I have a funny job. 8 months out of the year, I answer questions as I work in the shop. You tend to hear some of them over & over again. And again. I’m going to answer some of them here from time to time. Here’s the first one. 

How did I get started in this kind of woodworking, hand tools, green wood?

It’s not a simple answer like “I served an apprenticeship” or anything along those lines. When I was younger, I inherited from my father a tablesaw, drill press, router, jointer, lathe, etc. – all electric. All 1950s & early ‘60s vintage. I tried to learn something of how to use them. Fumbled around a bit, until I saw a 1978 issue of Fine Woodworking magazine. In it were two articles that somehow struck me just right. One was an excerpt from Make a Chair from a Tree, by (then) John Alexander. The other was an article by Drew Langsner about cleaving wood from a log. I ordered Alexander’s book and tracked down a copy of Drew’s then-new book Country Woodcraft (Rodale Press, 1978)

Country Woodcraft (1978)

That was the beginning of my real woodworking education. Two years later, I went down to Marshall, N.C. for my first-ever visit to Country Workshops, the school run by Drew and his wife Louise. I was not a stellar student that year by any stretch of the imagination. The wood was not the only “green” thing around, let’s leave it at that.

Readers of this blog know the relationship that eventually came about between Alexander & I – its importance I have already written about. But the same is true of Drew’s impact on my career. I see him as the unsung hero of green woodworking…for over 30 years he’s been teaching class after class and studying & exploring numerous aspects of woodcraft.

Drew Langsner teaching riving

I went back to Drew & Louise’s place many times between about 1985 and and 1994. My first class there was in a barn shared with the animals. I seem to remember Alexander standing on a hay bale to write on a blackboard. Over the years the facility grew and improved through a strong commitment on the Langsners’ part.

Drew’s Country Woodcraft is a neat book, I dug out my copy last week to look it over. Many things in there I never made; I have no use thus far for a Spike-tooth A-harrow, nor a drag. But this might be the first place I saw a spring pole lathe…and I certainly first saw spoon carving in this book.

Wille Sundqvist hewing a bowl at Country Workshops

The Logbuilder’s Handbook chronicles how they built their log house. I have the book, read it cover-to-cover, but never did any hewing of timbers. I aim to tackle some hewing this winter.

A Logbuilder’s Handbook

After my first trip in 1980, I shook a few demons for a couple of years before I returned in 1985 to try my hand at timber framing in oak. There I met Daniel O’Hagan from Pennsylvania, who became a great influence on me as well. From then on, I remember waiting each winter for the Country Workshops newsletter/catalog to come in the mail , so I could see what classes were being offered & start making plans for the summer’s trip to N.C.

log building at Country Workshops

I went again & again. Timber framing a few times, Windsor chairs with Curtis Buchanan, basketry, spoon carving with both Jogge & Wille Sundqvist, coopering with Drew..

coopering students, maybe 1989 or so


woodenware, early 1990s

For a while I tried each class they offered just about. Drew went on to write many books and articles, – his Green Woodworking is a great book and the Chairmaker’s Workshop is a very detailed exploration into how Drew makes several styles of chairs that have been the focal point of Country Workshops, starting with Alexander’s first class there in 1979.

I spent the summer of 1988 living and working with Drew & Louise. What an experience. The years kept going by. Making great quality tools available became another focus for Drew and Country Workshops, as they started to import blacksmith-made hatchets, gouges, etc. Similarly, there was a series of woodcraft videos, one on spoons & bowls by Jogge Sundqvist, then Drew’s first woodworking teacher Ruedi Kohler, the Swiss cooper. They did another excellent one about Bengt Lidstrom making hewn bowls in Sweden. All well worth having.

By 1994, I got a job. That was great in some ways, my museum work has been another very exciting chapter in my work, but it also changed my travel inclinations for about 10 years. In that time, my travels were about research, studying oak furniture, lecturing, etc. So no time really for woodworking classes. I kept in touch with Drew & Louise through the mail, then email…always with an eye on what was happening down there.

I finally made it back there when the twins were just toddlers, and have been several times in the past 6 years or so.

the new barn

A couple of years ago, I was a student in Jogge Sundqvist’s class, and wrote about that here: http://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/2010/08/31/one-of-the-most-exciting-classes-ive-been-to/


It’s great to be back, and I am really looking forward to August 2013 when I will again teach how to rive, plane and carve oak to make a 17th-century box. If you have been to Langsner’s you don’t need me to tell you about it, if you haven’t – here’s your chance. Don’t miss out. Take my class, take a chairmaking class, spoons & bowls, or any of the others. Just get there. Here’s the website http://countryworkshops.org/ sign up for the newsletter, sign up for their catalog/class listings. Get on the mailing list so it comes to your house, just like the old days.

Drew Langsner

Here’s Drew’s website, http://drewlangsner.com/ you can see the sort of wooden ware he’s interested in making lately. To me, it harks back to his days as a sculpture/art student. And while you’re at it, here once again is the link to Louise’s blog about her cooking & gardening. I know I point to this stuff a lot, but we have some new readers here. So bear with me. http://louiselangsner.wordpress.com/

I really can’t state strongly enough just how important Drew’s work has been to mine. Getting to know Drew and Louise has been one of the best parts of my adult life. I can say without reservation, without them, I would not be where I am today. No bones about it. They literally made me feel a part of their family, and have been so generous over the years. See you in N.C.

Trent sent a note tonight about a joined chest with 2 drawers coming up for sale soon in New York. 

It’s an old favorite of mine, made in Braintree, Massachusetts between 1650-1700. Look:

braintree chest w drawers

Here’s the link to the auction - http://www.doylenewyork.com/asp/fullCatalogue.asp?salelot=12AM02+++313+&refno=++907166


In an article of agreement in connection with William Savell, Sr.’s 1669 will, the sons of William Savell, Sr. agree that the widow, Sarah (Mullins Gannett) Savell shall have “…her whole estate returned to her that she brought to Our ffather for her own use & to dispose of forever with a chest with drawers & a Cubbert…”  

the distinction here is “chest with drawers” – plural. Most of this group had a single drawer below the chest compartment. 

Back when I was doing the legwork research chasing these chests down, I saw two examples that had 2 drawers instead of the more typical single drawer. One of those is now in the Chipstone collection in Milwaukee, WI. This might be the other one, or now a third. I did see a piece of 20th-century homemade furniture that incorporated two drawers from one of these. That piece descended in the Hayward family from old Braintree. 

The article from years ago is:

Peter Follansbee and John Alexander, “Seventeenth-Century Joinery from Braintree, Massachusetts: the Savell Shop Tradition” in American Furniture, ed., Luke Beckerdite, (Hanover, N.H.: University Press of New England for the Chipstone Foundation, 1996) pp. 81-104

You can look it up on Chipstone’s website, but often you don’t get all the pictures there - http://www.chipstone.org/framesetAFintro.html

Fun stuff. 

[i].) for the will and inventory for William Savell Sr. see Suffolk County Registry of Probate (SCRP) #501, Massachusetts State Archives, Boston. 

red tailed hawk backlit & leaving


I haven’t had a chance lately to sift through some of the Jennie Alexander tools I have left for sale. Had a little time yesterday to get  some photos taken. Now I have posted some braces and a few odds and ends today. First come, first etc. Shipping’s on you. Any questions, email me. If you want any of these, leave a comment, or send an email to me at Peter.Follansbee@verizon.net




After selling a bunch of tools, how about looking at some in use? Someone asked about the planes I use. I searched the blog & it seems I haven’t written specifically about them. so here goes.    

A good starting point. This is a German plane Jennie Alexander “restored” – new front tote. new rear turned section behind the iron. Also ground the iron to a curve, so it functions like a fore plane, or scrub plane.

altered iron

I’m aware of discussion about the length of a fore plane in the 17th century; most folks feel it was longer than these German style planes. Might be so, but I favor this size plane for my roughing-out work.

Alexander got me turned onto these planes years ago, & I have collected a few of them for use in my shop. I keep a couple of them around, some ground this way, and some I keep as smooth planes.

Here is a Dutch “gerfshaaf” JA sent me. I learned the Dutch name from Gerrit van der Sterre’s Four Centuries of Dutch Planes and planemakers (Primavera Press, Leiden 2001) – I don’t use this one, but it and an 18th-century one I once studied were the inspiration for my home-made fore plane below.

PF Dutch style plane


Here is a view of two of my everyday planes – the Dutch style one just shown and one I based on a plane from the Mary Rose shipwreck.

PF planes

The short one is made from a very fast-grown ash tree. Its sole is 6″ long, and its iron, made by Mark Atchison, is 2″ wide. The Mary Rose type plane is itself a wreck. It’s birch I think. 22″ long, iron also by Mark, is 2 1/4″ wide. Big knot right where it counts, lead to a split. Nailed the split shut. but I have used it a lot for about 10 years or more.

I also use antique planes a lot. American and British – when I am doing a lot of stock preparation, I like to keep two jointer planes set up, one for a heavier shaving and one for a lighter shaving. That way I am not adjusting the planes all day, just picking up one or the other depending on what task is at hand. This plane is un-marked, but never had a double-iron, or chipbreaker. Cracked handle, all but worthless to a collector. Great for what I need. I made the wedge back when I got the plane. The one it came with was beyond repair. I think it’s over 26″ long. Iron about 2 1/2″ wide. Beech.

single iron jointer

Here’s one I have been using a lot in the past few years, another jointer. Made by Sargent Co in the 19th century. It has a double iron. 26″ long, 2 1/2″ wide iron.

Sargent plane

One more I often use, a bit less now than formerly. A “razee” plane, made by Thomas Appleton in Chelsea Massachusetts, 2nd half of the nineteenth century.


razee jointer

where did that term come from? The OED says this about razee:

Naut. To reduce (a ship) in height by the removal of the upper deck or decks.


To cut down; to reduce. Obs 

as in, 1815   ‘T. Tarpaulin’ Paddy Hew 107   In a trice I’ll razee you—you long, long splice.

1820   Deb. Congress U.S. 28 Jan. (1855) 1008   It would not follow that they should have power to razee a State..by depriving the admitted State of equal rights.
1837   F. Marryat Snarleyyow (ed. 2) I. v. 43   He was like a man razeed or cut down.
Razee planes are often ascribed to ships’ carpenters; and in fact the Mary Rose plane I semi-copied would fit that category, its back end is lowered from the area around the mouth. But that predates the OED use of the term by 300 years almost. A nice plane regardless. I like the way your back hand is down low. I think it helps in pushing…
so these are some of the planes I use a lot. There’s more. Lots more.


First, I went to the beach.


Huge rafts of scoters were coming through. Many will stay the winter. There were several hundred scoters, and twice as many cormorants flew in from Duxbury bay too.


I was not the only one looking for birds. This peregrine falcon was around yesterday too – I saw it strafe the shorebirds through heavy fog. Today it sat on a windmill out at a house on the beach.

peregrine falcon

Then I posted these tools for sale. Email or comment, and send me a mailing address. I can invoice you w paypal or you can send a check. My address is:

Peter Follansbee

3 Landing Rd

Kingston, MA 02364

go. thanks.




Marples chisels new


I have a few chisels for sale tonight… and there will be more tools soon. These are garden variety, nothing earth-shattering, but chisels in great shape. As usual, you can email or comment to order, in this case, be pretty specific because these are generally  similar…so tell me size make, etc.

as before, if you are looking for more tools than I have, here’s my recommendations

I have recently bought tools from Josh Clark http://www.hyperkitten.com/tools/ForSale/  and Patrick Leach http://www.supertool.com/. Also Ed Lebetkin down at the Woodwright’s School, Ed has no website that I am aware of, but if you are down at Roy’s school, then you know the drill. http://www.woodwrightschool.com/. Another source is Martin Donnelly’s auctions http://www.mjdtools.com/auction/auct_main.htm. And on & on.


Here’s the page for these chisels.


One thing Jennie Alexander knows is drawknives for chairmaking. After a brief stint at turned chairs many many years ago, JA switched to shaving chairs at the shaving horse. Like this:

I don’t know the date when the turned chairs were done, & shaved chairs begun, but it pre-dates the 1978 release of Make a Chair from a Tree. And all the students (me included in 1980) made them that way…

When Tom Lie-Nielsen was researching drawknives to make for sale, he got a hold of Alexander. Jennie sent some Witherby 8″ knives up to Maine for testing – and now look at the drawknives Lie-Nielsen makes. They are based on the Witherby drawknife courtesy of JA. 

We have a small batch of drawknives for sale, these are not your ordinary antique clunkers, neglected in barns and garages for decades. These tools are in great shape. Tuned & sharpened for the most part…so go get the DVD on chairmaking, grab one of these knives and off you go….

the video is here:   http://www.greenwoodworking.com/MACFATVideo

the drawknives are here:   http://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/tools-for-sale-drawknives/  or the menu at the top of the blog

part of the pile of tools



Imagine the situation – I cooked up the idea to sell Alexander’s tools here. I offered to do the work – shooting the tools, writing the posts, researching the histories and pricing. Post office, etc. I get a small percentage and I am not complaining. the problem is that I get to sift through the boxes & boxes of tools that have arrived to see what’s inside. Each day I open the boxes, I see something & think – “wow – I don’t have one of these..maybe I should keep this one.”   – it’s tool lust for sure. So tonight I am putting some things up here so you folks can help me resist the urge to fill my already over-crowded shop with even more tools.

Go. get some tools. please.   http://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/misc-tools-scrapers-planes/

NOW – for a serious part. Jennie & I are quite pleased to offer these tools here. We have spoken many times over the years about what to do with these tools. The default was going to be they would come to me & Nathaniel Krausse, who has been a fixture in Jennie’s shop since I got my job at Plimoth back in the mid-1990s. But when we first discussed the tools’ future, the idea of a blog did not exist.

Lo & behold, an audience has come to us from out of the blue & we are grateful for the attention & enthusiasm. So we came up with the idea to offer the tools to you folks before trying to sell them out in the world. Your response has confirmed our gut feelings. We thank you. If for any reason, someone gets a tool that they decide isn’t what they expected, or are otherwise dis-satisfied, send it back to me & I will refund your purchase price. No questions asked. I do not want to be a tool dealer, this is just a preemptive house-cleaning. When these tools finally wind down, then I am out of this racket.

I know the posts lately are thin on content, and heavy on commerce. When the tools disperse, there will be the concentrated attention back to shop-work. & birds.




The tool sale continues. With the wooden planes and other tools closely associated with how I work, I have a pretty good idea about value, condition etc when it comes time to post Jennie Alexander’s tools here. Like most of us, at an early point in my woodworking career I had a bunch of Stanley tools. My father worked in a hardware store from 1942-1975. So there were lots of them around when I was growing up.

But I haven’t really used them in years. Sold some decades ago when I was broke. Thus offering this first batch of Stanley tools from Alexander I am out of my reach to some extent. I spent a lot of time on the web, just like any of us, researching these tools. There, prices are pretty varied. So I priced these somewhat based on what I found on the web, and on the condition of the tools. Not sure if these tools appeal to the readers here; but we’ll find out. I dread going to Ebay to sell them. what a headache. But if this doesn’t work then maybe that’s the next move. Because there are lots more Stanley tools coming. Spokeshaves, lots of spokeshaves. Here’s the first batch.

email me or write in the comments if you’d like one of these. Paypal of check is the way to go. Shipping’s on you, but these will be easier than shipping those jointer planes last  week!   http://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/some-stanley-tools/


Stanleys plus one

JA H&R011 stamp

Once again, thanks to all who have responded so enthusiastically to the yard sale of these tools. You’re helping two people clean out some clutter….and getting nice tools to boot. 

This batch of timely tools is mostly molding planes, the bulk of them are hollows & rounds. Mixed pieces, no pairs, etc. 

Once you’ve read Matt Bickford’s book, then you can get going with planes like these. http://www.lostartpress.com/Mouldings_in_Practice_p/bk-mip.htm

here’s the link. 


Send an email or comment if you’d like any of them. I’ll be away from the computer, but will just go by time stamped on incoming mail…first-come, etc. Shipping is extra. Pay w paypal or check. 


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