Wednesday 28 December 2016

An octagonal medieval folding table at the Musee de Cluny

The foldable table from the Musee the Cluny, Paris. Cl.22795. Photo from internet.

The Musee National du Moyen Age also known as Musee de Cluny in Paris, France does contain an elaborately carved medieval folding table. While photos from the side are easily found on internet, photos with details of the construction are not. We were at the museum in April and able to take some photos of this medieval table. What we noticed was that the table was very worn - it had suffered much during the more than 500 years of its life. The oak was also very darkly coloured, much more than visible on 'regular' photos. As the room in which the table stood was also sparsely lit, it was difficult to take good photos. Nevertheless, they will show some additional information on the folding table. 

The octagonal table top consists of three boards. These were fixed together with loose tenons that were pinned. You can see the pins for the tenons on the photo.

The table is dates from the last quarter of the 15th century, first quarter of the 16th century. It has a height of 75 cm. The width of the table top is 90.5 cm, while the width at the bottom is 79 cm. The table was made in France. When taken apart the table consist of five numbered parts (two feet, two panels and one table top) and four pins to attach the table top to the pedestal. The board of the tabletop are fixed together with a loose tenons that are fixed with two pins at each side of the tenon

Most of the openwork tracery is missing parts. Unlike the scapradekijn for Castle Muiderslot and the rood screen, these panels are carved at both sides as both sides are visible. The panels were also constructed of several parts as can be seen by the lines on the photos. 

This photo shows how the tabletop is connected to the pedestal panels. 
There is one such construction in each quarter of the table.

The ornamented end of the pedestal panels.

The feet was carved but the elements have mostly disappeared. Likely these have been animals, 
such as lions, dogs or dragons that are often found on late 15th century furniture.

It is hard to figure out what this worn piece would have looked like.

This remarkable photo is from the 'Mobilier domestique vol. 1. Vocabulaire - typologique' by Nicole de Reynies (ISBN 2-85822-461-7) and shows the table with its different parts in a semi-detached way.

Sunday 25 December 2016

The scapradekijn for Castle Muiderslot, part 1 : the start of the project

In May this year we were asked if we would like to make a scapradekijn or hanging cupboard for castle Muiderslot (also known as Amsterdam castle for tourists). We thought this was a nice opportunity to display our joinery craft to the public, as well as to do more elaborate carving and open tracery work. The task was daunting, as there was a deadline set for the end of the summer holidays. It became even more challenging when the castle management took about a month to consider and accept our offeeggler. For us the proposed time was too short - we have other regular jobs and a family to go on holiday in the summer - but luckily we could extend the deadline to early October. Anyway, as soon as we got the green light, we were able to start the project.

The hanging cupboard in the Museum for Angewandte Kunst in Cologne, Germany 
that served as the basic model for our scapradekijn.

Before the green light for the project, we already made a design of the hanging cupboard. The scapradekijn had to meet a number of conditions. It had to be 'open' as the Muiderslot wanted to display some (recreated) medieval things in the cupboard and these must be able to be seen. Also the cupboard had to be sturdy and idiot-proof (as some tourists would like to try out things that were not allowed). Our design was largely based upon the hanging cupboard in Cologne, but for the backside we used a grooved panel construction as this is more sturdy than a nailed backside.

The design for the hanging cupboard with measurements. We used different 'layers' in Photoshop to swap, fit and adapt the carved panels. Some of the carved panels and the ironwork were derived from the Cologne cupboard. The designs of the carved panels did change a bit as we tested some variants first on a (pine) board, and then used the one we liked most on the final oak panels.

We bought our oak panels ready to use. They were pre-planed, however we had to use a planer-thicknesser to get them to the appropriate thickness. Using power tools, such as a router,  as much as possible for the project was necessary in order to complete the project in time. Also the use of repetitive forms in the design allowed us to speed up the construction. The carving of the panels and the router jigs were first tested on a pine panel, before we used it on the oak panels. This way we also learned what strategy was the best and how the hand carving could (not) be done.

The top panel

While I will mention each 'panel' design separately, they were more or less worked on simultaneously. The photos will thus show the different stages of the different panels next to each other. Like the Cologne cupboard, the panel boards have different thicknesses. The front boards have a thickness of 11 mm, the side boards are 16 mm because they will also contain a groove for the shelves. Approximate half of the thickness was routed away for the deeper layers of the panel, either with use of a jig or freehand. Note that we carved the panels only carved at the front; the backside was just flat board, as this is not visible for anyone. This was also done in medieval times.

Front and back of two panels of a church rood screen dating from the 15th century. Musee des Arts Decoratifs, Paris. You can see that only the front of the panel is carved and the backside is just flat board.

Left: The router jig for the top panel. The lines on the panel and the panel itself are square (at the top and bottom) to allow the jig to be easily aligned. The round form is only for the top panel, the bullet form was also used for the middle and bottom panel. The router had a ring set at 5 mm, which was also the distance of the slope that needed to be carved. The clamped square itself acts as a fence to slide the jig to the next position. Right: The router jig with two inserts: one to produced a half circle and one for the open 'windows' cut through the board. For the latter one, routing was done in two layers; first at half depth without the insert, then through the board with the insert. (except for our first board panel when we had not figured out that this was smarter to do.)

Left: the routing setup for the top panel of the board. Right: the test panel after routing.

The router was fitted with a copy ring that left 5 mm between the router bit and the outside of the copy ring. This was also the space we needed to create the bevel. Thus, the router jig could also serve to draw the line for the bevel.

After routing the remaining work on the panel was mainly handwork. We used a carving knife as our main tool as it the most flexible use and a selection of other carving tools. Very useful were a low sweep fishtail gouge and an abegglen knife for corners that were hard to reach with normal gouges. For setting a straight bevel on the open windows, the use of the shoulder knife proved very useful as this provided a long stable cut. A cordless power drill with different sizes of Forstner bits was used to create the starter holes for the carving. To create rounded surfaces also round and half-round files and needle files were used.

Bram working on the first panel board at the Historic Open Air Museum in Eindhoven. On the right photo he uses the shoulder knife (or is it rather an armpit knife...)

The sexfoil pattern on the top panel was drilled with a Forstner bit using a cordless drill. At first we thought that using a paper jig (left photo) with the drill starting points on it was handy. However, the paper jig did not fit well into the deepened round, leading to misplaced drill holes. After that, using a pair of compasses to draw a circle on which the starting points should be placed, and a protractor to define the exact spot on the circle proved to be more exact. Right: a top panel halfway ready.

Some different stages of the top panels of the three front boards.

We also used to test panel to test how visible something inside the cupboard would be. We placed some of our medieval glassware at shelve height behind the panel. This pine test panel also shows the different options for the top of the bullet windows, e.g. the size and lay-out of the holes. We used the second option from the left for our cupboard.

Bram is busy with rounding the bullet window with a file (left) and carving the bevel/creating space for the trefoil.

Left: The deepened parts for the trefoil and quatrefoil were routed freehand. The surrounding area was pencilled black so it was easier to distinguish between what could be routed and what not. Right: A finished and oiled top panel.

Tuesday 20 December 2016

Omroep Gelderland meets St. Thomasguild at castle Hernen

Last Saturday was 'Gelre'-day for Castle Hernen, with free entrance for the public and a radio reporter of Omroep Gelderland (a regional broadcasting) present with moments of live recording of the event. Also the St. Thomasguild was present and had a brief encounter with the reporter. He especially liked the 'noise' of our hammer - as this showed the listeners that 'real' construction was going on ...

The car of Omroep Gelderland at the entrance of Castle Hernen. 
Our son is carrying the embroidery frame and the 'noisy' hammer.

Left: Bram is busy turning a bowl from a cancerous tumour of a beech tree. 
Right: The radio reporter in action interviewing a visitor.
I was busy with a new project: a two-seater bench. This will be a larger version of the one in the bottom left corner made many years ago. I am working on the edges of the seating board with a hollow moulding plane.

The end result should look something like this, with openwork tracery. Note that the rose figures are exactly like those used on our hanging cupboard for Castle Muiderslot. 15th century oak bench of Flemish origin. Size 49.1 cm height, 96 cm length. Formerly collection Albert Figdor, now Philadelphia Museum of Art (item 1930-81-5).