Sunday, 23 November 2014

Spooncarving Course

It's been a while since I posted on here, so I thought I'd put some pics up of a spoon carving course we did recently. I'm not sure who the first person to say this was (I think it might have been Barn Carder), but I've heard someone refer to spoon carving  as the gateway drug of greenwood working. That's certainly how it was for me and it's exciting to think that we're introducing people to this kind of  thing.
Dave getting used to the axe
Our students for the day were David and Jane, a great couple that picked things up very quickly. It was particularly satisfying watching them gain confidence with the axe as they were both a little bit cautious at first (understandably).
Richard helping Jane with some of the knife grasps
The weather was terrible so we took over Richard's kitchen for the day. This meant that we could smell the lovely sausage and lentil lunch that Richard had made for us mixed in with the smell of the green wood.
Pointing out some of the elements of spoon design
Jane is an illustrator and has recently been working on a couple of books by Ben Law. I loved the drawings that she made to accompany her notes.

Time flew by and it was a bit of a rush towards the end, but they both managed to finish their spoons and also took some wood with them to complete the set.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

A day of carving contrasts.....

I haven't really done much carving over the past few months - any of you who work in schools will understand, that first half-term back is pretty hectic and so when I've had the time, I haven't really had the energy.

During the half term holidays I went with my wife and two youngest to Prestatyn, North Wales for 5 days in a caravan at a Haven Holidays camp site. It's not something we've ever done before, but it was one of those holidays vouchers-in-The Sun-for-£9-which-once-you've-added-all-the-non optional-extras-actually-costs-you-considerably-more type holidays so we thought we'd give it a try as we had very little to loose. To cut a long story short, whilst I had a blast being with my family, playing Boggle, learning to play Backgammon and eating Reeses Pieces which were only a pound a packet at the Poundshop, it wasn't really our cup of tea and I can't see us doing a holiday camp type holiday again.....but.....

Whilst I am not a fan of storms so powerful they do damage and endanger lives, the silver lining to such events for the greenwood carver is the bounty of wood we can sometimes pick up as a by-product. When hurricane Gonzalo came a-calling on the Monday night of our stay in Prestatyn, I awoke to the sound, irresistible to all carvers, of a chainsaw working near by.

I jumped up, dressed and went out to find that a willow tree, one of the many scattered around the site, had been dislodged, its roots cracking a water main in the process, and the guys responsible for maintenance around the place were taking it down in order to stop the gushing.

When I asked if there was any chance of snagging a few pieces of wood (I couldn't take too much as my wife was insisting we take the children back home with us again) a very pleasant man named Josh (he of the chainsaw in the picture) said he would be happy to give me some wood and to come back in the morning when they had had time to mend the water issue and he would be cutting up the tree.

We chatted for a while and it turned out that Josh was himself a greenwood worker, making adzed bowls and some spoons and that he was a friend of Nic Westermann's and often struck for him when he was demonstrating. What a small world! We talked tools and wood for a while, before he needed to get back to work, but when I came back in the morning, not only had he set me aside some good sections of straight-grained wood, but had brought with him from home a green Hornbeam crook to have a go at carving. What a nice man!

So I came home with good memories and some wood - what could be better?

So, last weekend I sat down to rough out a few spoons and what a day of contrasts it turned out to be: on the one hand I had the Hornbeam - hard, close-grained, smooth as alabaster when you carve it but liberal with the blisters and leaving your knife in need of regular stropping; and on the other I had some spalted birch, almost on the turn and definitely past its best, fairly punky, soft as butter though more likely to 'snap-out' than shave but with a beautiful stripy patternation. And so I made myself a couple of spoons.

I'm looking forward to putting decoration of some sort on the Hornbeam as it should carve very crisply - perhaps some lettering.

spoons in various stage of incompletion - work for another day