sooner or later one of us must know

I interrupted myself today to take care of a long-put-off task. Earlier this year, I took my lathe apart so I could build a trio of over-sized projects; a queen-size bed, a 7-foot high dresser and a large settle. My intention was when I finished those projects, I’d put the lathe back. Sooner or later.

A  couple of months went by…til today. I was enjoying having some extra floor space in the shop, but the plan all along was to make a new, shorter bed for it. This one is ash and fits 30″ between the centers, so I can turn joined stool parts, the front stiles of a wainscot chair and any small stuff I might need, like tool handles, etc.

The original bed is stashed up in the loft. It fits 50″ between centers, so takes up considerable room in the end of the shop. I’ll switch them around when I get occasion to turn those giant 17th-century style chairs.

This next photo shows the upright that forms the “headstock” if a lathe like this has one. The bed is fixed to the uprights by large iron bolts with washers & square nuts. All the hardware; these bolts, the centers, and the tool rest brackets were made by Mark Atchison back in 1994 when I was first working at my old shop in the museum.

Here’s the moveable “poppet” with its tool rest bracket inserted through it. You can see the wedge just below the bed that fastens the poppet in place.

The tool rest propped in the brackets.

I have no turner’s work coming up, so for now the lathe is shoved back against the rear wall. It fits 2 JA chairs tucked under it; waiting to be finished. And junk collects on the chair seats, an unfinished basket in this case. The foot treadle is stashed behind the lathe, and the spring pole is up in the peak of the ceiling.

For the time being, there’s easy access to the notebooks and other reference works. Many of you didn’t even know there was a bookcase in the shop probably.

Also important is access to the window looking out over the garden and the river. One day last week we looked out from the house and a great blue heron was under the bird feeders. He spooked and took off, but shortly after that came back & hung around the garden. Wouldn’t want to be a chipmunk that day…


A couple of years ago, Maureen planted milkweed to attract monarch butterflies. Today she found a caterpillar on one of the plants…


Box week

It was going to be bowl week. But I think it turned into box week. I don’t know what happened. Some of it stems from the great, not-quite-finished loft cleaning of spring 2019.

When I make a carved oak box they can go one of two ways. Some are reproductions/copies of existing boxes, as close as I can get them. This desk box is an example of that work. The measurements, decoration, construction are all based on an examination of a late 17th-century example.

This is one of the projects in the new book Joiner’s Work 

Here’s a look inside, showing one of two lidded tills, in front of a long tray at the back of the box. There’s four of those small drawers above.

When I’m just making boxes without any specific model, then I do things just a little differently. All the carvings are still derived from period work, as are the construction techniques. For instance, most New England boxes (& English ones) are joined with rabbets at the corners, not dovetails.

Unless I’m making a strict reproduction though, I tend to use glue and wooden pins to secure the rabbet, instead of the more common nailed rabbets. Just saves some handmade nails. There are some period boxes that are glued and pegged, but they are the exception rather than the rule. Here I’m driving the wooden pins into the box front-to-side joints.

In this next photo you see the square oak pegs, and then the finishing touches of gouged decoration along the ends of the box front. I saw this on a few boxes, but I usually put it on all of mine.

In these two new boxes you can see the extended pintle at the top rear corner. This becomes part of a wooden hinge. Again, I’ve seen this on period boxes, but it’s pretty rare, compared to iron hinges.

Here’s the cleat, attached to the underside of the lid, engaging that pintle. If you’re looking at details, you’ll see this box is sawn stock, not riven.

I’m teaching the carved box class a couple more times this year, the first Lost Art Press box class (late July) just sold out last week. After that is a week long class at Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking – October 12-16 

Then the finale for the year back at Lost Art Press’ storefront in December –

The class features lots of carving; a full day of practice, followed by a day carving the front and sides for the box. Here’s 7 of the 9 boxes the Australians carved last fall when I was there in the spring:

(The desk box shown above is also covered in the video I shot a few years ago with Lie-Nielsen about making boxes)


“Such a long, long time to be gone…

And a short time to be there…”

[I wrote this & forgot to post it. Re-phrased a little bit today. I boosted a number of photos from Marie Pelletier and Rick McKee – and Paula Marcoux did too, but that’s what they shoot them for. So more are on Plymouth CRAFT’s facebook page.

Last week we finished up several woodworking classes and our first-ever “Spoon Day.” Plymouth CRAFT is really lucky. We have a very receptive and generous audience. We didn’t even know what Spoon Day would be & we knew it they’d flip out over it. The one-day event was wedged in between two 2-day courses taught by Dave Fisher and JoJo Wood. The venue for Spoon Day was Bay End Farm; an idyllic spot down in Bourne, Massachusetts. As far as I we can tell, it all went swimmingly. The responses that we’ve heard were glowingly positive.

Image may contain: tree, plant and outdoor

Here’s the class photo from JoJo’s class for women

Tim Manney did his sharpening scene at Spoon day; they were lined up all day to work their edges with him.

Some of the spoon carvers…

I worked with some folks on knife grips at one point –

JoJo beaming during one of her classes.

And with one of her students.

An overview of the tent for spoon day.

Dave Fisher showing his adze work.


I wish my first bowl looked that good…

Group photo for bowl class # 2.

Running even a smaller-scale event like this – one day instead of three, about 75 attendees instead of 125 – still requires a lot of setup and breakdown. One by one our instructors trickled in; and it’s always a highlight of our year when we get to spend so much time with our far-flung friends. Tim Manney arrived and he & I immediately launched into a long discussion about chairs, chairmaking friends, and all things related. We could have gone on for hours, and in fact picked right up again a day later and did. And we all had multiple interactions like this over & over during our days together. Some were here longer or shorter; and one-by-one they trickled out as they had come in. Many thanks to all the volunteers who helped us set up & break down.

And just like that, it was over. Thanks all, for a great time.


The Road to Hell…

This clean-up is harder than I thought. It takes longer, anyway. There’s a pile of baskets, the best of which are here – some finished, some nearly so. All of these were sitting up in the loft for a year-plus. But at least now they can get used.

Here’s the ones for today’s work – I have some last bits of hickory to split, shave & bend for handles & rims.

Two stools – the one on the right is brand-new, just finished last week, maybe it was the week before.

The joined stool is #3 of a pair. I made parts for three when I was making them for the Cutchogue Old House project. Then realized the order only called for two. So this stool, all turned & joinery cut, went up into the loft. I brought it down when I was prepping for my Winterthur demo last month, did some quick carvings on the rails, then pinned it. Today I plan on making the seat board, pinning that & tomorrow painting it red.

Birch bark canisters.

Ugh. I am very taken with this work, but have only spent a little time with it. Last fall Plymouth CRAFT hosted a class by Jarrod Dahl – and I learned a lot from those sessions. This one I had cut the finger joints some time ago, made a bottom, but ran out of bark so couldn’t make the bands that usually go around the upper & lower ends. I decided last week to forget them, and made a top for it, and fitted it with a basket handle. A little chip carving finished it off. 6 1/2″ diameter, 9″ high. 

While moving some large books around in the house, I found a small sheet of birch bark that I had flattened & forgot about. It turned red – I don’t know if that was from the book, the paper between it & the book or what.



 But I made a small canister from it, and had some short pieces to make the bands. Now a handle & it will be done.

Some post & rung work:

The ladderback chair I started during Plymouth CRAFT’s first chair class early in May. It came home in pieces, but I figured I better build it now or just burn it. Assembled it yesterday. Slats are next. The stool parts beside it are overflow from the finished stool above. So I’ll finish both of these up, then they are slated to get rush seats instead of hickory bark.

In my cleaning, I keep running into bits of wood stored around – “Oh, that’s going to by X, Y or Z someday.” This one is mahogany – a wood I have never used. I think Bob Van Dyke gave it to me. One little piece, what could I make from one piece? One of Roy’s sliding lid boxes. 

I’m not going to spoil it for those that don’t know these little puzzles. You can watch him make one here –

And look – one more. This carved box only needs a lid and some paint to call it done. OK, I know what I have to do now, better get away from this desk and do it.









Spring cleaning

I like May. It’s light out early, not too hot, lots of birds, and all the leaves & flowers coming out display a great variety of colors. Except this May – it was mostly a dud. We’ve finally had some sunshine and it feels great. The raking light of early morning provides some of my favorite views. Here’s this morning’s view upriver:

The light on this basket hanging in the shop is reflected off a beam just out of view to the left. The sun is to my right –

Here’s a view pulled back showing the sunlight hitting the timber –

Yesterday in the shop I went to the loft and pulled down some half-finished baskets. I have a small amount of hickory to shave for rims and handles, so I spent the afternoon doing just that. I found that if I shaved the rims carefully to an even thickness, I could bend them without bothering to steam them. Some did go through the steaming process, but things went just as well without it. These will be ready in a day or two for lashing the rims & handles on with thin narrow strips of hickory bark. Then I’ll go back to the loft to see what else is up there taking up space…

A bird that Marie & I missed last week arrived here this week, the cedar waxwings (Bombycilla cedrorum) 


Finishing up some ladderback chairs next.

the years just roll by like a broken-down dam

The book Joiner’s Work arrived here today. Get your copy here:

Once again, thanks to all the great help at Lost Art Press. If you’re reading my blog, that means you know who they are – they make this book-writing process easy. I’ve had the PDF, but to me it doesn’t count until I have a book in my hands. Or, in this case in the kids’ hands. I haven’t checked, but this book looks smaller than the first one.

Last time –

they seem to think it’s funny…

this time –

I’m about to make some oak furniture after the long-hiatus with white pine. Some carved boxes coming up next…first one will be like the one in the back row of this photo:

I dug out my long-neglected spoon knives and started practicing. Spoon Day is coming up with Plymouth CRAFT. Still some tickets; date is Sunday June 9th –

Great lineup – JoJo Wood, Dave Fisher, Tim Manney, Oliver Pratt, Reid Schwartz, Amy Umbel, Jay Ketner, Jessica Hirsch – a day full of spoon carving, trading ideas, techniques, designs & more…

Some JA chair stuff still reverberating after last week’s Plymouth CRAFT class in making one. I shot a short video showing a stress-test for one joint. Twist & twist the rung/post junction. The joint stays tight, the rung shreds. That’s strong enough for my lifetime & beyond, I’d bet.

Here’s the result:


Other stuff – This AM – not at the house, I was out for a walk, going to get birds, but ran into this leapin’ creature…

There’s a house wren outside the shop, setting up a nest on the house, interestingly enough. He’s bringing sticks that are too long for him to get in the hole. Fun to watch him struggle with building. Reminds me of when I built the shop – I remember being upside down part of the time…

And a brief attempt at a dramatic reading of a how-to book:


and –

Spring Migration

It’s May. That means our friend Marie & I headed our for our yearly warbler-migration. One morning at Wompatuck State Park in Hingham MA and today in Mt. Auburn Cemetery in Watertown & Cambridge, MA. Today’s trip was the stuff of warbler-legends – at one point we stayed looking in two trees for an hour and the birds just kept coming in. Almost every single one of these birds, though, makes their living way up high in the treetops. This is especially true of the warblers, plus they’re small & in constant motion. Makes photography tough, unless you have a larger budget than us, for the giant lenses. But – it was a perfect day to be at Mt. Auburn.

first bird – Magnolia warbler (Setophaga magnolia) 

Not a warbler, but a returning breeder; winters down in Central America/northern South America. Rose-breasted grosbeak (Pheucticus ludovicianus). Not a bird we see often; always exciting. This one was cooperative. There was another with it too.

he’s fanning his tail here:

As the morning moved on, it warmed up. Several hawks floating above everything. Juvenile red-tailed hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) .

Northern parula (Setophaga americana) – always a highlight of the spring. I thought they were passing through here en route to northern breeding grounds – well, they are. But the species also breeds throughout the eastern US., except for an east-west swath that includes Massachusetts. I get much of my birding info from the Cornell website –

A little closer shot, these are heavily cropped. My lens is just 300mm, so can only pull so far in from the tops of the trees.

Sometimes we’ll go a couple of years without seeing a Blackburnian warbler (Setophaga fusca) – last year I had a 3-second view and never could find him again. This morning we saw two – and I got one “record” shot. Looks like they breed in western Massachusetts, must need more woods than we have here in the eastern part of the state.


All I knew was it was a thrush. Marie said “I think it could be Swainson’s thrush” (Catharus ustulatus) – we caught up with a group a minute later who said they had two Swainson’s that had just flown off – but we had just come up as the birds landed on these stones.

We saw (but didn’t photograph) several black-throated green warblers (Setophaga virens), but did get basic shots of this black-throated blue warbler (Setophaga caerulescens). All you can see in this view is the black throat – the back is a deep blue color.

a female American redstart (Setophaga ruticilla) we’ll get to the male.

The lowest, most cooperative bird of the day – a common yellowthroat (Geothlypis trichas) this guy does nest around here, I hear them often in my yard, they love to be near water. But sometimes I can go all spring & summer  – hear it everyday in the spring, but not see it. This one was working some rhododendron bushes.

here he is again. We saw the female too.

The male redstart. There were lots of these today.

Another non-warbler, the scarlet tanager (Piranga olivacea) – there was a female too, she’s green with dark wings. And a female summer tanager. No photos of either of those.

From Hingham the other day – fewer leaves, another scarlet tanager, one view of his armpit.

Two years in a row, we stumbled upon very cooperative, non-singing veerys (Catharus fuscescens) another thrush.


a blue-gray gnatcatcher (Polioptila caerulea) – 

Back home, it’s orioles. Here’s a female Baltimore oriole (Icterus galbula) working our apple trees.

Here’s Daniel’s shot of one of the males today –