the rest of my teaching schedule for 2016

An update about classes remaining for 2016, and slightly beyond.

spoons & bowl

First up is spoon-carving at Lie-Nielsen, on Sept 24 & 25


I have lots of new tricks I learned at Spoonfest and Täljfest, so come to Maine & we’ll explore all kinds of ideas. I also have some new spoons by outstanding makers to study, as well as a couple old ones.


October begins with the opening of the full-tilt chest class at Bob Van Dyke’s Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking.    We did this last year, one-weekend-a-month, for five months. One by one, students from last year have finished their chests, here’s one from Dwight Beebe:

This class is the best way to learn all the steps in making a joined chest with drawer.

This year, we’ll include a trip down to the Yale University Furniture Study, to examine the chest we’ll base ours on. Riving, hewing, planing, joinery, carving – the whole thing. One weekend at a time. First class is coming up, Oct 1 & 2.


Later in October, we’ll do the riving class with Plymouth CRAFT – right now we don’t have it listed yet, but a weekend in October, I think the 15/16 . (I’ll post it here, and Plymouth CRAFT will send out its email as well, if you’re not on their list, you want to be, even if it’s just for Greenwood Fest next year!  )

UPDATE: Here is hurdlemaking:
We are excited to be returning to the wonderful venue we used for Dave Fisher’s bowl carving class in July. That massive marsh should be gorgeous in the autumn light.


In this class, we split apart an oak log, learning how to “read” the log for best results. Then using a froe, we further break the stock down, and make garden hurdles. So, riving, hewing, shaving at a shaving horse, mortising – a busy weekend full of old techniques still applicable today.

test fit

THEN – Paula Marcoux reminded me about the spoon carving at Plymouth CRAFT on Dec 10 & 11,  at Overbrook house in Buzzard’s Bay, Massachusetts.

stay tuned to Plymouth CRAFT for details…

UPDATE: And here is spoon carving:
For this one we’ll be back at our beloved winter home, Overbrook House. Always cozy; always fun.

Connect the dots

Remember the other night when I showed some drawings and carvings, I included this one that I was working for the frame I’m cutting.

devon pattern cropped

Here is the brace with that design on it – done in pine, frustrating carving softwood. It’s not like carving oak.


I know this pattern from surviving carvings on oak furniture made in Devon in the 2nd half of the seventeenth century. I have a fair number of reference photographs of works I studied over there, and related ones made here in Massachusetts. But by far, the best on-line reference for Devon oak furniture is Paul Fitzsimmons’ Marhamchurch Antiques website. I always open his emails, and always take the time to look at his newest offerings. They never disappoint.

Here’s that motif from a chest Paul posted some time back:

OSM chest

The bottom rail is the one I’m thinking of, the top rail is related, but a variation. Here’s another, I forget where this photo came from, the chest is Devon, c. 1660-1700.

chest w drawer feb 2010

While scrolling through some reference materials here at home the other day, I remembered Thomas Trevelyon. His story is complicated, but he produced perhaps 3 manuscripts, c. 1608-1616 of various subjects. Astounding stuff. In some of my last years at the museum, our reference library received a facsimile copy of one of these, I think I might have been one of only two  people to even look at it. These aren’t pattern books, because they were never printed – they’re manuscripts. I never got straight what the purpose was.  BUT – purpose or not, here, the border of this illustration is what I was remembering:


This one’s from University College, London – I got it from here,

where you can read much of the story about Trevelyon. One of his manuscripts is now digitized & available here:

He uses this border a lot in the UCL manuscript. Sometimes there’s a flower between the S-scrolls. This pattern will make its way into all of my furniture-carving classes this year. It’s great fun to connect the dots like this.



Tamás Gyenes’ riven beech chests

I continue to be amazed at the connections we can make so easily these days. Remember way back when I stumbled across references to these chests:

Der Henndorfer Truhenfund

That ultimately connected to another blog post about some visitors to my old shop,

Well, that post brought me a new connection the other day. I got an email from Tamás Gyenes of Hungary. His note said “ I myself build similar chests – from riven beech with medieval methods “  When I asked for photos, he quickly sent some amazing shots.

Untitled attachment 02338

Great, great stuff. I first saw one of these chests at the Brimfield (Massachusetts) Antique show. I passed on buying one for $300 and kicked myself ever after. I had the money and the space then, have neither now.

Tamas & his wife splitting out some beech:


Grooving the framing parts – an ancient method. 


The shaving horse – an indispensable piece of equipment. 


Tamas with a work-in-progress


The decoration: 


a couple of shots of the original chests that Tamas studies for his inspiration: 


These are old ones he owns, from what I understand. 


One of his before color & decoration. 


Tamás’ shots of his working on them are so inspiring – and look timeless, don’t they? Thanks so much for contacting me & sending photos, Tamas. Keep in touch, 

His website is

oak and birds

This weekend we worked on the joined chest project at Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking. I’ll write a post about it tomorrow, but in the aftermath of that weekend, I had a few wide oak panels to rive out for planing this week. As they were busted from the log, they were grossly thick for one panel, but most were too thin at the inside edge for two. This calls for some tricky froe-work.

these bolts were 22″ long or so. and in this photo, just over 13″ wide. This one was thick enough to split in two, one panel might come out just narrower than 12″ = once I hew & plane them, they’ll be in the range of 3/4″ thick.

two wides


The others weren’t quite the same original thickness, so I had to split them off-center. This gets one wide panel, and one narrower panel. It saves wood, saves hewing, and is all-around well worth it. When it works. Below you see I’ve driven the froe in parallel to the wide face, but it doesn’t reach all the way to the inner edge. To split successfully this way requires the straightest grain, and most agreeable oak. This inner, narrow panel will finish about 6″ or 7″ wide.

extra splits


Here’s a detail of how the two panels lie in the oak:
wide & narrow



I did about four of them this afternoon, while unpacking the car & tools from the weekend. Here’s a detail showing a 14″ panel and its 12″ neighbor.

two parts of one

Once I drive the froe into the split, I jam the bolt in the riving brake – I wouldn’t like to attempt this without one. When it goes right, you hear a SNAP when the froe is twisted and the oak breaks free. I’d only try this on short lengths in these widths.



off splits

Earlier in the day, look who I found – the redtail hawk from the other day:



If we hadn’t seen him drop down to the ground, we’d never have found him among the beat-down grass –





He caught something there, and we watched him for a while. Then decided to leave him to his brunch… (or her…we don’t know. It is a good size bird, might be female…doesn’t really matter, to me anyway.)

well matched

Later, a kestrel, lousy photo though. Can’t get anywhere near them.


ditto for a bluebird.


But almost every year about this time, I photograph & post a picture of a snipe. Usually I pair it with photos of the hinges I use for boxes and chests.  (Ahh, that post was from Dec, but I found photos of snipe from April 5, 2013. everything is late this year)

Maureen found this one (then a 2nd one) right in front of us in the blind at the Audubon place where we were walking…

One snipe.


Two snipes. they blend in more than the hawk did.





2 birds; 1 stone – joined chest class at CVSWW 2015

Today I spent a good deal of time on my hands & knees. I was with Bob Van Dyke, Will Neptune and Christina Vida collecting information for the joined chest class we’re doing at the Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking this year. (to read the class description, follow this link,


chest w drawers

We’re building a version of this Connecticut chest with drawers. For the class, it will be “chest w drawer” – it’s a crazy enough undertaking as it is.

Here’s some of the materials, Michael Doherty took me to the wall of wood. These were maybe 12′ high, I’d say 10′ long logs, maybe longer.

wall of wood

Some of the larger oaks had been pulled out for us already. Michael had picked out more too. I’ve never ordered wood for so many full-sized chests before. But if we need more, it’s there. Below are some of the oaks (the red cedar top right is Michael’s):





So if you want to see how to turn those logs into a chest, sign up to take the class. It’s a time commitment; one weekend a month for 5 months. But you’ll get to go through the whole process, and learn all the details of a chest like this. (our plan is to start with a field trip – we’ll go to the woodyard, and work the logs in the picture just above – the students will split the logs apart to begin gathering rough stock).

I taught a chest class at Roy Underhill’s last year, but it was a scaled-down simple frame & panel chest. This one is full-size, carvings and molding. All the bells & whistles. There will be at least one field trip to examine the original chest in detail. (Hopefully a 2nd trip to see other 17th-c chests at Windsor Historical Society…) I’m not going into detail on the whole chest now; but it has a lot of interesting features. Of course the carving is a big part of it – almost no blank space at all.

center panel

carving detail


The 2-birds-1-stone reference is the chest with drawers I’m going to make based on this 0ne. This repro will be part of the Strong-Howard house interpretive re-installation underway at the Windsor (CT) Historical Society.

Bob Van Dyke and Will Neptune, among others, have been involved in this project from its inception. Her’es a blurb Bob put on the CVSWW site about their work =

Here’s the project Bob & Will were planning – 

thinking about Connecticut

half carved


A while back I mentioned that I had 2 visits to Connecticut recently. One was at the Yale University Art Gallery Furniture Study, which was a great time. I wrote about that visit here;  and included some oak furniture made in Connecticut in the 17th century. The other was a 3-day class at Bob Van Dyke’s Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking. I’ve been working with Bob there for a few years now, this time we did a frame-and-panel – carved of course. So some joinery, plow planes; beveling the panel – all after carving the panel and in some cases, the frame too.

laid out Thomas Dennis pattern

shaving of the week


test fit

another Massachusetts pattern laid out_edited-1


For both of these trips I had been thinking about Connecticut examples, there’s lots of them in captivity – one of my favorites has always been this one that I recently did as a frame-and-panel offering in my October-stuff-for-sale page.

sunflower panel & frame AUG

Some of the other patterns I know pretty well from Connecticut are these coastal chests; like what I showed from the YUAG Furniture Study – maybe Guilford, maybe New Haven – it really doesn’t matter to me – I just want to carve them.

guilford out front


I had made some examples for teaching that were partially carved, partially left as layout. (top photo)

Today I went to the shop to work on the carved box with drawer – it was sliding DTs day you might recall. Except I forgot my glasses. Not wanting to tackle a joint I rarely make with diminished eyesight – I opted instead to do some carving. I have a (Massachusetts) box to make for a customer up next, so I carved the front of that – room left for initials; needed to double-check my notes before taking that plunge. 

box begun


then had a little time left over, so finished two other partially-carved box fronts. Then it was 1 pm, time to go home for lunch…so one full, two half-box fronts, w photos. One is a whacky design that I think relates to the cupboard I did for the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; also copied from Massachusetts work..

middlesex box front

But I finished this one, is derived from the Guilford or New Haven, Connecticut work –



I’ve seen boxes from this group – they are noted for their use of dovetails, a rarity among New England boxes of the 17th century. I did one once, long time ago. 



all this Connecticut stuff must have been in the air – because then I heard from Bob Van Dyke. He & I are working on plans to have a joined, carved chest-with-drawer class at his school in 2015 – it will be a “one-weekend-a-month” for X# of months. Maybe 5. The notion is that we work together for a weekend, you go home & do homework, come back a month later – and so on. Stay tuned. this will have riven oak, carving, joinery, a side=hung drawer, some moldings, a till – this one will be something! It will be based on a Windsor, Connecticut chest w drawers now at the Connecticut Historical Society. 

The crash course in sycamore this morning got me out to the back yard to photograph the neighbor’s tree – note at the edge of the photo, the river just in view. American sycamores like wet ground. This one is a beautiful tree. 

american sycamore 2

sycamore leaf



This makes teaching more fun

Well. I opened my email tonight & found one from Geoff Chapman, one of last year’s students in the carved box class I did at Roy’s place. This sort of thing makes all that driving worth while.  

We’ll start with an earlier note from Geoff, about some boxes he finished after taking the class.

“I  took the carved box class from you last year at Roy’s, and loved it.  I am the guy who wanted to get your help doing a strap work panel instead of finishing my box.  By the time Christmas came I’d made a bunch of them for my kids, and threw in some designs from a celtic cross, from an ancient icon of an angel, and a couple panels from designs from the Book of Kells (photo enclosed).  I have studied the Book of Kells a good bit, and also wanted to try a panel from the famous “8 Circle Cross” illustration (another photo enclosed) which I framed with draw bored joinery – you taught me how in the carved chest dvd..    I lurk around your blog often, and love the work you do.  I am about to try my hand at a carved chest, and have watched your dvd twice.  A friend took down an oak this winter that was 42″ wide in the lower trunk, 150 years old, straight trunk for the first 30 feet.  He gave me the trunk, so I split it accd to your instructions, got it down into 16ths, hauled it home in 2.5′ and 4′ ft lengths, did some preliminary milling to get the pieces ready for the chest and the rest of it – a lot! – is stacked, drying, and awaiting another run of boxes or maybe another chest.  


All of that is to say, Peter, that you have opened a wonderful door for me in carving and especially in 17th century green woodworking, and I am grateful.  I don’t do this for a living (I would starve!); I am a pastor of a very busy church here in Pittsburgh, and a full time dad and grampa.  Woodworking has been a 20 year hobby for me, a great balance to my life, and one that has taken a new and wonderful direction since I started carving and working with green oak early last year.  


Thanks again.  What you do matters to people like me!”



geoff's panel & frame


geoff's boxes

Then tonight’s really knocked me out – here’s his note & photos. 


 Well, I went after a three-panel carved chest using your DVD.  I took a couple vacation weeks in July to get it moving, then managed to get it completed this week.  It’s 20″ deep, 30″ high, 40″ wide (or close to that), all Q’sawn or rived oak from the tree trunk I got in January, except a pine floor and till parts.  No glue (never done anything close to that before!), but drawbored.  I copied the wainscot chest you have copied, and added a paneled top.  I love the design, and the way it came out.  Will finish it w linseed oil and turpentine in a couple of weeks.

 I was full of questions along the way, like ‘How dry does the wood need to be?” and “Why don’t you have to worry about wood movement in a pine floor if you drive the final board in?” and at least 30 others – but I muddled my way through.   Today I received a copy of your “Joint Stool” book and flipped through it.  I would have been wise to have read it before taking on the chest!  But most things seemed to work out well enough and I learned a ton from the DVD, the joiner’s notes that came with it, and from going back repeatedly to your posts on your blog – and then when I still had worries – just thinking it through and doing what seemed to make sense.  

 One of my other constant questions was “How exact do I need to be?”  Your repeated encouragement to pay attention to the things that matter and relax about a lot of the other stuff gave me permission to do the same.  I remember when I first heard you say, “The eye is very forgiving.”  So is this style of woodworking!  Drawboring is forgiving, for example.  I know where all the mistakes are on the chest, but no one else has noticed them yet and no one has pulled it out to look at the back or turned it over to look at the bottom.  Yet the result of the whole effort has a real beauty and strength that will last.  So, thanks for your attitude.  I will almost certainly do another one, and my kids are all eager to have me do one for them…

 I also had a thought on the small chest you did and took to Roy’s to film for a show (I look forward to seeing that!).  I was astounded at the amount of work that went into making my own first chest, and I thought over and again, “There’s no way I could do this in a week long class, even without the carving or the paneled top…”  Depending, perhaps on the readiness of the stock – and the pins (shaving 71 of them for my chest took a long time!! – don’t ask why it is an odd number ;-)  ).  But a small chest in a week!  Would be quite a challenge for me, especially if we were planing every piece to finished size.  I will look forward to seeing the episode w. Roy and whether you offer a class.

Anyway, the project was a genuine joy, and a further step along a wonderful path in woodworking.  I want to thank you again for what you are doing and what you put within reach of people like me. “



geoff's chest 1


geoff's chest 2


geoff's chest lid


Geoff – nice going. I can’t thank you enough for your kind words, and for your outstanding work. Thanks for sending it along & letting me post it here.