Making Chairs from a Tree with Plymouth CRAFT

That was quite a week-plus. Plymouth CRAFT hosted its first-ever 6-day workshop; 6 students came to Massachusetts to learn how to make a chair from a tree, as JA’s book proclaimed all those years ago. For me, it was an overwhelming experience – to see all these new chairs, following Alexander’s steps, and in many cases using tools and equipment from her workshop…I can’t tell you how many sentences I started with “I remember Alexander saying/doing…”

Image may contain: 7 people, including Peter Follansbee, people smiling, people standing, tree, outdoor and nature

Here’s some photos, a couple I clipped from Marie Pelletier’s FB thread (the group shot above for example) – she shoots all our Plymouth CRAFT events. Most of these were mine, but I often forgot to shoot stuff.

Day one, after the first riving session, students begin shaving front posts.

A lineup of chairs; from left – antique New Jersey chair, PF 2019 chair, JA one of the last batch, PF 2018, JA stool, pre-1978, JA one-slat, c. 1975, PF kid’s chair, c. 2008.

Some layout of rungs, to be split. Ash, dead-straight. We lost very few pieces.

Andy splitting some of the rungs with a froe.

Arizona Sam shaving a rear post.

 

 

Kurt helping Andy bend some hot posts.

 

They worked green wood for the first couple of days, then following the format employed for decades by Drew Langsner, after they shaved & bent stuff for the next class, I issued air-dried stock I prepped ahead of time. That’s what they made their chairs from…here’s Andy & David chopping slat mortises.

Then it’s time to bore them. Here, Kurt & Warren are boring a front post. We teamed up, at least for the first sections, good to have an extra set of eyes on the progress.

It’s a JA-innovation to assemble the side sections first. Probably overkill, but it’s how I do it still. Here, Kurt has done a mock-up once his side sections are assembled. I get it, I want to know what it’s going to look like too.

 

Then bore for the front & rear rungs.

I showed them how I size tenons by jamming them in a test-hole in dry hardwood. Spokeshave work.

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Then assembly. Make sure the shorter rear rungs are in the rear. That way the longer front rungs go in front.

 

After a short steaming, the slats are popped into the mortises. Here, I’m making a slight adjustment.

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Some student’s first chair – (that’s a joke – it’s Brian Chin’s – he became “some student” through an innocent remark I made…)

He & Arizona Sam scored some hickory bark and had time to weave the seats on the last afternoon.

Thanks to the usual Plymouth CRAFT crowd, especially Pret & Paula, the great students who put up with me, and to JA & Drew Langsner, who all those years ago showed me what to do.

Chairs are next

I’m back home now; earlier this week I was one of the presenters at Winterthur Museum’s “Furniture Up Close” – it was a great time there; I love re-connecting with the museum world; it’s where I learned so much about furniture. Got a preview of spring while I was down in Delaware, back here it’s still the future. Spring is an amazing time at Winterthur – the full name is Winterthur Museum & Gardens for a reason.

But after a month of near-constant travel or preparation for travel, I’m glad to be here for a while. A long string of large projects; the queen-sized bed, the dresser and settle; is now behind me. Now I’m going to make small stuff; carved boxes and ladderback chairs. I shot almost nothing at Winterthur and did shoot nothing at Cutchogue when Pret & I installed the dresser and settle…

Next up is the chair-making class with Plymouth CRAFT. My latest JA chair, with a bark seat mostly done by Rose – I’ll add the last filler strips this week.

 

I started in yesterday on either making or gathering a few of the bits & pieces we’ll need for 6 of us to be working on this stuff. I use a gauge like this for sizing the rough-shaved posts and rungs. 1 3/8″ on one notch, 3/4″ on the other.

These V-blocks we use when boring the posts; the thick ones came from JA’s shop, I made a set yesterday, but had no thick stuff. Should work fine anyway. The other little frames on the right are for temporary mock-up of the rear posts, for alignment purposes. And some various bits; 20th & 21st century-style.

I shaved these rungs here & there – these will be issued AFTER the students split & shave replacements for them.

 

Same is true of these posts. In practice, each class prepares the material for the next class. Thus I started it off, now it’s on them.

I was taking these shots this morning; and thought of Rick McKee and his chicken-scratching obsession recently. https://www.instagram.com/medullary_rick/

I see those pinwheels/daisy wheels and just think it’s someone too scared to finish carving it. This is the door to the axe-cupboard.

And this a box with gouges – someday I’ll finish it.

 

I’m going to make another few chairs – the Shaker tape one here is available, the bark seated ones sold; but can be ordered. Here’s a slightly out-dated page about the chair project – https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/pf-ladderback-chairs/

Plymouth CRAFT’s Spoon Day June 9, 2019 – the Lineup

There’s still some tickets available for Plymouth CRAFT’s first-ever one-day Spoon event. https://www.plymouthcraft.org/spoon-day   Our plan is to have a big woodpile, a host of participants, and then we’ll add a bunch of our spoon carving friends to help everyone learn/have fun/explore.

Usually all the Dave Fisher https://davidffisherblog.wordpress.com/ hype is about his bowls, but on this day his attention will be on helping you carve spoons, his are the top three in the photo above; below is the spoon Dave gave me the day we met; 2009.

Below his is a classic quilt-pattern spoon by globe-trotting Amy Umbel, https://www.instagram.com/amy_umbel/?hl=en   We’re happy to have roped her into Massachusetts for this event.

The large painted one in that top photo is new to me, from Jay Ketner. Jay’s work has really taken off – by June who knows what it’ll be up to.  Here’s the spoon and the notebook when Jay was cooking up its decoration. No photo description available.https://www.instagram.com/jayketnerwoodcraft/?hl=en

Of course, the spoon on the right is by JoJo Wood. I don’t need to say anything I haven’t already said, do I?

IMG_2878.jpg  https://www.instagram.com/jojowoodcraft/?hl=en 

Tim Manney will be there, maybe he’ll steam-bend some stuff, or help you sharpen things. Just ask him. https://www.instagram.com/tim.manney/?hl=en

Reid Schwartz probably should be home making knives, but we’ve convinced him to take a day off & come down to Plymouth. https://www.instagram.com/reidschwartz/?hl=en

Oliver Pratt is drifting down from Maine – putting down his bowls for the day, and carving spoons with us. He & JoJo will be the barefoot segment of the population. I’ll look the other way.  https://www.instagram.com/oliverpratt_handcraft/?hl=en 

We’ve not yet met Jessica Hirsch, but we’re looking forward to. We’ve heard great things about the work she does through Women’s Woodshop. https://www.instagram.com/joshahirschfeldt/?hl=en

And the usual from Plymouth CRAFT; me & Pret Woodburn, with the addition of Rick McKee https://www.instagram.com/medullary_rick/?hl=en 

June 2019 with Plymouth CRAFT

 

Paula wrote somewhere that we’re all going to miss Greenwood Fest this year; but all the time she’s saved not organizing that event has allowed her to organize some woodsy classes as well as a new idea – Spoon Day. If you’re on Plymouth CRAFT’s mailing list, you got a notice about it today. If you’re not – we’re having two classes with Dave Fisher & JoJo Wood. These happen either June 7 & 8 or June 10 & 11. So what to do on the Sunday in between? We made up Spoon Day – one-day event wedged between sessions.  It’s all on the events page – https://www.plymouthcraft.org/events

 

Here’s the blurb about Spoon Day – we’ll announce other carvers we’ll have there shortly. https://www.plymouthcraft.org/spoon-day 

(but you there, block #3, watch what you’re doing! Is that you, Robert Newmyer?)

Tickets go on sale February 2nd. In case you didn’t hear that –  TICKETS GO ON SALE FEBRUARY 2ND.

Sign up for Plymouth CRAFT’s emails here – https://www.plymouthcraft.org/contact

Cold Spoon Carving with Plymouth CRAFT

We just finished a 3-day series of spoon carving sessions through Plymouth CRAFT this weekend. https://www.plymouthcraft.org/ I didn’t shoot many photos; so I’ll swipe some from Marie Pelletier. Overbrook is a venue we use a lot, and there’s a wood stove in the dance hall there where we hold some of our classes. Usually, it’s adequate to keep the room comfortable enough to work in. This time – it was tough. But our carvers were tougher…if you count the layers inside my sleeve there – and add the vest, you get an idea of how cold it was on day 3.

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The first 2 days were our “usual” class, geared towards beginning spoon carvers.

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I had some able assistance from Jay Ketner. Kate here is not as maimed as she looks, she just had a small cut that was in a hard-to-wrap spot.

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Then the 3rd day was “advanced” – meaning it was a class for people to fine-tune some of their skills, or spoon design. What it really boils down to is carving spoons from crooks. We had a pile of crooks, mostly large, mostly cherry.  Here’s a normal-sized example.

One of our samples is a new one from Jogge Sundqvist that belongs to Pret & Paula

 

I continue to be amazed at the spoon-carving explosion; and grateful to all the students who keep coming back to us at Plymouth CRAFT. Thanks everyone. Closing with frost on the window, not the pumpkin.

Spoon carving class in January 2019

Yesterday’s announcement of the ladderback chair class was a hit. Filled up quickly. We’re toying with the idea of adding a 2nd session some time in 2019. We’ll need to look at schedules to see if Paula, Pret & I have spaces in ours that align with some in the venue.  I think Paula will make a waiting list in the mean time.

Right now, I don’t have a lot of classes scheduled for 2019; there’s a couple to be announced in January. And I’ll add some here and there as holes get filled in various schedules. But yesterday I completely forgot to mention we’ve got a spoon carving class coming right up in January. Saturday & Sunday January 19 & 20, with an optional third day  on Monday January 21.

Plymouth CRAFT Spoon carving class, Overbrook

That third day is available as a stand-alone; we’re calling it “advanced” but in this case all that means is you’ve gone through the bits about learning knife grips, hatchet work, etc and for this one-day session we’ll be able to concentrate further on spoon shape and design. Most of the work that day will feature natural crooks.

Here’s the link to Plymouth CRAFT for details – https://www.plymouthcraft.org/spoon-carving

I’ll have hook tools from Wood Tools, https://wood-tools.co.uk/? a few hatchets for people to try, including several different makers. Newest one is Julia Kalthoff’s – https://www.kalthoffaxes.se/shop-online

And lots of spoons for inspiration.

 

Make a Chair from a Tree – Plymouth CRAFT workshop May 2019

Well. Here goes. 2019 marks my maiden solo voyage in teaching students how to make Jennie Alexander’s ladderback chair. My version of it anyway. We’ll be following the general format I learned from JA and Drew Langsner, who together and separately taught this class for decades. I learned a lot from both of them about this chair; and assisted in classes at both Country Workshops and Alexander’s shop in Baltimore. In the early 1990s I worked with JA on the 2nd edition of the book Make a Chair from a Tree.

Riving, drawknife work, boring with a brace & bit, mortise & tenon joinery, steam-bending. Lots to cover in this class, it’s where I began as a woodworker in 1978.

boring mortises
chopping slat mortises

 

drawknife & shaving horse

We’re going to do it as a 6-day class with Plymouth CRAFT, just 6 students in the class. Dates are Friday May 3- Wed May 8th. 6 spots, so if you think you’d like to tackle this (and 6 days of Paula’s lunches) best sign up early.

https://www.plymouthcraft.org/ladderback-chairs-with-peter-follan

(Two things – I wrote “solo” but Pret Woodburn will be there to assist much of the time. He just never wants credit for all his helpfulness. And May? – what was I thinking? It’s the pinnacle of the birding year – right after this class, I’m going to Mt Auburn Cemetery to see warblers during their spring migration.)

three things

A few things floating around. The first photo is not mine, nor my work. It’s Dave Fisher’s carved sign, made for Jennie Alexander. Finished just before JA’s death, so now what to do with it? I told Dave to keep it – but he had other ideas. Read on.

Here’s Dave’s story about this sign:

“I carved this sign for Jennie Alexander, author of the seminal book, Make a Chair from a Tree.  Since then, the leaves have fallen and the oiled oak has begun to take on a patina.  Although Jennie was able to see photos of the finished sign, she passed away before she was able to receive it.  After a lot of thought and talking with Jennie’s daughter and others close to her, I’ve decided to auction the sign and donate the money to the recently established Plymouth CRAFT Green Woodworking Scholarship.  Learn more about the scholarship here:  https://www.plymouthcraft.org/craft-green-woodworking-sch

This scholarship has already received some generous contributions, and they will allow many people over the coming years to participate in Plymouth CRAFT classes and events who would have otherwise been unable to.  I think that Jennie would have supported such an idea, especially considering the special relationship between her and Peter Follansbee, one of Plymouth CRAFT’s founders and most active instructors.

I’ll ship the sign to the winner of the auction, then I’ll donate all of the proceeds to The Plymouth CRAFT Scholarship Fund.  I will ship outside of the U.S., but will have to add accordingly to the shipping price listed.
There’s more information about the sign and the carving process in this post from my blog: https://davidffisherblog.wordpress.com/2018/07/11/greenwoodworking-in-white-oak/
The sign is 29 1/2″ x 7 3/4″.  The thickness tapers from roughly 1/2″ to 3/4″ from bottom to top as it was radially split from the tree.  The back side reveals marks from the riving.  White oak — Jennie’s favorite.”

Link to Dave’s auction  https://www.ebay.com/itm/Carved-Sign-in-White-Oak-Wood-greenwoodworking/302962380463

 

And that brings up Plymouth CRAFT’s new Scholarship Fund. We’ve been kicking around the idea for a while of creating scholarships so those for whom our tuition is a stretch might still have a chance to come to our workshops and events. We’re still working out how to implement it, but it’s now underway. First shot is for Tim Manney’s sharpening class coming up December 15 & 16. Here’s the blurb about applying for the scholarships – https://www.plymouthcraft.org/craft-green-woodworking-sch

And here’s the one about Tim’s class. I think this will be our third time with this class, other than when he’s led Greenwood Fest sessions on sharpening, and it gets better and better. https://www.plymouthcraft.org/an-axe-to-grind

Last for today, I have a new hatchet to try out. It came already sharp, so that’s a plus.

Julia Kalthoff sent me one of her small carving hatchets to see how I like it. (Yes, there was no invoice. I’ll use this hatchet with my students, as I do with hatchets that I have either bought or received over the years from Hans Karlsson, Robin Wood, and Svante Djarv). If I was shopping for a hatchet, I would gladly pay for Julia’s – from what I can tell after only using it briefly, it’s excellent and well worth her asking price. https://www.kalthoffaxes.se/

It feels like a cross between the Hans Karlsson hatchet and Svante Djarv’s “small Viking” hatchet. Thicker than Karlsson’s at the edge, giving it slightly wider bevels. This is similar to Djarv’s in that respect. Curved cutting edge. The specs are on Julia’s site – if I remember right, Beth Moen helped Julia work out the shape and size. All you carvers out there can now add another great axe to your axe-lust-list.

 

 

 

 

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)

https://www.greenwoodfest.org/

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…

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?

https://www.instagram.com/jarrod__dahl/

https://www.plymouthcraft.org/