woodworking at home, sans workshop

My woodworking shop is at the museum where I work…I have none at home. Our house is a little 19th-century four-room affair, full to the brim w oak furniture & kiddie stuff. No room for a shop, and a watershed in the back yard, so an act of Congress to get a shop built here…

So when I want to do woodsy-craft at home, it has to be simple, portable & few tools. Spoon carving suits that just fine, and takes up much of my non-work work. More on those again later.

But way back before I got on the joinery kick, I was a green woodworking utility player; ladderback chairs, windsor chairs, spoons, rakes, firewood carriers – and more. But the thing I made the most for a few years was baskets.

25 years ago

I made them usually from white ash, it’s what was/is the most common wood in southeastern New England that would work. Occasionally I’d get a white oak sapling and make splits from that. These two I kept all this time, a few others besides. 

l – ash basket, r – oak basket, late 1980s

At my shop, I often make turned chairs from ash. And whenever I have a log of it around, I try to squirrel away a few bolts’ worth of ash splints for basketry. (these days, whenever I have an idea for the blog, I find I have already done it – two years ago, same month – here it is: https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/2010/06/10/extra-curricula-work-baskets-spoons/ )

Fast-forward to some hot weather, and fill the kiddie-pool. While the kids wait for the water to get warm enough to get in, I have been soaking some splints & weaving some baskets.

fill the pool

These days my basket work is a lot simpler than it was back 20-25 years ago.  Back then I made them in the workshop, and had a shaving horse and all manner of tools at hand. I shaved and bent solid rims inside & out on the basket, sometimes even filling the space between them with a third-section for the rim. 

3-piece rim

Now I try to make them with just a knife and scissors. If I aim to make them too finicky, I’ll never finish any of them at this point.

basket making 2012

Here’s a few more shots Rose & Daniel took today.

the locust in the background has a story
Daniel’s candid shot

Some other stuff going on today:

mallard & chics

And the white-breasted nuthatch with its takeaway meal (click this one so you can see it) :

sunflower seed takeaway

Here’s how the locust tree gets in the story – the worst case of poison ivy I’ve had in 30 years, maybe the only case…finally had to go to the doc for steroids. 


13 thoughts on “woodworking at home, sans workshop

  1. Love this post! Ive tinkered with white oak splints and while i never had much time, its so neat to see. Made a few brooms though.

    Your wetting comment has me curious Peter. Ive often wondered if a rail or muntin could be rewetted (so to speak) in the event the apprentice joiner (ahem, cough cough) ambitiously rived too much at once…. and didnt have a chance to get to the chest. Granted the apprentice joiner’s basement is fairly humid so drying is very slow, however the notion of rewetting to slightly swell the middle of the rail seemed like a plausible idea— in an effort to still resurrect some drawboarding.

    –you think thats plausible? …provided the tenons were kept bone dry.

    • Drew JA replied, but under the nuthatch comment from Wales – so see that. But I don’t get what you are after w this re-wetting. How will it resurrect some “drawboarding” – if the drawboring is off, fix that – not moisture content. I never make ’em wet again once they lose their natural moisture…but that’s me.

      If you’re just looking for ease of work, sharpen your planes and take lighter shavings if the stock is drying on you…

      • Okay, got it.

        Planing and scraping is much easier these days. I took your advice and learned to sharpen correctly. Big difference, thanks.

  2. Is there no end to your talent?
    Those baskets are very nice indeed!

    And we had a lot of poison ivy where I used to live.
    And even knowing it was there, I’d always get it each year…lol

    Love the bird pictures too.
    Thank you.

  3. .

    We have the European grey Nuthatch here in Wales. They are common right up as far as Scotland. Quite agressive amongst other birds on the feeder.

    I have seeds and peanuts out and the Nuthatch will take a large seed or paenut, jam it in a split in the fence and beat the daylights out of it with its beak.

    All best from wales..


    • To Drew Young:
      One English writer referred to wood as “swellulose.” It changes dimension with change in moisture content. Wood too dry? Put it in a moist environment. A pile of wet savings willl do. If you need to be tidy line a plastic garbage can with a clean plastic bag , pour in some water, put a false bottom above the water and store your dry wood. Tightly cover the can. The wood will absorb moisture and swell in the growth ring and ray planes.

      • Hi Jennie,

        If I remember right, isn’t that basically what you do in your back yard to keep wood wet over the long term? Anyway, does rewetting ones boards make them as easily worked as “real” green wood?


      • Thanks a ton Jennie. I cant wait to finish up some projects and show yall. A hell of a long learning curve but I think Im getting the hang of things. Couldnt do it without ya!

  4. Fine looking baskets, there. I experimented with basketry some years ago. Perhaps I’ll pick it up again sometime. Excellent idea about soaking the splits in a kiddie pool. My kids would find it amusing, I know.

  5. well damn, now I HAVE to make some baskets…and I just finished my last prednisone pill…still can’t use my arms completely…where can I get my hands on some ash ? I’ve got old hickory strips rescued from the flood which were probably from MCForks. Miss ya

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