Tuesday 29 November 2011

Push me, pull me. My favourite 6 drawknives

These are the 6 draw-knives I would want to take if I were castaway on desert island.
Starting with the biggest:

 Top is the Granfors Bruks large draw-knife. Designed for debarking logs, but I find it useful for shaping larger work and even use it in a big shaving horse. I like the weight, it is heavy, it has its own momentum when cutting and is easy to use. It is also curved in 2 planes and can not be used on flat timbers, and certainly not bevel down.

Below is a R Sorby again a large draw-knife, 2 inches wide and blade length is12.5 inches long.

Top is a Graves draw-knife, this is my standard and most-used for anything but spoons and smaller work. 1.5 inch wide and 10 inches long.

Below is a Gilpin "gents" draw-knife 1.1/4 wide and 6 inches long. Box wood handles. This is my favourite.
Do note the handles on these knives, I like how they are thin at the index and little finger positions, this is the handle shape I prefer.

Push knives: top is a Mora push-knife. Unfortunately it has a bevel on both sides, I would have liked one side to be flat, making it a more versatile tool. Just over 1 inch and 4.1/4 long. 
This is best for the outside of bowls, and I have never successfully used it as a draw-knife (pull knife).

Below is a riving knife I made from O1 steel, and is for making fan birds. 3/4 inch by1.3/4 long and only 1 mm thick and very flexible. Ideal for the riving of feathers for fans and fan birds. Used also for the shaping of the feather tips, working across the grain in pull mode.

So there you have it, the draw-knives I have collected for my work. I have others for use on courses or that I sell, but these are staying with me. 
If I only had one it would be the Graves, as it is a good all rounder. This is the size I recommend when buying your first draw-knife.

Tuesday 22 November 2011

Ladles, made from trunk and branch

I have made and finished off some half made ladles recently. The walnut one at the top is 9.5 inches long and the bowl is nearly 3 inches wide.

 And a detailed image
I saved the other part of the walnut log I split the ladle from.
I was given a small walnut tree that someone had cut down in their garden. Not being foresters, they had left 6 to 10 inch branches sticking out of the main trunk. Unfortunately all tree surgeons and foresters are taught to "sned" off all branches right next to the main trunk. This is why it is difficult to find forked or tripod branches or larger trunks of wood that us green woodworker so dearly love.
This is the position of the spoon in the walnut log
 Splitting wood out of a trunk/ branch can be a big unknown. I have yielded 2 ladles from a willow log before, but this is not common. With luck you will get one and if unlucky, nothing. Some woods are great and others like wild cherry, I have found, are impossible.

I started the split in the top of the branch coming off the trunk. It is common practice to start at the thin end of a log when splitting wood. I never had one split like this before, taking a V out of the trunk. Next step is to hit it with an axe, wave a knife at it and finish off by showing it a spoon knife, and hey presto, a ladle.

One last ladle made from sycamore with the branch coming out of the trunk at right angles.
The bowl is just under 2 inches across.

Why use a bent, forked or angular limb coming off a trunk? Because the the grain of the wood follows the shape of the spoon and is stronger than making a ladle from a straight log which will have lots of "short" or "cross grain" in it. These will break or get damaged more easily than spoons that follow the grain.

If you carve spoons and have not tried making a ladle like these, then find yourself some bent or forked wood and give it a go. Do gather a few bits, as failures can be common at first.

Monday 14 November 2011

Tool and forge making workshop

Making tools,

Tool making is empowering and is a step towards self sufficiency. I have had to make my own tools because there are none available to buy, e.g. long handle hook-knives and very small hook-knives for making salt spoons. Often, what is available is not quite right for the way we work, or is not designed for our needs so we can make copies to our own preferences or even re make existing tools.
Making tools also gives me immense satisfaction and pleasure, as I think it does for many others. The only problem is how far do we take it: will I have to dig my own ore and smelt it, and then make the tools to make the woodworking tool?. Of course I would also have to make my own files, dig my own natural sharpening stones.
These are things I would like to do one day: but back to what we can do here and now. Tool making is really simple and accessible to anyone, and for not much cost. I use a small gas forge that can be ready to work within seconds, and this is what we work with in my tool-making course. Next year I hope to have a small charcoal forge running as well. Tools can be made with a hammer, a pair of pliers, some sort of anvil which could be a sledge hammer and of course a forge.
We then make a small straight knife and then a hook knife for spoons, putting simple but functional handles on them and sharpening them to a razor edge. People often want to make other tools as well. Peter wanted some draw or dowel plates, and Jamie wanted to make a hook gouge for his bowl turning. He wanted it for a specific purpose. Aleric also wanted a very small hook knife for making salt spoons.

Not only did these guys go home with some useful tools but they also went home with the knowledge of how to make new tools or to reshape, harden and temper existing ones, which we do need to learn, especially with hook tools for the bowl lathe.
 You will have to wait until next year for my next tool making course, do check out my website for details. If you can not wait that long, then I run 1 to 1 or 2 to 1 workshops for a day or longer. If there are more of you, I can either travel to you or you can come to my workshop, I will give you a custom price for this.