know your own bone (bone/river – what’s the difference?)

Here’s the usual view of the river.

Jones River
Jones River

Been here all these years, but finally got around to walking downriver in low tide last month, for a heron’s eye view. Took a bit of trickery; lots of slippery rocks. A small stool helped us get down there.

into the river
into the river

It’s a different point of view, for certain.

in the thick of  it


What I didn’t expect was that we had to look at every step of the way. Not just for slippery rocks, but shards of glass & ceramics…


watch your step


We could have filled a basket/bucket had we brought one…click the photos in the gallery to see them larger. There’s scads more down there.


Today it was back to business as usual for the river –


Our gig today was much more straightforward. Apples. We have one of our remaining large apple trees that gave forth in abundance this season. But the tree is so overgrown that we borrowed an old apple-picker.  The kids gave it a try, but hard to manage that VERY LENGTHY POLE.

Kids give it a whirl
Kids give it a whirl

They ended up helping a great deal; working the angles. fetching the apples out of the catcher…

got one

I had to give it a try…I’d say the pole is about 12 feet long or so. Very light weight.

I had to try it


But still, you feel like you have to get up on tip-toes to reach the higher apples. And of course, those look to be the best ones.

still gotta go tiptoes

We’ve been having apple pies, crisp, sauce and more. What could be more fun?

basket by Louise Langsner

Look Ma, I taught the Ivy League-ers

Remember the Dutch planes I showed you a while back?

skewed mouth smooth plane
skewed mouth smooth plane

I deliberately omitted their whereabouts, but it turns out I was just being skittish. They are part of the collection at the Yale University Furniture Study.

A week or two ago, I spent a day with Ned Cooke, professor of American Decorative Arts at Yale University. Ned & I met back when I first stalked the halls of Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts studying 17th-century furniture. Ned was a curator there along with Jonathan Fairbanks, both of whom gave me quite an education by letting me study the artifacts in detail. So we flash forward a couple of decades, and Ned invited me down to show his first-year students some of my ideas about joinery tools, techniques, decoration, etc.

It was quick – 75 minutes, but many of them got to split some oak, try their hand at planing and we did some assembly of a joined chest front that I brought along.

All of this took place at the Furniture Study. Their collection is excellent; and the study itself is a great place to see first-hand numerous examples of period American furniture; not just “my” period but all those others too…

For the bench fiends, take a look at this one – belonged to the cabinetmaker who worked on the Garvan collection when it was  Mr. Garvan’s.


Here are some detail shots I took there several years back – students who have taken carving classes with me will recognize some of these…first is the basic S-scroll from Guilford/New Haven – the Furniture Study has 2 large cupboards sitting side-by-side for a crash course in furniture of the New Haven Colony…

S scroll

One drawer has a mistake in the layout & cutting of the scrolls across the front. still holds linen…


a nice example of a cupboard door lock. Hardly ever find these surviving on 17th-century work.


On the top rail of this cupboard door is a compass-marked circle – was it intended to be carved, then that idea ditched?

cupboard door

Here you can see inside the cupboard, showing the front-to-back floorboards in oak.

cupboard inside


Nice simple drawer back. Essentially a riven clapboard.


drawer back

The front of one of the drawers.

drawer fronts

So if you are going to be down in the wilds of New Haven, CT try to make arrangements to see what they have in the furniture study. Here”s their website, scroll to the bottom of the page for details on their weekly free tours and information about making appointments. Take the tour, then you can see what you’d like to study in detail…



Blog house-keeping

I stink at keeping the blog’s extraneous stuff up-to-date. I fiddled with it a little bit tonight. I updated the “Carved boxes, etc” page – it now includes the carved bookstand I wrote about in the recent Popular Woodworking (Oct 2013) as well as the remaining boxes I have for sale. For some reason (I care not) the URL still says 2012, but the content is up-dated.)

carved bookstand
carved bookstand

– —–

The Wille film.


On the sidebar of the front page, I dropped the link to the kickstarter site for the Wille Sundqvist film.  The project reached its goal in spades,  – but I will keep everyone updated when I hear more about it. This is a project I am so excited about, I can’t stand it. For the record, here’s the link

I had a note a while back from Erik Buchakian (Country Workshops board member) about the tracking of where the donors came from:

“I thought you might like to know – Kickstarter does that creepy Internet thing, where it keeps track of where people “clicked” from in order to get to the site.  By far the most donors to the Wille film got to the Kickstarter site from your blog – something like 30%.  Good work!!!!”

To which I say to you blog readers – Thanks ever so much. Nice going.


my spoons –

basket of spoons
basket of spoons

I haven’t had spoons to sell for a while. You’ve noticed I guess. Many have asked. As you might have read, I spent much of July & August on the road teaching classes. I started in again on spoons last week & hope to have some in a few weeks’ time. But then I have to go to Woodworking in America where I need to have spoons for show & tell. So it might be late October when they are next for sale here. I’ll be posting some stuff about making them in the next few weeks, then will give a heads-up when I fill that basket again.


There’s lots of new readers subscribing, thanks & welcome aboard. If there’s something in particular about oak furniture of the 17th century you’re looking for, a reminder that there’s a search button on the sidebar. The posts go back to Jul of 2008, so lots of stuff to cover.

– —–

Birds – Ahhh. this one’s tough.

heron closeup

I have had zero time for birds. None. Kills me – ALMOST. My  free time usually spent birding has been spent pitching, so it’s worth it. Migration will come again, but Daniel will be a 7-yr old baseball fan only once.  I have no pictures, but Rose rides her bike now too – so I don’t know which way to turn.


daniiel at bat


Enough housekeeping. Woodworking tomorrow.


back to some spoon carving

Now I am turning some of my attention back to spoon carving. This fall I am presenting a session at Woodworking in America  about how I carve spoons. This stuff is not my research, it’s what I learned from Jogge Sundqvist primarily, and some from his father Wille. Much of it comes from Drew Langsner as well.

Not too long ago, I had a note from Ron Christensen, a reader of the blog about some lilac he was cutting out, would I want some? You betcha…but I had no time to go out to his place to collect it. I asked, could you just box some up & mail it to me, I’d pay, etc. Turns out, it’s too much to fit in a box! Hard to get the sense of scale in the first photo, and that’s just a part of it.  He said he wouldn’t cut it til I had time to come retrieve it.

ron's lilacs
stand of lilacs

So up I went.  Ron was a great host, and we cut a few sections out.


ron's lilacs 2
Ron C thinning the herd

 Says I can come back for more when this is gone. The lilacs are crowding his outstanding garden, a sampling of which he also sent home w me. Another case of how I have been so lucky connecting with nice folks through the blog…

ron's garden
Ron’s garden

Here is a short bit about picking out one section & “seeing” the spoon in it. Here’s a lilac crook, pretty small diameter, but there’s a spoon in there.

lilac crook
there’s a spoon in there. Maybe 2

Here, I outlined where I envision the spoon. Others can fiddle w images on the computer better than me, but that’s not something I’m willing to dedicate any time to. So a quick scribble showing the shape of the spoon.

seeing the spoon
outline spoon’s profile

Now, to cut the piece to length so I can split it first. I left the extra leg on so it would stand up easily for splitting.

stood up for splitting
rough blank for splitting

Then whacked it with the froe. I think I eventually came in from both ends to knock it apart. 



splitting w froe
splitting w froe


the split crook
the top one’s the spoon

Next, hewing away the pith. Leaving this central fibrous material in the spoon will almost always result in radial cracking and splitting.



remove pith
removing pith w hatchet

More hewing is to just remove the bark on the sides of the spoon, to help see the shape emerge.

clean the sides

trimming the sides


then it was dinnertime. 



some period carvings, some of mine

Well, last week you saw what one student did with my carving lessons, ( ) and now I have taught two more classes of carving in the past 2 months; I thought it might be helpful to show some period work here. All oak of course.

There’s a lot of new readers showing up, so I might do some review of stuff that’s gone before. I started by looking at photos that are already loaded into the blog’s till…it’s always nice to review, you might see something you missed before.

This one’s England, marked out with compasses to outline the framing; the panel is most likely freehand around a vertical centerline.



cupboard door, oak
cupboard door, oak

Some basic geometry behind this design, also England, probably the Lakes District, dated 1691.

carved panel nail holes lakes 2


Another carving from the same piece of furniture.

torn-up moldings on cupboard door panel, 1691

Some of my favorite English stuff, this is a pew carving from Totnes, Devon. Early 17th-c.


carved panel, Totnes pews


An old favorite from Braintree, Massachusetts – a panel from a cupboard. About 9″ x 12″.

door panel, attributed to William Savell, Sr.
door panel, attributed to William Savell, Sr.

This one a chest panel from the son of above; this time John Savell, c. 1660-1689.


panel, joined chest, c. 1660-1680s
panel, joined chest, c. 1660-1680s

Now, some of my own favorites – might help the new carvers with ideas.

crossed S-scroll pattern
crossed S-scroll pattern
box front, red oak
box front, red oak
carving detail
carving detail

PF carving strapwork

reproduction 17th-century furniture
carving “sunflower” chest panel

box b detail carving


The DVDs on carving are available from Lie-Nielsen…for more info on them and the joint stool book, see this page:






Some Dutch planes

I had a few minutes recently to take a quick look at a grouping of 18th-century Dutch planes. Like this:


I have always like these planes since I first saw some 20 years ago on Cape Cod.  Several of this batch are panel-raising planes, most have skewed mouths. And, all are carved. Some better, some pretty good. They often are trimmed at the back end like this one. Makes handling them easier, more comfortable I guess.


skewed mouth smooth plane
skewed mouth smooth plane




This one’s got a straight mouth, longer body than the ones above. Not like a jointer, though…I’d guess about 14″.


longer smooth plane
longer smooth plane
better view
better view


carved mouth
carved mouth

Here’s a couple of wedges that got away from planes…

carved wedges
carved wedges

One of the original irons, quite thin. Tapered in thickness and width.


Quite thin, not like 19th-century plane irons.

tapered iron
tapered iron

Here’s some of those scroll planes – a “gerfschaaf” in Dutch.  Gerrit van der Sterre says it is sometimes called a “hobbelaar” or “rocking plane.” Says the sole can be straight, hollow or rounded in cross-section, as well as straight or curved lengthwise. Thinks they are for roughing out… these are small. maybe 8″ – 10″ long. Not more…

2 scroll planes

two scroll planes

scroll plane


Then the full-blown jointer plane. Munged up a bit, but still a great tool. It makes me want to make one next week – but I have to wait til I finish a bunch of other stuff!





tote profile


jointer tote





Gerrit van der Sterre’s book is called Four Centuries of Dutch Planes and planemakers, published in Leiden by Primavera Press 2001.

Here is a plane from Randle Holme’s Academie of Armory or Blazon, 1688. Showing a Dutch-style plane, used in England. Was it an English style too? Or is it imported, or used by Dutch craftsmen working in England?

smooth plane dutch style

This makes teaching more fun

Well. I opened my email tonight & found one from Geoff Chapman, one of last year’s students in the carved box class I did at Roy’s place. This sort of thing makes all that driving worth while.  

We’ll start with an earlier note from Geoff, about some boxes he finished after taking the class.

“I  took the carved box class from you last year at Roy’s, and loved it.  I am the guy who wanted to get your help doing a strap work panel instead of finishing my box.  By the time Christmas came I’d made a bunch of them for my kids, and threw in some designs from a celtic cross, from an ancient icon of an angel, and a couple panels from designs from the Book of Kells (photo enclosed).  I have studied the Book of Kells a good bit, and also wanted to try a panel from the famous “8 Circle Cross” illustration (another photo enclosed) which I framed with draw bored joinery – you taught me how in the carved chest dvd..    I lurk around your blog often, and love the work you do.  I am about to try my hand at a carved chest, and have watched your dvd twice.  A friend took down an oak this winter that was 42″ wide in the lower trunk, 150 years old, straight trunk for the first 30 feet.  He gave me the trunk, so I split it accd to your instructions, got it down into 16ths, hauled it home in 2.5′ and 4′ ft lengths, did some preliminary milling to get the pieces ready for the chest and the rest of it – a lot! – is stacked, drying, and awaiting another run of boxes or maybe another chest.  


All of that is to say, Peter, that you have opened a wonderful door for me in carving and especially in 17th century green woodworking, and I am grateful.  I don’t do this for a living (I would starve!); I am a pastor of a very busy church here in Pittsburgh, and a full time dad and grampa.  Woodworking has been a 20 year hobby for me, a great balance to my life, and one that has taken a new and wonderful direction since I started carving and working with green oak early last year.  


Thanks again.  What you do matters to people like me!”



geoff's panel & frame


geoff's boxes

Then tonight’s really knocked me out – here’s his note & photos. 


 Well, I went after a three-panel carved chest using your DVD.  I took a couple vacation weeks in July to get it moving, then managed to get it completed this week.  It’s 20″ deep, 30″ high, 40″ wide (or close to that), all Q’sawn or rived oak from the tree trunk I got in January, except a pine floor and till parts.  No glue (never done anything close to that before!), but drawbored.  I copied the wainscot chest you have copied, and added a paneled top.  I love the design, and the way it came out.  Will finish it w linseed oil and turpentine in a couple of weeks.

 I was full of questions along the way, like ‘How dry does the wood need to be?” and “Why don’t you have to worry about wood movement in a pine floor if you drive the final board in?” and at least 30 others – but I muddled my way through.   Today I received a copy of your “Joint Stool” book and flipped through it.  I would have been wise to have read it before taking on the chest!  But most things seemed to work out well enough and I learned a ton from the DVD, the joiner’s notes that came with it, and from going back repeatedly to your posts on your blog – and then when I still had worries – just thinking it through and doing what seemed to make sense.  

 One of my other constant questions was “How exact do I need to be?”  Your repeated encouragement to pay attention to the things that matter and relax about a lot of the other stuff gave me permission to do the same.  I remember when I first heard you say, “The eye is very forgiving.”  So is this style of woodworking!  Drawboring is forgiving, for example.  I know where all the mistakes are on the chest, but no one else has noticed them yet and no one has pulled it out to look at the back or turned it over to look at the bottom.  Yet the result of the whole effort has a real beauty and strength that will last.  So, thanks for your attitude.  I will almost certainly do another one, and my kids are all eager to have me do one for them…

 I also had a thought on the small chest you did and took to Roy’s to film for a show (I look forward to seeing that!).  I was astounded at the amount of work that went into making my own first chest, and I thought over and again, “There’s no way I could do this in a week long class, even without the carving or the paneled top…”  Depending, perhaps on the readiness of the stock – and the pins (shaving 71 of them for my chest took a long time!! – don’t ask why it is an odd number ;-)  ).  But a small chest in a week!  Would be quite a challenge for me, especially if we were planing every piece to finished size.  I will look forward to seeing the episode w. Roy and whether you offer a class.

Anyway, the project was a genuine joy, and a further step along a wonderful path in woodworking.  I want to thank you again for what you are doing and what you put within reach of people like me. “



geoff's chest 1


geoff's chest 2


geoff's chest lid


Geoff – nice going. I can’t thank you enough for your kind words, and for your outstanding work. Thanks for sending it along & letting me post it here. 

Country Workshops, mostly pictures, few words

I had a great group of carvers & box-makers last month down at Drew & Louise’s place. There was so much to cover, I shot some photos, but didn’t really do it justice. Someone should just shoot the table settings/meals. I shot some of the opening night’s pizza, but after a while, it was time to eat, not photograph stuff.

A sample of photos follows. We had Axe night, when neighbor John Krausse came w his friend Josh (I hope I remembered that right) we tried about 20 different hatchets…Drew showed us his modern bowl forms one evening. And in the daylight these folks made great boxes.

what a time!




Here’s the link to Country Workshops – if you haven’t been, get down there next year.

see Drew’s bowls and read about them here

Louise’s blog is here


Further directions/news

Now to follow up the Providential Fanback Story…

What happened to the spoons? some of you ask…Nothing happened. Literally. I drove & drove, (2 trips to North Carolina & 1 to Maine) and that cut into some carving time. Then when I was home, I was doing family stuff…and trying to catch up with yard stuff (failing badly at that…but if I have to let one thing go, that’s the one…)

There will be spoons one day, maybe soon. Maybe not. I am doing a session on how I carve spoons this year at Woodworking in America, Cincinnati, Oct 18-20.  – so some spoons I have to keep back so I can show the audience what the heck I am talking about.

knife grip scissors


knife grip 2

But I am picking them up again. I see about 5 of them here in the “finished” basket, and there’s a few in the in-process basket. There’s also the new carved book stand featured in the most recent Popular Woodworking magazine – I’ll put that up for sale soon, when I update some stuff. I have one carved box left, so time to mess with the for-sale pages here.

But the news – If you read the post about the impending fanback windsor chair, it’s not just the need for a new kitchen chair that has me twisting in the wind. I made a few baskets last winter/spring, but have yet to shave handles for them. And there’s the unfinished Swedish style carved wooden bowls. I’d really like to get more involved with this sort of work. These are just two more examples of some woodworking I’d like to tackle that doesn’t involve 17th-century joiner’s work.

I have actually been cleaning the shop. A lot. For real. I got news sometime this season that the museum plans to renovate the building I work in, possibly starting in December. That means I need to find a place to put my stuff while the rehab project goes on. I certainly have enough tools to outfit a home shop and one at work too, so that’s not the issue. It’s where to go. I intend to see about the town regulations surrounding building in the watershed, but expect to get shot down there. Even if I can go ahead, I need to find someplace local soon for short-term. I have one lead, but want to explore others. Any local (near Kingston, MA) readers with an extra outbuilding…I’d be interested in hearing from you.

Meanwhile, I have some projects to finish, and that big log to convert to boards.



 I keep sorting & sifting stuff. 3 months & counting. Somewhere in that heap is a chunk of butternut from the Blizzard of ‘78. I find it every year when I clean up…when I see it this time, I’m going to make a spoon from it.

I see the morning light…

It’s been a while since I did the “lights aren’t on yet, I’ll take pictures in the raking morning light” routine…the easiest target is the carving samples I keep out for display. 

raking on carving


raking on carving 2


I built about 5 of these white oak benches last week…we use them around the museum for folks to take a breather…but they eventually rot or get worn out, so every so often I make more. Last time was about 6 or 7 years ago.  I usually make them with white pine tops and oak legs, but we just had a bunch of oak sawn up for a building project, so were left with a bunch of flitch cuts – the benches are around 5 feet long. 

bench view raking light

I split & shaved the legs back in April or May. Then left them around to dry a bit. Bored 1 1/4″  holes with an auger, then reamed them from below. Shaved the legs, and wedged from above. 

bench end

My favorite legs for a bench or stool like this are “swept” or crooked/crook’d. These come from the butt swell of an oak log, something I reject for all else. But here you can use it to a slight advantage. The sweep or curve of the leg exaggerates your boring angle to add some extra stability. I bet it amounts to nothing, but visually it’s great. 

crook'd leg

Don’t forget the carving class at Bob Van Dyke’s place, Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking – Sept 14 & 15.