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making an adze from a ball-peen

while teaching a series of classes at north house last year i noticed carving instructor jon strom had a number of bowl carving adzes he’d made from old ball peen hammer heads. after seeing a picture of them my friend dean brought me a couple of old hammer heads for my birthday and of course he was up for attempting to make a couple of adzes with me… here’s how it went..

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rabbit house

about a year and a half ago a friend gave me 2 rabbits, a male and a female, i read a couple of straight forward books on keeping meat rabbits and following the advice in the books i built two 3′ x 3′ x 1′ wire mesh cages and hung them from the inside of my chicken coops larger “run” area… the rabbits seemed miserable from the start, sitting lifelessly in the corners of their wire cages.

i imagined there must be a better way soo i started digging out a little used portion of the chicken coop, re-enforcing the under ground wire mesh to keep racoons, dogs and possums from digging in, filled it back in with about 6 inches of dirt and straw and transferred the rabbits as quickly as possible…  and they were soooo happy! they immediately began exploring their new digs.

the female had a small litter of 3 bunnies inside an old hollowed out cedar stump i’d put in her pen to give her some privacy. we still kept the male and female (+ 3 bunnies) separate and i was beginning to realize that it would soon be getting pretty cramped inside mamma rabbits pen so i started working on a bigger and better rabbit house… i dug out an old thimble berry patch next to the chicken coop and decided to build this one down as well as out and up. while happier on the ground in the new pen the rabbits didn’t really get to dig as the wire was only about 6 inched below the floor of their pen. in the new rabbit house i dug down about 2 feet and after building the frame wired it all up and down, filled it back in with dirt and turned the rabbits loose. again they seemed sooo very pleased to have more room to move and run about. with the next litter mamma rabbit had 6 babies and this time i kept the male together with the whole clan. they all seemed to get along nicely for quite some time. buck, the pappa rabbit, did indeed pester mamma now and then but he seemed to give up after a while and she seemed to have no problem letting him know she wasn’t interested. the young rabbits grew quickly eating mostly weeds from our garden, they dug and impressive network of tunnels and rooms in the new rabbit house. the underground was soo extensive that when surprised all 8 full sized rabbits would jump up, run and dive below ground. all 8 rabbits would be below ground at the same time! i did however eventually separate buck from the group after about 4 1/2 months as he was starting to incessantly attempt to hump every rabbit in the house. he was a bit depressed after i took him out… so i thought if i build another house and find another breeding female buck can spend a few months with each family in turn…

soooo…. i built another rabbit house. here is a photo album documenting the process. i’ll update it with more pics as new family members arrive.

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labrador passage

filmmaker and explorer peter marshall contacted me last year about making him a pair of boots for this journey. i made the boots, he’s tested them out on a short run canoe trip and he’s now making final preparations for his epic labrador passage! …AND there is a brief interview with yours truly in the film! check the trailer out…

“LABRADOR PASSAGE” is a documentary film project co-produced by Twin Cites Public Television that follows two men who will set out in June, 2014, to retrace Mina Hubbard’s historic 1905 canoe journey through Labrador. The unique aspect of the trip is that the crew will only use non-synthetic equipment. We’re talking the classics here: waxed canvas tent, tin-cloth rain gear, and a cedar canvas canoe. Much of this equipment that will be used will be handmade by local craftspeople. On this website, you can acquaint yourself with the history of the expedition, as well as the process of putting the outfit together.

and here is an article about peter and his preparations for the trip…

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north house summer 2013

I spent 5 weeks this summer at North House Folk school in Grand Marais, Minnesota, teaching shoe making and learning as well.  I participated in a timber framing basics class, had the best conversations, and heard some mind blowing stories!  I also got super inspired by all the carvers!  Harley, Jarrod, Bruce, Fred, Jon, Rodger… too many to name!  I picked up a few tools from the North House store and carved some spoons of my own!  oh yeah!  and the spring pole lathe!!  Gonna build one of those in the coming months to… any way.. here are a few pics from my grand adventure on the North Shore..

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to make a yule bock

i decided to try my hand at building a yule bock this holiday season.

materials used;

  • 2 bundles of wheat and rye straw from the garden.  about 36 inches long and as much as i can fit my thumbs and fore fingers around.
  • a spool of twine and scissors.
  • red kid skin (red ribbon would work well too)

i began by evening out my bundles of straw, flipping half of each bundle then evening em out and tying them up.

next i soaked them in hot water for about 5 hours to soften em. i placed a heavy baking sheet and full gallon jug to keep them fully submerged.

after soaking i stood them up to drain for half an hour.

i laid a towel on my work table then decided upon the length of legs and torso by sliding the string around. i settled on 13ish inch legs (both ends) and 10ish inch torso (middle section).

next i separated one end into two even sections and tied em off (this is now the hind legs) and pulled a few pieces out on the top center backside to braid into a tail.

once the hind legs where each tied off i hung them over the edge of the table and carefully bent them down.

now, on the other end (front legs and neck) i separated a quarter of the bundle nearest the top back (spine) to bend upward and begin forming the neck.

next i separated the rest into thirds-ish, tied off and bent the front legs and laied the 2nd bundle in place along in front of  legs and neck.

i separated the bottom half of the 2nd bundle into roughly thirds and tied them to the existing 3 bundles of front legs and belly. then i bent the middle belly bundle back up under the two front legs and tied it to the main torso part of the original body. i also tied the top part of my 2nd bundle to the existing neck of the original body.

after evening out the front legs/belly/neck area and re tying it’s time to move on the the head. first i bent down and tied off a small bunch of straw to create the under chin area. i also lashed it to the neck in order to keep it held at an appropriate angle.  i think attempting to bend the head down all at once wouldn’t work as it’s too thick.

now i bent over the rest of the head just a little higher up and tied it all together.

now, with scissors, i trim the nose flat and clean.

and the feet.

adjust the feet to make it stand solidly.

i used a little strap cutter to cut a long kid skin ribbon.. any sort of ribbon would work here.

after adding some braided sweet grass for horns i made up a nice pattern of criss crossed lashing around the yule bock with my red leather ribbon. you could set aside some straw early on to braid for horns…

just about done and looking pretty good but i’m not happy with how the legs are at slightly different angles..

so i tied em up to hold the legs in appropriate position and will let it dry in this position.

all done! notice the little cock and balls i gave him… i just braided it and tied off and bent the ends of the belly bundle from the step when i made the front legs/bell/neck.

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wooden ski making

a few months back my friend andrew suggested that we attempt to make a pair of wooden skis… neither of us are experienced skiers and there is little to no info out there on how to do this but hey, how hard could it be..?
i took lots of photos along the way and have put together this little photo album. i’ll endeavor to add detailed descriptions to all the pics and write up a brief summery of our experience.