the rest of mortising: beyond boring

There’s more to mortises than the boring machine, as enticing as that device is, it’s only the start. I wait until there’s several joints laid out, then bore all of them…then tuck the machine away & go on from there. 


boring detail

Here’s one of the through-mortises that’s all bored, three 2″ diameter holes:

mortise bored

Then it’s chisel work. This is actually a different mortise, but the principal is the same. Here I’m chopping the end grain. 

chopping end grain

And here paring the side walls/cheeks of the mortise. 

paring cheeks

I went to pick up my 2″chisel the other day, and there’s a ladybug crawling around. In January?

lady bug

This mortise is chopped. Now the timber needs to be reduced to 5 3/4″ at the joint. It’s how we compensate for the various sizes of 6x6s in the frame. 


First, saw down to the scribed lines, 

sawing housing

then knock out the waste with the chisels, 

chisel waste

then pare it flat. 


then cut a bevel along the bottom end of the mortise, where a corresponding one on the tenoned piece meets it. 


Jarrod’s new video

My late friend Victor Chinnery once quoted a phrase he read somewhere – “think much, say little, write nothing.” This, 20 years after his book Oak Furniture: the British Tradition. I’ve been thinking of that quote this week.


Several years ago, I was a guest on Roy Underhill’s show The Woodwright’s Shop, and for a topic I chose spoon carving. The 24 or 26 minute episode shows me & Roy making spoons, with methods that I was using at the time. I don’t carve spoons in the same sequence now…but that was how I happened to be doing it at that time.

In spring of 2014, I went to Lie-Nielsen to shoot another in a series of videos with them, and we carved spoons.

spoon video

That video shows a different sequence from what I did with Roy…and right after shooting that work, I left for a short class in Minnesota with Robin Wood. I got a ride up Highway 61 with Jarrod Stone Dahl, Robin and JoJo Wood. One evening JoJo showed me how she hews the spoon blank from a straight-grained blank, and once again, my techniques adapted. The gist of it is that we all keep learning as we go. Hopefully it never stops.

Now you can see one of my favorite spoon carvers, Jarrod Stone Dahl, show you step-by-step his methods in carving spoons with an axe, knife & hook knife.

 Jarrod’s new video from Popular Woodworking is available now for download or you can order the DVD. I bought mine last night. I’m sure I’ll add some stuff to my spoon carving repertoire.

If you’d like to come carve spoons, (or boxes, etc) my teaching schedule for the first half of 2016 is here:


In Search of Simplicity

Bill Coperthwaite
Bill Coperthwaite

From time to time readers of the blog have seen/heard me go on about Bill Coperthwaite. Bill’s impact on a whole world of craftsmen/women is pretty far-reaching. I met him near the end of his life, but a group of people are working to keep his legacy going. To learn something about this endeavor, read the website In Search of Simplicity

One of Bill’s traditions the group has kept alive is his calendar. If you buy this year’s, that means you don’t need to buy one in 2044.


cutting tenons on the tie-beam

NOTE: for those (few) of you who still read blogs on computers, I posted my workshop/teaching schedule for 2016 both at the header of the blog and on the sidebar. There’s other stuff there too – links to the spoon carving DVD for sale, Maureen’s etsy site, Plymouth CRAFT – just so you can find any of that stuff without slogging around. On phone & devices – I have no idea what it all looks like. Hmm, the sidebar doesn’t show on the ipad…I guess I continue to be a dinosaur. I like to see it LARGE. The menu above has some other content, articles, snippets about my furniture work, stuff for sale; boxes and baskets – DVDs, and the schedule. OK – tour over, now for tonight’s post about the timber framing project.


You can fit what I know about timber framing on the head of an (oak) pin. I took part in some workshops back in the 1980s, and had aspired to build a frame of my own one day. Never thought it would take over 30 years…but life is funny. I’m thrilled to have Pret’s expertise to guide me through the process, he did the layout. Now I have started cutting the joints. The other day it rained, so I pulled a couple of the frame’s posts in the house to cut some joinery. These are 10′ long, so barely enough room to work on them. Through mortises, and a tenon at each end. Brace mortises still need to be laid out.

2 posts

There were a couple of other pieces laid out, but those 12-footers had to wait for the weather to improve, which it did today. Here I’m sawing the shoulder on a full-width tenon. Daniel took some photos for me, the 2nd one he caught the sawdust flying! Rose shot some of them too.



Then comes splitting the cheeks – when the wood is straight-grained enough. Just like the furniture work I do…


splitting detail

then paring the tenon’s cheeks. The frame is really like a grossly-oversized joint stool.


A finished tenon. Then I had some actual furniture work to get started. Some white oak for a change! I’ll shoot it next time. 

I’ve been posting snippets on Instagram – some of you might have seen this, but if not – here’s the splitting again.

2016 teaching schedule

I have been slow to post my schedule for 2016, and now I see that it’s almost upon us. So here are some dates for classes and presentations that I have nailed down thus far. this list is through July, then there will be more later. I have classes at the Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking, Lie-Nielsen and Roy Underhill’s The Woodwright’s School. Also a couple of weekend classes are on the books with Plymouth CRAFT. Links will take you to the details, if there are any.  

FEBRUARY 13 & 14, 2016.  At Bob Van Dyke’s Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking, I’ll start off with a furniture-carving class,

“Carving in the 17th century style with Peter Follansbee”

This class runs through several exercises, learning about layout, tool selection and use. Over the course of 2 days, we’ll carve a wide range of 17th-century style patterns in oak. Some of the text from Bob Van Dyke’s website:

practice carving
practice carving

“In this two-day course, students will learn the steps and processes used to recreate carving patterns from seventeenth- century furniture of England and New England. Starting with a single gouge and mallet, we will focus on technique and posture. Also considered are proportions, spacing and the relationship between background and foreground in establishing the pattern/design. Each successive practice pattern builds upon the previous example, adding more tools and concepts. We will incorporate hand-pressure, mallet work, and the use of the V-tool in outlining designs. A compass, awl and marking gauge are used to layout the geometric basis for each pattern, but freehand work is included in each as well.”


FEBRUARY 20/21 – Plymouth CRAFT has had quite a first year! And we’ll just keep rolling into year 2. I’ll start with – what else? Spoon carving! We just confirmed the booking, so not on the website yet – – but it’s 2 full days of hewing, knife work and spoon design. At Overbrook House, Bourne Massachusetts. Legendary lunch included.

FEBRUARY 26/27, 2016 –

I’ll spend the weekend presenting some green woodworking (spoons, bowls & what else?) at the Lie-Nielsen Hand Tool Event at Goosebay Sawmill, Chichester, NH. I did this show last winter, what a great venue. All those Lie-Nielsen tools, and a sawmill with timbers galore.

aeriel view 2

APRIL 1-3, 2016, back at CVSWW. a 3-day class in making (and carving) a frame & panel. Think of this as a crash course in joiner’s work, using oak, mortise & tenon, and frame & panel construction. Come help freak Bob Van Dyke out with the carvings – 

Follansbee frame and panel UPSIDE DOWN

“Build- and Carve- this Frame & Panel with Peter Follansbee”

In this three day class with joiner & carver Peter Follansbee, students will explore the fundamental aspects of 17th-century joiner’s work. This frame-and-panel project has all the elements of a larger joined chest, but in a scale that fits the time frame. We’ll use oak we rive and plane for the framing parts; and quartersawn stock for the wider panels. Drawbored mortise and tenon joinery and carved decoration will be the a major focal point. A true crash course in joiner’s work. Now, where’d I put that axe?”

[much later in the year, September – Bob & I are planning to repeat out “one-weekend-per-month for X months” joined chest class. The full project, log to chest. Homework, travel, a museum field trip to study originals, this is the whole show. We did it last year with about 9 people whose scars have mostly healed. Dates to be announced as soon as we figure it out. I’d like it to be 5 weekends, but we’ll see. No drawer this time, so fewer pieces to rive & plane.]

APRIL 20-22, 2016, BOWL CARVING – the Woodwright’s School, Pittsboro, NC.  –


Here’s Roy’s text:

“Your instructor, Peter Follansbee, (free range at last!) gnaws woodworking down to the marrow! Celebrate the liberation of our foremost man of organic woodworking with three days of Scandinavian, “upside-down” bowl carving. Starting with a walk in the woods you’ll learn shaping and carving technique from bole to bowl!”

[there is a spoon-carving class before it, but I guess it’s filled. there’s other spoon classes – (Plymouth CRAFT & Lie-Nielsen) or get on the waiting list.]

APRIL 30/MAY 1, 2016 : Plymouth CRAFT again, this time ash basketry.

We did this class this fall, and I was astounded at the students. They whomped on some ash logs and everyone wove a couple of baskets. The baskets are perfect to keep your spoon-carving tools in.

MAY  7/8, 2016 .  


May means Maine – up at Lie-Nielsen we’ll be carving spoons.  I’ll be watching birds in the earliest hours, but class doesn’t start til 9. I think I spent 5 weeks in Maine this year, can you tell I like it at Lie-Nielsen?


JUN 10-12, 2016  GREENWOOD FEST – well, this one’s sold out – but there’s a waiting list. A 2 1/2 day lovefest with green woodworking in the pinewoods of Plymouth MA. I’ll be presenting my oak furniture game, but there will be heaps of stuff to do. 8 out of 9 of the instructors carve spoons furiously…

JUNE 18/19 – Another trip down to Maine – for a carved box class at Lie-Nielsen

here come old flat top

JUL, 2016  – the Lie-Nielsen Open House. I missed it in 2015. Not again! I forget the dates, an early weekend in July.


more mortising for the frame

between holidays and rain days, we haven’t had a chance to do the layout for the timber framing until today. It was cold with an east wind, but we’ve been spoiled by spring-like temperatures til now. With more rain & sleet ahead, I wanted to get some stuff laid out so I could bring it inside to cut joinery. Pret came & did the layout, I started cutting the six shallow mortises in the sills. These are where the posts will sit, they’re only 1 3/4″ deep.

sill mortise for post

I was using one of Pret’s augers; this one cuts like a dream. A nice tool in fantastic condition. Cook’s pattern auger bit, I’m told from readers on Instagram/Facebook. I knew the shape of this auger from Curtis Buchanan raving about it for his windsor chair work. But here it is in a 1 1/2″ hand auger. And yes, this layout is marked with a pencil, unlike my furniture work. There’s all manner of modern approaches to this work, (some pressure treated wood under the sills, bolts & nuts to secure the frame to the footings, etc) but I expect all of tools will continue to be hand-tools.

cook's auger bit

There are a couple of through-mortises we’re making. For those Pret broke out one of the boring machines he used when he built his house umpteen years ago. The label on this machine is mostly worn out – but some web search tells me it’s a Snell boring machine. Made in Fiskdale, Massachusetts, over near Sturbridge.

boring machine

I probably last used one of these in the mid-1980s. So he ran through its features, bored a few holes, then turned me loose on it.

pret demos the machine


Here goes:

You can incidentally see in some of the photos that we have floor joists in, but used conventional lumber (2x6s) for them. We have only so many white pine timbers, so conserved them by using framing lumber. The joists are notched into pockets in the sills. Then they will be toe-nailed in place. They also have ledger strips attached (nailed) on, to house insulation under the floor eventually. It feels great to be getting this project going.

I’m new at this & now I remember how it feels


I took a couple half-days this week to explore a craft I know almost nothing about. Some years ago I had bought a birch “cannister” from Jarrod Stone Dahl. I had seen his work on his website & blog and really admired it. Here’s one of his, from his website


Last year we met for the first time when I went out to North House Folk School – I was there to take a class with Robin Wood on bowl turning, but Jarrod couldn’t let the birch bark go to waste, so he peeled some of the logs before we made bowls outta them. I knew the principal, but had never seen the act before. Amazing material. 

jarrod peels fast 2

One evening, he gave me a quick 20-minute crash course in making the finger joints on these ancestors to the Shaker oval boxes. A gift of some bark, (and some I bought on the web somewhere) and then – where’s the time to explore this? Along came Christmas – perfect.

It’s probably good for someone who teaches crafts to undertake a new one now & then. Some of the mistakes I made were just plain stupid, especially the 2nd time I made them! I finally made a pattern – not to use like a template, but just to help visualize the relationship between the female & male ends of these joints.

first cuts

The only thing I had ever made like these were hoops for Swiss-style cooperage with Drew Langsner, and that was a long time ago. This past fall, I had a chance to examine a very nice example of birch bark work when a group of us visited Dickinsons Reach, formerly the home of Bill Coperthwaite. The best guess is that it’s Russian work.

russian birch work3

Mine of course have flaws many beginners exhibit, but I pulled my usual “distract them with decoration” – employing my horror vacui nearly to its fullest.  The Russian one here has its rims lashed with strips of birch bark, some are done with spruce root. I have neither of these suitable, so I might substitute hickory bark, when I next get time to work on something like this. 

Here, I have test-wrapped one end around, to scribe where I will make the cuts for the tabs…


Said tabs, and some scribed and punched decoration.

trimmed tabs

Here’s test-fit – the inner sleeve needs to be thinned so it will overlap with less bulk. But it’s just sprung in there for now, so I can pull it out & finish it. The finger joints are OK, but not great. More beginner problems…this one’s about 6″ in diameter and about 8″ high.

inner sleeve

Jarrod did a tutorial on his blog once If you aren’t familiar with his work, these days the best place to find him is Instagram.   To learn more about this work, see the book Celebrating Birch, but by far the best reference is Vladimir Yarish’s Plaited Basketry with Birch Bark.