Shrink Pots: A Touch of ‘Magic’
These traditional Swedish cylindrical forms are an addictive pastime.
by Peter Follansbee
I have too much to do. Building a shop by hand, in my spare time, is slow-going. Add in custom work, teaching (and the travel that goes with it) and spoon carving, and my days are pretty full. It’s a good feeling, knowing there’s plenty to do, but what happens when inspiration comes along? I can’t just tell it to leave me alone because I’m busy.
I recently taught at the Plymouth Center for Restoration Arts and Forgotten Trades’ (CRAFT) first-ever Greenwood Fest. This was a three-day event filled with demonstrations, classes, impromptu sessions and general camaraderie surrounding various green woodworking crafts. We had a host of instructors from the U.S., England and Sweden.
While I should be working on shingling the roof of my shop or making the furniture some of my clients are waiting for, I’m too inspired to focus. So today, I took some time to start more shrink pots. “Shrink whats?”
Shrink pots. These little (usually) cylindrical boxes are another piece from the Swedish traditions that are the source of my spoon-carving.
Take a small sapling, crosscut a section and bore a hole through it end-to-end. Then with various knives, hollow the inside walls of the pot. Then cut a groove on the inside, just above the bottom edge. Scribe and cut a thin, dry, bottom board. Pop it in place and stand back. The cylinder shrinks onto the bottom, then you have a pot.
I choose a fresh blank that has no knots, branches or other disturbances in its grain. I tend toward the softer spoon-carving woods; lately for me that’s birches: grey, yellow, black. I’ve done some in American sycamore, too.