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Peter Follansbee, joiner's notes
back to the week that was…when we attempted to make 10 or 11 joined chests in no time at all. Knuckleheads.
after all the riving and hewing; we hauled some of the stock into town to begin the task of planing it into boards. I’ll just bop the pictures in, then add whatever I can remember about it. Here’s Steven planing just like I showed him…
Roy was astounded at the amount of shavings produced by working green wood
One of our un-named students works in a pointy building on the east coast, and to help him out, Roy put up surveillance cameras throughout the classroom..
A broom wouldn’t do it, so Roy got out a pitchfork…
Elia couldn’t stand the idea of sending those shavings to the landfill, so we piled them in his truck.
We did get further along eventually; chopping mortises, over & over & over again.
Then plowing grooves, cutting tenons, test-fitting.
There was lots of documentation,
until the last couple days, when I lost track of all – I spent 1/2 of the last 2 days with a checklist, “do you have all your muntin stock?” I never did get it all straight. it’s hard to keep track of 250 piece of oak that all look pretty much the same.
Then one day Steven emerged from Ed’s store upstairs and everyone ran to his bench like it was Xmas morning – “whaddja get?” – so we had a show & tell…
Just another week at the Woodwright’s School…
For those keeping track, some spoons and things for sale tomorrow…including this new piece:
This fall I’ll be teaching a class at Heartwood in making one of my carved oak boxes; and this might be the best shot yet at this class. The class size is small, about 6 students. As of right now, we are short of that number – we could use a couple more, so you could sign up and get in on a chance to delve into this subject in greater-than-usual detail. The class is Sept 22-26. The fall is my favorite time of year…
We’ll be riving, carving and assembling boxes such as this:
Maybe this is the class to finally fit a till inside their box!
The setting is out of this world – I often get asked “when are you teaching in Massachusetts?” and this is my one-and-only right now. But it’s not eastern-MA with its congestion, noise, strip-mall mentality; this is bucolic western, far-western Massachusetts. It’s at the Heartwood School for the Homebuilding Crafts in Washington, Massachusetts. Those of us out in eastern MA have to look Washington up, because we’ve never heard of it. It’s that nice. It’s all uphill for me, Washington in in the Berkshires, near the highest point of I-90 east of South Dakota. I live on the Jones River, about 15 feet above sea level.
I was a student in a timber-framing class there in 1984 – Will Beemer dug out a photo to prove it. Bottom center, head down, arms up. skinny, scruffy me.
Here’s more about the school – it’s quite a place.
Here’s the photo tour of the place:
Fall in the Berkshires – I’m bringing my binoculars too. Come join us.
I spend a lot of time thinking about connections and chronologies. If you have read my blog much, you know that most of my woodworking connections came through one place, and in that place one family; Country Workshops, and Drew & Louise Langsner. I have been made to feel a part of their family since the early-to-mid-1980s, when I became a regular student at the workshops there. In 1988, I spent several months living with them and their daughter Naomi, who was then about the age my kids are now, 8-9 years old. We’ve been connected ever since.
A big shock came through last weekend, when Drew & Louise’s new son-in-law, 32-year-old Teo Reha was killed in a logging accident in western North Carolina. It’s heartbreaking news; Naomi & Teo had just moved back to the Langsner farm last fall, and set up the old cabin there as their home. They got married on the farm in June. I saw Naomi last summer for the first time in many, many years, and we chatted about when she was a kid, how much she was looking forward to coming back home – that sort of thing.
Louise sent a couple of notes about the burial – it sounded amazing.
“Hello, Peter. We had a very beautiful burial today, up on our pasture looking out over the mountains. All of our friends have been super supportive and giving. Teo’s friends dug the grave and were here to tell stories and make us laugh. Naomi is surrounded by her women friends. Her [biological] mother Kay has been here with her constantly to give guidance and ceremony. It is an incredible feeling to know we are part of such a strong web of friendship and community. It is a terribly painful time. We all had so many dreams of how we would grow old together. It has been especially wonderful to get to know both Naomi and Teo’s friends better and to know they will continue to be part of our lives. Curtis [Buchanan] came and pulled weeds in the garden and returned to build the coffin. It meant so much to us. ..There are no words.
I have never met Teo, so again I’ll let Louise’s words do the job:
“about Teo. He loved his job and was very good at it. He and his boss Joe had a dream of helping people log sustainably and helping the forest be more healthy. He loved poetry and explosives, hunting and animals. He was dedicated to the land and forests, family, community, and most of all Naomi. We only knew the tip of the iceberg of this young man, and even that was larger than life. Our friends are carrying us through this, but it is unbelievably painful. Love to you and your dear family. Louise”
I asked the Langsners if I could write something here on the blog; and Louise said yes. They have given so much to our woodworking community over the years, if you were ever there, then you know how much of themselves they put into Country Workshops. I’m back here in Massachusetts right now, but my thoughts are with my friends back on that North Carolina mountain.
Beyond that, all of us are in debt to a logger somewhere. Every stick of wood that hits our benches, lathes, shaving horses or laps; a logger, either amatuer or professional, felled the tree. Let’s all keep them in mind, and hope for their safety as they carry out this very dangerous occupation which we all rely on so much. To us, they are all but invisible, but they have names, families and loved ones out there.
Love to Naomi, Drew & Louise, from Peter, Maureen. Rose & Daniel
You’ll recall that I was Schwarz’d not too long ago. Also quit my day job – so I have been (thankfully) deluged with teaching offers for 2015. I’m working on sorting out the schedule now, and will know much of it pretty soon.
One that’s mostly nailed down right now is a carved box class in England – with the New English Workshop folks – Derek Jones and Paul Mayon.
I’m not sure of the exact dates and specifics; but July is the month. They tell me there’s 5 spots taken already. Get a hold of them if you’re inclined. Me, I can’t wait. I haven’t been to England since 2005. Hope to see some oak carvings…
Here’s the details, such as they are.
You might remember Chris Schwarz writing about this new program over there – Derek and Paul are bringing several American woodworkers over there. Chris will be back..among others. Stay tuned for more.
It quickly became apparent that we needed to hustle if we were to get anywhere in this class. Roy found a way to speed things up.
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…
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:
We tried to sort and count them as we went, but it was doomed.
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!
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.
Next, they plane all the long rails, layout the joinery, chop mortises, plow grooves & cut tenons.
Museums are full of stuff. objects, art, artifacts, documents – things I don’t even know about. But when you go to work in a museum, it becomes about people. It’s never about money. The people who work in museums are there because of their interest and passion for study, for their collections, history – all that intertwined educational vibe. When you get involved with folks like that, it’s contagious. And memorable. I’ve made connections with people in museums that will stay with me always…
I read the news about Jay Gaynor’s sudden death today. http://anthonyhaycabinetmaker.wordpress.com/2014/08/01/in-memoriam-jay-gaynor/
I have known Jay for over 20 years, and always enjoyed our visits and work together. Jay knew tools, tool history and their relationships, forms, makers – he was a tool history fountain. Like many museum professionals I have known, what always struck me about Jay was even after decades of research and study, he was still passionately excited about the subject – in this case, woodworking tools.
One of my most memorable visits to Colonial Williamsburg, Jay, Jane Rees, Alexander & I, Mark Atchison and maybe Nathanial Krausse all spent a whole Sunday morning poring over the tools in CW’s storage collections. Jay kept pulling more & more tools out, telling us each one’s story, where it was made, by whom – how he got it…great stuff.
I can still see him & Jane Rees, sitting in the front row while I bantered away at Plimoth when EAIA came there not too long ago. All the while, I kept thinking, “what am I doing, lecturing these 2 about tools?” – but they were both encouraging, friendly and engaging. We’ll all miss Jay – even the jokes.
Reggie Shaw, a left-handed blog reader, (he doesn’t read left-handed blogs…but is left-handed…oh, forget it)
sent a note that this right-handed J R Fuchs hatchet is for auction on ebay. I already have 2, and don’t have the money to get in a bidding war…but someone will get the best hatchet going. Lose that godawful red paint, and it looks ready to go.
here’s the link. maybe one of you?
Bob Van Dyke’s Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking is a mecca for period furniture makers. http://www.schoolofwoodworking.com/ Great classes, great instructors – it really is a first-rate place to learn the ins & outs of period style furniture in depth.
But Bob himself doesn’t know which end is up – to some of my carvings, I mean. He sent me this picture, asking “where’s the top again?” He’s notoriously freaked out by the images he thinks he sees. I see a vase of flowers and leaves – he sees faces, faces & more faces. But in his twisted mind, he thinks the above photo is right-side up. What torment!
Oh, well. He doesn’t have to know how it goes – but I’ll show the students when we get together there for a 3-day class in early October to make an oak frame & panel. This course was designed to be a crash course in the basic elements of 17th-century joinery. We’ll use a combination of riven and sawn oak, plane the stock, cut the mortise and tenon joints, and carve designs on the panel (and frame perhaps, if you are inclined). Plowing grooves, beveling the panel, fitting the whole thing together with drawboring and tapered wooden pins. it’s the whole show, compressed into 5 pieces of wood.
Sign up with Bob. Tell him you’ll help him to understand. http://www.schoolofwoodworking.com/woodworking-classes.html#Speciality_Weekend_Classes
Today I posted a page with a couple of hewn bowls, and what spoons I have ready to go. I have several spoons nearly ready; but those I’ll take with me to Roy’s place, & finish them down there. So what I have now is on the blog, then there’ll be more in mid-August. As usual, leave a comment if you’d like to order something. Any questions, send an email to Peter.Follansbee@verizon.net
Meanwhile, here’s some of what I did yesterday.
A day like this:
But I persevered and roughed out one of the last bowls from the stash of birch I have around here. Most of the ones I’ve been doing are upside-down. I start like this:
hew the broad inner face of the split bolt flat. This becomes the bottom of the bowl.
Then mark out the saddle-shaped interior of the bowl. Now the bowl is held down to a low bench with three pegs and a wedge. (well, take my word for it that there’s 3. You can only see 2 in this shot) Simple, but it works pretty well. If I end up doing these bowls regularly, then it might be time to look closely at Dave Fisher’s bowl horse…
I then make a few saw kerfs to help break stuff up when the next hewing begins.
I just begin chopping into the midst of these kerfs to remove the excess material. Now it’s a double-bevel hatchet, not the joiner’s hatchet I used to flatten the bottom.
Then comes adze work. Just like the hatchet, you want to keep the tool’s edge out of your leg.
I do some standing, then some seated. All in all, about 15-20 minutes of hewing ought to get me there.
Then it’s on to gouge & mallet work, then more hewing.
then it rained.
I keep plugging away. Yesterday I got to use some planes!
What a blast - the spoons and bowls are great fun, challenging, etc…but no planes. I need to make a molding to run around my most recent frame & panel – it’s one like this, all I have left is to make the molding & cut & glue it in.
I keep a stash of riven Atlantic White Cedar, just for this purpose. First, I planed the stock to the proper thickness, in this case 1/2″
Then I dig out one of those special wheelie gauges to mark out the rabbets, a la Matt Bickford. You already know I’m a fan; his book & video show you how to tackle this work easily. http://lostartpress.com/collections/books/products/mouldings-in-practice & http://www.lie-nielsen.com/dvds/moldings-in-practice/
The gauge I got from the Alexander collection – thanks once again JA.
and bevels, then hollows and rounds.
Then it was time to pack it away & off to the Cape Cod League Baseball – we went to Wareham to see the Gatemen take on the Falmouth Commodores. We were there early, so Daniel watched batting practice – I carved spoons. Then we watched the game. Gatemen blew the lead in the ninth – took it on the chin.
One of many great things about working at home is that I get to see stuff I only used to hear about. Here’s a marble game from yesterday:
That then turned into a painting by Daniel, who was learning about shadows and light sources this week.
This one’s just thrown in there – it’s part of an ongoing series of raking light shots.
I got home from Maine trip #2 on Sunday night. Monday kinda floundered, then on Tues it was off to a small island off the coast of America to see Heather & Pat. Heather’s show was outstanding as usual. Here’s one of my favorites, but the web doesn’t do it justice by half. The light in it is amazing.
(go to Heather’s blog and click on the paintings to see ‘em larger, then click the quill/feather in the teacup to read the notes) http://heatherneill.com/studio-blog/
here’s the gallery’s page of Heather’s work http://www.granarygallery.com/searchresults.php?page=1&artistId=11674&artist=Heather+Neill&start=1
we had a great, whirlwind one-day trip. Then back home to attempt to develop some routine or the semblance of one. Wednesday I mostly worked on hewn bowls; then Thursday spoons. today some of each.
The great part about spoon day is I can take it outside, and have the kids with me. The river, the birds – what could be better?
I have used ring-porous woods like oak, ash and hickory all my working days. I rarely have made spoons or bowls from ring porous woods because they split so easily. But sometimes I throw the rules out the window & see what happens. Catalpa is a very light-weight hardwood. I have made a couple of bowls from it before, and I had one small one kicking around ready to be finished.
Here’s the one from way back when; and the post it came from. One of the horrible things about keeping this blog is all my unfinished stuff is still there, taunting me: http://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/?s=catalpa
I remember southern visitors to the museum telling me about the fishermen who loved catalpa trees for the worms that ate the foliage – great bait. some said the best. They called it “catawba” – but it’s the same tree. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catalpa I am lately reading To Kill a Mockingbird, and it’s in there, “…the class was wriggling like a bucketful of catawba worms…” Turns out that Catawba is a name of both the tree and a group of Native people in the Carolinas, and someone made a mistake with the tree’s name, and we ended up with catalpa. I always knew it as the cigar tree, because of the long seed pods. we used to whip them around when we were kids.
The other ring-porous wood I have to sample lately is really rare – American Chestnut. Or so I’m told. It was a tree planted about 15 years ago; and got some trimming done recently. It’s healthy now…but time will tell. Chances are it will succumb to the blight that all but wiped out the American Chestnut. http://www.acf.org/
It’s not a great wood for spoons, quite the opposite I would expect, but I have some small limbs and will see what happens. It’s high in tannic acid, turned my tools black as quick as you please.
The first birch bowl I was making sold before I could really get it here on the blog…but now I have finished the next 2 birch bowls, just applied flax oil to them today. I’ll post them for sale in the next day or 2. The first one is the most common orientation of the bowl in the split blank – the rim of the bowl is the inner wide surface of the halved log. Then I carved some gouge-cut decoration along the upper edge of each side.
The next one is what I call “upside-down” – you hew the split face of the log and make that the bottom of the bowl. I learned this from Drew Langsner, who learned it from his Swedish friends. Smaller bowl, but lots of fun with the shapes.
There’s still a few spoons left on the etsy site – don’t be daunted by Etsy. it’s easy to sign up, free too. https://www.etsy.com/shop/PeterFollansbee
Just back from Maine – the class was great. Lie-Nielsen is right up there as one of my favorite places to be. here’s a bunch 0′ carvers hunched down at work.
I’m home now til Roy’s in 2 weeks. Lots to report, but first I must un-pack, then get to work on spoons & bowls & more. In the meantime, I posted most of what spoons I have left on the etsy site – and Maureen posted more felted stuff on hers as well. the whole house is a little crafty rabbit warren…I think I have the Is crossed, and the Ts dotted, or something like that. If you have a problem with the etsy stuff, let me know. it’s all new to me.
For 20 years, I talked for a living. All day, every day. Spent two weeks working by myself; then went up to the Lie-Nielsen Open House. Someone stuck a camera in my face & I wouldn’t shut up. (the youtube video done by Harry Kavouksorian, posted on Lie-Nielsen’s website) :
Here’s some photo views of the open house. it was a great one. See their facebook photos here: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10152214121253016.1073741897.100708343015&type=1
I was looking for one thing & found another. Last week when I wrote about the wood carrier that I learned from Daniel O’Hagan, I knew I had a shot that I took very quickly one of the last times I was down there. Couldn’t find it so I gave up. Today I found it while looking for some other photograph that is now more pressing.
Glad I didn’t see Daniel’s when I made mine – that way we get 2 interpretations of one form. 3 if we count the published one. Daniel’s versions worked for many many years.
Here’s mine from last week. I have more of this sort of thing to make in late August/early September.
For review, here’s the one from China at Work
I have a few things to write about tonight. First, welcome to the scads of folks who showed up here after Chris wrote his piece about my new career. http://blog.lostartpress.com/2014/07/14/peter-follansbee-has-left-the-building/
Just to give you an inkling of what you might find here, my first & foremost specialty is 17th-century carved oak furniture. Like this:
But for quite a few years, I have carved spoons that I learned through Drew Langsner, Jogge & Wille Sundqvist. In recent years, the spoons have taken off – for which I am quite grateful. Expect many spoon posts here; and a DVD soon.
And then there’s the new/old directions; the wood carrier posted recently is a good example of the sort of thing I hope to be making from time to time that has been on a back burner for 20 years! http://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/2014/07/08/i-knew-i-shoulda-made-2/
And baskets like this too:
Soon, I will build a dedicated bowl lathe – similar to what we used at the North House Folk School where I was recently a student of Robin Wood’s. I have some cherry bolts just waiting to be turned into bowls. http://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/2014/06/05/bowl-class-tip-of-the-iceberg/
As I said the other day, I’m just back from Lie-Nielsen, and just about to go back up there for 17th-century style carving. If you want to see where else I’m teaching this year: Lie-Nielsen this weekend, then Roy’s place (that one’s full, I think.) Heartwood in Massachusetts, and Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking. here’s the link - http://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/2014-workshop-schedule/
But today it rained, so stupid me thought I’d get the “making a living” bit rolling. So I spent an inordinate amount of time fiddling around with creating an Etsy site. I’m not completely sold on the idea, but will try it a while. When I have sold spoons here on the blog, the clunky way I set it up resulted in me spending more time at the desk & computer than hewing & carving. So this is my first attempt to change that. Right now, it’s just what boxes and stools I have left around the house. I’ll add spoons and hewn bowls next week. So if you’ve been waiting for the spoons, here’s your notice – say Monday afternoon. Here’s what I got with making the site – how come 10-yr olds can do this & I struggled with it?
I’m just back from Maine, where I shot no photographs that we need here! (swiped this one) Too busy carving spoons & bowls. Had an all-out great time at Lie-Nielsen’s Open House. Because I shot nothing, you can read about it elsewhere -
http://www.marymaycarving.com/blog/ ( I got to tell Mary my “Mary May” story! – what fun)
So now it’s time to unpack my carving tools and wood, and then pack my other carving tools and other wood & head right back this Friday for a weekend class in 17th-century style carvings. Like these:
Last I knew, there was still some space left, so if you need to have a great experience, come take a class at Lie-Nielsen Toolworks – how can you go wrong with a weekend in Maine?
I haven’t made one of these in over 20 years – a phrase you’ll get sick of hearing here. I’m preparing to head north for the Lie-Nielsen Open House – and have lots to do. On my list was a brief woodworking project. The other day I had shown a shot of me at a shaving horse, making long thin hickory bits.
Then I bundled up their ends with packing tape, and jammed a piece of scrap wood between them. Let them sit a while.
Then made the tiniest frame; 8 1/2” x 10 1/2” or so. Red oak. Drawbored mortise & tenon.
Then I kept on going & forgot to shoot the steps. Nothing terribly enlightening anyway. When Maureen came through the work area & asked “what are you making” – when I told her, she said, “No, really, what are you making?”
A Chinese wood carrier. Really. For carrying any kind of wood, though. Doesn’t have to be Chinese. I first learned these in 1986, I know because here is a letter from Daniel O’Hagan showing me how it’s built.
And he got the idea from the book China at Work, by Rudolf Hommel, (orig 1937, MIT Press 1969.) The text says they used 2 of these, hanging from a pole across their shoulders, to bring fuel to porcelain kilns.
I wanted it so I can drag a bunch of spoon blanks up to Maine…right now there’s 18 pieces in it. If I were to fill it higher, it’d be too heavy to be comfortable. This way you can hook your elbow under the top piece & away you go…
I knew I should have made 2.
My first week of self-employment is under my belt. It went nothing like what I expected. I carved few new spoons; ( I finished a bunch, but they’re coming with me to the Lie-Nielsen Open House later this week – some hewn bowls too. http://www.lie-nielsen.com/open-house/ I’ll sell what I have when I get back.)
Mostly I turned balusters for Burrey’s project. That’s all right, the other stuff will keep til I get back. Oops, once I get back, I turn around & go back to Maine for a carving class there – so it has to keep even longer. http://www.lie-nielsen.com/weekend-workshop/ww-pf14
As I stumble around this make-shift shop, I can’t tell you how many times I have instinctively reached for a hunk of scrap wood that isn’t there. I never realized how important that stuff is to my day-to-day working. Shims, wedges, propping stuff this way & that. The piece above however is one large scrap that became too good to toss, or to use. Ages ago, Rose picked it up in the old shop one day, an oak off-cut of a 3×5. Asked could she have it – I said yes. I’ve saved it for a year or more…
in the “everything old is new again department” – here’s a preview of an upcoming project. Not furniture is all I’ll say…
Just to keep folks from worrying, proof that I haven’t forgotten oak carvings – two upcoming frame & panel numbers. These were part of two demonstrations I did in June; one for SAPFM and one at Historic New England. Warm-ups for the LN carving class mentioned above.
While cleaning and sorting, I found this old newspaper photo of my last private shop – a 2nd floor of a chicken coop – me using an old Delta lathe. Threw away the motor, but the lathe was right above the stairs, so the treadle had to be pumped backwards! 1992 this was…
Someone asked, did we see whales? Yup, low numbers, but good views. Perfect weather.
When I announced that I was leaving Plimoth a reader commented “You could always do a brief stint working for Michael Burrey as so many of my (NBSS) classmates did for a while after working at the Plantation. ;-)” - well, where do you think Michael came from? All the wood-eating organisms that leave Plimoth go to Burrey’s at some point. I have already worked for him a number of times, starting probably 20 years ago. I used to joke to each one who went there, “that was MY spot…”
Mostly I’ll be working for me, but Michael & crew get some interesting projects. So when he calls, I’ll sign on if my schedule allows. My first post-PP gig is some turned work for the Shakespearean stage they are in the process of building. Rick wrote about it last year, http://blueoakblog.wordpress.com/category/shakespearean-stage/ and now they are underway on phase 2. This part includes some turned balusters, similar to these installed at the reconstructed Globe Theater in London. These were turned by Gudrun Leitz http://www.greenwoodwork.co.uk/website/exhibitions.html . She did 500, I only have to do 45. Thankfully.
This job is last-minute, so I just set up my lathe out on the back patio/terrace. A stupid place for it; but there’s no time to get involved in anything more coherent. When these are done, the lathe comes down & goes back to storage, til I figure out my next shop. the pole is fixed to a dilapidated deck, that is slated to be replaced. Where’s PW? Following his wife on some whirlwind book tour, no doubt.
They say the sky starts at your feet. Another way to look at it is that this setup has an incredibly high ceiling.
It’s been over 6 months since I turned any spindle stuff, so to start off I just roughed out some cylinders. tomorrow I’ll get down to the details. There’s 45 of these altogether. Time to dust off the cobwebs on my legs…
Here’s what I’ll be following, Michael provided a turned bit leftover from Gudrun, so the story goes. It’s weird, the squared blocks are smaller than the cylinder. It’s not just weird, it’s stupid I think. I have seen this done on huge turned legs for large tables. But here the difference is quite slight…until it’s time to make them.