Wednesday, March 19, 2014


Been experimenting with kolrosing recently.

For a tutorial, see Del Stubbs' site.  Basically you cut a line into the wood and drive pigment in (ground coffee works great, though I am experimenting with other effects.)  I am still working out a system so that my left thumb does not hurt so much as I push/lever the blade along.  I want to find a thimble that will fit my thumb, but no luck yet.  When finished you need to remove the excess pigment to reveal the lines beneath.  I have been shaving the surface with my knife, which leaves a nice, crisp line so long as you don't go too deep.  Others sand the surface to reveal the line, but I never got as crisp a result with sanding.  That said, Jarrod Stone Dahl suggested that sanding serves an additional purpose. It folds fibers over the cut and helps keep the pigment in place.  I did have some pigment fall out on the two right-most spoons, so maybe I will try that again.  He also said burnishing would do the same.  Must experiment with that.
Also, I have not tried sealing the wood, as suggested on Del Stubbs' tutorial.  Should try that as well.

Oh, here is another great resource:

Sunday, March 16, 2014

My piece of paradise

Photos from my snowshoe this morning.
Our house.  Morning light is just clearing the ridge and coming into the valley.
This is a fire pit.  Must be two feet of crusty snow.  It will be April before we see the ground!
Beech, when bent over, sprout ladle handles!
All I see are spoons.
... and kuksas.  I have had my eye on this burl for a while now

Ellie likes the view.
Frosty dog.
View from the top of "our" hill.
Don't let her smile fool you.  She is done with shoveling the deck.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

"Why We Make Things And Why It Matters" By Peter Korn

I have been teaching social studies for nineteen years now, and for whatever reason, I have been feeling a little despondent about my present "craft."  I am not finding it as fulfilling as I once did, and I often catch myself daydreaming about making spoons for a living.  Could I support my family making and selling treen?

As part of this fantasizing, I just read Peter Korn's new book.

Part autobiography, part meditation on the importance of craftsmanship, Korn details his evolution from carpenter to furniture maker to craft school founder, all the while outlining his philosophy of craft.  He proposes lots of interesting ideas in the book, including a quick summary of how the idea of the "craftsman" was born during the Arts and Crafts Movement as a reaction against the industrial world.  But his central argument is that making things changes our mental maps.

Korn argues that everyone understands the world by way of "mental maps."  We take on maps like a Mr. Potato Head, adding a bit from religion and maybe another bit from politics, and this conglomeration of maps helps us make sense of the world.  For example, recently there was a great post on a greenwood Facebook group that a follow.  It consisted of a photo of the US Capitol building with cherry trees in the foreground and a caption that asked what you saw: the US Capitol, or potential spoons?  As a history teacher I see the US Capitol, but now that I make spoons, I was also drooling over those cherry limbs.  Our maps are a prism through which we see the world, filtering and sorting information and helping us make sense of it.

These ideas are not new, of course.  Plato's theory of forms does a pretty freaking good job exploring this idea, and Wayne Dyer probably said it most succinctly: "When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change."  Still, what Korn adds is the role that craft plays in our mental mapping.  He argues that craft helps us take charge of our mental maps.  He feels that the maps we inherit from society sort of have their way with us, and that the process of creation helps us take control of our maps, insert our values into those maps, and even alter society at large.  Through craft I certainly explore form and function, but I also explore values.  For me, making treen pushes back against our fast-paced, mass-produced world;  they are objects of integrity that transform everyday routines into moments of memory and love.  As Korn puts it, "However a person chooses to go about it, creative practice directly challenges the status quo of his mental map, impinges upon his core models of identity, and impacts the beliefs of others" (162).

But isn't this what I already aspire to do as a teacher?  On my best days students walk out of class with their brains stretched, stepping into a world different than the one they knew when the walked into class.  More importantly, I hope they leave the course with the tools to upgrade their own mental maps after they leave school.  I think Korn would recognize that work as much like his own, both his craft work and his educational work.

So, if this is the case, then why am I feeling unfulfilled with my teaching these days?  Why am I spending so much time thinking about spoon or bowl design, and even writing in this blog?  Korn says contentment comes from creative practice, but I am not feeling so creative in the classroom these days, thus not so contented.  Most of my creativity seems to be spent on spoons.  I think I need to stop coasting and throw myself back into my teaching.  I have known this for a while, in the back of my head, but writing this helps.  Time to get creative again.

But even if teaching brought me more contentment, craft would still hold an important place for me, and this place is something that Korn does not really touch on in his book.  Another hobby of mine is bike riding and racing, and I have spent many summers working in bike shops as a mechanic to fund/feed that hobby.  Wrenching on bikes was not simply about being close to bikes or affording a new wheel set; it also allowed me to use another side of my brain, working with my hands to transform parts into a working whole.  In find using my hands as hands to be very satisfying, especially since I spend so much time as a teacher living "in my head."  I am sure some have written about this, but I have not found them yet.  Any suggestions are much appreciated.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

The Fisher Bowl

Many thanks to Dave Fisher.  Now I have to see if I can do it on my own!  Cherry with flaxseed oil finish.

Monday, March 3, 2014

A few new spoons

Both apple, I believe.  Soaked in warm walnut oil and beeswax for about five hours.  I love the "wrinkling" of the grain in the stem of the first darker eating spoon.  The lighter colored "tasting spoon" has a nice bowl to it, though I think I could have paid more attention to the profile of the stem. [Just learned that the "wrinkling" is called "chatoyancy," same effect in minerals like tiger's eye].

My wife found my stash.

My wife confronted me with a rather suspicious ziplock baggie that she found in the back of the freezer.  "What the heck is this?" she asked.  I looked at my toes and stammered, "spoon blanks."
I am still trying to find good ways to keep my spoon blanks fresh until I can get around to carving them.  Any ideas would be much appreciated.