Friday, October 30, 2015

Greenwood Fest in June, and spoon carving/bowl turning fun in August

I am pleased as punch with how many events are shaping up for green woodworkers this summer.  If you have not heard, the folks at Plymouth CRAFT are putting on a "Greenwood Fest" the weeknd of June 10th.  They have secured the venue: the lovely Pinewood's Camp.  They are also in the process of securing instructors.  David Fisher has already committed to being one, which in and of itself is a reason to go.  But if that was not enough, I have gotten a lot of teasing emails from Peter and Dave about who else might be coming.  I have been sworn to secrecy, but suffice to say, when this registration opens, you need to sign up.  Don't miss this if at all possible.  Follow CRAFT's newsletter or Facebook page to stay on top of things.

Also, on a much, much smaller scale, in early August I am hosting a small gathering of Northeastern carvers.  The folks coming are largely those that I have met through the wonderful gatherings at Oliver's.  I am just trying to share the love with a great bunch of people.  We will carve spoons, turn some bowls on my lathe, and generally enjoy summer in New Hampshire.  That weekend is also the New Hampshire Craftsmen's Fair, so we might take a trip over to Sunapee and take in that scene.  Should be a blast.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

My new sketchbook, and spoon design.

I am sure all of us have had the experience of starting a much anticipated adventure, only to find that you have forgotten something crucial to getting the most out of that experience.  Like going to the Grand Canyon and forgetting to bring your camera?  Well, my most recent experience with this was arriving at Lie Nielsen for a class with Jogge Sundquist and realizing that I had forgotten to bring a sketchbook.  Thankfully my friend Dave gave me a few pages torn from his and I muddled by, but it was not the same.  I really missed having a sketchbook.
And what made this really annoying is that I had a lot of sketchbooks at home, in all shapes and sizes. I just can't seem to find one that really meets my needs, so I just keep buying more.  Sometimes the pages won't lie flat and I end up breaking the spine.  Sometimes the tooth of the paper is too fine and won't easily accept both pen and ink.  Most times the book disintegrates in my bag, the pages separating from the cardboard cover.  And where to put your pencil, ruler, eraser, etc...?  Shouldn't sketchbooks accommodate accessories?
So, I finally decided to make my own.

I chose to make a wrap-around cover out of full grain leather, secured with just a simple strap.  This offers great protection to the pages while the book bangs around in my bag.

Since I made it myself I could mix and match what paper went into the signatures, so I would never want for a particular type.  Drawing paper? Check.  Watercolor paper? Got that.  I even added vellum and brown packing paper just for kicks.  Because the signatures are stitched directly to the leather cover, the pages lie pretty flat, and if they don't I can mash them down with glee, knowing there is no spine to break.

I also added a pocket on the back inside of the cover for pencils, rulers and my drawing compass.

The compass been my new favorite tool in laying out new spoon designs (though I am enjoying using Don's SDK template.)  A while back I posted my thoughts on the book By Hand and Eye by Walker and Tolpin.  They describe how pre-industrial design was done largely by proportions as opposed to measurements, and this got me thinking about what basic measurements go into spoon design.  I have decided that bowl width is the "unit" of my spoons, so that all other elements are proportions of that.  The results of this sort of thinking look like this:

I lay out a key on the side, stepping out fractions of the diameter of the spoon bowl.  Once done, they become my "palate" for spoon design.  I still sketch the basic form, but the various circles help keep things symmetrical and in proportion.  Once done I trace onto plastic and make a template.

On a related note, Dave Fisher just posted a great bit on the importance of "Reference Sketching."

One more thing: the journal project was a great one to do with my daughters, who both wanted their own when they saw mine.  It is a relatively easy and safe project to do with kids.  While I had to cut out the leather and punch the holes in the leather for the signatures, the girls dyed the leather, punched the holes in the signatures and stitched the signatures in.  Saddle needles are not sharp, so not much risk there.  Now they are the envy of all of their friends.  Hannah chose brown, and Mazie chose the oxblood with added concho for bling.

Here is the vid that got me started:

Monday, October 12, 2015

Spoon gathering at Oliver's place, Columbus Day Weekend 2015

This past weekend I went back to Oliver's place for another spoon gathering.  It still amazes me that Oliver is so generous with his time and space.  To invite a bunch of spoon nerds he met on the internet into his home is really extraordinary, especially given that we all come with lots of knives and axes.  Thanks to Oliver and his family for hosting.

I wish I had taken more photos of his place. His barn is so cool that they rent it out for weddings.  An amazing space.  We made a mess of it.
Photo by Paula Jacobson

Of course, the people there were really why I came.  A chance to meet Alex Yerks, Don Nalezyty, Derek Sanderson, Pat Alan Diette, and Paula Jacobson was not to be missed.  I have been amazed by their work for a while so it was great to meet them and talk spoons.  I met some great new people, like Annie "Almond" Swift and Chuck Trella, and caught up with acquaintances from Oliver's last gathering.  Strangely, I took no photos of the people, save this one of Pat and Alex camping out.

The amount of craft on display was simply amazing.  We all brought examples of our own work and bits from our collections.  It was truly overwhelming.  That many examples of excellent design and execution sort of unrooted me.  So many directions to take, I don't quite know where to go now.
Photo by Paula Jacobson
Dan Music, photo by Jeff Kuchak
Craft was what I shot the most.  So many inspiring examples.
Jarrod Stone Dahl
Jan Harm ter Brugge

But again, meeting and carving with all of these great people was definitely the highlight of the trip. 
next three photos by Paula Jacobson
Oliver and I in heated discussion about boxes.  Looks like I am about to attack him with his own scorp.
Talking power strokes with Theresa and St├ęphanie.
(Not sure what Alex and Luc are discussing.  Maybe big spoons?  Must be the Pabst.)

Anyway, it was a fantastic weekend, full of excellent food (Don's pizza dinner and porridge breakfast were highlights for me) and great conversation.   Oliver, Paula and I discussed spoon design for quiet a while, which sort of got me back on track.  Next time, I will spend less time carving and more time watching, learning and shooting photos.  

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Remnants of Peter

Every fall for the past sixteen years I have gone to Plimoth Plantation with my U.S. History students.  It is a "working" day for me, but an easy one by all measure.  

like a day at the beach...

For those unfamiliar with Plimoth Plantation, it is a "living history museum," with role players interpreting both English and Wampanoag perspectives. You want to chat with Miles Standish or William Bradford, have at it.

With this much historical expertise, I pretty much leave the teaching to the staff and spend my time wandering around.  Over the years I found myself drawn more and more to the Craft Center, and especially Peter Follansbee's workshop.  As I have said elsewhere, Peter was a big reason why I got interested in green woodworking.

But Peter moved on to greener pastures (as have many of the Plimoth craft people), and so the place feels, well, a little empty.  The Craft Center has been renovated, but there does not seem to be much craft going on there.  It is pretty much a bakery and a gift shop now.  I did see one potter throwing period pieces on an electric wheel, and period food ways are certainly interesting and worthy of study, but it just does not feel the same.  For a living history museum, its presentation of craft was pretty dead.  I am sure they will get back on their feet, but it definitely felt like a transitional time for the museum.

And so this last visit I wandered through the Mayflower II and the 1627 English village, poking around and looking for signs of Peter's work. It was everywhere, like ghosts hiding in dimly lit corners.

This shot felt especially sad.  Peter's work, behind glass and with museum labels...

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Spoons from Maine--Jogge, David, Ben and Masashi

Jogge Sundqvist
Jogge Sundqvist, photo by Mike Murray
Jogge's roughed out spoons.  Photo by Mike Murray

Jogge illustrating the cross-thumb grasp

Spoon by Dave Fisher, out of witch hazel (who knew you could carve witch hazel!!!)
This spoon is so nice it deserves a post in itself.  Not a speck of wood to spare, and the lettering is gorgeous.

Spoon by Ben Kirk
Love that robust keel

Japanese lacquered spoon, by Masashi Kutsuwa.  His wife did the lacquering.  Seven or so thin coats. You can also make out the rough cloth under the lacquer on the handle.  I loved how its texture broke up the uniformity of the spoon.

The surface is not just shiny, it pulls you in...

Ainu spoon, from the collection of Masashi Kutsuwa

Engraving texture is like fish scales...