Monday, 30 March 2009

Kent Bodgers

Went down to Capstone Farm Country Park yesterday to attend a meeting of the Kent branch of the Association of Pole Lathe Turners & Green Woodworkers. The Country Park is in Gillingham where I was born and brought up - so returning to my old stamping ground.

This is Kristian who organised the event and who has also arranged for me to run a Weekend Workshop there on 18th & 19th April. There may be a couple of places still available - contact Kristian directly :- mob 07941805820 email

Some interesting drilling techniques emerged . . . this looks like a good one. I'm really sick of drilling 1 3/4" holes for stool legs through 2" thick Ash, Beech, Elm etc with a brace and bit. Unfortunately I didn't get the make of this bit of kit - anyone else have experience of them ??

John Burbage showing some lateral thinking here. He uses long augers with hexagonal shanks and turns them with a socket and bar.

Drove up to Moira on the Leicestershire/Derbyshire borders on Saturday to look at a litter of puppies. This is the little chap we've chosen and we'll be collecting him in a couple of weeks.
I think I'm going to call him Jed.


Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Nice juicy young cock pheasant.

Someone said there's no such thing as a free lunch but I'm not sure. We spotted this beautiful roadkill as we were driving down a rural Essex lane this morning. Obviously he just chose the wrong time to cross the road and was still warm.
Anyway his life was not in vain - Vanessa's plucked and gutted him and we'll enjoy our free lunch with a chocolate gravy.

On another matter.
The email I gave for Graham Cole, supplier of Kamba for seating has changed. It is now :-

Also as Graham says . . .
"I do claim to sell kamba on fair trade terms but the single word Fairtrade is like a trade mark and should only be used by people who have bought into the organisation. I can't do that as it's too expensive!"

Weekend in Nottinghamshire

As you go further North people seem friendlier, not so insular and aggressive as nearer London. Had a nice meal out on Friday and were invited to share a table with some locals who entertained us, told jokes and recommended a good pub to eat at on Saturday.

An admiring crowd watching me demonstrate at Thoresby Park. Thank god for the demonstrators fee as not many sales were made.

Discussing the finer points of adzeing a yew seat with my mate Neil Taylor who was next to us.

Photograph was taken by John Holt a visitor to the show (email:-

Funny how you come across odd things like this . . . must have been left by the fairies !

Went to see my Dad on Monday. He's doing well and was supposed to be released today but it's been put back to Friday. He needs to get up and move about a bit more. We'll go and see him tomorrow and see if we can get him to have a walk round the hospital with us.


Thursday, 19 March 2009

Robin in Sherwood


We're going to Thoresby Hall in Sherwood Forest near Nottingham tomorrow to do our first Weekend Demonstration at the Craft Show in the Park . . . quite a long way for us.
Distance :- 143 miles( 231 kilometres )
Duration :- 2 hours 16 minutes (at about a constant 60mph ?)

Back to the on-the-road Travelodge lifestyle then . . . I really enjoy getting out of the "comfort zone" and routine. Anyone local who follows my blog - say hello. Maybe you could blag your way in if you said you were bringing a log for me !

The weather's been great lately, very warm and Springlike - I really love this time of year. White and Pink Frothy Blossoms and Yellow Daffodils and Forsythia . . .

PS. Pics are all clickable for a bigger view.

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Frame Stool video

The new video is now uploaded and available to watch on YouTube.

What a palaver - I originally made the film 15mins long and when I came to upload it this morning realised that 10 mins is the maximum length of film you can upload. (Hence all those Part 1, Part 2 etc) so a third of it had to be consigned to the cutting room floor.

Is it just me or has the quality on YouTube gone down the pan ? It seems out of focus.

Monday, 16 March 2009


These are the tools and material for weaving the stool seat. At the back is a hank of Kamba - available from Graham Cole ( It's a Fairtrade product from Tanzania and is excellent for weaving seats.

We made some more of the film yesterday and hopefully we'll finish tomorrow. Today we've been to see my pa - he looks good to go . . .


Saturday, 14 March 2009

Ash frame stool

- § -

Vanessa's made a film of me making an Ash frame stool, the wood coming from the Woodland Trust's Fordham Hall Estate, here are some of the stills.

The tools and raw materials

My folding wedge and peg vice.

Eyeing up

An arty shot

A "plain vanilla" frame stool

We had a lot of enthusiastic help making the stretchers and legs at Countryside Live last year.

Our new film coming to youTube soon . . .watch this space.

* * *

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Organic Woodland Products

I had a meeting the other evening 'twixt Wheathampstead and Lemsford in Hertfordshire with some likeminded folk to discuss the 2009 "Beanpole Festival". Steve Gibson is one of the folk, shown here with Middy

- who I bought a lovely 7lb Elwell felling axe from at Hatfield Farmers Market quite a few years ago.

My aim is to chop a tree down with it someday.

Also there were Tom Hewins, Tony Gallow and Richard Thomason representing the Small Woods Association & The Greenwood Trust. The main information seems to be at Allotment


I've been trying out the new chainsaw today .

Pollarding some elders . . .

I kept a few nice pieces for spoon carving (very good) but the rest went on a big bonfire. The stumps will send out new shoots all over and we can grow a smaller, fresher tree that we can reach the flowers and berries more easily.

The "Big" Hazel also got the same treatment . . .

I got a lot of pencil, whistle and whimmy diddle material - it's the first big cut after about 8-9 years. I cut it high and put the wire round to keep off the bunnies. We've got a bad problem - I'm going to get a guy to come in with his ferrets and nets.
Also it'll let the beehive get the morning sun and warm up quicker. At the moment the bees are collecting pollen from a big Pussy Willow tree.

Tomorrow we're going to visit my Dad in King's College Hospital, Camberwell. He's had the operation to remove the tumour on his liver and is bouncing back - we saw him yesterday and he's still got that twinkle in his eye and sense of humour. Hopefully it'll be a surprise !

Sunday, 8 March 2009

The Ely Eel Catcher and The Media Circus

It is said that Ely derives its name from 'eel' and '-y' or '-ey' meaning island, i.e. an island where there were a lot of eels. This may be true, due to the position of Ely, an island in low lying fens, which were historically very marshy and rich in eels. It has even been claimed that, during the 11th century, monks of the town used eels as currency to pay their taxes.

Peter Carter is an Eel Fisherman,
Willow Merchant & Mole Catcher.

He makes traps and nets for his own use and also for sale.

The eel traps are at the front and to their right the tapering piece of fluted wood is called a "chair" and is used to start the weaving. The green ones lying down at the back are for catching crayfish. He is going to be in next weeks episode of Time Team.

Like me, Peter was also brought in to make the Craft Market look more interesting for the TV cameras. A new TV channel called Blighty are making a series of programmes called "Best of British" where a 'famous' person chooses their favourite market town. The producer told me that apparently I was doing an interview and rigged up the microphone so when a lady approached and started quizzing me about what I was doing I suddenly realised that this was the famous person. Faye Ripley played the part of Jenny Gifford in the series Cold Feet - not a programme I ever watched. One of the questions she asked was "Why are you here" - I nearly said "Because of you" but managed to come out with some other reasons.
Of course this succeeded in alienating us from the other crafters who attend the market every week and felt totally ignored. There was quite a hostile atmosphere as we packed up to go home.

The programme is going to be shown on Tuesday 14th April at 9pm - available on Sky Channel 534 and Virgin TV 206. So I won't even be able to see it !

These are the chunky chisels that Brian gave me. I'll be able to use the skew (1 1/4") but not sure about the round nose scraper - perhaps I'll save it for when I get an electric lathe ?

Saturday, 7 March 2009

2009 Diary Dates

Oliver (the Webmeister) has just put up my 2009 Diary Dates (nearly all clickable links) on my website.
There may be more added later.

Ely was a nice day today. Here's a pic of me and Bryan Wallace, a well known local Turner, who gave me my first invitation to demonstrate at power-lathe turner's clubs. He gave me a couple of lovely, old turning chisels . . .

And his wife Beryl gave me a carved, wooden bow tie !!

COMING TOMORROW . . . Tales of the Ely Eel Catcher and The Media Circus . . .

Thursday, 5 March 2009

First demonstration of the year

Yesterday evening I gave my first demo of the year at the Ely Guild of Woodturners at Little Thetford, Cambridgeshire. It was nice to get out and do something but I felt out of condition and gave a slightly lacklustre, below par performance for which I apologise. Feedback from the members after was positive - they seemed to have enjoyed it, possibly because it is so different to what they do.

Here I am showing the earliest form of lathe, the bow lathe, with two helpful feet to stop it slithering around the floor.

Usually I show how I make a chairleg from the log before tea and then a spinning top afterwards. It's quite distracting being surrounded by a labyrinthe of tangled wires and hi-tech gadgets but at least everyone can see what I'm doing and hear what I'm saying.

We'll be back in Ely on Saturday demonstrating in the Market Place along with other craftspeople for a TV programme.
I wonder if it'll be one of those "blink and you miss me" appearances ?