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Bodgers Ball 2013

This year I had to travel miles right across the country to near Cambridge, and what a Ball it was. This year I was asked to do a sharpening workshop and I scheduled this first thing in the morning. Lunch  and then a demo in how to carve a dragons head, and the a bit later a fan bird carving demo. I did not get around to see any demos, but I had Sunday free to see if I might have won anything in the competitions. The competitions are split into lots of categories: professional and beginner  pit there skills against each other and there are often surprises. I love this democratic vote of all the members judging  each entry and deciding which is the best. This year I knew I had some stiff competition in the non turned treen sectionas John Waricker entered a beautiful legged bowl. My huge shrink pot came second. As far as I know this is the biggest shrink pot made in this country for centuries. If you know better please prove me wrong. The pot is beech and the base is western red cedar. The lid is rippled willow with a walnut handle pinned in with ash dowels and pegs. Home made milk paint was used for the colour and fake gold leaf. Finished on the outside with oil.

My bowl was not placed and this year no bowls won prizes, they all went to turned drinking vessels.

The spoon class was at last split into 2 categories, knife finish and sanded finish. I put one of my dragon headed spoons in and won. To my great surprise I also won the overall spoon prize and I got the Barry Plant spoon trophy for a year. Some of you may remember that I made this trophy some years ago. Apparently Barry would have approved of my spoon and the fact that I also won his trophy.

It sometimes is odd looking back on old work, and can easily find fault with it. What is done is done and we cannot change that, but I am always driven to do better and proud of my critical eye. More on this in another post, where I may revel some work that I made and was so proud of at the time but cringe in horror at now.

The half hour challenge is my favourite competition. This year it was a balancing dragonfly. I will be teaching this at the Sussex and Surrey coppice week in August, and I think these workshops are open to anyone. I feel that this dragonfly needs just another 5 minutes of knife work, just to finish it off.

Tim Stevenson made the most beautiful wooden axe mask and holder which fits on the belt. This was featured in the Bodgers Gazzette that goes out 4 times a year to members.

My young friend Anna Casserley also impressed me with her peddling spoon trolley. This closes up into a box on top and her chopping block goes underneath. In all very well thought out and very practical.
As usual  I could have done with another day. I forgot to photograph and buy some of Siomons Lamb’s wooden flowers. These are some of the best I have seen, there is always next year as we only meet at the Ball, or on the Bodgers forum.
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New fan birds

The fan birds are evolving and new designs are coming into being.

First off, a photo of the winner of the Non turned treen section at the Bodgers Ball.

I have tried making fan flowers but never put much time of effort into it, but I have made a few birds where the wings meet and are joined together. I do like this swan.

I particularly like this one.

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Bodgers Ball 2012

On Thursday, the day before the 2012 Bodgers’ Ball it was pissing down with rain, and a rather disheartening email had been sent out about the muddy state of the field in Dorset. Spirits were low as Dan and I loaded the van. Everything got better the next day when I drove straight onto the site and the sun was bright and hot.
It was a busy weekend  and I gave 2 demonstrations: fan birds; and a long talk on sharpening stones, especially the naturals, how to identify, clean and use.

I entered the non-turned Treen competition with my fan birds and won first prize. I did not enter the half hour challenge and apparently could not enter with a fan bird this year as I won it last year with a bird. All the prizes were presented by Dick Apps.

Above is the competition tent with lots of entries in almost just as many categories. The vote is by public ballot and anyone can win, professional or beginner. This is what I like about the BB, it is open and democratic, everyone is welcome and we all share ideas and knowledge. Age is no barrier, there is a junior category, with some amazing entries.

I missed the actual prize giving, being too eager to look at the auction entries, but Dan won the Best Newcomer prize. Apparently, the look of surprise and glee on his face, was priceless!  I am so proud to be part of an organisation that celebrates and honours our youngsters as well as beginners and professionals.

This is Peter who won a prize in the best stool competition. Peter lives in Devon and I fist met him on the Bodgers’ Forum, and then in person when he came on my forging course last year. I really like some of the furniture he makes.

Each year there is a themed competition and this one was “something for the beech” Nick and Katie Abbot won with their badminton set, and the beech trunks got a prize, and also, one of best in show prizes.

I bought lots of tools from Tools for Self Reliance and at the auction. I got a lovely Yellow Lake oilstone in a box, impossible to identify without a box as it looks like just another slate hone.

A great side axe from Tony, who says it is a French coopers axe.

The best item I won in the auction is a great water grindstone put in by Tony.

I got it for a very good price and expected to pay a great deal more for it. I have now trued up the wheel and it works a treat, a fantastic bit of kit. I will be posting a video on how I trued the wheel up.

This a picture of part of the site.The man with the wheel chair is Dick Apps, a pole lathe turner. I love this photo as I saw Dick pushing his wheel chair onto site, it just sums up the spirit  and determination of Bodgers, old and young.

My friend Paul and his wife and small children were at the show. He showed me a couple of things “I inspired him to make” an amazing fan bird and heart arrow puzzle. I must say he got that arrow just right and could not have made it any bigger if he tried.

James finally won the half hour challenge this year. Not entering gave me an opportunity to watch him turn a bowl from the log in under half an hour. One thing I have noticed about the people who win is that there is no panic or even much of a sense that they are racing. I love this grace that comes from being good at  what you do.

James is on the far right, I must also say it was a well shaped and finished bowl and I would be proud of if I turned it myself, I could not turn a bowl this well this fast.
The half hour challenge is my favourite competition because you are there doing it live and in front of people, one chance, and under pressure.
The master pattern for the log to leg race. I had the honour again to judge both the team and individual log to leg races with Stuart King. The wood was a bit challenging this year, the beech was a bit crooked.
The finished legs below, click on any image to enlarge
Frank showed me his amazing lathe, see the video, he also made these travishers from an old saw blade and recycled wood. Frank uses these on the push stroke and they worked remarkably well. 
This is David Mann, who has developed a mandrill for the pole lathe which means that the billet of wood being turned always revolves into the cutting edge of the tool. None of this reciprocating business. Have a look at his website
So to end – do have a look at this video of The Bodgers’ Ball.

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Shrink pot, and a shrink pot croze

I have been making shrink pots for a few years now. I love wooden boxes and containers and I feel very comfortable with the process and durability of these containers, compared with some of the other boxes I have made over the years.
For those of you who are wondering what a shrink pot is, wonder no more. Take a green or unseasoned branch of wood and hollow it out so it has an even wall thickness if about 10mm. You now have a tube. Make a groove near the bottom and insert a seasoned wooden plank. As the pot dries the tube shrinks around the plank holding it tight.
I was very chuffed when I entered the non-turned treen section at the Bodgers Ball craft competition at the weekend and my contemporaries voted my shrink pot first prize.

The pot is birch with a yew lid and the arrow is fiddle back willow. Only the yew is sanded and the rest is a fine tool finish. The pot is no higher than 10 inches.

I have also made my largest shrink pot so far. This one stands nearly 2 foot high and is over 12 inch diameter. Made from ash and western red cedar with an elm handle.

This one is not quite finished, the lid is, but I need to work on the pot. A pot this size will take a while to shrink and dry around the bottom plank. I was careful with this one to cut a ring off the bottom, taking it home and drying it so I could work out the amount of shrinkage. The last thing you want to do is to spend a day hollowing out a pot and making the bottom plank too large. If you do this, the side of the pot splits open as it dries out. How do I know? Well I have done it on a couple of large elm pots. This was in the days when I thought it best to have a really tight fitting bottom plank. Having a nice loose bottom plank is the way to go, you may have to check it a couple of times as it dries to make sure it it still oriented properly in the groove.  With a Scots pine pot I made, this drying process took months and it was a small one, only 6 inch diameter. I boiled it, I put it in the microwave and left it near the fire, and still the bottom was loose and rattling around in the groove. It just got left in the car for a few months, and finally when I retrieved it the pot had shrunk around the plank. Sticking a shrink pot in the microwave really does speed the drying process up, and is worth doing if impatient.

I have been asked what is the best way to make the groove on the inside of the tube or pot. I have designed and made a shrink pot croze. This has a flat bed and an adjustable height blade.
Just hold in a vice and run the pot around the knife blade.

I then use a Frosts Mora 106 to cut a V groove. I can cut a groove within a couple of minutes on a medium sized pot, and the top edge of the groove is of an even height and at 90 degrees to sides of the pot.
I will be selling these as set or as the finished item. I do not know the price yet and will post here another post when I am ready to sell and more detail about their use.

If you want to learn how to make shrink pots I will be running a 2 day workshop next March 17th and 18th 2012 cost £165. Get in touch if you want more info and a booking form. The workshop will be at my workshop in Devon, UK

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Bodgers Ball and Pedlars

Bodgers Ball
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?

If you want to find a bit more about the Bodgers’ Ball, have a looks at my mates Mark and Robin’s blogs.

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Bodgers Ball

The Bodgers Ball is the yearly meeting and AGM of the Association of Pole-lathe Turners & Greenwood Workers. The last time I went must have been about 17 years ago, but after spending so much time on the bodgers forum this year I thought I would put faces to people.
In reality it is not just an AGM as we know them, but a mini festival; a coming together of like-minded people to share knowledge and to have a bloody good time. There were a few stabbings, but just minor ones, and self inflicted! It also held one of the best attended AGMs I have been to, as well as the shortest, which is strange as it was also converting itself into a limited company. Defiantly a well run committee.
I have never driven so far to meet a bunch of people that I have only previously met in cyberspace. At least it was, as always advised, in a public space. I also almost forgot, these people are probably the best armed of any, with the most fascinating array of very sharp edge tools.

I was one of the many people demonstrating, but the only person making fan birds which I think went down a treat.

I entered some of the competitions and actually won a first prize in the Field and Craft section for my green oak dragonfly.

Early one evening I went over to see Paul and made my first pole-lathe turned bowl. It went surprisingly well, as Paul was a good teacher. Mind you – I did have a slight advantage as I have been using a pole lathe for over 17 years. It is not easy to relax when learning a new tool or technique, and looking at my hands in this photo, I do not think I could grip that chisel any harder.

Ten people made their own pole lathes over the weekend, I will be knocking one up soon!

We had an auction, mainly of tools. The auctioneer who was from Dorset was very entertaining, sorry I can not remember your name. Yes, I did buy a big box of old tools and I think I got a bargain. The two chaps at the bottom left of the picture are Robin on the left, and Mark in the middle. I have been following their blogs for some time.

Where else would you find a bar still working after the marquee has been taken down by the hire company? Most people left on late Sunday afternoon and this photo was taken at about 8.30pm.

I like this one; a fairy circle? No this was the whittling circle many of the shavings made by Robin Wood’s whittlers.

All in all it was a fantastic weekend and an event well worth going to. If you read this blog, do come and say hi to me at next years ball, which should be nearer Devon.