This small but perfectly formed festival has only 50 spaces and will never get any larger. I have been teaching and passing on my skills at this gathering for a couple of years now and alway eagerly await the ferry trip from Plymouth to France. The hosts Jane and Peter are welcoming and generous as well as begin very talented. The festival takes place at their home in Britainy and people come from all over Europe to participate and share knowledge stories and songs as well as some inspiring beverages of the alcoholic sort. To Lucy and me, and I know this is true for others, this festival is like a family gathering with new members being added each year. Everyone is made welcome and taken in as family.
We learn, we laugh, we eat and drink together. The food is provided in ample portions and to the highest quality.
This year Jane and Peter have decided to do some prefest courses. Jane is teaching her folding spoons and I will be making wooden sheaths and boxes with people. My emphasis as it always has been is to teach technique and expand the the possibilities of woodworking rather than just on making a thing. So many of you may well have seen my simple tool cases and the more complicated ones and depending on your level of experience you can have a go at making various boxes or sheaths to protect your tools. I will be teaching how to convert and use wood from the log as well as using predried and cut wood. We will be able to make just using simple edge tools and or using some electric or mechanical tools as well.
Lucy and Jan will be teaching a dying and spinning course. The natural dying that Lucy does is a joy to behold, simple plants prepared and boiled to produce the most amazing colours.
Just back from Stafford county show and I have found another way of making fan birds, not anything radical, just an evolution, and going back to when I first made fanbirds on my shaving horse. I have designed and developed a new big push knife to complement my draw knives. It comes in handy for making the fan birds and not just bowls. It is always fun to find new uses for tools, especially when they work so well. More on the pushknives in coming posts, they are not listed on the website yet.
Just wanted to share just how many birds can be made from a small discarded end to ash wood that was going to be burnt. Nine so far and probably another 6 at least because of that knot.
I love the fact that we can add value to something that has no real value and that this added value is skill and time.
The big push knife on the left is £85 with a sheath. Email me if you are interested.
You do not have to be a green woodworker to benefit from this video. We all need to take care of our bodies. As I say in the forward of Shaving Horses, Lap Shaves and other Woodland Vices:
Although we have never been recognised as such, the woodworker, like any manual worker, is an athlete. We often work for hours, using tools that can weigh several pounds, all the time extending and contracting our muscles, working with the rhythms of our breath, building strength and muscle memory. We have to learn how to use tools correctly and become aware of how our bodies feel.
If you practise some of these simple exercises them we can relieve some of the pain we feel the day after working on that project.
This was filmed during Fines Lames et Petit Cuillere a small but brilliant green woodworking festival in France organised by Jane and Peter Mickleborough. With special thanks to Walter Joseph Kovacs for letting me film him and sharing his knowledge.
My main cross cut saw is a sliding compound mitre chop saw. The chop saw cost me £700 ish about 12 years ago and a new one is the same price now. I have heard there can be an issue with the accuracy of the same make with the newest model, and I have been thinking about buying a bench saw with a good sliding table. The reason for buying a new saw is because slowly over time the fence on the chop saw has been bending out of true. The reason is simple, as we may have experienced, it is easy to catch the saw blade on the wood and knock the wood into the fence. This has only happened a few times with any force, but over the years these things happen and can scare the &*%§ out of you. The fence has cracks in and is no longer true and straight. Cutting long pieces of wood result in the wood pinching the blade at the end of the cut, which results in the saw being forced back towards you. Cutting short ends off, results in out of square cuts. All in it is not that safe to use, and students have not been allowed to use it for some time.
Today I made a new fence, if I knew how quick and simple it was I would have done it years ago.
One 2 inch thick lump of oak planed square all round. Holes drilled for the bolts using the original fence as a template.
The old fence placed against the new fence to show how badly it is out of alignment
The casting is cracked on both ends of the fence.
New fence which is made longer than the original
This saw has seen a lot of use over the years and has been punished and used to its full capacity often. It is now again a dream to use, and I have no excuse to buy a new bench saw.
The response from my Shaving horse book has been fantastic, with some great reviews.
I have now partnered with North House Folk School in the USA to sell the books. They are the only retailer where you can buy the books in the USA, so give them a call if you want to save a few dollars on postage.
However, at of the time of posting this blog, they do not have the books on their website.
That often-promised book that never materialised…is now here! After at least three years of work and a lifetime’s experience of making and using these traditional devices, Shaving Horse, Lap Shaves and other Woodland Vices is now on sale, at www.seanhellman.com
It is a resource for anyone wishing to make and use these simple but effective devices, and to participate in an enduring and worthy tradition. Whether a complete novice or accomplished professional, Shaving Horses, Lap Shaves and other Woodland Vices has much to offer: effective woodworking techniques, use of specific hand-tools, ergonomics, and a range of 13 different work-holding devices, either shaving horses or cleaving breaks, and including traditional and contemporary versions of these designs. There is also a section on drawknives and how to use, sharpen and renovate them.
The book is published by Crafty Little Press, a new publishing company set up by Lucy (my wife) and myself, for the purpose of printing and distributing this current title and other books we have planned. So, last week, we collected a ton of books from our local printer, Short Run Press, itself a business with a great reputation and a winner of environmental awards for good business practice. Being local, both collection and personal communication are easy, and we have avoided using lorry-space and consequent fuel by not carrying books across the country or from abroad. The ethos of supporting local economy wherever possible, is important to us, more so than investing in a cheaper product that travels across continents, or from countries which have little or no environmental regulation or employment rights.
You can buy Shaving Horses, Lap Shaves and other Woodland Vices primarily from my website or from Crafty Little Press, www.seanhellman.com and at woodworking events where we are present; it is also available from the Woodsmith Experience and Woodland Craft Supplies. We are also currently seeking to extend distribution outlets here in the UK, and in the USA, or elsewhere. Please let us know if you would like to wholesale from us.
I offer a huge and grateful thank you to all those who have contributed to the book, to everyone who inspired it in any way, and all those who have helped make this work possible.
130 pages and over 400 photos and diagrams.
Here is a short video made by Harry Rogers at the Bodger Ball this year
I spent the day with Richard Devaney at the Saxon village at Escot house in Devon. He was hosting an APT local group get together. As he is recreating Saxon life he does not do saws and hates it when others leave the evidence of the saw in the material. Not using a saw means that wood has a very different end cut to it. This end cut is usually very tactile, visually appealing and organic in its form. I will have to try working without a saw more.
Detail of diagonal supports on a pole lathe
Above and below, the worn and polished poppet heads
I have various pinch dogs in the workshop and they only get used when I need to fix a piece of round wood, beam, bowl blank or plank in place when sawing, drilling or carving. I am yet to make or buy big ones as used in timber framing, and have easily got by with small ones only a couple of inches or so long. I am over cautious at times, and the idea of using such small dogs to hold such large pieces of wood is not something I would have considered until I had too because they where all I had to hand. As can be seen in the video they do work very well. I bought these years ago, second hand, and they are just mild steel. Great if they get bent as they can be hammered back into shape.
I plan my year out with shows at easy intervals and what happens? A few big commission jobs come my way and throw everything into chaos. Running low on stock and then having to work between shows on these commissions. Lots of things have had to be put on hold, for example my shave horse book. It has been written, but as I am self publishing it takes a lots of time laying it out in Indesign, a program I am still slowly learning.With any luck it may be published in time for christmas. Tool making is also on hold, but I have made the first prototype of my perfect drawknife.
The Easy Rider shave horse is having a good reception and I have sold a few already. Full detailed plans will be in the book along with plans on how to make 6 other types of shave horse. Lots of techniques about how to use tools and make almost unknown joints etc.
In other news I became a pin up boy. Peter Jameson (Auctioneer at the Bodgers Ball) who can be seen craftily staring at me in in flat cap from behind Sue, somehow obtained a photo of me and my unusually full wallet ( probably receipts from tool buying). He wrote some apparently witty comment about me below the photo. Sue Holden unfortunately was the only person to bid on lot number 2 and won it for a sum I will not disclose. Talking to Sue’s partner, Will, it seem that the only pins holding it up will be darts!
The proper way of boiling a kettle, photo taken at the Weald and Downland wood fair partly organised by my good friend Mark Allery, seen here on his shave horse making an English scythe snathe.
I was shown the museums collection of tools with Simon, I particularly liked this hand powered bandsaw. A very blunt blade and no tracking adjustment so 2 of the wheels had rims on to stop the blade from slipping off.