March – time to get going

March. Hmm… it means two things to me right now. One is turn the page on the Yurt Foundation calendar, the other is to march, get going, quit fooling around. This is the month that my schedule picks up. So rather than just picking up whatever project happens to catch my fancy at any given moment, it’s time to knuckle down and get some stuff done.

Oak:

oak lunette

spoons:

spoons

 

oak:

partly done 2

spoons:

ignore these spoons

I keep shifting back & forth. I have to ignore these spoons in the daylight right now, and get to work on my desk box, and the 2 chests with drawers I have underway. At least by having these spoons roughed out, I can carve them at night.

Spoons and baskets for sale today – here: https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/spoons-baskets-bowls-for-sale-march-2015/

Daylight is for heavier bench work…so the goal for this week is to get the desk box all cut and ready to assemble, then work on cutting joinery and laying out carving for the chest with drawer that’s the focus of my class beginning later this month.

desk box parts

Enough. Here’s details on the 2 classes coming up this month. The first is a 2-day class in spoon carving at Plymouth CRAFT – 2 spaces left they tell me. The class is March 14 & 15 – details here. http://plymouthcraft.org/?tribe_events=carving-wooden-spoons-with-peter-follansbee  There’s knitting, cooking & egg decorating classes at the same time – http://plymouthcraft.org/?post_type=tribe_events


The other class is the first entry in the 5-month “build a chest with drawer” class at Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking. We can squeeze another joiner or two in…If all goes well, I’ll be showing you some of oak for that class tomorrow. http://www.schoolofwoodworking.com/woodworking-classes/29-speciality-weekend-classes/534-build-a-17th-century-joined-chest-with-peter-follansbee.html

and the rest of the schedule is here: https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/2015-teaching-schedule/ including two weeks teaching in Olde England – I’ll write about that next week. 

 

 

 

Lie Nielsen event at Goosebay Sawmill & Lumber

I’ve spent a chunk of today unpacking from the Lie-Nielsen Hand Tool Event I did at Goosebay Lumber & Sawmill, in Chichester, NH this weekend. It was a small show by some standards, but very nice venue. here’s some photos I got.

goosebay sign

Both days were bright & sunny. Didn’t snow. Goosebay is a very nice place. Lots of sawn lumber, both local and otherwise. http://goosebaylumber.net/index.php

I saw many logs there, red oak, ash, maple, pine and more.  Both Carl and young Carl assured my that if you are looking to buy a green log for riving, they can help you. You just need to give them some advance warning.

logs

 

Sawn stuff too.

stickeed

 

Here’s the Lie-Nielsen crates – these things have a lot of miles on them…

crates

crates going in

 

When you go to the upper level to look for wood, you can view down where the action was/is. I was carving spoons off to the right in the 2nd photo. But not while I was shooting these…

 

aeriel view

aeriel view 2

 

spoons & stuff

 

Thanks to Carl, Carl, Ted, Kirsten & Danielle – and to the folks who came out to see us. Next time, the rest of you can come too! We had a great time.

I almost forgot – this one’s for Chris, made by “Down to Earth” = I forget the whole story… I’ve made several, but never a paneled one. Ahh, another project. picture it carved.

down to earth

Tomorrow some spoons, baskets and hewn bowls for sale. About 10AM my time, east coast US.

swing handle

 

no eagles…

Back in the good ‘ol days, I was on the payroll, but no one knew what my job was. So I could spend 4 or 5 hours at a time, watching for bald eagles in the winter… Now that I’m on my own, time’s a bit tighter. I gambled a couple hours today, came up empty for eagles, but got some shots of a red tail hawk shrugging off some crows.

crow & hawk

rt hawk

hawk & crow

hawk & crow behind

When the hawk is  over-exposed, the crow comes out with some detail.

good crow shot

This one’s got a nice diagonal symmetry to it.

neutral corners

While waiting for the eagles that didn’t show up, this great blue heron flew in front of the sun…bg heron

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????

 

Why do I make spoons?

 

spoons

Why do I make spoons? people ask me, but I ask myself as well. Not for money, the way I make & sell them is cumbersome at best. I do sell them, and it brings in some money, but the time I spend at it negates some of the “profit.” I am always appreciative when someone buys one of my spoons, it means a lot to be to have that sort of support. I am not interested in pursuing production runs, efficient sales, etc – that’s not my bag. If I were to get serious about that, I should do it with furniture, which is more lucrative. I’m faster at it, and it’d  be a better return for my time. But for me, that’s not what woodworking is about.

It’s not as if a household needs dozens of spoons. sure we can use a lot of them in cooking, serving & eating – but be serious. we have way more than we need. And the ones from the dollar store could serve us just fine, and we’d be none the wiser. Indeed, the great majority of the population will never know the difference.

But there is this craze about wooden spoons and spoon carving in full bloom right now. Why? Why now?

I think the internet/computer use is behind it, in two ways. As we as a society use screen-devices more and more, it has driven us further away from human contact, but conversely connected us more, if that makes sense. The notion of making a wooden spoon with a hatchet and knife has been around in the US woodworking arena since the late 1970s at least. The principal influence I remember is Wille Sundqvist, but also Dan Dustin got a short feature in Fine Woodworking back in the 1980s. Dan is an original, his spoons have nothing to do with Wille’s work. I’m sure there were others, but maybe they got less coverage. Maybe I wasn’t looking. I learned from Wille, Jogge & Drew Langsner. Thought not much about it for many years, just usually kept some spoon carving in tandem with my furniture work. they made great gifts, “Oh, look – a wooden spoon!” then on the shelf it goes…

Robin Wood has cited, correctly to some degree I think, that the spoon work is attractive because you need no shop, or certainly limited space. Someplace to hew the blanks, then the rest can be done in your lap. Small quantities of wood. And they don’t take months to do like some large case furniture for instance.

For me, there’s more to it than that. There’s a connection between people and raw materials that is now rare. Maybe not in my household, or in yours, but I’m sorry to tell you that we are on the fringes of society. The general population doesn’t even think about these things.

At our house, we like to increase the handmade items we surround ourselves with. Woodenware, ceramics, woolens – as much as we can, we prefer to have people-made stuff around, handmade. There;’s a connection that you think about as you reach for that bowl, that spoon – pull on that sweater.

I’m thinking of these things lately for lots of reasons, but one is because I just finished reading A Man Apart: Bill Coperthwaite’s Radical Experiment in Living by Peter Forbes and Helen Whybrow.

Picture

I only knew Bill a little bit, but his influence reached across decades. If you carved a spoon in America based on Wille Sunqvist’s work, Bill was the one who shoved that snowball down the hill. The book is not about spoon carving, nor really about woodworking. It’s about the relationship between mentor & mentor-ed. And about how to live, as Bill saw it…

After I finished the book, I couldn’t concentrate. My mind was swirling around about how to live, what is important, what is dross. The only book I could pick up in the days after finishing it was Thoreau’s journal.

I can’t wait to carve my next spoon.

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. 

snow

 

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. https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/spoons-a-bowl-or-two-jan-2015/

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

and another to the reports from our first go-round. https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/2015/01/21/spoon-carving-at-plymouth-craft-last-weekend/

If you are way up north, there’s a class in Alaska – here’s that link: http://www.alaskacreativewoodworkers.org/registration-for-the-peter-follansbee-classes-is-open/

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. https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/2015-teaching-schedule/

 

 

 

 

 

 

January 2015 update & first spoons

Well, lots going on & not going on around here. Let’s get one thing out of the way. “where are the bird photos?” some have asked. I haven’t been out birding since I-don’t-know-when. Haven’t been to Plymouth Beach for owls at all…it’s frustrating, but time is in short supply all around. maybe this weekend…but it’s been feeder-birds for me. Cardinal in a holly tree, a rather cliche picture. Juncos were around this morning; they’re winter birds here.

cardinal holly

female junco

What’s really been missing is oak. But that’s about to change. I have all of a sudden several joinery projects coming up. So yesterday and today I have been splitting & hewing oak prior to planing. some of my work-sequences have changed some since the workshop shuffle of last summer. More hewing at the outset, and then planing. I used to do it back & forth between the hatchet & plane. I shot none of this work, but here’s a view of the off=cuts, meaning another job to clean up behind! Some stock there for pegs certainly…you can never have too many.

off cuts

The hewing has produced some really amazing chips – this one somehow became a photographic platform for Saruman, who is in the shop to have his broken hand removed from his arm socket. If he weren’t an Istari, we could have just pretended this character was Beren.

saruman

My first batch of spoons are now released from their task last weekend = and are available for sale here: https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/spoons-a-bowl-or-two-jan-2015/