no eagles…

Back in the good ‘ol days, I was on the payroll, but no one knew what my job was. So I could spend 4 or 5 hours at a time, watching for bald eagles in the winter… Now that I’m on my own, time’s a bit tighter. I gambled a couple hours today, came up empty for eagles, but got some shots of a red tail hawk shrugging off some crows.

crow & hawk

rt hawk

hawk & crow

hawk & crow behind

When the hawk is  over-exposed, the crow comes out with some detail.

good crow shot

This one’s got a nice diagonal symmetry to it.

neutral corners

While waiting for the eagles that didn’t show up, this great blue heron flew in front of the sun…bg heron

a challenge for Jennie Alexander re “green woodworking”

devon chest front view

devon chest w distorted stile

Devil’s Advocate time for me.

Jennie Alexander wrote today commenting about the recent post “what is green woodworking” – https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/2015/02/18/what-is-green-woodworking-2/

Here is her comment:

“I am fascinated by the continuing dialogue about green woodworking crafts. They are crafts where wood of substantial moisture content is initially processed by riving, not sawing, in the direction of its long fibers. Glossary, Make a Chair from a Tree, Third Edition, Lost Art Press…..when it gets published. So there. Jennie”

JA – by your definition today, the chest above is not green woodworking. i.e. it’s sawn stock. Not riven.

just to keep things lively…on a cold winter day.

By the way, I can’t remember the last time I mentioned it, but if readers want to see lots of oak furniture of this period, do sign up for Marhamchurch Antiques emails. I always stop and look at what Paul Fitzsimmons has churned up over there. Great stuff. I swiped these photos from him. Thanks, Paul.

http://www.marhamchurchantiques.com/

 

They weren’t kidding when they made February a short month

carving detail

I can’t believe how fast this month is going by. I guess all that playing in the snow is catching up with me. Tweaked my back a little, (I think it was a sledding incident) so for the past 2 days have had light duty… so some blog updating was due. I wrangled with the sidebar to this blog. I doubt any one actually uses it; but there is a search button down there somewhere, as well as links to order the wainscot chair DVD; Maureen’s knitting/felting site, and Plymouth CRAFT. You will also see I have, much to my own shock, joined the 21st century and added an Instagram link. There is also a Facebook something-or-other out there with my name on it – all of this is down to Robin Wood and Jarrod Stone Dahl, those cursed bowl turners. I’m astounded by these things. Robin showed me his Instagram site – and while I was creating one, people were finding it…I don’t want to know how that works!

Here’s the facebook link – https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100009003798086

and the Instagram  https://instagram.com/peterfollansbee/

I’m trying both of these things. Who knows how long it will last? I still like the blog – that I know I’ll keep.

desk box side

I’ve been carving some parts for a desk box lately. I’ve only made this type of box once before. The original is from the Braintree, Massachusetts group, William Savell and his sons John and William. These are the first patterns I ever learned how to carve. Working on them now is really so much fun; makes me look back on the whole joinery trip. I shoveled out some oak the other day; so more work coming.

Next Friday/Saturday, I’ll be at the Lie-Nielsen Hand Tool Event in Chichester New Hampshire. I will be carving spoons and hopefully talking to hordes of visitors. https://www.lie-nielsen.com/hand-tool-events/USA/74 

Maureen has added some stuff, and now in the depths of winter, her knitting looks spring-ish. that’ll come…

https://www.etsy.com/shop/MaureensFiberArts

what is “green woodworking”?

Some time ago, I wrote a column for Popular Woodworking and asked the question “what is green woodworking?” (December 2014, #215) I’m not going to repeat the article here, but want to look at the subject. The column stemmed from a talk I gave at Lie-Nielsen’s Open House last summer.

I used to know pretty clearly what “green woodworking” meant. But the older I get, the more I realize the less I know.

spoon 14-109 new photo side viewMaking a carved spoon is a great example of green woodworking – you can make them from dry wood, (I wouldn’t) but the best ones come from trees, and are worked while the wood still has a high moisture content. More direct, easier to cut, exploiting the fibers of the riven/split form – all of these are hallmarks of green woodworking. Hewn bowls, and many turned ones fall into a similar category. But bowls and spoons are single pieces of wood. what about furniture, when you put stuff together?

Robin Wood's bowl
Robin Wood’s bowl

When I first learned of this method of woodworking, it was Drew Langsner’s Country Woodcraft, Roy Underhill’s Woodwright’s Shop – and the book that coined the term for the modern day – Make a Chair from a Tree: An Introduction to Green Woodworking by John (now Jennie) Alexander. What puts the green in green woodworking? Is it moisture content? Is it riving the wood? Is it “country crafts” like the British books that inspired all of the authors listed above – Jenkins’ Traditional Country Craftsmen” and Edlin “Woodland Crafts in Britain”. Alexander felt left out of the “country” aspect of this traditional woodworking, living in the heart of the city. Hence her book’s subtitle has “green woodworking” – not country anything.

JA chair

The ladderback style chair Alexander learned even got a great deal of its strength from the moisture content manipulation – dry tenons in wetter mortises. the mortise shrinks, the tenon swells. Presto! You’re a chairmaker and have never been to a lumberyard. The way I remember it, in the 1980s  green woodworking was ladderback  chairs, some bowl-turning (I remember folks used to turn them green, let them dry, the re-turn them round again!) and a few other disciplines. Timber framing comes to mind.

cooperage
cooperage

I think about coopering – is that green woodworking? Usually riven stock, worked with a hatchet, drawkinives, shaving horses – but the critical parts are either executed or at least assembled when the stock is bone-dry. Or else.

c a chair

Windsor chairs? In America, these usually had, and have, softwood seats. Often white pine. That ain’t worked green. But the hardwood components are often riven from green stock. They’re selectively dried, like parts of Alexander’s ladderback chair, before assembly. Even the hardwood seats of British Windsors can’t be dead-green…

Some approach the “green” like the modern use of the term, renewable energy; careful use of resources, that sort of thing. Coppice crafts, are perfectly aligned with this idea. This work has long been very popular in the Old World, yet to my knowledge, never caught on here in the New World.

 

joined & carved chest, 2010
joined & carved chest, 2010

Starting in 1989, Alexander and I explored another furniture craft, seemingly more complex, until we got through with it & stripped it down – joiner’s work of the 17th century. It had riven stock, high moisture content – but some of it was not “country” in its format – some were very elaborate forms; with lots of decoration. This work has been my main focus since then. It does not fit the eco-groovy definition at all. I call it “Imperialist Swine” woodworking – you need a whole new forest to sustain it. The oak trees I want take 200 years to grow to size. And I will only use a small percentage of the tree. The rest goes in the fire.

In the end, I decided I don’t think of myself as a “green woodworker” although probably three-quarters of my stock is riven from green logs, and primarily worked up while it has a high moisture content. Trees are wood, I’m a woodworker. Sometimes I use stock fresh from the log, other times I need stuff that’s air-dried. I work the wood at various stages between wet & dry. Most of my furniture is a combination of the two. I think that’s a traditional approach….

Oh, no! What’s “traditional” woodworking????

 

Chairs

cod 2003

At my house, the carved joined stuff is in every room. I have tried many times, and always failed, to count the pieces of furniture in this 4 1/2 room house. You’d be amazed at how much stuff you can cram in here. (I’m in the kitchen right now – 9 pieces of free-standing furniture, 3 hanging on the wall, and all the built-in cupboards above the counters)

 plain chair

This week, I have been making this little, big rush-seated chair. Little because it’s a low seat, generally small-size chair. Big because it’s not subtle – the posts are almost 2” square, the rungs fit in holes that are 15/16” in diameter. So little big chair. It’s based on 17th-century chairs that we mostly know from Dutch artwork, more-so than from surviving examples. (next up for it is trimming the posts here & there, weaving the seat…) These are ancestors of the ladderback chairs that I first learned back in the late 1970s/80s. Here’s one that I did about 1984 or so. A more recent kid’s version too.

ladderback

kids

 

I began as a chairmaker. Made ladderbacks, rockers, Windsors – then got into the 17th century & made wainscot chairs, 3-legged & 4-legged. Turned chairs ditto. Leather chairs. Chairs w boxes in the seat. Kid’s chairs, high chairs. My semi-latest chair was the walnut brettstuhl.

But at our kitchen table, the chairs we use at every meal and then some are Windsor chairs I made 20-25 years ago.

c a chair

At my desk too. I once had one of those stupid office chairs, then I came to my senses & remembered that I am a chairmaker. Windsors are lightweight, comfortable, attractive. Sturdy. Fun and challenging to build; carving, turning, shaved work, sculpted seats. good all around projects. And so much variety.

Two things happened this week to remind me of how much I like good Windsor chairs. Lost Art Press announced the release of Pete Galbert’s long-awaited book on Windsor chairs. You already know about that…

One of the days that the mail got through here, I received Curtis Buchanan’s next installment in his printed plans for his chairs, this one a fanback side chair, one of my favorites.

Curtis Buchanan fanback side chair

c b plans

I learned Windsors from Curtis, starting in 1987. I really like his approach, both to his chairs and to his life. If you’ve seen his youtube series on making a Windsor chair – then you’ve seen Curtis’ style, very human, simple, direct – and he makes especially beautiful chairs. This set of plans is 4 pages; some 1/2 scale, some full scale. Two different turning patterns, bending forms, seat profile & plan. Boring angles – a course in Windsor chair making in 4 pages. I’m ordering Pete’s book, but I’m keeping Curtis’ plans too – you never know when I might reach into my past & make some more chairs. We must be able to squeeze one or two more in here…

links:

Curtis’ plans & videos http://www.curtisbuchananchairmaker.com/store/c1/Featured_Products.html

Pete’s book: http://lostartpress.com/collections/books/products/chairmakers-notebook

my wainscot chair video  https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/book-dvds/

 

 

 

 

Why do I make spoons?

 

spoons

Why do I make spoons? people ask me, but I ask myself as well. Not for money, the way I make & sell them is cumbersome at best. I do sell them, and it brings in some money, but the time I spend at it negates some of the “profit.” I am always appreciative when someone buys one of my spoons, it means a lot to be to have that sort of support. I am not interested in pursuing production runs, efficient sales, etc – that’s not my bag. If I were to get serious about that, I should do it with furniture, which is more lucrative. I’m faster at it, and it’d  be a better return for my time. But for me, that’s not what woodworking is about.

It’s not as if a household needs dozens of spoons. sure we can use a lot of them in cooking, serving & eating – but be serious. we have way more than we need. And the ones from the dollar store could serve us just fine, and we’d be none the wiser. Indeed, the great majority of the population will never know the difference.

But there is this craze about wooden spoons and spoon carving in full bloom right now. Why? Why now?

I think the internet/computer use is behind it, in two ways. As we as a society use screen-devices more and more, it has driven us further away from human contact, but conversely connected us more, if that makes sense. The notion of making a wooden spoon with a hatchet and knife has been around in the US woodworking arena since the late 1970s at least. The principal influence I remember is Wille Sundqvist, but also Dan Dustin got a short feature in Fine Woodworking back in the 1980s. Dan is an original, his spoons have nothing to do with Wille’s work. I’m sure there were others, but maybe they got less coverage. Maybe I wasn’t looking. I learned from Wille, Jogge & Drew Langsner. Thought not much about it for many years, just usually kept some spoon carving in tandem with my furniture work. they made great gifts, “Oh, look – a wooden spoon!” then on the shelf it goes…

Robin Wood has cited, correctly to some degree I think, that the spoon work is attractive because you need no shop, or certainly limited space. Someplace to hew the blanks, then the rest can be done in your lap. Small quantities of wood. And they don’t take months to do like some large case furniture for instance.

For me, there’s more to it than that. There’s a connection between people and raw materials that is now rare. Maybe not in my household, or in yours, but I’m sorry to tell you that we are on the fringes of society. The general population doesn’t even think about these things.

At our house, we like to increase the handmade items we surround ourselves with. Woodenware, ceramics, woolens – as much as we can, we prefer to have people-made stuff around, handmade. There;’s a connection that you think about as you reach for that bowl, that spoon – pull on that sweater.

I’m thinking of these things lately for lots of reasons, but one is because I just finished reading A Man Apart: Bill Coperthwaite’s Radical Experiment in Living by Peter Forbes and Helen Whybrow.

Picture

I only knew Bill a little bit, but his influence reached across decades. If you carved a spoon in America based on Wille Sunqvist’s work, Bill was the one who shoved that snowball down the hill. The book is not about spoon carving, nor really about woodworking. It’s about the relationship between mentor & mentor-ed. And about how to live, as Bill saw it…

After I finished the book, I couldn’t concentrate. My mind was swirling around about how to live, what is important, what is dross. The only book I could pick up in the days after finishing it was Thoreau’s journal.

I can’t wait to carve my next spoon.

I save the finishing touches for last

hewn bowl 14-04 catalpa

Today I was thinking a lot about hewing a bowl with an adze. I was swinging a tool up and down, chopping into a large hollow shape, getting out the innards, and pulling out the chips. Getting more & more open = chop, sweep, chop, sweep. But instead of the confines of my home shop, I was on the ladder, chopping ice out of the old house’s gutters. Now the melting snow flows, but soon it will ice up again. Anyway, it was a nice afternoon up there in the heavens- but  the only woodwork was in my head.

paint

I did get a first coat of paint on the oak box I made. I checked the schedule, and decided I’d try to get it painted before I ship it off to Alaska. It looked too bland as it was. After this part dries, I’ll put some black squiggles & dots, then a coat of thin red over the oak. the paints are linseed oil/turpentine with iron oxide (red) and yellow ochre; and bone black. I mixed some raw umber in to help the drying too. The lid looks like it’s painted white in the photo above, but that’s just all the light from the snow. It’s a white pine lid, so very pale.

The layout for the oval on the lid, and a view of the till inside – recycled chip carving practice.

oval

till

The cedar box just got linseed oil and turpentine. Helps highlight the carvings. Two comments yesterday from stitch-women (up-graded from stitch-girls; i.e. textile arisans – thanks Denise & Mary) praised the odd-proportioned box, one suggesting a sewing box. So now I know how to market it.

cedar box side view

cedar lid

 

Here’s one many of you have seen before, related to the oak one I’m doing now.

carved oak box