Monday, 12 April 2021

Green Woodwork Days Out

Learning Green Woodwork is an enjoyable, healthy, environmentally friendly way to work wood with simple hand tools and traditional devices, pole lathe and shavehorse.  Making fun and functional wood toys, stools, spoons and all sorts of interesting things I'm really glad to be starting my one and two day Courses on my favourite subjects, wood and hand tools,  after a long year of interesting times!  I'm a real fan of letting the tools do the work for you and working with the grain - learn using these skills and woodwork will never be the same again.  You'll think about it differently after using sharp tools and the innate strength of the wood to get the best from your labours!                                                                                                                                                        














Using a  Shavehorse is a pleasure - you sit down whilst working, listen to the sounds of nature or chat about this that or the other - a pure pleasure. I have tools for left or right handed folks in all types of sizes and styles of handles. Plenty of carving knives in different sized blades and hooks. There'll be many axes, chisels, gouges, saws, spokeshaves and drawerknives. If you decide it's for you and you want to continue further I can put together a starter kit for you to purchase with a good range of things that are essential and you'll be trying them all out anyway. You could be shaving billets for stool legs or carving spatulas and spoons - it's your course so you can make just about whatever you feel like...
Depending on how much energy and effort you put in reflects on the size of the goody bag you go home with - all the things you've made whilst learning and working with me. 


The Courses and Days Out are a most enjoyable way to spend a day or two relaxing whilst working and I've changed the way I'm running them - they are now all on a one to one basis so you'll get even more from your time with me.  I've always got plenty of logs to work with and obviously loads and loads of different razor sharp tools - so we'll definitely have a great day inside the workshop or outside in the open air.


Monday, 5 April 2021

 Rebec Update











I first started the Rebec in a flush of enthusiasm in 2008 and did loads of work with the adze that summer at shows and events where I was selling my handmade wood wares. Since then it's been on the back burner until these interesting times and the Lock-Up we've had here in Essex, UK.  

In fact I'd forgotten about it till I had the biggest workshop tidy up and sort out for years and there it was at the same stage as in the pic below. 

It's a Gransfors Bruks Adze and it's one of those tools I go months without using then it's coming out every day. I  love using it - goes through wood like butter when you've got the right action.








Almost Ready Stage

I always get caught out at this stage when making things because the tricky work is still to come and after wasting loads of wood with the adze it was on to gouges to get it so we'd have a good sound box.







More Almost Ready Stage

After spending a few more hours last week it was starting to look like a Medieval instrument and I felt pleased that I'd done it using similar methods to the musical instrument makers of the past - similar tools and a similar amount of energy!  Feeling positive now and have been re-reading Zachary Taylor's book for hints and tips and got sidetracked with that








Taking the Shape of a Rebec

Finger board  and tail piece are Laburnum, the bridge and pegs are London Plane, top is Spruce and the nut is Box. I was able to use the neck support I'd made to set up the bass guitar I chatted about last week and it's great when bits of kit you make turn out to be multi functional.   Thank goodness I've a big workbench - must have had everything bar the kitchen sink out to use.  That's when you know for sure you can never have too many tools!





Here you can see the pegs - had to do some carefulcarving on these to ensure they could all be turned independently without jamming into each other - made a mental note that next time I make a Rebec to drill the holes just slightly further apart from each other!

This afternoon I'm going to design the fret holes, I've been looking at loads of images of ancient instruments in museums - don't think I'll be doing a super fancy design - I've heard that can impair the sound. So think I'll be going for something minimal going for the 'less is more' approach...

Tuesday, 30 March 2021

Axes and Axes and a Shovel

Different Type of Axe

Axes are all sharp as you'd expect and the newest is a different breed completely! Ness suddenly decided she was going to take up the bass guitar after a gap of of about 25 years. I think everyone's needed something different during the Lock-Up, as I like to call it, over the winter. So we went Axe hunting on the internet, eBay, Gum Tree, Craigs List, FB and all the ones she liked, mostly cherry red, were vintage and £450 minimum!  I said bit of an expensive new hobby specially as it might not really have been played a great deal - Ness is so deaf she seems to feel music through vibration and Jimi Hendrix is her hero - perhaps it's the loud full of life sounds.  Eventually she put up a 'wanted' post on our local Epping Forest Freegle and after about six weeks a bloke got in touch from Loughton saying he'd bought a bass brand around 1975-80 in Romford, played it twice, decided it wasn't for him and, of all places, it was stored in the airing cupboard!
 I went that afternoon to collect and as Ness said it's FAB - one of her favourite colours, Surf Green, full length neck very banana shaped but otherwise looking brand new in a professional gig bag.  It's a JD Vintage made in China with a full length neck. 


 Next I made a neck support, got the allen keys out and adjusted the truss rod. Can't remember the amount it move but it was a lot!

I found after fiddling with truss rod that the nut was completely rubbish so ordered a new on from eBay.  That took about two weeks to arrive and someone was getting a bit impatient!

Then after a quick strum we both thought that the airing cupboard had caused the neck to shrink quite a bit so a fret file was essential and again eBay came in very handy!  That arrived in a couple of days but filing the frets took over the kitchen table for quite a while rather than the workshop because I wanted to watch Ronnie playing snooker!

The frets were a pain in the proverbial but I got them done and it sounded great - absolutely brilliant through the amplifier or accoustic.  Really got a great bass sound but Ness decided something else was needed...
All the bits and bobs here and neck resting in the support - good job I made that straight away - made everything much easier.

She wanted flat wounds!   

So again another bit of online shopping.  We tried some that were cheapies at around £16 for a set - seemed all right until I tuned it up then the blooming things unwound and we even had a snappage.  that really bothered me - I didn't want to be cut by a string and I certainly didn't want Ness playing until I was sure I'd got a safe set.  We had 3 sets from the same company but eventually enough was enough - you only get what you pay for so I stumped up the £35 odd quid to different shop.  they were great and I must admit flat wounds are very good to play.

The upshot of all this is Ness is gonna be a Rock Chick at 60 if she gets a chance to strum because I've decided it's mine now and I love the sound and play every evening!

Just a link to something else Ness liked the Shovel Guitar 



 I've been so busy in Lock-Up my feet haven't touched the ground - just looking forward to going out and seeing folks a bit more and plenty of chat!  making loads of stuff in the workshop and you can see some of it here in Treewrights Shop

More soon - Robin....



Monday, 27 July 2020

Wood Turning Combined with Carving by Hand for Kitchen Wares

Wood Turning First - by Power or Pole Lathe

Choose a wide enough piece of wood for the finished width of your desired spatula.   If it's not you'll end up simply turning another spurtle or thieval!  I've been using some of that wonderful fresh green Sycamore I found in one of the dry ditches around by the Abbey church.  So not only did I have to check size carefully I was also keeping an eye out for that green fleck staining that I don't like the look of on utensils.

Allow enough wood at either end to give enough to remove as you finish the work so you're not getting a small indentation where the centres of the lathe grip. We don't want unsightly or nasty unhygenic little indentations in our cooking implements do we.   Then let the imagination flow - I find doing these little things most therapeutic, gently changing the sweep of a handle the slight nuance of a curve - only thing is once the wood's cut you can't stick it back on.  I like to turn gently, not like a maniac racing away that removes all the pleasure and I think you should be able to enjoy your work and not feel that I'm on an assembly line.  Yes I do need to make a certain number of products to earn my living but that doesn't prevent me from enjoying my chosen profession.
Once the handle is fashioned to your taste then it's time to get those carving implements out.  Sometimes it's simply a 2.5 inch carpenters chisel for a good flat cut or perhaps a series of knives and then a few sweeps with the spokeshave.  Most important is to take your time and if the grain doesn't seem to be co-operative maybe it's because you're not working with it but against it. So turn the work around or if it's the spokeshave or drawknife try a push cut instead of a pull or use the tool at an angle to the work - it's very important to be flexible and try different things out.  And remember there's not definitive right way - it's what's right for you and what's comfortable and what works...

Thursday, 9 July 2020


Spokeshave - the Forgotten Tool of Green Woodwork

Many green woodworkers seem to have never used a spokeshave, don't seem to have seen one or if they have don't appreciate it's value as an essential in the toolbox.  I've always been a fan of this comfortable little tool, it's wonderful for finishing spoons and spatulas and all types of awkward edges.  Once you've mastered the adjustment of the blade it's beautiful the way it removes the perfect shaving for that lovely feel of smooth wood in the hand.

I was using my spokeshave just yesterday in the workshop finishing some spoons, spatulas etc and thinking what a marvellous and useful tool it was how everyone should have one!
James Krenov turned me onto this one perhaps back when he wrote articles for one of the woodworking magazines.  It’s a Stanley No 53 which I use with a one handed grip as he suggested. Also it’s got a little wheel for speedy, very accurate and fine blade adjustments.

Stanley No 53
This is my favourite Spokeshave, I probably use it everyday in my work and is always part of my travelling tool kit.

In my opinion, this is the way to hold it - using first finger and thumb and the little finger at the opposite end of the blade being careful not to clog the mouth with shavings.

Complete view of the under or business side of the Spokeshave where you can see the hinged sole.  It's essential to keep it sharp and as I've been using a fair bit of Sycamore in the last couple of weeks it needs sharpening more frequently than, say, Silver Birch or Hazel would need.

Spoonrise over Waltham Abbey

NB  Top tip is to hold the blade in mole grips for honing... 

Friday, 19 June 2020


The Right Tool for the Job

Absolutely no point struggling with inadequate blunt tools!  I'm a bit obsessed with sharpening, doing it properly and frequently.  So often I hear folks saying "well it was sharp when I bought it".  No it wasn't, probably just had a ground edge to whip off any burrs in the manufacturing.  The other phrase that drives me nuts is "I sharpened it just yesterday".  Probably last week and it's likely it wasn't sharpened correctly anyway - angles all wrong, sharpened on the wrong side of the bevel, not a mirror finish all the usual mistakes and then I'm told that the tool steel is rubbish.  It may well be but you can't blame your tools for poor maintenance, they don't sharpen themselves - perhaps it's thought  the elves pop in at midnight and do the job for them!  I'm constantly sharpening throughout the day whilst working and it's particularly important if you want a really clean cut thread.
Tools for Thread Chasing

Chisel on the left is essential for undercutting the female thread so you don't bounce against the wood.  Sounds weird but that's exactly what happens and then you're up the creek without a paddle!
On the right it's a pointing tool that can be used as a skew - again essential for this type of box turning.  The tool at the top is a moveable rest.
I'm a great fan of Ashley Isles tools, always have been, but even more so after visiting their works in Lincolnshire to buy some one awful wet Monday in the winter.  The office address at that time was a pub and we turned up there and it was closed.  Heard noises out the back and found Ray Isles the publican in his little workshop.  I say 'little' - small because it was so jam packed with stuff but in fact it had been an aircraft hanger to house Lancaster Bombers being serviced between missions in the war!  We even got taken to see the remaining Lanc there and afterwards he opened the pub, his wife came out in her nightie and did us a smashing lunch with a pint of ale and Ray whisked off to the works to get his brother to sort out the chisels I wanted to buy - personal service with a smile and a history lesson with brunch and a pint.                                                                                      

Thread chasing chisels are in made as male and female tools and Ashley Isles also make a universal chaser that does both.  I've found that the more teeth to the inch the easier it is to use them - the ones with fewer teeth, turning a bigger thread are, for me at any rate, damned tricky.  This one here is the Universal Chaser and 16 teeth to the inch.
Universal Thread Chaser
These two are the male and female, the female having more teeth, in this pair it's 24 teeth to the inch.  It's really important that you use the right one for the threads otherwise it's confusing and just doesn't work and goes completely wrong.  This really is a case of practise and practise and then practise some more.

Female Chaser is bottom 

This pair of chisels are 11 teeth to the inch - big difference in terms of thread size and as I mentioned earlier more difficult to work with.

Male Chaser is top

So these are the tools you'll need to make boxes with threaded lids.  Have fun giving it a go, get the right wood, make sure you're comfortable, get the tool rest in the right position, the speed right and have fun...

Monday, 1 June 2020


Density of grain is the main thing so selecting the timber is crucial.  I've only used with Box as that's what I've saved specially. I've also been told that African Blackwood, which I'm unlikely to find in Waltham Abbey or the rest of Essex, also Lignum Vitae again not growing around here but I'm keeping my eye open for some old bowling bowls that I could re-purpose. So Box is the wood for me.
Thread Chasing

You need your chisels to cut the wood cleanly so they need to be super sharp, at least the 1st or leading tooth.  Before you get that far you need to make your box!  I've found that I need to be in the perfect frame of mind for this and I still find it a challenging project.  One day it'll go swimmingly the next it's an aberration - nothing goes right.  Then it'll work perfectly, all very frustrating.  I think it's a lot to do with your stance and mood, no good blaming the tools - I know they work perfectly, are super sharp so check the lathe speed, that's important too.  It's the female thread that, for me is trickiest and then when I think it'll all go wrong it goes perfectly!  And of course you must make sure your grain matches up when you thread the lid - we don't want mis-matching grain do we!

Threaded Box from Box Wood

Pleased with this little one though. Did a bit of that clattering chattering to the top.  It screws up easily and tightly and I found that it perfectly holds a 5pence piece!  I decided to try small and this measures 1 and an 8th inches high and 7/8ths inch diameter.
For things I've been turning recently have a look here