Monday, 3 December 2012

Green Woodwork Courses

After a shaky start and a Midsummer Hiccup the courses this year have really picked up and been a late-season hit.  I’ve even had enquiries from people who want to come within the next couple of weeks.  However there has to be a cut-off point sometime and I’ve decided that’s the beginning of December as the weather’s too unpredictable and it gets dark early.  Start again when the daffodils are in bud!

Now I’m going to rearrange the Woodland Workshop and put it to bed.  I’ve already started taking bookings for 2013 so get in touch if you fancy learning how to turn fresh logs into fun and functional items. Or if you want to give a Surprise Present I can send a personalised Gift Voucher.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Spoon Makers Gold

Someone's doing a great job of laying this hedge in Gunpowder Park...

and look what they've been cutting - Hawthorn, Sycamore, Alder and Willow.
Spoon Makers Gold
Have to get back down there pronto with a saw before it all goes through the chipper!

Friday, 19 October 2012

We've been Screwed...

In building my new workshop lately I've been doing a fair amount of 'brown' woodwork involving chop saws, nail guns etc. These tools have now become industry standard and a carpenter can't compete unless they have th
On it's second or third outing my new Makita drill/driver packed up so, having loads of screwdrivers, I decided to do it by hand and go and seek some 2 and 3 inch slotted steel screws. What a joke.  Everything is now crosshead - one guy actually laughed at me and called me a Dinosaur...
Eventually I phoned the local builder's merchant in the town and he said he thought he had some 'out the back somewhere' but nobody had asked for them for 10 years.
Screwdrivers are now officially obsolete - a thing of the past.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Colour causes Outrage

We had a drive into Suffolk on a lovely sunny Saturday.  We came across the old Savoy cinema (built 1916) on the way back through Halstead, which is on the Suffolk/Essex borders.  It's been given a rather colourful paint job by the previous owners which has caused outrage in the town.

The old Savoy Cinema, Halstead, Essex

Jackie Pell, Halstead Town councillor, said: “It’s as if they had a job lot of odd paint. It looks like Toytown. It’s absolutely awful!
“I have had a lady stop me in the street and ask me what I was going to do about it. It needs to be seen to be believed.”
It closed down as a cinema in 1963 and became a Chinese takeaway until recently becoming a kids playgroup which has moved away - now it's empty.
Personally I think it looks great and I'd love to have it as a shop and studio. 

We need more colour in our lives, people seem to be afraid of it.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Leaf Identification

Can anyone ID this leaf?

Saturday, 29 September 2012

Green Man

Came across a real Green Man by a magical Elderberry bush today at Countryside Live - is that auspicious?

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Pedal Powered Grinding

An interesting contraption with a lovely true stone that Ness came across at a French market that was only 30 Euros! The pedals moved a steel rod on either side of the Grindstone and worked beautifully. The gentleman selling it got quite excited when two English Ladies seemed keen to purchase and the possibility of dismantling it was discussed. Unfortunately after much humming and haughing in Breton it was decided that the screws, nuts and joints would need some time and gentle persuasion to come apart successfully. The boot of a dainty little Merc and time were not on their side so I have some good pics and will make one for myself sometime...    

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Ancient Lode

We struck a seam of ancient, buried, terracotta plantpots.  Most are broken but there's about 50 whole ones, 4" - anyone interested? All hand thrown - you can even see finger prints on them!   We've been using the broken stuff to put on muddy places like here in front of our Pallet Composting Loo

Saturday, 1 September 2012

The Beetles

When I spied the metal rings tied together by a bit of old string in the bottom of a trailerful of rusty old bits of tools and tat I immediately knew what they were.  I think I paid £1 for them - possibly 50p!  Fitted to an Elm log head with an Ash handle it's great for bashing metal wedges and gluts (wooden wedges) to split open large logs and also lessens the risk of a shard of metal flying off when used with a sledgehammer (I've heard some nightmare stories about this).
The one on the right is known as a Paviour's Beetle and was used for levelling flagstones.  It also has an Elm head and Ash handle but in this case the head is turned and the handle has been sawn and not riven which I suppose doesn't matter so much as it was only ever used for relatively gentle tamping.  Kindly gifted to me by Wocko the Woodsman.
Thomas Tusser (London, 1573) writes of a "Dovercourt Beetle".  This is taken to refer to the celebrated Elm trees of Dovercourt in Essex, which were considered extremely durable and suitable for making Beetle heads.

Friday, 24 August 2012

Wine from the Woods

Just bottled the Bramble Tip Nouveau - already tasting quite pokey.  We picked the bramble tips on April 15th 2012 in Epping Forest and The Lea Valley Park.  Trick is to pick them when they're soft and won't prickle your fingers - you need around a bucketful for this amount.  We used a Champagne yeast for a nice crisp sediment.
Roll on Christmas... or perhaps even All Hallows Eve..?

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Artisan's Hat

I think I've mentioned the Book of Old-Time TRADES AND TOOLS before.
Looking closely at some of the engravings I noticed that a lot of workers are wearing folded paper hats.

I thought this was called a Joiner's Hat made from a sheet of newspaper but they appear in lots of trades such as Bricklayers, Needlemakers, Tinners, Printers, Plumbers and Brass Founders for example.

Here's how to make one courtesy of Raphael Salaman's Dictionary of Woodworking tools...
if you can find a broadsheet any more.

Monday, 30 July 2012

Epping Forest Olympics

The pic I'm using for a header at the moment is one of our favourite spots in The Forest - it's called The Lost Pond.  It's easy to get lost round there if you go off piste.
Nothing against cyclists but - Thank God they didn't put the Olympic cross country cycle track through here as was originally planned...
The City of London, in their role of Protectors of The Forest, took a really firm stand against the proposal citing various historic and environmental factors, SSSI etc.

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Tree Listening

A bijou event that we attended on Sunday was Tree listening at The Vines in Rochester, Kent.  Alex Metcalf has worked out ways of listening to the inner workings of trees - sounds a bit like a gurgling, popping peristalsis.  Now he's working on ways of identifying particular species from their sounds.

The tree we were listening to was a Caucasian Wingnut (Pterocarya fraxinifolia) - quite rare and not one I've seen before.

Wonder what the wood's like?

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Bench Hook

I think the humble Bench Hook is a useful item to have in the workshop and also enables you to work on the kitchen table - if you're allowed.  Made from any old bit of board (could be chipboard or mdf) with a batten fixed at either end as a stop to hold the work against.  The battens are about 1" narrower than the board so that when sawing you don't hit the table or bench.  Left handers, leave the gap on the left hand side.
I used to screw the battens on until I hit the screw on an old, well used one with a nice sharp chisel and took a big lump out of the edge.  Now I glue and cramp them and run a couple of dowels through when dry.
Good for wasting wood off spoons with a chisel and handy for sawing up and sharpening my twig pencils and crayons.

Make one now if you haven't already got one.

Saturday, 7 July 2012

A ? of Spoons

Just emptied out my satchel of roughed-out spoons etc to look for something to work on during the rainy afternoon and was quite shocked to see how many have managed to accumulate there.  I often manage to do a couple on courses whilst the novice turners are struggling to come to terms with the skew chisel.  Better sharpen the knives and get cracking.
Anyone suggest a good collective noun for wooden spoons?

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Fish, Chips and.... Samphire

What a meal...
We like to eat fresh fish and our fishmonger comes down from Grimsby to our local market every Tuesday.  He picks the Samphire (Crithmum maritimum) from a secret location in Norfolk and we've been having it for the last month or so.  I love it and tonight we had it with a lovely bit of Rock Eel. 
Last night we had some Red Mullet which tasted great but was full of bones.
The name Samphire comes from the French "herbe de St. Pierre", or St. Peters herb.  It makes your pee smell quite strong, a bit like Asparagus. 
Anyone else out there lucky enough to have a taste?

Monday, 25 June 2012

Two Men in a Bowl

Mark came over to our Woodland Field yesterday and we had fun trying to turn a lump of Birch that he'd brought over into a bowl.  This was fairly ambitious considering he hasn't done any turning yet and doesn't have a lathe.
Here I'm showing him the correct angle of presentation of the hook tool to undercut the core.
I think the experience was enough to put him off wanting to be a bowl turner but he did end up with a big chunky bowl that he's going to use to eat his CocoPops out of - he'll probably get a whole packet in there!

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Babies in the Toilet

Quite exciting to have our Woodland Bog chosen as a place to bring up babies...

This is the second nestful of Blackbirds raised here this year - I think there's 3.

It's amazing how hard it is for humans to understand a composting toilet system.  Someone (we know who he was) recently threw a load of the ash/shavings mix into the pee bucket to try and soak it all up!  A lot of guys use the pee bucket and the ladies prefer to pee behind one of the many bushes...
Perhaps we should put our copy of Humanure in there for them to read?

Friday, 15 June 2012

A Cautionary Tale...

When demonstrating turning on the leg-powered lathe the most frequently asked question is "Don't you get one big muscley leg from doing that all day" to which the joke reply is "Yes, but I live on the side of a steep mountain and walk round in circles on the flat!".  Then I get more serious and explain that I balance it out by changing legs often.
Someone at a show told me they'd watched me for about an hour then come back later and I was still treadling with the same leg.  I started to watch myself after that and realised that my default position was to stand on my right leg and treadle with the left.  No matter how often I caught myself doing this and made a conscious effort to change I would still return to that position.  So left leg gets plenty exercise and right leg bears all the weight.
My doctor asked what I did for a living and when I told him he explained that this posture had undoubtedly led to my prolapsed disc, sciatica in the right leg and excruciating agony all Winter and most of the Spring.
So take heed you pole lathe turners and change legs often!

Monday, 11 June 2012


Ant decided to turn a set of tenpin skittles from Sycamore on the second day of his course.  Quite ambitious and I did have to give him some help (I made the ball, or "cheese" as it's known in skittling circles).
I've often thought about making some amongst all the log-jam of ideas in my mind but how many sets do you think I could sell for around £100?  Especially at the moment when things seem so tight...
There's a lot of info about skittles on Wiki.

I managed to get Albert Steptoe to come and teach spoon carving on Ant's first day!

Thursday, 7 June 2012

New Workshop

Terry who did our kitchen conversion last year spotted this load of reclaimed 4"x2" (100 lengths) stashed in the roof of a drinks warehouse in Edmonton, North London. 

We collected it yesterday evening and have spent the day so far removing screws with a cordless drill.  Probably be a couple of bucketsful by the end.
As I'm into reclaiming and recycling and got it for a good price I don't mind.

I'm going to use it to build my NEW WORKSHOP... a proper one with a floor, doors, windows, insulation and hopefully a small woodburner to keep me warm in the Winter.

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Dig the New Breed

I think this is going to be a SWORD.
I'm much improved and looking forward to the new season - running lots of courses and demonstrating at different events.
Things are changing and I'm taking a completely different approach to my green woodworking - more later...