Monday 22 December 2014

All the very best for the New Year

Saturday 22 November 2014

strop and slip sets

Finally I have sorted boxes and labels for a boxed strop and slip set for sharpening green wood knives and other tools. The set contains 2 strops and and excellent polishing compound for putting a razor sharp edge back onto almost any tool.
The slips are for hook and curved tools including carving adzes and even gouges. I also sharpen my axe with these slips. I have been making and selling these sets for 3 years and this is what I use for my sharpening. The strops will last for decades, the slips use silicon carbide paper which is cheaply and readily available to replace when finally worn out.

This stack of boxes is about to be sent off to full fill  a couple of wholesale orders. They are for sale on this blog, under Tools for Sale.
One of the problems I have is selling to Europe and USA, as postage is expensive. I am finding out about Fulfilment by Amazon which will keep postage costs to a minimum and far quicker delivery times. What this space, I will let you know when and if this happens.

The cost is £35 per set with £4.50 UK postage.

Europe £8.50, and with insurance £13.50

USA £12, and with insurance £18.

Postage Country

Saturday 4 October 2014

I have a problem with plastic tree guards

This happens
Lots of plastic guards either constricting trees or littering our woodlands. What a waste of oil and energy. They are not reused and so often left, even the biodegradable plastic ones get up my nose. I also have cut many civic trees out of their plastic band holding them onto the stake. So it was that at the APF I came upon a family owned business that has created a solution.

Tree guards made from recycled cardboard and bamboo. Apparently they work well, but I have not tried them myself.

 There are plenty of solutions to bad environmental practise, it is not always doom and gloom. Change starts with one idea or one person. I just wanted to share a good idea.

Tuesday 23 September 2014

APF Log to leg Championship

Last weekend was the APF, a large show for the forestry industry. Lots of massive and very expensive kit for sale, with part of the show ground dedicated to various greenwood crafts. I took part in the log to leg races on the pole lathe. A great show, with lots of debate on how to improve not only our times, but also the quality of the pair of legs we turn in the races. I am also off to the Bentley Woodfair near Lewis in a couple of days time, so only a short post

 Milo marooned on a small green island of grass in a sea of mud

Thursday 11 September 2014

Holy wells, wood and a bowl

Being an humble craftsman, holidays are usually taken in a tent. This year we went up to North Devon.  We enjoyed a gift from our American friends, the tail end of hurricane Bertha, which added to scenic value. Larger waves and the challenge of standing on the cliffs for any length of time.
Anyway enough of the Englishmans favourite topic, and back to business. My wife and I enjoy walking and searching out beautiful, or historic spaces, so in North Devon we found ancient Holly wells that date back to the mists of time. I also like to find a bit of fallen or cut wood to make a spoon or two out of.

So the first are from St Nectan's well in Stoke very near to Hartland.
Made from very slow grown oak. I do not usually make eating spoons from oak, but they do have a lovely grain.

 This is the Holy well at Welcombe, again next to a St Nectan's church. A dead branch of willow was found and a small scoop made. Dead willow can have a beautiful golden glow to it with a graduation of other colours. This willow was well and truly seasoned and beginning to rot in places.

Stonemasons use to carve beautiful headstones, these had a grace of proportion and design to them. some of the inscriptions can sometimes be a bit toe curling. I took these photos as a possible starting point or chip carving designs

Contrast the old ones to the modern headstone.  There must be a niche for stonemasons to create something far better and individual.

I cannot go on holiday without looking in shops that sell old stuff. I found this little gem in one such place. Asking its province was told it was probably olive or something from the east. It is sycamore and the marks on it tell me that it was turn on a pole lathe from an axed out blank. It is not perfect in form, the bottom being too thick and the walls rather thick in places. Who knows how old it is.

Tuesday 19 August 2014


A couple of weeks ago I got back from another wonderful Spoonfest. The problem with teaching is that there never is enough time to talk and carve. I taught a lot of sharpening workshops, gave a sharpening talk and sat in the spoon chair, and then drove home.
Among many people from all over the world was Phillipe Steele from the States who has set up the Spooncarving, Green woodworking and sloyd Facebook page. Years ago I sold him a spoon via the Bodgers forum, apparently this was one of his first bought or traded spoons.

On a quick break from teaching I found Phillipe by the fire with his axes. It was interesting to find out that his hands are not really much bigger than mine but his handles are massive. So massive in fact that it would be dangerous for me to use these axes. For Phillip these are fine and he has problems with smaller handles, which cause him a lot of pain.

Most of you know that I like smaller handles and I do bang on about it. Tool handles are personal and it is very important to have handles that suit your body. So experiment and find out what works best for you.

 Below is my hand holding the axe. Not much difference in hand size, but difficult for me to use.
 Martin was flashing his gold leaf about, and Keith happened to be sitting quietly when all at once he was gilded with a golden spoon on the forehead, talk about gilding the lilly.

I met a lot of wonderful people and wish I could have spent a lot more time chatting. I bought yet another axe, this time from Robin who has designed and is having made very nice axes. It is good to see a functional, affordable axe on the market.

Thursday 24 July 2014

Knives, sheaths or boxes?

I have come to the conclusion that boxes are better than sheaths for storing knives in, this includes hook knives. This is because most of my carving takes place in the workshop, at shows, or at home. These tools don't do bushcraft. Knives rarely go back into the sheath when carving, but they do go back into boxes. This way I am less likely to have accidental nicks in the blade.

Made entirely with hand tools, axe, plane, saw, chisel, knife and drill. The wood is ash, bits and bobs that have dried out in my workshop that was stuff not use on the pole lathe.

This box was made for my MaChris knife. The hinges and catch are dovetailed into the main box. 
These boxes are great for practising chip carving techniques. Using ash is  a challenge as it is very hard.

Sunday 20 July 2014

Adze in the hand, part 2

In the last post I reshaped the handle on the large Gransfors Bruk adze, this time I replace the handle entirely on my small GB adze. There has always been something wrong with the small GB adze, I have never felt comfortable using it. I have shaved the handle down as a smaller handle is more comfortable to grip over longer periods of work. I also reshaped and made the pommel smaller, all to no avail. I feel that handle length is the real issue here, it is too short for comfortable and efficient use.
Time to make a new handle. It is possible to get the old handle out without wrecking it, a little bit of patience is required. All I used was a medium sized flat head screwdriver and a hammer. The new handle was made about 3 inches longer. As you can see the adze handle is the same handle as on the hand hatchet. Why use a an axe handle on a well made adze head? In my experience of using tools, handles are not interchangeable between axe and adze and if you do use the wrong handle the use and functionality of the tool is compromised.
This new handle makes so much difference to how the adze handles, what is more important is the strain is lessened on my body. I am not sure if this is the best shape of handle, but time will tell. It will be easy enough to take the one wooden wedge out and replace the handle. Removing the old handle and making and fitting a replacement took me less than an hours work. I am not sure whether I would recommend you doing the same, it depends on your ability and experience. By nature I am a cautious man and would say leave well alone unless confident in your skills.
I would be interested in hearing your thoughts on handle length and shape, and if you prefer the Gransfor Bruk, Hans Karlssen or S Djarv adzes. If you can not  or do not want to leave a comment then email me at

Thursday 17 July 2014

Forest Man

The world needs more people like this. A truly inspiring film.

Tuesday 15 July 2014

An adze in the hand, part 1

Using tools with bad handle design is fine for short periods. Do any amount of work with these tools and the body hurts. Do not assume that a maker of tools will put on the ideal handle. From my experience we all seem to have our own personal idea of what makes a good handle. A handle for one person will not always suit another.

I have a large GB adze, and I like it. I would class it as a good all rounder, great for wasting wood from a bowl and great for sculptural work. The problem I have is the handle. For some sculpting work it is too short and that bloody chunky fawns foot on the end, a hand wrecker. They have just stuck an axe handle onto it.
When I use an adze my right hand holds the pommel and this arm or hand is fixed against my body. My left hand swings and guides the adze. The fixing of the right hand is vital if I am to get a smooth cut. Holding this pommel is hard work as it does not fit my hand, so out comes the edge tools to shape it. I sand it smooth, because facets, unless very small, help cause blisters.
Working with wood on the ground and swinging the axe through the legs means that I am bending over way too much. Holding below the pommel means that I have to bend over even more. The adze is fine if you are working vertically or on raised work as the hand is below the pommel. One day I will put a slightly longer handle onto it, too long and it will change the arc the head swings through, and it will not cut as fluently and the bevel will need to be reground. A longer handle will also help with my back issues. 

Sunday 13 July 2014

Shrink pots for the National and Woodland Trusts

The National Trust and the Woodland Trust have come together in partnership to buy and manage 500+ acres of woodland next to Castle Drogo on Dartmoor. This woodland is mainly a commercial mix of softwoods and was being sold as a great investment for capital growth and sporting potential. What delights me is that another chunk of land is now open to public access and is being managed to increase local flora and fauna. The management back to indigenous woodland will take many years. 

Beccy Speight DG Woodland Trust (left) and Dame Helen Gosh DG National Trust(right) 

Mick Jones (pictured far right) of the National Trust commissioned me to make gifts to exchange between the two organisations. The Trust decided on a couple of shrink pots made from silver birch cut from the woodland. The lids are burr oak from nearby Parke at Bovey Tracey.
The pots were made in 3 weeks from freshly felled wood. This was a bit of a challenge in that I had to force dry the wood, carefully weighing it each day until it reached a stable weight. The pots were left out in the sun during the day and turned round each hour or so.

A link to Adrian's A Dartmoor Blog - Views of the National Trust's Dartmoor General Manager., for more information about the celebrations of the partnership at Fingle Woods.

Thursday 3 July 2014


A friend asked me to make a Limber Jack. Unlike me in the video, a skilled operator will be able to get a good rhythm going along to the music.

Monday 23 June 2014

Box, Buxus sempervirens

Lovely wood, very hard and very dense. Carving it with a knife is hard work and will take a long time. Obviously, green it will be a tad softer, but still very hard. I was at the Blackdown Woodfair this weekend, and a member of the Blackdown Hills Hedging Association took me to the back of his van. One never knows what to expect. After a bit of gentle English bartering.
Me, How much would sir like for this?
Him, Oh I don't know. Me Ummm. ummm um arh um, how about £15.
Him Oh I was hoping for £20.
Me, Okay £20 then. Would you mind bringing it over to my stall later, I don't have any money on me at the moment.

Over the years I have collected a bit of box, all bone dry and ready to use. I mainly use it for tool handles.

 This lump of box is 8 inch diameter, which is large for box. It has been down for 9 months or so and has one large split across it. In the workshop I cut  along this split, it was remarkably dry. With box I would recommend splitting it in half lengthways and then stacking to season. Most of the stuff I have is in the round and have all split.  If you do get some green box, split and store under cover straight away. The colour can be quite yellow at times, but often a nice creamy colour. Left to dry in adverse conditions it can easily start going grey in places.
 This is part of a 4 foot length that I bought at Westonbirt show for a fiver, it was cheap because it had these spiral splits in. Cross cutting it revealed that it had grown at such an angle off vertical that it has a lot of reaction wood. The splits really do not go that deep.
I am not worried about the spiral grain and reaction wood as I will be making handles rather than dimensioned planks for cabinet work.

I used box for as a handle for the MaChris that Jon Mac and Chris Grant gave me. Being so dense it can be finished to a silky smooth surface. A tactile finish that the hand falls in love with. The wood scraps very well and a cut finish with a sharp knife is glassy smooth. If sanded then work all the way through to the finest grits.