The American Green Woodworking Association

Having waited for years for someone else to do this, and seeing no one making any attempt at doing this, while not wishing to detract from any other professional or amateur association that might be wholly or peripherally pertinent to the subject, I hereby propose the formation of

The American Green Woodworking Association.

I Propose that this should be an association of those craftsmen, both  professional and amatuer, engaged in all phases and types of woodworking and related crafts, where there is a predominance or preponderance of Hand Work, and Hand tools involved. That should include such crafts as: Green woodwork, Sloyd, Country Woodcraft, Basketmaking, Bark Containers, and any other making that is predominantly hand work, and any ancillary or connected craft such as Blacksmithing, Leather Working, or Rope Making that are often required skills needed in conjunction with the woodworking craft. I further propose that we do not specifically exclude any craft or craftsman whose practitioners wish to be included.
My reasoning being that we need a place, or places, to come together to learn, to teach, to promote our mutual goals, to clarify what those goals should be, and to unite us. Such an association can be a clearing house or center for disseminating information about classes, supplies, materials, meetings and all the other things we are concerned with in our craft.
We need to get the word out that we are here, too many of us do this in a void (some books and some YouTube videos), And the teachers among us need to get the word out that they are out there teaching.
Until such a time as we have a sufficient membership that can vote on officers, I will act as all the officers (I sincerely hope that people who are good at running things come along and depose me soon). But as this sort of thing doesn’t happen without someone starting it I propose a start.
England has enjoyed the benefits of their Bodgers Association ( for many years.
We can do the same for ourselves. Please help me make this happen.
There is already an excellent international Facebook presence at “Spoon Carving, Green Woodworking and Sloyd” so starting a new FB page is redundant, and we already get to interact with the Bodgers on that page.
But perhaps it might serve to post announcements that only people in the USA will be interested in? … so, I will start a FB page. If you become a “member” on the page I will count you as a member of this association.
I will start a web page so that people can send me articles or announcements to post there.
I will start an Instagram acct.
Please tell me what else you think should do to get this started?… tbc

Look for our FaceBook page “the American Green Woodworking Association”

and for the website with the same name.

be well


BLO and the Swelling of the Wood

this topic keeps rearing its ugly head, so Imma gonna blog it!

We all know that Water makes wood swell up. The wood shrinks in the first place as water leaves it, and water can make it swell up again, usually causing some sort of damage to it.

So if you do not think too much about it you might conclude that any liquid will swell the wood up. liquids like oils or petroleum solvents… And you might think that since oils don’t “dry out” then the wood will never shrink afterwards.

and you would be wrong.

Here is a conceptual visualisation to help you understand why oil doesn’t swell up wood:

Wood is composed of Cellulose fibers held together by Lignin (a gummy non directional binding protein), both are hydrophilic (they love water).

Wood is a bundle of tubes so:

Imagine that wood is a bundle of papers straws held together with Elmer’s glue. While the wood is wet and Green, the glue is wet and the straws are full of sap.
when you cut the tree down the sap starts drying out first, the tree can lose over 50% of its weight (a few species are over 90% water by weight when they are felled) just to drying the sap out, during this time the wood does not shrink. (think, you have poured the water out of the straws)

Once the sap is mostly gone the glue dries, the lignin which contains over 25% water (by weight) starts to dry out, this is when the wood shrinks. the cellulose cannot shrink and the cellulose fibers are oriented mostly vertically in the tree. which is why the wood shrinks across its width but hardly at all in it’s length.
So now you have nice dry wood and you make something out of it, and you soak it in BLO.

Remember when you learned that oil and water don’t mix? something that goes along with that is that hydrophilic (water loving) materials (salt , sugar, elmers glue) will take up water or dissolve, hydrophobic (water fearing) materials (tar, shellac flakes, lacquer) do not, but might be dissolvable or miscible in oil like products (oils, lacquer thinner, paint thinner).

The BLO coats the outside of the wood and penetrates up the empty tubes (straws) but it cannot get into the lignin or in between the cellulose bundles because they like water but not oil. Since most of the shrinkage was from the lignin drying out, you get no swelling from the oil.

Our Proof is an easy experiment that you can do yourself,

take 3 sticks of the same dry wood (preferably all cut out of the same board). They  don’t need to be bigger than 1″ x 1″ x 6″, and a couple of empty cans. Carefully measure and record the precise measurements on the sticks (a vernier caliper or micrometer is good for this).
Put one so that it’s end is submerged in BLO about 1″, take another and do the same with water, and put the third in an empty container, wait 3 days or a week, measure the top (dry ends) and measure the bottom (wet) ends. If your humidity changes a lot then the sample in the empty container will show you how that affects the wood. The piece in the water will swell up in less than a day. the piece in the BLO should change about as much as the dry piece.

please alert me if I’m wrong.

for more information on this subject please refer to:

“Understanding Wood” by Bruce Hoadley

“the Woodwright’s Shop” by Roy Underhill

both of them outline this experiment and its results, but you don’t have to believe us when it is so easy to do the experiment yourself.

The wooden hygrometer that Roy makes is interesting too.

The folks who talk about this the most, seem to think that the tradition of sticking a tool with a new handle, head down in a container of BLO is for the purpose of swelling the handle to fit the head tighter. This is an error.

Wood Constrained by metal gets slightly crushed if it takes in moisture and swells. You do not “see” this damage until it dries back out and comes loose.

What you ARE doing is making sure that no moisture ever gets into the part of the handle inside the head so that it never swell up.

[ an aside; H. D. Thoreau really angered me when I read his “On Walden Pond”. He stuck his axe head in the pond overnight to tighten up the handle… He thought he was so clever ruining someone else’s axe (he had borrowed it). well, my take-away from that book is nearly exactly the opposite of nearly everyone else’s. Everyone else seems to see an independent spirit, Carving out his space on his own. I see a spoiled twit who relied on his generous neighbors and his sister to survive.]

Some older references to hanging handles and similar situations tell the reader to fit the handle, then without the head mounted, soak the handle head end overnight in BLO. Then put the head on and drive the wedge home! since in doing this the pores are not crushed or clamped closed it may be better than putting it in oil after… I wonder if the soaking in oil after is done because someone was in a hurry and couldn’t wait until the next day for the soak… and that became a tratition.

Some people also promote the use of motor oil for this job. Motor oil does not cure (BLO gets hard and provides a better moisture barrier), motor oil lets water vapor go past it (read up on semipermeable membranes). You know that water that inexplicably gets into the bottom of your gas can? That is from water vapor touching the surface and sinking straight through one molecule at a time. Motor oil does the same thing. And while motor oil will seem to work OK in an emergency (IE you have no BLO and you need to get back to work with the tool NOW etc), you might not want to use it as your regular treatment.

be well

count your fingers


Hi again;

today’s topic is saws… once upon a time I had a chainsaw. it was a Husqvarna 40. I got it used for $10 because it was nearly new but the first owner put regular gas in it and couldn’t get it to start again… I went to a saw shop and asked them to get me a new piston ring.. the ring is $10. The guy there told me that it wasn’t worth fixing so I should let him have it for $50 for spare parts. Yeah right. I said; “so for that $50 and a $10 ring and honing the cylinder you’ll then sell it for $100?” he laughed and replied, ” Nah, I can get at least $150 for that”… I used it on and off for nearly 30 years. then it died. and they don’t make replacement parts anymore. so with a little research I discovered that what was the old Husqvarna line was now the Poulan line available nearly everywhere. so I got one and used it. and put it away, and two years later it wouldn’t start. And no one will “fix” them or do maintenance on them.. so with much research I ended up looking inside the gas tank to discover that the gas line was all busted up… so no fuel to the engine. $10 for line and new fuel filter. and it ran fine. until it was put away for most of a year. and now it won’t run again…

Why am I rambling on about chainsaws when I spend most of my time advocating for the use of hand tools? because all of that was just lead in for what today’s project turned out to be…

Saw restoration.

I have had this saw knocking around for a few years, I keep telling myself to restore it so that I won’t need a chainsaw. Well it is time. That handle must go (soft/rotted) the plate needs cleaning, but the teeth are almost sharp enough to use.IMG_0534

the saw nuts came off easily enough:


and finding a pattern on the internet for the handle was super simple:


so a little more sanding on the handle and oil it (BLO) and a little sanding on the plate and wax it (butcher’s wax) and we shall see how it goes!

be well


Post update: IT’S ALIVE!!!!! … maybe could use a touch up on the teeth…

Talk about your cardio! whew


Make a Stool class at the Morris Arboretum!

Well I am exhausted!  3 days last week and a day and a half this week just to be ready to start!

and I had some watchers!

And there were 3 pair of Red Breasted Nuthatches nesting  in the room, they were NOT happy with me being there! they would fly in behind me, and then leave by flying in front of me to the opposite end of the room, land, and SCREAM at me and fly out. almost comical, and their little voices are loud in that enclosed space.  Sadly they were too quick to get a good picture of.

So:  Ready…Set…


We have Amur Beech for legs, and big pieces of Black Walnut to get slabs for seats out of.

I think I need to include more about tool selecting advice in the syllabus.  I don’t want to promote specific brands, but I also don’t want to  say the “X” brand is crap, even if it is. But even with just 5 students, too many junk new tools have shown up here.

Class went well, we got well along on making a leg (actually most of the students got 3  or 4 leg blanks axed out and well along with shaving a leg).  Not really far enough along to finish the stools by the end of class, but speed comes with time and practice.

be well all



Skills vs Skill Sets

table and vase 002
door casing corner bosses

Skill, what is a skill? They say that woodworkers have skills (or that woodworking is a skill), but what does that mean exactly?

I think of a skill as being the smallest part of a thing that can be taught. And as something that almost everyone can learn. And a skill set is a bundle of skills that go together to accomplish a task.

For instance: if we assume that woodworking is not a skill, but a skill set, it being made up of multiple skills, we can then start to break it down.

Sawing, Planing, Sharpening… but are those skills or just smaller skill sets?

Using a saw.. first you have to be able to choose the right saw, then you have to hold it correctly, and stand correctly, and move it correctly… we are approaching what I call skills, holding the saw correctly is a skill, positioning your feet right is a skill.

Of course in order to learn a skill first one must admit that one does not know it.. I’ve had several instances where I tried to teach someone how to use a hammer. and they would not accept that they were not holding it right, let alone swinging it wrong (IE not actually swinging it but punching with it).

Woodworking is a huge skill set when viewed this way. but there is good news! each skill is learnable and teachable, and skills transfer…. when you saw and when you handplane your stance (where your feet are) is different.. and yet the ideas that go into foot position are related, and your feet are still your feet after all. So it becomes easy to change from comfortable stance for sawing to comfortable stance for planning. And the more skills you learn… well they add up in a way that makes it easier to add new ones. And as you keep adding skills you think less and less about them until they become automatic. Then, picking up a new skill sets becomes easy.

be well


Creativity: some thoughts

Humans are essentially creative. We have an ability to imagine something that does not exist, and work to make it real. Look at everything around you, your clothes and your house, everything! You are a member of the most amazing species that has ever walked the planet, we make things.

From the first stone tools, proof of our creativity is in everything that we do. In fact the making of the earliest stone tools is what archaeologists and anthropologists consider the first step to becoming US. We can imagine! We can imagine things that don’t exist and then work towards bringing it into existence. Every act of making something is a part of this. This is an amazing ability!

So when someone says to me “I wish I was creative like you” I tell them they are. We all are.

But our jobs and our lives seem almost designed to squash that creativity. No one wants creative solutions to car repair when it’s their car being fixed. No one wants creative billing or creative bookkeeping. Factory workers need to do the same thing day after day, creativity is sometimes encouraged if it makes the work go faster but mostly it is squashed and stifled.

This makes many of us stressed and sad and angry all at once. We go home after “work” and we are sad, and angry and we don’t know why. Businesses owners and zoning laws act like they think we should go home from our soul crushing jobs and sit in front of the TV doing only what is required to survive, and come back to work tomorrow and be refreshed and happy about our NOT working for 4 hours a day.

Society (before TV at least) used to encourage people to be productive doing something during every waking hour. Of course it also encouraged people to work in factories 20 hours a day at some times (read up on Henry Ford). The whole point of Daylight Savings time is that you go home after work and have more hours of sunlight after your job, in which to do other productive things, like grow vegetables, attend your knitting, or work in your shed on whatever needed doing.

Even before Daylight Savings Time nearly everyone who wasn’t wealthy spent the whole of their waking hours doing something, knitting weaving, carving, etc. There were chores, those tasks that had to be done every day, and there was work that continued (like spinning thread, or wood carving) that you filled in the rest of the time with.

After the industrial revolution there was no need for every woman to be constantly spinning or weaving every day, or knitting, or for filling his “extra” hours making the odd bit of handraft for sale. So the crafts dwindled into near obscurity. But eventually, For people who could afford it, this lead to “Hobbies”. Knitting, spinning, weaving, woodcrafts, and other hand work evolved into hobbies for the middle class. The poorest classes don’t “do” hobbies, working to hard and too exhausted to do much when they got home. Our richest people don’t do hobbies, unless you want to categorise something like collecting race cars as a hobby.

50 years ago (when I was a wee lad) there was not only the traditional crafts as hobbies, there were electronics (make your own radios or TVs, do any of you remember Heathkit?),  model trains, model airplanes or boats, or leather crafts etc. But the burst in the revival of crafts that happened in the 1960s somehow turned crafts into namby pamby “arts and crafts’ (do not mix it up with the 1890s Arts and Crafts movement) that the very mention of sends teenagers and adults running away. And the providers of materials and kits in a great part stopped making kits and started selling completed items. Find a hobby shop that has airplanes now, the RC planes are all ready made, you just go somewhere and fly them, the RC cars that used to be kits come with modification packages but they too are ready to go.

Everything seems arranged to discourage any “do it yourself” attitude. As if the insidious “THEY” want us to just sit still and behave when we aren’t “at work”. Even the big hardware and lumber yard stores that seem to thrive on promoting “do it yourself” have things arranged to encourage you not to do it yourself.. hire our guys instead!

Not being allowed to express our creativity leads to stress, sadness, anger, frustration, depression, violence, isolation, drinking, and obesity. Yes, I am setting nearly all of society’s woes directly at the feet of this whole apparent trend to discourage our creativity.

So it’s time to take up arms! Take up your knitting needles, your carving gouges, your spinning wheels and your axes! Go out there and show the world what you do! Teach anyone who asks. ANYONE! If they say they don’t have time, ask them if they have any 10 minute time during their day when they are doing nothing? If they do then they have time! (sitting on a bus or train for 10 min to 1/2 hour? you have time to take up knitting) it matters not that they follow a pattern that 10,000 other people have done. It’s the doing and the feeling of having done it. The point is that it’s not really imposed on them by a “job”. Its their choice, and then it’s their work.

then it’s “I DID THIS!”

we can make the world a better place one person at a time…

be well

a postscript: I should note that I know that the overall number of people actively engaged in various crafts and hobbies is Up. But also that the percentage of the population engaged in those activities is way down. There is currently a surge in interest in the woodcrafts going on and while I don’t think the crafts needs more people, the people certainly need more crafts, real crafts, developing real skills. A skill set like spoon carving isn’t going to make anyone wealthy, but it certainly has the capacity to make their lives better.