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As well as cooking and food, of which I cannot seem to do without, I also like to work with wood. I am learning to make furniture pieces in the medieval style, using both modern and period methods.
The biggest challenge is to make a piece of furniture that both looks "period" as well as breaks down for transport to events. Events are either day events held at a school, church or a park, or multi day events held at a camping area. (click here for our canton calendar of events). The "RV" of the period was the wagon carrying your tent, furniture, supplies and yourself. What you brought depended on the distance you needed to travel, length of the stay once you arrived, and the space in the wagon or wagons. Additional "vehicles" (wagons, carriages, horses, mules, ponies, etc.) for people transport was helpful and appreciated, but there was always your two feet - even for long trips.
I am indebted to my family for putting up with the mess outside as I work on these projects, and for their assistance in producing the artwork on the pieces. I craft a piece and sand it ready for decorating. My wife or daughter then decorates it with wood burning or ink art to add the finishing touches (see the wolves burned into the Ironwolf table, chair arms and backs, the boxes, etc.) The piece is then stained and protected with a "poly" finish.Banded Tree™ logo, designed by my wife and daughters and made into a brand for me, gets put on each piece that has passed their rigorous quality standards. It is not Banded Tree™until they give the okay.
An X-chair takes around 32 hours, not counting drying time for poly, to make by hand. The benches of walnut and oak, 8 hours each, the cottage table, 12 hours, the castle table, 12 hours - all not including drying times for stain and poly, or about a week per piece with drying overnight between coats. The small boxes take an hour to cut and assemble, the designs can take over an hour to put on. These are not quick projects when using medieval methods, so all Banded Tree™ items are 'gifted' (although some are commissioned for 'gifting' to the person commissioning the project.) However, a project may be commissioned only if the artisans of Banded Tree™ are willing to take on the project. There have been a few items made for sale at the Medieval Village, per request of the guests of the village. These vary in kind and are limited in production. The latest were the gaming tables shown below. For those willing to take on the challenge, the reference links and books are included below so you too can build your own "medieval" furniture.
Note: Polyurethane is not a period finish. However, I use outdoor marine grade polyurethane as it keeps the pieces looking good with a minimum of upkeep over years of use. This is a non-toxic finish which many of the period finshes were toxic. These pieces are expected to handle extremes of temperature as experienced in the hills of Pennsylvania or the summers of Michigan, as well as the abuse of travel, while being expected to look their best when set up at the final destination. Durability is a requirement today, just as it was in the Middle Ages.
A couple of my walnut and oak benches. These are from "rough cut" walnut with "rough cut" oak crossbeams. The holes for the mortise and tendon joints were cut out by hand with chisels. The cuts were with hand saws. The tops were hand planed.
The attempt was to make furniture of a type made by the local woodworkers for the daily use by the villagers/peasants, using medieval methods, with tools that although of modern manufacture, are the same designs traced back to biblical times. This furniture would not necessarily be of the nobles personal furnishings, but might well be used by the servants in their areas, the villains in their cottages, etc. In other words, these are the daily use, practical pieces, not the showcase masterworks you would see in the museums. These are all of break apart designs so they will travel for camping, as well as from house to house. A noble might have several estates, but as you see by the time it takes to make these "simple" furniture pieces, they often had only one set of household furnishings due to the expense.
A folding or X-chair I made for my wife, Lady Aliyah. The X-chair or camp chair can be traced back to Roman times, but without the back support piece on this chair. The best example of an old Roman camp chair is the folding camp chair you can pick up in the camp supplies areas of department stores and sporting goods stores. They are made of wood or metal with the canvas sling top for you to sit on. The chairs were made with many variations throughout the middle ages, with this variation showing up in the 1100s.
For those familiar with the story of Aliyah and Áindle, this is the bed I made as a result of our marriage (see pictures in our wedding album.) The rope is not medieval, but a cotton poly rope that will not rot or mildew as this is used for camping. A few interesting parts of this bed are from discussion I had at a Balloonfest demo. There was a man making Viking rope beds opposite me. So, the small legs are notched and between the rope boards. The tall legs are also between the rope boards. This is because the tension of the rope will hold the bed together, so there is no need to peg the legs. The ropes are held tight by small pieces of wood with three holes. Aliyah made sure put her rose on the headboard to show it was her bed. She did concede and put a banded tree for me on the footboard. Yes, the artwork is by Aliyah.
A "baby box" I made for a friend in 2006, based on designs going back to Roman times. One feature of this design is the ability to rock the cradle with one foot without fear of tipping, as the wide rocker bars only allow a tip of 2 inches. It was a surprise to see WOOD magazine, Issue 178, September 2007 had a similar cradle on their cover with an article on the Heirloom Cradle . It is a good representation of this timeless classic, and has the added benefits of a break down design, a case for storage, with full size plans of the rockers so you do not have to devise the curve yourself, as did I.
The cottage table I made with oak legs and framing, with a natural walnut top. This also is pegged together so it breaks down for travel. My wife named it a cottage table as it is a 4 foot by 3 foot tabletop - just what you would have in the cottage kitchen.
The folding or X-chair I made from oak for myself. The duck is from my personal cognizance or heraldic device. These embellishments were put on by my wife and daughter.
A castle table I made for the Household of the Company of Ironwolf from dimensional pine purchased from the lumberyard. This is proof you can produce furniture that will look "medieval" without having to get "rough cut" wood. The artwork is the Company of Ironwolf device, recreated here by with the artistry of my wife and daughter. This was named the castle table by my wife as it is 6 foot by 3 foot - what you might find in the main hall or at least in the castle kitchen.
An X-chair with the accompanying milord's bench made for a friend. (The milord's bench is designed so that her husband can sit at her feet and gaze lovingly and adoring at his most gracious Lady.) Again, the artwork is designed and burned into the wood by my wife and daughters for our friend.
Here is the bed my friend commissioned. This was a bed for her, so it has the matching artwork to her chair and bench. This bed is a pegged platform bed. Instead of several boards from headboard to footboard, she requested a few boards so there would be less to lose. Plywood is used for the platform base. The bed is all pine for light weight. The artwork was by my wife.
A picture of part of the outdoor furniture set I made for my wife as her anniversary present - the cottage table, two of the three walnut benches, the 2 X-chairs with the footstool. (The wood in the foreground is for the rope bedframe for our wedding bed -pictures above.)
Here are some pictures of small boxes I have made. The first is the box for my wedding to Aliyah on June 24, 1281 (as reckoned by the SCA) at the Medieval Village Demonstration put on by the Canton of Wealdlake for the Michigan Challenge Balloonfest in Howell, MI. The design is an original made by my daughters for their parents wedding (see the Áindle and Aliyah website for details). The lining is by my wife. The second was for the boyfriend (later husband) of one of my four daughters. These are examples of the over 30 different designs my wife and daughters have made for the boxes.
The Minister of Youth for our Canton (my daughter, former Pentamere Minister of Youth and current Dean of Page School) needed a donation box. She came to Banded Tree™ and commissioned a box. This has the sliding lid so if the box is knocked over - everything does not fall out. The design incorporates the Minister's personal cognizance. The design and wording all are by my wife and daughters.
My daughter got a wooden flute - but how to keep it safe? She also needed a way to keep her music standing up -so a box with a lid that works as a music stand was made by Banded Tree™. The lining was made by my wife to fit the flute. The lid design looks familiar...
Here is Morgan End Starre, a fellow member of House Ironwolf. He is a merchant ship captain who is a purveyor of "pre-stolen" goods. In addition, he makes cordials based primarily on rum. To showcase his latest creation, I made a special box designed to hold the precious fluid. It has a sliding lid that stores in the back when the bottle is displayed. It also has a clear Plexiglas pane (yes, not medieval, but glass breaks too easily and safety first) that also slides to keep hands from removing the bottle until Morgan decides to allow the bottle to be sampled. It has been able to keep his "prizes" intact through many pitched "supply acquisition encounters" as well as how them off on his mantel (or so his stories relate.) It has his initials burned in by my Lady.
Benches come in different styles - and I have 4 daughters. As you can see here, I make benches in different styles and sizes (4 of a size that can be sat on by daughters.) The 3rd picture is a very small bench, the 4th picture shows its size in comparison to a pair of cat's paws (beware the Imp), and the last is a grouping of the different benches on this page to give a idea of relative sizes.
The latest addition to my woodworking are the gaming tables. These are tiled by my wife and daughters. The last two are tables for the Barony with its device and our canton with its device.
Here is a box for a scribe. The top was done as an illumination scroll by my wife for Lady Thea de Nes as a thank you for her support of It Takes My Child To Raze A Village by providing Illuminated awards for each event winners.
Sometimes you need a box to carry items...and if it just happens to also hold an insert that is insulated, so much the better!
Where do I do the work? I work outside when it is warm. Here is the work table I made for myself and some of the tools I used to make many of the items you see above:
(Yes, it is a family enterprise.)
The Woodwrights Apprentice, Roy Underhill, The University of North Carolina Press, ©1996.
Constructing Medieval Furniture, Daniel Diehl, Stackpole Books, ©1997.
Medieval Furniture, Daniel Diehl and Mark Donnelly, Stackpole Books, ©1999.