I can make a spoon out of wood. It may not be the most aesthetically pleasing spoon, but it transfers food and liquid from a cup or bowl in my mouth and I don’t have any splinters on my tongue. Fairly low bar, but everyone needs to start somewhere, and it has taken me a while to get to this stage.
Like most novice green woodworkers, I have spent hours watching YouTube. ZedOutdoors has been particularly good at promoting UK greenwood carvers including Lee Stoffer, Adam Hawker, Martin Hazel, Paul Adamson, just to name a few. I’ve watched everything Barn the Spoon has posted, and am a very supportive member of the Green Wood Guild. While this medium is great for some aspects of learning, an in person class is really what I am looking for, and I’m located in Northeastern US.
In my ongoing search for information regarding green woodworking, I happened upon some information on GreenWoodFest which is run by Plymouth CRAFT. Plymouth CRAFT has gathered some of the most well-known and talented greenwood makers in the world for a week in June for the last two years. Each of those years one of my children has graduated from high school so the opportunity to attend hasn’t come for me yet. Peter Follansbee has been a regular instructor at Plymouth CRAFT and is very involved in GreenWoodFest. Peter’s blog is one of the many I follow. One of the posts on his blog included his teaching schedule for the year. I really had two choices, go to Maine in August, or North Carolina in October. I’m not a patient person, and happen to love Maine, so while I would love to meet Roy Underhill, I decided to pace myself.
As you “mature” some things are supposed to fade away, like being overly optimistic, or excited to drive 9 hours to learn from someone you’ve only heard about. I can’t say any of that applied to me. I was very excited to meet Peter. Every time I mentioned I was going to his class to another carver, I was told I was going to have a blast. Spoiler alert, I did, and I learned.
The class was held at Lie-Nielson Toolworks in Warren ME. This is a very dangerous place for me to be allowed to visit without financial supervision. I’m a big fan of what and how Lie-Nielson does what they do, and I believe that hand tools, and the manufacturing of quality hand tools, aligns well with green woodworking. Lie-Nielson has a grove out back and as the weather was beautiful, we quickly moved from the class room to outside. 15 carving blocks, some benches, and a cutting station were quickly set up next to a wonderful pile of freshly cut birch.
Peter does a great job of introducing new carvers to the basics, while providing enough details and witty banter for those that may have carved a spoon. Soon enough we were cutting logs to length, making a billet, and axing it out to a blank. Peter provided a template of what he calls one of his good spoons he’s been trying to recreate. Someday I’d love to be able to distinguish why one of his spoons is better than another. I found them all to be excellent. But then again, it was actually why I went to the class, to learn what is good, and how to get there from where I am now.
For the rest of that day and the following I had the opportunity to sit and carve and commune with fellow carvers. Jokes were told, additional instruction was shared, the opportunity to axe out additional blanks and carve additional spoons was certainly available. I thoroughly enjoyed the time. Peter would stop by every once and a while and look at my spoon, make some suggestions, or just sit and chat. It truly was what I was hoping for. Quite a bit of the instruction re-enforced what I knew, a couple of things I thought I knew, I found that I didn’t know quite right, I learned a number of new grips, and the class got to go through Peter’s spoon collection.
Being able to touch and compare world class spoon carver’s creations to one of your own is a humbling and educational experience. For me, a very humbling experience. Someday I’ll get there. Taking a class with Peter certainly made that day a little more acheiveable.
If you enjoyed this little view into my greenwood journey, feel free to like, comment, and or follow. I know some people look at these posts, I would enjoy getting some feedback.