Category Archives: Peter Follansbee

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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Just 10 riven parts


Come out of oak trees


And a few pins besides

Worked by hand


photo by Marie Pelletier

With wedges and froes


Hatchets and drawknives


photo by Marie Pelletier

While the wood is green and forgiving

And all joined together



photo by Marie Pelletier

To fold away your sheep

Or that cilantro

That you keep

Perhaps your look

Before it leaps-

Come learn from

The bearded man named Follansbee


Who wants you experience

The joy of making useful things

From the tree itself

It’s a lesson in wood grain


And efficient use of edge tools

Taught in the woods between 2 ponds

Where the fire will warm you

As you carve by the light of it

Nourished by real food


photo by Marie Pelletier

And friendly company

Hurdles to keep

Your interest in green-woodworking


photo by Marie Pelletier

Grazed and well-ordered


Still time to sign up for:

Riving & Hurdlemaking Weekend 

Splitting logs & practical applications, with Peter Follansbee and friends

Oct 29-30, 2016 9 am-4 pm 

Meals provided/lodging available

Pinewoods Dance Camp, 80 Cornish Field Road, Plymouth MA

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Picked up Pieces

The grain always changes direction around a knot, and other deep thoughts…

Inspiration greets this man everyday in his workshop:


Bansky was here.


Anyone who’s ever peeled a potato is a carver. But some just take it to another level:


If you can say, that was my father’s saw, generally you can consider yourself lucky.


The Christmas Tree Shop, at the gateway to Cape Cod, boasts the largest thatched roof in the USA. I think about that when I’m inside buying cheap sponges and cookies in metal tins from Denmark-



This English oak was already 100 years old when the Normans came to dinner:



Job-site planing is basically hatcheting. Get that shit done, son.


Hey Follansbee, we found this perfect half-ball at the job-site in Norwell:


You bring the broomstick I’ll bring the Fanta Grape-


See that house? The new one with the plastic shingles, vinyl windows, and a witches brew of whatnot imposing itself on that little pond?


Roughly 225 carving knifes, 148 bowls in various shapes, a few stock knives and a football stadium full of hand-wrought spoons, all drove past it on the way to Greenwood Fest 2016.

It’s all about the juxtaposition.


I’ve made a promise to myself that I won’t say WICKED PISSAH again until they re-animate Teddy Ballgame’s frozen head-


Ted Williams aka The Splendid Splinter


Just came back from our tax dude…he made a snide comment about students majoring in Underwater Basket Weaving and I was like, what’s so wrong with that?


Scott Landis of The Workbench Book fame, is a driving force behind GreenWood, a visionary enterprise making the world a better place by saving forests, aiding local economies, and producing beautiful work:

Take a minute to check them out–


GreenWood chairs made by locals in Central America.


When the applewood ladle I clumsily made in the late 80’s finally fails, I want it to go in the line of duty, stirring a big pot of Nana’s favorite spaghetti sauce.


Before Prozac, men with large mustaches and hand tools would chamfer all the sharp corners in the world.


Have you seen this? JoJo is on the cutting edge of making traditional craft relevant again:


This guy Justin writes a really nice blog

Here’s his fresh take on Follansbee’s 17th-century furnishings in their natural habitat:


The Great Pyramid of Giza is out of square and we’re all looking at you, ancient aliens.


Capable is the new sexy.


We had an amazing visit with Plymouth wonders David B. and Elizabeth C. last month and there’ll be more about that later.

Meanwhile the sophomore in me couldn’t resist taking a picture from one of David’s many esoteric books:


plumbing sext


The wet/dry shop vac is the most ambiguous of the tools.


Melancholic carpenters are drawn towards the coping saw.


Sincere question from a novice carver: How do you know when your carving is done?


Gonna go out on a limb here and say that Jögge Sundqvist’s work is among the most colorful, naturally-inspired craft going on in the world right now–


He is a born teacher as well as a ROCK GOD


That’s not music–it’s a rhythmic working pattern.



Why wait?



Well that about covers it.
-tarp salesman




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Well that joiner down by the river finally realized his dream the other day…


With the help of several friends and neighbors, he raised a frame for his workshop.


Farmers. office workers, artists, writers, and millers from down the street and from Canada, Australia, Maine–even Newton!–were all there to help.


Mr Follansbee and Mr Woodburn take full responsibility for this darlin’ frame, nestled seamlessly into the hillside and made of salvaged materials laid out and cut on fair winter days this year.


While it would have been special to see FREE BRADY carved on the beam, Peter opted instead for a date–4 digits which always ring familiar here in Plymouth County.


And no frame ever is raised without a hitch or two.

This is how a joiner owns a mistake when he’s helping to build his own workshop:


After a yeoman’s lunch, cooked on a fire partly fueled by discarded carved panels…

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…the frame seemed almost to finish itself-


And Mr Follansbee applied a traditional flourish for the newly raised timbers.


Then, when the last trenail was pounded, a sight rarely seen ambled its way down the hill…




Look at that party animal.

And though PF doesn’t partake, he rewarded the generosity of those who came to help out in friendship.

It didn’t take long before the newly raised frame saw some of its first use…


And as the sun set west of the river-


-we all knew this would be a place where many wonderful things are created.


Here is a link to Peter’s account of the frame and the process:

Also, here’s a video by Harry Kavouksorian of the raising:

Lots of great things happening over at Plymouth CRAFT.

Check out the latest classes:


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Swept up Shavings

14 hand-planed thoughts from the dustpan of my mind–

1. We never wear white after Labor Day-


2. A sawmill operator moonlighting as a rapper is called Lil Wane.

3. Prophecy found behind a wall shingle up at Hatch Mill, circa 1975:


4. True story:

You’re hustling to finish up some joinery, just going along cleaning out a mortise…

photo 1 (5)

In your haste you drive the damn chisel too deeply into gnarly grain…


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So you pull and twist and pull again–maybe you shoulda had decaf this morning…

Like Arthur & Excalibur that blade is finally released from its bonds!

…and the butt promptly hits you square in your forehead–

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Instinctively, you thrust the chisel away from your head-

and straight into your thigh.

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You didn’t hear this from me, but the guy’s initials were Ted Curtin Jr.

Injury added to insult.

At least you needn’t hone the chisel afterwards.

(Props to the uber-talented artist Megan Stanley for the illustrations!)

5. Your irony game is strong, WD:


6. This is what happens whenever you drink cider in Somerset, UK:


Friar Keegan at work at Muchelney Abbey

7. Is this meant to be distracting?


8. This could be us but you planing:


9. From this morning:


10. Puritans–can’t live with ’em, can’t get ’em to believe in transubstantiation-




12. At a pie-shop in Reading:


13. Sampe Fest is happening this weekend at the Plimoth Grist Mill.

If you’re local, go see Kim and the crew to learn all about this essential dietary staple–You’ll never have so much fun with ground corn!


New Bread Basket author Amy Halloran will be there–

14. This is your last chance to see Peter Follansbee shave–


–riven stock, that is.

Plymouth CRAFT has a couple openings left in the  Riving and Hurdlemaking–a Primer on Green Woodworking workshop this weekend.

While BLUE OAK doesn’t condone impulsive actions made while holding a draw-knife, act impulsively right now to save a spot!





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We just arrived-time to split

There are a lot of good people out there looking for meaning in their work…


And we met a bunch of them at Plymouth CRAFT ‘s most recent workshop on riving wood.

Peter Follansbee led the group and wrote about it in Joiner’s Notes.


We set up at the venerable 1677 Harlow House. Many thanks to wonderful host Donna Curtin and the Plymouth Antiquarian Society.

Under fair skies and the come-hither of a thousand birds…


…we talked about trees and processed green wood into usable stock.




While we cleaved oak and pounded ash, Charlotte Russell led a Plymouth CRAFT class for those who were more inclined toward the textile arts:


And Paula Marcoux, of Cooking with Fire fame, made a workshop-lunch for us that was, in itself, worth the price of admission.

No sooner had we filled our teeth with poppy seeds then Mr Follansbee gave us a lesson in converting ash into splints–one growth ring at a time.



It’s an almost magical process and a lot of fun to make a trial of.

It’s pretty much therapeutic. All of this “work” is, actually.


All around, it was a great day for splitting for those who arrived.


See you next time?

Here’s the video:




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Years of academy training wasted…

and other picked up pieces…


…and other craft is ultimately an exercise in patience.



Working on some old window sash recently with my wife-who has INFINITELY more patience than I do–it occured to me just how much I had to recalibrate after a summer of swinging axes, running saws, and pounding chisels. I learn a lot watching Kim work. It’s not so much a gearing down–the work is just as intense. It’s more like taking a breath, observing smaller detail and using a smaller grouping of muscles. I tend not to yell as much when I’m repairing windows. So much can be accomplished with patience. I wish I had more of it.


…is a ball and stick game played with a tennis ball cut in half and a broomstick. Follansbee used to play this urban game on the mean streets of Weymouth, MA.

In ye olden tymes, we’d dust off the dregs of a long day, find a wall to pitch against, and play this game with an old shop broom.

This traditional street game needs to be taught to our youth, even those from the verdant cul-de-sacs.

Here’s the windup and the proof that even joiners can throw a pretty good curve:



…of Follansbee…

Got an old, Elizabethan reproduction spring-pole lathe turned green oak bowling pin made by a renowned joiner/lecturer/author lying around but no time to bowl?

Try this at home!



…of beards–

After a while you start shaving just so people stop dropping change in your coffee cup.




…should market his innovative, recycled edge-tool covers.

Here’s an orange juice container covering the end of a little adze-


And here’s a tasty IPA package securing a saw blade:



You’re a bum!


Wedge Bramhall

…was a great Plymouthian who left us this spring.

While his name suggests otherwise, he was anything but a divider.

If you’re in the neighborhood, stop by Bramhalls Country Store before they close for the season this Sunday, October 12.



…kept us busy canning tomatoes on the home front.


The grapes have been particularly sweet this year and there are lots and lots of acorns on the way.

The squirrels are going nuts.

And at a local living history attraction, autumn leaves are falling on old friends.

If you’re happen upon this image of Pret à Pilgrim, take a selfie and send it to BLUE OAK.

We’ll award something appropriate to the most creative submission!


Old friend Alex caught up with 2-D Pret.

On-sitely humor:

That’s like a Finnish carpenter putting a Dutchman in a French door.

-Joe Chetwyn



My kid

…demonstrated his understanding of irony the other day:





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Hewing in The Yard–a motion picture

It’s 2:23 long. It’s a video of guys chopping with axes.

Maybe you need a new hobby…I don’t know.

But at the end there’s a sweet “football” maneuver by Nigel,  who just may be the greatest  dog in the world.

Plus, there is reggae.


On another note…


…there’s nice write-up about Peter Follansbee and his new work situation by Chris Schwarz of Lost Art Press:


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Ospreys like John Lee Hooker

 and other picked up pieces…


Ospreys know what they like–fish and John Lee Hooker. Every time that blues genius queues up on our little speaker at the Jones River boathouse site, those river hawks come ’round chattering. I don’t have the (makes finger quotes) science to back that up, but you know, it’s John Lee Hooker.

Another reason to love wood–


Michael’s door (above–destined for the Mirbeau site) is made out of cedar. It was sawn from–get this–recycled telephone poles! This western red cedar withstood 80 years of nor’easters and osprey nests until it was “felled” and sawn into boards and planks by our friends at Gurneys Sawmill. We first used it on our free-range, organic treehouse (I swear we’ll get back to that topic) and we’ll keep finding ways to recycle these old yankee poles.

Speaking of wood, mark the difference between a locust trenail and a white oak trenail. Both will do the job:


We made these pins for the joint of a Peter Follansbee original:


These decorative flourishes weren’t part of the initial build of our recent timber framed bridge. But the braces running up from post to beam were deemed a little too low and a potential head-banger. No problem. We raised the braces up the posts about half a foot. This left a gaping, unfilled mortise in the post. What to do?

When life gives you ADA requirements, make lemonade!


Beautiful as they are, I had a panic attack driving the pins, with all that short grain. I’ll share that panic attack with you, dear reader, with this annoying GIF.

Needless to say, the draw-bore was very slight:


Great work as always, Mister Follansbee. One of Peter’s birds told me that there’s going to be a Follansbee spoon-carving video out later this summer. Keep posted to his blog for the latest.

Meanwhile, Father’s Day is coming up…jus’ sayin:

We’ve got a couple of projects continuing this summer/fall:


The Hatch Mill, in Marsh-Vegas, Mass, is an old water-powered sawmill which needs some TLC from MLB Restorations. With help from some plucky studentia of the North Bennet Street School–we’ve stabilized the lower frame and we will continue to bring it toward the community’s goal of making it a working mill once again. Stay tuned.

The Norwell water tower (below) is one of only a few remaining in our part of the world.


The restoration of this unique building is at once challenging and exciting. Like my dog is at once a loyal companion and a vacuum cleaner. More to follow.

Finally, some of us are headed to England for a few weeks. We’re consulting on the rebuild of some stairs for a little tower in London.

Any-the-hoo, BLUE OAK will keep you up to date on our internationally friendly forays.

Somebody tell The Queen we’re coming–


Happy Birthday, Justin and Andrew–


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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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