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Coppice Week and fan birds

I was head-hunted and persuaded to go to Kent to run some fan bird workshops for the Sussex and Surrey Coppice Group for their Coppice Week. They pay well and I went had a wonderful time. It was in part of Kent where I grew up until my parents moved us, when I was aged 11, to Mid Wales.

The groups were small, 3 people per day. We used green ash and on the first day. Lucie, Chloe and Tom, got stuck in. They both made 2 birds each. Actually, I was gobsmacked at the quality and beauty of all the birds  I wish I had had someone to teach me, it would have saved so much of my time doing it wrong or figuring out (now) simple mistakes.

Cloe and Tom
Lucie, who said that she had never made anything before. Lucie runs her own woodland management company.
Day 2 and all blokes. John, who arranged for this  fan bird course, supplied some ash. This is the first time I have used ash that is no good, for fan birds that is. Just goes to show that ash good for other jobs can have characteristics that are not good for birds. I managed to make a decent bird but had a few challenges with it, the biggest one being how brittle it was. Alan’s bird’s wings all fell off. Today they made 3 birds each. I have no problem with using bad material as long as we also use good stuff as well. It is good to have a comparison, so that when you use bad material you do not blame yourself and think you have lost your ability. The only reason these guys made more birds was that they have a lot more experience in using, and making with, hand tools.
I made a tree from a tree. I have never seen anything like this before and was inspired by the elderflower blossom and all the riving happening that day. This is something I will play with more.
From the left: Alan, John, me and Carl
Richard bought his round house, which came in very useful, the weather has been wet and windy again. We spent some great evenings in here chatting and laughing
Copper and salts thrown in the fire, some lovely colours.
A bark-basket making course going on next to my workshop, the wood is sweet chestnut.
Neil McLaughlan ran the hurdle making. Great bloke and hurdle maker, I really enjoyed chatting to him during the evenings. No website, no email just a phone number
Littlestone on sea, and you can see Dungeness nuclear power station in the distance, I remember coming here and to Camber sands just down the road, as a kid.
The mud flats with 2 inches of water on top and a fair wind blowing.
I will be attending the Weald Woodfair with the Coppice group in Sept, see you there.

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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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Hummingbird fan bird, with real wooden flower!

Same bird but 2 different flowers and flower stems. I know which I like best, but it is very likely to get broken.

I love the way it moves in a slight breeze. The other issue is that the thin willow stem will droop over time
This one will last and is easier to post and pack.
All fan birds are for sale, I hope to revamp my fan bird page on my web site and also have a few for sale on a sale page on this blog, very soon.
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Fan birds, the Raven

The raven and my fan bird making bench.

The raven – the first fan bird that I designed and made to represent a particular species of bird. All the birds I have made so far have been a stylized representation of a generic bird. I like ravens, very intelligent birds, like most of the crow family. A bird for this time of year with Halloween coming up soon. Made in the same way as any other fan birds, but with a bigger belly and a big beak, and then stained black.

It is very easy to get into a rut and just make what you usually make. Changing a design can result in failures and potentially wasted time, it is easier to make what you know.
This raven is hopefully just the start of many different bird designs.

As I said in my last post, I played around with some beech, and the wing tips had this lovely graceful curve. What I did not say was that I found another piece of beech at the Cranbourne Chase Wood Fair and tried to make another one with the same effect, as a public demonstration. Everything was going really well until I started the final thinning of the hinge, and the fanning out of the feathers. They started falling out, and by the time I had completed the interlocking of the feathers I only had half of them left. I gave the bird a small shake and the remaining interlocked feathers came loose. I was left holding a birds body, a complete failure and in front of 20 people as well.
As I explained to my audience it was not a total failure, such failures often hold a few lessons. The beech I used previously was green but had been cut down and left for some time. The beech I had used in my demonstration was very green and had been cut recently. The conclusion is that beech needs to mellow before making fan birds, just like hazel hurdle makers do with their hazel, they cut it in the winter and leave it for a least six weeks before using it, as it splits and works better after it has stood for a bit. I have also always found that beech does not split straight and tends to run off. I have never used that much beech in my career and I am not an expert on it like oak and ash. Is it me or is beech a bit of a sod to split straight?

I have stopped using a shaving horse on which to carve my birds and have made a dedicated bench. It is essentially a post vice that stands up on its own owing to the fact it was made from an ash tree trunk that split into 3 branches. I used a single vice screw and some 3 x 4 inch sections of dried oak beam I have lying about the workshop. All my tools are to hand, hanging off pegs or slotted into holes drilled into the bench.

Seen above is another use for this bench, and it is to make kuksas. I am using a French clog makers hook knife to cut out the inside of the bowl. The great thing is that I can walk all around the bench. I am sure I will find many other uses for this bench in time.