Thanks to Richard Francis for pointing out the nonsense that had crept, unnoticed into my post “Meeting Peter Folansbee”.  I seem to have suggested that red oak wasn’t grown in New England.  This was due to a mini crash during the writing of the post which resulted in “in the UK” being missing from “Red oak isn’t grown much, except in arboreta.”

Sorry about sounding as though I don’t know what grows in the Eastern US (and mostly I don’t!)  But I do know that red oak is pretty common, but not as good as white oak – at least for some purposes (I’m sure it has it’s uses too.)

Must read even more carefully before pressing “publish”.

Making bird tables

SAMSUNG CSCAt this time of year I sell a few bird feeding tables, rather bizarrely called ‘bird houses’ by some. I thought I’d go through how I make them.

First I make the gables with the chain saw:

SAMSUNG CSCThese are from an outside slab of oak.  There is bark and sapwood on there, I reckon this will encourage insect life for the birds.  There’s plenty of heartwood to take the mortices.  Then the table itself, this one is beech, again from a slab, but there is no sappy wood on beech.  I make the 1 inch mortices with an auger.

SAMSUNG CSCThese augers are excellent, ex War Department with the distinguishing arrow marked on the shank.  They must have been stockpiled for tens of years as they come fully wrapped and protected with a waxy film that the instructions tell you to remove with a pointed stick.  Mine are 1953 vintage – the year of my birth.  I turn the handles myself in a variety of lengths, longer ones giving more leverage, and short ones for confined spaces.

Next the pillars to support the gables and roof are cut to length and tenoned.  I’ve used silver birch on this one.  I think they should last OK as they are kept dry under the roof.  I first get them down to near 1 inch with the draw knife, and then use the rounder plane.

SAMSUNG CSCI’d normally do this with the Veritas 1 inch tenon cutter, but I’d neglected to recharge the drill batteries so I just finished then off with the tenoner by hand – it leaves neater shoulders than the rounder.

SAMSUNG CSCI use a V-block in the horse to nip the columns which prevents damage to the bark (thanks David).  Do you like the multiple reducers to get the T-bar onto the hex drive?  Works though but.

Start assembly now, in with the columns.


SAMSUNG CSCThen the gables, this is a bit fiddly as the column positions need to be marked from where the column tops land – round wood can be a bit curvaceous (which adds to the charm, I think).

SAMSUNG CSCYesterday was a new style day.  The customer wanted to be able to hang feeders from a stick so I pierced the gable to take one.

SAMSUNG CSCSAMSUNG CSCI wanted the stick to run through both gables so I needed to align through the first hole into the second gable, could have done with a slightly longer auger, but managed anyway.


On with riven oak roof shingles, pre-drilled and nailed with galvanised nails.

SAMSUNG CSCThen I split some round wood for edgings, having first nailed through into the tenons.   Drill through the table to fix onto the 6 foot pole with 4 inch coach screws (not forgetting to washer them). That’s about the bird table finished, do try this at home.  All you need is to make a couple of shepherd’s chairs to produce the waste for materials 😉

Sorry about the dull pictures, the weather was dull too!

Meeting Peter Folansbee


Other side of the fence

I have followed Peter’s excellent blog posts for some years, so it was an exciting prospect to be meeting up with him in he carriage house at Plimoth Plantation MA.  I can’t see the point of being on holiday if there is no contact with the natives, and woody natives are the best.  For those few who do not know, Peter recreates  17th century furniture from mainly green, riven oak.  Many items of his work can be seen around the houses in the Museum, darkened by wood smoke and slowly rotting away from the feet up as they sit on earth floors.  It was a blast to chat with Peter, and a little bizarre to be on the other side of the fence with the public, asking dumb questions like the others.


Peter showed me his stock of wood butts outside, beautiful straight-grained white oak is his favourite, and it is clear to see why from the quality of work he produces.  I had a quick lesson in the differences between red and white oak and English oak.  Of course I’ve read about the differences, but there is nothing like hands on experience.  There is English oak available in New England as the English navy used to plant acorns (see  Footnote 1).  Red oak is  only rarely grown in the UK, and mainly in arboreta.

On raw wood, Peter kindly gave me a couple of pieces of hickory for chisel handles, I’m looking forward to working these up.

I’d acquired a couple of books from Brattle second-hand book shop (more later) in Boston and we had a pore over them, as well as several that Peter bought off his bookshelf.


In the above we are discussing over-turned chairs and the thrown three-legged stool as often seen in Pieter Brueghel’s paintings e.g.In The Fight between Carnival and Lent, there are a couple such being carried aloft in top right background (the image will enlarge if you click on it).

But those ones have backs!  Peter tells me the 3 leggers never seem to pop up in inventories, so they are rather a mystery.  There is an excellent film here, of PF and the irrepressible Roy Underhill putting such a stool together.  I made one when I was just setting out, but I made mine up as I went along, and missed out on making the interlocking jonts.  It’s still in one piece despite that.

I hope to attend one of Peter’s carving classes, sometime soon, but in the meantime I have two of his DVDs on 17th century carving,  a heap of photos from  The Metropolitan Museum of Art (NYC) and a whole country of English carved furniture to study.  Then yesterday I acquired the entire tool chest on a pattern-maker which has increased my collection of gouges by about tenfold (more later).

Drool, drool:


Admiral Collingwood, Rotheram's commander at T...

Admiral Collingwood, Rotheram’s commander at Trafalgar, who considered his subordinate “stupid” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Footnotes:1. Dudley Pope relates an aspect of Collingwood at the beginning of chapter three of his Life in Nelson’s Navy: “Captain Cuthbert Collingwood, later to become an admiral and Nelson’s second in command at Trafalgar, had his home at Morpeth, in Northumberland, and when he was there on half pay or on leave he loved to walk over the hills with his dog Bounce. He always started off with a handful of acorns in his pockets, and as he walked he would press an acorn into the soil whenever he saw a good place for an oak tree to grow. Some of the oaks he planted are probably still growing more than a century and a half later ready to be cut to build ships of the line at a time when nuclear submarines are patrolling the seas, because Collingwood’s purpose was to make sure that the Navy would never want for oaks to build the fighting ships upon which the country’s safety depended.”

The end of work (NB formerly published in the wrong place on my blog)

SAMSUNG CSCThat’s the end of the shows for this year then, trailer unloaded, and panting awaiting logs being loaded later this month.

Fulfilled my contracts, ladders made:



New bucket ready for new marketing moves:

SAMSUNG CSCWhen I return from my break it will be mostly~:



Meanwhile, my bags are packed, boarding pass printed out, batteries charged.

Off across the Atlantic Ocean.

See you soon.