Greenwood Fest 2018 is nearly here

Next Monday, June 4th, the Plymouth CRAFT crew and most instructors descend on Pinewoods Dance Camp in Plymouth Massachusetts to begin setting up Greenwood Fest 2018. We’ve been working pretty steadily prepping stuff for a couple weeks now – Paula wrangling schedules and logistics and Pret & I have been making the next batch of lathes for bowl turning. The first season, we used Jarrod Dahl’s lathes, then last year we built 4 lathes and Jarrod brought 4. This year, we’ll have 8 of our own, and we’re gathering all the necessary gear – hook tools, treadles, mandrels – Plymouth CRAFT will now have the necessary equipment to host bowl turning classes outside of Greenwood Fest. All we’ll need is a venue and an instructor. You can tell I made the poppets for the lathes – the wedges that secure some of them are carved.

I kept thinking I had loads of time, and at one point I did. But no more. So now I have a scramble to finish up whatever I can so I have something to show in the retail “Greenwood Shop.”  Will it be the joined stool? The ladderback chair? The carved box? At least one of those things, I hope.

Once the Fest sold out, we started a waiting list. As we’ve got closer to the date, here & there some people have had to drop out for one reason or another, and people from the waiting list get contacted and some of them drop in. The Fest is still full, but the 7 pre-Fest courses have some spaces and no waiting lists. So for any last-minute people with flexible schedules – we have some openings you might like to jump on. If you missed out on the Fest and can come at the nearly-last minute, the pre-Fest is almost as wild an event as the Fest itself. Or if you’re in the Fest, quit your job and extend your stay forward with us. Mid-day Tues June 5- mid-day Thurs June 7th.

Spoon carvers – Jane Mickelborough’s folding spoon class (hinged spoon, we call it both names) has spaces. It’s an amazing exploration of a traditional form from Brittany. Something different from a lot of the spoon carving going on, but rooted in a local tradition. No one alive knows more about those spoons than Jane.

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JoJo Wood’s eating spoon class. Someone can get into this fiercely popular class. JoJo has been part of both our previous Greenwood Fests. I’ve written lots about her work since we met in 2014, and I continue to be so impressed with her amazingly detailed and nuanced spoons. If you’ve paid any attention to spoon carving, she’s one of the top spoon carvers out there.


Tim Manney’s class in sharpening is a real eye-opener. In woodworking, sharp tools make everything better. Tim makes tools sharp, easily. He’ll demystify the processes to sharpen all kinds of tools; hatchets, knives, gouges, chisels, most any edge tool. I have often told the story of the first time we offered this class at Plymouth CRAFT – we had beginning woodworkers running around asking “What else can we sharpen?”


If you’re signed up for the Fest, there’s one thing I’ve been meaning to mention for some time. Paint – as far as I can tell, we’ve not addressed painted finishes in our Fest before. Although we have two masters of milk-paint; Curtis Buchanan and Pete Galbert in attendance, in addition to Jögge Sundqvist (who is not afraid of color) – we have a “new-to-you” artisan –  Pen Austin doing some workshops and open demonstrations concerning paint; milk paint and distemper paint.

Pen is British, living in Massachusetts, where she is involved in restoration work in plaster and painted finishes. She trained in architectural conservation and she’s a member of the Worshipful Company of Plaisterers of London. Pen was there for the first-ever Plymouth CRAFT event, back in 2014

And featured in Rick McKee’s blog post about building a Shakespearean stage –

I’m looking forward to seeing more of her work and also seeing people work with her. Should be something. I hope I can poke my nose into some of her sessions, I’d like to learn a bit more about manipulating paint. Back to my list of to-be-dones. 



Mount Auburn Cemetery

Every spring, my friend Marie Pelletier & I make a trip into Cambridge/Watertown to Mount Auburn Cemetery to spend a few hours chasing migrating songbirds. It’s a highlight of the year.

Here’s a lousy photograph of a great bird from yesterday – bay breasted warbler (Setophaga castanea) – a bird I had only seen maybe 3 times (all at Mt. Auburn) and yesterday we saw maybe 10 of them.

It is an absolutely magical place. Founded in 1831, it’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is also a National Historic Landmark. It’s been a birders’ mecca for ages.

I think I must have first gone to Mt. Auburn in the 1980s with Heather Neill and the next time I went was in the 1990s, while studying family history. My ancestor Benjamin Fiske (d. 1863) was one of the early inhabitants – and several of his descendants are placed there, including his grandson Benjamin Howe Fiske, but not his son Benjamin Fiske. There’s a story there, but not now. There’s room for me, but my wallet won’t get me in.

Benjamin Fisk at Mt. Auburn

The birds come in each spring, in droves. So once a year (twice this season) we get up crack of dawn and drive into the city, alongside the ordinary commuters. But once we’re in the cemetery, all time stops and the hustle & bustle of the city are someone else’s problems. Our challenge is which way to look, when every tree is full of birds. Some years, we hit it “right” and see dozens and dozens of species, some years, less so. This year was in-between, leaning towards busier rather than slower. It’s no matter, a bad day birding in Mt. Auburn is still a great day.

I don’t know how many times I’ve walked by Auburn Lakes in the cemetery, and yesterday I looked over & said “Hey – A..J. Wilkinson!” He founded the hardware store that bore his name, in the early 1840s, I think. My father worked there from 1942-1975 – the only job he ever had. 

I have some wooden planes that were made for and sold by A J Wilkinson –


Here’s photos, scattered from various years’ trips. I’ve also added some warblers and other songbirds from various locations – we’ve seen them there, but to get the best photos, you need better lenses than I have, and more time in Mt. Auburn. Many people we spoke to said “Oh, I live nearby, I come every day…!” If you’re ever in the greater Boston area, go. Birds, trees, flowering plants, 19th-century sculpture, famous people’s graves. The works.  

Then I came home, and took the kids to the library. There I found “North on the Wing: Travels with the Songbird Migration of Spring” by Bruce Beehler. looks promising…

Spoons for sale

A small batch of spoons for sale.  A range of crooks, some birch, some cherry. All finished with food-grade flax oil. Shipping included for US, further destinations will require additional postage. The usual arrangements; leave a comment if you’d like one, and let me know if you want to use paypal or send a check.


spoon 18-13, SOLD

cherry. A small steep crook spoon.

L: 8″  W: 1 3/4″


Spoon 18-14; SOLD

cherry again. Wide-bladed small serving spoon.

L: 8 1/2″  W: 2 1/4″



Spoon 18-15; birch. A curve and a crook all in one.

L: 9 1/2″  W:  2 1/8″


Spoon 18-16; SOLD

another birch crook. Slight curve this time…

L:  10″  W:  2 3/8″


Spoon 18-17; SOLD

cherry again. A small eating spoon, rare for me. I don’t often make them. A great crook.

L: 7″  W:  2″


Spoon 18-18; SOLD

maple. My favorite of the batch. LARGE serving spoon. Great crook.

L: 14″  W:  3″



Spoon 18-19; SOLD

Another big one/long one. Birch this time. S-scroll carved in the handle.

L: 15 3/8″  W: 2 1/2″

I can do that…

I spent two days recently ferrying around Long Island with my friends Bob Trent and Mack Truax. We were researching furniture for a project there in Cutchogue. More later about that, but I wanted to get this picture out into the world.

The back of a joined chest with drawer. Never touched by a plane at any spot, it’s all riven or hewn. And the hatchet had a run-in with some iron object, chipping the cutting edge. Blow the photo up and you can “read” each stroke of the hatchet based on the tracking made by the notch in the edge. This surface is not un-heard-of; but is a somewhat extreme example. Rougher than most…I love it.

Here’s a detail from the front. The arch fits in like a framed panel, then below it the columns, with their capitals and bases, are thicker, reaching back behind the plane of the arch/panel. (the column/base/capital on our right is original, the others replaced). THEN – the carved bit with the leafy-flower shape is nailed from inside to the backs of the frame. A pretty involved series of moves to create a great deal of depth. Needs a thick bottom rail.

Shooting in the tight spaces was hard, I didn’t even try to shoot inside the chest with the camera. Used an Ipad to shoot this grainy photo, but it gives you the idea of what is going on.

Not the craziest thing I’ve ever seen, but it’s not far off.

Bonus item was this New Haven box, with S-scrolls running all one way, rather than opposing/symmetrically. Trent files this under “Plan ahead!”

Wildlife camera oh yeah

I get requests sometimes from people who want to guest-author a blog post. I reject all. But today, I have my first guest-author, my 12-yr old son Daniel. Here he is:

In mid-April my father bought a wildlife camera. I set it up and mounted it on a tripod. We picked a spot down by the river, tested the angle and left it overnight. The camera is motion activated and shoots 15 second video.The next morning I went and got the card and we got to see some of what happens in the night. The video below is a compilation of the fox playing cat and mouse with a bunny. It was a good night to be a fox but not a bunny.



Then we set it out the next night and it was a total dud. For a few nights we didn’t get anything out of the ordinary; rabbits, birds and squirrels. Then on May 5th we got some of our best stuff yet.



The camera has proven a nice way to see what happens in the yard when we’re not looking.

May = birds

May in eastern Massachusetts means bird migration. Earlier this week we saw this male wood duck (Aix sponsa) in Plymouth.

Today was the first foray to find warblers migrating through, or back. Didn’t see many, but some we saw provided great views. This was only the 2nd photograph I shot today, and I could have quit there and been quite content. Black & white warbler (Mniotilta varia) 

The next “good” bird was the devil to find. We heard the blue-winged warbler (Vermivora cyanoptera) singing away for maybe 10 minutes or more. Seemed to not be moving around at all. But we couldn’t get it in view to save our souls. Finally it appeared for a little while. Too far off for me to shoot well, maybe Marie got on it.


The next good ‘un was so cooperative it wasn’t funny. A veery (Catharus fuscescens), totally silent, but feeding very close to, or on, the ground for a long time.

Three days ago the first-of-the-season Baltimore orioles (Icterus galbula) showed up in the yard. So nice to catch them before the leaves are fully out, when even this bright a bird gets hidden easily.

Down the road we’ve been treated to a show of 6 glossy ibises (Plegadis falcinellus) feeding for the past few days.

Carve a Hinged Spoon w Jane Mickelborough

The Plymouth CRAFT crew is moving into full-tilt preparation for our third annual Greenwood Fest. Tickets are sold out for the fest, but there is space in one unique spoon carving class beforehand. Jane Mickelborough lives in Brittany and there she stumbled into a rich tradition of spoon carving unlike anything else we’ve seen – the folding (or hinged) spoons made in that region during the 18th and 19th centuries.

student’s spoons in Jane’s class last year at Spoonfest

She taught the folding spoon class last year at Greenwood Fest and at Spoonfest in England. Her blog post from the other day says the Plymouth class this season is the only one she’s teaching this year.

Here’s Jane helping one of the students driving the hinge pin into a spoon blank.

And one of her folding spoons, complete with colored wax inlay.

Signing up for Jane’s class brings you into the pre-Fest activities – hers is one of 7 classes running at once, so you’ll be swept up in lots of interesting action between sessions, at mealtimes and evenings. I think of it as 3/4 of another Greenwood Fest. The price of $500 includes 2 full days of instruction; all materials; 2 nights lodging & 7 meals.

There’s also 2 spots I think in Tim Manney’s sharpening class. I’ve posted about this experience before;

I remember one student yelling “what else can we sharpen?” during one of Tim’s classes…