May 2021

May in Maine is pure joy. The bulbs have bloomed and the wildflowers are taking over. We’ve had blood root, trillium, violets and also a few fringed polygala, and Solomon’s seal.

Our resident barred owl has been a frequent sighting on my morning walks. It seems to be a grand year for chipmunks, and the owl couldn’t be happier.

My chestnut seedlings are doing well. These are a gift from The American Chestnut Foundation. I believe they are second or third generation back crosses of Chinese and American chestnuts. My hope is to distribute them around the state to prevent any blight organisms from wiping out a whole bunch at once, should that happen.

I had a nice article in the spring magazine of The American Chestnut Foundation about the blanket box I made during the summer of 2020 ( see August 2020 blog). Part two of the article, how the native Maine chestnut lumber came to be will appear in the summer issue.

Things were slow in the shop, since I had so many other chores to attend to. Not only that, but I no longer spend 8 and 10 hour days in the shop anymore. It’s nice to slow down a bit. Still taking orders for small items.

I did mange two Shaker round stands, the epitome of good design. Both are classics and favorites to build. I never tire of making them. They found a home in Massachusetts.

Lastly, I made a small box of apple wood. I was given a few planks many years ago, and the donor specified that I could keep the rest if I built a box. It’s only been a few years…

Apple is a notoriously difficult wood to obtain, to dry, and to work with. The 8/4 planks were severely twisted, almost like airplane propellers. Not only that but there were checks, bark inclusions, and some rot. It took two 9″ x 78″ planks to produce one box. It did turn out well. I must admit that the wood smelled so good, that I decided no to finish the inside. the grain wraps around the box.

C. H. Becksvoort © 2021

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April 2021

April wasn’t too bad this year. Rain, mud and flowers, a decent trade-off. Somewhat cool, but that makes the daffodils last longer.

In the shop I had two big projects going. Two wall cabinets, one Shaker inspired, the other a Shaker reproduction. The first, one was cherry, had two drawers, and two shelves. The four panel door had quarter round moldings around the flat panels.

The two drawers had small Shaker mushroom knobs, recessed into a drilled and carved circle. By customer request, the shelves were adjustable by means of saw-tooth shelf supports.

The maple cabinet was a copy of a ca. 1830 wall cabinet from the Harvard, MA Shaker community. This one had a clear finish and two adjustable shelves, also with saw-tooth supports. Both had the spinners integrated into the door stiles.

Two projects were all I could manage. I’ve slowed down a bit, and find it nice to take a break now and again.

BTW, I still have a glass top coffee table waiting to find a home, $2,250., plus shipping.

That’s it from a small shop on a dirt road in Maine.

C.H.Becksvoort © 2021

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March 2021

March is always a blah month, not really winter and not yet spring. Mostly mud.

And leftover snow, behind the shop.

On the other hand, spring is on the way. The red-winged black birds have returned, and the crocuses are up.

I was busy in the shop. Not as busy as usual, but enough to keep out of trouble. Three pieces went to a customer in New York. The re-configured 15 drawer chest, re-born as an 8-drawer chest, was completed last month. In addition, I made one of the new stools and a music stand.

I still have a few copies of The Shaker Legacy left.

The music stand was one of my first designs, and it’s been years since I made one. It’s always a pleasure to build something new or something I haven’t had a chance to build for a long time. The hollow shaft adjusts by about 15″ for standing or sitting. The most challenging part is the intertwined parabolas.

That’s it for another month. Looking forward to a good April. And check my Instagram page if interested.

C.H. Becksvoort © 2021

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February 2021

This February was about normal, temperature wise, with not that much snow, and a bit of ice.

We had quite a spell of below freezing weather, but it never went below zero° F. Several small storms, but nothing noteworthy.

The sun is definitely up earlier, and the days are getting longer. At the market we got our first batch of daffodils, although outside here there is no indication of anything poking through the snow yet.

I had a few small projects in the shop. However, most of the month was devoted to a 9-drawer chest, the same size as my 15-drawer chest. It had fewer, but bigger drawers as requested by the customer.

It has the usual construction, of dovetailed top, telescoping web frames, frame and panel back, and grain that wraps around the entire piece. Nice to build a piece that’s slightly different from the usual.

Looking forward to March, the schedule is full well into next summer and fall. At this time I am no longer taking any orders.

C.H. Becksvoort © 2021

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January 2021

It’s been seasonably cold this month, with some snow, but nothing to get excited about. January in Maine. Last night it was -6° F (-21°C). More and bigger snow expected in early February.

In one of my numerous walks through the woods, I discovered two really nice large white pines. One was about 24″ in diameter, the other just over 30″. Looks like at least one 16″ clear log in each.

Two projects in the shop this month: the first was a wall shelf, as featured in Fine Woodworking magazine issue #284, the one with two drawers. The pulls are small river stones, drilled, with threaded shafts.

The shelf turned out well. I only wish that I hadn’t shown the prototype with the stone pulls. They are a pain to bore with a diamond bit, and besides, there are so many more and better options for pulls. Oh well, it is the last one.

The next project was the small wall cabinet with the carved door.

The drawer pull inside this cabinet is flush, and carved directly into the front. One of several options for carved pulls that I’ve used.

The new, smaller shop is coming along nicely. The floor is in, one new window, and one replacement, and everything is insulated. Waiting for drywall, which may take a while.

C. H. Becksvoort © 2021

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December 2020

It’s a bit late for the December news. However, I didn’t want to miss the last month of a less than stellar year. It’s over, and here is hoping for the best in 2021.

In the shop I finished up the seven drawer chest, built a breakfast table, a side table and a storage box. All four items are straight out of the catalog. The storage box, is always customized, usually with a carving of initials or dates. This one was easy, I love carving straight letters. The ampersand was a bit more challenging.

The end of the year is always a time to look back at the output of the past year. In 2020, the total pieces created in the shop came to 31, (congratulations) thank you. That brings my total pieces made in the shop since I started on my own in 1986 to a grand total of 901. With retirement for next summer, it won’t go much higher. However I’m pretty pleased for the output of a one-man shop on a dirt road in New Gloucester, ME.

In the house, our rosemary plant, sitting in the front window started to bloom. A real treat during dark times. Not only are the small flowers a treat, but the leaves, added to pizza, made for a tasty treat.

Weather-wise, it was a pretty tame month. Snow, rain, wind, and more snow.

The best part, as I may have mentioned before, was my daily walk through the woods. It’s always a restful, stress relieving, and healthy part of the day. In what little spare time I have, I pruned a few white pines, hoping to do a few more in he next few months.

Best wishes for the coming year. Wear your mask and stay healthy

C. H. Becksvoort © 2021

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November 2020

November was another busy month, filled with mostly frivolous details and small projects. I finally finished the writing desk, a fairly simple table with two drawers and a pencil tray inside.

Another small project was cleaning up, re-building, and painting a small wall cupboard found in the barn. It was in pretty sad shape with parts missing, the door joints loose, and no panel. Also very dirty and full of sticky glop.

I carefully disassembled it, cleaned the hardware, made a new top, bottom and back, painted it and added glass to the door. It turned out pretty well.

Back to real work in the shop, I started a seven drawer chest, to be done next month.

Weather-wise, it was cold, with first ice on the pond up the road, but no snow yet. My once or twice daily walks through the woods, get me into the fresh air, and relieve stress. We are lucky to live out here surrounded by woods, fields, wildlife, and stone walls.

C. H. Becksvoort © 2020

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October 2020

It’s not secret that October is my favorite month. Cooler temperatures, no bugs, and brilliant colors. Heading into November, we go from Kodachrome©, to sepia, to black and white. The view from my shop window changes daily.

Despite the pandemic, we try to get out as often as possible. Usually we head through the woods or places of special interest. Twice this month we headed out to the Shaker bog. The trail along the water is varied, and the experience changes with the seasons.

I didn’t get much done in the shop, between taking in as much sunshine and color as possible, maintenance around the house, and raking leaves. For years I’ve had a 14 x 20 B & W photo of a white oak tree hanging around, frameless and forlorn It was taken in 1982 in Virginia, for my book In Harmony With Wood, later re-written, and re-published as With The Grain: A Craftman’s Guide To Understanding Wood (Lost art Press 2015). It finally got a nice mat and a quartersawn white oak frame.

I also made a few Shaker candle, or round stands. To me they are the epitome of good, timeless design. I really enjoy making them. After all these years I’ve got the proportions, dimensions and methods of turning down to an art and science.

Right now, I’m starting a two drawer table desk. The base and drawers still need some work, but the top is done. As with all my pieces, the prep work is of most importance. the top boards have to be carefully matched and glued, the top meticulously edged and sanded to at least 500 grit. It shines and the grain will glow , no matter what the finish.

C. H. Becksvoort © 2020

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September 2020

September was a month of odds, ends, vacation, busy work and a few “thank you”. Only now, in early October am I back in the shop with furniture to construct.

Since the last few months were relatively dry, the leaves started to turn early. Most reached their peak the last week of September. In the back yard, the sumac, oak, ash, and red maples made quite the showing.

Mid September I had a chance to do a podcast for the readers of Fine Woodworking magazine. an hour of one of my favorite topics, wood technology and and how wood movement relates to furniture construction.

I did get as few things done in the shop. The good folks at Taco The Town, our favorite food truck asked for a wooden tip jar to replace the plastic jar they had been using. I made a 12-sided cherry container with a bit of letter carving.

Lest you get the wrong impression, life is not just fine furniture. I had to build a folding stair way . It is hinged at the top and folds up under the ceiling. Not exactly cabinet work, but sturdy and functional.

Right now I’m in the process of building two more of my favorite Shaker round stands. It’s quite the trick to get them all to look exactly like the early 1800’s original. Years ago I made a template for the diameter at one inch intervals to set my caliper when turning. It has seen me through many of these candle stands.

C. H. Becksvoort © 2020

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August 2020

An August like none other. We live in strange times. However, here in Maine we are quite fortunate. Only one day a week do I don the mask and head into town to do chores.

Fall is definitely in the air. Blueberries have gone by and blackberries and apples are starting to ripen. Queen Anne’s lace, early asters and black-eyed Susans are in full bloom

The month started with a FWW photo shoot of the square rigged wall shelf, a five-shelf unit on a single vertical rib. A handsome and useful piece, sold and on its way to a new home.

The big project of course was the chestnut blanket box, started last month. The sides were recycled chestnut church pew backs, while the top was made of a recently cut, native Maine chestnut. Dereck Glaser made the hinges. The trim and dovetailed molding are black walnut. A one of a kind piece, never to be reproduced. It too, has already found a home. the owner and I agreed on a generous donation to The American Chestnut Foundation.

All the work this month was not in the shop. The painters were busy outside: feather gray clapboards and white trim. I had to do some replacements on the door boards and I added a new deck to the house entrance. Looks good.

C. H. Becksvoort © 2020

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