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Woodworking: Stickley Bookcase From Quartersawn White Oak

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Repeat_Bloomer
Peekskill, NY
(Zone 6b)

February 15, 2006
1:20 AM

Post #2045482

I finished making this reproduction of a Stickley bookcase from quartersawn white oak that I had milled in Pennsylvania and shipped to my garage woodshop in New York. It took a long time to make by working only on the weekends, but it was worth it!

Thumbnail by Repeat_Bloomer
Click the image for an enlarged view.

balvenie
Marysville, WA
(Zone 7a)

February 16, 2006
11:58 PM

Post #2049774

Really beautiful bookcase. Seldom hear of anyone using quartersawn nowadays. The grain patterns must be stunning.
Repeat_Bloomer
Peekskill, NY
(Zone 6b)

February 17, 2006
12:12 AM

Post #2049809

Thanks Balvenie. Here's a picture of the grain pattern, or ray flake.

Thumbnail by Repeat_Bloomer
Click the image for an enlarged view.

Repeat_Bloomer
Peekskill, NY
(Zone 6b)

February 17, 2006
12:13 AM

Post #2049813

Here's a really unusual pattern that looks just like a smiling face...

Thumbnail by Repeat_Bloomer
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balvenie
Marysville, WA
(Zone 7a)

February 17, 2006
12:17 AM

Post #2049822

Spectacular grain isn't it. Thanks for sharing.
Repeat_Bloomer
Peekskill, NY
(Zone 6b)

February 17, 2006
12:46 AM

Post #2049861

The joinery includes pinned through-mortise-and-tenon work. Here you can see two of the joints; I've posted duplicate images so you can see where I've drawn where the pin runs through the tenon. I had to get an extra long drill bit to make the hole for the dowel.

Thumbnail by Repeat_Bloomer
Click the image for an enlarged view.

dpmichael
Rethymno, Crete
Greece
(Zone 10b)

February 22, 2006
10:33 PM

Post #2064101

wonderful job, Bloomer; I bet you enjoyed making it more than using it.
I like the accuracy.

What is "quartersawed"? joined so the grains match as in the mirror?

If you use tenon and mortise, why do you need the dowels?

What did you use for the back? In bookcases, I noticed that the back makes up for most of the show - and it usually is only a thin laminate of some sort.

What is this particular style?

Excuse the questions - I am only an amateur

Dimitri
Repeat_Bloomer
Peekskill, NY
(Zone 6b)

February 23, 2006
1:26 AM

Post #2064499

Hi Dimitri,

These are good questions thatyou've asked. First, regarding quartersawn lumber: Quartersawn boards are created by first cutting a log into quarters and then creating a series of parallel cuts perpendicular to the tree's rings (see the enclosed picture). The amount of wood that results from the cut, known as "yield," is not as substantial as it is from plainsawing, but is much greater than the yield from riftsawing. The grain in quartersawn wood is relatively consistent, and therefore the end product is stable and often preferred by woodworkers and furniture-makers. Quartersawn wood may include medullary rays and wavy grain patterns that some people prefer to the figures that are revealed with alternative sawing methods.

Since the yield produced by quartersawing wood is substantially lower than other plainsawing, the cost is relatively high. Oak is the most common quartersawn wood; on occassion you may be also able to find quartersawn walnut, cherry and maple. The increased stability makes quartersawn wood highly sought after for string instrument necks and fret boards. The neck of a guitar, bass or violin, for example, should remain stable consistent throughout their lives; quartersawn wood helps ensure that instrument's sound remains as invariable as possible.

Regarding pinned through-mortise and tenon joints, the pin helps to insure that the tenon never slips within the mortise over time, either as the wood expands and contracts with temperature and humidity, or when the glue dries and weakens with substantial age.

As for the rear boards, they are quite substantial - a half-inch thick, and the same quarter-sawn oak that the rest of the case is made of - but with less "spectacular" grain patterns.

Thanks for the good questions!

Mike
Repeat_Bloomer
Peekskill, NY
(Zone 6b)

February 23, 2006
1:26 AM

Post #2064500

The picture I mentioned above is shown in the next frame.

This message was edited Feb 22, 2006 9:29 PM
Repeat_Bloomer
Peekskill, NY
(Zone 6b)

February 23, 2006
1:29 AM

Post #2064513

Here's the photo of different cutting techniques.

Thumbnail by Repeat_Bloomer
Click the image for an enlarged view.

dpmichael
Rethymno, Crete
Greece
(Zone 10b)

February 24, 2006
2:22 PM

Post #2067582

Mike, thank you for your very nice diagram explaining cutting styles, as well as your very descriptive remarks. I think most of the wood I see are plainsawn, and there must be a lot of wood available to afford styles with big loss percentage.

On the other hand, as the back is not bearing a lot of stresses, isn't it too much to use 12mm thick wood, when you can use a 4mm veneered plywood, and make something else with your A class oak?

I have read about the different oak finishes the British use: liming and fuming. Do you use any of them?

And as you are very patient answering my questions, I would very much appreciate any comments on what is "Stickley".

Many thanks

Dimitri
Repeat_Bloomer
Peekskill, NY
(Zone 6b)

February 24, 2006
3:38 PM

Post #2067822

Dimitri,

It's certainly possible to have used a thinner board for the back of the case, though since this was an exact replica, I made it the way it was made in the early 20th century, when quartersawn oak from "old growth" timber was far more plentiful than it is today. "Old growth" refers to trees that are older and as a result have a larger circumfrence, so the "loss" from the sawing technique could be sustained more easily 100 years ago than it can be today. But I was very fortunate to have come across some very old growth white oak at a mill in Pennsylvania that I had shipped to me in New York. The 13 inch wide quartersawn boards I received are virtually unheard of today; but even still, I trimmed them down to more narrow planks to improve long-term stability of the wood.

"Stickley" most often refers to Gustav Stickley (sometimes it refers to his brothers who mimicked his style). Gustav created the first truly American furniture, known as Craftsman (also referred to as "mission" or "arts and crafts" style). He achieved success in the early 1900s as the leader of the Arts & Crafts Movement in America. In the 1880s, Charles, Albert and Gustav started Stickley Brothers, in Binghamton, New York. Albert left and established the Stickley Brothers Furniture Company with John George in Grand Rapids, Michigan in 1891.

After a trip to England in 1897 Stickley was inspired by British reformers, John Ruskin and William Morris to create a new line of handcrafted furniture based on honesty and simplicity. In 1898 he opened United Crafts in Eastwood, New York where he introduced his Craftsman line which, by 1900, reflected an indigenous American Arts & Crafts philosophy. His quarter sawn oak furniture incorporated overt structural details such as tenon-and-key construction, chamfered boards, and exposed tenons. His rectilinear shapes were free of any excess ornamentation except for what occurred naturally in the construction, design and material. This revealed not only the excellent craftsmanship that went into each piece, but also the beauty simplicity, and utility of the design. Gustav occasionally decorated his tabletops with Grueby tile and often used Grueby vases in his displays.

In October 1901, Stickley began publication of "The Craftsman". He used it to promote his architectural ideas, not just his furniture designs. A house was to be constructed in harmony with its landscape, with careful attention to the selection of building materials. His open floor plan invited family interaction and eliminated barriers wherever practical. He encouraged built in benches, bookcases and sideboards to create a practical house, independent of total reliance upon furniture to make it useful and appealing. Groupings of windows allowed ample light inside and appealing views of the outside. These architectural elements were beautifully expanded on by Frank Lloyd Wright in the following decades.

In 1902, John George left Stickley Brothers Furniture Company to open the Onondaga Shops with Leopold in Fayetteville, New York, incorporating four years later as L. & J.G. Stickley, Inc. They made furniture that resembled Gustav's. They also made furniture that was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Gustav now found himself in competition with his younger brothers. Leopold and John George were astute businessmen who rapidly expanded their business using designs borrowed from their brother. Gustav lacked his brothers business acumen. He encouraged builders and artisans to alter his plans to suit their needs, which put money in their pockets and not in his. He eventually declared bankruptcy.

L. & J.G. Stickley introduced their first furniture line at a 1905 trade show in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Their collection of "simple furniture built along mission lines" was very well received and helped set the standard in fine American woodwork for the entire furniture industry through the end of World War I.

In 1922 Leopold Stickley announced the introduction of the Cherry Valley Collection; a "line of period designs in popular finishes." These adaptations of traditional New England and Pennsylvania furnishings included trestle tables, corner cupboards, dressers and Windsor chairs fashioned from wild black cherry wood from the Adirondacks.

The modern era of the Stickley company began in 1974 when Alfred and Aminy Audi purchased L. & J.G. Stickley. Today the company employs over 650 artisans and craftspeople, up from 25 in 1974. The Audis have steadfastly maintained the company tradition of pride, integrity and deep respect for the Arts & Crafts heritage that made Stickley famous. One of their showrooms is right near where I live, and I go there for inspiration!
Repeat_Bloomer
Peekskill, NY
(Zone 6b)

February 24, 2006
4:52 PM

Post #2068031

Dimitri,

Where fuming is concerned, I've done a lot of reading on it, but I'm not comfortable trying it. The use of an ammonia tent is not only logistically difficult, but I have to admit, it's also a bit intimidating to use such a noxious chemical. As an alternative, I simulate the effect of fuming by using a wood dye (not a stain), and then use a dark colored rubbing compound and work it into the open grains, to give it an aged appearance, or patina. It works very nicely.

Mike
Magwar
Royston, GA
(Zone 7b)

February 24, 2006
10:05 PM

Post #2068791

Wow Bloomer, that is a stunning piece of work. I know you must be proud. I hope to be able to do some cabinetry some day =) I can't seem to find quartersawn lumber anywhere around here. Sadly plainsaw likes to bow tremendously.
dpmichael
Rethymno, Crete
Greece
(Zone 10b)

February 25, 2006
12:27 PM

Post #2070072

Bloomer,

I really thank you very much for all this information - you sound very well educated on the matters, and also capable of obtaining worthy material and exact measurements and info to produce the replica. And, of course, the pleasure - I imagine - is intense, because I know that as the tips of your fingers are feeling the joints you think of what a good - or in some other cases fool - designer the original thinker was . ..

Well, I wish I had an opprtunity to watch someone really knowledgable work on something like this. But life has taken a different turn for me, and the little woodwork I know helps to ease the tension from the everyday havock and agony, when I do my own bits from scratch, whatever and whenever I can.

Oak fuming must really be difficult to do properly - I had found a nice and easy alternative some years ago, but I never had a chance to apply it on some substancial furniture : the idea of fuming is to expose oak to ammonia, and ammonia is the main active substance in several household cleaning agents, especially those for glass, so I rubbed oak boards with cloth soaked in that, let it dry and had the effect without the pains. Do you think it is worth giving it a serious try?

Thank you again, and congratulations for your bookcase.

Dimitri

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