July 2016

There is a reason Maine is called “Vacationland.”  Summer is short but amazing.  There is so much to see and do.  The weather is mostly cooperative, we’ve only had 3 days above 90° (32°C).  For the fourth of July, we took a day trip to Acadia National Park.  Not the main part on Mt Desert Island, but the less visited portion on the Schoodic peninsula. Pink granite with black basalt dikes running through, and big waves.  I got wet on the last one.

After 30 some years, my sign out front was looking a bit shopworn.  So I made a new one, this time out of marine plywood with marine paint.

IMG_1834July is also the time of Maine Open Farm Day. Again this year I was at the Shaker village at Sabbathday Lake, inside the barn.  There, all the way in the back, stood and old, dusty Massey-Harris tractor (before Fergusen).  There were hayrides, spinning demos, food, flowers and great people.  Very nice summer weather, as well.IMG_1869

There was also a lot of shop work.  First another standing desk., this one with a small stone pull on the inside drawer.

IMG_1884If we’re lucky, the standing desk will make an appearance in FWW sometime in the future.  Standing desks are really quite handy and easy on the back, especially if you have a foot rail below.

Another desk was a small built in, something I don’t usually do, but this was for a special client.  A short wall in an upstairs room had a 3-foot nook, just right for a small desk.  I made a three sided frame with a groove along the top, into which the writing surface slid.  Below the writing surface are two drawers with full extension glides.  It only took four visits to get it fitted and adjusted. IMG_4407M. A. Stevens-Becksvoort photo.

Finally this month I had a set of hinges made.  If you recall the post from October 2014, I made a few forge welded billets of Damascus steel.  They’ve been sitting around the shop, and I finally decided to have Dereck Glaser, head of the New England School of Metalwork, turn two of them into blanket box hinges.  He did an amazing job.  I’ve got a few 24″ side clear pine boards that have been air drying for 9 or 10 years, that really want to be a blanket box.  It’s on the schedule for this fall.

IMG_1865C. H. Becksvoort © 2016


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June 2016

Summer is always busy, and this June was no exception.  In addition to the usual shop work, teaching and writing, there are all the outside chores: the lawn, the garden, pruning and planting.  Always a pleasure to work outside in June.  Peonies, on of my favorite perennials, put on quite the show in white, pink and dark red.

IMG_1828The maple trees we planted over 30 years ago are maturing and needed to have some of their lower branches cut, so as not to shade out the rugosa roses.  There is a spot between the driveway and the house where we used to have a cherry tree, which died, and a crab apple, which the borers did in.  I finally found a beautiful specimen tree for that location, a weeping blue spruce. It only reaches 12-15 feet in height, perfect.

IMG_1817Meanwhile, there was a lot going on in the shop.  I made a nice bookcase, 24 x 36, with a paneled back, but didn’t get a photo before it got shipped out.  I also received a treasure trove of carving tools.  There was  an extra spoon gouge ,and decided to pass it on to a friend.  First, though, it needed a new handle.  I dug out a piece of hop hornbeam, and copied the old  one.  Finished with shoe-polish and oil.  Not too shabby.

IMG_1818The better part of late June was spent making another standing desk.  This one will be featured in an upcoming FWW article.  It gets assembled and photographed today.  A finished photo should be here soon.


We also had great dovetail workshops at the Sabbathday Lake Shaker village on June 25.  Well received and attended.  Upcoming on July 8 & 9, the Open House at Lie-Nielsen Toolworks in Warren, ME.  Friday morning at 11 am, I’ll be giving a talk on Shaker Furniture.  Saturday evening is the lobster dinner, followed by a coincidental Cowboy Junkies concert at the Strand Theater in Rockland.  What a summer!

C.H. Becksvoort © 2016

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May 2016

May was a diverse month, both in weather and in items coming out of the shop.  May is also the start of tourist season and we had out share of visitors.  One of my first projects this month was a set of two library display boards, delivered to Edmunds, ME.  That’s near Eastport, about a stones throw from the Canadian border. Quite a trip.

Next up was  state of Maine plaque, laser engraved and carved.

IMG_1752The most time consuming and challenging job was a restoration project, a rocking horse.  It was in really bad shape, left out in the rain, in a barn, and generally neglected and falling apart.  The body consisted of a piece of 1  1/4″ thick hardwood, with  a sheet of 5/8″ plywood on either side.  The wood was rotting and required extensive splicing and filling.  The rear hoof looked like this:IMG_1756It took a pint of bondo, new paint, and new leather straps and saddle, to bring it back to its original glory.IMG_1769Then it was vacation time: MCA weekend at Haystack.  This year I again took a blacksmithing course. On a cold Maine night, there is nothing better than to stand next to a furnace, beating hot metal, and shaping it, accompanied by an occasional  drink of Laphroaig.

IMG_6166(C. Jenkins photo.)

I made a few hooks, a towel rack, two candle holders and three pendants from previously made Damascus steel. The pendants await two jump rings and a silver chain.IMG_1771The first candle holder was made from a 12″ bar of 1/4″ steel,  hammered drawn out, spiraled and shaped.  the drip cup made from black pipe.IMG_1783The second was made from a piece of 7/8″ black pipe, shaped, and welded to stems, all three mounted on a scrap piece of walnut filched from the woodshop.IMG_1786Then, our usual volunteer work for a few days.  We made tables, display cases, sharpened chisels and plane blades, oiled, de-rusted, and even added a sliding table to the Sawstop.  This has been a tradition of Maine Woodworkers for over 20 years.

Back in the shop, the month concluded with a two day photo shoot for three articles to be featured in upcoming issues of FWW.  I made a Shaker sewing stand, and we shot photos for  methods of drawer stops and two approaches to half blind lipped drawers.  The sewing stand was all cherry, the first I’ve done in a few years.  A timeless design.  The drawers are accessible from both sides, and I included small magnets to act as drawer stops.  IMG_1789Weather-wise, we went from snow in late April, to weekly lawn mowing and fully leafed-out trees in May.  In my trips through the woods, I found a white  lady slipper.  The pink ones are pretty common, but the white ones are quite rare.  The first one on our property.IMG_1795C. H. Becksvoort © 2016

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April 2016

April is a funny month. It can be the end of mud season, or the beginning of spring. This year is was sort of in between. In Maine there is spring vacation, and my wife and I took a day to visit friends in Ellsworth, and again spend time to enjoy Acadia National Park. The top of Cadillac Mountain is always spectacular, although it can be quite windy. Nonetheless, most stunning.


On April 26 we were supposed to get a few snow flurries, turning to rain. Instead we got over 4″ of white. What a surprise.


Fortunately, it didn’t last. A few days later the sun was out and the first spring flowers made an appearance:  Wakerobins, and trout lilies (dog-tooth violets).

flowers (1).jpg


On the 29th we took a side trip to Tarrytown, NY.  The first of this years Cowboy Junkie concerts.  We missed them the past two years, but this year we get three chances within reasonable driving distance.

April was not all fun and games. There was serious work in the shop.  I started a 6′ bookcase, this one without the drawer.  The case is rather straightforward, but the back is always fun.  Six panels in a frame.  The frame is 1 5/8″ quartersawn cherry, for the top and sides, so I can glue it into the rabbet in the back of the cabinet, and there will be no problems with wood movement.  Gluing and clamping is always a chore, but not if you have enough clamps for the job at hand:  six three footers, and two eights.  Notice that all the panels are oiled along the edges, so that if they shrink, there’s no white wood.  Lots of sanding, to break all those edges, inside and out along the panels and frame edges.  Then all the joints have to be pinned.

IMG_1682I also made four plaques, tiger maple with walnut frames, laser engraved copy with an almost 200 year old peg from the church steeple, engraved with different names, one for each of the plaques.


The last project was a very simple 30 x 50 table/ desk, oiled cherry.  Pinned mortise & tenon corners, with braces inside, and  expansion washers to allow the top to move.  Once finished and paid for, I never want to see my pieces again.


C.H. Becksvoort © 2016



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March 2016

Every year is different.  Winter of 2016 will be remembered as “we almost missed it,” and spring came early.  The first woodcock on March 13, the earliest I’ve observed in this part of Maine.  This, the last day of the month, also brought out the first spring peepers.   It was 72° F (22° C) today.

I had to make a delivery to a Gallery in Somesville, on Mt. Desert island.  After driving three hours and dropping off the pieces, I treated myself to yet another tour of Acadia National Park.  Coming through Bar Harbor in the off season, both Cottage and Main Streets were virtually empty.  The benefits of not being a tourist.IMG_1668In the park, I stopped at a beaver pond for a few photos.  You can just see the lodge in the center, near the far shore.

IMG_1662Also, a beautiful boulder, with a strip of pink granite in the middle.IMG_1665So much for the excitement on the last day of the month.  However, most of the time was spent working in the shop.  I made a matching set of bedside cabinets, dovetailed, with a single drawer, paneled back  and one adjustable shelf.  IMG_1647I also made a few new tealights, with  glass inserts.  By request, a cherry version of the “Shaker Six-pack.”  All the 1/8″ shelves are removable, so the cabinet can also be used as a small display case.  It’s only 4″ (10 cm) wide and 16″  (40.6 cm) high.  It has that nice, slightly irregular restoration glass.
















C. H. Becksvoort © 2016

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February 2016

Happy Leap Year!

Last month I mentioned that we were having a “weenie winter.”  Well, I must have offended the weather gods, since shortly thereafter we had two good size snow storms and the temperature dropped to -15°F (-26°C).  But it didn’t last.  The next day it went to 47°F (8°C), and has been unseasonable ever since.  Our road has been muddy for several weeks, and it’s not even March yet.  This is the earliest I’ve ever seen the snowdrops come out.

IMG_1597I did cut a few forsythia branches, brought them inside and in less than a week, they bloomed.

IMG_1594The ongoing bath renovation has eaten into my shop time, but I’m finally at a stopping point.  The tile is done ( and I must say that the radiant floor heat mat is some nice), trim is done, fixtures, vanity, and linen closet are installed.  All that’s left is a bit of painting and of course the 5′ mirrored medicine cabinet over the sink.  Fortunately, that has to wait until the sliding glass track arrives.

So, I actually got a few days of shop time in.  First, a lamp, which was shipped off to Canada.  I discovered a local company that will custom make double thickness cardboard boxes.  Saved a lot of time.

Next, a thrilling job of 90 pew card racks for the First UU Church in Yarmouth, ME.  I had the backs routed our by a CNC shop, but had to drill the pen holes, rout the edges and hand sand the entire batch.  A whole day of sanding, and thank goodness for finger tape!  The racks  just came back from the painter, and look great. Installation will be almost as much fun as sanding.

IMG_1588I also made two crosses from the Shaker’s Elder Joseph Bracket maple, for a monastery.

For my workshop at the Sabbathday Lake Shaker village on August 20, I made a prototype of a single step stool.  It’s 33″ tall, dovetailed white pine.  I’m also doing a dovetail workshop June 25, and a drawer workshop on September 17. Details to follow.

IMG_1609For the two day workshop at Lie-Nielsen‘s on June 11 to 12, I made a Shaker Lap desk.  This is a simpler version, without the tiny drawer, but plans will be available for those wanting to add the drawer on their own time.

Lastly, I glued up panels for two cherry side cabinets with drawers.  They’ll take a while, since I’ll also be doing a few FWW articles at the same time.

C. H. Becksvoort © 2016

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January 2016

Well, 2016 is 1/12th over.  Here in Maine we’ve had a weenie winter so far.  A little snow, but nothing to write home about.  Most of the ponds and lakes have snow over a thin layer of ice, so skating is out as well.  For grandson’s 4th birthday we had a skating party on an indoor rink.  Hopefully, there will be some outdoor skating sometime soon.

My shop dog, Spirit, is enjoying the weather from her perch on a snow pile.IMG_1562A much too large portion of my time this month has been taken up with re-doing the upstairs bath. The shower surround was looking dingy and the linoleum floor was over 30  years old.  We figured those needed to be replaced.  While we’re at it, why not put down tile, and a radiant floor heat mat, and new paint and a linen closet, new sink and vanity, plus fixtures.  Most of this involve working on your knees, and running back and forth to the shop for tools.  A drag, but the end is in sight.

However, I did squeeze in a few small projects.  First a set of three clocks, beveled cherry with inlaid hours, and a quartz movement.

IMG_1566Also a custom picture frame, quartersawn tiger maple, for a custom composite mat of four woodcuts.  A nice contrast.

IMG_1568Lastly, a small table for a printer.  Really basic, four square legs, no taper, softened edges and a two board top.  It does have some really nice figure in the rails and legs.

IMG_1570It took me years to figure out what folks were complaining about when they had “blotch” in cherry.  Turns out it was figure that hadn’t been sanded properly.  If you sand figured cherry to 180 or 200, you’ll get muddy, dark and light areas.  Sanding on to 320, 400, 500 and polishing with 0000 steel wool, then applying oil, makes a deep, lustrous, changing pattern, much like tigers eye.

I did get my hands on two amazing planks of hard tiger maple: 8/4 x 13, one 5 feet long the other 7 feet.  Do I re-saw for drawer fronts, small presentation boxes, a large case or a really stunning wall cabinet?  (it’s leaning up against a 22″ piece of ancient white pine).


The “Shaker six-pack” tea cabinet, mentioned last month, is now available through the Sabbathday Lake Shaker museum store.  Have a look, and order a few tins of tea.  Cold weather is bound to return.

C. H. Becksvoort © 2016

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