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Peter Follansbee, joiner's notes
I try to not go out in December. Certainly when I do, I try to only go to places without Christmas music, chaos, traffic and the other trappings of the “season.” The actual season; late fall/early winter, is one of my favorites. Marie & I went to the beach yesterday. I shot a few photos, and when I uploaded them, found some from a beach walk about two weeks ago. (click the photos to enlarge)
Marie & I saw a few scattered sanderlings (Calidris alba) – but this photo of mine is from the earlier walk.
We couldn’t find any loons yesterday; I got this one earlier. I think it’s a red-throated loon (Gavia stellata) – we’ll see.
There were many, many eiders out on the water. Hundreds of them…this photo is a fraction of the flock. (Somateria mollissima)
What we came for was this figure in the dunes:
The first snowy owl (Bubo scandiacus) of the season for us:
Marie’s shot:snowy owl by Marie Pelletier
While I’m raiding her photo stash, here’s her sanderling shot of the day:Sanderling by Marie Pelletier
Time to turn around and head back;
The sun was going down as we made our way back down the beach. I turned & got a shot of the clouds over the Gurnet:
A rare view of Marie – she’s usually behind the camera at Plymouth CRAFT:
One last one, from the earlier trip, Daniel drawing in the sand:
Maureen has been finishing stuff lately and posting them on her etsy site, https://www.etsy.com/shop/MaureensFiberArts and she got me poking around my spoon basket. I haven’t had much time for spoon carving, but have a few I’ve finished in the past month or so. If you would like to pick any of these, just leave a comment. Usually paypal is the easiest way to pay; I’ll send an invoice. Or you can mail a check, just let me know. Finish is food-grade flax oil on all of these. Prices include shipping in US, further afield requires an extra charge for shipping.
November spoon 01; an American sycamore crook, with S-scroll carving
L: 9 5/8″ W: 2 1/8″
Nov spoon 02; birch serving spoon
L: 11″ W: 2 1/2″
Nov spoon o3; birch crook. serving spoon. One of my favorite kinds, following both the crook of the branch as well as the curve.
L: 9″ W: 2 3/*”
Nov spoon 04; birch serving spoon.
L: 10 7/8″ W:2 1/2″
Nov spoon 05; cherry crook serving spoon. Maybe my favorite of the batch.
L: 12 3/8″ W: 2 1/4″
Nov spoon 06: Not sure what to call this one. Almost a pie-serving shape. American sycamore crook. Very flat “bowl” to this one…(clouds came out, photo is darker than the spoon really is…)
L: 9 3/4″ W: 1 1/2″
Nov spoon 07; cherry, large serving spoon. The last of a batch of oversized serving spoons in cherry. Too late for Thanksgiving…
L:13 7/8″ W” 3 1/2″
Nov tray; birch. When I was carving it, I thought of it as a bowl, but now I see it done, it’s a tray.
L: 15 3/4″ W: 5 7/8″
Nov bird bowl, cherry. The last one of these I have done for quite a while. I have unfinished ones lurking at me in the shop, but no time for them now…
L: 15″ H: (at front) 7 1/4″
I have 14 windows down in this small workshop, and here in New England as winter solstice is approaching, I can’t see well enough to do any significant work by 4:30 in the afternoon. By 4pm it’s getting dim, but I can sweep, sort stuff – can’t cut joinery or do carving. I think about the joiners of the 17th century with the small (& few) windows in their buildings, how did they do any work in this light? Maybe they didn’t work much in the winter?
A notion that shows up in several 20th-century writings about 17th-century joiners is that they concentrated their joinery work in the winter; being too occupied with crops and livestock the rest of the year. That’s a quaint notion, and might even have some merit. One way to see if this is valid is to see tradesmen’s probate inventories to see if there’s work underway. There’s lots of reasons stuff might be un-finished…but it’s a start.
One bit of evidence in favor of this argument is the inventory of Edward Brown of Ipswich, Massachusetts, his inventory is from February 1659/60:
3 wheeles, finished lennen 13s6d, wheeles woolen & linnen not finisht £1-16 work done toward chaires 3s & 15—ills 6s9d shope tooles £3-6
John Symonds of Salem, Massachusetts also had unfinished work when he died. His inventory was presented in court 19:7:1671 – so September according to the old calendar.
will: “…to my son James Symonds…I do assigne my servant John Pease to him dureing the term of time expressed in the Indenture… Further I give all my workinge tooles belonginge to my trade to my son James Symonds…”
inv: Joyners Tools benches and lare £5-5-6 2 Bedsteds almost finished £3 3 stools and one half of a Box 12s6d 1/2 Grindstone & windlass & a Small grindstone 5s Timber planke & board £5-12
…part of a Chest… 3 Chests 3 Boxes and a wooden Tunnil 14s 2 Tables a forum & Chayres 16s a Vice and an old Hatchet 10s nayles 10d an Ax 6s10d …a p of Jemmils…5 wedges…one half of a Crosscut Saw… Timber in the Woods £1-2 an apprentice of 17 years old who hath 3 year and 9 moneths and 2 weekes to serve
George Cole died in 1675. His inventory is dated 30:9:1675, back when the 9th month was November…his work is not called “unfinished” but he had “work done in his shop…”
will: “…I give to my master John Davis all my timber…”
3 saues 8s, 2 goynters & foreplaine 6s, 3 smothing plains & a draing knife 3s6d, 2 plans & 2 revolvong plains 10s, 4 round plains 5s, 3 rabet plains 4s, 3 holou plains 3s6d, 9 Cresing plains 10s6d, 6 torning tools 9s, 3 plaine irons & 3 bits 1s6d, 1 brase stok, 2 squares & gorges 1s6d, 1 brod ax & 1 fro 2s, holdfast 1s6d, hamer 1s6d, 6 gouges 2s, 9 Chisels 5s, 2 ogers & 1 draing knife 3s, 1 bench hooks, 2 yoyet irons 1s, a gluepot 1s6d, for what work he has done in his shop £1-10
My notes include a date of “1676/7” for Matthew Macomber of Taunton, in Plymouth Colony. The double-dating falls between January and mid-March, so this is another one for the “winter” crowd.
a parsell of cooper’s tooles 9s (illegible) hoopes not finished 10d five hundred of cedar bolts att the swamp £1-10 hewen timber in the woods 8s9d 200 of cooper stuff in the woods 5s more in tooles and arms £2-10
Another vote for winter is William Savell, of Braintree, Massachusetts. He died February 1, 1699/1700. Included in his inventory are:
a green carpitt & covers for chairs 01-08-00
a douzen painted chairs & a sealskin trunk 01-18-00
a wainscott chest and a box 01-01-00
a square table a wainscott chest and a bedstead 02-12-00
timber and weare begun 03-00-00
Well, here’s one more – what I always call “When Things Go Wrong” – court cases sometimes shed light on period practice. John Davis was asked to make 4 chests, did so, and had them delivered. But it all ended up in court. All I can see is that Davis was both pissed and pissed off in May of 1681, and things got messy…but these depositions tell us exactly nothing about what time of year John Davis made these chests:
Writ: John Davis v. John Tolly; debt; for four wainscot chests made by his order and delivered to him in his house, dated June 23, 1681; signed by John Fuller, for the court and town of Lyn; and served by Richard Prytherch, constable of Salem, by attachment of the bed of the defendant, the summons being left with Mrs. Tauly.
Nathaniall Kirtland, aged about thirty-four years, deposed that he brought from John Davis’ shop at Lyn four chests and delivered them to John Tauly at his house in Salem. Davis told the deponent that Tauly had them to carry to Newfoundland. Sworn in court.
Bill of cost 3£
Eleaser Lenesey, aged about thirty-five years, deposed that Davis looked at a chest in Tawleay’s house and the latter told him to make two or three as good as that for 25s. each. Sworn in court before William Browne, assistant, and owned in court.
Richard Croade, aged about fifty-two years, testified that, on May 7, 1681, he heard Mr John Tally read from his book his account with John Davis, and the latter did not disown it. Sworn, May 11, 1681, before William Browne, assistant.
Samll Blyghe, aged about twenty-two years, deposed that, being in the house of Mr Wing of Boston in company with John Tawly of Salem and Joseph Cawly, he heard Tawly ask John Davis, joiner, of Lynn, to make the chests, saying he would rather Davis have his money than any one else, at the same time giving him 5s. Sworn, June 23, 1681, before William Browne, assistant.
John Longley, aged about forty-two years, testified that on May 6, 1681, he heard Davis at Taulely’s house call the latter a cheating knave, with many other absurd expressions, challenging him out of his own house to fight, threatening him. He also took hold of a wainscot chest in the room, threw it up and down the room, breaking several pieces of the front of the chest, etc. Davis was very much in drink. Elizabeth Tawley testified to the same. Sworn, June 28, 1681 before Bartho Gedney, assistant.
Joseph Calley, aged about thirty-seven years, deposed. Sworn, June 7, 1681, before John Richards, assistant.
Eleazer Lenesey, aged about thirty-five years, testified that, being in John Davis’ house at Line, after he had brought home the cloth, a whole piece of kersey, he said he had bought it of John Tawleay of Salem. Sworn before William Browne, assistant.
Mary Ivory, aged about forty-two years, deposed that she was at Taulie’s house when he received the chests. Sworn in court.
Samuell Ingols, aged about twenty-seven years, and Nathanil Willson, aged about nineteen years, deposed that the chests were worth 30s. each. Sworn in court.
John Longley, aged about forty-two years, and Thomas Eleat, aged about twent-six years, deposed concerning the assault and that neither Tawley nor his wife could have any peace while Davis was in the house. Sworn. May 9, 1681, before Bartho Gedney, assistant.”
Here in America, we just celebrated a holiday called Thanksgiving. It used to be about over-eating, now it’s mostly about shopping for mass-produced stuff. I try to stay out of it. The other day I was reading the blog from Mortise & Tenon magazine, in which they asked the rhetorical question “Why would you labor at something you don’t love?” – I realize there are many of us who do just that, for various reasons….I’ve done it myself. Making a living sometimes requires that we spend time doing things we’d rather not do…shop doors
above the bench
I am especially aware how lucky I am to work the way I do & make my living that way. I have great friends who have helped me along the way, a wife who doesn’t need all the latest gadgets and baubles (my kids would like them, though!), readers of this blog & IG, clients, and students in my classes who all help support my work. I appreciate it all, and am eternally thankful. I am unbelievably lucky to spend my days the way I do. Thanks, all.
I went out this morning, lit the fire, filled the bird feeders and took some photos. Now for breakfast, then I get to go to work.“WS”chest frame test fitted
“WS” chest frame, mitered M&T shop from the riverbank
from the riverbank light frost
Well, this has nothing to do with me, other than I was there to watch it happen. Now I get to see it again, from the comfort of my own home.
Here’s the blurb:
The Slöjd Tradition
with Jögge Sundqvist
Learn some of the methods and techniques behind Slöjd, the self sufficient tradition from Sweden that emphasizes hand work and handicraft. Jögge Sundqvist walks you through the process of making a spatula and a cheese board from green wood. He also demonstrates different types of letter carving and decorative carving.
Jögge Sundqvist is a Swedish woodworker and carver who started learning knife and axe work at the age of four, at the side of his father, Wille Sundqvist. Jögge works in the Slöjd fine craft tradition making stools, chairs, knives, spoons, and sculptures painted with artists’ oil color. Jögge is also a teacher, writer, and gives lectures about Slöjd tradition and techniques.
And the preview:
Fall is maybe my favorite time around here. Great Blue Herons are a daily occurence lately. This first one Rose found on a walk we took recently.
The other morning I went out to start the fire in the shop, and spooked three of them before I knew it. So the next day, I looked before barging out the door. Wouldn’t have seen this one, but for the reflection in the river:
And of course, turkeys.
Back to work for me now. Too many distractions…
Took the kids for a walk in Burial Hill, Plymouth recently. Was a great sunny morning, perfect raking light. Cold though, up on top of that hill.
This is a well-known gravestone, among those who talk about such things. Patience Watson, d. 1767. Very nice carving, in fabulous shape.
These days Daniel is five-feet and change; so that’s a large stone above ground there. I wonder how deep it is below ground to be standing so long…
I went there for a decorative arts outing; but you end up reading the stones & get another angle too. This one is a sad story, a 2-week old child…
But the lettering! We owe Dave Fisher a trip to this cemetery when he comes up in June… https://davidffisherblog.wordpress.com/2017/11/13/learning-from-lettering/
This one is a family – husband, wife and child, all died within 3 weeks of each other. Has a great skull, with wavy hair/feathering/what-have-you behind it. Scrolling leaves along the sides. 1730.
Here’s the same carver – better condition. Better lighting…same year.
This one’s 1715, it and the one above were encased in new stone at some point. Being the home of ancestor worship means Plymouth’s graveyard gets some attention over the years. So many old graveyards suffer from neglect…
I dug out a couple stones from elsewhere – Henry Messenger, 1686. He was a Boston joiner, this stone is in the Granary Burying Ground, a famous cemetery in Boston
This one I’ve never seen, photo was given to me by my friend Rob Tarule. Thomas Dennis, joiner of Ipswich. Died 1706.
Here’s an ancestor of ours; Ebenezer Fisk of Lexington Massachusetts. Died 1775. Yup, that Lexington. One of the battles was on his farm, but he was pretty old and apparently dying. so probably of no concern to him…other things on his mind I bet.
I haven’t read too much about gravestones, but there is an excellent book I recommend “Graven Images: New England Stonecarving and its Symbols, 1650-1815, by Allan I. Ludwig. Wesleyan Univ Press, 1966. My copy is dated 1999, so reprinted at that point.
The closer you get to the end of the year, the faster time goes by. Maybe the older you get the faster it goes too. Paula, Pret and I have started sorting out stuff for Greenwood Fest, who’s doing what, etc. But in the meantime, we have a few courses closer to the horizon. There’s a spoon carving class coming up in early December at Overbrook in Buzzard’s Bay.
We have held classes there a lot, it’s a wonderful place. 2 days, lots of spoon wood and Paula’s lunches. December 9 & 10, 2017. https://www.plymouthcraft.org/spoon-carving – plus both afternoons there’s a German Holiday baking class going on with Kirsten Atchison – maybe if you’re good they’ll let you sample some goodies https://www.plymouthcraft.org/german-holiday-baking and https://www.plymouthcraft.org/more-german-holiday-baking
Then the following month, after all the hubbub dies down, is Tim Manney’s sharpening class. This class is a deceptive thing. Sharpening classes are not as glamourous as a project-based class, but the skills you develop in this class reach into every aspect of your woodworking.
Tim gets things fiercely sharp, and is an excellent teacher. https://www.plymouthcraft.org/an-axe-to-grind Last year, people were scooting around asking “what else can we sharpen?” – I’m going to be around for it, and I’ve been cleaning my loft out in the shop. I plan on bringing a box of tools that will be free for the taking – but you’ve got to sharpen them!
Hope to see some of you there…or beyond.
People’s lives get busier every year. Ours too. Good thing we have all these time-saving devices…
today’s post is just a “save the date” sort of thing. Plymouth CRAFT’s Greenwood Fest will be early June again, same venue = Pinewoods Dance Camp, Plymouth, Massachusetts, USA.
Festival June 8-10; pre-Fest courses June 5-7. TICKETS GO ON SALE FEBRUARY 2, 2018. We will let you know details as we get it together – this is just so you can get the time off of work, quit your job, cancel graduation/wedding, etc and tell your family you’ll be in the woods.2017 group photo, Marie Pelletier
Here’s the beginnings of the website. https://www.greenwoodfest.org/Dave Fisher, photo Marie Pelletier
See you there, OK?
the title is for Michael Rogen, just to let him know I’m thinking of him. I like that summer’s gone. Fall is a beautiful time of year here. I am especially enjoying seeing how the light in the shop changes now. Today the light caught my eye a number of times. If I’m not careful, I’ll take as many photos as Rick McKee https://www.instagram.com/medullary_rick/
Today I got to work some in the shop, after teaching for 7 days straight (a student here for a week, and Plymouth CRAFT for the weekend). Time to finish off some stuff, first up is the wainscot chair. For this seat, I do use a template, in this case to map out the square mortises chopped in the seat board so it slips over the stiles. Here’s the seat board with its template off to the left. Complete with dust in the sunlight..
I’ve done lots of these, but it’s always worth it to go slowly – you have to get the holes just right, or they have gaps, or worse, the seat splits at the very narrow area beside the stile. Once I’m satisfied with the template’s fit, I scribe the locations of the mortises on the seat. That short grain right between the upper right hand corner of this mortise and the end grain is the fragile part. I’ve split them there, and seen them split on old ones.
Then I bore around the perimeter of the mortise with an auger bit.
Then chop with the chisel to bring the mortise to the proper shape. I scored the lines with a knife and/or awl. Very careful work with the chisel.
Once I have the mortise squared off, I bevel underneath, paring the walls of the mortise so it’s undercut. I only want the mortise tight on the stiles right at the top where it shows. I’ve never checked the underside of this joint on a period chair – but I like the idea of under-cutting it & beveling it. It relieves any un-necessary pressure there.
Then slip the seat down to test it.
Then I do the molding around the front and sides. Sides (end grain) first. A rabbet plane followed by a smooth plane. In this case, a moving filletster and the LN low angle jack plane.
I scored the line ahead of the filletster so I got a clean shoulder to this rabbet. The nicker on that plane is defunct. Then I used this Lie-Nielsen plane to round over the corner of the rabbet to create the thumbnail molding.
I work the front edge after the two ends, to clean up any tear-out. This seat is a nice clear radially-riven oak, two boards edge-glued together. Works great.
Then for good measure, I threw the arms in place, so I could test it out. The seat will be pegged into the three rails; square pegs in round holes.
These chairs are smaller than they look. They’re so imposing because of all the decoration, the bulk of the parts – but they’re really pretty snug chairs.
Here’s the important view – looks pretty tight around the stiles. Whew.
If you made it this far, thanks. 15 pictures – for me that’s over 2 weeks of Instagram. I like IG, but the blog is my favorite way to show what I’m up to…more detail, more depth. More work – but it’s fun. thanks for keeping up with me…
I have a student here this week, we’re studying period carving while making an oak box. Scattered all over this blog (10 years’ worth, over 1,000 posts) are photos of period work. Carving, turning, moldings, mess-ups, etc. But I never knew when I started what a potential resource this could be. And now I’m too busy to organize it. But if you want to see some oak carvings…they’re in here! I’ll stick a few here, some of what Nathan & I are using for reference this week.
This one from a private collection; lots of gloppy finish on it, making it hard to see exact details. But one of my favorites over the years. My notes said that Bob Trent & I examined this back in 1998.carved box, William Savell, 1590s-1669
Related to the above is this one, another I’ve copied many times over. Carved by the eldest son of William Savell above, John Savell, 1642-1687 or so.Jn Savell box, side carving
This lunette, (this one’s on the top rail of a chest) is also by John Savell. To carve these, you need to practice your V-tool work. Lots of concentric arcs.carved lunette, attr John Savell
One of my boxes, “made up” in the sense that it’s not copied from a period piece. But the box front is a direct copy of a drawer front by the Savells. As is the construction – pegged & glued rabbets instead of the typical nailed rabbets for joining the box parts.PF box
Here’s one of the chests with two drawers. This one was from an auction website. I’ve lost track of where it went. Although I’ve made chests with two drawers, I never made one in this style…maybe 2018.
The elder William Savell came to Braintree, Massachusetts by the late 1630s. He was first in Cambridge, working on the “college” that became Harvard. In his will dated 1669, he leaves to his wife a “chest with drawers” – with, not of, and drawers plural. There are at least three we’ve seen with 2 drawers. Most have just one. Only a couple were chests – no drawers.
I discovered this one in research done for a 1996 article about these objects. All I had to go by was this 1930s photograph and the owner’s name & hometown. Lots of dead ends, but I found it in the long run.
The article from 1996, but if you track down the volume itself, you get all the pictures
Earlier looks at this work from the blog:
It’s been a long time since I wrote about any books I’ve been studying. Since my museum career ended, my book habit has slowed way down. For 2 reasons, no steady paycheck and fewer research-related works. But there are still books coming in now & then. Here’s three, no particular order, no particular relationship between them. Just good books.
I have lots of field guides to birds, and get on with them just fine. But for trees, I have always struggled. I picked this one up some time ago, but have just never got to writing about it. “Bark: A Field Guide to Trees of the Northeast” by Michael Wojtech. Published by University Press of New England, 2011. So it’s not new, just new to me last year sometime. It’s excellent. Just about the bark, some leaf shapes, range of where the tree is found, that sort of thing.
A page spread showing white oak (Quercus alba L.) Wojtech shows us 6 different views of white oak bark: young, mature, mature & old, diseased
His book helped me sort out the spoon-mad fascination with all birches. This one is paper birch; (Betula papyrifera) aka white birch or canoe birch. What I thought was white birch around here is really gray birch (Betula populifolia) also, confusingly, called white birch or wire birch. Neither of which are to be confused with yellow birch (Betula alleghaniensis) – sometimes confusingly called, gray birch or silver birch! Then, there’s black birch (Betula lenta L.) sometimes called sweet birch, which makes sense due to the smell, but listed as well is the name cherry birch. That’s just stupid. It’s like calling something maple oak. Anyway, this is a good tree book. Says me.
This next one is a nostalgic book for me in many ways. I was lucky enough to get to know Victor Chinnery. He was a great friend, and my native guide to English oak furniture. I will always fondly remember the trips I made with Vic travelling around to churches and other collections in England so he could show me what I needed to know to put the New England furniture I knew so well into context. His wife Jan spent some years working to get his period terminology glossary finished after his death, and it was published a year or two ago. “Names for Things: A Description of Household Stuff, Furniture and Interiors, 1500-1700” by Victor Chinnery. Published by Oblong Press, 2016. If I still did museum work or regular research this book would never be on the shelf.
There’s an illustrated introduction that runs about 15 pages, a foreword by Jan, some notes on using the glossary. Some illustrations from Randle Holme’s Academy of Armory 1688. Then about 240 or more pages the glossary.
So not a picture book, not a page-turner. But a resource and reference book that for material culture folks should be on their list of must-have books.
The next one is a picture book. Especially for me, as I don’t read Swedish. Last year, I traveled some in Sweden, and Jogge Sundqvist showed me so many great things my head exploded. When I got home, I wanted to know more about Swedish furniture history. So I asked him what one book would be the best to have. This is it. Published in 1938.
It’s something like Popular Furniture Culture in Swedish areas/districts…filled with great drawings, diagrams of the house’s floor plans and elevations, and photo after photo of furniture, grouped according to form. Here’s a type of bench I saw here and there in museums. The top/back flips over so you can sit facing this way, then flip it & face the other way.
I saw numerous trestle tables that knocked out any of the English or New England ones I know. Here’s a half-page of sketches for trestle table shapes. These are all from one area, Darlana.
These large cupboards in form look reminiscent of Dutch or English examples. The one on the right has no blank space of any size. Painted, carved, moldings, turnings. Frame & panel. All feels perfectly familiar.
These chairs are 16th & 17th century. Combination of joined and turned.
More trestle tables.
There’s several tipped-in color plates, like this cupboard dated 1670.
Besides which, it’s a very nicely-produced book. I’d say look in international used book sites for it. I googled it just now, and found an auction that had ended and it was only 45 euros or so. I think I paid $100 for it, something like that…well worth it. here, I found it for you –
My last book review-type post was just over a year ago, fresh back from Sweden. But it includes Victor Chinnery’s Oak Furniture book’s new edition:
I’ve been slow to add stuff to the blog here. Time to correct some of that. Today’s chore is splitting up some leftover bits of oak, and some newly dropped-off bits. Here’s how I read these, and how I decide what to split from a few different bolts. the first one is an old one, been split & hanging around a long time, over a year I’d say. It was given to me about 2 months ago. Free wood is sometimes not worth it. this is one of those cases. Note how the radial plane is cupped. This isn’t from drying, it’s the way the tree grew. The medullary rays curve from the center of the tree to the bark. So if I want wide flat stuff from this, I have my work cut out for me. What I do with such a piece of wood depends on several things: what I need at the time, how much effort I want to put into it, and how much other wood I have around. These days, wood is in pretty good supply, time much less so. Thus, I want to get the best piece I can from this as quickly as possible.
The ruler shows how “un-flat” the split is.
The piece was 26″ long, but with the checking at each end, I expect to get about 22″ length out of it. Just right for a joined stool stile (leg). So I opted to split a 2″x 2″ square out from right below the sapwood. First split with the froe gets off the inner twisted bits.
Next I split off the sapwood & bark. Surprise, the sapwood sheared off across the grain. Usually a log that has been around this long has punky rotten sapwood – I expect that. But to shear off like that means there’s something underneath…
And there was – some deformity curving the grain near one end. So didn’t get my 2″ x 2″ x 22″ stile. The resulting piece could be a ladderback chair front post (something I want to build, but have no time for right now. I’ve made parts for 3 of them so far this fall.) or the leg to a workbench out in the yard. I already have maybe 4 of those benches. On to the next split.
This one’s big & fresh. Just came in yesterday. Bark looks good. Very wide bolt, maybe 12″ or more.
But a big knot creating disturbed grain all around it, the full bottom third or more.
I always am working between getting the biggest piece (widest) I can, or getting the best piece of wood I can. Usually I want the best one. Which in this case, is much narrower than what I first expected from a section like this. See the ruler here, the best (straightest, flattest, least-work) piece is from the 10″ mark to 15″. So that’s what I split.
Now the distorted stuff is isolated in the right-hand section, destined for firewood.
Then I further split the remaining stuff into four thin boards for carved boxes, or narrow panels for the sides of some chests. Once I don’t think about where they came from, these are excellent clear, straight boards. This is a case of free wood that is worth it.
One of the older bits looked promising: wide, maybe 7″ or more. 24″ long.
But when I sighted down its length, lots of twist from one end to the other. I didn’t shoot it well enough, but you can generally read the twist down at the far end. Its right hand corner is high, as is the left corner nearest us. Means some hewing before planing. Not fatal, but maybe there’s better wood out here.
Yup. Fresh too. (that means easier to work…) Shorter, but wider.
When I scooch down and sight its radial plane, dead flat! That’s the stuff I’m after…
Gonna have lunch and find some more like this one.
Want to learn more about how to read these logs – Plymouth CRAFT has a weekend class coming up that’s just the ticket. https://www.plymouthcraft.org/riving-hurdlemaking-weekend
Riving, hewing, drawknife work. Me, Rick McKee ( https://www.instagram.com/medullary_rick/ and https://blueoakblog.wordpress.com/ ) and our friend Pret Woodburn will show you all we know about opening oak logs and what to do with them.
I’ve been back & forth lately. Maine, here, North Carolina – now here, then Martha’s Vineyard. Then here for a few weeks. Here’s some non-woodsy shots, mostly. This flock of shorebirds wheeled & spun – moments later Marie & I spotted a peregrine falcon bearing down on them. I love how they turn this way & that – and the color changes. this is the backs of these birds:
Semipalmated plover (Charadrius semipalmatus)
Dunlin (Calidris alpina) silhouetted against the water.
Those were at Plymouth beach. We went to Maine to see the Common Ground fair – took the kids for a walk one evening. The ocean is always the best place for playing – no place we go is more consistently engaging.
This is an island reached by a causeway. Lots of driftwood, which we don’t see at Plymouth much. Daniel peeked inside. I noted what happened to this log – the growth rings are separating completely. Some mad twist too.
Spoons growing everywhere. No cutting allowed though…
Back at Plymouth Beach, stretching is important. This is, I think, a Laughing gull (Leucophaeus atricilla)
And we hit the beach just right to see a bunch of migrating butterflies – many were monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus)
A couple weeks later, I was at Roy Underhill’s to teach a spoon carving class. Long drought has dried up the creek at the dam. Fish were dying, and black vultures (Coragyps atratus) came to clean up. There were turkey vultures there too – but these were the smaller black vultures.
Earlier, at home, found this cooper’s hawk (Accipiter cooperii) under the bird feeders one day.
and a rare moment when the blue jay (Cyanocitta cristata) was quiet and still.
Our friend Rick DeWolf has been infected with the horror vacuii – and made this gate to keep his dog in (or out, I forget which). Despite being able to make this, Rick is still coming to our hurdle-making class later this month. A couple of spaces left. there will be no carving though. https://www.plymouthcraft.org/riving-hurdlemaking-weekend
With Greenwood Fest taking center stage in the Plymouth CRAFT calendar, there is an understandable quiet period in the summer, just after the Fest. But now autumn is here, and we’re back at it. Along with Pret Woodburn and Rick McKee, I’ll be teaching a 2-day class; Riving & Hurdlemaking Weekend in late October; https://www.plymouthcraft.org/riving-hurdlemaking-weekend
An alternative name for this class could be froe, hatchet and drawknife. But even that leaves bits out. Here’s Rick using the riving brake to shave pieces with the drawknife…
This class is an excellent introduction to the ancient method of riving your work-pieces directly from a log, and using simple edge tools to produce your stock for a project. In our case, it’s a garden fence called a “hurdle.” When I first started green woodworking, these were the methods I learned to make ladderback chairs. The 2-day format precludes us making a chair, hence the hurdles.
The workshop takes place outside of Pinecones, part of the Pinewoods Dance Camp where we hold our Greenwood Fest in the spring. The link above tells the details, you can opt to stay at Pinewoods in one of the cabins – it’s a great setting.
We’ll cover the structure of the wood, why we split it this way & that. How to shave it, hew it – the proper shapes of the various tools and equipment like shaving horses, riving brakes, etc. Lots to cover, and a real eye-opener to many who think wood comes from the store or lumberyard.
Here’s a group shot with the nearly-finished hurdles…
There’s other classes coming up in the fall and into the winter. Spoon carving, German holiday baking & more. https://www.plymouthcraft.org/
I’ll be updating my workshop-teaching schedule soon with some Plymouth CRAFT classes and looking toward next year (we’ve started planning Greenwood Fest already!) In the meantime, I have a few spoons (and one bowl) for sale this time – if you’d like one, just leave a comment and we can take it from there; paypal or check is fine either way. Woods this time are birch, cherry & walnut. All carved with hatchet, knife and hook knife. Finished with food-grade flax oil. Prices include shipping in US. Elsewhere additional charge for shipping. Click the images to enlarge. Thanks for you interest, if you have questions just leave a comment or send an email.
Sept spoon 01; black birch.
L: 10 1/2″ W: 2 3/4″
Sept spoon 02; black birch,
L: 10 1/2″ W: 2 5/8″
Sept spoon 03; black birch
Sept spoon 04,
L: 12″ W: 2 7/8″
Sept spoon 05
L: 11 1/2″ W: 2 3/4″
Aug spoon 01 –
this one was my favorite from last time. Didn’t get picked. Might be the price tag…but this is as good a spoon as I can make. cherry, crook. This spoon blank left me with a very long, narrow bowl. Overall a long spoon. Great crook shape, I couldn’t resist.
L: 13 7/8″ W: 2 1/8″
Sept spoon 06
Walnut. I’ve been riving up some walnut for joined stools, and got some bits here & there to try for spoons. Radially split.
L: 10 1/2″ W: 2 3/4″
Sept spoon 07, walnut (see above)
L: 10 1/2″ W: 2 7/8″
Sept spoon 08; walnut
L: 10 1/2″ W: 3″
large cherry crook
The last of these over-sized cherry crooks.
L: 13″ W: 4″
The cherry bird bowl. I have more of these underway, but won’t get to them for months now – I have a lot of furniture work ahead of me. The bird bowls come from great curved crooks.
L: 15″ H: (at front) 7 1/4″
I’m working on getting Barn the Spoon to come back to Plymouth CRAFT’s Greenwood Fest next June. He’s supposed to be checking his schedule & getting back to me…but he’s probably busy turning the world onto spoon carving. I met Barn last summer when I finally made it over to Spoonfest (the inspiration for our Greenwood Fest) which he & Robin Wood started 6 or 7 years ago. Right away, I knew I like Barn. He’s infectious in a good way. Attending one of these festivals is just an incredible experience. Not everyone can make it of course. Barn has you covered. I just saw an announcement about the American version of his English book Spon. Here’s the blurb about the English version. I can’t imagine how different the American version can be – https://barnthespoon.com/courses-books-gifts/spon-learn-to-carve-spoons-with-barn-the-spoon
But it gets better. Barn and his colleagues at the Greenwood Guild run many courses both in London and Bristol, http://thegreenwoodguild.com/ – “but I’m a long way from there, what do I do?” you ask…
Video. You sign up for Barn’s spoon carving online membership. £7 per month, let’s see – equals $9.51 today. http://thegreenwoodguild.com/protected-content-2/?redirect_to=http%3A%2F%2Fthegreenwoodguild.com%2Fonlinemembership-2%2F
Here is a sample video, mostly about an introduction to the knife.
The ever-expanding video library right now has these categories:
The Basics, Tools & Kit, Knife Grips, Axe Work, How to Carve a Spoon, Tool Sharpening, The 16 spoons, Q&A –
I just checked a couple headings – there’s 8 videos under The Basics; under Knife Grips 9 individual videos. 10 under How to Carve a Spoon. You get the idea, lots of information and more all the time.
Some are 4-5 minutes, some in the 20-25 minute range and several are close to an hour long. If you want an immersion experience with spoon carving, and stay at home – this is it. Watch for his Plymouth CRAFT hat…
It’s been ages and ages since I did any turning on a regular basis. I have a lot of it coming up this fall and winter, and in preparation for that work, I decided to start with some joined stools. The first one is in walnut instead of oak.
My lathe is the last piece in the workshop puzzle; as it is now, it’s been buried under/behind 2 chests, and all sorts of wood, projects, etc. So I shoved all that aside and turned these stiles recently. I started the first session with sharpening the gouges and skews, and turned one stile. So the next morning I did the other three. I’ve covered this stuff in the joined stool book and the wainscot chair video with Lie-Nielsen – but here’s some of it. First off, mark the centers on each end. I scribed the diagonal lines, then set a compass to see what size circle, and how centered it was (or wasn’t). I decided it needed a nudge a bit this way & that – so when I punched the center, I moved a little bit over.
Then rough out the cylindrical bits –
Then I use a story-stick to mark where to cut the various elements of the turnings, here one cove is cut and I’m lining up the stick to locate the other details.
I alternate between a skew chisel and narrow gouges to form the shapes.
Once I was finished with the turnings, time to bore the tenons for the pins, and assemble. Here, roman numerals ID the stretcher-to-stile.
Mark the joint, and bore the peg hole in the tenon.
No one, NO ONE, likes the way I shave pegs. I’ve done thousands this way, and it seems to work for me.
The peg-splitting & shaving tools; cleaver (riving knife) by Peter Ross; tapered reamer by Mark Atchison (for opening holes when the offset for drawboring is too severe), 2″ framing chisel.
Make a bunch of tapered pins and hammer them in one-by-one. I line it up over a hole in the bench so the pin can exit.
After assembling two sections, then knock in the angled side rails, and pin the whole thing.
Frame assembled, wants some walnut for the seat board. I have a wood-shopping trip coming up…I don’t have 11″ wide walnut around.
All the joined stool work is covered in detail in the book I did with Jennie Alexander – I have a few copies left for sale, (leave me a comment if you’d like to order one, $43 shipped in US) or get it from Lost Art Press – https://lostartpress.com/products/make-a-joint-stool-from-a-tree
I recently spent a great day with our friend Marie Pelletier up in Newbury, Massachusetts at the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge, aka Plum Island. She got great shots of many of the birds we saw… maybe this will take you to her shots – https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10213122359110858&set=pcb.10213122371511168&type=3&theater
It was not the best light for me, my camera shoots kinda dark. But here’s some of what I got that day:
Egrets were the bird of the day; both snowy (Egretta thula) and great (Ardea alba) – here’s one of the great egrets:
a bunch of the snowies:
They weren’t the only long-legged waders around though – we saw Great Blue Herons now and then (Ardea herodias)
A juvenile Northern Harrier – (Circus cyaneus )
The swallows were really the most impressive sight. Their numbers were out of this world. They’re “staging” – stopping here to feed and gather in huge flocks for migration. Many (most/all?) of these are tree swallows (Tachycineta bicolor) – there’s no way this photo or any photo captures the impact of seeing this many birds. they were in constant motion, and the sound of them hitting the water to feed on insects was LOUD.
I never skip a chance to watch cedar waxwings (Bombycilla cedrorum) this one was very cooperative
A couple of days later, at Pret & Paula’s house, an eastern screech owl (Megascops asio). Too distant for my camera, but such a treat to see it poking out of this dead tree:
Then this morning, the flock of common grackles (Quiscalus quiscula) with some other blackbirds mixed in, come streaming up from the marsh just around sunrise:
I just finished carving the 8th & final panel for the bedstead I have underway. There’s 4 patterns I used, each one repeats twice. most of them are patterns I made up, but drawn from a large body of work I have covered here a few times. The carvings that are the inspiration come from Devon, England and Ipswich, Massachusetts. I love these designs because they are so lively, and have so much variety.
Lately I’ve been trying to draw the designs – to try to learn how to talk about them – the parts, components and how they get combined. When I first saw these panels, I thought they must be the most involved carvings – but really they’re just busy…there’s very little background removed. Most of the impact is from the “horror vacuui” effect of covering every blessed surface with something. (This next one was a mistake – the board was 10″ wide, too narrow for the bedstead.)Narrow panel
These patterns have a few common elements/motifs – most have an arch across the top of the panel. there are a few exceptions, but generally I carve the arch-top versions. All of these have an urn/vase/flowerpot just above the bottom/center of the panel. Then some leafy bits/leaves/flowers coming up and spreading out from this urn. I tend to think of the designs being broken into thirds – though not necessarily even thirds.
Some wind up from the urn through the middle of the panel, then wind outward and reverse direction into the arch. Mostly these also bend downward, looping back toward the middle of the panel. In this case, there’s 3 tulip shapes inside this arc, then the big leafy bit that fills the bottom corner:
This pattern is easiest on wide stock, at least 10″ of carving space-width. This one, a chest I have copied a few times, the panel is 12 3/4″ wide x 15″ tall. Compare it to the narrow version above – I think it works better on the wide stock.
On this panel from the bedstead a single flower replaces the 3 tulips, same leaf at the bottom though:
Sometimes from the urn you get large shapes flowing almost horizontally out from the middle. these often have double-volute-ish scrolls where they hit the edges of the panel The one heading down then flows into a leaf shape that bends right against the bottom of the urn. This one is from the extra-wide muntin of the same chest –
Here’s the front of that chest – I copied the proportions and all the vertical bits from 2 examples I’ve seen in person, one other I know from a photograph. All were initialed & dated on the muntin; 1666, 1669 & 1682 for the dates. I substituted different (related) designs on the horizontal rails; and in this case added brackets underneath the bottom rail.
These carving often employ a three-part leaf, which is standard in the related S-scrolls – (seen here on a period box from Ipswich)
and on the panels this form is used again & again, inside spaces, between elements – it can be like this:
Or along the side of the panel:
Hard to see it upside down, here it is from a period piece, the shape I’m thinking of is between the bottom of the arch and blends into the margin just above the large bottom leaves:
The bits flowing up from the urn that then turn down to the bottom corners can take several forms as well. The one I used at the top of this post is simple, big fat leafy shapes bending up then down. They split into three parts at the bottom – one to the corner, one to the feet/urn junction, and one between. Fill the spaces with gouge-cuts, and call it done.
as a drawing:
I could go on forever, but this post has taken long enough. A few more panels of my work:
This one hangs in our kitchen, done in Alaska yellow cedar:
This oak panel was an experiment, I mostly like it, but rejected it for the bedstead:
This one took its place: