Period Pieces with Dennis Laney

The thing I love most about woodworking is the fact there is always something to learn. There are many way to attain woodworking knowledge  such as; books, videos, and newsletters. But also a great source of learning is being around someone in your field that knows more than you. For me, that person is my friend Dennis Laney.

Dennis has been in the trades working on furniture pieces for 60 plus years. He got his start working by his Grandfather’s side and honed his skills through jobs and experience.

Dennis and his friend Les Elsie both had passion for older period pieces of furniture. Together with over a 100 years of combined experience, they would not only reproduce classic pieces of furniture, but make improvements on the design, form, and function with each creation.

Twice a week the two would get together and build these museum quality pieces. I had the complete honor of being accepted into the small but revered group as they took me under their wing. Sadly, Les passed away last year in Oct. 2018.  He was not only a great woodworker, but a kind man.

There seemed to be a void in the week not going to Les’ house. The time spent together and the discussion with lessons taught came to an end. Or did it?……

Eager to learn more and to be able to create fine pieces of period furniture I asked Dennis if he and i could continue to get together. Under his direction and guidance we are going to start to make some classic pieces.

The first piece we will be doing is a simple and yet very functional piece. It’s the joiner’s stool. The was seen in many homes from farmhouses, to barns, to luxurious mansions.  Standing at 22” tall it can be used as an extra seat for guests. The added inches over a standard chair (18” tall) means it takes pressure off your lower back and lets your legs rest comfortably. It could be used as a step stool to reach the tops of cabinets. A pair of them and be used as saw horses. A pair of them can be used to set a coffin on for a wake and funeral. However, I plan building one and using it for an end table next to my evening chair.

A joiner’s stool can be very basic in design to very ornate. Knowing this project had a very humble origin, I want to dress it up and make it unique and decorative.

A sample canon barrel legs Dennis Laney turned.

The legs will have a cannon barrel turning to them. This is a classic turning that Dennis feels is fairly easy for me to do, since I am not the best turner. The photo shows a cannon barrel legs out of cherry Dennis turned a while ago. I’m using the leg Dennis made as a reference for the ones I will be turning out of white oak.

The bottom stretcher will appear to be very simple in design, however, at closer look it will have a graceful sweeping arch to it. This was a sluttle detail Dennis has used on some of his pieces in the past. The techniques is done with the tablesaw and a custom scraper he made. I thought it will be a nice detail for the bottom of this joiner’s stool.

The Upper apron will have a simple yet classic carving to it. If you are familiar with Peter Follensbee work, then this is something you have seen before. If you have a chance I would encourage you to check out the work of what Peter is doing and how this craftsman is keeping the history of the craft alive.

Example of a water lily carving on top edge for some of Dennis Laney’s past work.

Finally the top will have a nice little carving on the top edge. In the photo Dennis did a water lily carving on a piece of his own and I just love the look of it. So this will complete the overall piece.

Of course, the joiner’s stool will also have traditional joinery to hold it together, such as draw boring the mortise and tenons, and a old method to attach the top.

Future issues of the newsletter will further exam the details of this piece with articles going in depth of the build as well as history of the joiner’s stool. Videos and plans will possible be available for the reader too.

So tag along with me as Dennis shares his knowledge and passion and find out if I can live up his is standards.

Chad Stanton- the Big Chopperoo