Green woodworking and Blacksmithing

Along time ago, way back when I started woodworking (in the middle ages, when rocks were soft etc), making furniture from trees is what I wanted to do. No, not the chainsaw carved logs that resemble the furniture the Flintstone’s would have owned. But nice stuff like Windsor chairs et al. Many of the tools were either not available or they were available used but in really poor condition. I realised that if I wanted to work like this I would have to make some of those tools myself. Then one summer the local community college offered a 1 week introduction to blacksmithing seminar. Needless to say I jumped at the chance to learn some iron work to help me try to make tools.

Since then many of the tools have been brought back to the marketplace by other people who felt that there was a need and found that they were good at tool making. So we owe them a debt of gratitude for bringing back Spoon Bits and Travishers and Hook tools and all of the other odds and ends of tools that had been lost to the industrial revolution.

While I think that I am good at making tools for myself, I do not feel the need to make hundreds of them and sell them. So I continue now and then to do a little metal work to make tools for myself.

So this past summer I spent a lot of time casting brass, forging steel, and generally making things to make things with.

If you are seeing too much metal work for your liking on my site, well this is why.

I’ll get back to wood real soon.

be well


PS: Blacksmithing itself is a worthwhile hobby if any of you are thinking of trying it. You get the metal hot and hit it hard! And it’s playing with fire. 😉 there are a lot of great videos on you tube, everything from how to setup your first forge to “pro” techniques like how to make a rose or a dragon’s head,  pattern welding etc etc.

if I had a hammer

Hi just banging out a couple of hook tools to try to encourage me to use the springpole lathe I built last year. need to be polished and then tempered, I just finished and hardened them, 3/8″ oil cooled drill rod.

the more I try at this forging stuff the easier it seems to get.



be well


Green Woodworking (musings on the term)

Hi again:

Green Woodworking: What is it? is it Green industry? is it sustainable? is it ecologically friendly? What is it that makes it so Green?

The same sort of woodworking is alternatively called: Country Woodcraft, Primitive woodcraft, Sloyd, and a whole slew of other titles. Green woodworking can be anything from carving spoons and whistles, to making Windsor chairs and other high quality handcrafted furniture.

To understand what Most people mean by it you have to look at the harvesting of the tree. When a tree is first cut down, it and it’s wood, is referred to as being “Green”. It is full of water (40 to 70% by weight depending upon species) in the form of Sap in the tubes and interstitial water inside the lignin and cellulose structures. It practically splashes when you start cutting it. It continues to be called green until most of this water is gone out of it.

Thus primarily Green Woodworking is working with the wood while it is still wet. Or at least starting to work it wet.

We use saws to cut lengths, then wedges and a froe to split it down closer to useful size. Then we use some sort of hatchet or other chopper to clean up the raggedy split faces and to bring it closer to the sizes of the parts we want. Then all of the green wood crafts diverge… Spoon and bowl carvers go one way, bowl turners another, furniture makers go their own way etc. etc. But it all starts with a tree freshly cut.

Is it Ecologically Friendly? Not necessarily, but it usually is. Most Spoon makers use a lot of what other people would call “yard waste”. Branches and tree removals yeild a large quantity of raw material for many Green Woodworkers. And as such prevent that material from just being buried or burned as trash.

And many of the other sorts of Green Workers also make extensive use of yard trees and logs gotten from Arborists and Tree removal services. I myself included. So since we use up a lot of wood that is otherwise wasted it is definitely ECO-Friendly.

Is It sustainable? to answer that we have to look carefully at the terms “sustainable” and “sustainability” and what they mean.

Sustainability is all about carefully using our resources without over using them, or straining the ecology of that resource. As such, nearly every human endeavor can be made “sustainable”.

Fishing is sustainable if we don’t take too many fish, Lumber is sustainable if we don’t cut the trees down faster than they can regrow. Oil and Coal are not sustainable because there is only a limited amount and what is there does not get replaced by natural processes, and once we have used them up they are gone forever.

If we (all) were to all decide tomorrow that we all had to eat off from wood plates and drink from wood cups and all of our furniture and all of our toys etc. had to be hand made from green wood, it would be a disaster. Just providing all of that woodenware and furniture would require clear cutting the planet, including all of the tropical rainforests.

But if, instead, we use the trees that are going to be cut down anyhow (city tree waste) and make useful items for others to enjoy, then it is eminently a “sustainable industry”.

be well


Project “more than I can chew” part 2

When pounding on iron, it might be a good idea to STOP when your arm is so fatigued that you can’t hit it where you want to…

I took my pile of iron and steel scrap and I have made a “stock knife shaped object” (SKSO?).



into this:P1010901

like I said, I only claim it is an object that is sort of the right shape. I was careful not to ruin the temper on the steel blade. So, I need to polish the edge , put a handle on it and see if the hardness of the edge is sufficient. If not I will have to make a LONG forge fire to re-harden the steel then into the kitchen oven to temper it.

Handle next!

Be well!


Project “more than I can chew” commenses

Hi; if you know me, you know this isn’t unusual. if you don’t know me, then you will come to realise this is so: for this week’s episode of “biting off more than I can chew”, I am looking at old leaf springs and my little forge…

What I want to end up with is a stock knife.



what I’m likely to end up with is a POS, and I don’t mean point of sale.

so here is my starting point:P1010876

yeah, it looks like trash, but starting points nearly always do. some truck leaf spring, some re-bar, an old hook. I keep not using the hook because someone else hand forged that.

and here is my ideas sketch:

stock knife

on all of the old ones the handle drops to a point at or below the cutting edge, I think that this is to give better control of steering the cut.

Some (but not all) of the ones I have been looking at have the hook also drop down to at or below the edge, some of that may be 100 years of sharpening. But I think if you consider how that pressure against the tool works you can see that if the bottom loop were below the edge that would keep the blade lined up in tension, but if the loop were above the edge there could be a tendency for it to flop over when you don’t want it too. which would get worse as you moved the hook up further. So I am going to go with a low hook. It also keeps the pivot point right near the edge.

You can’t see it in the sketch, but it is drawn curved in length to just about match the curve of the spring. And also I have it drawn with a knife edge. A clogger’s main Stock knife has a single bevel (away from the clogger), but I am not making a clogger’s knife I am making a smaller stock knife for multiple uses.

lets see how this goes…

be well





Inkle loom

Yeah, I know, Everyone has made an Inkle loom… this is just my turn 😉

My better half used to do a bit of card weaving back when she was in college and has several times mentioned that if she ever “had time” she would like to do some once again.

but she has no loom.

Thus when she went to visit her sister’s family for a weekend i did this:

first I looked for plans on the interwebs: there are a lot of them out there. many of them simply posted to the web and no one asking for money. so I looked at several and drew up my own plans. combining aspects of several designs into something nearly exactly like all of the other looms…

Then having plans, I went down into my dungeon.. I mean shop, and looked around for some appropriate wood. I have Maple, Oak, Beech, Purpleheart, and Poplar to choose from… then again I have this old plank of Black Walnut that has been sitting around here for years. I got it from a job, a very nice woman I had known since childhood,  had this drop leaf kitchen table she wanted cut down to a coffee table. and she asked me to hang onto the leaves (1″ x 14″ x 38″ Black Walnut). I did. She is gone now and her son didn’t want them back. I used one a few years ago on a very profitable little job. and the other has been sitting there…

Now I’m thinking… a lot of people make these and just screw the parts together, and the loom works just fine. Some folks use a half lap joint. If you don’t fuss too much it looks to me like you could make one in about a half a day.

So of course I decide to make this one with saddle joints, and the dowel rods have a step from 1″ dia down to 5/8″ diameter going through the frame (instead of just screwing through the frame) and are wedged on the backside.

I notice that on several but not all of the looms 2 of the dowels are spaced exactly right to use them to tie heddles on. so i do that with the top 2 on the “near” limb.

so here is what I worked from:

I actually ripped the main (long) beam 3 1/4″ and the 2 short ones 2 1/2″. drilled 2 holes for the ends of the slot and carefully sawed out in between.

marked the saddles with a bevel gauge and used the parts to define the opposite side.

I sawed the shoulders on the table saw and used a hand router (not powered) to clean out to depth, sawed the cheeks on the forked parts. and chiseled out the waste in the middle, made sure they fit together and glued it all up.


Then I had to use my 1″ dowel maker/rounder plane that I made years ago after reading about them in Roy Underhill’s book, I think it was “The Woodwright”s Shop”.

It takes a lot of twisting to make 1″ White Oak dowels.

After the frame had cured I put masking tape on the face and marked out the location of the dowels and drilled 5/8″ holes. I used a jig on the table saw to make the step, doing it on a lathe would have been safer (no I didn’t get hurt but trust me, it will be safer if you do it with a lathe if you ever need to do it). I used a back saw to cut a slot in all of the reductions and glued and wedged the dowels into place.

Clean up and scraped in a few spots (I wasn’t going to sand a hand planed face). used a knife to cut a tiny chamfer on all of the edges.

2 coats of clear Watco and we have…

The heddles get tied on the top 2 dowels of the front (left) arm, and in use go on the dowel that is in front of the arms on the main beam. Or the loom is used without heddles and with “cards” or tablets for tablet weaving.

Total time… 2 days

heh so much for a half a day 😉

be well


Geometry et Trigonometry

it was math so a lot of people didn’t pay much attention. and there was a lot of “I’m never going to need this” nonsense going on at my school…

But now you need it: well a little of it. you can do a lot with a little.

squares and circles: the geometric relationship between squares and circles is neglected in geometry class. Sure they point out that blah blah blah circle center of square etc. and most people didn’t listen.

look: it really is simple: and it really is useful!circle square 1

a circle and a square look like they have nothing to do with one another, look again:

circle square 2

if you bisect the angle your line (dotted) is the centerline of the circle. you can use this knowledge to make a center finder for turning on the lathe. or find the center on anything roundish. Or you can use this to make a center finder for your lathe stock.

the same basic principles apply to these also:

the center for this rough piece is somewhere in the middle of the triangle scratched on the end.

Also if your round is larger: on any right triangle if you center a circle on the center of the hypotenuse who’s diameter is the length of the hypotenuse the circle will touch the point of the right angle, so:

rotate the square a bit and do it again:

then the 2 lines cross right at the centerpoint.

jumping back to that first geometry: chairmakers (like Curtis Buchanan) uses it every time he drill his legs for his stretchers. See if the center of the circle is always in line with the center of the square…

circle square 2

if we make a 90 degree v cut in two blocks of wood exactly equidistant from the ends. and stand those blocks up. we get this sort of set up:


where, no matter what the different diameters are or how lumpy/fancy the turning is, straight rod or windsor leg, the centerline of the turning will be parallel to the bench top. so we can set an angle guide to help us aim our drill into the legs at the correct angle.

Here’s another one, you want a nice arc that is a part of a circle but you don’t know where the center of the circle is. or you don’t have a compass around…

put 2 nails at the ends and use your square…

circle square 8

if you slide the square, keeping contact with the 2 nails and a pencil in the peak, it will draw a circle.

Most of the trigonometry that you will need is just what Pythagoras knew. if you haven’t got a square or your object is really big enough that a square isn’t big enough. remember the pythagorean theorem. 345. as in 3″, 4″, 5″. or any measure. a triangle with legs of 3 units and 4 units and a hypotenuse of 5 units has a right angle between the 3 and 4 sides. See you don’t even need the squares or square roots or sines and cosines etc.

3 feet by 4 feet then 5 feet across the diagonal will make a right angle.

So you see: a little understanding of Geometry and even Trigonometry can help you with every project!

be well


Photo gallery

I’m sure there is a way to make up a photo gallery of my work here… I just don’t know how to yet 😉

rolling pin


advertising board for sign carving


door casing corner bosses

table and vase 002

mahogany settle

mahogany settle 001

bear and elephants

toys bowl 001

dartbord case


more on another day: be well all


Bartram’s Gardens

I went for a little walk today at a place called Bartram’s Gardens in the city of Philadelphia, PA. It seems that Mr Bartram was a botanist/horticulturalist that made his name selling and shipping seeds to people in Europe.


they have some bees


and some interesting buildings


and pleasant grounds,

might be a nice place for a green wood event?

be well