Sunday, 30 March 2008

A venerable turner

I've been at an all day demonstration today at E. Herts Woodturning club by Bert Marsh who has been turning for over 60 years. Pictured here making one of his signature vases from a piece of very green, rotting sycamore. He turns them about 2-3mm thick. What amazed me was that he managed to sand and finish the wet wood to a lustrous shine.
He also demonstrated making a very thin shallow bowl from ash, a small box with lid from teak and this bowl from pearwood . . .
He made it to show a method of holding it on the lathe so it wouldn't have a foot and luckily didn't sand it or apply any sealer so you can see the toolmarks (I hate fine dust and the smell of sanding sealer).
At lunchtime I asked him how much he wanted for it and he gave it to me! It was the least I could do to buy his book which looks very interesting.

One day I'll get a power lathe and use it to turn simple, honest, functional bowls like this.

P.S. Vanessa has bought some pure chocolate from "Willy's Wonky Chocolate Factory" and tonight we're going to try pheasant cooked in chocolate gravy . . ?!

Friday, 28 March 2008

Birthday Course

It's good to see the smile on these two ladies faces at the end of the day with the items that they have made to take home. We had to endure high winds and heavy rain all morning and the cover of one of the lathes practically ended up in next doors garden. I seem to be battling with the weather conditions quite a bit lately - still . . what don't kill you makes you stronger!
Lady on the right had given the course to her friend as a surprise birthday present (she thought she was going to a health farm or spa). But when she organised the day she told me her friend "loves wood" so I knew it would be OK.

If you want to come on a course and have fun look up

Tuesday, 25 March 2008

Bodging in Hainault Forest

We were asked to participate in this event in Hainault Forest, Essex organised by The Woodland Trust. The aim was to to provide some interesting, fun activities for 40+ Scouts who had done some tree planting. There was also a guy making birds nesting boxes and a lady doing willow weaving.
Well, we all arrived at 9am and set up to be told that the scouts wouldn't be with us till 12.30! so we sat about freezing our pieces off waiting (good job we had been training for that all weekend). They finally turned up at around 1.30 and instead of the 14-15 year olds we were expecting were around 6 or 7 (Leo Blair apparently somewhere amongst them). Instead of the demo and hands-on bodging I had envisaged, just had time to help each of them make a hazel twig pencil before they went off home after an hour !

I took the photo before it eventually kicked off and it was so full-on for that hour that I forgot to take pics when the kids were there.

BUT for that hour we're getting paid more than twice as much as for the whole weekend - quite weird. I'll believe it all when I see the cheque.

Monday, 24 March 2008

A Bodgers Bog

Began to get an uneasy feeling about the weekend when I started packing the truck at 6am on Saturday morning and it started sleeting quite heavily. I mentally prepared myself for a bad situation at the showground .... but.... it was MUCH WORSE than I had imagined.
We were given a stand space with its own private bog behind it.

This got quite a bit worse over the course of the weekend due to almost constant rain, hail, sleet and snow plus it was very windy and freezing cold.
Well, where would you have rather been, tucked up at home with some Easter eggs, a nice bottle of wine and a DVD? or at the craft fair? So on Saturday and Sunday we all played "Spot the Punter" - today a few more came in but we only took £39 over the three days!
Thank God for the demonstrators fee!

Monday, 17 March 2008

"Geisha Girl"

I spent quite a long time on Saturday roughing out some tough old bits of yew to make the parts for a candle stand for a guy who was coming yesterday (the same one I made the rush light bases for-see earlier blog) to show me exactly what he wanted. My attention kept getting caught by the beauty of this ornamental quince which grows just outside my workshop. It doesn't always look great and is easily ruined by wind and rain. I took some amazing photos of it a couple of years ago which I lost when I accidentally deleted the whole of my 2006 iPhoto library (before I discovered iPhoto Library Manager!).
Anyway I went and got the camera and took a load more and I think this one has turned out OK - makes a good desktop image.

Unfortunately all that standing on one leg battling the yew really exacerbated a problem which I have suffered for some time and I woke up on Sunday at 4 am with pins-and-needles and numbness in my hands - so had to phone the guy up and cancel the candle stand. Plus it was pouring with rain, very windy and freezing cold.

Glad I took the photo when I could.

We're demonstrating at a Craft Fair at St Marys, Bexley for the Easter weekend so if you're in the area why not drop by and say hello . .

Thursday, 13 March 2008

Switched on Designer

This is David Stovell who came on a course today. He sent me a mission statement which began :
"I am a designer from Greenstead Green nr Halstead in Essex and have been producing pieces made from old news papers and magazines, I also make small tables use printers waste. The newspaper furniture has been used at the British Library, Royal Festival Hall, Frieze art fair and I am interested in using materials in new and interesting ways. As a small designer I turn to organisations like Hidden Art and Metropolitan works for support with access to machinery and presentations. I am becoming increasingly curious about green woodworking and how it can be used in my work."
"There is an unquestioned assumption amongst many of my fellow designers that once a design is to be made we should look to China, Poland or Turkey for cheap production and I am getting increasingly uncomfortable with this. I am sure that for some projects I may have to go to these places but at the moment I am interested in small batches made here, and what value this bestows upon an object when it is not just presented as a function but as the end result of skilled toil by people with faces, sourced from places people may know and materials that have a bit of soul."
"I was recently a visitor to the international Furniture Fair held at Birmingham NEC and found a strange parallel between the furniture on show and Tesco in that what you saw was what you got, no idea of where the products had come from, who had made it or where it was sourced from."

He's interested in using waste and recycled materials to make his products and after today I think he'll get some tools, make a lathe and try to incorporate these lo-tech skills into his high quality, contemporary design.

Have a look at his website .. .

Find out more about my courses at . .

Sunday, 9 March 2008

Maple bowl

Made this Rob Wood style porager out of a nice lump of field maple. My god he earns his money making these . .
Firstly it took ages and I had to sharpen the tools twice (Maple and sycamore take up silica from the soil so this blunts the tools quicker than say beech or birch). The flange took most of the time and then you cut most of it away to form the handles! This trimming of the flange I thought I'd do mainly with the axe but ended up using a 1" chisel in the vise.
Had a go with a ring tool I acquired and thought it was rubbish.

It's very satisfying to eat from a bowl you've made yourself. We also have a spurtle for stirring the porridge that I made 6 or 7 years ago. The abrasive nature of the oats has given the end an almost glassy surface.

Friday, 7 March 2008

Chestnut coppice

Just spent the day at Gaynes Park with my mate Gary. It's a lovely estate but unfortunately is bordered by the M11 on the south side and the M25 on the west so almost everywhere you go you can hear vehicular noise.
Saw Tony, the keeper, who let us help ourselves to whatever we wanted plus he gave us a load of really fresh laburnum and sycamore which was dumped at the bonfire pile!

Gary cutting the chestnut coppice.

I want these chestnut poles for building an 'A' frame structure on our plot - somewhere to shelter, have a fire and a cup of tea.

Tuesday, 4 March 2008

The Bord

Found the perfect belt in an army surplus store so I've been having a try-out of the Bord.

It needs a bit more work such as chamfering all the sharp corners, fixing leather (or rubber) pads to the faces of the head to give a better grip specially on thin things like the spatula I was making.
It takes a bit of getting used to the working position but I like it and I'm into doing demonstrations where I can use more portable 'props' than the vanload of gear I have to cart around at the moment.
It also folds up nicely and is quite light.

Saturday, 1 March 2008

Bugs, Kanga & The Bodgers Bord

What's just happened . . . ?
What's about to happen?
Took this slightly surreal photo of soft toys hanging out to dry in the neighbour's garden. She's collected them for a childrens home and is washing them all first. I said to her that I was waiting for the giraffe to come out and apparently there is one in the collection. She has a roomfull!

I've been playing with wood and making a Bodgers Bord out of a plank of poplar that I had. A very nice wood to work but with some mad patches of wild grain. Nice and light for the Bord which is a small shavehorse with no legs that sits on your lap and is held on by a belt round the waist.
These are the plans I downloaded - It's his copywrite and his web address is on the lower left if you click on the photo.
I have radically altered the design for mine . . like made it from one piece with flexible ramp.
I'll put up a photo when it's finished - if I remember to take one.