February 2018

Yet another month has slipped away, much too fast.  Probably because we’re 2 or 3  days short in February.  In any event, we’ve started the freeze-thaw cycle early.  Maple sap buckets are out, the sap run dependent on freezing nights and warm days, which also makes for a messy driving on our dirt road.  I suspect that mud time will be going on for several weeks.  However, we’ve also have had our share of snow. The days are getting longer, and the sun brighter.  Spring is on the way.  Which always means that it’s time to start seedlings.  The first that I plant are onions, leeks, and parsley.Tomatoes , four varieties, will be planted  mid-March, along with marigolds, and basil.  Everything else will be direct seeded in late April, early May.

In the shop, I finished the corner cabinet; oiled figured cherry with walnut knobs.  It was delivered locally, and we had to cut the baseboard and slide the cabinet in from above.  Here it is while still in my workshop.We also had another FWW photo shoot.  Two articles in a single day.  Talk about efficiency!  First up was a new out feed table for my saw.  When I got my SawStop years ago, I kept the old out feed table.  The miter gauge slots didn’t line up, and it was a bit smaller than I wanted.  The new one is full width.

The second article was a Shaker berry box (sometimes used as a small sewing basket as well), white pine with 1/8″ finger joints.  The shoot went well, while the only issue we ran into was bending the handle.  I usually use green or soaked air dried wood, but getting it bent and set in a short span of time was a challenge.  So I made a form, taped & tied the handle to it, crossed my fingers and popped it into the microwave. I tried about 5 or six bursts of 30 seconds each, with 3 or 4 minute cooling off between each .  It worked, and the green tape held fast.  Of course the magazine photos will be much better.  Be on the look out.While digging around in the attic of the shop, I decided to sell the antique library card catalog unit that I’ve had stored there for decades.  It’s dark oak, 52″ high, 32″ wide and 16″ deep.  Five section of 10 drawers each.  $1,600. for the entire unit, or $400, for each of the 5 sections. Pick up here in New Gloucester, ME.Last Sunday we had a good snowfall, and I had nothing planned.  I’d also run out of library books.  So I went upstairs to the pile of books on my side of the bed to dig through old favorites, and found Blue Highways, by William Least Heat Moon.  It’s a trip around the USA in a small van, taking only back roads, and meeting a variety of interesting people. I’ve only read it about 3 times, but it never ceases to amaze, and each time I read it I discover something I missed the last time.    Positive and most enjoyable.

Next up in the shop is a set of four chairs, two stools and a round table.  Monday I drove up to Lewiston to buy a cow.  Just the hide actually, 60 square feet of beautiful black leather.  That and the seat blanks are off to the upholsterer, while I build the chairs and stools.

C.H. Becksvoort © 2018

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January 2018

Like a fresh coating of snow, the new year always holds endless possibilities.  January was quite a mix of weather, from extreme cold, to snow, rain, ice, and more snow.The garden shed in the early morning, just before sunrise.  Along the road, at the end of the driveway, the first rays of the sun highlight my sign.

A few days later, the fresh snow is coated with ice, after a rainstorm and sudden freeze.  Spectacular to look at, but no fun to walk or drive  on.

Again, a busy month.  The schedule is beginning to fill up well into next summer.  Word has leaked out that I’m no longer teaching, and thinking about retirement.  I’ve been over occupied so far, between keeping the driveway clear, an un-welcomed run-in with a router, playing chief cook, bottle-washer and chauffeur, continuous revisions on the forthcoming book, I actually did get to spend time in the shop.  Finished up a few odds and ends, and sent a few goodies out. The only project I managed to complete was a small bookcase, dovetailed, adjustable shelves, and frame & panel back.

At coffee break, with one of my favorite Elizabeth Louden mugs. I think of the designs as stylized trees.  Love the color.  The finished piece turned out quite well, and was delivered today.

I also had a request for a few Shaker knobs, which I’m not to keen on making, but do on occasion.  For years I lugged this sample board with me to shows.  Now I hide it in a wall cupboard in the showroom, so as not to encourage any more knob orders.  There is nothing quite as exciting  as standing at the lathe all morning, turning out 28 identical knobs, knowing they are not going onto a piece of my furniture.

Once in a while I get a cute cut-off, and this one looks like a miniature square.  Could be used as such, but went into the firewood pile instead.

However, most of the month was taken up by a cherry corner cupboard. It’s  fun piece to build, so I thought I’d take a few in-process shots.  The corner cupboard is one of the rare pieces I actually make a full scale cross sectional drawing of, since there are so many odd angles and locking, mating pieces.  The two opposite front face frames  are a challenge to glue up at 22 1/2° each.Notice the green tape.  I gave up on the weeny blue tape years ago.  You stretch it over a sharp edge and it breaks. The green tape, on the other hand, takes an amazing amount of tension, even on a freshly milled 90° edge.  I lay both pieces, (cut from the same board) side by side and tape them.  Flip them over, glue the joints, fold and tape.  A perfect joint, no clamps required. Don’t bother trying this with blue tape.Next, the two face frames are attached to the top, middle shelf and bottom.  Looks more like a boat hull than a piece of furniture.  It’s a bit fragile at this point, but once the two long sides are on, it stiffens right up. The sides are trimmed at 45°, to let the actual back bypass the two sides.  It’s virtually impossible to clamp a 45° corner without smashing it, so a band-sawn cut-out is called for.With the back in place, the end looks something like this.  Except for the narrow pieces of the face frame, all other parts are dadoed to capture the shelves on five edges.All that’s left is the three horizontal face frame members, top molding, a wood door on the bottom, and a glass door on the top.  Oh yes, and sanding and oil.  With three more days, or less snow and a better behaved router, it would have been finished.  Something to look forward to in the February blog.

C.H. Becksvoort © 2018

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December 2017

Again, the last month of the years.  My sixth year of shop blogs, having missed only three months in all that time.  I try to keep up to date.  Like every year, it’s had its ups and downs.  We lost a few very close friends, I managed to keep the business afloat for the 34th year, and got the new, yet untitled book off to the Lost Art Press.  Designed a few new pieces, and made a load of old favorites.

Winter came early to Maine this year.  It snowed for real on December 9.  In all we’ve had close to 24″ (61 cm) this month.  The landing in the front of the shop is about 30″ (76 cm) off the ground.  And it’s been beastly cold, so far down to -18° F (-28°C), and likely to remain that way well into 2018.  Just as a side note, the heat pump in the shop has worked admirably for several years.  However, it will only extract heat from the air to about -13°F (-25°C), so on the last several mornings it’s been right chilly.  Once the temperature rises, it kicks in again and works overtime.  I still have the wood stove.

The Weekend at Tandem Glass was a real thrill and a success.  I set up in the corner between to the window,  and Peg’s display of cards, and photos.IMG_0015.jpgNotice the big white lamp shade.  Charlie Jenkins blew a similar one for the next lamp.  Terrill outdid him with a bright red shade with little orange spots.  Now I’ll have to make two more arms for their showroom. The first lamp found a home this week.


Shop work this month included the usual last minute Christmas presents.  And I made a set of needle point trestles, a first.  Two adjustable stands onto which a needlepoint frame is clamped. 

I also made another adjustable music stand.  It was promised, and completed before Christmas, but missed the last delivery to DC, so it will show up first thing in 2018.  Some things I have no control over.  The upper section slides on a full length dovetail groove, adjustable by means of an ebony violin peg, with machine screw epoxied into the knob.


That’s it for this year.  Looking forward to the new book next summer, and hopefully the Lie-Nielsen DVD we shot in August 2016.


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November 2017

Every month is a new challenge… some good, some not so good.  This November was no exception.   We had quite the windstorm at the end of October.  I didn’t realize the damage it had done until I took the dog through the woods in early November.  We had about 16 large trees either uprooted, or snapped off. These white pines are 14″ to 18″ in diameter.

Many of the paths and logging roads were blocked.  It looks like a good bit of chainsaw work this winter.

I did get the garden pretty much cleaned up.  There are still a few leeks standing, but the winter squash and carrots are all stored away. Yes, those are cherry planer shavings on the paths.IMG_9334

I also put away the flower pots.  They now take up an entire shelf in the woodshed.  With all the plastic out there, I’m reluctant to toss those nice clay flower pots.  And the head of the funny man?  It winds up in various pots or garden beds, traveling year to year.  You saw him in the geraniums, July ’17.

Our first snow was November 13, a pittance, but enough to indicate that winter is definitely on the way.

The good news is that the book is finally done, and off to the Lost Art Press.  First I sent it Dropbox as requested.  It took over 6 hours to download, and then scrambled all the chapters, photos and captions.   I downloaded the whole thing on a backup drive, which took three minutes, then sent it off by USPS.  It arrived intact, everything was in the correct order.  I think one of the highlights of the whole book writing  process was the photo of a Shaker chair, left-over from days gone by.  I finally put a finish on the cherry, and asked  Br. Arnold at Sabbathday Lake to weave the seat.  He chose the most fitting 5/8″ flame patterned tape. (M. A. Becksvoort photo)

In the shop I made a few thank you projects, a few tealights, and started two swivel- arm wall lamps.  The first, straight arm made of tiger maple, with a really neat swirly orange striped glass shade.  Dennis Griggs photo.

The second one is a curved cherry arm, three parts splined, plus the base.  A bit tricky to glue up, but worth the effort.


(Dennis Griggs photos) The cord goes through the base, and along a groove in the top of the arm.  This one also had a glass globe, a milky white onion shape.  The two shades are made by Tandem Glass, where I will be showing December 2 and 9.  Both Saturdays are FUNdraisers for the Maine Craft Association and the Good Shepard Food Bank.  Do stop by if you happen to be in Dresden, mid coast Maine.  There will be several other craftspeople, music, beer, and wood-fired pizza.

C. H. Becksvoort © 2017

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October 2017

October is my favorite month.  Not only because it’s my birth month, but many other reasons;  the fall colors, the cooler air, no bugs, and its sweater and turtleneck time again.  There’s nothing like wandering through the woods with the dog, enjoying the colors, smells, and the crisp air.   We’re truly lucky here in Maine. IMG_9322

October was also  another busy month, yet very little happened in the shop.  First, there was Maine Craft Weekend.  Each year it gets better.  We had close to 60 visitors over the course of two days.  Many familiar faces, and many new ones, some from close by others from out of state.  I sold quite a few tools that had been collecting in the shop, but had not been put to proper use.  A few are left for the next sale.

And, the Friends of the Shakers had their annual work day  on October 28.  I started out cleaning windows.  Ever looked at 200 year old glass? 

Then I spent a few hours  raking leaves.  Not that much fun, but there was a whole crew of willing folks.  Lunch on work day is always a treat at the Shaker village.  Great food and wonderful desserts.  After lunch, I spent 2 hours cutting brush with one other person.  This was the same area we cut 3 years ago.  It had all grown back.   We left a pile 6′ high and  about 18′ long.

The better part of the month was spent on the yet unnamed book.  I finally got all the writing done, and found a willing and talented artist to do the drawings.  We spent a morning at the Sabbathday Lake Shaker village taking photos.  Leslie at the Hancock Shaker village   sent me several wonderful photos and Jerry at the Shaker  Museum  at Mt. Lebanon   also sent a great shots, all of which will be included.  Between research, writing, and organizing, my desk was a confused mess.

Hopefully the whole package will depart in a week or two, on its way to Lost Art Press.  There, Chris, John, and Megan, as well a a few other talented souls will turn a small hard drive into a book for all to enjoy.  Give or take a year.  Stay tuned.

C. H. Becksvoort © 2017

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September 2017

September has gone from mid summer to instant fall this year.  Two days ago it was 90° F (32° C) and very humid, and today it’s only 58° (14°C) with possible chance of frost.  Quite a switch.   And of course September is aster time.  These wild New England asters put on a spectacular display.

What is really amazing is the fruiting of various tree species each year.  Two years ago, we had a bumper crop of apples.  Last year it was red oak acorns. This year it’s the sugar maples and white pines.  We’re inundated with maple samaras and white pine cones.  It seems that there is a reason for this.  If only one tree produces fruit or seeds, the consumers (birds, squirrels, mice, bears, humans) would easily wipe out the entire crop.  However, if all trees of a  species in a given locale produce a bumper crop, the chances of seeds or fruit germinating and reproducing are greatly increased.  Trees communicate through roots and mycorrhizal threads, exchanging not just nutrients, but also information.

The new book (still untitled,  and still in need of an illustrator familiar with furniture measured drawings), is about done except for photos.  We’re busy shooting, and rounding up pictures from a variety of sources..

This month I held my last workshop at the Sabbathday Lake Shaker community.   We made a dovetailed carrier in white pine.

Next summer will be my first free summer in almost three decades. No classes, no workshops.

In the shop I made two matching Shaker side stands were, which are part of a larger order waiting to leave the shop.  It’s getting crowded.

Last month Ben Strano of Fine Woodworking stopped by and shot “Just Another Dovetail Video.”   Not actually a 7-minute drawer, in reality it takes closer to an hour.   And I never have a “Lazy Monday.”  Great music, though.  I think it was pretty well received and enjoyed.  Of course one dude had to whine about me using a belt sander.  For over 3 decades I’ve made my living from woodworking. I own almost a dozen planes, and use them when the need warrants.  The reason I’ve managed is because I work efficiently.  I don’t do this for therapy.

Finally, I also completed the Shaker settee and low table that I started last month.  Ebonized, with a satin spray finish, it turned out to be rather elegant.  It will appear in FWW sometime in the near future.





Just a reminder that on October 14 & 15, 10-4,  on the annual Maine Craft Weekend, we will have an open studio and showroom.  There will be a few prototypes and other pieces for sale , as well as tools, wood, books & DVDs.  Also cards and photos by   Juniper Ledge Designs.  Stop by for cider & donuts, see new pieces, or just to chat and say hello.  It’s worth the drive if you’re in the greater Portland area.

C. H. Becksvoort © 2017

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August 2017

Busy doesn’t begin to describe August.  Sometimes I tend to take on more jobs than I can easily handle within a given time period.  That’s in addition to the small projects, chores and crisis that invariable appear out of nowhere.  I do however take time to walk the dog twice daily.  Not just for Spirit’s benefit, but also my spirit.  A long walk through the woods tends to clear the mind, and put things into perspective.

Fall is definitely on the way here in Maine.  Temperatures have gone into the low 40’s at night, summer flowers a fading, golden rod is in bloom and a few leaves are starting to turn.  This is one of my favorite walks along our north-west stone wall.




However, most of my time was spent in the shop.  First, three Shaker inspired benches, one huge, and two very small ones.  All had the lap jointed “butterfly” braces under the seats.  Unfinished, they looked interesting sitting on my bench.

The parts, upside down also made a nice pattern, the large bench having three legs with 3 “butterflies” each, while the two smaller benches had two legs and to lapped butterflies”.  All parts were stained black, and taken in for a sprayed satin lacquer finish.

I also made a small writing desk, with a two board cherry top and tiger maple base, with the Shaker arched feet.  It turned out very well.

The last three days of August were taken up with another photo shoot for FWW. Here is one of the many drill press set ups.  Benches and chairs require a host of angled drilling.

The Shaker settee, is based on an Enfield, NH design.  The original was about 4′ long, while this one was 6′, requiring an additional pair of legs.  And 22 ash spindles, tapering from 5/8″ at the bottom to 3/8″ at the top.  I started with 5/8″ ash dowels, tapered them on four sides to 3/8″ on the jointer, and then rounded them with a block plane.  A pile of shavings.

The trickiest part was attaching the back rail to the spindles.  It takes real effort to align 22 spindles into 22 pre-glued holes.  I enlisted the help of my FWW photographer.

Next, the legs were turned, drilled and with their horizontal rungs, attached to the seat,   Once in place, the legs were cut to sit flat. Lastly the whole settee was stained black, to match the black, low coffee table.  Did I forget to mention that had to be made as well?

I really like the ebonized look.  Shaker noir.  It will be even better with a sprayed satin finish.

C. H. Becksvoort © 2017



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