Tag Archives: Peter Follansbee

EAIA 2013 Cape Cod — Day 1 — Woodworking with Peter Follansbee

For me, one of the highlight’s of this years EAIA conference was a lecture from and later talking with Peter Follansbee of Plimoth Plantation.  I met Peter before as some of my classmates from NBSS have worked at the plantation, but on this visit, it was particularly interesting to learn more about what brought him to the plantation and how his work and research have changed over the years.

Peter Follansbee in his natural habitat -- the Joiner's shop
Peter Follansbee in his natural habitat — the Joiner’s shop

Peter answered many questions and demonstrated some carving at the bench. In person I find he often has funny anecdotes and snarky comments that are both cutting and entertaining.

Shavings from the early part of a day's work -- the way a shop should look.
Shavings from the early part of a day’s work — the way a shop should look.

I particularly liked the carved book stand (seen below) which could be adjusted for viewing angle, and had small dowels that can keep the book open.

Carved Book-stand by Peter Follansbee
Carved book stand by Peter Follansbee

He also demonstrated some light spindle turning at his pole lathe.

Peter turning at his pole lathe
Peter turning at his pole lathe

In the shop, as always, were examples of the varied sorts of work he carries out. Seen below is a great looking carved English style chair, and behind is a greenwood chair similar to that which is seen in Jennie (John) Alexander Jr’s book on working with green wood which I heard was the inspiration for Peter’s recent book on making joint stool from a tree.

Beautiful carved chair. In the background a chair built to the specs from 'Make A Chair From A Tree : An Introduction To Working Green Wood' which was the inspiration for Peter's 'Make a joint stool from a tree' book.
Beautiful carved chair. In the background a chair built to the specs from ‘Make A Chair From A Tree : An Introduction To Working Green Wood’ which was the inspiration for Peter’s ‘Make a joint stool from a tree’ book.

Peter was gracious enough to sign my DVD of his carving, so that also made my day.

Peter splitting wood with a froe and answering questions from the audience
Peter splitting wood with a froe and answering questions from the audience

Surrounded by a throng of overly eager visitors, Peter took question and demonstrated the use of a froe for splitting wood.

Peter's version of the Anarchist's Tool Chest
Peter’s version of the Anarchist’s Tool Chest

Above you can see some joint stools from his book on that subject along with his own interpretation of the Anarchist’s tool chest based on the recent book by Chris Schwarz. It was neat to see how Peter used (presumably) blacksmith made hinges and painted the chest. (Along with a different panel configuration for the lid). You can learn more about it on Peter’s blog here.

A sample of the high style work Peter produces. Similar to a piece he has at the MFA next to a partial original. It's amazing to see how much brighter the colors were originally.
A sample of the high style work Peter produces. Similar to a piece he has at the MFA next to a partial original. It’s amazing to see how much brighter the colors were originally.

And finally, shown here is an example of some of the high style work Peter produces. When I give my class a tour of the MFA America’s wing each summer I am always happy to show them the original they have on display alongside the reproduction Peter produced for the museum to show how the piece likely looked when it was new. I always find it interesting to see how earlier generations enjoyed color, and changing styles much as folks do today.

It was another great visit to Peter’s shop, and I look forward to seeing what he’s been up to on my next visit to the plantation.

EAIA 2013 Cape Cod — Day 1

This past weekend Alyssa and I attended our first EAIA annual meeting which was held in Hyannis on Cape Cod. For those not familiar with the EAIA, it is the Early American Industries Association which is an organization that celebrates the trades, crafts, and tools that were a part of American history and have made an impact in all our lives.  We were members for a few years, but this was the first event we attended…and now we can’t wait for next year’s events! Below and in some upcoming posts I’ll try to recap some highlights from this years events which kept us busy.

Obligatory tourist picture of me in front of the sign where we are...
Obligatory tourist picture of me in front of the sign where we are…

You can learn more about the EAIA here

View of Plimoth Plantation from the Fort
View of Plimoth Plantation from the Fort

We started out our day with the introductory/orientation film and then an interesting talk by Peter Follansbee who is an expert on 17th century woodworking and quite the interesting character. He talked about his own background, interesting changes at the plantation over the years and research into traditional woodworking of that era.

Beautifully stacked firewood getting ready for the long winter ahead
Beautifully stacked firewood getting ready for the long winter ahead

After that program we were free to explore the plantation and/or take part in some other behind the scenes tours.

Justin Keegan (NBSS CFM + Plimoth Interpretter) hewing a log
Justin Keegan (NBSS CFM + Plimoth Interpreter) hewing a log

My wife and I had been to Plimoth many times over the years, and some of my classmates from NBSS worked at the museum so I did not have high hopes for this part of the event, but I was happy to see some programs and behind the scenes events where I learned some interesting new information. We also got to have lunch ‘Like a Pilgrim’ eating some food prepared as it would have been back in the 17th century — so some traditional turkey, vegetables, desert, condiments, utensils (or lack thereof — I missed my spork), and table manners.

New building in the village
New building in the village

In the Plimoth Maritime Workshop we took part in a lecture on 17th century Shallop boats, how they were used in the colony and how the plantation recreated some of these vessels, issues that came up during construction and how they fared on the open sea.

Lecture about the 17th century Shallop (boat), its use in early Plimoth, and the recreation of some of these vessels
Lecture about the 17th century Shallop (boat), its use in early Plimoth, and the recreation of some of these vessels

I love to see this sort of behind the scenes workshop — to see how they setup, how they work, what tools they use etc.

In the Plimouth Maritime Workshop -- I love to see the behind the scenes workshops at this sort of living history museum
In the Plimoth Maritime Workshop — I love to see the behind the scenes workshops at this sort of living history museum

The pungent smell of pine tar on the rigging from the Mayflower II which was in drydock was quite strong, but added to the ambiance — though folks with asthma did not agree with me on that.

Even if you were great with knots as a scout, I bet you'd have trouble with the massive rigging covered in pine tar that belong to the Mayflower II
Even if you were great with knots as a scout, I bet you’d have trouble with the massive rigging covered in pine tar that belong to the Mayflower II

We had great weather all weekend. We also took part in a private tour event where one of the curators explained how the plantation uses experimental archaeology and character interpretation to explore the mindset and problems of the time period and also to try and answer some of the questions we have about the times given the incomplete records that survive.  Who would have thought that thread + textiles specifically spun to recreate a 17th century coat would help improve sutures used in open heart surgery?

Annual session of 'Whatsit' where members try to guess what some particularly odd tools were used for
Why did these chickens cross the road? …. to get to Peter Follansbee’s talk of course.

The livestock on the plantation were quite used to humans and friendly; no animatronic squirrels like at Williamsburg (*wink* to my friends at CW with that old joke)

Peter Follansbee in his natural habitat -- the Joiner's shop
Peter Follansbee in his natural habitat — the Joiner’s shop

There were also numerous demonstrations from folks working in the historic trades — blacksmithing, woodworking, pottery, textiles, cooking etc.

Carved Book-stand by Peter Follansbee
Carved Book-stand by Peter Follansbee

If you’d like to learn more about Plimoth Plantation or plan a visit of your own, check out their website here.

Annual session of 'Whatsit' where members try to guess what some particularly odd tools were used for
Annual session of ‘Whatsit’ where members try to guess what some particularly odd tools were used for

After dinner and an ice cream social for first time attendees we took part in the annual ‘Whatsit’ session. Folks try and stump the other tool enthusiasts with their recent finds — or figure out what that oddball tool your late relative left you in his will was actually used for. Not surprisingly there is not as much demand for a brass button polisher or ox training yolk as you might think.

It was a beautiful day filled with back to back events. Stay tuned for a bit more on woodworking at the Plimoth Plantation and Day 2 and 3…