Reading Nick Hornby’s book Ten Years in the Tub made me throw out a bunch of spoons I had carved. There are no wooden spoons in the book as far as I know. It’s a compilation of ten years’ worth of his column “Stuff I’ve Been Reading” that runs in the magazine Believer. A few times in the book, Hornby points out that many readers pick up some books, start them, find out they hate them, but feel they have to finish…which leads to a lengthy drawn-out period reading a book you can’t stand. He urges people to ditch those books that are dragging your down, and go read something else.

housefull

One of yesterday’s chores was to photograph stuff for here and for Maureen’s etsy site. Among the stuff I shot was a bunch of spoons I’ve had in the works for a while. Turns out I hated 1/3 of them. So I threw them into the compost. A couple of the keepers, I turned into  a palimpsest of sorts; I recarved bits of them. This one had a large, boring-shaped bowl. Having nothing to lose, I picked up a knife, and had at it.

pailmpsest to be

So today, it’s a spoon day.. thanks to Nick Hornby. I’ll show you what happened to that large birch spoon later…

 

Curtis' spoon

 

Depends on the chairmaker, I guess. It starts with this spoon that arrived in my mailbox one day. I told you I have a great mailbox. Curtis Buchanan made it; sent it with no note, just the spoon. (great article by & about Curtis in Fine Woodworking recently – glad I stumbled into it)

Then Tim Manney posted stuff on his blog about some whacky idea about making spoon crooks by steam-bending the blanks. http://timmanneychairmaker.blogspot.com/2014/07/a-few-spoons-and-dissection.html

Turns out that’s what Curtis did. And then Tim went totally full-tilt-bozo with the idea. And makes outstanding spoons this way; steam-bent, drawknife, shaving horse. Sounds like chairmakers to me.

Tim's spoon 1

 

tim's spoon bowl

Tim's spoon detail

tim's spoon

Tim gave us a run-down of his techniques. Says it starts with “it’s hard to find crooks” so he makes ‘em. Shaved green, tries to follow the growth ring, so very carefully shaved. Then steamed, and clamped to a form for 12 hours.

 

steambent crooks

 

Then, no axe – just goes to the shaving horse and gets his very sharp drawknife and goes to it. He draws the shape on there, and starts in defining the outline of the spoon.

drawknife work 2

 

Here he’s using the drawknife to come down the bowl, towards the neck or stem of the spoon.
drawknife stop cut

 

Next he shaves along the side of the handle, towards the relief cut he just defined. Very precise, deliberate cuts. One false move…

drawknife work

 

Then knife work. He hollows the bowl with a gouge, (see previous post) -

Tmi knife work

 

It’s one of those things that I don’t want to do; but I really admire Tim’s approach and his work. Both are great. It was a real thrill to have Tim around this weekend at Lie-Nielsen, I know the students dug it too.

Just back once again from Maine – where we had a 2-day class at Lie-Nielsen in spoon carving. We turned 16-plus people loose with axes & knives. Yikes. It went very well, as long as I didn’t think about it at first. I had decided the theme for day one was  “A Moment of Doubt & Pain” – some steel & flesh collided. Nothing too bad; but you hate to see anyone get nicked.

16 people loose w axes

 

The 2nd day, it all began to click in, and out came spoons galore. Real spoons. Nice work. Here’s some photos, I didn’t get enough, I was too busy running around.

matt

SE using hook

There were lots of spoons coming out really well, I only wish I had shot more..

spoon

 

 

I remind new carvers (and old carvers too) to look a lot, carve a little. Dave looked:

looking 1

But I guess he didn’t like what he saw…

looking 2

I was helped as usual by Deneb, but we also had Tim Manney come for the weekend, (thanks again, Tim) – he was a huge help. Tim doesn’t make a spoon like I do at all, but he knows how to…so he worked & worked as well. Here, he’s teaching the old method of using a standard gouge for hollowing the bowl. This is how we first learned how to hollow them, from Drew Langsner’s book Country Woodcraft.

tim & sarah & gouges

It amounts to a flick of the wrist. Hold the tool by the shank, not the handle. Then, brace your off-thumb against the heel of your gouge-holding hand; and…

gouge 1

flick o’ the wrist – it’s a short travel for the gouge – but it works well Tim uses this method a lot. Maybe exclusively?

gouge 2

 

Most of our wood was straight-grained birch, but Dave brought his own apple crook to split

dave & the crook

 

I live in Massachusetts, not in Maine. Some think I should live in Maine. Sometimes I think it. But for now, I still drive up when I work there…and for the third straight Maine trip, I had car trouble. Dead starter it seemed. I ended up an extra day in the mid-coast Maine area, with 65-degree temps, under bright sunny skies. Nothing at all to do except sit & carve more spoons. Deneb, ever the charmer, said “why don’t you work down in the showroom?”

Here, I am using my new Nic Westermann twca cam and a neck strap. A great deal of leverage on this arrangement. I put a very long handle on mine. I saw a very brief clip of Barn Carder using one, shot by Robin Wood. Thanks, Robin & Barn – though I have only used this tool briefly, I really like the neck strap idea. The strap is just a loop around my neck. Then I twist the shank of the twca cam in one end. Then pull back a bit with my neck, while levering my right hand away from me, to bring the hook tool across the spoon bowl. Short move, big chips. Reminds me of the short time I got to try a block knife…

twca cam 2

twca cam

 

 

Then, it all became clear – Thomas Lie-Nielsen came by and admitted to tampering with my car, so I had no choice but to demonstrate in the showroom. He’ll stop at nothing. It was fun though…one woman came in & once we talked about what I was doing, she asked if I would mind if she took my picture – I thought about 20 years’ of working in front of the museum visitors, and wondered how many photos I’ve been in. A whole lot; what’s one more?

the tamper-er

here’s the link to Barn using the large hook https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rybANi3lX2M

thanks to Robin Macgregor for the last 3 photos.

Getting ready for tomorrow’s trip to Lie-Nielsen for my very full spoon-carving class, https://www.lie-nielsen.com/workshop/USA/18   I tarted up some of my spoon tools – the excuse is that I will be able to distinguish my tools from others’ tools. I started by cutting rows of gouge-cut patterns on the handles of my knives by Nic Westermann, these handles are ash, so I used a mallet to drive the gouge. Had to be very careful not to bump into the blades, either with my gouge or my hands. One could wrap the blade in duct tape, but I hate trying to get that junk off…I always feel like I’m going to slip & cut myself. I held these in a vise to carve them. 

 

carved handles

carved handles 2

I had been using these knives since the spring, so the handles had some patina to them; once I cut into them, the carved bits came out very bright by comparison. Time will blend it all together. 

Next, I decided to make some woven sheaths for the straight knives. I have kept several knives in a canvas roll,  but even then they can get banged around. I have one small straight knife by Del Stubbs, and he supplied a nice birch woven sheath with it. His website has a very clear photo essay on making these – to me, more  readable than the piece in Wille’s book.  http://pinewoodforge.com/sheath.making.html

del sheathe

 

I made two with some scraps of birch bark, and lashed them with ash splints from my basket work. the dark-handled knife is my first spoon carving knife; late 1980s. Its most recent use is by Daniel, age 8 1/2. (HA! When I went digging for photos I shot the other day, he’s got one of Nic’s knives in his hands – so much for continuity…)

birch & ash sheath

sheath on knife

straight knives

 

Daniel

I also made a couple completely from ash, and tried some in hickory bark. The bark had been harvested quickly, and was too thick really. Good hickory bark is great for these things.  The material I have in the best supply is ash splints, so I will bring some along in case some students want to take the time to make a sheath for their knives. 

While we’re looking at spoon knives, now is a good time to show the hooks I’ve been using most often lately. Here’s three, Robin Wood’s “open” hook, the Nic Westerman one I mentioned, and in the back, a lefty by Hans Karlsson.

hooks

 

Next up after this trip is Columbus Day weekend at Bob Van Dyke’s Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking, make a frame & panel in oak – carved. Bob says room for one more. http://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/2014/07/30/bob-van-dyke-doesnt-know-which-end-is-up/

this showed up last week. 

birch logs

and this. 

birch logs 2b

so here’s one direction I’m headed – some large crooks in these piles. 

spoons

and more. Some baskets & bowls to finish…

 

spoons & more

And soon, some furniture work! Imagine it…

For now, some stuff left from the last “for sale” posting – http://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/spoons-more-august-2014/

 

Today I posted a page with a couple of hewn bowls, and what spoons I have ready to go. I have several spoons nearly ready; but those I’ll take with me to Roy’s place, & finish them down there. So what I have now is on the blog, then there’ll be more in mid-August. As usual, leave a comment if you’d like to order something. Any questions, send an email to Peter.Follansbee@verizon.net

http://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/a-few-spoons-and-bowls-late-july-2014/

Meanwhile, here’s some of what I did yesterday. 

 

A day like this:

summer's day

distractions galore

mallards

redtail juvy

But I persevered and roughed out one of the last bowls from the stash of birch I have around here. Most of the ones I’ve been doing are upside-down. I start like this:

hewing the bottom

hew the broad inner face of the split bolt flat. This becomes the bottom of the bowl.

Then mark out the saddle-shaped interior of the bowl. Now the bowl is held down to a low bench with three pegs and a wedge. (well, take my word for it that there’s 3. You can only see 2 in this shot) Simple, but it works pretty well. If I end up doing these bowls regularly, then it might be time to look closely at Dave Fisher’s bowl horse…

3 pegs & wedge

 

 

I then make a few saw kerfs to help break stuff up when the next hewing begins.

 

saw kerfs

 

I just begin chopping into the midst of these kerfs to remove the excess material. Now it’s a double-bevel hatchet, not the joiner’s hatchet I used to flatten the bottom.

axe work inside

axe work inside 2

 

Then comes adze work. Just like the hatchet, you want to keep the tool’s edge out of your leg.

adze stance 1

adze stance

I do some standing, then some seated. All in all, about 15-20 minutes of hewing ought to get me there.

braced adze work 1

braced adze work 2

adze detail

Then it’s on to gouge & mallet work, then more hewing.

gouge & mallet

more hewing

 

then it rained.

 

 

I got home from Maine trip #2 on Sunday night. Monday kinda floundered, then on Tues it was off to a small island off the coast of America to see Heather & Pat. Heather’s show was outstanding as usual. Here’s one of my favorites, but the web doesn’t do it justice by half. The light in it is amazing. 

Coat-Guard-Crow1

 

(go to Heather’s blog and click on the paintings to see ‘em larger, then click the quill/feather in the teacup to read the notes) http://heatherneill.com/studio-blog/ 

here’s the gallery’s page of Heather’s work http://www.granarygallery.com/searchresults.php?page=1&artistId=11674&artist=Heather+Neill&start=1

kids & HN

we had a great, whirlwind one-day trip. Then back home to attempt to develop some routine or the semblance of one. Wednesday I mostly worked on hewn bowls; then Thursday spoons. today some of each.

bowl day

bowl day

The great part about spoon day is I can take it outside, and have the kids with me. The river, the birds – what could be better? 

spoon day

spoon day

I have used ring-porous woods like oak, ash and hickory all my working days. I rarely have made spoons or bowls from ring porous woods because they split so easily. But sometimes I throw the rules out the window & see what happens. Catalpa is a very light-weight hardwood. I have made a couple of bowls from it before, and I had one small one kicking around ready to be finished.

catalpa end grain

catalpa end grain

 

Here’s the one from way back when; and the post it came from. One of the horrible things about keeping this blog is all my unfinished stuff is still there, taunting me:  http://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/?s=catalpa

catalpa bowl back at the museum

I remember southern visitors to the museum telling me about the fishermen who loved catalpa trees for the worms that ate the foliage – great bait. some said the best. They called it “catawba” – but it’s the same tree. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catalpa    I am lately reading To Kill a Mockingbird, and it’s in there, “…the class was wriggling like a bucketful of catawba worms…”  Turns out that Catawba is a name of both the tree and a group of Native people in the Carolinas, and someone made a mistake with the tree’s name, and we ended up with catalpa. I always knew it as the cigar tree, because of the long seed pods. we used to whip them around when we were kids.

catalpa bowl

catalpa bowl 2

The other ring-porous wood I have to sample lately is really rare – American Chestnut. Or so I’m told. It was a tree planted about 15 years ago; and got some trimming done recently. It’s healthy now…but time will tell. Chances are it will succumb to the blight that all but wiped out the American Chestnut. http://www.acf.org/

It’s not a great wood for spoons, quite the opposite I would expect, but I have some small limbs and will see what happens. It’s high in tannic acid, turned my tools black as quick as you please.

chestnut end grain

 

The first birch bowl I was making sold before I could really get it here on the blog…but now I have finished the next 2 birch bowls, just applied flax oil to them today. I’ll post them for sale in the next day or 2. The first one is the most common orientation of the bowl in the split blank – the rim of the bowl is the inner wide surface of the halved log. Then I carved some gouge-cut decoration along the upper edge of each side. 

birch bowl right side up overall

birch bowl right side up

The next one is what I call “upside-down” – you hew the split face of the log and make that the bottom of the bowl. I learned this from Drew Langsner, who learned it from his Swedish friends. Smaller bowl, but lots of fun with the shapes. 

birch bowl upside down overall

birch bowl upside down detail

 

There’s still a few spoons left on the etsy site – don’t be daunted by Etsy. it’s easy to sign up, free too.  https://www.etsy.com/shop/PeterFollansbee

 

 

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