on baseball

A bit of a detour here today, and I apologize to the non-Americans reading. It’s about baseball. I’m of a mixed mind about baseball. I grew up as a fanatical sports fan, mostly baseball and basketball, south of Boston, early-to-mid-1960s. That meant that the Red Sox lost every year, and the Celtics won every year. Made things comfortable, you knew what to expect. 1967 the Red Sox went to the World Series, and everyone’s expectations changed forever – (but they lost, in 7 games). 1969 Russell retired, and the Celtics changed for a while too.

I drifted in and out of the sports-fan sphere for many years, mostly out. Too busy being a 1970s teenager/art student. Then I got swept up in the Larry Bird era for the Celtics, and I watched that endlessly. I also jumped on the wagon when the Red Sox lost to the Mets in 1986.

Then off again. I got too involved, I used to yell at the television, like any red-blooded lunatic American sports fan. Finally I dumped it all, figuring why spend all that time, energy and emotion watching millionaires play games? Being a spectator is fine now & then, but to dedicate so much time to it, well…there’s only so many hours in a day and I had stuff to do.

Then – 2004. I had to watch the Red Sox in the World Series that year. I just kept thinking – “what if they win, and I lived through it & didn’t see it?” So I called up the cable TV people and had them hook me up for a week or so. They were astounded when I called the day after the Series was over to tell them to disconnect me. They said “But you’re all paid for the month…” I said “pull the plug.”

I never cared about baseball again. A few years later, the Red Sox won a 2nd world series, and I didn’t read a thing about it, nor did I see any of it. I liked it better when they’d almost win, then find another astonishing way to lose. After Larry Bird retired, I never watched a basketball game again. Now I have a philosophical opposition to watching sports, all that sitting and watching other people live/work/play – seems to me my time would be better spent doing something myself.

So why am I writing on this woodworking blog about baseball and sports? Because this spring and summer, I have been spending a lot of time answering questions from my kids, mostly Daniel, about baseball. Lots of questions. And it is bringing up many issues in my head. My father was a huge baseball fan, one of my prized possessions is his baseball glove from when he was a kid in Boston, c. 1920s/30s.

Moe's glove
Moe’s glove

For many Americans, baseball has a magical, timeless appeal and it’s easy to get absorbed in it with a kid. There’s so many stories and personalities tied to baseball, and the drama, pathos and even humor. Even our language is filled with baseball phrases. Sunday we’re headed to Pawtucket Rhode Island to see the PawSox play. Unless it rains, in which case, we’ll get a “raincheck” and we’ll teach the kids what that phrase means.

We don’t have television in the house, and I don’t let the kids read the newspapers. I used to absorb the sports pages, and magazines about sports. Now with drug and sex scandals, murder investigations and other such stuff leaking all over the sports pages, I figure no 7-yr old needs that.

So they’ve been reading some library books about baseball, and one player they learned about was Jackie Robinson. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jackie_Robinson Before my time for sure, but I knew who he was from my father.

Here’s a drawing Rose did of Robinson for her brother

Rose’s drawing of Jackie Robinson

And of course, Babe Ruth, which brings you into the record books. Daniel had lots of questions about Ruth’s home run records, then we got to Henry Aaron (more heroism in the face of racism) and eventually to modern-day cheating dopers.

Here’s Daniel’s drawing of the Bambino pitching for the Red Sox, thus pre-1919.

Daniel's drawing of Babe Ruth
Daniel’s drawing of Babe Ruth

I like it best when we go out and hit a few, and play catch. My arm is sore from hewing and planing for the last 35 years, but I can manage enough…for now. When he gets bigger, and throws & hits harder – we’ll see.

daniel infield

But there’s lots of baseball lore stored away in my grey matter, and it’s being stirred a bit. There is this great romantic pull, of being a link between Moe’s early-20th century baseball enthusiasm and now Daniel’s early 21st-century bout with the game. Of course, I’m an old fart, so to me, it’s not like it used to be…but to Daniel, it’s thrilling. He & I watched a local collegiate league game the other day, and all the fly balls were hit right at people. I told him the trick is like what Wee Willie Keeler said –  “Hit ‘em where they ain’t”

Willie Keeler Baseball Card.jpg
Wee Willie Keeler



The glove is not as old as I thought. It is marked on the edge of the thumb “licensed under pat. no. 2231204”. So i looked that up, and here is the story http://www.google.com/patents/US2231204?printsec=description#v=onepage&q&f=false

Filed 1939, issued in 1941. Let’s see, my father was 17 or 18 years old by then. Next, I have to look through the photos to see if I have him wth the glove on…


patent for Moe's glove
patent for Moe’s glove

some joined work, some spoon work

A few very quick things. I do make furniture, believe it or not. Too much lately in fact, the shop is jammed. I see daylight at the end of August. Here is a small joined chest that I am making as a test-case for a few upcoming gigs. More on that later…it’s about 20″ high, x 30″ wide. It is a mixture of riven & sawn oak, and I’ll use some sawn pine for the bottom and rear panel.  Just like the full-blown joined chests, https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/2012/10/20/joined-chest-dvd-now-available/  all the same steps, just smaller scale. Like for a workshop sometime?


tiny joined chest


tiny joined chest B


The other day I was out walking in the park (like Muddy Waters, I guess) and saw an uprooted tree cluster. The trees were gone, and the roots hauled up, soon to be chipped. I grabbed some real curved pieces. I thought it was maple, but it seems closer to ring-porous. but not quite…

anyway, the next spoon is brought to us by the letter J. Boy, are roots wet!

The letter J
The letter J

Here are two views as I worked this one up. I can’t shoot spoon work like I can joinery. The setup is trickier. I had Daniel shoot some last week, I have to load those and sort them.

rough root spoon
hewn root spoon
carved root spoon
initial carving root spoon

While on the subject of unknown spoon woods, I thought I’d take the easy way out & ask you folks what wood this is. It ended up in my pile, and it’s excellent for spoons. Tough, but not as hard as the cherry I often use. very white, no heartwood. I never saw the leaves, so only have this stuff to look at. I’ll take it to the shop and cut the end grain cleanly to see its structure.

spoon wood mystery

spoon wood question

spoon & wood


Just finished this version of the dragon box, or is it a serpent box? red oak, white pine. It’s about 23 1/2″ x 14 1/2″ x 7″.

dragon 2013 front view

M box end view


I have been working, just not much inspired to write or shoot photographs. Most of my recent work has been to rive and plane stock for upcoming joinery work. so there’s piles of shavings going out of the shop daily, and stacks of short sections of red oak stickered here & there.

But today, I read Rick’s post at Blue Oak and immediately thought of my everyday Spofford brace. Rick’s post http://blueoakblog.wordpress.com/2013/06/21/tree-house-of-hors-doeuvre-ii/  is about our friend Pret’s knack with tying and twisting stuff to bind things together. It’s amazing what he does, me – I can barely tie my shoes. 

We all worked together in years past, with even more scruffy people, and the fun we had couldn’t be measured. But we also from time to time made stuff that was eye-opening or inspiring. Alexander got me interested in Spofford type braces.  I have two I use regularly. Spofford braces come in a few patterns, and I like the ones with wooden handles and heads. Here’s the small swing example I have. 

spofford intact

spofford orig condition

The wider swing one I have had broken pewter rings (or are they lead?) that bind the wooden handle. I kept using it, but my fingers would get pinched in the wooden bits from time to time. One day I showed it to Pret and he said he could make it work again. He bound it with waxed linen cord – this repair is easily 15 years old, probably older, and it’s still as tight today as the morning he stopped in my shop and wound it up. 

spofford repaired
repaired spofford brace
waxed linen thread
waxed linen thread

Nice work. Rick’s post took me back to days when we  never knew what was going to happen next…


I’m getting there

I’ve been working….prepping stock for some chests, a chair or two and some stools.

Ooh, look at the shavings
Ooh, look at the shavings


here’s a panel for an upcoming joined chest. I usually think of this as a vase or pot full of flowers & foliage. Nowadays some see faces in it. A similar panel was in the wainscot chair I posted a few days ago.

rorschach test in oak
rorschach test in oak

Here’s the beginning of one that I copied just from a poor photograph. So I made a lot of the detail up. Used gouges & chisels to outline, instead of a V-tool. It requires several consecutive thoughts to establish the pattern in the middle. You can make your mistakes out where the leaves are…

interlace beginning

interwoven design
interwoven design

Here’s the finished panel. Mostly, might add some details around the edges.

interlaced design finished
interlaced design finished

Probably you saw the update from Jogge about the Wille film. Thanks to all who chimed in… http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/761142325/the-spoon-the-bowl-and-the-knife-craftsman-wille-s/posts/500426?ref=email&show_token=b2ed6e52d7f7db05