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

Contemporary Greenwood Exhibition


This “Folded Lowback” chair by Peter Galbert is among the items on display at the Contemporary Greenwood exhibition in Rockport, Maine.

Back at the beginning of September, I mentioned a couple upcoming exhibitions in this post.  Now, one has wrapped up (I think) and the other is still in full swing.

Many of the items on display at the Contemporary Greenwood Exhibition can now also be viewed on the CFFC website, so if you can’t make it up to Maine, you can check out the pieces at this link.

Lot’s of inspirational work like Pete’s chair to kick your imagination and hands into gear.

Posted in events, green woodworking, Uncategorized | Tagged , | 3 Comments

2019 Sundqvist/Coperthwaite Sloyd Fellowship

Masashi K

2019 Wille Sundqvist and Bill Coperthwaite Slöjd Fellowship recipient Masashi Kutsuwa

Anyone who has met Masashi Kutsuwa would understand the big smile that appeared on my face when, at Täljfest, Peter Lamb announced that he had been awarded the 2019 Wille Sundqvist and Bill Coperthwaite Slöjd Fellowship.

Jogge's Crew

Lie-Nielsen 2015.  Photo by Colin Hayward

I had the pleasure of meeting Masashi in 2015 in Maine at a Lie-Nielsen class taught by Jögge Sundqvist.  It was an incredible group gathered there, and Masashi was fascinating to talk with.  He also brought some wonderful spoons and other pieces from Japan.

Masashi, Kenneth, and Eric

Masashi Kutsuwa, Kenneth Kortemeier , and Eric Goodson at Lie-Nielsen in 2015.  Photo by Peter Follansbee

Masashi is a widely accomplished craftsman and ambassador for handcrafts.  He is richly deserving of this award.

Click on the link below for more information about the award and Masashi:

2019 Slöjd Fellowship Press Release

Masashi certificate

Which brings me back around to Peter Lamb, the maker of the birch bark certificate, close friend of Bill Coperthwaite, and tireless explorer and supporter of handcrafts.  There’s much more to know about Peter and his insights into the importance of working with our hands.  I highly recommend getting a copy of the latest issue (Issue 7) of Mortise and Tenon Magazine.  It features an interview with Peter Lamb in which he shares his rich experiences and thoughts.


This is another great issue from Joshua Klein and his crew at Mortise and Tenon.

Posted in events, green woodworking, Uncategorized, writing | Tagged , | 5 Comments

In the Beginning


Wanting to make another big cherry shrink pot like the one in this post, I put my big folding saw in my pack and walked to a nearby woodlot where a cherry tree had fallen a few months ago.  The saw revealed heartwood just wide enough for the size of pot I wanted (about 6″ diameter at the base).  I toted a chunk back to the workshop and dug in.  Here a few photos showing the beginning of a shrink pot.


I secured the log on my low bench with some giant holdfasts and, standing on the bench myself, started in with the 2″ T-handle auger.  Something so simple can be such a sensory delight; the body twisting and exerting itself, the crunching sound of the edge slicing through end grain, the sight of fresh chips flowing from the top, the perfume filling the shop.  Even Tom Sawyer wouldn’t trade away this bit of work.


For a shrink pot this big, there’s still a lot of material to be removed.  I expand the original hole by working around and around with a mallet and gouge.  I flip the log back and forth a few times to work from both ends.


I want this pot to be all darker heartwood, so I split off the bulk of the sapwood with a froe.


The froe leaves some wood still to be shaved away with the drawknife.  I do that at the bowl horse, but forgot to take a photo.  Pretty easy to imagine though.


Then I clean up the inside a bit by paring with a gouge.  Although the perspective in the photo distorts it a bit, the pot is tapered, an inch narrower at the top than at the bottom, so working the gouge from top to bottom on the inside works with the grain to achieve the cleanest cuts.


A view from above.


Now the bottom is in place and the walls can quietly close in on this first stage.

Posted in cherry, holding, shrink box, tools, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 12 Comments