Sunday, 3 February 2019

Windsor Chairmaking

I've just been made aware of a new series of YouTube videos by Michael Dunbar.
Michael and his wife are retiring from teaching Windsor chairmaking and have produced this set of videos of the making of a Sackback Windsor.  Enjoy it - this guy really knows what he's talking about...
"I made Windsor chairs for 45 years. Beginning in 1980 I taught Windsor chairmaking around the United States and Canada. In 1994 my wife Susanna and I gave the craft a permanent home when we opened a school named The Windsor Institute.  Our program of classes was recognized throughout the world.  We taught as many as 35 classes a year with a maximum of 28 students.  We estimate we taught Windsor chairmaking to some 6,500 people."

Tuesday, 12 June 2018


In Yorkshire for a couple of days giving youngsters a taste of what can happen in the countryside with the excellent children's charity Countryside Learning who organise many different activities for inner city kids who are just not aware of all the different opportunities there are waiting for them in the open air.
So onto the asks & answers...

And how often do you dye your beard when you're working?    Wasn't ready for this one!  Has never crossed my mind to dye anything except for a T shirt...

Why are you so old?!  Well well well & my response - Why are you so young?  Further response from said youngster - I'm not that young, I'm 10 and 3/4s and so I'm older than her!

Does this spoon work properly?  I've never had any trouble making spoons work!

Why is your shavehorse too big?  It's not too big for me, you're just too small!

Did you grow so tall to make it easier to climb trees?  Oh yes and my mum stretched my legs every night so I don't have to jump so far.  Further response - Think I'll get my dad to do that, he's stronger than my mum...

There's a constant patter of excitement and interest.

How many axes have you got?

Does your grandad know you do this?

How many grandads have you got?  Me - I had two, sadly they both died long ago.  Further response - How many of them were murdered?  Me - left speechless!

Does your dog like doing this? Me - Why don't you ask him?

Mister your dog's dead - I've just pulled his tail and he's not moving!  Me - No he's playing dead so you all (around 1500 kids a day for two days) leave him alone!

It's all good fun and at least they get a chance to get hands on with everything.

The two man saw was a big hit with them all and I got my logs sawn up so they'd fit easily in the back of the car!  This was some beautiful laburnum from the Borders which my mate James very kindly schlepped down to Ledston for me.  In Scotland they are a common hedgerow and street tree. Very popular for making into quaiches for single malt and are known Scottish mahogany.

Full details of my courses & demonstrations at Treewright or send me an email to  


Wednesday, 16 May 2018


Billhook Found in an Ancient Layed Hedge
I was asked recently to replace a wormy old stick that had been the handle of this rather lovely old Elwell billhook.  The client, who I've done quite a few strange woody things for, remembered his grandfather talking about a billhook that vanished whilst he was having his lunch in the orchard in Cambridgeshire.  Apparently he talked of this tools right up until his death at the ripe old age of 92!  So he must have thought it was an awesome piece of kit.  In fact this billhook became a bit of a legend in the village and a lot of the younger folks in the pub who'd heard the story so many times thought it had probably never existed.
However one fine spring day an old hedge was being thoroughly inspected and it had been decided that rather than hacking it all down with a chain saw it should be restored and layed professionally to make it sheep proof once again.  It was during this prickly look see expedition that a rather lovely billhook was discovered grown deep into the hedge where it had been purposely put and then forgotten.  So the mystery of the vanishing tool was solved two generations later.  Word went round the village like wildfire and I understand there was a mini full on party in celebration of the discovery.

I roughed out the handle with some excellent fast grown ash from and overgrown coppice in Brentwood and having had it drying out for a couple of months to allow for shrinkage I fitted it and it feels great.  The balance is superb and with a new edge it'll hopefully be around for at least another hundred years if not longer - that's as long as it doesn't do that vanishing act again.
I think that tools were often mislaid in the woods and in hedges, I always keep my eyes open when I'm walking along old outgrown layed hedges, I've found several small hatchets and billhooks.  Sometimes in the thick of blackthorn and hawthorn.  They are well and truly knotted in with strong branches and it's not an easy job to extract them but very satisfying.  The handles are nearly always rotted but the blades generally in good condition and just needing a little tlc to bring them back up to par.  The main thing to remember when making the new handle is to keep it oversize so that when you go to fit it you can carve it down to give a good snug fit - nothing worse than a loose handle on a sharp tool...
For new handles and courses on how to make & fit them

Monday, 30 April 2018


An axe is a tool for life and I was thinking that's not just mine but the person who takes it on when I've finished with it.  Just like my old Brades side axe and my favourite old Elwell - how many hands have they passed through in their lives, the treatment they've received in use - not always the best.  They've already served more than a century, give them a few more years and it'll be getting on for two centuries.  So if you feel like a present coming on - treat yourself to one of the new Council Tools axes at an affordable price.
  COUNCIL AXES - fine quality US axes

Perhaps that's part of the fascination, the longevity of metal.  Handles get broken through misuse, age, woodworm and leaky shed roofs.  The steel will withstand plenty of ill treatment, bar the leaky shed roof, although much damage can be caused by the inexperienced novice who's just broken the handle and thinks the best way to remove it is to put the axe head into the bonfire to burn out the remains of the haft.  Little do they realise that in their enthusiasm to remove said handle, they build that good old bonnie up into an overwhelming blaze and ruin all the tempering that was originally put into that treasured tool by the smith.

So I love my old tools but there are modern makers out there and the new additions to my workshop are the Council axes.  These are made of a very high quality steel with much thought to the design and whilst some folks think and axe is an axe there are many finer points to be discussed amongst the Axe Junkies of this world.  One that I find most fascinating is this lovely double header I received from the US, packaged perfectly and what a beautiful piece of kit to use - didn't really need a new axe but something as wonderful as this is an essential - you can always have a go on mine to try it out when you come to the Woodland Workshop - be prepared for fun...

Monday, 23 April 2018



The English heatwave continued throughout the weekend with unheard of temperatures in April, not certain exactly what they were but it was as if June had arrived early.  So we spent Her Majesty's 92nd Birthday just south of Oxford in the leafy setting of Harcourt Arboretum, part of the Oxford Botanic Gardens, in the leafy shade with blossom in the breeze.  The company was excellent with folks from all walks of life, a large number being part of the different universities, and lots of children wanting to have plenty of fun and games.  I had my child powered lathe in action with quite a queue at peak times and made dozens of twig crayons with blue being the most popular colour chosen.  We had plenty of help with turning and did complete one dibber!
Sunhat sales rocketed in Oxford!

I haven't seen so many peacocks all in one place for ages, white ones & black as well as the most vibrant pirate's colours and my goodness I'd forgotten what a raucous call they have - obviously very appealing to the peahens and there was much rushing around and shaking of tail feathers.

This handsome chappie was strutting his stuff all over the place and was fearless when chasing the competition away.  Has anyone ever tried peacock?  Guinea fowl are very tasty so I wonder if these are in any way comparable - must ask my butcher although I'm sure they could be obtained from Harrods or Fortnums.

There was a chap set up just a few yards across the lawn selling some great old tools and he had been a cabinet maker before retirement.  There was a lovely selection of traditional hand tools for sale but the thing that tickled me pink was his ladderback chair.  It was a sweetie and destined for life in a bottle - you know like a ship in a bottle to collect dust on the mantlepiece!  Absolutely fascinating.  It's seat was woven in strands of raffia and all made to collapse for insertion into the neck of the vessel - I'm so full of admiration of the craftsmanship - it's tricky enough making a full size chair, childrens furniture is a bit more difficult - I tend to find smaller things always take longer than full size ones to make but a miniature chair that folds down that will then pop open when inside a glass bottle - fantastic...



Monday, 16 April 2018

Great Art in East London

If you happen to be visiting the Olympic Park in East London take some time to nip across the river and have a gentle stroll in Hackney Wick.  There are some absolutely outstanding graffiti works of art and they are amazing.  A riot of colour and movement - much better value than Tate Modern and it's FREE! 

Looks to be by different artists and it's certainly most uplifting.  Any building owner who's put a note on their wall to say 'No Graffiti Please' has had their wishes honoured so the artists are using their paints with respect.

This one tickled me, very devilish and those horns, well it seemed to zing.

Jed taking time out for a closer inspection.

And when you've feasted your eyes pop into the Stour Space for a coffee or beer and sit on their decking overlooking the river, absolutely brilliant - what more could I have wanted.  A tip here, if you pay £4 for a coffee it's a bottomless cup so to speak and you can continue to top up for free...

Wednesday, 11 April 2018


So in with a new look...

Have decided to make some changes to the Bodging Style - not the actual workmanship but my approach to marketing my wares.  So out with the hessian cloths, they'll be back for the forest and woodland events, but for the indoor shows I've had a rather fetching piece of blue silk suggested so that's what I went with at the weekend.  It's a great Makers Market held in my old stomping ground in Wanstead on the London fringes of Epping Forest and the organizer really ensures that the folks selling their stuff do actually make it themselves.  So often I've attended 'hand made' events and half the stuff sold is imported from far flung places and although they are often made by hand it's been done using child labour or just cheap labour and I find this most frustrating.

 I'm also taking things specifically for the types of customers I think will turn up - I just get my crystal ball out and have a good guess at who's going to be there!  Last weekend I did take the right stuff although there wasn't the footfall I'd been wanting.  Still I've been thinking outside the box and looking for different venues.  I find it's easy to continue making the same type of things in the same style and it's a tried and tested formula but things need to progress and change.  I've been trying different tools out, experimenting with colour - very exciting and letting my imagination run riot.  So expect to see some completely new designs in the future - if they're not successful I can always use them as firewood!  With any luck I'll be finding out soon as I'll be showing them at the Makers Market at the Stour Space in Hackney Wick in East London on Sunday.  This will be an interesting try out for everything new and it's in an interesting place.  It's just on the edge of the Olympic Park and the river Lee so easy for folks to get to by bicycle via the towpath or cycle routes and loads of buses or trains and there are car parks nearby so all good news - I'll be letting everyone know how the day pans out and of course don't forget to come and introduce yourself and have a great chat about all things woody and anything else we can do to put the world to rights...