A Pair of Carolean Walnut Stools

I made these two walnut stools for an antiques dealer who had acquired a sumptuous Flemish tapestry at auction which provided sufficient material to cover both new stools.

There is nothing extraordinary about the construction of the stool frames – the frames were constructed, devoid of glue, using normal mortise and tenon joinery and draw-bored – but I thought some may find the turnings interesting.

I am aware of a North American tool that adapts a hand-held electric router for the purpose of turning spirals, flutes and reeds etc., but a) I don’t have one of those contraptions and b) the bland, uniform appearance of routed work would be unacceptable for these stools. Even though this pair of stools would probably never be compared side-by-side with an original, they still needed to be constructed in a proper time-honoured manner.

I turned the leg and stretcher blanks to their respective overall dimensions on the lathe. The first stage in creating the bines was to count the number of turns on similar, original ‘barley twists’. A length of string was then taped to one end of the stock mounted in the lathe which was then revolved the required number of rotations by hand while stretching the string towards the opposite end. Before the loose end of the string was finally taped down, it was gently patted along its length to ensure it settled along the most direct path around the cylindrical portion.

Using a soft lead pencil, the string line was followed leaving a dark, easily visible thread around the stock. With a turning gouge in hand, the lathe was started at a slow speed and the gouge introduced to the start of the thread. One has to be confident and determined when turning bines as there are obviously no second chances.

Once a rough helix has been cut, subsequent passes with the gouge open it up.

Further working with gouges and rasps transforms the square-edged helix into the familiar barley twist form.

Successive sandpapering completes the job.

The frames were sympathetically coloured and appropriately aged.

The stool frames ready for upholstering.

About Jack Plane

Formerly from the UK, Jack is a retired antiques dealer and self-taught woodworker, now living in Australia.
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2 Responses to A Pair of Carolean Walnut Stools

  1. Chuck Burnett says:

    I have just started reading your blog, thought I would start at the beginning.
    If I can learn 1% of what you know I would be proud of myself. It is amazing.
    I still don’t see how you cut the bines on a running lathe mine wont turn that slow.
    Did you notice in the last picture that one of the bines has less twist than the other?
    Was that planned for a reason?
    I ‘m glad that have taken the time to create this blog, you should write a book to pass your knowledge on to future generations.


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