Beaver Connections

Three Beavers

Three Beavers Building a Dam, J. H. W. Tischbein, German, c. 1800.  Courtesy of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Since sharing some photos of beaver activity in a blog post a couple weeks ago I’ve made a few more beaver connections.  One goes way back to Aesop.

A703, 39

“Aesop’s Fables with His Life: in English, French and Latin,” 1687. Folger Digital Image Collection

If, like me, you weren’t familiar with that unsettling story, this should help to explain the illustration.

Now for a  much more inspiring beaver connection.  Barry Gordon shared a couple photos of spoons he made in collaboration with beavers:

Barry Gordon beaver spoonBarry Gordon beaver spoon 2

Barry has been carving spoons for a long time, and has a gift for finding potential in unusual pieces of wood.  Check out his beautiful work here.

Drew Langsner is busy with many creative endeavors, including one that I think you’ll hear more about before long.  He shared this photo of the pattern left behind on some beaver-eaten sticks Louise had collected:

Langsner Beaver Sticks

This Northwest Coast bowl, carved around the turn of the 20th century, captures a bark-eater in the act

Beaver Bowl Cleveland MA

Beaver-shaped Bowl, c. 1890-1920, courtesy of the Cleveland Museum of Art

It all inspired me to texture this big cherry hanger with my hook knife.  My teeth wouldn’t cut it.


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Spoonfest and Täljfest, Summer 2019


In between other projects, I was able to spend some time roughing some spoons from a bunch of crooks I’ve gathered this winter.  I already mentioned that I’ll be doing some of that at the Plymouth CRAFT’s big Spoon Day in Buzzards Bay in June.  Now I’m excited to say I’ll be making chips August 1-4 across the Pond in England at Spoonfest 2019.  What an incredible experience it is sure to be.  I’m looking forward to seeing old friends, meeting new ones, learning, teaching, demonstrating, and walking those Edale hills.  Having never been out of the States other than a couple excursions into nearby Canada, this alone would have been a thrilling adventure.  But then there’s more…


I’ll also be taking my adze to Sweden.  A few days after Spoonfest, I’ll be at Sweden’s Sätergläntan school for Täljfest 2019.  I’ll be teaching some workshops and demonstrating, along with trying to take in all that I can from the other presenters and the inspiring surroundings, including pieces by Bengt Lidström and Wille Sundqvist.


In the meantime, I’ll pick away at the spoons.  Old Man Winter is cooperating with plenty of cold storage for them outside.  In like a lion…

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Icy River Walk


I like walking along the river near my house, really more of a creek.  The ebb and flow of the water and the seasons always brings something new to see.


As the water level receded last weekend, ice ornaments sparkled from the branches just above the flow of the Little Shenango.


Beyond the river bank, the ice took different form.


Shallow pools in the floodplain had frozen over, capturing yesterday’s maple leaf and tomorrow’s skunk cabbage.


There are pictures in the ice too.  I can’t be the only one that sees a happy fish there.


There were also fresh signs of coppicing above the ice,


but this wasn’t cut with an axe or billhook.


I spied the woodworker yesterday afternoon and watched from a distance as she (or he?) munched on bark in the pool — now free of ice.  There may be some spoonwood laying down there.


Until I can take a closer look, I’ve got some cherry branch crooks to work into spoons.  Got to stay in practice for the big Spoon Day in Buzzards Bay!  I’m looking forward to learning from some of the best spooncarvers around and to simply being part of what is sure to be an inspirational day in June.  Checkout the lineup and the details at this link.  We’ll have a blast.  Hope to see you there.

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Rooftop Bird with 12/12 pitch


It’s been a couple years since I wrote this post about a bowl orientation I call a rooftop bowl.  In it, I discussed working with this type of blank and suggested experimenting with quarter-log splits and other angles.  Of course, the acuteness of angle will affect the overall design, but there are no magic numbers.  All else being equal, a more obtuse angle will result in a bowl with higher and wider outer edges, while a bowl cut from a more acute angle will have a more dramatic sweep along the rim when viewed at eye level.  This is comparable to the differences resulting from varying the radii of archtop bowls.


This view may make the roof-top angle more clear.

A friend has been spurring me on to experiment more with the rooftop orientation.  In the case of this hen bowl, the angle is 90°, so 1/4 of a walnut log.  In roofing terms, that would be a 12/12 pitch since there’s 45° to both sides of vertical.  The 1/3 log (120° overall) would be about a 7/12 pitch, in the spirit of the “rooftop” terminology.  Here’s the blank after some rough hollowing with the adze.


Notice that I’d already chunked away some material under the tail.  Normally I wouldn’t bother with that before hollowing, but removing that bit of wood actually preceded the layout.  As I was shaving the underside of the blank a couple dark pin knots appeared.


A couple more strokes and a nicked drawknife later, I realized what they really were:


I was able to saw beyond them then split the chunks away.  You’ve often got to be flexible with your designs, working with what the piece of tree brings to you.  I love that aspect.  Thus, I diverted from my first thoughts of a non-bird bowl toward the design of this hen with the tail lifted above where the nails had been.


The bowl after some rough hewing of the exterior with an axe.

There were a number of new elements to this piece, including the shape of the tail and its hollowed underside.  In the photo below, things are starting to take shape.


This shot was taken after some more carving.  One angle of the top rests on the bench, while the other will butt up against the clamped block as the piece is pushed forward between it and the wood peg.  There’s always a way.


The bowl is 18 inches long, 9 1/2 wide, and 6 3/4 inches high.  I’m going to hold on to this one for a bit while I do some exploring with related designs.  Here are a few more photos taken after some oil:





Happy carving!


Posted in bird bowls, bowls, finding wood, holding, layout, Uncategorized, walnut | Tagged , , , | 20 Comments

Tampa BowlMates


Charlie pares the hollow of his bowl.

Last weekend’s Fine Woodworking Hands-On event in Tampa was a rich experience.  Never having been to Florida, it was a bit surreal for me; temperatures in the upper 70s in February, palm trees, a manatee…like another world.

Kate Swann, Carl Johnson, and the rest of the crew at the Florida School of Woodwork did an outstanding job hosting the event and getting materials and equipment ready for us, including these adaptations of Robin Wood’s BowlMate.  Not having much access to appropriate logs, Carl designed and built these from  tulip poplar timber — with removable legs for storage.  They worked great, as do many other options.

There are lots of methods for holding a chunk of wood or a bowl in place.  The best one depends upon the situation, including the resources available.  For more ideas, check out the “holding” topic from the pulldown menu on the right.  The BowlMate relies on an old idea of wedging the workpiece between two stops.  Opposing wedges with a slim taper can hold with a rock-solid grip.  The notch at the end can be used in creative ways, including holding a bowl between it and the carver’s body.

I wish I had thought to take more photos of the event overall, but I was able to snap some photos of the students at work on their bowlmates.  Here’s the slideshow:

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There’s a couple people missing from the photo, but here’s most of the crew with their bowls in progress.  The bowls will be nice reminders of our time working, learning and laughing together.



They’ve got strange pointy trees down there.


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travelers painting cma

Travelers in Hilly Countryside (c. 1650), Aelbert Cuyp  Image courtesy of Cleveland Museum of Art

Later this week, I’ll be leading my donkey to Tampa for Fine Woodworking Magazine’s Hands On event.  Kate Swann and her crew down at the Florida School of Woodwork have been hard at work getting things ready for classes for eight instructors.  Carl Johnson posted a short video of the tree we’ll turn into bowls:

In June, Plymouth CRAFT is letting me return for a special five days of carving along with JoJo Wood.  JoJo will be teaching spoon carving and I’ll be teaching bowl carving.  Each of us will be teaching two classes June 7-8, and June 10-11 with a spooncarving “melee” in between on the 9th.


This one will be in Buzzards Bay, Massachusetts.  We’ll have a great time.  Registration opens this Saturday, February 2.  Check out the details at this link.


By the way, the image at the top of this post is thanks to the Cleveland Museum of Art joining a growing number of museums digitizing their collections and making them accessible to the public, in many cases free of any restrictions.  CMAs mission is to “create transformative experiences through art, for the benefit of all the people forever,” and this move is meant to foster that.  Read more about it here, including a link to search the collection.  And if you ever have a chance to travel to Cleveland, be sure to check out the museum in person.  I had the museum guards following me around there one time.  I must have been  looking so hard at stuff that I raised their suspicions.  Or maybe it was the glass cutter.

Posted in classes, events, finding wood, green woodworking, teaching, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

Cherry Bird


I’ve made many bird bowls, but there always seems to be another design twist to play with.  In the case of this latest one from a large cherry crook, I carved a single flute that runs the length of the piece along both sides.  That flute is sort of divided into narrower flutes.


The body and wings have a smooth surface that contrasts with the toolmarks of the hollow and the flute.  Thankfully, the card scraper left just a little smoothing to be done with very fine sandpaper.

img_880117″ long, 5″ wide, 5 3/4″ high.



And I’ll end with some real birds.  After the heavy snow last weekend, we were treated to robins feasting on the overripe little fruits of our flowering pear trees.  Always nice to see them.




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