Wednesday 23 December 2009

Traditional Russian toy

Traditional Russian toy

I have been selling and showing my work in Birdwood House gallery, a fantastic space right next to the market, in Totnes. I have been there for seven days. Shame I blew my van up on the setting up day, I spiked the ECU or in other words fried the computer that controls the engine. This is either going to be expensive or I may have to buy a new van.
Anthea who takes all the bookings for Birdwood, saw my fan birds and bought in this toy which was made for her by Austrian POWs in the second world war. I have seen many versions of this toy over the years but this is the first one I have seen with fan tails.

I have it in my workshop for repair as one of the chickens has lost most of its tail. I am really taken with this toy, especially as it was made by a young country man who was caught up in a war not of his making. It shows great skill, and is probably made with only a penknife. Anthea said that these young POWs were worked hard all day and only had time off in the evening. This is a fantastic example of folk art and I hope to make a copy soon.

Sunday 13 December 2009

The winner of the Christmas give away

The winner of the Christmas give away is number 2.
There were 7 of you who left a comment. I assigned you each a number, in the order you left your comment, and let the random number generator choose the winner.

So Mr Allery, if you like to drop me your address, I will send these cards of to you.

A big thank you to you all who read and comment on my blog. I will be having more of these give aways in the future, next time it will be something I have made out of green wood.

Tuesday 8 December 2009

Christmas give away

Christmas give away

I now have the cards from the printers, so the draw will happen at the end of the week. For those of you who have not read my last blog entry, I am giving away a set of 19 greeting cards. For a chance to win these cards just leave a comment on this, or my last blog entry.

I am having a Christmas exhibition in Totnes, Devon next week as well, so do drop in and say Hi. Click on the poster to make it readable.

Thursday 26 November 2009

Christmas give away

New cards, and another print run.

I am having a reprint of some of my greeting cards, and another 4 new ones.

I will be randomly selecting a person who leaves a comment on this blog, and as a Christmas gift will be giving them a full set of of cards.

This will be done on the 13th of December. If you live in this country or Europe, you will get them before Christmas. Other parts of the world often can take longer.
I have had the proofs from the printer and should receive the cards within a couple of weeks. If you would like to buy a pack of all 19 cards you are welcome to purchase them at a special price of £15, which includes postage. I normally sell them for £1.50 each or £28.50 excluding postage.

Alder; Ashburton.

Hawthorn; Haytor, Dartmoor

Oak tree; Sussex.

Arum Lilies; Landhydrock, Cornwall.

Above are the 4 new cards, and below are the present set:

Stags-head oak; Bovey Tracey, Dartmoor

Apple; Godalming, Surrey

Oak; Wistmans Wood, Dartmoor.

Beech tree; Dartmoor.Alder buckthorn; Spitchwick, Dartmoor.

Walnut; Bovey Tracey, Dartmoor.
Tulip Tree; Saltram, Devon

Cairn; Rocky Valley, Cornwall.

Oak tree; Wistmans Wood, Dartmoor.

Oak tree; Wistmans Wood, Dartmoor.

Oak tree; Wistmans Wood, Dartmoor.

Oak tree; Dewerstone, Dartmoor.

Oak tree; Cisbury Hill Fort, Sussex.
Alder buckthorn; Spitchwick, Dartmoor.

I sell these cards wholesale; the minimum order is £25, postage is £6, flat rate. If your are interested in selling them please contact me for the wholesale price.

Sunday 8 November 2009

Wooden cups

Wooden cups, made by hand tools only, these cups are also known by some as kuksas. Each kuksa is made from one piece of wood, and most of the samples here are apple, with two of them made from Sika spruce.

The cup at 3 o`clock was the first one I made (it is also shown in the last image at the bottom of the page). It has gone very much darker with use and was made just under a year ago. I frequently for water, juice, and alcohol. I dried it out a bit to quickly and some splits appeared in the main body of the cup and these open and close depending on how hot it is. These splits do not go all the way through. These cups are not made from burr as is traditional, but from larger branch-wood. Burr wood is far more durable and apparently more waterproof. I soak these in hot beeswax to waterproof. As these are waxed they can not be used for hot drinks or wax melts; to use them untreated they do slowly leak, which was not a problem in the past with outdoor living or with stone and mud floors.

The top left cup is made from burr sitka spruce, and came from a log that was 14 inch dia and only 9 inches thick. This log was in a pile in the woods for about a year.

My first wooden cup, as new. They acquire a patina and darken very quickly.

The bench I now make the cups on: note the French clog-makers tool, that I have found to be very useful for hollowing out. I use an adze and then long bent and spoon bent gouges to hollow out the bowl finishing up with a small hook knife. I will be making long handled hook knives as these are so much easier and quicker to use.

Saturday 24 October 2009


A few pictures of a magpie

I have used light fast wood dyes to stain the wood.This design is far more complicated to make, because of the long tail feathers.

Monday 19 October 2009

Fan birds, the Raven

The raven and my fan bird making bench.

The raven - the first fan bird that I designed and made to represent a particular species of bird. All the birds I have made so far have been a stylized representation of a generic bird. I like ravens, very intelligent birds, like most of the crow family. A bird for this time of year with Halloween coming up soon. Made in the same way as any other fan birds, but with a bigger belly and a big beak, and then stained black.

It is very easy to get into a rut and just make what you usually make. Changing a design can result in failures and potentially wasted time, it is easier to make what you know.
This raven is hopefully just the start of many different bird designs.

As I said in my last post, I played around with some beech, and the wing tips had this lovely graceful curve. What I did not say was that I found another piece of beech at the Cranbourne Chase Wood Fair and tried to make another one with the same effect, as a public demonstration. Everything was going really well until I started the final thinning of the hinge, and the fanning out of the feathers. They started falling out, and by the time I had completed the interlocking of the feathers I only had half of them left. I gave the bird a small shake and the remaining interlocked feathers came loose. I was left holding a birds body, a complete failure and in front of 20 people as well.
As I explained to my audience it was not a total failure, such failures often hold a few lessons. The beech I used previously was green but had been cut down and left for some time. The beech I had used in my demonstration was very green and had been cut recently. The conclusion is that beech needs to mellow before making fan birds, just like hazel hurdle makers do with their hazel, they cut it in the winter and leave it for a least six weeks before using it, as it splits and works better after it has stood for a bit. I have also always found that beech does not split straight and tends to run off. I have never used that much beech in my career and I am not an expert on it like oak and ash. Is it me or is beech a bit of a sod to split straight?

I have stopped using a shaving horse on which to carve my birds and have made a dedicated bench. It is essentially a post vice that stands up on its own owing to the fact it was made from an ash tree trunk that split into 3 branches. I used a single vice screw and some 3 x 4 inch sections of dried oak beam I have lying about the workshop. All my tools are to hand, hanging off pegs or slotted into holes drilled into the bench.

Seen above is another use for this bench, and it is to make kuksas. I am using a French clog makers hook knife to cut out the inside of the bowl. The great thing is that I can walk all around the bench. I am sure I will find many other uses for this bench in time.

Monday 12 October 2009

Cranbourne Chase Woodfair

Cranbourne Chase Woodfair

The last Woodfair of the season, outside in October! I decided that I would not have the energy to put up my marquee and that if I did it would come home wet, and would have to be dried out. So I booked a space in the big marquee and did fan bird carving demonstrations.

This Wood fair had a competition with three winners in three classes and so I entered all three classes and I won "Best small Piece", not jokes please. It is great to be recognised as one of the three of the best in the show. Below is the fan bird I entered, which is made of beech, an interesting wood as it curled a bit when I rived the wings, and as you can see it has made a lovely cup shape.

I met Owen Jones again, and at last managed to spend some quality time talking about fan birds and other stuff. He has been making small birds for some years now and said he must have made a couple of hundred. Owen make them with only a penknife and uses pine. I like them, they have a naive simplicity to them, and I like the shape of the body.

The birds are photographed on his oak swill baskets, so have a look at his web site

I am always interested in seeing other people's fan birds, so send me photos if you have ever made any, or seen any made by other people.

Tuesday 8 September 2009

Westonbirt Festival of the Tree

Westonbirt Festival of the Tree is a show that I have been attending regularly for seven years. As with all the wood-fairs I attend, I love it. Wood-fairs just seem to be the most laid back and fun shows. This year was a very good one for me and I also had the best position next to the chainsaw carving arena, and the pitch position number A1.

One of the first people you saw as you came into the show was Dale with all his sculpture, benches and games for children. Note his gypsy flowers and shaving horse for making them. Over the years he has made many thousands of flowers. See a video I made of him working, here.

Mr Nick Gibbs, the esteemed editor of Living Woods magazine, has published a short article I sent in, on how to find the moisture content of wood without a moisture metre. I will be sending in more articles. He was at the Festival, and had two shaving horses that he let children have a go on, to introduce them into the joys of green woodwork. Nick was in the Classic Hand tools tent, an Aladin's cave of very expensive tools. I met Phil who makes and sells wooden planes, I introduced myself to him after finding out through his blog, that he was at this show.

This image is of Geoff King's stand Woodland Treasures. It is great to see someone making money from wooden jewellery and very fine pieces they are too, and a great tent.

Helen with her modified yurt, we met her at WOMAD and anyone involved with bushcraft may have seen her at the Wilderness gathering. If you want organic, bark-tanned sheep skin, she is the person to see.

I did not write down the details of this company in the picture below, but I was very taken with the timber framed tent. They do others which had all four sides enclosed with canvas walls. I would like to make my own timber framed tent, a really light-weight one, but has to be easy to put up and functional in every way. Maybe I will just dress my plastic and metal tent up instead.

Piers Roberts with wooden sunglasses he made himself. I just had to ask if I could take a photo. I have been wanting to make some for years now, just another thing on the list that I am yet to do. A few years ago I saw a couple of gentlemen walking around with turned wooden bowler type hats. These were turned very thin and since wood shrinks across the grain they went oval to fit the head, no photos of these I`m afraid

One of the second hand tool sellers was also sharpening the saws he was selling on this lovely old jig, that was used by leaning it up against his work bench. I like they way it locks the saw in place, the front rail next to the saw blade knocks in and out because it is sitting in a V wedge cut on the posts.

Three of the saws I bought. The frame saw is for ripping or sawing wood along the grain, the other two are cross cut saws. This winter I want to learn how to sharpen my own saws so that I will never have to buy a hard-point saw with plastic handles again, the ones that we are always throwing away.

More tools from France, have a look on the Bodgers forum for more info.

I have made a new bench for making fan-birds on, and it works very well, also great for wooden cups . It is made from a tripod of forked ash turned upside down. I had a large vice screw that was inserted through the log to make the vice. I have taken a liking to demonstrating making fan-birds whilst standing up, as I find it helps with interaction with my audience. The man watching me is Toni Ross who has posted many videos on Youtube under the pseudonym of bygonetoni. The sticks projecting from the bench are to hang all my tools from, so everything is to hand. I sold a fare few fan-birds and not just the cheaper £10 ones I do in my quick demonstrations.

This is my only photo of the chainsaw carvers work, taken whist we were packing up the stall.