2012 classes; carving & box-making

Recently I got a couple of questions about workshops and or classes I’m teaching this year…so here goes.

there’s just a few, and one is coming up soon – in April I’m headed to the Woodwright’s School to work again with Roy Underhill. The project is making a carved box, working with riven green oak.

carved box 2011

We’ll be planing the stock, learning a number of carving designs, then assembling the box using wooden pins and some handmade nails from Peter Ross. Peter is also making some hinges for us, or students can opt for a wooden type hinge. I’ll show both methods. The dates are April 17-20 -here’s the link. http://www.woodwrightschool.com/bible-box-not-w-peter-follansb/ If you’re interested, email Roy – it will be great fun.

In May I’ll be teaching a two-day class at Lie-Nielsen in Warren, Maine. How can you go wrong? A weekend in Maine is hard to beat. This one is about carving, we’ll explore in detail numerous patterns; how to generate them then how to execute them. It will be similar to walking through the two DVDs I’ve done with them – but I’ll be sure to have lots of different patterns to study and work from.  It will be my first time teaching a class there- but I can’t wait. Here’s the link for their workshops program – http://www.lie-nielsen.com/?pg=35   If you’re coming for this class, start practicing this posture for watching the demos –

workshop posture

Then in July I’ll be back in Maine for a week-long box class, this time at the Center for Furniture Craftsmanship in Rockport. This is also my first time teaching there; and having looked at the classes they offer and the instructors they bring it, I’m thrilled to be included.  See their course listings here http://www.woodschool.org/furniture-making-courses-programs/workshops

Center for Furniture Craftsmanship

So let’s get moving – if I can fill these classes, then I get to teach more & more…


Open Make a Joint Stool from a Tree


Last week Chris Schwarz showed us a nifty method of working the spine of the Joint Stool book – he had a short video showing how to ease each signature of the book open… http://blog.lostartpress.com/2012/03/24/preparing-a-book-to-read-it/

But he just sat on the edge of his couch & tore into the shrinkwrap with his bare hands. Seems a little devil-may-care to me…I like to approach these things with some thought to posture and stance. So I shot my own homemade video showing how I prefer to open the shrinkwrap on Make a Joint Stool from a Tree…

thanks to Bartibogue for shooting it.

the cleaver the kids used to split pins

Simple post tonight – folks asked about the cleaver my kids were using to split pin stock last week. https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/2012/03/21/you-can-never-have-too-many-pins/

It’s made by Wisconsin blacksmith Tom Latane; it was given to me many years ago by Jennie Alexander. Here it is:

cleaver by Tom Latane

and the view showing the spine:

and Tom’s mark on this one:


It works perfectly. Does exactly what it is meant to do, and beyond that is a treasure – wonderful workmanship as always from Tom. See his website here:



Thanks to Jennie for the gift. Thanks to Tom for the craftsmanship.

you can never have too many pins

Whenever I have an offcut of straight-grained clear oak that’s at least 5 inches long, I save it. That’s pin stock and you can never have too much of it around. I like to split it out ahead of time, and lay them around the shop in various corners to let them dry out.

the pins are the most demanding stock in joined furniture, when it comes to moisture content. They should be the driest stuff around. Dry dry dry.



Here, the kids are splitting out some green oak for pin blanks. A cleaver and a rawhide mallet are excellent for this task. Any wiggle in the grain, chuck it. ANY. It has to be straight-grained.

I aim for spliting them them down to about squares about 3/8” to 1/2” thick. Then toss them aside in the shop & forget about them. I probably have 200 of these around most of the time…I tend to keep the oldest, i.e. the driest, in one spot under the window near the bench. when that stash gets low, I scrounge around the shop, looking for pin stock that’s covered in dust and clacks loudly when I knock them together. That should mean they’re dry enough to move into the favored spot in the rotation.

Successive splits get easier, or, They didn't need me anymore

carving & carving

As I said earlier, I have been doing some carving lately. I have several classes this year on carving; but you might remember from an earlier post, I used up some of my carving samples/patterns. https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/2012/01/12/it-was-the-rust-that-got-me/

When I teach, I like to have many examples for students to learn from…

so I started carving some new examples. Here’s one that is featured on almost all of my work, a pattern I call the “S-scroll”. I use it over & over; to the point where the entire 2nd DVD I did with Lie-Nielsen covers only this design, in about 5 versions.  http://www.lie-nielsen.com/catalog.php?grp=1320

This is the basic outline, struck with the curved gouges themselves.

here is the “freehand” part; using the V-tool to connect the circles defined with the small gouge.

V-tool freehand curve

I think the total number of gouges for this pattern was 6; a V-tool, 3 different curved gouges, one very shallow gouge for removing the background and a very tiny one for two little stop cuts in the details at the end.

Now the pattern has been struck with the gouges.

S-scroll defined

now some background removed


now some incised details,  chopping out small gouge cuts, brings us to the finished design & its outline.

the finished pattern & its layout

So just when I was really getting going; the museum’s tree person (we call him Hurricane Craig) came by & trimmed a very large sycamore (here in the US it’s a sycamore; in the UK the same tree is a London Plane Tree; and sycamore means something else over there.) the Latin name for this tree is Platanus occidentalis. Anyway, this pile represents about 1/10th of the haul. It’s a lousy splitting wood, but once you get it open, it’s great for wooden ware.

one tenth spoon haul


So, I have lots of furniture & shop work to do, but spoons, here I come.

spoon carving

some carving details

After making a bunch of joint stools last year while shooting stuff for the book, http://www.lostartpress.com/Make_a_Joint_Stool_from_a_Tree_p/bk-majsfat.htm I now have a bunch of carving to do, partly to prepare for my April workshop at Roy Underhill’s Woodwright’s School. There we will be making a box, but a big chunk of that session will be carving patterns. http://www.woodwrightschool.com/bible-box-not-w-peter-follansb/

Here’s one I worked on the other day; a long rail for a joined chest. Its layout is a series of overlapping circles. I use a V-tool to outline the whole thing before cutting any details in it. 

outline w V-tool

It’s best to make all cuts in one direction, then shift your body, tool grip, etc and make a series of cuts that way, and so on & on. This gets two things – speed & consistency. The cuts go from the outside of one circle to the inside of the adjacent circle; like the S-scrolls that I carve all over the place.

After all the outlining is done, then I use a very shallow gouge to bevel these circles. I use the tool with its bevel up to cut down the outside of one circle, from 12:00 o’clock to 9:00. Then on the adjacent circle this line becomes the inside from 3:00 o’clock to 6:00. So go all down the line, making these two cuts. On the inside version, the tool is flipped over onto its bevel. Then shift around and cut the other direction(s).

I also make a little cut right where one band flows underneath the other; this beveling adds to the illusion that these bands are woven one under the other…or at least it mimics this effect.

Now, it’s time to make various patterns within the circles. I took a small, deeply curved gouge & struck it straight down into the midst, to incise a central circle. You have to be careful not to blow this out altogether – I find it helps to tilt the gouge inward a bit, to lessen the wedging effect of the tool’s bevel into the wood. Just eyeball the placement, and a few strikes jogging around will get you a full circle. Then take the shallow gouge up again, and pare down towards the incised cuts to relieve some background. This is preparatory to making a dished shape, from out near the circle’s perimeter to the “button” left at the center. By cutting right at the incised circle, you reduce the chance of wrecking the whole thing when dishing the shape. This is one of the most timid carving moves I make – it’s so easy to blow out that central button. 

easy does it


Now keep working backwards, out towards the perimeter, and paring towards the center. This makes the dishing deeper and fuller.

shaping the overall depth

Then it’s just a matter of cutting details in it. Here, I used a large medium sweep gouge to strike straight down into the dish – to incise curved shapes all around the center. Think of it as a pinwheel on its way to being a flower. 


Then tilt the gouge’s handle down, and come from behind the incised mark, and remove a chip. Proceed all around the circle.

adding some depth


Now some details are then struck with similar methods, but smaller tools. Snip off the ends of the resulting pinwheel/flower shapes with a very small gouge.


Then use a shallow gouge with its bevel up, to round over the remaining flat button at the center. 

I then used the large medium gouge to strike a single incised line within the remaining petals.

Here’s a variation; I made the same sort of dished shape, then chopping into around vertical and horizontal centerlines, instead of a series of radiating arcs…otherwise, many of the same cuts to form the shape. 

Here’s a box with a similar design; we’ll tackle stuff like this at the Woodwright’s School, so if you’re inclined, follow the link above & get down to Pittsboro, NC. It won’t be 100-degrees yet! I hope…

carved box, 2011