same gig, different spot

image for this event

I’ll be at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston this Wednesday afternoon/eveing, doing a demonstration much like my usual day job. Just a snappier venue…

Here’s the text from the website for the Four Centuries project

Be sure to look around at that website = there’s lots going on in Massachusetts if you like furniture…

If you’re in town (maybe early for Game 6 of the World Series around the corner at Fenway) come by the MFA


Artist Demonstration

Peter Follansbee will be demonstrating some of the techniques he uses in making reproductions of 17th-century joiner’s work. Usually done in oak split or riven from the log, this furniture most often includes carved decoration. The carvings combine geometric, floral and architectural patterns, often in combination. Mr. Follansbee has studied New England furniture in the MFA collections for almost 20 years, and will show how these designs are laid out and carved with a compass, several carving gouges and a wooden mallet. He will have examples of his reproduction furniture for visitors to examine up close, as well as resource materials to explain the complete process.
Peter Follansbee began his woodworking career in 1978, learning traditional methods to build ladder back chairs. His study of 17th-century joiner’s work has led to numerous articles in the scholarly journal American Furniture, Popular Woodworking Magazine, as well as several instructional videos with Lie-Nielsen Toolworks. In 2011, Lost Art Press published a book, co-authored by Mr. Follansbee, called Make a Joint Stool from a Tree: An Introduction to Seventeenth-Century Joinery. Since 1994, Mr. Follansbee has worked as the joiner at Plimoth Plantation, a living history museum in Plymouth, Massachusetts.

Presented by Peter Follansbee, Master joiner from the Plimoth Plantation
Made Possible by The Lowell Institute


October 30, 2013
5:30 PM – 8:00 PM

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston Druker Classroom
465 Huntington Avenue
Boston, MA 02115


Free with Museum admission



Spoons for sale tonight – WHOOPS. SOLD OUT.

spoons oct 2013






This past summer turned out to be a great spoon-drought for me. I had no time for any spoon work. I had to go back to July here on the blog to see the last time I had a batch of them for sale. That’s turned around now & I am carving most every day. New woods coming; lilac, Russian Olive, and old favorites like apple, cherry & sycamore. 


spoon carving

Once again, thanks to everyone for helping support my work. The blog is well into its 6th year, sometimes it slows down, sometimes picks back up. I intend to keep it going with my joinery work/ideas, inspiration, etc. Coming up in 2014 I will have an article about spoon carving and will teach it at Lie-Nielsen (no dates set yet). 

 I have always been grateful to all the readers who have helped me keep going down this road. I met several of you at Woodworking in America – thanks for all your feedback & support. 

Here’s the link, or the header at the top of the page 


back from my travels

So another 1,860 miles under my belt; just back from Woodworking in America, 2013 version. I took ZERO pictures while there. Me, I stuck by Roy Underhill & Peter Ross much of the time. Also met George Walker, but we mostly talked birds. A little about design & layout.  I did stop by to see Chris, John et al at the Lost Art Press booth. Picked up my copy of the deluxe version of the Roubo book. It makes me want to try some of that weird French stuff! I’ll write a separate post about that book soon, but it’s mostly a no-brainer – a beautiful job by all at LAP. 

Also spent time with the Lie-Nielsen gang – no surprise. We talked about next season’s schedule – no dates right now, but I will teach my usual 17th-century carving class there, probably during spring migration.  Then later in the season my first class in spoon-carving. I’ll announce it here, and it will be posted at their site too – so keep watching if you are interested. I doubt I’ll travel as much next year as I did this, so if you want to take a class – act promptly. 

I’m back at the shop now, trying to pick off one project after another. 

shallow dof


I have lots to write about, & will get to it very soon. Stayed up too late tonight watching the Red Sox lose game 2 of the World Series. 

For those looking to buy spoons, I have a dozen to post tomorrow night.  So hang in there, they’re coming. 

spoons overall


Then, I’ll tell the story of this stick of wood. From it, more spoons to follow. It never rains, but it pours.  

Russian olive
Russian olive

wooden saw vise

During our session w Matt Cianci, one of our carpenters uncovered a wooden saw vise that caught my attention. I probably have walked by this thing a number of times in the past 20 years, but last week was ready to see it.

wooden saw vise
wooden saw vise

I’m sure many are used to this sort of device; I had never used one before. I had a borrowed Disston vise that I was never happy with; chattering and vibrating were common with it.

This one’s got mortise & tenon joints, I know how to cut them. So I decided I’d copy it. I think of it as 2 frames, the “front” short frame and the “rear” longer frame. That section is repaired on this original. Other than a pieced section added to restore the rear feet, the work is pretty average. Which means it’s not done very well. The cross-pieces are just scabbed on with nails & screws.

The original work is nicely joined. Looks like ring-porous hardwood that’s not oak. Ash or chestnut, and I vote for ash.

saw vise showing cam action


The front frame has the turned roller in it, that is mounted off-center. So when you twist it, the roller bears against the pieces mounted inside the rear frame. and the front frame pivots on those tenons between the frames. Presto – the jaws pinch tight.


There’s just enough play in the mortise in the front frame so it can move. So simple. I’m making mine mostly from ash, but I came up short one piece. So one rear leg will be red oak.

PF front frame
PF front frame

This requires tight joinery; good shoulders. No loose-fitting joints here. No twisting or wracking either.  Good practice for me.

PF joinery detail

I bet someone with fewer than 1.000 visitors a day could make this in short order. I fussed & fiddled with it today. Hope to mostly wrap it up tomorrow.

Many might want to ask “what are the dimensions?” or some such thing. Others will know better – I don’t work w drawings for the most part, certainly not when I have the object in front of me. The uprights are from 1 1/4″ x 1 1/2″ stock. there is 15″ between the uprights. The jaws are about 2 1/2″ high. I think. I forget.

In the photo just above you can see I have to plane the upright down in its thickness to match the slightly thinner jaw stock.

PS: for an excellent report on Matt’s session, see Jason’s blog  – nice going Jason.


On baseball, pt 2

Another interruption – a 2nd post about baseball, not woodworking. It’s long too. Back to woodworking next time, don’t worry. 

There are places I remember

All my life, though some have changed

Some forever not for better

Some have gone and some remain

All these places have their moments

With lovers and friends I still can recall

Some are dead and some are living

In my life I’ve loved them all

I wonder, how did Lennon write that in his early 20s?


My brother Steve is all right. Like our father was, he is a life-long baseball fan. Here we are, 1968. Me about 10 yrs old, him 17 or so. This was right before I got beaned, knocked unconscious; mis-judged a flyball…out of view here is the pitcher – our father. 


This one’s from my wedding party, playing half-ball. 2003.


So when I had a question about the Red Sox playoff schedule I wrote to him. I was specifically wondering if there were going to be any day games (a long-shot, I knew) so I could take Daniel somewhere to watch one on TV.

His reply was to offer us 2 tickets to Saturday’s game, down the right-field line. Daniel’s dream come true…first time at Fenway. 

Daniel at Fenway

both of us at Fenway

We went in early so we could look around, then found our seats & got settled in.

settled in out by Peskey pole
getcha programs here…

He stuck to me pretty close, but from what I could gather he was thrilled to be there. To our surprise, Steve and his daughter Jane showed up before the game, turns out he got other tickets so they could go too. Told us they’d switch seats with us for an inning or two – so Daniel got a great view from the first-base side.  

I like the old style pants & socks...these look wrong
I like the old style pants & socks…these look wrong

Me, I’m still torn about this baseball thing.

Like I said, there’s a lot to it. It’s all muddled up with family, history (of a sort), nostalgia, romance. Heroes & goats, pieces of Americana larger than life. Something about being a kid and loving baseball, it’s all-consuming. Rosters, matchups, statistics, pennant races – so much to keep track of. And the players, the stories.The different parks, each with their own respective personalities, it’s all great stuff. Mostly. I still like the American history aspect of it. I ate it up as a kid, and my father and brother led the way. I played in the neighborhood, not on a team. Kids could do that where I lived then. So for the years when I was about Daniel’s age until I was probably about 14 (1963-1972) I would count myself a baseball fan. By the time I was 14, 15 years old, life went in other directions.

The family history part – my parents married in Boston in 1946.

Wedding photo
Wedding photo

That year the Red Sox went to the World Series, Ted Williams’ only appearance. Teddy Ballgame either choked, was injured or just plain had a bad series, and the Sox lost. But that’s beside the point. Many folks know that in the late ‘50s, through the sixties, the Sox stunk up the place. Then in 1967, I was 9, 10 years old. The Impossible Dream season – ninth place in 1966, first place in 1967.

My parents got tickets to games one & seven, part of a mail-in lottery. Someone who knew them back when they were growing up recognized the name Follansbee on the return address label and nabbed their application & sent them tickets. Sox lost in 7 games, but nowadays that season is recognized as the beginning of the current Red Sox mania.

Skip to 1975 – 29 years after 1946. My father died in April, just as the season got underway, The Red Sox went on to lose the World Series in 7 games, but it was the year of Carlton Fisk’s game-winning home run in game 6. I paid it no mind, but most of the rest of New England was glued to it. My mother took it personally that they had such a great season the year Moe died…

Fisk's home run
Fisk’s home run

Daniel drew this shot once –

Daniel's drawing of Fisk
Daniel’s drawing of Fisk

(1986 – doesn’t fit into my narrative –  I watched with my mother, she was cursing the team the whole time. Always the emotional fan, unlike my father who rarely said anything during a game. Anyway, we know what happened in ‘86. Enough.)

1975 plus 29 more years equals 2004. My mother died in the winter. Just about the time spring training started. That is the year the Red Sox team of Idiots finally won the World Series, the fall that I caved & got cable hooked up here at the house so I could watch. They won during an eclipse of the full moon. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing…

For me, that did it. Broke the tension, and I lost any ability to be interested in what they were doing. Three years later they won again, & I didn’t see, read it, hear any of it. (It seems I saved the newspapers from that win, but I swear I never read them.)

Now, 2013. This summer, Daniel & I read the standings most every morning, listened to games now & then. Read the sports pages when we had time. He learned quickly – and there’s lots of arcane stuff to learn in baseball. I still forget a bunch of it…had to look up what happens when a pitcher balks.

My personal philosophy is still anti-pro sports. Period. I think it’s a hideous waste of time; reeks of greed and gluttony. For example, the games are at night, while perfect New England fall afternoons go begging for baseball. Watching the adult fans last night, I felt like a cultural mis-fit, and glad to be. Non-beer-swilling, not screaming at Will Myers, even the notion of giving surrounding patrons hi-5s because some overpaid athlete did what he’s supposed to do – seems stupid to me. So as I sat there, I was still of 2 minds – on one hand I thought about the behavior  in that park that night, the grown-ups wearing team jerseys with other men’s names emblazoned on them – why do they do that? I understand it for a 7-year old…but a 60-year old? Unless Yazstremski was there last night and the team stuck him out in the right field grandstand. This is not the blog post to start in about the smartphones – but this harkens to another problem I have. I work in public. I don’t need to go out in public otherwise really. Crowds piss me off. How many times last night did I hear “Hey – Duck Dynasty! Great beard, man!” A lot…

I even got caught on TV because I have a beard – 38,000 people there, & they found me. Many Red Sox players this season have beards. So there’s lots of commotion about facial hair…

TV screen shot of PF at Fenway
TV screen shot of PF at Fenway

BUT – the other part is also there. Because I could blur my eyes, and see and hear Fenway from 45-50  years ago. And think of me & my father going to those games. I never got to know what my father thought as he & I went to baseball games. But I think about it a lot now that I have kids. Had he lived, he might not have said anyway. I don’t know how many baseball games he took me to, I feel like we went a couple/few times a year for several years, but those figures might be inflated. One I recall very well was me & him at a double-header, with batting practice. To get there we started by walking down to Weymouth Landing, then a bus to Fields Corner, two branches of the subway and a walk up from Kenmore Square. That’s a LOT of hours for one day for a grown man, but being the kid then I couldn’t get enough of it. I can remember worrying what would happen if he got on the subway and the doors closed before I could get on with him. Decades later, I realized he was taking care to see that didn’t happen…

So I kept track of Daniel as we walked around Yawkey Way and into the ballpark. I thought he’d like to stroll & see the place. But after viewing the field from behind home plate he asked “can we go to our seats now?” so off we went again. For me, it was a great time only because I know how thrilling it was for him – it’s a nostalgia thing. Kids and baseball – a perfect fit.

He stayed up late, way after his bedtime. Sat on my lap most of the time. We walked back to the car through part of Kenmore Square, I showed him where I spent my miserable year in art school. Then he fell asleep as I drove home.

I knew Fenway had changed over the years, seats added here & there, electronic scoreboards, junk like that. And the music – arghhh. But one thing was just plain wrong. Olfactory senses are closely tied to memory. I wished they’d let people smoke cigars – Fenway didn’t smell right without it.

happy fan




Moe Follansbee (1923-1975)

The Saw Wright

Today I was a semi-guest as the carpenters at the museum hosted Matt Cianci  and to show them (and me) how he sharpens saws. We had all kinds of fun. 


Matt C
Matt C

We went through the basics; jointing, shaping, sharpening, setting, etc. With many detours en route. 



rake angle
rake angle

Matt thought their shop had the most-heavy-duty easel known to man, but it turned out to be a riving brake. 

matt at the board



I had never used, nor seen in action, a saw wrest. Matt showed us how it’s twisted, not levered to set the teeth. Does two at a time, one this way, one that. 

saw wrest


We saw how you might need several sizes & thicknesses of saw wrests, then Mark Atchison got out this one – tapered in thickness. Nice detail.

mark's wrest

taper in wrest


The next generation dove in & sharpened up a bunch of saws. 


next gen files


Matt says his students don’t often bring saws like these to class…

village saws

I especially like this handle, done by Matteo (sp?) nice work. 

natural handles
crook handle

Mark kept dragging out saws the likes of which Matt rarely sees. The pitsaws didn’t make it into the photos, but this crosscut kept Matt entertained for a while. 

mark & matt

Then these two nearly derailed the whole afternoon. 


18th c handle

Matt says he could read “Kenyon” on this one. I needed more light & magnification. 

kenyon saw

I got to try a few saw vices, and we uncovered a wooden one in our shop that I hope to copy soon. I’ll shoot it next week. Dead simple. I can’t wait to get to work to fiddle with more saw stuff. It was a blast. Matt dropped off a  saw he sharpened for me, as well as a re-hab he did. More later. Thanks to the guys & Matt for a day full of the kind of learning that makes my job fun…