Sunday chairmaking

First – some business announcements – I planned on assembling one of my JA-ladderback chairs today. I only got half of it done, but had a good excuse. Pret, Paula & I spent the morning exploring details about Greenwood Fest 2019 – yup, you heard me right – it’s official, mostly. There will be GWF19. We pretty much knew there would be, but we actually all said it out loud today.

Some workshop offerings –  then the woodworking part. There’s one or two openings in the spoon carving class coming up Saturday & Sunday Aug 11/12 with Plymouth CRAFT. A semi-new venue for us in Plymouth, the Wildlands Trust building on Long Pond Rd. https://www.plymouthcraft.org/spoon-carving

Same venue in September 14-16 for Jarrod Dahl’s Birch Bark Cannister class. That’s going to be a great class. I have had a 15-minute lesson from Jarrod on them once, so I’m looking forward to learning more about this material, and these ingenious containers.

The format is an intro session Friday night for 2 hours, then a 2-day class Saturday & Sunday. https://www.plymouthcraft.org/birchbark-canisters

Now – on to chairmaking. It’s been about 25 years since I made these chairs with any regularity. In that time, I have changed the way I make most any piece of furniture; and coming back to these chairs is funny. Things I used to sweat over are nothing to me now, and the parts I struggle with today I used to apparently do with some proficiency.

chopping mortises for the slats

Slat mortising – chopping the narrow mortises in the rear posts for the bent slats. I remember first learning how to chop these from the book (MACFAT for short) back in 1978. Sitting on a low bench, the posts pinned between 3 pegs and a wedge, and driving the mortise chisel mostly with shoulder pressure. More like digging a mortise than chopping it.

from 1978 showing JA using shoulder pressure to mortise

Since then, I’ve chopped so many mortises in joined furniture that I can’t see the point of not using a mallet and banging away at it. One of the last emails I got from Alexander asked “how do you hold the posts when slat-mortising?” The answer, never given, is I now hold the chair post on the workbench, either with holdfasts or clamps. And chop the mortise while standing, using a mallet. JA got up off the low bench at some point too, I know in the DVD the post is clamped on the workbench.

JA’s slats are incredibly thin, about 1/8” mortises. She was always pushing to get the chair parts reduced as much as possible. I know those are plenty strong enough, but I like the slats a little more stout. To me, the thin ones feel a little uncomfortable in handling. My chisel, which is English, is 3 1/2-sixteenths. Must be some metric dimension…so I’m making a chair that I know JA would call “wooden.” It’s not a compliment!

mortise chisel, just under 1/4″

After mortising, I shave the parts round-ish from the octagons that I had in the bending form and mortising steps. Spokeshave work, at the shaving horse. This work requires a lot of “feel” – knocking off corners of corners, etc.

spokeshave work to round down the posts to final shape

I use a JA-designed rack to test the rear posts’ positions in the finished chair. This helps to see where to bore the mortises.

checking the rear post alignment

Alexander’s chair is built out of order – the sides are assembled first, then the rear and front section are bored and fitted to do the final assembly. Most post-and-rung chairs were/are build front and back first, then tied together by the side assemblies. My large turned chair I have underway will be done this way, so you’ll see that sequence in contrast to this JA method.

 

The reasoning for making the sides first is that is the direction of the most stress the chair experiences. So the front and rear rungs will just slightly intersect these side rungs, pinning them in place. A double-dose of “belt & suspenders” construction, on top of the wet/dry joint that holds it all together to begin with. After using the rack to “see” the orientation, then I propped the posts in the vise for boring. A long bit extender helps to see the angle I’m boring at, and a level taped to it helps keep things aligned as well.

I have a bit-depth guide clamped onto the bit extender too. Stanley #47 bit depth stop. It goes “twangggg” when it hits the right depth.

Once two posts were bored, I shaved the tenons on 3 rungs and knocked that section together. Then repeat. Then quit. Tomorrow is another day.

I’m really enjoying these ladderbacks, it’s so much fun to explore what for me was my beginnings as a woodworker 40 years ago. I had been planning to delve in this work this year, and talked with Jennie Alexander about it a lot. Then her death a few weeks ago really spurred me on. The ones I’m making now are already sold, but later this month I’m planning on taking orders for them if anyone’s interested. I’ll write details about that later in August, after a trip to begin sorting out JA’s shop.

On that subject, we posted a notice on Jennie’s site that we’ll keep everyone updated when we know more about the upcoming edition of the chair book, as well as ordering information for the DVD. Once we know what’s what, you will too. I’ll post it on JA’s site as well as here and everywhere else we can think of.  http://www.greenwoodworking.com/  

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some Instagram links

It’s hard to keep up with all the action on the web these days. Used to be I read the blog aggregator https://unpluggedshop.com/ and that kept me up to date with many of my far-flung woodsy friends and colleagues.

Then came FB and Instagram. FB is a time-sucking hell-hole and I limit how much time I’m willing to give it. I mostly use it to keep in touch with friends I have who don’t read their email.

Instagram in particular really is active for the spoon-carving/green woodworking crowd. There’s a slew of people I follow there, and I can’t list them all here – but I’ll point out a few you might like, if you don’t already follow them. I just strolled through my list, knowing I’d be leaving a lot of great friends/carvers/woodworkers out – not a slight, don’t take it personally. I’ll do this again if people find it helpful…

But first, there’s one special non-woodsy one; Heather Neill.  

https://www.instagram.com/hnartisan/  This week she’s finished her paintings for her annual showing at the Granary Gallery on Martha’s Vineyard. Showing them  on her blog one a day – started yesterday – http://heatherneill.com/studio-blog/2018/07/18/granary-gallery-2018/

Now for the woodsy stuff you already know about probably –

https://www.instagram.com/jayketnerwoodcraft/ a friend of ours from Maine, met him through workshops. A regular at Greenwood Fest. Been really taking off with his spoons.

https://www.instagram.com/gibbeted_hew/ This strangely-named feed is Dwight Beebe. A regular victim of mine for years, Dwight and Jay are in the same boat – really making great stuff these days.

 

https://www.instagram.com/pathcarvers/ – This is one to watch! It’s JoJo Wood and her newly-wed husband Sean Vivide setting up workshops near Birmingham, England. Not just “let’s teach people to carve stuff” it’s aimed at helping people find some benefit/healing through craft work. Here’s a blurb from their website:

“Part of our project is to help introduce traditional crafts and creative arts to sections of the community that would not usually have the access or the opportunity to experience the beneficial effects that they can bring. We work alongside organisations such as drug and alcohol rehabilitation, mental health services, low income families, prisons, carers and people who would find the effects and skills gained from participating in developing a traditional craft based activity useful for their day to day living.”

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http://www.pathcarvers.co.uk/path-carvers/about/

https://www.instagram.com/themagnificentleaven/ Paula Marcoux. If you’ve been through Plymouth CRAFT, and/or Greenwood Fest, then you know.

https://www.instagram.com/edwardmaday/ Met him only once. Nothing green-woodsy about this, but he’s unbelievable.

https://www.instagram.com/koreneva_beresta/ Her birch bark work is amazing.

https://www.instagram.com/danielle_rose_byrd/ Just saw Danielle last week at Lie-Nielsen. She’s great to have around.

https://www.instagram.com/medullary_rick/ Rick McKee – I’ll take his IG feed, while I reminisce about his old blogs that he used to write.

https://www.instagram.com/gerrishisland/ Another Maine friend, Peter Lamb. Knows everyone.

https://www.instagram.com/surolle/  Jögge Sundqvist. I’m not stupid, gotta see what surolle is doing.

https://www.instagram.com/fiddlehead.woodworking/ Amy Umbel. Always good to see what she’s up to. Inspired me to change my spoon decorations.

 

Spoon carving workshop Plymouth CRAFT Aug 11 & 12

Greenwood Fest is now a month behind us, and Plymouth CRAFT is jumping right back into gear. Paula Marcoux just posted notice for a spoon carving workshop coming up in August.

 

You – stump #3, it’s best to keep your eyes on your work!

It’s a mostly new venue for us, The Wildlands Trust building in Plymouth, not far from where we have held Greenwood Fest. We hosted a lecture/demo there last year by Kiko Denzer, but now we’re going to make some chips fly. Come make some spoons, we’ll have a good pile of freshly cut green wood, lots of examples to study, tools to try and more. 

roughing out a spoon with a hatchet

The usual two-day format, featuring the Plymouth CRAFT crowd, Paula will run it, and make lunch, Pret Woodburn & I will guide you through the steps of spoon carving. Others will be around. Hope you can make it – Sat/Sun August 11-12, here’s the website:  https://www.plymouthcraft.org/spoon-carving

 

We’ll have some Morakniv 106 knives for sale there, as well as Barn’s book Spoon. Jögge Sundqvist’s book Slöjd in Wood and more.

 

I have a few spoons left for sale from last week, for those inclined. https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/2018/07/01/spoons-and-furniture-for-sale-july-2018/ 

 

 

 

more Greenwood Fest photos

UPDATE – I completely forgot to point out, these photos are from Marie Pelletier, Plymouth CRAFT’s intrepid photographer. Thanks, Marie.

Some might be repeats – I can’t keep track.

home of Swedish cowboy coffee

Tobias Eklund and Pär Brask  from Morakniv were there all weekend, offering Swedish cowboy coffee and talking knives…it was great having them with us.

Tobias Ecklund of Morakniv

 

Pär Brask and Ian discussing knives over coffee

Darrick Sanderson (ol’ #16) brought his own lathe, set up outside the pavillion drawing in the crowds to see what all the commotion was about.

Darrick Sanderson

The lathe pavillion was always jumping. Not sure if this shot is during Robin Wood’s class, or during Darrick’s in the Fest. Rare shot of the floor being cleaned of shavings.

turners trompin’

Tim Manney, helping people get sharp and stay sharp.

Tim Manney sharpening

They were never not carving.

around the woodpile

Spoons!

spoons

There was much fan-bird mania.

fan bird feathers being spread

 

fan bird

Pete Galbert kindly supplemented our shaving horse throng. These got used in many groups; drawknife work, fan birds, and more.

horses all lined up

Pete Galbert demo’d drawknife stuff for his class.

push & pull

Dave Fisher’s students concentrating hard on letter-carving in basswood.

 

letter carving

For a minute, I though Joel was being serious here, as he tries the spoon mule. But no, still grinning ear-to-ear.

spoon mule

The tip of the iceberg.

a fraction of the full week’s output

 

some Greenwood Fest pictures

I’m getting nowhere sorting Greenwood Fest pictures, so will just post a few here & there rather than trying to write a comprehensive blog post about the event. The wood gets delivered in a dump truck. Easy to unload, but last year we just left a large jumbled heap for people to sift through. This time I asked for (& got) volunteers to sort and lay out the wood so it was less hazardous. Then – I kept worrying we’d run out. Doesn’t look like enough, but it was…

Here’s Curtis Buchanan on his way to work, no doubt some hijinks between him & Darrick Sanderson on the pole lathe there. It was a great pleasure to have Curtis join us this time…

Way back in my woodworking DNA I’m a chairmaker – and I kept going back to Curtis’ sessions to see what he was up to, and to admire his chairs. So much so that I bought this one – I never bought another chairmaker’s chair before.

Barn the Spoon. BOOM.

So much hands-on component, so much real-world connection.

This place was always busy.

The ladyslippers were in full bloom.

 

Robin Wood came over from England. He ran several sessions, this one, with JoJo (seated on the right), about their tool-making operation Wood Tools.

Our old friend Joel Pontz brought his tent, his borrowed dump truck and his eager help. Then he took Jane Mickelborough’s folding spoon class. Here he’s cutting the bridle joint that forms the hinge.


Stopped by Dave Fisher’s pre-fest course on carving bowls, to see just who the quickest ones were who got to sign up for that class. Under 10 minutes I think it took to sell out…


And Dave in a later session demonstrating how he does the finish work on one of his bowls.

“Spoon-wood” for Jögge Sundqvist

I’ve often wondered when the hell someone would re-write the great Willie Dixon song “Spoonful” for all the spoon-carving crowd. Then I tried for years & couldn’t get it. Once I stopped trying, it came to me. So – sung to the tune of “Spoonful” here are the lyrics I came up with for Greenwood Fest 2018

 

It Could be a spoon made of cherry

It Could be a spoon made of bee-eeech

But one little spoon of Jögge’s precious birch

Is good enough for me-eeee

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m just wild about that spoon wood

Just wild about that spoon wood.

That spoon, that spoon, that spoon wood.

That spoon, that spoon, that spoon wood.

 

It could be a spoon made with JoJo

It could be a spoon made with me-eeee

Or just a little spoon that Jane brought from home

a folding spoon from Britt-a-kneeeee

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m just wild about that spoon wood

Just wild about that spoon wood.

That spoon, that spoon, that spoon wood.

That spoon, that spoon, that spoon wood.

 

It could be a spoon made from straight wood

Or a crook from your favorite tree-eeee

Barn just made a spoon with his twca cam

That’s good enough for mee-eee.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m just wild about that spoon wood

Just wild about that spoon wood.

That spoon, that spoon, that spoon wood.

That spoon, that spoon, that spoon wood.

 

Paula did all of this planning

so we could carve spoons all week

Chris cut the wood from his bucket truck

they both get big thanks from me-eeee

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m just wild about that spoon wood

Just wild about that spoon wood.

That spoon, that spoon, that spoon wood.

That spoon, that spoon, that spoon wood.

 

To decorate his spoons with a jackknife

Dave uses sorcery

There’s no way his is an Earthly skill

It’s Way Beyond the likes of me-eeeee

img_5375.jpg

I’m just wild about that spoon wood

Just wild about that spoon wood.

That spoon, that spoon, that spoon wood.

That spoon, that spoon, that spoon wood.

 

Curtis and Tim have a different way

They bend their Crooks with steam

What’d you expect from chair makers

It’s good enough for me-eeeee

I’m just wild about that spoon wood

Just wild about that spoon wood.

That spoon, that spoon, that spoon wood.

That spoon, that spoon, that spoon wood.

 

Some learned spoons from the internet

Some learned spoons from Tee-Veeeee

If you use an axe and a couple of knives

You can trace it back to ol’ Vill-eeeee

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m just wild about that spoon wood

Just wild about that spoon wood.

That spoon, that spoon, that spoon wood.

That spoon, that spoon, that spoon wood.

Wille Sundqvist

As we’re preparing to start setting up Greenwood Fest tomorrow, news came today that Wille Sundqvist passed away, aged 92 years old. We heard from Jögge earlier this week that the end was near, thus he stayed home in Sweden to be with his father.

We’ll all miss having Jögge with us at the Fest, and our thoughts are with him and his family. I’m so glad it worked out the way it did, he could have easily been on a plane headed our way when Wille’s time came.

There’s no exaggeration about Wille’s impact on so many of our woodworking trajectories…I’ve written and talked at length about what I often call “craft genealogy” and I trace mine back to a very simple event – Bill Coperthwaite bringing Wille Sundqvist down to meet Drew and Louise Langsner, c. 1976. That visit led to the creation of  Country Workshops, where I often traveled to learn from Drew, Louise, Jennie Alexander, Jögge, Curtis Buchanan and Wille Sundqvist – and on & on.

Plymouth CRAFT has dedicated this year’s Greenwood Fest to Wille Sundqvist and his life’s work.

Fare you well, Wille Sundqvist, rest in peace.

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