During the bowl-turning class I attended earlier this month, we spent some of our “off time” discussing spoon design. I recall Robin Wood saying something to the effect of “the game has changed” – meaning there have been great strides in spoon carving in recent years.
I don’t have a large collection of other people’s spoons, but here’s a couple to view. For me, it starts with Wille & Jogge Sundqvist – I met them through Drew Langsner many years ago. So long ago that Jogge & I looked like this:
Wille’s spoon that I got recently is very slick. From what I know, he always thickens the end of the handle at the finial; and I have tried to keep that in my spoons too. He often hollows the upper face of the spoon’s handle too. Gives the spoon’s shape a lot of “movement.” this spoon is a small serving spoon, the bowl is too big to fit in the mouth. Its front edge is straight across, and the rim of the spoon’s bowl is flat.
I mentioned Jojo Wood’s spoons in a recent post. Here’s one of hers; thin as a whisper in places; note the finial just the opposite of Wille’s, gets thinner at the end, but has an up-turn to move your eye, and fingers. Bowl is crowned across its width; this is something Jojo strives for in her spoons. This spoon is made from a radial straight-grained blank, not a crook. A real challenge to get a good spoon out of straight stock.
One of Jarrod StoneDahl’s spoons. Jarrod does lots of radially split spoons, but this one’s from a crook. Thin at the end, crowned bowl; the bowl follows the crook’d shape very nicely.
Thinking about these spoons (and carving my own versions inspired by them) got me to thinking about this old spoon given to me by a friend. Beech, makes me think eastern Europe, not Scandinavia. Thin finial, pointy bowl, crowned across its width. thin as Jojo’s. Radially split. All the knife marks are there on the bottom of the bowl, you can see what direction the carver worked at different parts of the spoon’s bowl.
By now, most of us have seen this video, filmed in Sweden in 1923.
I just copied it from youtube, thanks to whomever cropped it to be just the spoon-carver. The spoon he makes is a very similar shape to what Jojo, Jarrod and the beech spoon are after – seems to me anyway. I remember when I made spoons on Roy Underhill’s show, we couldn’t brace the spoon against our sternum, too much microphone noise for the TV guys. I remembered this fellow using his knee as a fulcrum point for knife work. So I swiped that idea and Roy & I used it on the show.
Here’s another reminder to watch the blog posts by Roald Renmælmo and Tomas Karlsson – I’ve put links to their work before, but just want to remind folks that there’s very interesting work going on in Scandinavia that’s not spoons! Imagine – PhD work on carpentry crafts. Today Roald added an English post about their reproduction of a bench from the shipwreck the Vasa – doesn’t it look great?
One day quite a few years ago, I got a call to come to Hingham to see an old building there that had some tools in it. I walked in, and my jaw dropped. All the tools, patterns, many products, benches, lathes, etc of a small cooper’s and toy-maker’s shop. an absolute time-machine. Spooky.
Now after maybe 7 years or more, the story is told in an exhibit and accompanying book “Bucket Town” = I saw a preview of the exhibit when I lectured at Old Sturbridge Village last week for the Society of American Period Furniture Makers. and got the book. I remember thinking when I first saw the collection that I would like to get the job to photograph the objects. Thankfully that didn’t happen, and eventually they got Gavin Ashworth to shoot it. Derin Bray has done the catalog; and it is excellent. I’m so glad I was not involved, seriously. When these guys got rolling, they did a great job of it. What a story…the building was locked up for maybe generations, and the kids were told to keep out of there. When they finally opened it up, it was like a time capsule. Only filled with good stuff, not the tacky crap people intentionally put in time capsules.
As you can tell from the last post, I am in a state of flux; many things about to begin. First, I finish up at Plimoth, then on to a slew of ideas. Make a bowl-lathe. finish the hewn bowls. clean up parts of this house so I can work here some. Take the kids on a whale watch. some work for MLB Restoration, aka the Blue Oak guys. Those are some priorities, not necessarily in order. And I have a bunch of blog posts unwritten. Let’s try this one.
Every time I attend some woodworking event in the US , it’s principally a bunch of old men. In flannel shirts. Mostly. We have been seeing some young guys coming along. So it was a gas & a half to meet Jojo Wood when I was at North House Folk School a few weeks ago. She’s a double-whammy – a young woman woodworker. And what spoons! Robin Wood had written on his blog “her spoons are better than mine” – and I assumed a father’s pride in his child’s work, but then I saw her spoons in real life. very nice stuff.
She’s grown up around green woodworking of one sort or another; mostly her bowl-turning father, but somewhere there’s a photo of Jojo & her brother learning knife work from Wille Sundqvist when they were quite young. (HA! swiped it from Robin’s blog)
Jojo told me that when the first spoonfest happened in Edale, she noted the lack of women instructors; and began to concentrate seriously on her spoon carving. I jumped at the chance to learn her technique for carving a “crank” as she calls it, into a straight blank. Very organized, logical approach. Blows my doors off. Jojo told me she’s been lucky to have met all the great spoon carvers of today, without really having to leave home – through the spoonfest events and otherwise through connections w Robin.
Well, I think luck had something to do with it, but practice, skill and a good eye made it happen for her too. She’s been up in Wisconsin & Minnesota feeding mosquitoes for a few weeks, but I hope when she’s back home she’ll add stuff to her blog …
One day a visitor to the museum asked me “How long have you had the greatest job in the world?”
Certainly that’s a pretty accurate assessment. For a woodworker, my day job has been a blast. For the past 20 years, I’ve gone to work, got set up in my shop, and made stuff. All that was required of me was to talk to people about what I am doing. Did you ever meet a woodworker who doesn’t like to tell people about their projects?
But now it’s time for me to hang it up. I decided a while ago to leave Plimoth Plantation so I can concentrate on a range of wood-working that falls outside the guidelines of 17th-century English furniture. That work continues to fascinate me, but I’ve been drawn in several different directions in recent years, some re-visits of work I have done before (baskets, spoons, bowls) some new areas I hope to explore. A book to finish, for example. And other stuff.
I still don’t know where i’ll set up my tools next. For now I have a bench here at the house, and one tool chest. My spoons & stuff I can do out in the yard, down by the river. Or in the kitchen, except for the hewing. I’m not rushing into a work-space; I hope to find the right spot before long though. The blog ought to get more active again. Right now my teaching schedule is pretty well booked for 2014, but I might add some stuff to it. I’m going to be continuing to post things for sale, (maybe move it to an etsy site) because I still need to create income… so if you need some woodsy handicrafts, or lectures/demos, etc. – here I am.
My years at Plimoth have been astounding. I met people from all over; made great friends, even got a wife. Made connections that hopefully will stay with me for many years. I can’t begin to list all the highlights, among them were three great trips to England as part of my research, poked around in museums there & here in the US, and talked, talked, & talked some more. I learned more than you can imagine, from working day in & day out, from co-workers, and from visitors. The stooped-over Romanian carver who used 7 mallets of different weights, Mark & Jane Rees showed up un-announced one day when I was making tools, the Brazilian man who cried because my shop looked just like his father’s of 50 years ago, the time Pret used his axe to cut Paula’s hair on the chopping block, the Amish man who knew Daniel O’Hagan. I have a million stories. So my thanks to all my friends & visitors past & present at Plimoth. It was great.
Whenever I travel to teach, (or as I did just recently, as a student) folks from all over who read this blog often mention seeing me at the museum, or wanting to come visit. Just in case you’re making travel plans along those lines, here’s notice – my last day is June 27th. After that, I’ll be like most other woodworkers, laboring away – head down, alone, & silent. If I get lonely, I’ll work in the front yard, and talk to passing cars… “It’s oak, I’ve split if from a log…”
Some time ago, I heard of some films recording Bill Coperthwaite at his home in Dickinsons Reach, Machiasport, ME. I got a hold of the filmaker, Anna Grimshaw and we corresponded a little bit. I wrote to her the other day, and found out that her films got picked up by Berkeley Media; a distributor of educational films. Here’s some of Anna’s note from today:
“I have just signed a distribution agreement with Berkeley Media that means that they now have all the rights to the material. I had hoped to find a distributor that would make DVDs available to individuals at a reasonable cost. I was unsuccessful, despite sending the work out quite widely to a range of non-profit/educational distributors.
Berkeley Media was very keen to have the work. They largely supply educational institutions — hence their prices are high but individuals and organizations can apply for a discount on purchases. It seemed important to me that the films about Bill be properly archived and distributed, so despite the restrictions and pricing, I decided Berkeley Media was my best bet.”
I just searched Berkeley Media’s website, but didn’t find the films. Maybe they’re not added yet…I’ve seen them, they follow Bill through the seasons at Dickinson’s Reach. Good stuff.
Anna kindly sent me the link to a “leftover” film, of Bill working on a chair he’s made. It’s not an action feature; no car chase, little suspense, etc. Nor is it a how-to, or a documentary. It is really a snapshot of Bill at work, tinkering around in his shop. When I know more about the other films, I’ll let you know. I really appreciate Anna making this available to us, and am grateful that she spent all that time recording Bill. If it asks you for a password – it’s Coperthwaite
This “green woodworking” arena is pretty small of course. While I was at North House Folk School in Grand Marais, MN I was reminded of a few peripheral connections I had to the place. Jogge Sundqvist has taught there a few times; Roger Abrahamson had one of Jogge’s knife/sheath creations, and he let me take some photos…
I mentioned the other day that I had met Roger before, and we have some mutual friends as well. One other small connection was Bill Coperthwaite. Bill taught out at North House before.
While we were talking, some folks asked if I knew what was going to happen to Bill’s place, Dickinson’s Reach. I said I didn’t, but I had forgotten that there were memorial services happening maybe right at the same time we were making bowls. When I got back, I had a nice email from Peter Lamb. Peter said they had over 300 people out at Dickinson’s Reach, including some from Malaysia, China & Japan. He sent along this short obit for Bill. I’ll keep the blog readers abreast of anything I hear about how folks are going to help steward Bill’s legacy. Thanks to Peter Lamb for sending this along.
For decades I have worked wood surrounded by people – dozens, scores, hundreds, thousands of people. But in one sense, I work wood primarily in isolation. All these people were visitors to the museum, so watching me work. In many cases, I met woodworkers of all stripes, but it was very hit-or-miss. I just finished my most recent stint as a student, rather than instructor, this time in Robin Wood’s bowl turning class at the North house Folk school. This is the sort of inspiring time I remember back when I was a regular student in classes, mostly at Drew Langsner’s Country Workshops – to be surrounded by people who’ve come from all over, to concentrate on learning, sharing and exploring aspects of hand-tool woodworking. What a time! North House Folk School has a great reputation, for good reason. Excellent facility, setting, people, and offerings. Look at the range of classes…http://www.northhouse.org/
I knew it was going to be great to meet Robin and learn of the bowl turning work he’s been practicing all these years. But there was way more to it than that. First of all, Jarrod Stonedahl helped organize and execute the class. He and Roger Abrahamson built the lathes for example. (links: http://www.rogerabrahamson.com/index.html and http://woodspiritgallery.com/ ) But it was the whole scene that served to keep us occupied. Birch was the standard timber available up there, but Jarrod could not let the bark just be hewn away, so -quick – a lesson in harvesting birch bark. Later he showed me how to cut the arrow-lock/finger joints that he uses in his “boxes” – one of which we’ve had at home for quite some time.
Roger has been a pole-lathe bowl turner himself for many years, and had once visited my shop at Plimoth. He made a couple of bowls, traipsed around the shop helping people and generally sharing his skills. same with Jarrod.
But of course, Robin was the show – his teaching style is just what you’d expect, based on the writings on his blog. Extremely knowledgeable, patient, and helpful. His English was pretty good too. Axe work, bowl turning, tool making, bowl design, history – we covered a lot of ground.
An added bonus was the spoons there – I brought a couple but really the star there was far and away the youngster Jojo Wood. More on that later.
The facility was excellent – windows on three sides looking out to Lake Superior. It was a pretty big lake. I didn’t really have the time or the money for this class, but had decided that I have let a few opportunities go by in recent years, and this one I drew the line. I’m glad I did.
Here’s some photos – If I tell you all about it, I’ll be here all night. I’ll use captions.