Sunday, 19 May 2013

Bark on Spoons

A couple of weeks ago, whilst on a bimble in the woods I found a lovely little bit of crooked wood that I thought would be great for two small spoons. As the bark was quite decorative I decided to leave it on the handles.

 As you can see, this on has a small chip in the bowl from a tiny hidden knot. Little discoveries like that keep spoon carving interesting. At first I was a little annoyed by it, but as the intended function isn't as an eating spoon but a scoop, I've grown to like it.

Saturday, 11 May 2013

Bodgers' Ball 2013

I visited Barn the Spoon at his shop in London on a couple of occasions recently. During our conversations on spoons, tools and broken toilets, he recommended that I go to the Bodgers' Ball. He had me sold on the idea when he said it was like a bigger version of Spoonfest. So I joined the Association of Pole Lathe Turners and Green Woodworkers and managed to snag myself a couple of last minute tickets.
The location of the Bodgers Ball changes each year, and for 2013 the location was Wimpole Hall, near Cambridge. Despite taking about the event with Barn, I didn't really know what to expect. However, driving past a huge pile of logs and into a field of tents and woodchips, I knew I was in the right place. 
The Ball is a three day event (like Spoonfest) and people were camping there. As well as tents, people had set up marques and were demonstrating all manner of traditional crafts. It was absolutely fantastic to see so much skill and wander around a field filled with so many happy, like-minded folk. I even bumped into a few people I met at Spoonfest 2012, which was great. 

Scythe repair/maintenance

I was intrigued by the design of this pole lathe.

Ben Orford gave a brilliant demonstration of how to set up a pole lathe. It was beautiful to see the ease at which he sent wood chips flying.

Really like the look of this armchair by Greenwood Days. They run a 7 day course which will teach you how to make it. 

Never seen a bowl with legs like this before. Definitely something I'd like to try.

Brilliant yew spoon that got my vote for the tool-finish spoon category.

Sean Hellman demonstrating his dragonhead carving. Some very intricate work going on there. 

Nic Westermann braving the downpour to show us how he makes an axehead.

Barn did a brilliant demonstration on how he carves his spoons. I certainly learned a few choice tips from watching him work.

Thursday, 9 May 2013

My 10 Favourite Woodworking Pieces

I love looking at examples of other people's woodworking, almost as much as I enjoy making stuff myself. It's great to look closely at a piece of work, to see the tool marks and through them, the decisions the craftsman made in carving the piece. By looking critically at other's work, trying to understand why they did what they did is a way to making yourself better at your craft.

1 David Fisher Bowl

Really I could put all of David Fisher's bowls here, as well as his awesome shave horse, and be quite happy with that. I love the lines of this bowl, the symmetry and the curves. The tool marks on the inside shows that he was always carving down into the centre of the bowl, whereas I tend to carve longways, from one end to the other. 

2 Barn Spoon

This is the spoon I bought from Barn. It's a fantastically functional spoon. A friend commented that it was a lot more simple than the spoons I create. However the consistency of shape, the sharpness of the lines shows the true talent that went into this spoon. 

3 Robin Wood Porringer

I have two of Robin's porringer bowls that see daily use. They're great to hold plus wonderful to look at. 

4 Sean Hellman Shrink Pot

All of Sean's shrink pots are fantastic, as are the lids he adds to them. The shape of this one really appeals to me, as does the complexity of the decorated lid. 

5 David Fisher Bowl

Another of David's great bowls. The sheer size of this walnut bowl is what strikes me first about this piece. Like all of his work, the lines are so neat, the shape so perfect, it's a great thing to strive for. 

6 Robin Wood Quaich

If it wasn't for these wonderful creations being a little out of my price range I think I would have all my drinks out of these. The collaboration with the silversmith to add the rim makes these Scottish drinking vessels look more like jewellery than a cup.  

7 Steve Tomlin Chair

It just looks so comfortable. Again, it's simple design that draws me to this. As with Barn's spoon, simple designs can hide the skill of the craftsman. This wonderful chair could look like some sticks, planks and a bit of reed to a layman, but the balance of shape, space and form come together brilliantly in an item that is brilliantly functional and no-doubt built to last. 

8 Janharm ter Brugg Spoon

I rarely try to decorate my spoons with kolrossing, but when it is done well it brings an otherwise plain spoon to a new level of beauty. Janharm will be back at Spoonfest this year teaching his engraving techniques and I hope to be able to get on one of his courses. In the meantime I'll keep practising on scrap wood so as not to ruin an otherwise good spoon,

9 Fritiof Spoon

Fritiof's spoons are easily recognised by the parallel lines running along the bowl. I've tried this technique for myself, but don't feel as though it suits my spoons. On his spoons however, the lines work perfectly, almost creating the impression of movement along the bowl. 

10 Simon Hill Spoon

This is the spoon I received from Simon Hill as part of the International Secret Spoon Swap. 120 people signed up to have their names drawn from a hat to send and receive a spoon from other members of the Spoon Carving, Green Woodworking and Sloyd group on Facebook. The delicate chip carving on the handle and the way the lines meet on the neck make this a brilliant spoon.

What pieces of work do you draw inspiration from? Let me know in the comments section.

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

My 3 Favourite Carving Woods

Silver birch (Betula pendula)


It is easily identified by its white, peeling bark. On the bark, starting at the base, grow dark, rough arrows/diamonds, which can cause the whole base of the tree to appear dark and rough. Birches can grow 30m (100') tall. The shoots on the branches are slender and tend to droop. The leaves are small and trianglar, with ragged teeth along the edges.

Some Traditional Uses

The bark has been used to make containers and even canoes. The thin, flexible branches are used to make besoms (think 'witches broomstick'). Birch poles were also used to stir molten copper as they prevented oxides from forming, which meant a purer copper.

My Birch Carvings

Maples (Acer campestre - field maple, Acer pseudoplatanus - sycamore)


Tend to be densely crowned, with pale, cracked bark. The leaves are opposite paired with five veins radiating from the stem to five lobes. Most easily recognised by their winged seeds that spiral to the ground like little helicopters. 

Some Traditional Uses

Perhaps most famously used to make violins, with the rippled grain being referred to as 'fiddleback'. The sap can also be boiled down to make syrup.

My Maple Carvings

Hornbeam (Carpinus Betulus)


The grey, smooth bark makes the trunks look a little like elephant's legs. The leaves a deeply veined with fine, uneven serrations.

Some Traditional Uses

Hornbeam is a very hard wood. As such it has been used for mallet heads, skittles and butchers' chopping blocks. The wood also burns very long and hot, used to smelt iron.

My Hornbeam Carvings

Hornbeam shrink pot

Hornbeam spoon and small shrink pot

What are your favourite woods for carving? Feel free to share examples of your work in the comments section.

Saturday, 4 May 2013

Carved birch spoon

Here's an eating spoon I've carved from a billet of silver birch: