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.

1 comment:

  1. Looking good. I like the idea of using the shoulder knife for the carving. Probably very authentic as well, i shall have to try it myself.