When I visited Peter Follansbee in his shop at Plimoth Plantation in 2012, it looked as if his shop had always been there and always would.
I wouldn’t call it cluttered, exactly. It was quite tidy. But it was filled with 20 years of tools, work and the bits and pieces that come with a joiner’s life. (For photos from my visit, go here.)
But after 20 years, Peter has left Plimoth to strike out on his own. On one hand, I could not be happier for Peter. Walking away from any organization with its meetings, internal politics and hassle is liberating. But it’s also the end of an era at Plimoth. It appears that Plimoth will not replace Peter.
Peter said they were talking about adding a candle-dipper and soap-maker in his place.
While I have nothing against candles or cleanliness, this is a step backward for woodworking research into the 17th century. Peter, Jennie Alexander and a few others have been at the core of exploring and understanding the lively and robust furniture and tools from the 1600s.
(This isn’t a commercial for his book, but if you don’t own “Make a Joint Stool from a Tree” and like green woodworking, you are missing out.)
Peter explains the shape of one of his bowls.
No longer will you be able to visit Plimoth and watch Peter dismantle oak trees with sharp tools and a sharper tongue.
But there is a bright side to all of this. Peter is not slowing down or retiring from joinery. I spoke to him a bit at the Lie-Nielsen Open House last weekend about his new life and he’s keeping quite busy with commercial work, carving spoons and bowls and (I hope) finishing up a book for Lost Art Press.
Peter at work on some birch at the Lie-Nielsen Open House.
That book, tentatively titled “Joiner’s Work,” will focus on the tools, methods and typical pieces of a joiner from the 17th century. He’s been at work on the book for some time – now he just needs the shop space to finish it up.
So if you love Peter’s work like we do here at Lost Art Press, you can lend a hand by following his excellent blog, picking up a copy of his book or DVDs from Lie-Nielsen or perhaps buying a spoon or bowl from his web site. Peter’s no charity case, but every little bit helps when you are starting out on your own.
— Christopher Schwarz
P.S. Hey Peter, sorry about the title of this post. I couldn’t think of a good Bob Dylan song to go with this post. Hence, Elvis.