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Peter Follansbee, joiner's notes
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:
Some items finished up lately. The first two in a series of bird bowls. I had some very large crooks recently, made some large spoons then dedicated some of these oversized crooks to bowls. And, a small run of straight-grained serving/cooking spoons.
I got some questions about the bowls, what does the blank look like? – here is a roughed-out bowl superimposed on top of its other half of the crook – had to cradle the crook in a notched block so it would stand for its photo. Gives some idea of where you can find these in a tree. They can be trouble to split. This one was 5″ in diameter, and 24″ tip to tip. Cherry.
and here is that roughed-out bowl grabbed between two wooden bench dogs – this is how I get at it to do the gouge work. If I keep getting crooks like this, I’m going to make a larger more robust set of these dogs. Note the notches in the inside faces.
If you would like to order a spoon or bowl, just leave a comment here about which one you’d like. Then I can send a paypal invoice, or you can mail a check the old fashioned way. Either one is fine with me. Prices include shipping in the US – further afield and I’ll figure an additional shipping charge. Thanks as always for the support.
All these items are finished with food-grade flax oil.
cherry bird bowl –
L: 15″ H: (at front) 7 1/4″
Birch bowl – SOLD
L: 10 3/4″ H: (at front) 7 1/4″
Aug spoon 1 – 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″
$125 includes shipping in US
Large cherry crook #3
L: 13″ W: 3 1/2″
$150 includes shipping in US
Large cherry crook #2
L: 13″ W: 4″
$150 includes shipping in US.
Now, a series of straight-grained spoons for cooking or serving.
Aug spoon #1; birch
L: 11″ W: 2 5/8″
Aug spoon #2; birch
L: 10 1/2″ W: 2 1/2″
Aug spoon #3; birch
L: 10 1/2″ W: 2 5/8″
Aug spoon #4; birch SOLD
L: 9 1/2″ W: 2 1/2″
Aug spoon #5; birch
L: 8 1/2″ W: 2 3/4″
Aug spoon #6; walnut – SOLD
L: 10 1/2″ W: 2 3/4″
Today, birds and birds. This first one in American sycamore (Platanus occidentalis) – is going to get painted on the outside, then carved through the paint.
This tiny one, split out with the guidance of Dave Fisher, is birch – I forget which one. No paint, just carved today. Some spoons getting finished up in preparation for this weekend’s Lie-Nielsen workshop – full this time. More spoon carving classes to be announced through Plymouth CRAFT soon.
Then, some photos plucked off the card. Down river:
Red-winged blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus ) I assume juvenile male turning to adult. The female doesn’t usually show the red, I believe.
yellow warbler. (Setophaga petechia) they are quieter now than in the spring, so I just happened to notice this one skulking around.
I pretend I exist in a bubble or cocoon. Each day I’m at home, I get up & have breakfast with the family, and then make my way out the back door to the workshop. Open up the windows to let in the sounds of the birds, check the river – tide in or out? Coming or going? And then sort the day’s projects – am I cutting these mortises, carving which pieces – most of my concerns are about really great quality oak, sharp tools, and learning from studies of period pieces…
And it goes like that day in & day out. Which hatchet? Are these bowls dry enough for the next step? Ah, I figured out what design to carve for that panel. Then, time to clean up the place and re-set the bench…
All the ordinary stuff is an intrusion – have to go to the dump, the bank, did I pay the bills? I just want to get back to work in the shop. All of that is just like the rest of us.
Every so often, I traipse out into the world to teach a workshop, deliver a lecture/demonstration – that sort of thing. And those audiences are pre-disposed to receive what I have to give. An interest in woodworking, furniture history, spoon carving – they’re already converts. But I know although we have woodworking interests in common, there can and will be things we don’t have in common. And that’s usually fine with me. I can get past a lot of stuff, and concentrate on our shared interests. And it has always been a great kick for me to come together with people I might otherwise not connect to…
This year, it’s been tricky, with the political climate in America and the world. I have specifically stated in many of my classes – “No politics, please.” Just to avoid the issue. Trying to be polite…and it has worked thus far.
Like I said, I can get past a lot of stuff. But…not racism. Not Nazis marching in the streets of 21st-century America. That shit doesn’t fly. Everyone should be against that…none of this “many sides” crap.
So…in the hopefully unlikely event that some of my readers are sympathetic with the KKK, Neo-Nazis, White Supremacists, etc that were on display down in Charlottesville this past weekend, – if that’s you – please un-subscribe to my blog. Please stop following me on Instagram, FB…please don’t come to my classes. Please don’t buy my book, videos, spoons, etc.
I want nothing to do with racists.
Back to oak now.
For the past week or more, I have been watching various posts about the goings-on in Edale, Derbyshire – the 6th annual Spoonfest. https://www.instagram.com/explore/tags/spoonfest/ I was lucky enough to attend last year, and it was a real highlight being there. Spoonfest, put on by Robin Wood and Barn the Spoon and their cadre of interns, volunteers and friends – is the inspiration and model for Greenwood Fest that I help with at Plymouth CRAFT.
so I’ve been thinking a lot about (& carving some) spoons lately. When I teach classes in it, I like to bring along spoons I’ve collected from friends and other carvers for inspiration. I didn’t get too many this year at Greenwood Fest – couldn’t keep up with the shoppers. But a week or so ago, I was at my desk when the email came in about JoJo Wood’s shop update. I didn’t bother scrolling through all the spoons – they could be sold by the time I did that. I found one I liked & ordered it. Got it! The little dipper carved in the handle…
Here’s JoJo’s –
And one I got this spring from Jögge Sundqvist.
Students always ask about where do you get this or that tool, and other references, resources etc for spoon carving. I have compiled a list, nowhere near comprehensive – of links and more that I can recommend. There are other sources out there, but I can’t keep up with them. I’ve given up trying. Formerly, I had posts about tool sources that included Country Workshops – Drew Langsner has now retired, and their tool-selling action is mostly going to be taken up through the Maine Coast Craft School…see below.
The Spoon, the Bowl & the Knife, Wille Sundqvist film. DVD.
Carving Wooden Spoons with Peter Follansbee, Lie-Nielsen DVD.
Jarrod Dahl, The Art of Spoon Carving, Popular Woodworking DVD
Jögge Sundqvist, Carving Swedish Woodenware, Taunton Press DVD, 1988
Wille Sundqvist, Swedish Carving Techniques, Taunton Press.
Barn Carder, aka Barn the Spoon, Spon – a Guide to Spoon Carving and the New Wood Culture.
Coming 2017, Jögge Sundqvist, Slojd in Wood – Lost Art Press
Del & Mary Stubbs, knives, etc. http://pinewoodforge.com/
Hans Karlsson & Svante Djarv tools: axes, knives, etc – through Maine Coast Craft School – http://www.mainecoastcraft.com/soon—tool-sales.html
UK seller for HK tools – http://woodsmithexperience.co.uk/shop/category/hans-karlsson-tools/
Same for Svante Djarv – http://woodsmithexperience.co.uk/shop/category/svante-djarv/
Robin Wood’s spoon carving tools – http://wood-tools.co.uk/
Hans Karlsson website – http://www.klensmide.se/
Nic Westermann, blacksmith; knives, hatchets etc. – http://nicwestermann.co.uk
Jason Lonon -toolmaker http://www.jasonlonon.com/toolmakg.html
Reid Schwartz toolmaker http://www.reidschwartz.net/shop/
I didn’t shoot the whole process of making the crest rail for the bedstead. But at the nearly-last minute I thought to get out the camera. The crest is a separate piece, sitting atop the integral top rail of the headboard.
I carved the design first. Then used a small bowsaw/turning saw to cut out the profile. I shot a couple photos during the clean-up of the sawn shape. The outline I cut with the V-tool as part of the carving. Then sawed pretty close to that.
I used whatever I could get in there with to smooth off the sawn bits and bring the profile to its final shape. A couple of spokeshaves, chisels and even a bent gouge.
Here it is test-fitted. The crest rail is 56″ long and 7″ high at the center.
And a detail:
I chopped two mortises in both the top rail and the crest rail, for floating tenons to help align and secure them. Part of the inspiration for it is the crest of a wainscot chair I have made a few times. I assembled the most recent version of this chair back in April, https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/2017/04/26/wainscot-chair-assembly/
I doubt (well, am damn-near dead certain) that the original chair(s) had no floating tenon between the top rail and crest. I have made and lost some crests by using the typical period construction (nails and sometimes a wooden pin between the parts) – so for the bedstead I have used what you see pictured in the chair photo here.
I keep showing up on the second-hand market! I started making furniture between 1978-80. That’s closing in on 40 years…which is a lot of furniture. During the past few years, I have heard of/seen a number of chairs I made showing up in antique/collectibles shops, auctions, and even one at…well, you’ll see. Here’s a couple examples –
This continuous arm settee I made back in 1992. A friend bought it not too many years ago, along with a windsor rocking chair, in a house-moving/divorce sale (I think). I wish I had known, I’d love to have this settee – I doubt I could make it again…but I know it’s appreciated where it now resides.
This next one I did buy, and sold again. I had it in my shop for years, a fellow called me up one day asking if he could buy it & he did. Then a couple years later, another friend called me to say one of my carved chairs was in an auction in Maine. I eventually got it through the auction, and called a couple who has collected several of my carved pieces. I offered them this chair at a reduced price, and they said they’d love to, but were out of room. An hour later, they called back & said they made space.wainscot chair
Another wainscot had a slightly sad story to it. I made it at the museum as an award (I was the awards department for quite a while) – for our former co-worker Karin Goldstein. Sadly, Karin died quite young, from cancer. Just shy of 50 maybe. When she died, she had no local family, and some of her stuff ended up in a local shop. Another friend saw this, called to confirm it was my work, and ended up buying it for his wife, a good friend of ours, and of Karin’s. So a semi-happy ending.
This week I got a note from another friend who found a chair “made by the guy at Plimoth Plantation” – well, sort of. I was there for 20 years, but I made this chair well before that – I’d say late 1980s, maybe into 1990/91. She got it for $45. Even I could afford that!
The last one in this batch has the best story. Found at the swap shop in the Hingham, Massachusetts town dump! $5.00. A friend got it after some tussling with other dump-shoppers, and gave it to us.
I made a lot of chairs, but way more carved boxes – where are my carved boxes? Maybe they’ll be out on the 2nd-hand market in a few more years…
I’ve been working on oak furniture lately, but here’s a few spoons I have either finished, or just re-photographed. Back in May I finally took a plunge with my spoon-decoration. Being inspired by a visit to the Museum of Fine Arts’ Greek pottery galleries; I decided to use my furniture-carving ideas on a small scale – the spoon handles. Not too small a scale, some of these spoons are the largest I have made in ages.
The minute I struck the gouges on the first one – I knew I was headed in a new direction spoon-wise. Funny after all these years to branch out a bit…
Almost all are cherry crooks. There’s a few crooks left out there, waiting for me to get at ’em…
If you’d like to order a spoon, leave a comment and we can use paypal for payment and shipping arrangements. Prices include shipping in US – further afield, there will be additional charges.
thanks for your support. Back to oak now….
July spoon #1, large cherry crook
L: 15 3/8″ W: 3 3/4″
$165 includes shipping in US.
July spoon 02, large cherry crook
L: 13″ W: 4″
$165 includes shipping in US.
July spoon, large cherry crook #3
L: 13″ W: 3 1/2″
$150 includes shipping in US
July spoon #04
L: 9 3/4″ W: 3″
$135 includes shipping in US
July spoon 05 SOLD
L: 11 1/2″ W: 3″
$135 includes shipping in US
July spoon 06, birch; one of my typically weird-shaped spoons. I often find these sweeping, curving crooks and insist there’s a spoon in them. There is, but…it’s an unusual spoon.
L: 11 1/4″ W: 3″
$120 includes shipping in US
July spoon 07; SOLD
cherry crook from sapwood. Back to a smaller scale.
L: 7 1/2″ W: 1 3/4″
$70 includes shipping in US
July spoon 08; SOLD
cherry; radially-split cooking spoon.
L: 10 1/4″ W: 3″
$85 includes shipping in US
The bedstead’s headboard is moving along. Once I had the first free-hand panel carved, it was easy to carve the 2nd one. After marking out the margins and a vertical centerline, I used a compass to take a few markers – here noting where the S-scrolls at the bottom corner hit the vertical margins.
Then I chalked in a rough outline for that shape. This panel, like many from this grouping (and all 4 in this headboard) have a stylized urn at the bottom center of the panel. That shape I marked out with a square & awl to locate its top & bottom, and marked its width from the vertical centerline. The S-scrolls then fit between the urn and the bottom corner/margin.
My camera-boy (Daniel, 11 yrs old) came by & used the Ipad to shoot some Instragram stuff…here’s some leftovers. Carving this bottom corner S-scroll, in two snippets. (home-video caliber – no edits, shaky, etc – but worth a look.)
there are related S-scrolls across the top section of the panel. These reach from the corners to the vertical centerline. These top and bottom sections are the first things I block in with the V-tool.
then comes the stuff between. I sketch the vein in the larger leaf, it reaches from the centerline to the margin.
Then I carry on, doing first one side, then the other.
The whole thing is about filling in the spaces, and in this case, blending one shape to lay against another.
Here’s the V-tool outline almost all done.
Next I take a #5 gouge, in this case about 1″ wide or slightly less, and chop out between the V-tool lines, to begin removing the background.
Some beveling, some shaping. With a narrow #5.
People ask about the background punch. Mild steel, filed to leave these pyramidal points.
accents with a few #7 gouges.
And a narrow chisel. Bevel towards the waste when chopping like this.
Then pare down to the chopped mark.
Bevel the back, first with a hatchet.
Then 2 planes. Feather down to nothing.
Here’s the headboard thus far. There will be plain panels below this, and a carved crest rail above. And of course, two vertical posts.
I have several days, even weeks maybe, to work on oak furniture now. Some carving yesterday & this morning. here’s a quick photo tour of cutting one lozenge/diamond shape, with tulips in it.
After laying out a diamond shape on horizontal & vertical centerlines, I strike an inner diamond with a small gouge, approximately a #7 sweep. Maybe it’s a 1/4″ wide. Just connect the dots, hitting the vertical & horizontal centerlines with the corners of the gouge.
Then I use the same gouge to “echo” this making an outline around it, these do not connect.
A more deeply curved gouge now comes off these outlines, beginning to form the undersides of the flowers.
Then the same gouge reverses, making an “S”-curve going out to the border. Or just about out to the border…
When you repeat this step on all four quadrants, your negative shape becomes quite prominent – it reminds me of those Goldfish snacks small children eat –
Now a larger gouge, approximately a #8 – reverses again, forming the tops of the lower flower petals.
Then a #7 about 3/4″ wide does more connect-the-dots – reaching from where I left off to the borders. that’s the whole outline. This one is quite small, the piece of wood is 6″ wide, and there’s a 3/4″ margin on both edges. You can use the same pattern on a panel, then some of this outline is cut with a v-tool instead of struck with the gouges.
Then I cut out the background. In this case, it was tight quarters in there, so I used a couple different tools, depending on where I had to get..
The end result. about 15 minutes of carving for the lozenge/diamond. This is going to be one of three muntins for the footboard of a bedstead I’m making.
Here’s the top rail I started back at the Lie-Nielsen Open House…they always show up better once they’re oiled.
Yesterday I started painting a desk box I have underway; but found out I was out of red pigment (iron oxide) – ordered some, and did the black for starters.
For a number of reasons, I was looking through some photo files here tonight. During the past year I have had a couple of chances to revisit some old favorite piece of oak furniture, and saw a couple related fragments for the first time. There is a group of chests and boxes made in Dedham and Medfield, Massachusetts during the 17th century. Years ago they were the focus of a study by Robert St. George, culminating in his article “Style and Structure in the Joinery of Dedham and Medfield, Massachusetts, 1635-1685” Winterthur Portfolio; vol. 13, American Furniture and Its Makers (1979), pp. 1-46. You can join JSTOR and read it here – https://www.jstor.org/stable/1180600?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents
But like all oak of the period, our friend Robert Trent was all over them too – thus several examples were featured in the exhibition New England Begins at the Museum of Fine Arts too. (Boy, did that set come down in price – https://www.amazon.com/New-England-Begins-Seventeenth-Century/dp/0878462104 -If you don’t have it, and you like the furniture and decorative arts of the period, get it. Used to be way more than $90…)
This chest is in a private collection, I had it years ago to make a new oak lid for it. Typical for this group, 3 carved panels, moldings on the framing parts. Not great work, but real nice. Black paint in the backgrounds, originally bright red on the oak, dyed with logwood or brazilwood dye.
This one was made for the Fairbanks house in Dedham, was illustrated in a late 19th/early 20th century article about that house. For many years it was MIA – then the Fairbanks Family was able to buy it at auction either late 1990s or early 2000s…I forget which. Has the only oddball center panel. (see the detail, top of the blog post) Refinished.
A reader sent me these photos once, shot at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NY. These boxes are often pretty tall – maybe 9″ high. Pine lids and bottom, oak box. I made a copy of this one for a descendant of one of the joiners credited with this work, John Thurston of Dedham and elsewhere.
Now it gets really wiggy. I cropped this shot from an overall of a chest in a museum collection. Notice the panels on the left & right. They look good, right?
Here’s one – then compare it to its cousin below…
The other. Amazing what your eyes & brain can tolerate and still accept as a repeating pattern. I’ve carved this design a lot, and I can carve a panel about 10″ x 14″ or so in under an hour. I bet this guy was flying right along. Or old and infirm. Or somehow incapacitated, or compromised. Or something. Notice too the holes in the corners where I presume the panel was nailed down to hold it still for carving. I nail mine to a back board, and fasten that to the bench with holdfasts. That way I don’t have to move the holdfasts – they’re out of the way.
A related, but dead-simple version. Why all that blank margin? No applied molding, the framing is beveled around the panel. Ahh, everyone who knows why is dead.
These next two are the lynch pins for the attribution to John Houghton, joiner. These are fragments from a meetinghouse in Medfield from 1655/6. The town records cite a payment made to Houghton for work on the desk, a table and more. The “deske” in the records is the pulpit. These panels are believed to be part of that pulpit. This panel is about 6 5/8″ x 14″.
a detail of the rectangular panel.
This diamond-shaped panel is nailed to a piece of oak that looks like some framing stock – but it tapers in width. Tradition says that these pieces were saved when the 1655/6 meeting house was demolished in 1706.
One more – this one’s in Nutting’s books, now at Wadsworth Atheneum. “Refreshed” paint, or completely re-painted. I forget which. Really nicely carved.
I am working on another desk box; an oak box with a slanted lid. Mainly I need this for the photos, for an article in the works. The annoying part is that the photos I needed to shoot were the slots/dadoes/what-have-yous on the inside faces of the box’s end boards. But…I don’t like to do the carving after cutting voids into the board. So first, I had to carve them.
This time, I made up the design, drawing from my research (and others’) into the varied carvings coming out of Devon, England. The same style appeared in Ipswich, Massachusetts during the last 3rd of the 17th century. I carve this stuff more than any other grouping, mostly because of its variety. Once you learn the “vocabulary” it’s easy to make up designs willy-nilly.
The desk box ends are weird shapes though. Took a little sketching with some chalk, and some wiping away with a damp cloth – but I got something I like. So then the front board is simple enough – a plain ol’ rectangle. There are three boxes from Devon that seem to be the same carver, or the same general pattern anyway. One of these I photographed back when I worked at Plimoth Plantation, the other two are from a website I subscribe to, Marhamchurch Antiques – http://www.marhamchurchantiques.com/ Paul Fitzsimmons there is a magnet for this Devon/Exeter oak furniture.
I’m going to carve the box front at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston on Sunday July 9. from noon to 3pm. I’ll be demonstrating the carving, and some joinery and other oak-y stuff. http://www.mfa.org/programs/gallery-activities-and-tours/early-american-furniture-carving
Here are a few details from the Devon boxes that were the inspiration for my sketch – (the first two from Marhamchurch Antiques, thanks Paul, the 3rd is my photo).
This one had a later escutcheon on it, covering up the pattern. I took it off, so we could see the shape. At that time, I had never seen the previous two.
But before I go to Boston to work on Sunday, I’m off to Maine for the Open House at Lie-Nielsen Friday & Saturday. https://www.lie-nielsen.com/hand-tool-events/USA/146
These events are legendary; the lineup this summer is killer. I try to do this show every July…it’s like old home week, seeing all my friends from the hand-tool circus. I guess I was there last summer – found my picture on their Facebook page –
This time I’ll mostly be carving oak for a bedstead I’m working on. But I have a talk on Saturday about green woodworking, so I’ll do some spoon carving too. See you there I hope.
I spent some time yesterday hewing and carving out a bowl from a too-large-for-a-spoon crook. Cherry. It was great fun, so now it will dry and perhaps I’ll even finish this one. I dug out another that is now dried, and worked that along a bit too. I have collected a range of bowl-carving gouges, and recently I re-purposed an unfinished box with a drawer to house them.
The box is from a few years ago, and involves much conjecture. Not my favorite way to build furniture. Tulip poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera). It’s about 8″ high, 10″ wide and 15″ long.
Here is the sliding lid slud back a bit…
Inside this section is a cross-piece with slots to fit individual gouges. this piece is just friction-fit into the box right now.
Here you see there are two end boards nearest the camera – the carved one slides upward to access the drawer below the box compartment. It has a tongue/rabbet at its back face – riding in a slot cut on the inside faces of the box sides. A little hollow gouged out gives a place to grab it to lift it up.
here is that piece removed, showing the bottom of the box compartment, and the drawer below.
Now a view showing the gouges in the box and those underneath in the drawer. No divider in the drawer. (yet, or maybe never)
requisite drawer detail.
Unfinished chip carving. it’s all over the box…some finished, some not.
someone will have fun when I’m long gone trying to figure out what happened here. Why was this box not finished, but it looks like it was used…
If I get to make another of these sort of boxes, I’d like to see an original first. One thing I’d change is I’d plane the stock just a bit thinner. This is 3/4″ standard issue boards – I’d aim for 5/8″ thick. this seems clunky. Part of why I gave up on it. But it makes a nice place to keep the bowl gouges…