Friday 15 September 2017

The Scapradekijn for the Muiderslot, part 6: adding the crown to the work

This post finalizes the story of the hanging cupboard for Castle Muiderslot. Previous parts considered the carving of the panels, the metal parts and the construction (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, and Part 5). This last part will show the making of the carved crown.

Carving the top crown

We planned to make the top crown like the original hanging cupboard in Cologne. This crown consists of two rilled bottom lines, and a top part with alternating open quatrefoils and closed X-like parts.

The front top crown of the Hangeschrankchen from the Museum fur angewandte Kunst in Colgne, Germany. You can see behind the crown, the parts of the cupboard that connect to it; most is left open. 

First, the rilled lines were made in oak using an adjustable scratch stock, a scraper-like tool that can be set at a specific distance. While the scratch stock did not work for the eagles feathers on the sella curulis, it worked perfect for the scapradekijn. After this, the parts for the open quatrefoils were deepened by hand using a chisel. Next, the quatrefoils were drilled open and widened with a carving knife and file. Then, the interspaced closed X-like parts were carved. Finally, the hole in the middle of the X was drilled with a brace holding a spoon bit at a depth of approximately a third of the thickness of the wood. Using a spoon bit ensured that the hole had a nicely rounded bottom.

 First one line was scratched, then the scratch-stock was adjusted and the second line was carved.

Deepening of the spaces for the open quatrefoils (at castle Hernen). 

Bram at work on the cupboard crown at castle Hernen.

Bram carving the quatrefoils of the crown at the courtyard of castle Muiderslot.
Marijn drilling the holes in the closed X with a brace at castle Muiderslot 
(image from the book Wonen in de Mideeleeuwen).

The two side pieces, carved and oiled. 

Connecting the three parts

Also the three top rim parts were connected to each other with secret dovetails. For this, first an end-grain rebate had to be made. I used the table-saw set at a specific height to produce exact rebates. Then the secret dovetails were sawn and cut with a chisel. A nice guide to produce secret dovetails can be found at the Fine Woodworking magazine blog.

The end grain rebate sawn by the table-saw. A small slate was kept at the end of the roller table  to avoid splintering of the rim by the saw blade. 

The layout of the secret dove tails drawn on the end of the rim.

The finished secret dovetail.

The secret dovetail joined together.

Preparing the hanging cupboard

The crown will be fixed to the parts of the cupboard that protrude above the top shelf. However, these parts will partially close the openwork quatrefoils. This problem was solved in the original piece, by cutting out some parts of the protruding panels. This solution was also used for our scapradekijn; made the protruding panels 'crenelated', thus allowing space for the openwork quatrefoils. The middle panel - the door of the scapradekijn - has no protruding parts, as it needs to be opened. Instead a smaller piece of (crenelated) oak was added to fill the gap here.

The top of the Hangeschrankchen at the MAK in Cologne. You can see that specific parts of the top are cut out (green arrows) to allow the quatrefoils to be open. For the door of the cupboard the space is even larger (red arrow).

The crown fitted to the cupboard. You can see that the openwork quatrefoils are partially covered by the protruding parts of the cupboard panels. There the wood needs to be removed to allow a fully open quatrefoil.

The middle panel (the door) has a small piece of wood added (unoiled) 
in order to close the gap that would appear when the door is opened.

 Bram sawing the 'crenels' with a fretsaw and cleaning them with a file.

 A test fitting of the crown in the workshop.

Adding the pins 

With everything ready, the crown was fitted with wooden dowels to scapradekijn at a special session at Castle Muiderslot. As drilling holes for the pins was done with an electric tool, this had to be done before the visitors arrived at the castle. Hammering the pins, however, in was done with the public. Clamps held a wooden strip behind the crown to avoid splintering during the drilling process, if the drill bit went too deep. (Luckily this did not happen). Pins were placed between the rilled lines and in the closed X parts. When all pins were hammered in (with help of the visitors), they were cleaned and finished with some linseed oil. 

Marijn drills the holes for the crown  early in the morning at castle Muiderslot.

The crown is clamped to the cupboard. On the left you can see the 'safety' piece of wood. 

The first few pins were hammered in, before the modern clamps were removed. They were then replaced by wooden screw clamps for the remainder of the pins.

On display in the red chamber

The redecorated red chamber in Castle Muiderslot, with the wall and chimney paintings, two tapestries and the scapradekijn.

The beautiful side of the red chamber; the other side of the room still has a modern shelf packed with 'medieval clothes' that can be tried out by children, including the ubiquitous wooden swords and shields.

The finished scapradekijn.

Friday 8 September 2017

The Scapradekijn for the Muiderslot, part 5: Connecting the parts

This post continues with the story of the making of a hanging cupboard for Castle Muiderslot (Amsterdam Castle according to the Tourist Information) in the Netherlands. Part 1Part 2 and Part 3 considered the carving of most parts of the scapradekijn of the panels as well as the making of the shelves and back boards. Part 4 showed the metal parts of the cupboard. This post continues by fitting the different parts of the scapradekijn together.

Hidden dovetails

Most parts of the scapradekijn do fit nicely together with grooves, however the front edges of the cupboard cannot be fitted this way. When you look at the original piece in the Museum fur Angewandte Kunst in Cologne, it seems that the edges are just butted together with a lap joint and held by wooden pins. I tried this out on a test piece, but the construction proved not sturdy enough. So some other type of joint is necessary. The joint that does the trick, but has the same appearance, is the hidden (or secret) dovetail. If the hidden dovetail existed during the late medieval period is not known to me, the dovetail itself, however, is abundantly present in furniture pieces from that time. Also, some books on medieval and renaissance furniture show a modern example of the hidden dovetail, suggesting that this joint was known and used during this period.

The decorated edge of the cupboard from Cologne. The arrows point to the wooden dowels used. The edge joint is also reinforced by three metal strips, which are not present in the scapradekijn for the Muiderslot.

 Planing the rabbet with the Stanley 78.

As we also wanted a decoration on the edge of the scapradekijn, a rabbet was planed on the front panels using a Stanley 78 rabbet plane. Then the places for the dovetails were marked on the front and side panels. The dovetails were made large, so they were easier to cut with a chisel, as well as less prone to breaking. The dovetails were pre-cut using a router, and then finished with a chisel. Finally, the edges of the rabbet were rounded using a small block plane or the Veritas cornering tool.


Pencil marks for the dovetail sockets on a side panel.
 Precutting the dovetails. The clamps are used as well as stops for the router plane.

Some fined dovetails on the (side) panels. Note that the groove for the shelves extend into the dovetail socket.

  Two panels fitted together by the hidden dovetails.

Linseed oil

Before everything was fitted together, the separate parts were coated with linseed oil. A small brush was used to cover the carved parts in oil. It is much easier to use the linseed oil already on the separate parts, than later when the cupboard is finished, when it becomes more difficult to access the inside. At this stage we could add linseed oil to the grooves as well.

Left: all the oiled panels and shelves together. Right: Three shelves drying in the sun.

Fitting the parts together


Fitting the scapradekijn together first meant to make a lot of 4 mm thick wooden dowel pins. This was done with a Lee Nielsen dowel plate. Holes in the cupboard for the pins were drilled slightly smaller than 4 mm. The cupboard with the panels (except for the door panel), shelves and back panels were clamped together. First the sides were drilled and pinned, and then the left front panel. Pins were placed at the edges of the cupboard and at shelve height. The right front panel was then nailed (with pre-drilled holes) together with the hinge for the cupboard door. The backside still needed to be opened to be able to access the backside of the front panel with the door hinges, as the nails of the top hinge needed to be bend back into the wood. (They appear just below the top shelve, see Part 4). Finally, the pins of the front and sides were sawn of and smoothed with a chisel.

A still unconnected scapradekijn at castle Hernen. On the workbench in front the top decoration is worked at.
Clamps hold the pieces tight while the holes are drilled and the wooden dowels are hammered in. You can see the pre-drilled holes for the hinge on the top left.

Protruding pins from the front and side panels. the pins are placed at the shelf level and along the edge.

When the front and side panels were finished, the back panels could be pinned as well. Smaller, 3 mm dowels were set in the back panels at the grooves. Also here the protruding bits were sawn of and cleaned with a chisel.

Adding wooden dowels to the back side of the scapradekijn.

The hanging cupboard hanging in the woodworking shop with closed and open door.

The scapradekijn is now nearly finished. only the top decorated band has to be made and added. Part 6 will discuss this and conclude the scapradekijn series of blog post.

Sources used:

Blanc, M. 1999. Le mobilier francais – moyen age renaissance. Editeur massin, Paris, France. ISBN 2-7072-0346-7. 

Sunday 3 September 2017

Medieval furniture at Chateau Langeais: chairs, chests and a bed

 The ruin of the keep of the castle of Fulque Nerra at Langeais, France.

The castle of Langeais in the Loire valley in France was founded in 992 by Fulque Nerra as a motte-and-bailey castle, and later reinforced by a stone keep. The keep is still present as a ruin on the castle grounds. During the Hundred Years' War, the castle was destroyed by the English. The castle was then rebuild around 1465 during the reign of King Louis XI. The castle was the scene of the marriage of Anne of Brittany to King Charles VIII of France in December 1491. In 1886, the castle was acquired by Jacques Siegfried who began a restoration program - influenced by Viollet-le-Duc. He also added his collection of medieval tapestries and furnishings; this makes it hard to distinguish the ‘new’ neo-gothic furniture from the 15th century medieval ones.

The 15th century castle of Langeais, seen from the 10th century medieval keep.

It was possible to take photos in the castle without flash, but some rooms were too dark to successfully make some pictures. All rooms were lavishly decorated with floor tiles, wall panels, paintings and tapestries and crammed with furniture. 

The wall panels all are painted in red, blueish green, yellow and grey-blue colours. Many have different patterns in the Gothic flamboyant style as shown by the 8 panels here. The panels are very likely 19th century. 

A 15th century chest with some restoration on the lid. The original medieval furniture looks much more worn. 

A late 15th century chest, lavishly decorated at the front and with linenfold panels at the sides. Also the lock is nicely sculptured.

Another 15th century chest, with detail of one of the panels.


A 15th century chest. Also the lid is decorated. 
The lock looks like it is a later addition as it does not match with the remnant of the hinge.

A 15th century linenfold chest with a replaced lid. Note that the lock has a sliding mechanism, as well as a keyhole.

A table of which the top can be enlarged. The table also has a shelf halfway.

 A 16th century high chair.

A sedia savoranola with carved feet and roses at the armrest. The backrest has the outlines of a heraldic shield; the actual heraldic shield was probably painted on it.

A replica bench, screwed to the castle floor. At the moment I am making a similar type of decorated bench.

A 16th century wall bench (or a neo-gothic one).

 A two-person high chair with balcony in the dinner hall (one of two present in this room). I suspect this piece is a neo-gothic one, like most of the furniture pieces in this room are. It is interesting to see the underside of the balcony.

 A Flemish type strycsitten, likely a neo-gothic one.

 A 15th century bed with linenfold decoration on the boards. A detail of the carving on one of the bedposts.