Hand-craft woodworking involves a wide variety of tools and techniques. Here’s a peek into the workshop at some of the steps that go into hand-crafting small-batch woodenware on the homestead.
it all starts with a tree…
Most woodworking projects begin in the forest. Joe uses a Stihl chainsaw with a milling attachment to harvest and mill lumber. Then sledges and wedges are used to rive wood into blanks for smaller projects like chairs, bowls, stools, and spoons.
While large furniture projects require lumber that has dried and cured, lots of smaller projects start while the wood is green. All kinds of tableware, from bowls and trays to spoons and spreaders, are roughed out while they’re green.
These blanks will be set aside to dry slowly, to minimize cracking and warping. Final shaping, smoothing and finishing are completed after a few weeks of drying time.
meet the scrub plane
To turn a tree trunk into furniture, you’re going to have to have to do a lot of shaping and smoothing. In a factory, industrial planers buzz through miles of rough logs, shaving them down into miles of smooth planks. In the by-hand workshop, the tool for this job is a scrub plane. This scrub plane is Joe’s own design, to fit his hand, and is a real workhorse!
This is the scrub plane in-use, flattening the base of a natural fir stump so that we can use it as an anvil stand.
Traditional furniture projects like desks and boxes and trays are made my joining together planks of dried lumber. Pieces are hand-cut to form joints which are fastened using hide glue. Surfaces are smoothed using traditional hand-planes.
One of the great things about working by-hand is looking at each piece of wood with the desire to put it to its best possible use. Small branches may not be useful for lumber or furniture, but they’re not firewood just yet. Hollowing out branches with an old-fashioned auger yields a wide variety of useful items, like utensil holders, napkin rings, and necklaces.
Most of our woodworking products are finished simply with plain flax seed oil. It is completely food safe and has the added benefit of being the only oil to truly cure into a protective surface. Other oils soak into the surface and wash off over time. Other finishes may include blackening or painting with hand-mixed natural pigments before applying a final coat of protective oil.
When the work is done, it’s time to take care of the tools. While it’s not considered the most exciting part of woodworking, it’s got its own quiet rhythm, and its own sense of satisfaction in creating that perfectly sharp edge that is going to make the next day of woodworking so enjoyable, and is going to give the next hand-crafted item that remarkably smooth hand-cut finish.
Original designs, natural materials, small batches – that’s how it’s made here on the homestead!
sounds of the workshop
On this one particular day, Joe had the pleasure of being joined in the workshop by our three kids: Asher (age 11), Spencer (age 10), and Genevieve (age 7). They were all working on bolts of poplar logs, and it turned into quite a symphony!
by Sydney Michalski