Thursday 26 May 2011

Half hour challenge, Bodgers Ball

The competition I like best at the Bodgers Ball is the Half Hour Challenge. The brief is: to make anything you like from a billet of green wood in half an hour, and that makes a good demonstration at shows or events. Stuart King was judging this competition and we had to show him the billet of wood that we were to use. We all went back to our pitch to await the starting whistle. I had a very large crowd around me - 50 plus people.The first thing was to axe out a small plank of wood.
With this competition I think it is important to talk to your audience, explaining what you are doing, how and why, plus relating any appropriate, amusing anecdotes and experiences. I did see Stuart briefly in the audience and I would hope that the challenge is also judged on this aspect. Mark Allery  fed me one of his home made cookies soon into the competition, a big mistake as it shut me up  for a minute while I chewed away on a slightly dry and too large mouthful.
I jumped next onto the shaving horse and shaved the billet down to the proportions I wanted, and then onto the vice to carve the wing profile. When entering any competition, especially one watched live by others a certain amount of adrenaline kicks in. It is important not to rush as this is when accidents can happen. I take things slowly and stop often to explain and show what I am doing. A large crowd often helps me along with the demonstration, especially when they ask questions or interact with comments.
Now onto the riving of the feathers, this is the bit where everything can easily go wrong. I tend to speak less during these few minutes. Once the riving is complete then onto the cutting out and carving of the bird's body. This can be the more boring bit for people and I tend to tell a few stories here about the history of fan birds.
My favourite bit is the interlocking and fanning out of the wing feathers. The bit of wood, by then,  looks like a bird.
Stick a pin in its head and attach some thread, hold up and receive applause.
Stroll down to the judges table and hand in the finished demonstration piece. I knew I had some stiff competition from James Pomfrey, also known as chainsawkid on the Bodgers forum and who made a bowl on the pole lathe.
To my great delight Stuart awarded me first prize.
I love the showmanship of these shorter demonstrations, and would like to develop the making of traditional greenwood items into a live multimedia show, for theatres and the like.  If and when this will happen I do not know. I would also like to develop a story to be told along with this demo. We are not just craftspeople when we demonstrate because we offer ourselves as a spectacle, what we say and do during this spectacle is up to us. Some demonstrators wait until they are asked a question before uttering any words, some of us talk about what we are doing as we go along. I happen to be a closet storyteller/ showman.

Many thanks to Nick Winter for sending me these photos.

By the way if any of you know any good stories about birds, bird creation myths etc, please let me know

If you would like me to demonstrate at your show or even,t then contact me for my fee.

If you would like to learn how to make fan birds then I am running a workshop on  Sept 24th/ 25th 2011.

Friday 20 May 2011

Bowl core

So what do you do with all your bowl cores from turning bowls on the pole lathe. Our dog Milo loves them, they make great balls.

It does not matter if they get lost, plenty more where they came from.

Saturday 14 May 2011

Bodgers Ball 2011

The Bodgers Ball 2011 at Brockhampton was hard work this year, even though Dan came with me. Not only did we provide the two person cross-cut challenge, but I also gave a talk on saw sharpening, and demonstrated making fan birds. I judged the team log to leg race with Stuart King and also entered the half hour challenge. Dan took part in the singles log to leg race and came in at 8th place. In a couple of years I am sure he will be up there in the top three. Time flew by and I hardly had a chance to see other stalls and chat to everyone I wanted to.

 The two people racing here (photo above) are Matt Jarvis and Rich Swift who came in second to these guys below. I have to say I did not approve of my saw being used as an axe. The log should have been strapped down properly to the saw horse.

I promised everyone that I would put all the saw sharpening links, I have found onto my blog. Here they are:-

These will give you all the information you need, for sharpening all sort of saws, happy reading.

Tuesday 10 May 2011

Shrink pot, and a shrink pot croze

I have been making shrink pots for a few years now. I love wooden boxes and containers and I feel very comfortable with the process and durability of these containers, compared with some of the other boxes I have made over the years.
For those of you who are wondering what a shrink pot is, wonder no more. Take a green or unseasoned branch of wood and hollow it out so it has an even wall thickness if about 10mm. You now have a tube. Make a groove near the bottom and insert a seasoned wooden plank. As the pot dries the tube shrinks around the plank holding it tight.
I was very chuffed when I entered the non-turned treen section at the Bodgers Ball craft competition at the weekend and my contemporaries voted my shrink pot first prize.

The pot is birch with a yew lid and the arrow is fiddle back willow. Only the yew is sanded and the rest is a fine tool finish. The pot is no higher than 10 inches.

I have also made my largest shrink pot so far. This one stands nearly 2 foot high and is over 12 inch diameter. Made from ash and western red cedar with an elm handle.
This one is not quite finished, the lid is, but I need to work on the pot. A pot this size will take a while to shrink and dry around the bottom plank. I was careful with this one to cut a ring off the bottom, taking it home and drying it so I could work out the amount of shrinkage. The last thing you want to do is to spend a day hollowing out a pot and making the bottom plank too large. If you do this, the side of the pot splits open as it dries out. How do I know? Well I have done it on a couple of large elm pots. This was in the days when I thought it best to have a really tight fitting bottom plank. Having a nice loose bottom plank is the way to go, you may have to check it a couple of times as it dries to make sure it it still oriented properly in the groove.  With a Scots pine pot I made, this drying process took months and it was a small one, only 6 inch diameter. I boiled it, I put it in the microwave and left it near the fire, and still the bottom was loose and rattling around in the groove. It just got left in the car for a few months, and finally when I retrieved it the pot had shrunk around the plank. Sticking a shrink pot in the microwave really does speed the drying process up, and is worth doing if impatient.

I have been asked what is the best way to make the groove on the inside of the tube or pot. I have designed and made a shrink pot croze. This has a flat bed and an adjustable height blade.
Just hold in a vice and run the pot around the knife blade.
I then use a Frosts Mora 106 to cut a V groove. I can cut a groove within a couple of minutes on a medium sized pot, and the top edge of the groove is of an even height and at 90 degrees to sides of the pot.
I will be selling these as set or as the finished item. I do not know the price yet and will post here another post when I am ready to sell and more detail about their use.
If you want to learn how to make shrink pots I will be running a 2 day workshop next March 17th and 18th 2012 cost £165. Get in touch if you want more info and a booking form. The workshop will be at my workshop in Devon, UK