Last weekend, I was hollowing a big deep bowl from a cherry log. After the adze work, I reached for a tool I use from time to time to fine tune the form of a large hollow. I’ve seen tools like this called inshaves or scorps, so take your pick. I’ll call it an inshave here.

You can find dozens of different inshaves available with a quick search. Chairmakers would know more about them than me. I’m only familiar with this one, which I like for bowls because it comes back together more at the top than most, which keeps the hands in tight which is more important in a deep bowl than with a chair seat.

The handles also sweep back enough to stay clear of the bowl. There are scorps with a single handle, but I think the double provides more control.

I purchased this one nearly 20 years ago from Massachusetts blacksmith Ray Larsen who had a business called Genuine Forgery. He wrote at least one article in Fine Woodworking magazine back in 1977, and he also wrote the book Tool Making for Woodworkers. It’s a very practical book for anyone who wants to make or adjust some of their own tools. I’ve referred to it many times over the years. I found an interesting article about Ray and some of his later artistic toolmaking explorations.

Of course, like all of these edge tools, it doesn’t work well if I don’t keep it really sharp. Even after all these years, I’m still amazed at how the performance of a tool is transformed after even a touch-up. I’m getting better at reminding myself of that more often.

Another way to fair the interior is with a modified travisher. I wrote a post about this one a couple years ago.

Neither of these tools is a necessity for carving bowls, but they’re nice options for certain circumstances.

I’ve hewn the outside of the bowl now, and, after it dries, I’ll put the final surface on the hollow by paring with a sharp gouge.

Posted in books, bowls, cherry, tools, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

Follow the Bent

I was not anchored to a house or farm, but could follow the bent of my genius, which is a very crooked one, every moment.

Henry David Thoreau, Walden

I can’t seem to locate my genius, but I have been finding some nice bent branches lately. I love roaming along the river and through pockets of woods this time of year. The deer ticks are frozen and the leafless branches have revealed their forms.

Between some heavy snow load in early winter and a trimming operation along the railroad tracks, there have been treasures to find. I carry a little folding saw in my backpack in the chance that I may find one or two to bring home for spoons or a bird bowl. The one pictured above is hawthorn.

I prefer to split crooks with my froe. Once the froe is driven into the end of the branch, the leverage provides a huge advantage to pop it open.

The two in the photo above (with a post-walk Chip napping in the background) are border privet. It is very fine grained and makes nice spoons. An invasive species here, it grows tangled and thick in areas beside the river. Crawling along deer trails is sometimes the only way through it.

Above, the blank has been split out and cleaned up with axe and adze, ready for more axe work.

I always split along the pith. The “bottom” half is normally unusable, containing the remainder of the broken branch that led to the crookedness to begin with, but I can sometimes split the upper half again to get two blanks, or more on a rare occasion. Sometimes I get really lucky as with the maple branch above from a couple weeks ago. The piece in the back was just under the piece in the foreground.

Here’s the split surface still untouched along the back side. We’ll see this again when it’s finished.

Keep your eyes open. Some of those spoon shapes don’t stick around long.

Posted in finding wood, green woodworking, quotes and excerpts, spoons, trees, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 6 Comments

Library Bench

Sometime around 1980 I borrowed a Charlie Brown book from the Greenville Public Library. Then I lost it, then found it three years later. I don’t remember if any late fees were ever paid. What a scoundrel.

This fall, I seized an opportunity for redemption as the Library sought a bench in honor of a longtime dedicated volunteer. The bench would also serve the practical purpose of offering a place for patrons to rest in the foyer.

I drew up a design and then went to my local sawyer, Lou, who came through once again. Lou Loreno and his son, John, are the kind of guys that can do anything, from restoring giant old machinery to rebuilding the foundation of a three-story barn. They also understand trees and how to transform them into sound beautiful lumber on their band mill.

Lou and John had rescued some big cherry trees that had been taken down at a construction site. They had the perfect 8/4 plank for me, 10 feet long and 18″ of clear heartwood across. The bench is 5 feet long, 18″ wide, and 18″ high. Below is a slideshow with a few photos of the bench (when it was still at our house), along with some shots I snapped during construction.

A quote from Betty Smith’s A Tree Grows in Brooklyn was selected for me to carve on the front edge of the bench. The bench top ended up at 1 3/4″ thick, so the letters are about 1 1/4″ high. In hard kiln-dried cherry, this requires more than a penknife. After drawing the letters with a pencil, I removed much of the material with a v-tool and mallet. The photo below shows the inscription after just the work with the v-tool, which goes relatively quickly. Certainly legible already, but with much attention still needed.

In the shot below the word “The” has been finished with knife and gouge, which shows the difference next to the letters still to go.

With the bench on its side and a board spanning the legs, I had a convenient rest for my tools as I carved.

It’s an honor to have been able to do the bench. I like libraries, and I’ve got lots of memories in this one, from working on (pre-internet) term papers to taking my own children there to pick out books, usually back on time.

Posted in carving, cherry, Lettering, quotes and excerpts, Uncategorized | Tagged , | 36 Comments


10-month-old Chip playing on a walk in the woods recently.

When I was a kid, the day after Christmas would find me on the floor before a pile of Legos, a Lite Brite, or maybe a brand new box of crayons. Not a care in the world, playing. Trying out new ideas, stretching my mind, learning. Of course, I had no such goals — I was simply at play, delighting in possibilities.

Now I’m not a kid, and the cares of the world swarm around me. Yet greenwood carving provides me with all sorts of opportunities to play, and I find myself refreshed with a childlike exuberance that quiets the buzzing.

Fitting play into our lives is important for many reasons and there is all sorts of research on the idea. If you approach at least some of your time in the workshop with a sense of play, you’ll reap benefits in terms of what you produce and in terms of satisfaction. You don’t really even have to try. It comes naturally as it does for a child.

For me, the fun and exploration begins with finding material. Walking through little pockets of woodlands with the excuse of looking for fallen trees and branches is an adventure. Finding something is a bonus. If you have a fun-loving dog or child to take along, you’ll find even more inspiration.

Play in a sketchbook. Let your mind go free with (sometimes) absurd ideas that may lead to something wonderful, or may not. The paper and pencil act like an extension of your brain, leading to all sorts of fun connections. It’s about drawing, not the drawing.

Try some of these ideas in the workshop. Explore them with a sense of excitement, fully aware that they may not work out as expected. Some of the possibilities might be whimsical. I wrote a post a few years ago with some toy ideas.

And, of course, playmates are nice. Friends, axes, knives, wood chips. Wishing you all a happy 2021 with more playdate opportunities!

Posted in Uncategorized | 14 Comments


I have some spoons for sale. Although there are a dozen in the photo, one has already been removed from the mix, so eleven are available. If you’d like one, send me an email at You can pay through Paypal or by sending a check. In either case, I’ll get it boxed up and on the way to you right away. The prices include shipping, so the price you see is the total amount. All are from branch crooks except for two. All surfaces are straight from the knife. I’ll list dimensions for each spoon below and the apple will provide an additional sense of scale.

I will update the post by indicating which spoons have sold. The updates won’t show up in your email browser, but will at the blog post itself.

#1: Cherry serving. 12 1/2″ x 3 1/4″ $140 includes shipping. SOLD

#2: Red Maple serving. 8 1/2″ x 2 1/4″. Carved lettering “Fika?” I was introduced to the concept of Fika in 2019 at Täljfest. $140 includes shipping. SOLD

#3: Cherry small eating spoon — for little bites. 5 3/4″ x 1 3/8″. $65 includes shipping. SOLD

#4: Red maple cooking/serving. 10 3/4″ x 2 1/2″. “Peacock” milk paint on handle. $110 includes shipping. SOLD

#5: Rhododendron serving. Ideal for lefty. 9″ x 3 1/2″ $110 includes shipping. SOLD

#6: Cherry cooking/serving. Straight-grained cherry, not a crook. 11″ x 2 1/4″ $65 includes shipping. SOLD

#7: Cherry cooking/serving. Straight-grained cherry, not a crook. 11″ x 2 1/4″ $65 includes shipping. SOLD

#8: Red Maple serving. 5 1/2″ x 2 1/4″. Tight little crook with carved lettering, “Hold me.” $130 includes shipping. SOLD

#9: Cherry serving. 10 1/2″ x 2 3/4″ $120 includes shipping. SOLD

#10: Cherry scoop. 5 1/2″ x 2″. Organic form that follows the fibers of this twisty crook. $60 includes shipping. SOLD

#11: Cherry serving. 8 1/2″ x 2″. Carved lettering, “Take time.” $130 includes shipping. SOLD

Posted in spoons, Uncategorized | 16 Comments

With Flutes on the Side

I tried a new fluting pattern by going from foot to rim on the side of this cherry bowl.

I sketched some lines on in pencil as a general guide for the carving.

Then I worked from the center to the right…

…then back the other way. I like the slight variations that result from the repeated short cuts.

Anyway, cutting across the grain like that was a good solution for dealing with the band of interlocked grain.

This one is 17″ x 6 1/2″ x just under 4″ high. It’s already spoken for, but I have some other pieces nearing completion, including several spoons that should be ready to post sometime next week.

Posted in bowls, patterns, Uncategorized | 9 Comments

If You Still Haven’t Made a Shrink Pot

Making a shrink pot may be the most magical thing you can do in green woodworking. You can carve bowls and spoons from dry wood, but a shrink pot’s gotta shrink. I revisit the process regularly, and I was working on the one above from a bent length of quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides) from a recent windfall. So I thought I’d share some photos from my work with this one detailing a few steps to encourage you to share in the fun.

I’ve written a bunch of posts about shrink pots, beginning with this one that presents the general idea.

I’ve discussed my process for boring the initial hole and the rest before (see the other posts), but for this one with a bit of curve along the 10″ length, I went half way in from both ends at a bit of an angle to each other — aiming for the center in the middle. Then I widened and shaped the curving interior by working along the grain with a gouge from both ends.

After the inside is formed, I shave away the excess material from the outside, but just to a rough stage. Much more will be done after drying. Depending on the size and design of the pot, I leave a wall thickness of 5/16″ to 1/2″ at the base. 3/8″ (9mm) is a good general target.

Next comes the groove for the bottom, but it’s worth taking the time now to make sure the bottom is flat and that it supports the pot above vertically or however you’d like it to sit. One way to at least make sure there’s no wobble is to rub a pencil on a piece of paper, then rub the pot bottom over that.

The graphite will transfer to the high areas.

You can shave them with a knife, but I like to use a block plane while pushing the pot down against the upper edges of my partially-open vise jaws. Any gap between boards will work.

Here’s the cutter I used to form the groove in this pot. I wrote about making it here.

I cut a slight outward taper from the groove to the bottom of the pot with a knife (forgot to take a photo — the shot above is before that). You can cut a (slightly different) groove with a knife, and there are other ways as well.

I trace that inner rim to a dry board, but in this case, it was still a real circle, so I just measured and struck the board with a compass.

I cut it out roughly with a coping saw, then trim to the line with a knife, followed by chamfering both upper and lower corners to form a V profile to the edge.

It should be a snug fit on the way in, requiring some pushing and/or tapping.

Then, with a little “pop,” it will find the groove. It will shake around in the groove at first, then become tight over the next few days as the walls constrict around it.

Once it’s dry, you can go ahead and make the finished pot, or you can wait quite a while. But I’ve waited long enough! I’m ready to get back to these now, with lots of ideas.

Posted in shrink box, Uncategorized | Tagged | 13 Comments

Print News from Chip

Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.

Groucho Marx

Chip would like to point out some news from the world of books and magazines. Lost Art Press is getting ready to start the second print run On Jennie Alexander and Peter Follansbee’s Make a Joint Stool from a Tree. It’s the product of a special collaboration over many years and an invaluable book. The remaining copies from the first printing are being offered at a special price.

While you’re at it, pick up the latest issue of Fine Woodworking Magazine. Not only did Peter write a detailed article on making a carved box (full of great photos by Barry Dima), but the wise folks at FWW put Peter on the cover. I haven’t received my hard copy in the mail yet, but it was great to read Peter’s take on it. I remember my excitement as a nine-year-old when this cover hit newsstands:

Sports Illustrated December 24 1979 Terry Bradshaw/Pittsburgh Steelers & Willie  Stargell/Pittsburgh Pirates on Cover (Sportsmen of the Year), UCLA Bruins  Basketball, Winterlude in Ottawa, College Bowl Previews: meremart: Books

Now, this is even better:

While at Lost Art Press, you can also pick up a copy of Brendan Gaffney’s exploration of the fascinating life and work of James Krenov, James Krenov: Leave Fingerprints. I just received my copy today and I’m looking forward to reading it. I leafed through it this afternoon, and it is clear that the book, like Krenov’s furniture, has been painstakingly designed and executed. Brendan left no stone unturned with his research . If you’d like to hear more about that, and see and hear him in action, there’s a video preview of the book. You’re sure to be intrigued and impressed.

Wishing you enlightening reading and a happy Thanksgiving.

Posted in books, quotes and excerpts, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

Autumn Evening

As I walked old trails with a young dog last evening, our world was lovely and quiet. Especially so after the previous day’s windstorm, the one that pushed over the screen at the drive-in theater. I sauntered, scanning for spoons among fallen branches while my mind fumbled for a line from a recently-read essay:

Now that Autumn’s silence is upon the land, one can hear the big, enduring voices which seldom shout the things they have to say.

Hal Borland, “The Enduring Voices” (originally published in the New York Times, 1962)

In response to the sirens of hurry and restlessness, a fall evening whispers words of calm and continuity.

Early in our walk, the rays of the dropping sun bridged the fields of goldenrod, illuminating the bare branches of the maples beyond. A century and a half ago and four hundred miles away, Emily Dickinson wrote what might be a fitting caption:

Frequently the woods are pink —

Frequently are brown;

Frequently the hills undress

Behind my native town.

Emily Dickinson, from Poem XXXVI

Simple as it sounds, it speaks to me of broad patterns and deep assurances. Wishing you peace in autumn, and a good walk.

Posted in nature, quotes and excerpts, Uncategorized | Tagged , | 13 Comments


As I was using my adze to rough out some spoons this weekend, I was reminded by a few emails that folks are still having a tough time getting their hands on a good adze. This can be seen as a good sign. I think the smiths are making more than ever and there are more smiths making them. It just speaks to the wonderful fact that demand continues to grow. Judging by the difficulty of acquisition, I’d say bowl adzes are in more demand than iPhones! Next time somebody tries to impress you with their new phone, show them your adze.

I wish I could be more helpful in my response to the inquiries. I know there are a number of additional makers now whose products I haven’t tried. Others have changed their designs since I last tried them, usually for the better, it appears. Some adzes with which I have no direct experience look good to me in the photos, like they would work well. But until I start buying each of these adzes just to evaluate them, I can’t say for sure.

At this point the only current renditions of available adzes that I have direct experience with are those made by Hans Karlsson and Jason Lonon. Both are good, and both typically require some wait, as do tools from many other makers. I just heard from a fellow who was happy to receive the HK adze he had ordered through Kenneth and Angela at the Maine Coast Craft School. Eventually, it will come.

Meanwhile, I have posted a list of adze makers/suppliers to help folks in their search. You can find it at the bottom portion of this page. Many of the sites listed are based on some things I’ve heard from others and are just listed as potential options for you to investigate. One of my goals in writing the recent article “What to Look for in an Adze” in Fine Woodworking Magazine, was to help people evaluate and maintain whatever adze they are considering, no matter how the list of makers may change. A good adze will last well beyond your lifetime. It’s worth the wait.

Maybe some other helpful possibilities will turn up in the comments.

Posted in adze, tools, Uncategorized | Tagged | 15 Comments