Ambrosia Maple Bowl


A little bread—a crust—a crumb—
A little trust—a demijohn—
Can keep the soul alive—

— Emily Dickinson, from Poem 159 (1896)

Looking back, I was surprised at how long it had been since I’d carved a lettered bowl like this.  Felt great to make another.  This one was carved from a silver maple tree that had been visited by ambrosia beetles, leaving the telltale streaks of color in the wood.


I revisited Emily Dickinson for the poem excerpt.  Here are a few more photos:





This one is available for purchase.  Just shy of 16 inches long, 7 1/4 inches wide, and 3 1/2″ high.  $650 includes insured shipping.  You can email me at or leave a comment below.  Update: SOLD


Posted in bowls, figure, Lettering, quotes and excerpts, trees, Uncategorized | Tagged , | 5 Comments

Wishes for a Peaceful New Year


When it is peaceful and quiet, using the knife will not break the tranquility.  Sometimes there will be other things to listen to, such as conversation, music, the singing of the birds or wind rushing through the leaves.  Indeed, sometimes you will listen to the actual quietness around you when you carve.

— Wille Sundqvist, Swedish Carving Techniques (1990)


Carving spoons with my son, Noah, a couple days ago.  Sometimes it’s nice to listen to quietness together.  And any conversation is eased by the carving.  It rises up naturally like a shaving from a knife.

Wishing you all a peaceful new year full of chips and shavings.

P.S. — I’ll wrap up 2019 with my humble attempt at a couplet inspired by the photo of Noah and me and the passage of the years.  (“Ba Ba Ba, Ba Ba Ba, Ba – Ba – Ba”):

Once I had curly hair just like that.

Years went by leaving me just this hat.

Posted in carving, green woodworking, quotes and excerpts, spoons, Uncategorized, writing | Tagged , , | 15 Comments

Cigar Box Reminder


Lately, my evenings and weekends have been filled with non-carving matters, including tending to the needs of our house that was built in 1905.  When Kristin and I bought it in 1996, the same year we were married, we became the third owners of this humble place in our hometown then in need of a good dose of TLC.  We entered in with little money, but plenty of DIY enthusiasm and enough ignorance to maintain our confidence.  Little by little, we’ve gotten to know this house by working on it and living in it, and it continues to surprise us with hidden quirks.

Two became four and we’ve shared a lot of memories in this house.  Once in a while the house reminds me it needs some more attention.  I kick and scream a bit, then get to work.  This week, as I was working in the cellar, by the stone foundation in need of re-pointing, I found a piece from a cigar box stamped with the words “Old Virginia Cheroots — Medium” (top photo).

Now, as much as I had been trying to maintain a positive attitude, I was not in a good frame of mind.  In fact, I probably looked a bit crazed, covered with grime, dust, cobwebs and a scowl.  Thoughts of condominiums kept passing through my mind.  Oddly enough, that little scrap of cigar box encouraged me.  I guess it was a small reminder that the house has a long memory and I’m just part of the story.

The first owners of this house were William and Minnie Fisher (no relation).  William owned a cigar store downtown and did some horse dealing on the side.  Our little town was growing then, and business was booming.  William often donated free cigars to various celebrations.


Greenville Evening Record, April 14, 1916.  There you have it, a good five cent cigar.

After William’s death in 1932, Minnie lived here quietly, one might assume, except for one morning in 1939 when she was rudely awakened.  I can see her now jumping up, looking out my bedroom window, only to see a dump truck just below, where the front porch had been:


Greenville Record Argus, June 28, 1939


The front porch was rebuilt.  There it is yesterday afternoon.

After Minnie died in 1949, the house was purchased by V. Spencer and Pansy Goodreds.  Spencer was a professor of Literature and Theater at Thiel College here in Greenville.  Pansy was involved in Thiel affairs and hosted sorority gatherings at the house:


Greenville Record Argus, Dec. 14, 1949

We never had the pleasure of meeting Pansy.  She lived here alone for nearly twenty years after Spencer died and then moved, in her nineties, to live near her son in another state.  I’m writing this now, almost exactly seventy years after that Christmas party, in front of a fire in that same fireplace.  But not a sorority girl in sight.

So I’ll make the best of re-pointing the cellar walls, but I think that job and some others can be spread out.  The little garage where Pansy parked her old Ford is now my workshop, and I’ll make some time for the bowls and spoons in there calling me.

Note:  These clips came from our local Greenville newspaper, which, thankfully, is still being published daily.  The archives of ours and many other newspapers are fully searchable at NEWSPAPERARCHIVE.  It’s a great resource.


Posted in historical reference, Persons, Uncategorized | Tagged , | 22 Comments

Thankful for Birds and Trees



This past summer, we were fortunate to have a pair of wrens make a home in our yard.  We enjoyed watching them flit around and hearing them sing.  It also reminded me of my grandmother who loved her “Jenny wrens.”


Check on the brood in the nest box, then fly to the nearby hemlocks for a song.



I wasn’t able to catch it with the camera, but that tail is always flicking upward to a jaunty angle.  I was thinking about that when I saw this tight bend in a piece of Norway maple this fall.  In the photo below, I’ve hacked away everything on the outside of the pith.


I didn’t set out to make a wren, but rather a general bird form that was inspired by that lifted tail and the piece of tree itself.  After some rough chalk marks, I’ve hewn away much more of the excess below.  This is such a free and fun process.  I’ve hewn a flat for the foot of the bowl already at this stage.  I want to be able to set it upright and see the overall attitude of the lines.


Then I chop and shave away the bark and shape the upper surface.  Considering the wild grain in this figured crook, I used a very coarse rasp in certain areas to roughly shape the contours.  You can see the marks from the rasp on parts of the surface at this stage.  I also draw a centerline and the other guidelines.  This is simply freehand sketching, like drawing the form of a really big spoon.


After more axework on the exterior, I do a little work with an adze on the hollow from the sides, but otherwise the quarters are just too tight.  Here I’m continuing to work the hollow with a spoon-bent gouge.  The hollow is too steep and deep for a standard bent gouge.


It’s not long before that tool has reached its limits and I switch to a hook knife to continue the hollowing.  The hook knife can reach back into the undercut portions of the hollow and refine the shape nicely.  Lots of light cuts in this maple.


After a little more shaping to thin down the sections a little more, I set it aside to dry.  Then I refine the shape and all of the surfaces.  Here are some more shots of the recently finished piece.


There is a subtle contrast in textures.  The main hollow and the flute under the wings are left straight from the tool, while the other surfaces have been smoothed with a card scraper and a little very fine sandpaper.  Finish is flaxseed (linseed) oil.  9 1/2 inches long, 4 1/2 inches wide, and 9 1/4 inches tall.  This one has found a good nest box.




I’ve got plenty to be thankful for.  Thanks for taking the time to check out my posts, and I wish you a very happy day of thanksgiving.

Posted in bird bowls, tools, trees, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 15 Comments

Three Spoons in November


Seeing this photo with the summer sun warming the flowers beside the fence makes me, on this frosty November morning, think about the changing of the seasons. The sun this morning casts longer shadows onto the lawn strewn with golden Norway maple leaves.  They’ll crunch and dance before the tines of my rake this afternoon.


In that summer photo, I was carving a long ladle from a neighborhood Norway maple tree.  I sent that ladle, along with a few other spoons, to an exhibition in North Carolina which has now ended, so I have some spoons for sale.  If you’d like to purchase one, you can email me at or leave a comment.  You can pay by sending a check or with paypal.

First is that one I was carving in the photos, a long slender slotted ladle carved from a Norway maple crook.  This stuff is lovely for spoons; harder than silver maple with a very tight grain.  The characteristics of the wood and the flow of the fibers allowed for a thin and graceful design while remaining strong and flexible.  The color will deepen over time.  It is 17 1/2 inches long and 3 1/8 inches wide.  The price of $230 includes shipping.




The second one is from a rhododendron crook.  A nice wide serving spoon, 7 5/8″ x 3 1/4″.  “Stay Awhile” carved into the handle.  $200 includes shipping.  SOLD


The third one goes back to the Norway maple.  The branch above a sharp crook was bent and twisted in a sinuous curve.  I went with it and kept the fibers true through the handle.   The handle takes a winding road, but still has a good relationship to the bowl when held.  Unlike the others that have a surface straight from the knife, I finished this spoon by sanding to a fine polish.  14 3/8″ x 2″.  $230 includes shipping.  SOLD




Posted in nature, spoons, Uncategorized | Tagged , | 14 Comments

Treasures from Millersburg

1101191346These T-handle augers weren’t the only treasures I found in Millersburg, Ohio last weekend at the Early American Artisans Fair.  I included some links in a previous post.  The Artisans’ Guild has some exciting plans, so its well worth a look.

The Augers were at Dan Raber’s Colonial Homestead store, beside more old planes, gouges, anvils, and antique tools of all sorts than I’ve ever seen in one place.  Some new ones too.

But — and I’m not being sentimental when I say this — the real treasures were the folks I met and the stories they shared.  Collectively, they were reminders of how the creative process and working with our hands has profound meaning.  It was evident in the eyes of folks talking with me about their experiences and plans.  I could see it in the fascinated faces of kids picking up freshly cut wood chips from the floor to rub between their fingers.

Some people shared inspiring things they had made or had found.  For example, David and Michele brought along this sweet little dipper/spoon.  David provided some more detailed shots here.

At the risk of leaving out a bunch of other fascinating people, I have to mention Bryan Koppert.  Talking with Bryan brought back many great memories of my days in high school wood shop with Mr. Bill McInturf, a caring man and an inspiring craftsman.  Bryan has his students at Triway High School in Wooster, OH working with their hands, solving problems, and building beautiful pieces.  You can see the pride in their faces in this article.  Guys like Bryan should be treasured even more than a good T-handle auger.  Long live shop class!

One of Bryan Koppert’s students, Bevin, with his quarter sawn oak hutch.  Photo by Bryan Koppert.

Posted in events, historical reference, teaching, tools, Uncategorized | Tagged , | 7 Comments

Fluted Walnut Bowl



After making many bowls, I’m still thrilled by the prospect of shaping a rough chunk of log into a finished bowl.  The just-finished walnut bowl in the two photos above began with flattening the bottom and fairing the upper surface of a split log.  Then I started in with an axe.


For large bowls with deeply swept rims, I sometimes begin the hollow with this 19″ axe.  I make a deep v notch across the middle, then expand it toward the handles.  I swing freely with a one-hand grip at the end of the handle, flinging the axe head into the wood. I’ve tried sawing a series of crosscuts to chunk out some of this material.  Works ok, but the axe is faster and more fun.  I switch to an adze for the rest of the hollowing.


After the hollowing, I roughly hew the exterior with an axe.  An adze worked across the ends under the handles creates relief that allows for continued work with the axe.


Here’s another shot (above) of the material to be removed with adze work.


Here is the surface after going back to the axe to further shape the outside down to the roughly adzed area under the handles.  Then the back and forth continues with more careful work with the adze:


Here, the adze has cut reasonably close to what will be the final shape under the handles.


And back to the axe again.  It’s a wonderful, satisfying process, and, writing this, I can smell the fresh walnut chips again.


Some work with a drawknife and spokeshave refine the shape.


Of course, there’s lots of work after the bowl dries.  Here’s a shot of carving the flutes.  I was watching an old interview with Bruce Lee recently and he said, “And when you do punch, I mean you’ve got to put the whole hip into it and snap it and get all your energy in there.”  That same advice is pretty good for carving these end grain areas and as close as I’m likely to come to a fight.


Eventually, all of those flutes come together.

This one is for sale.  (Update: SOLD)  It is 16 1/2″ long, 11 1/4″ wide, and 6 1/8″ high.  The price of $975 includes insured shipping within the U.S.  Email me at if you are interested.  Here are a couple additional photos:



Posted in adze, axe, quotes and excerpts, tools, Uncategorized, walnut | Tagged , , | 22 Comments