Spring of 2014. There I was. Just finished shooting my video Carving Wooden Spoons with Lie-Nielsen https://www.lie-nielsen.com/product/carving-wooden-spoons-with-peter-follansbee. Just gave notice to my then-employers that I was striking out on my own. And, off for a great vacation to Lake Woebegon to meet Jarrod Stone Dahl and Robin Wood – enrolled as a student in Robin’s first bowl turning class at North House Folk School.
While farting around the shop there in the evenings, I got out my spoon knives and did some carving. After one particular dismal outing, up comes JoJo Wood – she looks at my spoon & says, “I can show you a good way to shape a spoon from a straight-grained blank” – so there & then I got a real eye-opening lesson from someone who was not even born when I first carved spoons! And glad I was. JoJo knows what she’s about…
The lesson? We can learn from all kinds of people, young & old. Woodworking instructors don’t have to be 60-yr old grey-haired men.
And, now – your turn. JoJo is coming to Greenwood Fest to show us what’s what. Her work is great…she puts more thought into spoons than you can imagine. She really breathes these things. AND – she’s hoping to be able to bring some of her clog-making tools to show us some of that as well. Here’s a blurb she wrote up, at great personal cost to herself.
“A second generation green woodworker, JoJo Wood has been making almost since she could walk. She spent her early years travelling the world with her father, meeting craftspeople and amassing woodwork skills and knowledge, building the perfect foundations for mastering her chosen crafts. She is now one of the UK’s leading spooncarvers, and is training under the last of the English clogmakers, Jeremy Atkinson. JoJo hopes to inspire more women and younger people to get into woodworking, teaching that technique wins over physical strength every time.”
While trying to catch up on a few things, I noticed this on their Facebook page:
Plymouth CRAFT created an event: June 10-12, 2016: Greenwood Fest
Paula Marcoux included a little snippet, in effect just trying to get you aware of the dates. Then meanwhile, you’ll have to take our word for it that it will be worth your time.
“Three days of hands-on learning, with a dreamteam of international instructors, in a beautiful piney woods camp setting. Okay, so we don’t even have a website up for this event yet, but it’s time to mark your calendars. Much more coming soon.”
I’ll let you know more when things are ready, should be pretty soon. Worth the wait…
Our local inspiration was Pret Woodburn’s gate at the Harlow House:
Great clear red oak logs (thanks Michael D) – we had almost no waste at all. Could have used every split, but got picky..
One objective was to get the hang of the riving & steering of a split with the froe & brake.
The drawknife is a simple tool to learn, but then to get the real technique down takes some practice:
Sometimes there’s people you don’t want to have sharp tools. Pret’s work was well-burnished (it’s a joke – he had just finished his 60-minute shaving horse, and I asked him to show me how it worked, but that wasn’t a drawknife in his hands…)
Boring the holes to start the mortises.
Thankfully, I can project my voice, because I had to yell across the yard to Matt, “the block plane is not the tool to trim the rails…get a hatchet”
One of the many hurdles, test fitted. Laying out the braces.
The moody-shot, complete with old-timey cooperage.
I was all for posing on our hands & knees, but the general consensus was we’d not be able to get up again.
After the class at Lie-Nielsen with Jogge Sundqvist, I got an email from my friend Bryan MacIntyre. It was something I knew I wanted to tackle, but it took some time to sift through. Here’s the bulk of it:
“I’d like to start a larger dialogue about tradition…. Essentially Jogge recited his TED Talk, as requested, towards the ends of the Q&A… He talked about the four walls he’s aware of while he’s working: the materials, the tools/tool skills, tradition, and other people. (I’ve tried looking for the YouTube version now and can’t find it again… (PF – yup, it seems to be gone for now. Jogge was trying to see what’s the story)
I have been able to identify with all but one; the wall of tradition. Since we, as modern woodworking Americans, may not have knowledge to create objects such as the wooden spoon, knife, bowl, or distaff handed down from generation… How do we define our tradition? What object do we connect with if we haven’t been around it our entire lives?
So I’m asking how do you define your tradition wall? What do you look at as tradition, while you’re creating your furniture, wooden ware, houses…etc? What object of your creation do you most identify with and why?”
To which I say “well, look – a can of worms! Let’s open it.”
I’d say it’s generally true that modern American (& probably others too) woodworkers are part of what I call a “broken” tradition, in that the continuous link from one craft generation to the next died out. For various reasons, some through a general drift away from agricultural basis to a more urban setting; mechanization of woodworking – which led to a dumbing-down of processes (and a poorer product, when you think furniture), a cultural shift away from a small economy to a larger one, advertising – other reasons too.
But I am not sure that this is restricted to America. In fact, I’m of the opinion that it isn’t by any means restricted there. Starting with Sweden, because this question stemmed from the workshop we just had with Jogge Sundqvist, I look at his father’s work, and think that Wille set out to teach his knife & axe work because in his lifetime (the past 90 years) he saw those agriculturally-based hand-woodworking skills disappearing in Sweden. This trajectory is well-covered in the DVD about Wille’s career called The Spoon, the Bowl & the Knife.
In England,I think about Robin Wood http://www.robin-wood.co.uk/the-craft/ wanting to learn bowl-turning on a pole lathe – and he had to learn it by studying George Lailey’s tools and lathe, and then piecing together parts of the story from various sources and lots of trial & error. George was already dead.
In America, my “green woodworking” started with ladderback chairmaking, taught by John (Jennie) Alexander, an urban hobbyist woodworker who set out to find out how “old” chairs were made…JA found few surviving chairmakers to learn from, but pieced together bits of the story here & there. So I think in some cases, the tradition was either broken, or nearly broken, and then revived. The skills part of the tradition, that is.
The tradition of having & using these “folk” forms – hmm. that’s another whole angle, too. When Bryan asks “What object of your creation do you most identify with and why?” for me it’s the 17th century style joinery that’s my specialty. I started studying this oak furniture back in the late 1980s/early 1990s, and have continually worked at it. It really spoke to me for several reasons – the simplicity of the mortise & tenon work, the frame & panel – these techniques and forms are timeless really. But also, in a personal way, all the pieces I studied were made within 60 miles of where I have lived all my life.
All of this rumination gets wrapped up in other views, angles and outlooks too. It touches on why I work the way I do, hand-tools, and mostly using wood riven from the log rather than sawn. (I do use sawn wood regularly, but almost always as a supplemental, or secondary wood in furniture). The “why” there is simple. I like it. It’s how I want to spend my day. Working with machinery doesn’t have any appeal to me whatsoever. I watched a TED talk the other day, some guy using terms like “craftsmanship”, “hand-made”, “technology” and all kinds of other buzzwords that left me shaking my head. He & I were from different planets altogether. HIs idea of handmade & mine are quite far apart. Likewise, technology. I understand that languages are fluid things, and words’ meanings change, but when I hear people talk about “technology” today, I think electronics. To me, technology is using tools. Like hammers. I get that this computer I’m writing with is a tool, but calling all these related gadgets technology leaves out the axe, the knife, the plane – hmm.
This weekend Rick McKee & I will help a new group of students learn the age-old technology of riving wood, and shaving it with a drawknife.
It’s one of our offerings with the group Plymouth CRAFT, http://plymouthcraft.org/ a small cadre of folks dedicated to teaching various skills at making things in many crafts. Our woodsy bits are part of what Jarrod Stone-Dahl calls the Wood Culture Renaissance. I like Jarrod’s philosophy. http://woodspirithandcraft.com/ It reminds me of a short essay written back in 1960, by one of my inspirations in hand-tool woodworking, Daniel O’Hagan. I met Daniel in the mid-1980s and he is directly responsible for me getting rid of my “power” (i.e. electric) tools.
Back in 1960, Daniel wrote: “Slowly, imperceptibly, the handcraft revolution is coming. More and more people will find the inexpressible joy in making things from start to finish with simple tools, simple materials, and being content to live simply while doing it.”
I’ve been working this week on prepping the carved chest with drawers so I can teach the final session of that class this weekend at the Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking. Thanks to the group who made that class possible – it’s a huge commitment of time & resources (polite-speak for money) to come there for a weekend-per-month for 5 months. I appreciate it, guys, Now get back to work!
My teaching schedule is still going, and there’s spaces left in these classes. If you’re inclined, follow the links:
I missed going to Maine this July (pesky England got in the way!) so I am glad to be headed back that way in a couple of weeks. We have a 2-day class in carving hewn bowls. Dave Fisher is going to have to go back to school soon, so come learn my way of making these bowls. https://www.lie-nielsen.com/workshop/USA/71 I’m looking forward to trying a Nic Westermann adze. We did these bowls (& spoons) at Roy Underhill’s earlier this summer, and the bowls were a huge hit. People carved excellent bowls in that class.
Beyond that, September is my turn to be a student, I’ll be part of Jogge Sundqvist’s class at Lie-Nielsen. So I’m not teaching that month. Then other than the Marc Adams gig, my classes are closer to home for the remainder of the year. I have a few at Plymouth CRAFT –
We did an introductory riving class a while back, now we’ve expanded it to 2 days. We’ll rive open some oak logs and learn how to coerce them into garden hurdles – (think moveable fencing). It’ll be Rick McKee & I, and I bet Pret Woodburn will be around to join us as well…splitting, riving, hewing, drawknive work & more. Great food, perfect fall weather. Come to Plymouth. October 10 & 11: http://plymouthcraft.org/?tribe_events=riving-now-two-days
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)
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…
Time for some non-woodsy bits, before I hit Connecticut next Saturday.