Sylva Spoon

Back Once Again for the Renegade Master

Thomas BartlettComment

Apprenticeship Day 9

I had a week away from the Woodspirit shop. I sold some spoons, Jarrod sold some spoons. Pies were eaten, Thanks was given. It was a good week.

As today is a Monday, it meant the day started with a business meeting. Jarrod and Jazmin brought me up to speed on what they did during the time I was away, then we discussed what will be happening in the short and medium term. 

Jarrod recently went public with his forthcoming book. So he's going to start spending mornings chipping away at that. Which means I'll soon be working more independently. For this week however, it's all hands on deck to finish up as much as we can for the Julmarknad Christmas Market at the ASI. So if you're in Minneapolis next weekend, be sure to check it out. 

Jarrod and Jazmin made a whole bunch of birchbark boxes last week:

Painted and drying.

A post shared by Jarrod Dahl (@jarrod__dahl) on

This is also what we spent most of today on. Jarrod had a few tasks to attend to after the meeting, so I roughed out a bowl. I was concerned that after a week away from the lathe I'd have forgotten everything. Fortunately, that turned out to not be the case. The bowl took shape relatively quickly. I had a few issues with the tools catching when I was hollowing, but that's not something we've focused much on yet. 

 Birchbark boxes ready for lids and bases

Birchbark boxes ready for lids and bases

Once that was done Jarrod had me watch him layout and assemble the bark bodies for a few of them. Then he showed me his process for shaping and fitting the base and lid. This is all done with power tools: a bandsaw and disk sander. Last winter I made one of these birchbark boxes under the guidance of Nicholas Wazeegale. We did everything by hand (we were using milled boards though). The base needs to fit tightly and getting the right fit can be a tedious process with hand tools. It was certainly a lot quicker to use the power tools. 

But it wasn't a very enjoyable experience. With the power tools spewing dust, we had to have the shop-vac running. So it was loud. Jarrod and I both had ear protection. There wasn't much in the way of conversation. Even with the shop vac, right now my eyes are little irritated from the dust and I has a slight tickle in the back of my throat.

However I was able to make many more lids and bases than I would have been able to by hand. I don't think a hand-shaped base would add character or create a better product. This is the balance that needs to be struck when trying to make a living from traditional woodcraft. I don't really use power tools. The only electric tools I have in my own workshop are a battery powered chainsaw and drill. But that's for no reason other than I'm kind of cheap. Hand tools are inexpensive but require more skill to use. You're providing both the power and the direction. With power tools you just need to focus on directing them. Their operation is not without skill, there's just less to think about. The power vs hand tool debate is a longstanding one in woodworking. Like most things in life, it's more exciting to create a black/white divide when in fact most of us reside in the shades of grey that exist between the two. 

If you want more on this topic, Jarrod wrote some of his thoughts on electric vs hand tools earlier this year.

 Assembled boxes

Assembled boxes