Class Schedule Update

Summer Workshops with Guest Instructors

Enrollment for summer classes has been surprisingly uneven this year. To encourage signups we have made a few changes, including lowering the tuition for two of our standard courses – Ladderback Chairmaking and Carving Bowls and Spoons.
Please remember that Country Workshops' tuition includes materials, lodging and meals, and use of specialty tools (except for Japanese Woodworking, where tuning your tools is a major part of the course.)

June 6-10: Ladderback Chairmaking (Drew Langsner) -
Tuition Special $700
June 20-24: Make a 17th Century Carve Box (Peter Follansbee) - 1 Opening
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) -
Tuition Special $675
August 29-September 3: Coopering (Carl Swensson) - 3 Openings

Finished butter knives made by Jögge Sundqvist. Photo by Jostein Skeidsvoll

The Butter Knife Project

The feature story in our February e-newsletter introduced the Butter Knife Design/Study Project. The inspiration came about last summer when Jögge Sundqvist was at Country Workshops teaching a class in spoon and bowl carving. The first class project was making butter knives, known in Sweden as smör knivar. I then decided that butter knives would make the perfect gifts for taking to Japan on our fall craft tour. Altogether I made 29 variations of my personal design. In a recently received e-mail, Jögge told me that he was working on a group of 50 butter knives. These spreaders are perfect to make as gifts or as affordable hand crafted items for sale.

Jögge Sundvist's book, Slöjda I Trä, is entirely in Swedish, but it's still something of a thriller for anyone interested in sloyd crafts from Scandinavia. There's lots of excellent instructional line drawings and the color photos are truly inspirational. It's available in hard cover, 89 pages. Books from Sweden tend to be expensive – we have lowered our price by $5.00

We also now have a DVD version of Jögge's video "Carving Swedish Woodenware." This was originally recorded in 1988 at Country Workshops by The Taunton Press.

JS-01 Slöjda I Trä by Jögge Sundvist
$42.50 – Sale Price $37.50
TP-01 "Carving Swedish Woodenware" DVD

Spreaders made by Erik Buchakian and Gene Faasse

Recently we received two very interesting takes on the butter knife concept. Erik Buchakian (Narrowsburg, NY) carved his from an all sapwood apple tree branch. "I split it with an axe, and took it pretty close to final shape with a drawknife – using my knife only for final shaping. ... The one hour time limit was more challenging than I thought it would be ... Without putting too much thought into it, I incorporated some Japanese inspiration into the form." This is our first butter knife with a blade that has one bevel, and one flat side, like a Japanese marking knife.

Gene Faasse (Travelers Rest, SC) has contributed the most complex spreader that we've seen, and it was carved with a sloyd knife and a small spoon gouge that Gene made at our Toolmaking for Woodworkers course in 2009. Gene writes that "... It's a spörk knivar, a Swedish version of the (Japanese) spork. ... I guess I could come up with some artistic description for the material and finish but nah ... it's just a scrap of lumber and some stuff out of the fridge ... Cherry and canola to be exact. If there are any design or style cues that can be gleaned from it, please feel free to share and use them. That's the great thing about your Butter Knife Project."

You can see our growing collection on Country Workshops web site at The Butter Knife Gallery. The Butter Knife Project is waiting for your contribution. Please include a note with your full name, post address, e-mail address, wood species and finish. We are also always interested in reading comments on your interpretation of this traditional form. Contributions to the collection are just that – this project has a zero budget. Send your version to:

Country Workshops
990 Black Pine Ridge Rd
Marshall, NC 28753

Master Class Tip


Chairmaker Dave Sawyer demonstrates riving ladderback posts from red oak in this 1981 Country Workshops archival photo. The student observers are Larry Blunt, Sian Neuman Smith and Daniel Kuster.

Riving is the process of splitting wood with control and determination to make something special. Examples can include chair parts, basketry materials, and making shingles. Firewood is commonly split with an axe, maul and wedges. For riving, we also use a froe and club, and various devices known as "brakes." One of the most common traditional versions of a brake is simply a forked section of a small tree supported by 2 crossing posts. In our January e-news we had a feature on a Japanese version of a brake that is very different from what we are familiar with.

It's obvious that a brake secures a piece of rather small section wood for riving with the froe and club. What's not apparent is that the brake is silently contributing a sophisticated element to the process. Once the froe enters the wood, the person doing the riving will always be sure to lever the handle towards the side of the split that one wants to make somewhat narrower. This works because the fibers on the tension side of the split will gradually break away as the split opens up. You can do this to even out two sides of a split, or to make the split narrower on one side. Of course you will have more of this control with long pieces that don't just pop apart (like we sometimes see with the shorter ladderback chair rungs.) The brake allows the riving craftsman to control the process in the same way that a basket maker controls thickness and run-out when making splints from a material like white oak.

Country Workshops froes designed by Drew Langsner.
The froe is a simple looking tool. But like many other basic things, there can be significant differences between what looks to be an OK tool and one that really does the job well. The Country Workshops froe was designed about 20 years ago after using many others that had various problems. Traditional froes are invariably rounded at the upper end of the blade. This isn't done for the utility of the tool; the forged blade tends to take this shape as the toolmaker hammers out the bevels. The result is that the froe user looses some considerable striking surface at the end of the blade. The Country Workshops froe is fabricated instead of being made at a forge. One result is that the end of the blade is now square, giving a much appreciated extra bit of striking surface. On our froe, the ferule is a section of tubular steel welded to the blade – it's no longer an uneven bent loop at one end of the blade. The tubing is truly round and this makes it realistic to turn a tight fitting handle. The ferule is also taller (deeper) than the blade width. This results in a much tighter and more secure fit for the handle. For increased leverage, we make the section of the blade extra thick, and less wide than the traditional versions. The bevels are ground at a 30 degree included angle on a milling machine. Then we use an angle grinder, belt sander and files to fair the bevel area into the upper blade, and to round the striking surface on the upper side of the blade. The blade is secured with a lag bolt and a heavy duty washer. The handles are turned and fitted at Country Workshops from kiln-dried hard maple.

We offer 2 versions. The larger chairmaker's froe has a 12-inch blade and a handle just under 18-inches in length. The lighter basketmaker's froe has an 8-inch blade.

CW-01 Chairmaker's froe, complete with handle
CW-02 Chairmaker's froe, blade and hardware only
CW-03 Basketmaker's froe, complete with handle
CW-04 Basketmaker's froe, blade and hardware only


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Phone: 828 656 2280 (9 AM to 6 PM, Eastern time, any day)
Address: 990 Black Pine Ridge Rd.; Marshall, North Carolina 28753