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.


links -

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



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…


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




A few notes from the shop – it turns out I will not have any more spoons for sale this month.  A couple of people wrote & ordered some, and those I have just about done. But I decided not to tackle more. It was getting too hectic, and I have enough to grapple, cleaning out this stuff.

where to begin

where to begin

I will have one more carved framed panel, if anyone is interested. I cut the frame at the Lie-Nielsen event at Phil Lowe’s the other day…so I just have to clean it up a bit, and take proper photographs.

last one for 2013

last one for 2013

Meanwhile, the best day in the shop in ages was Sunday, Daniel came back. Can’t say too much, he’s making a Xmas present. But we had a great time. Being in the public eye 8 months out of the year means the kids only get to the shop during the 0ff-season. So we’re making the most of it right now.


Then, this red-bellied woodpecker sat right out the upstairs window at home. You can tell he’s a red-bellied, because the red head is not all-over. I didn’t name these creatures…in the last shot you can actually see a smudge of red down near his nether parts. That’s where his name comes from. His belly is mostly white, with a streak of red. a faint streak.

I’ll be posting my teaching schedule for 2014 soon. It’s a busy one…

Some stuff I have been finishing up. Got to photographing it on Thursday.

A small carved & painted box. I did one like this before, when I was working on the cupboard for the MFA. This one is not a copy of an existing piece, but based on a couple of examples we studied while researching that project.

painted box Nov 2013


Open showing the till inside.




carved & painted box open


And a detail showing the wooden hinge – a pin on the extension of the rear board, fitting through a hole bored in the lid’s cleats.

carved & painted box detail till hinge


In keeping with the squiggle-painted decor – here’s a joined stool I built during the book project, but just painted this fall.

joined stool painted Nov 2013


Then next stool was a customer-request. Carved aprons.

joined stool carved fall 2013

joined oak stool carved fall 2013


I’m also finishing up the bookstand orders I got – one more to go. I keep hearing about “oh, you can use an Ipad on them too!” – I don’t want to know about it!



I left the owl alone today, plus it was raining so I didn’t walk the beach. Went to the post office & sent out the last of the spoons/carved panels. Then was in the shop all day. First full-day in the shop for the off-season. Felt pretty good…but soon I have to pack it up & move it. More on that when I know more…

Meanwhile, I’ll try to address a question that I have never satisfactorily dealt with.. -  “what carving tools do you use?” What brand, size, shape, etc. I have always frustrated people with my answers; often I would just strike the tools into a piece of scrap wood & say, get something like these.

Here is my latest attempt to help folks understand which tools I use for carved furniture. Doesn’t mean you need these exact sizes and shapes. These are just what I use. You can adapt carving patterns to suit your tool kit, as you collect and assemble a “set” of carving tools.

carving tools in trays

These two trays’ worth get me through most every carving I do. Sometimes I add one or two more (I’ll get to those.) Let’s start with these tools, with their profiles struck in a chunk of – surprise – oak. 

carving tools w strikes

carving tools struck detail

from left to right:

Swiss-Made (Pfiel) #7, about 3/4″ width. I use this on EVERY carving I do…no exaggeration. 
Swiss-Made (Pfiel) #5, 1/2″ width. I use this one for background removal, and shaping. Also in every carving, with just a few exceptions. Its end is slightly crowned, probably from sloppy sharpening -but it helps when meeting the incised cuts…

Swiss-Made (Pfiel) V-tool #15/6mm – I know because it’s marked that way. Mine’s old now, about 25-30 years. I think its shape is a bit different than what they make now. Tighter at the junction of the two “wings” – to make a crisp V. 

Swiss-Made (Pfiel) #8, 5/16″ width. A very small, deeply curved gouge. I use it regularly, but not always. For small details. Larger #8s are too rounded for my taste…but the small one suits what I need sometimes.

Antique – W. Butcher – I don’t remember when I got this one, I think it was a Brimfield find. 11/16″ wide, part of a circle that’s about 1″ in diameter. I use it when defining medium-sized curves. It’s used a lot in my S-scrolls…

Not-new, not-antique Henry Taylor – 7/16″ wide, about a 1/2″ circle. Same as above, but for smaller sized details. 

Buck Brothers, 9/16″ wide, c. 5/8″ circle. This one falls between the previous two. I sometimes combine two or more of these to create shapes that go from tighter to larger arcs. 

Two Ashley Iles gouges – #5, 1″ wide, and #6 just over 1″ wide. I got two of them from http://www.toolsforworkingwood.com/store/dept/TXQ5-6 - They are great for large sections of arcs. Heavy, stout tools. Maybe they are available slightly scaled down, I forget. These are big tools…but I’d rather big than too small..

In some carvings, there are more details, and I need to break into another tray, but not for much. Here’s the second stringers:

extra carving tools


The first “extra” tool I am likely to reach for is a small Stubai gouge – #7, 1/2″ wide. I can’t stand the dinky size, but I just haven’t replaced it. It works fine, but I don’t like the way it feels. 

The middle tool is an antique Henry Taylor –  very small. 1/4″ wide, just a little more curve than the Pfiel #5. 

The tool on the right is just another #5 Swiss-Made (Pfiel) – but wide. 1″ wide. I use it for outlining when I don’t use a V-tool. 

I occasionally use some #2s, for shaping or outlining, but the #5s are best for that. I have a few other 5s…some wider, some bent. But I don’t use them for furniture carving much. 



The mallet, which is on its last legs, is hickory. 3″ in diameter. About 12″ long, more than half of which is the head. Its weight is about 1 lb, 12 oz. I have a new one I turned back in the spring. It is dry now, I just haven’t dug it out of the shavings yet. They last me about 6-10 years, I’d say. 


I’m reading some big books lately. One is the deluxe edition of the Roubo book from Lost Art Press. I sold a lot of spoons to buy a book like that; but I knew I wanted volume 2, so it made sense to get in at the beginning too. The book is intoxicating; it makes me want to fiddle with inlays and other foreign (to me) ideas. Great great accomplishment from a host of people to produce this book. It will take time to really digest the scope of it; some of the images remind me of Serlio’s books on architecture. http://yalepress.yale.edu/book.asp?isbn=9780300113051 .  See Jameel’s take on it, he wrote a nice piece about it. http://benchcrafted.blogspot.com/2013/10/to-make-as-perfectly-as-possible.html

I’m also reminded of a giant reproduction book I viewed some years ago, one of two manuscripts by Thomas Trevelyon – a bunch of early English images; including patterns and designs. Now there’s been a third manuscript of his discovered http://collation.folger.edu/2012/12/a-third-manuscript-by-thomas-trevelyontrevelian/

Another biggie is Adam Bowett, Woods in British Furniture Making 1400-1900: An Illustrated Historical Dictionary. 

Bowett's book

I had seen this book back in the spring while at Winterthur’s Furniture Forum. I also had the opportunity to hear Adam speak on the last day of that seminar. His presentation was great- it generally was the subject of the book, what woods are found in British furniture. Could be pretty dry, but Adam made it quite interesting. So I saved up, & got the book. His introductory essay is the best discussion about Britain’s timber situation; use of domestics, importation, etc. There’s several pages on “wainscot” so that in itself made it worth my time. Great book.

Then comes the last big book I’m currently reading – vol 2 of the Autobiography of Mark Twain. (Not about woodworking of course, but hickory bark is mentioned in vol 1.) He rambles through whatever crosses his mind, knowing he can speak freely. His instructions were for the book to by published 100 years after his death. So no one would be offended by him telling the truth. The books are not linear in any way, he’s all over the map. So I didn’t read it with any concern about keeping pace, or trying to follow the narrative. I picked away at vol 1 whenever I thought of it. By the time I was done fiddling with it, vol 2 came out. Perfect timing.


I stink at sawing. I can use a hatchet pretty well. Can do some oak-ish carving in a particular style easily. But saws I struggle with. Just not enough practice. I’m working on it. Matt Cianci has helped a lot. When he visited my shop one day, I showed him a new saw I had from the folks at Lie-Nielsen. I told him that I held it funny to get it working the way I wanted…I grabbed it low down on the handle. Matt suggested re-fitting a newer handle with different “hang”. So I handed him the saw & that’s what he did.

I’m sure lots of people use this saw just as is, with fine results. But I didn’t want to treat it like a relic, and I felt that I wasn’t getting what I could from the saw. I was interested in learning how it would behave with the lower fitting handle.

PF sawing

I like it, and use it regularly these days on the chest of drawers I am building. Matt brought the original handle back so it can be reversed if ever I wanted to…

Here’s Matt’s take on what he did… http://thesawblog.com/?p=2312


It’s not that I have frequented the House of the Rising Sun, but that I have left half-finished furniture around for months & months. It makes it very difficult to pick up the thread & see where it’s going. Here’s a couple more shots of the chest of drawers’ upper case. I have not really begun the lower case yet. Here it is with some ornament applied, but the case not yet fully assembled. This one is not a copy, but truly an “inspired-by” situation. That means I am making it up as I go along, and that I didn’t measure and examine the originals in detail enough to copy them. Red oak frame, cedrela panels on the side. Drawer fronts are pine, with figured maple inserts. Surrounded by cedrela moldings. Rosewood turnings.

upper case side front view

Rear view just before I inserted a single pine panel. The drawer back is a re-used sheathing board; this side-hung drawer is about 10″ deep, so gets 2 sets of runners. I have yet to install the lower drawer runner.

upper case rear view

Here’s a clear shot of the smaller upper drawer back; this time oak. Riven, sawn-off drawer bottoms scarred the drawer back. Just like some old ones I see. The rear joints are rabbets, nailed. Fronts are half-blind dovetails. Glued. Sometimes nailed.

small drawer rear view

When the upper case is tipped on its back, you see the mortise in the bottom edge of the side rails. This is for a registration loose tenon that will align the lower case & upper case. The front lower rail is only 1″ high, maybe 1 1/2″ I forget. It has a rabbet in its inner lower edge, for dust boards that will seal the bottom of this case. The tenon runs the whole height of the rail, so when I cut off the excess end of the stile, the tenon is exposed.

upper case bottom of stiles

Now I have to put it down again, & finish some stuff for the museum. It’s a hard life wherever you go…

Speaking of which, wherever I go to set up shop, I intend to have a sign. So I started carving one like I did for Lie-Nielsen a couple of years ago.

Lie-Nielsen Weekend Workshops

Here’s the beginnings of mine, the piece of red oak courtesy of Bob Van Dyke:

PF sign

image for this event

I’ll be at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston this Wednesday afternoon/eveing, doing a demonstration much like my usual day job. Just a snappier venue…

Here’s the text from the website for the Four Centuries project http://www.fourcenturies.org/ai1ec_event/artist-demonstration/

Be sure to look around at that website = there’s lots going on in Massachusetts if you like furniture…

If you’re in town (maybe early for Game 6 of the World Series around the corner at Fenway) come by the MFA


Artist Demonstration

Peter Follansbee will be demonstrating some of the techniques he uses in making reproductions of 17th-century joiner’s work. Usually done in oak split or riven from the log, this furniture most often includes carved decoration. The carvings combine geometric, floral and architectural patterns, often in combination. Mr. Follansbee has studied New England furniture in the MFA collections for almost 20 years, and will show how these designs are laid out and carved with a compass, several carving gouges and a wooden mallet. He will have examples of his reproduction furniture for visitors to examine up close, as well as resource materials to explain the complete process.
Peter Follansbee began his woodworking career in 1978, learning traditional methods to build ladder back chairs. His study of 17th-century joiner’s work has led to numerous articles in the scholarly journal American Furniture, Popular Woodworking Magazine, as well as several instructional videos with Lie-Nielsen Toolworks. In 2011, Lost Art Press published a book, co-authored by Mr. Follansbee, called Make a Joint Stool from a Tree: An Introduction to Seventeenth-Century Joinery. Since 1994, Mr. Follansbee has worked as the joiner at Plimoth Plantation, a living history museum in Plymouth, Massachusetts.

Presented by Peter Follansbee, Master joiner from the Plimoth Plantation
Made Possible by The Lowell Institute


October 30, 2013
5:30 PM – 8:00 PM

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston Druker Classroom
465 Huntington Avenue
Boston, MA 02115


Free with Museum admission



I stink at keeping the blog’s extraneous stuff up-to-date. I fiddled with it a little bit tonight. I updated the “Carved boxes, etc” page – it now includes the carved bookstand I wrote about in the recent Popular Woodworking (Oct 2013) as well as the remaining boxes I have for sale. http://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/carved-boxes-fall-2012/ For some reason (I care not) the URL still says 2012, but the content is up-dated.)

carved bookstand

carved bookstand

- —–

The Wille film.


On the sidebar of the front page, I dropped the link to the kickstarter site for the Wille Sundqvist film.  The project reached its goal in spades,  - but I will keep everyone updated when I hear more about it. This is a project I am so excited about, I can’t stand it. For the record, here’s the link http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/761142325/the-spoon-the-bowl-and-the-knife-craftsman-wille-s

I had a note a while back from Erik Buchakian (Country Workshops board member) about the tracking of where the donors came from:

“I thought you might like to know – Kickstarter does that creepy Internet thing, where it keeps track of where people “clicked” from in order to get to the site.  By far the most donors to the Wille film got to the Kickstarter site from your blog – something like 30%.  Good work!!!!”

To which I say to you blog readers – Thanks ever so much. Nice going.


my spoons -

basket of spoons

basket of spoons

I haven’t had spoons to sell for a while. You’ve noticed I guess. Many have asked. As you might have read, I spent much of July & August on the road teaching classes. I started in again on spoons last week & hope to have some in a few weeks’ time. But then I have to go to Woodworking in America where I need to have spoons for show & tell. So it might be late October when they are next for sale here. I’ll be posting some stuff about making them in the next few weeks, then will give a heads-up when I fill that basket again.


There’s lots of new readers subscribing, thanks & welcome aboard. If there’s something in particular about oak furniture of the 17th century you’re looking for, a reminder that there’s a search button on the sidebar. The posts go back to Jul of 2008, so lots of stuff to cover.

- —–

Birds – Ahhh. this one’s tough.

heron closeup

I have had zero time for birds. None. Kills me – ALMOST. My  free time usually spent birding has been spent pitching, so it’s worth it. Migration will come again, but Daniel will be a 7-yr old baseball fan only once.  I have no pictures, but Rose rides her bike now too – so I don’t know which way to turn.


daniiel at bat


Enough housekeeping. Woodworking tomorrow.


Now to follow up the Providential Fanback Story…

What happened to the spoons? some of you ask…Nothing happened. Literally. I drove & drove, (2 trips to North Carolina & 1 to Maine) and that cut into some carving time. Then when I was home, I was doing family stuff…and trying to catch up with yard stuff (failing badly at that…but if I have to let one thing go, that’s the one…)

There will be spoons one day, maybe soon. Maybe not. I am doing a session on how I carve spoons this year at Woodworking in America, Cincinnati, Oct 18-20. http://www.popularwoodworking.com/woodworking-blogs/editors-blog/woodworking-in-america-2013-october-18-20  - so some spoons I have to keep back so I can show the audience what the heck I am talking about.

knife grip scissors


knife grip 2

But I am picking them up again. I see about 5 of them here in the “finished” basket, and there’s a few in the in-process basket. There’s also the new carved book stand featured in the most recent Popular Woodworking magazine – I’ll put that up for sale soon, when I update some stuff. I have one carved box left, so time to mess with the for-sale pages here.

But the news – If you read the post about the impending fanback windsor chair, it’s not just the need for a new kitchen chair that has me twisting in the wind. I made a few baskets last winter/spring, but have yet to shave handles for them. And there’s the unfinished Swedish style carved wooden bowls. I’d really like to get more involved with this sort of work. These are just two more examples of some woodworking I’d like to tackle that doesn’t involve 17th-century joiner’s work.

I have actually been cleaning the shop. A lot. For real. I got news sometime this season that the museum plans to renovate the building I work in, possibly starting in December. That means I need to find a place to put my stuff while the rehab project goes on. I certainly have enough tools to outfit a home shop and one at work too, so that’s not the issue. It’s where to go. I intend to see about the town regulations surrounding building in the watershed, but expect to get shot down there. Even if I can go ahead, I need to find someplace local soon for short-term. I have one lead, but want to explore others. Any local (near Kingston, MA) readers with an extra outbuilding…I’d be interested in hearing from you.

Meanwhile, I have some projects to finish, and that big log to convert to boards. http://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/2013/08/02/i-dont-have-time-for-this/



 I keep sorting & sifting stuff. 3 months & counting. Somewhere in that heap is a chunk of butternut from the Blizzard of ‘78. I find it every year when I clean up…when I see it this time, I’m going to make a spoon from it.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,121 other followers