Monday, 18 June 2012

Traditional Paint Recipe

Inspired by some traditional Swedish bowls I decided to give my recent turnings a lick of paint. Jarrod StoneDahl uses milk paint on his bowls and my original plan was to do the same, but the recipe that i found on the net uses Borax and i couldn't manage to get hold of any. Then i remembered a post by Robin Wood in which he gives a recipe for paint using linseed oil. Credit goes to Robin for this recipe:
Crack one egg into a jar, put the lid on and shake it up. Then add four half egg shells of raw linseed oil and again shake it up. Then add six half eggshells of water and give it another shake. Robin and Jarrod both use natural pigments in their paint, but unfortunately I didn't have any, so I used acrylic paint  to add colour. I was really pleased with the paint and it seems to have a bit of a life of its own, giving quite an uneven finish in places, but this just adds to the charm.

Thanks to Robin Wood for the recipe. I'm looking forward to experimenting some more with this.

Sunday, 17 June 2012

11th century axe work...

I was in France last week with a bunch of Y9s on a week long residential. I would like to have posted about the Romany gypsies in horse-drawn caravans who were parked on the road-side weaving willow baskets, but unfirtunately the coach was unable to stop, so you will have to make do instead with a few shaky and blurred photos of Normans using axes, as depicted on the Bayeux tapestry.

I have been to the tapestry museum five times now and really love it - there is someting magical about the figures and the craftsmanship is amazing. I seem to spot something new each time. Anyway, here's a few favourites:


hewing with a broad axe - not sure hewing towards ones groin
is something I would recommend - see my previous post about
thinking twice before doing something dangerous

more hewing and some adze work

slaughtering cattle and sheep

generally posing and showing off about the size of your axe

My injured thumb...

You could be forgiven for asking why I've posted a picture of my thumb. Well, it's in way of warning really. Julian and I have talked a couple of times about how we sometimes do things without thinking, only to realise later that it was either silly or dangerous and that we shouldn't have done it and were lucky not to have hurt ourselves. And when you're working with power tools, ultra sharp knives and axes, this is doubly the case.

Hence my thumb - bruised by hitting with a hammer whilst trying to add an extra wedge to an axe hande that had begun to come loose. This is a tricky job as the axe handle does not have a flat end to stand it on and the head is not 90 degrees to the handle meaning you can not strike the wedge comfortably in the direction that you want it to go. Sufice it to say, I lost concentration and hit my thumb - a relatively small reminder that you should really think through what you are doing first and consider the safest and easiest way of achieving your required outcome and that it would have been very easy for me to have fixed the axe in a vise. I'd like to be able to say this was the first time I'd learnt this lesson, but my A&E file is testiment that this is not the case!

Birch bark boxes....

This post is really by way of having a bit of a moan about how difficult it can be to get materials for making stuff and how jealous I am of those who seem to have limitless supplies at their disposal -those fortunate enough to own a couple of acres of woodland, to have tree surgeons as neighbours or to live in Canada! Green wood is really quite difficult to come by when you live in a city and work full time so that, even when you happen to drive by a stack of freshly cut wood, by the time you get the time to go back for it, it's already been shredded/mulched or carted off to the tip.

For this reason, I have to make the most of every stick of wood that comes my way and can't really afford to discard any, despite it being twisted or knotty.

So where am I going with this? When Julian gave me a section of birch log the other week, I thought I should try and remove a section of the bark to make a container with. I really like birch bark items and figured I could make something nice for the up-coming craft fair. Great idea, I hear you say. Unfortunately, the bark available in this country is often too thin and knotty for stripping and this was certainly the case in this instance. Still, I couldn't bring myself to waste it so instead of one nice big container, managed to get enough for two very small canisters instead.
some basic tools
truing and cutting bark to size
cutting tabs for sewing
stitching tabs - a bit fiddly
finished boxes - just need leather pull-tabs on the lids

Sunday, 10 June 2012

A day of turning...

I was going to say I haven't done much bowl turning, but it would be more accurate to say that I haven't actually done much turning at all. I've had a small Record lathe for a couple of years now, but because space is so tight it's not always set up to go, and so it seems like too much effort sometimes to just stick a chunk of wood on the centres and turn something interesting.

Simple birch bowl - needs drying and finishing
So, when Julian said we needed bowls and trenchers for the craft fair, I arranged to go round to his for a quick reminder of how to do it. I also quite liked the style of the antique Swedish bowls on Julian's previous post so thought I'd have a go at something in a similar vein (though I'm not presumptious enough to believe it would turn out anywhere near as beautiful).

It went well and I enjoyed myself. I learnt a few invaluable lessons:

1 - you can never underestimate the importance of a sharp tool.
2 - a chainsaw makes roughing out blanks a lot easier.
3 - despite my need for immediate results, you need to take your time in order to be successful.

I'm sure there were other things I learnt, like the need for a golfing umbrella in Julian's shed and that water and electricity are actually natural bed-fellows.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Trying to handle a viking axe

My name is Julian and I have an axe problem. That statement is true in at least two ways. I am a big fan of axes and have at least my fair share, but my viking axe made by Stefan Ronnqvist (mentioned in my previous posts) is causing me a bit of a problem. The handle that i made for this failed the other night (a bad wedging job) so i've decided to make one that is more in keeping with the curved handles that are typical of this type of axe.

So to get the kind of shape i'm after i went out today to look for a natural crook that might be suitable. I ended up with this.

  I now have a few questions about how to turn this into an axe handle. It's quite big, so it's possible that i'd be able to split it and have two halves to have a go with, but if i mess it up and it splits badly i'd be really annoyed about cutting this down for nothing. I've also read that somebody said (axe gossip) that the handle on Jogge Sundqvist's axe included the pith, so should i carve the whole crook down? If i do decide to go with the second option, how do i stop it from splitting with the pith included? Actually, the pith is so far from the centre that i'm not sure that i'd be able to include it anyway.

 I really don't want to mess it up as i had to cut down a decent size tree to obtain it. I don't like cutting trees down, but felt that i could justify it as it would be turned into something special. I know it sounds a bit daft, but i do feel a bit sentimental about trees. This one came from a local wood that i have been going to since i was about 10, and if i'm successful then i will see the stump i created and won't feel bad, but if it doesn't work out then i'll have to apologise to that stump every time i return (i'm more like my Mom than i thought). So watch this space for progress and check out this link for someone else with a similar problem. 

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Sausage and lentil cassarole...

look at the twist on that grain
I had quite a productive day today.

Firstly, split some sections of birch Julian had brought over last weekend. I'd hoped to get in some adze practise by making a bowl or trough of some kind, but it was so twisted it just wouldn't have been worth the effort.

So, not wanting to let a load of green birch go to waste, decided to make a few spreaders in preparation for a craft fair that Julian has put us down for.

vintage froe knife
Of course, I did some other jobs at the same time, like wire brushing the chopper I'd got from a car boot (what Hank Allen calls a knife froe), grinding a primary bevel onto my draw knife which, a bit like this Dakota draw knife, has a very steeply angled single bevel, which means unless you are very careful it bites very deep and often gets stuck in the wood.

Then I made tea - sausage and blue lentil casserole. A really simple recipe:
heat olive oil. Add chopped lardons of pork belly, onions, courgettes, peppers (mushrooms, celery, butternut squash if you like). Season with black pepper, chili flakes, smoked paprika, celery salt. Cook off a generous slug of Balsamic vinegar - keep stiring to stop burning - we want seasoning and vinegar to caramelize, but not burn. Add sausages and a drop of water (deglaze base of pan if necessary) and cover in order to cook the sausages gently rather than frying.

Prepare blue lentils as instructions on the packet - I particularly like the blue type favoured by the French.

Add a couple of tins of chopped tomatoes to the casserole and a stock cube. When lentils are ready, add to casserole, stir though and serve. Delicious - and even more so when eaten from turned bowls with wooden spoons!

Old chopper....

It's quite a coincidence, really. I had been talking on the phone with Julian, discussing various carving issues (as you do) and we'd gotten onto the subject of splitting using a froe. Julian had mentioned a difficulty he'd had on a more delicate splitting job and I had suggested he tried what I'd heard some folk call a 'splitting knife' - what I'd always called a push knife (not, of course, to be mistaken for a push dagger, which is an altogether different animal). I then suggested he tried getting one of the old 'meat-cleaver' type froes, though where he would get one from I didn't know.

Mora push knife - sometimes used for splitting
friendly looking chap demonstrating how to welcome
someone to your home with a push dagger

Then, the next day, I went to a car boot and picked this up for 50 pence. I was very pleased and it made the usual futile and disappointing search for car-boot sales almost worth it (sufice it to say the big car boot which was advertised as being 'on' for the Bank Holiday was actually 'off').

I've had a little go with it and it will be perfect for indoors work and for those smaller jobs like spliting spreaders and thining down spoon blanks.

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Swedish Inspired Bowl

Had a chance to do some turning yesterday so thought I'd have a go at making a bowl. I was inspired by these beautiful bowls on Jarrod StoneDahl's blog.

The log I used was very fresh, I don't think I've turned anything as green before and I think it made it a bit difficult to get the kind of finish I wanted on the end grain areas. It made me think of something I read in Robin Wood's excellent book The Wooden Bowl, which talked about leaving the wood for a period of time to 'mellow' before turning it. Maybe I should have let it mellow, but it didn't turn out too bad anyway.

I think that the inward curve going towards the rim could do with being more pronounced, but I'm happy with it for a first attempt. I'm looking forward to painting it with some Milk paint once it's dried, and to having a go at making more.