Monday, March 31, 2014

A Few Spoons and Baskets for Sale

     I don't do this that often here on my blog, but I wanted to mention that I just put up a few spoons and a few of April's black ash Baskets up for sale on the website. I also have a few spoons from the crooked wood I harvested last week. They did turn our pretty nice, but they are not up for sale just yet. I'll tease you with a few photos. Spoons....It's my world right now that and emptying sap buckets.
Spoons for sale here.
Black Ash Baskets for sale here.

a few spoons and spreaders drying
a new design inspired by the Sundqvists
nice small market basket

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Winter's Walk for Spoon Crooks

     Yesterday I went out for a long walk with my snowshoes looking for crooked wood for spoons. I did find a few among the reaching for the sky trees in the forest around where I live. I sometimes find the crooked ones near the ground or on the side of a hill. I was hoping to find a really nice crook I spotted last year but with all the snow this year I think it's buried and I couldn't find it. I did find a few chaga mushrooms which have healing properties. So a brought one of them home too. I'll be carving the crooks over the next few days and sending the best three over to a spoon carving contest in Sweden.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Winter Reflections and the Carve-O-Rama

     The past few weeks I have been wrestling with the never ending winter. I never thought that as I grow older my love for winter would be compromised. We've had some serious cold all through the northern Midwest. Many weeks with night temps at or below -20f/-29c and near record snow as well. We burned an unbelievable amount of wood to keep the house warm. There is a firewood shortage this winter across the Midwest because of the weather and deep snow. This of course has now ended and temps are up nearly above freezing at night.
    I decided to not trap this winter due to the extreme cold and snow. It's really hard to get out and chisel through 3 feet of ice to set traps, let alone walk miles on snowshoes in what we call 'sugar snow'. It's the kind of snow you get when it has been really cold, so cold that the sun and/or air doesn't settle the snow down. So we have 3 feet of snow in the woods and without snowshoes you sink to the ground, wallowing around in it. Not too bad if you have nothing to do, but when there are tasks at hand it takes more time and energy. It's good I have some tight weave snowshoes for the family it helps to keep us on the surface.
   The sun is really packing some heat so the surface snow is now getting packable. We walked around the sugar bush and 'packed a float' which when left over night settles into a hard semi packed surface that the snow machine/snowmobile can ride on. We use this to get firewood back to the sugar shack and carry the heavy piles of metal buckets into the woods. But with the deep snow the snow just under the surface is still sugary and if you break through the machine just digs itself into a hole. This happened twice a few days ago. We had to pick up the machine and set it along side the hole, fill the hole, pack it with snowshoes then wait until the next day. We did get it out. I'll be heading over to the massage therapist next week to work the kinks out from my back.
    I sure long the sun this time of year. It's really nice to feel the heat of it on my face I know that spring is on the way, even though word has it that the farmer's almanac is calling for 30" of wet snow in April.  Enough of the venting on the winter/spring. I'll write more on the sugaring season as it unfolds.
    A few weeks ago a few friends stayed with with my family for what I called the winter carve-o-rama. These guys, are in my opinion some of the best spoon carver's in the county. The Midwest seems to harbor a disproportionate amount of spoon carvers. Maybe this is because of North House or the fact that many of us grew up looking at the family heirloom spoons carved by our immigrant ancestors.
    Thomas Dengler, Fred Livesay, Yuri Moldenhauer, and Mike Loeffler arrived on a Friday and stayed until Sunday. Not nearly enough time, but it was a blast and a lot of fun, good talk and carving.  We all have a love for good ale and drinking from wooden bowls. Dinners were filled with laughter and stories while wooden plates filled with great food were passed around the table. We also had a sit down talk about the need for some organized group to help advocate for the traditional handcrafts her in the states. We had a few hours of discussion and decided to move forward with a spoon carving group to start. We are still not sure how this will pan out but we hope to meet again and take the discussion further. The one thing that strikes me as a big obstacle is the vast size of the US. There is a lot of space between folks. We thought that a 'greenwoodworking' group would be a good start but after trying to decide what greenwoodworking even is, we thought to start with one genre. It seems simple sometimes when we think to ourselves, but when it comes down to articulating and writing thoughts down it becomes a different story.  Putting the idea though a critique to test its soundness is another thing that is quite hard. I'll post more on how it unfolds as time goes on. I'd also be into hearing from folks who are interested in the idea. Send me an email or go through my website contact form here.
     I still have strong thoughts on the traditional crafts in general and where they stand in our culture. I have been corresponding to a few key folks in the craft world. It seems that something is brewing but as my son says "there will be a new word to describe what you do and you'll be talking about this your whole life" I think he's right. These things take time....changing culture, our perceptions, our values. The wood culture renaissance is just a part of what is happening. There's more to write on this, but I'm still working out a few details. I'll write more before the end of the month. More stories to share.
Here's the photos for the spoon carving weekend.
Think Spring.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

North House's Woodcarver's Week

     This past week I found myself up at North House Folks School. They were hosting a wood carver's event that brought many folks with a love of wood together. The event was a really big success and I still find myself sorting out all the subtle things I've learned or experienced while there.
     Fred Livesay and I co-taught 2 spoon carving classes. This was a first for us and I think it went really well. We were able to give the folks in the classes more attention than if we were teaching individually. We both have a different style of spoons, but we use the same basic spoon carving skills and knife grips. this is a good thing for students.
     Roger Abrahamson taught pole lathe bowl turning. Roger has been turning bowls on a pole lathe for many years and knows a great deal about the Nordic style ale bowls I love so much.  Phillipe and Else Odden taught Norwegian Relief carving, both were schooled in a traditional format in Norway. Else is a native Norwegian as well. Harley Refsal a very well known flat plane carver taught a few days as well. Jock Holman taught a really nice letter carving class. Cecilia Schiller a wooden automata class, and last but not least Jon Strom taught a bowl carving class.
     A few of us went up to the Grand Portage National Monument which has a great interpretive center. Grand Portage was a key place during the fur trade for many years and has a very rich history.  During the winter not much of the grounds were accessible but we did get to visit the woodworking shed, which is filled with bark canoes! One of the biggest canoes was a replica of the big canoes that carried nearly tons of fur and gear from the west to the Montreal, measuring in at nearly 40 feet! What a site.
     This was quite a weekend! Besides the day time classes we had a open shop during the evening and plenty of live music, carving and visiting. I think I can say a great time was had by all. I wish I could have got it all on camera but had little time to take photos. I got a few of the classes in the building I was in but there was so much more happening. I hope you will consider attending next years event.
Fred talking about design
Roger talking about bowl turning
some bowls from Roger's personal collection.nice!
Fred at the chalk board
Roger talking about the tooled surface of the old bowls
design talk
Phillipe's ale hens
Happy students
My friend Paul working at the grinder
Philippe showing a student the technique
bark canoes
bark canoes
the canoe in the forground is a 120 year old style long nose canoe, the the big fur trade boat in the back.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Robin Wood's Teaching at North House

     If you have been a reader of my blog you will know that I teach at North House Folk School. It's a fantastic place to learn, nestled right on Lake Superior in the town of Grand Marais, Mn.  The school is one of the older folk schools in the country, creeping up to 20 years old.
    This year Robin Wood will be offering a class at the school on bowl turning with the pole lathe. If you have not heard of Robin his website is here. I met Robin over at the bodger's forum a few years ago when I was learning to turn on the pole lathe, later I attended the first and second Spoonfest and got to know him personally. He's a great guy and very skilled teacher, a knowledgeable craftsman and good friend. I'm happy to have helped get him over here to help spread the 'Wood Culture Renaissance'.
    There will be a high demand for this class so the school decided to have a lottery for enrollment. You'll have from March 1 to the 7th to get on the list.
    Here is the link to info
It will be good.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Q & A with Popular Woodworking Magazine

     A few days ago I was interviewed by Dan over at Popular Woodworking Magazine for their online "Woodworking Daily" series. You can read it here.  I think its a great idea and that the 'green woodworking' is getting some attention in the major publications. Thanks Dan!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Winter Spoon Carve-O-Rama

     I've been carving spoons and turning bowls this week. I've streamlined my spoon carving process fully incorporating the spoon mule. It's saving me much stress on my wrists which in the long term will be a really good thing. I put a bunch of spoons up on my website yesterday, many have sold already.  The ale bowls will be ready later this week. I'm really happy with the shapes of this next batch of bowls. I've also been preparing for what's looking to be a great weekend.
    One Friday a few of the best spoon carvers in the county will show at my place to visit, carve together, and talk about wooden spoons. We we'll also be discussing the ideas of forming a regional greenwoodworking group/association. So stay tuned for what ideas we come up with. 
    Being within the wood culture renaissance there will be some fine ale's filling our collection of drinking vessels along with fine food, served and eaten from wooden plates and bowls....I'll write up on this early next week with photos. Do any of you use wooden spoons on a daily basis?

a few spoons being finished up

ready to go to good homes for daily use