Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Christmas wishes...

Just a quick 'Merry Christmas' to everyone.

I've not really had the chance to do anything carving wise so far (though I did sit and sharpen my axe yesterday while watching Christmas TV) but am beginning to think about and plan my first spoon of 2013. I've never really had much success with bent - I seem to put the 'bend' in the wrong place and end up with an elongated bowl, so perhaps that's the place to start.

I'm aiming to make a spoon each week of 2013 - you can follow my progress on Fifty-Two Spoons - have a look at the top right of this blog.

Anyway, since it was quite sunny this morning and I hadn't got out much over the last few days due to the rain and Christmas, I thought I'd cut and chop some firewood, since my wood pile needed replenishing.

Two things I wanted to mention as a result of this activity:

1) I don't own a chainsaw - Julian does and I have borrowed it a couple of times and enjoyed the ease with which you can cut firewood and rough-out bowl blanks. I do have a couple of bow saws, one which I bought from a pound shop and another that I got from a house which was being cleared as the elderly gentleman owner who had lived there had died. Both are a pain in the butt! Hard, sweaty panting work. The blades always stick partway through and I have always found cutting firewood frustrating and unrewarding as a result. A few weeks ago I picked up a couple of Bahco greenwood blades and put one in my old inherited 30" saw and the difference is amazing. It sails through wood without any effort and hasn't one stuck or cinched.

2) The smell of freshly cut wood is amazing. I was cutting some cherry, oak and a kind of pine of some sort, amongst others. The fruit and oak wood smelt amazing (I know my children are watching me through the kitchen windows as I work and laugh each time I stop to sniff the wood). Whatever the pine is, it smells really strongly of parsnips and is amazing.

My log pile isn't much bigger, but I really enjoyed being outside for a bit.

Can't remember if I've mentioned Lloyd Khan in any of my previous blogs. He was something big in the 60s as a founder member of the movement to live in domes, which he did for about 20 years, I think. Now he writes and blogs about tiny homes, mobile properties, tree-houses etc. I love his blog - it's one of my regular Sunday morning browsing sites. Check it out - I defy you not to love it.

Anyway, I have someone who posted on Lloyd's blog to thank for a link to this site:

Folkstreams logo

Absolutely brilliant! A couple of weeks ago I posted about the Foxfire books - well, if you like that kind of thing, you'll love this site. Checkout the 'subjetcs' tab and browse for something that takes your fancy. Lovely films of skills and lifestyles from the past.

If you like that, you'll also probably like the 'history' section of the National Film Board of Canada, another of my favourites for First Nations, traditional crafts, voyageur type films.

Colleague's first spoon...

One of my friends at work, Dave, is an art teacher and has an eye for all things beatiful. He knows that I carve and make knives and has often brought me wood and I in turn have brought finished pieces in to show him.

He often shows me odd off-cuts and small bits of wood that he has picked up when out walking, with no specific intention other than to make something with them some time later.

Anyway, he seemed really interested in my spoons and so thought he have a go at making some himself. Below is his completed first attempt.

As you can see, they are a little different to those I make. Instead of green wood he used seasoned wood, a band saw and gouges for the bowl. I have promised him som time with my knives and axes and hopefully he'll enjoy working some green wood. Well done Dave

First Commision cont.....

Well, I finally completed the spoon, spreader, fork set that I was making for my friend at work. He is an art teacher and so appreictes the time and work that goes into making spoons. He wanted them as a Christmas gift for his wife - he wanted something unique and original.

They didn't quite work out as well as I would have liked. I carved the spoon first, loosely copying a Jogge Sudqvist design, out of green oak. I admit, I was really pleased with it and so didn't mind the prospect of replicating the design another two times. What I didn't bank on was the variation in the wood. Carving the spreader was fine, but I left the chip carving for a while with the intention of finishing it off later. The fork was a nightmare - the oak had dried and rather than carving in nice smooth shavings, it splinterd and tore.

When I finally came to chip carve and add initials, the wood had been indoors for quite a while and was thoroughly dried out. It was rock hard - a bit like chip carving iron - so much so that it really bruised my fingers working the wood.

I have a couple of really old books of gold leaf knocking around from back when I worked in a sign-writers, so thought I'd add a little bling to the pomels - perhaps divert the eye from the mistakes.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

My favourite spoon RIP...

I know I've mentioned my rhododendron spoon a few times - see my last post for a picture. It really was a very pretty and tactile spoon, even if I do say so myself, hardened and smoothed from being in my pocket or hand for the past few months. I'd grown really quite attached to it.

Well I'm sad to say, it is no more. It fell out of my pocket last week at school. I didn't notice at first and once I did, hoped someone would find it, know it was mine and hand it back to me. Not to be. I got into work the next day to find just the bowl section in my pigeon hole (it had been snapped in half) and to add insult to injury someone had drawn a willie and balls on it in biro - oh the indignity.

Oh well, such is life.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Student piece....

My rhododendron spoon - styled after a Jarrod Stonedhal spoon
Lately I am in the habit of carrying a small rhododendron eating spoon in my trouser pocket and I sometimes take it out during lesson time and absentmindedly play with it while I am talking. If any of my students notice it and ask me about it I simply tell them it is my lucky spoon and leave it at that. One of my 10 year old students, a bright little girl in my top group, asked a little more and was very interested when I explained that I had carved it my self, that I often carved spoons and that I had a blog about it. She then went on to tell me that she had carved spoons herself.

She brought them in a couple of days later and I photographed them and told her I would post them on my blog. So here they are, Eleanor's handcarved cuttlery:

It was cool to see someone so young showing an interest in carving and even better to see that they were actually used - she said her dad used them for curry spices.

Post drought.....

I don't have a lot of time for lounging around in bed, but one of the things I really look forward to is reading new posts on the greenwood working, spoon making and bushcraft sites I follow on a Sunday morning in bed. I particularly savour it as currently I can lie in and go to church in the afternoons, but as of the new year church will be at 9:30 in the morning - no more time for lie-ins.

Anyway, I've been disappointed recently by the destinct shortage of new posts and on certain of the bloggs I enjoy and have gotten used to expecting weekly updates on there hasn't been anything new form one week to another. It has occred to me, however, that I have been very busy of late and haven't had time to work any wood (plus I'm out of wood again) and so haven't added any posts to my own site. I feel a distinct shame of the pot calling the kettle black.

So.....please excuse me if I digress a little over the next few post and weeks. Since I don't have any new spoons or bowls or boxes - and not even the fan-birds I intended to make for the christmas tree - I will tell you little about some of the things that I find interesting, beginning with a series of books I came across mentioned on Bushcraft UK a number of years ago.

These books go by the name of FOXFIRE and each is a compilation of articles written and photographed by American high school English students who began some time ago recording the skills, traditions and stories of their Appalachian community. It simply is delightful, inspirational stuff and goes a long way to dispelling the red-neck, hillbilly reputation that some of these communities may have attracted and demostrates a simpler, harder, often more fullfiling way of life. Whilst I have read a few of these cover to cover, I have particularly enjoyed those articles that explain and demonstrate old skills.

The first book covers topics such as hog dressing, log cabin building, mountain crafts and foods, snake lore, hunting, faith healing and moonshing. What I particularly like is that the articles are written in the vernacular and you get a real sense of how the people talk and their practical, no-nonsense apporach to life.

The books are available on ebay - not cheap but certainly worth the money. I have the first two and they take pride of place on my 'best' book case which, since I am an English teacher, you will understand is a place of great honour.

The Foxfire Fund Inc is still in opperation and it's worth having a look at their site here:

I'd love to visit their museum.

Saturday, 1 December 2012

My New Hero

I'm sure I must have mentioned Jarrod StoneDahl before, I did a class with him earlier in the year at Spoonfest and I also bought one of his beautiful spoons there. I use it every morning for my breakfast and I never thought that I could get so attached to a little wooden spoon. I've followed his blog for a while now and he posted recently that he's just created a new website. A lot of the content is in the process of being put up, but it is well worth  checking out just to read the 'about us' section and to look at the lovely photos. When I read the 'about us' section I realised that he is living my dream, living close to nature and in harmony with the seasons. I take my hat off to him for having the courage to do what I think many people like myself are only prepared to dream about. One day maybe.

Here are some pictures from the website and some links: