Making a wooden bowl on a pole lathe

This past spring I attended a course at the North House Folk School in Grand Marais, Minnesota on bowl turning on a pole lathe. The course was being taught by the renowned Robin Wood who revived this craft in England a couple decades ago and is a master craftsman. This was his first time teaching in North America and I was thrilled to be able to attend this course as it was limited by 8 students selected randomly from all who signed up to take the course.  I was the student who traveled the farthest from PEI!


The class room at North House Folk School, my lathe for the 3 days in the foreground.


The instructor Robin Wood demonstrating the first morning, he made it look deceptively easy!


Robin also taught us how to forge bowl turning hooks required for turning on a pole lathe which are not made commercially.


A look at the bowls and hook tool I made on the course.


The group poses with their handywork!

After I got back I remade the lathe I had built last year and hadn’t used as using a real working one had shown me where my design was not going to work.


The reworked lathe and a quick bowl I turned to test it out.

I have since turned three bowls and have forged another hook at home as I have acquired a forge and anvil to do my own blacksmithing.  I will probably do another post on that new hobby soon.

Custom Leuku/Puukko Knife

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This is a handmade Nordic style knife; it was leuku/puukko inspired. The blade is a Mora 6″ high carbon steel blade with a flat or scandi grind and is 3/32″ thick. The blade was the only portion not handmade.

The handle is made from stacked white birch bark which was sustainably harvested. The birch bark handle was hand sanded smooth and treated with 5 layers of hemp oil and lightly buffed with beeswax. The brass bolsters are made from a salvaged piece of brass rod which was used as a mechanics punch and are 1″ in diameter and still show some work marks.

The sheath is made from heavy tool leather, hand stitched and molded around a wooden insert for the blade. It features one seam on the back of the sheath and a hand made D ring and belt loop which allows this longish knife to dangle freely which helps keep the sheathed knife from jabbing you when sitting. The leather was treated and buffed with beeswax and hemp oil.

I have one or two more knives to make this summer for other people and I think I may customize a knife or two I own now and make sheaths for them too.

Video of the making of the knife and sheath:


How I Make Wooden Spoons


I recently uploaded a video to YouTube showing how I make wooden spoons.

In this video I show my method of making wooden spoons. It was the first warm day since this long winter finally ended in eastern Canada – as you can tell by the snow in the background it just barely ended.

The wood is native to PEI, Trembling Aspen (Populus tremuloides), and is soft for a deciduous tree and somewhat fibrous when carving. This particular tree has some great spalting in parts of the trunk however the piece I am carving here does not.

Tools used:

Yardworks cheapo 1-1/4lb hatchet for splitting with a rubber maul
Hultafors Bruks 1-1/4lb hatchet for carving
Mora 120 wood carving knife
Mora 164 and 163 spoon knives


Spoons and Finland swap


This little spoon is my latest attempt at carving. It’s made from wild apple from a hedgerow on our land and was sent to Ari in Finland as part of a spoon swap organized by the spoon carving and green woodworking group I belong to on facebook.  The branch I pruned from the tree had a natural bend in it which I left in the spoon making it a right handed spoon.  I haven’t received my spoon in the mail from the swap yet but Ari enjoyed mine and posted this photo of it using it to spoon some jam on his bread and including one of the postcards of PEI I included.


This is a photo of my first four spoons, the on on the left is the first one I carved from grey birch and the others are carved from sugar maple.  Spoon carving is quite relaxing and addictive and I hope to get more time to continue to hone my skills!


Green wood carving

Wooden spoon made from grey birch

Green as in wet, and green as in sustainably harvested. I am embarking on a new journey this summer trying my hand at green wood carving. I was inspired by a number of crafts-persons on YouTube and via their blogs such as Ben Orford, Mike Abbott and especially Robin Wood. These British green wood workers are keeping alive a very old traditional craft of using a shave horse, pole lathe, chisels, axes and knives to create beautiful and useful wooden items such as bowls, spoons and chairs from green wood using only human powered tools.

I have made one spoon and one spatula so far, made a shave horse and plan on making a pole lathe soon.  I have a small draw-knife, carving knife and two spoon knives, all from Mora of Sweden.  I hope to have my farrier neighbor or the blacksmith selling his tools down the road make for me or even better allow me to make some bowl turning hooks for use on the pole lathe this summer as well.

I hope to make it a an actual small business endeavor as I really enjoy the making process and sharing these simple, useful and natural implements with people.


Shire Straw Bale Home Video series

In the process of building our house we took lots of photos but very little video. Partly because we did not have a video camera, just a simple point and shoot digital camera and also because it was quicker to take snapshots along the way while taking video of a process or task meant one less pair of hands doing the actual work!

Recently while backing up our photos and videos on two new external hard drives sue to a scary failure on our only backup drive I gathered all the (usable) videos of the house building process and uploaded them on my YouTube channel.

Much more info can be found on the building process under the house category here on the blog and I am planning on consolidating more of the photos and writing much more about the process either in book form or a series of more coherent posts here on the blog.

Plan B Highway Project

With all the talk in the media about the Plan B highway project in Bonshaw I wonder what kind of criteria was used in selecting the path of the project.  In a current UPEI class I am taking on environmental impact assessment we learned that the role of EIA’s is not to stop projects, but to give decision makers the information they need on a proposed projects impacts, methods of mitigation and alternatives.

We also learned that some jurisdictions only look at biophysical impacts where others also look at socioeconomic factors like culture, heritage and the aesthetic.  One method of taking all these differing factors into account is by doing overlays of sensitive areas on a topographical map (be they forest area, areas of cultural importance, areas of poor construct-ability, etc..) and look for the path with the least impact on the least number of areas.  One thing I do notice is that the proposed route seems to disregard other routes and seems to have had no consideration on forest cover.

In the photo above I have taken the proposed Plan B route on the bottom and drew a line that eliminates of lessens the same number of curves, in roughly the same length of new road but avoids forest where possible, only affecting secondary or cut over marginal forest systems and placed that on top as a sort of Plan C.  Why hasn’t the province considered doing this?  Is it because the land costs would be higher?

I don’t have any answers, and I can’t speak to the values of others of what they feel is important, but if we are going to spend over $20,000,000 dollars to make a new highway, surely there is a route that affects as little forest as possible?

Fridgeless Celery

celery stalks and butt in water

Celery on your counter or window sill.

Fridgeless celery! Take your celery out of your fridge, it doesn’t need to be there! Cut the butt end off, stick the stalks in water and they will stay crisp and fresh longer than in your fridge. The put the butt end in water and let it grow you new celery! The more we stop relying on fridges the smaller the fridge we need to get by with, and less energy is used and less money spent on appliances.

Plymouth Barred Rock chicks

Our Plymouth Barred Rock chicks are getting bigger! We bought 8 chicks from a local farmer from Cardigan this spring and we have ended up with four roosters and four hens. We are raising them for eggs so three of the roosters will have to go (either slaughtered for stew or given away if we can find someone who wants them) and in a couple more months we should start getting fresh eggs everyday!