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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October 2018

Another year older, but October is still my favorite month.  The weather is good, the bugs are gone, the colors are amazing.  It’s hard to beat Maine, or New England in the fall.It is also the month of the annual MCA’s Maine Craft weekend.  This year we had 44 visitors.  I sold as few tools, books, DVDs, some wood,  and prototypes.  In turn, I was gifted with two bottles of Scotch, Highland Park from the Orkney Islands, and a bottle of Kavalan Solist from Taiwan.  Both severely delicious.

October is also Harvest Festival time at the Sabbathday Lake Shaker village.  I was there again, demonstrating, chatting and enjoying the folks who stopped by.  A fine Saturday.

Friends Work Weekend was also fun.  A chance to catch up with friends of the Shakers we only see a few times each year.  Screens were removed, gardens cleaned, windows washed, and piles of leaves raked and taken away.  The following day, Peg and I took a hike through the woods to see the remains of the Shaker mill.  There is not much left but the foundation, and the raceway to the millpond.  Still, it is spectacular to see the huge granite blocks left of what once was a 5-story mill, with a 30′ wheel inside the building.  Meanwhile, in the shop, I finished the 5-drawer chest.  The obvious work is in the dovetails, all 98 of them.  The real fussy work is in the web frames, which have to be dovetailed into both sides of the front and back, as well as mortised and tenoned to allow wood movement.  These are the tools I use for layout and measuring the precise fit:Like most Shaker and Shaker inspired pieces, the finished product doesn’t begin to show the complexity of the construction.  Simple, yes?Speaking of Shaker Inspiration, the book is less than a month away from distribution.  The PDF version is already available form the Lost Art Press

The hard cover version should be out by Thanksgiving if all goes well at the printer.  Be on the look out.  I’m pretty excited.  It’s been three years (and 5 decades) in the making.

C.H. Becksvoort © 2018


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September 2018

This September has certainly been interesting.   A few incidents of note along our road.  Every fall, red efts, the second stage of the eastern newt (Notophthalmus viridescens), are on the move to find places to spend the winter.  This one was only about 1.2″ (3.5 cm) long, probably from this spring.Also along my walks, I chanced upon a yew (Taxus yew) shrub, complete with those cute red fruit, which are poisonous.Around the shop and yard, I was also pretty busy.  Last spring I dug down to bedrock and poured two footers for the garden shed.  This September, with the help of my son, we finally got the shed re-positioned.  The front right side had to be lowered 3″ (7.6 cm), while the back had to be jacked up almost 5″ (12.7 cm).  The stones upon which the back rested were not on bedrock, and had sunk into the ground.  Time to fix.  It took the better part of a day.The following weekend, we took off for the Hancock Shaker Village, for a Natalie Merchant concert. Sorry, no photos allowed, but I got some good ones of the round stone barn: 

Built in 1826, it features amazing stonework.It’s the interior framing that is even more stunning, and complex.  It is two and a half stories high: a manure pit mostly below ground level, the first floor for cattle, and the second floor the wagon floor.  The entire  central portion is the hay mow.  Wagons would come up the ramp to the second floor and the hay would be pitched into the center, 55′ (16.8 m) in diameter, and almost 40′ (12.2 m) high,with a ventilation shaft in the middle.September is usually our vacation month.  We took the last week to go to Trenton, ME, just this side of Acadia National Park. There is so much to do and see.  Of course I went to the tool barn at Hull’s Cove.  It’s always s must see.  This late in the season, there wasn’t anything that I found, or needed.  My daughter picked up a load of goodies, however.The weather was varied, from sunny and mild to stormy and wild.  The fog was in and the waves were crashing on the pink granite when we visited the Schoodic portion of the park.We spent a good bit of time exploring the rest of the park.  Just had to have pop-overs at the Jordan Pond  House, saw several of our favorite places, including this isolated little patch.  It was where I visited the first time I came to Acadia in 1969.In downtown Bar Harbor we spent a bit of time going through the Abbe Museum, where they had an exhibit of Abanaki war clubs, as well as this marvelous birch bark canoe.We also explored nearby Ellsworth, a really nice town, once you get off the commercial strip into the older downtown. Met friends at the KoT Gallery, went to dinner and of course we had to sample the local brews at Fogtown.Nothing lasts forever, and now I’m back in the shop.  Before vacation I did get a third coat of oil onto the single door cabinet.  It turned out nicely, with some interesting figure in the door panels.Next up is a five-drawer chest.  I’ve got the two sides and the top laid out from one 22″ (55.9 cm) cherry board.  It awaits my return early Monday morning.

The new book, Shaker Inspiration: Five Decades of Fine Craftsmanship, by the Lost Art Press, is almost off to the printer, and should be for sale by late November or early December.  Watch for it.

C.H. Becksvoort © 2018

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August 2018

It’s been one hot month.  And humid.  Not your typical Maine weather.  I took my walks extra early to avoid the heat, but still got soaked by the humidity.Foggy almost every morning, and the moisture hung around all day.  It was good for the plants, though.  The garden was loving it.  Lots of tomatoes, and the usual end of summer flowers, black eyed Susans, golden rod, and Queen Ann’s lace.   Also a good crop of morning glories, which I trained to climb up my sign post in front of the house, as well as along the woodshed and shop.August is also the time for the annual gathering of the Friends of the Shakers. A great time to meet friends, attend lectures, inspect the grounds, see the new acquisitions to the museum, eat, and socialize. During the course of the last year, severe weather brought down one of the big maples in front of the Meeting House, damaging the roof.  Many of the maples were getting old, and decaying, and had to be cut down.  The roof got new shingles, but it will take a while to get used to the loss of those stately old trees.

Next to the Meeting House is the herb garden.  The Shakers still grow and sell a variety of herbs and teas. In the 1794 Meeting House, still in use, is one of the white pine lecterns I made back in the mid 1980’s.Things were busy in my shop as well.  The day bed I started last month finally came together.  There were lots of slats that had to be oiled.  I have a rack with dowels to keep small parts ( like slats and drawer bottoms) separated while the finish dries.The bed itself, finally oiled, assembled, and done, awaits the mattress, bolsters and pillows, currently at the upholsterer.  Not a great photo, especially with limited space,but you get the general idea of the design.I also made six more wall arm lamps, in a variety of woods and shapes.  The four and the left consist of three parts, splined together, plus the base.  the base is screwed to the wall, while the arm swivels.  A groove in top hides the cord, which comes out at the bottom of the base.  The two on the right and single pieces of cherry and maple.  The curvy on on the far right will be burnt with a blowtorch, brushed,and given a coat of satin varnish.  All are destined to go to Tandem Glass for a variety of glass globes and shades.It’s been some time since I got an order for one of my early coat trees.  It is six sided, in cherry, with the Mt. Lebanon acorn finial on top and Shaker pegs below.For the next few months, I’ll be working on a big order destined for Canada, several case pieces, tables and a bed.  I just got a nice load of 20″ wide cherry (from Irion Lumber in Pennsylvania) for a few of those case pieces. 

That’s it for this month.

C. H. Becksvoort © 2018


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July 2018

This July was mostly hot and humid, with a little decent weather in between.  Just right for the  garden, which is doing very well.  With a few more sunny days, the tomatoes will be about ready to harvest and eat.  Meanwhile, the winter squash is taking over the beds in the back row (which I alternate; this year it’s alfalfa).  It does look like the lawn needs mowing.  I’ve got so many things going on that mowing is usually at the bottom of the list. I can sometimes avoid it for up to three weeks.  More in dry weather.

Potted plans and annuals are in full bloom.  Geraniums, fuchsia,  and petunias.All that humidity means a lot of foggy mornings as well.  We’re taking full advantage of summer.  A few days ago, we went blueberry picking, and  got almost eight pounds off of just four bushes, in about half hour.  What a treat.Thank goodness for the heat pump in the shop.  It stays relatively cool and dry.  I made a small bookcase with three shelves.  Also four swinging arm wall lamp brackets.  Three tiger maple and one in cherry.  Three are off to Tandem Glass  for some really cool shades.  I need to make a few more., including the curved version.  These are in demand.  A few will be in the new Maine Craft Portland location, a new outlet just opened by the MCA.

The big project currently is cherry day-bed, twin XL.  Basically a simple, rectangular frame with slats for mattress and cushions.  I spent almost a whole day making 50 mortises, all of which have to align perfectly. Oiling and assembly will be fun.  I’ll have photos when it’s done and back from the upholsterer.

Lastly, some good news. Believe it or not, the new book has a tentative title: Shaker Inspiration: Five Decades of Fine Craftsmanship.  Layout should be done in the near future.  Be on the look out at the Lost Art Press in early 2019!

C.  H. Becksvoort © 2018


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June 2018

Summer is here!  It was hot, hazy and humid today, and  will be for the next few days.  Everything is in full bloom, roses, peonies, and of course my favorite combo, lemon day lilies and Siberian irises.And the garden is finally in.  We had a late May frost so I didn’t get the bulk of the planting done until early June.  The tomatoes, leeks, carrots, and winter squash are  doing just fine.  No bugs, deer, groundhogs or problems yet.  This is what it looked like the second week in June.   This is where all my planer shavings go.Way off in the back, I need to add two more garden beds, the rhubarb is already in one, onions and other goodies will go in the other.  I finally got a load of black locust boards, 1 x 8 x 12 feet long, waiting to be made into 5 ft x 10 f t beds.  They should outlast me and the garden, black locust being one of the most decay resistant native woods.  For a few years now we’ve had a summertime tradition:  A friend and fellow woodworker, an arborist, and I go on a Saturday “Big Trees & Beer” tour around Portland.  This year we saw the biggest copper beech, the only redwood, and the biggest ginko in the area.  The ginko was supposedly brought from China by a Maine sea captain in the late 1800’s  We also got to sample some really tasty brews around town.  Maine has a plethora of really great craft breweries.  So much to enjoy.Aside from the summertime frivolities, there was work to be done in the shop.  After many years of plugging in my dust system, each time I turned on the table saw, I finally added a wooden switch stick.  Hey it works.The big project of the month was another standing desk.  Each one is slightly different depending on the needs and whims of the customer.  This most recent desk had a small frame around the upper part of the writing surface, and a sliding book trough below.Smaller projects included two plant tables, and another dining table.  I finally completed the new chandeliers: cherry, anodized aluminum, stainless steel, and either LED or real candles.  Available in either 8, 10 or 12 arm versions.  One is on its way to the new Maine Crafts Association shop in Portland. Finally, the new DVD “Build a Shaker Lap Desk”  is available, courtesy of Lie-Nielsen Toolworks  Still awaiting the yet untitled book…

C. H. Becksvoort © 2018

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May 2018

May in Maine is always welcomed, and something to look forward to. The last of the dirty snow piles are gone, and the first flowers appear.  White trillium put on a nice show this  year.  I have a section of woodland below the house where I plant and encourage native wildflowers: bloodroot, wake robin, trout lilies, Soloman’s seal,violets, etc.  By mid summer it’s all taken over by jewel weed.In the sunny part of the lawn, where the grass is short and the soil rather poor,  bluets grow in small clumps.What was really astounding this spring, was the overwhelming number of sugar maple seedlings.  Once or twice a decade the sugar maples, or rock maples (Acer saccharum) conspire to inundate the world with seeds (samaras).  Last fall they were everywhere.  This was the result, before I mowed the lawn.Picking them out of the flower beds has been an ongoing chore.  As someone who practices guerilla forestry,  plants trees and scatters seeds whenever possible, I have mixed emotions about mowing down literally  hundreds of thousands of seedlings in one afternoon.  On the other hand, roughly 99.9% would be crowded out and die anyway.

I couldn’t resist this photo, it’s so typically Maine:  snowshoes and lilacs on our small entry porch.

May is also the time for Work Day at the Sabbathday Lake Shaker community. The museum opens on Memorial Day.   The forsythia, apples and pears were in full bloom.  We are so fortunate to have both the last active Shaker community and Haystack here in Maine.  This year, we had to bow out of work day, since we were off to Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, on Deer Isle.We were lucky to have had three days of sunshine!   I took blacksmithing, and Peg tool precious metal clay.  The days are cool and often damp, and this is one of the most common sights outside the cabins.  Hoping for dry towels.With cool days come cold nights, hence my attending blacksmithing classes for the past several years.  Between the coal forges and gas furnaces, it’s quite toasty.  This year’s class was weather vanes and garden ornaments.  It was the first time I’ve had the chance to use a plasma cutter.  It’s like using a stylus on an iPad, only way cooler!  Flip down the visor and cut away, right through 1/8″ or 1/4″steel.  Great fun.  I made a Ginko biloba weather vane.  The most difficult part was to wrap the rock counter weight in steel, yet make the rock removable in order to paint and rustproof the vane.  With a bit more spare time, and another chance to use the plasma cutter, I made, cut, welded and riveted the “mad woman” weather vane, now in the garden (to be planted this weekend). Both spin freely in the wind, balanced only on a pointed 1/2″ steel rod.Between all that fun, I actually got some work done in the shop.  A maple dining table with drawer.  Off to Oklahoma soon.That was the only piece fully finished.  I’m also starting another standing desk.  Not only that, but I spent two days designing, turning and figuring out how to make a new series of 8, 10, and 12-arm chandeliers.  They should be done next month, in time for the June blog.

This year, May was  the month to re-stock my cherry supply.  I always buy FAS, S3S to 15/16,”  8″ and wider.  That’s a nice pile of mostly 10″ boards and a few 12″ and 14″ wide.  Don’t make the mistake of storing your wood upstairs.  Hauling 500 bdft.,  (about 1.5 tons) of cherry up the steps is no fun, even with help.  If you recall, last August and September, I made a Shaker bench.  It finally made an appearance in Fine Woodworking issue 269.  Have a look.   I’ve also updated the web site, added the two new lamps, and  the stainless steel drip cups are now for sale through the site.

C. H. Becksvoort © 2018

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