February 2011 E-NEWSLETTER


Students work on the assembly of their Rustic Windsor chairs.

Winter 2011 Tutorials with Drew Langsner



These courses are limited to 4 students. The tuition includes project materials, meals and a private room. Specialized tools are provided for all of these courses. Drew Langsner is the instructor. Registration can be by phone (828 656 2280) or e-mail. Further details are at: countryworkshops.org


February 21-25: Ladderback Chairmaking- 2 openings
March 7-11: Rustic Windsor Chairmaking
- Full
March 21-25: Make a Hearth Chair
- 3 openings
April 4-8: Rustic Windsor Chairmaking - 2 openings

Spring Weekend Tutorials

Limited to 4 students. These short courses are an excellent introduction to traditional woodworking and willow basketry. Tuition includes materials, your private room, meals and use of required specialty tools.

April 16-17: Bowl Carving (with Drew Langsner) - Full
April 30-May 1: Make a Windsor Stool (Drew Langsner)
May 14-15: Willow Basketry (Louise Langsner)

Summer Workshops with Guest Instructors

Class size averages 6-8 students. Tuition includes materials, room and meals, and use of specialty tools (except for Japanese Woodworking where tuning your tools is a major part of the course.)

June 6-11: Ladderback Chairmaking (Drew Langsner)
June 20-24: Make a 17th Century Carve Box (Peter Follansbee)
July 11-16: Japanese Woodworking (Carl Swensson)
August 1-6: Post-and-Rung Rocking Chair (Tom Donahey)
August 15-19: Carving Bowls and Spoons (Drew Langsner)
August 29-September 3: Coopering (Carl Swensson)




The Butter Knife Project

The beginning of our Butter Knife Collection. #1 was bought at the duty free shop of the Stockholm - Arlanda airport. #2 is a production spreader made by Mats Sjˆberg, about 1995. #3 Jögge Sundqvist's current production version. #4 is one of 29 spreaders made by Drew Langsner as gifts to take to Japan in 2010.

Newsletter subscribers who have taken one of our bowl and spoon carving courses know that we usually start these workshops with a lesson on using a sloyd type carving knife. These knives are characterized by having a blade that is rounded to a point towards the tip on the cutting edge, and with wide, flat symmetrical bevels. After looking at our knife selection, we split out 1/2" thick white pine carving blanks from leftover 2" Windsor seat stock. The first hand's on lesson is learning a series of basic "grasps" – methods for using the knife for carving a spoon. Each grasp utilizes a slicing action combined with a safety component. The knife mustn't be allowed to cause an injury during a cutting stroke.

After the class members get some practice with grasps we introduce everyone to Swedish smörknivar, butter knives, which we also call "spreaders." These are flat table utensils commonly used in Sweden for applying butter to bread, and mustard and mayonnaise for making sandwiches. (Nowadays they are also used for pesto and humus.) Butter knives serve as an excellent first project where you are carving something that can become a usable keeper. The student learns that you must always cut into ascending grain. The various grasps are very useful for carving the outline, the flat blade and the somewhat swollen handle. The blunt back end of the handle can be a challenge in itself. Often in class we are eager to move on to carving real spoons, so not much attention is paid to finishing up the butter knives.

But smörknivar are really useful utensils that are very nice to have at the table; they can be an enhancement to the setting and a delightful thing in themselves. The basic form is simple, but designing a nice one is challenging. Louise keeps several in her serving spoons basket, and our spoon display case has several others. Last summer Jögge Sundqvist showed us how he makes his butter knives, which are one of his best production (for sale) items. I also worked on a design that I've been developing in recent years. I needed gifts for our Japan tour and these would be perfect. I made 29, all similar but each one somewhat different.

This led to an idea: It could be very interesting to see what fellow woodworkers do (or could do) with the butter knife concept. We now invite you (anyone who is interested) to design and make a butter knife for what will become part of an on-going collection here at Country Workshops. In subsequent e-newsletters there will be a butter knife section which will include photos of the spreaders that come to us. We will also welcome written contributions – about your butter knife approach (design, or carving and finishing methods) and even butter knife poetry. (We already have some butter knife poetry from Steve Smith's woodshop students in Saudi Arabia.) In addition, there will be a permanent section on our web site called Spreader World – The Butter Knife Gallery. Thus, anyone will be able to see everyone's butter knife contribution. It should be really interesting.

The idea for our butter knife collection was inspired by a related project that Norman Stevens started several years ago. Norman has put together an extensive collection of carved wooden teaspoons. These range from simple teaspoons to some very creative art pieces. Our collection will be quite different. (See the next paragraph.) If you're interested in the teaspoon project you can contact: normanstevens@mac.com

There are no set rules for the butter knife collection, just a few guidelines. We want these butter knives to be user pieces. They should be practical, really good for applying a spread to a piece of bread or a cracker. And lovely. We also hope that they are relatively simple, well designed and nicely crafted. Working out your design(s) may take any amount of time. Really nice but simple things are often very challenging. Experienced carvers should not take more than an hour or so to make a butter knife. Beginners may take about 2 hours. If you are a professional woodworker, your butter knives should be relatively inexpensive. Your contribution to the collection will be just that – this project has a zero budget.

Butter knives are the first project in the section on "Knife Grips" in Wille Sundqvist's excellent (and out-of-print) book Swedish Carving Techniques. In the Taunton Press edition smörknivar is translated as 'butter paddle.'

"The function of the butter paddle is most important. You should be able to butter bread with it, it should be able to stand up to substantial use and it should feel good in your hand. The blade of the paddle should be wide and thin, and the most slender part of the handle should be at least twice as thick as the blade to give it strength. Grain direction and structure ought to figure into your design ..."

If you have not made butter knives in the past, I suggest starting with one or more practice pieces made from a soft carving wood, like linden or white pine. That way you can work quickly, trying different ideas. When you're happy with the idea, switch to a hardwood. Close grain species, like birch, cherry and maple are much nicer than coarse grained woods like oak or ash.

Black birch blank used for Drew Langsner spreaders.

To make my butter knives for Japan I followed these steps: 1) Rived out pie-section blanks from a freshly cut black birch sapling about 5 inches across.
2) Roughed out the sides of the blanks using a drawknife at a shaving horse.
3) Penciled my design (using a quick made pattern) on one side of the blank.
4) Band sawed the outline.*
5) Carved the bevels and refined the cross section using a sloyd knife and a spoke shave. Some of this was hand held. Some with the blank in a wood jawed machinist vise.
6) About 10 seconds sanding.
7) Dried in a microwave. Two blasts of about 20 seconds, with a minute for cooling between hits.
8) Painted the handle section. (Idea borrowed from Jögge, but I use acrylic paint, he likes oils.)
9) Oil finish; 2 coats. I currently favor health food store flax oil (food grade linseed oil) mixed about 1:4 with a little citrus peel solvent. Oiled the blade and painted handle section.
10) Louise sewed a simple cloth presentation wrapper for each spreader going to Japan.

*While this is mainly a hand tool woodcarving project we are not saying "no power tools." Carvers need to make their own decision on this ever-present question.

Contributions to the Butter Knife Collection should be sent to:

Country Workshops
990 Black Pine Ridge Road
Marshall, NC 28753


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