the week in pictures

Just photos, and some captions.

mortising a joined stool frame


I bore the peg holes to mark it “done”


shaving rungs for JA ladderback


Mortised these posts, then shaved with a spokeshave to finish them


joinery tested for the 2nd joined stool frame


some spoon carving at the end of a day


new old shop stool by JA; pre-1978


unrelated – two scrolled & molded table rails and two bed posts


stile for joined table; 2 3/4″ square


turning one of the stiles

Thinking about self-taught turning – “Experience keeps a dear school, but fools will learn in no other.”

turning detail


Jones River this morning


Nice to see the sun today

Dickinsons Reach calendar


It’s calendar time again. Plan ahead and get yours for 2019, 2030 and 2041. Support the folks who are stewards of Bill Coperthwaite’s legacy – details here for the Dickinsons Reach Community –

for the calendar – 2019 DR Calendar letter (1)

Here’s a recent magazine article about how things are evolving out at Bill’s place –

Upcoming Plymouth CRAFT classes

I’ve been back from Australia for two weeks now. Just getting some pattern to my work days in the shop. Jumped from spring-time to late fall here. The beginning of each shop day starts with shavings and kindling to light the stove. I’m concentrating on furniture work mostly, some spoon carving mixed in there too. In addition to some custom work I have underway, I took Sunday to put slats in my latest version of the JA ladderback chair, and began prepping the next one, chopping slat mortises in a set of ash posts.

I’ve slowly been forming my teaching schedule for 2019; trying to balance more time at home and income. It’s not working so far! In the meantime, there’s two classes coming up at Plymouth CRAFT to tell you about. First is Tim Manney’s now-regular December sharpening class. This might be the best class Plymouth CRAFT runs for woodworking instruction. 



We started this one as an experiment, and it has proven to be very popular. Two days of tackling edge tools (no saws!) with a real master of a keen edge. Tim makes this subject absolutely attainable for beginners and has ideas and techniques for seasoned woodworkers as well. Too often I see people try to learn sharpening in an hour or two, including me. Those who’ve attended this class throw the phrase “changed my life…” around. December 15 & 16, Buzzards Bay, Massachusetts. Paula’s making lunch. (ask someone who’s been there what that means)

Then in January, we’ll be back there for my spoon-carving class.

Plymouth CRAFT spoon carving, Overbrook, Buzzards Bay

We say it’s mine, but Pret Woodburn is there too, and he’s a great help. The usual approach; two days of knife grips, spoon design, hatchet work. A big pile of fresh native woods and chopping blocks scattered about. A big fire in the stove. Bring a slojd knife and hatchet; I’ll have hook knives for students to use. Having just taught spoon carving down under, I was itching for my spoon collection of examples to study from…back home now, I’ll be sure to bring my growing collection of other makers’ spoons. Pret & Paula bring theirs too. So lots to study.

photo by Marie Pelletier  

We’ve added a third optional day (thanks, Jarrod & Fred for the idea) – we’re calling it “Advanced” spoon carving. What that implies is that you’ve learned the basics of the knife grips and hatchet work, and in this one-day session we’ll concentrate more on spoon shape and design. If all goes according to plan, we’ll have a pile of crooks for this class, so we’ll play “find the spoon in the wood.”  Paula’s making lunch. (ask someone who’s been there what that means)



You might have seen that we’ve initiated the Plymouth CRAFT Scholarship for those wishing to attend one of our classes, but are lacking the means. This is new, having grown out of discussions at our Greenwood Fest last spring. It has been soundly supported by many, (both instructors and students/attendees/whatever our people are called) for which we are grateful. Details here for Tim’s class – I assume we’ll do one for the spoon class(es) too.


Time for some Australian birds:

The superb fairy wren:

The Australian King parrot:

The eastern whipbird. 

Listen to the whipbird, thanks to Wardie44 [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons


PF versions of JA ladderback chair

I’ve been re-adjusting to life in the Northern Hemisphere after my trip to Australia. When I was in the airports and planes (almost 30 hours of “dead time” each way) – I had some good reading, including a draft of Jennie Alexander’s Make a Chair from a Tree, version 3. This book will be published next year by Lost Art Press.

When I got back up & running in the shop here at home, I assembled one of my JA chairs as my warm-up. After having read so much MACFAT it seemed the thing to do. Now I plan to get back into a rhythm and work on one of these each weekend; either seating, shaving & bending posts or assembly. Next weekend, it’s slats in this new frame. 


The first ones I made this year sold, and now I’ve got 5 more underway.


I’m going to begin taking orders for them now, and will begin shipping/delivering starting in late January. If you’d like to order one, I’m offering them for $1,200 each. I’ll take orders up to 10 chairs, beyond that I’ll start a waiting list. I’ll collect a deposit of $200 for each of the first 10 chairs. They are made of either oak (usually red, some white oak rungs or slats) and ash. It all depends on what’s on hand. Right now, it’s red oak and ash. Seating materials will vary between hickory bark (as long as I can get it), and natural rush seats. Optional seating is woven tape seats like Shaker tape. There’s a hemp version of a tape seat that JA really liked, I have yet to use it.

The chair is about 34” high, 18” wide (across the front) and 14” deep. Seat height is 18”.

Email me at if you’d like to get on the list. The deposit through paypal will be $206.

Spoon Jam, New South Wales Nov 1-4

Most of my Australian photos were of birds…so this post will be a bit light in pictures. Once I was teaching, I had little time for photos.

First task in Australia was Spoon Jam. Organized by Jeff & Jules Donne, (swiped this picture from Alex Yerks, thanks, AY)

Image may contain: 2 people, people sitting and indoor

It’s a medium-sized Spoon Fest – just as you would expect. This year it took place in Pambula Beach, New South Wales. I read about the area on the web, and thought it all sounded like travel/tourist hype, but it actually was more beautiful than the web said. In a rugged/prehistoric way…

The event started off with two 2-day classes, me with spoons carved from (intractable) crooks; and the Wayfaring Stranger Alex Yerks carving kuksas. If you’re new to Alex’s scene; he’s a wanderer. New York, Minnesota, London – now Australia and New Zealand.

The site was about a 5-10 minute walk from an astoundingly beautiful Pacific beach called Merimbula Bay that stretched for quite a ways. The couple of times I was there, other than the spoon carvers, 3 people meant it was crowded.

merimbula bay

We started out under a large marquee (think circus tent if you’re in America) – Alex at one end me at the other.

I had a great group of willing students working their way through some unusual woods as far as I was concerned. I had to preface all my concepts with “Let’s see if this will work in ______.” Some of the woods we tried included Banksia, Casuarina (aka She-oak), Black Wattle, Native cherry (Exocarpos cupressiformis), and I forget what else. They flip around from local names, Latin names and other trees they call by names you’d recognize, but the trees are nothing like what they’re named for. Some of them worked. The black wattle showed promise to me – but then mine checked after a couple of days. I thought I had got it past the critical stage – but then the weather turned warmer and it cracked along the back of the bowl. Here in the more humid (most every place is more humid than southeastern Australia) it looks better.

My students were very patient while I was distracted by every song/flit/swoop/screech of the native birds. This eastern Yellow Robin sat on this tree right in front of one of my sessions, as if to say “get your camera…”

After the first 2 days, the rest of the group descended; many of them camping on site. The other instructors were Jeff Donne and his kidney stone, Pete Trott (he helped translate Australian to me) and our old Greenwood Fest friend Brad Van Luyt


That was a happening two days; filled with ideas, techniques, stories, ant-holes that could engulf a person, a goanna, some kangaroos and spoons galore. One morning, I was hanging around chatting with Spoon Jam regular Annie and she spotted this kangaroo and its youngster – 

Alex gave a presentation to the whole group of how he carves his kuksas. Later, he kept exclaiming “I was surprised how many people were carving them!” – we had to remind him that he showed everyone how to do it.

Alex Yerks hollowing his kuksa

One of my favorite stories of the event involved Alex. I arrived at Jeff & Jules’ place ahead of him by a few hours. I was hanging around, learning about parrots, cockatoos and more from them and their kids Misty (age 9) and Isaac (age 7). Isaac was asking me if I knew Alex.

Isaac Donne: Do you know Alex?

PF: Yea, a bit.

ID: What’s he like?
PF: Well, he has glasses, long hair and a beard, he’s much younger than me. He might be wearing a vest, and he will definitely be wearing a hat. He travels all over and loves to carve.

ID: what else?

PF: Oh, I don’t know. He’s a musician. Oh, and he’s from New York.

ID: Oh – is he fancy?

I didn’t answer that one. Told him he’d have to get to know Alex, then decide for himself if he’s fancy.


three things

A few things floating around. The first photo is not mine, nor my work. It’s Dave Fisher’s carved sign, made for Jennie Alexander. Finished just before JA’s death, so now what to do with it? I told Dave to keep it – but he had other ideas. Read on.

Here’s Dave’s story about this sign:

“I carved this sign for Jennie Alexander, author of the seminal book, Make a Chair from a Tree.  Since then, the leaves have fallen and the oiled oak has begun to take on a patina.  Although Jennie was able to see photos of the finished sign, she passed away before she was able to receive it.  After a lot of thought and talking with Jennie’s daughter and others close to her, I’ve decided to auction the sign and donate the money to the recently established Plymouth CRAFT Green Woodworking Scholarship.  Learn more about the scholarship here:

This scholarship has already received some generous contributions, and they will allow many people over the coming years to participate in Plymouth CRAFT classes and events who would have otherwise been unable to.  I think that Jennie would have supported such an idea, especially considering the special relationship between her and Peter Follansbee, one of Plymouth CRAFT’s founders and most active instructors.

I’ll ship the sign to the winner of the auction, then I’ll donate all of the proceeds to The Plymouth CRAFT Scholarship Fund.  I will ship outside of the U.S., but will have to add accordingly to the shipping price listed.
There’s more information about the sign and the carving process in this post from my blog:
The sign is 29 1/2″ x 7 3/4″.  The thickness tapers from roughly 1/2″ to 3/4″ from bottom to top as it was radially split from the tree.  The back side reveals marks from the riving.  White oak — Jennie’s favorite.”

Link to Dave’s auction


And that brings up Plymouth CRAFT’s new Scholarship Fund. We’ve been kicking around the idea for a while of creating scholarships so those for whom our tuition is a stretch might still have a chance to come to our workshops and events. We’re still working out how to implement it, but it’s now underway. First shot is for Tim Manney’s sharpening class coming up December 15 & 16. Here’s the blurb about applying for the scholarships –

And here’s the one about Tim’s class. I think this will be our third time with this class, other than when he’s led Greenwood Fest sessions on sharpening, and it gets better and better.

Last for today, I have a new hatchet to try out. It came already sharp, so that’s a plus.

Julia Kalthoff sent me one of her small carving hatchets to see how I like it. (Yes, there was no invoice. I’ll use this hatchet with my students, as I do with hatchets that I have either bought or received over the years from Hans Karlsson, Robin Wood, and Svante Djarv). If I was shopping for a hatchet, I would gladly pay for Julia’s – from what I can tell after only using it briefly, it’s excellent and well worth her asking price.

It feels like a cross between the Hans Karlsson hatchet and Svante Djarv’s “small Viking” hatchet. Thicker than Karlsson’s at the edge, giving it slightly wider bevels. This is similar to Djarv’s in that respect. Curved cutting edge. The specs are on Julia’s site – if I remember right, Beth Moen helped Julia work out the shape and size. All you carvers out there can now add another great axe to your axe-lust-list.





Australia birds

I will get to the woodworking. But first…

Look – seems like just another instance of people ruining the planet, strewing trash all over, doesn’t it? Fooled you – (some of you, anyway) this is an intentional collection, assembled by a Satin Bowerbird (Ptilonorhynchus violaceus).

I still can’t believe I got to see the Satin Bowerbird at his bower. Thanks to Paul Boyer and Rachel Clarke for hosting me, while I sat in the blind they made so I could watch this. I first learned of this bird through the web, somehow saw video of his display and creations. It’s pretty far out.

Satin bowerbird male

Here is the bower – a structure made of grasses and foliage, in this case, from the native cherry tree Exocarpos cupressiformus. The bower is a viewing platform for the female bower bird to use when the male is ready to strut his stuff. He has made this clearing in the first place, then built the bower, and gathered the goods. 

Satin bowerbird’s bower

While I was there, the female was around but she did not come down for the show.

Satin bowerbird, female

So mostly the male flitted in and out, and did some housekeeping. He had collected a variety of blue items to display outside the bower. The morning I was watching, he kept refining the arrangement – moving things here and there, and going in and out of the bower to tweak it just so.

Satin bowerbird bringing a feather

Here he’s got a blue feather to add to the pile. Then he was bringing yellow flowers and adding them alongside the blue plastic and feathers. I read that older males focus more strictly on blue items.

with a yellow flower

I would have loved to have seen the display/dance, when the female stands inside the bower, and the male dances around, carrying blue items in his bill. Who could resist?


Australia. Imagine that I went there…

When I started woodworking for real in the late 1970s, I had never been out of New England by myself. Barely out of Massachusetts. Then in 1980, I somehow made my way down to Drew & Louise Langsner’s in western North Carolina. Some years later, I started regularly going between here (Massachusetts), Pennsylvania and Langsner’s.

By now, woodworking has taken me to some great places; 5 trips to England, one to Sweden, one to Alaska, a couple times to North House Folk School in Grand Marais, Minnesota and numerous trips to Virginia, North Carolina and more.

But Australia is light years beyond all that. Boston to Anchorage Alaska is 4,558 miles. Sätergläntan (the craft school in Sweden) is closer, 3,612 miles. But to Kyneton, Victoria is 10,526 miles. Then over to Pambula Beach, then back to Kyneton. Then home.

Thanks to my hosts in Australia; Jeff & Jules Donne & the kids, Paul Boyer & Rachel Clarke and Glen, Lisa & Tom Rundell. (they should all be asleep as I write this.) You all took care of my every need, and made sure I saw more astounding birds than I could fathom. Oh, and we did some woodworking too. I’m starting to get night & day straight here, and got out my cold-weather clothes. As I sort the photos, there will be posts to come about the whole trip.