Thanksgiving 2015


Thanksgiving here in the US, a national holiday. It’s a long & complicated story, and I don’t get to wrapped up in it. I hate football, turkey and I don’t drink. So it doesn’t really effect me much. I worked for 20 years at Plimoth Plantation, where they get a lot of attention this time of year, it being where the roots of the American holiday are. I left that full-time job a year & 1/2 ago, ditching a regular paycheck, benefits, vacations & some holidays, etc. to strike out on my own. Some of the many things for which I am thankful include students in my classes, customers of my spoons & other woodwork and the readers of this blog – you all make it possible for me to eek out a living doing things I love to do. There’s no telling how long it will last, but I appreciate everyone’s support in my work.


Our friend Peter Lamb has an Instagram site, and today he posted about his friend Bill Coperthwaite, who died two years ago today. Peter’s post included this quote from Bill’s book A Handmade Life:

“When we have more than we need while others are in want, we certainly thieve. But in addition, we enslave ourselves. As we learn to live with fewer and simpler things, and are able to live with fewer expenses, we become less vulnerable to social upheaval. We have greater freedom – visual, mental and spatial – and far greater freedom of movement. And we spend less time maintaining and stumbling over things – physically, mentally, and visually – and worrying about loss.”

Food for thought.

Red tail hawk from a walk in Marshfield today.

last view

flight 2

Huck Finn is just ignorant, that’s all

ladderback chair
kid’s ladderback chair

Back when I started green woodworking, chairs were my thing. I learned them first from John (Jennie) Alexander’s book Make a Chair from a Tree, then slightly later from Alexander first-hand. In that book is the incredibly amazing technique of stripping hickory saplings for the inner bark, to be used as a seat-weaving material. To me, the best seating material going – looks and feels better the more you use it. (the notion for this photo came from one Tim Manney did a few weeks ago – thanks, Tim)


bark seat

Like pounding ash splints for basket-making, peeling hickory for the inner bark is a concept that amazes me every time I do it. I rarely get to harvest any hickory bark these days, but keep a stash of strips for basket work. I was lashing the rims onto some baskets the other day, and although I have some very fine smooth ash splints that are ideal for this work, I also have some leftover hickory bark. Unbeatable.


Working with it reminded me of two references to it in Mark Twain’s work – the first one I remembered is from the Autobiography, (the modern vol 1; for that matter the old volume 1 too) When describing his uncle’s farm in Missouri, he mentioned:

“Down the forest slopes to the left were the swings. They were made of bark stripped from hickory saplings. When they became dry they were dangerous. They usually broke when a child was forty feet in the air, and this was why so many bones had to be mended every year.”

In the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Tom Sawyer is advising Huck Finn to get a sheet with which Jim will make a rope ladder in planning his escape. Huck has other ideas:

“Why, Tom Sawyer, how you talk,” I says; “Jim ain’t got no use for a rope ladder.”

“He has got use for it.  How you talk, you better say; you don’t know nothing about it.  He’s got to have a rope ladder; they all do.”

“What in the nation can he do with it?”

Do with it?  He can hide it in his bed, can’t he?”  That’s what they all do; and he’s got to, too.  Huck, you don’t ever seem to want to do anything that’s regular; you want to be starting something fresh all the time. S’pose he don’t do nothing with it? ain’t it there in his bed, for a clew, after he’s gone? and don’t you reckon they’ll want clews?  Of course they will.  And you wouldn’t leave them any?  That would be a pretty howdy-do, wouldn’tit!  I never heard of such a thing.”

“Well,” I says, “if it’s in the regulations, and he’s got to have it, all right, let him have it; because I don’t wish to go back on no regulations; but there’s one thing, Tom Sawyer—if we go to tearing up our sheets to make Jim a rope ladder, we’re going to get into trouble with Aunt Sally, just as sure as you’re born.  Now, the way I look at it, a hickry-bark ladder don’t cost nothing, and don’t waste nothing, and is just as good to load up a pie with, and hide in a straw tick, as any rag ladder you can start; and as for Jim, he ain’t had no experience, and so he don’t care what kind of a—”

“Oh, shucks, Huck Finn, if I was as ignorant as you I’d keep still—that’s what I’d do.  Who ever heard of a state prisoner escaping by a hickry-bark ladder?  Why, it’s perfectly ridiculous.”


It’s November here now, no time for harvesting any bark. But come spring, I’m going to keep my eyes out for a good hickory sapling. My stash is getting low.


the happiest woodworker I know

I followed a link tonight and got to the happiest woodworker I know. Great to hear Curtis’ views, he’s the real thing. I haven’t seen him in a while, it was nice to hear him twang. One thing he’s wrong about – he claims he’s not the best. Nonsense. He’s the best.


His website:

bowl carving with Roy Underhill & PF

2015 Promo: Bowl Carving with Peter Follansbee

The folks at the spoon-carving & green woodworking group on facebook alerted me to the online link of  Roy Underhill’s show when I visited & we were hewing bowls. Shot in early summer. Link below. Just spoke to Roy the other day, more bowls & spoons next season at his school. And who-knows-what on the TV next time.

why did this take so long?

First it was walnut. Then Alaska yellow cedar. Now this. Maple? What’s next? What happened to oak? Nothin’ – it’s just not a suitable wood for this item. This project is another case of “why did this take so long?” – not so long to make, but so long to get around to.


I have hated this cutting board for as long as we’ve had it.


Clunky, boring – just awful. I made a small plain cutting/serving board years ago, and my wife & I both use it regularly. But it’s as simple as can be…it’s better than the one above…but…that’s not much of a yardstick.


When it’s in use, or needing cleaning, the other one is the store-bought thick piece of junk. In September I spent a couple of weeks watching Jogge Sundqvist work, and was inspired to finally rectify my displeasure with this kitchen beast. I didn’t want to copy Jogge’s cutting and serving boards verbatim – so time went by and I sort of let the notion go.

new one

Yesterday I finished up some carved panels a bit early, and had some time leftover. So I planed up this long-waiting piece of Norway maple (Acer platanoides). And carved the back of it. So when it hangs on the wall, it’s a showpiece, then when you get it down to work with it, you flip it over & chop away. It’s radially-riven stock. I usually keep some around for making applied turnings for case furniture. 

So like the spoon rack that was on the blog the other night, this is a mish-mash. 17th-century English design, on non-oak wood, for a simple cutting board. Who decorates this stuff? The English for one – here’s a particularly goofy item:

16th century trencher, Metropolitan Museum of Art

 It’s a round trencher with painted design and poetry on the “back” side…the story is these were used for small servings after meals, then the people at the table would flip them over & recite the inscriptions. They weren’t for display, when not in use they were stored in a turned lidded box.

Historical precedent or not, now we have a new cutting board at home. And I can take the other one to the dump. One more hand-made item in, one more mass-produced item out. I feel better…

new skewed



Two spoons left, along with baskets and boxes,  There’ll be more in a week or so.


Spoons & more for sale, November 2015

What’s missing on the blog lately? Birds for sure. Just haven’t had much time to find them lately. The bay has been filling up with winter ducks, and these brant geese.


Also shot this photo – made me think of the song “Twa Corbies”

twa corbies

The other missing thing is spoons. I thought I’d carve a lot this summer, but didn’t get to it. Too much travel, etc. But I finally got around to finishing a few, along with the first of the baskets and more. So if you’d like to have a look – here’s the page, or the top of the blog will get you there too. 

Paypal is easiest for me, but you can pay with a check too if you’d rather. Just let me know. Details on the page..

There’s no success like failure…

ash basket detail 2

there’s many different ways to weave the round-bottom baskets; but I only know one. well, I used to know it. I use 16 uprights, laid out in 2 batches of 8. One of the first 8 uprights is split to create an odd number so the weaving can continue in a spiral up & around the basket. I’ve woven these for years, formerly more often than lately; but I did one just two weeks ago to prepare for Plymouth CRAFT class I had a week ago.

at that class, I fell flat on my face. The students were amazing, they took to pounding out ash splints like crazy; and each of them wove up either a square-to-round basket or rectangular to oval basket on the first day. (group photo by Marie Pelletier) 


I went home that night thinking, this’ll be great – tomorrow they can make more splints and we’ll weave the round bottom…except they got tired. And I lost my way – and couldn’t get the bottoms started right. For the life of me, I couldn’t see what was wrong…I had several examples right there in front of me. I almost took one apart! I knew the problem was when to bring in the 2nd batch of 8 uprights. That’s what I kept messing up.

I came home & the next couple of days I wove 4 of them. Got it nailed, now. I never really taught basket making before, and having to explain something really pushes you…here’s how I actually weave a round bottom (also termed a “double bottom”) basket. I make 16 uprights. These were about 15” long, I made a mark the mid-point of each upright. Just fold the strip in half, and scribe with a pencil. then mark out from that in both directions, say 4”. Take a pair of scissors and cut an hourglass shape on each upright. This cut comes in just beyond the outer marks, tapers down quite narrow for where it crosses the mid-point. the idea is to make these uprights narrow where they all fan out in the middle. ‘

Now, take the 1st eight, and lay them down with the inside of the basket facing up. First two form a cross, then diagonals each way.


 then keep adding pairs of uprights, splitting the spaces. the eighth one has been trimmed so one end of it down to the mid-point has been cut in half. This creates the odd number of uprights. As I said, there’s lots of ways to lay these out; this falls under the line “You do it like that?”


Now a narrow thin weaver starts right in at the split upright. I snug the end into the split, and then over one/under one as it winds around the spokes formed by the uprights. this is tight curves, so the weaver wants to be thin. and narrow. but I already told you that…

close up first set

a few trips around and it begins to look like something. Soon, you’ll need to add the 2nd set of 8 uprights. These get laid in place, one by one, and woven down to the mat created by weaving the the first 8. And this is where I messed up. But what I found out is it matters where and when you add the next uprights. You want to start laying in the new batch when the weaver is coming from underneath the split upright.

1st one of 2nd set
first upright of the 2nd eight getting woven down to the first eight

This way you’re binding the new uprights down to the first batch. It’s so simple and logical, but my fuddled head just couldn’t get it while under the gun.

success 2
All sixteen woven together now

Good judgement is the result of experience, and experience is the result of poor judgement. yeah, right. Like that. 

double bottom