thoughts on Independence day, a week or two late

opposing lunettes

Last weekend was the 4th of July. Here in the US, often a big deal. It means little to me, other than noise & traffic. But this year, I did think about Independence some, because it has been just over a year since I left my job. For those new to the blog, for 20 years I had one of the best jobs a woodworker could want – I worked in a living history museum in Plymouth Massachusetts, making reproductions of 17th century furniture. I spent all day, all week in my workshop, talking to folks about what I was making. For various reasons, things there changed, & I struck out on my own. I have been very lucky, with teaching workshops, some custom work, DVDs, the Arts & Mysteries column at Popular Woodworking magazine & other writing – etc to piece together a living without that regular check. But I often get people asking “do I miss it?“

carving begun

Of course I don’t miss the politics/bureaucracy parts of it – that’s what drove me out. But the part with the museum’s visitors I miss a lot. This past year has been full of adjustments, and none of it has been bad, just different. There’s great things about being out on my own. I can’t be fired, for instance. I can fail, but that’s different. And, when I’m home and something comes up, I can take some time to hang out with the kids and do something. When I mapped out the schedule last year, I had no inkling of how disjointed it would be. It’s much harder to maintain any continuity in my woodworking. In the old days, I was supposed to be at my bench day in & day out. I got a ton of stuff done that way!

One reason there’s not much on the blog these days is that there’s not much to show. You don’t want to see how I pack or un-pack from a trip, or how I make a list of what’s to be done before I go off again – and so on. As for bird photos, forget it. I have had no time to chase birds hardly at all, since Alaska & Maine in April/May.


It’s funny, I thought I’d be carving a lot of spoons this year, and I’ve hardly done any. I have had some furniture to make, and more to come. I am grateful to all who have helped me keep going here, students, customers, readers, etc. I appreciate it all. I have not quite solved my “no-real workshop space” but that sounds like it might get resolved. That will make a big difference. I think. But what do I know, I’m new at this.

Next stop – England. They have lots of oak carvings & funny birds there. Maybe I’ll see some.

carved pulpit detail




15 thoughts on “thoughts on Independence day, a week or two late

  1. Peter, best of luck to you. I’ve been there but in a different profession. Best job in the world at a Big Auto company, going out on my own as an independent, ran a business, retired. Retirement is the best gig ever! I can go back to my first love…woodworking.

  2. Love your blog. Recently finished a 3 panel carved chest, and now plan to build the box with the slant top that you’ve had in recent blogs. I plan to use a carving much like the one on the heading of this blog. Than you for the inspiration. Now I know that it is not all about Chippendale and Queen Ann!

    • thanks, Ed – it will be too late for you, but I’m reviewing a first edit of a video I shot this spring about making the desk box…

  3. Peter, I too worked as a finisher for many years at Historic Properties in N.Y and left for the same reasons and no regrets! I’ve learned a lot from watching you work and Birding, Thank You, I can’t wait until your back at the Bench

    When you cross the Pond, Say Hello to John-n-Hellen (Englishwoodworker)
    And get Photos of The Deceased Parrot

  4. I was self-employed at the age of 17 onword, gradually realizing that I was creating my own historical presentation which eventually turned into a full-fledged business by 21. Although I got my degree in history I graduated during the height of the tech boom which made finding work for historian very difficult; One could discuss the merits of a liberal arts degree over strong spirits, or depressed ones.

    As I begin to read your blog roughly 10 years ago it change the direction of my life such that I am now helping to build timber frame houses; effectively a larger version of a joint chest.

    Thank you for that.

    On a different note there’s a wonderful movie called Mr. Turner–it stars a number of well-known British actors and I highly recommend it. Story of the late 18th/early 19 century painter Who shares the love of natural landscapes and seascapes.

    I’m actually watching it now but your photography reminded me up at Peter. You’ll like it check it out. There’s another point to the movie; that all arsons and true craftsman make struggle a part of their work.

    After selling my house on short notice, I am now living in an apartment without a workshop—trying to pigeonhole my drive to work on furniture or the anvil has been exceedingly difficult…and best I try to focus my attention to this new line of work building houses.

    A friend of mine has a quote that says “art should hurt”. Without a little bit of hurt there can be no beauty I think; at least in this world.

  5. Your blog is always so informative and uplifting to read, Thank you for taking the time to carry on with it. After an unpleasant week at work it becomes even more tempting to follow in your footsteps and ‘go solo’ as it were.
    I hope you have a wonderful time when here in England.

  6. I’m just getting to know you. My dad did a lot of woodworking in our garage. I came pretty close to failing woodshop in high school and I still remember working on a cedar chest which my dad had to finish off for me. I’m making a radical move in my life- moving to a very, very small town in the rockies after spending most of my life in nyc. The reason I came across your blog is that I’m selling a very spectacular carved coffer, English poss. 16th or 17th century. Noted antiquarian George Way is coming over to look at it. He saw it 25 years ago in my park ave digs.I wish you all the best. I have been to Plymouth Colony years ago. I was a long time trustee of the Morris Jumel Mansion to which I donated a Sheraton drop leaf table, andirons, and odds and ends. Your work looks wonderful. One last thing- the father of a Brazilian friend of mine carved the most fantastic wooden spoons- tiny ones. he gave me a set an age ago.

  7. The cajones it took to leave that position, with a family to help support, is deserving of respect. Props and congratulations. It also sounds like you’ve helped to fuel another revolution, PF. This time, we can be on the same side as the Brits. You’d look fantastic beneath a tricorne!

  8. Enjoy your UK visit, I’m envious. We visit our daughter who teaches art there. After several visits, we still haven’t been to the Robert Thompson factory inYorkshire, quite a dynasty of furniture making. Salisbury Cathedral has an amazing small carved altar several centuries old. Looking forward to reading more of your blog posts.

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