the week that was – two 3-day classes of spoons & hewn bowls at Roy Underhill’s Woodwright’s School. No daytime temps under 90 degrees F., mostly higher. The students hewed like demons, but were glad to stop at the end of the day… thanks to all the students & friends who came out & did such great work. Pictures with captions now:
It’s coming up on a year since I left my job as the joiner at Plimoth Plantation. While I was there, I often taught workshops during my vacations and other time off. Lie-Nielsen, Roy Underhill’s place, CVSWW, Country Workshops – but in that format, I only had a few weeks (or weekends) each year available to travel & teach.
When I announced I was leaving the museum, I got offers to come teach in various places, in addition to the usual outfits. When I arranged my schedule last winter, I had no idea how it would work – on paper it seemed fine, once or twice a month, travel to teach. One long, maybe one short class each month. Now I’m in the midst of it, and while it’s great fun (Alaska! Are you kidding?) what I didn’t compute is the time between to unpack, decompress and then turn around & get ready for the next one.
I’m not complaining, just saying “here’s why there’s little on the blog these days…”
I was thinking, I’m home now for 3 1/2 weeks, before I head down for to Roy’s. Except this coming weekend I’m at Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking, then next weekend I have a one-day presentation with the Plymouth CRAFT group, then the weekend after that, I’m back at my 2nd home this summer – Lie-Nielsen for making a carved box. THEN, I have to hit the road & go to North Carolina!
The plan is to do some woodworking tomorrow & shoot some pictures. I’ll let you know what happens.
How am I supposed to get some birding in? I haven’t even had time to ID this warbler from Maine…
More snow, but it’s fine with me… I don’t have to be anywhere for quite some time. I get to stay right here, working, writing, playing with the kids and generally having fun. (except I should be paying bills instead of writing this post). Today’s view was a bit blurry, due to sleet mixed in with the snow. That kept me from sitting by the window all day, and got me to try some work . I opened a small window to see the view, but others in the house get discouraged when I leave a window open on a day like this.
I did get some carving done, back in this spot for a short while…
But mostly I messed around with chores. I did take an hour or so to work with the kids, they learned some of the Fibonacci sequence, and we drew spirals until we ran out of paper. They especially liked the idea that this sequence could go on forever.
I’ve been preparing oak for the joined chest with drawers that I have to make, and it’s a warmup for teaching that class. But I am also carving spoons here and there.
If you want to come to a spoon class with me, I found out today that my spoon class at Lie-Nielsen in May is full. Ditto the 2 sessions at Roy’s. The only other spoon class I am scheduled to teach in the lower 48 is with Plymouth CRAFT at Overbrook House in Buzzards’ Bay, MA. Dates are March 14 & 15. This class is newly added…here’s the link to the blurb, http://plymouthcraft.org/?tribe_events=carving-wooden-spoons-with-peter-follansbee
I once had a t-shirt I got at an Arlo Guthrie concert that read “we know it’s stupid, that’s why we’re here.” goodness only knows what it meant, but a similar notion must have run through the minds of these students -a very good-natured group of would-be joiners who came down to Roy Underhill’s school to attempt to make a joined chest in a week. 10 students means 10 chests. each chest with about 25 pieces of riven oak in it. Plus extras in case something goes wrong…
Roy & I dreamed up this idiotic course, “let’s make a joined chest in a week!” And we booked it & it filled up. well, it became a reality (of sorts) and on the first day, these students split, crosscut, & rived out over 200 piece of oak for said chests. That’s a lot of oak. Here’s the beginning of just one small pile of parts:
We tried to sort and count them as we went, but it was doomed.
We need over 70 panels; about 8″ wide by 12-14″ long. SEVENTY!
We scurried back to the woods to get more of this amazingly straight-grained oak. what a tree!
I don’t know who this is, but he was not alone.
Thankfully, we found that with proper supervision, it only took Kat a short while to bust out all the oak. it’s not that hard, really.
Next, they plane all the long rails, layout the joinery, chop mortises, plow grooves & cut tenons.
Winter is perhaps really over here – it better be, I put my hat & scarves away.
The day started out in the woods, looking for birds. Daniel & I saw many, he counted 18 species; but we only got a few shots of them.
Back home we ended up with spoon carving lesson # something-0r-other. I have to teach a bunch of students at Lie-Nielsen next month, so started practicing with Daniel. His knife work is excellent, given his strength. (the May class is full, so we added one as soon as we could – which means October! here’s the link
Working one-on-one meant I got some carving in too.
Meanwhile Rose did the 19th-century-Swedish-immigrant-in-the-garden routine. All around a busy day here.
When one of the household is a knitter and the other is a basket-maker, that means knitting baskets. I don’t get to make baskets much anymore, but have several that have lingered for quite a while. I finished this one the other day. It’s a form I have only done once before; a double-swing-handle design. Basket is ash, handles, rims, and feet are hickory. Lashing is hickory bark.
Then Daniel went in the house & started a self-portrait carving his spoon. Sometimes these pictures never get done, like my baskets. So I am posting it now in case it’s an orphan drawing.
Now onto another subject. If you’re inclined to help support some young people doing what they love, remember Eleanor Underhill? Maybe you know her father? In addition to illustrating Roy’s most recent Woodwright book, she did some drawings for mine & Alexander’s Joint Stool book – but her main gig is music – and she’s part of a trio making “heartfelt country soul” – they’re using Kickstarter to fund their next album. I’m in.
It’s been some busy times. It seems distant now, but Woodworking in America was not too long ago. The Ohio, the Monongahela, the Susquehanna, the Delaware, the Hudson, the Connecticut, the Charles – I crossed all these rivers & more heading back to the Jones, my own little river. All that driving gives a person time to think. So I have lots of ideas for posts, if I can remember them.
But as soon as I got home, I got scrambling around trying to catch up to where I was, or wasn’t. Then came the World Series, where I lost a bunch of sleep watching the millionaires with “Boston” on their shirts beat the millionaires with “St Louis” on their shirts. None of it made me want to go tip over people’s cars. Nor high-five anyone. But that’s me…
So I prepped & packed for a one-day demo/evening gig at the MFA in Boston, then unpacked, worked a couple more days, then packed for a one-day demo/lecture at Historic New England as part of the Four Centuries thing. So many more hours in the car, going around Boston rather than through it, so I could avoid the hysteric nonsense surrounding the millionaires’ victory parade.
One thing that I wanted to address is a compliment I often receive about my presentations. People are often remarking that I can work and talk at the same time, or that I can engage the audience well…I’m grateful for the compliment, but I know the truth. First of all, I get to practice full-time in front of an audience – for 20 years.
But the real truth is that I’m a second-rate copy. A cheap imitation. I trained at the foot of the master – and here I tip my cap to him. Yup. Roy Underhill.
I remember one day walking into work & getting a note from my co-worker Henry. It said “call Roy Underhill” and it had a phone number. “Yea, sure” I said, along with unprintable exclamations – in the vein of “get outta here!”
But somehow Hank convinced me that Roy had really been there the day before, and wanted to talk to me about shooting the show in Plimoth. This was about 2001 or so. Summer I think. So he came up & we shot stuff – it was really something. I remember watching his show & reading his first book to death back in the early ‘80s. So it was a thrill to work with him after all those years. Then a few more years went by, and we met up again at Colonial Williamsburg in 2007 – I arranged to hang around Roy as much as I could that session, whenever I wasn’t on the stage pretty much; and since then we have shot several more episodes.
What I have learned is that when Roy is around, I try to shut up & pay attention. But I’m not watching so much for the woodworking. He’s excellent at that, but what I get from him is the presentation…watch him work an audience, draw them to him & then pull a nickel out of their ears, so to speak. Ask Megan Fitzpatrick about the time we saw Roy teach Shakespeare to a little 10-yr old boy on the spur of the moment…
After WIA, me, Peter Ross, Patrick Edwards & Roy went to dinner across the street from the venue. Had to wait for a table – so Roy took over the maitre’d duties to kill time…and to engage the group hanging around waiting….it really broke the ice.
One of the real thrills of my woodworking career has been to work with Roy. Whenever he calls, I say “yes- let’s do it.” Knowing it’s going to be good. I know he doesn’t read blogs, so I can say all these wonderful things about him – he’s a real inspiration for me. Thanks, Roy.
If you haven’t seen it before, here is one of my favorite presentations of his –
I doubt I need to do it, but just in case, here are the links you need to get a hit of Roy’s gig.