When I left Plimoth Plantation in June, I wrote that I would be pursuing other aspects of woodworking beyond 17th-century joined oak furniture. But I also laid out that I wasn’t giving up the oak stuff, just adding to it. Bowls, spoons, baskets, weirdo boxes (coming soon) and more…

test only a test

And I have had the best summer ever, picking away at aspects of woodworking both old and new to me…but now it’s time to bring back to the blog some joined oak furniture, carved all over.

I dug my “real” workbench out of storage, and some tools and borrowed a work-space from my friend Ted Curtin – who thankfully almost never makes joined furniture anymore, (he’s a school teacher now – that’s good, because he’s better than me at oak stuff!)

Today I shuffled some stuff around, and will start in soon on shooting carved boxes, chests and more for an upcoming book on joinery.

Between travels that is…

This fall I’ll be teaching a class at Heartwood in making one of my carved oak boxes; and this might be the best shot yet at this class. The class size is small, about 6 students. As of right now, we are short of that number – we could use a couple more, so you could sign up and get in on a chance to delve into this subject in greater-than-usual detail. The class is Sept 22-26. The fall is my favorite time of year… 

We’ll be riving, carving and assembling boxes such as this:

carved box 2011

carved box 2011

 

Maybe this is the class to finally fit a till inside their box!

till

till

 

The setting is out of this world – I often get asked “when are you teaching in Massachusetts?” and this is my one-and-only right now. But it’s not eastern-MA with its congestion, noise, strip-mall mentality; this is bucolic western, far-western Massachusetts. It’s at the Heartwood School for the Homebuilding Crafts in Washington, Massachusetts. Those of us out in eastern MA have to look Washington up, because  we’ve never heard of it. It’s that nice. It’s all uphill for me, Washington in in the Berkshires, near the highest point of I-90 east of South Dakota. I live on the Jones River, about 15 feet above sea level.

I was a student in a timber-framing class there in 1984 – Will Beemer dug out a photo to prove it. Bottom center, head down, arms up. skinny, scruffy me. 

PF at Heartwood

Here’s more about the school – it’s quite a place.

http://www.heartwoodschool.com/index.html

Here’s the photo tour of the place: 

https://plus.google.com/photos/104180060919131710792/albums/5964402473095440321?banner=pwa

Fall in the Berkshires – I’m bringing my binoculars too. Come join us.

 

 

It quickly became apparent that we needed to hustle if we were to get anywhere in this class. Roy found a way to speed things up.

I once had a t-shirt I got at an Arlo Guthrie concert that read “we know it’s stupid, that’s why we’re here.” goodness only knows what it meant, but a similar notion must have run through the minds of these students -a very good-natured group of would-be joiners who came down to Roy Underhill’s school to attempt to make a joined chest in a week. 10 students means 10 chests. each chest with about 25 pieces of riven oak in it. Plus extras in case something goes wrong…

more oak 2

Roy & I dreamed up this idiotic course, “let’s make a joined chest in a week!” And we booked it & it filled up. well, it became a reality (of sorts) and on the first day, these students split, crosscut, & rived out over 200 piece of oak for said chests. That’s a lot of oak. Here’s the beginning of just one small pile of parts:

growing piles of oak

 

We tried to sort and count them as we went, but it was doomed.

more oak

 

We need over 70 panels; about 8″ wide by 12-14″ long. SEVENTY!

panels

We scurried back to the woods to get more of this amazingly straight-grained oak. what a tree!

cross cut 2

I don’t know who this is, but he was not alone.

creature

Thankfully, we found that with proper supervision, it only took Kat a short while to bust out all the oak. it’s not that hard, really.

it's not that hard really

 

Next, they plane all the long rails, layout the joinery, chop mortises, plow grooves & cut tenons.

I usually just write about a few topics here, over & over. Green woodworking, carved oak furniture, spoons, my kids, and birds. Tonight is no exception. It’s May, and that means spring migration is full-tilt. This morning I went out & saw several new arrivals, including this yellow warbler.

yellow warbler 2

At the end of the week, I head up to Maine for 7 days – principally to Lie-Nielsen’s classroom to teach my first-ever course in spoon carving on the 10th & 11th. This one’s teeming with students, so we added one for October 4th & 5th. It’s no coincidence that I have a class there in May – I try to fit in a trip there each spring to catch the birds as they arrive in their nesting grounds. It’s good birding up there. The woodworking is great too. This is one of four trips I’m making up there this season, two more in July; the open house on July 11th & 12th, and an oak carving class the following weekend, July 19th & 20th. At this rate, I should just move up to Maine!

Bowl of March spoons

Bowl of March spoons

ovenbird in Maine July 2013

ovenbird in Maine July 2013

I briefly mentioned that I had set up a bench and some tools here at home. That’s a real throwback for me, I haven’t had any bench work at my residence in a long time. It’s been hard to get any continuity going, but recently I did mostly finish my first frame-and-panel of the season. I had made a few of these last fall, and people snatched them up, leading up to Xmas. I hope to keep making them, depends on how many of you want them. I’m all set for them, my kitchen is all done above the counters, not sure I’ll tackle the lower cabinets. They’re fun to do, and are a good use of some leftover panel stock. I’ve made them as custom work before, based on some chest panels with dates and/or initials carved as part of the design, I’ll post this one on the blog soon, for $500.

frame & panel

The frame-and-panel project is what we’ll tackle for my class at Bob Van Dyke’s Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking on Columbus Day weekend in October. http://www.schoolofwoodworking.com/woodworking-classes.html#Speciality_Weekend_Classes

 

One last thing for now. I frequently discuss my connection with Drew & Louise Langsner’s woodworking school Country Workshops. If you are new here, you might want to take some time to view their website. While you’re there, sign up for the free newsletter. This most recent one had some great hand-drawn notes & sketches by Dan Musick, a student in Drew’s spoon & bowl class. It’s a PDF you can download, I stink at taking notes when I’m the student, so these are much appreciated. The newsletter often has great snippets of green woodworking techniques. http://countryworkshops.org/newsletter/newsletter/newsletter.html

In addition, I just found out that Country Workshops has uploaded to their Youtube page the complete videos they shot of Ruedi Kohler’s Swiss cooperage, and Bengt Lidstrom making his renowned hewn bowls in Sweden. I have always encouraged people to buy these, now you can see them yourself. Buying them helps support Country Workshops, but you’ll see for yourself what great craft videos these are. Not step-by-step instructional videos, but instead you’re watching an absolute master in each case, working their craft. go follow this link.  https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCObHW-UmOY_72PU1nQNsiiw/videos

As you might have noticed, not much woodworking going on around here. That’s because prior to today, my shop looked like this:

mostly packed

mostly packed

Today it’s well on its way to empty. Now, all that boxed-up stuff, plus my lathe & joiner’s bench are all stashed in a storage unit. My search for my own personal shop has not taken off – I had a great lead that didn’t pan out. I decided rather than jump into something that might not be suitable, I’d stash the bulk of my stuff, move some stuff to my basement, and then get back to the search. So I have spent a great deal of time sorting & packing, both in the shop & at home to empty the basement. The museum begins restoration of the building in a couple of weeks.

So this closes the chapter on me in that particular shop. I’m still at the museum, but I’ll be in temporary quarters. That’s part of what led to me deciding to try to find my own workspace. The other part is I find more & more I want to explore some non-17th-century work. I have lots of ideas; carved bowls, John Brown-style chairs (I never finished my one attempt), and baskets too. That’s part of why I fixed up my shaving horse. I hope to use it more again…

Here’s another type of chair I want to make:

Winterthur bretstuhl

I made one maybe 30 years ago almost. It was based on one Drew Langsner made in Switzerland.  Now I have two great pieces of walnut for the seat & back, and shaved some hickory heartwood legs. So that might be one of my first projects when I get the bench set up here at home.

I spent 20 years in that shop. It really was the absolute best part of my life. I met my wife there. And many many great friends, some of you know the blog Blue Oak – most of those guys worked with us at Plimoth for years.

For my last woodworking project in that version of the joiner’s shop, I carved a sign to go in my future personal shop – thinking along the lines of “if you build it they will come” – only in this case, it’s “make the sign, then get a shop to go with it.” Way back when, I saw this approach work for someone that my friend Heather hired when we were picture framers. His name was Sluggo, & he made godawful posters & album covers for a band that did not exist yet. But lo & behold, he eventually got the band and the rest is history…he’s a renowned punk musician in San Francisco. So this is my Slugg0-inspired shop sign. Thanks D.C.

PF sign

I went out with Paula & Marie again to see the snowy owls. One is very cooperative – the other stayed off by itself in the dunes.

snowy

links -

Slugg0 – http://www.thegrannies.com/news.htm (I can’t recommend clicking that link!) But Sluggo is/was great fun.

http://blueoakblog.wordpress.com/

http://heatherneill.com/studio-blog/

Enough of that holiday stuff, time for some woodworking. First class of the year for me is at Bob Van Dyke’s place in the wilds of Connecticut. Saturday & Sunday, February 8th & 9th, 2014 I’ll be at the Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking in Manchester, CT to teach a 2-day class in carving 17th-century style patterns in oak. Bob’s school gets an astounding array of teachers and students, the focus on “period” furniture is first-rate.

we’ll have oak, we’ll have carving tools. Students bring their tools too…come see Bob get unsettled when we look at slides. He sees faces in all the patterns, and it’s not a good thing…

http://www.schoolofwoodworking.com/woodworking-classes.html

sign up, come carve a bunch. we’ll have a blast.

carving samples

carving samples

 

reproduction 17th-century furniture

Here’s some photos from one of last year’s classes

 

leslie diggin the posture

 

I thought I had a lot of carving tools

dedham panel

 

 

 

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