two white oak baskets

Look what fell in my lap – a great white oak basket, from Kim L, via Martha. thanks to both.

basket from kim side

It’s a large, heavy-duty basket. All white oak. Some things about it remind me of the Taghkanic baskets from eastern New York. Very thick rims, large stout weavers and uprights. The bottom seems different from what I know about those baskets, but my knowledge is limited to the book Legend of the Bushwhacker Basket by Martha Wetherbee and Nathan Taylor. It’s about a foot high to the rim, and about 17″ in diameter. Here’s some views:

basket from kim top

basket from kim

The double-woven bottom is reinforced with added splints that are then slipped into the weaving on the sides of the basket. That might be why this basket is still around. Very tough.

basket from kim bottom

While we were out at Bill Coperthwaite’s place, I noticed a nice white oak basket there too. I got to look at this one with Louise Langsner, who made a slew of white oak baskets over the years, before switching to willow…this one seems to have had a lid that would have fit inside the small rim woven above the actual rim. It’s hard to see, but every upright has been split so the lashing can be very closely spaced.

white oak basket top

Here you see the bottom is filled in with extra splints. Makes me think sewing basket, or something like that. When a basket’s bottom is filled in like that, little things don’t get lost out the spaces in between the weaving.

white oak basket bottom

One of our stops on the mini-tour was Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village in New Gloucester, Maine. We saw some Shaker ash baskets there, and a nice large round white oak one too, but no photography allowed. Drat.

Last Maine trip for 2015

mill pond

I’m just back from two-plus weeks in Maine. Jogge Sundqvist came over from Sweden to teach a 2-day class in the techniques of sloyd; working riven green wood with axe and knife. It’s always greatly inspiring to work alongside Jogge.

outdoor class

I sat on the other side of the monitors while Lie-Nielsen shot a video the week before the class. Then after the class several of us, including Drew and Louise Langsner, took off on a mini-tour of coastal Maine, making several stops including a visit to Dickinsons Reach, the site of Bill Coperthwaite’s home for many decades. Here’s old friends and new: Drew Langsner, Peter Lamb, Louise Langsner, Jogge Sundqvist, Masashi Kutsawa. 

at bill's

It’s nearly 2 years now since Bill’s death, but as a small group of us explored his homesite, his impact was tangible. Jogge found tools and gifts from his father, Wille to Bill, and we spoke at length about the 1976 trip that landed Wille at the Langsner’s home in western North Carolina. Thus began Country Workshops, the school the Langsners have run since about 1977, which is where I met John (Jennie) Alexander in 1980 and Jogge in 1988.

Wille's spoon crook
Thanks to the staff at Lie-Nielsen, all the great students who came from near & far, and our hosts on the tour. More to come. Lots to think about. I have to sort out my desk, pay some bills and tend to some household stuff, then it’s back to woodworking. I’m so full of ideas, I don’t know where to begin.

looking back at some joined chests

Sorting through some photos today, and found this chest. Photographed in spring 2005. Not sure when I built it, my guess is i was new when I shot it. It’s at the museum, I think in their education sites. Probably a lot darker than this now. I might have put it on the blog before, but if so, I forget it.


It was one of a few I did with 2 panels, usually with wide central muntins. I plan on doing one again sometime.

Here’s two more in a similar vein. The first one is my favorite in this series:

white oak chest 2009

three-quarter view

I made a quick trip out West

Well, west for someone from eastern Massachusetts. Delivered this chest with drawers to the Windsor Historical Society, Windsor, Connecticut.  I stained it red with iron oxide mixed in linseed oil. Added drying medium from artist’s supply store, and some raw umber, which also speeds up drying. If I had been ahead of the deadline, things might have been different.

chest w drawers

Here’s a view inside the upper drawer, with its dividing slats. Not sure what these little cubbies would be used for…It was based on notches cut in the drawer on the original that is the source for this repro. but the dividers are gone on the old one.

one drawer w dividers

I also got to install one of Mark Atchison’s locks on this chest, because curator Christina Vida wanted everything just exactly perfect for the Strong Howard house opening.

Here I’m cutting away the top rail inside the chest for the lock recess.

lock excavation 2

And the finished excavation, just needs some chisel work for the keyhole. This one gets no escutcheon.

almost cut

Mark’s lock & key:

mark's lock

Mark’s mark, MMA, on the inside face of the lock:

mark's mark

This chest was the model for the class we did at Bob Van Dyke’s Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking. If you want to see the chest, and the other pieces made by the school’s instructors and students, go to the open house at the school this Saturday. I can’t make it, but a gang of folks will be there, with bells on.

here’s the blurb Bob sent out the other day:

Don’t miss it!
Saturday, September 12, 9:00am – 4:00pm
Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking 15th Annual Open House

 Come celebrate CVSW as we enter our 15th year of great hands-on furniture making, woodturning, cabinetmaking, blacksmithing and more!

Furniture Exhibit- See Some of the Spectacular work from Students, including furniture made for the Windsor Historical Society Strong Howard House/ CVSW collaboration

Get in on the fun. We will be demonstrating furniture making, woodturning, blacksmithing, inlay, sharpening, guitar building and more, all day.

More than 22 tables of Antique Tools for Sale!!!

6 different antique Tool dealers

The whole idea of the event is to get a bunch of people who are interested in woodworking together and have a good time!

A partial list of demonstrators/ exhibitors is below:

CVSW Gallery of Student work

Central Ct Woodturners

Mystic Woodcarvers
Tico Vogt- Shooting boards

Mike South, Windjammer Instruments
Matt Cianci- “the Saw Wright”
Isaac Smith- Blackburn Tools
Mike Mascelli- Traditional Upholstering

Bill Rittner- Handmade replacement knobs & Totes for handplanes

Greg Massicotte- Behlen Finishing Products

Catharine Kennedy- engraved handplanes

Walt Scadden – Blacksmithing

Windsor Historical Society

Cape forge carving knives

Ben Barrett- Berkshire Veneers

Mike Pekovich from Fine Woodworking Magazine

CVSW Instructors:

Bob Van Dyke, Will Neptune, Mickey Callahan, Walt Scadden & more



a few leftover bits & a question

Here’s a few things I’ve been meaning to put in a blog post, but with one thing or another I haven’t.

copying pencil

Pencils – I hate them for furniture work, although I have softened and let students use them in laying out carvings. I usually use chalk, easier to remove. But for spoons and hewn bowls, I like to draw the shapes I’m after. These drawings get continually cut away and redrawn, as the design is refined during the process. But regular pencils mostly don’t work well on green wood. Alexander to the rescue once again. For years, Jennie Alexander used to use the Eberhard Faber NOBLOT Bottle of Ink in a Pencil, #705, (or is it #740?) It worked wonders writing on green wood. Just don’t ever forget it in your pocket during the laundry. When it hits the green wood, the line turns a strong blue that you can see easily. But the pencil is no longer made…and while researching this post, I saw one offered on the French Ebay site for $25. Pretty stupid, and there’s no way I’m going to get in competition with pencil collectors. There’s a whole pencil culture out there.  They treat the NOBLOT like it’s a Nic Westermann hook knife or something. Maybe they look at us & think, “there’s a whole wood culture out there…”

About two years ago, I found some online from a boatshop in the Northwestern US. These were Brevillier Urban copying pencils #1925. Made in Austria. They work great, and I’m down to my last few…if you’ve been in one of my spoon or bowl classes, you know I guard them carefully…

So I thought I’d order another dozen tonight while I wrote this post. Ha. Not so easy. I can’t remember the name of the shop where I bought them, and found nothing much on the web about them. Did find some Russian site that has them…at least I think it was Russian. I opted instead, after much fumbling around to try a new one, from


Chairmaker's Notebook

Pete Galbert’s book, Chairmaker’s Notebook. Since I got it, I’ve been proclaiming my hatred for Pete Galbert. His book is so damn good that it makes it harder for those of us who have woodworking books in the works. I really mean it when I say this book is unbelievably good. Everything about it is just exactly perfect. Even if you’re not going to build a Windsor chair, if you work green wood, or want to, buy this book. It’s worth it for the chapter on splitting & riving if nothing else. Pete’s drawings and text are thorough and clear and keep you turning the pages to get more details and information. It makes me want to make a chair…but I’m behind enough as it is. Maybe 2016…congratulations to Pete and all the others at Lost Art Press on this one.  (Oh, and for all that disclosure crap – yes, I’ve written a book for LAP, and am working on another. I know the principals involved, we’re all in the same circus…so what? Get the book, and tell me I’m wrong, that it’s no good. You’d be in a tiny minority.)

hurdle maker

Next month, Rick McKee & I are repeating our riving class with Plymouth CRAFT, October 10th & 11th.

Only this time the students will apply their learning to make a section of portable fencing often called “hurdles” – I have threatened to make one for to photograph, so we could show you what the heck we’re dealing with…but as indicated already twice recently in print, I’m behind on other stuff. And a week away from another trip to Maine. So I borrowed a photo from J. Geraint Jenkins’ Traditional Country Craftsmen, a book on English crafts…

They come in all sorts of configurations, some more folksy than others. we’ll have fun with them, as students get to tackle riving, shaving at a shaving horse, hatchet work, mortising, and more…..tweed jackets & ties are optional.

Back on the subject of books, one of the students in my class in Somerset brought a small book to class, all about English boxes. A Discourse on Boxes of the 16th, 17th and 18th Centuries, by Anthony Conybeare. 

box book page

I knew I had seen it before, but had never bought my own copy. As we browsed it, I thought, I really should get this book. The text is just what it is, I won’t go into any details, which would be nitpicking. The photos are excellent, and in many cases, very detailed. Once I got home, I forgot about it, then I was looking through my bookshelf near my workbench, and lo & behold – there’s Conybeare’s book. But for the life of me, I couldn’t remember buying it. But I thought I remembered an email about it, and sure enough, Kent Ryan, a reader of the blog, sent me a copy back in late 2013. If you’re still there, thanks, Kent.

NOW, a real can of worms. I’ve never yet made it to Spoonfest over in the UK. Came close this year, but maybe another time. If Plymouth CRAFT were to sponsor/host a spoon & related festival type thing in the Northeast, what would folks like to see & do there? We’re looking at a great site in southeastern Massachusetts, ponds, woods, cabins – meals included…and room for 100 or more attendees. Roofed pavilions, so out of any nasty weather. Looking at 2 1/2 – 3 days, like Woodstock. Without the brown acid & mud. This time of year. No promises, but just wondering if we were to go ahead, would spoons alone make it fly? We’d have no real facility for bench woodworking, but the portable bits like spoons have great appeal. So what do you think? Seems like the eastern US could support it, the closest thing I know of is the Spoon Gathering in Milan, MN. A longgg ways from here. Leave comments if you have any. we’ll keep you posted.

way behind & in between

In between two trips to Maine. Trying to finish up some things. So busy, I’m mostly not even writing sentences…here’s some photos.

the first two were when sun came out up at Lie-Nielsen:

bowls & light

bowls & spoons

I took a morning’s walk at Owl’s Head

owls head 1

saw waxwings hawking insects

waxwing 2

The students took to the bowl carving like crazy. Same thing happened at Roy’s place earlier in the season.


very concentrated, very percussive.


Nic Westermann’s tools were a huge help.


What’s that spot on the inside of Deneb’s bowl?


Back at Plymouth Beach with the kids – can I get an ID please?

what is this one called

Harvard Square, yesterday. Trying out my new hand-me-down Nikon D300. Thanks, Heather.


Daniel pointing at something down by the river here at home.


Splint basket, made in southeastern Massachusetts. On display at the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnography.

local basket

I forget what Nation this basket comes from, but the weaving blows my mind.

what a weave

These next two reminded me of my Alaska trip. Nice seal-hat carving.

carved seal hat helmet

detail of model kayaking

An adze, I think part of the Haida or Tlingit culture…I took no notes, was chasing the children around while trying to shoot photos through the glass.


Finishing up the chest with drawers in the next few days. Photos to follow.