Peter Follansbee Has Left the Building


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.

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.

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.


About Lost Art Press

Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
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18 Responses to Peter Follansbee Has Left the Building

  1. Best of luck to you Peter!

  2. Not Bob Dylan…usually The Grateful Dead is more like it. And I could recommend “Truckin'”, “Comes A Time”, or maybe best of all just “He’s Gone” as apropos of the moment.

  3. Sergeant82d says:

    Not funny, but a funny coincidence that I just started following Peter last night; only eight or ten hours ago.

    Good luck Peter! I look forward to seeing what you do next.

  4. toolnut says:

    Hi Chris,
    In a previous post, you had mentioned that Peter was writing a book called “Building a 17th-century Chest”, is that the same one mentioned above with a new title, or did it evolve into something more?

  5. wb8nbs says:

    A man in a DeadHead shirt carrying an axe… Scary.

  6. I heard Plimoth will be hiring a soap-carving Elvis impersonator from Thailand named “Dennis”. Maybe not all is lost.

  7. Ben says:

    I had always planned on making a pilgrimage (ba-dum-pah!) to Plimoth to see Peter work. This is sad news… I’ll just have to try and take a class or workshop with him sometime.

    • Niels Cosman says:

      I am with you Ben. I am kicking myself in the pants (btw not a easy thing to do, I do yoga) that I didn’t go down to see him work and pester him with questions about his craft. I live in Boston and have zero excuse. *pant kick*

  8. Really, really excited to hear that Peter is writing another book and especially that it is on 17th century joinery. Make a Joint Stool from a Tree is one of my favourite woodworking books that I have but since reading it I’ve been hoping Peter would write another book about 17th century joinery/furniture in general. His joint stool book is one of the better instructional books I’ve ever read but because of how focused it is (and how interesting the material is) it just leaves you wanting to learn more.

    You guys (Lost Art Press) are really killing it with future titles, I think you’ve mentioned around 10 or so books in various stages of development in various posts over the last little while and they all sound like they’ll be fantastic.

  9. “I ain’t gonna work on Maggies farm no more.”

  10. “The answer my friend is blowin in the wind the answer is blowin in the wind.” Best of luck on his journey.

  11. larry7293 says:

    I just returned from Winterthur and saw Peter’s book, Make a Joint Stool from a Tree, at the gift shop for sale. I was surprised to see a Lost Art Press book for sale there.

  12. Clay Silsby says:

    Best of luck to Peter on this next step in his life. Enjoyed watching, learning and visiting with him at Plimoth. No doubt there are more wonderful books that will come out of this move.

  13. mcdara says:

    The times, they are a changin’

  14. Wonderful post – Peter will be greatly missed! I’d just like to clarify that Plimoth Plantation is not hiring a wax chandler in place of a woodworker. The Museum had already budgeted for the wax chandler position before Peter decided to leave, and is currently updating a job description for a 17th-century woodworker (a turner or joiner). A job description will be posted on shortly. As Plimoth Plantation expands its Craft Center, other historic crafts and trades are also being considered, including a cooper, a weaver, a printer, a basket maker, and a number of Native crafts. All the best to Peter!

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