Thursday, 10 November 2011


Had some enquiries from regular blog readers wondering why there hasn't been much action here lately (Hi Bob & James).  Several reasons...
1.  Going through a period of being fed up and bored of computers etc.
2.  Building work still going on although it's nearly finished.  Too boring to write about but we now have a kitchen sink and will have an oven and hob today.
3.  Trapped sciatic nerve or slipped a disc picking up a worktop awkwardly - been living on painkillers.

Apart from that everything's OK.  Nic Westermann sent me some more spoon knife blades  for evaluation which I hate to admit I haven't tried out properly yet.  These aren't laminated and are around half the price.

Can't believe it's a year since my Dad died, time seems to pass so quickly.  We had a family get together at my sisters' in Canterbury at the weekend...

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Spooning Around

Looked in on the European Woodworking Show at Cressing Temple yesterday.  Didn’t stay long as it was so hot and we had to leave Jed in the van.  I demo’d at this show last year and was told that someone else would be doing it this year ‘to give the show a different look’ - the only different thing I could see about it was that I wasn’t there!  (Don’t think I’ll neeed to go again.)

The real reason we went was to pick up a spoon hook from my friend Nic Westermann.

In my opinion Nic is making some of the best spoon hooks around at the moment.  They are laminated steel and take and hold a lovely edge and his curves are very nice - not the usual generic spoon hook shape. 

I helped him with some R&D earlier in the year and he gave me the smaller hook, the larger one is a ‘finishing knife’ although he has started referring to it as ‘the Fawcett hook’ and is really great for those final cuts in the bowl of a dry spoon.  He showed me one back in July and I’d been hankering after one ever since.

On Thursday John Abel came over with a twca cam he’d made by inserting a Svante Djarv blade into an 18” long handle.

It worked quite well although with the end of the handle in the groin rather than under the armpit as suggested in some of the old books.

Be nice to try with some different shaped blades.  Barn uses this technique - see Rob Wood’s blog here.

While testing Nick’s blades I also decided to do some research into different handle shapes and sizes.
Ultimately the best one (for me) was the one on the right where I took a lump of wood and kept carving it until it felt good in my hand.  It's not far off Duncan or FYGT's (2nd from right).  The pistol grip at left was surprisingly comfortable and the middle one is just a beefed up version of the Orford/Djarv/Frost handle which doesn't get lost in my hand.

Thursday, 29 September 2011


Where did September go?  Taken up with construction, demolition and dust I think.

Terry's really got stuck in and is doing fantastic things to the kitchen/bathroom.

It's like camping in your own house although we have still just about got access to the cooker...

...but no washing machine and washing up in the bath!

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Church Ale

Firstly, sincere apologies to anyone who turned up at the Ranscombe Farm 'event' last Sunday (specially my Mum, Sister and Niece!).  We waited over an hour for someone in a 4WD to come and ferry us to the woods as the mud was so thick and impassable.  There was absolutely no publicity to show that there was anything going on - the words "piss-up", "brewery", "couldn't organise" sprang to mind.  We started to get really bad vibes so we cut our losses and left - after all money isn't everything we have to enjoy what we do too.

By way of contrast the Wivenhoe Church Ale that we took part in yesterday was a lovely event - very well organised and publicised.
In mediaeval times "Ales" were held in support of many different causes: the church-ale, held to encourage parishioners to come and pay their tithes and so to help pay for the upkeep of the church building; the bride-ale, used to benefit a newly married couple; the clerk-ale, to support the impoverished curate; the bid-ale or help-ale, where ale would be brewed and friendly folk would gather round to drink, contributing the money collected from selling the ale to a worthy local who'd fallen on hard times.
Perhaps confusingly to modern ears, an 'Ale' meant the event, the feast, the fĂȘte, the party if you like - not the drink itself.

What all these "ales" have in common is that they were communal drinking sessions to raise funds.
But more than anything it was an opportunity to socialise, and contributed to the social cohesion of the community.

Only problem was that we were so busy when I went to try the Ale they'd run out!

Colcheter Waits Shawm Band

Friday, 9 September 2011

Going Up

It's exciting to see the progress as the brickwork and blockwork go up.
Terry is a craftsman and diamond geezer...

Going to be demonstrating at Ranscombe Farm near Rochester on Sunday 12-4 if anyone's around that neck of the woods.

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Bitten by the Bug

As soom as he arrived at our Woodland Craft Workshop yesterday I could see that Simon was keen.
He'd brought a couple of tools to make handles for and went through the bodging process to make a Chestnut rounders bat for his wife's Brownie troupe.
I think he was going straight home to start work on a pole lathe and shavehorse.

PS Note that cross-pein hammer which he's going to use for blacksmithing.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Hawthorn & Elder

We were demonstrating at a show near St Albans on Saturday at the Woodland Trust's HeARTwood Summer Festival.  A young furniture maker (power tools) called Ben asked if I ever used Hornbeam.  "Only when it's really freshly felled," I replied, "or you find out why it's called Hornbeam!"  Apparently he'd been dropped off some logs by a local tree surgeon, didn't count on using them and offered them to me.  About an hour later he came back with the largest log which I could see straight away was actually Hawthorn.  Great, even better, I love it for turning and spoon carving - a very dense, hard and pinkish wood.
Jed added the tennis ball for scale
This is typical of the hit-and-miss way I source my timber - someone else also gave me a nice Hawthorn log only the other week (he also gave me a lovely piece of Apple and a Laburnum log - thanks Mark).  So now everything will be made of that for a while as it was from Catalpa earlier in the summer.  I've had a load of Sweet Chestnut for the courses this year but now I'm bored of that and fed up with cleaning the purple gunk off the tools.  I found a nice Ash log stuffed under a hedge in the Abbey Gardens last week but I would be happy if I could find a more regular, reliable supply.

I notice that in Mike Abbott's latest book 'Going with the Grain' he notes two suppliers of chairmaking Ash but only in Herefordshire and Gloucestershire.  Wouldn't it be good if there was a nationwide directory of people who are willing to sell logs of different species of timber to green woodworkers?  I'm willing to compile such an index and would be grateful for the names of any woodland owners, tree surgeons, wildlife organisations etc that I could add.

* * *

On a different note this Elder tree doesn't seem to know whether it's coming or going at the moment, bearing both ripe fruit and fresh blossom at the same time...?

Monday, 22 August 2011

Devil Sticks

Instead of the usual rounders bat, candlestick or dibber, James decided to turn a Devil Stick from Sweet Chestnut on the pole lathe. 

Although he's quite an expert and we spent some time getting the weight and balance right I think the sticks used to manipulate it needed some rubber or silicone on them for it to work really well.
Could be a good idea for something different to make on the lathe?

Thursday, 18 August 2011


We were recently sent a copy of this letter of thanks by the organizers of an event that we did at the Sussex Showground called "Connect with the Countryside...

I specially like the young lady's drawing of herself treadling the lathe and the description of the "fanny mocine thing"!
It's always good to get a bit of positive feedback.

Monday, 15 August 2011


Some years ago when I used to deal in old woodworking tools we used to go to three or four boot fairs before breakfast on a Sunday morning.  Our expectation levels were high and quite often we were disappointed and didn't manage to find anything.
Yesterday we had a rare Sunday off and went to the local boot fair.  We paid £2 each to get in early to avoid the riffraff and netted this little lot...
for £9.10!

The augers are Ridgeway 1 1/4", 1 3/8" and 1 1/2" and cost £3,  just a bit of superficial rust removal and a sharpen and they work perfectly.  The drawknife is a Sorby Kangaroo and although a bit rusty didn't look as though it had ever been used - still had the factory grind and hadn't been honed.  The crosscut is in quite good nick and I'm going to have a bash at sharpening it properly.  The ladle will come in handy as we want to try casting some lead plugs for priests.  The two gouges in the middle of the chisels are Henry Taylor Acorn brand and have never been used.
The yellow stone below the drawknife is very hard like marble and polishes edges although it's a bit dished - perhaps someone can tell me something about it?

PS The drawknife and the Henry Taylor gouges were just £2!

Friday, 12 August 2011

Finally - The Slab has landed

The piling was done on Saturday - two at 7m and two at 8m.  Luckily we were away running courses and didn't have to hear the awful noise.

The guys came on Wednesday evening and worked till it was dark installing the shuttering and steel cage...

...and the slab was poured yesterday afternoon.

This afternoon, hopefully, our builder Terry is coming round to let us know when he can recommence work after only a 3 month gap!

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Barefoot Beekeeping

Owen Jones recommended this book to me earlier in the Summer when I met him at the Royal Norfolk Show.  Having read it I would heartily recommend it to other beekeepers or anyone thinking of taking it up.
Check out the Biobees website.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

London's Burning

This is the scene at the end of our road this morning.   A huge pall of black smoke coming from the burning Sony storage centre on the M25 near Enfield.  The motorway has been closed and I can't help thinking thank God for the North Easterly breeze or that lot would be blowing down our back garden.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Hazelnut Harvest

We had to pick all our hazelnuts yesterday.
We'd found lots of little piles of nibbled shells where the squirrels were tucking into them and decided that if we didn't pick them there would soon be none left.
We've put them to dry on a large wooden tray.

Are we going to have an early Autumn this year? There's already some colours appearing.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Jacks, Bombards & Lamhogs?

Finished off the formers for the leather drinking vessels at the weekend.
L-R Jack, 2 pint Bombard, 4 pint Bombard
 That was hard on the legs and as I was only getting one and a half revolutions each stroke I started to think about making a Lamhog.
This one is in Willow from Ireland, possibly late 18th early 19th century and recently sold at Christies for £2400.
You have to rig the lathe so that it only makes one revolution when you turn the handle area or you'll snap it off.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Oak Lump

OOeerr... This is the biggest blank I've ever had on the lathe - just over 6 inches by 1 foot.
It's a lump of Oak and I'm turning two smaller ones from Chestnut to be used as blanks or lasts for forming leather drinking vessels around.  See the Hide Bound website and check back for an update.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011


This booklet was my first introduction to spoon carving.
I met Eric soon afterwards and he gave me more pointers and tips.  I've spent many an enjoyable hour carving spoons since...
I was inspired to make the one on the book after seeing Barn's last blog.  OK I know it looks nothing like his but they both have the same sort of lineage.  Probably the handle's too fat where it meets the bowl.  I think it's a good design to teach as a first spoon as there aren't too many changes of grain direction to deal with - the thing most people come unstuck on when starting to carve spoons.

I'm not mad keen on straight lines in spoons and prefer the design I've been refining for a while now...

The first Lubeck style I made (which seems a bit uptight, handle too long) with a couple of my design in Cherry and Yew.  Interestingly the bowl on mine is an inversion of the medieval style spoon.  I think of this shape as 'avocado stone' - plectrum shape is also a favourite. 

Sunday, 24 July 2011

New Assistant

Ronald Macdonald parachutes into the Woodland Workshop...

Friday, 15 July 2011

Rochester Catalpa Collection

I wrote about the Catalpa tree outside Rochester Cathedral in previous posts.  Here's an update.

Around 20 years ago the powers that be decided that the huge, old tree was going to die and so planted a replacement.  Recently it was noted that the tree was actually in fine fettle and that the replacement was the wrong variety of Bean Tree anyway.  So it was cut down and Fern saved me the logs.

There's a huge pith cavity, or is it a pillar of rot? (2p piece for scale) and the wood looks a bit like Ash with pink, yellow and green tinges.  Unlike Ash it's fairly soft and easily workable even when seasoned.  Freshly split there's a lovely smell of spice and tobacco.
Last Saturday I demonstrated at the Rochester Cherry Festival in The Vines.  I made spoons and spatulas from Cherry to fit in with the theme but took along the Catalpa Collection to try and sell in aid of the Old Tree. (Possibly the only tree in the world with it's own website - I'd be interested to hear of others)
Part of The Rochester Catalpa Collection

Sue Haydock who initially launched the Appeal was delighted to buy the bowl I'd carved for quite a lot of money!

I got fed up with working the wood eventually and still have a half log...
Fern saved the wood for me
maybe I'll make some more bowls from it...  (mmm - pity I never took a proper photo of that one but I didn't expect to sell it so quickly).

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Apprentice Piece

Not much time for blogging or sitting in front of a laptop lately - too busy.

This piece was brought to show me at a show we did at Letchworth last weekend by a guy named Dick.
It was carved from Oak in 1835 at the end of a City & Guilds apprenticeship and apparently awarded top marks.  Dick didn't know the name of the carver but also has his Lignum Vitae carving mallet which weighed more than both my clubs put together.
On the right.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Fun Spoons

I've been designing and refining my own range of Treewright Spoons and have produced a set of templates from thin plywood...

Whilst idly perusing googled-up Spoon Designs I came across these two mad ideas...!

As you can see Blogger has decided to let me upload photos again.


As with everything else connected with this *@!% new technology when things go wrong you don't know if it's something you're doing wrong or is everyone else having the same problem.

So - is anyone else out there who's on Blogger having trouble uploading photos at the moment? 
...or is it just me?

Monday, 13 June 2011


At the weekend we were demonstrating at the Cambridge Town & Country Show at Parker's Piece in the middle of Cambridge.  A lady noticed several items that I'd made from Sumach (Rhus Typhina) and said that she had just had one cut down in her garden.  She turned up with a big bag of the logs on Sunday morning - lovely.

The wood is quite spectacular and outrageous...

The downside is that it has a very sticky, resinous sap which gets everywhere if you get it on your hands.
I remember reading somewhere that this was once used for a varnish of some kind.

This is what the foliage looks like...
and the fruit, or drupes, look like big furry raspberries.

Things I make from it sell very quickly but it doesn't often come my way.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Turning Saw

I was recently given this turning saw by a kind lady in Yorkshire.
Unfortunately one of the blade holders had sheared off...

This is because the the wooden bit inside the brass tube is only 9mm diameter.  So I'll drill them both out and fix them properly.  Apparently it was made by Matt Sears (son of John Brown, Welsh Stick Chairmaker) and many years ago I bought a froe from him after seeing his name and address in the back of Mike Abbott's book "Green Woodwork".
This is the stamp he used on his tools -

and I've only ever seen one drawknife with the same mark.  He upped sticks and moved to the States in the 90's as he couldn't make a living here. 
Hope he's still going but not making wooden tools.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Leaning Tower of Beeza

The bees have been so busy during this hot, dry Spring - the honey flow is massive.  So the hive ended up a bit massive too...
 We took 2 supers of rape honey off on 12th May. and because we weren't really keeping an eye on them, had to take off 4 today!
Cutting off the cappings.
The extractor
Jed really loves his honey and is always hanging around for tastes - think he's OD'd a bit today.