what ever happened to the boiled potato?

Last week we had a great snowstorm. so I pulled up a chair, got out the binoculars and spoon knives and had at it…

last week
out the window

In between watching out the window, I got to do the knife work on  some cherry and birch spoons.

carving by window
Photo by Daniel
carving by window 2
also by Daniel

Last summer I asked Drew Langsner, “what happened to the boiled potato?” – for those puzzled by this, we learned years ago to rub a green-carved spoon with boiled potato, then we could sit the spoon near a heat source, and it would dry without cracking or checking. Drew replied “microwave.” – seems he would give his spoons a blast in the micro to drive the moisture out. a few seconds every so often over & over til the spoon was dry. It works.  Then when the spoon is dry, you can make your final cuts that will leave a clean, burnished surface. I tried a few in our microwave – ours is very noisy; so it drives me crazy. And it left some weird discoloration on birch spoons…

So I boiled a potato and tried the “old” method, old because I learned it in 1988 from Jogge…

boiling spuds
many spoons’ worth of boiled potato

I rubbed it all over three birch spoons I carved this afternoon. We’ll see what kind of shape they’re in tomorrow. The snow is all but gone…here’s hoping for more. 

applying potato to green cut spoon
carved today, finish tomorrow?

Maureen has added a bunch of stuff to her Etsy site, and while it’s still cold enough for woolens, she says spring stuff will be coming up soon…  http://www.etsy.com/shop/MaureensFiberArts

On another note, yesterday marked the death of Pete Seeger – a true American hero to many, me included. Here’s my vote for why he was such a great figure – his testimony before the House Un-American Activities Committee – read about it here: http://www.slate.com/blogs/browbeat/2014/01/28/pete_seeger_huac_transcript_full_text_of_anti_communist_hearing_courtesy.html?wpisrc=burger_bar

So Long, Pete, It’s been good to know ya…


I keep some of them…

I try to keep one or two of each batch. I aim to have an example of each type of wood I’ve used too. The one in the foreground here is sycamore/buttonwood/plane tree – take your pick. For some reason, it got passed by, so I kept it & like it.

keeper # 1

In the next view, the background spoon is one of the lilac spoons done this fall. You can tell it’s lilac, because I carved it in the handle…

keeper # 2 lilac

Same two spoons showing the profile – the lilac is from a crook, the sycamore from a straight section. Both will work, but you need to be able to find the strengths and weaknesses of each example as you carve it.

crook v straight

I made the inscribed spoon (in the background) for Maureen in December, from an apple tree given to me by a local tree-cutter. The other apple spoon in the photo was roughed-out quite a while ago, and forgotten. I finally got around to finishing the carving of it, then soaked it in flax oil like all the other spoons I make. This came out so dark, it almost looks like walnut instead of apple.

maureen's new one

I’ve been messing around with making spoons with a hook in the handle, based on examples I’ve seen carved by both  Wille & Jogge Sundqvist. I did a few in birch, here’s the first one:

rose's spoon

rose carving detail

Daniel & I got back from an errand today and our neighbor told us to look up as we got out of the car. Seems this cooper’s hawk was sitting on a wire for over 10 minutes. I went in & got the camera, and was able to walk around to where the light was right without spooking him. Ten minutes later, he was gone, as was the blue sky & sunlight. I always think about how we only see stuff around the yard and the river when our timing is accidentally right – but imagine all the stuff we miss.

Like a Bird on a Wire

three quarter coopersUPDATE:
A reader asked how I know this bird is a cooper’s hawk, not a sharp-shinned hawk. Cooper’s tails are usually more rounded at the tip, sharpies more square. Here’s a sharpie from years ago, hanging around our bird feeders waiting to catch someone unawares. Sharpies are generally smaller than Cooper’s; but females being larger than males, you can get a female sharpie almost as large as a male cooper’s…go by the tail shape instead.

sharp shinned Dec 7
sharp-shinned hawk

The latest update on the film about Wille Sundqvist



Wille Sundqvist
Wille Sundqvist

Here’s the latest from Jogge about the film The Spoon the Bowl and the Knife – it includes ordering information, so have at it.



OK, folks.

In this moment I´m waiting for all the DVD´s to come. Then we have to put them in the covers and do the special Kickstarters edition we promised you. So within two weeks the film will be in your mailboxes!

The 31 of january we will have the World Premiere at the Museum of Västerbotten with a lot of specially inivted people, it is the grand opening of the European Capital of Culture 2014 in Umeå the same weekend. The princess will be there, unfortunatly not to see the film, but the red carpet will be rolled out and a rope for Wille to cut on the shopping block as a grand opening ritual.

The film will be on sale at Drew Langsners place www.countryworkshops.org and www.pinewoodforge.com in the US. 36 $.+ shipping.

In the UK it will be sold by Maurice Pyle at www.woodsmithexperience.co.uk for 22 GBP + shipping.

In Scandinavia and other Europe you can buy it from  s u r o l l e.
Mail: jogge@surolle.se

It has been a great investment and a huge job to produce the film, far more than I could have imagined. But I’m happy with the result. We have gained the process of how to carve a spoon and how to turn a bowl. There is some grinding tips and a PDF with all the important carving grasps as Wille shows. The history section with some background on Willes life took a lot of research for images. That part felt important: to explain how it came about that the Swedish craft begun to spread in the United States.

So thanks again everybody for backing this film, you really made me do it.

Please tell friends about “The Spoon, the Bowl and the Knife!
We want it to be spread all over the world.


Craftsmen and sloyder Jögge Sundqvist

I have a front row seat

I get a break today from packing & sorting in the shop…snowed in. Suits me fine. Last month we had a great snow storm, but the weather changed right after it & all the snow was gone in a few days. Sounds like this snow will stick around a while. I like it. A lot. Nice & quiet. Everything slows down in the snow. So today, I’ll be by the window, carving spoons, reading and watching the snow fall & the birds at the feeders. Reading/perusing a perfect winter book – Wyeth at Kuerners. When I was a young artist-in-training, this book was my education. It’s like watching over Wyeth’s shoulder as he composes his winter paintings in Pennsylvania. The other book I have had out since the last storm is the big Roubo book. That one you can’t hurry with, so the snow days are ideal for it. Last time I read about how Roubo wants the wood nice & dry, but not “too dry.” He must want it “just exactly perfect…” like the GD in May ’77. 

Here’s the first storm, today’s looks just like it. 

Jan snow
open out front
open out front detail
detail out front
up river
sun & snow
out the bedroom window
hooded merganser
3 robins & holly
3 out of 200 American Robins devouring holly berries


reading by window
front row seat

spoon drama
spoon drama

Here’s Heather on snow days – birds of a feather… http://heatherneill.com/studio-blog/2014/01/10/creative-hibernation/ 

Here’s the Roubo book standard edition: http://www.lostartpress.com/product_p/bk-roubo-std.htm

Jogge is not un-crafty

Tonight after posting my story about shop-moving, some link-following took me to this video that I had never seen before. It’s Jogge telling his 4-walls story, and the story of his alter-ego Surolle. He’s one of the best craftsmen I know, and a great teacher. Also has one of the most colorful websites around.





here’s the last time I worked with him:



And some have asked about how you order the video about his father Wille. When it’s available from Country Workshops, I’ll let you know here. Don’t worry, you’ll hear all about it.

Here’s why it’s quiet on this blog

As you might have noticed, not much woodworking going on around here. That’s because prior to today, my shop looked like this:

mostly packed
mostly packed

Today it’s well on its way to empty. Now, all that boxed-up stuff, plus my lathe & joiner’s bench are all stashed in a storage unit. My search for my own personal shop has not taken off – I had a great lead that didn’t pan out. I decided rather than jump into something that might not be suitable, I’d stash the bulk of my stuff, move some stuff to my basement, and then get back to the search. So I have spent a great deal of time sorting & packing, both in the shop & at home to empty the basement. The museum begins restoration of the building in a couple of weeks.

So this closes the chapter on me in that particular shop. I’m still at the museum, but I’ll be in temporary quarters. That’s part of what led to me deciding to try to find my own workspace. The other part is I find more & more I want to explore some non-17th-century work. I have lots of ideas; carved bowls, John Brown-style chairs (I never finished my one attempt), and baskets too. That’s part of why I fixed up my shaving horse. I hope to use it more again…

Here’s another type of chair I want to make:

Winterthur bretstuhl

I made one maybe 30 years ago almost. It was based on one Drew Langsner made in Switzerland.  Now I have two great pieces of walnut for the seat & back, and shaved some hickory heartwood legs. So that might be one of my first projects when I get the bench set up here at home.

I spent 20 years in that shop. It really was the absolute best part of my life. I met my wife there. And many many great friends, some of you know the blog Blue Oak – most of those guys worked with us at Plimoth for years.

For my last woodworking project in that version of the joiner’s shop, I carved a sign to go in my future personal shop – thinking along the lines of “if you build it they will come” – only in this case, it’s “make the sign, then get a shop to go with it.” Way back when, I saw this approach work for someone that my friend Heather hired when we were picture framers. His name was Sluggo, & he made godawful posters & album covers for a band that did not exist yet. But lo & behold, he eventually got the band and the rest is history…he’s a renowned punk musician in San Francisco. So this is my Slugg0-inspired shop sign. Thanks D.C.

PF sign

I went out with Paula & Marie again to see the snowy owls. One is very cooperative – the other stayed off by itself in the dunes.


links –

Slugg0 – http://www.thegrannies.com/news.htm (I can’t recommend clicking that link!) But Sluggo is/was great fun.



Go see Roald’s Vasa photos of the wooden bench hook

UPDATE: I wrote this, then kept going further & further on Roald’s blog, which he does with Tomas Karlsson. It’s amazing stuff. You like old benches – get to it! Great stuff, Roald & Tomas – I’ll keep watching http://hyvelbenk.wordpress.com/

here’s what I wrote first:

This ol’ world just keeps getting smaller & smaller…

Back in 2010 I wrote a bit about 17th-century workbench fittings. In that post https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/2010/05/16/workbench-fittings-17th-c-style/ I mentioned the wooden bench hook used for sawing and other tasks.

Here’s my all-time-most beat-up version, since then replaced..I shave pegs on mine in addition to backsaw work, etc.

I had never seen a period example, nor even really a good image of one. There’s a sort of miter-box version in Moxon, with his characteristic lousy detail engraving. But today I got this comment from Roald Renmælmo from Norway:

January 16, 2014 at 9:31 am e

I was inspecting the Vasa bench deadman this week in Stockholm. I was also trying to fit it correctly. In my opinion the front surface of the stiles and the Vasa deadman are in the same plane. It might have been mounted wrong earlier?

I did also find at wooden bench hook from the Vasa wreck. It was 24″ long and had also been used as a simple “mitre box” for small stock. I will post some pictures of that on my blog soon.

Roald Renmælmo, Norway

And so he did, so head over to Roald’s blog to see the excellent photos of this bench hook/miter box. When I get my shop back up & running, (more on that hideous story later) I hope to make a new version myself.

Thanks, Roald. I’d mail you 25 cents, but it would cost more than that to get it to you!

I read the news today oh boy…

Wille Sundqvist
Wille Sundqvist

and I can’t wait! But wait we will, so I will go carved some spoons to while away the hours…

Here’s the note from Jogge through the Kickstarter site:

After an intense period of cutting film, setting the audio, making translations, cover processing, and description of carving grasps, we have finally sent the film for pressing. Unbelievable that there is so much work with a movie!

Here is the content, 71 minutes:

1. INTRODUCTION. Wille talks about spoons
2. The LADLE
A. In the woods
B. Splitting
C. Carving with the ax
D. Hollowing the spoon bowl
E. Carving with the knife – rough mode
6. F. Carving with the knife – finishing mode
7. The BOWL
A: Outside turning
B: Inside turning
C: Polishing

The cover front text is set in English but we have two printed versions of the rest of the text. One in Swedish and one in English. It´s also possible too choose speaker comments and subtitles in two languages.
The special Kickstarter edition will be handpicked, for you only.

Rest of the world, Non-Kickstarter world will be able to buy the DVD for:
36 US Dollar, 295 SEK Svenska Kronor, 22 GBP Brittish Pound, 40 AUD Australian Dollar, 43 NZD New Zealand Dollar, 39 CAD Canadian Dollar, 27 EUR Euro.
Shipping costs will be added.

For those who want a downloaded version Taunton Press raised interest. More information about downloads and where to order is coming further ahead.

We will start shipping february 3.

Grand world premiere will be held at Bio Abbelli at Västerbotten museum 31 jan at the Inauguration of Culture year 2014 in Umeå.

We will have Wille there signing the DVD!


Back to me. I’d like to thank all those readers from this blog who helped make the film possible. Erik Buchakian, a friend associated with Country Workshops,  sent me a note some time ago:

Hi Peter,

 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!!!!

 Take care,

Erik (Buchakian)



Almost as popular as baseball

Until I wrote about baseball, (here https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/2013/06/28/on-baseball/  & here https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/2013/10/07/on-baseball-pt-2/)  the most popular post on the blog was always the first one – about my shaving horse. https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/2008/07/01/shaving-horses/

My first woodworking incarnation was as a ladderback chairmaker, shaving the parts instead of turning. Always on the shaving horse then, I was. Since I became a full-time joiner, I hardly ever use it. Mine got pretty beat up over the years, I think I made it about 1989 or 90…might have been earlier. It got new legs once, but they were a lousy quick fix. It has a pine bench, and pretty spindly legs. I have often wanted to make it more significant, but use it so rarely, I always thought I’d get to it…later.

Well,  I decided to re-do the bench and legs once & for all. Let’s see, if I get another 25 years out of this one, I’ll be 81. Old enough to quit I think…

I started with a white oak slab leftover from some bandsaw milling we had done last year. I wanted to narrow the middle of the length, so made some saw kerfs down to the line, then hewed the chunks away…

In the photo of sawing, you can see I have one side all hewn and shaved.

sawing depth stops

One of my spoon carving hatchets – an all-time favorite of mine.

begin chopping
knocking out the blocks


splitting out the blocks

Then I shaved those sides up with drawkinves. Time then to bore the leg holes. I work from the top, with a large auger. One angle is taken from a line drawn on the bench, the other from the adjustable bevel.

boring compound angle

While I was in a boring & mortising mode, I cut the square mortise at the front end of the bench for the block that hinges the work surface. bored it first, then squared up with chisels. You can see the oak block that will fit in there, with its square-ish head. There will be one more mortise, through the shaft of this block, for a wedge that holds the block in place.

mortising for pinhead
brace & auger bit

Tapping it in for a test fit.

test fit it

Then comes reaming the leg mortises from underneath. One large reamer I kept from the Alexander collection. Thanks, JA.

tapered reamer

The white oak legs I made were from 2 1/2″ stock I had prepped for something, & never used. Made them last March. So I octagon-ed them, then turned the tapered tenons to fit as well as I could get ’em.

old & new
the old in the background, new underway

Here is the bench part, with its hinge-block. Legs need wedging, then trimming.

bench w square block
much heavier than its pine predecessor

I cannibalized the working parts – saw no need to remake them. Bored the block for the wooden pin that hinges the work surface. Bored through the bench for the pivot pin in the middle. & then fit the parts on.

fittings done

You can maybe make out the wedge – it’s walnut. The nearest scrap that was close to the size I needed.

detail w wedge

Then I shaved some more hickory for basket stuff…


Here you see the basket rim up on edge, trapped under the notch in the crossbar.


People often ask about plans – ughh. I hate that stuff. Try Alexander’s website  – http://www.greenwoodworking.com/ShavingHorsePlans

There’s tons of shaving horses out in the world, and people are making them more & more effective every day. Think Peter Galbert http://www.chairnotes.blogspot.com/search/label/Shavehorse%20Plans

The one I use was developed by Alexander, and it’s just plain simple…that’s why I like it.

Best bird of the past week – yellow-bellied sapsucker. Almost can’t see him, he matches the bark so well.

yb sapsucker


There will be spoons this month, near the end I guess. I’m still mulling how to streamline the selling process. I spent too much of 2013 either driving, or looking at a screen. One positive change is that now each spoon will be marked by me finally. I just could never combine my initials to suit me, but got something I can live with now…


My first class of the season – CVSWW

Enough of that holiday stuff, time for some woodworking. First class of the year for me is at Bob Van Dyke’s place in the wilds of Connecticut. Saturday & Sunday, February 8th & 9th, 2014 I’ll be at the Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking in Manchester, CT to teach a 2-day class in carving 17th-century style patterns in oak. Bob’s school gets an astounding array of teachers and students, the focus on “period” furniture is first-rate.

we’ll have oak, we’ll have carving tools. Students bring their tools too…come see Bob get unsettled when we look at slides. He sees faces in all the patterns, and it’s not a good thing…


sign up, come carve a bunch. we’ll have a blast.

carving samples
carving samples


reproduction 17th-century furniture

Here’s some photos from one of last year’s classes


leslie diggin the posture


I thought I had a lot of carving tools

dedham panel