Thursday, 11 September 2014

Holy wells, wood and a bowl

Being an humble craftsman, holidays are usually taken in a tent. This year we went up to North Devon.  We enjoyed a gift from our American friends, the tail end of hurricane Bertha, which added to scenic value. Larger waves and the challenge of standing on the cliffs for any length of time.
Anyway enough of the Englishmans favourite topic, and back to business. My wife and I enjoy walking and searching out beautiful, or historic spaces, so in North Devon we found ancient Holly wells that date back to the mists of time. I also like to find a bit of fallen or cut wood to make a spoon or two out of.

So the first are from St Nectan's well in Stoke very near to Hartland.
Made from very slow grown oak. I do not usually make eating spoons from oak, but they do have a lovely grain.




 This is the Holy well at Welcombe, again next to a St Nectan's church. A dead branch of willow was found and a small scoop made. Dead willow can have a beautiful golden glow to it with a graduation of other colours. This willow was well and truly seasoned and beginning to rot in places.

Stonemasons use to carve beautiful headstones, these had a grace of proportion and design to them. some of the inscriptions can sometimes be a bit toe curling. I took these photos as a possible starting point or chip carving designs
 




Contrast the old ones to the modern headstone.  There must be a niche for stonemasons to create something far better and individual.

I cannot go on holiday without looking in shops that sell old stuff. I found this little gem in one such place. Asking its province was told it was probably olive or something from the east. It is sycamore and the marks on it tell me that it was turn on a pole lathe from an axed out blank. It is not perfect in form, the bottom being too thick and the walls rather thick in places. Who knows how old it is.




Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Edale

A couple of weeks ago I got back from another wonderful Spoonfest. The problem with teaching is that there never is enough time to talk and carve. I taught a lot of sharpening workshops, gave a sharpening talk and sat in the spoon chair, and then drove home.
Among many people from all over the world was Phillipe Steele from the States who has set up the Spooncarving, Green woodworking and sloyd Facebook page. Years ago I sold him a spoon via the Bodgers forum, apparently this was one of his first bought or traded spoons.

On a quick break from teaching I found Phillipe by the fire with his axes. It was interesting to find out that his hands are not really much bigger than mine but his handles are massive. So massive in fact that it would be dangerous for me to use these axes. For Phillip these are fine and he has problems with smaller handles, which cause him a lot of pain.

Most of you know that I like smaller handles and I do bang on about it. Tool handles are personal and it is very important to have handles that suit your body. So experiment and find out what works best for you.

 Below is my hand holding the axe. Not much difference in hand size, but difficult for me to use.
 Martin was flashing his gold leaf about, and Keith happened to be sitting quietly when all at once he was gilded with a golden spoon on the forehead, talk about gilding the lilly.

I met a lot of wonderful people and wish I could have spent a lot more time chatting. I bought yet another axe, this time from Robin who has designed and is having made very nice axes. It is good to see a functional, affordable axe on the market.

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Knives, sheaths or boxes?

I have come to the conclusion that boxes are better than sheaths for storing knives in, this includes hook knives. This is because most of my carving takes place in the workshop, at shows, or at home. These tools don't do bushcraft. Knives rarely go back into the sheath when carving, but they do go back into boxes. This way I am less likely to have accidental nicks in the blade.



Made entirely with hand tools, axe, plane, saw, chisel, knife and drill. The wood is ash, bits and bobs that have dried out in my workshop that was stuff not use on the pole lathe.


This box was made for my MaChris knife. The hinges and catch are dovetailed into the main box. 
These boxes are great for practising chip carving techniques. Using ash is  a challenge as it is very hard.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Adze in the hand, part 2

In the last post I reshaped the handle on the large Gransfors Bruk adze, this time I replace the handle entirely on my small GB adze. There has always been something wrong with the small GB adze, I have never felt comfortable using it. I have shaved the handle down as a smaller handle is more comfortable to grip over longer periods of work. I also reshaped and made the pommel smaller, all to no avail. I feel that handle length is the real issue here, it is too short for comfortable and efficient use.
Time to make a new handle. It is possible to get the old handle out without wrecking it, a little bit of patience is required. All I used was a medium sized flat head screwdriver and a hammer. The new handle was made about 3 inches longer. As you can see the adze handle is the same handle as on the hand hatchet. Why use a an axe handle on a well made adze head? In my experience of using tools, handles are not interchangeable between axe and adze and if you do use the wrong handle the use and functionality of the tool is compromised.
This new handle makes so much difference to how the adze handles, what is more important is the strain is lessened on my body. I am not sure if this is the best shape of handle, but time will tell. It will be easy enough to take the one wooden wedge out and replace the handle. Removing the old handle and making and fitting a replacement took me less than an hours work. I am not sure whether I would recommend you doing the same, it depends on your ability and experience. By nature I am a cautious man and would say leave well alone unless confident in your skills.
I would be interested in hearing your thoughts on handle length and shape, and if you prefer the Gransfor Bruk, Hans Karlssen or S Djarv adzes. If you can not  or do not want to leave a comment then email me at info@seanhellman.com

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Forest Man

The world needs more people like this. A truly inspiring film.