Sunday 19 February 2012

Sharpening a Mora 164 hook knife and how to carve with it.

To carry on the previous post about getting into woodworking, I am going to show you the way I sharpen my hook knives. Time spent learning about sharpening is time well spent.
As I say in the video, knives are blunt when I acquire them. I always sharpen all my knives before selling them on, as a sharper knife is easier and a bit safer to use.
There are all sorts of hook knives on the market and some are better than others. The most important thing for any knife is that it is sharp. Really, do not bother using a hook knife if it is blunt, it is dangerous and disheartening.  I certainly do not get any pleasure from forcing a blunt edge through wood.

This video will show you a few ways I use the 164. The spoon being carved is dry sycamore. I would not normally carve a spoon in the dry state, it is too hard, but this is what I had to hand at the time of recording. Always try and do the bulk of the carving with green wood. Often, once the spoon is dry, I will take the knife over it for one final time to correct any minor deviations from the form I want. These cuts are usually just fine ones and they leave a beautiful textured finish.
I do not want to be using a hook knife to remove dry wood, as it is too much like hard work on the fingers and hands. If you are working on green wood and need to leave it some time before you can continue carving, make sure it retains its moisture. I often leave wood in a plastic bag, and have done so for weeks at a time. Beware that if it is warm, mould will grow on the wood and rotting will take hold eventually. In the summer small objects can be kept in the fridge or even frozen. Large objects need to be carved as quickly as possible. If a spoon does dry out it can be soaked in water or boiled to be re-hydrated. If you boil it, keep it in the pan until the water is cold.

Wednesday 8 February 2012

Make a wooden flower. Get woodworking Week

As promised a video on making wooden flowers with a knife. This is an easy project and is great fun for all the family. The best thing is that you only need a knife, and the wood is easily found from any hedgerow. Any knife will do as long as it has a reasonable edge on it.

I could have included a lot more but not only had my back seized in spasm, but it was also one of the coldest days of the year, hence the shaky hands. Thanks to Dan for doing the camera work.

Another video but with Dale making flowers with a drawknife. Unless I am making small flowers like these I work on a shave horse with a drawknife. The Gypsies used only a knife, usually held against the knee and the stick was pulled against the knife. I have tried this and found it very difficult. I have met people who make flowers just using a penknife and make beautiful and large flowers.

Scroll down to the bottom of this post to see how Sue makes her flowers.

A note about cheap stuff. I was given the Stanley knife blades and really I should just throw them away. Not only are they very bendy and break if to much pressure is applied but the edge blunts and rolls very quickly. They are potentially dangerous. As I have said before why do people go to all that trouble to make landfill waste, and why on earth do we buy it. Buy quality and it will last, for example the Mora knives I sell are not only very good value for money but very good quality as well.It is not necessary to spend lots on tools especially if you do a bit of research.

Friday 3 February 2012

Get woodworking week 5th - 11th Feb. How to start in Green Woodwork

All around the internet, there is a group of woodworkers writing and talking with the intention of getting people into woodworking. I came across this via Tom, and I thought it was a great idea. Sometimes it can be hard for people to get good simple info about starting work in wood. I hope that this blog is also one that will be shared with others who have not experienced the simple joys of working green wood.

So in keeping with green woodworking I will suggest a starter kit of tools to get you going. This set of tools will be for working with and converting the wood into all sorts of artefacts; from spoons to kuksas, coat pegs to gypsy flowers.
The very basic and essential tools are an axe and a knife. The axe should be small, as a lighter tool is best for longer periods of work. I find the GB wildlife hatchet perfect, or a 1.5 llb Kentish pattern axe. These are ideal to carve and shape wood, and are not to cut down trees! Surprisingly, however, you would be able to chop through a reasonable diameter of tree with a small axe.

Top a Whitehouse Kent pattern axe, below the Gransfors Bruks wildlife hatchet.

This link is to how to fettle a cheap often imported axe. It is not necessary to spend a lot of money on tools.

The knife I recommend is a Clipper Frosts knife and/or a Mora 106. The clipper type knife is more versatile, but the smaller 106 is best for just carving wood.

Top, a Clipper Mora knife, below that is the Mora 106 and bottom is the Mora Frosts 164 hook knife

Before going any further it is essential to able to sharpen these tools well. The first sharpening tool to acquire is the strop, to keep edges really sharp. A strop can be as simple as an off-cut of MDF with Autosol or some other polishing compound on it. You can stick a bit of leather to a flat and smooth piece of wood, to make a strop.
Strops are great. They will make a slightly dull blade as good as new again. In my opinion they are an essential bit of kit.

Next: a combination oil stone; as you can only strop a certain amount of times before you need to take off that now obtuse bevel you have created by frequent stropping. Sharpening and what system to use is a thorny subject, so if I had to put it down to what I would grab from the workshop quickly: it would be a combination oilstone. Not a £3 cheapey from a market stall but a £20 Norton. This will keep a blade going for years. I would also use a light oil on it such as WD40 or 3in1.

The fine side of this stone is not fine enough for a good durable sharp edge so a finishing stone is needed. If I could I would go for a fine, hard Arkansas stone. These can still be picked up second hand or if you want to spend more, new. Also, you do not have to invest a  lot at all, if you use Silicon Carbide paper, often known as wet and dry. Buy some 600, 800, 1000, 2000 grit paper and a sheet of glass. Use water or tape to hold a sheet or part of a sheet onto the glass and you will have some very fine polishing abrasives.

The next item  you would require is a hook knife. I now prefer my selection of home made hook knives, but you can buy a wide range by various knife makers which are on the whole very good value for money. The cheapest and best all round hook knife is the Mora 164. This is what I learnt with and still use. These new knives do come with a disadvantage: they are usually blunt and do need honing before use. I always hone mine up before selling them, as I have been told by various people of some nasty injuries inflicted by a blunt knife slipping in a new workers hand as it is being forced through wood.

When learning to use these tools we need a good grounding in how to hold and cut safely.
One bit of essential safety advice: always, before any pressure is put onto the knife and the cut made, ask yourself: what happens if the knife slips? If any flesh can be touched or stabbed then do not make the cut.

For the 164 to be used efficiently it must be very sharp. This is easy to do. Make up a few wet and dry sharpeners slips from wood.

So why take up green woodworking?
Well, it is cheap and easy to do almost anywhere. A lot of us carve in the living room - but try using your router in the house whilst you watch telly! With green woodworking, we can take a branch or log from a tree and start working it straight away. Being green, the wood is a lot softer and easier to work. Larger logs are split down their length and then worked with an axe into the shape of the object being carved. A knife is then used to finish the object. Very often, a tooled finish is left; and done properly, this finish is visually beautiful as well as very tactile.
Working green wood is relies on a few simple tools, often free wood, and techniques that go back to the Stone Age, and we can do it almost anywhere. There is also a lot of crossover with bushcraft skills, as an axe and knife are essential survival tools.

In my next blog post I will show you how to make flowers with just a knife and a small stick from the hedge.

This will be a video. You will not even need a special knife and anyone can do this, and maybe you will have a bunch of hand-crafted flowers to give your loved one for Valentines Day.

If you have any links to sites that may help people coming into woodwork and especially green woodwork, please post them in the comments section below. I will then post them up in my next blog.
The best place to go for more information on green woodwork is the Bodgers site and their forum which includes everyone from  beginners to full time professionals.