Spoon crook interlude

My favorite spoons to carve are those from limbs/trunks/branches that have a sweep, or curve or “crook” in them. It makes splitting the blank more difficult, but makes carving the spoon easier and more interesting than straight-grained stock. To me, anyway. I should be doing a zillion other things right about now, but I had to make the spoons that were in this yellow birch (Betula alleghaniensis). 

It took a bit of wrangling to get it to split. Some froe work, some hatchet work. Got the three blanks I expected.

Then carving it was a breeze. I often carve spoons while standing at the bench, I feel like if I sit down, I’ll never get back to work. So this seems like it’s just a short interlude…

The piece I’m carving in the photo below here is about the only time I carve the bowl of a spoon into the middle part of the split. I always carve the bowl into the bark side. Unless I get a crook that has 2 spoons in it – one above & one below the pith. As in this case…

Those “below the pith” spoons have their outside bowl shape ready-made, it’s the one on the right here:

I often use a leftie hook (a Hans Karlsson one in this case) to scoop out the rear section of the bowl. I want to get this steep & deep..

Here’s the 2 main spoons from that crook, as they were in the stick.

This little one was from the single crook after the wild bend.

Here’s 5 crooks I’ve roughed out, warming up for SpoonJam! http://www.spoonsmith.com.au/spoon-jam.html

The other procrastination crafty bit I did this week was wrapping the bands around the top and bottom of this canister I started in Jarrod Dahl’s Plymouth CRAFT class a while back. I had two bands to work with, and botched them. Jarrod & Jazmin were kind enough to send me some bark to finish it off. Just needs a handle now.


Plymouth CRAFT news

I jumped the gun back here a month or two ago, but recently Plymouth CRAFT announced that there will be no Greenwood Fest in 2019. (to read CRAFT’s notice, here’s the link. It includes a nice video put together by Ben Strano of Fine Woodworking. Thanks to Ben & FWW for that)


We love having that event, and will miss seeing everyone together next spring. Our goal is to bring it back in 2020, and we’ll keep you posted about that as things evolve.  Meanwhile we’re planning more workshops than “usual” because we have some time on our hands. Well, in theory we have time on our hands. Paula & I compared notes the other day, and neither of us will see  a break for over a month, if then…

We’ve got just a couple of events posted now, Hearth Cooking and Brick Oven Baking with Paula Marcoux and Sharpening with Tim Manney. https://www.plymouthcraft.org/events



There will be more to come. A couple of thoughts – don’t fill your June calendar yet. And, among the planned offerings for next year, we’re thinking of taking on a longer-than-usual class for us, a 5-or-6 day workshop in making the JA chair. (that’s not in June, just so you know…)

But before we can plan that, I have a trip to Australia to prepare for…

a few photos

thanks to Heather, I’ve got a new camera to work with these days. Here’s some photos, no particular theme or order. (if you want to see them bigger. click them. On a computer anyway. I don’t know how it works for you phone-heads.)

The shop from down by the river, just as the sun came over the trees. You can see Daniel’s wildlife camera, I’m trying to get a new blog post out of him.

From inside, later. Looking back toward the river. I’ll shoot this view again tomorrow, the sun is supposed to come out. Now all the cattails are golden brown. I like the way they look now better than this full-summer view.


These three baskets are full of split oak to be pins for securing mortise and tenon joints. I take short off-cuts from dead-straight stock and split them out & fill these baskets with them. I made the two on the left, the one on the right is a new/old one from Louise Langsner, came to me from the Jennie Alexander collection.

This basket is the one I keep down where I can get at it. The pins in it are dry/ready to use. When it gets low, I climb up and get the next batch. I made this basket in 1987. Ash with hickory rims & handle. Hickory bark lashing.

Here’s what that basket was out – I was pinning a joined stool today.

Oh, garish electric light. The cats in a white oak basket, at night in the house. Sophie, then Scout jumping out of it. These photos are a few weeks old, the cats are bigger. But still climb into stuff…


Last weekend, Daniel & I spent 9 hours in the car so we could spend 5 up in Maine w Jogge Sundqvist & Kenneth & Angela Kortemeier at the Maine Coast Craft School. http://www.mainecoastcraft.com/ 

Here’s Daniel getting a preview of the then-up-coming (now just-finished) class in making a book/box.

Later, out on the water we went.

Jogge & Kenneth lead the way…

I finished up the first three of these chairs.

Even got out to the beach here in Plymouth one day. Best place in town. Rose in the lead…

a semi-palmated plover. (Charadrius semipalmatus)

more books for sale from JA collection

I’ve still got a few boxes of books to sort through. Here’s the latest batch, some green woodworking/carving/American furniture, etc. Leave a comment, then I will follow up with paypal invoices, etc. The comments are time-stamped, so it solves the “who-was-here-first” issue. One copy of each of these titles. I’ll try to keep the page updated as things sell. Sorry for the clunky-ness, there must be a better way, but I don’t have time to suss it out. Prices include media mail in the US. Other shipping is extra.



American Furniture in Pendleton House, RISD. This is a catalogue of the collection at Rhode Island School of Design’s museum. Softcover.




American Furniture at the MFA Boston. Softcover. A nice overview of the collection published in the early 1960s or so.



American Furniture, 1996. This is the annual journal put out by the Chipstone Foundation. Yes, it’s online. To get the full set of illustrations you need to view the actual books. This one includes the first article JA & I did for them, on the oak carved furniture from Braintree, Massachusetts.






Handmade, by Drew & Louise Langsner. SOLD

Paperback. The covers are a bit buckled, it’s an old paperback. Otherwise in fine shape. Signed by Louise & Drew…it’s their trip through parts of Europe looking into architecture, cooking, crafts, and more.




Woodcarving: Tools, Materials & Equipment, Chris Pye. SOLD

softcover. I really like this book, lots of great content about the tools, their use, shapes, sharpening. I keep my copy right next to Mary May’s book.



Wood and Woodworking in Anglo-Scandinavian Medieval York Carole Morris. SOLD

Archaeology books usually don’t interest me much, being mostly ceramics or metal. This one’s all WOOD! Great, great book. Large paperback, some browning on the edges of the pages, but it’s all intact and otherwise in fine condition. Now a pretty scarce book.




Another English book –

Suffolk Medieval Church Roof Carvings, by Birkin Haward. SOLD

Softcover. This one I come back to again & again. Not because I’m going to carve a church roof, but because it’s captivating. Great details.



Making the Attikamek Snowshoe, Henri Vallancourt. SOLD


very well-regarded book about just that – making these snowshoes. I’m trying to picture JA in showshoes! But this book was in the collection because it’s about green woodworking with simple tools. Includes a note from Henri to JA.



Folk Arts and Crafts of Japan – SOLD

hardcover. Nice study of the subject, textiles, ceramics, wood, paint –



The History of Chairmaking in High Wycombe, L.J. Mayes. SOLD

Hardcover. Includes a section about the old methods in Buckinghamshire, then goes into how the “craft became an industry…”



The Cooper and His Trade, SOLD

Kenneth Kilby. Aptly titled book, I have a later paperback edition. This is the first edition, hardcover.



Tage Frid, book 3: Furniture making. SOLD

Not green woodworking, not “all-hand-tools” but some chair design. That’s all I can figure as to why it was there.



American Furniture 2008. SOLD

Same series as above, this time with a piece by JA, Robert Trent & I on “shaved post and rung chairs” –





Jarrod Dahl Birch Bark class with Plymouth CRAFT

The weekend went very well, 10 or so folks making several birch bark cannisters under Jarrod’s tutelage. What amazing material he brought from Wisconsin. We never see birches that large around eastern Massachusetts. They might grow big like that out in the western part of the state, but that’s way out past 495.

After the opening session/slide show/demo, it was time for the students to get involved. Started off making knife sheaths after a demo by Jazmin. She & Jarrod make pretty tidy knife sheaths.

Jarrod distributed the bark, then it was up to the students to suss out where to cut it. “About here?” says Jake.

Some could be de-laminated. Sorta like splitting hickory bark. Just easier.

Mary dove in and started cutting the joints with a chisel. Their first cannisters had triangular joints, later ones had curved joints. The triangular ones were a good place to start.

I semi-Tom-Sawyered Pret into cutting mine. Until I got to decorating it, that is. Then he disappeared in a hurry.


This one’s not mine, mine was more decorated. “tarted up” is the phrase, I think. But this punch impression is my favorite of the pile Jarrod brought.

Here’s a few of the punches, antler I think.

There’s many details, but I’m not writing a how-to. Here, Jarrod demo-ing pegging the white pine bottom in place.

A student’s cannister, bottom & top in place, next up was making the top and bottom bands. I messed mine up today at home, made a two consecutive simple mistakes.

One of Jarrod’s handles. Toggles, he calls them.

here’s Marie’s group shot. Big Steve – where’s your birch work?




Jennie Alexander’s chair


Alexander’s post-and-rung chair

On the Jennie Alexander chairmaking front – I worked with Alexander for years and years – and we made many of these chairs together. In the early 1990s we worked on a second edition of the book Make a Chair from a Tree and it included an afterword that described and illustrated the then-current updates to the chairmaking process from the original 1978 edition. Around that time, we shot a full-length video of the process, but JA was not satisfied with it, and scrapped the whole thing. Then later, while I was off in joinery-land, JA and Anatol Polillo produced an excellent video that shows the most current version of how to build this chair.

You probably already saw this news – but Lost Art Press announced yesterday that it’s got the video ready for streaming. Here’s the link:

‘Make a Chair From a Tree’ Streaming Video Now Available

My one comment – Chris doesn’t know what it’s called. It’s not a “Jennie” chair, it’s a JA chair. Always was.

Get it while you wait for the next (and best) edition of the book.

On the same subject, next year, I’m planning two classes on making these chairs. When I have the particulars sorted out, I’ll announce them here & elsewhere. I’ve made four of these chairs lately, and they’ve all sold – soon I’ll be taking orders for a small batch of my versions of these as well. Lots more about these chairs in upcoming posts.

Jarrod’s birch bark class at Plymouth CRAFT

We got underway tonight with a 2-hour intro to Jarrod’s class in birch bark cannisters with Plymouth CRAFT. https://www.plymouthcraft.org/

He showed some slides of harvesting the bark, and some historical inspiration, as well as examples of his own work. That was followed by a demonstration of cutting the joints for a simple cannister.

Here, using a chisel to stab out the slots and tabs for the connecting joinery.

I know from experience that wrapping your head around the layout of this joint is no joke. Here, he’s limbering the bark up for squeezing it so he can slip the tabs through the slots. Or whatever you call those bits.


Now to do it so all the components slide through in turn.

The body of the cannister fitted, a joined outside, and an overlapping liner slid inside.

I saw Jarrod make one of these, maybe a 20-minute demo, the year we first met. Since then, I’ve always wanted to delve more deeply into this aspect of green woodworking. So I’ve waited for this class for a long time. I greatly appreciate that Jarrod & Jazmin have traveled all this way; and have brought something new to us at Plymouth CRAFT. Looking forward to the hands-on part, starting tomorrow.

You probably already know Jarrod’s work, but just in case- https://www.instagram.com/jarrod__dahl/  

and https://woodspirithandcraft.com/