Friday, 19 November 2010


Well my computer has been away over a week now which is why I'm unable to post any photographs for the time being. Unfortunate really as I've been on leave this week and thus been quite productive. I got the large Sycamore bowl finished, made a few spoons and started making Christmas presents in the form of chopping blocks and such like ; I will post pics when I get my pc back.
Last night was a big event at work- a 1000 ticket charity boxing night. This was for non boxers who had learnt to box from scratch in about 3 or 4 months. I put myself forward and did all the training and sparring only to find out a fortnight from the big night there was nobody in the opposition camp near enough to my weight and age to fight against. Never mind, it was a great way of getting fit and I really enjoyed learning how to box. It has certainly given me an appreciation of how fit a boxer needs to be to compete- we only did 3 x 11/2 minute rounds and that was lung busting!! Unfortunately a lad on my shift was knocked out and ended up having a scan in hospital so I hope he's ok.
apart from that I've started doing some coppice work in my local woods- mostly Hazel. A lot of the stools have been neglected for a lot of years but my aim is to rejuvenate them over the next few years. I did a fair bit of work in the area last winter but unfortunately most of it was undone by grazing deer so fingers crossed they don't pass through next spring!

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Timber I.D

The question I seem to get asked the most when I make something for somebody or do a bit of demonstrating at the local country park, is 'what wood is it made out of'. With this in mind I decided to come up with a system of identifying timber for the benefit of the recipient. The symbols below are Runes that I chose because they are almost all straight lines and thus quick and easy to discretely carve on the back of my work As it states, this is just my own system and does not relate to the real meaning of Runes, which I know nothing about. I know I am not re-inventing the wheel here, but thought it may be of interest to other folk. Here are some examples of the carved symbols on finished work. I use the point of my frosts carving knife to carve these, choked right up to within an inch to afford close control. Draw the lines in pencil and come in either side with angled cuts to form the line. I sometimes give engraving definition by smudging in ground coffee before oiling.

The last time I demonstrated, I made some of these timber discs to help folk identify timber. they are sanded and treated with sanding sealer to help preserve the colour a little longer. I did have quite a few more but they seemed very popular and folk kept blagging them off me- presumably for coasters. They have labels on the back to identify the species but I won't publish pics of the reverse sides for a few days so you can test your knowledge. Unfortunately the pics aren't very good as it has been really overcast here today.

Cheers for now, John

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Caddy Spoons

I've been busy making a load of Caddy Spoons for somebody, in between making bedroom wardrobes from 'orrid mdf. I originally spotted a nice one on Niklas Karlsson's blog under 'Birch bark boxes' and thought I'd have a go at making some. I don't yet have a design I'm totally happy with, but they're quick and easy to make so the prototypes soon mount up! They are about 21/2 to 3" long and are intended to be left in the tea or coffee caddy. They soon pick up a lovely rich patina. These spoons only need a tiny block of wood to work from, say 3" x 11/2" x 3/4" thick. I think the woods I used were Rhododendron, Sycamore, Elm, Blackthorn and Lilac- see if you can pick them out. While I'm on about caddy spoons, here's some examples of the caddies I make:-

These are based on Scandinavian shrink pots but I just use rotting timber I find on the forest floor and fix a base myself. I'll show my method of construction in a subsequent blogpost, suffice to say it's not rocket science! The above caddies are Elm which is really 'pippy' and has a beautiful nobbly texture.


Monday, 1 November 2010


I often make kitchen utensils out of spare bits of timber I have lying around to through in the kitchen drawers at the station. These are a few that were made out of Sycamore a while ago. I don't go overboard in making them as they are very much used and abused on a daily basis, a lot just disappearing. I find it interesting though to see how quickly they pick up a nice patina due to constant use. It's also interesting to not the ones which seem to get the most use- as this is nice feedback for making kitchen sets for people. Interestingly, the lads tell me they like the scabby one third from the right (which was obviously made from sawn rather than cleft wood!!), must be because it can scrape into corners.

Today I nipped up to my local Tack suppliers to get some more Linseed oil. I finish all my woodenware pieces that will come into contact with food, with Cold pressed or Raw Linseed Oil. This cures much more slowly (at least 3 months) than boiled linseed oil but contains no harmful additives. With smaller items such as spoons, I first of all heat up the oil in a pan and submerse the piece to drive the oil into the endgrain pores.

Here you can see the moisture and air fizzing as it is forced out of the endgrain pores. This means oil absorbs more deeply into the wood fibres to replace the dispersed moisture.

After the heat treatment I throw the pieces in my oil bath for a few days to saturate. This is simply a bain marie full of linseed oil in my shed. The removable tray is handy for pinning down the wooden pieces and keeping them fully submerged. As I say the curing process takes a few months to complete, but if you can, it is advantageous to periodically re-oil your pieces to keep them water resistant.

Cheers John