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A few weeks ago Peter Follansbee participated in a panel discussion titled “Looking Forward, Looking Back: Traditional Crafts and Contemporary Makers” at the Fuller Craft Museum as part of the opening reception for Living Traditions: The Handwork of Plymouth CRAFT. Peter was asked an either/or question: “When you’re making things, is the process of doing that just for you or for the community?”
Feeling put on the spot, he answered: “I’m doing this ’cause that is what I want to do.”
But that’s not completely true.
“Afterwards I was thinking of their use of the word ‘community’ and through all of this woodworking, from back in my early museum days all the way up to today, I’ve met so many people who are just fabulous, and many have become lifelong friends, just great, great folks, both students and other instructors and other woodworkers.”
With community comes commonality.
“I can find commonality with people that otherwise I would walk right past them, and they would walk right past me,” Peter says. “We share nothing in common except for this interest in and this desire in making things out of wood, and that is unlike what I said on the panel discussion. That is important to me. I can’t imagine a different life. So I’ve been lucky to kind of stumble into this one, and it was all through woodworking.”
And in a way Peter did stumble into this life, in a story that involves the death of his father at a young age, splitting logs for firewood, waffling between art painting and woodworking, and an unexpected 25-mile walk to Drew Langsner’s Country Workshops school in North Carolina.
In the end, it was the community he sought, the community that accepted him, and the community he now serves that helped form his life, which reflects a quote by William Coperthwaite on an axe handle Peter recently carved: “I want to live in a society where people are intoxicated with the joy of making things.”
‘Without Love in the Dream it will Never Come True’
The youngest of five, Peter was born in 1957 in Weymouth, Mass., a suburb of Boston. His father worked at A.J. Wilkinson & Co., “back when a hardware store was a hardware store,” Peter says. The day after he graduated high school, Peter’s father walked into Wilkinson’s and applied for a job. He worked there until he died, at the age of 51 in 1975.
A widow, Peter’s mother had to reinvent herself and started working at a law firm in Boston. As an 18-year-old, Peter says he didn’t recognize what a big deal that was for his mother during the mid-1970s. “Later, some perspective really shown a light on it.”
Peter’s father had a basement woodshop filled with Delta and Powermatic tools: a lathe, table saw, jointer, drill press, circular saw. His father built furnishings to outfit the house. “I don’t remember anyone talking about it, and I certainly didn’t think about it,” Peter says. “You just sort of took it for granted that he made stuff. You make stuff.”
Peter was into art. He took art lessons as a child and, moving from crayons and pencils to pastels and paints, he essentially majored in art in high school — by grade 10 he was studying art history and knew art school was in his future.
And it was. He attended the Massachusetts College of Art and Design for a year. And then he dropped out. “It was a lot of scruffy 20-year-olds expressing themselves and doing wild and crazy stuff,” Peter says. “I wanted to learn under-glazing and classic painting, and I had no way to put that into words or to search out how I was going to get that so I just bagged it instead. … It was sort of funny. What I was looking for in painting I ultimately found in woodworking.”
But first there was, as Peter says, a whole lot of floundering. “Keep in mind that this was the mid-70s, so there was this whole dope culture, too. And I was reasonably involved in that. I wasn’t into hard drugs, but I kept pretty high all the time. So that clouded a lot of judgment.”
Upon his father’s death, Peter inherited a basement full of tools. And because he was an artist, he began making picture frames. “I started dabbling in framing my canvases while I was painting, and little by little I started to learn more about woodworking – not in any orderly fashion. So for many years I kind of divided my time between painting and making stuff out of wood.” This included a Shaker rocking chair, with almost no instruction.
“I failed miserably,” he says.
Then, a friend showed him a copy of Fine Woodworking magazine. Peter subscribed.
Peter was living with his mother and their house was close to a power line. To keep trees from tangling the line, the power company came out and cut them, but also left behind what they had cut. The energy crisis had hit, and folks were burning firewood regularly. So Peter taught himself how to split wood. He also wanted to make a chair. The September 1978 issue of Fine Woodworking arrived, and in it was an advertisement for the book “Make a Chair from a Tree” by John (now Jennie) Alexander and an excerpt from Drew Langsner’s book, “Country Woodcraft,” about splitting logs. “It was aimed right at me,” Peter says.
Peter finally convinced himself his years of waffling between painting and woodworking were over – he had to choose, for the sake of focus. “So I stopped painting,” he says. “Which is a good thing.”
In 1980, Peter signed up to take a class at Country Workshops. He didn’t have a driver’s license and he had never flown – in fact, he had never been out of New England. “I got on a plane, and then two buses,” he says. “I was too shy to call Drew and say, ‘How do I get from the bus stop to your place?’ and not having any experience in rural America, I saw that his address was Marshall, N.C. The bus went to Marshall so I thought, I’ll just walk! And it was a 25-mile walk. I made it in time for dinner, and then pitched my tent and fell right asleep. It was really out of character for me, but it was one of those moments where the stars lined up and look at what it did.”
Of course, it wasn’t immediate.
“I was the worst possible student,” Peter says. “Drew will tell you. I was terrible. I was awful. Years later I would learn that Alexander would have 10, 12 students, and would watch for who was going to be the ‘destructor,’ the one you have to watch, the one who was going to ruin everything. And it was me. I was still a pothead, and I was still just a novice.”
But skill, of course, is separate from passion. “Oh man, it changed my life,” Peter says. “I flipped out, I loved it, I was just over the moon. It was great. So then I went home and made more chairs. By 1982 I was done with dope, and shortly after that I went back down to Drew’s, and then I would go twice a year every year. In 1988 I was an intern and stayed there for five months. By then I was getting serious and a little more coherent and semi-skilled.”
Throughout these years Peter continued to live with his mother, so his needs were few. He sold some chairs and, after learning how to make split baskets at Langsner’s, he sold those as part of a craft cooperative. “It sort of validated what I was doing,” Peter says. He realized he could make things. And people would buy them.
‘Once in a While, You get Shown the Light, in the Strangest of Places, if You Look at it Right’
In the late 1980s, Peter and Alexander were spending a week, along with some other folks, on improvements to Langsner’s facility – it was called volunteer week, and it was a way to support the school. One evening Alexander showed a series of slides of a disassembled cupboard door, then at Winterthur, made about 1660 in Braintree, Mass. “It was split out of a log, like the chair parts were, but instead of then going to a shavehorse and a drawknife, you went to a bench with a plane,” Peter says. “And then instead of boring the mortise with a brace and bit, you chopped it with a chisel. So it was similar to what we were doing with chairmaking, but different.” Only Peter shared in Alexander’s enthusiasm.
So the two began a correspondence, roping in furniture historian Robert Trent. Their letters included questions, sketches, diagrams and theories. Throughout the correspondence Alexander told Peter to refer to out-of-print books and visit the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. So, Peter did. At the time Jonathan Leo Fairbanks was curator and Daniel Cook was assistant curator.
“Those guys would let me come in stone cold off the street and study the objects in the collection,” Peter says. “I had no academic affiliation, no credentials, no references, nothing. I just showed up with a question and some curiosity, and they gave me access to stuff. It was fabulous.”
Around that time Trent was lecturing up in Boston. Alexander called Peter and said, “You’ve got to go hear Trent.” Peter called the lecture host and was told that in order to hear Trent, he’d have to buy a ticket to the entire lecture series. Peter hung up, called Alexander and said he wasn’t going to be able to go. Later that day Peter got a phone call from Trent. “He just went on a rant about what idiots they were and he put me on the list so I could go to the lecture. And that’s how I met Bob.”
As Peter’s community grew, so did his knowledge of 17th-century woodworking. In the mid-1990s Peter sneaked into a lecture by Trent at Plimoth Plantation. After the lecture a mutual friend introduced Peter to Joel Pontz, who worked at the museum. “Joel had seen a newspaper article about me,” Peter says. “I had a Delta lathe [his father’s] that I had thrown the motor away and hooked up a spring pole to it so it made for a curious article. Joel had seen that and said, ‘Wow, would you like to work here?’ And I said, ‘Yeah!’ And he said, ‘We don’t have a job for you.’”
But Pontz and Peter became friends, getting together one night a month for “shop night.”
Eventually Pontz left Plimoth, creating a space for Peter. “There was a woman running that program, called the Craft Center,” Peter says. “It was me, potters, textile artists and a few other things. I was hanging around visiting there and they said, ‘Go talk to this woman, we’ve got a part-time job [available].’ And later on she told me she went to her boss and said, ‘Who is this guy? Should we check up on him? Get references?’ And they just said, ‘Oh, Joel said he’s OK. Just hire him.’ And that woman is now my wife. I love to tell that story.”
(Peter and his wife, Maureen, married in 2003 and now have twins – Rose and Daniel.)
Peter worked as a joiner at Plimoth Plantation for 20 years. “And for probably 14 of those years, I’m making up a number but it’s close, it was the greatest job a woodworker could have,” he says. “Absolutely fabulous. Because I had to go to work every day and go in and make stuff with wood I didn’t have to pay for, and all I had to do was talk to people about it. There was almost never a deadline. I didn’t have to worry – is it going to sell? – all I had to do was make it. And talk to people. And I got to do the research behind it.”
Research involved trips to England and around the country, visiting museums and attending symposiums and lectures. “I got to hobnob with all the people who could help me learn my craft and the history of it better and just talk, talk, talk, talk,” he says. “And what woodworker doesn’t want to show you want they’re doing?”
Because the audience would change every 10 to 30 minutes, Peter became a master at capturing their attention. “You instantly find out if this joke or this trick fails and that sort of thing, and I loved to do it.” He was not taught this. But through previous demonstrations at craft fairs and practice, he quickly learned that big crowds mean big movements, but little crowds mean small movements. With families, he says, you focus on the kids.
“It was great,” he says. “It was great fun and people came from all over the world, all kinds of people – you never knew who was going to walk through the door.” One day he was making a brace for a brace and a bit, and a British couple walked up and started talking knowledgeably about tools. Turns out it was Jane Rees and Mark Rees, authors of many important books about early tools and their makers.
There were questions that were asked, repeatedly. “It got old right away and then you had to learn what to do,” Peter says. “Some people learn how to deal with it and some people don’t. And the ones who don’t are bitter, nasty little people who shouldn’t be doing that job. So the question you get the most, no matter what you’re doing is, ‘How long does it take?’ I saw co-workers find all kinds of ways to fight that question and I thought, ‘Well, that’s stupid because that’s what they want to know.’ So you tell them that and then you can move on and tell them what you want to tell them.”
In order to do this, Peter actually timed his various operations so he always knew the answer to that question. “The repetition is annoying for me, but it isn’t repetition for the people asking,” Peter says. “It’s new to them.”
Peter says he misses that part of it, talking to people. He left Plimoth in 2014. In the end, there were some difficult years involving a change of directors and general bureaucracy. In 2008, friends of Peter’s, including his then boss and his wife, were let go.
Peter wanted to leave, but he needed to make money. Now he was the sole earner in his family and he had two children to support. So he stayed, all the while building up a following through his blog, Joiner’s Notes, planning for a future in which he could make it on the outside. “I stayed for many years,” Peter says. “It took a long time.” Christopher Schwarz stepped in, helping him find teaching gigs and, through Lost Art Press, publishing “Make a Joint Stool from a Tree” with Jennie Alexander in 2012.
“Then it was just kind of floundering for a few years, and not having the nerve to pull the trigger,” Peter says. “One day I said to Maureen – our kids were then in school, they were in the second grade, going to public schools and we didn’t like that either – every day three of us go out the door to something you and I don’t believe in,” Peter says. “We should stop doing that. So we home-school our kids, and I quit my job.”
Immediately following a blog post about leaving Plimoth, Megan Fitzpatrick, editor of Popular Woodworking Magazine, offered Peter a column. “It was really a godsend,” Peter says. “I greatly appreciated it.” And then Marc Adams called, asking him to teach. He teamed up with Lie-Nielsen Toolworks (check out his DVDs for sale here) and Roy Underhill. Peter says he booked too many teaching gigs that first year, worried about income.
After years of giving to the woodworking community – and the general public – the woodworking community gave back.
‘Hang it up and See what Tomorrow Brings’
Teaching, Peter says, is totally different from demonstrating. “I don’t get to do as much woodworking when I’m teaching. At the old job, all the attention was on me.” He laughs. “And I like teaching. It’s fun, it’s interesting, you get that group dynamic and some groups are duds and some groups are really great. A lot of students have become friends of mine.”
These days, Peter is still waiting for a “typical” year. He spent the last year building his shop. “I read on the Web one day, ‘He’s not doing much woodworking these days,’ and I thought, ‘I’m building this freaking shop by hand! That’s all woodworking!’ But what they meant was that I wasn’t doing much furniture, and I hadn’t.”
Now that his shop is built, Peter’s hoping for some normalcy. “If I’m not traveling and I’m not teaching, it’s going to be out in the shop building things,” he says. “I have some custom work that I’m way behind on, and I’m starting to get going on that now. So I have some big carved chairs, and a bedstead and a chest of drawers to make. I’m trying to get in a rhythm that I used to use at the museum. In the morning, I’ll split logs and make boards. I’ll do real physical work for a few hours, and then kind of switch gears and maybe do joinery and carving later in the day. I’m just trying to pace myself so I’m not beating myself up. I usually work several projects at a time, and try to leapfrog them to the finish line altogether.”
Peter and his family live in a little town near Plymouth, Mass., on the way to Cape Cod, on a small piece of property, maybe three-quarters of an acre. In the backyard is a river with a marsh behind it.
At the same panel discussion mentioned above, someone asked Peter if he’s more interested in the process or the finished product. Peter said, “Oh no, I can’t stand the finished product because when I finish them I don’t want to see them again.” Tim Manney, a chairmaker and toolmaker in Maine, was in the audience and called his bluff. “You’re lying,” Manney said. “Your house is full of your stuff!”
Peter admits that there may be two or three pieces of furniture in his house that he didn’t make.
When Maureen, Peter’s wife, was pregnant she ended up on bed rest for 11 weeks. While she was upstairs, Peter spent 11 weeks at Plimoth, building and carving new fronts to their kitchen cabinets. “So she came down after 11 weeks and saw that,” he says. “She had never seen it. There are probably seven or eight kitchen cabinets that are all carved.”
Building his shop was a lifelong dream. It’s 12’ x 16’ with 15 windows. “It’s like being outdoors when I’m indoors,” Peter says. “It’s where I want to be.”
A friend helped. He’d come by Peter’s for one or two days a week, lay out some stuff, show Peter how to cut it, and then leave. “I’d cut for a few days and then I’d call him up and say, ‘OK, I’m ready for the next step….’ I don’t want to do it again.”
He lost some woodworking time this winter, due to not having a stove. But a former student gave him a little stove and this summer he plans to hook it up.
In addition to building and teaching, Peter enjoys making spoons. “Spoons are taking over the world you know,” he says. “And why is that? Why are they making all these spoons?” At England’s Spoonfest last year Peter served as the keynote speaker for the opening night. “I told them all, ‘We checked and that’s enough spoons. We don’t need to make anymore.’ And they started to boo and throw things at me.”
Peter began making spoons in the 1980s. In 1988, during his intern year, he took a course taught by Jogge Sundqvist and was hooked. While at Plimoth he carved spoons that “were really ugly,” 17th-century English spoons, “and there’s nothing interesting about them.” Throughout the years Peter would carve spoons on his own and post pictures on his blog. One day somebody asked if he would sell one. “The thought never occurred to me,” Peter says. “I couldn’t imagine someone would buy one of those. I used to make them, and use them at home and give them as gifts.”
So why is everyone making spoons? Peter says he carves them because the ones he likes best form a natural, crooked shape – the curve of the spoon mimics the curve of the tree. “They’re a nice design challenge, and a functional sculpture sort of thing, a real good exercise in knife work and just an all-around interesting item.” But he says he’s also carving them because he wants more handmade stuff in the world.
“I think our culture has moved so far away, other than Lost Art Press readers and readers of these various blogs and things, just in general, our culture is really pretty far removed from that.”
One of Peter’s big influences in woodworking is Daniel O’Hagan, a man he met through Langsner many years ago. “I remember Daniel once writing to me and using the phrase ‘plastic and confused culture.’” O’Hagan lived outside of culture, Peter says. In 1958 he went back to the land and moved to eastern Pennsylvania. He built a log house with no electricity or running water, and he and his wife lived that way until he died in 2000.
“I don’t necessarily want to live that way,” Peter says. “I like running water. I like having a computer that connects me to all around the world and stuff but I like to sort of blend some of these two mindsets. So it’s places like Drew’s and Daniel’s where I first was in a handmade building filled with handmade stuff. And it speaks to me, there’s something about it.”
Peter’s own home is now filled with woodenware and wooden furniture. Maureen is a potter and knitter (you can view, and buy, her fiber arts here), so they have many handmade items in their house. “That’s important to me,” Peter says. “Especially once we had the kids. People would say, ‘Do you want the kids to do what you do?’ and no. I don’t want them to do what I do. I want them to know that you can make things with your hands, that people make things, but I want them to be happy. I want them to do what makes them happy. I’m doing what makes me happy but that doesn’t mean that’s what would make them happy.”
Peter doesn’t subscribe to American culture. He hasn’t owned a TV in years. He enjoys bird watching. He likes to be out in nature. He likes to be home but recognizes the joy in traveling. “There aren’t many other parts of my life,” he says. “I can sit here if I had the time, I could just sit here and just watch the river as the tide comes in and goes out, comes in and goes out, and just keeps changing. I’m fine with that. That could be my entertainment. I don’t really need entertainment, but that could be my amusement. It could hold my attention.”
Peter’s not entirely sure what his future will look like but for now it’s something along the lines of “broke but happy.” “I wake up every morning perfectly happy, but I do need to generate income better than I do,” he says. In order to spur this along, he’s planning on teaching students in his home shop. He can only fit one at a time (if teaching spoon carving classes, two). He already has a few folks on schedule. “And if that works, that will help me because I’m home,” he says. “There isn’t a lot of demand for my carved oak furniture. There’s some, but not enough to pay all the bills. So there has to be teaching. I have a new book under way with Chris and Megan [through Lost Art Press], so those bits and pieces will hopefully add up to something. I want to stay healthy, so I can keep going. That’s as far ahead as I’ve looked.”
A while ago Peter did a piece for Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. They had the bottom half of a two-part cabinet made in about 1680 and they hired Peter to make the conjectural top. Their conservation department guided him in coloring it. Color is intriguing to Peter. On a trip to Sweden he visited the Nordic Museum and spent six hours studying thousands of pieces in the museum’s storehouse. “It was just stunning, beautiful, beautiful stuff all highly decorated, almost always painted, very reminiscent of what we often term, inappropriately, Pennsylvania Dutch furniture.”
And while he doesn’t plan to veer too far from carved oak furniture – he’s invested, now, and he’s good at it – he still wishes for more hours in the day. “There’s a fellow from Hungary who wrote to me from his blog whose building chests out of riven beech with tools that we’ve never seen and making them all by hand the way they were made 500 years ago,” Peter says. “I’d love to go and see his work and see him do it and do it with him.”
‘Inspiration, Move me Brightly’
Now that it’s spring, and the birds’ songs come early, Peter finds himself in his shop quite early. He says he hopes to hit his stride. And although he’s currently figuring things out, he still considers himself extremely lucky. There’s community behind that sentiment.
“I try to remember to always thank my students in [my classes],” he says. “I try to make them understand that I appreciate them dedicating the time and the resources to come and take that class because if they don’t do it, they won’t hire me anymore if I can’t get students. So I always appreciate that. I had classes two years in a row where it was one weekend a month for five months. They laid out a lot of cash to do that, they set out a lot of time, and that’s the thing nobody has any to give up. Everybody is running low on time, so I always appreciate that kind of stuff.”
There’s community behind most of Peter’s sentiments, even if he failed to acknowledge that at the panel discussion a few weeks ago. And for those looking in, the flip side is more than apparent: Both the general public (visitors to Plimoth) and the woodworking community have benefited greatly from Peter, who is incredibly smart yet humble, honest and easy-going, a skilled teacher, demonstrator and entertainer, and a man who has surrounded himself with beautiful things, most of his own making. That society of people who is intoxicated with the joy of making things? We’re closer, because of him.
— Kara Gebhart Uhl
Filed under: Make a Joint Stool from a Tree, Uncategorized
The reality was a bit different. The lid had warped, so I had to struggle to flatten it. A thing that really didn't help was the size of the lid. I could barely fit it on the workbench, and it scooted around because I couldn't place it in a single position that would enable me to plane the entire piece.
After a lot of time and cursing I decided that it was flat enough. The problem was that it wasn't the same thickness all around.
The top of the workbench is not flat, and I didn't see any point in continuing knowing that it would hardly get any better, so the lid just had to stay that way.
I marked up for some breadboard ends, and the first one didn't fit very tight. I fiddled some time without any obvious improvements, I mounted it hoping and expecting that the second end would turn out better.
At first the second end really did fit better, but the first dowel that I drove in burst out a huge chunk of wood from the backside. I guess the board is a bit punky.
The second dowel broke before getting through the board, but the third one came all the way thoguh as it should.
It bothered me that the second dowel never went all the way, so I decided to remove it and install e new one.
A drift pin, a hammer and a smart blow Took care of the problem with the dowel stealing all the attention, Instead the new attraction was the 6" long and 1.5" wide chunk that separated from the breadboard end. And somehow the dowel managed to stay put.
I squirted some glue in the crack and put a clamp on it. There was no point in trying to do anything abut it until the glue had set and I had cooled down.
Next I turned my attention to the carcase and did a bit of planing in a vague attempt to level the dovetails and the ends of the backboards.
Again the work was obstructed by lack of workholding, a not completely flat floor etc.
The back was the last thing I tried to plane. I decided from the start that I would only use the scrub iron on the back, because there had been enough misery already. The back ended OK, with clearly visible diagonal strokes from a scrub plane. At least it will show that it is handmade.
A set of skids were mounted under the bottom, and this part went without any hick-ups at all (very strange).
The glue on the lid had dried sufficiently to continue with that part.
I used a saw to cut the lid to the correct length and to remove the parts of the breadboard ends that extended a bit. Some planing actually made it look pretty good, almost level and fairly square.
So I decided to make a bull nose profile on all the edges.
A bull nose profile is hard to mess up, unless you make the rabbet too deep, so it will terminate at the same depth as the groove in the breadboard end. If you do that the result is clearly visible.
If you also ad a some grain blow out due to rabbeting cross grain you will know why there was even more cursing.
Finally I installed the hardware which didn't cause any real problems compared to the earlier difficulties I had experienced.
How do I know this? Birds are singing at oh dark thirty when I leave for work. All the other signs aside, I've always taken birds singing before dawn as the true sign of spring. Which brings up the question, just what are the birds singing and chirping about so damn early in the morning? Is this the time that they are looking for a date?
|sink job from hell|
I don't know how plumbers can do this type of work day after day. My hip stopped singing arias a few hours ago and has been steadily screaming at me. This is the last time I will ever lay on my back and twist and contort my fat body to do something like this. Installing those sink clips was adventure I will not soon forget.
The leak test pasted with flying colors. The bowls held the water for over an hour and there were no leaks underneath.
|no leaks here neither|
I'm not sure that I'm onboard with the plastic piping. According to the plumbing who did this, copper is old school and everything is done with plastic now. I remember plastic piping from a long time ago that imparted an unpleasant taste to the water.
|I didn't escape free and clear|
|the 4x4 plywood I bought saturday|
|5 plies ?|
|my only woodworking today|
|I doodled with my beading planes etc|
|last piece to be molded|
What holds the Washington Monument together?
answer - no mortar or cement, just the weight of the stones - goes from 15 feet thick at the base to 7 inches thick at the top
by Megan Fitzpatrick pages 26-31 From the June 2016 issue of Popular Woodworking Magazine A slick technique makes the divided-light door a snap. In 2008, I built a contemporary maple chimney cupboard to hold towels in my bathroom. Eight years on, I decided it was time for a matching medicine cabinet – in large part because the house I recently bought has solid masonry walls, so I needed a nice-looking […]
Right at the top I’m going to say that this tool is not cheap. It is, however, a fantastic tool to have in the shop. I used a Milwaukee M18 7-1/4″ circular saw to breakdown sapele boards as I began a fireplace frame-and-panel wall. It is so nice to simply grab the saw and get to it – no extension cords to hassle needed. And I have yet to slow or stall the saw.
It was even better when one of the guys in for a class purchased a load of lumber and needed to shorten the lengths for the long ride home.
Before I left I made a circuit through the hardwood aisle. I had done some figuring and I could make my stand up desk for work out of 3 1x12x3' boards of NZ pine. I like this wood because it is hard and I can write on it without also making indents in the wood. 3 boards of this would have cost me over $60 so I looked at poplar. A 1x12x6' poplar board was going for close to $40. I'll drive to New Hampshire first and buy wood there before I pony up any dollars at Lowes. Not a good start to my day after leaving work.
The good news is I made an extra road trip to the Lowes I normally go to. Asked a kid in the kitchen department where the sink clips where. Without hesitating, he told me exactly where they were (he couldn't have been more than 19-20 years old). I bought 3 bags because I either lost the one that came with the sink or none were in the box. I also got a 4x4 piece of 1/4" birch plywood but it was different. The front was birch, the middle had a couple of plies, but the back was covered with paper
Today I bandsawed the radius on the two corners and cleaned them up with the spokeshave like I had been doing it all my life. I didn't get one continuous shaving from one side to the other but there was no tearing out or chattering. My shavings were smooth and easy coming though. This is the spokeshave iron that I sharpened correctly this time but making sure I raised a burr first.
|found it on the laundry table|
|most of the parts are rough sawn|
|need a cutout for the apron|
|vertical cut is too wide|
|this edge will be scribed to the wall|
|vertical cut was done on the bandsaw and the horizontal one by hand|
|back side of the horizontal saw cut|
|good fitting joint|
|changed lanes on the scribing|
|continued success with the spokeshave|
|roughing in the parts|
|the corbel will hide the butt joint|
|the kitchen clock|
|big hollow on this side|
|I can do beads with this too|
|my beading irons|
|the record bead|
|the rabbet makers|
|the record 3/16" bead|
|the Stanley bead|
|the plane is history|
|3/16" beading plane|
|1/4" side bead plane|
|still haven't done it|
How many stone blocks are in the Washington Monument?
answer - 36,491
Let’s recap what we know about chairs. There are one-legged chairs:
And the conventional four-legged chairs:
Today, we were on the Eastern shore of Virginia tracking down the final resting place of my wife’s dead relatives. By 2:00 PM, we were out of places to look and relative to look for. As it happens, there was a large antiques mall just a few miles up the road. And it was raining. We went.
I wandered around a bit and thought I had found the elusive five-legged chair when I saw this one:
Upon closer examination, I realized it only has four legs but the are incorrectly placed:
These furniture makers have no respect for tradition. Furniture making is no place for original thinking. The furniture gods are surely angry.
One more look:
Of course, it would be hard to rock back. Maybe lean side to side…
Like a lot of guys, I used to collect weapons. Well, “collect” is probably too strong a word, but I’ve had various blades hanging on the wall for a long time. But the time has come to take them down. The sword will stay up–it’s a dress-sword anyway, not a real weapon–but the rest are coming down. It’s not that I wouldn’t defend my family if necessary. (I have four daughters; I am no pacifist.) It’s that my innermost desires are no longer for adventure and conquest, but for stability and peace.
When I was a teenager, I started collecting bayonets and knives. I had carried a pocketknife since I was 10, but I think I bought my first vintage bayonet when I was 14 or 15. Over the next few years, I picked up a few more at antique shops when I could afford them.
Why? Because I was a young man, and I thought knives and bayonets were cool. I still admire the craftsmanship of some of them. (The one pictured here was made in Switzerland and hefts like it.) But most young men just enjoy playing with sharp, pointy objects.
When my wife and I bought our house years ago, I hung the bayonets up on the wall, but then I more or less forgot about them.
In the meantime, I needed to build things. A LOT of things. I had started buying tools and learning how to use them. I had made a bookshelves, a storage box or two, a side table, and more bookshelves. Then came the beds for us and for the kids. I rebuilt the back porch. I built a dining table. I built more bookshelves. I made a lot of wooden spoons.
And every now and then I would glance at those bayonets hanging on the wall. The more I did, the more I thought, “That’s not me anymore.”
Of course I had never used those bayonets. I had taken one or two of the knives on camping trips, but otherwise, they had never been of any use to me. At best, they were slightly odd home decor. At worst, they were fuel for heroic, violent fantasies. Unlike my tools, which I use on a weekly basis, I hadn’t touched the bayonets in years. I was holding onto them for nostalgia’s sake, I suppose, but I wouldn’t have missed them if they had disappeared.
What had happened to me? I grew up.
There is a strong fighting instinct in boys, and it persists into adolescence. I will openly admit that fantasies of fighting and aggression were probably behind my impulse to collect and display weapons. (Thank Heaven I’m a cheapskate, or I might have ended up with dozens of those things.) I see this aggressive impulse in my young son, who loves dressing up in super-hero costumes and racing around the house, “fighting” with any opponent, real or imaginary, that he can find. (He’s learning not to attack his sisters. Or the dog.) I was like that as a kid, too. Most boys are. They love hitting, kicking, stabbing, and shooting stuff. It’s in the blood.
It’s wonderful to be a kid, and I sure did enjoy being a little boy. I made a lot of wooden swords. I enjoyed a lot of my adolescence, too, especially when I found I could buy real weapons. I don’t regret collecting the weapons I did. But once I started taking on responsibility–a job, a spouse, a home, and children–I found my desires changing.
I no longer wanted to fight, but to build.
In 1 Corinthians 13, the Apostle Paul remarks that when he became a man, he put away childish things. Paul doesn’t mean he suddenly gained a Y-chromosome. He means that he grew up. Being a man is about responsibility motivated by love. And for me, becoming a man entailed putting away away fantasies of violence replacing them with the slow, steady work of building a home, and taking responsibility for the everyday well-being of those who dwell in it.
So in the spirit of putting away childish things, I took the bayonets down off the wall and packed them away. I found some pine boards and built a little crate to store them in.
It’s not a fancy box–just nailed together in an old-fashioned manner. The lid fits on snugly with only friction, thanks to the thin battens on its underside.
I filled the crate with those old weapons and tied some cord around it. Perhaps one day I’ll know what I should do with them, but for now I’m storing the box somewhere safe and out of the way.
I want to be a man of peace.
I want to build things.
That’s who I am now.
Tagged: bayonet, boy, boyhood, build, building, childhood, crate, knife, love, man, manhood, manly, peace, weapon, weapons
I'll be presenting a couple of things that are completely outside the box for me, but I will also have some very familiar tools as well.
Two of the tools I have in process at this time are actually for a customer in Norway. He is allowing me to show his tools at Handworks and after the event they will be off to Norway into his ownership.
I have taken time to shoot some pictures of the parts for these tools.
I like to make all the metal parts that are removable from the plane body first. When I get the plane body together those parts are ready to be installed and tuned. These parts, especially the lever caps, are very time consuming to make. It's nice to have that part of the process completed as I look forward to assembling the body.
Removable parts for a Brute shooting plane and a Winter Panel plane
Sole and internal parts for a Brute Shooting plane
Sole parts and bedding plate for a Winter Panel Plane
- Covers in one coat
- Protects from inside the wood
- Stain and polyurethane in one step
- No harsh fumes – strips multiple layers
- Danish Oil (ask the Danes about this finish)
- Spar varnish – exceptional protection from sunlight, rain & moisture
- You must finish both sides of a panel
- Perfect results every time
- No-fail finish
- No need to sand between coats.
— Christopher Schwarz
Filed under: Finishing, Uncategorized
With the passing of winter (fingers crossed) and the hydroelectric system de-mothballed, I undertook my annual ritual of tuning up both ends of the penstock, or pipeline that carries the water from the small dam at the top to the turbine at the bottom.
My first big upgrade a few years ago was to swap out the original four large capacity Tractor-trailer deep cycle batteries for four ultra-mega high performance deep cycle batteries for storing the generated electricity. Each of the new batteries has the capacity of the entire previous battery bank, so with this step I increased my power storage 16-fold. BTW each of the new batteries weighs 192 pounds, and these are the largest capacity 12v batteries available in the US.
A couple years ago I swapped out the rock-and-concrete catching dam at the edge of the property for a rock-and-sandbag one three hundred feet closer. I did this to save myself the intense maintenance involved in that last hundred yards of run which provided only another ten feet of drop. It just was not worth the added effort, being more than 25% of the penstock maintenance for a return of about 8% in the power output. Besides, the new site was perhaps the nicest narrowing of the creek with a huge rock on one bank and a great source of stacking rocks for the other.
Once again this year my debris filter needed replacing, something I will just have to plan in doing every other Spring unless I can find some stainless steel 1/4″ hardware cloth.
It only takes me four or five minutes to make a new one, and it swaps out with the older one in about fifteen seconds. I spend way more time walking up to the site and anything else.
On the bottom end of the penstock I also refined some revisions I’d made in previous years. The turbine came with three graduated fixed nozzles when I bought it, 1/4″, 5/16″, and 3/8″, to provide for a nearly infinite variability in the system flow control. This required pipe fittings leading the three high-pressure hoses going to each of the nozzles, and the Y-pipe fittings were a maintenance headache. Previously I’d cut the options down to two nozzles and their fittings, but I realized that the only one I really needed was the largest one and reconfigured the routing again.
Now it’s just a straight shot leading to a single hose and nozzle.
The output of the hydro system is running about 10-12 kwh per day, which is way more than I need for most any day. Even running a planer for three hours or the wax cookers all day is no problem, especially on a sunny day when the solar panels kick in another 8-10 kwh.
My next system projects are to build a heavy-mass turbine housing to dampen the whine of the turbine, which interferes with the gurgling of the stream, and build a new powerhouse for all the electronics inherent in the system..
In the first post in this CNC Skills series on Origin Points, I emphasized how critical reference positions are for digital woodworkers. When you’re working on a drawing in CAD, the origin point is at the intersection of the X, Y and Z axis. All measurements — positive or negative, begin at that point. By the numbers, that’s X=0,Y=0,and Z=0. It’s from that position that the piece you’re cutting is […]
The post CNC Skills: Origin Points — Part Two: Finding and setting the Zero Point appeared first on Popular Woodworking Magazine.
|got the corbels done|
|too thick and I don't like the profile|
|this looks much better to me|
|the scale of the new molding is a better fit here|
|I wish this rabbet was larger|
|the plane I used to make the bead|
|my smallest hollow|
|did kind of ok on the far end|
|test run for the plate groove|
|big number 5|
|nail holes won't be a problem|
|groove is way too big|
|from Bob Demers|
|haven't used any of these for quite a long time|
|1/4" veining router bit|
I quit here because I had to go to the bank. I forgot my PIN for my ATM and I got locked out after 3 invalid tries so I need the bank to reset it.
The Panama Canal has 12 locks. The Suez Canal is twice as long and it has how many locks?
answer - none
Monday 17th April 2017 It would be too much to blog on the shipwright’s work when the ship is so large. Boats would be much easier. It wasn’t in any way nostalgia that called me to visit Portsmouth nor anything to do with a nautical life on the open sea. It was wood and its …
I was looking through some of our recent books for this week’s book giveaway and realized I had an extra copy of Zach Dillinger’s “With Saw, Plane & Chisel” on my desk. It’s a fascinating look at period-accurate building techniques. If you love classic American furniture and are interested in how things were made back in the day, this book is worth a read. Zach creates museum quality reproductions the old fashioned […]
Last month I was visited by Joshua Farnsworth, Ray Pine, and George Lott, for a wonderful day of fellowship, filming, and yakking about woodworking and rural living.
Joshua shot a bunch of video to be edited and compiled and the first one was posted last night. You can find it here. Clearly I have a face for radio and a voice for writing.
When I went to the lumberyard to buy the stock for my first project of my own design I picked through the store’s entire stack of 1x12s to find the boards with the most attractive constellation of knots. I wasn’t trying to be cheeky or make a statement (other than “I like knots”). I genuinely liked knots because they reminded me that the board was once a tree – not […]
The post In Praise of Knots, the Defect that is Watching You appeared first on Popular Woodworking Magazine.