The Road to Hell…

This clean-up is harder than I thought. It takes longer, anyway. There’s a pile of baskets, the best of which are here – some finished, some nearly so. All of these were sitting up in the loft for a year-plus. But at least now they can get used.

Here’s the ones for today’s work – I have some last bits of hickory to split, shave & bend for handles & rims.

Two stools – the one on the right is brand-new, just finished last week, maybe it was the week before.

The joined stool is #3 of a pair. I made parts for three when I was making them for the Cutchogue Old House project. Then realized the order only called for two. So this stool, all turned & joinery cut, went up into the loft. I brought it down when I was prepping for my Winterthur demo last month, did some quick carvings on the rails, then pinned it. Today I plan on making the seat board, pinning that & tomorrow painting it red.

Birch bark canisters.

Ugh. I am very taken with this work, but have only spent a little time with it. Last fall Plymouth CRAFT hosted a class by Jarrod Dahl – and I learned a lot from those sessions. This one I had cut the finger joints some time ago, made a bottom, but ran out of bark so couldn’t make the bands that usually go around the upper & lower ends. I decided last week to forget them, and made a top for it, and fitted it with a basket handle. A little chip carving finished it off. 6 1/2″ diameter, 9″ high. 

While moving some large books around in the house, I found a small sheet of birch bark that I had flattened & forgot about. It turned red – I don’t know if that was from the book, the paper between it & the book or what.



 But I made a small canister from it, and had some short pieces to make the bands. Now a handle & it will be done.

Some post & rung work:

The ladderback chair I started during Plymouth CRAFT’s first chair class early in May. It came home in pieces, but I figured I better build it now or just burn it. Assembled it yesterday. Slats are next. The stool parts beside it are overflow from the finished stool above. So I’ll finish both of these up, then they are slated to get rush seats instead of hickory bark.

In my cleaning, I keep running into bits of wood stored around – “Oh, that’s going to by X, Y or Z someday.” This one is mahogany – a wood I have never used. I think Bob Van Dyke gave it to me. One little piece, what could I make from one piece? One of Roy’s sliding lid boxes. 

I’m not going to spoil it for those that don’t know these little puzzles. You can watch him make one here –

And look – one more. This carved box only needs a lid and some paint to call it done. OK, I know what I have to do now, better get away from this desk and do it.









Spring cleaning

I like May. It’s light out early, not too hot, lots of birds, and all the leaves & flowers coming out display a great variety of colors. Except this May – it was mostly a dud. We’ve finally had some sunshine and it feels great. The raking light of early morning provides some of my favorite views. Here’s this morning’s view upriver:

The light on this basket hanging in the shop is reflected off a beam just out of view to the left. The sun is to my right –

Here’s a view pulled back showing the sunlight hitting the timber –

Yesterday in the shop I went to the loft and pulled down some half-finished baskets. I have a small amount of hickory to shave for rims and handles, so I spent the afternoon doing just that. I found that if I shaved the rims carefully to an even thickness, I could bend them without bothering to steam them. Some did go through the steaming process, but things went just as well without it. These will be ready in a day or two for lashing the rims & handles on with thin narrow strips of hickory bark. Then I’ll go back to the loft to see what else is up there taking up space…

A bird that Marie & I missed last week arrived here this week, the cedar waxwings (Bombycilla cedrorum) 


Finishing up some ladderback chairs next.

the years just roll by like a broken-down dam

The book Joiner’s Work arrived here today. Get your copy here:

Once again, thanks to all the great help at Lost Art Press. If you’re reading my blog, that means you know who they are – they make this book-writing process easy. I’ve had the PDF, but to me it doesn’t count until I have a book in my hands. Or, in this case in the kids’ hands. I haven’t checked, but this book looks smaller than the first one.

Last time –

they seem to think it’s funny…

this time –

I’m about to make some oak furniture after the long-hiatus with white pine. Some carved boxes coming up next…first one will be like the one in the back row of this photo:

I dug out my long-neglected spoon knives and started practicing. Spoon Day is coming up with Plymouth CRAFT. Still some tickets; date is Sunday June 9th –

Great lineup – JoJo Wood, Dave Fisher, Tim Manney, Oliver Pratt, Reid Schwartz, Amy Umbel, Jay Ketner, Jessica Hirsch – a day full of spoon carving, trading ideas, techniques, designs & more…

Some JA chair stuff still reverberating after last week’s Plymouth CRAFT class in making one. I shot a short video showing a stress-test for one joint. Twist & twist the rung/post junction. The joint stays tight, the rung shreds. That’s strong enough for my lifetime & beyond, I’d bet.

Here’s the result:


Other stuff – This AM – not at the house, I was out for a walk, going to get birds, but ran into this leapin’ creature…

There’s a house wren outside the shop, setting up a nest on the house, interestingly enough. He’s bringing sticks that are too long for him to get in the hole. Fun to watch him struggle with building. Reminds me of when I built the shop – I remember being upside down part of the time…

And a brief attempt at a dramatic reading of a how-to book:


and –

Spring Migration

It’s May. That means our friend Marie & I headed our for our yearly warbler-migration. One morning at Wompatuck State Park in Hingham MA and today in Mt. Auburn Cemetery in Watertown & Cambridge, MA. Today’s trip was the stuff of warbler-legends – at one point we stayed looking in two trees for an hour and the birds just kept coming in. Almost every single one of these birds, though, makes their living way up high in the treetops. This is especially true of the warblers, plus they’re small & in constant motion. Makes photography tough, unless you have a larger budget than us, for the giant lenses. But – it was a perfect day to be at Mt. Auburn.

first bird – Magnolia warbler (Setophaga magnolia) 

Not a warbler, but a returning breeder; winters down in Central America/northern South America. Rose-breasted grosbeak (Pheucticus ludovicianus). Not a bird we see often; always exciting. This one was cooperative. There was another with it too.

he’s fanning his tail here:

As the morning moved on, it warmed up. Several hawks floating above everything. Juvenile red-tailed hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) .

Northern parula (Setophaga americana) – always a highlight of the spring. I thought they were passing through here en route to northern breeding grounds – well, they are. But the species also breeds throughout the eastern US., except for an east-west swath that includes Massachusetts. I get much of my birding info from the Cornell website –

A little closer shot, these are heavily cropped. My lens is just 300mm, so can only pull so far in from the tops of the trees.

Sometimes we’ll go a couple of years without seeing a Blackburnian warbler (Setophaga fusca) – last year I had a 3-second view and never could find him again. This morning we saw two – and I got one “record” shot. Looks like they breed in western Massachusetts, must need more woods than we have here in the eastern part of the state.


All I knew was it was a thrush. Marie said “I think it could be Swainson’s thrush” (Catharus ustulatus) – we caught up with a group a minute later who said they had two Swainson’s that had just flown off – but we had just come up as the birds landed on these stones.

We saw (but didn’t photograph) several black-throated green warblers (Setophaga virens), but did get basic shots of this black-throated blue warbler (Setophaga caerulescens). All you can see in this view is the black throat – the back is a deep blue color.

a female American redstart (Setophaga ruticilla) we’ll get to the male.

The lowest, most cooperative bird of the day – a common yellowthroat (Geothlypis trichas) this guy does nest around here, I hear them often in my yard, they love to be near water. But sometimes I can go all spring & summer  – hear it everyday in the spring, but not see it. This one was working some rhododendron bushes.

here he is again. We saw the female too.

The male redstart. There were lots of these today.

Another non-warbler, the scarlet tanager (Piranga olivacea) – there was a female too, she’s green with dark wings. And a female summer tanager. No photos of either of those.

From Hingham the other day – fewer leaves, another scarlet tanager, one view of his armpit.

Two years in a row, we stumbled upon very cooperative, non-singing veerys (Catharus fuscescens) another thrush.


a blue-gray gnatcatcher (Polioptila caerulea) – 

Back home, it’s orioles. Here’s a female Baltimore oriole (Icterus galbula) working our apple trees.

Here’s Daniel’s shot of one of the males today –

Making Chairs from a Tree with Plymouth CRAFT

That was quite a week-plus. Plymouth CRAFT hosted its first-ever 6-day workshop; 6 students came to Massachusetts to learn how to make a chair from a tree, as JA’s book proclaimed all those years ago. For me, it was an overwhelming experience – to see all these new chairs, following Alexander’s steps, and in many cases using tools and equipment from her workshop…I can’t tell you how many sentences I started with “I remember Alexander saying/doing…”

Image may contain: 7 people, including Peter Follansbee, people smiling, people standing, tree, outdoor and nature

Here’s some photos, a couple I clipped from Marie Pelletier’s FB thread (the group shot above for example) – she shoots all our Plymouth CRAFT events. Most of these were mine, but I often forgot to shoot stuff.

Day one, after the first riving session, students begin shaving front posts.

A lineup of chairs; from left – antique New Jersey chair, PF 2019 chair, JA one of the last batch, PF 2018, JA stool, pre-1978, JA one-slat, c. 1975, PF kid’s chair, c. 2008.

Some layout of rungs, to be split. Ash, dead-straight. We lost very few pieces.

Andy splitting some of the rungs with a froe.

Arizona Sam shaving a rear post.



Kurt helping Andy bend some hot posts.


They worked green wood for the first couple of days, then following the format employed for decades by Drew Langsner, after they shaved & bent stuff for the next class, I issued air-dried stock I prepped ahead of time. That’s what they made their chairs from…here’s Andy & David chopping slat mortises.

Then it’s time to bore them. Here, Kurt & Warren are boring a front post. We teamed up, at least for the first sections, good to have an extra set of eyes on the progress.

It’s a JA-innovation to assemble the side sections first. Probably overkill, but it’s how I do it still. Here, Kurt has done a mock-up once his side sections are assembled. I get it, I want to know what it’s going to look like too.


Then bore for the front & rear rungs.

I showed them how I size tenons by jamming them in a test-hole in dry hardwood. Spokeshave work.

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Then assembly. Make sure the shorter rear rungs are in the rear. That way the longer front rungs go in front.


After a short steaming, the slats are popped into the mortises. Here, I’m making a slight adjustment.

Image may contain: 2 people, people standing, shoes and outdoor

Some student’s first chair – (that’s a joke – it’s Brian Chin’s – he became “some student” through an innocent remark I made…)

He & Arizona Sam scored some hickory bark and had time to weave the seats on the last afternoon.

Thanks to the usual Plymouth CRAFT crowd, especially Pret & Paula, the great students who put up with me, and to JA & Drew Langsner, who all those years ago showed me what to do.

Update on Peter Follansbee’s ‘Joiner’s Work’

Word from west of here…

Lost Art Press


The printing plant has finished its work on Peter Follansbee’s new book, “Joiner’s Work,” and it will be trucked to our Indiana warehouse on Monday. We’re not certain when it will start mailing out to people who placed pre-publication orders, but my best guess is it will be this week.

If you haven’t placed an order, this is the last opportunity to get a free pdf of the book with your order. Once the book starts shipping, the price of the book plus the pdf will be $61.25, up from $49.

Yesterday I received a sample from the printer and the book looks great. Oak is featured on 100 percent of its pages. You will not find an oakier tome.

— Christopher Schwarz


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