When I announced that I was leaving Plimoth a reader commented “You could always do a brief stint working for Michael Burrey as so many of my (NBSS) classmates did for a while after working at the Plantation. ;-)”   – well, where do you think Michael came from? All the wood-eating organisms that leave Plimoth go to Burrey’s at some point. I have already worked for him a number of times, starting probably 20 years ago. I used to joke to each one who went there, “that was MY spot…”


Mostly I’ll be working for me, but Michael & crew get some interesting projects. So when he calls, I’ll sign on if my schedule allows. My first post-PP gig is some turned work for the Shakespearean stage they are in the process of building. Rick wrote about it last year, http://blueoakblog.wordpress.com/category/shakespearean-stage/ and now they are underway on phase 2. This part includes some turned balusters, similar to these installed at the reconstructed Globe Theater in London. These were turned by Gudrun Leitz http://www.greenwoodwork.co.uk/website/exhibitions.html . She did 500, I only have to do 45. Thankfully.


This job is last-minute, so I just set up my lathe out on the back patio/terrace. A stupid place for it; but there’s no time to get involved in anything more coherent. When these are done, the lathe comes down & goes back to storage, til I figure out my next shop. the pole is fixed to a dilapidated deck, that is slated to be replaced. Where’s PW? Following his wife on some whirlwind book tour, no doubt.

better than nothing

They say the sky starts at your feet. Another way to look at it is that this setup has an incredibly high ceiling.

high ceiling

It’s been over 6 months since I turned any spindle stuff, so to start off I just roughed out some cylinders. tomorrow I’ll get down to the details. There’s 45 of these altogether. Time to dust off the cobwebs on my legs…

overall by DRF

roughing out

Here’s what I’ll be following, Michael provided a turned bit leftover from Gudrun, so the story goes. It’s weird, the squared blocks are smaller than the cylinder. It’s not just weird, it’s stupid I think. I have seen this done on huge turned legs for large tables. But here the difference is quite slight…until it’s time to make them.

the model

And have it on Highway 61.

Wooden Bowl Turning with Robin Wood

Yup – i’m going to Minnesota this June to meet Robin Wood & learn some bowl turning. Got my packet from North House yesterday.

If you’ve read my blog awhile, you know I’m a fan. If you’re just getting here, be sure to read Robin’s blog. His was the inspiration when I started mine back in 2008.

Great stuff. Well done & very thoughtful. http://www.robin-wood.co.uk/wood-craft-blog/

The school looks to be a gas, I’ve heard great things about it. http://www.northhouse.org/

Won’t that be something.



pole lathe

pole lathe

I know what you’re thinking…

What if Salvador Dali was a 17th-century turner…

dali 2




Dali Van Vliet


Here’s what you’d get…

penpoint stair


swash stairs


Here’s the machine. Now someone get to it, please.  Reference for this image is: Theatre des Instruments Mathematiques,

Jacques Besson (c.1571)

german swash

Snipe w its bill

Snipe w its bill

Got a new snipe photo today, so I will refer you to an earlier post about hinges…this snipe photo is better. Somewhere I have a great one- but no time to look for it now. We saw about 6 of these guys rooting through the grasses in Marshfield this morning. http://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/2011/12/14/setting-gimmals-you-might-know-them-as-snipe-bills/

I’m all grown up now & I know right from wrong. And the spindle in the bottom of this photo is wrong. These are for a bedstead I have to make in ash. About 12″ long, there’s a row of them at both the head and foot of the bed. 

right & wrong

right & wrong

I blame Curtis Buchanan. I watched him turning his chair parts last week, and all those curves got in my head. http://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/2013/03/15/how-to-make-a-comb-back-windsor-chair-w-curtis-buchanan/

The bottom one is more curvy than the piece I am supposed to be copying. With such short lengths, I can turn plenty of extras and pick & choose which I want.


defining some shapes w skew chisel

lg gouge

using large gouge to bring it down

Here’s an original:

MFA bedstead spindle B

I need five large & five small, so I’ll turn a bunch and get there in the end. 

Meanwhile I carved some parts for a wainscot chair I’m building. My great big carved one finally sold & I miss having it around. I had some great wide quartersawn white oak to do the panel, 14″ x 16″ or so. I have carved these designs so much now that I make my own patterns by combining bits of this & that. Thus this panel is not a copy of any particular piece, but is firmly rooted in that Ipswich, Massachusetts/Devon England style.  (so yes, David Cawthray, air-dried timber is fine & dandy. Quartersawn is best, but if you must use flatsawn, don’t let that stop you http://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/2011/01/22/about-flatsawn-stock-again/

carved chair panel


carving raking light

OK first thing to tell you is that I have been thinking about writing blog posts, but haven’t made any good photographs lately, so not much happening here. But there’s been lots going on. 

Update on the rosewood applied turning project, (http://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/2013/02/24/this-aint-green-woodworking/  )  We’ve known the Boston joiners sometimes used tropical hardwoods for applied turnings for quite some time. Never having worked wood like this, I spoke to many woodworkers – and heard all sorts of nightmarish stories. It’s crazy expensive (nope, these are small bits I need,10 1/2″ long. bought blanks from Woodcraft. Maybe $12-15 each for Bolivian Rosewood and East Indian Rosewood), it will dull your tools something awful (the Bolivian rosewood was not too much of a problem in that regard), you’ll need to wash the surfaces w some noxious chemical to get the glue to hold the parts together prior to turning. (nope again. I even used the cheater liquid hide glue in a bottle, easy and it worked fine), and you’ll need to scrape the shapes on the lathe, rather than shave/turn them. This I assumed on my own, based on reading Moxon on turning “hard” woods like ebony. Nope one more time. My turning tools were pretty sharp, but nothing extreme, worked fine. It was the nicest piece of wood I have ever turned. I did wear long sleeves and gloves, just to be safe. I don’t want to find out that I am allergic to these weird woods. It’s clunky turning w gloves on though…I could hunt down some tight-fitting cotton gloves. It is a museum after all…

turning Bolivian Rosewood on pole lathe

turning Bolivian Rosewood on pole lathe


I had wondered, after hearing all the stories, if the pole lathe could handle the program. I never should have doubted – when I think back to the 17th-century challenges it makes sense that turning these things shouldn’t be much different from working other woods on the lathe. I doubt these joiners and turners were going to a lot of trouble. I usually operate on the assumption that there was a straight-forward way to get this work done…


b rosewood turning blank

using the skew to finsh the maximum diameter

b rosewood finished turning

just about done on the lathe

I used a polissoir I bought from  Don Williams to burnish the piece while it was spinning in the lathe. Great stuff all around. Now, for tomorrow – the East Indian Rosewood. 

sawing EI rosewood

sawing the blanks

planing EI rosewood

truing for gluing

glue up EI rosewood

glued up w oak filler

I can’t wait to turn it. Sawing it was weird – it felt like iron. the teeth of the saw barely left a mark. But it cut pretty easily. Very fine dust though…I carefully swept it up.

The other day I went to the MFA to research and study a turned bedstead in their collection. It will show up here later in the month of March…

Today I went to the North Bennett Street School http://www.nbss.edu/index.aspx  to give the furniture students there a dog & pony show – and then wandered around the shop looking at all their work. And took a total of about 3 photographs – I was kicking myself afterwards for not shooting a lot of stuff. That place is an amazing visit. Chock full of furniture, parts, woods, books, tools – it’s great. I hope to go back before too long. 

NBSS overall

wall o’ legs NBSS

box o ball & claws etc

box o;’ feet


I forget if it was last week or the week before, but I taught a carving workshop at the Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking recently. http://www.schoolofwoodworking.com/   We had a great time (I did at least, and I think the students did too) – here’s a few shots:


cvsww wall of samples

CVSWW wall of samples

designing w the gouges

using gouges to mark out the design

I thought I had a lot of carving tools

I thought I had a lot of carving tools

dedham panel


leslie diggin the posture

Leslie diggin the posture


I’ll be back there in September for another weekend of carving. Bob Van Dyke supplied near-perfect quartersawn oak. Amazing stuff.

In the meantime, I am still hoping for students out west at the Port Townsend School of Woodworking. Right now, it sounds like we need 6 more students for each workshop. Otherwise, these 2 classes will get cancelled. One is a week-long “make a joint stool” class… the other a 2-day class in carving. It would be a shame it we have to scrap it, the school and I have dedicated the time slot and can’t really make it up if it falls through.  I know time/money/logistics are all a concern for all of us. But I often get requests “When are you coming to X,Y, Z?” – I only get to come if we get students. I won’t harp about it again, just one last nudge if you know someone out that way, or wanting to visit out that way…dates are April 22-26 for the joinery class, and the 27th & 28th for the carving   http://www.ptwoodschool.com/Home.html  


I have 2 more days to prep for my lecture/demos at the Winterthur Furniture Forum… http://www.winterthur.org/?p=976  that’s what all the rosewood is about! 

applied turnings, Boston, 17th c

applied turnings, Boston, 17th c

This ain’t green woodworking. These applied turnings are on a chest of drawers from Boston, c. 1630s-1690s. I’m making some for a chest loosely based on the originals; the Boston joiners also used these turnings on cupboards, cabinets and joined chests, Some of them are “exotics” i.e. imported timbers from the Caribbean and other faraway places. I’ve seen rosewood and ebony used for these, I think. My notes are somewhere. (Or check American Furniture 2010 for an article I did with Robert Trent about the Boston joinery tradition – “Re-assessing the London Style Joinery and Turning of Seventeenth-Century Boston”) Often  these turnings are done in local maple instead. 

When I run across a straight-grained section of maple in the firewood pile, I split some out and save it for a time like this. The maple I’m working here was riven from green stock a long time ago, rough-planed, and stored in the shop until needed. Which is now.

riven and planed maple

riven and planed maple

I decided to practice on maple, and make my mistakes on that. The final ones will be in rosewood. Also not green woodworking.

The premise I operate on is that these turnings are made by gluing up two blanks with a thin piece between them. The function of this sacrificial piece is to prevent the points of the pole lathe from wedging the glued-up stock apart. Everyone I know who has made these used an electric lathe, with various types of drive centers/dead centers. If I just glue the two maple pieces together, the points of my lathe will, when tightened, wedge them apart. Not good. So here you see them centered on the oak strip, not bearing on the glue joint. 

lathe points on center strip of turning

lathe points on center strip of turning

So here’s what it looks like in stages. I true up the maple bits, these need to be dead-flat so you can glue them together. Likewise, make the center strip, In my shop, it’s usually oak. Hide glue is used to make a sandwich out of them.

ready to glue

ready to glue

Scribe the diameter on the end grain.

circle scribed on end grain

circle scribed on end grain

Next, I plane chamfers on the corners to get them nearly octagonal.



Then turn them. I have good photos of the originals, but I never measured their details. I have a good idea of the scale, so I am working out my proportions in the wood. I turned one pair and knew they were wrong – but I finished them anyway, so I could use them as a guide for the next pair.


roughing gouge

lg skew

shaping w skew The 2nd set came out better. By “better”

Here are both turnings. The bottom one is first. Too much taper, too exaggerated.   I find I have to get them off the lathe sometimes to see their shapes more clearly. I photographed them against the window and this showed me the details clearly. The second set is closer to the shapes in the originals. 



On the 2nd one, (top in photo) I almost had it just the way I wanted it,  the vase/cup near the top has its greater diameter too low, its widest point should be right near its top rim. So I put it back & trimmed it some. It’s overall too thick, next one will be more slender. But its proportions are what I am after. 




I have some Bolivian rosewood to work on next.

next blank is Bolivian Rosewood

next blank is Bolivian Rosewood

For planing that, I used this toothing plane that I got in the Alexander hoard.

bolivian rosewood

toothing plane

toothing plane iron

But this is not true rosewood, from the family Dalbergia. I have some East Indian rosewood on the way…need gloves for that stuff. Maybe a mask…


PS: here’s where I learned all I know about toothing planes – http://anthonyhaycabinetmaker.wordpress.com/2011/01/29/the-toothing-plane-a-tool-of-our-time/

Once again, remember this place? I’ve posted it a couple of times, http://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/2012/08/10/workbenches-lathe/ and http://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/2012/10/21/tool-racks/ and one more: http://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/2012/10/26/photos-from-a-great-day-of-study/


18th-century shop


Now you can read part of the story, from today’s Boston Globe:


(Ahhh…the link now only gives me a preview – says I need to subscribe. If the link fails you, do a search for “Luther Sampson Duxbury shop” or something like that. Might be that I reached the monthly limit on freebies at Boston.com…)

I hope you can read it, it’s exciting stuff. Kudos to Michael Burrey for seeing it for what it is…and to the many who have worked thus far on documentation, research, etc.



November. At our museum, that means “swamped” as in, 2,000 school kids per day. So not much time for coherent thought, nor for photos. Lately I have been turning some bowls, now that it’s cool weather. Then the storm came through and a friend gave me some fresh cherry, for spoons and bowls. 

turning cherry bowl

bowls, cherry & plane tree

Here is an earlier post about bowl turning I did, has photos I have no time to shoot this week… http://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/2012/04/01/some-bowl-turning-2/

I have been re-reading Robin Wood’s book The Wooden Bowl.  http://robin-wood-gallery.blogspot.com/p/book.html

It’s excellent, well researched and well photographed. Got me to thinking about probate inventories and other 17th-century documents – so I pulled up some research files I have compiled that mention bowls, trenchers and other woodenware. So no more comment from me. Here goes.  


Paul S. Seaver, Wallington’s World, A Puritan Artisan in Seventeenth-Century London, (Stanford CA.: Stanford University Press, 1985)

“(1631) …the following June Nehemiah found himself unable to meet small debts owed to the chapmen who supplied him with additional wares…”the Lord sent customers” and his father helped with 30s.  Ten days later he and his father jointly bought a consignment of shovel trees and trenchers” (p.78)

Brian Dietz (editor) A calendar of the 1567/8 London Port Book, detailing imports in London, plus related documents. (1972) [these were online; http://www.british-history.ac.uk/source.aspx?pubid=154 ]
[These lists are formatted thus: item, ship & home port, master, and place the ship sailed from en route to London.]
5 shocks thick trenchers   (1 shock = 60 pieces) Red Fox of Antwerp; Matis Sanders; Danzig

7 thou. Trenchers  John Baptist of London; William Hall; Antwerp

3 grs trenchers  Prym Rose of Milton; Harry Church; Antwerp
1 thou. Trenchers. Grace of God of Lee; Thomas Boyse; Antwerp
60 doz. small trenchers. Mary of Hamburg; Harder Grob; Hamburg
1 thou. loose trenchers  Hearn of London; John Davis; Rouen
50 grs loose penny trenchers. Phenex of Hull; Walter Hall; Rouen


from the Records of the Virginia Company, LXVI  The Cost of Furnishing the “Margaret”, July-September 1619:

“2 drawinge knives & 2 knives to make trenchers  3s”

From: Patricia E. Kane, Furniture of the New Haven Colony: The Seventeenth-Century Style (New Haven, Connecticut: New Haven Historical Society, 1993)
John Frizby, 1694, “dishturners tooles £1-10; Carpenters tooles £1-10;  a drawing knife & fro 4s; tennant saw 10s, halfe a crosscut saw 7s”

Jonathan Frizby, 1695, “Dishturners tooles £2,  a small broad axe 8s,  a square 6s, a pr of betle rings & 5 wedges 8s,  pr of compasses 3s,  3 augers jointer & plain 6d”

From George Francis Dow, editor, The Probate Records of Essex County Massachusetts, 3 vols., (Salem, Massachusetts: Essex Institute, 1916)

1644, Hugh Churchman, Lynn; “…straw bed…one troffe with a cover and a little kneding trof, one tra, and other wooden dishes & trenchers 6s8d   2 chestes 4s   betle and wedgis, 2 axis, 2 sawes, 2 howes and other working towls 16s”

1666, John Fuller,  Ipswich, Massachusetts:

his coulters shares chaines tolles £5  the saw, his croscut
saw £1-10  noyn duson of trenshars 9s  wodden Chares £1-10
a tabell and 2 Joyne stolles £1-10  a box and four chestes £1-0  a trundlebed with all the apurtenansis there too £3-1  a cradle… a corded bed and a cufiring and 3 blankets, a boulster £4-10  a trundlebed, 2 Chares and a box £1  Trenshures unfinished 10s timber work £5  grinston 8s

inv. estate of John Fuller…after the marriage of wido Fullar…
four ald Aggrs, an adds and a hachit 12s  two old axe nales…
a Cros Cut saw 10s  four old wedges and a pare of betel rings 6s  a great Chare and some other old chares, a jont stol  three trundle bedsteds, one standing bedsted old 16s,  two old Chists and two boxes 11s

1667/8, Edward Wharton, Salem:  “2 tray makers adses, 3s”

from The Goods and Chattels of Our Forefathers 1539-1804 John s. Moore, editor, (Chichester, Phillimore, 1976:

1617:   the Treene vessels 1s8d    dishes, Trenchers with divers other Trashe 1s0d

1618:  eleven Wodden kannes, three dozen of trenchers, a tringe boule, a great Wodden boule….a wodden bottle, a wodden platter, a wodden pinte, …a wodden tray…

from Francis W. Steer, editor, Farm and Cottage Inventories of Mid-Essex, 1635-1749, (Wiles & Son, Ltd., Colchester, 1950):

1635:  in the buttrey:  one great wooden Dishe with other smale wooden Dishes and other implements 12d

1638:  3 Duzen of trenchers 9d; halfe a Duzen of wooden Dishes with other Implements 5s

1686:  one dozen of round trenchers and a dozen of other trenchers

from George Francis Dow, Every Day Life in the Massachusetts Bay Colony:


appendix E, “Manufactures and Other Products Listed in the Rates on Imports and Exports…1660” Among the imports this abstracted list includes:  

“Trays of wood, (the shocke)”

“Trenchers, white (common sort) and red or painted”

from: Alden T. Vaughan, ed., William Wood, New England’s Prospect (Amherst, Ma.: University of Massachusetts Press, 1993) :

“…The horn-bound is a tough kind of wood that requires so much pains in riving as is almost incredible, being the best for to make bowls and dishes, not being subject to crack or leak.”  

[editor suggest that this is blue-beech, sometimes called hornbeam, horn-beech or hard beam. PF: possibly American Hornbeam, (Carpinus caroliniana) “blue-beech” or “water beech” – technically a member of the birch family, grows in the eastern half of the US. There is also an Eastern Hophornbeam, (Ostrya virginiana) “ironwood” that Wood may be referring to as well]

from: Jill Groves, editor, Bowdon Wills and Probate inventories from a Cheshire Township, part 1: 1600-1650 (Chesire, England: Northern Writers Advisory Services, 1997)

Edmund Simpson of Bowdon 1611

One dosse of grete rounde trenchers one doss of little rounde trenchers wth one doss and
2 square trenchers… framinge saw a handsaw, 3 Chessels a wimble 2 homers and a payre of pincens… one chiste and an Arke 6s8d

And the hawk, thanks David G for the correct Latin name:

buteo jamaicensis


walnut book stand


Slowly I am coming around to almost liking some walnut…how’s that for a qualifying statement? Much of the stock I had last year was excellent quality – straight grain and clear. Around the shop I have been making boxes and boxes from it, practicing dovetails.

But one task that I really like it for is turned work. So I sawed out some blanks and made another book stand recently. Here’s a post about these creatures http://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/2010/02/20/turned-book-stand/

Since that post I have seen another 17th-century example; essentially a joined & carved version. I am making some of that style for a magazine article soon…I’ll show it here on the blog after the article runs.

This walnut one is for sale. Price is $150 plus shipping. Email me if you are interested.  peter.follansbee@verizon.net

Overall height is roughly 18″ ; width is about 14 1/2″ – depth around 15″.

The last walnut one didn’t hang around long, though.

book stand


Here’s a view of the mechanism

book stand ratchet system

My furniture post today is over at Lost Art Press:


I wanted Chris to call it “We don’t need no stinkin’ pole lathe” – he must have missed that note….



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