Back in the good ‘ol days, I was on the payroll, but no one knew what my job was. So I could spend 4 or 5 hours at a time, watching for bald eagles in the winter… Now that I’m on my own, time’s a bit tighter. I gambled a couple hours today, came up empty for eagles, but got some shots of a red tail hawk shrugging off some crows.
When the hawk is over-exposed, the crow comes out with some detail.
This one’s got a nice diagonal symmetry to it.
While waiting for the eagles that didn’t show up, this great blue heron flew in front of the sun…
“I am fascinated by the continuing dialogue about green woodworking crafts. They are crafts where wood of substantial moisture content is initially processed by riving, not sawing, in the direction of its long fibers. Glossary, Make a Chair from a Tree, Third Edition, Lost Art Press…..when it gets published. So there. Jennie”
JA – by your definition today, the chest above is not green woodworking. i.e. it’s sawn stock. Not riven.
just to keep things lively…on a cold winter day.
By the way, I can’t remember the last time I mentioned it, but if readers want to see lots of oak furniture of this period, do sign up for Marhamchurch Antiques emails. I always stop and look at what Paul Fitzsimmons has churned up over there. Great stuff. I swiped these photos from him. Thanks, Paul.
OK for those of you who wrote, and now mostly for those who didn’t – yes, it’s a technical mixup…
I edited the sidebar of the blog – to do a little housekeeping, and to add some new stuff, Instagram for example. In doing so, it seems that now the sidebar (widgets in WordPress-speak) right now only appears on the front page of the blog. If you open just a post, then all you get is some blather about that particular entry. So something went haywire when I updated the widgets…
My intention is to keep some links there, a search button (that’s how I answer most of your questions, by the way…) and I forget what else.
It’s all still here, going back to 2008. I’ll sit down tonight to try to get it back on track. Daylight is for woodworking, or, I wish, birdwatching.
If you know what I did, and how to un-do it, let me know. Otherwise, I scroll through loads of the help forums on wordpress.com
I can’t believe how fast this month is going by. I guess all that playing in the snow is catching up with me. Tweaked my back a little, (I think it was a sledding incident) so for the past 2 days have had light duty… so some blog updating was due. I wrangled with the sidebar to this blog. I doubt any one actually uses it; but there is a search button down there somewhere, as well as links to order the wainscot chair DVD; Maureen’s knitting/felting site, and Plymouth CRAFT. You will also see I have, much to my own shock, joined the 21st century and added an Instagram link. There is also a Facebook something-or-other out there with my name on it – all of this is down to Robin Wood and Jarrod Stone Dahl, those cursed bowl turners. I’m astounded by these things. Robin showed me his Instagram site – and while I was creating one, people were finding it…I don’t want to know how that works!
I’m trying both of these things. Who knows how long it will last? I still like the blog – that I know I’ll keep.
I’ve been carving some parts for a desk box lately. I’ve only made this type of box once before. The original is from the Braintree, Massachusetts group, William Savell and his sons John and William. These are the first patterns I ever learned how to carve. Working on them now is really so much fun; makes me look back on the whole joinery trip. I shoveled out some oak the other day; so more work coming.
Some time ago, I wrote a column for Popular Woodworking and asked the question “what is green woodworking?” (December 2014, #215) I’m not going to repeat the article here, but want to look at the subject. The column stemmed from a talk I gave at Lie-Nielsen’s Open House last summer.
I used to know pretty clearly what “green woodworking” meant. But the older I get, the more I realize the less I know.
Making a carved spoon is a great example of green woodworking – you can make them from dry wood, (I wouldn’t) but the best ones come from trees, and are worked while the wood still has a high moisture content. More direct, easier to cut, exploiting the fibers of the riven/split form – all of these are hallmarks of green woodworking. Hewn bowls, and many turned ones fall into a similar category. But bowls and spoons are single pieces of wood. what about furniture, when you put stuff together?
When I first learned of this method of woodworking, it was Drew Langsner’s Country Woodcraft, Roy Underhill’s Woodwright’s Shop – and the book that coined the term for the modern day – Make a Chair from a Tree: An Introduction to Green Woodworking by John (now Jennie) Alexander. What puts the green in green woodworking? Is it moisture content? Is it riving the wood? Is it “country crafts” like the British books that inspired all of the authors listed above – Jenkins’ Traditional Country Craftsmen” and Edlin “Woodland Crafts in Britain”. Alexander felt left out of the “country” aspect of this traditional woodworking, living in the heart of the city. Hence her book’s subtitle has “green woodworking” – not country anything.
The ladderback style chair Alexander learned even got a great deal of its strength from the moisture content manipulation – dry tenons in wetter mortises. the mortise shrinks, the tenon swells. Presto! You’re a chairmaker and have never been to a lumberyard. The way I remember it, in the 1980s green woodworking was ladderback chairs, some bowl-turning (I remember folks used to turn them green, let them dry, the re-turn them round again!) and a few other disciplines. Timber framing comes to mind.
I think about coopering – is that green woodworking? Usually riven stock, worked with a hatchet, drawkinives, shaving horses – but the critical parts are either executed or at least assembled when the stock is bone-dry. Or else.
Windsor chairs? In America, these usually had, and have, softwood seats. Often white pine. That ain’t worked green. But the hardwood components are often riven from green stock. They’re selectively dried, like parts of Alexander’s ladderback chair, before assembly. Even the hardwood seats of British Windsors can’t be dead-green…
Some approach the “green” like the modern use of the term, renewable energy; careful use of resources, that sort of thing. Coppice crafts, are perfectly aligned with this idea. This work has long been very popular in the Old World, yet to my knowledge, never caught on here in the New World.
Starting in 1989, Alexander and I explored another furniture craft, seemingly more complex, until we got through with it & stripped it down – joiner’s work of the 17th century. It had riven stock, high moisture content – but some of it was not “country” in its format – some were very elaborate forms; with lots of decoration. This work has been my main focus since then. It does not fit the eco-groovy definition at all. I call it “Imperialist Swine” woodworking – you need a whole new forest to sustain it. The oak trees I want take 200 years to grow to size. And I will only use a small percentage of the tree. The rest goes in the fire.
In the end, I decided I don’t think of myself as a “green woodworker” although probably three-quarters of my stock is riven from green logs, and primarily worked up while it has a high moisture content. Trees are wood, I’m a woodworker. Sometimes I use stock fresh from the log, other times I need stuff that’s air-dried. I work the wood at various stages between wet & dry. Most of my furniture is a combination of the two. I think that’s a traditional approach….
I am really lucky. Last year, my wife & I decided to concentrate our efforts on things we really believed in, contrary to some of our actions at that time. So I quit my job, and we began home-schooling the kids this past fall. A large part of my income is from travelling to teach workshops, but some of it happens here at home. I’m lucky that so far, we can get away with it. So far. It could go bad at any time.
What does this have to do with the weather? Simple. I have always liked winter. But I used to complain loudly about summer heat & humidity. One beastly summer day I decided that if I kept up complaining about it, then there were odds that each year, for upwards of maybe 15-20 or so days, I’d be in a bad mood right off the bat. Seems stupid to let something so out of my control steer my days, so I quit feeling that way. Threw the switch in my head that said “I hate this…” and just slowed down on humid days, and expected things to take longer than “ordinary”.
But as long as I can remember, I have liked shoveling the snow. In the storms we’ve had this past month, it’s been great work. Hard physical work, that warms you up on a winter day. Bright fresh air like no other time of year, and almost no traffic. quiet like we don’t often get around here. I had a very nice offer from a neighbor the other day – “I can bring my snowblower over & get this done quickly.” – I thanked her, and told her I was lucky, I don’t have to go anywhere for a few weeks. I can take my time & spread this work out. Didn’t have to do it all today,…thanks just the same. It took some convincing, she offered too to have her husband sweep through with the plow. Nope – thanks, it’s OK. Really, it’s all right. I told her if it was wet snow, I’d take her up on it. That made her feel better.
People just can’t conceive that I might like this. The kids were out playing in the snow, the bird feeders were busy as all get out. There were hawks circling high overhead. The sky was blue like no other. It was fine really. I am lucky. Temporarily able-bodied, one person once said. While that’s the case, I’m going to enjoy it. I work at it til I’m tired, then I rest. There’s a lot to take in…dark-eyed juncos, (Thoreau’s “snowbird”) everywhere, common goldeneye in the river; a little wren working its way in & out of the ivy on the side of the house. The kids romping in the snow. When I start to get cold, then I know it’s time to work again. I understand other folks have different challenges and that this weather makes it hard for them. But I am sure that many are just complaining out of habit, rather than hardship. If they could just throw that switch in their heads…
I am lucky. I don’t have to be anywhere. I’m not complaining.
At my house, the carved joined stuff is in every room. I have tried many times, and always failed, to count the pieces of furniture in this 4 1/2 room house. You’d be amazed at how much stuff you can cram in here. (I’m in the kitchen right now – 9 pieces of free-standing furniture, 3 hanging on the wall, and all the built-in cupboards above the counters)
This week, I have been making this little, big rush-seated chair. Little because it’s a low seat, generally small-size chair. Big because it’s not subtle – the posts are almost 2” square, the rungs fit in holes that are 15/16” in diameter. So little big chair. It’s based on 17th-century chairs that we mostly know from Dutch artwork, more-so than from surviving examples. (next up for it is trimming the posts here & there, weaving the seat…) These are ancestors of the ladderback chairs that I first learned back in the late 1970s/80s. Here’s one that I did about 1984 or so. A more recent kid’s version too.
I began as a chairmaker. Made ladderbacks, rockers, Windsors – then got into the 17th century & made wainscot chairs, 3-legged & 4-legged. Turned chairs ditto. Leather chairs. Chairs w boxes in the seat. Kid’s chairs, high chairs. My semi-latest chair was the walnut brettstuhl.
But at our kitchen table, the chairs we use at every meal and then some are Windsor chairs I made 20-25 years ago.
At my desk too. I once had one of those stupid office chairs, then I came to my senses & remembered that I am a chairmaker. Windsors are lightweight, comfortable, attractive. Sturdy. Fun and challenging to build; carving, turning, shaved work, sculpted seats. good all around projects. And so much variety.
Two things happened this week to remind me of how much I like good Windsor chairs. Lost Art Press announced the release of Pete Galbert’s long-awaited book on Windsor chairs. You already know about that…
One of the days that the mail got through here, I received Curtis Buchanan’s next installment in his printed plans for his chairs, this one a fanback side chair, one of my favorites.
I learned Windsors from Curtis, starting in 1987. I really like his approach, both to his chairs and to his life. If you’ve seen his youtube series on making a Windsor chair – then you’ve seen Curtis’ style, very human, simple, direct – and he makes especially beautiful chairs. This set of plans is 4 pages; some 1/2 scale, some full scale. Two different turning patterns, bending forms, seat profile & plan. Boring angles – a course in Windsor chair making in 4 pages. I’m ordering Pete’s book, but I’m keeping Curtis’ plans too – you never know when I might reach into my past & make some more chairs. We must be able to squeeze one or two more in here…