Friday, 29 April 2011

Violin Making

I recently went to a talk about violin making at the local turners club.  There is no turning involved in violin making but everyone who came seemed more interested than usual.  Did you know that the curve of the back of a violin is a catenary curve? and that the best hair for bows comes from Mongolia?

Christopher Beament, who was taught violin making by his mother, is obviously a master of his craft and repairs, makes and teaches in Cambridge.  See his website.

I used to play the fiddle when I was younger but unfortunately when I broke my left wrist it wasn't set correctly and it's now agony to try and play for any length of time.  I do still play the mandolin which has the same tuning.

Monday, 18 April 2011

High Woods

Just done a 3 day workshop at High Woods Country Park in Colchester.  We last did it two years ago when Jed was our new puppy.  They have a switched on attitude to their volunteers and reward them with training in wooden rake making, basketry, hedge laying, green woodwork, trips to Westonbirt Arboretum etc.

Brian, the Mayor of Wivenhoe struggling to burn lines into his dibber.
Trudi looks like she's enjoying carving her spoon.
Greg with his hobo's reel
Russ made a very nice Chestnut spurtle.
A happy group at the end of the last day.

They've made one of Mike Abbotts Champion the Lumber Horses - it's the first time I've tried one and it felt really good.  I'm going to make one with a few tweaks here and there - download the plans here.
However that drawknife in the picture was a Ray Iles one which Mike has apparently designed - it was awful to use.  The bevel is far too steep and the handles are at the wrong angle to the cutting edge (too high).

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Green Wood Pipes

Robin Wood posted pictures on the Bodger's Forum of some pipes made from Hickory.  Someone else suggested using Elder and as we have plenty I went in search of some suitable branches.  They're harder to find than you'd think and it was difficult to get ones with a straightish stem and a large pith in both the bowl and the stem.

I drilled out the pith in the bowl and burned it out of the stem with a hot wire.

Growing one minute - being smoked the next...

A word of caution - Wiki says about Elder:-

"The leaves, twigs, branches, seeds and roots contain a cyanide producing glycoside. Ingesting any of these parts in sufficient quantity can cause a toxic build up of cyanide in the body. In addition, the unripened berry, flowers and "umbels" contain a toxic alkaloid.
Due to the possibility of cyanide poisoning, children should be discouraged from making whistles, slingshots or other toys from elderberry wood."

Is Wiki always right and are these things any worse than those contained in tobacco or other smoking material?

Monday, 11 April 2011

Fighting Wood

I'm always on the lookout for curves in branches and stems like these...

They make interesting and strong spoons.

When I spotted this lump of Birch it was saying "Take me and release the ladles and scoops that are contained within!"

I should have realised that I'd met my match when both wedges were well stuck and the split wasn't opening up...

But I sweated, swore and persevered and eventually it split into 3 ugly chunks.

From which I managed to hack out a ladle, a spoon and a scoop.

It's quite a severe challenge carving this type of wood.  The grain swerves, dips and dives and does the most  radically unpredictable things but ultimately it's quite a satisfying feeling to have won the fight with the wood.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

More Bowling

Anyone see anything wrong with using an adze as a gouge?

Like this...

and this...

Robin asked if there could be any improvements to the bowlmate.  Perhaps make the ends a bit longer so you can ride it.
It holds it down very firmly and is a comfortable working position - never stand if you can sit down.

Saturday, 9 April 2011


The Hornbeam seedlings are sprouting like mustard and cress on the Forest floor at the moment...
Richard Law commented in his blog recently that he'd visited Epping Forest and that Hornbeam was an uncommon tree in Yorkshire.  Well not round here it ain't.  In fact there are remnants of Hornbeam coppice all through Essex and Hertfordshire and possibly in a ring round London.  Being a very good firewood (burns long, hot and bright if well seasoned) it was used to fuel London's bread ovens.
I do use it occasionally but it must be worked green or you discover why it's called Hornbeam.
In America apparently it's called musclewood which is a very apt name as the trunk and branches often look as though there are muscles rippling beneath the bark.
Most people confuse it with Beech but it has serrated leaves and never grows as tall.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011


Making the Bowlmate from a Willow log with Chestnut legs.
Using the Gransfors adze to hollow a Willow bowl.

I really enjoyed this and will have to go and liberate some more of that great pile of Willow logs.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Holey Spoon

Nick came today to learn spoon carving.  On the first one he learnt the hard way about not carving for too long on one spot and ended up with an olive spoon! - great for getting them out of the jar and leaving the juice behind.  I also suggested that he could make another and fashion them into Ray Mears style snow goggles.

Monday, 4 April 2011

Too busy to Blog

So much has happened in the week since we ran our first courses at our Greenwood Camp that I haven't had the time or inclination to make any posts.

It always amazes me that people with no previous experience can come and spend a day mastering new techniques well enough to make things like these...
2 spurtles and a honey drizzler in Elder
I always remember my first attempt on a pole lathe was to make the long pin to hold the frame onto a shave horse.  I struggled to control the tools to make nice cuts and the finished pin looked dreadful.  But it works and I still have it and show it to the novices.
It was good to use Elder which actually came from our land.  In my opinion a much underrated wood which is surrounded by ancient superstitions.  It takes a very nice cut and is quite hard when it dries - I use it a lot for making spoons.