here come old flat-top

Boxes. we use them around here for everything – textiles, papers, stuff in the kitchen like candles, batteries, phone chargers, books, collections of shells & bones, who knows what else… I’ve made lots of boxes like these. Lots.

I hate the phrase “think outside of the box” I often think of the song “Little boxes, little boxes” and of course, “a box of rain to ease the pain…” (whatever that means)

I finished one of these desk boxes for the video (it will come out when Lie-Nielsen puts it out, is the answer to “when will it be out?”) last week. I have another 2/3 done. I have to shoot it for real soon…but these two quick shots give you an idea of what it looks like.

done box

done box inside

 

BUT while we shot that process, I added in some “regular” box stuff too. So in that case, I built this medium-size oak box, with pine lid & bottom. Maybe 15″ wide, 12″ deep. 6″-7″ high. (the blog title is to distinguish this box from the slant-lidded desk above)

here come old flat top

flat top side

 

And then there’s the Alaskan yellow cedar box I made while teaching up there.

yellow cedar

ayc detail

 

I’m over-run with the things, I’m going to photograph some, and post them for sale soon. Meanwhile – there’s several chances for students to come learn how to make your own.

First is a 2-day version – in this Lie-Nielsen class, we’ll bypass splitting the log into boards and go right to carving, then joinery (rabbets & pegs) – it’s coming up in early June. We have spaces left, so if you have just a little time, this is a good choice. It will be a small class, so we’ll have some chances to get some details in… https://www.lie-nielsen.com/workshop/USA/61  I brought up some outrageously good white oak last week – I might even make another box just because the wood is so good.

The full-blown, split-the-log-make-the-boards-then-make-the-box version is a 5-day class. http://www.newenglishworkshop.co.uk/  In England, it’s happening twice – July 13-17 in Warwickshire College then the next week, July 20-24th at Bridgwater College in Somerset. I’m hoping to get out & see some oak carvings while in England, it’s been a while since I was there. 10 years…

carved pulpit detail
carved pulpit detail

Back in the States, the full-bore class is happening in October at Marc Adams’ school – http://www.marcadams.com/ Oct 19-23. My first visit here…

“Here come old flat-top, he come groovin up slowly…”

In between times

It’s coming up on a year since I left my job as the joiner at Plimoth Plantation. While I was there, I often taught workshops during my vacations and other time off. Lie-Nielsen, Roy Underhill’s place, CVSWW, Country Workshops – but in that format, I only had a few weeks (or weekends) each year available to travel & teach.

froe
Matt riving w Plymouth CRAFT last weekend

 

When I announced I was leaving the museum, I got offers to come teach in various places, in addition to the usual outfits. When I arranged my schedule last winter, I had no idea how it would work – on paper it seemed fine, once or twice a month, travel to teach. One long, maybe one short class each month. Now I’m in the midst of it, and while it’s great fun (Alaska! Are you kidding?) what I didn’t compute is the time between to unpack, decompress and then turn around & get ready for the next one.

matanuska trip

I’m not complaining, just saying “here’s why there’s little on the blog these days…”

I was thinking, I’m home now for 3 1/2 weeks, before I head down for to Roy’s. Except this coming weekend I’m at Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking, then next weekend I have a one-day presentation with the Plymouth CRAFT group, then the weekend after that, I’m back at my 2nd home this summer – Lie-Nielsen for making a carved box. THEN, I have to hit the road & go to North Carolina!

mortising from on high
Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking

The plan is to do some woodworking tomorrow & shoot some pictures. I’ll let you know what happens.

How am I supposed to get some birding in? I haven’t even had time to ID this warbler from Maine…

warbler

I am not un-busy

Well. No sooner did I return from Alaska, and I had to prep for a trip to Lie-Nielsen in Maine. Taught 2 days of spoon carving,

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then shot a new video for 4 days.

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Came home Thursday evening, and on Friday got organized somewhat for teaching today with Plymouth CRAFT http://plymouthcraft.org/ = a class in riving, co-taught with Rick McKee, of Blue Oak fame – https://blueoakblog.wordpress.com/

Many nuances of using ring-porous hardwoods and splitting wedges and froes. (also helping us out was Michael Doherty, “the Source-of-All-Wood” – in the floppy hat. Thanks, MD)

overall splitting PAS CRAFT

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Some hatchet work, some detours.

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It was held at the Harlow house, part of the Plymouth Antiquarian Society. http://www.plymouthantiquariansociety.org/ Our friend Donna Curtin gave us a tour inside the c. 1670s Harlow house during lunch. We almost didn’t come back to riving there was so much to see inside.

As usual for Plymouth CRAFT, we had a 2-ring circus today, there was spinning going on inside too. I missed that, but Marie shot many photos, I’m sure.

There were birds in Maine, but grey skies…

 

fishless
osprey no fish 
what does the fish think
what is this fish thinking?
magnolia warbler
magnolia warbler
b&w
black & white warbler

Time for some non-woodsy bits, before I hit Connecticut next Saturday.

new rides

easy rider

 

 

Alaska post

 matanuska trip

I’ve written before about how I consider myself pretty lucky. Mostly healthy, wonderful family, nice home – that sort of thing. On top of that, I get to make my living doing interesting and challenging work that I love. And, I have fallen into what I often call the Hand-Tool Circus (sometimes I call it the Lie-Nielsen circus, or the Roy Underhill Circus, the Lost Art Press circus, etc) – it’s a loosely defined band of traveling woodworkers who get to go places and teach classes. Traveling is hard, leaving the kids at home – there’s lots to it that’s like work; the planning, packing, unpacking…organizing the next trip – but it sure beats working for a living…

 This circus has taken me to some interesting places, and has introduced me to a cadre of new friends far and wide. So now you can tell this post is about Alaska. The Alaska Creative Woodworkers is a group of woodworkers, centered around Anchorage – and they bring woodworkers from down south here to teach various classes. This past week was my turn, following in the steps of Roy Underhill, Chris Schwarz, Mary May, Chris Becksvoort, and more…

 Chris and Roy had told me that these folks treat you very well. That was an understatement to say the least. Great hosts, great facility in the shop of club member Don Fall, and they leave out no detail. I had time off between the two classes, and had volunteers wanting to show me Alaska. Jonathan Snyder (blog here: http://www.alaskawoodworker.com/ ) made sure I got to every birding spot in the area, and other club members Tony Strupulis and Mike Weidmar each took a whole day to show me around, one on a whale watch out of Seward, in Resurrection Bay, the other for a ride up the Matanuska-Susitna region, looking at the Matanuska glacier and the formation of some of those mountains and valleys. This particular ride was in style, a 1941 Cadillac being the means of conveyance. An earlier trip was in a 1949 Ford Convertible. Alaskans think 50 degrees Farenheit is warm.

mike W 1941 caddy
In the Cadillac…a great car to drive after a war

 Everywhere you look there is an eye popping view, to my sea-level eyes anyway….and the woodworking! Yellow cedar for the carved boxes, and nice slow growing birch – more dense than the birch I know down in New England…for spoons. plus I was able to harvest some bark to practice learning how to work with that. (Thanks though to Jarrod for my first batch of bark and the inspiration and instruction in the first place.)

fresh bark from Alaska birch (Betaluna neoalaskana)

 

Eagles, ducks, geese, songbirds, owls (heard-only) grouse, cranes, shorebirds – I was really there just before peak migration, but got to see some birds I only know in winter plumage. And some I had either never seen, or had never seen well (also couldn’t get photos of them – the varied thrush, boreal chickadee, white winged crossbill.)

 

Moose (Jonathan found my first moose about 7 minutes into my visit, in the parking lot of a defunct club where ladies used to “dance” if you know what I mean. This is a family blog, so I’ll leave it at that) – Dall sheep, mountain goats, Stellar’s sea lions, sea otters -grey whales, Dall’s porpoises, musta been more.

strip moose
strip club moose, aka City Moose

 I read some travel guide about Alaska that should have been called “There’s Lots of Ways to Die in Alaska” – let’s see, you can walk out in the mud, get stuck, then drown as the quickly rising tide comes in to bury you. Fall in a glacial crevasse. Et by a bear. (The bear warnings are really something – don’t surprise the bear by walking around a blind corner – but the woods I walked were nothing but blind corners. I got spooked by a squirrel. You’re supposed to clap, sing, or ring bells as you walk. Makes birding tricky) You can get Stomped by a moose. Avalanche. Oh, yes, Anchorage is on a huge fault, and in 1964 was the site of North America’s largest-ever earthquake. Nobody said anything about just plain ol’ getting lost in the wilderness. Falling off some mountain road, tumbling thousands of feet.

lotsa ways to die

 

 

Ah, yes – falling in a crevasse – at least there’s little decay. Good for archaeology.

 

 

PF by Jonathan

See? It says “move cautiously along creeks, on blind corners and in heavily vegetated areas” which is all of the Alaska I saw…yup, there’s lots of ways to die in Alaska. But I’ll go push my luck again someday. It was great. Thanks to all my new Alaska friends. I’ll always remember this trip

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Next stop – home of the circus, Lie-Nielsen.

 

I’m back

sea lions

I’m back from my Alaska trip. But I feel as lazy as these Steller sea lions look…so I’ll get to your emails & orders, some DVDs and spoons. Sorry for any delays. I wrote 2 blog posts about the trip, but need to sort the photos. It was great, I can’t wait to show you…

PF

May with Plymouth CRAFT

twisting the froe
twisting the froe

These days, I tend to be out ahead of myself a bit. While teaching the chest class in Connecticut a week or so ago, I was thinking of preparing the next class(es), in Alaska. Those are coming right up (still room) and while I’m planning, preparing & packing for that, I’m thinking ahead to a spoon class at Lie-Nielsen and then the video shoot after it. Those are in early May, so right in time for spring migration in Maine.

THEN – comes the next of my offerings with my friends in Plymouth CRAFT. Rick McKee and I are teaming up to show how to split apart logs for various projects. http://plymouthcraft.org/?tribe_events=splitting-a-log-into-boards  This is a technique class, not a project. Rick has rived many thousands of clapboards over the years,and numerous other oak materials. We’ll look at how to “read” the log, what to look for, and what to look out for. Use of the wedges, mauls, froe & club – the riving brakes. It should be great. This is a one-day class, hosted at the Harlow Old Fort House, near downtown Plymouth Massachusetts. A rare chance to get together with Rick, you could even end up on one of his memorable blog posts at Blue Oak. https://blueoakblog.wordpress.com/

riving stiles with a froe
riving stiles with a froe

I’m off tomorrow to scout out some wood for this class. If I find a suitable ash log, I might add splint pounding to the lineup. That’s more fun than you can stand.

The Plymouth CRAFT scene usually is a multi-ring circus,and this one’s no exception. While we’re busting logs open, Charlotte Russell and Denise Lebica will be teaching drop-spinning.

“In this class, you will learn to use a simple tool — the drop-spindle — to convert fiber into yarn. Spinning is at the foundation of most of the textile arts. The ancient, inexpensive, portable, drop-spindle allows you to spin almost anywhere.

 

This workshop with long-time spinner and teacher Charlotte Russell will focus on developing a feel for creating quality yarn, and will feature hands-on evaluation of fibers such as wool, alpaca, flax, cotton, angora, quiviut and silk. Participants will gain an understanding of  which of the various types of spindles are appropriate to spin which fiber.”  – whole story here: http://plymouthcraft.org/?tribe_events=spinning-fiber-into-yarn

IMG_5479

for me, having other classes under the same umbrella adds a lot to the fun, it’s great being surrounded by more crafty people and we usually have some time to spend seeing what the other half is up to…it’s sure to be interesting. Come join us, Rick & I will bring the tools & wood, you just come show up. the lunch alone is worth it.

Even sooner than that is a weekend class that I wish I was taking – make a wood-fired oven with Paula Marcoux. http://plymouthcraft.org/?tribe_events=build-an-earthen-oven Paula knows ovens like I know oak. Coming right up, May 2 & 3, 2015. This will be a life-changing class – really.