Perpetual Thanksgiving


I am grateful for what I am and have.  My thanksgiving is perpetual.  It is surprising how contented one can be with nothing definite,–only a sense of existence.

Henry David Thoreau, letter to H.G.O. Blake, 6 December 1856

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Sign Auction


The sign now, with light coming from the upper right.

It’s been four months since I wrote a blog post about carving this sign for Jennie Alexander.  Since then, the leaves have fallen and the oiled oak has begun to take on a patina.  Although Jennie was able to see photos of the finished sign, she passed away before she was able to receive it.  After a lot of thought and talking with Jennie’s daughter and others close to her, I’ve decided to auction the sign and donate the money to the recently established Plymouth CRAFT Green Woodworking Scholarship.

This scholarship has already received some generous contributions, and they will allow many people over the coming years to participate in Plymouth CRAFT classes and events who would have otherwise been unable to.  I think that Jennie would have supported such an idea, especially considering the special relationship between her and Peter Follansbee, one of Plymouth CRAFT’s founders and most active instructors.


The sign in July, with light coming from the upper left.

After researching all sorts of options, including raffles, many options involve tangled legal webs and reporting issues.  So I’m going to keep it simple:  I’ve just posted the sign for sale on ebay.  The link is here.  I’ll ship the sign to the winner of the auction, then I’ll donate all of the proceeds to The Plymouth CRAFT Scholarship Fund.


There’s more information about the sign and the carving process on the original blog post.  It is 29 1/2″ x 7 3/4″.  The thickness tapers from roughly 1/2″ to 3/4″ from bottom to top as it was radially split from the tree.  White oak — Jennie’s favorite.


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On Eating Spoons and Such


I finished carving a few eating spoons and bowls recently.  There are many factors to consider when making objects such as these that will be held and used daily.  First among these is wood choice.  Relatively dense hardwoods with tight grain are generally stronger and less absorbent than softer or open-pored species.  The spoons above are all black cherry except for the fourth from the left, which is American sycamore.  The fact that they’re all from branch crooks also allows for more delicacy and thinness while maintaining strength.


Carved accents can be a nice touch.  The three patterns on these spoons were all achieved by combining the same sort of triangular chip cuts in different ways.  One benefit of sliced, rather than sanded, surfaces is the lack of grain raising in use and after washing.


The interior surface of this cherry eating bowl allows the eating spoon to glide along getting the last bit of ice cream.


The outside can be textured and or painted in a variety of ways as with the maple bowl above.  For more on this, keep your eyes on Fine Woodworking Magazine.  I’ve written an article that goes step-by-step on the carving of eating bowls like these, including subtle design options, that will be in a future issue.

I wrote in this post about my typical oil treatment for bowls.  Cleanup is just a matter of a quick wash at the sink, then dry with a towel.  After a while you can re-treat to freshen the surface if you’d like.   I also have some information on treatment and care on this page of my website.


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Maple Hen


I just finished a hen bowl in maple and left it natural except for the bit of red paint on the comb.  Besides the lack of paint on the body, I made a couple other changes compared to those I’ve carved before.


The most obvious difference is the longer tail feathers.  This log was long enough to allow for them, so I used it up.  The finished bowl is 15 inches long, 7 inches wide, and 4 3/4 inches high.  The coloration of the wood near the beak and tail occurred while the log was in storage.  Begins pretty quickly in maple, and I like the effect in this case.


Here’s the blank prepared and laid out.


I hollow it out first.  The adze does a bit of the work, but with such a deep and undercut hollow it gets put aside pretty quickly in favor of a bent gouge.  After that, the remainder of the hollowing work is done with a spoon bent gouge and hook tools.  Then I hew the outside with an axe and follow up with a spokeshave.  Then it’s ready to dry before moving on.


After drying, I sketch on the ridge lines between the flutes to be carved and dig in with a gouge.  Just keep it between the lines.  I wrote a post about that general process here.

One last shot with the oiled hen tilted for a better view of the hollow and crest.





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Shrink Pots, Paint and Lettering

IMG_8057   IMG_8059

If weep you must, then weep; but weep that tears must be, and be

Gentle and grow as, weeping to the ground, the willow tree;

And grace will come, lighting the eyes of heaven, after thee.

Catherine Breese Davis, Be Graced

The shrink pot above is the result of being asked to design and make a shrink pot to feature a portion of a beloved poem.   This pot, as well as a couple others, will let me share some brief thoughts on lettering and painting ideas I’ve been exploring.

The CBD shrink pot above has a square base; as long as the pith was in the middle, the pot walls will shrink around a square as well.  This is the same idea as the rectangular base of the book style shrink pots like the one you can see part way down this post.  After boring a 2″ hole through, I used a long gouge to shape the tapering square hollow of the interior.

The outside was textured with long loose cuts with a wide shallow gouge, then painted with a couple different layers of glazes of thinned artist oil paints.  After carving the willow leaves, I added another layer of thin green, and wiped it off the surface of the rest of the pot.  Then I cut the letters, leaving them the natural color of the aspen wood.

IMG_6717I used a similar technique on this shrink pot to the right.  After painting a very thin, and relatively bright, blue over the pot, I carved the trees and the undulating rim.  Then I painted a thin black over all, wiping the surface completely right after; like applying and wiping off wood stain.  The black pigment was accepted readily by the bare wood of the trees and rim.  However, on the surface that had been painted a bright blue, it only deepened the color of the blue to a sort of twilight blue.

There are many other ways to play around with different color combinations and carving sequences.

Of course, there are still many occasions where I want the character of the wood to speak for itself.  The slide show below shows a cherry shrink pot made by request for a wedding gift.  The couple was married in the mountains of Indonesia, and the words refer to how the couple met.

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Sharpen your knife and make some chips.



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Before-and-After Dragon


I’ve completed the carving on one of the cherry dragon ale bowls I roughed out a month ago, and thought I’d share a few photos to contrast the piece after the final carving with its unfinished twin.  The same ideas carry over to other bowl designs as well.

In the photo above, the rough cuts left from the green carving stage are evident in the dragon in the foreground, as well as the darker color that develops through oxidation as the piece dries.  The cuts of the dry carving stage reveal a fresh surface, the color of which will deepen with the application of oil, time and sunlight to a rich reddish brown.

In the photos below, you can see various surface and form refinements as well as added details such as the teeth.  The wood is significantly harder after drying, so I remove as much as I can while it’s green.  The dry wood responds with crisp cuts and a burnished surface.


Cherry dragon ale bowl roughed green, waiting for finish carving.


Cherry dragon ale bowl after finish carving, waiting for oil — and ale.



Spokeshave marks on the left, gouge texture on the right.


View from above. I’m even more diligent to remove all I can in the hollow when green, leaving just a light surface carving in there after drying.

It’s 13 1/2 inches long and will hold 24 ounces.  Now to oil it and get it on its way to a very patient and thirsty person.


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Florida in February

Florida postcardIf you want to drop in for three days at the Florida School of Woodworking in Tampa, I’ll be teaching a bowl carving class there as part of Fine Woodworking’s Hands On Tampa event February 1-3, 2019.  I’ve never spent a single day of winter where there’s no winter, but I’ll manage somehow.  They tell me we may even get to carve outside — in February!

There are seven other classes as well, with a list of instructors that I would love to learn from, including Mary May and Peter Galbert. Registration has now opened.  Check it out at the link above.

I’ll be in Plymouth again too — after things warm up next year.  More on that and other possibilities later as things take shape.


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