tone, if it has
been thinned it will appear almost like a glaze, with
the color ben eath shi ning through. Just be careful
not to thin th e paint so much th at it run s down your
canvas.
Details on painted wall hangings, as on manuscript
illuminati ons, are gene rally limit ed to dark outlines
and sma ll areas of bright color. The outl ines are generally either black or brown and are execut ed in the same
color th roughout th e work. The use of brown outl ines
rather th an black prevents th e piece from lookin g cartoonish. The outlines sho uld vary slightly in breadth
depend ing on th e size of th e area th ey are defining.
Smaller areas like faces, hand s, and drinking goblets
sho uld be outl ined with finer lines than th ose used for
larger areas such as gowns and cloaks.
Finish by painting highli ght s such as jewels, eye
color, and embroidery work in bright colors using a
small, round brush.
Allow th e paint to dry, th en remove the canvas from
the standing easel, taking care not to kink or crease
the cloth in a way that might crack th e paint, a particular concern if th e work has been done in oils or has
a gesso ground.

Painting
After you have outl ined th e entire picture, it is tim e to
begin laying in the large color areas. Many of th e simplistic painted illuminati on s of the Middle Ages relied
on a three-tone system for creating shad ing and a
three-dimen sion al look. In thi s syste m, th e lightest
tone is created by scrubbing a thin coat of color over
the canvas, allowing th e white canva s to show th rough
the paint, effectively lightening the color. The middl e
tone is the color as it comes out of the tube, painted
onto th e canvas until a solid tone is achieved. The
th ird tone, th e shadow area, is the middle tone mixed
with a bit of black, or a darker version of th e color (for
exa mple, deep blue is a darker version of medium blue).
Always lay in th e lightest tones first. The scrubbing
technique requires some practice. Scrubbing is applying th e paint in a dry-brush technique. With a size 12
round brush or a stenciling brush, pick up just a small
amount of paint, tap th e ends of th e bristle s almost dry

Displaying the Wall Hanging


To display your piece, make straps for han ging th e
canvas. Cut several l-foot (300mm) lengths of l-inch
(25mm) wide bias tape, enough th at you can attach a
piece every 6 inches (l50mm) along th e top of the can-

28

vas. Mark the center of each piece of tape. Using


heavy thread, sew the twill tape to the top hem of the
canvas at this centerline, so that the tape runs perpendicular to the top of the canvas. When sewn to the
canvas, each piece of tape should form a pair of 6-inch
(150mm) long straps that can be tied around a hanging rod.

Alternatively, you can sew brass or wooden drapery


rings to the top hem of the canvas at 6-inch (l50mm)
intervals.
Hang the finished tapestry from a heavy wooden
pole or drapery rod. Be sure to mount the rod hangers
securely to the wall to support the weight of the
painted canvas.

29

Gridding the original artwork

30

Transferrin g the drawin g to the gridded cloth

31

O utl in ing the image on the clot h

32

Laying in th e basic tones

33

Painting in th e shadows, highlight s, and details

34

~ourteenth,()entury

needing Desk

This int eresting desk is probably of ecclesiastical origin. This can be assumed not on ly becau se of the simplicity of construction, but also because so few people
durin g the Middle Ages, outside of the clergy, knew
how to read or write. The desk's exact function is less
clear. Its height would have made it convenient for
someone of average height to stand behind it while
deliverin g a lecture or sermon. It could have served
dual functions as desk and lectern , so it may have been
in a monastic order's ch apt er house (classroom) or
dining hall, where readings from th e scriptures were
delivered during mealtime.
The sligh t lip, formed where the back boards extend
above the top surface, prevents books and papers from
sliding on to the floor. The interior compartment provided storage space for books, papers, writing utensils,
and parchment when they were not in use. The piece
has been altered and repaired several times over the
cent uries. The design of th e iron banding suggests that
th e desk may have origina lly been con structed so th at
it could be disassembled for easy transportation from
one locati on to another.
This rare and unusual survivor of medieval literary
endeavors can be seen in th e Philadelphia Museum
of Art.

There have been several alterations to thi s piece


over th e past six or seven centuries, but th e plan s given
here are based on the original design of th e piece.
Should you wish to copy th e desk as it now stands, the
nece ssary alterations sho uld be relatively simple to
make.
The most sign ifican t change made to th e desk is in
th e door on th e front . The door is now in two halves,
forming an upper and lower door. In its origina l form ,
however, th ere likely was one full-len gth door suppo rted
by on ly three hinges. When th e door was d ivided , it
nece ssitated the addition of a fourth h inge. It is likely
that the hinge set th at is now th e upper of th e two
middle sets of hinges was originally locat ed at th e bottom of th e door, and th e current bottom hinge was a
late add ition.
Ma terials
All of th e wood used in th e body of thi s desk is English
oak. Surprisingly, most of th e boards in thi s massivelooking piece of furniture are on ly 314 inch (l 9mm)
thick, so with the exception of th e bottom rails, th e
desk can be constructed with standard lumber while
sti ll retaining historical accuracy.
T he width of the board s, however, is quite another
matter. Ideally, you will discover a lumbermill that has
acce ss to oak boards 1 1/ 2 feet (457mm) wide. Realistically, you will have to butt-join board s to make the
planks used in building this desk (see chapter 1).
T he bottom rails on the desk, which are in reality
skids, are distinc tly oversized lumber. But they could

CONSTR UCTION NOTES


The construction of the wooden case of thi s attractive
desk is ext remely simple; however, the ornamental
ironwork adds a bit of a challenge to the project as a
whole.

35

READING DE SK, ENGLAND, FOURTEENTH CENTURY. OAK;

H. 38 112", W. 43", D. 18 112".

COLLECTION OF

THE PHILADELPHIA M USEUM OF ART, COURTESY P H ILADELPH IA MUSEUM OF ART. PHOTOGRAPH BY GRAYDON WOOD ,

be made by gluing up an oak 2-by-8 (50-by-200mm)


and a st'anda rd mill dimension oak l- by-S (25-by200mm).
A ll of the fasteners, for joining wood to wood (unl ess
specified as a dowel joint) and for attachi ng th e hardware to wood, are 2-inch (25mm) hand -forged nails.
On the origina l piece, where th e nails come th rough

the inside face of the wood, they are crimped over for
extra strength (see chap ter 2).
Setting Up
Because the constr uctio n of this piece is so simple, it is
possible to cut all of the lumber to finished dimensions
before beginning any actual construction. Label each

36

board so th at it can be easily located. All markings


sho uld be made in chalk so that they can be removed
from the wood .
Allow an extra inch on the total width of th e plank
selected for the desk top so that the front and rear
edges can be trimmed to th e angle nece ssary to achiev e
a proper fit. The planks used for the sides and floor of
the desk allow extra length at the point where th ey are
to be morti sed int o the skids.

with the bottom of th e skid . Turn th e assembled bot tom unit into its upright position .
Side Panels
Cut the Vz-inch (l3mm) offset at th e front and rear of
each side panel so that th e ten on sits in to th e mortise
in the skid. C ut the tenon on ly on th e oute r face of
th e panel. That is to say, the side panel s are 3;4 inch
(l9mm) thick, and the tenon on th ese panel s is to be
Vz inch (l3mm) thick. Remove the necessary l;4 inch
(6mm) entirely from th e side of th e pan el th at will face
th e outside of the desk.
When the ten on s are cut, set th e side panel s into
th e mortises in th e base. If th e mortises and tenons
have been neatly cut, th e side panel s sho uld tap into
place and stand nearly vert ical without additiona l support. Determine th e position of th e interior shelf and
mark its locati on on th e inside of th e side panels.
Remove the side panel s and drill pilot holes for th e
shelf nails.
Reinstall th e side panel s into th e base and drill two
Vz -inch (l3mm) holes through th e skids so th at th ey
intersect th e morti ses as shown in th e drawings. Drive
'/z-inch dowels through th e holes and cut th em off
close to the surface. When th e entire cabinet is assembled, you can come back and level th em with a rasp or
sandpaper.

Cutting the Mortises


C utt ing th e morti ses in th e skids is the most tedious
piece of work on thi s project, but it need s to be done
before any assembly can begin. A rout er can be used
to cut at least a portion of both the blind mortise,
into which the side panels fit, and the open morti se, int o
which th e floor board fits. Squaring the corners of th e
mortises will require careful work with hammer and
ch isel.
The entire width of th e floor board sits in a l-inch
(25mm) deep blind mortise, but there also is an
extended tenon that passes completel y through a small
open morti se in th e foot board.
Take care th at th e mortise for the side panels is
both flat and level on th e bottom. The side panel s sit
directly on the bottom of thi s mortise, and if it is
uneven, or if the side panels are sloppy, the finished
desk may wobble or be uneven .
Be certain th at the mortising is executed so that
the two skids are mirror images of each other and not
identical; there must be a left skid and a right skid.
When the morti sing work is completed, th e decorative
egg-shaped toe can be cut int o the front of the skids.
As the mortises and tenons are being cut, check
frequently to ensure that they will fit snugly together.
Tenons sho uld require a firm tap with the palm of th e
hand or a wooden mallet to be seated into the mortises.

Shelf
Nail the shelf in place . Be careful when installing th e
shelf not to place too much strain on th e dowel joints
at the base of the side panel s by twisting or pulling th e
sides.
Rear
On the rear of the desk-the side at which a person
would stand to deliver a lecture-at least the three
center boards are replacements, so the widths of th e
board s may not correspond exactly to th e original
ones. Therefore, if yours differ sligh tly from the one s in
the drawing, it will make little historical difference.
Establish the left and right outside boards. The left
board needs to be notched out at the lower left corner
and the right one at the lower right. The notches allow
the boards to fit over the edge of th e skid and extend
'/ z inch (l3mm) beyond the edge of the side panels. All
of the back boards should rise 13;4 inches (44mm) above
the low edge of the side panels. This will allow the
back to rise 1 inch (25mm) above the bottom edge of
the desk top and provide a book lip.

Base
Because the interior shelf cannot be adjusted or
removed from the desk, the entire desk must be built
from the ground up, around the bottom and the shelf.
The first step is to attach the floor boards to the skids.
Turn the skids upside down (so that the mortise for the
side panels faces downward) and seat the floor board
into the mortises in the skids. Pull the assembly
together with bar clamps or a strap clamp. Drill a
li z-inch (l3mm) hole through the center of the open
mortise and the floor board as shown in the drawings.
Tap a maple dowel into the hole and saw it off even

37

when cutting the hinge slots; working this close to the


edge of an oak board with drills and chisels is courting
disaster if you are not careful.
Nail the panels into position and trim the door
panel to size. Be sure that there is enough play to allow
the door to open when it is attached to the hinges.
This will require the door panel to be about Y16 inch
(Smm) narrower than the opening into which it
will fit.

Before final installation of the rear panel boards,


chamfer the inside edge of the boards where they
form the book lip. This edge is shown in detail
B in the drawings. This chamfer is quite uneven on
the original piece and will probably most closely
resemble the original if it is cut with a drawknife or
spokeshave .
When the chamfer has been cut, install the outside
panels first and the rest of them sequentially from left
to right. Be certain that each board is square on the
frame of the desk and is aligned at top and bottom
with the previous board. After drilling pilot holes, nail
the back boards onto both the floor and center shelf
of the desk. The outside panels are also nailed to the
side panels as shown on the drawings.

Iron Work
Forge the ironwork according to the instructions in
chapter 2. The large, decorative circles on the ends of
the hinges may be formed by using a wider piece of
metal than the rest of the hinge requires and cutting
out the overall shape of the hinge. Alternatively, the
circular end of the hinge and, if desired, the fleur-de-lis
decoration may be cut from a separate piece of metal
and welded onto a hinge body made of the specified
l vz-inch (38mm) stock. In the materials list, these are
listed as though the entire section of hinge were being
cut from wide stock. If the entire hinge is cut from a
single overwide piece of metal, the fleur-de-lis will
have to be split or sawn, and bent into position. In thi s
instance, follow the instructions for making lateral
bends in metal in chapter 2.
After the hinges and straps are forged, attach them
to the body of the desk. Set the door panel into place,
positioning it so that most of the Yl6-inch (Smm) gap
is on the left side of the door (the side that swings out ward), and attach the loose ends of the hinge to the
door panel.
The escutcheon plate and striker plate from the lock
are cut out of lightweight metal as specified in the
materials list.

Top
The top plank may now be fitted into position. With
the plank cut to length, lay it in position on top of the
desk. The book lip will keep it from sliding off the
desk. The top should overhang the sides by Yz inch
(l Imm), making it flush with the outside edges of the
back . The lower edge of the desk top must be cut to
allow it to rest squarely against the book lip. By the
appearance of the original desk, this angle, along with
the corresponding angle on the upper edge of the top,
was cut with a spokeshave.
When the top rests evenly against the book lip, cut
a corresponding angle at the front edge of the top so
that it is on a plane with the front edge of the side
panels. The top may now be drilled and nailed into
position into the side and back panels.
Front Panels and Door
As with the back panels, establish the left and right
panels and notch them to fit over the skids and extend
li z inch (l3mm) beyond the side panels. These boards
should be flush with the upper edge of the desk top.
The top of these boards are square cut and not cut on
an angle.
On the inner surface of these panels, mark the position of the floor and shelf boards. Also determine the
point at which the ends of the hinges will pass through
the front panels. Remove the panels, drill pilot holes,
and cut the holes through which the hinges will pass,
as shown in detail C on the drawings. Be very careful

Door Lock
If you want the door to lock, refer to the section on
locks in chapter 2. This would be an ideal place to
adapt an antique door lock. If you do not wish to have
a working lock, you may still want to cut a keyhole
and make and install an escutcheon plate . Cut the keyhole in the door before nailing the plate into place.
The turn buttons that currently hold the doors shut
were added to the desk in the I920s. Their installation
here is up to the builder.

38

MATERIALS
WOOD
All wood is oak, except maple dowels.

PART

NUMBER
OF PIECES

front left panel


front right panel

door

THICKNESS

WIDTH

LENGTH

%" (l9mm)

1314" (336mm)

37" (940mm)

%" (l9mm)

12 Yz" (317mm)

37 " (940mm)

3;4" (l9mm)

17" (432mm)

37" (940mm)

side panels

W' (l9mm)

17" (432mm)

29" (737mm)

left side back panel

W' (19mm)

14" (356mm)

32" (813mm)

right side back panel

W' (l9mm)

12" (305mm)

32" (813mm)

back panel

W' (l9mm)

5" (l27mm)

32" (813mm)

back panels

W' (19mm)

6" (152mm)

32" (813mm)

skids

21jz" (63mm)

21W' (552mm)

bottom

WI (l9mm)

17" (432mm)

44" (lm118mm)

top

%" (l9mm)

18" (457mm)

43" (lm92mm)

shelf

W' (19mm)

17" (432mm)

41Yz" (1m54mm)

dowel

Yz" (l3mm) round

(178mm)

24" (610mm)

METAL
All metal is hot-rolled flat stock.

PART

NUMBER
OF PIECES

WIDTH

THICKNESS

LENGTH

left side straps

WI (3mm)

2" (51mm)

1714'1 (438mm)

door hinges

YB" (3inm)

2" (51mm)

17WI (451mm)

right side straps

YB" (3mm)

1Yz" (38mm)

16%" (425mm)

escutcheon and latch

1/16"

5" (l27mm)

10" (254mm)

(Zrnm)

39

FRONT VIEW

33Yz"
(85 Imm)

r----- 21W' (55 2mm) -~

I!l" (I3mm) \

2" (5Imm)
I

It

..,j '"

I
..:...-:.===:
_,I '.VT
(38mm)
:!"
.

""'

7"

, .r-'

I W' (32mm)

n{

Vz"
(I3mm)

17" (430mm)
I

6" (I52mm) --II

~ -------i6"(406m;S'" -

YI"

) (I9mm)
1',4" (32mm) ~ .
IJ
f
,..0- 5"
~ 2Yz" (63mm)
- -

_(I27T~)~

H_~

.:

-t--

::-:

~f

I" (25mm)

~ ~~~I l=:='~:~~~~'~4~~m~n~r ii~~:"~7~=~ ~ :ffi~


i

2'/ z"

W (I9mm) )

(63mm)

DETAIL A, SHOW ING EN D, PROFILE, AND CU TAWAY

40

FRONT VIEW, CUTAWAY

T
DETAIL B

20" (50 Smm)

DETA ILC

\ 1\

2 114" (57mm)

\ ~~
'

II

BACK VIEW

l\T-~~"""'------

1%"
\

(41mm)

--L
\

\~

6"
5"
6"
(127mm) (l52mm) (l5 2mm)

VI{ \

W (6m,; ~

33'/ z"
(S51mm)

Yz" (l 3mm)

39" (991mm)

41

4W'
(l 2lmm)

11jz" (38mm)

-?l

DESK HARDWARE

11 1;'4" (286mm)

W' (l9mm)

2 1;'4" (57mm)

16" (406mm)

4 1;'4" (108mm)

1 I ~" Ir---_~O ~

(44mm)

51;'4" (133mm)

---1<---1/ )
3 1jz" (89mm)

I Ji4" (32mm)
2 1;'4" (57mm)

I VB" (48mm)

121jz" (317mm)

---==-

1'12" (38mm)

~----------

I '12" (38mm)

42

44" (lml18mm)

~1

11jz" (38mm)

lligh Tablr

The great hall in a medieval castle served a variety of


funct ions. It is best known as th e site of magnificent
feasts and ente rta in ments . It also served as th e lord's
office, a meeting hall where courts and ot her function s
were held, and for many of th e castle 's inhabit ants, a
bedroom.
Because the great hall served such a broad variety of
func tions, the lon g banqueting tables, on wh ich meals
were eate n, had to be collapsible. When not in use,
most of th e tables were disassembled, moved out of th e
hall, and stored. O ne table th at stayed in th e great hall
at all times, however, was th e high table. This was th e
tab le used by th e lord of th e castle, h is famil y, and
honored guests. The h igh tab le served as th e noble's
table at meals, his office, and th e ben ch from which
. justice was dispensed in local courts. To prevent important legal documents from winding up covered with
gravy spots, one side of th e top was used as a dining
surface, th e other as a desk; from thi s practice came
the expression "turning th e tables."
The designation high table came not on ly from th e
eminence of its owner, but also from th e fact th at it
usually rested on a sligh tly raised dais. In thi s way
th ose seated at th e table were kept physically, as well as
socially, elevated above everyone else in th e room.
This high table, dating from th e fourteenth century,
is located in the banqueting hall at Hadd on Hall,
Bakewell, Derbyshire.

and th e othe rs about 5 feet (lm500mm) to either side.


I have shown on ly two in th e drawin g, supporting a
sho rtened top, so th at I could fit the drawin g on one
page, but it does indicat e how such a table might be
scaled down for use by th ose who do not have a great
hall. The top board on th e mat erials list is the full
len gth of th e origina l table, but it ca n be sho rte ned
to fit th e space available. The table could even be
redesigned as a single-column game table.
The origina l table seems to have been built incorrectl y and repaired sho rtly th ereafter. The block th at
rests on top of each column and holds th e brace
th at supports th e tabletop was obviously added after
th e table was built. Likely th e table had been built too
low for comforta ble dining. A riser was added to th e
. top of each column, raising th e table by 3 ~ inches
(95mm). The original top braces were set in th e top of
th e column itself. The rect an gular scars of the origina l
braces are shown in the first drawin g, directly under
th e riser blocks. The origina l braces were pegged
th rough the columns. The ends of th e pegs can be
seen in th e side view of th e pedestal on th e first page
of drawings.
Materials
The top and columns of th e tab le are said to be of
elm, but it would certainly have required an elm
of monumental proportion s to produc e a slab of wood
large enough to form the top of thi s table. Either birch
or pine would make a perfectly acce ptable substitute.
Because of the dimension s of th e lumber required to
make thi s table, it will be nece ssary to glue up stoc k
for both the top and the columns. The column feet are
made of oak.

CONSTRUCTION NOTES
The numb er of components in thi s massive table are
few, but the ir sheer bulk should present all of the challenge any cabinetmaker could want . There are three
pedestal columns under the table, one at the center

43

HIGH TABLE, ENGLAND, FOURTEENTH CENTURY. ELM AND OAK; H.


DON H A LL, B AKEW ELL, E N G LAN D. COURTESY H A DDO N HA LL. PHOTOGRAPH BY

34", W. 16'6", D. 29".

D. TYLER

COLLECTION OF H A D-

HUFF.

square) should be adequate to prevent the column


from shifting. To work the drawknife with ease and
efficiency, stand at the bench with the bench stop
directly in front of you, your stomach resting against
the back of the bench stop. Lay the column on the
workbench with the base firmly planted against the
stop. Pull the drawknife toward you, across the top
of the column, taking a thin shaving of wood off
th e surface with each pass. This work could be done
with broad-bladed chisels, but it is easiest with a
drawknife.

Tools
Because much of the work on th e columns relies on
carving away excess wood , you will need rasps, files,
chisels, carving gouges, and a good, sharp drawknife.
To keep from resting the end of the column directly
against your sto mach while you are working on it,
you will need a bench dog, or stop, against which you
can seat the column. A bench dog is simply a heavy
block of wood that has been clamp ed or bolted along
one edge of th e workb ench. In this case a, l-foot
length of 4-b y-4 (300mm in length and lOOmm

44

Top
The massive tab letop, 2 inches (Sl mm) thi ck, 29
inches (737mm) wide, and 16 Vz feet (Sm29mm) lon g,
might best be constructed by gluing up several boards.
To preven t warping and make the stro ngest possible
top, use two layers of l-inch (2Smm) boards and stagger the joints.
If you are makin g a sho rte r table, it may be possible
to locate a single plank of sufficient width. Plank
doors and old workb ench tops will often make a fine
tabletop.
Once the top has been glued up or cut to th e desired
size, set it aside until the columns are built.

time efficient approach to removin g such a large


amount of wood is to use a circul ar saw to cut multiple
kerfs into each face of th e column. The depth of the
kerfs must be adjusted to follow th e outl ine of th e column , and sho uld stop at least Vs inch (3mm) sho rt of
the finished dimension s. The kerfs sho uld be spaced
approximately lis -inch apa rt. The sh ims left from th e
cutting of th e kerfs can be removed with ch isels.
An addition al aid to sha ping th e upper portion of
th e column is a hand-held belt sander. A coarse grit
belt will remove large amoun ts of wood from th e rough
column. When th e column has been roughed into
sha pe, it can be smoo thed with a rasp and a medium
grit sandpaper.
Do not yet work the inward curve at th e uppermost
end of the column. Leave it th e full dimensions of th e
rough block . This will allow th e block to sit level on
th e workb ench whil e you sha pe th e complex moldings
around th e base.
Next , make saw cuts ben eath th e single band
of half-round molding and at th e base of th e 21f4-inch
(S7mm) wide collar. This collar is just sligh tly sma ller
th an th e bottom of th e column. Remove th e excess
wood around th e half-round molding before you
remove excess wood around the collar. Much of th is
work ca n be made easier by th e use of a radial-arm saw
fitted with a dado-head saw blade. Use a circul ar saw
to cut ano ther series of kerfs to remove unwanted areas
of wood quickl y and without dan ger of chipping th e
main block. If you are approach ing thi s with authe nt ic
period technology, just chisel carefully. When you have
th e collar area roughed in, smoo th it with a rasp and
sha pe the half-round molding with a combination of
carving knives and a rasp. Be careful when shaping the
half-round molding; you will be working across th e
grain , and the end grain can break easily.
Now cut out the three areas of compound molding.
St arting with th e band of molding nearest the collar,
rough-in th e bands one at a tim e. Begin with a saw cut
at the bottom of the first section of th e mold ing and
th en remove excess wood with a series of kerf cuts,
always being careful to keep th e saw blade at least li s
inch (3mm) above the finished surface. The 2-inch
(Slmm) high block at th e very base of the column
remains th e full dimension of th e unworked block and
does not need to be shaped. The three molded areas
between the base block and th e collar are each capped
with a different shaped molding, but each has a flatsided base on which it rests. Chisel or use the dado
head to remove excess wood to the level of the square

Columns
Because all of th e columns are identical, con struction
direct ions are given here for a single column. Repeat
the process as often as necessary.
O nce again , because of the massive dim en sion s of
th e column, you will probably have to glue together
several boards to obta in an adeq uate-sized base block .
These boards sho uld be th e full width of th e column1O-Y! inches (273mm)-and not less th an l 1/ z inches
(38 mm) thi ck.
The combina tion molding built up around th e base
of the column is not applied work, but is carved directly
from the full-size column base.
O n all four sides of th e column base, strike a line
at the height of th e cent ral foot, at each of the three
elements in the group of combinati on moldings above
the foot, th e 2 1!4-inch (S7mm) wide collar above the
main group of moldings, and th e single, topm ost band
of half-round molding. When the se lines have been
marked, sketch the profile of each section of th e column
base in th e appropriate area . Be certain that the outlines are clean and th e dimension s are accur ate .
Now begin to remove th e excess wood from the
column. St art work on th e largest area at the top of
the column, above the top of th e half-round molding.
With a hand saw or table saw, cut to the depth of the
finished dimen sions of the base of thi s area, 6 Vz inches
(l 6Smm). Then use chisels and a drawknife to carefully
remove excess wood and begin to sha pe th e large top
section of th e column . When working with a drawknife,
it is easiest to remove material from th e corners of th e
block first. Work slowly and carefully, bearing in mind
th e gently curving lines of the column. Do not , however, lose sight of the fact that the column has four flat
sides; it is not round. Be careful not to split the lower
porti on of the block with chisels or drawknife. A more

45

MATERIALS
WOOD
The top and the pedestal column of this table are elm, and the feet are oak. Birch is the best substitute
for elm, but pine or poplar may also be used. Doweling should be maple or birch.

PART

NUMBER
OF PIECES

THICKNESS

top

2" (51mm)

column

feet

WIDTH

LENGTH

29" (737mm)

16'6" (5m29mm)

103;4" (273mm) X

103;4" (273mm)

28'1t" (718mm)

3 'Iz" (89mm)

6" (152mm)

18 31t" (476mm)

column plug

1 'Iz" (38mm)

2 11t" (57mm)

10" (254mm)

riser block

3 31t" (95mm)

12" (305mm)

12" (305mm)

top brace

l'/z" (38mm)

2i1t" (57mm)

26" (660mm)

dowel

W'

(19mm) round

84" (2m134mm)

Note: Materials are given for a single pedestal. The number of pedestals you will need depends on the
length of the table.

it with a rasp. Because the feet rest against the sides of


this central foot, it must be as square as possible.
Now work the top end of the column to its final
shape.
When the column has been shaped, you can, if you
so choose, cut the channel for the original top brace
(listed as a column plug in the materials list), and peg
it into place. Into the top of the column, make two
saw cuts to form the sides of a channel, or rabbet, into
which the top brace will be fitted. Chisel the excess
wood out of the rabbet. Make certain that the plug will
tap snugly into place. It should require several gentle
taps from a wooden mallet to seat it into place. Drill
Vi-inch (l9mm) dowel holes through the column and
the column plug, tap the dowels into place, and finish
the ends of the dowels so that they are flush with the
sides of the column.
Finish-sand the entire column in preparation for
attaching the feet.

base on each of these moldings. Then, with carving


knives, rasps, and files, carefully work the top of each
of these moldings to its proper shape. Start concave
moldings with the rounded side of a wood rasp and
finish with round files. The flat side of a rasp will easily
shape convex moldings.
Next, cut out the pedestal foot at the base of the
column. On the sides and bottom of the column, mark
the location of the 4-inch (102mm) square foot. Make
saw cuts on each face of the column around the top
of the pedestal foot. You can use a handsaw, radial-arm
saw, skillsaw, or chisel to cut out the foot. The difficulty in sawing out the foot will be finding a saw with
a blade that will make a deep enough cut. If you are
chiseling it, do not try to wedge off an entire side at one
time; remove the wood a bit at a time to avoid splitting
the column or having the chisel follow an irregularity
in the grain of the wood into the body of the foot.
When the foot has been roughed into shape, smooth

46

Feet
Each column has four identical feet, plus a cent ral foot
th at is part of th e column. The feet are not sta ble
enough to support the weight of th e table without th e
aid of the central foot . C ut out th e four feet according to th e drawings, and finish-sand th em. When
arranged in th e rather swastikalike sha pe shown in th e
drawing, th e feet sho uld fit neatl y und er th e edge of
the column base. All of th e feet must rest even ly on
the floor.
Predrill two Vi-inch (l 9mm) dowel holes, from bottom to top in each foot, as shown in th e drawings.
Position the feet on th e bottom of th e column , and
using the holes in th e feet as pilot s, con tinue drilling
the dowel holes into th e column base. Be very careful
not to drill the dowel holes too deep into th e column ,
or th ey might split th rough th e side of th e orna menta l
moldings.
Tap the dowels into place thro ugh th e bottom of
the feet and into th e column. Saw off th e excess so th at
the dowels are flush with the bottom of th e feet.
Attaching th e feet to th e column with vert ical dowels only may seem like inadequate support, altho ugh
the origina l seems to have survived well eno ugh. If
thi s table is int end ed for daily use, you could insert an
add itiona l dowel th rough th e side of each foot and int o
the centra l column foot . By being doweled in two
directions, the feet will be less likely to work loose.

Riser Blocks
If you are using risers cut th em to size, and insert th e
top brace in th e same manner th at th e column plug
was set into th e top of th e column. Int o th e top face of
th e riser, make two saw cut s to form th e sides of th e
rabbet into which the brace will be fitted. The brace
sho uld fit snugly into place. Chisel th e excess wood out
of th e rabbet . Tap th e top brace into place. Not e th at
th e top brace is oriented in th e same directi on as th e
grain in th e riser block. It is th e way th e origina l table
is con stru ct ed, but it is bad enginee ring. The riser
block would be far less likely to break if th e top brace
were seated across th e grain in th e riser block.
Drill two '/2-inch (l 3mm) diameter dowel holes
th rough th e top brac e and on th rough th e riser block,
and two additiona l Vi- inch (l9mm) dowel holes th rough
th e surface of the riser block.
Set th e riser block , with the top brace in place, on
top of the column. Center th e block on the column.
Using th e predrilled dowel holes as pilots, drill dowel
holes, between 11/ 2 and 2 inc hes (3S-S l mm) in depth,
into th e top of th e column. Start with th e larger dowels, and drill and dowel one h ole at a time to avoid getting th e holes out of align men t. Use a mallet to tap th e
dowels into place.
Fin ish-sand as necessary, and apply an oil finish to
th e columns and top. Then simply set th e tab le top on
th e pedestals.

47

16'6" (5m29mm)

32" (813mm)

6 (l51mm)

PEDESTAL DETAILS

26" (660mm)

~
7"

1ljz" (38mm)

12" (305mm) ---n-1 78mm)

2',4" (57mm)
--.... ' - -."'--==I

~--=""-~ 4W'

-r

(I08mm)

r
I

7" ( 178mm)

3'/ z" (89mm)

12" (305mm)

32 " (813mm)

2'/ z" (63mm)


~ I~

'/ z" (I3mm)


_ _-,-, ~

>-'::::::':::~"""tr=:::Il.:rn=""'2'/:""'Z"-(6-3--Jmm'-~""""{:I -1JlIz,,! - 13Yz" (343m~


(89mm)

L
-"-

7"

7"

12"

r~~~m)~ ~305mm)

---t(l 78mm)

JW'(95,:m)r~n
26" (660mm)
4 1,4" (I08mm)

48

1
1

21,4" (57mm)

4W'

(l08"~ 1111/
\

T~

PEDESTAL DETAILS
FOOT DETAIL, BOTTOM

18 %" (476mm)

13W ' (3 43 mm)

(l9mm)

11;4" (3 2mm) ~ "....i~...,..L--+--+


Yz" (I3 mm)
.L v

'"

Ys" (I 6mm)

1" (25mm)

PEDESTAL CO LUMN

-if-

Va" (9mm)
y

Yz" (I3mm)

II

1Yz" (3 8mm) ---.,.-

~.
K

r'-+--:h--+--+"-

('"
/

~ 4" ~

4" (10 2mm)

(lOZmm)
3W' (89mm)

2 Yz" (63mm)
2 Yz" (63mm)

-+1"
(25 mm)

49

'----..

6 Y1" (l6Smm)

HALF-ROUN D
MOULDING

8Y2" (216mm)

')
J

21;4" (S7mm)

COLLAR
SY4" (l46mm)

-t

,\

'-~

"

71;4" (l 84mm)

SW' (l4 6mm)


8 1f4" (209mm)

9 '/ 2" (241mm)

lOW' (273mm)

1\

4" (102mm)

PEDESTAL BASE

6" (l S2mm)

I/

\/
I'

50

Oxford qhtst

This sturdy chest from around 1300 is, and probably


has been throughout its existence, the property of
Merton College, Oxford University. In 1276 Archbishop
Kilwardby, known in the records of the college as "the
Visitor," ordained that the college's valuables should
be kept in chests, two of which were to have three
locks each. Merton historiari~- believe that this is one
of those two chests.
Alterations have been made to the chest over the
years. The top, now formed from two boards rather
than a single plank, is unquestionably a replacement.
Evidence that the archbishop's three locks were added
long after the chest was built can be seen where the
banding straps have been cut away to make room for
the lock covers. An earlier single lock, located behind
the middle strap, formerly secured the lid. If this is
indeed one of Archbishop Kilwardby's chests, it must
have been built before 1276 and altered to have three
locks.
The chest may have originally been several inches
taller than it now is. The unusual open work on the
feet of the chest indicates that there may have been
more to the design of the leg than survives. An example
of a similar complete leg is shown in the construction
drawings at the end of the chapter. If one of the feet
had become badly damaged, or if moisture had caused
them to rot, it would have been reasonable to saw off
the legs to a level above the damage.

in making the assortment of banding iron that encircles its body.


Materials
Like most of the furniture in this book, this chest is
constructed of white oak. In this case, there are some
very large planks used in the construction. There is
little chance of finding planks large enough for the
framing members of this chest. The front and back
panels, the bottom, and the end panels can be glued
up as described in chapter 1. Before ordering wood,
decide whether you want to make the feet the way they
probably were originally (see drawing) or as they now
appear. To create the original feet, you will need to
add 4 inches (l02mm) to the length of each leg.
Because the front and back of the chest taper slightly
inward at the bottom, the length of the lumber for the
legs and the width of the panels for the front and back
are slightly greater than the dimensions shown on the
drawings .
Framing Members
The entire construction of the chest hangs on the corner posts. These four columns serve as both structural
ties to which all of the other boards attach and as the
legs that support the finished chest.
Mill the legs to the proper thickness, then cut and
carve the foot decoration before cutting the mortise
slots into which the side panels will fit. The amount
of turning and maneuvering necessary to execute
the foot designs could result in the thin walls of
the mortise being split or cracked, and it would be
nearly impossible to detail the feet once the chest is
assembled . Carve the foot roughly Vz inch (l3mm)
longer than shown in the drawings. If you are exe-

CONSTRUCTION NOTES
This chest's massive plank construction and heavy
banding straps were intended to discourage theft of
Merton College's property. Despite the bulk of the
piece, construction methods are fairly simple. Most of
the work involved in the construction of this chest is

51

.. .

- _,.
~

CHEST, ENGLAND,

c.1276.

OAK;

H. 32 3/ 4" , W. 69", D. 24".

COLLECTION OF MERTON COLLEGE, OXFORD, ENGLAND.

COURTESY THE WARDEN AND FE LLOWS OF M ERT O N COLLEGE. PHOTOGRAPH BY

cut ing th e open foot design, wait to cha mfer th e bottom of th e foot until the chest is assembled. Once
assembled, you will need to work th e top an d bottom
edges of th e front and back panels, and th e legs, to
compensate for th e sligh t inward pitch of the chest.
To use a more modern approach to th e problem,
the legs ca n simply be cut to len gth, as shown, at a
2-degree angle. Be certa in to cut both ends of each
leg at the same angle, and that th e angled cuts are
parallel to each other.
After th e foot designs have been executed, cut th e
mortise slots into which th e front , back , and side panels will be inserted. Not e that altho ugh the mortise
slots reach the level of the bottom of the four panel s,

D. T YLER

H U FF.

th ey stop below th e top edge of th e leg. By not allowing the mortise slots to come th rough th e top of th e
leg, th e joint construc tion does not show on th e inside
of th e finished chest.

End Panels
C ut the end panel s so tha t they have th e sligh t taper
show n in th e drawings. These panels are longer th an
th ey are wide, and th e grain run s vert ically. Leave
enough extra width on the boards to allow for th e tenons. After the end panel s are cut to width, cut the
tenon s. The tenons sho uld run to the bottom of the
panel but stop sho rt of th e top of th e pan el, as shown
in th e drawings.

52

across th e inner surface of th e leg, there will be a hole


in th e end of each leg when th e chest is assembled.
The rabbets in th e front, back, and end panels are a
bit simpler to deal with. In th e end panels, th ey are
simple, square-c ut rabbets th e thi ckness of th e bottom
board and % inch (l6mm) in depth. O n th e fron t and
back panel s, th e rabbets are th e same width and depth
as on th e end panel s. On th ese panels, however, th e
rabbets are at a 2-degree angle. The side of th e rabbet
th at rests against th e inside surface of th e bottom
board must be cut at a 2-degree angle. If you have precut th e angles on the top and bottom of these pan els,
th e angled side of th e rabbet will be parallel to th e
angles on th e top and bottom of th e pan el. If you did
not precut th e angles, th e rabbet must be cut on a
2-degree angle so that th e in ne r edge of th e angle of
th e rabbet slopes away from th e bottom edge of th e
side pan el. Thus th e rabbet will be sligh tly thi cker at
its inner face (the center of th e side panel) th an it is
at its outer edge.
Once th e rabb ets are cut in th e legs, side panels,
and end panels, th e chest and bottom can be assembled.
The entire piece sho uld be able to stand without th e
use of straps or nails.

Front and Back Panels


When you cut the tenons on the front and back panels, leave an extra Yz inch (13mm) on bot h the top and
bottom edges of these panels to allow for th e levelin g
that will be necessary because of th e sligh t angle of th e
front and back. A lterna tively, you can precut th e top
and bottom edges of these pan els to th e same 2-degree
angle as the top and bottom ends of the legs. As with
the legs, make certa in th at th e angles on th e top and
bottom edges are parallel.
C ut the tenons on th e sho rt ends of th e front and
back panels as shown in th e drawings. Again, th e
tenons do not go all th e way to th e top of th e pan el.
You sho uld now be able to atte mpt a first assembly
of the legs and panels. The mortise and tenon joints
sho uld fit together with a light tap from a mallet or
a firm rap with th e palm of the hand. If you have
ach ieved a good fit on th ese joints, the pieces of th e
chest sho uld have no trouble standing alone as a chest
frame witho ut botto m or lid.
Bottom Panel
Note in th e drawings th at th e botto m panel fits into
the front, back, and end panels by dropping into
a mort ise tha t is open on th e bottom-essentially a
simple rabbet join. The on ly th ing tha t preven ts the
bottom from falling out is the points at wh ich th e
mortise runs th rough th e legs.
If you have precut the angles on th e top and bot tom
edges of th e legs and front and back panel s, th e procedure for cutt ing th e rabbet for th e bottom will be
slightly easier, altho ugh less tru e to medieval tech nology. Mark th e position of the bottom panel on to
the inn er surface of th e legs. If you have not precut th e
angles, the bottom will be level with th e inner edge
of th ese panels, not with th e outer edge, which will be
sligh tly lower because of th e angle of th e front and
back.
Disassemble th e frame of th e chest and cut th e
cha n nel in the legs into which th e botto m fits. If you
precut the angles on th e top and bottom ends of th e
legs, cut th is cha n nel at th e same 2-degree angle,
ensuring th at th e angle is parallel to th ose on the legs.
If you did not precut the angles on th e ends of th e
legs, cut the rabbet for th e bottom board on a 2-degree
angle so th at th e inner edge of the rabbe t slopes away
from the carved foot and toward th e top of th e leg.
The rabbet does not go all th e way th rough th e inner
face of th e leg; it must stop VB inch (22mm) from th e
outside edge of the leg. If th e rabbet run s all th e way

Lid
The basic assembly of th e lid ca n be acco mplished by
position ing th e lid braces ben eath th e outer edges of
th e lid boards as sho wn in th e drawings. Pull th e lid
boards tightly together and nail th em onto th e braces
with large-headed cut nails as shown. The nails are
driven th rough th e lid boards into th e braces and are
visible on the top surface of th e lid.
Final Assembly
The large, 13i4-inch (44mm) lon g nails th at hold th e
chest together are rather unusual. The heads have a
diameter of VB inch (22mm) and are % inch (9mm) in
height. The surface of th e heads are smoo th, as th ough
th ey had been cast, but it is unlikely th at nails were
cast from steel before 1270. Thus, they probably were
forged by hand and finished to a smoo th, rounde d surface in th e same way th at weapons and early bits of
armor were form ed. To make acc urate copies of th ese
nails, th ey must be forged or mach ined on a lathe. To
mach ine th e nails, turn the sha nk of th e nail first,
leavin g it rather thick in th e body, not unlike a turned
version of a forged nail. Then reverse th e nail, placing
th e sha nk into th e chuck and turning the head.
If you do not wish to make your own nails, you can

53

MATERIALS
WOOD
All wood is oak.

NUMBER
OF PIECES

THICKNESS

legs

2 11t" (57mm)

7W' (l97mm)

32 Vz" (825mm)

front and back

1Vz" (38mm)

24" (61Omm)

51 Vz" (I m308mm)

lid

I WI (32mm)

12" (305mm)

69" (lm753mm)

lid braces

I W' (32mm)

I Vz" (38mm)

22 Vz" (572mm)

bottom

1W' (32mm)

19" (483mm)

63 WI (lm607mm)

ends

1Vz" (38mm)

20 1jz" (521 mrn)

23" (584mm)

PART

LENGTH

WIDTH

METAL

PART

NUMBER
OF PIECES

THICKNESS

WIDTH

LENGTH

long end straps

,/s" (3mm)

I Ijz'I (38mm)

62" (lm575mm)

short end straps

,/s" (3mm)

I Vz" (38mm)

28" (711mm)

lid straps

Vs" (3mm)

1'It" (32mm)

25" (635mm)

h asp straps

lfs" (3mm)

1 ~" (44mm)

21" (533mm)

short hinge straps

VB" (3mm)

1114" (32mm)

61" (lm549mm)

long hinge strap

VB" (3mm)

l ilt" (32mm)

70" (lm778mm)

body straps

Vs" (3mm)

1WI (32mm)

51" (l m295mm)

hasps

VB" (3mm)

2W' (57mm)

6" (l52mm)

lock plat es

V'6" (2mm)

5W' (l33mm)

5" (l27mm)

h inge sta ples

lfs" (3mm)

1;4" (6mm)

81jz" (216mm)

54

assemble the case with sta nda rd forged or cut nails of


the same len gth, and apply an upholstery tack with a
large, decorati ve head over the head of each nail.
Cl amp the chest togethe r tightly before beginning
to nail the corne rs. Drill pilot holes before nailing to
prevent splitting th e oak. Position th e nails so tha t th e
large heads do not cross over th e seams betw een the
legs and the side pan els but sti ll get a good bite in to
the wood of th e ten on.
If you have not yet leveled off th e top and bottom
edges of th e front and back panel s and th e legs, do so
at thi s time. First sta nd th e ch est upright, and with a
plan e or drawknife, level off the top edges of the front
and back panel s and th e legs.
Now, with the ch est standing on a level surface,
scribe a line around the bottom of each leg to the level
of th e inside of th e foot-that is, th e side of th e foot
th at is raised sligh tly off the ground. Turn the ch est on
its top, and plan e or rasp th e feet to the level of th e
scribed lines.
Finally, level off the bottom edges of th e front and
back panels with a drawkni fe or plane so th at they are
level with the bottom boa rd.

The to pmost front end of the ce ntral band that


wraps th e ches t contains the keyhole that reveals th e
locati on of the origina l lock on the ches t. This en larged
lock plate, or escutcheo n, is th e most difficult to form.
O rigina lly, these st raps were all forged from much
th icker pieces of met al, and the width and th ickness
of th e stra ps could be co ntro lled fairly easily. If you
do not plan to forge th e bands, but will make them
from commercially availab le band ing iron , eithe r the
en tire band will h ave to be cut out of a wider piece of
met al to allow for the width of the escutcheon, or th e
escutcheo n will h ave to be welded onto the st rap as a
sepa rate piece.
The specific details for forgin g the decorati ve ends
for th ese st raps are given in cha pter 2.
The straps th at band th e ends of th e ch est are of
several different lengths. The central band is considera bly lon ger than the top and bottom bands. O n the
back of the chest, this central band crosses over the top
of the hinge st raps as an extra security measure. The
top and bottom bands on ly lap aro und th e fron t and
rear corne rs of the chest far eno ugh to hold the sides
securely in place .
The straps locat ed on the un derside of the lid not
on ly help to st rengthe n th e lid, but also hold the hasp
end of the locks. Conseq uen tly, these in ne r st raps must
be formed with half of a hinge on one end. The top
of the hasp forms the othe r end of th e hi nge. The
body of th ese h asp stra ps are decorated with a spadesha ped end . These were origina lly forged into shape,
but they can easily be cut to shape from a len gth of
strap iron .
C ut th e straps and form them into sha pe aro und th e
chest as explaine d in the cha pte r 2. Then drill holes at
th e locati on s shown in the drawin gs, and attach th e
strap work and lock plates with l -in ch (25m m) forged
nails.

Straps and Banding


The bands that wrap th e chest vert ically help suppo rt
the insubsta ntially mounted bottom board, and three
of them form part of the hinges th at faste n on to the
lid. These straps are sligh tly narrower th an th ose th at
encircle the chest hori zont ally.
The two oute rmost st raps th at continue aro und
the chest and form hinges do not line up front to back
(see drawin gs). This is because th e metal was forged
int o place while st ill hot and twisted as it was bein g
applied. Addition ally, th ese two straps were cut off on
the front of the chest whe n the two outermost locks
were insta lled.

55

FRONT VIEW
69" Om753mm}

32 W' (832mm)

'---

o
8Yz" (216mm)

r-

...:L

7W'
0 97mm)

1>--- - - - -

49 ljz" Om257mm}

7W'

-1

097mm)

REAR VIEW

20" (508mm)

20" (508mm)

Il<=i't-+-+-+t---+-+ 25" (635rnm)


~

--r-o

_ .

.~
0

2\;4" (57mm)

65" Om651mm}

56

25" (635mrn)

- t ---t-+-t---tt---'-fVl

- 0- --------.... . ___

FRONT VIEW-RIGHT SIDE DETAIL

"-

..

---

--- --.-

--

03~nm)

--- ---

----

(12i~m)

.:: ---

--------- ._--

O( / /
)

(/

17Yz" (444mm)

(36 8mm)

7" (l78mm)

6'14" (l59mm)

0 - -'

o ---------

0
I

14 Yz"

0 - ......

I l - t - 9" (228mm)

1 r
1114"
(32mm)

57

REAR VIEW-LEIT SIDE DETAIL

_._- -

-~

o
I

7 Y-t" (l97mm)

0
I

20" (50 8mm)

o~

o
o

---

..............

IS " (3 8Imm)

1---1 0 __
25" (635mm)

I I/ I" (3 8mm)

6" (l 52mm)

o
i

r
1'14"

(32 mm)

HINGE STA PLE

~
/-:- (
W (6mm)

2" (5Imm)

-1
)

f- 2" (5Imm)-1

I
3" (76mm)

58

J~ l

DECORATIVE
STRAP
LID-TOP VIEW

(32mm)

69" (lm753mm)

- , . ,18"
(457mm) -

r.

17 Y2"

17 Y2"
(444mm)

6 \4" (l59mm)

INSIDE
LID
STRAP

HASP

7" (l78mm)

5'11" (133mm)

LOCK PLATE
5" (l27mm)

.... 1111"
(32mm)

ORIGINAL LOCK PLATE


1%" (35mm)

59

END VIEW
END VIEW CONST RUCT ION DETA IL
1,......---

I W' (38mm)

23" (S84mm)

--~

~
rr:
I" (2Smm)

8 Yz"
(216mm)

-If-l-'-.......L..-~~_~~

T
8 14"
(209mm)

2114" (S7mm)

1-

1t t--

FRONT VIEW CONST RUCT ION DETAIL

1Yz" (38mm)

16W (419mm)

2'14" (S7mm) ' - . /

----1

CU TAWAY VIEW

I" (2Smm)

~l;--~_----\

.'. "

20" (S08mm)

\'

I.

./
I

~I

jIt----'\__

I\{- " n -

60

19" (483mm)

16Yz" (419mm)

-ill

-;~I

FOOT DETA IL

PROBABLE ORIGINAL FOOT

3" (76mm)

2 Y1" (63mm)

~ 3" (76mm) ~ W ~
(l9mm)

-L ----

3 W' (95 mm )

-1

TOP
VIEWCO NST RUCT ION
CO
RNER

I" (25mm)

Y: "

(l3~m)

rI

DETA IL A

I" (25mm)

11jz" (38mm)

%" (l6mm)

Y1" (13mm)

W' (l9mm)

61

VEstmEnt qhEst

The Roman Ca tho lic church , with its power and pageant ry, was an int egral part of th e fabric of th e medieval world. While th e various feudal sta tes of Europe
and Britain alterna tely threaten ed and made treati es
with one ano ther, th e Holy Church was one of the few
binding threads th at ran throughout th e fragile structure of Western civilization.
Vestments are th e elaborate gowns worn by members of th e clergy. In the Middl e Ages, when th e outward display of wealth was equated with the holding of
power, the costl ier th e clothes, th e more power was
att ributed to the wearer. If an ambitious churchman
was going to advance him self properly, he had to look
the part.
The richl y orna mented vestments of th e politically
powerful clergy were sto red in almost as much grandeur as th ey were worn, in vestmen t chests such as thi s
one. This oak vestment chest belon ged to one of th e
early househ old ch aplain s at Haddon Hall, Derbyshire,
England. The simplicity of th e coats of arms on the
chest suggests th at it is probably from th e mid- to late
fourteenth century. This chest has probably remained
at Haddon Hall throughout its ent ire six-h undred-year
existence, moved only from the chapel to its current
location in the lon g gallery.

such an early piece. Although rudim entary in execution , th ese joints illustrate an important developmen t
in th e art of cabinetmaking.
The feet th at can be seen in th e photo are lat e
additions and for that reason are not included in th e
plan s here.
Materials
This chest is made en tirely of oak including the origina l
dowelin g. The plank s from which it was constru cted
may have been split with mallets and wedges rathe r
tha n sawn from logs, and th en smoo thed with a singleedged broad ax and drawknife. Because of th e size of
th e planks used in th e con stru cti on of thi s piece, you
will have to glue up th e mat erials from sma ller boards
(see ch apt er 1).

Lid
The two planks that form th e lid of the vestm ent
chest are pegged together. The stress placed on th ese
pegs by th e weight of the top lon g ago caused th e pegs
to break. Some of thi s stress could be compensa ted for
by increasing th e diameter of the dowel from % inch
(I6mm) to 314 inch (I9mm).
Place the two board s of th e lid on top of each other
so th at th e edges that will be pegged togeth er are
abutt ed. At intervals of roughly 4 inches (102mm),
mark doweling locati ons across the face of both board s.
Be certain that the dowel markings on the board s are
perfectly aligned with each other. If the holes are not
aligned, the dowels will not line up properly. A doweling jig will facilitate accurately locating th e dowels.
Once you have marked all of the dowel locations, drill
the dowel holes. Keep them straight so that they line
up from one board to the next. To ensure en ough sup-

CONSTRUCTION NOTES
This massive vestment chest is monumental both in
size and in the bulk of materials necessary to construct
it. If you do not have the space for a piece of furniture
thi s size, it can be scaled down to two-thirds or half
size for use as a storage chest or tea table. Medieval
chests were constructed in every size, level of ornamentation, and degree of security imaginable.
It is interesting to find dovetail corner joints on

63

V ESTMEN T C HEST, E N GLAND, FO U RT EEN T H C ENTURY. O AK;


H A LL, BA KEWELL, E N G LA N D . COU RT ESY HA DDO N HALL PH OT OGRAPH BY

port to carry the weigh t of the planks, drill th e holes at


least 2 Vz inches (63mm) deep into each board .
Next , taper both ends of th e dowels sligh tl y so th at
they seat easily. For th e greatest control in joining the
plan ks, dowels sho uld be alte rnately seated, first in one
boa rd and th en th e othe r. Then place the two boards
on a level work surface, and drawn th em together
either by tapping th em with a mallet or, preferably, by
pulling th em togethe r with bar clamps. They must be
brought together almost simultaneo usly alon g the
entire len gth of th e boards. If one end is pulled too far
out of line, the pegs may bind, making it difficult , if
not impossible, to bring th e boards back into square.
Pull th e boards tightly together; th e tighter the seam
between th e boards, the less the ch ance th at th e pegs
holding th em togethe r will break.
The pegs and th e lid boards may or may not have
origina lly been glued into place. Certainly, using a

H. 23Vz", W. 106", D. 31".

D. TY LER

COLLECfIO N OF HA DDON

H U FF .

good cabinet glue along th e seam between th e boards


would help take some of th e strain off th e pegs.
When th e boards are joined, lay th e lid facedown
on your workbench and mark th e location of th e edge
cha mfer, which run s along three sides of th e lid. The
back edge remain s flat to accommodate th e hinges.
C ut th e ch amfer with a drawknife to give it the sligh tly
wavy surface found on th e origina l lid. When th e
cha mfer is finished , set th e lid aside.
Dovetailing
Each corne r of th e chest has a tripl e dovetail joint .
One of th e wedge-shaped tails is visible on th e front of
the chest at the left and right corners. There are two
additiona l dovetails on each front corne r, but th ey are
covered by th e metal brackets th at bind th e corne rs of
th e chest together.
At th e top edge of th e chest , th ere is a sligh t lap

64

joint where a sliver of the side plank extends to the


front of the chest, as sho wn in th e top and side view
drawings of th e dovet ail.
Lay out the dovet ails on th e sides and ends of the
chest. C ut th e dovetails with a coping saw or reciprocal
saw (saber saw). C utt ing th rough th e 2 Vz -inch (63mm)
th ick oak is not easy, but that is part of wh at makes
thi s chest so secure . C ut th e dovet ails one co rne r at
a time. When a corner fits, mark th e locati on of that
corne r and move to the next. Marking th e co rne rs
is important because inevit ably th ere will be sligh t
variations from corner to corner, and you will need to
know which pieces fit together to facilitat e final
assembly.
When all four corners are dovetailed, assemble the
sides of th e chest. The chest sho uld rest on a level surface during assembl y.
At thi s point, you must decide whether to execute
the carvings on th e front of the chest before the case is
assembled or afterward. If you want to do the ca rving
before final assembly, place th e front of th e chest on
your workb en ch and skip ahead to the section on carving. If you prefer to do th e carvin g on th e assembled
chest, cont inue const ruction with th e ch est floor.

Carving
Enl arge th e drawin gs of the coa ts of arms, by h and
or on a photocopier, to the size ca lled for. The border
design is the same on both carvin gs. Tran sfer the
designs onto the front of the chest, and execu te th em
as relief carvings. Although the ca rvings are relati vely
flat , they are carved on three different levels. The
designs on the coa ts of arms are at the same level as
the face of the che st. The sh ield-sha ped background
is about 114 inch (6mm) below this, and the large circular background is '14 inch (6mm) lower st ill- Vz inch
(I 3mm) below the surface of the chest. The sha mroc ksha ped designs around the edge of th e circle are on ly
sligh tly lower than the face of the ch est, but the center
of each leaf in the shamrock is dimpled into a sha llow
bowl sha pe.
If you executed the carving before assembling the
chest, do th e floor con stru cti on, as explained in th e preceding section.
Straps and Banding
To secure the corners of the chest, forge the hor izontal
corne r bracket s for th e ch est . The straps on th e rear
corne rs of the che st are 2 inch es (5Imm) shorte r th an
those on th e front.
The decorative ends on these bracket s are wider
th an th e flat stock called for in the mat erials list.
Origin ally, these st raps would have been forged from
much thicker pieces of met al so that the width and
thickness of the st raps could be ch an ged as the straps
were forged. If you plan to use co mmercially available
flat stock rather than forgin g th e bands, you will have
to cut out the entire band from a wider piece of metal
than is called for in the materials list, o r weld the decorative ends on to the strap as a sepa rate piece . When
the corner brackets are completed, drill nail holes and
nail them in place with I'/ z-inch (38mm) lon g forged
nails.
The bands that wrap the ches t vertically help support the bottom and also form the back section of th e
hinges that connect the lid to th e chest. The two outside bands have the same decorative end designs as th e
corner brackets and the top ends of the h asps.
The decorative fleur-de-lis sha ped ends of the cen tral band are applied orn amentation. Cut the fleur-delis from flat metal stock, and place the end under the
end of a short, square-ended arm on th e central strap.
Heat the top strap and bend it over the ornamental
fleur-de-lis so that the central band and the decorative
ends lie flat on the face of the chest.

Floor
The fl oor of th e chest is made from two board s of relatively th e same width. It is not known whether th ey
are pegged together in th e same manner as the lid, but
it would seem likely because the bottom is also pegged
to the sides of the chest.
Make sure the che st is square and plumb, then trim
the bottom boards so that they fit snugly into the interior of the che st. Remove them from the chest and peg
them together in the same manner as the lid. Insert the
pegged bottom into the frame of the chest.
Making cert ain th at the bottom board is flush with
th e bottom edges of the side panel s, drill and dowel the
bottom int o place . Using VB-inch (I6mm) pegs, dowel
the bottom at six points alon g th e front and back as
follows: Place one dowel 4 inches (I02mm) on either
side of th e cent ral strap, and two dowels equally spaced
between each outside strap and the che st corner. These
.dowels sho uld reach a depth of 2 Vz inches (63 rnrn)
int o the floor board .
Considering the massive con struction of thi s
chest, these few dowels were probably not intended
as th e only support for the bottom, but merely to
hold the bottom in place until the metal straps were
applied.

65

MATERIALS
WOOD
All wood is oak, except dowel is maple or birch.

NUMBER
OF PIECES

THICKNESS

front and back

2V2" (63mm)

19 W' (489mm)

104" (2m642mm)

ends

21jz" (63mm)

19 W' (489mm)

30 114" (768mm)

bo ttom

2V2" (63mm)

12%" (321mm)

99" (2m515mm)

top

2 114" (57mm)

14" (356mm)

106" (2m69 2mm)

top

2'/4" (57mm)

17" (432mm)

106" (2m692 mm)

225" (5m715mm)

PART

VB" (16mm) round

dowel

LENGTH

WIDTH

METAL

PART

NUMBER
OF PIECES

WIDTH

THICKNESS

LENGTH

fron t corner brackets

Vs" (3mm)

I V2" (38 mm)

23 V2" 597mm)

rear corner brackets

W' (3mm)

I Ijz" (38 mm)

25 1jz" (648mm)

bracke t tips

32

W' (3mm)

I Ijz" (38mm)

4" (l02mm)

hasp stra ps

W' (3mm)

2" (51mm)

18" (457mm)

hasps

3132" (2mm)

2"(51mm)

14" (356mm)

lock plat es

V16"

(2mm)

9V2" (241mm)

12" (305mm)

outside hinge straps

I/ S"

(3mm)

2V2" (63mm)

70%" (lm797mm)

outside lid st raps

Vs" (3mm)

2 1jz" (63mm)

29" (737mm)

center hinge strap

W' (3mm)

3" (76mm)

731jz" (lm867mm)

cen ter lid strap

W' (3mm)

3" (76mm)

30" (762mm)

center strap tip s

W' (3mm)

4" (l02mm)

5" (l27mm)

lock plate staples

W' (Jmm)

V2" (13mm)

13" (330mm)

66

On the lid of the chest, there are two decorative


curls on the butt end of the large central hinge. Forge
these curls from the same piece of stock as the body of
the hinge (see chapter 2). The tiny fleur-de-lis ends at
the tips of the curls will have to be cut separately and
welded into place.
Locate the sections of the hinges that go on the lid,
drill pilot holes, and attach th emin place with forged
nails, allowing the spine of th e hinge to han g over the
rear edge of th e lid. Set the lid in place on th e chest.
Elevate the chest on blocks of wood so th at th e straps
can be passed und er th e chest. Bend th e lon g straps to
fit around the body of th e chest. The first bend sho uld
locate the spine of the hinge so th at it can be pinned
to the porti on of the hinge attached to th e lid. The
remainder of th e strap slides snugly under the bottom
of the chest. Nail th e straps to th e back of th e chest.
Bend the strap around th e fron t of th e chest, and nail
it int o place. Always drill pilot holes before nailing
into the oak.

Now form the hasps, following th e draw ings in thi s


chapter and the instruction s in chapter 2, and conforming them to th e offset on the front edge of th e lid.
Attach the hasp to the lid of the che st.
Cut the lock plates accord ing to th e drawings and
forge four lock plate staples. The stapl es sho uld be
higher than they are wide. When the staples have been
forged, file th e end s to points as shown in the drawings. Pierce rectangular holes in th e lock plates to
receive th e ends of th e lock plate staples. Position th e
lock plates beh ind th e hasps, and drill pilot holes for
the lock plate staples and lock plat e nails. Nail th e
lock plates into place on th e face of th e chest. Insert
the staples through the lock plat es and th e pilot holes,
heat the ends of the lock plat e staples where th ey come
through th e inside face of th e che st, and crimp th em
with a hamm er.
Finish th e chest with an oil finish as described in
cha pter 3.

67

FRONT V IEW

19W' (489mm)

+- ~r~~ .=....J:J::.:::......:::::::::----===--W-~ :::::::=:::::::~-l


104" (2m642mm)

TOP OF LID
3" (76mm)
i - - - 36" (914mm)

36" (914mm)

_ --11,1 r - - 36" (914mm) I

__
,

-_.--- -

13"
F(330mm)1

~~..~~ . ~

14" (356mm)

31" (787m m)

17" (432mm)

1 -

k--

25" (635mm) ~

106" (2m692mm)

BACK VI EW

...

------

. . . ' -_ '.c
23 Vz" (597mm

. .
.i.,

I- c
?

-.-

-- - "2.-

..

--- - _ . - ~ .

- -

. ..

~ 12"~~

""'"

--- ---

.. .

.,

~ 12" ~

------

----

<-
- .-----.
-------------- - -- - - - .
-..

38" (965mm)

38" (965mm)

(305mm)

(305mm)

68

FRONT DETAIL, RIGHT SIDE


I" (2Smm)

I Y4" (44mm)

4" (102mm)

---::- H!t" (S7mm)

v
3 11l" (82mm)

"
y

Ii

,..
12" (30Smm)
17ljz"
(44Smm)

- - - _._ --._---

I-- 1M

' (292mml

3" (76mm)

SO W' (Im289mm)

~1

DOVETAIL DETAIL,
SIDE V IEW

2W (63mm)

DOVETAIL DETAIL,
TOP VIEW

W (I3mm)
Vi" (6mm)

I W (3 8mm)~

-..- ~~~

LEFT END DETAIL


31" (7 87mm)

21 W
(S40mm)

12" (30Smm)

8" (203mm)

=}--v,.

(13mm)

9W' (24 8mm)


3" (76mm)

UL......:...-.2::::===.:.-=--....:..==----~~--,.r

30W (768mm)

~63mm)

69

7'14" (l84mm)
CARVING DETAIL
6 ljz" (l65mm)

LOCK PLATE
10" (254mm)

IYz" (38mm)

~
- ; ;(38mm)
~

1'14" (32mm)

0
7 Yz"
(l90mm)

~ 1<.----"------

"l- I;'z" (l3mm)

HASP

o
~ I '14" ~
(32mm)

1:

;"v

-;r

(51,~m)

l4"

(l9mm)

W (l9mm)

ljz" (l3mm)
I " (25mm)
--II--

11;'1" (38mm)

~{:j/

-,,;- ;/7:'/

(5 Imm)

~- 3" (76mm)
lOW (273mm)

o
o

LOCK PLATE
STAPLE
'/ z" (l3mm)

T
6'/ z" (l65mm)

70

III

3"
(76mm)

HINGE ASSEMBLY
SYz" (I40mm)

HARDWARE

4 1jz" (I l-lmrn)

J 1Ys" k
(41mm)

4" (I02mm)

1 (1

2" (51mm)

,. 15hnm), \

~~32mm)

r
__-+-----A-~~~ 4" (102mm)

6 1/.1" (I59mm)

(D

(D

5" (I 27mm)

8" (203mm)

fl)

Yl" ( lIrnm)

-,

--.r-r-

"

2'/1" (63mm)

71

10

t3[rnbry ()upboard

The ambry cupboard was, in essence , the first kitchen


cabinet. In its earliest form , th e ambry was a recess in a
ch urch wall where vestments, silver, and other goods
were sto red. By th e high Middl e Ages, it had evolved
int o a free-standing wooden cabinet and had been
adapted to domestic use, ut ilized for th e sto rage of food
as well as dry goods. In its function as a food cabine t,
the ambry was often referred to as a livery cupboard or
dole cupboa rd.
Ambries widely varied in size and sha pe but were
generally around 4 feet (Im220mm) high, 3 feet
(900mm) wide, and 1 to 11/ z feet (300 to 450mm) deep.
They were of plank constructi on and had a single door
in the center of th e front face. Because th ey were purely
func tiona l, orna men tation was kept to a minimum,
usually limited to carved tracery or spindle work at th e
ventilation holes, which were necessary to keep the
food inside from molding.
This ambry has spen t most of th e last six centuries
in th e kitchens at Haddon Hall , Derbyshire C ounty,
England .

ever, th ere is no evidence of an earlier closure mech anism. It is possible, th ough hardly practical, th at th e
door did not origina lly have a lat ch and was simply
pushed sh ut. The treatment is up to th e discretion of
th e indi vidual cabinetmaker.
Materials
This cabinet is reportedl y made of elm. Elm in any
quantity, or in dimension s suita ble for the construction
of furniture, is almost impossible to find today. Pine,
fir, birch, or poplar would be a suita ble substitute .
Boards of th e dim en sions called for in thi s piece
sho uld be readily available, with th e exception of th e
side panel s, which will need to be glued together.
Because of th e light structure of thi s piece, I recommend th at you have them profession ally joined at a
lumbermill or cabinet sho p.
Setting Up
Cut all of the pieces to size before beginning construction . Mark each board with its final position so
th at you can easily locate it as needed. Make all markings in chalk so th at th ey can be removed from th e
wood.

CONSTRUCTION NOTES
This ambry has been alte red at some point in its existence. A piece was added to th e right side of th e door,
and the bead mold ing nearest th e door, on th e left
panel, was cut off. Perh aps the cooks at Haddon Hall
found th e origina l 9-inch (229mm) wide door too
narrow for their needs and had it widen ed. The plan s
presente d here show th e cabinet in its origina l proportions. The wheeled castors at th e corners of the ambry
were probably a nineteenth-century addition and have
been left off.
The turn button closure on the door is almost certainly of much later date than th e cabinet itself; h ow-

Frame Construction
Begin construction by assembling th e case of th e
ambry. First , mark th e relative location s of th e shelves
on both the inside and outside faces of th e side pan els
with cha lk. Drill pilot holes th rough th e side pan els.
Locate the shelf board s into position and nail th em to
th e end panel s with forged nails. The shelf boards
sho uld line up flush with th e rear edge of the side panels but sho uld be l,4 inch (6mm) sho rt of the front edge
of the side panels so th at th e front panel s will fit prop-

73

AMBRY CUPBOARD, ENGLAND, FIFTEENTH CENTURY. ELM;

H. 29", W. 32 1/ 2" , D. 17 1/ 2" .

COLLECTION OF HADDON

HALL, BAK EW ELL, ENGLAND . C OU RT ESY HADDON HALL. PHOTOGRAPH BY D. TYLER H UFF.

erly. If your lumber varies from this, adjust the widths


of the boards as necessary to compensate.
Hold the shelves in place with corner clamps while
they are being nailed, or have an assistant hold the
pieces together while you assemble them. When both
the upper shelf and the bottom have been nailed into
place, the rear brace board, shown at top right in

the right side interior view, can be nailed into place.


Drill pilot holes in the brace to avoid splitting the end
grain.
Back Panels
Attaching the back panels will stabilize the structure.
The back boards overlap the side panels so that the

74

seam between side pan el and back board is visible


when th e cabin et is viewed from th e side.
Check th at th e frame of th e ambry is square, dr ill
pilot holes, and nail a back board to one edge of th e
ambry. When nailing th e back boards to th e brace
board, provide back support und er th e brace to absorb
th e shock of th e hamm er. Next , nail a back board to
the opposite edge of th e ambry. Fit th e last two boards
between the fi rst two and nail them into place. The
boards need not be pulled tightly together. If th e last
board does not drop int o place, plane the edges until it
is an easy fit.
When all of the back boards have been nailed into
place, th e cabinet sho uld be relati vely sturdy. Now
install th e front brace board, shown at top left of the
right side int erior view, first drilling pilot holes.

you use, clamp a guide to th e face of th e panel to keep


th e moldings straigh t as you cut th em.
Carving. Transfer th e designs for th e carv ings to
th e front panels and th e door. First, en large th em on a
copier to th e dimensions indicat ed on th e drawin gs.
Trace th e pattern onto th e front pan els and door
board , and with a coping saw or reciprocal saw (saber
saw), cut out th e areas of th e designs that are show n as
sha ded areas in th e drawings. Although these carvi ngs
are wedge shaped, cut the sides of the tracery vert ical
at thi s time. Be conce rned on ly with getting the shapes
of th e ope nings regular, not with tapering the sides.
Then work th e sides of the tracery int o th eir wedge
sha pe with a series of files or sma ll rasps. For flat,
straigh t areas, use flat or trian gular files; for curved
and rounded areas, use round files; and for corne rs, use
tr ian gular or square files. Your wood sho uld be relatively soft, so sha ping th e edges of the open work
sho uld prove fairly easy. The narrow bands of tracery,
especially whe re it run s across the grain, will be very
fragile, so be careful th at you do not break the carvings. Keep th e boa rd on wh ich you are working firmly
weight ed or clamped to th e work ben ch . Work on ly on
the first inch (25mm) of th e open work nearest th e
edge of th e workb ench, and even less if you are work ing on an area th at is cut across th e grain of th e wood.
This will requir e a lot of movin g and readjust ing of
the pan el, but it will prevent breaking the delica te
carvings. A fter th e open work has been filed to shape,
finish it with sandpape r (glass paper).
When th e tracery has been completed, lay the panel
flat on th e workb en ch and use carving kni ves and
gouges to carve out th e sha llow corner decorati ons that
do not pierce through th e wood . The smaller th ese
areas, th e sha llower th e carving, but th e deepest ones
are no more th an half th e th ickn ess of th e board on
which th ey are bein g ca rved. Finish by sanding, being
careful tha t you do not round over th e edges.
Installing the Front Panels. Set th e ca rved and
molded fron t panel s in place , drill pilot holes, and nail.
Trim th e lintel and doorsill plat e to fit snugly between
the left and right side pan els. The sill plate sho uld lie
flush with the face of th e cabinet and th e thickness of
the floor board. Nail th e sill plate and lintel into place,
providing back support for th e lintel while nailing, as
there is very little support ing the brace into which th e
lintel is bein g nail ed.
Then countersink all of th e nails in th e front, sides,
and top of the ambry to a depth of l/ S inch (3mm)

Top
Now attach the top boards to the body of th e cabinet.
Attach the rear top board first, keeping it flush with
the outer edge of th e back boards and allowing ~ inch
(l 9mm ) overha ng on either side of th e cab inet. Drill
and nail the board into place as shown. Repeat th e
process with th e front board. The top sho uld extend
1 inch beyond the front edge of the side panel s.
Front Panels
Cutting the Rabbets. Rabbet th e two front pan els
along one edge where th ey overlap th e side panel s (see
detail A) . The panel s are sligh tly different widths , so
estab lish left and right panels before cutt ing th e
rabbets. Be certa in th at th e rabbets allow th e pan els to
fit snugly against the side panel s and lay flat against th e
face of the shelf and bottom.
Moldings. The vertical moldings on th e face of th e
front panels are so sha llow th at th ey can no t be
accurately depict ed. The basic sha pe is a convex, halfround, cen tral mold ing surrounded by two concave
half-round moldin gs. In even simpler terms, th e
moldings are rounded, W-shaped depressions in th e
face of the wood. The molding is on ly I/S inch (3mm)
deep and Vz inch (13mm) wide. The moldings are
about ~ inch (l9mm) from th e edges of th e pan el.
They were probably cut with a molding plan e holding
a single, wavy-shaped blade. This is still th e best way
to cut such sha llow moldings. Alternatively, the outer,
concave depressions could be filed or sanded into th e
wood and th e center, convex sha pe sanded into th e
ridge between th e depressions. Whichever approach

75

MATERIALS
WOOD
All wood is elm. Birch is the best substitute, but pine, fir, or poplar could also be used.

NUMBER
OF PIECES

THICKNESS

front panel

314" (19mm)

11WI (286mm)

29" (737mm)

front panel

WI (l9mm)

11 ~" (298mm)

29" (737mm)

door

~"

(l9mm)

9" (229mm)

20" (508mm)

door braces

~"

(l9mm)

2" (51mm)

8" (203mm)

doorsill plate

WI (l9mm)

1" (25mm)

9Yz" (241mm)

door lintel

WI (l9mm)

3" (76mm)

9 '!zi 1 (241mm)

side panels

WI (19mm)

15 Yz" (394mm)

29" (737mm)

back panels

WI (19mm)

8" (203mm)

29" (737mm)

back panels

WI (l9mm)

8WI (209mm)

29" (737mm)

top

1" (25mm)

8Yz" (216mm)

34" (864mm)

top

1" (25mm)

9" (229mm)

34" (864mm)

bottom boards

1" (25mm)

7 ~" (l97mm)

31" (787mm)

shelf board

WI (19mm)

8" (203mm)

31" (787mm)

shelf board

WI (19mm)

7 '!zil (l90mm)

31" (787mm)

top braces

1" (25mm)

3" (76mm)

31" (787mm)

PART

WIDTH

LENGTH

METAL

PART

NUMBER
OF PIECES

THICKNESS

WIDTH

LENGTH

hinge, large end

.32 ga

l WI (44mm)

2" (51mm)

hinge, small end

.32 ga

l WI (44mm)

1 ~"

forged nails

72

1'!zil (38mm)

76

(44mm)

beneath the surface of the wood, again providing back


support when countersinking the nail s in the lintel.
Installing the Door. The door should fit into the
open ing in the front of the cabinet so that there is a
gap of about '/ s inch (3mm) on all four sides. Remove
th e door and prepare to attach the back brace s as
shown in the edge view of the door in the drawings.
Note that the brace s are 1 inch (25mm) shorter than
th e width of th e door, and all four edges of the braces
are cut at 30-degree angles.
Position the braces so that they are % inch (l6mm)
from the top and bottom edges of the door and Vl inch
(l3mm) from the front and rear edges of the door. Nail
the braces int o place from the rear, through the braces
and into the back surface of the door. Use nail s that
are l'!4 inches (32mm) long so that they will not pierce
the front of the door, and drill pilot holes before nailing.

If you prefer a natural oil finish, tint the putty in th e


nail hole s with wood stain so that it matches th e color
of the wood, and then oil the ambry as describ ed in
chapter 3. The back, interior, and inside of th e door do
not appear to have been finished in any way.
Hanging the Door
Nail the hinges to the door before attaching the door
to the face of the cupboard. The short end of th e hinge
should be attached to the door, and the lon ger end to
the cabinet. Set the door in place , with equal amounts
of space above and below th e door but with th e entire
'!I-inch (6mm) gap kept to the left of th e door, opposite the side with the hinges. This will allow th e door
to swing easily. Nail the hinges to th e side panel.
Bug Screen
Food being stored in ambries was generally protec ted
from flying insects by covering the open-work tracery
with a piece of loose-weave cloth. This cloth may
have been woven of either linen or horsehair. Cut th e
cloth into panels about 1 inch (25mm) larger th an
the carved areas they are intended to cover.
Attach the cloth panels to the inside of th e ambry,
behind the tracery carvings, eithe r with a few tiny
nails tacking the cloth directly to the wood , or with
th e help of small strips of wood nailed to th e inner
surface of the cupb oard, with the cloth sandwiched
between the strip and the cupboard. If th e cloth is to
be nailed directly on to the wood, th e edges of th e
cloth sho uld be hemmed to prevent fraying. I recommend simply tacking the cloth directly to th e side panels, because th e interior of the ambry is a difficult area
in which to work, but using th e small strips of wood on
th e inside of the door for a neat appearance.

Hinges
Precut the butterfly-shaped blanks for th e hinges,
and bend the tangs to form th e spine as described in
chapter 2.
Finish
This ambry has had a great deal of use over the centuries, but evidence remain s that it may have been
painted a rusty ocher, not unlike the color of richl y
oiled wood. Before finishin g, fill the nail holes with
white putty or thickened gesso. When the filler is dry,
finish-sand th e en tire piece of furniture.
. If you wish to paint th e piece, give the top, sides,
and front of th e ambry a coat of gesso to serve as a
primer. When the gesso is dry, sand th e cupboard again,
and th en finish with a coat of egg tempera or flat-fini sh
oil paint (see chapter 3).

77

FRONT VIEW
3" (76mm)

'\

j ,

:.
;.

\ ---r-tttt-+--->
.

fil~~~I~
&

---tttt-+---..:1 0

'r ~~~

. \

1 1 \

-.L-

1 J:

(95mm)

11 '11" (286mm)

9" (229mm)

3 Yz" (89mm)

6 !4" (l7Imm)

i\~

4W

6W' (J7lmml

8 W' (209mm)

3 '","

(I Zlmm) (82mm)

II W (298mm)

32 Yz" (825mm)

DOOR FACE

DOOR, EDGE AND REAR

Yz" (Brnm)

j
I " (25mm)

I'/ z" (38mm)

W (l 9mm)

78

Vi (I3mm)

9" 1229mm)

-1

f-- I 'I!" 4
I (J 2mm) I

HINGE

I
I

<D

w' (44mm)

~ I" .,l
l(2smm)

e
TOP VIEW, CUTAWAY

Y4" (I9mm)

8" (203mm)

I " (2smm)

~....------

---~

34 " (864mm)

RIGHT SIDE
RIGHT SIDE
INTERIOR VIEW

r-- - =:::::

1"---: ""'---:

~
/

3"

(76~~

I"

:\

(2smm)
12"
(JOsmm)

W (I 9mm)
/

30" (7 62mm)

I/ Z" (l Jmm) ./

lOW (267mm)

r'

-1
....

t'\
)

I
1\

I" (Zfirnm)

~-

--- . _ .~

Is yz" (J94mm)

Yz" (l3mm)

4 1;4" (l08mm)

79

W (l9mm)

CARVING DETAILS

6 Y4" (l71mm)

r-

~
oW'

(I71mm)

6W (l7 1mm)

----1

~ 4~"

(121mm)

---l

I ~~

l~~

DETA IL A

I" (25mm)

---._-

---W

80

(l9mm)

W (l9mm)

11

Ourulr Ohair

The basic design of curule ch airs, or X ch airs, as the y


are frequently called, dates to th e dynasties of ancien t
Egypt. C urule cha irs were reserved for use by magistrates and members of th e patrician class in ancie nt
Rome, and during th e medieval period , when ch airs in
general were reserved for th e nobility, th e curule was
associated with high-ranking clergy and midlevel
nobility.
It was probab ly most popular among th ese classes
because th e design of th e cha ir allowed it to be folded
sligh tly, a great advantage for anyone required by his
office to travel with a limited num ber of wagons for
cart age. Additi onally, th e soft, sling-style seat and back
were more comforta ble th an the hard seat of a massive
th rone or clerical cha ir.
Although th ey were produced with a wide variety
of detailin g, all curule chairs have a knu ckle joint th at
allows the legs to int erlock. Nearly all medieval versions
of the chair have a decorative boss, or rosette, that
conceals the knuckl e joint and a floor-level stretcher
th at runs between front and rear legs. The und erside of
the legs forms a slight Gothic arch.
This cha ir is in th e collection of Daniel Mehn of
New O rleans. Meh an produces and sells copies of th e
cha ir.

squares to produce a full-scale leg pattern. All four leg


blanks are interchangeable until th e knu ckle joint
and th e ten ons have been executed. The execution of
th e knu ckle joint is explained in detail later, but it is
essent ial th at you und erstand th e workings of th e joint
before beginning construc tion.
The rear face of th e arms has a sligh t backward
slope. This fact is dealt with in detail in both th ese
not es and th e drawings, but it is important not to overlook it.

CONSTRUCTION NOTES

Rough Cutting
Followin g th e cardboa rd patterns, rough-c ut four iden tical leg-and-arm sections, two each of th e arm and
foot sections, and two seat suppo rts.
Work th e rough-cut blanks into th eir fina l un carved
sha pe. Because of th e complex curves and angles on
some of th ese parts, it may be necessary to do some initial sha ping with a rasp or a pad sander. The top and

Materials
This cha ir is constructed of oak, altho ugh I h ave seen
examples of th e same piece made from walnut and, at a
later period, from mah ogany. It is necessary to use fulldim en sion lumber to ach ieve a structurally sound piece
of furniture.
Setting Up
Because there are on ly ten pieces necessary to th e
basic construct ion of thi s ch air, it is possible to roughcut th em all before executing any detail or finish work .
Executing all of th e rough cutting at one time allows
you to conce ntrate on th e detail work later on with out
worr ying about returning to rough work .

The interlockin g knu ckle join t in th e legs is th e on ly


complex detail in th e assembly process. I recomm end
makin g cardboard patterns from wh ich to copy all of
the pieces.
In the drawings, th e sha pe of th e legs has been illustrated on a grid to show its compound curves. Tran sfer
the design for th e leg on to a grid of I inch (25mm)

81

C UR UL E CHAIR, ENGLAN D,

c .1500. O AK; H. 34", W. 27 ~4", D. 19 3/ 4".

ORLEANS. COURTESY DANIEL). MEHAN . PHOTOGRAPH BY WARD/BRITT PHOTOGRAPHY.

82

COLLECTION OF DANIEL). MEHAN, NEW

bottom edges of th e arms can be rounded over. If you


are using a router, use a 1!4-inch (6mm) roundover
bit for thi s operation. Al so sand th e edges of th e leg
pieces, seat supports, feet, and th e rear edge of the arm
blanks, but do not round th em over.
Now cut th e tenons on th e seat supports. Do th e
primary sha ping of th e tenons on th e top and bottom
of the legs, but leave an extra YB to 1;4 inch (3- 6mm)
of wood around th e tenon to allow for final sha ping
when the pieces are fit together.

th e knu ckle joint, follow th e complete outl ine of th e


circle. The knuckle will fit and operate properly on ly
if th e circular outline is followed accurately and th e
faces of th e join t where th e sections of leg interlock are
smooth.
When th e knuckle locks togethe r and works
smoo th ly, adjust th e knuckle sto ps. The stops are th e
points at which th e bottoms of th e arm supports and
the tops of th e legs rest on each othe r. The stops may
requir e sligh t sand ing or adjustment so th at th e bottom s of th e leg units are th e same distance apart.

Mortises
C ut out th e mortise open ings in th e foot units and on
the botto m of the arms. The distan ces between th e
mortises on arms and legs must be exac tly lOYz inches
(267mm), the same distance as the length of th e seat
support, excluding the ten ons.

Seat Supports
Mark th e location of th e seat support mortises on th e
inside faces of the leg assemblies. Cut th e mortis es into
th e legs. The tenons on the seat supports should seat
snugly into place with a firm rap with th e palm of th e
hand or a mallet. You sho uld now be able to carry out
a trial assembly of th e ch air frame. At thi s point, th e
frame consists of th e four leg-and-arm sections and the
two seat supports.

Knuckle Joint
Read th e following description of th e knuckle joint
carefully. When th e conce pt is clear, execute and sand
the knu ckle joints.
The mechan ism th at allows th e two leg sections to
interlock is an int erlocking egg-carto n type design.
The X shape of the leg is ach ieved by crossing two of
the leg sections. The left arm support and th e right leg
are a single piece of wood, as are th e right arm support
and the left leg. The point of juncture, where the legs
cross and int erlock, is indicated by th e sha ded circle
on the leg diagram . Half of the thickness of th e wood
is cut away from each leg at the point of intersection .
On one leg of the X, the wood is removed from th e
back side; on the opposite leg, the wood is removed
from the front face. Once this excess wood is removed,
the two sections of the leg unit sho uld interlock so that
they are th e same thickness at the point of juncture
as they are at every other point alon g their length.
Before removing the excess wood, the legs are interchangeable. Decide which leg will be in which position:
left and right , front and rear. In the front X assembly,
the left leg-right arm support sho uld be the top half of
the knuckle assembly; in the X assembly on th e back
of the cha ir, the right leg-left arm support form s the top
half of the X. This arrangement is critical for the ch air
to fit together correctly. When the position of each
leg-and-arm section has been determined, mark each
piece so that th ey can be kept in order throughout the
project.
When you are removing the excess wood from

Carving
It is wise to execute th e carving before final assembly
is begun. C arve the rosettes on th e arms of the cha ir.
Not e th at th ey are carved on both th e inner and outer
surfaces of each arm. You may also carve the acanthus
leaf designs that cascade down th e rear of th e arm s and
th e lion's paws on the front of th e feet. Finish-sand th e
carving.
Foot Assembly
Working on a level surface, trim th e tenons on the
bottom of the legs to fit into th e mortises in the feet.
These joints should have th e same snug fit as the seat
supports. The tenons must be cut square so that the
ch air remains level and th e foot units are in line. Dryfit the pieces one at a tim e, and th en assemble them as
a unit with the seat supports in place . Clamp th e frame
together so that it does not sh ift while the arms are
bein g fitted.
Arm Assembly
Trim th e tenon s on the tops of th e arm supports so
that they fit squarely into th e mortises on th e undersides of the arms. This will include trimming the tops
of the arm supports to fit against the curve on the
und ersides of the arm s. This procedure will require a
lot of careful trimming and fitting.

83

MATERIALS
WOOD
All wood is oa k , exce pt maple dowels.

PART

NUMBER
O F PIECES

THICKNES S

arms

2Yz" (63mm)

6%" (l71mm)

20" (508mm)

sea t supports

1 Yz" (38mm)

1%" (44mm)

12ljz" (317mm)

feet

2Yz" (63mm)

2 %" (67mm)

20ljz" (521mm)

legs

2" (51mm)

6" (l52mm)

40 " (ImI6mm)

large rose ttes

1" (25mm)

4" (102mm)

4" (l02mm)

dowel

W' (6mm) roun d

36" (914mm)

WIDTH

LENGTH

UPHOLSTERY MATERIAL
Two pieces of fabric an d a liner will be n eed ed for the sea t an d back, unless they are to be mad e of
heavy-weight leather, in which case on ly one layer will be n eed ed .
PART

NUMBER O F PIECES

WIDTH

LENGTH

seat

15" (3 81mm)

30" (7 62mm)

back

9" (229mm)

3 1" (7 87mm)

lining cloth

25" (635mm)

30 " (762mm)

port. Nail together with l Il t-inch (32mm) headless cut


nails. Have someone hold a wooden block against the
outside surface of the arm support when you drive the
nail into place to absorb the shock of the hammer that
would otherwise be transferred int o the leg. Wipe off
any excess glue with a damp cloth.

Final Assembly
O nce the pieces all fit snugly together and the chair
sits squarely, disassemble and final-sand . Then fit the
pieces togethe r for final assembly. It is wise to glue and
nail the seat supports int o place, rather th an peg them.
Disassemble the cha ir, glue the mort ise and tenon
joints on the seat supports, and reassemble the ent ire
chair before the glue sets. Pull the seat supports into
position with bar clamps stretched across the outside
surfaces of the front and back arm supports, placing a
pad under the jaws of the bar clamps so th at they do
not bite into the wood of the legs. Workin g from the
top side of the arm supports, drill a pilot hole int o th e
arm support and th rough the tenon on the seat sup-

Doweling
When the glue on th e seat supports is dry, clamp the
arms and feet in place for doweling. To keep the cha ir
level, it is best if one end of a bar clamp is placed over
the top of the arms and th e other end is hooked over
the und erside of the table on which you are working.
In ot her words, clamp the chair directly to the tabletop

84

so th at equal pressure is applied to th e arms and feet.


Being clamped onto th e table will help keep th e ch air
level while it is bein g pegged together.
Drill 'A-inch (6mm) pilot holes th rough th e arms
and feet for the dowels. Hamm er the dowels int o position and saw th em off near the arms and feet . If th e
dowels are too tight to be hammered easily into place,
either en large the pilot hole by one drill size or sand
the dowels slightly.
Remove th e clamps from the cha ir, and sand th e
dowels flush with th e surface of th e arms and feet.

vary sligh tly. The seat sho uld be lon g eno ugh th at it
can be nailed to the und erside of the seat support rails.
The top of th e seat sho uld be wide eno ugh th at it
extends nearly to th e outer edges of th e arm supports,
abo ut 13 inches (330mm) front to back. The port ion
of th e seat th at wraps around th e seat supports sho uld
on ly be the width of the supports, 101/ 2 inch es (267mm).
C ut and finish th e leather or fabric. If you are using
fabric, sew two pieces back to back so th at th ere is a
finished surface on both sides. Sandwich a piece of
canvas or burl ap between th e two pieces of fabric for
extra support.
Fit th e seat and back int o place, but do not nail
th em to th e ch air. If desired, add trim or frin ge to th e
fabri c or execute tooling on th e leather before final
install ati on .
Attach th e seat cover first. To be sure th at th e cha ir
does not begin to fold together whil e th e seat and back
are bein g attached, clamp th e cha ir onto th e worktab le
once again. Pull th e seat cover tightly around th e seat
supports and nail it into place with barb ed uph olstery
nails, using seven nails on each side of th e seat. Then
nail large-headed decor at ive upholstery nails int o th e
top surface of th e arm supports at the front and rear
corne rs of th e seat.
Stretch th e back panel across th e back of th e cha ir
and approximately 1 inch (25mm) around the sides of
the arms. Nail th e back panel to the rear edges of the
arms, using at least three tacks on each side. Wrap th e
ends of th e back around th e outside edges of th e arms
and tack into place with large-headed uph olstery nails.

Large Rosettes
There are four large rosettes used to cover the faces
of the knuckle joints on th e legs. Lathe-turn four
rosettes to th e profile indic ated in th e drawings.
Finish-sand each piece while still in th e lathe. C arve
the fl orette (flower) design int o on ly one of th e
rosettes . This decorated rosette will be used on th e
front of th e cha ir. The remaining three rosettes are
left uncarved.
It is not known how th ese rosettes were or igina lly
attac hed to th e cha ir. I recommend gluing th em to th e
surface of th e knu ckle joint, takin g care not to get any
excess glue int o the joint , and nailing each one int o
place with two small, modern finishing nails.
Seat and Back
The sling-style seat and back can be made from heavy
leather, tapestr y, or velvet. Take measurements for th e
seat and back from th e ch air frame, as every ch air may

85

FRONT V IEW

n w' (705mm)
23Yz" (597mm)

=if,\\"

(63mm)

3 %" (86mm)

-----------1i~ -----,c;---

2 1;4" (57mm)

SIDE VIEW

2%" (67mm)

--'--1 J

19 W' (502mm)

~-

2Vz" (63 m m ) - t - -

20W (521mm)

25Vz" (648mm)

34 1jz" (876mm)

13W' (349mm)

4 1;4" (108mm)

86

~
I"
,,
I
-

ARM DETAIL

~'

~ "'--",,:>

6W (I7Imm)

:\.

W' (I 3mm)

2"
(5Imm)

-,

2"

{(5Imm)~ .

"" S.2 W' (63mm)...' <,

r ~,

- - , - I \i4"

<,

I (32mm)\_"

5 1/.1" (I33mm)

l<

<,

2"

::-s 55~~m~
,

__ "'~

'>__

W' (I9mm)

lOW' (273mm)
19W (489 mm)

SEAT SUPPORT
( W' (13mm)

I II" 1W

-t

(38mm)t

W (I3mm)

(3~mm) ~ f r-:st::::::--~---.::'
_--:-~
-------"""'s:::::----~~--:;;g"""""" :4 ~ Yz" (I3mm)
f
lOW (267mm)
~ l
TOP VIEW
I" (25mm)
IE-- - -- -12 Yz" (317mm) ~

I ~

END VIEW

-===-.. . . . ......",.__-_.-

l~" (J2~:J U
~ W " mmJ ~
~~ -===--.~
-~
=--= ----~

J r i.. f

Yz" (I3mm)

r--

--1 '\ ~

lOW (267 mm)

.' " W' (Brnm)

12W' (317mm)

~ Yz" (13mm)

-,-

SIDE V IEW

I" (25mm)

FOOT DETA IL

W (I9mm)

- -I W'
(44mm)

"

. ' .....

3" (76mm)
P;Wbo,,;~~~-...::::t

W z" (89mm) .......

--'

2W
(57mm)~

-_. _-~ (32mm) :

----.>

2Ya" (67mm)

,I

lOW (267mm)

4W (I08mm)

<, ' . '-...

::::::--....

"

8Yz" (216mm)
20W ' (52Imm)

87

0
I
~I _~

----

J--

6" (I52mm)

Yz" (I 3mm)

FOOT CARVING

. ~.- .-

r--

,-------

\'\

~~ 1w r~

3 Vz" (89mm)

r----

4" (I02mm)

Y'B" (22mm)

(I6mm)

VB" (9mm)

2 Vz" (63mm)

LEG LAYOUT

SEAT SUPPORT OU TLINE

I/ Z" (I3mm)

j ..-'- {jJ-

~,,;.~

7%"
(I94mm) ..

,.,.

/:r~\
.... '?~\

.>

Ifz" (l Imrn)

"

1--+--+-----1I---+--+-----1~+_____P'_.d~:t___=='+__"'_i::~+__+__+,-;l-t-

.. "..

,
28 }-4" (730mm)

KN UCKLE

\""

/)

.- "

\;

,-

,-

26 Vz" (673mm)

88

.... "

114"

( 44mm)

..

.:

KNUCKLE ROSETTE

1 W' (44mm)

Va" (Iornm)
4" (102mm)

Ys" (9mm) i ~

IH---

W' (I9mm)

I"
(25mm)

ACANTHUS LEAF CA RVING


ARM ROSETTE

2Yz" (63mm)
1Yl"

r-(38mm)~

7" (I7 8mm)

89

12

qandlcstand

steel bar stock, available from machine shops or ironmongers. Three kinds of metal, referred to as stock,
are used for this piece. The legs, decorative ornamentation, and support pieces in the crown are made of
flat stock; the main shaft is made of 3/.!-by-%-inch
(l9-by-19mm) square stock; and the drip pan and
decorative ring in the crown are made of sheet metal.

Heavy wrought-iron candlesticks and hanging chandeliers similar to this were used to bring brilliant, shimmering illumination to the dark, cavernous interiors
of churches, manor houses, and castles throughout
England and Europe during the Middle Ages and into
the Renaissance.
This candlestand is unusual in that the candles are
not held in cups or stuck on spikes; rather, they sit
inside free-standing rings that stand between the drip
tray and the inner decorative ring. Though this candlestand does not hold as many candles as some others
that survive, all of the side candles would have had
to be nearly 2 feet (61Omm) in length and the central
candle would have been nearly 3 inches (76mm) across,
an extravagant use of expensive wax.
The entire piece is forged metal, mostly wrought
iron, and has a rather bulky look. Standing over 6 Yz
feet (Zm) high, it is a most impressive piece of work.
This piece probably dates from the sixteenth century,
but its place of origin is unknown. It is now located
outside of the Fuentiduena Chapel in the Metropolitan
Museum's Cloisters.

Legs
The first step in forging the legs is to make the feet.
Place one end of a piece of leg stock into your vise to
a depth of 1Yz Inches (38mm), and bend it to a 90degree angle. Repeat for the other two legs. Then flatten and splay the ends of the feet by reheating them
and forging them with a forging hammer.
Now bend each leg to a 90-degree arc-a quarter
circle 10 inches (254mm) in height and in width. To
ensure that all three legs arebent to the same arc, first
cut a wooden pattern against which they can be fitted .
Do not try to forge the hot metal against this pattern;
simply use it as a gauge of your progress in shaping the
stock.
When all three legs are bent, the next step is to
join them together. The legs on the original piece were
heat-forged onto a flat iron disk the same thickness as
the legs, at the center of which was a Va-inch (l6mm)
hole. For reproduction purposes, you can weld the legs
to a large, flat metal washer. You may, however, have to
manufacture a washer to the necessary specifications.
Arrange the ends of the legs onto the surface of the
washer, spaced so that the three legs form an equilateral triangle at their juncture. The outer ends of the
legs should be equally spaced. Clamp the legs into
position on the washer using a Cvclamp, and weld the
legs onto the washer. The completed leg unit should

CONSTRUCTION NOTES
This room-size candlestand is constructed entirely of
hand-forged iron. Reconstructing it in a home shop
will require a few adaptations and a little time, but
the results will be impressive. To shape and bend the
various parts of this candlestand, use the methods
described in chapter 2. The joints and seams that were
originally heat forged can be welded or brazed together.
Materials
All of the basic pieces of the candlestand are constructed from standard-dimension sheet metal and

91

stand 10 inches (254mm) off the floor and scribe a


circle 24 inches (61Omm) across at the tips of the feet.

Main Shaft
The main shaft of the candlestand is formed from a
length of square stock. The bottom of the shaft must
be forged to fit through the hole at the juncture of the
legs. Heat 1 inch (25mm) at the end of the shaft and
forge it to as near round as possible. When the forged
portion of the shaft can be fitted into the washer on
the leg unit, weld it to the top and bottom surfaces of
the washer, first ensuring that the legs are resting on a
level surface and that the shaft is standing as vertical
as possible.
The top of the shaft head holds the drip tray and
crown. To provide a stable seat for the frame of the
drip tray, this end of the shaft must be larger than the
bottom end.
To simulate the heavy forged head on the original
shaft, weld a piece of 13i4-inch (44mm) round stock to
the top of the shaft, making certain that the head is in
a parallel line with the body of the shaft so that the
crown will sit straight on the completed candlestand.
Once the head is welded into place, turn the entire
unit upside down, so that the head is on the ground
and the legs are in the air. To create the wedge-shaped
taper between the shaft and the shaft head shown in
the drawings, build up a l-inch (25mm) high pyramid
of weld around the shaft. When it has cooled, work the
sides of the pyramid smooth with a grinder and files to
simulate the sloped shoulders beneath the head.
At the center of the shaft head, drill a hole '/s inch
(3mm) in diameter and a Vz inch (l3mm) deep. Into
this hole, insert a piece of Vs-inch (3mm) steel rod 1
inch (25mm) in length. If you heat the area around the
hole in the shaft head until it begins to glow slightly,
the rod should tap into place easily and, once cooled,
will never come out. This rod will eventually hold the
drip tray and crown in place.
Drip Tray Frame
The four-armed frame of the drip tray is made in much
the same manner as the leg unit. The frame can easily
be made in three pieces: one main arm that runs the
entire width of the tray and two shorter arms welded
to either side of the main arm to form a cross. First,
bend 1Y4-inch (44mm) tabs on both ends of the main
arm of the drip tray frame. Bend similar tabs on one
end of each of the short arms. Flatten and splay the ends
of these arms in the same manner as the feet. In each

CANDLESTAND, EUROPE, SIXTEENTH CENTURY. IRON;

H. 77".

CLOISTERS COLLECTION, METROPOLITAN MUSEUM OF

ART, NEW YORK CITY. COURTESY METROPOLITAN MUSEUM OF ART.

92

Now bend th e top Yt-inch (6 mm) of the sides of the


drip tray outward to a 60- or 70-degree angle by resting th e outer edge of th e side of the dri p tray against
th e edge of a workben ch or an anvil and gently h ammering it outward. Do not hammer too hard, or the solder joints might break. This flared edge is very uneven
on th e origina l piece, so don 't worry if it looks a little
irregular.

of the four tabs, drill a hole large eno ugh to receive a


rivet, as shown in the drawings.
Lay the three arms onto a welding surface so th at
the short arms rest against th e main arm at its center
point. The arms sho uld touch each othe r, but not overlap. The pieces now form a cross like th e one shown in
the drawing of th e bottom of th e drip tray. When th e
pieces are in position , weld the sho rt arms on to the
lon g arm unit, and then file th e weld joint flat. When
finished you sho uld have a four-armed frame with an
inn er diameter of about 16 inches (406mm).
At th e point where th e four arms cross, dr ill a 3/ 16inch (5mm) hole so th at th e drip tray frame will fit
over th e pin on the shaft head.

Inner Ring Support Legs


Bend th e three legs that suppor t th e deco rative in ner
ring according to th e dim en sion s provided in th e
drawin gs. When all three legs have been bent , drill
two 'Is-inc h (3mm) holes in th e sho rt side (the foot).
Rivets will be placed through th ese holes to att ach
th e legs to th e bottom of th e drip tray. Drill ano the r
'I s-inch (3mm) hole 1 inch (25mm) from th e end of
th e lon g side of each leg. These holes will receive the
rivets th at hold th e decorat ive ring in place .

Drip Tray
The drip tray is made in two pieces. The bottom is
simply a circle of shee t metal, and th e sides are made
from a band of the same shee t metal.
To make the bottom of th e tray, mark out a circle
of sheet metal1 6-Y-! inches (425mm) in diameter. Mark
another circle 1 inch (25mm) smaller th an th e first,
or 15 314 inches (400mm), inside the first circle. The
smaller circle is th e actual size of the bottom of the
drip tray; th e larger circle will provide tabs with which
to atta ch th e bottom of th e tray to th e sides. C ut th e
large circle out of th e sheet of metal stoc k. At li z-inch
(l 3mm) intervals around th e circumference of th e
large circle, cut V-shaped notches Vz inch (l 3mm) deep.
The inn ermost point of th ese notches sho uld just touch
the in ner circle. If properly spaced, th ere sho uld be
approximately one hundred notches cut around th e
circle. Using pliers or a hamm er, bend th e tabs at right
angles to th e circle. You sho uld wind up with a shallow
tray 15 -Y-! inches (400mm) in diameter and 'Iz inch
(l 3mm) deep.
To form th e side of the drip tray, take a piece of th e
same sheet metal, 3 Yt inches (82mm) in width by 52
inches (lm321mm) in len gth , and form it int o a circle
around the outside of th e sha llow drip tray. Where th e
ends overlap, clamp them together with a C -clamp. Drill
a hole large enough to receive a rivet throu gh the lapped
ends of the circle. Without removin g the C -clamp, slip
the band of metal off the bottom of th e tray. Insert a
rivet int o th e hole and peen th e end of th e rivet until
it is tightly in place. Now remove th e C-clamp.
Fit th e band back over th e bot tom of th e tray and
solder the tabs on th e bot tom tray to th e inner face
of the band . Do not atte mpt to weld th ese pieces
together; th e heat from th e torch may melt th e metal.

Inner Ring Support Brackets


These three brackets stabilize th e decorati ve inner ring
by attach ing it to th e large candle holder at th e center
of th e crown. Bend both ends of th e bar stock to 90degree an gles to form feet, th e foot on one end bein g
-Y-! inch (l 9mm) lon g and th e other 1Vz inches (38mm)
lon g. These feet sho uld face in opposite dir ecti ons.
Central Candle Holder
Form three legs from bar stoc k as called for in the
materials list. Bend a 1114- inch (32 mm) foot at one end
of each leg. At th e other end , bend th e last 4 inc hes
(l02mm) of th e stock in th e opposite directi on from
th e foot , at about a 30-degree angle, to form th e flaring
top of th e candle h older as shown in th e drawings.
Drill a 'Is-inc h (3mm) hole in each of th e three legs
of th e candle holder 1 inch (25mm) below th e point
where it begins to flare outward. Drill ano the r hole
about 6 inches (l5 2mm) up from th e bottom of th e leg.
To position thi s hole exac tly, temp orarily bolt together
an inner ring support leg and one of th e inner rin g
support brackets. Set th ese pieces next to one leg of
the central candle holder so th at th e three pieces are
in th e position the y will be in when th e candlestand is
completed. Mark the location of th e rivet hole on the
inside foot of th e inner ring support bracket at th e
point where it rests against th e candle holder leg. Mark
each part so th at you can fit th e same pieces together
for final assembly. Sligh t variations in th e pieces may
not allow th em to be int erch an geable.

93

MATERIALS
METAL
All metal is h o t rolled for easy shaping .

PART

N UMBER
O F PIECE S

THICKNESS

WIDTH

legs

V8" (3mm)

1 1/4" (32 m m)

leg washer

V8" (3mm)

2" (5 1mrn) roun d /

shaft

%" (19mm)

%" (1 9mm)

sh aft head

sh aft pin

LENGTH
X

17" (432 m m)

%" (l 6mm) hol e


X

44 " (Lm l l Sm m)

13;41' (44mm) ro un d

I Ijz'I (38m m)

WI (3 m m ) round

I" (25 m m)

d rip tr ay

.3 2 ga

16" (407mm)

16" (40 7m m)

d rip tr ay rin g

.3 2 ga

3" (7 6mm)

52" (lm3 21 m m)

d rip tray fra me ,


long ar m

V8" (3mm)

1l;4" (32 mm)

20 "(508mm)

d rip t ray frame,


sh o rt arms

'/ 8" (3mm)

1 ';4" (32 m m)

9 %" (238mm)

and dri ll 'Is-inch (3m m) holes thro ugh the floor of the
drip tray as marked. Rivet the in ner ring support legs
into place.

Join the th ree legs of the cent ral cand le holder at


the base by welding them on to a washer as you did for
the large leg unit. The washer sho uld be on the inside,
not the outside (bottom), of th e candle holder.
Heat-forge two rin gs of the same bar stock used to
form the legs of the central candle holder. These rings
sho uld form circles just large enough to slide inside the
legs of the central candle holder. When each ring fits
into the candle holder, weld th e ends of the ring
toget her. Drill three holes in each ring to correspond
with the holes in th e legs of the candle holder. Rivet
the rings into place.

Inner Ring
This decorative ring is made in much the same man ner
as the sides of the drip tray. The material is slightly
heavier, beca use it carries the weigh t of twelve decorative loops, but the construction technique is the same.
Bend th e metal into a circle th at fits inside the inn er
ring support legs. Where the ends of the ring overlap,
clamp them with a C -c1amp.
Remove the ring from inside the legs, drill, and rivet
it toget her. Then remove the C-c1amp and fl are out
the top 1!4 inch (6mm) of the ring as you did the side of
the drip tray. Set it into position inside the inn er ring
support legs. Position the riveted joint in the ring so
th at it is located equidistant between two of the
support legs. Mark the locat ion of the rivet holes in

Assembly
At this point you are ready to und ertake the first stage
of the assembly of the crown . Position th e three inner
ring support legs around the inside edge of the drip tray
at equal int ervals. Mark the location of the holes in
the feet ont o the floor of th e drip tray, remove th e legs,

94

PART

NUMBER
O F PIECES

THICKNESS

LENGTH

WIDTH

inner rin g
support legs

W' (3mm)

Ys" (1 6mm)

9ljz" (241 mm)

inner rin g
support brackets

I/ S"

(3 m m)

Ys" (1 6mm)

6ljz" ( 165 m m)

ce ntral ca nd le h old er

Vs" (3 m m)

Ys" (1 6mm)

21ljz" (546mm)

Vs" (3 m m)

2" (51 mm) ro un d /

Vs" (3mm)

Ys" (16mm)

9ljz" (24 I mm)

.32 ga

2'14" (57mm)

39" (99 1m m )

centra l ca nd le h old er
washer
ce n tra l ca nd le rings

decor ative ring

3/16"

(5mm) h ol e

decorat ive loops

12

.3 2 ga

1" (25mm)

6" (1 5 2mm)

ce ntral shaft
decoration

Vs" (3mm)

314 "

(1 9mm)

8" ( 203mm)

bottom sh aft
decoration

W' (3 m m )

W' (1 9mm)

4 ljz" ( Ll -lmrn)

leg decorat ion

l/ S" (3 m m)

1" (25mm)

7" (1 78 mm)

rivets

50

1;4" (6mm)

I/ S"

(3 m m) d iame ter

the support legs, remove the decorati ve ring, and drill


the holes.

if the loops are not perfectl y round; the loops on the


origina l piece are far from perfect .

Decorative Loops
The twelve loops around the decorative ring appear to
be purely orna mental in nature. They are made from
strips of the same metal as the decorati ve ring into
which they are moun ted (see materials list ). To shape
these loops, cut away enough material from each end of
the strips to leave a pin of meta l 1 inch (2Smm) long
and no more than a '!4 inch (6mm ) wide at the point
where it joins the body of the strip of metal (see detai l
A in the drawings).
Bend the pins at right angles to the strip of metal so
that both pins point in the same direct ion. Then bend
the strips of metal int o rings. You can heat the metal
sligh tly to make the process easier, but thi s is not necessary, as the metal is lightweight eno ugh that it sho uld
bend easily with pliers and a hammer. Do not worry

Small Candle Holders


The frame of the three small candle holders are made
from a single piece of flat stoc k. The spearhead-shaped
decorati ve device at th e top of the cand le holder is
easiest to make before the frame is ben t to shape. Following the dime nsions in the drawings, cut the point
to shape with a jeweler's saw or band saw, or simply file
it to shape. The origina l piece seems to have been
made by a combination of heat forging and cutting the
hot metal with a chisel.
When the deco rative work has been completed,
measure 11 inches (279mm) from each end of the stock
and mark the location of the base of the candl e holder.
Bend th e holders into their bracket shape , working as
closely to the lines as possible to ensure th at the two
sides of the frame are equal in height.

95

Attaching the Crown


Drill a Yl6-inch (5mm) hole th rough the drip tray
directly in line with th e hole in th e washer at th e base
of th e central candle holder. Set the drip tray int o the
drip tray arms. The li z-inch (l3mm) long pin protruding from th e head of th e shaft should pass throu gh
the holes in th e drip tray frame, the drip tray, and th e
washer at th e base of th e cen tral candle holder.
Drill four holes thro ugh th e sides of the drip tray in
line with th e holes in th e drip tray arms. Insert rivets
int o th ese holes so th at the heads face th e inside of the
drip tray and th e peened ends are exposed.
Peen th e end of th e pin th at sticks up th rough the
central candle holder by resting th e end of a steel rod
against it and tapping th e rod with a hamm er. You may
heat th e pin with your torch to make it easier to peen,
but be careful not to melt a hole in th e thin metal of
th e dr ip tray.

Form th e I Y4-inch (3 2mm) support ring for th e


candle holder following th e procedure for makin g th e
rings in th e cent ral candle holder. Then drill th e ring
and bracket for rivets, insert th e rivets, and assemble
the piece. Drill an additiona l Vs-inch (3mm) hole
th rough th e center of th e base of th e bracket so th at it
can be riveted to th e drip tray.
Crown Assembly
Begin assembly of th e crown by attach ing th e candl e
holders to the bottom of th e drip tray. They sho uld be
positione d between th e decorati ve ring and th e side of
the drip tray, at points equid istan t between the inner
ring support legs. When you have locat ed thi s point for
each of th e three candle holders, drill a li s-inch (3mm)
rivet hole th rough th e bottom of th e drip tray.
The easiest way to rivet th e candle holder to th e drip
tray is to drop the rivet downward th rough th e candle
holder and then th rough th e hole in th e floor of th e
drip tray. Drop a steel rod th rough th e candle holder
unt il it rests against th e head of the rivet , and then peen
the rivet int o place from th e bot tom of th e drip tray.
The next step is to attach th e decorati ve loops to
th e inner rin g. To locat e th e points at which th e loops
are to be atta ched, temporaril y set th e ring into position on th e support legs. The point at wh ich th e ring is
lapped and riveted sho uld be locat ed behind one of th e
th ree candle holders. Mark locati ons for four decorative loops bet ween each of th e three ca ndle holders.
Then remove th e inner rin g from its frame, and drill
holes in the ring large eno ugh to accommoda te th e pins
on th e back of th e loops. Both pin s on a loop sho uld
go th rough a single hole. Insert th e pin s on each loop
int o a hole, and gen tly spread the end s of the pin s outward until th ey rest against th e inner face of the inner
ring.
Now attach th e in ne r ring suppo rt brackets to th e
cent ral cand le holder, which has not yet been installed
in th e crown. Place th e heads of th e rivets on th e inside
of the candle holder and peen th e rivets over against
the outer face of th e suppor t bracket .
Next, place th e inner ring inside th e inner rin g support legs. Place th e central candle holder, which has
th e inner ring suppo rt brackets att ached to it, inside
th e inner ring. Ali gn th e three rivet holes in the inner
ring with th e holes in th e support legs and th e support
brackets. The decorative ring sho uld now be sandwiched
between th e support legs and the support brackets.
Place th e rivets so th at th e heads face th e central
candle holder and th e peen ed end is exposed to view.

Decorative Work
The decorativ e orna mentation at the middle of the
cen tral sha ft and at the poin t where the shaft joins the
legs can now be form ed. Form th e curls with th e use of
a mandrel as described in ch apt er 2.
The large curling orna ments on top of th e legs are
made from the same bar stock used for th e legs. Sha pe
th e decorati ve curls first, then curve th e body of
thi s piece in th e same way th at th e legs were formed.
Use either th e legs th emselves or th e wooden pattern
against wh ich th e legs were shaped to ach ieve the
correct curve.
The sma ll orna mental curls at th e base of th e shaft
and th e double-curl ed orna men t in the cen ter of th e
shaft are sha ped in th e same way the leg decorations
were formed.
When th ese orna mental pieces have been formed,
clamp th em into place at th e locations shown on the
drawings and spot-weld th em onto th e legs and the
central shaft. File away any excess weld to provide a
smoo th seam where the orna ments meet th e struct ure
of th e candlestand.
Finish
The original candlestand is made of wrought iron and
has a uniform black surface. A similar finish can be
obta ined with old-fash ioned stove polish or flat black
spray paint.
The drip tray would origina lly have contained a bed
of sand about liz inch (l3mm) deep to catch th e dripping tallow or wax from th e candles.

96

CROWN
19" (483mm)

II " (279mm)
TOTAL HEIGHT
77" (955mm)

8 1;4"
(209mm)
~\\"

...

\\, ,\\\\

...'\\\\ '

\\\,\" ,.
o

3" (76mm)

...J:'..~ 16" (406mm)

--+--1--+----------;11

21Yz" (546mm)

W' (l9mm)
BASE

W z" (l40mm)
17Yz" (444mm)

11;4" (32mm)

10" (254mm)

I ljz" (38mm)

~W

24" (6IOmm)

97

DECORAT IVE
LOOPS

2" (SImm) L

-)=-

S" (l 27mm)

I" (2Smm)
~

TIIW
IJ,m
m
II

IW'

(J2mm)

~ ~
3" (76mm)

SMALL
CANDLE HOLDER

CENTRAL
CANDLE HOLDER

l'
9" (229mm)

2" (SImm)

Yz" ( l Jmm)
-,,;-

!!.I" (I9mm)

19" (483mm)
II " (279mm)

6"
(IS2mm)

1 I W'

(J2mm)

2',-4" (S7mm)

W (l9mm)

4" (102mm)

II I

7Yz" (l90mm)

S" (l27mm)

1
2"

(SImm)

"\. W (l9mm)

98

3"
(76mm)

DRIP TRAY WITH


DRIP TRAY FRAME,
BOTTOM VIEW
(Smm) hole
in frame and drip tray

3/16"

16" (406mm)
11;4" (3 2mm)

DRIP TRAY
AN D CROWN ,
TOP VIEW

DRIP TRAY
2" (Slmm)

16" (40 6mm)


/I \ \ \\ \ \"\\ \\

--1
,\\ \\\'"

%" (I 6mm)

f
3" (76mm)

99

13

~onasti(

Ganopy :Bcd

Severity, humility, and dedication to God were the


corn erstones of medieval monastic life. The furnishings
in monk s' cells reflected their Spartan existence. This
monk 's bed is part of a re-created cell at Mount Grace
Priory in North Yorkshire C ounty. Mount Grace was a
monastery of th e Carthusian order, where monks lived
in almost tot al isolation, unlike th e majority of monastic orders, where th e brothers lived communally.
Each monk's cell at Mount Grace was actually a small
house th at contain ed all th e brother would need to
live and carry out his appointed work. The cell had an
entry passage, a living hall, study, work room, and
bedroom.
In the bedroom were a simple can opy bed , sto rage
chest, and stool. The bed was no more than a box
made of oak with a floor on ly 3 inches (76mm) above
the plank floor of the cell. The int erior of the bed was
fitted with a large, rough-woven cloth sack filled with
straw. The can opy, with its coarse cloth curtains, would
help keep out the biting winter winds and snow that
undoubt edly swept through the shutt ered , glassless
windows of th e cell during the cold North Yorkshire
winters. With th e dissolution of th e monasterie s during
the reign of Henry VIII , virtu ally all physical remnants
of English monastic life disappeared, along with the
monastic structure itself.

Materials
The monk's bed is made of oak, altho ugh th e pegs may
be maple or birch. Do not use oak veneer plywood for
th e panel s; th e raised surface of th e panel s face toward
th e outside of th e bed, and th e layers of th e ply would
be plainly visible. Most of th e wood called for in th e
materials list will be readil y obta ina ble th rough a
lumbermill, th ough it may have to be specially planed
to width and thickness. The raised pane ls, however,
will probably have to be glued up from two or three
boards. Only th e overall dim en sion s of th e floor of th e
bed are given in th e mat erials list. This is not to say
th at it is one solid board. It would have been construc ted of what ever width boards were lying around
th e sho p. The goal is simply to provide a level floor.
Getting Started
Cut the four upright corner posts, th e lon g bottom
rails, and the long top rails to len gth. Because th e top
and bottom rails are different dimension s, the ten on
positi ons need to be marked out carefully to prevent
making any mistakes in cutting.
Lay two corner posts, a top rail, and a bottom rail in
a simple rect an gular sha pe on a level work surface. The
ends of the top and bot tom rails sho uld fit inside th e
corne r posts. The top rails sho uld be situa ted so th at
one of th e 3-inch (76mm) sides is lying facedown on
th e work surface. The bottom rails are square, so the ir
orien tation does not matter. Viewed from above, th e
surface of th e posts and rails falls on three different
plan es. This uneven face will be th e inside of th e bed
frame. The bottom of th e rectan gle, th e face lying on
th e work surface, will be th e exterior face of th e bed.

CONSTRUCTION NOTES
This monk 's bed is no more th an a panel ed box chest
without a lid, and its con struction is approached as
th ough it were a simple chest. This bed is made completely of wood and is put together without th e use of
either glue or metal fasteners.

101

102

REPLICA OF FIFTEENTH~CENTURY ENGLISH CANOPY BED. OAK, IRON, AND WOOL.


PRIORY, N ORT H A LLERTON , E N G LA N D. COURTESY E N G LI SH H ERITA G E. PHOT OG RA PH BY

103

D. T YL ER H U FF.

COLLECTION OF M OUNT GRACE

Top Rails
Keeping this arra ngeme nt carefully in mind, remove
the top rail from between the corne r posts and mark
the location of the tenon s so that they will in tersect
the corner posts in th e manner show n in detail C in
the drawi ngs. The ten ons sho uld be centered on th e
top rails so tha t th ere is a %-inch (l 9mm) wide tenon
cen tered on th e 2-inch (5 Imm) wide face of th e rail.
T he re shou ld be a Va-inch (l 6mm) wide sho ulder on
eithe r side of th e tenon. C ut th e tenons to thi s width
and trim them to th e heigh t indi cated in details A
and B. Repeat this process on both ends of all four top
rails.

Frame Assembly
When all of th e morti ses and tenons have been cut
and finished to a snug fit, assemble th e frame of the
bed. Because th e bottom rails are wider th an the
corne r posts int o whic h th ey are tied, you will have
to cut a not ch into an inside edge on one of the bottom rails at each corne r (see drawing labeled botto m
rail from above). C ut th ese not ches in th e sho rt rails
on th e ends of th e bed rather th an in th e long side
rails. When th e bed has been assembled, you sho uld
have what is essen tially th e wooden outline of a sixsided box.
Stiles
Set th e bed frame on a level surface, and check th at
th e struc ture is square and plumb in all directions.
Locate th e panel dividers, or stiles, on th e long sides
of th e bed frame. The stiles are 2 by 3 inches (51 by
76mm) and sho uld be positioned so th at th eir exterior
face is 3 inches (76mm) in width. In -this position , the
stiles sho uld be th e same th ickn ess as the top rail, 2
inches (5Imm). Mark th e locat ions of th e stiles on the
top face of th e bottom rail and on the botto m side of
th e top rail. Inside th e outlines of the stiles, mark the
locati ons of th e mortises as show n in detail C. Cut
the ten on ends on all four st iles.
Disassemble th e bed frame and cut the eight mortises that will receive the stile tenons. Again, fit each
st ile int o place one at a time and mark its location ,
with cha lk or on masking tape, so th at you will be able
to easily reassemble th e entire structure.
When th e mortises and tenon s have been cut for
th e stiles, reassemble the ent ire bed frame. There
sho uld now be a tot al of sixteen componen ts, all of
which must join square and plumb with each other.

Bottom Rails
The tenon s on th e bot tom rails are situated off-cen ter.
Here, as on th e top rail, th e ten ons are % inch (l9mm)
wide and have a Va -inch (l 6mm) wide sho ulder on th e
outer face , but beca use of th e width of th e bottom rail,
there is a 2 Va-inch (54mm) wide sho ulder on th e inner
side of each tenon. The tenon s on th e bottom rails
should be the same 1lA-inc h (32 mm) len gth as th ose
on the top rails. Unlike th e tenon s on th e top rail,
however, they are not step ped down from th e height of
the rail and are th e 3 li z-inch (89 mm) height of th e
rail. O nce they have been laid out , cut th e ten ons on
bot h ends of all four bottom rails.
Corner Posts
Into th e top and bottom ends of each corne r post, cut
mortises to receive th e ten ons of th e top and bottom
rails. A ltho ugh th e tenon s on th e top rails are centered, th e mortises in th e corne r posts will be sligh tly
off-center because th e top rails and th e corner posts
are different widths (see detail C ).
Mark all posts and rails as to th eir position, and
also mark th e outside faces (those th at fit flush with
each other) of the rails and posts. It is wise to mark
each mortise and ten on joint as it is finished, as th e
parts will not be interchan geable. If th e parts are not
marked, it ca n take h ours to relocate each piece in
its proper place . Make all markings with ch alk or
on pieces of masking tape so th at th ey can easily be
removed from th e wood.
Be certai n th at th e tenon s fit snugly into th e mortises. You sho uld be able to seat th e tenon int o th e
morti se with several firm taps with the palm of th e hand
or with one or two taps of a wooden mallet. The joints
must also fit squarely.

Locating the Panels


A round th e interior circumference of all eight panel
frames, scribe locator lines to mark th e rabbets th at
will hold th e raised panels (see detail D). These lines
sho uld be marked in pencil and run conti nuously
around th e edge of each panel. O ne line sho uld be li z
inch (13mm) from th e outside edge of th e frame, and
th e other line sho uld be Vz inch (l 3mm) inside th e first
line, or 1 inch (25mm) from the outside edge of the
frame.
Now disassemble th e frame. C ut a J!4- inch (l 9mm)
deep rabbet between each pair of lines scribed on th e
frame. Rabbets may be cut with mallet and chisel or on

104

a table saw. The rabbets can run th e ent ire length of


the top and botto m rails with out regard for th e location of th e stile mortises. They sho uld also run the
enti re length of th e stiles. If th ey clip away a bit of th e
tenons on the top and bottom of th e stiles, thi s will
have no effect on th e final assembly of th e bed.
When cutt ing th e rabbets into th e corne r posts,
however, th e rabbets sho uld not extend above th e mortise for th e top rail; in other words, do not cut th e rabbet th rough th e top of th e corne r posts.
Panels
The panel sizes called for in th e materials list allow an
extra Y4 inch (l9mm) in both height and width on all
of the panels to provide the ton gue th at seats into th e
rabbeted groove in the bed frame.
The cha mfered edges on th ese panel s were origina lly
shape d with a drawknife. Though th ey are easier to cut
on a table saw or with a plan e, using a drawknife will
give the cha mfers the irregular surface found on the
origina l furn iture.
Before you begin to cut th e cha mfer, mark off th e
port ion of th e panel th at will be cut away. Mark
the fi nished width of th e panel around its outer edge
and the width of cha mfer around th e face of th e pan el.
The face of th e cha mfer is 2 inc hes (51mm) wide,
includin g th e area th at seats int o th e rabbet.
The oute r face of th e rabbets may need to be
angled sligh tly with a chisel and mallet to accommodate the cha mfered edge of th e panel s. Do not cut
away more th an is necessary, in order to maintain a
snug fit.

Floor Boards
Now cut th e floor boards. For th e greatest support , th e
floor boards sho uld run across th e width of th e bed ,
rather th an its len gth. The boards need not rest tightly
against th e backs of the panel s, but th ey sho uld be
wide eno ugh th at th ey can not fall off th e bottom rail.
Not ch th em to fit around th e corne r posts and st iles.
There is no need to attach th e floor boards to th e bot tom rail.
To adapt th e bed for a modern mattress, you can
raise th e floor to about 10 inches (254mm) below th e
top edge of the bed frame. To do so, attach 2-by-2-inc h
(51-by-51mm) support rails, th e len gth of th e interior
of th e bed, to th e inside of th e bed frame at th e stiles
and corner posts. These supports are on ly necessary
along th e lon g sides of th e bed. Use modern wood
screws to att ach the se supports. Lay th e floor boards on
top of th ese support rails.
Finish
When assembly is complete, sand th e bed and give it
an oil finish.
Canopy
Frame . The metal ca no py is a simple welded frame
of round steel stock. Working on a level surface,
arrange two long and two sho rt len gths of 1j2-inch
(l 3mm) round stock in a rect an gular sha pe 71 inches
(lm803mm) by 35 1/ 2 inches (90 2mm). At each corne r,
sta nd one of th e 21j2-inc h (63mm) pieces of 1j2-inch
(l 3mm) round stock as a corne r post at th e jun cture
of th e frame members (see th e detail drawin gs of th e
canopy frame) . Check that th e pieces are all at 90degree an gles to each other, then weld th e corners of
th e frame together. At the center of each lon g side
of th e frame, weld an other 21j2-inch (63mm) lon g post
to th e inside face of the frame.
Onto one of the 71-inch (lm803mm) lon g, %-inch
(9mm) rods, slide twenty of th e l-inch (25mm) ch ain
links, and clamp the rod to th e free ends of th e corne r
posts on one of the lon g sides of th e can opy frame.
Arran ge the ch ain links so th at th ere are ten links on
either side of the central divider post. Weld th e rod to
th e corner posts and th e cent ral divider post. Repeat
th is process on the other lon g side of th e cano py frame.
Slide twelve, l-tnch (25mm) cha in links on to one
of th e sho rt, %-inch (9mm) rods, and weld th e rod
between the support posts on one of th e sho rt end s of
th e canopy frame . Repeat th e process on the other end

Final Assembly
As the panels are chamfered and fitted into th e rabbets, begin assembling th e bed. Working on a level surface, assemble one of the sho rt end s of the bed first,
then assemble the lon g sides, and finally th e remaining
sho rt end of the bed. When th e frame and all of the
panels have been assembled, check th at th e bed is level
and square.
Pull the entire structure of th e bed together, using
strap clamps or bar clamps, and begin to drill pilot
holes for the dowels. Do not drill all of th e dowel holes
at one time. First dowel th e top and bottom rails to the
corne r posts. When the corners of th e bed are secure,
drill and dowel th e stiles to the top and bottom rails.
Taperin g th e ends of the dowels will allow them to seat
int o the pilot holes more easily.

105

MATERIALS
WOOD

All wood is oak, except dowels, which may be maple or birch.


PART

NUMBER
OF PIECES

THICKNESS

WIDTH

LENGTH

top rail sides

2 11 (51mm)

3 11 (76mm)

68'1211 (lm740mm)

top rail ends

2 11 (51mm)

3 11 (76mm)

34 11 (864mm)

bottom rail sides

3 1/2 11 (89mm)

3ljz" (89mm)

68'1211 (lm740mm)

bottom rail ends

3 '1211 (89mm)

3ljz" (89mm)

34 11 (864mm)

corner posts

3 11 (76mm)

3 11 (76mm)

20ljz" (521mm)

stiles

2 11 (51mm)

3 11 (76mm)

16 '1211 (419mm)

side panels

111 (25mm)

15 '12 11 (394mm)

21 '1211 (546mm)

end panels

111 (25mm)

15ljz" (394mm)

31 11 (787mm)

111 (25mm)

32 '12 11 (825mm)

69 11 (lm753mm)

130 11 (3m302mm)

bottom
dowel

lAII (6mm) round

of the frame. You should now have a frame similar to


the one shown in the drawings . Turn the frame so that
the chain link rings are resting on the work surface.
The frame will now be in the position it will assume
when it is hung above the bed .
On top of each of the four corner posts, weld a l-inch
(25mm) chain link. The canopy will be suspended
from these rings.
Installing the Frame . Place the assembled bed into
its permanent location before attaching the canopy.
The canopy can be hung at any height. The figures
here show it at 96 inches (2m438mm) above the floor.
Attach eye bolts into the ceiling joists directly above
the corners of the bed . If there are no joists at these
locations, use toggle bolts instead of eye bolts. Tying
directly into the ceiling joists will provide the best support, however.
From the bolts, suspend lengths of chai n or rope,

attaching one end securely to the bolts. If you are


using chain, cut each to the desired length and hook
the bottom links through the rings on the corners of
the canopy frame. If you are using rope, thread the
ends through the four support rings on the canopy
frame. Lift the frame into position and tie off the first
rope. Tie off successive ropes, ensuring that the canopy
frame is level, until all four corners have been tied. It
will take a bit of patience to get the frame level.
Drapes. The length of the drapery material in the
materials list is given for a bed canopy frame that is
suspended 96 inches (2m438mm) above the floor. If
the height is more or less, adjust the length of material
accordingly. You will need a total of six drapery panels.
Leave the machine edges exposed as the edges of the
draperies; medieval monks would not have made
hems un necessarily. Hem the top and bottom of each
panel, however. Along the bottom edge, sew a l -inch

106

METAL
NUMBER
OF PIECES

PART

DIAMETER

LENGTH

canop y side, to p rail s

Y2" (1 2mm) ro un d

71 " (Im803mm)

ca nopy end , top rails

Y2" (l2mm) round

35ljz'1 (902mm)

ca nopy posts

ljz'1 (12mm) round

2"(51mm)

canop y h angers and


dr ap ery rings

68

I" (25mm) chain links

ca nopy side , bottom rail s

3jg'1 (9mm) round

71" (Im803mm)

ca nopy en d , bottom rail s

3jg'1 (9mm) round

34ljz" (877mm)

FABRIC
Fabr ic is coarse, ope n -weave wool, dye d gray- brown .
PART
side pa ne ls
ca nopy

N UMB ER O F PIECES

WIDTH

5 2" (lm3 21mm)

96" (2m438mm)

46" (lmI 68mm)

82" ( 2m83mm)

(25mm) wide, double-turned hem. At the top end of


the drapery, sew a I li z-inch (38mm) wide, doubleturn ed hem.
Sew the draperies to the drapery rings on the canopy
frame. O ne drape will go at the head of the bed, one at
the foot, and two on each side. The drapes on the side
are opened and closed as required, and the single pan els on the ends of the bed are usually left extended.
Cover. Make a cover for the canopy frame using a
single piece of fabric the length and width indicat ed in
the materials list. C ut a 4 Vz -inch (Ll-lmm) square from
each corner of the unhemmed canopy cover. This will
allow the canopy to extend beyond th e hanging ropes
and drop down around the sides of the canopy frame.

LENGTH

Hem the edges of the canopy cover, includin g around


the cutout s, with a liz -inch (l 3mm) wide, doubleturned hem.
Tie light string or heavy thread across the open top
of the canopy frame to serve as a temporary support
for the canopy cover. Only four or five stri ngs are
necessary in each directi on -just eno ugh to support
the canopy. Place the canopy cover over the top of the
frame and adjust it so th at it han gs straigh t and even
on all four sides.
Use heavy thread to sew the canopy in place around
the top edge of the canopy frame with a loose wh ipstitch. When all four sides have been sewn to the frame,
cut away the string support.

107

SIDE VIEW
72" (lm829mm)
-L-

( -..

......,..

""""

1Ir----.,------~_+_-:___+.

4" (l02mm)

END VIEW
14" (356mm)

20 '/ z" (521mm)

20 Yz" (521mm)

72" (lm829mm)
14" (356mm)
3" (76mm ).

- - -1

68" (lm727mm)

35 Yz', (902mm)

31 Yz" (800mm)
.... 2" (51mm)

,~

TOP VIEW

--

V-

--.--

~ u.::::=====~

---

rc. J .l
"------"

72" (lm829mm)

108

35 '/ z" (902mm)

SIDE VIEW, CUTAWAY

-----

3" (76mm)

CL

3" (76mm)

3" (76mm)

DETAILS A AND B,
SHOWING JOINTS

DETAILS A AND B

2Vz"
/ lis" (9mm)
114" (6mm) (

-:--- '
~ -

\jz" (l3mm)

(63mm)

- = 1r - - .,r _
--><--

----.e-"---

I Vz"
0 8mm)
-

JJ ~

lW

\ \\ \

(~32mm-rl--)

o~-"-

2'14"

0 J

(S7mm)

r:=r--\\\'
-

1/ " (6
14

mm

- )\

)-----'T(

--+- 1

3"
(76mm)

'-

~~

---

\
<,

1 3" t
(76mm)

DETAIL C, TOP VIEW


SHOWING JOINTS

W' (l9mm)

~ 2 Vz" ~
~63mml

2" (Slmm)
l\

%" (l9mm)

1t

' - I W (J 2mm)

109

DETAIL D
BOn-OM RA IL AND
FLOOR BOARD

BOn-OM RAI L
FROM ABOVE

3"
I" (2Smm)

W z" (89mm)

I" (2Smm)

'/ z" (13mm)

20" (S08mm)

3"
(76mm)

'14" (6mm)

3"
(76mm)

Yz" (Brnm)
'/ z" (l 3mm)

CANOPY FRAME

============:!jJ[=========

f-

36 " (9 14mm)

72" (lm829mm)

FRAME CO RN ER

FRAME CORNER,
CU TAWAY VI EW
ii"i

I" (2Smm)
-...,- ,...,

I" (2Sm m)

Yz" (IJrnm)

;)

2Yz" (63mm)

2 \jz" (6 3mm)
W (9mm)
i

I" ( 2Smm)
II

Va" (9mm)

't"'"

.L

"

FRAME CORNER,
TOP VIEW

"

110

Yz" (l3mm)

14

Fifteenth,Qentury
lijindom Frame

The ornate carving in the trefoil headings of this latefifteenth-century window frame is identical on both
the inner and outer faces, suggesting that the window
was never intended to hold glass. Such a fine window
would only have been made for the house of a rich
merchant, and yet there was no attempt at protecting
the occupants of the home from the elements. There
are rabbets on the inside face of the frame that were
probably intended to hold wooden shutters, but this
only gave the homeowners a choice between exposing
themselves totally to the elements and living in near
complete darkness.
The window also indicates that the ceiling height of
the room from which it came was hardly grand. Even
considering the loss of several inches at the bottom of
the uprights and the elimination of the sill plate on
which they rested, the room cannot have been much
more than 6V2feet (about 2 m) in height. None of
these factors, however, detract from the impressive
workmanship. This beautifully worked window frame
may not serve as much of a window, but it would make
a marvelous room divider or screen-wall.
This marvelous artifact is currently in storage in the
Victoria and Albert Museum.

wall, some provisions will need to be made to accommodate glass. In this case, I recommend that a large,
double-glazed picture window be mounted across
the entire surface of the window so that the lines and
structure of the piece will not need to be altered.
Whether the glass is located on the inside or outside
of the frame is up to you but because the mullions
are set toward the inside face of the frame, the glass
should logically be placed on the outside of the
mullions.
If, on the other hand, you plan to use the window
frame as an interior room screen, feet will need to be
added to allow the piece to become free-standing.
Materials
This window frame is made entirely of oak. Obtaining
5 V2-by-7-inch (I40-by-178mm) oak timbers may prove
challenging. If necessary, glue up the structural members of the window frame as discussed in chapter 1.
Other woods may be used for this project, but do not
use pressure-treated or weatherproofed construction
lumber, which will split and warp in a short period of
time.
Framing
The first step in building this window is to layout and
construct the frame . Note that the sill fits between the
side beams, and the lintel fits across the top of the side
beams. Keeping this arrangement in mind, proceed as
follows.
Cut the tenons on the top end of the side beams

CONSTRUCTION NOTES
This window frame bears many scars from being built
into the frame of a house. Since these details have no
bearing on the use or design of the window, we will not
include them in our re-creation. If you wish to use the
re-created window as an actual window in an exterior

111

WIN DO W FRA ME , ENGLAND, FIFTEENTH CENTURY. OAK;

H. 70",

W.

78", D. 5 1/ 2" .

COLLECfIONOFTHEVICTORIA

AND ALBERT MUSEUM , L ON DO N . COURTESY VICTORIA AND ALBERT MUSEUM.

and on both ends of the sill plate, as show n in th e


drawi ngs. When th e tenons have bee n cut, arrange
the side bea ms and th e lintel on a level floor in proper
relation to each othe r. Ensure tha t th e three pieces are.
at 90-degree angles to each othe r, and mark the locations whe re th e tenon s sho uld be mortised into th e
lintel. Remove the lintel from th e floor. Following the
same proce dure, place the sill plate in position against
the side bea ms, make certa in th at th e pieces are at
90-deg ree angles, and mark th e location s where th e

tenon s on th e sill plat e will be mortised int o the side


bea ms.
Then cut the mortises into th e lintel and side beams,
maintaining a snug fit. The process of cutt ing th e mortises can be simplified by using a drill to remove some
of th e excess wood from th e mortise. The fin ish work
will have to be carried out with a mallet and ch isel.
When the mortises have been cut , assemble the four
pieces of the frame, being cert ain th at th e fit is snug,
level, and square. Working on a piece of furniture

112

as large as this window requires some practi ce. If your


frame is sligh tly out of square, sma ll sh ims can be
inserted int o the morti se and tenon joints to compensate for a slight twist. Do not , however, rely on sh imming and wedging to take th e place of careful
craftsmanship. The structure is stro ngest when th e
parts fi t together well.

cut with a router or a hand-held grinder, but because of


th e extreme convolution s, th ey are best execute d either
by an old-fash ioned mold ing plan e or on a professiona lqualit y mold ing cutter.
After you have cut all of th e moldings and backs
on to th e mullion s, cut a ten on into th e top en d of th e
mullion (the end th at will be fitted into th e lintel).

Locating the Mullions


With the assembled frame laid out on th e work floor,
mark th e locations of th e four mullions. Not e in th e
drawings th at th e mullion s are against th e inside face
of th e window frame, not in the cen ter of th e frame ,
and th at th e two window open ings on th e right side
of th e frame are sligh tly narrower than th e three on
the left. Trace the outline of each mullion on the top
surface of th e sill plate and on the bottom side of th e
lint el. For ease in marking th e mullion outl ines, make
a cardboard template based on the mullion detail
drawing. The template does not need to have th e
moldin gs ind icated; th e general outl ine of th e piece
is sufficient.
O nce you have drawn th e outl ines of th e mullions,
mark the locat ion of th e mort ise inside th e outline of
each mullion. A lso mark the location of th e molded
edges on th e side rails and th e lintel. Mark th e point
where the sill plate int ersects with th e side rail. This
locates the bottom edge of th e side rail molding. The
moldin g is broken by a series of returns as it crosses th e
lint el. There is a return at each mullion, as well as at
the outside corne rs of th e window. The returns at th e
outside corne rs of the window are square (a 90-degree
angle), but th ose at th e mullions are wedge shaped.
This can be seen in detail on the window frame construction drawing. These wedge-shaped returns are
import ant, because porti ons of th e molded design on
the mullions do not line up with th e molded design
on th e frame, and the wedge masks thi s discrepancy.

Cutting Rabbets
Now disassemble th e frame. C ut the rabbets into
which th e trefoil decoration s are seated, into th e mullion s, th e lintel, and the side beams. Not e in th e trefoil
det ail drawin g th at the rabb ets run sligh tly deeper into
th e side rails than th ey do in th e lintel. The rabbets
do not pass through th e mulli ons; each mullion has
separate rabbets for th e trefoil on the left and for th e
one on th e right. The shaded areas in th e section A
drawin g show how the se rabbets line up across th e face
of th e wind ow.
For ease of cutting, th e rabbet in th e lintel can be
run th e en tire width of th e wind ow open ing. It does
not have to stop at each mullion .
Cutting Mortises
C ut th e mortises in both sill plate and lintel at th e
locati ons you marked previously. The rabbets and mortises will overlap each other on th e lintel, but thi s is of
no consequence becau se th e mortises are considerably
deeper th an th e rabbets.
Fit the mullions into th e mortises in th e lintel.
Check th at th e wedge-shaped returns line up with th e
acorn -sha ped bead on the front edge of the mullion ,
and make any necessary adjustmen ts. Marking which
mullions fit best into which mortises may save you time
in relocating th em later. It is unlikely th at th ey will be
fully int erchan geable.
Edge Molding
Now cut th e moldings along th e inside edges of th e
side beams and the lintel. These relati vely simple
moldings can be cut with either a router or molding
plan e. At least two cuts must be made: one on th e
outer surface of th e frame, and th e othe r on th e inner
face of th e window open ing. C ut th e moldings on side
beams first , becau se th ey are a straigh t, uninterrupted
run from the top of th e sill plat e to th e end of th e
beam . Cut th e point where th e molding stops at th e
top of th e sill square with sma ll ch isels or ca rving
kniv es.
Next, cut the molding into th e lintel, using th e

Mullions
Leaving the frame temp orarily, move on to th e mullion
bars. Even before th e decorati ve moldin g is cut, th e
blank mullion is closer to diamond shape th an it is
square. For thi s reason , start with a rect an gular blank
the size of the greatest dimension s of th e mullion , 4 1/ 2
by 3 % inches (114 by 92 mrn), From thi s blank, work
the decorative molded edges first, and later cut the
wedge-shaped back side of th e mullions.
These moldings are complicated and must be executed slowly and with care . Porti ons of them can be

113

MATERIALS
WOOD
All wood is oak, except dowels, which may be maple or birch.

PART

NUMBER
OF PIECES

THICKNESS

LENGTH

WIDTH

side beams

5Vz" (140mm)

7" (178mm)

67" (lm702mm)

lintel

5Vz" (140mm)

7" (178mm)

78" (lm981mm)

sill

5Vz" (l40mm)

7" (l78mm)

70" (lm778mm)

mullions

4Vz" (l14mm)

3%" (92mm)

51" (lm295mm)

trefoils

1" (25mm)

11 Y4" (286mm)

12" (305mm)

trefoils

1" (25mm)

lIlA" (286mm)

11~" (298mm)

dowel

Vz" (l3mm) round

60" (lm524mm)

dowel

W'

30" (762mm)

(19mm) round

same process. Pay careful attention to the returns, all


of which will have to be finish-carved with chisels and
carving knives. To execute the final carving around the
wedge-shaped returns, insert the mullions into the lintel to ensure the best alignment of the returns with the
front of the mullions.

Trefoils
Cut to length the boards from which the trefoils will
be cut, so that they fit between the mullions. Reassemble and square the entire frame with the trefoil
blanks in their proper places. Then draw a line around
the top and side edges of the trefoils, and mark each
trefoil so that it can be returned to the same window
opening after it has been carved. Remove the lintel
and lift the trefoils from the window frame.
Enlarge the trefoil detail drawing on a copier until
it fits properly onto the trefoil board . Using a sharp
knife, cut around the decorative outside edge and the
inside piercing of the trefoil design. Trace the pattern
onto the trefoil board and use a coping saw or a reciprocal saw (saber saw) to cut out the inside and outside
designs. Finish-sand all of the edges. With gouges, a
hand-held grinder, or a router, cut back the inner and
outer faces of the design as shown in the drawings.
These edges are slightly concave and are worked on
both the inside and outside surfaces of the window.
Finally, execute the low relief carvings, shown as
shaded areas in the drawings.

Fitting the Mullions


Now reassemble the side beams and the sill plate, making certain that they are in square. Align the lintel,
with the mullions in place, on top of the side rails
and rest it on the side rail tenons. The bottom ends
of the mullions should be resting on top of the sill
plate.
Realign the entire structure to ensure that all pieces
are in square. Position each mullion in line with
the proper mortise hole in the sill plate, and mark the
exact length of each mullion bar. Then remove the
mullions from the lintel and cut the bottom tenons.
With the exception of the trefoils, the entire window
frame should now fit together snugly with the tap of a
mallet.

114

Feet
If the window frame will be a free-standing piece, you
need to construct feet. The feet sho uld be th e same
dimensions as the side beams, 5 Vz by 7 inches (140 by
178mm). To support th e height of th e wind ow frame,
they will have to be 38 inches (965mm) lon g. Thus
they will extend beyond th e front and rear faces of th e
window a distanc e of 16 inches (406mm) .
The exposed ends of th e feet can be given decorative treatment, such as the lion's paws on the Curule
C ha ir, or left simple, like th e feet on th e Gothic
C radle. The top edges of th e feet can be ch amfered
slightly to relieve the harsh edges.
The feet will need to have braces running from near
the outer edge of each foot to approxima tely 16 inches
(406mm) onto the side rails. Cut th e bottom 5 inches
(127mm) of each side rail into a tenon 3 inches (76mm)
square. C ut a corresponding morti se in the center of
the foot . The braces do not need to be cut into a decorative sha pe. Attach them to th e feet and legs as
described for the leg braces on th e Gothic C radle.
Final Assembly
If you are building the window frame with out feet, it
will have to be assembled lying down. Repeat the ste ps
for assembly, be sure th e frame is square, and clamp it
together so th at it does not sh ift during pegging. Use
bar clamps or strap clamps, or tie hemp ropes (do not
use nylon ropes, which will stretch ) around th e frame
and tight en them by placing a sho rt stick between th e

ropes and twisting th e st ick until the ropes tighten.


Pad th e points where th e clamps or ropes come in
contact with th e wind ow frame to avoid scarring th e
wood .
Doweling
When the wind ow ha s been squared and clamped, drill
pilot holes for th e dowels and dr ive th e dowels int o th e
holes. Tapering th e dowels will make th em seat easier.
The dowels used for th e main framing members are 'l4
inch (19mm) in diameter, and th ose used to hold th e
mullions in place are on ly I/ Z inch (13mm).
When the dowels are in place, remove the clamps
and finish th e ends of th e dowels flush with th e surface
of th e window.
Attaching the Feet
The feet can be attached before or after th e wind ow
frame ha s been assembled. If th ey are attached to th e
side beams before th e wind ow is assembled , th e window must be assembled in a standing position . In thi s
case, once th e feet have been attached to th e side
beam s, insert th e sill plat e into the side beams and
then set the mulli ons into th e sill plate . Set th e trefoils
in place between th e mullions, and place the lintel on
top. Then square, clamp together, and drill and dowel
th e ent ire frame. If th e wind ow is assembl ed in a
sta nding position, th e drilling and dowelin g procedure
will be sligh tly more difficult th an if th e piece is lying
down .

11 5

SECT ION B

I
10"

10"

10"

(25 4mm)

(254mm)

(254mm)

9W'

(248mm) . ~

70" (lm778mm)

. I

461jz"
l(l m181mm)

I:'

(lm600mm)

j
!

7"
(l78mm)

7"
(l 78mm)

SECTION A

1" (25mm)

1 r

~~~=-fr:-:::~ ~~- --~ ~1 40mm)


10"

(254mm)

3 VB" (92mm)

1 0,w
(70mm)

::::!-/

2"
(51mm)

--"-2"
(5 1mm)

M~~~\iN
IF

4'/ 2" (l l-lmm)

1" (25mm)

- 1\'\

Ijz" (Hmm)

rJ

'14" (6mm)
1"
(25mm)

11 6

1/I

~I

2" (51mm)
J,

DETAIL A

- - =- --- ---- ----------.,


_

-,

f --=----

~ 2 Y1"
(63mm)

-r- \~

~:::::Z ljz" (63~ r-- i


- - - -~ - - ~

4" (102mm)

-r - - -

II1
I

W dowel

%" dowel

11/

lOW (267mm)

5"
7"

(l27mm)

(l78mm)

(76mm)
l3 ljz" (343mm)

-- -._--- ---

WINDOW FRAME
CONSTRUCTION

9W' (248mm)

L
r

7"

(l78mm)

JI

5 ljz"
(l40mm)

\
2" (51mm)

I
2" (51mm)

r
(
r-,r - - -

%" (l9mm)

3"

2" (51mm) ; o...,x........-

1(76mm)

nr
4 ljz"
(l14mm)

11 7

0
~

---.-

7"

r -

L. _.J

1J 2 ljz"
(l78mm) "---- (63mm)

.u---

=:=---

_ -- - , -

-- -

========...
DETAIL B

1"
(25mm)

1I -

-.., ------,.I
I

IO Y2
(267mm)

Il iA" (2 86mm)

SECT ION B

I"

TR EFOI L DETA IL

(25mm)

SECTION B

7" (178m m)

7" (i78mm)

5 '11" (i 40mm) .

/ I /

/,

. /

/
/,

I VB" (29mm)
I" (25mm)
y

W' (i 9mm)
>f

I W (38mm)

"

-t--x--- I lls" (4 7mm)

~'--t'-----"Ir--""~ - - t - - - - r I Ys" (29mm)

11 8

<,

"----

'
<,

-,

15

{{lint qabintt

Medieval merch ants frequently fulfilled th e functi on of


both wholesaler and retailer, and th ose engaged in th e
importing and selling of wine were no exception . For
the nobility, rich merch ants, and other large-scale customers who kept their own wine cellars, wine merchants
kept an ample supply of wine in kegs and butts.
Ca tering to the needs of small-scale custo mers such
as less wealthy individuals and neighborhood taverns
create d a problem. The technique of stor ing wine in
glass bottles had not yet been discovered, and selling
small quantities was difficult and messy. The solution
was to keep several large pitchers, each fi lled with a
different vintage, in a cupboard in the wine sho p. C ustomers would bring their own pitchers to th e sho p and
have them filled from th e large sto rage pitche rs, called
jacks.
The cupboard in which th e wine merch ant kept
the jacks had to be specialized in size and design. The
casework had to be att ractive eno ugh to grace th e sales
room of the sho p, and th e cabin et had to be spacious
enough to hold several large pitchers, each of which
could conta in as much as 5 gallons (18 liters) of wine .
To allow th e wine to breathe, and to entice th e customers with th e heady aroma of th e wines, th e door of
the wine cabinet was pierced with open- work ca rvings.
This handsome reproducti on wine cab ine t graces
th e sales room and sho p at th e Medieval Merch ant's
House in Southa mpto n , one of th e oldest surviving
merchant houses in England.

ing subtle ties in the construction of thi s piece th at


make it a work of trul y fine craftsmansh ip.
Materials
This cab ine t is made of oak, and the dowels used in
assembling it may be eithe r birch or maple. The hardware on th e door of thi s cabine t is metal, but no metal
fastene rs are used in th e construction of th e casework.
Wood for th e fram ing members of thi s cab ine t, along
with mat erial for about half of th e pan els, sho uld be
readil y available from any lumberyard . The large panels
for th e door, th e prim ary side panels, and th e large
board on th e top will have to be glued up. To prevent
such wide boards from warping, glue th em up from
three or four boards rather th an on ly two.
Before beginning con stru cti on of thi s ca bine t, study
th e materials list ca refully. Not e th at th e top and bottom connecting rails on th e front , sides, and back of
thi s cabin et, th ough all the same thi ckn ess, are all different widths.

CONSTRUCTION NOTES

Mortises and Tenons


All of the ten ons used in th e constr uction of th is chest
are I/ Z inch (13mm) wide and locat ed sligh tly off-center
on th e rails (see corner post and rail assembly, top
view). Likewise, all th e ten on s are th e full height of th e
rails from whic h th ey are cut (see detail B, top corne r
assembly). Because th e ten on s are th e full heigh t of the
rails, take extra ca re in cutti ng th e mortises. A ny overcutt ing on th e height of th e mor tises will be visible
after th e pieces are joined together.

Altho ugh the lines of th is wine cabi net are simple, th e


thi ckness of th e boards used in construction and th e
atte ntion to detail in th e carving and metalwork mark
th is as a fine piece of furniture. There are some surpris-

Framing
Lay out th e framing memb ers for th e front of th e cab inet, corne r posts, and top and bottom rails on a level

119

R EPLICA OF FOU RTEENTH,CENTURY E N GLISH WINE CABINET. O AK;

H. 62 '12" , W. 33 ", D. 26 112".

COLLECTION O F

MEDIEVAL MERCHANT'S H O USE, SOUTHAMPTON , E NGLA N D. COURTES Y M EDI EVA L M ERCHA NT 'S H O USE. P HOT OG RAPH BY 0 T YLER H U FF.

120

work surface. The wide sides of th e corne r posts sho uld


be oriented toward th e front and rear faces of the cabinet. Ensure th at th e boards are in square, th en mark
the locations where the top and bottom rails will join
the corne r posts.
Remove th e top and botto m rails from between the
corn er posts, and on th e ends of th e rails, mark out
the tenons as shown in detail A and corner post and
rail assembly, top view. Mark th e location s of th e corresponding morti ses on th e corne r posts.
Cu t the tenons and th e mortises int o whic h th ey fit.
Because th e morti ses and tenons are sligh tly off-center,
bear in mind which side of each board will face the
outside of th e cabin et , and th e fact th at th e left and
right ends of th e top and bottom rails sho uld be mirror
images.
The tenons sho uld fit snugly into th e morti ses, so
that the tenon can be seated with several firm taps
with the palm of th e han d or with one or two taps of
a wooden mallet . The joints must also fit squarely.
Mark all posts and rails as to th eir position , as well
as th e outside surfaces of th e rails and posts. Also mark
each morti se and tenon joint as it is finished , as th ese
hand-cut parts will not be inte rcha ngeab le. If th e parts
are not marked, it can take hours to relocate each
piece in its proper place. Make th ese markings with
cha lk or on pieces of masking tape so th at can be
easily removed from th e wood .
When th e front of the cabinet has been fitted
together, repeat the process for th e back. Then disassemble the pieces, lay th e top and bot tom rails aside,
and repeat the entire process with th e side panels (see
detail B, top corn er assembly, side). Again, because th e
bottom rails on th e front and back of the cabinet are
not the same width, pay careful atte ntion as to which
of the corne r posts belon g to the front of th e cabine t
and wh ich belong to th e back. The right side rails con nect to th e right front corne r post and th e back left
corn er post.
When all th e mortises and ten on s have been cut
and finished to a snug fit, assemble th e frame of th e
cabinet. Set the cabine t on a level work surface so th at
all of th e joints will fit square and plumb. You sho uld
now have a framework th at is basically th e outline of
the finished cabine t.

are set into th e frame from th e inside of th e cabinet


(see detail C and detail D of th e side assembly drawing). All of th e rabbets are Y4 inch (l9mm) deep by
1 inch (25mm) high . Mark an identical rabbet on the
inside of th e front bottom rail. This will support the
front edge of th e cabine t floor.
O n th e outside face of th e back of th e cabi ne t, mark
two more rabbets of th e same dim en sion s. These are
for th e back panels, which, for reasons unknown, are
fitted to th e outs ide of th e cabinet rather th an th e
inside.
Now mark th e location s of th e bottom braces show n
in det ail D. These braces will suppo rt th e floor boards
of th e cabine t. Mark th e 2-inch (51mm) outl ine of th e
braces on th e inside faces of th e front and rear corner
posts so th at th e top surface of th e brace will be on a
plan e with th e bottom of the rabbet s into whic h the
side panels will fit.
Disassemble th e cab ine t frame and cut the rabbets
as marked.
Bottom Braces
C ut two 22 liz-inch (571mm) bottom braces from 2-inch
(51mm) square stoc k. O n both ends of each brace, cut
a l-inch (25mm) square ten on in th e cen ter, leaving a
liz-inch (l 3mm) wide sho ulder all aro und th e tenon .
Lay out and cut corresponding mortises on th e corner posts inside th e outl ines of th e bottom braces.
Assembling the Frame
Aft er th e rabbets have been cut, reassemble the framing
memb ers on a level surface, as descr ibed above, but this
tim e including the bot tom braces. Make certa in th at
all of th e joints are square and th at th e cabine t is plumb.
C lamp th e cabine t together with bar clamps positioned near th e top and bottom side rails on all four
sides, and begin drilling pilot holes for th e li z-inc h
(l 3mm) framing dowels. Drill and dowel one joint at
a tim e. Cut each dowel about 1 inch (25mm) lon ger
than nece ssary, and taper th e end sligh tly so tha t it
can be driven into th e hole more easily. When th e
dowels are seated, cut off th e ends and sand flush with
th e cabinet.
When th e corners of th e cabine t are doweled , dowel
th e bottom braces to th e side rails. Each brace sho uld
be doweled at two equally space d points along its
len gth. The pilot holes sho uld be drill ed through th e
bottom brace and about 1 inch (25mm) deep into
the side rail. These dowels will not come th rough th e
outside of th e cabinet .

Panel Rabbets
On the left and right sides of th e cabine t frame, mark
the locations where th e side panel s will be seated (rabbeted) int o the top and botto m rails. The side panels

121

MATERIALS
WOOD
A ll wood is oa k, except dowels, which may be maple or birch.

PART
co rner posts

NUMBER
OF PIECES

THICKNESS

1%" (44mm)

5" (l27mm)

61" (Im549mm)

3,4" (19mm)

21 1jz" (546mm)

46" (lmI68mm)

door

LENGTH

WIDTH

wide side panels

W' (l9mm)

17 1jz" (444mm)

47 " (lmI94mm)

narrow side panels

W' (l9mm)

4 1;4" (108mm)

47 " (lmI94mm)

bac k panel

3,4" (19mm)

6" (l5 2mm)

48" (Im219mm)

bac k panel

W' (l9mm)

7" (l78mm)

48" (Im219mm)

bac k panel

3,4" (19mm)

8" (203mm)

48" (lm219mm)

top pa nel

I Ijz" (38mm)

7 Yz" (190mm)

33" (838mm)

top panel

I Ijz" (38mm)

19" (483mm)

33" (838mm)

fron t top rail

l W' (44mm)

2"(51mm)

24" (610mm)

side top rails

1%" (44mm)

3" (76mm)

23 1jz" (597mm)

bac k top rail

l W' (44mm)

2" (5 1mm)

24" (61Omm)

l W' (44mm)

4" (102mm)

24" (610mm)

1%" (44mm)

4" (10 2mm)

231jz" (597mm)

back bottom rail

1%" (44mm)

3" (76mm)

24" (61Omm)

bottom

I" (25mm)

21" (533mm)

28" (711mm)

2" (51mm)

22 Yz" (571mm)

fron t bottom rail


side bo ttom ra ils

bo ttom braces

2" (51mm)

frami ng dowel

ljz" (13mm) round

72" (lm829mm)

3/8" (9mm) round

72" (lm829mm)

pan el dowel

122

METAL

PART

NUMBER
OF PIECES

THICKNESS

WIDTH

LENGTH

hinge stra ps

VB" (3mm)

2" (51mm)

20 W' (527mm)

h in ge butt en ds

VB" (3mm)

3" (76mm)

6" (l5 2mm)

8 1;4" (2 09mm)

ljz" (13mm) round

bolt

VB" (3mm)

W' (19mm)

4 ljz" (114mm)

h asp

Y3Z" (Zrnm)

1lJ4" (32mm)

5" (l27mm)

ca tch

3/ 16" (5mm) round

5" (l 27mm)

ca tc h plate

W' (3mm)

3" (76mm)

bolt ba rrel

Side Panels
Trim the side panel s, two wide and two narrow, so
th at th ey drop easily into th e rabbets on th e inner face
of th e side rails. The panel s are loosely tongue-andgrooved together and do not quit e come into contact
with either the front or rear corner posts of th e cabine t
(see side wall cross section drawing).
O n both sides of th e cabin et, th e narrow side panel
is located next to the front and the tongues of th e
tongue-and-groove joints are on th e narrow panel. The
ton gues are lA inch (6mm) wide with a lA-inch (6mm)
wide shoulder on either side.
The space between the side panels and the front
and rear corner posts is about 1/ 16 inch (2mm). This
gap likely was not the result of sloppy cabinetmaking
but a way to allow the wine inside th e cabinet to
breathe.
After th e panels have been ton gue-and-grooved and
set into position, drill and dowel them with -Ys-inch
(9mm) doweling. There sho uld be two dowels each in
the top and bottom of the narrow board, and five dowels each in the top and bottom of the wide board . Drill
the pilot hole s from the inside of the cabinet so that
they go first throu gh the side panel s and extend to a
depth of Vz inch (l3mm) into th e side rail. The dowels
sho uld not come through the outside face of th e side
rail.

I" (25mm)

Top
Next, attach th e top of th e ca bine t. Drill and peg th e
top boards directly into th e top rails at th e locati ons
shown in th e drawings. The narrow board is located at
th e rear of th e cabinet. Overhan gs are as indi cated in
th e drawin gs.
Bottom
The bottom of th e cabinet is made of two, three, or
even four board s of various widths. Because it is not
seen , th e exact width of th e board s is not important.
The front board will need to be notched sligh tly to fit
around th e corner posts. The boards sho uld fit easily
int o place, but they sho uld not be loose or sloppy.
Because th ey cover the bottom of th e side panels, th ey
will help to hold them into place if th ey are a good fit.

Back Panels
The back pan els, as shown in th e rear view drawing,
are attached from th e outside of th e case. There are
sligh t gaps between all of th e boards in th e back, as
there are between th e side panels and th e front and
rear corner posts.
After the panels have been drilled and pegged into
place , merely rough-fini sh th e dowels. They do not
need to be cut flush with th e panel surface. The ext erior surface of the back boards also remain s rough-cut.

123

Door
The origina l doo r is one piece of oak, but you sho uld
have th e piece glued up at a mill. A glued door will be
less likely to warp th an one cut from a single plank.
Trim th e doo r so th at it is 114 inch (6mm) smaller in
both height and width th an the open ing into which it
will be placed.
En large th e door-carvin g design ona photocopier to
th e size called for. Tran sfer th e design to th e face of th e
door at the locat ion indi cat ed in th e fron t view drawing. Then use a coping saw or reciprocal saw (saber
saw) to cut out th e twenty-four tri an gular areas th at
make up the design . The tri an gles sho uld be separa ted
by a 'Ys-inch (l 6mm) wide latticework of wood. Rasp,
file, and sand th e int erior edges of th e lattice to a
smoo th finish, being very careful not to break the fragile latt icework .
Now ca rve th e face of th e finished tr ian gles as
shown in the profile of carv ing drawing. This carving
can be done with a small hand router, such as a Dremel
too l, or with a ca rving gouge. Because th e lattice is
very fragile, I recomm end using a hand router unl ess
you are a very expe rience d ca rver.
Finish the design by carving th e outer circle and th e
sma ll wedges to a depth of about YI6 inch (4.Smm).
Additional Shelves
You may want to install one or more interior shelves.
Attach sma ll blocks to the inside faces of th e corner
posts with mode rn wood screws to suppo rt additiona l
2-by-2- inc h (SI-by-Slmm) braces on wh ich to rest the
shelves. Position th ese braces parallel to th e bottom
braces.
Finish
When th e cab ine twork is completed, finish-sand th e
ent ire piece with sandpaper (glass paper) and give it an
oiled fi n ish as described in th e ch apt er 3.
Hinges
C ut the lon g straps on th e hinges from a section of
2-inch (Slrnm) wide metal stock. On one end of th e
hinge strap, cut I I/ z-inch (38mm) lon g hinge tangs as
describ ed in chapter 2. C ut th e decorative head at th e
other end. The 2-inch (Slmm) wide metal stock will
not quite acco mmoda te th e two outward curls near th e
head end of th e hinge. The tips can eithe r be welded
on to the body of th e hinge or cut straigh t and forged
into th e curled sha pe as describ ed in cha pter 2. If you
heat- forge the curls in th e proper medieval manner,

when you cut the sha pe of th e head , cut th e arms th at


are to be elirled as twclong, -st ra igh t point s, like the
tin es of a fork. The points shou ld follow along th e sides
of th e sma ll diamond-shaped design at.the end of th e
hinge head. (If you look at th e drawing of th e hinge
and imagine the two curls being straightened out, th e
procedure for cutting and bending th em sho uld
become clear.) II) th e space between th e tan gs and the
head, taper th e shaft of th e hinge from th e 2-inch
(Slmm) plate near th e spine to -X inch (l 9mm) behind
th e decorat ive head , as shown in the drawing of the
hinge. Form th e butt (short) end of th e hinge in th e
same manner.
Catch
Cut and drill th e catch plat e as shown in the drawin gs.
Form th e staple from a len gth of 3/ 16-inch (4.5mm)
round stock, and file th e ends to wedges (flat points).
Insert th e staple, points facing upward, into th e jaws of
a vise to a depth of 1114 inches (32 mm). Place th e catch
plate over th e ends of the stap le. Heat th e ends of the
staple and bend th em toward each othe r as shown in
th e drawin g.
Barrel Bolt
Hasp. Lay out and cut th e hasp as shown in the
drawings. Then cut th e slot in th e center of th e hasp,
either by heating th e metal and cutt ing it with a ch isel,
or by cutting it with a jeweler's saw. File the edges of
th e hasp, inside and out, until they are smooth.
Locate th e area on th e bolt barrel where th e hasp is
to pass th rough . File a flat spot wide enough to allow a
drill bit to bite into th e surface of th e bolt. Drill several
holes, in a straigh t line, th e width and thickness of the
ton gue on th e hasp. This is probably th e most frustrat ing procedur e in makin g th e en tire cabinet. When the
holes are drill ed , remove th e metal between th em with
sma ll pin files.
Insert th e tongue of th e hasp th rough th e slot in the
bolt barrel, heat it, and crimp it over as shown in the
drawin gs. The crimped edge will face the front side of
th e barrel bolt.
Bolt Barrels. Bend a l-inch (2Smm) ear on one
end of one of the three pieces of flat stock. When bent,
you will have an L-shaped piece of metal with one leg
1 inch (2Smm) lon g and th e other about 3 Yz inches
(89mm) long. Leave th e sho rt end of th e L in the vise.
Heat th e exposed end of th e bracket and, using a piece
of round stoc k just sligh tly larger th an the bolt as a
form ing mandrel, shape th e long end of th e bracket

124

nails on th e inside of th e door to hold the barrels


securely in place.

around the mandrel into a sha pe similar to a question


mark. You will need an assistan t for thi s procedure, one
of you heating and bending th e metal, th e other holding the mandrel firmly in place.
When cool, remove th e metal from th e vise, insert
the unworked end int o th e vise, heat it, and bend it
until the two ears are on a single plan e, creating a bolt
barrel similar to th e one shown in th e drawings.
Repeat th is process for th e remaining two bolt barrels. Then drill attach men t holes in th e ears of th e
three barrels.
Place th e three bolt barrels on th e face of th e cabinet , two on th e door and one on th e corne r post. The
relative positions of th e barrels are shown in th e drawings. Drill pilot holes for th e forged nails th at will
hold th e barrels in place. Position the bolt and two
barrels on the door, and nail th e barrels in place with
I I/ z-in ch (38mm) forged nails. Heat and crimp th e

Attaching the Hinges


Attach th e lon g arm of th e hinges to th e door with
forged nails, again predrilling the holes and crimping
th e end s of th e nails. When th e hinges are attached to
th e door, set the door in place, allowing a gap of abo ut
Ys inch (3mm) above and below th e door and 3116 inch
(5mm) between th e door and th e corne r post on th e
edge of th e door where th e barrel bolt is located (th e
side of th e door th at swings open ).
Attach th e small end s of the hinges to the door
frame (corner post), and th e final bolt barrel to the
opposite corne r post. Latch the door sh ut, and drop
th e hasp against th e door. The ca tch sho uld be nailed
to the door so that th e slot in th e hasp falls over the
ca tch ring when th e bolt is in th e locked position .

125

RIGHT SIDE VIEW


FRONT V IEW

G
.

26Yz" (673mm)

33" (838mm)

7Yz" + - - 19" (483mm)

I /z" (38mm)

{l90mm}1

--,~

"

W' {l9mm}

~_ =-::.

J
B

\\V

3" (76mm }

1\

3 1;4" (82mm)

20W (521 rum)

!
1\ /

12" (305mm)

II'-

>- 21" (533mm)


I

.I~

__~

I
H

J1

~.

21 li z" (546mm}--f-----lt

9" (229mm)
---lI...-

---' I L - U

IW (44mm )
{l27mm}

TOP VIEW
7Yz" {l90mm}

33" (838mm)

j T

~ -- ~
~

:=- ~> ~
~

---------_

' 6"'" {673mml


19"

~ ( 4 83 m m )

~-~ J .l

126

" - !4" {l9mm}

45" (lmI43mm)

61" {lm5 49mm)

I..-

....".

3 liz" (89mm)

CABINET WITH FRONT REMOVED

REAR VIEW

.. -=

I II
IH-t--- 28" (711mm)

--t+-~ I\I

\
2" (5Imm)

II " (27 9mm)


\

....
I W' (44mm) "-

I W' (44mm) ~

SIDE WALL, CROSS SECTION

---L

--"'--

.t./

I" (25mm)

--.--

Vi" (l9mm)

. \- I

2" (5Imm)

r_

DETA IL C

2" (5Imm)

3" (76mm)

SIDE ASSEMBLY

BACK ASSEMBLY
inside

outs ide

outs ide

inside

DETAIL D
<,

I W' (44mm)

!===:::::::::;~.:::J

~ 5" (l27mm)

-1 ~

2" (5Imm)

---,.;-

L W'~
(44mm)

127

1 2"

4" (102mm)
\

\ \

(5Imm) ~
k
1 I W' I
(44mm)

DOOR CA RVING

l'
DETAIL B

[Y4"

(32mm)

'/ z"

TOP CORNER (l Jrnm)


ASSEMBLY, SIDE

if

[ V-t"
(44mm)

~v
PROFILE OF CARVING

(W(6mm)
it
~n~ W ( 6mm)

Y8" (22mm)

-.r-~
%" (I omm)

'/ z" (13mm)

14" (6mm)

CORNER POSTAND
RAIL ASSEMBLY,
TOP VIEW

DETAIL A
TOP CORN ER, FRONT

.-----=----

=-

[ ljz' I

(38mm)
[ WO (44mm)

1
W' (19mm)J

!jz" (l I mm)

[ V-t" (44mm)

128

3" (7 6mm)

HARDWARE
HINGE

W' 0 9mm)

---r--+--t-

~r

I lis" (35mm)

~ I"

1--

(32mm)

(25mm)
0

11/1"
3" (7 6mm)

~ IW ~

CATCH

(38mm)

Iw3

I Vg" (29mm)

3"

(76mm)

-"'-~;r-;--

1_

IW' (29mm)
BARREL BOLT
ASSEMBLY

W' (l 9mm)

8 1,4" (209mm)

4" (102mm)
3 1,4" (82mm)

Vz" (l3mm)

Y4"
(l 9mm)

4" 002mm) 2 W
57mm

HASP

r:

Vl"

Vz"

. 03mm) f

0 3mm)

I" (25mm)

W 09mm)

r
'-------"I" (25mm)

BOLT
BARREL

2W

-:L

I Ijz'I (3 8mm)

4" 0 02mm)

3W (82mm) VB" (22mm)

(57mm)

VB" (22mm)

1_

1IW r
(32mm)

129

2 Vz" (63mm)

16

(3othic qradlc

Even in the Middle Ages th e advantages of bein g able


to rock babies gently to sleep were well recognized.
This beautifully carved cradle, decorated and orna men ted in th e restrain ed Go th ic style of th e fourteenth
century, ind icates parents of considerab le wealth and
social status. In a cradle very similar to thi s one, th e
future Henry V once too k h is naps.
While th e majorit y of medieval furn iture was sturdily constructed, in th e case of cradles, durabilit y was
a necessity. No t on ly were medieval cradles routinely
used over th e course of several gene rations, but people
had large num bers of children to compensate for high
infant mort ality.
This cradle, made of fine English oak, has a bright,
painted finish. The overall ground color is yellow
ocher, and th e orna mentation and outlines are red.
O rna te, polychrome finishes such as thi s were not
uncommon in th e Middl e Ages, and helped brighten
up the almost perpetual twilight that existed in virtually all medieval buildings.
This reproduction cradle is part of th e collection at
the restored Medieval Merch ant's House in Southampton, England .

Materials
Although th e origina l cradle is const ructed en tirely of
oak, if you plan to paint it, you may wish to consider
using a wood th at is sligh tly less expe nsive, such as
pine or fir. In either case, th e dowels sho uld be maple
or birch. The end panel s, side panels, and botto m on
th e cradle will probably have to be glued up, and the
braces lam inated from two thinner boards. The side
pane ls in th e cradle at th e Medieval Merch ant's House
are single panels, but th ere is no str uctural reason for
thi s. Because th ey are held in posit ion by the end panels, th ey could just as easily be two boards, and if th e
boards were joined behind th e line of the ce nt ral side
rail, th e difference would not be visible. A ll of th e
other materials sho uld be readil y available.
End Panels
Lay out th e finished sha pe of th e end pan els on th e
end panel blanks, with th e grain running verti cally,
and then cut them to sha pe. Now lay out th e position
of the slots (rabbets) into which th e side panel s are
seated. These slots are lfz by I/ Z inch (13 by 13mm)
square and 14 inch es (356mm) in len gth . Their exac t
position is shown in th e bed construction drawing.
Although th e side panel s are seated int o th e end pan els, th e bottom panel of th e cradle bed is not joined
to other structural memb ers.
C ut th e side pan el slots. Then lay out th e position
of th e morti se joints int o which th e side rails will be
fitted. C ut the mortises in both end pan els.

CONSTRUCTION NOTES
The origina l cradle is made of oak and painted in
yellow ocher and red, but th ere are a variety of options
open to th e craftsman .
While the combina tion of th e fi nest wood and
paint ed orna menta tion is historic ally correct, so is
the practice of using more humbl e woods, such as pine,
and hiding th eir mediocrity benea th a layer of brigh t
paint.
Altern ati vely, you might choose to show off th e
grain of the oak with a simple oil finish .

Rails
C ut th e side and bottom rails to th e dim en sion s called
for in th e mat erials list. Rabbet out th e bottom rail as
shown in th e bed construction drawin gs so th at it will

131

R EPLICA OF FOURTEENTH ,CENTURY E N GLISH CRADLE. O AK;

H. 32" , W. 36" , D. 34 3/4". COLLECT ION

OF M EDIEVAL

M ERCH A NT 'S H O USE, S O UTHAM PT O N , ENG LAN D. COURT ESY MEDI EVAL M ERCH A NT'S H O USE. PHOT OG RAPH BY D. T YLER H U FF.

132

main support posts. The ten on s on th e support post


are 2 1/ 2 inc hes (63mm) lon g so th at it will pass completel y th rough th e foot. This will provide as much
support as possible for th e cradle and help preven t
th e struc ture from wobbling. Throughout th e process
of constructing th e leg units, keep th e compone nts of
each leg separate , because th e pieces will probably not
be int erch an geable.
Lay out th e design of th e leg braces, allowing plenty
of wood from which to cut th e ten on s at th e top and
bottom of each brace. The outl ine of th e brace may be
en larged, by h and or on a photocopier, from the brace
in th e carving detail drawin gs. Cut th e ten on on th e
top end of each brac e on ly.
Position the braces on th e sides of th e support posts
and mark th e point at which th ey will join, makin g
certa in th at th e bottom of th e braces are level with th e
bottom of th e support posts. Then lay out and cut mortises in the support posts to receive th e tenon s at th e
top of th e braces. Set th e braces int o th e support posts
but do not dowel th em.
With a square, draw a line across the bottom of th e
support posts and th e braces to mark th e position on
th e braces where th e tenon s will begin . This line must
be kept at a 90-d egree angle to th e side of th e suppo rt
posts or th e ent ire struc ture will be out of square.
Mark th e tenon s on th e bottom of th e braces,
remove th e braces from th e support posts , and cut th e
tenons.
With the braces again set into the support posts, align
th e posts and brace unit with th e feet and mark th e
position s of the three mortises th at need to be cut int o
each foot . The tenon on th e main support run s completely through the foot, but th ose on the braces do not .
When both leg units have been brought to thi s
point, assemble the comp onents and mark th e position
of th e brace panel s on th e inside face of th e braces and
legs and th e tops of th e feet. Disassemble th e leg units,
and cut the rabbets into which th e panels will be
insert ed. These rabbets are on ly '14 inch (6mm) deep.

support th e bottom of th e cradle. Mark th e tenon ends


on th e side and bottom rails, and begin to cut the
tenons. Fit each tenon into a morti se as it is finished.
They sho uld fit together sn ugly. A snug fit has been
ach ieved when the tenon can be seated with several
firm raps with th e palm of th e hand or one or two taps
with a mallet . Mark the locat ion of each matching
morti se and tenon joint to aid in th e final assembly of
th e bed. Make all markings on th e wood with ch alk or
on masking tape so th at th ey can be removed easily.
When all twelve of th e morti se and tenon joints
have been fitted, assemble th e frame of the cradle bed.
Ensure th at th e frame of th e bed is square and plumb,
then slide th e side panel s into place. If th ey are tight,
or if any of the side rails interfere with their sliding
into position, correct th e problem at thi s tim e. When
the side panels can be slid int o position with relative
ease, th e bed is ready for final assembly.
Bed Assembly
Working on a level surface, assemble th e rails and end
panels. Make certa in th at th e bed frame is level and
square. Pull th e side rails snugly int o th e end panel
morti ses with bar clamps. Drill and peg th e morti se
and tenon joints with VB-inch (9mm) dowels. Sligh tly
tapering th e dowels will allow th em to seat more easily.
When all of th e dowels are in place, trim off th e end s
near th e surface of the wood.
Put th e bottom panel into place in th e cradle bed,
and insert th e side panel s int o place. The side panel s
sho uld hold th e bottom panel in place.
Finials
The ball finials on th e four corn ers of th e cradle bed
serve as locks to hold th e side panels in place. C arve or
lathe-turn th e finials as shown in th e drawings. The
base of the finials sho uld be 2 inches (5Imm) square,
sufficient to cover th e top of th e side rail and the width
of the end panel.
O n the botto m of each finial, turn or insert a VB-inch
(9mm) dowel pin to a depth of 1 inch (25mm), with
another 1 inch (25mm) extending from the finial base.
Drill a dowel hole at a corresponding location on each
corn er of the cradle bed. If th e dowels fit fairly snugly,
they sho uld not need to be cross doweled to hold th em
in place. Set th e bed aside.

Brace Panels
To cut th e brace pan els, it may be wise to reassemble
th e leg un its and trace around th e pan el open ings in
order to make templ ate s from wh ich to cut th e panels.
Add '14 inch (6mm) around th e tracin g to allow for th e
portion of the pan el th at will be set into th e rabbet.
Cut th e template s from thin plywood or heavy cardboard so th at they can be test-fit into th e frame before
cutting th e final panel s.

Leg Units
C ut the main support posts and feet as described in
the materials list. Cut the tenon on th e bottom of both

133

Chamfer ed Ed ges
Wit h a chise l or ha nd router, cut th e cha mfered edges
on the top of the feet , along th e outside edge of th e
braces, and on th e inside face of the support post above
the brace (see side view drawin g).

Leg Assembly
Sand all of th e pieces, th en assemble th e leg units in
th e same manner as previously. Pull the joints together
with cabine t clamps, being careful not to damage th e
curved surface of th e brace. Drill and peg the support
post into th e foot with %-inch (9mm) dowel. Follow
th e same procedur e with th e mortise joints on both
ends of th e braces.

Support Post Carving


Lay out the Goth ic spire on the top of th e support
posts and th e deta ils of th e panel carvings, acco rding
to the carving deta il drawin g. The pan el carving
on ly appea rs on the outside face of each support post,
but th ere are small triangles carved near th e top of
the spire on the side faces of th e posts (see side view
drawing ).
The pane l carvi ng on th e outside face of th e support
posts is on ly 114 inch (6mm) deep. The main area of th e
panels is completely flat. The narrow, 1;4-inch (6mm)
edge band ing around th e panel s is sligh tly concave .
This can be execute d with eithe r a round gouge or a
hand -held router such as a Dremel tool.

Stretcher
C ut a l-inch (25mm) long tenon, Y4 inch (l 9mm)
thi ck and 1114 inches (32mm) wide on both ends of the
stretcher. Mark an outl ine for a corresponding mortise on th e interior face of each of the leg unit s. The
stretche r sho uld be in th e center of th e foot, direc tly in
line with th e suppor t post. Position the morti se so th at
th e stretcher will be 1;4 inch (6mm) above the floor. In
cutti ng th e morti se, you may cut int o the edge of the
tenon on th e support post; th is will have no effect on
th e structure of th e cradle.
Insert th e stretcher into the morti ses and pull the
en tire structure together, makin g certa in th at it is
square and plumb . Drill dowel holes into the und erside
(bott om) of th e foot and thro ugh th e stretcher teno ns.
Dowel th e stretcher into place.

Brace Panel Carving


En large th e detail drawin g of th e panel carvin gs on a
pho toco pier until it fits onto th e brace panel board,
allowing for the I4-inch (6mm) rabbet. Use a sha rp
knife to cut th e pattern around th e outline of th e
panel designs. Trace th e pattern onto th e brace panel,
and cut out th e inside and outside designs with a coping saw. The designs on thi s panel are too small to cut
with a reciprocal saw (saber saw).
Fin ish-sand th e int erior edges of th e cutou ts. With
gouges or a hand-held grinder, sha pe th e con cave
edging around all of th e panel s. Not e in th e section B
drawing th at th e conca ve edge design is executed on
both sides of th e pan el. When th e cut edges of the
design have been carved , the low relief carvings (those
shown in th e drawin gs as sha ded areas bet ween the
pierced designs) can be executed .

Spindle
The origina l rocker spindle would und oubt edly have
been forged by a smith . You can turn th e spindle on a
modern metal lathe. Follow th e diagram of the spindle
in th e drawings, leaving th e spindles slightly longer
th an necessary, to allow for an exac t fit when they are
installed on th e cradle.
Drill eigh t mounting holes around th e outer ring of
th e spindle. Locate th e spindle on th e end of th e cradle
bed. The center of th e spindle sho uld be centered on
th e width of th e end panel and 4lJz inches (Ll-lmrn)
below th e top edge of the pan el.
The origina l spindle is mounted with forged nails,
which are probably all th e support th at will ever be
necessary, altho ugh if I were building a cradle for my
child, I would atta ch it with coarse thread screws.
Before mounting th e spindles, measure the combined len gth of th e bed and spindles, and compare th at
measurement with th e distanc e between th e farthest
points of th e rocker slots. The ends of th e spindles
sho uld just to uch th e outside walls of th e rocker slots.
If th ey are too sho rt, th e frame can wobble; if th ey are
too long, th ey will push th e frame outward, creating
stress on th e en tire structure. If necessary, cut a length

Rocker Slot
O n the inside face of each support post, locat e th e
position of th e slot th at will hold th e spindle. The
open ing int o wh ich th e spindle is dropped is 8 inches
(203mm) below th e top of th e support post; th e lowest
point in th e slot is 1314 inches (44mm) lower on th e
support post. The dim en sion s of thi s slot are show n
in th e rocker mech ani sm drawin gs. The rocker slots
should be on th e same side of th e finished leg assembly
so th at th ey are mirror images of each othe r, not identical. C ut th e rocker slots.

134

MATERIALS
WOOD
Original painted version is mad e of mixed wood s. For n atural fini sh , build of oa k or birch.
NUMBER
O F PIECES

THICKNESS

end pan els

1314 11 (44mm)

21 11 (533mm)

21 11 (533mm)

side pa nels

'/ 211 (13mm)

14 11 (356mm)

26 11 (6 60mm)

'12 11 (13mm)

18 11 (457mm)

25 11 (635mm)

PART

bo ttom

WIDTH

LENGTH

side rails

11/ 211 (3 8mm)

2 11 (51mm)

27 11 (6 86mm)

bo ttom rails

2 11 (51mm)

2 '1211 (63mm)

27 11 (6 86mm)

stret che r

1'14 11 (32mm)

2314" (70mm)

3 2 11 (813mm)

feet

2 '1211 (63mm)

3 11 (76mm)

34314'1(883mm)

braces

1Xt'1 (44mm)

5 11 (l27mm)

20 11 (508mm)

brace panels

% 11

8 '1211 (216mm)

13 '12 11 (343mm)

posts

2 '12 11 (63mm)

2314" (70mm)

32 11 (813mm)

finials

2 11 (51mm)

2 11 (51mm)

2314" (70mm)

72 11 (lm829mm)

dowel

11

(19mm)

(9mm) round

METAL

PART

NUMBER
OF PIECES

THICKNES S
(16mm) round

spindle rods

% 11

spind le plates

114 11 (6mm)

LENGTH

WIDTH

of 2-by-4 (51-by-102mm) the exact length of the


cradle bed and attach the spindles to the ends. This
will allow yOLi to file or grind the ends of the spindles
to the right length without the encumbrance of working around the cradle. When the spindles are the correct length, drill pilot holes, and atta ch them to the

2 '12 11 (63mm)

1114" (32mm)

2 '12 11 (63mm)

ends of the cradle. The cradle bed sho uld now drop
int o position.
Finish
Finish the cradle with either a painted or an oiled finish, according to the instructions given in chapter 3.

135

END VIEW

1
27'/1" (698mm)
32" (813mm)

18 Xl" (476mm)

34Xl" (884mm)

SIDE VIEW
28'/1" (724mm)

2 ljz" (63mm)

----

I
32" (813mm)

1Xl" (44mm)
11;4" (32mm)

J"

17q_f

30" (762mm)

136

36" (914mm)

BED CONSTRUCTION

Y2" (l 3mm)

1'/ 2" 0 8mm)

cente rline

2 1A" (57mm)

(
Y2"
(l3mm)

\\

l Yz"
(38mm)

\\

14" (356mm)
21" (533mm)
15 Yz" (394mm)

\
Y2"

VB" (9mm)

2'/ 2" (63mm)

1" (25mm)

6'11" (l59mm)

_------eL

(5 1mm)

137

LEG UNIT CONSTRUCTION

PANEL AND LEG


ASSEMBLY

-N)_
I" (25mm)

LEG. COLUMN.
AND FOOT JOINTS
1'IJ" (38mm)

3" (76mm)

\
2W'
(70mm)

W' (I 9mm)

Ir

'

\\

3" (76mm)

I! l" (I3mm)

---- _-...

I W'

(38mm)

(44mm)

~.> E1fl
.
\."'-

ft

;:':-(38"''''1

3" (76mm)

UNDERSIDE OF FOOT SECTION A

138

SECTION B

2 Ys" (60mm)

l 1fL'

CARVING DETAIL

Va" (l6mm)

:
I
I

I
I
I
I+-..".---

I
I

'A" (6mm)
4%"

2Ys"
(60mm)

(l24mm)

( -n"" (9onon)

2Ys"

'A" (6mm)

(60mm)

Va" (l6mm)

1\ f

W (6mm)

!!.I" (l9mm)

Ys" (9mm)
SECTION B

I" (25mm)
I W (44mm)

16" (406mm)

Ys" (9mm)

2Y4"
(70mm)

I" (25mm)
'/ 2" (l Jmm)

1W (38mm)

5" (l27mm)

3" ~-- 8" (203mm)


(76mm)

--t~

1" (25mm)

139

ROCKER MECHANISM

INSIDE SUPPORT
POST

END VIEW
OF SPINDLE

2Yz"
(63mm)

"

Yz" (l3mm)

W' (l9mm)
\ "

~~J

l W' (44mm)

1 Yz" (38mm)

2Yz"

1Y4"

(63mm)

(44mm)

VB" (l6mm)

1J

SIDE VIEW OF SPINDLE


MOUNTED ON END OF CRADLE,
RESTING IN CHANNEL ON
SUPPORT POST

1 '14" (32mm)

I ljz" (38mm) ' )

W'

(I9mm) 1

1W' (44mm)

!l

1,4" (6mm)

2 111" -')

i ;~m)

140

\~

17

Fiftccnth~qcntury

Door

The door has been a primary symbol of security since


the conce pts of privacy and persona l property first
developed. In th e Middl e Ages, hermet ic monks, sometimes known as ancho rites, used doors to protect not
property, but privacy. The Ca rthusian monks at Mount
Grace Priory, Yorkshire Co un ty, Englan d, were no
exceptio n in the quest for solitude despite th eir communalliving arrangemen t.
The fi fteenth century saw tremen dous growth in
many of the richl y endowed monastic communities,
incl uding the one at Mount Grace. Here, th e community of monk s lived in a complex of ind ividual cells
th at were as comforta bly appointed as any merch antclass house. Each cell was a four-room house complete
with an attached walled garden and piped-in water.
These pleasant surroundings, however, did not lessen
the physical severity and social deprivation to which
the broth ers subjected th emselves. Their isolati on was
nearly complete. Even th eir meals were passed through
a slot near th e entrance door of th e cell.
To ensure such privacy, stout doors were needed.
This pegged oak door, from reconstructed cell number
eigh t at Mount Grace, is a masterful example of th e
carpenter's art. Constructed completely of oak, without
metal fasteners or hinges, thi s heavy door swings as
easily as any modern door.

pin s, one each at the top and bottom . These pin s are
in turn set into sockets in th e door lintel and th e sill
plat e, which in medieval buildings usually sat above
th e floor boards. Though having th e sill plate above th e
floor may have been a nui sance when someone moved
from room to room, it greatly facilita ted th e construction of post-and-bea m walls.
Because th ere is no locking mech an ism on thi s doo r,
it may not technically have an interior and an exterior
face; however, judging from its locati on at Mount
Grace Priory, th e flat side of th e door sho uld be considered th e outer side and th e face with th e cross braces
th e inside. C on struction of thi s piece may appear quite
simple, but brace yourself for a real cha llenge .
Materials
The door is made ent irely of oak. The wooden nails
also sho uld be oak, because th ey are such a visible part
of th e structure. The door itself can be made of eithe r
white or red oak, and could conceivably be made of a
different wood, but th e wooden nails must be made of
white oak, because it is much harder th an most other
woods. The hinge pin s, or swing pin s, sho uld be made
of maple or birch, which are more resistant to wear
th an oak.
Nails
Because th e entire structure is held together with
wooden nails, the y sho uld be th e first items made. The
overall len gth of th e finished nails is 3 inches (76mm),
but they will be easier to handle while th ey are being
carved if th ey are worked, one at a time, from lengths
of stock about 1 foot (305mm) in length. You sho uld
be able to carve about three nails from a l-foot (305mm)
len gth of oak stock.

CONSTRUCTION NOTES
An interesting feature of thi s door is th at it is held
together with wooden nails. They are not simply pegs,
as are most wood- to-wood fasteners, but are fully developed nails, with a head on one end, carved from oak.
The door is made even more int eresting by having
no visible hinges. The main carrying timb er (the plank
on th e hinge end of th e door) is set with two large

141

R EPLICA OF FIFTEEN TH -CEN TU RY ENGLISH DOOR. OAK;

H. 71 1,4", W. 30".

COLLECTION OF MOUNT GRACE PRIORY,

N ORTHALLERTON, ENGLAND. COURTESY ENGLISH H ERIT AGE. P H OT OGRA PH S BY D. TYLER H U FF.

142

143

Mark the location of a nail head at one end of a


length of Vz-inch (l3mm) square stock. The nail head
should be the full dimension of the stock and Vz inch
(l3mm) in height, and the body of the nail 3fs inch
(9mm) in diameter.
With a jeweler's saw, fine-tooth coping saw, or very
sharp carving knife, score a line around the bottom of
the nail head . On the flat sides of the stock, the scoring should be cut to a depth of only VI6 inch (Zmm).
Because the body of the nail is round and the head
square, the cut will need to be deeper at the corners of
the stock.
Now carefully shape the body of the nail. When you
are carving toward the head of the nail, be careful not
to chip away the corners of the head. At some point
in the carving process, you will need to saw the nail
free from the length of stock. When the nail is nearly
round, finish shaping it with sandpaper (glass paper).
You will need good, sharp, clean corners where the
body of the nail joins the head so that the nail will seat
tightly against the face of the door.
When the body of the nail is complete, sand or
carve a bevel around the head and another bevel
around the bottom of the nail. The bottom bevel will
allow the nail to be driven into the pilot holes more
easily. You will need a total of thirty-four nails .
Swing Pins
Trim the carrying timber (the thick plank on the hinge
side of the door) Vz inch (l3mm) shorter than the
height of the door opening. Locate the position of the
swing pins on the top and bottom of the carrying timber. The pins should be Vz inch (l3mm) from the outside edge of the door, as shown in the door mounting
drawings, and at the center of the carrying timber's
2 11t-inch (57mm) thickness. The pins must be at the
same locations on the top and bottom of the carrying
timber so that the door will operate without binding or
twisting.
Drill pilot holes for the swing pins to a depth of 2
inches (51mm). The holes must run perfectly straight
into the carrying timber or, again, the door will not
swing properly. Set the swing pins into the pilot holes
with a wooden mallet. The pins will drive more easily
if you sand a slight chamfer around the bottom edge.
When the swing pins have been seated, there should
be lIlt inches (32mm) of the pins sticking beyond the
face of the door. Sand chamfers onto the exposed ends .
To make the swing pins more stable, they can be
cross pinned (fastened to the carrying timber) by

inserting a YB-inch (9mm) dowel through the door and


the swing pin . The dowel should run through the faces
of the door, not into its edge. (For more information
on cross doweling, see chapter 18.)
Door Boards
The combined widths of the boards allow this door
to fit in its frame. The widths of the boards in your
door may vary depending upon the width of your door
frame. This door can be widened to 33 or 34 inches
(838-863mm) without developing any structural
problems. The finished width of the door must be
VB inch (22mm) narrower than the interior dimension
of the door frame to allow the door to swing freely on
the swing pins . When the proper widths of the door
boards have been established, trim the boards to the
same length as the carrying timber.
Cross Braces
The length of the braces is determined by the width
of the door. If your door is wider or narrower than the
door in the drawings, adjust the length of the braces
accordingly. The braces must be long enough to provide a 1~ - i nch (44mm) tenon on one end and stop l/ Z
inch (l3mm) short of the outside edge of the door on
the other.
The brace is 1 inch (25mm) thick, and its width
narrows from 4 inches (102mm) at the point where it
meets the carrying timber to 3 inches (76mm) near
the outer edge of the door.
Rough the brace into shape, then cut the tenon. The
tenon, as shown in the section A drawing, is flush with
the surface of the brace on the side that lies against
the door boards. On the opposite side, the tenon is offset by 1;4 inch (6mm), leaving the tenon ~ inch (l9mm)
thick. The tenon should be offset from the top and
bottom edges of the brace by 1;4 inch (6mm). This slight
offset will conceal the edges of the mortise .
Next, chamfer the edges of the braces as shown in
the end view of the brace drawing.
Cutting the Mortises
Lay the carrying timber and the door boards on a level
work surface . Then lay the braces on top of the door
boards with their tenon ends touching the carrying
timber, spacing the braces along the height of the door
as shown in the inside face drawing, and at a 90-degree
angle to the carrying timber. Mark the location of the
. tenons on the carrying timber. Then lay aside the door
boards and the cross braces .

144

C ut th e morti ses int o th e carrying timb er so th at


the ten ons will fit very snugly. A very sn ug fit will
require three or four taps with a wooden mallet to seat
the tenons int o the morti ses. If you have to drive th e
pieces together, th ey are too tight, and th e wood may
split from th e pressure. The morti ses must be cut
square into th e face of th e carrying timb er. If th ey are
not square, or if th e tenon s are not a good fit, th e door
may sag.
C ut each morti se indi vidually until one of th e
tenons fits, and then mark th em for reassembly, as th e
pieces may not be int erchan geable. Markings sho uld
be done with cha lk or on masking tape so th at th ey
can be easily removed.

a wooden nail th rough th e pilot hole. Following th e


same procedure, attach th e remaining cross braces to
th e carrying timb er. It is important to have someone
applying back pressure behind the pilot hole so th at
th e nail does not splinter th e door as it breaks th e surface. The wooden nail s will protrude beyond the surface
of th e door and can be trimmed off lat er.
Conti nue th e nailing sequence to th e door board
nearest th e ca rrying timb er. Drill and nail th e top and
bottom cross braces to th e door board . Next attach th e
top and bottom cross braces to th e middl e door board,
and finally to th e outside door board. Throughout th e
nailing process, have someone applying back pressure
on th e cross braces whil e th e nails are bein g driven
through the door. In order for th e door to fit securely,
th e cross braces must also be held firmly against
th e door boards whil e th e pilot h oles are drill ed and
th e nails are driven .
When all three door boa rds have been nailed to th e
top and bottom cross braces, attac h th e outside doo r
board to th e remaining cross braces, and finally, drill
and nail th e middl e cross braces to th e int erior door
boards.
Slide th e door back on to th e work surface so th at all
of the nail heads rest on the surface . With a mallet,
gen tly tap around th e base of each nail to pull the cross
braces tightly against th e surface of th e door boards.
You may want to take a sma ll block of wood and drill a
hole in it so th at it can be placed over the nail. A firm
tap on th e block sho uld seat th e brace against th e doo r
board. Do not hamm er too hard; you might sha tter the
wooden nail heads. When all of th e nails have been
seated , saw off th e ends of th e nails and sand th em
flush with th e surface of th e cross braces.

Assembling the Door


Lay the carrying timb er and th e door boards in th eir
proper positions on a level work surface. For th e finished door to look right , th e edges of the boards must
be absolutely flush against one ano ther. If th ere are
sligh t gaps or irregulariti es on th e joining edges of th e
boards, plane them until th e boards fit smooth ly. Once
the boards have been placed in their final arrangemen t,
lay the cross braces int o position and tap th e tenon s
into the morti ses on th e carrying timb er.
Place bar clamps across th e width of th e door and
pull the boards together until they are snug. Pad th e
ends of th e bar clamps with a sh im of wood or cardboard so th at they do not bite int o th e wood.
Nailing the Door
Now lay out th e pilot holes for th e wooden nails. Mark
a line throu gh th e center of th e cross braces. A nail
will be located l/Z inch (l 3mm) on either side of th e
seam where each pair of door board s abut and in
the cente r of each board, except at th e extreme ends
of the cross brace. The nail th at ties th e cross brace to
the carrying timber is located -Y-t inch (l 9mm) from th e
inside edge of th e carrying timber, as show n in th e section A drawing. Also, th e spacing of th e nails on th e
outside door board is determined by th e length of
the cross brace, not by th e width of th e board.
With the cross braces set firmly in place, drill pilot
holes for the nail s that tie the cross braces to the carrying timb er. If you are doubtful about th e seating of th e
morti se and tenon joint, place an additiona l bar clamp
across th e braces and th e carrying timb ers to hold
them in place, but don 't let the clamp get in th e way
of drilling the pilot holes. Next, slide one end of th e
door beyond th e edge of th e bench far eno ugh to drive

Chamfering
Using a ch isel or router, cut th e decorati ve cha mfer on
the ca rrying tim ber, in th e spaces between th e cross
braces, as shown on th e inside face drawin g. A lso, cut
a lA-inc h (6mm) cha mfer along th e outside edges of
th e carrying timber. This will reduc e th e clearan ce
necessary to swing th e door open and closed.
Latch
C ut th e two latch supports, sho wn in profile in th e end
view drawin g of the latch, and also cut th e lat ch bolt ,
shown in th e straigh t-on view of th e latch mech ani sm.
Finally, make two doorknobs. Although th e knobs
appear fairl y round in profile (side, cutaway view
drawin g), th ey are nearly square when viewed straigh t

145

MATERIALS
WOOD
The door can be red o r white oak , but the wooden nails mu st be white oak. The swing pins should be
either maple o r birch.
NUMBER
OF PIECES

THICKNESS

carrying timber

2 114" (57mm)

8" (203mm)

7 P!4" (l m81Omm)

door boards

I" (25mm)

7 1/ z" (l90mm)

71 W' (Im810mm)

door board

I " (25mm)

7 1/ z" (190mm)

71 ';4" (lm81Omm)

cross braces

I" (25mm)

4" (102mm)

22 314" (57 8mm)

latch bolt

I " (25mm)

1 'Ys" (41mm)

9" (22 9mm)

latch supports

I" (25mm)

l '/z" (38mm)

7%" (l 97mm)

knobs

I Vz" (38mm)

1 'lz'1(38mm)

2" (5 1mm)

wooden n ail stock

Vz" (13mm)

Vz" (13mm)

144 " (3m65 8mm)

shaft

'/ z" (13mm) round

4" (10 2mm)

swing pins

1 114" (32mm) round

3 '14" (82mm)

PART

on. In the center of th e face of the latch bolt, drill a


li z- inch (13mm) hole.
O n the inside face of the door, arrange the latch
supports and the latch bolt in th eir proper position , at
the height indicated on th e inside face drawing of th e
door. Makin g certain th at th e mech anism is squared to
the edge of the door, mark th e position of both latch
supports on the surface of the door, and also make a
mark on the door throu gh the hole in the latch bolt .
Set aside th e pieces of th e latch .
Draw a line th at passes th rough th e mark for
th e hole in the latch bolt across th e width of the outside door board. Make certain th at thi s line is at a
90-degree angle to th e edge of th e door. This line is
the cente r of the slot th rough which the doorknob
sha ft will pass. The slot sho uld be Ys inch (l6mm)
wide and 2 Vz inches (63mm) long, and sho uld begin

WIDTH

LENGTH

2Vz inches (63mm) from the edge of the door. C ut


thi s slot throu gh the door by drilling out the ends of
the slot and removing the wood between the holes
with a ch isel or router. Keep the slot neat ; it will show
on the outside face of the door.
Drill holes 1 inch (25mm) deep into the fl at end of
the doorkn obs into which the '/ z-inch (l 3mm) shaft
can be driven . Tap the sha ft into one of the knobs.
Next, tap th e sha ft-and-knob unit th rough the hole in
th e latch bolt . Two inch es (51mm) of shaft should protrud e th rough the opposite side of the latch bolt.
Mounting the Latch
Mark and drill pilot holes in the ends of the latch support s. Replace the latch supports on the door in the
locat ions previously marked, and continue the pilot
holes throu gh the door board.

146

Now remove th e latch supports, and set th e latch


bolt into place with the shaft through the slot in th e
door. Allow the edge of th e door to han g over th e side
of the bench so th at the shaft ca n fall th rough. Replace
the latch supports and nail them to the door, driving the
nails throu gh from the back surface of the door.
C ut and sand th e end s of the nails, and attach th e
remaining knob. Do not force th e knob against the
face of th e door, or the bolt will not move smoo th ly.

large th at th e door wobbles. A receiving hole 1/1 6 inch


(Zmm) larger than th e swing pin sho uld provide
easy operation. The receivin g holes must be centered
1J4 inches (44mm) from the inner face of th e door
jamb to allow the corners of the door to pass between
the swing pin and the jamb.
The swing pin on the bottom of th e door must be
sligh tly longer-about 14 inch (6mm)-than th e
depth of the receiving hole int o which it fits. This
will raise th e door off th e floor and allow it to swing
freely.
C onversely, th e swing pin on the top of th e door
sho uld be sligh tly sho rter th an the depth of the receiving hole.
In a modern application, the door could be mounted
against a flush floor (without an expo sed sill plate) as
long as there is a floor joist beneath th e threshold int o
which th e receiving hole can be drilled. Drop a small
washer or disk of nylon bushing material int o th e
receiving hole to provide a pad on which the swing pin
can rest . This will provide long years of operation
without the bottom of the swing pin wearing down
from the friction of rubbing against th e bottom of th e
receiving hole.
Whether the bottom of the door is mounted on a
sill plate or a smooth floor, the lintel must be set in
place after the door so that the top receiving hole fits
over the swing pin on top of the door.

Finish
Sand the door, then give it a natural oil finish as
described in cha pter 3.
Hanging the Door
The door as originally con structed was hung at the
same time th at th e frame around it was install ed. The
upright posts on either side of the door were morti sed
into the sill plate, and the lintel above th e door was
morti sed int o th e upright posts. The swing pin on th e
bottom of th e door was set int o a receiving hole in
the sill plate, and the post and lintel assembly dropped
into place from above. As the tenons on the door posts
dropped int o the morti ses in the sill plate, the swing
pin on top of the door fitted int o a receiving hole in
the lintel.
The receivin g holes must be sligh tly larger than the
swing pins to allow the door to move easily, but not so

147

END VIEW OF BRAC E

n
\rl~
fd;;\?~~..~o-o-l:: : o: ~:~/~~:;tc,\J\tt't=(I:{~m)
!J\1.

IN SIDE FACE

1'14" (32 m m)

2" (5Imm)

~
I"
!(25mm)

..... -

4--><.----/--r-

:1 .1

Vz" (13mm) -/

1\

\\
-+\----++-+-----

3" (76mm)

15W'

Ii
-1\\ (I

.I
3" (76mm)

Vz" (13.nm) .-/

Lo--o-o.

o ~~ o

Jd 1\ II \ I
) I1//

-...-

SECT ION A
i

17"
(432mm)

71'14"
(I m8 1Omm)

2'14"
'. (5 7mm )

to

n ....

..

o 0.-

4" (102mm)

(400m m)

4" (I02mm)

\
\

I" (25mm)

I )/ \
\

33 " (838mm)

16"
(406mm)

-' "--

lfG=o 0=:=0
// / I

(f

0-> n

7"
(I 78mm0

I. t v:

(I90m m)

(I9~m)
f

r1\ I \

++
7 Yz"
(I90mm)

I"

(I9 mm)

~--~---Jl--~--:-.......Ll...-......:...L_-"T""T.--_--L-

I" (25mm) \

.u

8"
(203mm)

71.~Yz"

30 " ( 762 mm)

148

J/"
14

v, " \

\\
/

IW' (44 mm)

\ I
(63m m)

I"

(25mm) (25mm)

I I \

(I9mm)

'\!: Yo" (6mm)

DOOR MOUNTIN GS
1" (2Smm) \ .

1',4" (32mm)

W]
~;<~,.~/
{~-"_.:"E!--VI{>')'; I~

WOODEN NAIL

'/1" (l I mm)

6"

W
(I9mm)

6"
(IS2m m)

(;5;,"~m) J,. (~8,"'~


\(

~D

(1' ~

)/

)j

DfDODz/

END VIEW

W' (I 3mm)

VB" (I6mm)

--~,,~

1'/ 1" (38 mm)

TOP, CU TAWAY VIEW


1" (2Smm)

1" (2Smm)

\.1-1 '/ 2" (38mm)

SIDE, CUTAWAY V IEW

r--~r7Ti:-n::::::::::==:::;::
1" (2Smm)
1
- - ~+-+1I't1-_

...---

1"(2Sm~ f

FRONT VIEW

1" (2Smm)

1_--==:->n~::::f'=tI:~

r--..L....tFFfl' <::rl

7 W' (I9 7mm)

1'/ 2" (38 mm)

-i

I Yz" (38 mm)

149

18

~Iastonbury

Ohair

appear. If you are willing to take your time, however,


th e results will be worth th e troubl e.
The drawings provide all of th e inform ati on necessary to build thi s ch air, but I suggest making cardboard
patterns, at least for th e arm and leg pieces. Even slight
deviations from the drawings may alter the angle of some
of th e mit er cuts or th e location of th e dowel holes.
To ensure proper fit and to maintain th e struc tural
integrit y of th e cha ir, it is best to use full-dimension
lumb er as not ed in the mat erials list.

The basic style of the Gla stonbury ch air is called a


faldstool, meaning folding seat. When adapted to
ecclesiastical use, the style was referred to as a litany
desk. These cha irs were built at th e medieval abbey
at G lastonbury, England, around 1500, and one of
them is on display at the Bishop's Palace in Wells,
Somerset.
G lastonb ury Abb ey was th e richest and oldest
Christian enclave in England . Having been a place of
Christian worship since th e first cen tury, and reputedly
the site of th e tomb of King Arthur, th e power and
influence of Gl astonbury was unrivaled.
What sets the Gl astonbury Chairs apart from othe rs
of thi s style is the richl y decorative Latin script on th e
arms and back. Across the top of th e back of thi s ch air
are the words "Mon acus Gla stome," identifying its
place of origin, and on the arms are th e phrases "G od
save him," "May th e Lord give him peace," and "Praise
be to God." On th e inner face of th e right arm is
"[oha nus Arthurus," the Latini zed version of th e name
John Arthur Thorne, treasurer of th e abbey, for whom
the chair was built .
In 1539 Henry VIII dissolved th e mon asteries. His
troops burned Glastonbury Abb ey to th e ground and
killed the abbot and two of th e monks, one of whom
was Broth er [oh anus Arthurus.
This chair is an early period copy of th e Gl astonbury cha ir now located in th e lobby of th e George and
Pilgrim Hotel in Glastonbury.

Framing Members
With th e exception of th e arms, all of th e framing
memb ers of th e ch air pieces can be plan ed down from
mill-dimen sion 2-by-4-inch (51-by-102mm) oak. The
arms require an 8-inc h (203mm) wide board; by interlocking th e narrow ends of th e arms when laying th em
out before sawing , both arm s can be cut from a single
3 Vz-foot (lm67mm) lon g board. The legs and th e side
rails on th e seat and back are all 1 inch (25mm) thi ck,
but th e legs are 2 ~ inches (70mm) wide and th e side
rails are 3 inches (76mm) wide.
Seat and Back Panels
On th e origina l cha irs, th e seat and back pan els were
made from a single ~- i nch (l 9mm) thi ck oak board,
but even in th e centuries-old copy shown here th ey are
made of two board s glued together along th e joining
edge. I recommend gluin g togethe r seat and back
panel s th at are three boards wide, rather th an two, for
reasons of econo my. Do not use oak venee r plywood .
When the panels are cut down to fit into th e rabbeted
grooves in th e frame memb ers, th e plywood would lose
strength , and the layers of th e ply would show on th e
back side of each panel.

CONSTRUCTION NOTES
This marvelous chair may be th e most visually striking
piece of furniture in thi s book. It is also th e most difficult to construct. Not on ly is th e carving ext en sive and
detailed, but some of the joints are trickier than they

151

REPLICA OF FOURTEENTH,CENTURY GLASTONBURY CHAIR. OAK;

H. 33", W. 24", D. 20".

AND PILGRIM H OT EL, GLASTONBURY, E NGLAN D. COU RTES Y GEO RGE AND PI LGRIM H OT EL P HOTOGRAPH BY

152

COLLECTION OF GEORGE

D. T YLER H U FF.

Use standard mill-dimension l-b y-o-inch (25-by152mm) and l-by-Svinch (25-by-203mm) oak boards.
The seat, because it is wider th an th e back, is made of
two l-by-Svinch (25-by-203mm) and one l-bv- S-inch
(25-by-152mm) board. The back is made from two
l-by-ti-in ch (25-by-152mm) and one l-by-Sv inch
(25-by-203mm) board. All ow an extra Y.t inch (19mm)
in both th e height and width of th ese panels to provide
the tongue th at seats int o th e rabbeted groove in th e
frame th at goes around both th e seat and back.
The cha mfers were origina lly shaped with a drawknife or a plane, but th ey can more easily be cut on a
table saw or router. Using a drawknife or plane will
give th e cha mfers the sligh tly irregular surface found
on the origina l pieces.
The seat and back panel s join together along th e
cross rail located und erneath th e back panel. The seat
panel inte rsects thi s rail at an angle of about 110 degrees
to the back. To allow th e seat board to fit properly int o
the cha mfer in th e cross rail, the cha mfer slot will have
to be cut on a 20-degree angle.
Notch the rear edge of th e seat panel to fit around
the side rails of th e back. To ensure a tight fit, assemble
the back structure, place th e seat board between its
side rails, and slide thi s unit into position over th e back
struct ure. O nce positioned, it sho uld be easy to mark
where the seat will need to be not ched.
Framing Construction
The origina l cha irs were made witho ut th e use of glue.
The large dowels th at extend th rough th e side rails and
int o the cross rails of th e seat and back were held in
place by small dowels, as illustrated in details A and B.
This combina tion of large and small dowels held the
back and seat frames togeth er, which in turn held
the back and seat panels in place. For thi s procedure
to work properly, you must have a good, sn ug fit at all
of the major joints. A snug fit mean s th at th e pieces
sho uld go together with a firm tap with th e palm of
your hand . The small dowels, of which there are eight
(one con nec ting each large dowel on th e seat and back
into the cross members, and one in each of th e two
dowels in th e leg stretcher), sho uld need to be driven
lightl y into place with a mallet . C ut th e small dowels
1 or 2 inches (25-51mm) lon ger th an necessary, and
trim th em off carefully with a knife after the y have
been driven int o place.
If you wish, you can replace th e small dowels with
screws. The heads of th e screws sho uld be countersunk
114 inch (6mm) beneath the surface , and th e hole

plugged with a sho rt len gth of dowel. The finished


work will be virtually indi stinguishable from th e original mean s of con struction .
Arms
Positioning th e arms to fit correctl y is the most difficult phase of construction . Because th e seat is 2 inches
(51mm) wider th an th e back, th e arms must rest on
a sligh t angle. A s a result , th e holes thro ugh wh ich
th e large dowels pass will also be on an angle. To provide a properly angled surface against which to position th e arms, use th e side rails of th e seat and back as
a jig.
Predrill a pair of seat and back side rails to receive
th e large dowels, and join th em at th e point where th ey
would naturally join at th e base of th e seat by inserting
a sho rt len gth of 1Vs-inch (29mm) dowel thro ugh th e
corresponding holes. Be sure th at th e seat rail is resting on top of th e back rail. A lign th e free ends of th e
seat and back rails with th e top and bottom ends of an
arm. The three pieces sho uld now be positioned in a
trian gle, in th e same way th ey would be if th ey were
attached to th e cha ir. C lamp th e seat and back rails to
th e workbench so tha t th ey can no t shift out of position . They can now be used as a jig against whic h the
ends of th e arm can be fitted .
In order for the ends of th e arm to rest flat against
th e side rails, th e inside surfaces of bot h th e top and
bottom ends of th e arm must be worked down at an
angle of about 5 degrees. Achi eve th e prope r fit by
slowly removin g the excess wood a littl e at a time with
a rasp or hand sander. Do not drill th e holes for th e
large dowels in the arm until th e arm rests flat against
th e side rails. Becau se th e arms lie on an angle , th e
dowel holes must be drill ed at a corresponding angle to
slide over th e dowels properl y.
Legs
Although th e four legs are all th e same dimen sion s,
th e outside legs will need to be not ched out to a depth
of 114 inch (6mm) at the point where th e legs cross so
th at th e legs will interlock sligh tly. By interlocking in
thi s manner, the legs th emselves will support th e
weight of anyone sitting in th e ch air, rather than th e
dowels.
Dowels and Wedges
The entire chair is held together by eigh t I l s-inch
(29mm) diameter dowels. The end s of six of th ese
dowels must be inserted into 1114-inch (3 2mm) thick

153

MATERIALS
WOOD
All wood is oak, except the dowels and wedges, which are maple.
NUMBER
OF PIECES

THICKNESS

arms

1 114 11 (32mm)

8 11 (203mm)

42 11 (lm67mm)

legs

111 (25mm)

2 314 11 (70mm)

27 11 (686mm)

side rails

111 (25mm)

3 11 (76mm)

19'/ zll (496mm)

seat rails

1 '14'1 (32mm)

2 314 11 (70mm)

18 11 (457mm)

top rail of back

1'14 11 (32mm)

3'/ zll (89mm)

18 11 (457mm)

leg stretcher

2'14" (57mm)

2'14" (57mm)

24 11 (61Omm)

panel boards

~ II

(l9mm)

8 11 (203mm)

48 11 (lm219mm)

panel boards

WI (l9mm)

6 11 (l52mm)

48 11 (Im219mm)

wedges

14 11

2 11 (51mm)

36 11 (914mm)

large dowel

1'/ 811 (29mm) round

72 11 (lm829mm)

sm all dowel

'14" (6mm) round

48 11 (Im219mm)

PART

(6mm)

WroTH

LENGTH

actually what hold the chair together. For the greatest


strength, cut them from lA-inch (6mm) thick maple or
ash. The slots into which these wedges are seated are
difficult to cut . Start these slots by drilling two holes
Y4 inch (6mm) in diameter in the large dowel. One of
them should be a vertical hole at the rear of the wedge
slot, and the other on a 15- or 20-degree angle at the
front. Remove the wood between these holes with a
sharp knife.
The rear edge of this slot (the edge closest to the
chair) should extend slightly beneath the surface of
the arm (or leg) against which the inserted wedge will
rest. This way, the wedge is actually pulling against
the body of the chair and not just against the end of
the slot.

cross rails; reduce the 2 Yz-inch (63mm) section of


each dowel th at will be inserted into the cross rail to
a diameter of % inch (l9mm).
Be very careful when drilling the holes into which
these dowels will be inserted in the end of the cross
rail. The holes must be straight, and drilling into end
grain can be tricky. If possible, use a drill press or boring machine for this operation.
The small dowels that hold the large dowels in
place sho uld be positioned so that they help bear the
weight of anyone sitt ing in the chair. The small dowels
in the top and bottom rails of the back should be
inserted vertic ally, and those in the front rail of the
seat horizontally.
The wedges in the ends of the large dowels are

154

Carving and Finishing


Executing the carving on this chair is tedious and
time-consuming. The complex arrangement of letters
and the difficulty of working with oak probably
make this a job only for the experienced woodcarver.
Although the ornate carvings are an integral part
of thi s chair, the piece is still both attractive and serviceable if it is left uncarved.

Undoubtedly this chair was originally designed to


have a pillow or cushion on the seat. Select the fabric
for the cushion cover based on the amount of carving
on the chair and the darkness of the finish. A rich
tapestry, a damask trimmed in fringe and tassels, or
leather in natural or dyed colors would all be historically appropriate seat covers.

155

ARM,
TOP VIEW

TOP VIEW
5

H
1:-

---"L-

: - 4" (102mm)

27" (686mm)

17'/ 1" (444mm)

156

-----1

FRONT VIEW

II---

17'/ 2" (444mm)


15'/ 2" (394mm)

----1
-------

DETAIL A

19 W (495mm )

22 'H' (571mm)
24" (61Omm)

---t1

1"
(25mm)

SIDE, CUTAWAY VIEW

WEDGE DETAIL
2%" (70mm)

2W (63 mm) ~

.[rI" (25mm)

33" (838mm)

17'/ 2" (444mm)

2 ",
(63mm)

157

'A" (6mm)

Yl" (13mm)
TOP RAIL, FRONT
15W' (394mm)

CARVINGS

BACK PANEL

SIDE RAILS

SIDE RAIL PROFILE

3"
I" (25mm) r-(76mm)1

~~~
"-1 t

1" (25mm) ') \. W (l3mm)

158

DETAIL B

TOP RAIL. REAR


~<-----

15 '/ z" (39 4mm)

1
3'/ z" (89mm)

2" (5Imm)

14" (356mm)

LEFT ARM

OUTSIDE

27" (686mm)

159

INSIDE

RIGHT ARM

INSIDE

OUTSIDE
27" (686mm)

160

19

~irror[d

lijall ;8eone[

Dating from the mid-fifteenth century, thi s wall sconce


is a fine example of Germ an Gothic-period craft and
ingenuity. An iron candle arm is positioned in front of
a convex bronze reflecting mirror, wh ich reflects th e
cand lelight th roughout th e room. One such sconce
hung near a desk, or several located around a room,
would add greatly to th e amount of light provided by a
very few candles. In th e Middle Ages, beeswax candles
were very expensive, and inexpensive tallow candles
filled the air with oily smoke and an acrid odor.
The piece was originally brigh tly polychromed to
add to its reflective and decorat ive qualities. The
exposed areas of th e wooden face were painted oche r,
the side panels deep green , and th e foliate carvings a
rich red-brown. The front-facing edges of th e side
panels were gilded.
Additional decoration and reflecti ve surface was
gained by th e insertion of glass pan els in th e four triangular spaces outside of th e large ring on th e sconce's
face. Each of th ese panel s is reverse painted with
a heraldic device that serves to personalize th e piece
while adding to its orna men tation.
This sconce is located in th e Campin Room of th e
Met ropolitan Museum 's Cl oisters in New York City.
A ltho ugh thi s piece has suffered some damage to th e
carvings and painted glass, and a few compone nts are
probably replacements, it is a hand some piece. The
on ly other surviving example of such an item is in th e
National Museum in Nur emberg.

CONSTRUCTION NOTES
The actual construc tion of thi s interesting and highl y
decorati ve piece is relati vely simple. The orna te carving and the brass mirror, however, add cha llenge to

th e project. Study the drawin gs and phot ograph well


before beginning construction.
Back Panel
The back panel for thi s sconce is made of two boards
glued together hori zontally. G lue and clamp the two
back boards together. Further strength will be added
when th e complete structure is assembled. To provide
additiona l support to th e back panel whil e it is bein g
worked on , attach brac es to th e back side of th e pan el
along th e left and right outer edges with wood screws.
The screws sho uld not pen etrate more th an V2 inch
(l Zmm) into th e back pan el. This done, you are ready
to begin ca rving th e circular and square bands into the
face of th e sconce .
From th e appearance of too l marks on the face of
th e panel, it would seem th at all of th e circular shapes
on the face were turned on a primitive foot-powered
lathe. If you have access to a lathe th at will swing th e
nearly 26-in ch (660mm) diagonal measurement of
thi s board, it is probably th e most histori cally acc urate
approach to th e project . If not , use a router. Make
separate templates for each inner and outer cut-one
template to scribe th e area on which the mirror is
seated, and ano the r for th e in ner surface of the ring
th at encircles th e mirror. The decorati ve mold ings on
th e face of th e back board are set sligh tly off-center.
The moldings scribe an 18-inch-squar e area (457mm)
on a back board that is 18 by 181/ 2 inches (457 by
470mm), the extra 1/ 2 inch (l 3mm) bein g at th e top
of th e back board. All ow for thi s in laying out th e
design on th e face of th e back board . If you plan to
turn th e piece on a lathe, th e mounting plate sho uld
be mounted sligh tly below center on th e board .

161

S CON CE, GERMANY, FIFTEENTH CENTURY. IRON, BRONZE, OAK, GLASS, AND EGG TEMPERA;

D. 5

H. 22 3/ 8" , W. 20",

3
/ 8 " . CLOISTERS COLLECTION, METROPOLITAN MUSEUM OF ART, NEW YORK CITY. COURTESY METROPOLITAN MUSEUM OF ART.

The rest of the deep carving on th e face of th e


sconce was executed by h and. That includes the outside face of the outermost ring and the inside face of
th e tr ian gular areas at th e four corne rs of the board.

If you wish, you can continue working with the route r.


If you use th e router for th ese areas, you will need to
make templ ates ; it is nearly impossible to cut a straight
edge with a router without a templat e to follow.

162

on a flat work surface , with on ly Vz inch (I 2mm ) or


so han ging over the edge of th e table at a time. More
overha ng th an thi s increases th e cha nces of breaking
th e delicat e carvings along th e grain of th e wood. You
can use a band saw to cut out th e profile, but a cop ing
saw or jeweler's saw will allow greater control. For th e
greatest level of safety, th e board sho uld be clamp ed
firmly in place whil e it is being sawed, and th e position
of th e area bein g cut relative to th e edge of th e table
sho uld be adjusted each tim e th e cut is extended
'/z inch (I 3mm) or so. Alternatively, you can clamp a
back board in place behind th e carving and simply cut
through both of them so th at th ere are no exposed
areas of th e carved board to be broken .
The intertwined vine s on th e crest work are all
open work-the area between th e ca rvings has been
cut away. Unfortunatel y, it is almost impossible to
sha pe th e edges of the se vines without first cutt ing
th em free of th e surrounding wood . This will requir e
extra caution when carving th em so as not to break
th e delicate tracery.
The carving on th e side panels is not pierced
th rough th e wood. All of th e carving is in relief as
deep as possible, considering th at th ere is ca rving on
both sides of th e panel , and th e wood is on ly inc h
(I 9mm) thick. The relati ve depth of the carvings is
show n by th e degree of darkness in th e sha ding on th e
drawin g; the darker th e sha ding , th e deeper th e area
is to be carved.

The corners will have to be worked by hand. Make


the walls of th e tri angular areas in th e corne rs as
straight as possible; glass panels will be cut to fit into
these areas, and uneven or sloped sides will make th at
process more difficult .
Side Panels
Each side panel is made from a single piece of wood.
The orna te Go thic carvin g in th e angle of thi s piece is
carved in relief on both th e inner and outer faces.
Technically, then, th ere is no left or right side panel ;
the pieces are identical on both sides.
Although th e Metrop olitan Museum lists th e entire
sconce as bein g made out of oak, the delicate carvin gs
in the side panels and the top crest would be exceedingly difficult to execute if th ese were made of oak.
The gessoed and painted finish makes identifi cation
of the wood difficult, and it would be best to select a
wood th at is relati vely straigh t-grained and easy to
carve but still structurally sound, such as pine , poplar,
or mahogany.
If the decorat ive base block on th e side pan els is
made as a separate piece, th e general construction of
the side will be much easier. Rough th e base into sha pe
on a band saw or jigsaw, and then finish it with ca rving
knives and files.
The main shaft of th e side pan el is in th e form of a
wedge-shaped column , with th e point of th e wedge
facing forward. This is easiest to sha pe by simply cutting the faces of the wedge on a table saw with th e
blade set at a 45-degree angle. Do not cut so far into
th e board th at you cut into th e area where you will be
execut ing the ornamen tal carving. Once th e face of
the wedge is cut , carve the cutouts at th e base of the
wedge with a carving gouge or utility knife.

:x

Priming the Wood


Sand th e carved wooden pieces until th ey are very
smooth . This will prep are th em for th e application of
th e painted finish. Apply two coats of gesso to all surfaces before assembly, th en sand th em again with
extremely fine sandpaper (glass paper). When finished
and sanded , the gesso sho uld provide a surface nearly
as smoo th as if th e piece were cast in a mold .

Crest Board
The decorati ve crest board in which th e majority of
carving is executed is fairly thin; take care not to break
it. Incise th e rounded edge along th e botto m edge of
thi s board before beginning the carving.

Assembly
The pieces are now assembled with cut nails. Drill
pilot holes for the nails so th at th e wood does not split.
The heads of th e nail s sho uld be countersunk slightly.
Begin by nailing th e side panel s int o place on th e back
panel using 1Vz -inch (38mm) cut nails. Next, position
th e shelf board into place between th e side pan els, and
nail it into place using th e same size nails, first nailing
through th e side panel s into th e ends of th e shelf, and
th en through the top of th e shelf and downward into
th e back board . Finally, with th e sconce lying on its

Carvings
The execution of th e carving on both side panel s and
crest board will be time-consuming and laborious, but
the results sho uld be well worth the effort.
For stability, execute as much of th e carving as possible before cutting away the excess wood around th e
outline, or profile, of the side panels and the crest.
When you do cut th e profile, the board sho uld be lying

163

is sligh tly convex, the center bein g about I.4 inch (6mm)
higher than the outer edge. The decorative ring around
the outer edge is '/2 inch (l3mm) high and % inch
(l9mm) wide.
When the mold has been made, cut a circular piece
of brass .020 inch thick and 14 inches (356mm) in
diameter. The thinner the brass stock, the easier it will
stretch into the mold, but it should not be so thin
th at it tears during the working process or when it is
trimmed around th e edges. Locate th e center of thi s
disk and drill a small hole at th e center point. Tack the
mirror through thi s hole to th e center point of the
mold. Do not pull the brass tight against the mold, but
only tight enough to draw it down sligh tly at th e
center.
Make a forming tool from a piece of l-inch (25mm)
diameter wooden dowel or a l-inch (25mm) square
piece of wood about th e length of a pencil. Sand one
end so th at it is rounded into a half circle . Beginning
at th e outer edge of th e face of the mirror, inside the
decorative outer ring, gent ly rub th e brass int o place
against the surface of the mold with th e forming tool.
Hold th e brass in place with one hand so th at it does
not simply turn under the pressure. The brass is thin
enough that it will slowly stretch into place and take
the form of the mold. As the met al pulls int o shape,
it will become loose on the tack at th e center. As it
loosens, tap the tack down against th e back, never so
much th at it pulls the metal, but just enough for a
sligh t pressure. When th e face of the mirror has been
pulled completely into place, the tack sho uld be tight
against th e face of the mold.
When the face of the mirror has been formed, follow the same procedure to shape the decorative ring
around th e outer edge. This will require making two
more forming tools from smaller dowels, one 34 inch
(l9mm) in diameter and one Y2 inch (l3mm) in
diameter. As the mirror takes shape, th e extra metal
around th e outside of th e mold will twist and wrinkle.
As lon g as the wrinkles do not ext end int o the mirror
itself, do not be concerned.
When th e entire mirror has been shaped, carefully
remove the tack at th e center and take the mirror
out of the mold. Carefully trim off the wrinkled metal
around the outside edge with a small pair of metal
shears.
To polish the face of th e mirror, gen tly press the
mirror, face up, into a bed of sand deep enough th at
th e sand fills th e back of the mirror. This will provide
support so th at you can polish the thin metal without

back, position the crest board into place according to


the drawings. Drill pilot holes, and nail the crest board
onto the shelf board and end panels with l -inch
(25mm) cut nails.
Finishing
Fill the nail holes with putty, plaster of paris (the most
similar to medieval gesso), or a mixture of sawdust and
glue (used in medieval days as nail hole filler). Sand
and gesso th e filled holes.
The origina l piece was probably painted with an egg
temp era (see ch apter 3), but any flat oil-based paint
will work. All of the carving and the incised cut that
separates th e wedge-shaped column from the plane of
th e side panel are painted a deep red-brown. I recommend painting thi s color first so that the green paint
and gold leaf can be applied up to the edge of the
brown , which is easier than workin g the other way
around. The decorative base block is painted the same
red-brown as the carvings. Paint the entire face of the
back board a rich ocher color and the inside and outside faces of the side panels a soft moss green . Apply
gold leaf to the face of the wedge-shaped column up to
th e point where it join s int o the carving.
The entire crest board is painted with the same
red-brown as the carvings on the side panel, and the
und erside of th e shelf board appears to have been
painted black. It is possible, however, th at thi s area has
been discolored from centuries of candle flames and
may or igina lly have been painted red-brown as well.
Mirror
The brass mirror on this piece is almo st certainly a
replacement. The original may have been made of
brass or bronze . For ease of working and cost effectiveness, make the mirror of brass .020 inch in thickness.
All met al rolled thi s thin has a certain hardness, called
temper, obta ine d through th e manufacturing process.
To make th e brass easily work able, place the sheet of
brass on a cookie tray and put it into a 400-degree F
oven for two to two and a half hours. When you
remove th e brass from the oven , leave it on the cookie
tray and let it air-cool; do not immerse it in water to
speed the cooling.
The mirror will be shaped from th e back by pressing
th e metal int o a mold. Carve the mold or turn it on a
lathe, so th at it form s th e shape of the mirror, as shown
in th e cross section, in reverse. Essentially, the mold
sho uld be a sha llow bowl th at is th e negative of th e
sha pe of th e mirror. The cen tral portion of the mirror

164

danger of denting it. Polish the face with a brass cleaner.


After two or three applica tions of brass clean er, th e
mirror sho uld have a soft sheen .
Position the mirror in place on the back board. It is
fastened int o the back board at eigh t points around th e
outer edge of the brass ring: at the top, bottom, left , and
right of the mirror, and at four poin ts halfway between
these. The nails must not be placed with in 1/ 2 inch
(13mm) of the seam bet ween th e upper and lower back
boards. Drill pilot holes sligh tly smaller th an the diameter of a l-inch (25mm) forged nail. Nail th e edge of th e
brass mirror int o the back board at a 45-degree angle.
A fine nail set sho uld allow you to drive th e nail snug
against the mirror without denting the brass.
The large brass tack at the center of th e mirror ha s
a head 314 inch (l9mm) in diam eter. Use an oversized
upholstery tack to simulate thi s large tack.

When finished , th e work is turned over and viewed


th rough th e glass.
When th e paint is well dr ied, put th e panes in place
one at a tim e and drive tiny wire nails into th e sides of
th e trian gular frame to hold th em in place. O ne nail
per side sho uld be sufficien t. Then run a narrow bead
of glazier's putty around th e edges of each pan e, following th e dir ecti ons on th e can . If you do not feel confident about doing thi s, have th e glazier who cut th e
glass panes mount th e panel s and apply th e putty. Do
not risk breaking th e painted glass pan els.
In a week or two th e glazier's putty will harden .
Paint over the white putty with th e same red- ocher
paint used on the rest of th e face.
Candle Cup Arm
The main arm of the candle holder is a replacement
and does not fit quit e properly th rough th e bracket
plate.
The bracket plat e is a rect an gular piece of 1/16-inc h
(Zrnm) gauge metal cut to size as shown in th e
drawin gs. At th e center of thi s plate, drill a YB-inch
(9mm) hole. As indicat ed in th e drawings, drill four
more holes near th e corne rs of th e plate just large
enough to acce pt forged nails. Drill pilot holes into
th e back panel , th en attach thi s plate to th e face of the
back pan el with four large-headed , forged nails.
Make th e candle cup arm from th e 8 ~-i nch
(222mm) piece of %-inch (9mm) square stoc k. Form
th e offsets in th e arm by clamping th e stock in a vise,
heating with a torch, and bending th e heated metal
with a hammer. The bends in th e arm are not a full 90
degrees and are more for decorati on th an to serve any
function . The elongated loop at th e front end of th e
arm is beaten to a tapered edge over the last 11/ 2 inches
(J 8mm) of the length of the arm. Work th e stock int o
a taper before you bend it into th e loop. The taper can
be worked by heating th e met al and slowly hamm ering
it out on an anvil or in th e vise. Work th e metal a littl e
at a time so that you ach ieve a nice, smooth taper.
As you beat th e metal thinner, it will beco me wider.
When you have ach ieved a gentle taper, from th e original thickness of th e stoc k to a fine edge over a len gth
of 1V2 inches (J 8mm) , cool th e metal and th en grind
or file away th e excess width.
Drill a VB-inch (Jmm) hole 14 inch (6mm) deep in
th e candle cup arm 114 inch (6mm) behind th e point
where it begins to taper. Heat th e metal and, using th e
mandrel, bend the elon gated loop onto the tapered
end of the candle cup arm.

Corner Decorations
The decorati ve painting work in th e tri angular areas at
the four corne rs of th e back panel are th ought to be
late add itions to thi s piece, so th eir inclusion is purely
a matter of taste. The designs on th ese panels are
heraldic coa ts of arms, but th ey are so deteriorated
th at copying th em exactly would be nearly impossible.
They are paint ed in reverse on glass panels, but because
their age is unknown, it is uncert ain whether they are
executed in egg tempera or oil paint. Egg tempera will
adhere fairly well to clean glass, but if you wish to use
oil paint, check at an art sto re for a material that you
spray onto the glass before painting so th at the paint
will adhere properly.
Have a professional glass cutter cut pieces of glass
to fit int o the triangular areas at the corners of the
sconce. Because the tri an gular areas are probably not
quite symmetrical, be cert ain th at you know which
pane fits into which area, and which is th e front and
rear face of each pane.
O n paper, sketch heraldic designs, based on th e
surviving designs shown in th e drawings, to fit th e triangular glass panes. The painting process will be easier
if th e sketches are rend ered in full color. Then lay a
pane of glass face side down on top of th e color sketch
and paint th e design directl y onto th e back of the
glass. Be sure to paint on th e side of th e pane th at will
lie against the back board, not th e surface th at will be
exposed. To paint in reverse, you must first paint any
fine line details, allow th em to dry, then paint the large
color areas over top of th em. The process may sound
confusing, but a little practice will make it clear.

165

The pin that connects the candle holder and candle


cup to the candle cup arm is made from a piece of Ysinch (9mm) round stock linch (25mm) in length. Use
a lathe or file to reduce the last '14 inch (6mm) of stock
at both ends of the pin to a diameter of li s inch (3mm).

in depth. At the center of this tray, drill a hole Vs inch


(3mm) in diameter. Check that the end of the candle
cup pin fits through this hole.
Gently press the metal tray inside of the candle cup.
When it fits snugly, solder it in place. With a pair of
sharp metal shears, remove one of the fleur-de-lis ornaments from the candle cup to the level of the newly
installed bottom. This will allow the cup to fit over the
bracket arm.

Candle Cup
The decorative candle cup is essentially to catch dripping wax as it falls from the candle. The cup is made
from a piece of .020 gauge metal lVz inches (38mm)
high and 6% inches (l71mm) long.
Trace the fleur-de-lls design along one edge of the
metal for the candle cup. Cut out the design with very
sharp metal shears or, preferably, jeweler's shears, and
use pin files to file the edges smooth. To keep from
bending the metal, it must be held in a vise very close
to the area being worked. This will require frequent
turning and repositioning of the metal. If the metal
becomes slightly bent during the working process, it
can be gently hammered flat again.
When the design has been cut out, gently roll the
stock into a cylinder 2 inches (5Imm) in diameter.
This should allow an overlap of approximately Vz inch
(l3mm). Clamp the cylinder together, drill two Vs-inch
(3mm) holes along the overlapped seam, and insert
small rivets into the holes, with the heads on the
inside of the cylinder. Peen the rivets into place and
remove the clamp.
The top of this cylinder must now be flared outward.
The flaring process must done with a mold form in the
same way that the mirror was worked into a mold . Into
a block of wood 2 inches (5lmm) in thickness, latheturn a cup-shaped mold. The mold should have the
same dimensions and curved sides as the exterior surface of the candle cup, as shown in the drawing. Set
the metal cylinder into the mold, decorative edge
toward the bottom. Using a %-inch (l9mm) dowel rod
as a tool, slowly work the sides of the cylinder into the
form of the mold by rubbing the dowel rod back and
forth around the inner surface of the cylinder. The
metal will slowly stretch to the form of the mold.
Cut a disk 2% inches (70mm) in diameter from a
piece of metal the same weight as the sides of the
candle cup . Inside of this disk, draw another circle 2 '14
inches (57mm) in diameter. At 14-inch (6mm) intervals, cut V-shaped notches around the outer edge of
the circle . Cut the notches to the depth of the inner
circle . Remove the cutouts, then bend the remaining
tabs at right angles to the metal circle to form a shallow tray, 2 '14 inches (57 mm) across and 114 inch (6mm)

Assembly of Candle Cup and Arm


Clamp the candle cup arm into a vise so that the
Yl6-inch (5mm) hole in the arm is 2 inches (5lmm)
beyond the vise jaws. Heat the area around the
Y'6-inch (5mm) hole. When the metal begins to
glow slightly, set the candle cup onto the candle cup
arm so that the space created by the removal of one
fleur-de-lis ornament straddles the candle cup arm.
Align the li s-inch (Jmm) hole in the bottom of the
candle cup with the corresponding hole in the candle
cup arm. Holding the candle cup pin with a pair of
pliers, place one of the small ends of the candle cup
pin through the Yl6-inch (5mm) hole in the bottom of
the candle cup and into the heated hole in the candle
cup arm. If necessary, tap the pin gently into place
with a hammer. When the metal cools, the pin should
be permanently in place.
Candle Holder
Bend the four arms of the candle holder by heating the
metal slightly and bending it with a pair of needlenose
pliers. Bend the arms so that they conform with the
design in the drawings.
From a piece of li s-inch (3mm) thick metal, cut a
disk Vs inch (22mm) in diameter. In the center of the
disk, drill a hole slightly more than li s inch (3mm)
in diameter so that the disk will slip onto the top of
the candle cup pin. To this disk, weld the four candle
holder arms . Position the arms so that they extend 114
inch (6mm) below the disk as shown in the drawings.
When all four arms have been welded to the disk,
place the disk over the candle cup pin. Place a metal
rod or the tip of a screwdriver onto the top of the
candle cup pin and tap on the end with a hammer to
bend over the end of the candle cup pin so that the
candle holder is held tightly in place.
Attaching the Candle Cup
The replacement candle cup is held in place simply
by having the end of the candle cup arm ground to a

166

MATERIALS
WOOD
The wood can be pine, poplar, mah ogany, or other straigh t-graine d soft wood.
NUMBER
OF PIECES .

THICKNESS

back board

VB" (22mm)

9" (229mm)

18" (457mm)

back board

VB" (22mm)

10 (254mm)

18" (457mm)

crest board

%" (9mm)

3Vz" (89mm)

20" (50 8mm)

soffit board

Vz" (13mm)

4 lfs" (l05mm)

18" (457mm)

end panels

1" (25mm)

5" (l27mm)

21VB" (549mm)

PART

LENGTH

WIDTH

METAL
All met al is bar stock or round stock steel, except the mirror, which is brass.

PART

NUMBER
OF PIECES

LENGTH

WIDTH

THICKNESS

JA" (l9mm)

6 11t" (l59mm)

18" (457mm)

l ilt" (32mm)

3" (76mm)

%" (9mm)

8W' (222mm)

%" (9mm) round

1" (25mm)

V16" (2mm)

3116" (5mm)

3" (76mm)

candle cup

.020

l ilt" (32mm)

tv:

candle base

VB" (3mm)

VB" (22mm) diameter

mirror

.020 (brass)

14" (356mm)

forged nails

12

1" (25mm)

cut nail s

12

1ljz'1 (38mm)

hanger straps

VB" (3mm)

hanger rings

VB" (3mm) round

mounting plat e

1/16" (2mm)

candle cup arm

%" (9mm)

candle holder pin

candle holder fingers

167

(l90mm)

14" (356mm)

From an I8-inch (457mm) length of li B-inch (3mm)


round stoc k, form two rings 11/2 inches (38 mm) in
diameter. First form a ring at one end of the stock,
using a mandrel to sha pe th e ring. A llow th e piece to
coo l, and th en saw off th e ring. Reheat th e ring and
close th e circle. Repeat for the second ring.
Drill holes in th e han ger at th e locations indi cated
in th e drawings. Insert a finished ring int o th e loop
at th e end of each han ging strap , and tap th e loops
closed. Attach th e hangers to th e sconce, first drilling
pilot holes to prevent th e side rails from splitting,
th en using forged nails to affix th e hangers to th e back
edge of th e side rails, takin g care not to damage the
paint.

circular point and insert ed int o a hole drill ed int o th e


back board. The or igina l candle cup was likely fasten ed
in a more complex manner.
Hanging Straps
The iron han ging straps on th e back of thi s piece are
formed in the same way as all decorati ve hardware in
th is book. Using a hacksaw or band saw, cut away a
strip Y4 (6mm) wide and 11/2 inches (38mm) lon g from
each side of one end of th e strap to provide a narrow
tongue from which to form th e loop. Heat the narrow
to ngue of metal, and bend it around a forming mandrel
to produce a l-inch (25mm) ring. Leave th e ring open
114 inch (6mm) .

168

FRONT VIEW

SIDE VI EW

rI

20" (S0 8mm)

1(

5"

%" (9mni.)

(l 27mm)

1
3 1/ z"
(89mm)

~~~~~~~~~~~~-----tL-

3 Yl" (89mm)

22 VB" (S68 mm)

18 Vz"
(470mm)

\L

~ 6" (l5'mml
18" 1457mm)

=l

Y4" (l9mm)

\. I" (2Smm)

CROSS SECTION

Yl" (I3mm)
(

1 ~

wI,=r:
----.-

Vz" (l3mm)

Va" (l6mm)

{ \

'I

(3~~~) 1

-----' - IV-!'' (-6-m-m-)

- -)12mm

(-f-

169

W'

I"

7:

(~~
-:)-+--I/;-z''

6" (lS 2mm)

(2Smm)

(l9mm).~

"

%" (l9mm)
-

---"'l\'-

rj

7-

--t

BRA CKET CARVING


1<--

5" (l 27mm )

- -- - t

2"
(slmm)
3 Yz" (89mm)

BRACKET CUTAWAY

5" (l27mm)

VB" (9mm)
4 '!4" (108mm )

170

SCONCE HAR DWAR E

BRAC KET PLATE

HANGER

"

Va" (l 6mm)
~ 1 '14" (32m m)

J!',

1W (38mm)

W (6mm)

Ijz" (l3mm)

(38mm)
11--- - - 3" (76mm)

5"
(I 27mm)

1w' ~

~ w

(22mm)1

CANDLE HOL DER

(l9mm)

2Yz" (63mm)

-t---~.-~

CANDLE BASE

~--

2 Ys" (54mm)

) " (76mm)

~ j "" 1
""

PIN

(19mm) (19mm)

6Yz" (l65mm)

lis" (9mm)

l ~ W (3mm)

CANDLE CUP
2Y4" (70m m)

-1

I" (25mm)
/. "

1'14" (32mm)

(l3 mm)

1-L-

Va" (l6mm)

,L

171

~~w (Jmm)
'#

~~

COLUMN BASE

r"": YB" (3mm)


~4

1---"P'~'450

RIG HT SIDE CORNER DETA IL

W' (I9mm)

6" (I52mm)
<

W (l Irnm)

1J!4" (44mm)

W (ornm)

SW (216mm)

---.,.--

"VB" (22mm)

------r
I Yz" (3Smm)
j,

~"

1 "VB" r

(I9mm)

"

1)

(22mm)

I" (25mm)

LEFT SIDE CORNER DETA IL

SYz" (216mm)

'Iz" (13mm)

I" (25mm)
6" (I52mm)

172

APPENDIX A

Furniture Locations

Fifteenth-Century Bench, Candlestand, and


Mirrored Wall Sconce
These three items, along with thousands of other
exquisite medieval pieces, are located at the Cloisters,
a branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The
Cloisters is a monastic compound, much of it taken
from actual medieval buildings, housing a magnificent
collection of medieval artifacts, primarily of a religious
nature. It is located on the northern tip of Manhattan
Island in Fort Tryon Park. For more information, call
(212) 923-3700.

Hall. The hall dates from the twelfth through the sixteenth centuries and is one of the homes of the Duke
of Rutland. Haddon Hall, which is open to the public,
has appeared in films such as The Princess Bride and
Jane Eyre. For more information, write to the Estate
Office, Haddon Hall, Bakewell, Derbyshire DE45 lLA,
England.

Painted Wall Hanging


These interesting tapestry look-alikes are painted by
Bob Rich. They can be ordered in any size and can be
copied from medieval tapestries or manuscript illuminations, or adapted from photos of your family. Write
to Bob Rich, 1211 Logan Ave., Tyrone, PA 16686.
Ties Riches Heures du Duc de Berry (The Beautiful
Bookof Hours of the Duke of Berry) a hand-illuminated
book of devotions and miniature paintings, is held in
the Louvre, Paris.
J

Fourteenth-Centurv Reading Desk


This desk is part of a limited but extraordinarily fine
collection of medieval artifacts and armor at the
Philadelphia Museum of Art. Many of the pieces are
unique, and the museum is dedicated to quality pres,
ervation and restoration. For more information, write
to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, 26th and the
Parkway, Philadelphia, PA 19130.
THE CLOISTERS OF THE METROPOLITAN MUSEUM OF

High Table, Vestment Chest, and Ambry Cupboard


These three items are part of an amazing collection
of medieval and Renaissance furnishings at Haddon

ART, NEW YORK CITY. C O URTESY M ETROPOLITA N M USEUM


O F ART. PH OT OGRAPH BY 0 TYLER H UFF.

173

HADDON HALL, BAKEWELL, ENGLAND. COURTESY H A DDON H A LL. PH OTOG RAPH BY D. T YLER H UFF.

O xford Chest
T his chest, in the private collection of Merto n Co llege, Oxfo rd Un iversity, Oxfo rd, England, has been
with th e college since its construct ion . A ltho ugh the
chest is not on public view, a visit to Merton Co llege
and Ox ford University is an experience in histor y th at
sho uld not be missed.
Curule Chair
This fine cha ir is owned by Daniel Mehn, a furnituremaker who produces a variety of medieval copies and
adaptations. For a brochure of h is products, write to
Daniel Mehn, 1820 S. C arrollton Ave., New Orleans,
LA 70118-2830 .
Monastic Canopy Bed and Fifteenth-Century Door
The commun ity of hermetic monks at Mount Grace
Priory lived in virt ual isolation , not on ly from th e outside world, but also from each other, spending most of
th eir lives inside th eir small cells. The furn ishings, like
th e buildings, are recon structi ons. This restored priory,
located in Northallerton, North Yorkshire, England ,
was spared the destruction of Henry Vlll's dissoluti on
of th e monasteries and is a remarkable place to visit.

MEDIEVAL MERCHANT'S HOUSE, SOUTHAMPTON,


ENGLAND. C O URTESY E NG LISH H ERITAGE.

174

Fifteenth-Century Window Frame


This window frame is part of th e excellent collection
of the Victor ia and Alb ert Museum in London,
although it is not curren tly on display.
Wine Cabinet and Gothic Cradle
The Medieval Merch ant's House, located at 58 Fren ch
Street, Southa mpton, England , is a wine merch ant's
home and shop dating from abo ut 1290 th at has been
completely restored to its origina l condition and furnished with magnificent reproductions. The site and
its conte nts look as th ey might have when th ey were
new nearly a millennium ago.

Glastonbury Chair
The Gl astonbury ch air copy is locat ed in th e George
and Pilgrim Hotel , # 1 High St. , G laston bury, Somerset,
England . This hotel, located on ly a few hundred feet
from th e entrance to th e ruins of G lasto n bury A bbey,
origina lly served as a hostelry for pilgrims coming to
th e abbey. King Henry VIII stayed th e night here,
watching as his troops sacked and burned th e abbey.
For reservation s, call 1-458-831146.
The origina l Gl astonbury cha ir, owned by John
Arthur Thorne, is located in th e Bishop's Palace,
Wells, Somerset, and is open to public view but was
un available to be photograph ed.

NOTE: Several of the sites from which the furniture was selected for thi s book, including the Medieval Merchant 's House and Mount G race
Priory, are in the care of English Heritage, an organization th at operates over thr ee hundred historical sites in England and Sco tland, many
of which hold re-creationist events th roughout the year. Discount cards and memberships are available. For more information, contac t
English Heritage, C ustomer Services Department , 23 Saville Rd., London WXl lAB, United Kingdom.

175

APPENDIX B

of ~edieoal
accoutrements

~ources

Sanctuary
C ustomer Service Ce n ter
P.O . Box 641129
Los Angeles, C A 90064-6129
A collection of medieval and medieval-inspired
accessories and decorative items assembled by
en terta iner C her. Ca ta log $3.

SOURCEBOOK
Ye Old Pages
c/o Kalligraph ika
P.O. Box 328 102
Farmin gton , MI 48332
A sourcebook for more than two hundred companies cate ring to the medieval marketplace.

Past Times Catalogue


Whitn ey, Oxfo rd
England

CALLIGRAPHY AND ARTWORK


Gabriel Guild
c/o Karen Go rst
6 North Pearle St. (404 E)
Port C hester, NY 10573
(914) 935-9362
Produces some of the fi nest available custom
calligraphy and illuminat ion and occasiona lly deals
in origina l manu script pages.

or

280 Summer Street


Boston, MA 02210-11 82
A variety of gifts and accessories from England's
past.
Elizabethan England Ltd
Bronsil, Eastnor HR 8 lEP
England

GIFTWARE

or

14014 38th Ave. N .E.


Seattle, WA 98125
Period preserves, jellies, and toiletries.

Design Toscano
17 E. Ca mpbell St .
Arlington Height s, IL 60005
High-quality stat uary, sculpture, and tapestries.
Catalog $4.

Acorn Alchemy
c/o Melinda Sh oop
1500 West Mead, Apt #3
Yakima, WA 98902
Soaps and scen ts.

177

Mountain Trail Baskets


631 Valencia Rd.
Mars, PA 16046
Weaves a wide variety of historically accurate
baskets.

FOOD AND DRINK

Take 1,000 Eggs or More


P.O. Box 106
Sussex, NJ 07461
One of the better medieval cookbooks available.

To the King's Taste


c/o Metropolitan Museum of Art Gift Shop
Fifth Ave. at 82nd St.
New York, NY 10028
A compendium of recipes from the court of Richard
II, adapted for the modern kitchen.

ARMS AND ARMOR


All of the following companies produce high-quality
medieval armor, blades, and battle regalia.
Blacksword Armoury Inc.
11717 S.W. 99th Ave.
Gainesville, FL 32608

The Meadery at Greenwich, Inc.


RR#4, Box 4070
Greenwich, NY 12834
Produces a variety of medieval mead drinks.

MacKenzie-Smith Medieval Arms and Armour


c/o Robert MacKenzie
P.O . Box 3315
Truckee, CA 96160
Vorhut Fahlein
Arms and Armour
17228 Voorhes Lane
Ramona, CA 92065

ORGANIZATIONS
Richard III Foundation Inc.
47 Summit Ave.
Garfield, NJ 07026
These folks are on a crusade, trying to clean up the
much maligned reputation of the last Yorkist to hold
the throne of England .

CLOTHING
Museum Replicas Limited
P.O. Box 840 MK
Conyers, GA 30012
Produces and sells good-quality period clothing,
battle-ready arms and armor, jewelry, and accessories.

Society for Creative Anachronism


P.O. Box 360743
Milpitas, CA 95036
A broad-based medieval re-creationist group with
branches in North America, Australia, Japan, England,
and several other European countries.

Raiments
P.O. Box 93095
Pasadena, CA 91109
Patterns and supplies for the do-it-yourself medieval
tailor.
Chivalry Sports
7718 E. Wrightstown Rd., Ste, 210
Tucson, AZ 85715
Good-quality medieval clothing, patterns, and
accessories.

178

Indo

Aging furn iture, 17


Amb ry cupboa rd, 73, 173
back panels, 74-75
bug screen , 77
door, 77
drawings for, 78-80
finish,77
frame construct ion , 73-74
front panels, 75-77
hinge s, 77
material s for, 73, 76
photog raph of, 74
setting up for, 73
top, 75
Architectural Timber & Millwork , 2
Arm s and armor, sources for, 178
Bands, 12
Bed, canopy, 101, 174
bot tom rails, 104
building canopy, 10 5- 7
co rner posts, 104
drawi ngs for, 108-1 0
fina l assembly, 105
finish, lOS
floor hoards, 105
frame asse mbly, 104
getting sta rted, 101
materials for, 101, 106, 107
panels, 104- 5
pho tographs of, 10 2, 103
stiles, 104
top rails, 104
Bench , 19, 173
assembly, 21
dowelin g, 2 1
drawings for, 22-23
finish ,2 1
legs and side rails, 19- 20
lumher,1 9
materials for, 21
photog raph of, 20
seat, 20
sett ing up for, 19
tenon s, 20-2 1
Bishop's Palace, 175
Ca lligraphy and artwork, sources for, 177
Ca ndles
beeswax, 161
tallow, 161

Ca ndlesta nd, 9 1, 173


asse rnbl y, 94
cent ral cand le holder, 93-94
crown, 96
decora tive loops, 95
decorative work, 96
dra wings for, 97-99
drip tray, 93
drip t ray frame, 92-93
finish ,96
inner ring, 94-95
inne r ring support brackets, 93
in ner ring suppo rt legs, 93
legs, 9 1-92
main shaft , 92
mate ria ls for, 9 1, 94-95
photograph of, 92
sma ll can dle holders, 95 -96
Ce n nini, Ce n n ino, 25
C hai r, curule, 8 1, 174
arm asse mbly, 83
carving, 83
doweling, 84-8 5
drawin gs for, 86-89
final asse mbly, 84
foot asse mbly, 83
knuckl e joint, 83
materi als for, 8 1, 84
morti ses, 83
photograph of, 82
rosettes , 85
rough cutting, 8 1-83
scat and back, 8 5
seat suppo rts, 83
sett ing up for, 8 1
C ha ir, G lasto n bury, 151, 175
arms, 153
ca rving and finishing, 155
dowels and wedges, 153- 54
drawings for, 156- 60
framing co nst ruct ion, 153
framing members , 151
legs, 153
mat erials for, 154
phot ograph of, 152
seat and back panel s, 151-53
C hest, Oxford , 51, 174
bottom panel, 53
drawin gs for, 56 -61
end panel s,S 2
final assembly, 53-55

179

framing memb ers, 51-52


front and back panels, 53
hard ware, 9- 12
lid, 53
ma te rials for, 5 1, 54
photograph of,S 2
st raps and hand ing, S5
C hest, vest ment, 63, 173
ca rving, 65
dove ta iling, 64 -65
drawin gs for, 68-71
floor , 65
h ardwar e, 9- 12
lid, 63- 64
mat er ials for, 63, 66
photograph of, 64
straps and banding, 65 -67
C lamps, 2
C lot h ing, sources for, 178
Constructio n technique s
clamp s, 2
doweling, 1- 2
joints, 3, 4
C radle, 131, 175
bed assembly, 133
brac e panel carving, 134
brace pan els, 133
cha mfered edges, 134
drawin gs for, 136-40
end panel s, 131
finials, 133
finish , 135
leg assembly, 134
leg unit s, 133
mater ials for, 131, 135
phot ograph of, 132
rails, 131- 33
rocker slot, 134
spind le, 134- 3 5
stre tche r, 134
support post carv ing, 134
Desk, reading, 35 , 173
hase, 37
door lock , 38
drawin gs for, 40-42
front panel s and door, 38
iron work, 38
materials for. 35 - 36 , 39
mortises, 37
phot ograph of, 36

Desk, readin g, conrinued


rear, 37-38
sett ing up for, 36-3 7
shelf,3 7
side panel s, 37
top, 38
Door, 141, 174
assembling, 145
cha mfering, 145
cross braces, 144
door boards, 144
drawings for, 148-49
finish, 147
han ging, 147
latch ,14 5-4 7
mat erials for, 14 1, 146
morti ses, 144-45
nailin g, 145
nails, 141-44
photograph s of, 142, 143
swing pins, 144
Doweling, 1- 2

Metalworking, 7
banding, 12
bending right angles, 9
distressing metal, 12
forging metal, 9-12
lock plates, 12
locks, 12-15
makin g hinges, 12
materi als, 9
nails, 15
tools, 7
types of metal used in, 9
using mandrel , 9- 12
Met ropolitan Museum of Art , C loisters bran ch,
19,91,1 61,173
phot ograph of, I 73
Middle Ages, xi
Mount G race Priory, 101, 141, 174

Egg tempera, 17-1 8

O il
boiled linseed, 17
tun g, 17

Faldstoo l, 151
Finishes, 17
clear, 17
paint ed, 17-1 8
Food and drink, sources for, 178
Ge nuine O ld English brand polish, 17
George and Pilgrim Hotel, 151, 175
Gesso, 18
G ifrware, sources for, 177
G lastonb ury Abbey, 151, 175
Haddon Hall, 43, 63, 73, 173
pho tograph of, 174
Henr y Vill (kin g of Englan d), 101, 151, 175
Hin ges, 12
drawing of, 13-14
Jamestown Distributo rs, 15
Joint s, drawings of, 3, 4
Kilwardbv, Archbi shop, 51
Lock plates, 12
Locks, 12-1 5
Mandrel, 7
drawing of, 8
using the, 9- 12
Medieval market place sourceboo k, 177
Medieval Merch ant 's House, 119, 131, 175
photograph of, 174
Mehn, Daniel, 8 1, 174
Merton Co llege, O xford U niversity, 51, 174
Metal
distressing, 12
forging, 9- 12
types of, 9

Nails, 15
hand -forged, sources for, 15
North Fields Restoration , 2

Old House]ournal , 15
Old House] ournal Supply Catalogue, 15
O rganizations, 178
Paint
art ist's, 18
inte rior, 18
Philadelphi a Museum of Art , 35, 173
Rich , Bob, 25, 173
Roman Catho lic ch urch, 63
Scone, mirrored wall, 161, 173
assembly, 163-64
back panel, 161- 63
candle cup, 166- 68
candl e cup arm, 165- 66
candle cup and arm assembly, 166
candle holder, 166
carvings, 163
corne r decorat ion s, 165
crest boa rd, 163
drawings for, 169-72
finishin g, 164
hanging straps, 168
materi als for, 167
mirror, 164- 65
photograph of, 162
priming wood for, 163
side pan els, 163
Table, high , 43, 173
columns, 45-46
drawings for, 48-50
feet, 47
materials for, 43, 46
phot ograph of, 44

180

riser blocks, 47
too ls for, 44
top, 45
Tapestries, 25
Thorne, John A rthur, 151
Tremont Nail, 15

Tres Riches Heures du Duc de Berry, 25, 173


Vestments, 63
Victoria and Alb ert Museum , III , 175
Wall hanging, painted, 25, 173
developin g th e design, 27
displaying, 28-29
drawings for, 30-34
materials for, 25-2 7
painting, 28
photograph of, 26
preparin g the canvas, 27
primin g the canvas, 27
reproducin g th e design, 27-28
Wind ow frame, Ill, 175
doweling, 115
drawings for, 116-1 8
edge moldin g, 113-14
feet, 115
final assembly, 115
framing, 111-13
materials for, Ill, 114
mortises, 113
mullions, 113, 114
photograph of, 112
rabbets, 113
t refoils, 114
Win e cabinet, 119, 175
back panel s, 123
barrel bolt, 124- 25
botto m, 123
botto m braces, 121
catch, 124
door, 124
drawings for, 126- 29
finish, 124
frame, 121
framing, 119- 21
hinges, 124, 125
materials for, 119, 122- 23
mortises and ten on s, 119
panel rabbets, 121
pho tograph of, 120
shelves, 124
side pan els, 123
top, 123
Wood, 2- 5
custom milied lumber, 2
green, 1
oak, 2
old lumber, sources for, 2
pine , 2
sta nda rd-dimension, glueing, 2-5
Woodworkin g
construction techni ques, 1- 5
medieval, 1
reprodu ct ion tech niques, 1

FURNITURE MAKIN GlWoodworking

"An authoritative and beautiful book"


- Allison Leopold
Author of Victorian Splendor


CONSTRUCTING MEDIEVAL FURNITURE offers you designs for building 16
reprodu tions of furnishings from the Middle Ages. The detailed plans are based on
careful study and measurement of rare originals. and the complete, step-by-step
instructions. materials lists. and notes on woodworking. meta lworking, and finishes
provide you with the means for recreating these pieces accurately in your own home
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Everything you need to furnish a well-appointed manor house is included:

Fifteenth-Century Bench Fifteenth-Century Door


Fourteenth-Century Reading Desk Candlestand
Painted Wall Hanging Wine Cabinet Monastic Canopy Bed
Gothic Cradle Glastonbury Chair Mirrored Wall Sconce
Oxford Chest Curule Chair High Table
Vestment Chest Ambry Cupboard
Fifteenth-Century Window Frame

ISBN 0-8117 - 2 795 -5

STACKPOLE
BOOKS
$19.95 U.S.
Printed in the U.S.A.