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 http://www.theslidymandril.co.uk/thestory
So to end – do have a look at this video of The Bodgers’ Ball.
The competition I like best at the Bodgers Ball is the Half Hour Challenge. The brief is: to make anything you like from a billet of green wood in half an hour, and that makes a good demonstration at shows or events. Stuart King was judging this competition and we had to show him the billet of wood that we were to use. We all went back to our pitch to await the starting whistle. I had a very large crowd around me – 50 plus people.The first thing was to axe out a small plank of wood.
With this competition I think it is important to talk to your audience, explaining what you are doing, how and why, plus relating any appropriate, amusing anecdotes and experiences. I did see Stuart briefly in the audience and I would hope that the challenge is also judged on this aspect. Mark Allery fed me one of his home made cookies soon into the competition, a big mistake as it shut me up for a minute while I chewed away on a slightly dry and too large mouthful.
I jumped next onto the shaving horse and shaved the billet down to the proportions I wanted, and then onto the vice to carve the wing profile. When entering any competition, especially one watched live by others a certain amount of adrenaline kicks in. It is important not to rush as this is when accidents can happen. I take things slowly and stop often to explain and show what I am doing. A large crowd often helps me along with the demonstration, especially when they ask questions or interact with comments.
Now onto the riving of the feathers, this is the bit where everything can easily go wrong. I tend to speak less during these few minutes. Once the riving is complete then onto the cutting out and carving of the bird’s body. This can be the more boring bit for people and I tend to tell a few stories here about the history of fan birds. My favourite bit is the interlocking and fanning out of the wing feathers. The bit of wood, by then, looks like a bird. Stick a pin in its head and attach some thread, hold up and receive applause.
Stroll down to the judges table and hand in the finished demonstration piece. I knew I had some stiff competition from James Pomfrey, also known as chainsawkid on the Bodgers forum and who made a bowl on the pole lathe. To my great delight Stuart awarded me first prize.
I love the showmanship of these shorter demonstrations, and would like to develop the making of traditional greenwood items into a live multimedia show, for theatres and the like. If and when this will happen I do not know. I would also like to develop a story to be told along with this demo. We are not just craftspeople when we demonstrate because we offer ourselves as a spectacle, what we say and do during this spectacle is up to us. Some demonstrators wait until they are asked a question before uttering any words, some of us talk about what we are doing as we go along. I happen to be a closet storyteller/ showman.
Many thanks to Nick Winter for sending me these photos.
By the way if any of you know any good stories about birds, bird creation myths etc, please let me know
If you would like me to demonstrate at your show or even,t then contact me for my fee.
If you would like to learn how to make fan birds then I am running a workshop on Sept 24th/ 25th 2011.