Tag Archives: Plymouth CRAFT

Spoon, Interrupted

If you’re like me you’ve been thinking, boy-howdy it’s been slow news these past few months, I sure could use a janky video of hairy dudes burning up spoons beneath a singing owl to stir things up.

We got you.

The backstory: A friend recently sent Paula Marcoux and Pret Woodburn a useful device (CharCone 24) to make small wood leftovers into charcoal. This act of generosity happened to align with Peter Follansbee’s need to rid his shop of spoons which, for whatever reason, didn’t make the grade.

Here’s the video evidence set to New Slang by The Shins.

(Video provided by Paula Marcoux–And sorry but that is not the late Christopher Lee making a cameo at :49)



While the masses stumble about in a pumpkin spiced haze, savvy Plymouth CRAFT people know there’s more to Autumn than imitation flavor-

Riving and Hurdlemaking Weekend is coming up-October 28-29th at the Pinewoods Dance Camp, the same camp where Greenwood Fest is held. Peter Follansbee, Pret Woodburn and me will help you build your own hurdle-gate and work with you to refine your green woodworking techniques and understanding of wood grain and edge tools. All levels of experience are welcome. There’s food created by the amazing Paula Marcoux and cozy lodging is available at the camp. Sign up soon-spots go fast.

Also, don’t miss the Autumn Celebration on September 29th at Plymouth’s own Mayflower Brewery. There’ll be a kimchi demo, accompanying Korean IPA, and music by local favorites The Dinghys. Sponsored by both Plymouth CRAFT and Edible South Shore and South Coast, you can sample the world while enjoying the locally grown and made.

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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: http://www.greenwoodglobal.org/

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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Hangham Style

Just a little side project, they told him.

Install an 11′ mantel between two posts in a new timber frame.

Shouldn’t take more than a week.

And we’ve even got the stock for you!

A barely audible alarm went off in the back of Justin’s busy head…

Over the next 2 weeks it grew louder and more insistent–like a Canadian who’s just about run out of Molson on a camping trip–until it was drowned out only by the dissonant whine of a plugged-in planer and the need for a smoke.

Oh hey, devil hemlock–dry, twisted and left-for-dead–which no human in the history of the world would ever want to touch or even burn, let alone square and build-out.

It was so awesome that the install happened to fall on the heels of all that cheerful and sublime carving at Greenwood Fest. 

I remember when we used to work happy and well-adjusted wood with idiosyncratic Swedes and dreadlocked Englishwomen.


Juxtaposition? More like Suckstaposition.

Other than being a day-long avoidance of trashing a fine house which may or may not have been hosting a party with Marky Mark within a fortnight, things ended up fair and square. The client was pleased, there were no holes in the plaster, and all the joints fit like Tupperware lids.

You had this all along, ked.




















painting by Jones River artist Marshall Joyce

Don’t you DARE put your drink on the mantel without a coaster.

We’re looking at you, Wahlberg.


Speaking of green wood…

If you can scrape together the ducats, the upcoming Plymouth CRAFT workshop with Dave Fisher is a great way to say goodbye to July this summer.


Dave is as amazing a craftsman as he is a nice guy.  Check out his blog for inspiration: https://davidffisherblog.wordpress.com/

We were lucky to have Dave at Greenwood Fest 2016 and to see him teach and create extraordinary bowls.  Breathtaking work, really.


Course fee includes materials as well as incredible fare by Paula Marcoux. It’ll take place along a beautiful estuary south of Boston. Well worth it.

For info: http://www.plymouthcraft.org/?tribe_events=bowl-carving-with-dave-fisher

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growth rings

It wasn’t so much an escape from news of the latest tragedy…


But there was an insistent pulling from a quieter place-


So we went into the woods for a few days


And put our minds to wood grain and the angle of cutting green wood with our edge tools-

To create forms from nature in a world seemingly bent on destruction.

To think about what counts now, in our present.


To look again at the grain of a birch, listening to what it tells us, as Jögge would say.

No cellphones and no chargers,

But steel and iron-


And we used them to pare away supple shavings of cherry, oak, ash and birch-


making both new and traditional forms-


Expert hands (and feet) inspired us-


Plans were laid out on long grain-


and with rolled up sleeves-


we went to work.


Effort and practice


and patient guidance


kept us on the path.

The trees did indeed talk to us.


They gave us gifts


and watched us as we made friends


old and new-


All pushed themselves to discover what they could be-


-maybe to search for what they were meant to be.


And the stories–so many stories-

Of place-


Of materials-


Of the past informing our present-

These stories were told with a generosity of spirit and a true love of craft.


They moved us in ways we did not wholly expect.

It was a purposeful revolution in the green wood-


-the rhythm of hatchets and adzes working away toward the heart.

Some of the tales poked us-


lest we take ourselves


too seriously-


One of us carried into the woods a beautiful idea in lieu of a Sloyd knife-


Her vision, coupled with the work of tireless and dedicated organizers, built a framework for us-

That we may gather to unplug and reconnect in the summer wood among friends from all over the world.

Not an escape.

But an insistent pull-


(or push, depending on grain direction)

To pare away the green wood

until that which matters remains.




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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…


photo-3 (1)

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–

photo 3 (3)

Instinctively, you thrust the chisel away from your head-

and straight into your thigh.

photo 4 (3)

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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“Corruption of Youth”

A recent howl from Michigan by friend John Wolf. It speaks for itself: 

Hi Rick,

    I realized 3 weeks ago that my nephew’s 7th birthday is the end of this month.  I also drew a complete blank on what to send him.  Luckily, my brother left me a message a couple of days later saying that he had finished refurbishing the ground floor apartment in their house (hurricane Katrina was not kind to it) and Louie had been his helper.  I thought, “That boy needs a saw! and probably a drill!  And something to keep them in!”.  So I rummaged through my surplus tool supplies, and found a small crosscut saw that had been sharpened away considerably, and cut it down to about 14″ (shaped to the London pattern, which I like for no particular reason).  I made a small handle of cherry for it, and it turned out to be a pretty nice saw that could be of use to him even as an adult.  Then I cleaned up and repaired what turns out to be a pretty good egg beater drill, and a brace from a long ago boys toolbox, small but useable.  I provided a good selection of bits for both.  Found I had a block plane that was useable, but really made for a “toy” toolbox, and blunted the iron – he’s only 7, after all.  There are some other odds and ends too.

    I had some 1x8s that had knot free sections long enough to make a 10 x 22 x 8 chest, roughly 1/8 the size of my carpenter’s chest, then made a sliding till with drawers, on the theory that kids like to poke around in drawers.  I had hoped to mount the saw under the lid, but the till is just a hair too wide for that, so it mounts to the inside front and a square that belonged to Grandpa Wolf is on the lid.  I left appropriate notes with explanations and instructions inside, and packed it tight inside with Big Little Books that had belonged to my brother, which will leave the two of them to argue over their ownership.  Then I sent it off to New Orleans.

    A lot of the motivation was the pleasure of making it.  In a few years, that kind of gift will fall pretty flat, and I’ll fall back on gift cards.  But more important to me is the wish that he grow up with the feel of tools in his hands, and if it’s not the rich, powerful experience that I feel, it will at least feel normal and a matter of course.  I’d also like him to grow up with the thought in his head that people do and make things.  If he goes beyond that to try to add some grace and beauty to the world, so much the better.  It will be interesting to see what catches his fancy and who he becomes.

   Wish I could go to your riving and hurdle making class, that would be very interesting.


We’d love to see a picture of Louie and the tool box, John.

And thanks for the segue…


(just don’t tell Gurney’s and Copeland’s)

How about some green woodworking with Peter Follansbee this Columbus Day weekend?

Plymouth CRAFT has several openings left in a 2-day workshop all about riving green wood and learning the steps along the way to turn trees into hurdles-


Image from Coppice Co-op- http://www.coppicecoop.co.uk

Wood theory will lead to riving which will lead to hatchet and drawknife work and assembly of mortises and tenons. Registration includes 2 days of the best lunches you’ll ever eat made by the renowned Paula Marcoux as well as an expert tour of the Harlow Old Fort House (which happens to full of interesting original artifacts made using the techniques under study in this workshop).

Get thee to Plymouth CRAFT posthaste to secure your spot: www.plymouth.org



RIP Phil Woods

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The Head of the Nail

Some dry nail humor to get our bellows pumpin’:


(A little trick is sometimes used among some (that would be thought cunning Carpenters) privately to touch the Head of the Nail with a little Ear-wax, and then lay a Wager with a Stranger to the Trick, that he shall not drive that Nail up to the Head with so many blows. The stranger thinks he shall assuredly win, but does assuredly lose; for the Hammer no sooner touches the Head of the Nail but instead of entring the Wood it flies away, notwithstanding his utmost care in striking it down-right.)

From Moxon’s Mechanick Exercises, or The Doctrine of Handyworks 1683. Free download available via Lost Art Press link: http://blog.lostartpress.com/2013/05/13/free-download-joseph-moxons-mechanick-exercises/ Thanks, Chris Schwarz

I mean, who HASN’T pulled this trick at a kegger or an office X-mas party a few times? And ee by gum, what a novel use for ear-wax!

Nails. We love em, common though they may be. We hot dip and galvanize them, we pound them, shoot them from guns, bend them over on themselves to clench them, and adding insult to injury we give them funny and archaic names like Stainless Ringshanks and 8-Penny. They’re relatively cheap, they come in convenient packages, and they are ubiquitous.

They’re wicked easy to take for granted.

But have you ever REALLY thought about the humble nail? Have you gone on a Wayne’s World flashback to when they were actually forged one at a time by a smith on an anvil? Have you considered how wonderful it would be to be able to make your perfect little (or not so little) pieces of hardware to compliment and personalize your project?

Have you ever wanted to forge your own nails?

Here’s your chance–

Text and photos from Plymouth CRAFT’S link:

Nailmaking with George Pare


Nails are some of the easiest things to forge yet they can take a lifetime to perfect. In this one-day workshop, blacksmith George Paré will teach participants to forge a wide variety of nails for aesthetic and practical applications, or for use in restoration projects.


The forging of nails is an ideal form of training for building hammer control and muscle memory as a blacksmith.  One can easily see his or her progress as a smith by comparing nails made over months and years forging.  The satisfaction of making one nail is soon replaced by that of watching a pile of them grow beside the anvil.


This workshop is open to individuals of all skill levels and forging ability. It will be conducted in the Sellars/Demoranville Blacksmith Shop located at the Freetown Historical Society, itself an exceptional cultural resource. We will take advantage of the unique setting to learn a little bit about local craft history, which happens to be quite rich in iron.


Discover for yourself the satisfaction of driving nails that you forged by hammer and hand.

Lunch is included in the participant fee.

In keeping with the theme of the day, it will be cooked onsite using cast and wrought iron utensils, over a charcoal fire.

Me again. There you have it. What the fine print doesn’t tell you is that George is super friendly, incredibly talented, and a wonderful teacher. (He also teaches kite-boarding, but we’ll let him tell you about that). Also, you remember Paula Marcoux, of Cooking with Fire fame. She will be working the fire to make something amazing, guaranteed. This aint a pizza & soda kinda workshop, folks. In meeting both George and Paula, you will have made two lifelong friends. Last but not least, you will be soaking in the history of an unspoiled and culturally rich part of southeastern Massachusetts through The Freetown Historical Society’s forge. Did I mention that it’s only a stones throw to the best sawmill/lumberyard on the eastern seaboard? If you work wood and you haven’t been to Gurney’s Sawmill, you need to change that.

BLUE OAK apologizes for the hard sell…but not really. These folks are talented and dedicated craftspeople and teachers–the best at what they do, really. They aren’t in it for the money and they aren’t in it for the Twitter follows. They are sincerely devoted to traditional arts, restoration, and handcraft and to sharing that knowledge and skill with you. It’s a lot of money to many of us. Understood. But if you can afford it, it’s a fair price for a learned skill, great contacts, and new friends.

It’s up to you now.

But ladies and gentlemen please, leave the ear-wax at home.

The Details:

Date: July 26

Time: 10:00 am – 5:00 pm

Cost: $175

The Place:

Freetown Historical Society

1 Slab Bridge Road

Assonet, MA 02702 USA


To register and for more information, pound the link below like a hammer pounds a nail:


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Swept Up Shavings

-24 random thoughts from the dusty corners of my mind…

1. My poor, wonderful framing chisel. Was the world awash with color given how many times some brute used it to open paint cans?


It’s allright, sweetheart. Let me flatten your back and compound your bevel.

2. Take a bougie screen door and make it better:


Woven wattle to thwart the gnats. Or at least the hummingbirds.

3. We were cranky, sore–maybe a little bitchy–after a long week when we raised up the last significant timber (a rafter) at The Hatch Mill the other evening:

This momentarily undermined the significance of the moment, considering all the good people who have been working to save this gem for several years.

More on this later…


4. Someone uttered Toenailing the Heel a couple days back. Isn’t that some sort of traditional Polish dance?

5. From the Pandora Algorithms Don’t Always Get Me Dept:

 Don’t leave me alone with this song

6. On a related note, if you don’t like Earth Wind and Fire, I will fight you-

7. Led Zeppelin has aged really well. But some of the Jimmy Page solos–not so much.

8. Lose the tension–stay upright in compression!

9. I like it when I have a 200 yr-old trenail garnishing my nail salad:


10. I may be obtuse but I’m dependably obtuse.

11. Best handsaw advice: Play it like a viola da gamba.

12. Wasps don’t like Dexter Gordon. This was proven the other day when Justin nearly swallowed one.

13. How can avant-garde ever be old hat?



Saw to that line in the new venture, O’Rourke.

14. How many times must I lose my star bit?!? Please place your thoughts for good places to keep it in the suggestion box at the end of this post.

15. Best leftovers for lunch? Spaghetti.

16. Lacking help on this day, Nathan was forced to go next level on his scaffold, shaving clapboard bevels with his draw knife and shaving mare high above Weymouth’s teeming masses. A tip o’ the scally cap to you, sir. The house is looking great.


17. Everything I know about scaffolding, I learned from 3 wise men:



18. From the Damned by Faint Praise Dept:

The Red Sox have been a horror show this season but at least my wife tells me I have warning track power.

19. I’d like to thank my neighbor for playing his pop-country all day/night on the weekends. It serves to confirm my disdain for most “country” since Hank Williams Sr.

20. So if a hammer is a snare drum and a plane a violin, does that make a handsaw brushes on a hi-hat?

21. Great to see SW Bolton out at Pine Fest a couple of weeks back.


He’s still got it, for a guy who wears a suit most days.

22. Plymouth CRAFT was well-represented on that day. Have you taken a look at the latest CRAFT workshops? They are surprisingly affordable and feature some of the most friendly and talented people around. More on that later.

23. We’re working a side job at the lovely Benjamin Nye Homestead on Cape Cod. Maybe it was getting late, but I couldn’t help but notice the connections between things found there:


Mannish invention


Nature’s handiwork.

Deep, I know right?

24. And finally, no more need to castoff your janky sawzall blades–

Just in time for Father’s Day–Preservationist Wind Chimes!

They crosscut–they rip–they fill the air with a dull and muted jingle!

I made this in like 5 minutes:


It’s prob my best work.




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