bowl carving with Roy Underhill & PF

2015 Promo: Bowl Carving with Peter Follansbee

The folks at the spoon-carving & green woodworking group on facebook alerted me to the online link of  Roy Underhill’s show when I visited & we were hewing bowls. Shot in early summer. Link below. Just spoke to Roy the other day, more bowls & spoons next season at his school. And who-knows-what on the TV next time.

England 2015

england 1

I’m back from teaching two classes with the New English Workshop. It was my first trip to England to do woodworking, my previous visits had been for furniture study. It’s an amazing place, a rural little island filled with hobbits and badgers and twitchers and train spotters.

The classes were held at two colleges, my first at Warwick College in Royal Leamington Spa, Warwickshire. Jamie Ward of the College was very helpful and the students there were quite flexible as we worked out the kinks. The first of which was some oak logs that looked like bad firewood. Poor Paul Mayon – he picked me up the first morning, brought me to the school, and we’d known each other for all of 20 minutes when I was telling him that the oak bolts they had were next to useless. Undaunted, Paul trucked off in his typically British tiny car and bought a new section of giant oak (2 really, the 2nd arrived the next day.) installed into Paul’s car with a forklift, I wasn’t sure it would ever come out. Paul’s car was riding low, for a 2-plus hour drive. Meanwhile the students dove in & split what we had so we could get started at least. They were great.

hewing week 1

Our class was at one end of the room, while Tom Fidgen’s was at the other end. It was diffuse porous vs ring porous (cherry v oak) all week. You could hear our shavings hit the floor, while theirs floated down to the bottom.

caught among the ring porous
Tom Fidgen scurrying back to diffuse porous land

Lots of camaraderie in the evenings, we even had a token American who had been traded to the RAF…

Boxes got made, carving patterns all over the place. Tricia was adamant that she would finish her box, I think her first woodworking project.

Tricia got a photo, so that means it must have happened

The English oak,which by habit I kept calling white oak, was different than our white oak. I know it’s sacrilege to say it, but it felt lighter weight, a bit softer, and certainly easier to split. Even the better logs had knots in them and we were able to split right through them like I never can in American white oak (Quercia alba)

On the weekend, I met up w Mr & Mrs Underhill of Graham, NC, who were there for Roy to teach week 2 in Leamington. We had dinner one night, then the old switcheroo was scheduled for that Saturday – Paul was bringing Chris Schwarz who had been teaching down in Somerset up to Leamington, then turning around to take me down to Zummerzet so I could do week 2 there at Bridgwater College. A too-short round-table lunch was had by all before we headed south…the only other times Roy, Chris & I had all been together had been WIA events, in which case we never saw each other. Hand tool freaks unite!


Bridgwater also boasted a great & helpful staff…and a group of students who were serious about carved oak. Ringers Jon Bayes and Richard Francis represented England well… I barely had to teach this crew any English terms at all. Like rabbet/”re-bate” or clamp/cramp. The first group insisted that some are clamps, and I insisted that you’re British dammit, call it a cramp.

One thing I was missing was old oak carvings, and the students took care of that. Joel, hewer extroidinaire, scouted out several churches and even arranged for us to get in them after 5 pm…130-odd steps up a circular staircase afforded us a heck of a view of somerset. One pulpit wasn’t oak, I said I wanted my money back. we saw three churches, carved pulpits, bench ends, a chest, and who knows what else. This pulpit is oak:

pulpit 1

Tim came down from County Durham, and lent me binocs and a good bird book…I had a simple little bird guide book with me…I saw some nice birds, some well, some fleeting. This’ll be the only time you’ll hear the word tit on this blog. As in blue tit, long tailed tit, willow tit, etc. I didn’t see a great tit. Then of course the day we drove over/down to Heathrow we saw several kites, much larger than I thought…musta seen 6 of them. No pictures, highway driving…

blue tit 2
juvy blue tit
blue tit
even better, juvy blue tit in oak

I was invited by Robin Wood to be part of Spoonfest, but that would have meant another week & 1/2 away from home. So, another time. Thanks to all who made my trip a success, especially the ones who waited at home. Why did it take me so long to get hip to Skype?

here’s what it looked like each night

More photos here:


bowls & spoons at Roy Underhill’s

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:

fresh stcamore
sycamore spoon blanks
Whyaduck? Whyaknife?
trying out the twca cam
tulip poplar bowl stuff
splitting bowl stock
the hardcore used black walnut for bowls
working hard
you can’t tell how hot it was from this picture


AC inside HOT outside
in here, was AC. I sometimes watched from there. they were doing fine
so humid you could see the air
so humid you could see the air
gone to town
emerging bowls
a face for Bob Van Dyke
spoon rack
unusual spoon rack
the shop
put down the bowl pick up the spoon
the gouge work


In between times

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.

Matt riving w Plymouth CRAFT last weekend


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.

matanuska trip

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!

mortising from on high
Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking

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…


Spoon carving class in Massachusetts, Mar 14 & 15 Plymouth CRAFT

not much of a view

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…

indoor work area this week

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.

fibonacci 1

fibonacci 2

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.

spoons in basket

There’s some left for sale; and more underway.

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,

and another to the reports from our first go-round.

If you are way up north, there’s a class in Alaska – here’s that link:

for my full schedule thus far, here’s another link. Some box-making, bowl-carving & furniture carving. I doubt I’ll add much, if anything. Once I get travelling, I’ll be glad when I hit a gap & get to stay home again.







Woodwright’s joined chest class – day 1

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…

more oak 2

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:

growing piles of oak


We tried to sort and count them as we went, but it was doomed.

more oak


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!

cross cut 2

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.

it's not that hard really


Next, they plane all the long rails, layout the joinery, chop mortises, plow grooves & cut tenons.