Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Not carving but indulge me.....

This post is kind of related to carving, in a roundabout way. My journey to spoon carving came via

bushcraft > knife making > sheath making > other leather work > campfire whittling > carving

(there you go, proof that Frigyes Karinthy's theory of 'six degrees of separation' was correct) and so, though this is a post about paper and leather work, it's actually about spoon carving, or at least, that's my story.

Like many other people, I am a fan of books - I love to read and much prefer real-live paper books to ebooks; I have loads of notebooks for my writing; as a kid I used to like to make miniature books, stitching the folded pages together with one of my mum's needles and thread. I have made note books before, and have run book making classes with kids at school, so, when I was thinking of a gift I could send to a friend's 18 year old son who is on a 2 year mission in Arizona (he's a Mormon) I thought that a handmade notebook might be something different and that he might use.

I had bought these old brewery pins from ebay for next to nothing.

I wanted the two rooster pins, but had no use for the other two. It just so happens that my friend's surname is Mann, and since he and his son are English I thought the George and the Dragon motif was fairly apt.

The Theakston pin I have no use for - any takers?

So I decided to make a leather covered, pocket sized notebook with the Mann's pin on the front cover.
Firstly, I cut some A4 paper in half to make A5 sheets, which I counted into bunches of 4 and folded to make a bunch of 8 page folios.

I then made stitching holes along the crease of each folio.

And then proceeded to stitch the folios together into a block.

Once stitched, I clipped the block to prevent it moving around and hold it upright...

...then glued along the spine with PVA glue, leaving it to dry and then repeating another couple of times.

Once the layers of PVA are dry, the block is held together firmly and can be used as it is, if desired.

I then made flyleaves and used them to glue the leather to the block.

I had a nice, soft piece of grained leather. I snipped the pin from the front of the badge, ground off the spur with a bench grinder, and then glued it to the cover with apoxy resin.

I was quite pleased with the finished book and it's now winging its way to Arizona.

Sunday, 25 January 2015

A bit of weekend carving....

Not a lot to say, just a few pictures.

I love kuksas and have only made two before, and not terribly successfully. I love Jon Mac's ale bowls and Alexander Yerk's kuksas so I thought I'd have a go at something simple, straight sided.



A nice solid chunk of sycamore to begin with.

Hollowing out with my Robin Woods hook knife.

Oh dear, it was all looking good, and then starts to go wrong - see the chip on the edge of the bowl.

This is as far as it got - you can't see it but a bit crack opened up where the handle meets the body.
Oh well, it's back to the drawing board - any tips on kuksas would be most welcome.

Serving spoon in willow.

Spatula in willow, a bit of bark left on the handle.

You can't see it too well, but it has a nice curve to it and follows the grain of the wood it was split from.
And now for something a bit different - some old used spoons. Why? Well, since I have been using some of the spoons I've made, cooking with them and washing them, I've noticed the natural patina and wear and tear that some of them are taking on, and I love it. I think it makes the spoons look even better. Here are I few I particularly like:

I love the different colours you get from cooking with oil and spices - curry, chili etc.

Darkened with butter.

I love the way the wear highlights the tool marks.

So, my advice to anyone who has not yet done it - make a spoon and use it!

Nic Westermann carving axe review

I've had this axe for about a year and a half now, and Julian has been saying for ages that it's past time that I posted a review, so here goes.

This is my Nic Westermann axe.

I bought it for about £120 pounds. It weights 2.2lbs with the handle on so I'm guessing it was about 2lb unhandled. It came unhandled, though for an addition fee (I think it was £40) Nic has a man who puts very nice handles on for him.

The mask I made from traditional football leather, hence the colour and stippling on the surface. I thought it was quite an elegant design - Julian thinks it's insubstantial - I think he likes a bit of metalwork on his leather. I think the handle was a bit of locally sourced ash. This is it next to a GFB Swedish carving axe so you can see comparative size.

As you can see, the blade is a traditional carving axe shape, made from carbon steel, with an upswept top point and beard.

I am no axe expert. What I know is that I have used this axe many times over the past year, predominantly for spoon making, and it performs like a dream. The blade is just the right thickness for carving and roughing out spoons. The weight is sufficient for hewing if need be, with a flat pommel on the reverse for cleaving, but light enough for delicate and detailed work. I can carve a delicate cranked tea-spoon sized eating spoon with this axe with no difficulty. When it arrived in the post it was razor sharp and has held its edge really well, with only the occasional need for stropping. It has a symmetrical grind, which makes it good for waste removal and is not only bearded but undercut, meaning I can get my hand right up for choking.

Nice rounded socket, not folded.

Would I recommend it? Hell yes. I was minded to buy a GFB axe at first, I'd seen a tonn of them at Spoonfest and wanted to join that club, but then thought, 'hold on, I can get one of those any time - this is a custom, hand made, hand forged British axe - they don't come around every day'. Does it compare to a GFB? Yes and then some.

I love this axe, it is my number one. Even my wife, who has little if no interest in axes, when she saw me weighing it for this post exclaimed in horror, 'you're not selling it?' as if I was weighing one of our children for selling on ebay - and for me, that says it all!

Year of the chair.....game on!

Julian and I have been talking for some time about our desire to have a go at making chairs and stools and so I'm really excited (albeit a little naively optimistic) at the prospect of spending some time this year trying to work it all out. When I first got into green woodworking, one of the first people I followed and admired was Peter Follansbee, whose jointed stools and windsor chairs I was immediately inspired by, but thought I could never really emulate. After a litte searching I then came across the work of Mike Abbott and was blown away by his lovely chairs. Now, I can't really afford a weekend in Clissett Woods, though heaven knows I would love to be able to learn the ropes from Mike - he is one of my green woodworking heroes and I was thrilled to meet him at the Wood Fair in Leicester a couple of years ago - so it's going to be quite a learning curve, trying to work it out for myself.

Fortunately, as Julian has already mentioned, we do have the benefit of some really well illustrated and written books, by many of the top crafts-folk in the world. The one I have that I will be referring to is Mike Abbott's 'Living Wood - from buying a woodland to making a chair'.

I've never read the book properly, as I have never been in the position to actually use the techniques and make a chair, but from what I have read, it is a really well illustrated and written description of the techniques that it has taken Mike many years to perfect. I can't wait to try some of them out.

I have some other books that allude to chair making, some that will be useful for method and tools. An all-time favourite book is Drew Langsner's 'Country Woodcraft'. I flick through that book, imagining I was around back in the day when Drew was first exploring and discovering traditional crafts himself. 

It was in Drew's book that I first came across a shave horse.

Five or six years ago, when I was first showing an interest in green woodworking and traditional crafts my brother Eden and his wife bought me this lovely book:

It's a good 'whistle stop' tour of trad crafts and covers quite a range of activities, but doesn't go into any depth - you couldn't learn to do any of these jobs from the book, but it's a good introduction to, and reminder of some of the skills that are dying.

I also have an old book called 'All Made by Hand' that lists and give some detail on about every traditional and country craft activity that there ever was, but what I love the most are the pen illustrations.

For each of the jobs there is one of these pictures with all the tools listed - a great reference.

I've also spent some time this week scouring the internet for pictures of chairs and blogs to do with chair making. I found some pictures of chairs I really like. the one thing I learnt above all others is that there are a gazillion different names for the many and various styles of what might loosely be termed 'Windsor' chairs and that the name of a chair in England may not be called the same in America or Europe. Anyway, I quite like these:

I just love these settles.

I love the construction detail on the staves on the back of this ercol chair.

And this is the chair I have plumped for (having just typed this sentence I realize what a stupid expression that is - plumped for). I got the picture from Peter Follonsbee's blog - it doesn't say who made it, whether it was one of his or someones else's, but it's in a post about Drew Langsner so I'm guessing one or the other of them made it at Country Workshops. Whether what I end up making looks anything like this is another thing altogether - we'll just have to wait and see.

So, it's the year of the chair - let's get making.