They’re so 20th century…

I have been trying my hand at some at 20th-century woodworking. Going back to where I started, making a ladderback chair like the ones I learned from Jennie Alexander and Drew Langsner. I made them quite often back in the 1980s, but by 1992 I probably made my “last” one. The only ones I made since then were two small ones for the kids when they were little, December 2009. Here’s Daniel showing how much they have outgrown them.

This is one of the late-period chairs Alexander made with our friend Nathaniel Krause. Slender, light, but strong. Very deceptive chair.

But for years, I was swept up in the 17th century – and chairs, turned or shaved, were HEAVY. Here’s one of my favorites I made back then, maple, with oak slats. The posts for this are probably almost 2″ square. The rungs are 1″ in diameter (same as JA’s posts!) with mortises bored 3/4″ in diameter.

 

Some of the turned ones are even heavier, and this is not the biggest. All ash.

So today I shaved the rungs down to size, with 5/8″ tenons. The rungs are not much heavier than that – they don’t need to be. The rungs have been dried after rough-shaving, in the oven until the batch of them stopped losing weight. Then shaved down to size.

I bored a test hole in some dry hardwood, then jam the tenon into that hole to burnish it. then spokeshave down to the burnished marks. I skew the spokeshave a lot, to keep from rounding over the end of the tenon.

Long ago, I learned to bore the mortises at a low bench, leaning over the posts to bore them. Later, Alexander and Langsner started doing the boring horizontally. Use a bit extender to help sight the angle, and a level taped to the extender too. It’s so sophisticated. I’m sure today’s ladderback chairmakers have passed me & my brace by…

it’s a Power Bore bit. Was made by Stanley, I guess out of production now. I have an extra if something happens to this one. 

Then knock the side sections together, check the angles, and bore for the front & rear rungs.

Still needs to go a little to our right..that’s a level in my hand, checking to get the side frame oriented so the boring is level.

Then more of the same.

Then I knocked it together. Yes, I used glue. Probably not necessary, the oven-dry rungs will swell inside the somewhat-moist posts. but the glue doesn’t hurt anything. I never glued the larger chairs pictured above.

I got the frame done. Next time I work on it, I’ll make the slats from riven white oak. I’ll steam them & pop them in place. then weave a seat. Either hickory bark or rush. Bark is best.

Small tool kit – those pictured here, plus riving tools, a mortise chisel. Saws for trimming things to length. Not much else. Oh, a pencil. Yikes.

the rest of my teaching schedule for 2016

An update about classes remaining for 2016, and slightly beyond.

spoons & bowl

First up is spoon-carving at Lie-Nielsen, on Sept 24 & 25 https://www.lie-nielsen.com/workshop/USA/126

hatchet

I have lots of new tricks I learned at Spoonfest and Täljfest, so come to Maine & we’ll explore all kinds of ideas. I also have some new spoons by outstanding makers to study, as well as a couple old ones.

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October begins with the opening of the full-tilt chest class at Bob Van Dyke’s Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking. http://www.schoolofwoodworking.com/class-schedule/29-speciality-weekend-classes/534-build-a-17th-century-joined-chest-with-peter-follansbee.html    We did this last year, one-weekend-a-month, for five months. One by one, students from last year have finished their chests, here’s one from Dwight Beebe:

This class is the best way to learn all the steps in making a joined chest with drawer.

This year, we’ll include a trip down to the Yale University Furniture Study, to examine the chest we’ll base ours on. Riving, hewing, planing, joinery, carving – the whole thing. One weekend at a time. First class is coming up, Oct 1 & 2.

—–

Later in October, we’ll do the riving class with Plymouth CRAFT – right now we don’t have it listed yet, but a weekend in October, I think the 15/16 . (I’ll post it here, and Plymouth CRAFT will send out its email as well, if you’re not on their list, you want to be, even if it’s just for Greenwood Fest next year! http://www.plymouthcraft.org/  )

UPDATE: Here is hurdlemaking: http://www.plymouthcraft.org/?tribe_events=riving-now-two-days
We are excited to be returning to the wonderful venue we used for Dave Fisher’s bowl carving class in July. That massive marsh should be gorgeous in the autumn light.

shaving

In this class, we split apart an oak log, learning how to “read” the log for best results. Then using a froe, we further break the stock down, and make garden hurdles. So, riving, hewing, shaving at a shaving horse, mortising – a busy weekend full of old techniques still applicable today.

test fit

THEN – Paula Marcoux reminded me about the spoon carving at Plymouth CRAFT on Dec 10 & 11,  at Overbrook house in Buzzard’s Bay, Massachusetts.

stay tuned to Plymouth CRAFT for details… http://www.plymouthcraft.org/

UPDATE: And here is spoon carving: http://www.plymouthcraft.org/?tribe_events=spoon-carving-with-peter-follansbee
For this one we’ll be back at our beloved winter home, Overbrook House. Always cozy; always fun.

some shots from Greenwood Fest 2016 part the first

working an event like this, you don’t get to see it much. I saw some stuff last night on Instagram. here’s a few photos I shot in preparation and while walking over to where I was working on Friday afternoon – the opening of Greenwood Fest 2016.

JoJo warned me she likes to ruin pictures:

she warned me

Beth Moen (foreground) and JoJo Wood in back, finding some yellow birch to see how it works.

north american woods

Moving in – wow.

moving in

“I’m so happy” he said.  He always says that…

 

I'm so happy

Tim & I looked at an old ladderback chair, always fun.

found a chair to show Tim

Are you proposing to me?

are you proposing to me

Don’t you people have anything to do?

don't you people have anything to do

one of those Plymouth ponds…

long pond

Will there be any stars in my crown?

will there be any stars in my crown

Save one for me…

save me one

waiting to hew…

pret & rick's site

Waiting to carve…

waiting to carve

detail…

detail

I told him to stop all this free learning…Darrick couldn’t wait.

I told him no free learning

Somewhere in the mayhem, Paula found time for a laugh with Ben Brewster & JoJo Wood

found time for a laugh

Hey Jarrod – I shot it too – on your back.

I shot it too

loose ends

The days are flying by, and Greenwood Fest is coming up next. I have been poking away at a few things. The workshop project is moving ahead. We’ve been siding it, once Pret & I figured out window placement. I don’t have any shots of it lately; I’ll get some next time I work on it.

Here’s the bowl horse Pret made for Dave Fisher’s class – we saw this the other day. But on last Saturday, Pret & I got to try it out. Plymouth CRAFT was once again presenting their stuff at Pinefest – http://www.pinebarrensalliance.org/pinefesthome.asp 

bowl horse detail

Here’s Pret using the horse –

pret & bowl horse

and shortly after we started making slight adjustments. We’ll wait for Dave to show us what’s really what with this thing.

1st adjustment

While I was carving spoons at the event, a woman came to tell me about a “Rev war” spoon she had in her collection. She later brought it over and I asked if I could photograph it. It looks like this:

spoon

spoon back

spoon bowl

spoon profile

I was interested because I often wonder “what does an American wooden spoon look like?” –  so I asked what the provenance was, how she knew it was a Revolutionary War-era spoon. Well, she said, her husband’s father was a pattern-maker, and he lived to be 100 years old. So her husband grew up around this sort of thing.

I said nothing. A rare moment…

It’s Daniel’s baseball season again – here is an epic-looking swing, but I think it was a foul ball.

epic swing

I get a good bit of spoon carving in during the batting practice before the games…not only am I the only carver in the stands, I’m the only one I can see doing anything not involving a smartphone. Sad…

the only carver in the stands

 

game spoons
game spoons

And while working on the shop, every day the hawks get harassed & chased. It’s a hard life..

RT hawk 2

RT hawk

hawk & crow

the happiest woodworker I know

I followed a link tonight and got to the happiest woodworker I know. Great to hear Curtis’ views, he’s the real thing. I haven’t seen him in a while, it was nice to hear him twang. One thing he’s wrong about – he claims he’s not the best. Nonsense. He’s the best.

http://www.finewoodworking.com/item/114435/curtis-buchanan-windsor-master

 

His website: http://www.curtisbuchananchairmaker.com/

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,

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then shot a new video for 4 days.

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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

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Some hatchet work, some detours.

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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…

 

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

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

new rides

easy rider

 

 

what is “green woodworking”?

Some time ago, I wrote a column for Popular Woodworking and asked the question “what is green woodworking?” (December 2014, #215) I’m not going to repeat the article here, but want to look at the subject. The column stemmed from a talk I gave at Lie-Nielsen’s Open House last summer.

I used to know pretty clearly what “green woodworking” meant. But the older I get, the more I realize the less I know.

spoon 14-109 new photo side viewMaking a carved spoon is a great example of green woodworking – you can make them from dry wood, (I wouldn’t) but the best ones come from trees, and are worked while the wood still has a high moisture content. More direct, easier to cut, exploiting the fibers of the riven/split form – all of these are hallmarks of green woodworking. Hewn bowls, and many turned ones fall into a similar category. But bowls and spoons are single pieces of wood. what about furniture, when you put stuff together?

Robin Wood's bowl
Robin Wood’s bowl

When I first learned of this method of woodworking, it was Drew Langsner’s Country Woodcraft, Roy Underhill’s Woodwright’s Shop – and the book that coined the term for the modern day – Make a Chair from a Tree: An Introduction to Green Woodworking by John (now Jennie) Alexander. What puts the green in green woodworking? Is it moisture content? Is it riving the wood? Is it “country crafts” like the British books that inspired all of the authors listed above – Jenkins’ Traditional Country Craftsmen” and Edlin “Woodland Crafts in Britain”. Alexander felt left out of the “country” aspect of this traditional woodworking, living in the heart of the city. Hence her book’s subtitle has “green woodworking” – not country anything.

JA chair

The ladderback style chair Alexander learned even got a great deal of its strength from the moisture content manipulation – dry tenons in wetter mortises. the mortise shrinks, the tenon swells. Presto! You’re a chairmaker and have never been to a lumberyard. The way I remember it, in the 1980s  green woodworking was ladderback  chairs, some bowl-turning (I remember folks used to turn them green, let them dry, the re-turn them round again!) and a few other disciplines. Timber framing comes to mind.

cooperage
cooperage

I think about coopering – is that green woodworking? Usually riven stock, worked with a hatchet, drawkinives, shaving horses – but the critical parts are either executed or at least assembled when the stock is bone-dry. Or else.

c a chair

Windsor chairs? In America, these usually had, and have, softwood seats. Often white pine. That ain’t worked green. But the hardwood components are often riven from green stock. They’re selectively dried, like parts of Alexander’s ladderback chair, before assembly. Even the hardwood seats of British Windsors can’t be dead-green…

Some approach the “green” like the modern use of the term, renewable energy; careful use of resources, that sort of thing. Coppice crafts, are perfectly aligned with this idea. This work has long been very popular in the Old World, yet to my knowledge, never caught on here in the New World.

 

joined & carved chest, 2010
joined & carved chest, 2010

Starting in 1989, Alexander and I explored another furniture craft, seemingly more complex, until we got through with it & stripped it down – joiner’s work of the 17th century. It had riven stock, high moisture content – but some of it was not “country” in its format – some were very elaborate forms; with lots of decoration. This work has been my main focus since then. It does not fit the eco-groovy definition at all. I call it “Imperialist Swine” woodworking – you need a whole new forest to sustain it. The oak trees I want take 200 years to grow to size. And I will only use a small percentage of the tree. The rest goes in the fire.

In the end, I decided I don’t think of myself as a “green woodworker” although probably three-quarters of my stock is riven from green logs, and primarily worked up while it has a high moisture content. Trees are wood, I’m a woodworker. Sometimes I use stock fresh from the log, other times I need stuff that’s air-dried. I work the wood at various stages between wet & dry. Most of my furniture is a combination of the two. I think that’s a traditional approach….

Oh, no! What’s “traditional” woodworking????