Friday 21 August 2009

Croissant Neuf summer party, Usk, Wales

Croissant Neuf Summer Party; Usk, Wales

A family festival in a stunning place. Lucy and I decided to both do something for the festival in exchange for tickets, and I ran some workshops in knife work and green wood. We were part of a great circle of craftspeople. Dale in the gypsy wagon and tables benches, sculpture and toys and games for the people who like to play. Dave and Em running LED lightning workshops. Bob making windmills from recycled tin and brazing them together. Bart and Amanda: wooden didjeridoos made from tree branches, and even small trees. Amanda with willow baskets and even willow coffins. Golly, a potter with whom I had some great conservations about smelting ores traditionally, bronze age onwards.

This photo shows most of the site. Croissant Neuf is entirely powered by renewable energy and has a fantastic sound system in the big tent.

Bob sitting in his workshop, in the foreground Crissy testing out her second spoon, the first one she made was also with me, 10 years ago, at Campus. She even had it with her.

We had great fun at the festival and I learnt a bit more about LED lighting, and bought 3 bulbs from Dave to make up a lighting kit for the stall and van. Dave goes around the country running his workshops and educating people about how energy efficient 12 volt LED bulbs are. For £20 I got a 3-watt spot light made up of 3, 1 watt bulbs, This is my favourite as it is the most powerful and has a daylight to warm colour. I have also got a 2. something Watt 48 LED `daylight` and warm bulbs for £12 each. The warm one is to yellow and the daylight one is a touch on the blue side but very good for working with. This colour temperature has been a issue with LEDs, primary colours are not a problem but daylight to warm colours have been difficult for the manufactures to make. So I have 3 bright bulbs that use 8 watts, that is a very long battery life. I bought a very small rechargeable sealed lead acid battery for £12 with all lights going full time it lasts for over 10 hours. The battery is a 7amp hour all I need now is a solar panel.
If will all switched over to LED lighting we could decommission lots of power stations. LEDs are the way to go, as they are very long lasting, 30,000 hours is what is given on life expectancy.

On the way home we spent some hours in Usk mainly walking around the Rural Life museum. Not one of the best in the world, but we love exploring local history, and of course old tools like the sandstone sharpening stone below: was it self operated or were 2 people needed?

This exhibit showed me that I have been making my frame saws wrong. I will now be including a handle below the blade in future.

I love this apple masher for making cider; pour apples in, turn handle and out comes the pulp ready for the press. It just has wire banged into the wooden rollers to pulp the apples with.

I am a bit behind with my posts as Croissant Neuf happened a few weeks ago now, and I have just got back from the Westonbirt Festival of the Tree, more on this in a week or so.

Tuesday 11 August 2009

Shaving trees

I went down to St Ives for the weekend and came across a shop called The Spruce Tree in Fore Street. They had for sale of some lovely stuff from Cornwall and around the world. The one thing that did catch my interest were some small trees, made by Mathias Schelling from Germany.

I have seen trees like this in David and Sally Nye`s book More fan-carving with examples by Victor Hukka of Finland and some examples which have no name, but are made in Germany.
The tree on the left is made by shaving the wood with a drawknife or more likely, a straight chisel. I had a quick go at making one on Monday but dry willow is no good, or maybe it could be the tool or my technique. I am sure pine is the way to go with these trees. The tree on the left is done by turning on a lathe and not parting off the shavings. See this video by Stuart King for making them from hazel.

Some time ago I had a try at making a tree, by using nearly dry sycamore and a drawknife. It is going to take me some practise to perfect.

I have just got some bowl turning tools from Paul, and have sweated out a couple of small bowls of about 6 inch diameter. The one on the left is apple and is still green. The one on the right is oak and has been dried and oiled. My next task is to make a bowl-turning lathe as my pole-lathe is not sturdy enough and is designed only for spindle turning.
It is interesting being a complete beginner again and not knowing how to use the tools efficiently or even correctly. The biggest hurdle is being tense and not being able to relax, I hurt after turning a bowl, a proper lathe will help a bit with this as will lots of practise.

Sunday 2 August 2009


WOMAD (World of Music and Dance) is a festival which I have sold my work at every year for 10 years now. This year was not one of the best for sales. The credit crunch and the rain did not help. I do not do much in the way of demonstrations at this show but I did make a few wooden flowers. I also made the smallest flowers ever out of the wood I use for the normal flowers stems.

The coin is a twenty pence piece which is 20mm or 3/4 of an inch diameter.

A large attraction at the festival is the Carter's Fair, made up of traditional attractions some of which are steam powered. This is a huge fair and most of the vehicles are almost as old as the rides. It must make quite a convoy on the roads.

The steam boat ride, see the next photo for details.

Click on the image to enlarge

A Steam carousel, one amazing machine. I have a love/hate relationship to this ride and fairground, for one year when WOMAD was at the Reading site, which was a lot smaller than the current one at Malmesbury, the organisers put our stall 30 yards away from it. From 11am and for 13 hours continuously, this ride pumped out organ music at full volume. We had to shout when talking to our customers. No one would do anything about the noise and believe me, plenty of complaints were made. I now have an inkling of what it is like for a POW to be subjected to music and sound torture because it was hell on earth.
I think this structure is amazing, with its carvings, paintwork and mechanics. I am not sure but it could be the only one left in working order. The horse carvings, made from wood, are similar to rocking horses but the features are accentuated making the heads a bit scary when seen close up. As this is a big ride and often seen from further away details need to be bigger.

Swing boats or as these ones are called, Park boats, a simple but fun ride.

Whilst back at the stall, I met a man called Richard King who introduced himself to me. He is a thatcher now, but use to make a living from green wood work. We had some great conservations, an one interesting one about Aikido and movement in craft work. Many of us in green woodwork learn bad working practices as we are not taught by masters in an apprentice situation. Ergonomics are very important as well as how we stand and move, as I know it is all to easy to damage the body. Richard reckons that Aikido and other martial arts came from ordinary craft or working practices as he uses many movements in his work that are very similar to his martial art.
He also showed me how to make a willow binding, the same one used in binding willow bolts, I must apologies for the fact that the video is on its side. I recorded it on my little camera and forgot not to use it in portrait mode.

The willow knot

Above is Ian of Funky Monkey a member of the APT. I much admired his shelter.

Anthony Rogers was again at the show, he had 2 seats displayed in the arboretum, new work that I had not seen before. As you may know I love his work, which has life and very good form, I am impressed with his new technique of carving small motifs in his work, for example this detail on the back of this bench.

Click on image to view it larger