Monday, 13 June 2011

Elderflower Cordial

There are plenty of different recipes for cordial based on the flower of the Elder tree (Sambucus Nigra), I used a nice basic one as this is the first time I've made any. My ingredients are:-approx. 30 large flower heads (shaken to remove bugs), a kilo bag of sugar, 3 unwaxed lemons, approx 50g of food grade Citric Acid (available from chemist's but I got mine from ebay- didn't cost much) and 3 pints of boiling water.

Dissolve the sugar in the boiling water in a large bowl or pan; finely grate the rind of the lemons and add , along with the citric acid, to the syrup; thickly slice the rest of the lemons and throw them in; finally add the flower heads (snip as much of the stalks off behind the flowers as possible) ; cover and leave to steap for 48 hours.

After 48hrs fish out the solids and strain through some muslin or laundered cloth into sterilized bottles. Apparently it keeps for a good month if stored cool or can be frozen in plastic bottles.

I was pleasantly surprised by how nice it tastes after initially sniffing the flowers with low expectations. I have read it goes well with Sloe Gin so I think I'll give it a try.

Cheers John

Friday, 20 May 2011

Images from the Bodger's Ball 2011

My fellow bloggers have already posted plenty of information regarding this years' event at Lower Brockhampton, so I'll just add a few images and comments of my own. Me and the wife went down on the thursday so we could visit the Morgan car factory at Malvern on friday morning (more of that anon) and were extremely lucky to find a Farm guest house within a mile of the estate called Linton Grange Farm. This was an old Hop kiln with exposed beams and massive planked oak floorboards with loads of evidence of its former use. The hospitality is amazing, to the extent that staying there was one of the highlights of the weekend- thoroughly recommended.
The ball itself was enjoyable- I must say the demonstrators worked tirelessly to provide constant points of interest throughout the weekend and the flow of information and tips was very much appreciated.Dave Jackson in particular never seemed to stop and demonstrated a variety of different crafts. Thats Dave making Gypsie flowers on the Shavehorse.

For me the highlight of the weekend was watching Henry Russell and Robin Wood Hewing timber using axes. I have to confess I love axe work, when I first got into green woodworking I was amazed at the versatility of these tools- from wasting large amounts of timber to refining detail to almost finished items. I would love to get on a course under Henry's tutilage and work towards producing some kind of Cruck of my own.

Tyhe wife even made a basket, so she was chuffed.

Ok thanks for now, must rush I'm on nights tonight. More to come now Ive finally managed to log in!! , John.

Thursday, 14 April 2011


Well I've just erected the tent I bought cheap off ebay to make sure its not a dud before we go down to the Bodgers Ball next month. I'm sure anyone from the Uk reading my blog will know about the annual gathering of Pole Lathe Turners and Greenwoodworkers, which this year takes place near Hereford. I've only been once before, the year before last, for the day at Doncaster; its a bloody long way but I'm going this year for the full fri/sat/sun weekend. If you want to say hello I've got a silver Berlingo and will be there with the wife. I'll take along loads of tools if anyone wants a play and a selection of different timbers to try-hopefully see some of you there.

What a lovely time of year this is, I always find early spring a good time of year to identify trees and shrubs in the field as they break bud at different times and look a lot less like one another than later in the season. I particularly like to see the delicate bright green fruit of Elm in the hedgerow set against the darkness of still dormant species:-

On the far right and left of the above picture is the blossom of Wild Cherry trees. Here's a close up of the Elm fruits.

Another tree that looks dramatic at this time of year is the Blackthorn, in white drifting blossoms.
But most of this week has been spent digging over my neglected allotment before it can be rotivated.Every weed has to be carefully removed which is slow work but I'm finally making progress- I've even got my potato and onion sets in!!

Cheers for now, John

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Finished Bowl

Here's some (not very good) finished pictures of the Cherry bowl I started last week. I decided to leave the rim natural as it has a lovely sinuous texture. Apart from this bowl I've carved a few spoons from those Cherry logs and I have to say it is a joy to work. I feared it was going to be a race against time to avoid cracking due to previous experience with Cherry , but I had no problems at all. I took a couple of pieces to a friend's house to teach him about carving with knives and it was noticeable how the wood became harder and harder to carve as we worked; but we were going slow time, and it was thin stock. To finish I burnished the bowl with its own shavings/chippings and applied several coats of Cold-pressed Linseed Oil. I think I burnished it again after I took these pics to accentuate the knife cut facets. The inside has been refined with the Helgesse Spoon Knife pictured in my banner, and the outside with a Frosts Sloyd Knife.
The underside is dished to take a little bit of weight out of the base (also helps achieve even drying), and also a bit easier to keep the Base flat.

I went up to the timber yard last week and they had a massive Mulberry they had just felled so the guy gave me a couple of pieces of branchwood to play with. The timber is extremely gnarly and burry. I've never worked it before and decided to make a little Shrink Pot. It stands about 7" high. There are a few articles elsewhere on the internet, but basically- the log is hollowed out green, and a seasoned disc of wood is snugly fitted into a ploughed rebate near the base of the pot. As the pot then dries, the walls shrink radially and tighten around the disc, locking it in place with no other fixing.
The base locked in place by shrinkage.
Oh and by the way, I have just got hold of an allotment in the village so watch this space. As you can see it needs a bit of work to tidy it up but I reckon its plenty big enough for growing and a bit of Green Woodwork.
Cheers for now and thanks for looking. John

Monday, 4 April 2011

Cherry Bowl

I was cycling home from work last week through my local woods, when I noticed a Cherry tree that had been knocked over in the gales and partially logged by the rangers to clear the path. I was taken by the contrast between the heartwood and sapwood; so went back later and collected a few pieces to see how they carved. First job of course is to split them through the pith to prevent radial cracking. Next job after that is to store them out of the way of our biggest enemy- direct sunlight. So here's our sawn out bowl blank. Here I've flattened the bottom with the Carving Axe- it's surprising how accurately you can flatten a surface with an axe, taking down high spots and any wind.
The Bowl adze is excellent for quickly wasting timber to roughly form a depression in the log. I need to get my finger out and make a holding device to secure the blank at this stage- I just used the tops of the chopping block as stops, which isn't very secure to say the least.
Here I'm taking the rough adze marks out and refining the inside with the long handled hook knife I've blogged about before. I'm still not fully in tune with this tool yet as I've made very few bowls, but I'm sure I'll get more comfortable in time.
Now to my favourite stage- wasting wood with the axe to rough shape the outside of the bowl.
For accurate axe-work, it's best to angle your work piece so that the axe falls perpendicular to the chopping block each stroke. This is also much safer as the axe is heading towards the block, should you miss or pick up a chip and deflect.
Here's the rough bowl after axing the outside shape.

Finally for now, whilst the log is still wet, I'm removing the axe marks and refining the outside shape with a Frosts pushknife. I really like this tool- it's really sharp out of the box and cuts nice and cleanly, especially if you can slice with it. My only problem with it is that I wish the blade, or at least distance between handles, was longer to keep the handles out of the way.
Here's as far as I got. The bowl is about 5/8" to 3/4" thick at this stage. I'll put it in a cool dark place for a few days to allow it to dry out before I finish it.

Cheers for now, John.

Tuesday, 29 March 2011


I've been doing a bit of experimenting and working on a prototype similar to the Nimbus 2000 and come up with this. So far I've only taken it around the garden at an altitude of a couple of metres for health and safety reasons. It's fairly easy to gain or lose altitude by lifting or dipping the nose, but trickier to alter direction; you have to bank your weight over to the side you want to turn to. I'd be interested to hear from anyone else who's built one and of course would appreciate flying tips. Cheers John

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Recent work

Here are a few bits and bobs I've made recently. First of all a kitchen roll holder made from a few scraps of Yew. I was tired of the kitchen roll dropping into the washing up bowl so I bobbled this together. Sorry the picture quality isn't very good.

A few spoons made very quickly for some friends in my local pub. I don't normally sand them but I was in a hurry to get finished. They are in Elm and Sycamore.

Here's a caddy I made in Elm with a matching Elm caddy spoon.

And finally some Kuksas I have made over recent months.Hawthorn, Sycamore and Field Maple.

Cheers John.

Friday, 4 March 2011

Shave Horse

Well I managed to progress a little with my shave horse in between work on my bedroom suite. I rived out some oak legs before Christmas from a log I found on the forest floor. I have had them drying for a few weeks so hopefully they will be pretty stable now.I had shaved them to just over 1 1/2" at the top to allow for shrinkage. I used the corresponding Tenon cutter to form the round tenon- 1 1/2" should be strong enough.

Boring out the mortise with a scotch eye auger-giving a nice splay to make the horse stable in use.

Well that's the legs done now to hew away some material to make it comfortable to use. I love using this old Kent Pattern Hatchet I re handled- It's about 6lb so it has plenty of heft without having to swing it much.

I ground the Hatchet with a central bevel so I could swing it both sides of me without constantly having to change position. Here it is at the side of my right handed carving axe.

As with removing material with an axe, first make small chopping cuts at a wider angle to weaken the waste:

Then slice it off with the hatchet attacking at the same angle as the bevel:

A quick tidy up with the Drawknife.

Progress so far.