Moe Follansbee knew what’s what

Over two months ago, I lost my everyday knife. I looked everywhere and came up empty. I decided it either broke off the strap, and fell, or got dropped into a bag of shavings & went the way of all things. I have lots of slojd knives – so I could keep carving spoons without any discomfort. But usually I like wearing one for everyday use. I finally gave up looking, and ordered some new blades.   I tried to be positive about it, thinking maybe someone found what would become a really good knife for them.

everyday sloyd
before it was lost

I had the blade since about 1992, it was on its 2nd handle. (I split the first one using the knife like a little froe). When I replaced the handle, I made the sheath. That was about 12 years ago. A friend at the museum made the leather work. Once the new blades arrived, I made a new knife and sheath. It was OK, but not the same.  This one, I tried my hand at the leather, but for one thing my model was gone! Here I am boring out the blank for the handle, to fit the knife’s tang.

Paring the new handle.

here is the end result, works fine. But doesn’t feel right one way or another. The leather I used was too thick for one thing, so it didn’t conform quite as well as I wished. Handle is the only piece of boxwood I had. Why did I try that?

Here’s the knife out of the sheath. It works, I was carving spoons yesterday with it. Clicks into the sheath like it’s supposed to do. I was thinking I’d do it over at some point, but things are getting busy around here right about now. 

Today I was sorting & cleaning inside & out. In the shop, it came time to climb up & hang this year’s Greenwood Fest poster. I’m not a huge poster fan, but Greenwood Fest is a pretty special affair for me, so up it went. Right above last year’s version. While I was there, I grabbed that basket for the tools & materials in it. I made some basket rims & handles from the hickory I wrote about last time, and this week I’ll install them. Needed the clips and other bits in there.

 

And don’t you know – in the basket was my old knife. Made a good day a great one.

It’s always the last place you look, my father used to say.

Hickory Bark

Post-Greenwood Fest – finally getting going. I have a few spoons, some copies of the Joint Stool book and a few DVDs left for sale. Here’s the link – https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/june-2017-spoons-book-videos-for-sale/

There’s Paypal buttons for the books & DVDs, if you want a spoon, leave me a comment.

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Meanwhile – Hickory Bark. No waiting when there’s a hickory sapling cut in the spring. You gotta get right to them. So two of these were first priority once I unpacked.

This work takes me way back. Way, way, way, way back as Van Morrison would say. I grabbed the leftover hickory saplings after Tim Manney’s demo at Greenwood Fest (one got stripped before I got to saving it – Tim? Pete?) to harvest the bark. I’ve only have a few chances to strip hickory bark in the past many years. Not making chairs or baskets with any regularity meant I didn’t need to pursue it. But, these were right there, and I have some ladderbacks underway, as well as some baskets that need rims & handles.

First off, I shave the outer bark off with the drawknife. This is thick, hard crusty bark.


Here is a detail, showing as I shave off the outer bark, the inner bark we’re after is exposed. In this photo, the first strip is removed. That way, I can see the thickness of the inner bark (or “bast”) – this becomes important.

so next is the task of thinning the inner bark to the appropriate thickness. This is a finesse move. Below the drawknife here (bottom left of the photo) the bark is just about the right thickness – above the knife you can see the yellow/orange striations – I use those as a visual guideline – shave them away & you’re there. Just about.

Then I score through the inner bark down to the wood with the tip of my knife. I make the strip about 3/4″ – 1″ wide.

It can wiggle with the grain of the tree…try to keep it pretty straight. But they are wider than I’ll use them, so I can trim them some when I get to weaving with them.

Then peel the strip up. Never ceases to amaze me.

 

I keep close watch for stray fibers that might stick to the tree. Usually means the scoring wasn’t deep enough. You can slip your knife under there & re-establish the peeling. 

Some strips are too thick when you take ’em off the tree. You can sometimes split them apart. I scored across the bark to form a tab, then pulled them apart. This is slow, careful work – you have to watch to see if it’s going evenly. Any thick side, pull towards it. Just like riving. I hold the strip between my knees, then use my thumbs & forefingers to peel them. My other fingers help keep things peeling evenly.

If a strip is too thick, but not thick enough to split, I put it on the shaving horse, and shave it with a spokeshave. I put a support stick under it. You can shave this later, once you’re using the material – but I find it best to do it right off the bat.

Coil ’em & store to dry in an airy place.

The first log was clear enough for some long riving & bending wood. I made some basket rims, then shaved two of these bows for firewood carriers. This one is shaved to shape, steamed & bent onto this form. I took no pictures of any of that. I shoot my own photos, and steam-bending requires complete attention. This firewood carrier is detailed in Drew Langsner’s Green Woodworking – as is peeling hickory bark.

The base will be an open framework,  this board is just the drying form for the bend.

Spoon carving: knife work & Barn’s book

As I’ve been getting ready for Greenwood Fest 2017, I have carved a few cherry spoons. Last blog post was about hewing the shapes from “crooks” – the curving wood where one branch meets another. https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/2017/05/26/hewing-a-spoon-crook/ 

At the end of that post, I coppped out, and went to dinner. Got several requests to “continue after dinner” – but I finished those spoons the next morning. So when I started another, I shot some of the knife work. It’s hard to get this in photos, and equally hard to shoot these without a photographer, but here goes.

I tend to start at the area behind the back of the spoon’s bowl, transitioning to the handle. It’s usually too thick there, so I go there first to remove excess wood. This cut starts at the knife’s “butt” – right near the handle. The fingers of my left hand help push & guide the knife’s blade through the cut. Both elbows are tucked against my torso.


I bring my right hand towards my gut, and bend my wrist a bit too. My left fingers extend as far as they can, the knife blade is slicing toward the knife’s tip. This cut moves from the bowl through to the side of the handle. It’s a scooping cut to some degree.

 

Similar thing, but more to the middle of the bowl. This cut goes somewhat across the grain. 

More scooping, working toward the knife’s tip.

 

the other side of the bowl, I use a different grip. My thumb is on one side of the spoon, the knife on the other. Then I close my hand, pulling the blade toward, but not at, my thumb. 

The blade ends up in the space between my thumb and fingers. The knife handle is held by curling my fingers around it, not in the palm of my hand.

This one I use along the handle. It starts with my left thumb pushing on either my right hand, or the knife handle. The thumb is extended pretty far, and then I slide the knife from tip to butt.

My right hand moves forward, my left thumb acts like a hinge, swinging up toward the spoon handle’s top end.

There’s lots of references for these cuts and many others – the newest is Barn the Spoon’s new book, “Spōn: A Guide to Spoon Carving and the New Wood Culture” (next week we’ll ask Barn how to pronounce the title of his book)

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https://barnthespoon.com/courses-books-gifts/spon-learn-to-spoon-carve-by-barn-the-spoon

It’s well worth getting; Barn has been pretty deep into spoons, I mean who else has changed their name to “…the Spoon”? Here’s a detail of a couple of his spoons at our Plymouth CRAFT exhibition at Fuller Craft Museum – (thanks, Rick…)

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hewing a spoon crook

Getting some spoon work in, prepping for Greenwood Fest coming up in early June. Cherry crooks are the greatest…so photos with captions.

This is the crook I chose this afternoon – split off 2 chunks above the pith. So the bottom third of this is trash, but the other two will be fine spoons.

Here’s the top one, near the bark. It just about makes itself into a spoon.

After hewing off the bark so I can see the shape better, I hewed a bunch off what will be the top or rim of the spoon bowl.

Slicing across the grain to bring it down to the shape I want.

Starting to define the neck between the bowl and the handle.

This is the one I always call the first chance to completely ruin the spoon. Thankfully it’s only a few minutes into the work. So if it fails now, not much is lost.

Then hewing away some excess off the back of the handle.

With a hard wood like cherry (Prunus serotina) I often mount the hewn shape in the vise, and work with a bent gouge & mallet to rough out the bowl. Working directly across the grain.

here’s the gouge – might be about 1″-1 1/4″ wide, the “sweep” or curve is the #8 in the Swiss marking system.

It’s still very blocky, so the next step will be to hew off the back corners.

I start this cut up in the bowl, and it carries all the way down to the top end of the handle.

It’s hard to read in this photo, but I’ve begun to form a rounded under the bowl.

Then it was time for dinner.

They’re so 20th century…

I have been trying my hand at some at 20th-century woodworking. Going back to where I started, making a ladderback chair like the ones I learned from Jennie Alexander and Drew Langsner. I made them quite often back in the 1980s, but by 1992 I probably made my “last” one. The only ones I made since then were two small ones for the kids when they were little, December 2009. Here’s Daniel showing how much they have outgrown them.

This is one of the late-period chairs Alexander made with our friend Nathaniel Krause. Slender, light, but strong. Very deceptive chair.

But for years, I was swept up in the 17th century – and chairs, turned or shaved, were HEAVY. Here’s one of my favorites I made back then, maple, with oak slats. The posts for this are probably almost 2″ square. The rungs are 1″ in diameter (same as JA’s posts!) with mortises bored 3/4″ in diameter.

 

Some of the turned ones are even heavier, and this is not the biggest. All ash.

So today I shaved the rungs down to size, with 5/8″ tenons. The rungs are not much heavier than that – they don’t need to be. The rungs have been dried after rough-shaving, in the oven until the batch of them stopped losing weight. Then shaved down to size.

I bored a test hole in some dry hardwood, then jam the tenon into that hole to burnish it. then spokeshave down to the burnished marks. I skew the spokeshave a lot, to keep from rounding over the end of the tenon.

Long ago, I learned to bore the mortises at a low bench, leaning over the posts to bore them. Later, Alexander and Langsner started doing the boring horizontally. Use a bit extender to help sight the angle, and a level taped to the extender too. It’s so sophisticated. I’m sure today’s ladderback chairmakers have passed me & my brace by…

it’s a Power Bore bit. Was made by Stanley, I guess out of production now. I have an extra if something happens to this one. 

Then knock the side sections together, check the angles, and bore for the front & rear rungs.

Still needs to go a little to our right..that’s a level in my hand, checking to get the side frame oriented so the boring is level.

Then more of the same.

Then I knocked it together. Yes, I used glue. Probably not necessary, the oven-dry rungs will swell inside the somewhat-moist posts. but the glue doesn’t hurt anything. I never glued the larger chairs pictured above.

I got the frame done. Next time I work on it, I’ll make the slats from riven white oak. I’ll steam them & pop them in place. then weave a seat. Either hickory bark or rush. Bark is best.

Small tool kit – those pictured here, plus riving tools, a mortise chisel. Saws for trimming things to length. Not much else. Oh, a pencil. Yikes.

Pre-Fest spaces for Greenwood Fest – “One man gathers what another man spills”

Pret & I are building lathes for the bowl turners, our friend Chris is cutting more wood than you can shake a stick at, Paula Marcoux is making schedules, writing emails & answering questions morning noon & night – Greenwood Fest begins in just over 3 weeks.

There’s been a small flurry of last-minute cancellations from the Pre-Fest courses. I wrote a post the other day about a couple, and described how this is really like a mini-Fest on its own. 7 courses running side-by-side. “Down” time, meals, evenings, etc will be a woodsy-free-for-all.  https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/2017/05/07/still-some-room-in-pre-fest-courses-at-greenwood-fest/ 

In addition to one spot in Jogge Sundqvist’s knife-handle/sheath class, space in Tim Manney’s sharpening and Jane Mickelborough’s Hinged spoon, there’s one spot with Dave Fisher making hewn bowls, and one spot with Barn Carder making eating spoons.

I’m sorry for those who had to ditch out at this, nearly the last minute. One man gathers what another man spills, though.

Dates are Tues June 6-Thursday June 8.. .Price is $500 – Includes 2 full days of instruction; (Tues afternoon/Wed all day/Thurs morning) all materials; 2 nights lodging & 7 meals, plus admission to Fuller Craft Museum for the Thursday evening presentation of Jogge’s Rhythm & Slojd.

course description  https://www.greenwoodfest.org/course-details 

registration: https://www.plymouthcraft.org/greenwood-fest-courses

spring tradition pt 1 – Brimfield

In some circles, all you need to say is one word – “Brimfield” and people know you mean the 3-times-a-year event in the Massachusetts town of that name. Flea market, antiques fair – not sure what to call it. Home-schooling means you can haul your kids to something like this & call it “cultural history”, “sociology”, “economics” or just a nice spring day looking at all kinds of who-knows-what you’ll see. we just stayed a few hours, which means we saw a fraction of it. May, July & September. Runs for days…a great slice of the world…

a very nice, small Windsor chair. $25. I left it there, we’re over-run with chairs at home.

Saw some very nice baskets – again, I don’t need to start collecting old baskets. This one I shoulda bought, though…

These southern ones are also very nice.

we used to see lots of eastern-European woodwork there, now there’s an influx of sub-Continental stuff. Or so a general overview seems. I’m mostly ignorant about this work, But these carved panels in this door were excellent.


There’s too many other pictures. if you’re inclined, they’re loaded here as a gallery.