I am not un-busy

Well. No sooner did I return from Alaska, and I had to prep for a trip to Lie-Nielsen in Maine. Taught 2 days of spoon carving,



then shot a new video for 4 days.


Came home Thursday evening, and on Friday got organized somewhat for teaching today with Plymouth CRAFT http://plymouthcraft.org/ = a class in riving, co-taught with Rick McKee, of Blue Oak fame – https://blueoakblog.wordpress.com/

Many nuances of using ring-porous hardwoods and splitting wedges and froes. (also helping us out was Michael Doherty, “the Source-of-All-Wood” – in the floppy hat. Thanks, MD)

overall splitting PAS CRAFT


Some hatchet work, some detours.



It was held at the Harlow house, part of the Plymouth Antiquarian Society. http://www.plymouthantiquariansociety.org/ Our friend Donna Curtin gave us a tour inside the c. 1670s Harlow house during lunch. We almost didn’t come back to riving there was so much to see inside.

As usual for Plymouth CRAFT, we had a 2-ring circus today, there was spinning going on inside too. I missed that, but Marie shot many photos, I’m sure.

There were birds in Maine, but grey skies…


osprey no fish 
what does the fish think
what is this fish thinking?
magnolia warbler
magnolia warbler
black & white warbler

Time for some non-woodsy bits, before I hit Connecticut next Saturday.

new rides

easy rider



a good problem to have…

I needed some oak today for the drawer bottom for my box.

drawer w bottom half done


Something in the range of 7″ wide, 22″ long. So I went out to the collection of oak bolts in the yard to get something to work with.


I picked out a few panels; and brought them in to rough-plane them. These had split so well they needed little hewing. Here’s some…

a good problem to have


But the problem? Most of the stuff I had on hand was too wide! That almost never happens – it’s usually quite the opposite. The narrow one in the photo above is almost 10″ wide at the bottom end…

narrow one

the wide ones are over 15″ wide and flat – great stock. (thanks, MD for setting me up with it…) –

wide one

I’ll save these for the rear panels to a wainscot chair I have to make. Like this:


TD chair overall

Most of the time, I don’t have such wide stock; the one above was similar width, but quartersawn, not riven. You can make a wainscot chair w 2 panels & a muntin too –

PF design three quarters

to make such a chair, see https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/book-dvds/

Now I have to go find some narrower oak.

right now it’s baskets; but spoons & more for sale

The spoons, a frame-and-panel and one spoon rack for sale now – the top of the blog, or this link. . https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/spoons-more-august-2014/  If you’d like to order something, leave a comment. I can send a paypal invoice, or you can send a check. As always, I appreciate everyone’s interest in my work.


Meanwhile, but here’s today’s blog post. I have some stuff underway that I haven’t put on the blog much, because I haven’t made more than a few baskets a year in 2 decades. This is the scene these days. Baskets, and more baskets. I used to make these a lot, before there was joinery. It really is exciting to explore them again; but I’m having to re-learn stuff I used to know pretty well.  Today I had to make a slitting tool too, to slice up the narrow horizontal weavers. I’ll shoot it tomorrow when I use it again. I had one once, but it got lost in the shuffle 20 years ago I guess.


the scene

I decided to dedicate a whole week, maybe more, to making baskets. It’s been so long since I made more than one or two…and the only way it’s going to come back to me is for me to do it over & over.


basketry 1

basketry 2

basketry 3

Earlier in the week, I was shaving and bending some white oak for handles & rims. I’ll fit those on this weekend. I like the white oak even better than hickory for bending. The King of Woods, Daniel O’Hagan used to say…

riving white oak

shaving horse work


House of Chairs


black finial

My family & I took a quick trip to visit friends in Maine. No class, no workshop, lecture, etc.  Just plain fun. Scattered about the self-proclaimed “house of chairs”  is a great mis-mash of ladderback chairs. When I began woodworking in 1978, I started with this book.

MACFAT cover


It showed how to make a “shaved” chair. Same format as a turned chair, but no turnings.

Here’s a turned Shaker chair –

shaker rocker



Many years later, I learned some about furniture history & found references to “plain matted chairs” and “turned matted chairs” – matted referring to the woven seats. (See American Furniture, 2008 for an article on shaved chairs – “Early American Shaved Post and Rung Chairs” by Alexander, Follansbee & Trent. )

Here’s a nice $15 version, from French Canada. Through mortises all over, rungs & slats. Probably birch. Posts rectangular, not square. Did they shrink that way, or were they rectangles to begin with? 



sq post 1b

sq post 1a


Rear posts shaved, not bent. 


sq popst side

sq post rear


Tool marks, sawing off the through tenon, hatchet marks from hewing the post. 


sq post tool marks


Small wooden pins secure the rungs in the post. Did not see wedges in the through tenons. Tool kit for a chair like this is pretty small, riving & hewing tools – drawkinfe, maybe a shaving horse? – tools for boring a couple of sizes of holes. what else? A knife? a chisel for the slat mortises…


sq posat thru t


Here’s an armchair – also shaved.  Big. the curved rear posts angle outwards. the arms meet the arris of this post…one front post has a nice sweep to it. I forget if the other does…

sq post armchair

It was a tight spot that had enough light…so I had to tilt to get the whole chair in this shot. 

sq post armchair overall

The side seat rungs and the arms both have this bowed shape…

sq post armchair overall rear above

Although the arms have been moved down in the rear stiles. 

sq post armchair mortise in rear

I couldn’t get high enough to really capture the shape of the rear stile… I’d guess these stiles are bent this time, not shaved. 

sq post armchair rear stile

The front stile, swept outwards. 



sq post armchair front post


You should see the cheese press. A masterwork of mortise-and-tenon joinery.  Next time I’ll empty it and shoot the whole thing. 

cheese press detail


cheese press detail 2


He used to do that, now he does this



You’ll remember I used to constantly badger people about a blog called  “The Riven Word”. Well, it is no more. My friend Rick McKee is no longer at the museum, as they say. But the good news is he has landed with some old cohorts of ours and is up to some pretty interesting hijinks. And has started a new blog about it. Right now, it’s off to a slow start, but I know he’ll bring some interesting stuff to the web…so sign up and drop Rick a note. Maybe we can guilt-trip him into writing frequently. Of course, I should speak, with my one-post-a-week of late. 

here’s Rick’s new site: http://blueoakblog.wordpress.com/



If it ain’t oak…

Lately I’ve been able to use some of my all-time 2nd-favorite local hardwood. Those of you who’ve been reading this blog a while know that it isn’t walnut.


white ash bolt

It’s ash. Down here in southeastern New England it’s white ash. My whole furniture career I have used this wood, at first I made JA-inspired ladderback chairs out of it quite often. Way back when…

At the museum, I have mostly used it for turned chairs, like these three-legged monsters.

three footed stool, ash & cherry

Four legs too.

ash chair, oak slats. Hickory bark seat

It turns so nicely, not as well as maple, but the combination of strength, dead-straight grain, great splitting ability, and good turning details makes it well suited for chair work. 

I have done some joinery with it from time-to-time, recently I put up some photos of my bedstead at home, and it has lots of ash components.

bedstead foot board

I have a joint stool frame made from ash too. Historically, you find some joiner’s work in it. Not a lot, but some. It has little decay resistance, especially compared to oak. Victor Chinnery told me that this chest at the Wadsworth Atheneum is made of ash. It’s eaten alive, so maybe Vic was right.

joined chest, Devon England c. 1660-80.


But there were several years, maybe 6 or 8, where I made lots and lots of baskets from ash, in addition to the chair work.

two baskets, c. 1988

Traditionally, basket splints were pounded from the whole log, crushing the early wood pores to separate the growth rings into splints for weaving. Here is the end grain, showing the ring-porous growth rings. It’s the open pores of the spring wood that crushes, leaving the more dense growth as the splint.

white ash end grain

That’s the best method to use if all you want from the log is basket splints. There’s very little waste that way. But if you want to make some chair parts from the same log, it’s best to rive out blanks and work them this way & that – some shaved & turned into chair work, tool handles, and others pounded apart into splints.

ash splints pounded

Many visitors to my shop comment on the smells of the wood. I don’t notice them as much as most folks just walking in. But this ash log I can smell, mostly because it’s not that often that I have some. And the scent of it brings back great memories of my earlier days at green woodworking. Funny how olfactory stuff is so tied to memory.

With the onslaught of the Emerald Ash Borer problem, I have often thought of how much I like ash timber, and how I would miss it if it disappears. Such a shame if future woodworkers won’t get to use wood like this. To that end, I am trying to make the most of each log I get from ash. Hoping that somehow the objects can stand if the tree is gone…it has made me re-think my feelings about the romantic sound of a wooden baseball bat making contact with the ball. Ash is the “traditional” wood for bats, ideally suited for it. But given the dubious lifespan of a bat, I think we’re better off with chairs, baskets – let’s aim for something that’ll be around a while

This log is going into some tool handles, a cupboard, a joined stool and some baskets. I guess I should make some shaved chairs from it for old times’ sake too…

Here’s some video shot by my friend Rick McKee from the Plantation showing how I pound apart the splints.

I have said it before, but be sure to go read Rick’s blog the Riven Word. I don’t miss a post – great tone, filled with fun and information. 


riving brakes boxes etc

Here is a simple riving brake we used in the box class at the Center for Furniture Craftsmanship. It’s the first kind I learned on, a forked section of a tree, supported by crossed poles. Works fine. Price is right.

riving brake

A pine tree fell in a storm this spring. My riving brake took the hit. Crushed & mangled.

I used a borrowed one for months, til I finally got around to remaking it. This is the new one.  I prefer this over the forked tree brake, because it puts the riving stock in an easier position to get at…


I have been un-packing, sorting and generally getting settled back in the shop after a hectic July. I finished the sample box that I took with me to Maine. I got the bottom on during my demos at the class, but I didn’t get around to the lid. So I finished it in the shop on Monday. It’s extremely white pine, so I think I might stain it with iron oxide/linseed oil.

New box, July 2012

Here you see the wooden pintle hinge arrangement.




The pin(tle) is a continuation of the back board’s rabbets; it requires some careful planning. Then the cleat that fits under the lid has a hole bored in its rear section. This cleat fits over the pintle and when all goes well, you have a hinge. It’s one I have found in a couple of variations in period boxes; but all in all, pretty rare. I use it a lot, folks like the idea of a wooden hinge. I have another version that I am going to use on a very small box coming up next.


I’m also shifting around here at home, working with a new computer. So some desk shuffle. I will have more posts about the CFC class. And then some new boxes.
Another batch of spoons for sale in a day or two.

I hope you got to see the stuff the Riven Word folks posted about pitsawing the other day. It’s the tip of the iceberg. Have a look http://blogs.plimoth.org/rivenword/?p=3855