Just a Quick Reminder…(UPDATED WITH THE WINNER!)

…about the upcoming drawing. I neglected to set a specific deadline for entries into last Friday’s Giveaway, so let me remedy that right now. The deadline will be 5 PM EST. I think I’ve gotten one additional entry in the last past 12 hours, so I don’t think that should cause too much heartburn.

Thanks to all who have entered so far, and good luck!



Drumroll, please…Ahem. And the winner is:

Commenter Number 6! Or as I like to call her, Jessica. Congratulations, Jessica! We’ll have to get together one night so you can take possession of your brand new spoon.

And in the interest of transparency, below are the actual results from the drawing. If Jessica gets hit by a bus or otherwise meets her untimely demise on the way to claim her spoon, then Commenter Number 18, you’re up! (Of course we all wish Jessica the best of luck)

The Winner

Thanks everyone for joining in! This was a lot of fun, check back occasionally because we’ll probably do it again some time.

Friday Giveaway (Drawing Over)

In a shameless effort to promote this blog, I’ve decided to give away this hand-carved live oak spoon. Here’s how it works:

If you want to be considered for the drawing, simply leave a comment on this post stating that you’d like to be entered. You have to do it on the blog, the Facebook page doesn’t count. On Monday, I’ll count the number of comments and use a true random number generator to pick the winning entry (you didn’t think I’d just pull it out of a hat, did you?). Check back on Monday evening, and I’ll announce the winner. The spoon will be shipped to you, anywhere in the world.

UPDATE: Drawing is completed. Congratulations, Jessica!

There is just more one string attached to this drawing. No, you don’t have to follow the blog or like my Facebook page – although you’re welcome to do so. The only thing I ask is that, if you win this spoon, you have to actually use it. I hate to think I’d be sending it away to be shoved in a dusty drawer behind the flatware. This is probably the best eating spoon I’ve ever made, I think it deserves to be used.

About the spoon: As I mentioned, it’s live oak (Quercus virginiana), which is not to be confused with any of your typical white and red oaks. It does not produce the large bands of pores in the spring that make most oaks unsuitable for spoon-carving. The annual rings are barely distinguishable. This is one of my new favorite woods to carve. It’s heavy, dense, and strong, which makes it difficult to work, but also allows the wood to be carved to the scantest dimensions and still retain its strength. I think you’ll be surprised by how light the spoon is. It’s finished straight from the knife – no sanding – and retains the smooth faceted surface as evidence. It will be finished with walnut oil unless the winner has a tree nut allergy in which case I can use tung oil (you can let me know if you’re the winner).

If there’s any interest, I’m thinking of carving a few spoons to offer for sale this fall. They’ll make great gifts for that special person on your list who already has a house full of disposable plastic shit. You can also order spoons that are better than mine from Jarrod Stone Dahl or JoJo Wood if you’re interested in supporting a full-time craftsperson.

Anyway, thanks for reading, and Happy Spooning!

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The Windsor Chair continues, but not without diversions.

The lathe work is complete. The three stretchers were easy – only 16″ long, and 5/8″ minimum dimensions. I left the tenons over-sized so I can turn them to their final dimensions once they’re completely dry.

The two posts, on the other hand…whew. 26″ long, and an almost comically-small 7/16″ at the tip. They were whipping around like a disco dancer as I was trying to pare the finished surface with the skew chisel.

Chair Parts
Here’s a handy reference, just so everyone can visualize the parts that I’m talking about. Photo credit: Curtis Buchanan. (No, my turnings are not as nice as his; you don’t have to point that out)

To keep the vibration to a minimum, I kept my left index finger on the back of the spindles as I was turning, opposite the cutting edge. It helped a lot, but there were still some spots where a little chatter was unavoidable. I’ve done this before when turning dry wood, and I had to use a light touch to avoid burning my fingers. I was actually happy to see that on the green live oak, I got a burnished buildup of gunk on my finger that seemed to reduce the heat and friction.

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Burnished finger-gunk: One of the many benefits of green spindle-turning.

In any case, after a couple of hours, I had three stretchers and two posts completed. The lathe work is now complete, and the turning are set aside to dry. Next up: the seat.

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Completed turnings

My ugly live oak log yielded a lot of waste, and I couldn’t help but try to make something useful out of the rivings that were too scant for spindles. Live oak is a tough wood to carve, but the results were delightful:

Live Oak Spoon

Oaky Legs and Smoky Butts

Saturday was my birthday. Which means I need to update my “About” page, since I’m no longer “nearly” 32 years old. When my wife asked what I wanted to do for my birthday, I had an easy answer. I wanted to spend the day smoking a pork butt.

I don’t know if there’s a better way to spend a Saturday. Get up early (but not too early), grab a bucket-full of shavings from the workshop, and light up a fire.

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Slather a pork butt in salt and spice and sugar, and throw it on the smoker (my personal favorite cut is a picnic shoulder, but a Boston butt works too).

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Now, kick back for the next 10 hours, enjoy a few ice-cold brews, and every hour or so shovel another heap of coals into the smoker and add another slab of oak to the glowing bed of embers.

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Utter bliss. There’s plenty of time between tending to the meat and the fire to get a few things done around the house, but no time to leave. It’s self-imposed subjugation at its finest.

There were two things I wanted to get done: finish the shavehorse, and get started on the Windsor chair. I had been monkeying around with some wood property data and wanted to test the suitability of live oak for chair legs. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a lot to choose from, but I disappeared into the woods for a while and came back with this homely little specimen.

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That’s the pith I’m pointing at. For those of you keeping score at home, it’s supposed to be in the center of the tree. Yuck.

It’s ugly, but it’s the best I could muster. I cut two sort-of-straight 24″ sections out of it.Legs (3)

And set about riving it into useable billets. The devilish wood required two hatchets, two steel wedges, two dogwood gluts, and an obscene amount of pounding before it even thought about splitting.Splitting Live OakThis little tree had a dirty secret, a crooked past that it was trying to hide under a straight-laced veneer. I caught the first whiff of the evidence when I saw the off-center pith, but the truth was laid bare for all to see when it finally opened up.Crooked PastDevious little scoundrel. Oh well, once the first split is made, the hardest part is over. There wasn’t much left to do but continue splitting. Once I had the pieces riven down into quarters, I knocked off the crooked juvenile wood with a hatchet.

Juvenile Hatchet

The last split was the easiest. With the crookedest wood removed, I was able to split the billets into eighths pretty easily, and soon I had a whole stack of the grisly little things. Legs (12)

Nothing to do now but to pop them on the lathe and see how they turn. Turning these things round was a pretty nasty surprise as well. The long fibers left from the riving hang on with the tenacity of a tick, and when you turn the lathe on, they jump out and swat your knuckles like a bullwhip. It reminded me a lot of turning hickory.

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After a few minutes, I was able to beat the oak into submission once more, and I had a nice, consistent cylinder. A couple hours later, I had processed all of the rough blanks into 1 5/8″ cylinders.

Legs (14)Only one problem: I misread the plans. For the shapely baluster legs that I had envisioned, I needed a stack of 2″ blanks, not 1 5/8″.

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These are the “baluster” legs that I wanted to use. Photo credit: Terry Kelly
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But somehow I ended up with the dimensions for these “bamboo” legs. Photo credit: Curtis Buchanan

Damn. Well, there is one bright side: My wife actually prefers the simpler style of the bamboo legs. So, since she doesn’t actually read what I write, I get to pretend that I changed the design to suit her tastes. Score! Anyway, I hope for this to be the first of many Windsors, so I’ll just have to do the baluster legs next time.

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Honestly, I think it became apparent to me that live oak (at least, green live oak) is more suited to the reserved curves of the bamboo turnings anyway. I found it to be hard and splintery and really not very fun to turn. I also got a gunky buildup on my tools that I haven’t noticed as much when turning other green woods, which required re-sharpening even if my tools weren’t actually dull. I fear that live oak might chip out around the crisp details of the baluster legs, or that the gunky buildup on my tools would make those details more difficult to achieve. I suspect it would work a lot better if I roughed out the blanks and then waited for them to dry before attempting any baluster turnings with live oak.

I will say that I have no complaints about the results. I was able to achieve a very nice polish straight from the tools. This is important to me, because I consider avoiding wood dust (and the lung cancer that goes with it) high on my list of priorities. I would have no patience for this wood if I had to sand it as well.

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A few hours before this picture was taken, these legs were part of a living tree in the woods behind my house. Green woodworking never ceases to enthrall me – the connection between the raw material and the finished products is visceral and unforgettable. Three stretchers to go, and all of the parts for the undercarriage will complete. All they require is time to dry. The Windsor chair is underway!Legs (18)