Spoonfest 2019

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There it is, down there in the middle by the big white tent.

I’m back from my first ever overseas adventure, and it was a thrilling and enriching one.  The English countryside, London, Stockholm, and the Swedish countryside.  Almost a week after my return, my head is still spinning with all I saw and all of the people I met.  I want to share a bit of my experience in England in this post, then I’ll move on to Sweden in the next.

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I’ll begin with a heartfelt thank you to Jögge Sundqvist and Peter Lamb for the 2018 Wille Sundqvist and Bill Coperthwaite Slöjd Fellowship.  That went a long way toward making this trip possible for me, a trip that allowed me to meet and share ideas with an international group of craftspersons.  I carved and took along this sign for Jögge and Peter as a small token of my appreciation.

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So, again, we’ll focus on England in this post.  These photos may give you some sense of what you’ll experience if you get a chance to go next year or one of these years.

First, you’ll be greeted in Edale at Spoonfest by fascinating, friendly people like Barn the Spoon and Robin Wood, who, along with a host of busy and helpful volunteers, make the magic happen.  That’s Barn in the photo above, just back from the mall it seems and excited about the bargains he found.  Actually, he was punching his truck — really.

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I think that’s Harry and his son clearing odd bits of wood from the site.  There are piles of branches of various species for folks to choose from, including lots of crooks!

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There was plenty of time to share ideas about carving, sharpening, the meaning of life, and, looks like, dance moves.

Some carvers from Cornwall even explained to me the proper way to apply jam and clotted cream to a scone.  There was much unexpected passion raised over this subject, especially when a Devon man spoke up.  I learned many things in England, about spoon carving and beyond.

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Lots of contented carving under the trees and tents.

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I noticed that folks like to queue in England, even when they’re just carving.  Actually this is the beginning of the early morning line to sign up for that day’s workshops.  Steve has the pole position for a line that would stretch far back through the field.  You’ve never seen happier people in a queue.  People in the workshops were enthusiastic and wonderful.  Thanks to all of you who attended my workshops, demos, and talk.

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In addition to workshops, demonstrations, lectures, and exhibits, there are programs for the kids at Spoonfest that teach them safe tool skills and fun projects.

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In the barn there are things for sale.  Tools, books, and spoons — hundreds of spoons.  I can’t believe this was the only shot I took of a spoon table.  I was often so taken in by things that I neglected to take photos.  Therefore, I have no shots of the musicians, the barn dance, the food, nor many other things.  But I did get a photo of a cool rock:

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There’s a whole portion of a barn dedicated to sharpening.  Sean Hellman was kind enough to educate me about many natural sharpening stones, including this lovely Moughton Hole whetstone.  He even gave me a small one to take home.

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There was a beautiful and moving exhibit set up inside those doors, a blend of photography and words sharing the inspiring stories of many individuals and how spoon carving has impacted their lives deeply.  If you’ve experienced the meditative and therapeutic effects of  carving, this exhibit made it clear that you are not alone.

I picked up this lovely spoon for my daughter, made by Lars Laursen, a Danish craftsman who began his woodworking with an apprenticeship with Wille Sundqvist.  Lars shared many stories about his special time with Wille.

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When you look up from your spoon or take a walk with a friend, you can’t miss what a beautiful place you’re in.  Edale, in the Peak District, is unlike anything I had ever seen.

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A hike into the hills surrounding Edale takes you along dry laid stone walls, through pastures dotted with sheep.

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Within an hour, you’re far above the village, treated to breathtaking views.

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That’s my son, Noah, up there.

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You can sense the thick layer of peat under your feet.  The water has percolated through it before tumbling over the rocks, making a cold-brewed peat tea.

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I had always heard about the heather on the hills in songs and poetry, and there it was all around me.

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And there was a proud ram up on the ridge beside the trail.  And would you believe he was holding a spoon?

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There were smaller creatures too, like this violet ground beetle.

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And when you come back down from the hills into the village a pint is waiting for you at The Old Nags Head.

After Spoonfest, we had some time to visit London briefly before heading to Sweden.  Here are a few photos:

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A limewood (basswood) sculpture at the Victoria and Albert Museum.  Notice the hollowed out back, probably to encourage drying with minimal cracking.0805190636a

A close-up of some of the gouge work on the armor.

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A spiral staircase of wood from a medieval villa.

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Enormous London Plane (A hybrid of American Sycamore) trees in a park.

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Police dogs are relaxed in London.

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Of course, there was one amazing building after another.

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I had heard about Ben Wilson, and there he was.  The Millenium Bridge, a footbridge across the Thames, has a pattern of small raised metal bars to encourage traction and drainage.  Chewing gum gets pushed down into the recesses between these bars, and this creative fellow has taken to use the gum as canvases for his miniature works of art.  Now there’s lemons into lemonade.  You can learn more about Ben and his painting here.

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Hyde Park was a wonderful place to walk, and we walked upon a sculpture by Henry Moore titled The Arch.

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The piece is dynamic, changing appearances with your viewpoint as you walk.

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As we left for the airport via a train at Paddington Station, there was still some inspiration:0806190419c

 

 

 

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Posted in classes, events, green woodworking, historical reference, teaching, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 16 Comments

Branches, Barn’s Book, and Bowls

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The gnarled rhododendron branches you see above are what I call neighborwood.  On my walks around my neighborhood I often find piles of pruned branches or, in this case, the remnants of a large rhododendron that had been cut down.  The neighbors are happy to have it taken away, and I’m happy to have it.

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The qualities of rhododendron wood and it’s tendency to grow with many crooks, earned it and its relatives, such as mountain laurel, the nickname “spoonwood.”  The biggest branches of this neighborhood rhododendron were five or six inches across.

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As I split out some spoon blanks, the curl in many of the pieces showed up.

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I roughed out several blanks, then bagged them and put them in the freezer.

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Another person in the neighborhood was very upset that she had to have her Norway maple (Acer platanoides) removed, but I’ll at least try to give some of it a new life.

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In fact, I split a couple pieces.  What a beauty.

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It’ll have to wait a couple weeks.  I’m going to be seeing Barn soon, which reminds me about his new book.  I’ve read every word of it, and I highly recommend it.  It’s a wonderful introduction to green woodcraft and would be encouraging and inviting to anyone thinking about getting started.  It’s full of confidence building projects like this useful wooden clip (below), all described clearly and with plentiful photos and illustrations.

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All of the projects are organized around central skills such as knifework and axework.  As skills develop, the book features more challenging projects like this chair:

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And here are a few new bowls that, along with a few spoons, will be traveling with me to Spoonfest and Taljfest.

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This little hen is a small (a little under 8″ long) version of this one with a few twists.

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A maple bowl, about 15 inches long.

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And a new cherry eating bowl design.  Nice to cradle in one hand.  With flutes that wrap in a wavy pattern around the exterior, and a squarish hollow that is steep and deep.

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I should have some incredible things to share with my next post.  I’m going to be like a kid in a candy store.

Posted in books, bowls, finding wood, Uncategorized | Tagged | 5 Comments

Axe Sheath of Wood

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At last month’s Plymouth CRAFT Spoon Day, I saw Oliver Pratt’s cool wooden axe sheath.  It worked by pinning a wedge in place that secured the sheath.  Oliver had seen the concept somewhere and had created his sheath by chopping a long and deep mortise into the edge of a board.  After praising Oliver, I made a quick sketch of the general idea.

Back in my shop, I went about making one by laminating together three thin boards to achieve a snug fit.  I didn’t take any photos while making it, but the woodworking part is pretty straightforward.  The key is the layout.  Here’s how I went about it.

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Trace the outline of the axe head portion to be sheathed onto a piece of paper.

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By the way, these “My First Ticonderoga” pencils are my new favorites for green woodworking.  Although they’re marked as #2, the graphite mix is dark and marks easily.  It also seems to be a bit water soluble.  Best of all, the barrel is a fat 3/8″ diameter with a thick lead.  The lead is far less likely to break internally after falling or getting knocked around.  And the bright yellow color jumps out on a cluttered workbench.

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Now treat the pencil outline as the interior of the eventual sheath and go through the motions of rotating the beard of the axe into the sheath.  At points along the way, stop and mark the furthest extent of the upper corner, or toe, of the axe head (the red marks in my photo).  This line of these marks indicates the clearance required to get the axe head into the sheath.  All of these shapes and lines will be specific to your axe head, but the same general procedure should work.

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Connect the red dots and the shaded red area at the top will be the exact shape of the eventual wedge that secures the sheath.  You can see how the axe would be locked in place with a wedge in the red area.  The little area of red at the bottom will simply be relieved to make it easier to sneak the axe in at the bottom without requiring as large of a swing at the top.

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Sketch on the shape for the outer perimeter of the sheath.  I’ve left a bit extra at the bottom for attachment of the wedge and pin tethers.

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I resawed and planed a butternut board down to a heavy 5/16″ (8 or 9 mm) thick.  It can be crosscut into three lengths long enough for the sheath.  My finished sheath is about 3″ wide and 6″ long, but ideally the rough lengths of the three pieces, especially the middle one, will be a bit long at this stage for strength before the glue up.

Transfer the outline of the interior hollow onto the middle board (the line just inside the blue areas, including the white and red).  With a coping saw or other means, cut the shape of the interior.  Do not cut the exterior shape of the sheath (outside the blue area) at this point.

Using glue, sandwich the middle board between the solid outer boards.  The overall thickness will now be about an inch.  Once the glue has cured, transfer the outer perimeter line to the sheath sandwich and shape it accordingly.

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Using a piece of the same board material, cut a wedge corresponding to the upper red area in your paper template, leaving a bit sticking out as a little handle.  With the axe and wedge in place, bore a hole through the sheath and wedge for a wooden pin.  I reamed the hole to a slight taper and trimmed the pin to match.  That allows for a secure pressure fit, but a tight-fitting straight pin would work too.

With a few gouge cuts, I carved away some of the interior walls of the sheath near the back to allow for the thickening portions of the cheeks of the axe head.

There are many possibilities for wooden sheaths.  Just use your — imagination.

Posted in axe, green woodworking, layout, Lettering, patterns, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 8 Comments

Bright Shrink Pot

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Around me the trees stir in their leaves

and call out, “Stay awhile.”

The light flows from their branches.

Mary Oliver, from the poem “When I am Among the Trees”

That poetry excerpt may look familiar.  I shared it last year in this post, and the poem has now inspired this shrink pot carved in quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides).  Here it is spinning around in the slideshow below.  If you’re viewing this in your email program, click on the title of the post to open it and see all of the photos.

 

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The shrink pot is 7 1/2 inches (19cm) tall, 4 3/8 inches (11cm) diameter at the base.  I painted it a sky blue with artist oil paint, then carved through that surface with my penknife into the creamy white wood.

The lid was also carved from one piece of aspen.  It fits snugly to give a pretty good seal to whatever you want to keep inside.  It’s interesting that the fit changes slightly depending on the humidity.  On very humid days, the shrink pot expands slightly, and the lid pushes on relatively easily.  On drier days, the top gives a pleasing “pop” when it’s removed.

And here’s another surprise:  My daughter has a string of battery powered LED twinkle lights.  I popped them inside and…

I’ll offer this shrink pot for sale.  Price is $650 which includes shipping in the US.  I’ll also ship outside the US for a bit more.  If you’re interested, leave a comment below or email me at dandkfish@gmail.com.

Hoping you have a chance to take a walk and read some of Mary Oliver’s poetry this week.  She died earlier this year, but she continues to be an inspiration.  I put her on the cover of my latest sketchbook last week:

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Posted in paint, patterns, quotes and excerpts, sharpening, shrink box, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 16 Comments

Playing With Cool Sticks

IMG_9809Green woodworking can imply more than just the general notion of working wood that is still relatively fresh with a high moisture content.  Among other things, the term connotes the idea of working with nature, sensitively considering the unique attributes of each bit of tree, rather than thinking of a chunk of wood as just so much plastic.  The carver has to be flexible and adapt to what nature has provided in terms of the flow of fibers and other characteristics.  This can be a serendipitous journey between hands and material as the destination is slowly revealed.  To me, this is one of the most fun aspects of greenwood carving; I just like to play with cool sticks.

I gathered the stick that became this goose-inspired bowl from a small cherry tree that, after years of fighting for light beneath the canopy, had fallen in the woods.  Much of it was in the early stages of decay.  Among other pieces I put in my pack on successive walks, there was a sharp crook with patches of bark already missing and fungus at work on the sapwood.

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As I worked with it back in the shop, the solid heartwood revealed dark streaks and dramatic color variations.  The bend in the fibers guided the design and allowed for a thin elongated tail and a neck stretching upward.

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The twist in those fibers directed the serpentine line that flows from the beak to the tip of the tail.

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I don’t usually sand pieces, but in this case I didn’t want texture competing with the dramatic figure and color of the tree.  Scraping and sanding achieved the effect I wanted with this one.  Actually, there is some subtle contrast in the texture through the piece, with the inside surface left from the hook knife and the underside of the wings left from the gouge.  Fingertips will notice.

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It’s 14 inches measured in a straight line from the beak to the tip of the tail, 8 1/2 inches high, and 3 1/2 inches wide.  I need to hold on to this one for now, but I should have some other things to offer up soon.

Hoping you find some cool sticks this week.

Posted in bird bowls, bowls, cherry, figure, finding wood, green woodworking, Uncategorized | Tagged , | 13 Comments

Questions from Buzzards Bay

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Who was that masked man?

That’s just one of the questions I’ve been pondering since my return from a week in Buzzards Bay, Massachusetts.  As I looked through some photos from two bowl carving classes and the “Spoon Day” event that was sandwiched between them, I found myself asking some more:

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How lucky were we all to have Overbrook House as our base?

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How does Paula Marcoux  cook mouth-watering cuisine for dozens of hungry carvers?

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Photo by Sean Vivide

Is that the vegetarian option?

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Which way do the prevailing winds blow?

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How did James weave that adze sheath from ivy vines?

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What wisdom is Pret Woodburn channeling through his aspen bark crown?

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Photo by Sean Vivide

When Peter Follansbee signs copies of his new book, does he finish with a little heart or a smiley face?

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Photo by Sean Vivide

What are Peter and Tim Manney talking about in the shade back there?  My guess is that Tim is telling Peter how to make flutes from jewelweed (although they sound more like horns).

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Tim shared his method with other instructors as we prepared for Sunday’s big Spoon Day event.  The question is:  How exciting is it to hear a former professional trumpet player (Oliver Pratt) perform on a jewelweed flute?  I think Reid Swartz can answer that one best.

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Photo by Sean Vivide

How does Peter Follansbee deal with crooks?

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Photo by Sean Vivide

What is it about spoon carving that can draw people together in a grassy field?

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Which axe does Tim Shue prefer?  Anybody who attended Greenwood Fest 2018 remembers and appreciates Tim’s incredible skill with his “axe” in the form of a guitar. At Overbrook House this year, he treated a group of us to a performance of a lovely and thoughtful song he wrote and titled “Greenwood.”  By Tim’s kind permission, you can listen to it here.

Ben splitting log with Dave Buzzard's Bay 2019

How much should you trust someone with a sledge hammer?  If it’s Ben, completely.

Starting with split logs, 24 students (two separate classes) laid out, hollowed, hewed, and shaved bowls.  Amid the fray, I tried to snap some photos, but I’m afraid I missed some folks with the camera, so I apologize if you don’t see your photo in this simple slideshow of action shots (to view the slide show, you need to open the blog post in your browser by clicking on the title in your email view):

 

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What are the odds of bringing two dozen carving students together and finding them all to be kind, generous, funny, fascinating and all-around nice people?  Whatever the odds, bet on it.  Must be something in the wood.

For more photos and information about the event, including photos from JoJo Wood‘s spoon carving courses, check out Peter Follansbee’s recent post here and Plymouth CRAFT’s Facebook page here.

 

Posted in classes, events, Persons, teaching, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments

Bitty Bowl

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That’s either a mutant lemon or a really small bowl.  As you probably guessed, it’s a small bowl — less than nine inches long (8 7/8″ x 3 3/4″ x 2 1/4″ high).  It came from this 5″ diameter branch of red maple:

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I had been wanting to make a “model” bowl like this.  It’s a good way to explore a new design or experiment with proportions.  With less material and time invested, you won’t feel so bad about chucking the whole thing if it doesn’t work out.  If it does work out, you’ve learned a thing or two and now have a model on hand for reference when you make the larger version fit for a melon rather than a lemon.

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Preparing the blank and the general shaping go relatively quickly.  I didn’t use an adze at all.  I did use an axe to rough out the exterior, but with a bowl this size a chisel and mallet can do the job.  The time savings is less noticeable when it comes to the finer stages and decorative carving, but is still a factor.

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Maybe not the best fruit bowl, but still could be useful for serving small items like nuts or candy.  And the bitty size makes it a lot easier to pack and take along.

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Posted in bowls, finding wood, patterns, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 18 Comments