Last year I was asked to make a trophy for the spoon class in the annual competition for the Association of Pole Lathe Turners and Green Woodworkers, which takes place at The Bodgers’ Ball. This trophy is to commemorate Barry Plant, a member of the Sussex group who died last year.
The Barry Plant trophy is made from Atlas cedar, from a very large tree that died standing in Totnes, Devon. The name plate is from box and slides into a dovetail grove and is then glued. This has been a complicated process; I first made a maquette to show the clients and on their approval, initially got hold of a great piece of field maple for the actual trophy. I part carved this and drilled a large hole in the bottom to relieve the stresses so the wood would not split, and dried it slowly. I weighed it regularly and the weight stabilised – before it split – just two weeks before the show. I had to make another and this had to made from fully seasoned wood, the Atlas cedar.
I used to make didjeridoos from branches of wood and thought it was not possible to find a dry stick or branch which did not have a split in. How wrong I was: when you start looking you can find lots of wood without splits in, even on trees where a branch has died 2-3 years before harvesting. Wood can be a fickle medium, and different species have there own idiosyncrasies.
I know now why the maple split where it did. Notice the hole drilled into the end grain so the wood will dry out evenly from the inside out. I drilled the hole too close to the front and so this was the thinnest point. Next time I will make sure the hole is closer to the back so if any splitting does occur then it will be in the back.
The Bodgers Ball was great fun and met new people and didn’t manage to meet people who I know from the Bodgers forum.
I bought a clog makers hollowing tool from Tony Bryant, I have been after one for sometime. I will report back when I get it into working order.
The tool is called a sabotiers gouge or cuillère and is about 18 inches log and 2 inches wide at the spoon end. I was hoping for a smaller one but all his others were even larger. The end is inserted into a handle about 11/2 inches dia and 21/2 feet long. The tool is inserted into a pre-cut socket mid point along the length of the handle.
I met Barns, who walked from Bristol to Reading, making and selling spoons on the way.
Talking to him and sharing spoon carving techniques took me back to when I lived in my teepee many years ago, learning green wood work and living very simply. How we accumulate stuff so easily! I have always said that if I had an aircraft hanger, given a few years I would fill it up. I am a Taurean and I like stuff, it all seems to have value; maybe I can make money from it or it will come in useful some day. I do find it hard to throw out odd bits of wood or short ends, as I do make a lot of small things, and this winter I have been feeling the weight of it all hang round my neck and I long for a simpler way of working.
Anyway – Barns plans on walking around making and selling spoons & sleeping in woods or under the roof of anyone who will put him up. I wish him luck and a great time; a journey such as this must be a wonderful thing to do, a way of learning about the humanity in yourself and others. Maybe one summer I will get a pedlar’s licence and a handcart and walk around my local patch making and selling fan birds, and seeing who will put me up for a night. An amazing way of meeting people. I would like to operate far more locally and also get to know my locality more intimately. This would be possible for me for a few weeks but I do have a family, a large workshop and a house to pay rent on. We have had the slow food movement, maybe we need to start the slow craft movement.
There are a lot of local authorities trying to get rid of the Pedlar’s License, which will remove the fundamental human right of a person being able to earn a living, even if they have no where to live. Have a look at this entertaining film, which explains the issues.
The web site the film is on has lots of useful information as well.
I also met a local lady who spent some time with me and Barns learning how to make a spoon. She invited me back to her place! To have a look at a cast iron manual morticer that she needed to remove from her shed before she sold her house. It was complete and had all the chisel bits so I then spent the next 2 hours taking the top half off and moving both bits very slowly to the van. It is very very heavy, but where there is a will there is a way. Back at the workshop I sprayed all moving bits with WD40 and it is beginning to move. Has any one used these machines before, any advice or tips?