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Skinning trees

Just back from demonstrating at the Stafford show with Gudrun, Owen, Jeremy, Sherwood and others. I demonstrated fan birds as well as a few other greenwood crafts. Pete felled a few oaks and I thought I would choose a few tripods and forks to skin, and use for future projects. I got children involved in the debarking using simple wooden spuds. Children loved it and I would recommend it as an activity for children of all ages. It is satisfying and safe, no sharp tools are used, just wooden spuds that need to be sharpened every now and then. The oak was a bit sticky, but came off reasonable well.

I am running a shrink pot course at the Husbandry School this Sunday and need to  cut some wood. I have access to a few sycamore trees, (old hedge) and I always save the tops for coat hooks. The bark of the sycamore almost falls off. I use just my fingers to part it from the wood. I love the look of naked sycamore, the textures and the rings around the base of the branches.
I slipped some tubes off as well. I will see how well they make small boxes as they dry, and get used.

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Wooden flowers

This is the first time this has ever happened, willow sticks that have dried at different rates on each side of the stick. This is what happens, the dry side curls more than the wetter side.

I have finally learnt how to make flowers the traditional way, with just a knife. I was getting very lopsided flowers and thought it was my technique. I put the same wood on the shaving horse and got the same result. These mutant flowers rather appeal to me, they tell a story that only a very few people would notice.

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Another film

This Norwegian film moved me a great deal. It is easy to romanticise the past, to long for the simpler days. To me this is dangerous nonsense, a false idea of history. Life was hard in so many ways that we can not imagine. What impresses me is the way that people could turn their hands to anything, they had years of training in using body arm and hands, something I see missing in so many people these days. So many of us are hand illiterate.

The film is full of little gems for the green woodworker, and the same for anyone who works the land.

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Even professionals can cut themselves.

Before making every cut ask yourself

what happens if I slip?

Use this as your mantra, every time you make a cut.

As I get older I get more scared of the machine tools I use, and for good reason. Flesh and bone is nothing to them. I have been told of some very nasty injuries over the years, with scars to prove them.

Edge tool injuries do happen and are usually minor cuts, most of my cuts come from the wood itself, from manhandling it, again minor.

So I picked up my newly sharpened axe to use as a mallet, and somehow my little finger got in the way. Just a small touch on the edge of the axe, really the very lightest touch.

Sharp axes as hammers or mallets are not a good idea.

Heres another, of an apprentice, who thinks he knows it all, knows exactly where the tip of the tree will fall. Had to cut him out. Unfortunately he no longer works for me. Should have used my mantra!

Take care and be safe, before making the cut imagine what happens if the worst happens, a little thought may just stop the body springing a leak.

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Where do you get your wood from?

I have answered “trees” to this question, and have nearly got thumped.
Everywhere is the answer, from firewood piles to expensive wood merchants. I bought 3, 4 meter lengths of steel which came supported by a length of pallet wood of about 18mm thick by 75mm wide. The grain was tangential and so perfect for making fan birds with. 3 have been made so far I think I can get 10 to 20 out of this bit of wood. It has large knots in and lots of short grain as well. So hopefully I can turn this bit of waste wood into a few hundred quids worth, or more of fan birds.

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Coracle book

I am exploring the world of self publishing, and to start I decided to update my “How to Make a Coracle” book. I now have copies in full colour printed onto uncoated heavyweight paper. With this relaunch I am giving away 2 copies of this book to 2 people who will be chosen at random after clicking the share, like, and comment below on this blog. This will take place on the 7th March 2015. Postage will be paid to wherever in the world it is to go.

The book is for sale here and through my website at £6.50 inclusive of postage. For a limited time only you can purchase it for the introductory price of £5.50 inclusive of postage.

Postage Country

The book details through images and text, how to make a wooden lath frame coracle. There is also a chapter on how to make a traditional coracle using willow or hazel rods.

If you want to sell, or even distribute ‘How to Make a Coracle’, then please get in touch. It is barcoded with its ISBN number to comply with international standards for book sellers.

I have been filmed making coracles on a number of occasion by various UK production companies and have never received any video copies but I found this video on Youtube. It is me showing Alex Langlands who is making a coracle on the television programme The Edwardian Farm. The Edwardian Farm and The Victorian Farm have also engaged and recorded the skills of friends including Robin Wood, Owen Jones and Stuart King, to demonstrate their green wood work

My next publication is a book on shaving horses, with lots of detailed plans on making various types of horse. I have asked people from around the world to contribute images and the response has been fantastic. This book should be out in time for the Bodgers’ Ball, in May.

If you have a Shaving horse type work holding device, and have good pictures of it, then drop me a line. Your horse might end up in the book.

Postage Country

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Bristol

Every time I go to Bristol, which is a couple of times a year, I always have to go to Bristol Design in Perry Road. This is one of the few shops selling second hand woodworking tools. I always come away lighter in wallet and heavy in hand. If you ever find yourself in Bristol do have a look and buy something. Shops like this are becoming increasingly rare and need our support.

Are there any other shops in the UK like this one? Do let me know.

Detail of church next to St Nicholas Market