Sunday, 31 October 2010

All Souls

Not sure if we always understand what we're celebrating but there's been about 60 demons, werewolves, vampires kids round tonight Trick or Treating.  Not many tricks though.

Vanessa and I each carved a lantern this time - guess which is witch.

Saturday, 30 October 2010

The 'Secret' of Sharpening...

I occasionally get asked when I'm demonstrating at shows how I manage to get my tools so sharp - "What's the secret" they ask.  "Move a bit closer and I'll tell you" - so they approach thinking I'm going to divulge some arcane mystery.  "Patience, Persistence and Practice - like everything else in life".  They usually go away looking a bit disappointed.

Anyhow I've had 3 course days this week and they all came to learn specifically how to obtain and maintain those razor sharp edges.

First up was Dennis on Wednesday who brought a load of tools for power lathe turning.
I think a lot of people like him end up abandoning their hobby because they can't get a decent edge. I don't know how he was even cutting anything with some of the gouges and his skew was a bit rusty.  We gave them a ride on the grinder, honed the skew and I got him to try them out on the lathe.  He started smiling and said how nice it was to use properly sharpened tools.  Still managed to make some massive digs with the skew though.

Maurice came the day after with an assortment of reasonably blunt implements.  Amongst other things, such as how to get a mirror polish on an axe blade, I showed him that a spindle gouge needs a finger-nail grind and not straight across...
He was impressed with the WorkSharp after regrinding a load of knackered chisels quickly and easily. I think he might buy one.

Jahit came today with a range of quite sharp tools and learned to take them up a notch using some of my own unorthodox methods and techniques.  He made an Ash handle to fit to one of his properly sharpened axes.

As I've got older I've got more patient and spend more time on getting those perfect edges on my tools.  It makes me more happy and confident in my work.  Sharpness is almost a spiritual state of mind.

Friday, 22 October 2010

First Bowl

Chris has been learning here for a couple of days.  He's an arborist in North London so has access to plenty of timber and wants another string to his bow. 

Yesterday he discovered some of the arts and mysteries of spindle turning and today made his first, very passable bowl from Alder.

I've still got 5 more course days to teach and on Sunday we're going to Clacton to run a workshop in Chris Southall's Chestnut coppice.  Let's hope the weather holds out or...

...are we in for another hard winter?

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Top Book

After not having had a decent book to read for ages (not that I've had much time to look at one in the last few months) suddenly 2 arrive in one day.
The first was The Top by D W Gould which I bought for a fiver from Amazon.

A very interesting tome - here are a couple of illustrations of contemporary Japanese tops...

Stuart King has just posted his film of me making a spinning top on YouTube.  He first shot it about five years ago and it's far superior, slicker and altogether more professional than mine.  Watch it here.

Stuart also has some other interesting videos on Youtube such as Trevor Austen making probably his last wooden rake at his wonderful old factory in Ashford, Kent and Ion Constantin turning a drinking flask on a pole lathe in Romania.

The second book was One & Other - the document of Antony Gormley's 4th Plinth idea in Trafalgar Square last year in which I took part.  I reserved a copy months ago and had forgotten it was due out in October.   It's a bit disappointing - my photo is there along with the other 2399 plinthers - but the bulk of it focuses on the people who took their clothes off or did something 'arty' plus a lot of intellectual analysis and wordy articles which my eye seems to skate off.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Conker Festival

This is the view we had on Sunday at our gig at the Hampstead Conker Festival.  It was held on Parliament Hill Fields in the south east corner of Hampstead Heath.
(That building between the Gerkin and Canary Wharf looks like it going to be a biggie.)

As a child I used to race to the conker trees to try and get the biggest and best but now they're mainly just left on the ground - I still can't resist picking some up.
Not sure who won but it was a beautiful sunny day and hordes of people came out.  We were a bit inundated and it was quite difficult to pack up at 4 o'clock.

I still haven't got a camera so I've 'borrowed' these images off the net.

Monday, 4 October 2010


Just inspecting a spoon made by Chris who came for a days introduction last week.  His wife Pat gave him the day as a birthday present and kept it a secret.  She drove him over and he really had no idea what he had come here to do - a real magical, mystery day...I told him we were going to do flower arranging!  He was quite good with his hands and made a rounders bat from Ash and an Alder spoon.  (She took this photo and sent it to me.  The camera still hasn't been fixed and I'm kind of missing it now.)

The Monty Don effect has really kicked in this month - I've got 8 course days.  Really short-sighted of the BBC not to recommision Mastercrafts because I've talked to loads of people who saw it - it really touched a nerve.
Can we think of 6 more crafts that would be suitable and interesting?  I'll start the ball rolling with...Ceramics.

The European Woodworking Show at Cressing Temple Barns was a gas.  The Barns themselves are definitely star of the show but despite the damp weather and the fact that dogs weren't allowed we had a good time, specially on Saturday.  We met loads of people we knew and managed to put quite a few names to faces and faces to names!
We stayed with Vanessa's sister Jackie, her husband Tim and niece Natalie in Chelmsford and they looked after Jed while we were at the show.  I think he might have got a bit spoilt with jaffa cakes and lying on the sofa etc...
Check out Barn the Spooncarvers new blog on the Links list.