On Selling Crafts

I have made a lot of wooden things over the last decade or so. Tables, chests, chairs, benches, desks, beds, bowls, spoons, plates, vases, tools, floors, sheds, playhouses…you name it. When I stop to think about how much I’ve actually built, it’s a bit overwhelming.

A lot of that stuff is still in my house. I have very little furniture that wasn’t built by me or at the very least repaired/refinished by me. (One project that I’ve never seemed willing to tackle is a chest of drawers. Just so…many…boxes… So we still make do with ugly dressers, but one day I’ll address that shortcoming).

The next largest portion of my work has been gifted to family and friends over the years. It’s always a pleasure to visit with people who own my work to see how it has held up and aged over the years.

By far the smallest portion of my work are things that I’ve sold. Sure, I’ve sold quite a bit over the years, ranging from $10 wooden shotglasses to a $2,000 quartersawn white oak Arts and Crafts office desk. I have never been completely comfortable with selling things, though. A couple years ago, I came upon this article by renowned British woodturner Robin Wood that I think articulates my primary hesitance with selling craft work. The article is fairly comprehensive, but here is the relevant paragraph:

The difficulty many craftspeople have with price is this. You put your heart and soul into your work, when you offer it for sale it is not like selling potatoes or lemonade, it’s not just business, it is more like asking the public to pass judgement on you as a human being. If you put a high price and people sneer it feels terrible but if you undervalue your work that is no better for your soul. The trick is to find a fair price for the work and skill and then to find people who value and appreciate it.

That quote really got right to the heart of the matter and stuck with me. When I sell work, I feel compelled to make things to a much higher standard than I would require for an item that I planned to keep for myself. I aim for perfection in my work, but ultimately I am OK with small flaws and irregularity as the mark of handwork. For some reason, I don’t trust my customers to have the same appreciation so I always seem to go overboard with the work that I sell, and yet I’ve never been comfortable asking a price that would be commensurate with the skill and effort involved.

To worsen matters, most of the work that I’ve sold has been to friends and close acquaintances (not surprising, since I’ve never advertised anything). There is nothing inherently wrong with that, of course, but my difficulty here is feeling as though I should offer a discount for friends on work that I’m already in the habit of selling too cheaply. I would usually rather give the work away, because at least then I get to feel altruistic instead of like a poor businessman.

The end result of my unsatisfying history of selling work has been that I tend to find whatever excuse I can to avoid it. I have actually made a fair bit of money through my woodworking hobby (enough that is is a net gain and not a net drain), but very little of that money has come through the sale of craft work. Mostly it comes from wood sales (I always saw more than I can possibly use) and a smaller portion from old hand tools that I bought on the cheap and restored.

Fortuitously, I did have a good friend a few weeks ago who asked me about a sizable commission for her husband’s Christmas gift. She ended her request with the words “and don’t feel bad charging me what’s fair”. It was a much appreciated sentiment and I felt more comfortable knowing that she expected to pay full price for the work and not the “but-I’m-your-friend” discount that some people seem to expect. I was more confident in giving a quote that was fair to both of us.

In the end, it turned out to be one of my most enjoyable commissions, because I know the work is going to a couple who will appreciate it, and I don’t feel as though I short-changed myself in the process. (By the way, I’m purposely avoiding any discussion of what I made or who I made it for on the off-chance that her husband reads the blog.)

As these thoughts tumbled through my head over the last month, it occurred to me that my discomfort with selling my work for a fair price has bled over and caused me to avoid buying craft work at a fair price. I think that my tendency to discount the value of my own work has inadvertently led to my discounting the value of others’ work. I have this problem more so in unrelated crafts – I love pottery, for example, but my own collection of craftsman-made pottery is limited to a couple of inexpensive (but beautiful) coffee mugs. The more complex work is beautiful, but it just seems so expensive! Oh, the irony.

With woodwork, I can typically look at a piece and fully understand the time and skill and effort that it took to bring it to fruition. The problem here is that my first thought is not “I want to buy that!” but instead “I could make that!” Well, that’s really a silly way to think about things. There is no way that I can become proficient at everything. A good craftsperson can spend years focused on a single task and there is no reason that I should hope to replicate it without doing the same. Weaving an ash-splint basket and carving the ball-and-claw feet on a Chippendale chair are both “woodwork” but it is obvious that the skillset involved in each task are vastly different.

With that in mind, I decided to take some of the proceeds from my recent commission to purchase a spoon from a craftsman who has inspired me in many ways – Peter Follansbee. True, I’m a spoon-carver as well (and a pretty good one I think) but it’s been several years and I’ve still made no effort to learn the chip-carved decoration that Peter does on his spoons that I admire so much. Perhaps I never will, but that shouldn’t preclude me from enjoying it.

A very nice early Christmas present to me. Not a gift that was injection-molded in Chinese plastic and shipped 10,000 miles only to end up in a landfill by next year’s Christmas. I expect this little beauty to be my kitchen companion for many years.  And hopefully a lesson learned in valuing the work of a fellow craftsman.

We Interrupt Our Regularly Scheduled Programming…

…to bring you a very special announcement. A birth announcement.


Avett August Tyson was born at 10:45 AM on Wednesday, December 2015. Weighing in at 8 lbs. 10 oz., the little chunk was a full week late. I guess that means he takes after me. His mom is the punctual one.

You can be on the lookout for “Shop Night with Avett” posts in about fours years, I suppose. And now we rest.

Shop Night with Ellery – Finishing the Birdhouse

Last week, Ellery and I went about finishing up the birdhouse that I’m helping her build. The girl loves to paint. I taped everything off and handed her a paintbrush and some acrylic paint and she did the rest. I just touched up some of the corners when she was done.

Painting (2)

When the paint was dry, we were ready to bore a couple of holes – a big one for the door and a small one for the peg that goes below the door.

The big hole is 1-1/4″. Ellery couldn’t quite turn the brace on her own, so I bored that hole. But she did a great job on the 3/8″ peg hole – I never even had to touch the brace once we got the hole located.

Assembly 009
She’s a natural! The bit is vertical and she’s bracing the pad on her forehead. She must’ve seen me do this a few times…

I thought we would be done once we glued the peg in place, but Ellery was adamant that the birdhouse needed a bird to live in it. I couldn’t argue with that, so I grabbed a scrap of cypress and my knife and quickly carved a bird.

Assembly 010

Assembly 012

Then it was her job to paint the bird. She chose red – a nice choice since it will contrast so well with the teal birdhouse.

Assembly 011

I’ve really been enjoying my time in the shop with Ellery, and I think she has too. She has been begging me to build her own birdhouse, since this one is a Christmas present for her mom. And I have another special gift in mind for Ellery as well…

A Sigh of Relief

I was finally ready this weekend to begin the undercarriage assembly for my chair. It was a bit nerve-wracking. There are several hours’ work in the leg and stretcher turnings, and I was in no mood to ruin them with a ham-fisted boring job.

It’s not at all intuitive to deduce the proper boring angles. There are four legs, three stretchers, and six joints that connect them all together. And there is precious little room for error. And even if you know the right angles, how do you ensure that you’re drilling at that precise angle?

It turns out that there is indeed a method to the apparent madness. I watched this video by Curtis Buchanan twice last week in preparation for this exercise.


At the heart of process is a very simple but very ingenious jig that holds your workpiece while you drill and lets you see the angle that you’re drilling with the help of a bevel gauge and a mirror.

Buchanan jig

I spent Saturday morning building my own version of the jig out of some cypress and poplar scraps.

Assembly 021

This is the view while you’re boring – you can just glance over to your left to line up your bit with the bevel gauge, which is set to the appropriate drilling angle.

Assembly 019

With the jig built, I was able to bore the legs quickly and accurately. When it was time for assembly, the joints went together snugly and without complaint.

Assembly 016

I wedged the legs through the top of the seat, trimmed them off, and finished scraping and sanding the seat.

Assembly 013

I did get a little overzealous while I was trimming the legs flush with a gouge – I ended up taking a chip out of the seat right beside the gutter! Luckily I was able to locate the miscreant chip and glue it back in place with a dab of superglue. The chip is just to the left of the leg-hole, but you’ll never see it again once this chair gets painted.

Assembly 018

The end is nigh.

Assembly 014


For Your Weekend Viewing Pleasure

This video is a few years old, but since it’s an hour long, I had never taken the time to watch it. I finally rectified that situation one evening this week. It’s a great introduction to Windsor chairs by one of the modern masters of the craft, Peter Galbert. If you love Windsor chairs (or if you’re wondering why I do) it’s well worth the watch.


Don’t forget to follow Peter’s blog (Chairnotes) and if you’re interested in building a chair, I highly recommend his book (Chairmaker’s Notebook).

Get Bent: Build a Steam Rig for Under 50 Bucks

This week, I was finally ready to steam-bend the crest rail for my Windsor chair. The only problem was that I didn’t have a steaming rig. As with so many things in woodworking (and probably any other hobby), you can spend about as much or as little as you want to spend to get yourself set up for steam-bending. I tend towards the “spend as little as possible” end of the spectrum.

So with that in mind, I dropped by my local hardware store and Wal-Mart and picked up the parts I needed to cobble together a functional steam rig for as little money as possible. The total tab was very reasonable for a rig that should last for many years.

Here’s what I bought:

  • 1 – 5′ length PVC 4″ pipe, schedule 40 ($12)
  • 2 – 4″ cleanout caps ($6)
  • 1 – 24″ length braided 3/4″ water heater pipe with threaded female ends ($11)
  • 2 – 3/4″ double male threaded iron adapters ($2.50)
  • 1 – hot plate ($11)
  • 1 – tea kettle ($6)

Total cost: $48.50

steam 025

Considering that many people pay $80-$100 just for a wallpaper steamer to produce steam, I figured that was pretty reasonable.

Here’s how I put the thing together:

steam 014
Drill a hole in the PVC pipe with a spade bit. A 15/16″ or 1″ bit will work fine. Thread one of the male adapters into the pipe.
steam 013
Now you’ll need to fit the other threaded adapter into the tea kettle. Make sure your tea kettle has a round spout to simplify this task. Wal-Mart sells these ones for under $7 that work perfectly.
steam 015
We’re going to make a wooden bushing to fit the threaded male adapter into the tea kettle. The iron threads nicely into wood, and the wood will fit snugly into the spout to make a perfect seal.
steam 016
Choose a soft wood so the male adapter will thread into it without splitting. Here, I’m using a scrap of cypress. Turn it to the proper diameter to fit snugly into the tea kettle. A tiny bit of slop is OK, since the steam will make the wood expand anyway.
steam 018
Then put the cylinder in a chuck and use a 1″ Forstner to drill out the center.
steam 020
The bushing is made. Now I just have to cut it to size with a fine-toothed saw.
steam 021
A perfect fit. If you don’t have a lathe, you can probably do this by drilling the hole into a scrap of wood and carving around the hole until the bushing fits. Just stay away from plastic/rubber for your bushing – it will melt!


steam 024
Now just attach the PVC pipe to something sturdy (here I tied it to an old shavehorse) and hook everything up.  Fill the teapot with water and crank the hotplate up to HIGH.
steam 028
Soon, you should see steam billowing out the ends of your pipe. Now’s the time to put the plugs in. I ended up using a sponge on the far end and a cleanout cap on the near end. Best to have steam moving through the rig rather than plugging up both ends. You definitely do not want it to be air-tight. You’re trying to bend wood, not detonate PVC pipe.
who knows 001
My crest rails were 3/4″ thick at their thickest point. General rule-of-thumb is to steam 1 hour per inch of thickness. I left them in the steamer for about 50-55 minutes and they bent like a stick of Juicy Fruit. Man, I love steam-bending!

A few things to keep in mind:

Ideally, you want your steam rig to be just big enough to contain the parts you’re trying to bend. I’ll be using my steambox for Windsor chair parts and maybe the occasional ladderback, so the 4″ PVC is a perfect size that should fit anything I want to throw at it. My first steambox was a 12″ x 12″ x 48″ plywood box that was really oversized for what I was using it for. No use heating more space than you have to.

Speaking of plywood, most steamboxes are built using plywood, which I suppose is better than PVC pipe. The pipe can actually melt at high heat. But PVC pipe is cheap, good plywood is expensive, and bad plywood won’t last very long. My hot plate is not powerful enough to melt the PVC, so I’m happy with it.

Finally, don’t let your steambox run out of water! I had about 2 cups left in the tea kettle after 55 minutes. I doubt I’ll ever have to steam anything more than an hour, so the tea kettle should work perfectly for me. You may need to size it up if you’re bending something much thicker than an inch.

Good luck, and get bent!

Wednesday, Woody Wednesday: How Does Steam-Bending Work?

Last night I set about building the steam-bending rig for the crest rail for my Windsor chair. Steam-bending is one of my favorite processes in all of woodworking. There is something that feels heroic about taking a piece of 3/4″-thick white oak and bending it as though it were a popsicle stick. The simplicity and integrity of creating graceful curves by steam bending fall very much in line with my philosophy of woodcraft. The alternatives, for lack of a better word, suck.

I could have sawed out the curve for my crest rail from straight wood, but that would require a huge chuck of oak – 3 1/2″ thick – and a comparably huge saw. And worse, it would result in a piece with inferior strength due to short grain weakness near the ends.

I could have laminated the bend from multiple thin plies, but that would require a lot of glue, a lot of clamps, and (the worst part) a lot of machining to make those thin plies. After all that work, piece would be ugly because of all the glue lines. On the plus side, it would result in a piece with comparable strength to a steam-bent piece.

Or I could have split the crest out from a piece of wood with the appropriate bend already in it (like I did with my ladle) but then I’d have the trouble of finding the right piece of wood. And good luck finding the right tree if you decide to build a balloon-back.

See the back? Trees don’t grow like that.

With steam-bending, I can procure my stock from a straight-grained log with a wedge and a froe, shape it with a drawknife, and bend it with a steaming rig that I built using a few simple items from the hardware store (look for a post on my steam-bending rig before too long, though there’s plenty of information on the web. Nothing special about mine). Essentially, I can re-write the tree’s history and make it believe that it did, in fact, grow in the shape of a ballon-back (or almost any other shape I choose).

If you weren’t convinced of (or aware of) the simple beauty of steam-bending curved pieces before, I hope that you are now. But just how does steam-bending work? Glad you asked.

For this discussion, it will be critical to understand that wood is not a homogenous material. It is a composite material. Wikipedia defines a composite material as “a material made from two or more constituent materials with significantly different physical or chemical properties that, when combined, produce a material with characteristics different from the individual components.”

Composite materials most often comprise fibers to impart strength and stiffness with a matrix that binds the fibers together and provides form and additional strength to the material. Some familiar examples of composite materials are adobe (grass/straw fibers in an earthen matrix), fiberglass (glass fibers in a plastic resin matrix), and steel-reinforced concrete.

Adobe: the earliest manmade composite material.

The primary constituents of wood are cellulose (40-50%) and lignin (25-30%), and hemicellulose (25-35%). Cellulose is a strong linear polymer that forms the majority of the cell walls of wood and all other plant parts. It forms the “fiber” of the composite material. Lignin is an amorphous polymer that fills the spaces between the cells walls, binding them together, which strengthens the wood. It forms the “matrix” of the composite.

Going back to an earlier example of a composite material, let’s visualize wood as steel-reinforced concrete. (Not because it’s the most accurate analogy, but because I assume almost everyone is familiar with it). The steel (like the cellulose) has more tensile strength than the concrete (like lignin). Suppose you have a straight steel-reinforced concrete post, but you need a bent one. What will happen when you bend it? The concrete will fracture, causing the post to fail. I’m assuming you have a method of actually bending steel-reinforced concrete, of course.

steel concrete
Sorry, earthquake. Concrete has low tensile strength. You’ll need to find another way to get a bent post.

Same thing with wood. Most cross-grain failure are the result of ruptures in the lignin that then propagate through the wood. But what if we could plasticize our concrete, bend it while it’s soft, and then allow it to re-harden? The steel, with its high tensile strength, would be happy to comply. Unfortunately, concrete can’t be plasticized. But lignin can.

At normal temperatures, lignin locks the cellulose in place, preventing the strands from sliding past one another. This gives wood some of its characteristic stiffness. However, if you heat it to about 200°F, a very useful thing start to happen: it gets very soft and pliable, just like a plastic. If you cool the lignin back down to room temperature and dry it out, it will tend to retain the bent shape.

This, at its heart, is the basic gist of steam-bending: Heat wood to about 200°F to plasticize the lignin, bend the wood to a desired shape, and let it cool and dry out. When it is completely dry, the wood can be removed from the form and it will hold its shape.

Unfortunately, wood is a complex material and it doesn’t necessarily make things easy on us. Lignin tends to lose its plasticity when it has been dried beyond a certain point. There is no specific point at which wood is no longer useable for steam-bending, but if the moisture content drops below about 12%, your odds of bending it successfully will be severely diminished.

Kiln-dried wood – wood that has been heated to a temperature of 140-160°F and dried to 6-8% moisture content – is next to useless for steam-bending. Air-dried wood is ideal, and the bend is most likely to be successful if the wood is near the fiber saturation point (25-30%).

In addition to loss of plasticity, another reason for unsuccesful bending in drier wood is its lack of conductivity. You probably remember from middle school science class that wood is a poor conductor (i.e., a carrier of heat and/or electricity) while water is a good conductor. When wood loses its water, it also loses the primary medium by which it transfers heat from the outside of the piece to the inside. Green wood is far more conductive than dry wood. If the center of the workpiece is not heated to the appropriate temperature, the bend is likely to either splinter while bending or fail to hold the desired shape.

Not surprisingly, then, thinner pieces of wood are easier to bend successfully than thick pieces. It’s simply much easier to thoroughly heat a 1/4″-thick board than a 2″-thick board. In fact, if your pieces are thin enough, you don’t need steam at all. I think this is a rather common misconception. It is the heat, not the moisture, that plasticizes the lignin. The steam is simply a very efficient carrier of heat, and it has the added benefit of being the right temperature.

Guitar sides are traditionally heated and bent around a hot iron pipe, and crooked chair spindles may be heated and straightened with a heat gun. The downside to these methods is that it can be much easier to scorch your pieces if you aren’t careful.

Guitar sides are bent around a hot iron. (photo used with permission from Haze Guitars)
bent straight
A heat gun can straighten crooked spindles (or arrows, if you’re a bowyer).

Not all woods are created equally when it comes to steam-bending. Far from it, in fact. Generally speaking, softwoods are rated poorly for steam-bending. That’s not to say that they won’t bend – simply that you must take more steps to ensure success – thinner pieces, straighter grain, longer steaming times, and/or milder bends will improve your chances of success. Most steam-bending is done with hardwoods.

I wish I could offer you some scientific explanation as to why softwoods don’t bend as well as hardwoods (since that’s kind of my thing) but unfortunately I simply don’t know. Just a wild guess: It might have something to do with tensile strength, since the outer circumference of a bend will be under severe tensile stress until the piece sets.

In the 1962 classic “Machining and Related Characteristics of United States Hardwoods” (E.M. Davis, USFS Forest Products Laboratory), the author tested 25 species of hardwoods for steam-bending characteristics and concluded: “Specific gravity influenced bending, in that the heavy woods bent better than the light woods. In table 21, for instance, all the heavy woods (those with a specific gravity of 0.50 or over) except hard maple are in the upper half, whereas all the light woods (those with a specific gravity of less than 0.40) except willow are in the lower or the poor half. No consistent differences were noted in breakage be tween light and heavy pieces of the same wood.”

As we’ve previously discussed, there is a strong correlation between modulus of rupture and density, so perhaps the correlation that Davis noted is partially related to tensile strength? Feel free to send me any resources on this topic if you know of any.

Davis also noted “Ring-porous woods as a class gave better results than did diffuse-porous. The best 4 woods are all ring-porous, and 8 of the 10 ring-porous woods were among the best 12 woods.” Again, this may be an example of correlation and not causation, since the strongest/densest woods are mostly ring-porous.

But who knows? Perhaps there is a logical link between porosity and bending that I am unaware of. I’m including the entire publication on the Wood Properties Resources Page for perusal at your leisure, for anyone interested.

I also made this handy-dandy table. The left two columns (species and successful bend %) are from Davis’ report. The additional data (pore structure, specific gravity, and modulus of rupture) are from various other sources. Mostly the USFS Forest Products Laboratory. Where a range is given, it is because the wood type covers multiple species.

Steam Bend Data

There is plenty more to write on this topic, but that’s all for now. Time for me to soak my aching typing fingers. Thanks for joining me for another steamy edition of “Wednesday, Woody Wednesday”.

The Birth of a Ladle

I was recently commissioned to carve a ladle for a good friend. I don’t carve ladles very frequently, because how many ladles does one man really need? (I think I have three in my kitchen, which is probably one too many). I was happy to fill the request. Ladles are the tougher to carve than a regular cooking spoon because of the sweeping curves and the deep bowl, but that also makes them fun. The best part is finding the right crook.

You can’t just carve a ladle from a straight piece of wood. You need to find a branch where the grain follows the handle, then curves abruptly where the bowl will be carved. Otherwise, you will end up with either a weak bowl or a weak handle.

no 002

You might be able to find a crook with the proper bend to it, but you’re more likely to find the abrupt bend that you need at a branch union. So the ladle begins with the hunt for a proper bend.

I had some red maple already cut up, and I picked out the bendiest piece that I had, but it wasn’t quite crooked enough. It will make a fine cooking/serving spoon, though.

Seat 019

A walk in the woods yielded a nice piece of redbay (Persea borbonia). Looks like it has a ladle in it to me. A close relative of avacado (Persea americana), this stuff carves beautifully – as long as you’re carving with the grain – but it does have some wicked grain reversals that can make it a challenge.

Seat 022

For most spoon blanks, I just split out what I need, but I’ve learned my lesson on Y’s. If you just try to split this out, chances are good that the bowl of your spoon blank will be destroyed. My method is to saw through the lower half of the blank until I get to straight wood.

Seat 023
Saw on the red line.

Then you can split the rest of the way using an axe, a wedge, or a froe with no problem.

Seat 025

I skipped a few steps at this point, but once you liberate your blank from the tree it’s just like carving any other spoon. A little axe work to remove most of the waste, then the rest is done with a sloyd knife and a bent knife and a lot of patience.

I finished this spoon up on my lunch break today. Here’s a few pictures. I can’t wait to deliver this ladle to its new owner. Mostly because I’ll be tempted to keep it myself if I don’t get rid of it soon. It’s quite a bit nicer than my earlier ladle efforts that I’m living with at the moment!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


The Whi-hi-ttling Is the Hardest Part.

My wife and I are quite a pair. If you hang around us long enough, you’ll notice that pretty much every conversation eventually devolves into song lyrics. I can’t help it. If you say “Who are you going to call?” you can bet your last dime that one of us with reply “Ghost Busters.” And if you tell me to “Stop”,  I will assuredly follow that up with a falsetto rendition of The Supremes’ 1965 classic or possibly even MC Hammer’s 1990 smash hit. It’s practically a Pavlovian response at this point.

It was only appropriate that I had a song running through my head on repeat while I was was carving my my spindles and crest rail on Friday night – Tom Petty’s  “The Waiting”. (Just scratch “waiting” and replace it with “whittling”. Good enough for me.)

It’s funny. If you just sit down and look at a Windsor chair, it would never cross your mind that making the spindles would be the hardest part of building it. Last week, I had my copy of Chairmaker’s Notebook sitting on my desk, and my boss came into my office and asked me if I was planning to build a chair. Yes, I told him, I’m halfway through a chair build as we speak. He was admiring the chairs in the book while commenting on how difficult the leg turnings would be. Then he pointed to the spindles and said, “But those would be easy to turn.”

Ha. Definitely the words of someone who has never actually turned anything, but I think that’s a pretty common misconception. The spindles are 1/2″ diameter at the base and 3/8″ at the tip, 20″ long. They are about as flexible as a cane pole and would chatter like a mockingbird if you tried to spin them on the lathe. No, the spindles are a job for the shavehorse and drawknife.

Terry Kelly

A difficult job at that. Getting long, smooth, consistent tapers is more of a challenge than it would first appear. I went ahead and worked up all of my white oak into spindles, which gave me enough spindles for two chairs, plus a couple extras. After all the throwaway pieces, though, I’ll be lucky to end up with enough to build just one. Part of the problem is the level of consistency required. The legs are far enough apart – and far enough from the eye – that small discrepancies won’t be noticed. The spindles stand side-by-side like seven skinny pawns, so the eye is immediately drawn to any defects.

A little layout goes a long way to ensuring consistency, but it’s still up to you and your drawknife to cut to the lines.

Seat 008
I started with 1″-square blanks
Seat 009
I used a 5/8″ Forstner bit to give me a guide for my bottom tenon and a 7/16″ bit for the top tenon.
Seat 017
After a few hours’ work, I had 18 roughly-shaped spindles, plus two crest rails. Good to have a spare in case something goes awry with the steam-bending.

The crest rail is a much more complex shape than the spindles, but I didn’t find it nearly as onerous to shape as the spindles. I supposed it helped that I didn’t make 18 of them. The work is not so repetitive, so it invites more presence of mind to the task, which was a welcome change to the spindle carving.

The crest rail blanks were severely twisted – probably 1/2″ of twist over 26″. Shouldn’t make a difference. Steam-bending can remove a twist just as easily as it can impart a bend. I just shaved right along with the grain and made sure I had the proper thickness all the way down.

You can see why planing these parts wouldn’t make sense. The plane would want to cut across the grain and remove the twist, but I want to preserve the integrity of the grain, and therefore, the twist.

Seat 012
These blanks were split from the same piece. Pretty cool how the twist matches up perfectly. The pieces sit neatly against one another even after shaving with the drawknife.
Seat 010
Used a template to lay out the curves.
Seat 013
Sawed a kerf down to the lowest point.
Seat 014
The drawknife does the rest. Loved the curly shavings on this piece.
Seat 016
Ready for bending.



A Lonely Craft

It’s an unusual treat for me to actually have the opportunity to hang out with a fellow woodworker. We’re a scarce bunch, I suppose. Rarer still is the elusive green woodworker – those who make spoons, bowls, chairs, chests, etc. starting from green logs rather than dried lumber. Actually, as of two weeks ago, I had never met another green woodworker.

A couple weeks ago, I joined a green woodworking Facebook group and took notice when one of the posters referred to Cumberland Island, GA as “right across the state line from me”. Cumberland Island is less than 3 miles from my home, just across the St. Mary’s River. Just where is this guy? I sent him a message and asked where he was from. Turns out there is a fellow green woodworker just 20 minutes down the road from me in Yulee, FL.

We made plans to meet up at my house to swap stories and carve spoons. He brought along some fine red maple and I picked out a great crook to work with. I got to try out some new spooncarving knives (I still don’t own a hook knife – just a couple of bent knives –  but using Joey’s convinced me to put a hook knife on my Christmas list).

He brought along some of his own spoons to show me, as well as some from carvers all over the world. I have only seen my own spoons in person – most of what I’ve learned is from the internet – so it was a thrill to discuss the different styles and forms with someone who really understands hand-carved spoons. I also found a willing ear to talk about my Windsor chair. I know my wife is tired of my blathering about it.

I love this craft, but it has definitely been a lonely one for me. The irony of that statement is that spooncarving has the potential to be one of the most social woodcrafts of all – it doesn’t require a shop, the tools are few, and the materials are free. I find few things more enjoyable than to sit outside on a nice day and chat while carving, so I’m thankful to have made a green woodworking friend so close by. Thanks, Joey – let’s do it again soon!

Joey (right) and I with the fruits of our labor.

Here are a few pictures of my spoon from the maple crook:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.