The Greenwich Frame, Part I: Design

Dear reader, if you've been following along, you may remember that last March I headed up to the Northeast Woodworker's Association Showcase in Saratoga Springs, NY. One of the highlights of the trip was the great dinner we had after the show on Saturday night at my Dad's barn in Greenwich.

Dinner in the Greenwich barn.

Greenwich, NY is about 20 minutes from Saratoga Springs, just across the Hudson River. Greenwich is where my Dad plans to retire and his barn is the retirement home he's building.

I mention Greenwich and the barn because this past August, while I was in Saratoga Springs with my family, we found an old timey map of Greenwich, NY. Given my Dad's affinity for his newly adopted town we bought the map and decided that I'd make a frame for it and give it to him for Christmas.

In early November I picked up some Walnut for the frame from Lakeshore Hardwoods while I was at the Long Island Woodworkers Showcase.

Skip ahead to early December, and I was reminded by my wife that I had to make a frame for my Dad for Christmas. After I got over the panic (& frustration of having to put the shop renovation I was in the middle of on hold), I started by considering designs.

The state of my shop in early December.

I knew I wanted the frame to be Greene & Greene inspired, but I didn't want it to be a complete knock off and it had to be quick to build. I looked at the Greene & Greene inspired frames made by Kyle, Marc & Brian Grella. They all gave me ideas, but none were just right for what I had in mind. I did however order Marc's Greene & Greene frame DVD & template kit. I figured that the build techniques covered in the DVD would be somewhat universal and that even if different, I could still use his jigs to save me the time of developing my own cloud lift jig.

Kyle's beautiful Greene & Greene inspired frame.

For more design ideas I turned to Darrell Peart's Greene & Greene: Designs for the Workshop and David Mathias's Greene & Greene Furniture: Poems of Wood and Light. Peart's book was enlightening on the construction methods used and on page 79 of Mathias's book I found my inspiration. Not a Greene & Greene frame, but living room gateleg table from the William T. Bolton house in Pasadena. The legs of the table are proud of the bottom stretcher and upper apron (below the drawer). The apron incorporates one simple cloud lift and the combined affect is a beautiful frame (in this case for the empty space below the table). I took that design and began sketching.

My design (this is as detailed as the plans got).

What I settled on was a very similar frame. My Stiles are wider and proud of my rails, and the top rail has a single, simple cloud lift in the center. I added ebony plugs in the stiles to simulate a pegged tenon, as was common in many Greene & Greene pieces.

Next up: The Greenwich Frame, Part II: Construction Begins.