connections made at Dickinsons Reach

You know you’re getting close…


When you see this little yurt. After Jogge’s class, a small group of friends made a special trip out to Bill Coperthwaite’s place called Dickinsons Reach in Maine. If you aren’t familiar with Bill’s work, his book A Handmade Life is one of my favorite pieces of inspiration. But Bill was more complicated than a book of course.

It’s a nice long walk through the woods to his place, and once you’re there, you have a lot to see.

library yurt



In this case, the connections were a big part of what interested me. It was Bill who connected Jogge’s father, Wille Sundqvist, with Drew and Louise Langsner back in the mid-1970s. That eventually gave the Langsners the idea of starting a series of workshops in woodworking that continue to this day as Country Workshops.

Our semi-host was Peter Lamb who worked closely with Bill for many years, so knew the ins & outs of the place far better than any of the rest of us. I had visited a few times, Drew had been there once, over 35 years ago.

We poked around a bit, Jogge & Louise fixed an excellent supper, and the next day we explored around, talked of crafts, Bill, the various connections and ideas that were floating around. It was quite a time. some photos:

opening up for dinner

This one I stole from Jogge (sorry…) – a pattern Bill made of one of Wille’s spoons. It’s not really the best way to make a spoon, but Bill was trying to record some of the features…

I went out & walked for 2 hours the next morning.

board walk


morning at the mill pond

Showed Jogge this great birch bark bucket…lashed in bark too.

jogge w russian birch work

russian birch work3

Little things like this carved bird really caught my eye. Simple and beautiful.

carved bird

I saw lots of birds outside, but only photographed these two in the main yurt. This bowl is from Siberia.

bowl siberia 3

This shave is for hollowing bowls. Jogge thought it was Swedish.

bowl shave swedish

I know these knives were some of Bill’s favorite forms. Not sure if these are from his Alaska travels or not…

crook'd knives

Masashi Kutsuwa, Follansbee, Drew Langsner, Jogge Sundqvist, Peter Lamb. Louise was out looking for somewhere to swim.

five of us

a previous post about Bill:

Tim Manney’s Instagram feed had some good photos he shot out there recently.

a few leftover bits & a question

Here’s a few things I’ve been meaning to put in a blog post, but with one thing or another I haven’t.

copying pencil

Pencils – I hate them for furniture work, although I have softened and let students use them in laying out carvings. I usually use chalk, easier to remove. But for spoons and hewn bowls, I like to draw the shapes I’m after. These drawings get continually cut away and redrawn, as the design is refined during the process. But regular pencils mostly don’t work well on green wood. Alexander to the rescue once again. For years, Jennie Alexander used to use the Eberhard Faber NOBLOT Bottle of Ink in a Pencil, #705, (or is it #740?) It worked wonders writing on green wood. Just don’t ever forget it in your pocket during the laundry. When it hits the green wood, the line turns a strong blue that you can see easily. But the pencil is no longer made…and while researching this post, I saw one offered on the French Ebay site for $25. Pretty stupid, and there’s no way I’m going to get in competition with pencil collectors. There’s a whole pencil culture out there.  They treat the NOBLOT like it’s a Nic Westermann hook knife or something. Maybe they look at us & think, “there’s a whole wood culture out there…”

About two years ago, I found some online from a boatshop in the Northwestern US. These were Brevillier Urban copying pencils #1925. Made in Austria. They work great, and I’m down to my last few…if you’ve been in one of my spoon or bowl classes, you know I guard them carefully…

So I thought I’d order another dozen tonight while I wrote this post. Ha. Not so easy. I can’t remember the name of the shop where I bought them, and found nothing much on the web about them. Did find some Russian site that has them…at least I think it was Russian. I opted instead, after much fumbling around to try a new one, from


Chairmaker's Notebook

Pete Galbert’s book, Chairmaker’s Notebook. Since I got it, I’ve been proclaiming my hatred for Pete Galbert. His book is so damn good that it makes it harder for those of us who have woodworking books in the works. I really mean it when I say this book is unbelievably good. Everything about it is just exactly perfect. Even if you’re not going to build a Windsor chair, if you work green wood, or want to, buy this book. It’s worth it for the chapter on splitting & riving if nothing else. Pete’s drawings and text are thorough and clear and keep you turning the pages to get more details and information. It makes me want to make a chair…but I’m behind enough as it is. Maybe 2016…congratulations to Pete and all the others at Lost Art Press on this one.  (Oh, and for all that disclosure crap – yes, I’ve written a book for LAP, and am working on another. I know the principals involved, we’re all in the same circus…so what? Get the book, and tell me I’m wrong, that it’s no good. You’d be in a tiny minority.)

hurdle maker

Next month, Rick McKee & I are repeating our riving class with Plymouth CRAFT, October 10th & 11th.

Only this time the students will apply their learning to make a section of portable fencing often called “hurdles” – I have threatened to make one for to photograph, so we could show you what the heck we’re dealing with…but as indicated already twice recently in print, I’m behind on other stuff. And a week away from another trip to Maine. So I borrowed a photo from J. Geraint Jenkins’ Traditional Country Craftsmen, a book on English crafts…

They come in all sorts of configurations, some more folksy than others. we’ll have fun with them, as students get to tackle riving, shaving at a shaving horse, hatchet work, mortising, and more…..tweed jackets & ties are optional.

Back on the subject of books, one of the students in my class in Somerset brought a small book to class, all about English boxes. A Discourse on Boxes of the 16th, 17th and 18th Centuries, by Anthony Conybeare. 

box book page

I knew I had seen it before, but had never bought my own copy. As we browsed it, I thought, I really should get this book. The text is just what it is, I won’t go into any details, which would be nitpicking. The photos are excellent, and in many cases, very detailed. Once I got home, I forgot about it, then I was looking through my bookshelf near my workbench, and lo & behold – there’s Conybeare’s book. But for the life of me, I couldn’t remember buying it. But I thought I remembered an email about it, and sure enough, Kent Ryan, a reader of the blog, sent me a copy back in late 2013. If you’re still there, thanks, Kent.

NOW, a real can of worms. I’ve never yet made it to Spoonfest over in the UK. Came close this year, but maybe another time. If Plymouth CRAFT were to sponsor/host a spoon & related festival type thing in the Northeast, what would folks like to see & do there? We’re looking at a great site in southeastern Massachusetts, ponds, woods, cabins – meals included…and room for 100 or more attendees. Roofed pavilions, so out of any nasty weather. Looking at 2 1/2 – 3 days, like Woodstock. Without the brown acid & mud. This time of year. No promises, but just wondering if we were to go ahead, would spoons alone make it fly? We’d have no real facility for bench woodworking, but the portable bits like spoons have great appeal. So what do you think? Seems like the eastern US could support it, the closest thing I know of is the Spoon Gathering in Milan, MN. A longgg ways from here. Leave comments if you have any. we’ll keep you posted.

my teaching schedule for the rest of 2015



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!

mortising from on high

My teaching schedule is still going, and there’s spaces left in these classes. If you’re inclined, follow the links:

I have a carved box class at Marc Adams School of Woodworking in October. This one is from the log to the finished box, a full week of oak fun.

here come old flat top
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.  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.

hewn bowl

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:

overall splitting PAS CRAFT

Then in November I’ll teach my first basket class in 30 years! We’ll use white ash, I can never find black ash. Works well, just a little more effort. I’ll have some pounded splints, but we’ll also pound some so you’ll know how to do it.

baskets raw

And the capper for the year is more spoon carving, in early December:

spoons in basket
Maureen says there’s some summer-y stuff still in her Etsy site; with autumnal offerings on the way.

Knit summer shawl, capelet, summer wrap,evening wrap, teal, sea blue green cotton and merino lace

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


some spoon carving knives

On to the spoon-carving knives. My first knife that I remember, a Frost Mora knife. My handle. Old now, I use it with the kids. It’s an excellent knife. You could use this knife and not need to read any further.

frost sloyd

My every-day knife, aslo a Frost blade/PF handle. A bit heavier than the first one; similar shape, with that curved end. I use it all the time, from spoon carving, opening mail, it’s my knife at lunch-time when I’m out in the shop/woodpile.
everyday sloyd

everyday frost sloyd

But, like the hatchets, we all tend to go further looking for the knife. Here’s one, from Del Stubbs’ Pinewood Forge.

an unbelievably good knife. We’ll see one of his hook knives too. I have used this for a long time as my finishing knife, for the final cuts on a spoon. That’s why I got the short blade, I’m not doing all the work with this knife. This knife showed me what “sharp” means. Still a favorite.

DS sloyd

DS sloyd bevel

Came with this great birch-bark sheath. the website has instructions on making them, I have done several for my other knives.

DS sheath


sometimes I want a really large knife; this is the largest Svante Djarv offered from Country Workshops. Heavy, thick knife, great shape to the cutting edge. I use it for rough-shaping large spoons. sloyd

SD sloyd blade

But, then came the best knife. really. Nic Westermann’s sloyd knife. I got mine through Lie-Nielsen, we use them there when I teach spoon carving classes. When they have them, they offer them for sale. His hook knife too – (I’ll get to that). I can’t find them right now on the LN website – Nic is teaching there this summer, but his class is full – he will also be presenting at the Open House –

The knife is outlandishly good (even better than “unbelievably good”) – a very thin blade, which took me a bit to get used to. Great shape, perfect bevels, it works so well I am always happy to pick it up & carve with it. Leaves a great burnished surface.


thin blade


Hook knives. Remember the hatchet story, with Robin Wood’s affordable hatchet? Here’s his solution to hook knives. My handle. Thin blade, long, sloping curve. Nice shape and excellent action when cutting with it. I use a dozen of these when I teach – they are a great introduction to spoon carving. this one he calls “open sweep” – I really like the shape. He’s posted videos of using it, and sharpening it here:


RW hook w handle

RW hook profile

RW hook w bevel

RW hook thin profile



Hans Karlsson’s hook knife, mine from Country Workshops. I used these for years; I have them in lefty & righty. HK hook lefty



Here you can see the shape of this curve. HK hook profile

Now, one of  Del Stubbs’ hook knife. Mine’s the #1 open sweep…like the sloyd knife, sharp as all get out.

DS hook

DS hook profile



But, I am converted. Nic Westermann’s hook is the one I use the most. Hollowed on the inside, like Japanese chisels & planes…great shape, great cutting. I have carved through some spoons because I was so entranced with this hook. Write or call Lie-Nielsen in the US, Nic’s website is here:


NW hook profile

NW hook inside

NW bevel

some spoon carving hatchets

It’s been a long time since I’ve talked about which tools I use for spoon carving. I’ve received some questions lately about axes/hatchets, so I’ll start there. First off, this ain’t joinery, these are double-bevel hatchets. The single-bevel hatchets I use for making flat stuff. these can do that, but they excel at hewing shapes, which the single-bevel can’t do –  in my hands anyway.

4 hatchets


First off – new to me – a Svante Djarv “Little Viking” hatchet I got through Country Workshops –  (2 of these axes are from there, so you could just go read Drew Langsner’s descriptions…)

I like this hatchet a lot, so far. I especially like using a hatchet with curved cutting edge, and this one has a nice pronounced curve. I think it helps emphasize the slicing action of hewing. Might all be in my head, but it’s what I’m used to, and therefore what I look for. Drew’s table says 28 oz., and 5 3/8″ cutting edge. I wish the handle was a little thicker at its back edge, and at some point, I plan on re-handling this and some others. But I’m getting used to the handle that comes on it –


SD head

SD bevels



Here’s the next one when it was new – Hans Karlsson’s Sloyd Axe. I’ve used this one a lot, and recommend it to students & others who are looking for a great all-around hewing hatchet for spoon & bowl work. I’ve had it for 2 1/2 years, and it’s held up great. Lighter than the SD hatchet above, thinner “bit” results in shorter bevels. Many are drawn to the light weight, a heavier hatchet is sometimes tiring for people not used to them…

new hatchet from Country Workshops

My thoughts about the handle are the same; I tend to like to make my own. And have intended to for this one, but here I am now 2 1/2 years later, still using this one with its original handle. I think it’s too thick right below the head – I took it to Alaska & the handle shrunk with the low humidity. Now’s my chance…

new HK model


If I were on a budget (which I should be at the rate I buy hatchets) this next one is the one – made for & somewhat by – Robin Wood. Robin designed this hatchet with the idea of getting something for spoon carvers who aren’t necessarily going to spend the $200+ for a hatchet. It fills the bill nicely. Right now, it translates, with shipping, to about $80.  (notice I didn’t talk about the prices of the other ones, but both of the above are over $200) – small, light, curved cutting edge. You could carve spoons with this hatchet all your life and never need another. But most woodworkers I know have more tools than they need…


RW head


The one I have used the most over the past many years is an old one by Hans Karlsson, no longer offered at Drew’s place…I like its long head – just a bit longer between the poll and the cutting edge than the modern HK one. But it might just be that I’m used to it, having used it so long. Right now, I am using the SD Viking one for bowl=hewing.

old HK head

SD & old HK
new SD and old HK


I don’t own a Gransfors Bruks carving hatchet. I have used them some, they’re nice. I like the weight of them. Drew’s page on hatchets has a good description (“hewing axe refinements”) of the bevel shapes and how he suggests correcting the GB hatchet. In all, I have 5 spoon hatchets right now, so am not hurting for another…but someday I’ll add a GB just for good measure.


gone again, back next week

bowl 15-02well, I was going to have some spoons for sale this week, but now I’m shuffling off to Lie-Nielsen for a box-carving class. Figuring I wouldn’t be around to pack & ship, so I’ll wait til next week. A couple of bowls too.

I did update the “make more room in the house” sale – – if anyone needs a graduation gift, a box for storing household junk, or something flat to pile things on…

chests with drawers, spoons, bowls, boxes – baskets and more – I hardly know which tools to pick up in the morning. Coming up on  a year since I went out on my own, woodworking-wise. what fun…thanks to all of you out there who help me make it happen.

desk box

Oaks beware!