MAY 2019

May is always gorgeous. This year was no exception. We had our share of rain, actually more than our fair share. It did bring a wonderful display of flowers. The weather never got out of the 70’s, so the blossoms lasted longer than usual.

The birds returned: phoebes, tree swallows, kestrels, and a variety of warblers. We also had the usual assortment of amphibians. Especially noticeable, and enjoyable were the spring peepers. Also, the salamanders made their way to vernal pools.

In early May I had a chance to give a talk at the Hancock Shaker Village in Pittsfield, MA. It is one of my favorite places in Massachusetts, a fully restored Shaker community with that wonderful round stone barn. If you ever get a chance to visit any of the Shaker sites, or even the last existing Shaker community at Sabbathday Lake, by all means do so. There is so much history and something to be learned at each of the sites.

Although I’m trying to take it easy, I still got some shop work done. A small dining table went to Furniture Friends.

the better part of the month was taken up with a 7-drawer chest. The sides and top were constructed of a single, wide, cherry board. It only took 82 hours to make.

One more coat of oil, and it’s on to the next project.

C. H. Becksvoort © 2019

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April 2019

April did not start out too great. Snow and mud.And more mud, and rain.  Finally the dirty snowbanks began to recede and a few early bulbs began to blossom.  Spring at last.Work in the shop was scant this month.  I missed two weeks with the flu.  I did mange to finish, oil and assemble the king size pencil post bed started in March. I also built a small outdoor bench made of cumaru, known as Brazilian teak (Dipteryx odorata).  The wood is super hard, and I hope to never have to work with it again.  However, it is also extremely decay resistant, so that bench will probably outlast me.The high point of the month was the annual Fine Woodworking Live 2019 gathering in Southbridge, MA.  We had a great lineup of presenters including Matt Bickford, Brian Boggs, Danielle Rose Byrd, Michael Fortune, Peter Galbert, Chris Gochnour, Garrett Hack, Nancy Hiller, Beth Ireland, Rollie Johnson, Joshua Klein, Tom McLaughlin, Steve Latta, Michael Pekovich, Christopher Schwarz, Bob Van Dyke and myself.  I gave the Friday evening opening talk about the Herbie Project.The Saturday banquet keynote address was by Miguel Gómez-Ibáñez, past president of the North Bennet Street School.  His work while president, in moving the school to a new, larger and updated building and establishing a huge scholarship endowment, was really awe inspiring.

All in all a great weekend, thanks to the hard work and great organization of the FWW staff, the presenters, student exhibitors, and attendees.

C. H. Becksvoort © 2019


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March 2019

March is kind of a transition month in Maine. We go from deep winter to the beginning of spring in a matter of a few days or weeks. There were two snow storms at the start of the month, then … Continue reading

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February 2019

Mid winter, lots of snow, cold, rain, and more snow. Not more than 3″ to 12″ at a time, but lots of storms. That means cleaning the driveway each day, before I get to go to the shop.

Well, it wasn’t all bad weather. We had some sunny (and cold) days as well. It really is nice to walk through the woods on a clear winter day. The snow is full of deer, squirrel, porcupine, and snowshoe hare tracks. And an occasional fox.

It wouldn’t be February without Valentines Day. Even out here on a dirt road in New Gloucester, Maine, the Valentine’s Day Bandit left a heart on our porch. Much appreciated and enjoyed.

Between all the less than desirable weather and the effort keeping the driveway clear, I did get work done in the shop. The lectern I started in January was finally finished, gilded and delivered.

The better part of the month was taken up with the construction of a tall cupboard. The dimensions are the same as the Shaker original, only the wood and the panels have been changed. It is a really nice storage cabinet, yet takes only a foot and a half of floor space.

The next project, started on this last day of February, is a pair of Haystack arm chairs. Tomorrow I’m off to purchase a cow hide for the leather seats.

Don’t forget to also check out the my Instagram page for more goings on around the shop and the neighborhood. Lots of fun stuff going on.

C. H. Becksvoort © 2019

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January 2019

Each year seems to roll by a little faster than the last.  Here we are in 2019, late January, and it’s wicked cold.  Earlier this month we didn’t have much snow, so the skating was fantastic.  Went out a few times with my daughter on some of the lakes and ponds in the area.The ice was about 8″ thick.  More recently, we’ve had a few snowstorms, which brought the skating to a grinding halt.  It was fun while it lasted.  However, the snow is not bad either.  Makes everything look clean and bright.The big January event  was a trip to Kentucky, to do a dovetail workshop and book signing at Lost Art Press.  It was most enjoyable, meeting and re-connecting with some great people, good food and severely delicious bourbon.  Quite the catalog of books that Chris Schwarz has published.  I’m proud to be part of the select few authors.  While I was there, Chris, Megan and I took a day to visit the Pleasant Hill Shaker village.  Renovations were almost done, so there was almost no furniture, but the empty, clean rooms were astoundingly beautiful.The spiral stairs in the Trustees Office are always an eye catcher.  A matched set, in opposite directions on either side of the hall.  Magnificent.Back at home, the Maine Crafts Association   asked me to do a book signing at the new Maine Craft Portland gallery. The organization has done a marvelous job of  converting this old jewelry store. I brought a lamp, music stand, and a Shaker tea cabinet to display.  A nice afternoon.I did get a few things done in the shop.  First off, it was time to sharpen a few tools.  I dug out my four water stones, 220, 1000, 4000 and 8000 grit, and got to work.Once sharpened, I made a small wall mirror, a bit different this time. Instead of the square top with a slight curve on the inside, this mirror had a Gothic arch with a half round inside..  Turned out well.  Its hard to find delphiniums in Maine in January.Next up was a lectern.  It looks pretty simple, but looks can be deceiving. The side splay of the legs is slightly different than the front and back splay.  Add to that the angle of the work surface, and I had to make a full scale drawing to keep all the cuts straight.  Right now it’s almost done, just waiting for some gilding in the front, final glue up and oiling. 

While waiting, I’m starting the next project, a tall cupboard, one of my classics. If you get bored between monthly blogs, have a look at my Instagram site, which I update on a more regular basis.

C. H. Becksvoort © 2019

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December 2018

Another year gone by.  A usual, there were ups and downs, but all in all, more ups! First the weather was iffy,  went to below zero, and then a few days of rain.  We actually had more snow in November than this month.Despite the weather I still go for my morning and evening walks.  It de-stresses, and  makes me appreciate what’s good in my life, and the beautiful state I live in.  One of my favorite places is at the bottom of the hill, along a stone wall through our woods.The high point this month (or maybe even the entire year) was the publication, and arrival of my third book, Shaker Inspiration.  It consists of three parts, basic woodworking, business practices, and the inspiration I’ve gotten from Shaker designs.  Included are 20 measured drawings by Jim Richey.  My wife, Peg, took most of the photos.  So far the book is doing well, and has been enthusiastically received.I made a couple of wall lamps at the beginning of the month, both curved and straight.  The straight version will be featured in Fine Woodworking soon.  The glass globes are by Tandem Glass, of Dresden, ME.The big December project in the shop was a media cabinet, a low case with mitered corners, the whole sitting on a short base.  The upper portion was 5′ long and 20″ deep, but only 12″ high.  Cutting the miters was not a problem, neither was cutting stopped grooves for 19″ splines in each miter.  Gluing and aligning the fragile 1/8″ splines into four corners at once with no help was a challenge.  It all went well.  The sliding doors were also problematic, since the customer wanted plain-sawn figured wood, not quarter-sawn or frame and panel doors.  I left plenty of room for expansion at the top, routed in two dovetailed battens in each door and gave them an extra coat of oil/ spar varnish mix. The customer also wanted carvings in the bed I’d completed previously.  That was quick work.  I enjoy carving.  It’s quiet, no machinery involved, but I can crank up the music.  Love and Peace go well with a bed, both on the inner side of the head and foot rails.Believe it or not, I finally got a phone.  Well actually it’s a portable computer that sometimes acts as a phone.  Anyway, it’s now much easier to do Instagram, and way more fun.   Have a look at the site.

Happy New Year, or Glückliches neues Jahr.

C. H. Becksvoort © 2018

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November 2018

Lots of small, large, interesting, boring, significant, memorable, and best forgotten projects and events this November.   Earlier this month we took a morning off to drive to Reid State Park, where my wife was doing a photo shoot. The park has, I think, the best of both worlds:  a long sand beach, and a rocky headland.  It is particularly  fun in November, after a storm and after the tourists have left.  There were even a few surfers.Just a few days later, we had our first significant snow.  Three, actually, serious enough to close schools.  That’s three snow days before winter has officially started.On one of the non-snow days I got a call from my upholsterer, that the day bed was finally done.  It turned out really well, with gray leather, gray and black leather pillows, and light gray canvas bolsters.  Looks great in its new home.I got to build two breakfast tables. The first was missing a detail that the customer really liked.   I hardly ever build the same piece the same way.  But the customer is paying, so he or she gets what they want.  The second will get shipped off with six other pieces, while the first one will find a home locally.  I try to do whatever it takes to keep customers satisfied and coming back.  It’s good business.Also built a Shaker round stand, that graceful one with the wine-bottle shaped post.I started a Shaker style bed, which I’m hoping to finish next week, barring any unforeseen interruptions. The posts are done, and yesterday I did the rails and bed bolts.At last, the new book, Shaker Inspirations, is in the Lost Art Press warehouse and will ship out next week.  It’s been a few years in the making, and I for one, am anxious to hold a copy.  Those who pre-ordered should have theirs soon.  If you haven’t ordered one yet, there is still time before the holidays.

I’m also going through my five decades of accumulated stuff and trying to downsize.  Just sold my Stanley #77 dowel maker.  The Norris #61 plane is still on ebay.  Have a look if you’re interested

Lastly, after much arm twisting and figuring out how to do this without a phone (yes, I still have a rotary land line in my shop), I’ve succumbed to the lure of Instagram.  Now that’s something!

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