Carved arcading photo sequence

Here’s the end of another year. This blog will keep chugging along, going into its 13th year. Today, carving an arcading pattern along the apron for a joined stool. I’ve never done this design in print or video. The rail in the photos is about 3 1/2″ high, with a small molding down on its bottom edge.

Here’s one of the carvings:

The layout is all done with a marking gauge, square & awl, and a compass. Oh, a ruler too. Then I do the chisel-work first. It probably doesn’t matter whether you do chisel or gouge work first.

The first set of strikes define the peaked area between the arches.

Then I come in with the chisel very low, and bevel up. Mallet work at first – to chop down to the depth I scored above.

Further along, showing the “peaks” defined now.

Now comes gouge work. This first one is a large #7 (according to the Swiss numbering system, but it’s an English tool.) Might be about 7/8″ wide.

After striking two arcs outside the arches, I then tilt the gouge over a bit and relieve behind the strikes.

Then with a narrower #7, I struck small, somewhat pointed arcs meeting at a centerline on the top margin, between the arches. Then relieve behind these cuts.

Now for inside the arches. A more deeply curved tool defining a small rounded button at the bottom margin, inside the arches.

Switched to a slightly wider gouge, again with more curve than the #7s – I just begin hollowing right near that incised mark, removing wood carefully.

Then I back up further, and go over what I just cut. One of the few times I carve little-by-little. Most everything I carve is to the full depth on one shot.

Now I concentrate on tilting the gouge over to cut along the scribed line. First on one side, then the other.

A little more…

Then the other side gets the same treatment.

Then I blend those surfaces by cutting down the middle of the arch.

Then there’s just a bunch of details; punches, chisel-incised marks, etc.

I shot a video of carving one of these aprons & was mostly pleased with how it came out. But, I continue to be video-challenged. I uploaded it to youtube so I could copy it here. But it looked like crap on youtube. The video itself here on my machine is quite sharp…I’ll try to figure it out & add it later.

PS: well, now it says “HD” – seems better. I don’t know what happened.
One camera, so sometimes my mallet or hands is/are in the way.

Plymouth CRAFT Scholarship Fund donations etc

When we started Plymouth CRAFT a few years ago, we had little idea of what it would turn into. All we knew was that we had lots of talented friends that we’d like to highlight as instructors, and that we figured there would be a receptive audience. 

Boy, did we underestimate the extent of both angles there. Especially the receptive audience part. To us, our students, friends and supporters have been the greatest benefit of our undertaking. We’ve never seen such a supporting and generous group. We’re continually moved by people’s response to our efforts.

A couple of years ago, we took a cue from Fine Woodworking Live, and began a fund to offer scholarships for those with an interest in our work, but for whom tuition is either out of reach or a stretch. Because of the generosity of our supporters; audience, instructors, board members and more, we’ve been able to offer a spot in most of our classes to someone drawing assistance from the scholarship fund.  


Yesterday, Paula Marcoux sent out an email/newsletter reminding people of this scholarship program, both so they can apply if they’d like, or donate to support it. If you’d like to know about the scholarship program, have a look at this link:

The fine print – Plymouth CRAFT is a 501(c)3 charitable organization. Your gift helps us thrive! – so, donations are tax deductible, etc.

We’re working on 2020 now, a little late but we never claimed to be on top of things. Still no Greenwood Fest (we miss it too, and are doing our best to bring it back) but in the meantime, we’ll keep tweaking things, like last year when we introduced the 6-day chair class. There will be two offerings of that this year, one in May, the other in August. Still finalizing the August dates, here’s the May listing:


Non-woodsy stuff

I saw this buck one day while walking at Daniel Webster Wildlife Sanctuary in Marshfield, MA. 

Some days later, saw him again and noted that he’s the first one to book out of sight when a human comes by. Women & children to fend for themselves I guess. 

The nearly tame red-tailed hawk is a photographer’s delight. 

Only the 2nd time I’ve seen an eagle there in 19 years. Crappy photo, (heavily zoomed & cropped) but it’s always a treat to me to see these birds. When I was growing up there were none in eastern Massachusetts. Maybe none in the state. 

On my drive home from Kentucky, I detoured up to Follansbee, West Virginia. I have long wanted just to see it, took about an hour out of the way back & forth. The highlight was the old bank – now a T-shirt shop I guess. 



I have no comment. 

Sifting through our wildlife camera – we’ve caught some fun stuff this fall. Two things I never knew were in our yard. One was a saw-whet owl.

Thanks to Marie for correctly ID’ing it, I thought “small owl – must be screech.” It’s been back a few nights. Maybe it’ll hang around here all winter. I once saw a saw-whet in the daytime & posted it here ages ago (2013). 

saw whet blog 2

The name is because its song supposedly sounds like someone whetting a say. You’d have to be a fast saw-filer to sound like that. I’ve never heard it in life. 

The other nighttime visitor was a fluttery something that swept through a video. I viewed it many times, then was able to freeze it & get a screenshot. A flying squirrel. What do you know. 

– Here’s one of two video clips that it showed up on.






more Chester Cornett chairs

I’ve been home from my most recent Lost Art Press workshop-trip now for a week. I just made it into the shop for real today, but took no photos. Christmas presents. So photos later of those. Maybe.

But I started sorting photos from the past month or so. I made another field trip with the Boy Wonder, aka Brendan Gaffney to see more of Chester Cornett’s chairs.  This time we went to the Mathers Museum at Indiana University. I’ll just post photos with captions/notes. The lighting conditions were tough. So, horrid color, real high ISO. These photos aren’t going to win any prizes.

Here’s Brendan for scale, measuring a 3-slat high chair/bar stool. There’s one of these in Alexander’s book, but it’s not this chair. I think this one was sassafrass, very lightweight wood. Harder rungs, they might be hickory, I forget.

This one’s white oak. A 3-slat chair. Chester often bent the rear seat rung to mimic the bent slats. JA wrote to never include sapwood and heartwood in the same stick. Chester didn’t learn chairmaking from a book.

Same chair. Side view.



You can tell this is a 3-slat chair because Chester wrote 1, 2, 3 on the slats.

Another little 3-slat chair. Painted, probably by the owner, Chester didn’t paint them. I like how the paint wore away & highlighted the drawknife work.


A 6-slat rocker. I think this one was sassafrass again. Side view – a real nice chair, his drawknife work was excellent.

All that detail is knife-work. The faux turnings, the giant finials, all the pegs.

Maybe if you click this photo to enlarge it, you’ll see the numbers 1-6 on the slats.

The numbers are in this view too. The layout for the slat mortises is pencil too.

The details on all those rungs, even the rear ones.

The bookcase rocker. What a monstrosity. I’ve built some ugly, heavy chairs in my day. But nothing like this.

Brendan for scale again. The chair is smaller than you might think. The shelves are maybe 6/4 stock. The shelves just above the seat are hinged to access compartments on each side.


“Old Kentucky made buy…


…Chester Cornetts Hands”


Thanks to Brendan for hauling me around & showing me these iconic chairs. Here’s our first trip from this past summer –

Last minute furniture for sale, new Shaving Horse DVD as well

A few last-minute bits for any holiday shoppers here. I realize the furniture is not an impulse item for most of us; I’m just posting these in case anyone is interested in them. I finished one box, built another and will put the lid on it tomorrow. Both are available, but if they’re for the 25th, we’d better step on it. After this, it’s back to woodworking in the shop…

The Shaving Horse DVD is below, scroll to the bottom for it.

red oak and white pine
H: 8″  W: 25″ D: 13 3/4″
$900 plus shipping (about $60-80 in US).


The box open, with the till lid propping it open.

The end view, showing a 2nd strapwork pattern and the wooden cleat that forms part of the hinge.

Detail of the strapwork design on the front.


H: 7 1/2″  W: 22 1/2″ D: 13 1/2″
$1,000 plus shipping (about $60-80 in US)

The next next box is white oak, carved with a freehand design around a vertical centerline. The ends are a row of upright S-scrolls. Unless something goes horribly wrong, this one will get a white oak lid tomorrow. I glued up two quartersawn boards today to make the lid. Just needs planing, molding and attaching cleats/hinges. white pine bottom, till parts are white pine with an oak lid.



I’m gearing up to make some more of these Jennie Alexander-style ladderback chairs, but still have one left up in the loft. It’s red oak, some ash rungs. Hickory bark seat.

H: 33 1/2″ seat is 17″ wide at front, 13″ deep. Seat height about 18″
$1200 plus shipping; which runs around $150 here in the US.




Post & rung stool  SOLD

Related to the above; I made this for a recent article in Fine Woodworking; when that photo shoot was over I stashed it in the loft & promptly forgot about it. Found it today in a pile of chairs and things. I own a John Alexander version of this item; so this one’s extra. The bark seat will last decades; but it’s just a step or so off from what it should be – strips vary a bit too much in width; and are spaced a bit too far apart. There – I’ve told you what’s wrong with it; but it’s a perfectly fine stool really. I’ve priced it to reflect my take on it –

seat height:  18″ frame is 14 1/4″ x 17″
$500 plus shipping




Last one – the small carved chest. After Xmas this one will go back into the house somewhere. Here’s the whole story of this chest, as well as some more photos

Dimensions are H:  21″  W: 30 3/4″  D: 16 1/2″
$3,000 plus shipping.




Some time ago, I shot a video with my friends at Lie-Nielsen about making the type of shaving horse I use. They’re just released it, and I have some for sale. It’s 2 DVDs, time is 162 minutes (I could never do short videos…)

The shaving horse is my version of Jennie Alexander’s design. I’ve been using mine since the late 1980s, and find it works just fine. Here’s a preview fro LN –


You can order it directly from Lie-Nielsen either in streaming format or as discs.

There you will see all the DVDs I’ve done with them as well.

I have a limited number (38 of  them) of the Shaving Horse discs available while it’s new. If I get this setup right, you can just click the paypal link below to buy it from me. Once mine are gone, it will redirect to Lie-Nielsen.

Some 2020 classes and links

I’m off to teach one last class for the year, the carved oak box at Lost Art Press. Then home for a few months before 2020 season really kicks in. My teaching schedule for 2020 is a bit scattered. Several classes filled before I could even write about them, like the JA chair at Pete Galbert’s. He thinks it’s me – I know it’s the chair and his avid students. I’ll post here if any openings come up in that class. 





Like we did in 2020, we’ll run that class at Plymouth CRAFT – I think twice, once in May, once in August. We’ve not put them on the site yet, but are very close to ready. If you’re signed up for our newsletter then you’ll hear about it the minute it happens. We rarely send out news, we’re too busy or distracted. I’ll also post here on the blog before registration opens. I expect it too will fill quickly, we keep it at 6 students so I can keep an eye on everything that’s happening. I don’t know how Drew Langsner did it all those years with 10 or 12 students. Here’s the link to sign up for the Plymouth CRAFT newsletter –




While on the subject of Plymouth CRAFT though – we did just post Tim Manney’s first shaving horse class. Not using one, but making one. A 3-day class with Tim guiding you through the steps to build the horse he wrote about in Fine Woodworking, July/August 2017 (issue #262) – there you’ll see a quote from Curtis Buchanan, who estimates that in over 34 years, he’s spent 21,000 hours at a shaving horse. “The one (shaving horse) I’m using now was designed and made by Tim Manney and it’s the best I’ve ever used.” Need more than that? Sign up here: 


Also, while I think of it, there’s still a few spots left in Plymouth CRAFT’s classes working on the Plymouth Tapestry – 



Image of Wood Week

I do have a couple things coming in 2020 about carving oak – I’ll be back at North House Folk School out on Highway 61. I’ll teach carving oak patterns twice during “Wood Week” – a series of classes that run the gamut. This place is right on the shores of Lake Superior (it’s like an ocean, but different) – an astounding experience that I’m happy to repeat. Looks like there’s room in my two classes, (most of my others are full, so this might be the one shot – and the setting & surroundings are amazing) so come join us. 



The other is Roy’s. April. Make a carved oak box. Whoops – filled instantly. Sorry I’m late posting this stuff, but Roy’s place is really popular. I think he just opened registration yesterday. Not my fault, really. A lot can happen between now & then, so the waiting list won’t hurt  – 


I’ll try to squeeze in one or two more, but it’s getting tight. I have some custom work to do, but always welcome more. I also have a student or two coming here for one-on-one work. You can email me if you have questions regarding private lessons or ordering furniture.



Closer to home, at home, in fact, my wife Maureen has kept up her knitting/felting/shibori scene and has a number of things in her etsy shop. Just like my wooden stuff, when you buy some it makes room for us to make more.

A couple of samples of her work; it keeps us warm all winter.

Spoons, furniture & more for sale

My timing almost couldn’t be worse, but I have some items finished for sale. They can’t come in the house, in fact two were bumped out. In between driving places and eating voraciously, have a look. If you’d like to purchase any of it, just leave a comment here & then I will either send a Paypal invoice or you can send a check. But leave the comment so I can mark the items as sold.

The main problem with my timing is that I’ll be away from December 4-15 or so. That means the larger items; the joined chest, carved box, joined stool, won’t ship until December 17th. Should be fine for those who are holiday shopping. But just so you know…

There’s a lot of stuff – the furniture first, then 5 spoons down below, and after them, something new for me – birch bark containers. The smaller stuff I can mostly likely ship before I leave on Wednesday next week.

to order something, leave a comment, if you have questions, email me

Thanks everyone. I appreciate all the support I get here for my craftwork.



red oak, with white pine lid & bottom. Till inside. I just made this box recently as a model for the class I’m teaching at Lost Art Press in December.
H: 7 1/2″  W: 22″  D: 13 1/2″
$900 plus shipping




Spanish cedar and white pine.
H: 4 1/2″ W: 16 3/4″  D: 7 1/4″
This box was made from leftover Spanish cedar from the chest of drawers I built this summer and fall. Dovetailed & chipcarved. The lid slides in grooves in the sides and end.
$600 plus shipping






JOINED STOOL; red oak and white pine   SOLD
H:  15 1/4″  W: 14 3/4″  D: 14 3/4″
Red oak with a white pine seat. Iron oxide mixed in linseed oil, with lampblack squiggles for the finish.

$600 plus shipping.

This little joined stool is not new. I made it a few years ago, and completely forgot it was in the house. We found it when we moved stuff around to get the chest of drawers in place. So I took it to the shop, gave it a fresh coat of linseed oil and here it is. Priced as “gently used” –




Oak with a pine lid and bottom, till is oak & chestnut.
Dimensions are H:  21″  W: 30 3/4″  D: 16 1/2″
$3,000 plus shipping.

This one was in the house, but we knew it. I just put a lid on it after several years. I wrote it up a week ago or more, but just added it here so all the items for sale are in one place. (you can read the lowdown here:


H: 17 1/4″  W: 13 3/4″
$500 including shipping in US.

It’s been a while since I made one of these carved frame & panels. I forget why, but I had the panel first, then made a frame to go around it. To turn it into a cupboard would be more work than I have time for, so it’s a wall hanging.



I haven’t forgotten how to make spoons, just haven’t had much time. Some of these go back to the summer when I started them.

Spoon #1, cherry crook.  SOLD
L: 10 1/4″   W: 2 1/4″
$110  including shipping in US


Spoon #2,  SOLD
rhododendron crook
L: 9 1/4″  W:  2″

Carved this one in September, from a rhododendron crook someone gave me in the summer. I love to carve this wood. Some fear using it for a spoon, thinking it’s poisonous. The leaves and things apparently are, but the wood is fine. I’ve used it as spoon wood whenever I could get it for nearly 40 years.

$110 including shipping in US.


Spoon #3, black birch
L: 10 3/4″  W:  2 1/2″

A shape I accidentally carved one day for my wife, and we use it all the time in the kitchen. So I give it another go every so often. Black birch is a great spoon wood – a little harder than grey birch. I like carving it a lot.
$110 includes shipping in US.



Spoon #4, black birch
L: 11″   W:  2 5/8″
$110 including shipping in US.

Similar to above, different carving on the handle. Made them at the same time.

Spoon #5, walnut  SOLD
L: 11″   W:  3″
$110 including shipping in US.

Found it in my spoon carving basket. Finished it off while I did the others above. People go crazy for black walnut.




These are something relatively new for me. I learned bits and pieces of this work, principally from Jarrod Dahl. I like making them, I’m never going to make them as a regular thing. Last June we got some birch for JoJo Wood to carve, and I sliced the bark off before anyone could get at it. I wrapped the bodies then, and made the lids just a bit later, and added some chip carving. Then just turned some handles for them recently from butternut. I don’t imagine I’ll often have things like this; I rarely get the bark. But they are fun to make…

H: (not including handle) 6 1/2″ DIA:  4″
$110 including shipping

H: (not including handle) 6 1/2″ DIA:  4 1/2″
$110 including shipping






H: (not including handle) 4 3/4″ DIA:  3 3/4″
$90 including shipping


H: (not including handle) 3 3/4″ DIA:  4 1/4″
$90 including shipping


H: (not including handle) 7″ DIA:  4 1/8″
$110 including shipping




BIRCH #6; this is the “saved the best for last” – I made most of this one in Jarrod’s class. Then added the chip carving and a boxwood handle.
H: (not including handle) 9 1/2″ W: oval = 4 3/4″ x 6″

$300 including shipping


the Havoc of Displacement

This is the first chest of drawers I made – in 2003. Made it as a wedding present for my wife.

The new one bumped it upstairs. Before we moved it, I took a picture, pretending that our house was clean/clear and spacious. And that you could move around in it. Which is a complete lie.

We have an old 4 1/2 room house. There’s 4 of us living in it, and we’re home all the time. And we have so much stuff it isn’t funny. So me building  a chest of drawers that’s something like 46″ wide and nearly 60″ high is just plain stupid. It’s one thing to build that large chest of drawers. It’s another to make room for it in the house. The house leans toward the river, but not as much as this photo makes it seem. The new one fit in the same spot just fine. Just as before, I took a few lying photographs before things all went to wrack & ruin.

Here it is, with more oak junk on top.

To give you some idea of the mayhem, when we move one thing in this house, it ripples all through the house. So this day we moved three large pieces to shuffle things around enough to fit. I shouldn’t show this to anybody, but I took photos of the Havoc of Displacement.

And Maureen catching her breath after the move from one chest to the next.


Here’s the old one, now installed on the upstairs landing. The moving-stuff-around necessitated some yarn storage switcheroo. Still working that out.

Somewhere in there, I made a carved picture frame for the print Heather gave me of the painting she did of me. Hanging that did the same thing on the walls that moving the furniture did on the floors.

Scout didn’t want to miss any of it, but he also wanted to be safely out of the way. He found just the spot on a railing upstairs.


the Plymouth Tapestry

From the beginning five or so years ago, Plymouth CRAFT has been more than just woodworking sessions. We’ve featured cooking classes, some blacksmithing a time or two, and textile work again & again. One project going on around us lately is an unbelievable undertaking in needlework – the Plymouth Tapestry.

a detail from the Plymouth Tapestry


Plymouth CRAFT is offering two classes in February 2020 to be a part of this work – here’s the lowdown first on the project itself: 

“The Plymouth Tapestry is a signature project of Pilgrim Hall Museum, which will conserve and display this forty-yard long artifact for generations to come. Inspired by the Bayeux Tapestry, the Plymouth Tapestry is a spirited retelling of the narrative of early Plymouth Colony, starting with the creation of the land and People of Wampanoag Patuxet. The story arc passes through the development of radical Protestantism in post-medieval Europe, portrays pre-Mayflower imacts of European exploration on Native Peoples, depicts the Separatists’ sojourn in the Netherlands and their wide variety of maritime misadventures, and finally tackles the ups and downs of their first year of settlement in Wampanoag homeland…all in twenty-one six-foot-long linen panels, vividly and minutely worked in silk and wood thread.”

The tapestry is being designed by our board-member Elizabeth Creeden. If you’ve been to Greenwood Fest, you met Elizabeth in the Greenwood Shop – her work on this project is mind-blowing.

here’s part of a panel before the stitches happen:

And a sperm whale passing by the Wampanoag

Here’s the details about the two 6-person workshops – and the link. Tickets go on sale December 1, 2019 at 10am Eastern time.

Six participants per session will work with noted instructors to advance the execution of the of the Plymouth Tapestry’s Prologue Panel. The workshop will take place in the newly restored historic Steinway Library at Pilgrim Hall Museum.

Stitchers of any level of experience are welcome; the instructors will teach and direct participants to make best and most efficient use of their time with the aim of accomplishing progress on the panel.

Please note: Depending upon the needs of the project, participants may work in only one or two types of stitches during the workshop. In so doing, they will gain mastery through repetition and will have the satisfaction of seeing their work publicly displayed on this historic artifact and conserved in perpetuity.

An utterly unique experience!

Here’s more about it, from Pilgrim Hall

a small joined & carved chest for sale

I’ve taught the style of carving I do many times, shot a few videos about it and included a slew of it (almost 50 pages) in the book Joiner’s Work that was published this year. The first “pattern” I have students do is a simple exercise that uses one tool and two moves. If you go crazy with it, it can look like this:

That’s a detail from a small joined chest I started many years ago. Ah, I can check – it was 2013, because it was preparation for a pair of episodes on Roy Underhill’s show –  Roy always wanted backup materials in case something went wrong, so I started two of these chests prior to going down to shoot.

They both ended up in the book, the first one was a dead-plain one that’s in the section on fitting lids to a chest. This one, sans lid, is on page 40, in the carving section, complete with a caption that says “Someday I hope to actually finish this chest…”  Today was that day. Thankfully, unlike the chest of drawers, this one only took the morning to finish. The pine lid is quite bright, but given time it catches up to the oak in tone. I’ve just given the whole thing a going-over with linseed oil. I don’t usually go on about the figure in oak, it’s always there in my stock, but I never think about it. This chest, though, has some really nice red oak. The two-tone effect in the front panels was there the day I split the log, something in the tree, I guess.


Here it’s open, with the till lid propping up the chest lid. The lid is a single-board of white pine. Red oak chest, white pine bottom board too.

When I turned it around, I saw more practice carvings re-used, here one of the rear panels and the bottom rail. Iron gimmal (snipe-bill to many of you) hinges. I forget who made them, either Peter Ross, Tom Latane or Mark Atchison.

The till lid inside, molded edge.

I opened the lid & saw that the side & bottom to the till are American chestnut. Leftovers from a restoration project I did that year.

I really like this little chest, but I’m supposed to making this stuff to make a living. So it’s for sale.

Dimensions are H:  21″  W: 30 3/4″  D: 16 1/2″
$3,000 plus shipping.