Friday, 18 December 2015

Copying other peoples work and how to find your own creative voice

I came across this great video and article by Sean McCabe that echoes my ideas on copying other peoples work.

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Pinch dogs

I have various pinch dogs in the workshop and they only get used when I need to fix a piece of round wood, beam, bowl blank or plank in place when sawing, drilling or carving. I am yet to make or buy big ones as used in timber framing, and have easily got by with small ones only a couple of inches or so long. I am over cautious at times, and the idea of using such small dogs to hold such large pieces of wood is not something I would have considered until I had too because they where all I had to hand. As can be seen in the video they do work very well. I bought these years ago, second hand, and they are just mild steel. Great if they get bent as they can be hammered back into shape.

Sunday, 19 July 2015

Sods law

I plan my year out with shows at easy intervals and what happens? A few big commission jobs come my way and throw everything into chaos. Running low on stock and then having to work between shows on these commissions. Lots of things have had to be put on hold, for example my shave horse book. It has been written, but as I am self publishing it takes a lots of time laying it out in Indesign, a program I am still slowly learning.With any luck it may be published in time for christmas. Tool making is also on hold, but I have made the first prototype of my perfect drawknife.

The Easy Rider shave horse is having a good reception and I have sold a few already. Full detailed plans will be in the book along with plans on how to make 6 other types of shave horse. Lots of techniques about how to use tools and make almost unknown joints etc.

In other news I became a pin up boy. Peter Jameson (Auctioneer at the Bodgers Ball) who can be seen craftily staring at me in in flat cap from behind Sue, somehow obtained a photo of me and my unusually full wallet ( probably receipts from tool buying). He wrote some apparently witty comment about me below the photo. Sue Holden unfortunately was the only person to bid on lot number 2 and won it for a sum I will not disclose. Talking to Sue's partner, Will, it seem that the only pins holding it up will be darts!
For a bit more info on the Bodgers Ball see Marks blog                                            

The proper way of boiling a kettle, photo taken at the Weald and Downland wood fair partly organised by my good friend Mark Allery, seen here on his shave horse making an English scythe snathe.

I was shown the museums collection of tools with Simon, I particularly liked this hand powered bandsaw. A very blunt blade and no tracking adjustment so 2 of the wheels had rims on to stop the blade from slipping off.

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Tool box and spoon rack

Just off to the Weald and Downland Woodfair this weekend 20-21st June. Only £5 per person to get into the Museum and wood fair.

 Some tool boxes

Saturday, 30 May 2015

Skinning trees

Just back from demonstrating at the Stafford show with Gudrun, Owen, Jeremy, Sherwood and others. I demonstrated fan birds as well as a few other greenwood crafts. Pete felled a few oaks and I thought I would choose a few tripods and forks to skin, and use for future projects. I got children involved in the debarking using simple wooden spuds. Children loved it and I would recommend it as an activity for children of all ages. It is satisfying and safe, no sharp tools are used, just wooden spuds that need to be sharpened every now and then. The oak was a bit sticky, but came off reasonable well.

I am running a shrink pot course at the Husbandry School this Sunday and need to  cut some wood. I have access to a few sycamore trees, (old hedge) and I always save the tops for coat hooks. The bark of the sycamore almost falls off. I use just my fingers to part it from the wood. I love the look of naked sycamore, the textures and the rings around the base of the branches.

I slipped some tubes off as well. I will see how well they make small boxes as they dry, and get used.

Saturday, 23 May 2015

Wooden flowers

This is the first time this has ever happened, willow sticks that have dried at different rates on each side of the stick. This is what happens, the dry side curls more than the wetter side.
I have finally learnt how to make flowers the traditional way, with just a knife. I was getting very lopsided flowers and thought it was my technique. I put the same wood on the shaving horse and got the same result. These mutant flowers rather appeal to me, they tell a story that only a very few people would notice.

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Another film

This Norwegian film moved me a great deal. It is easy to romanticise the past, to long for the simpler days. To me this is dangerous nonsense, a false idea of history. Life was hard in so many ways that we can not imagine. What impresses me is the way that people could turn their hands to anything, they had years of training in using body arm and hands, something I see missing in so many people these days. So many of us are hand illiterate.

The film is full of little gems for the green woodworker, and the same for anyone who works the land.

Friday, 15 May 2015

Norwegian traditional woodworking films

As it says in the title. Settle in for an hour and watch these films. Who's says we need concrete to build with, fence posts soaked in poisons, skis made from plastic and epoxy resins. They are in Norwegian but craft does not need a spoken language to understand. Enjoy.

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Even professionals can cut themselves.

Before making every cut ask yourself

what happens if I slip?

Use this as your mantra, every time you make a cut.

As I get older I get more scared of the machine tools I use, and for good reason. Flesh and bone is nothing to them. I have been told of some very nasty injuries over the years, with scars to prove them.

Edge tool injuries do happen and are usually minor cuts, most of my cuts come from the wood itself, from manhandling it, again minor.

So I picked up my newly sharpened axe to use as a mallet, and somehow my little finger got in the way. Just a small touch on the edge of the axe, really the very lightest touch.

Sharp axes as hammers or mallets are not a good idea.

Heres another, of an apprentice, who thinks he knows it all, knows exactly where the tip of the tree will fall. Had to cut him out. Unfortunately he no longer works for me. Should have used my mantra!

Take care and be safe, before making the cut imagine what happens if the worst happens, a little thought may just stop the body springing a leak.

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Where do you get your wood from?

I have answered "trees" to this question, and have nearly got thumped.
Everywhere is the answer, from firewood piles to expensive wood merchants. I bought 3, 4 meter lengths of steel which came supported by a length of pallet wood of about 18mm thick by 75mm wide. The grain was tangential and so perfect for making fan birds with. 3 have been made so far I think I can get 10 to 20 out of this bit of wood. It has large knots in and lots of short grain as well. So hopefully I can turn this bit of waste wood into a few hundred quids worth, or more of fan birds.

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Shrink pots, works in progress

I like making shrink pots and sliding tapered dovetails. I wish I had more time to play with stop motion animation.

I will post more pictures when these are all finished.

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Coracle book

I am exploring the world of self publishing, and to start I decided to update my "How to Make a Coracle" book. I now have copies in full colour printed onto uncoated heavyweight paper. With this relaunch I am giving away 2 copies of this book to 2 people who will be chosen at random after clicking the share, like, and comment below on this blog. This will take place on the 7th March 2015. Postage will be paid to wherever in the world it is to go.

The book is for sale here and through my website at £6.50 inclusive of postage. For a limited time only you can purchase it for the introductory price of £5.50 inclusive of postage.

Postage Country
The book details through images and text, how to make a wooden lath frame coracle. There is also a chapter on how to make a traditional coracle using willow or hazel rods.

If you want to sell, or even distribute 'How to Make a Coracle', then please get in touch. It is barcoded with its ISBN number to comply with international standards for book sellers.

I have been filmed making coracles on a number of occasion by various UK production companies and have never received any video copies but I found this video on Youtube. It is me showing Alex Langlands who is making a coracle on the television programme The Edwardian Farm. The Edwardian Farm and The Victorian Farm have also engaged and recorded the skills of friends including Robin Wood, Owen Jones and Stuart King, to demonstrate their green wood work

My next publication is a book on shaving horses, with lots of detailed plans on making various types of horse. I have asked people from around the world to contribute images and the response has been fantastic. This book should be out in time for the Bodgers' Ball, in May.

If you have a Shaving horse type work holding device, and have good pictures of it, then drop me a line. Your horse might end up in the book.

Postage Country

Friday, 13 February 2015


Every time I go to Bristol, which is a couple of times a year, I always have to go to Bristol Design in Perry Road. This is one of the few shops selling second hand woodworking tools. I always come away lighter in wallet and heavy in hand. If you ever find yourself in Bristol do have a look and buy something. Shops like this are becoming increasingly rare and need our support.

Are there any other shops in the UK like this one? Do let me know.

Detail of church next to St Nicholas Market

Saturday, 31 January 2015

Green woodwork courses for 2015

Green woodwork courses for 2015

25th and 26th April Spoon carving
£65 one day £110 for 2 days.
Beginners and intermediates. Spoon making first day with sharpening, design, and
advanced knife work on the second Come for 1 or 2 days.

3rd Oct Fanbirds
Learn to make beautiful fanbirds from one piece
of wood. You will make 2 to 4 birds during the day.

24th-25th Oct Tool making
Make knives and hook knives for
green woodwork. Make a small forge to use at home. I will teach you how to make
tools on a budget with a simple set up to use at home or workshop.

The ever popular one to one workshops, from £140 per day. £250 for 2 days, £350 for 3 days.
Discount for 2 people £250 per day. £380 for 2 days £600 for 3 days.
More than 2 of you then the daily rate is £80 per person.

Wednesday afternoon and evening weekly sessions £15. I have space on the afternoon session.

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Sheaths for Mora 106 and 120

Been having myself a bit of fun recently. Making more wooden boxes for knives that fit not only the knives I am making but also the Mora 120 and the 106.

They start off with a simple box with a leather hinge ( bottom of picture ). There is a cut out in the box so that the fingers can grasp and pick up the blade. As the knife is being picked up by the blade, the way it is balanced, means the knife pivots into the palm of the hand. The box is held shut by a pin through a round peg.

The next 2 boxes uses the round peg to lever the handle of the knife out of the box so it can be grasped. Push down on the peg and the handle rises from its home. These boxes have sliding dovetail hinges set into the end of the box.

They are ash with a hand planed finish, and all edges knife worked. No treatment has been used, the wood is bare. You can oil,  paint, or chip carve. Personalise them how you want. I often just leave them bare and over the years a beautiful patina will develop.

 Leather hinge box only  £30     
With a Mora 106 £50.
Leather hinge box with lever mechanism £45 
With a Mora 106 £65.
Wooden hinge box  with lever mechanism  £70  
With a Mora 106 £90.

Email me, and a Paypal invoice will be sent to you.