Thursday, 24 July 2014

Knives, sheaths or boxes?

I have come to the conclusion that boxes are better than sheaths for storing knives in, this includes hook knives. This is because most of my carving takes place in the workshop, at shows, or at home. These tools don't do bushcraft. Knives rarely go back into the sheath when carving, but they do go back into boxes. This way I am less likely to have accidental nicks in the blade.



Made entirely with hand tools, axe, plane, saw, chisel, knife and drill. The wood is ash, bits and bobs that have dried out in my workshop that was stuff not use on the pole lathe.


This box was made for my MaChris knife. The hinges and catch are dovetailed into the main box. 
These boxes are great for practising chip carving techniques. Using ash is  a challenge as it is very hard.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Adze in the hand, part 2

In the last post I reshaped the handle on the large Gransfors Bruk adze, this time I replace the handle entirely on my small GB adze. There has always been something wrong with the small GB adze, I have never felt comfortable using it. I have shaved the handle down as a smaller handle is more comfortable to grip over longer periods of work. I also reshaped and made the pommel smaller, all to no avail. I feel that handle length is the real issue here, it is too short for comfortable and efficient use.
Time to make a new handle. It is possible to get the old handle out without wrecking it, a little bit of patience is required. All I used was a medium sized flat head screwdriver and a hammer. The new handle was made about 3 inches longer. As you can see the adze handle is the same handle as on the hand hatchet. Why use a an axe handle on a well made adze head? In my experience of using tools, handles are not interchangeable between axe and adze and if you do use the wrong handle the use and functionality of the tool is compromised.
This new handle makes so much difference to how the adze handles, what is more important is the strain is lessened on my body. I am not sure if this is the best shape of handle, but time will tell. It will be easy enough to take the one wooden wedge out and replace the handle. Removing the old handle and making and fitting a replacement took me less than an hours work. I am not sure whether I would recommend you doing the same, it depends on your ability and experience. By nature I am a cautious man and would say leave well alone unless confident in your skills.
I would be interested in hearing your thoughts on handle length and shape, and if you prefer the Gransfor Bruk, Hans Karlssen or S Djarv adzes. If you can not  or do not want to leave a comment then email me at info@seanhellman.com

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Forest Man

The world needs more people like this. A truly inspiring film.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

An adze in the hand, part 1

Using tools with bad handle design is fine for short periods. Do any amount of work with these tools and the body hurts. Do not assume that a maker of tools will put on the ideal handle. From my experience we all seem to have our own personal idea of what makes a good handle. A handle for one person will not always suit another.



I have a large GB adze, and I like it. I would class it as a good all rounder, great for wasting wood from a bowl and great for sculptural work. The problem I have is the handle. For some sculpting work it is too short and that bloody chunky fawns foot on the end, a hand wrecker. They have just stuck an axe handle onto it.
When I use an adze my right hand holds the pommel and this arm or hand is fixed against my body. My left hand swings and guides the adze. The fixing of the right hand is vital if I am to get a smooth cut. Holding this pommel is hard work as it does not fit my hand, so out comes the edge tools to shape it. I sand it smooth, because facets, unless very small, help cause blisters.
Working with wood on the ground and swinging the axe through the legs means that I am bending over way too much. Holding below the pommel means that I have to bend over even more. The adze is fine if you are working vertically or on raised work as the hand is below the pommel. One day I will put a slightly longer handle onto it, too long and it will change the arc the head swings through, and it will not cut as fluently and the bevel will need to be reground. A longer handle will also help with my back issues. 

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Shrink pots for the National and Woodland Trusts

The National Trust and the Woodland Trust have come together in partnership to buy and manage 500+ acres of woodland next to Castle Drogo on Dartmoor. This woodland is mainly a commercial mix of softwoods and was being sold as a great investment for capital growth and sporting potential. What delights me is that another chunk of land is now open to public access and is being managed to increase local flora and fauna. The management back to indigenous woodland will take many years. 

Beccy Speight DG Woodland Trust (left) and Dame Helen Gosh DG National Trust(right) 

Mike Jones (pictured far right) of the National Trust commissioned me to make gifts to exchange between the two organisations. The Trust decided on a couple of shrink pots made from silver birch cut from the woodland. The lids are burr oak from nearby Parke at Bovey Tracey.
The pots were made in 3 weeks from freshly felled wood. This was a bit of a challenge in that I had to force dry the wood, carefully weighing it each day until it reached a stable weight. The pots were left out in the sun during the day and turned round each hour or so.


A link to Adrian's A Dartmoor Blog - Views of the National Trust's Dartmoor General Manager.
http://adriancolston.wordpress.com/2014/07/05/fingle-woods-celebrations/, for more information about the celebrations of the partnership at Fingle Woods.