The Tool Chest of Benjamin Seaton – 2nd edition


Many of us missed out on the 1994 first edition of “The Tool Chest of Benjamin Seaton”, only to see used copies go for $125 or more.   The Tools and Trades History Society has published an expanded 2nd edition that you can purchase at Tools for Working Wood (  The Seaton Chest represents a cabinetmaker’s set of 200 tools from the 18th century.    This is an excellent resource for those us who collect tools and have been working on assembling our own set.  The 2nd edition includes expanded research from the folks at Colonial Williamsburg as well as dimensional details of many of the tools. Those of us who attended the 2008 woodworking symposium at Colonial Williamsburg were able to get drawings of the chest.  This edition includes that same material allowing you build a replica chest and many of the tools included.    The saws from the original chest are available as reproductions from Wenzloff & Sons (  In the photo above is a picture of one of available dovetail saws.   Anyone working on building a complete set of 18th century tools for woodworking would appreciate and should own this book.


Thomas Affleck Back Stool Chair Update

Picture of the three bases after making the mortises / tenons and testing each fit prior to glue up and assembly.

In our last post we had completed the front leg profiles.  Below are pictures showing the process of relieving the profile to be flush with the front rail where the leather will be applied.

Before laying out and creating the mortises the back legs need to be planed as a pair together to insure the same dimensions and surfaces are consistent.  Below is a picture using a square to ensure the area to layout the mortises are 90 degrees to the bottom leg surface. As you plane the pair of legs to the final surface finish you want to check this periodically.

The mortises for the back legs are 3/8″ from the outside edge and exit the rear at 5/8″.   Below is the process I use for creating the tenons for the side rails.

Notice the smooth surface created by striking the layout line with a knife.  This makes for easy chisel work to finish the surface and a clean fit upon assembly.  Almost always we undercut the surface as this ensures a tight fit and appearance.  Below are pictures of cutting the tenons to size.  We cut a bit oversize and sneak up on the final fit with a plane , rasps and floats.





18th Century Philadelphia Thomas Affleck Back Stool Chair

Currently in the shop we are building four 18th century Philadelphia back stool chairs that have been attributed to Thomas Affleck and made for John Penn.  Below is a picture of one original chair upolstered in red leather as part of a collection currently at Cliveden.


Below is a picture of one our chairs under construction without the upolstery.  This chair was made three years ago and has been waiting in the shop for the remaining three to be made. The primary wood is mahogany, and the secondary wood is white oak.


The construction methods are full mortise and tenon with peg fastening construction. The side rail tenons go through the back chair stiles.  One aspect of these chairs is the molding profile on the front legs.  The profile on both the front and outside faces were made with two passes from each side edge from a custom plane made by Tod Herrli.  A tracing of the profile will be posted soon.  This same profile could be used on a leg of a table, foot stool or tapered sofa leg.


After using the molding plane, the profile is finished by either making a matching profile scraper or as I did, use a carving chisel, files, general scraper and sandpaper to achieve the final result. Below is a picture of the remaining legs after this process. 


Before the front legs were molded, they first had the mortises marked out with a knife and then chiseled out.  I used a mortise chisel by Ray Iles to accomplish this…a wonderful tool and highly recommended.  Below is a picture of one of the legs, the Ray Iles chisel and an early hand wrought chisel in our collection.   



The mortises in the front legs are 7/8″ deep, 3/8″ wide and 1-1/4″ long.  When marking out the mortises in the front legs, its important to make sure the rail will be about 1/8″ behind the molding profile.  This is because after assembly the profile will be planed flush with the rail where the upolstery is applied. This is shown below before assembly and after in the chair above.


Both the front and rear legs have a chamfer applied on the inside edge.  In this case we marked out the dimension with a pencil about 1/2″ off each of the inside edges and used a rasp to make the profile.  The final surface of the profile can be finished with a scraper or the back edge of a sharp 2″ chisel, followed by burnishing the surface with shavings left over from planing. The pictures below show this process and the final result on the front leg. 





The supporting cross members in the seat frame are dovetailed into the seat frame, glued in place and fastened with a period wrought nail.  The back frame is fastened with handmade period screws.  The remaining three chairs are being made with poplar as the secondary wood. Over the next several weeks pictures of the process for making these chairs will be shown. 



Gene Landon

  Gene Landon next to one of the many great corner cupboards he built.

I first learned of Gene Landon reading Fine Woodworking and the article about him in the May 1996 issue of Traditional Home Magazine.  In 1998, I met Gene for the first time in a Pennsylvania German Kas class he was teaching at Olde Mill.  I continued to take classes with Gene over a 12 year period.  Gene was truely a master cabinetmaker, a mentor and great person who enjoyed sharing and teaching others.  About a dozen students studied consistently with Gene for 10 years or more.  Many of us former students are starting to do what Gene would want, to share and teach others as he did. He was a great teacher who always encouraged and inspired others.   From his period reproduction home, time teaching others, the furniture he made and sold, and the countless restorations, it is amazing all that Gene was able to accomplish in his lifetime.  Since his passing last June, Tom Meiller has written a book entitled “Inspiration – Gene Landon and Seven Hearths” as a tribute to the man so many of us were fortunate to know and study with.


This is a great book Tom has assembled.  This book is written as a furniture tour of Gene’s home and shop and provides a glimpse of his life, passion and talent.  Anyone interested in period furniture, and architecture should have this book in their library.  The book is available at


Tavern Table

Currently in the shop we are building a Tavern Table based upon a design and article Matthew Burak published in American Woodworker magazine in 1995.  We are motifying the construction techniques and methods in certain aspects.     

One unique aspect of the table is the beading profile applied as a decorative edges.  To provide an early look to the bead profile we elected to not use a traditional beading plane that typically has a deep wide fillet and half round profile.  We decided to create a flatter profile with a bead width of 3/8″ of an inch.  In the 18th century, the cabinetmaker may not have had all the molding profiles to simply strike a 3/8″ bead profile.   We achieved this by using three simple tools; the traditional marking gage, a round plane and a snipe bill plane.  Below are these tools with a matching pair of snipe bill planes.

Hollows and rounds and marking gages are readily available on the used tool market.  The snipe bill plane is much more rare and a very useful tool and deserves several articles on its use and purpose.  Several resources are referenced on our main page that provide reproductions of this useful tool. We happen to own a version made by Matt Bickford.  Using this plane we created a custom designed bead by first marking a line 3/8″ from the edge of the boards.  We then followed that line with a snipe bill plane to a desired depth creating a “quirk” as shown below. 

Once this is complete, the round plane is used to shape the bead profile carefully checking the ends until the desired look is achieved. Below is a photo shaping the bead profile with the round plane to its final shape.

 The completed bead profile:

Philadelphia Chippendale Chair


This is a chair I carved and built several years ago that is similar to one currently in the Colonial Williamsburg collection.  This chair because of its extensive carving requires considerable time and would represent the more costly of chairs sold in the 18th century.  When you first attempt a chippendale chair it can be very intimidating at first.  As you begin to challenge yourself, your carving skills will improve.  In the 18th century, many of the construction methods were standard. Dimensions for mortises and tenons, board thickness and seating height and depth were generally about the same.  One unique aspect of building this chair includes the tenons connecting the seat rails to the back stiles.   The tenon goes through the stile and is visible from the rear of the chair.  A drawing and photo of this will be posted soon. In addition, the mortise and tenon joints are secured with hide glue and pegs.  We make our pegs by preparing some flat stock and planing each side with a standard wooden beading plane and either breaking the piece off by hand or using a knife to separate.   Below is a picture of a peg made from a beading plane used for assembling this chair.