September 2018

The school year began so I carved a little spoon for little hands. I felt a little sad as my child when off to school. I brought my own baggage from my early school days and feared that he would be as miserable as I was, but fortunately, schools have changed and his learning is much more positive than mine. However, it was comforting for me, in these days of digital learning and iPads, to know that he would have a hand carved wooden spoon in his lunch bag. Nothing wrong with sneaking a little sloyd into the curriculum, right?

I read The Why and How of Woodworking: A Simple Approach to Making Meaningful Work by Michael Pekovich, who also works as the creative director at Fine Woodworking Magazine. It’s a fast read filled with food for thought on woodworking craft and practice, such as:

  1. It’s not the number of hours, but how you use them.
  2. Make it a habit.
  3. Do your thinking away from the shop.
  4. Make sure it’s worth building.
  5. Why little things are the “big” things.
  6. Shavings or sawdust – aka hand vs. power tools.
  7. Our mindset makes a difference.
  8. A new technique and a new tool with every project.
  9. Rethink perfect.
  10. Don’t rush, but don’t stand still.

I found the book deeply inspiring and informative. Whether you are a new or experienced furniture maker, or even into spoon carving like me, this book helps you rethink how you approach your material and time in the shop and make the most of both. The book has beautiful photos throughout and includes projects for the reader to work on. Highly recommended!

I also just picked up The Making of Tools by Alexander G. Weygers. I’m excited to read Weyger’s book and I dabbled behind a forge a few decades ago. My conundrum with craft though is keeping myself reigned in and focused. By nature, I am someone who loves to explore and dreams of doing it all. I want to make spoons, kuksas, ale bowls, spoon mules, boxes, furniture, a timber frame house, carving knives, axes, cider, beer, farm, hunt, and write a book or two. I could go on and on. But then there is the issue of time…

Something that I’ve been contemplating a lot lately is how do you stay focused on the craft that you practice? How do let go of the other distractions even when they are related to your primary craft or just excite you as someone who enjoys making things? How do you balance life and the desire to practice your craft with dedication while expanding what you learn and make? 

Speaking of making tools, I started building my spoon mule. Thankfully, my friend David, a far more experienced woodworker than I’ll ever be, is helping me since the last time I used a joiner was around 1991. Nothing like machines with big blades to invoke mindfulness. I’m so excited to build it and am using Michigan Sloyd’s plans.

We snuck away to the farm late in the month to pick apples so we could make hard cider. Apart from a bull in the orchard, it was a relaxing time. I’ve enjoyed living in the city, but the older I get, the more I need nature and the quiet that rests in it.

I also loaded up my car with cherry wood after picking apples and drove from the farm to the 6th Annual Driftless Spoon Gathering in nearby La Farge. I wasn’t sure what expect since I had never been to a spoon gathering before. It was laid back but wonderful.

There is an illusionary aspect to social media like Instagram where you feel like you know someone through seeing and liking their posts. Maybe you even comment or share a message or two. I appreciate that technology affords these opportunities, but nothing can replace the reality of meeting and talking with spoon carvers whose work I’ve long admired, like Tom BartlettGreg NelsonChad KeilDerek Brabender, and Fred Livesay as well as all the new folks that I met too. It was a real honor to hang out and do a little spoon carving with them.

Back home, we began to press the apples for hard cider a week later. I missed the farm, but it’s nice to bits of it back to the city. The wild orchard has been a real gift as a spoon carver. As we restore it and prune or remove trees, I have an unlimited supply of apple and cherry wood.

Closer to home, I had the good fortune to find some cedar. The color and scent of the wood was absolutely amazing!