Category Archives: books

Barn the Spoon

We took a little break from cleaning up several hundred thousand woodchips and shavings the morning after Greenwood Fest 2017. 

It was then that Follansbee asked me to take out my phone and shoot a quick video with he and Barn-The Spoon-Carder, one of the festival’s presenters. Barn, you see, had just written a new book–SPON: A Guide to Spoon Carving and the New Wood Culture–and there was some confusion as to the proper pronunciation of the title. If you are remotely interested in spoon carving and green woodworking, this book is a must-own.

These two need to take this show on the road-

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Product Placement

This is Paula and Pret’s house.


They built it themselves, with the help of friends.

They live on a little pond in Plymouth called Savery Pond.

More like SAVORY.

Here is an outdoor oven made of a clay mortar with a clapboard roof:


And here’s another:


These are a couple of several ovens which Pret and Paula have made around their house.

Chem-Lawn trucks needn’t call. The residents here have differing priorities.

They live in a wooded place, friendly to birds, to ice-skaters, and to nice people.

They heat their house with a hyper-efficient wood-burning system called a Tulikivi.

Outside, folks inevitably gather around a simple fire-pit in among the ovens and the garden.

And fire is central to their lives.

Fire is central to their lives in a way which many of us no longer understand. Paula knows how to use fire in the same way that one of us might use an ax or a chisel. Or a laptop.

Fire, for her, is an essential tool.

You may have heard—Paula just wrote a book. It’s called Cooking With Fire. The full title is: Cooking With Fire: From Roasting on a Spit to Baking in a Tannur, Rediscovered Techniques and Recipes That Capture the Flavors of Wood-Fired Cooking.

Here’s a picture from the book (page 170) of a tannur being heated before naan bread is attached to its side walls:


This simple bread, I know from experience, is utterly delicious; the company even better.

So this book I’m speaking of…it’s much more than a collection of recipes.

It’s a call away from our screens toward something more elemental.

It’s a call to interact with friends, old and new.

It’s a call to re-examine what counts in your life, and what doesn’t.

Maybe the book is a little revolutionary that way. Sometimes all you need is a few marshmallows and a little fire to gather ’round (p.15).

Speaking of which, here’s the money shot of a traditional “flip” (p.88) drink. It’s some strange alchemy made with a hot poker, molasses, beer and rum.

I’m still reading it. The book follows me upstairs and then down again. It’s handy that way.

Meanwhile, Paula’s been interviewed by a hundred radio stations and programs, including The Splendid Table.

They’re going to film an episode of Man Fire Food  at that little house on Savery Pond.

Here’s a link to a Boston Globe article published yesterday:

And Peter Follansbee did a nice write-up about Paula’s book:

It goes without saying: Paula didn’t write this book for fame. But where there’s quality, sincerity, and passion behind the work, sometimes fame isn’t far behind.


This is a pretty special thing, for those who know Paula. It’s a great joy to see someone follow her own path and succeed. We know there’s a generous spirit—wise and witty–among the words. Ultimately, this is a book about sharing. And it makes us happy.

And hungry. Like wicked, friggin hungry.

I bought my copies directly from Paula. If you’re from away, you can always do Amazon. The price is very reasonable. Or check it out at  your local library.

Did I mention the step by step instructions on how to build your own wood-fired oven (p.205) with affordable materials?


See you round the fire–


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Isadora Duncan and other picked up pieces

With a nod to long-time Boston Globe sportswriter Dan Shaughnessy, here are some random things gleaned along the way…


Whenever we’re cutting a scarf joint, I always think of Isadora Duncan and her untimely demise.

I believe in leaving my plane sole down on the bench or on the piece I’m working. It’s more stable and the iron is less likely to attack. PF was largely responsible for this conversion. I will NOT, however, leave any tool edge-down on green oak for long periods.

Plane Soul: Not a good name for a band. Neither is Chip and The Breakers.

The world’s authority on 17th-century green woodworking lives in our backyard. Oh, and he’s an author, television personality, spoon-master, and bird-crazy photographer, not to mention a brilliant teacher. He’s also looking for shop space. Someone somewhere has the ideal situation for Mr. Follansbee. It’s just a matter of time. Spread the word.


I buy my granola based on its weight  -Michael B.

Michael still cringes at the memory of snapping in twain Corky Pontz’ beloved grandfather’s handsaw. (The saw turned out to be neither Corky’s nor his grandfather’s). You had to have thick skin to survive The Edge Shoppe, once upon a time.

To make coffee then, you filled the silver urn to the scum line.

Jesse, a good shop dog, would bed herself in shavings of oak and pine. She would turn invisible and sometimes take your lunch as a prize.


The local vendor who sells quality tools and hardware very likely knows which general contractors are good and which aren’t so good. Just sayin.

If the feet in my slippers were in compression like the bottom of a brace in its mortise, there’d be no reason to ever take them off.


When Justin hews timber or cuts out a mortise, noise escapes from him, not unlike pianist Keith Jarrett taking a solo. Effort and quality cannot be contained.

Our working-day Pandora mix includes Woody Guthrie, Danny Barnes, Debo Band, and John Lee Hooker. I plan on quietly throwing  Looking Glass into the stew next week.

I just re-set my Pandora password again because I forgot it. If you’re like me, your 349 passwords are scrawled on scraps of paper and duct-taped to various locations around the house. And you can never find the one you’re looking for anyway.

Too often they rely on talent–I fuckin’ hate that -Pret, in reference to a proficient guitarist who queued up the other day.


MLB’s favorite firewood is black locust. He’ll chuck a few billets into the wood-stove at 10:30pm and they’ll still be there smoldering in the am. Locust is the most alien of woods.

Jason put up a link to The Wood Database on his entertaining blog–The Clueless Woodwright–the other day. Check em both out.

We get take-out at Skippy’s for lunch fairly often. One day, a member of our crew was sighing while looking at the few more healthy options behind the glass. The clerk said, Look- we all know you’re gonna get fried chicken and logs (large, riven wedges of french fries). Just hurry up and order, kid.

Be warned: 3:30 pm is known as fart-o’clock around here.


Take a gander at a few books you might want to familiarize yourself with. Someone you know is having a birthday somewhere:

The Artisan of Ipswich-Craftsmanship and Community in Colonial New England,  by the inimitable Robert Tarule, John Hopkins University Press.

Make a Joint Stool from a Tree, An Introduction to 17th-Century Joinery, by Jennie Alexander and Peter Follansbee, Lost Art Press.


Oh, and our friend Paula Marcoux has written what will surely be THE source for fire-cooking–Cooking with Fire–From Roasting on a Spit to Baking in a Tannur, Rediscovered Techniques and Recipes that Capture the Flavors of Wood-fired Cooking.  This book is coming out soon (you may pre-order on Amazon) and is extensively researched, illustrated, and delightfully written. Get it.

Here’s a link to a video which a local TV outfit made with Paula a couple weeks ago:

I toss a lesser chisel into my bag at the end of the day. We’ve come to call it a bag chisel. Similar to Moxon’s “ripping chisel”, I reckon- a chisel for the dirty work. Download Moxon for free here.

Bag Chisel: Excellent name for a band. Possibly a jazz outfit doing modern arrangements of Duke Ellington.

If you lick lithium batteries, will that calm you down?  -Pret


When cutting a frame, we are reminded of the words of timber-framer Frederic Brillant: If you need anything more than your hat to put these joints together, you’re doing it wrong.

Pret once put a hat on a beetle and whacked a joint together. Does that count?


Adze you like it, said Michael Burrey, king of bad puns.

While we are grateful for the work, the swanky demographic that we’re building this covered bridge for would in no way have us as members. “You wouldn’t be allowed UNDER that bridge”, said George Greenameyer.


Justin’s dad visited us the other day and told us stories about growing up in Southie. These tales included one about a pet crow who would rather walk with his gang/flock of boys than fly, and another about Poco, the viscous little monkey, who loved only J’s grandmother and would perch on her shoulders while she did the dishes. Priceless.

Apparently, according to Hollywood Dave, you used to be able to get a live pony sent to you if you had enough Bazooka bubble gum wrappers and a small shipping fee. The things you learn while hewing.


There’s something about hockey players shaking hands at the end of a playoff series, after an Olympic game or any game from youth through high school. It’s what sportsmanship is all about.

Clearly, Bob Costas detoured through Pinkeye Village on his way to Sochi.


That’s Jack in the middle, looking up during a pilgrim cameo about 20 years ago.


Jack Sobon has strongly influenced some people I respect. You should know about him if you’re even remotely associated with this kind of work.

Kim Van Wormer has started writing more stories about her work as a miller in her blog, The Miller’s Tale. Not only that, but she’ll be grinding delicious organic corn meal again very soon. Kim’s doing some wonderful things over at that little mill in downtown Plymouth.

John and Jonas have been doing yeoman’s work at MLB’s other project in Norwell, MA. Thanks for holding down–and restoring–the fort, gentlemen.


Tuuka, with the help of his post, just stymied the shifty Patrick Kane for a second consecutive penalty shot in the bronze medal game between the Finns and the US. Bruins fans have mixed emotions about this.

If Ella Fitzgerald‘s voice has the timbre of a cordless Dewalt, then surely the throaty vintage of a Milwaukee drill brings to mind the great Sarah Vaughan. Does this make Chrissie Hynde a Makita?



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