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.
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.
I got a barrel of flour, Lord, I got a bucket of lard.
I ain’t got no blues, got chickens in my back yard.
Jimmie Rodgers, “No Hard Times” 1932
Maybe I should have the blues; I’ve only got a little flour, no lard, and one chicken — a wooden one at that.
I shared the early stages of this catalpa bowl in a post back in September. I took a few photos the rest of the way and put them in the slide show below. You’ll have to view the actual post, out of your email program, to see the slide show.
On the exterior, I applied a wash of titanium white artist oil paint thinned with citrus solvent, then wiped it back revealing more of the wood along the ridges between flutes. Then linseed oil and beeswax over the whole thing. There’s something about the combination of the character of the catalpa grain and the variations in the color that give it a bit of an aged-but-cared-for appearance.
The camera picks up the reflections off of the white a little too strongly. The shot above is probably a more true representation, with the color of the wood coming through.
The hollow of the bowl is full and deep and it’s a pretty big bird. 21″ long, 8 3/4″ wide, and 6 3/4″ high.
This one is available. $850 includes shipping. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested. SOLD
Maybe it was the approach of fall and the transformation it brings that got me moving on changing my online situation. Two websites was one more than I needed!
I started my website (davidffisher.com) at least ten years ago (I can’t remember exactly) with the main goal of sharing information. I had been demonstrating at local festivals and folks were interested in learning more about bowl and spoon carving. I would write down some resources for tools and other things on a scrap of paper for them. The website made that process more convenient and allowed me to share much more as it grew over time.
Then almost six years ago, inspired by how much I had been learning from Peter Follansbee’s blog, I decided to give it a whirl myself. Follansbee used WordPress for his blog, so that’s what I did, too.
Recently, it dawned on me that I could get everything into one spot and have my website and blog right here. With the different platforms, nothing would transfer automatically, so it took some effort to get it set up before saying goodbye to the old site. It did give me a chance to evaluate and reorganize some things, though.
Yesterday, the transfer of the web address was finalized and we’re rolling. Nothing at all has changed with the blog — it’s still here and if you’ve subscribed you’ll still get email notifications of new posts. But the menu at the top now includes more pages that incorporate much of the information that was available at the old site, and I still have some more to add over time.
Things seem to be working alright. If you’re having any problems, let me know. And, as always, thanks for checking in.
That’s the length of this cherry bowl, so it will need a big table. It’s rare that I make bowls that long. This one began as one of my demonstration pieces for the the recent adze article in Fine Woodworking Magazine. A relatively shallow open bowl, 26″ long x 11 1/4″ wide x 3 1/2″ high.
I had some fun with a new spur-of-the-moment idea for the bottom of this one. Just a figurative tree shape.
If you’ve got a big enough spot and would like this one, send me an email at email@example.com. $825 includes insured shipping. SOLD
I’ve finished up several spoons, all from crooks of varying degrees of bend. I was pinching myself as I worked with some great crooks in this batch. All straight from the knife, except for #5, which I sanded. All finished with flaxseed oil and cured with heat. If you’d like to purchase one, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment. I’ll confirm that it’s yours and then you can pay by Paypal or by sending a check. Thanks for looking.
#1: (top photo and the two photos below) A large cherry server. 12 5/8″ x 3 1/2″. This one will let you get a generous portion of mashed potatoes while still being considerate enough to just take one scoop. $130 includes shipping. SOLD
#2: Rhododendron cooker/server. 9 5/8″ x 2 1/2.” This one came from a rhododendron crook with beautiful figure. A balance of crank that will perform well for cooking and serving. $110 includes shipping. SOLD
#3: Norway maple server. 13 3/4″ x 3 1/2.” This serving spoon can come in from a high angle. The design at the back of the wide handle was spur-of-the-moment. Sort of a negative finial I guess, and can serve as a hanging hole. I would call it the uvula spoon, but that might hurt its chances of selling. This Norway maple is hard stuff, especially in the crooks. $120 includes shipping. SOLD
#4: Cherry server/ladle. 12 1/2″ x 3 1/2.” I’m not sure when a serving spoon becomes a ladle, but this one has a big bowl and a very steep crank, so I think of it as a ladle. Whatever you call it, it would serve up lots of chili or soup. $140 SOLD
#5: Long Norway maple server with a wide bowl. I decided to sand this one in consideration of the figure in the wood. 13 3/4″ x 3 1/2″. $150 includes shipping. SOLD
#6: Cherry (sapwood) serving spatula. Narrow width suitable for serving cake or brownies. 12 5/8″ x 3 1/2″. This cherry crook had the perfect lines for this piece. The fibers run true through the handle, neck, and blade. I carved a (wave?) pattern into the handle and painted with artist oils. $110 includes shipping. SOLD
#7: Cherry cooker/server. 11″ x 2 3/4″. With just a little crank, this spoon is great for stirring, mixing, and cooking but can still serve. $95 includes shipping. SOLD
Fine Woodworking Magazine gave me a chance to write about adzes and the article is in the current issue, just out, in case you’re interested. I focused on the concepts, as I understand them based on my experience, that allow a hollowing adze to work sweetly along with some techniques to shape yours up accordingly.
What is the effect of raising or lowering the angle of the outer bevel? How does your swing and handle affect the orientation of the cutting edge to the wood? Understanding such things will help you evaluate various adzes for the work you plan to do and/or make adjustments to the one you have.
The article centers around principles, rather than specific brands or makers. I certainly haven’t been able to keep up with the adzes offered by an increasing number of talented blacksmiths recently. I have no direct experience with most of their adzes, although some look good to me from the photos I’ve seen.
I had the pleasure of working with Fine Woodworking editor Barry Dima on this one, and it was a great experience. He and the rest of the FWW team brought everything together beautifully — and they even let me draw some pictures.
The rest of issue #285 is filled with gems: Pete Galbert with a brilliant treatise on spokeshaves, a sweet desktop organizer design from Mike Pekovich, milk paint technique on bowls by Mark Gardner, and lots more. I’ll be learning plenty.
I’ve mentioned my debt to Drew Langsner before, but yesterday I was reminded of it again. Lost Art Press announced that “Country Woodcraft: Then and Now” is at the printer and ready for pre-publication ordering.
Drew’s books and tool sales were invaluable to me in the 90s as I explored traditional woodworking. There was a fascinating world within the brown cover of his 1978 book “Country Woodcraft” and Drew and Louise were really living it. From Louse’s baskets to a carved hauling yoke to bowls and spoons, I found wood, and the working of it, honored. As Drew wrote in the introduction, “Through the fusion of myself and the wood, an object is born that is useful and beautiful — a joy to make, to see, and to use.”
Drew’s knowledge and enthusiasm is celebrated by Bill Coperthwaite in his forward to the book:
Pouncing is a rather uncommon way to refer to a human being — but Drew Langsner pounces. Whenever a new technique of using wood comes within his range, he pounces on it with all his eager nature. Then he tumbles it over in his hands and brain, appearing much like a raccoon with a new-found morsel…Fortunately he writes so well that we can share the fruits of his experience.
Bill Coperthwaite, May 1977
I loved the unusual landscape orientation of the pages, tons of clear illustrations, and lovely black-and-white photos. Drew’s writing is encouraging and engaging. He teaches the fundamentals of making things from trees while guiding the reader through many techniques and projects. There are still many in there that are on my list, like the Swiss milking stool.
Drew has updated and greatly expanded the new version, especially in the sections on spoons and bowls. You can read all about that and many more details, including the table of contents, at Lost Art Press.
I rarely work with burl, but when a piece from a Norway maple came my way , I decided to see what I could make from it. I ended up with this cup (4 1/2″ in diameter and 2 1/4″ high). I neglected to take any process photos, but the layout is straightforward.
I hollowed with bent gouges and a hook knife, then rough shaped the outside with an axe after making a couple relief saw cuts on either side of the handle. With this burl there was no predicting the ever-changing grain direction, so careful work with a coarse rasp and spokeshave prevented blowout as I neared the final shape.
I left a fair amount of extra thickness, expecting the piece to move and twist as it dried, and it did. So after drying there was some reshaping and then paring all of the final surfaces with gouge and knife.
In steep tight hollows like this, I often use a tightly curved crooked knife from Kestrel Tool in Washington state. The double edge is convenient for quickly changing direction and with this burl, I had to switch direction constantly.
I’ve got a few of these crooked knives now and I decided to finally make a simple storage box for them to protect those edges.
I made it from a piece of pine 1 x 12 (3/4″ x 11 1/4″). Pine is easy to work, light, and it smells great every time the box is opened.
I wanted the tools to fit snugly to make the most of the space and to prevent them from rattling around. So I made the box first without dividers, then determined the divider locations and fitted them directly by putting a tool in place and marking the divider location on both end walls.
Then I carved a notch with a v-tool beside the mark and cut a quick v on each end of the divider. The dividers are only 1/8″ thick, so they can be sprung into place. Repeat the process for the next tool and so on.
Another nice thing about the pine is that it’s easy to resaw into thin boards. The box is 11 x 11 and can be made from a two-foot board.
The bottom panel and sliding lid came from these boards, with plenty of extra length for later use. I love that texture — should have kept it. The boards for the sides were resawn off-center leaving 1/2″ of thickness for the sides and 1/8″ for the dividers.
The lid slides in the grooves.
And on another note…
A cricket visited the shop this week and explored a spoon in progress. It was a reminder that fall is here and I hope he brought some luck. That spoon and some others should be ready to share before long.
When a friend of mine sent me this big chunk of fresh catalpa wood, some memories came to mind. When I was a kid we had a big catalpa tree in the yard and I had fun playing with the long beans, or cigars as we often called them. Another memorable catalpa tree was a huge specimen that lived in the front yard of my in-laws house. That was the one that ate my sandwich.
Kristin and I, newly dating, pulled into her parent’s house with sandwiches from Subway. For some reason, on my way up the front walk, I started swinging my subway bag in big vertical circles. Before my brain registered my stupidity, the bottom seam of the plastic bag gave way on the upward arc of the swing, slinging my sub high into the gnarly limbs of the catalpa. The paper wrapper burst open and bits of sandwich sifted down through the branches as Kristin’s father watched through the front picture window.
About sixteen years ago, my in-laws had to have that tree taken down and I carved a few things from it, including the bowl above for them. I borrowed it to take the photo. It’s a big bowl, but surprisingly light. Catalpa is ring porous and relatively soft, works well for dry foods and such, but not ideal for salads.
As you can see from the fresh piece, Catalpa has a greyish/greenish tint, but over time it ages to a pleasant shade of brown.
I decided to do a bird/hen bowl sort of like this one but with a longer tail. The hollow is steep and deep. You can see an apple peeking out from the roughed hollow. After the adze and bent gouge, I worked with a swan-kneck gouge (like a spoon bent gouge) and a twca cam to really get down in there.
Now it’s on to the exterior hewing and shaping. I should have that roughed out this weekend. If all goes well, we’ll see this piece of catalpa again looking more like a bowl.