Tuesday, 30 October 2007

Autumn workshop

After a fairly hectic period I decided to sort out the workshop. It tends to get clogged up with piles of logs which are either saying "burn me" or "make me into something". So I've chopped firewood, made a load of wedges and blanks for spinning tops with the 2 holes drilled through.
It was a gorgeous, golden Autumn day today. We went to drop some gear over on our plot and found that woodpeckers have pecked two holes into one of the beehives - the one we are giving away ! Probably this means we'll have to fix on mesh all the way round.

Sunday, 28 October 2007


My sister Lizzie and her husband Nigel came to see us today with their lovely miniature Schnausers(?) Millie and Ava. We all had a good meal, chat, drink and a play with the dogs. Lizzie gave me a great hat that she bought in New Zealand. It's leather with a wide brim and folds up - it was too big for her but fits me perfectly.
The sun didn't show up - it rained most of the day.

Saturday, 27 October 2007

A week in the life

As you see, I haven't logged on for nearly a week. This wasn't reluctance to do so but because the neighbours whose broadband I use had the cheek to go away and switch it off !

Put together a short film of me making a spurtle for Dorset Cereals. You can see it on their website at: www.dorsetcereals.co.uk
Its a bit jerky so I'm going to try and send them a higher resolution copy.
Dave Elliot came round with a nearly finished version of the Mk1 Pole Lathe Drive for me to have a look at. He came on a course with me a couple of weeks ago and I found out he was an enthusiastic amateur engineer. I explained what I was after and he agreed to have a go. I made a boxwood bobbin and he's fitted in a Delrin core, brass bushes, ball races etc - it looks very hi-tec and impressive.
In the evening we went to a concert at Broxbourne Civic Hall - "Vivaldi by Candlelight" - by The Locrian Ensemble. They were all dressed up in wigs and costume of the period and played some lovely baroque music. The second half was The Four Seasons and the encore was a tongue-in-cheek baroque version of "My Old Man" which they called "The Cock Linnet Song" - very funny and uplifting.

Wasted quite a bit of time driving round trying to piggy-back on someone elses broadband but no luck.
Dave Elliot came round again with the finished version of the Mk1 Pole Lathe Drive - he must have been working all night ! Well we fitted it onto the lathe and had a go but there were a few teething problems so watch this space for news of Mk2. When it's working I'll publish a photo and explain what it actually does.
Phoned Oliver, the webmaster, about something to do with the website. He seemed upset and close to tears. Told me his Mum had died the previous night. I commiserated and told him not to think about anything as mundane as websites at a time like that

Packed a load of gear into the van and went off to Norfolk for three days.

First two days in Burnham Market with Alec & Ben (10 & 11 years old) teaching pole lathe turning and green woodwork. We went up before at the end of March and afterwards Ben almost made his own lathe except for the poppets (that hold the work) so I spent the first day helping him to make them. They both made a fire making bow drill based on one found in Tutankhamens tomb and we all used up vast quantities of energy trying to produce an ember. Which we did several times but probably due to inexperience didn't quite manage to turn it into a flame but I did burn my fingers a bit so we eventually counted it as a sucess and went back to doing some turning.

Stayed in a Travel Lodge at Norwich and in the morning drove down toward Diss for a woody event at Tyrrels Wood (a Woodland Trust woods) organised by Mike Ryder as a thank you to the volunteers there. Had to schlep all the gear quite a long way into the wood but luckily there was a horse (Perkins) and cart to do most of the carrying. Will Wall had his bowl turning lathe and a have-a-go lathe, there were basket makers, hurdle maker and a lady weaving a willow figure of a Green Woman. Fire, tea, cakes etc were provided, everyone had a good time and we finally arrived home at 8pm after a horrible journey down the A11 & M11 feeling absolutely shattered.

Chilling hard !
and catching up on this blog. It reminds me of keeping a diary when I was young - sometimes I would miss doing it for a while and then feel guilty and fill in each day with something like: Got up, had breakfast, went to school, came home, watched telly, had tea, did homework, went to bed. Sometimes I can't remember what happened yesterday let alone last week.

Saturday, 20 October 2007

Ely Apple Festival

A brilliant but tiring day in Ely. I was going to get up at 5am but woke up at 4 and couldn't sleep again. Had a gorgeous day in the brilliant autumn sunshine right outside Ely Cathedral (see pic). I made a fair bit of stuff but sold loads and we came home with pockets full of cash !
Then we had an excellent fish and chip supper in Waltham Abbey - bought some beers on the way home and now I'm going to mong out.

Friday, 19 October 2007

Loose ends

Spent the last couple of days tying up loose ends (there are still a lot left).
Couldn't resist getting another load of wood from that road building site specially because it will end up in landfill if I don't. Also someone I am going to see next week asked me if I could get any lime for carving (lime is best for this - Grinling Gibbons did most of his work in it). There was loads still there but bulldozed into big heaps.
Made some mallets and some ball-and-spikes (a type of bilboquet where the ball has a hole and you have to catch it on the spike). Finished off some spoons and kitchen utensils and made a large batch of crayons - they were a hit at the conker festival. Tomorrow we are off to Ely for their Apple Festival

Why are so many of these blogs just basically porno sites ? Answers on a postcard please.

Don't give plastic this Christmas - give wood. Visit my website at www.treewright.co.uk.

Wednesday, 17 October 2007


Today we had a look at the bees. Probably the last of the year. We'll leave them to collect the nectar from the ivy, which is their last crop of the year, and that will see them through the winter.
We have to get rid of one hive. We only want enough honey for us and I haven't kept track of the amount we've robbed from them this year but it's coming out of our ears. There's jars, pots, tubs and buckets of honey everywhere even though we've given quite a lot away. And wax too - I'm going to start making up some polish from it during the close season.
The thing about extracting the honey is that it is a hot and sticky business. Last time we were a bit late and the honey had gone hard in the comb so we couldn't use the extractor (like a centrifuge). Instead we had to cut all the comb out of the frames, melt it all down (not too hot), separate the wax from the honey and strain it.
Too much.
So - one hive has to go.

Tuesday, 16 October 2007

Hi tec - low tech

It was raining and miserable today so Vanessa and I spent more time developing our website.
Oliver, the webmaster is a hard taskmaster and insists that we understand what we are doing all the time.
I have an instinctive knowledge of what happens when an axe bites into wood or how a chisel smooths it but NOT how Google works or what htm. or a browser is - but I'm trying.

P.S. I'd rather have been making spurtles down the garden
P.P.S Why are so many blogs just porn sites ??? !!!

Monday, 15 October 2007


Today I've been making spurtles from beech. A spurtle is a stick with a thistle turned on the end which the Scots (and others) use for stirring their porridge. I have to make quite a lot for an order from Dorset cereals - they're going to be prizes ? in a competition I think.
It focuses your mind when you have to make a lot of one thing. You can see the improvement in your finish and tool techniques.

Sunday, 14 October 2007


You can see where I've been today if you enlarge the photo a bit.
Box Moor Conker festival near Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire. It's good to know that these old traditions are being kept alive. The conkers near us weren't even picked up this year (except by me) and I know that a lot of schools have banned the game as being too dangerous on the advice of the Health and Safety Executive. Where's fun without a bit of danger ?!
A mate said 'I wonder how long you'll keep this blog up for'. Well I don't know, I was just going to write when I felt like it. Didn't log anything yesterday. I was busy preparing for today - especially making some crayons from hazel twigs. Red, yellow,
green and blue. It's a new line and we managed to sell 5 sets today.

See my website at www.treewright.co.uk

Friday, 12 October 2007

More free wood

Just couldn't resist fetching another load of that wood today !
Why is it nearly always feast or famine ?

Have had a short film of me making a rounders bat from a log put on my website.
Have a look at www.treewright.co.uk

Thursday, 11 October 2007

Free raw materials

Green woodwork was a hobby from 1995 till 2000 when I decided to make it my job. I was employed as a tree surgeon so every day could bring home a different type of wood to try out. Logs are either dumped in landfill or burnt as firewood.
Nowadays I root about in logpiles looking for something suitable - it must be freshly felled and of the right species for the job in mind.
Imagine my delight when going to buy some drill bits today I went past a place where quite a large parcel of trees had been felled. I asked if I could have some logs of sycamore if there were any. "Yes, take as much as you want." I was told. Well in rooting about found a big log of field maple which is better than sycamore, a log of silver birch and one of lime. All excellent woods for making kitchenware, bowls etc as they don't taint or taste. And all for free ! - the guys wouldn't even take a drink.

Wednesday, 10 October 2007


My mate Gary has set up a forge on a patch of land we own and where we have planted quite a lot of interesting species of tree.
Mulberry, Liquidambar, Walnut and Stone Pine to name but a few.

Its good fun beating pieces of red hot steel into useful shapes. Thirsty work. Blacksmiths must have been big drinkers. Most modern blacksmiths make gates or 'art' pieces. Rare to find one now who will make certain specific tools and know how to temper them so they hold an edge. So ultimately you have to learn how to do it yourself.

Tuesday, 9 October 2007

A Bodgers Blog


Were the 19th century itinerant workers in the Chiltern beechwoods to the North West of London who made the sticks, legs and stretchers to supply the Windsor chair industry at High Wycombe. (Some also worked from home in a shed at the end of the garden like I do)
Often they lived and set up a workshop deep within the forest rather than fell the timber and take it home with them. So only finished components left the forest.
They used very few and simple hand tools and were expert craftsmen.

Unfortunately the term has completely changed its meaning in the last 100 years and a "bodger" is now someone who is inept and ruins a job.

I'm not a bodger because I make all manner of items on my pole lathe - try Googling treewright and see what comes up