Sunday, 21 April 2013

Spoonfest 2013

Both Richard and myself had a wonderful time last year at Spoonfest, the first international gathering of spoon carvers. In fact we both wrote a post about it:

Richard's post

My post

I'm pretty sure that most people that attended had a great time and the big question was, will there be a Spoonfest 2013? So as soon as it was announced that Spoonfest would be returning this year I made sure that I bought my ticket straight away. This was a mistake. Not because I don't want to go to Spoonfest, I'd love to go to Spoonfest, but I'd forgotten that I was supposed to be going to a wedding on that weekend. Gutted. I put off telling the person whose wedding it is for ages, I don't know why,  it's not like I wanted her to cancel her wedding (ok I did a little bit). I told her this week and was really surprised at her reaction. In my head I'd hoped the conversation would go something like this:

Me: I can't believe how silly I've been, I've only gone and bought a ticket to Spoonfest on the same date   as your wedding. I guess I'll have to try and sell it.  
Her: Spoonfest? What's Spoonfest?
Me: You've never heard of Spoonfest? It's the most important gathering of spoon carvers in the world. Attended by some of the best craftsmen and greenwood workers around. It's set in the Idyllic surroundings of the peak district and is becoming one of the top dates in the woodworking calendar. you won't believe this but, last year Jogge Sundqvist was there and we even had a personal video message from the legend himself, Wille Sundqvist.
Her: Wow! that sounds fantastic. Don't sell your ticket, that sounds way more important than my wedding. In fact now I know about it I might move the wedding forward and go to Spoonfest for my honeymoon.

This is how the conversation actually went:

Me: You're so selfish, I can't believe you've planned your wedding for the same weekend as Spoonfest. I'm going to have to sell my ticket now.
Her: What are you on about? What's Spoonfest?
Me: It's when loads of people get together to carve spoons for a weekend.
Her: You're a weirdo.
Me: But you don't understand, it's the most...
Her: Shut your face, you're going to my wedding.

So that was it. I'm not going to Spoonfest. I'm really upset and have struggled to write this post as I wipe the tears from my eyes. So the purposes of this post are:
1. To tell you all about Spoonfest 2013.
2. To tell you that I have a ticket for sale if anyone's interested.
3. To tell you all to go to Spoonfest so that it's really brilliant and Spoonfest 2014 can build on it's success.
4. To tell you all that diaries, planners and calendars are a good thing to use.

Link to the Spoonfest website

Froe Handle...

A job I have been meaning to do for some weeks now is making a handle for my friend, Dave's, new mini froe. I've had some pieces of oak knocking around for a while and have beed meaning to turn a handle, but had not quite gotten round to it. So this weekend, having kept him waiting long enough I was determined to get the job done.

Then on Saturday I realised I had leant Dave the pronged centre for my lathe and, though he had brought it back to me on Friday, I had forgotten to go get it from him at the end of the day. Hence, no centre and no turning this weekend.

However, I was loath to go to school on Monday and explain again that I hadn't done it and he would have to go another week without being able to use his new froe. So, I got a section of oak, trimmed it by axe, shaped it with draw knife on my shave horse, then finished it with a plane and, hey presto - maybe not the nice turned oak handle he'd been hoping for, but at least an interesting hand carved stop-gap to see him through until I get round to making him a better one.

oak froe handle, complete with ash wedge

Monday, 8 April 2013

Exciting news from Country Workshops

I've just recieved the latest newsletter from Country Workshops and it contains some exciting news. Drew Langsner's book 'Green Woodworking'  has been out of print for some time and it commands a fairly high price on the second hand market. A new Author's Edition is now available from Country Workshops for the special price of $30. This is a great book and I would definitely be buying a copy if I didn't already have one. He also announced a new video that is being produced of the legendary Wille Sundqvist carving a spoon and the possibility of a reprint of the much sought after book by Wille 'Swedish Carving Techniques' . This is great news, I will definitely be watching that space.

Link to the newsletter Here

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Axe File Number 3: Stefan Ronnqvist Viking Axe

The first dedicated carving axe I bought was the ever popular Gransfors Bruks Swedish Carving Axe. Having carved previously with other regular hatchets, I really appreciated the extra thought that had gone into it's design, such as the long curved bit that extends above the eye and the beard that allows you to choke up on the handle. The only problem I encountered was my feeble arms. As a hobbyist woodcarver I can sometimes go for quite a while without swinging an axe, so the Swedish Carving axe   is a bit on the heavy side for someone who hasn't built up the necessary strength. So I decided that I wanted  a lighter axe without sacrificing the features that I like so much. I'd seen the Stefan Ronnqvist axe in a few different books such as the wonderful 'Celebrating Birch', I'd also seen Jogge Sundqvist using it in his 'Carving Swedish Woodenware'  DVD. Well if it's good enough for Jogge, then it's good enough for me. The only problem was that I could no longer find it for sale anywhere. I'd searched for some time, so when I received an email from Woodland Craft Supplies saying that they had them in stock again for the first time in several years, I immediately ordered one.

The first thing that I would say is that this isn't an axe for the completely unexperienced, as it arrived un-sharpened and without a handle. The edge didn't require much work to get it to shaving sharp, but the handle was a challenging task. The first handle I tried on it was based on the handle of my Swedish Carving axe, but it just didn't seem right. Pictures I'd seen of the axe all had a very pronounced curve and this was necessary to take full advantage of the slicing capability of the head. After a bit of enquiry I was kindly given a template of one of the original handles and that worked really well for the overall shape, but it has really taught me a lot about the importance of the handle and I will still refine it from time to time, taking a bit of here and there.

I've been using this axe almost exclusively for a while now and really enjoy carving with it. It slices through the wood really well, this is partly due to the 51/2" curved bit, longer than the Swedish Carving axe (4.33"). At just under 800g it is a bit lighter than the Gransfors (900g), but not by that much. It is enough to make a difference though and I can cut very accurately with it for longer than I can with the Gransfors. 

The beard on it gives plenty of room to choke up on the handle and make planing cuts and other grips that allow you to use the axe a bit like a knife.The long curved bit means that you've got a lot of edge to work with and you can make long slicing cuts. This is handy for me as I like to get as much work done as I can with the axe whilst I'm outside, that way I can finish off in the evenings, carving in the living room. 

The non cutting edges are all rounded off with a bevel and this makes it more comfortable to use your thumb to push the edge into a controlled cut, using the axe like a knife.

You can also tuck the handle under your other arm and use your chest as a fulcrum for even more control.

I forgot to take a picture of this one, but the long curved bit also means that you can rest the toe of the bit on your block and rock the head back using the heel to make some powerful, but controlled cuts. Overall I'm very happy with the axe, it performs really well and is incredibly versatile. It comes with a symmetrical bevel so can be used by both right and left hand carvers. This axe gives a lot of edge for it's weight. 

Monday, 1 April 2013

Side axe amendments....

I wanted to do some work on a llittle oak stool project that I've had in mind for some time. I'd got some oak split into eigths ready for the legs and had decided I wanted them roughly octagonal. I began by roughing them out on my shave horse with a draw knife - had to replace the front leg of the shave horse in the process as the tenon had rotted since I'd last used it but didn't discover this fact until I was pulling away on the draw knife and it collapsed beneath me.

I then clamped the legs into my workmate and took them down a few mil with my plane, which left them with a little tear-out, but all in all not a bad finish.

My friend Dave had given me a few slabs of oak to use for the seat, so my next job was to even up the thickness of the one I'd chosen to use as it was about an inch and a half thicker at one end than the other. A job for my side axe, I thought.
trimmed the near edge no problem
I'd made this side axe myself some time ago by grinding a flat face onto one side of a cheap hatchet (a trick I'd picked up from Peter Follansbee's site) and I've used it a few times and it works really well. However, I'd only ever used it on small pieces of wood for spoon carving - this slab was considerably bigger and soon gave me a problem. As I worked into the centre of the slab I found I was grazing my knuckles on the rough face of the wood, which flippin' hurt. Time for a new handle.

I'd got some nice curved ash so set about splitting and shaping a new handle that would curve away from the work piece, holding my knuckles away from the wood face as I worked it.

completed handle

new curly handle

now I can work across the full width of the timber without cutting up my knuckles
Once I'd shaped the handle, I left it to dry out a bit but couldn't leave it as long as I'd have liked as I needed to get on with it - the ash was slightly seasoned anyway and I left the wedge high so I can knock it in further if the handle shrinks and the head becomes loose.

face completed

after a few passes with a plane
seat and legs - ready for construction
The side axe worked fairly well, but I can really see the point of the broad faced side axes with beards and goose wings, etc. The narrow edge on mine limits the amount of wood I could remove. Plus, because the axe is only ground on one side it really bites deeply if you're not careful. It took a little getting used to and I could really feel it in my forearms after just a little while.

Medieval diversion

I've been wanting to put a post on here all week, but I haven't been doing any woodwork lately, so although it's a bit different from what you usually see on this blog, I'm going to show you what i've been busy with. As a History teacher I run a Medieval day every year for our year 7s. This will be the third year running and each time I try to make it bigger and better. My plan for this year involves two people dressing up in Medieval armour from the 14th Century. We don't have a huge budget and though we have been able to buy some equipment, I am trying to make what I can. So this week I have been working on some splinted arm armour.

I understand that this type of armour was quite common in Europe during the first half of the 14th Century. You can see examples of this in some grave effigies from the period.

I've done some leather work in the past, so I thought that this is something I could definitely do, but it has taken quite a while. In total there are 56 rivets that all need to be cut to size and peened over. I'm quite pleased with them, but wish that I'd had some veg tan leather to use. Hopefully they'll look a bit better with some wear.