Wednesday, 23 March 2011


Well rounding off my week is some teaching at George Foweraker's workshop.

Generally we have four students once or twice a month who come back regularly and build upon the skills that they have been practising, or to look in more depth at any tooling, design issues, colouring, texturing etc.

It is a great day and one of the most rewarding aspects of turning. Interacting with people and passing on my knowledge is very satisfying. Especially when people go away with a smile on their face.

The day involved spindle turning, bowl and hollowing finishing etc. Each student is given the opportunity to turn what they want and to explore their own direction.

Great fun and a good day had by all.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Back to it

Although the last few days have been a resting period, I class myself as a very lucky person, I do not see what I do as work at all. In fact I enjoy it so much that I am one of the few I know that get paid to do what they love. I canlt wait to get into the work shop in the morning.

As James M Barry, Scottish dramatist and poet once wrote " Nothing is really work unless you would rather be doing something else"

(I thought you would like that Lee) But it is true.

So while I was suppose to be relaxing I could not resist returning to a project I have been working on for some months. The lidded form with colour and texture that I pictured some time ago.

It is almost finished but due to it being a relaxation piece it has taken me a long time to decide how to finish it. Even now I am not finding the exact solution, but I will not rush as hopefully I can then get it right.

This process involving wabi-Sabi is now what I see in all work whether we know it or not. So the process for me is as organic as it can be. It is just understanding that it is in front of us all the time which is important. We may not see it but it is there.

Anyway the picture at the top is a close up of part of the project to date.

Hopefully soon I can post the finished item.

Tomorrow it is tidy the workshop, get ready for a demonstration Thursday evening in North Devon and to get stuck into the pile of wood I have to process.

Oh and the usual to get on with too.

What a weekend

Well carrying on with "a week in a life of" I have just recovered from a long weekend travelling to Surrey, Kent and Back to Dorset then to Wiltshire, three demonstrations in total.

Always an enjoyable process as I enjoy meeting new people and visiting new places, but also passing on my knowledge and picking up some along the way as well. There are generally turners present that have been making for many more years than myself so it is also a chance for me to learn from some seasoned makers.

My short career in woodturning has been achievable through the willingness of many far more skilled than myself who have been willing to share their ideas, skills and techniques.

Now I am in a position of being asked to demonstrate the way in which I make my work I feel a priveledged obligation to others to help in their journey and hopefully to ultimately help woodturning in the UK develop. This may sound like a hippy view but I feel that we all have to share and support in a productive open way and the benefits often for me far out weight the work/input involved.

First on Friday was an evening demo at Surrey Woodturners Association. With 170 members and around 120 in attendance it was the largest club I have been invited too. Despite the large number of people watching, I was made to feel most welcome and at home. A very friendly club and thank you to each and all for your time, attention and help getting tools etc to and from my vehicle.

Oh yes and thank you to the member that helped to start my aged horse which developed a flat battery.

The evening was for me a great success with my demonstrating one of my signature lidded forms and carved finial.

It was then off to a members home for the night and up early the very next day to go to Orchard woodturners in Kent.

Another wonderful day with four projects demonstrated.

Then back to sunny Dorset and up the next morning een earier to sharpen the tools and collect materials before the third and final demo at Test Valley woodturners, Wiltshire.

Again I was made very welcome with the day going well. The process of meeting other turners especially those who have not seen me work before means that they often can give me ideas in relation to ways in which to work that I had not thought of before. We are always learning no doubt about that.

Then it was a day off as to say I was fired from driving 8 hours in three days is an understatement. But I could not resist tinkering with a piece I have been working on for the last four months.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Holm Oak

Thought I would update with some wood collected after a phone call from a friend.

This is Holm Oak and was cut down due to over hanging a foot path. Largest diameter is around 14-16 inches with the smallest being 5-6 inches.

There are probably 20-30 hollow form blanks available of various sizes and or bowls. The wood cost zero, other than a cup of tea and a chat which is one of the enjoyable parts of wood harvesting. Coupled with the fact that I know that once these pieces are roughed, seasoned and in the galleries that I have had control over the whole process and my profit margin is much higher.

Next week when the demonstrations are out of the way I will process these showing how I cut the wood to maximise yield and grain orientation.

This is a fantastic way of sourcing wood. Often if you contact local tree surgeons let them now what you want often they are more than happy to help out, even if it is for a small fee which will be minute compared to seasoned prepared wood.

Also let you friends and neighbours know that you want wood. It is quite surprising how much can be collected when you have several people combing the hedge rows.

Another day

Well work is very hectic at the moment. The processing of the wood collected has taken a back seat.

On top of sourcing the wood I have been finishing and submitting another article for 'Woodturning' GMC Publications magazine, that I am currently an author for. I was very proud to have been featured on the front cover of the magazine this month.

Writing articles involves researching and designing new ideas.

Producing the project with stage by stage photographs. Scaled drawings etc.

Writing about the process and collating all of the information and finally submitting within a dead line. This will then require further work once the publishers have looked at the format.

There are various skills involved in this such as, photography, writing, designing. I enjoy the process very much as keeps my grey matter working and is a way for me to pass on my knowledge so that others can benefit and develop as I have benefited and developed from others knowledge. Woodturning has given me a lot and by writing I can give back and hopefully help the craft to progress.

On top of this I have been developing my web site for the tools that I am now selling. This involves the use and knowledge of web design, graphics and other computer software.

Finally preparation is under way for three demonstrations that are scheduled this coming weekend.

Preparation of projects in a roughed out stage, materials, design notes that are given out to the audience so that they can go away and make the projects demonstrated, travel and accommodation plans, route planning, checking the horse for oil, tyres etc.

Finally accounts, stock checking, ordering of materials, tools, stationary and organising of more demonstrations and art trails that are up and coming, posting of tools and parcels, dvd's etc etc etc.

Oh and the collection of more wood due to receiving a phone call from one of my contacts that a Holm Oak tree has just been felled near to my workshop.

All this and only a few hours at the lathe.

Hopefully once all this has been completed I can get back to processing the wood that I picked up from the saw mill and show you how I go about this.

Oh I almost forgot.

While I am doing all of this I run the home, sort the children, dogs, house work, as well as building and maintain web sites for friends and a woodturning club I am a member of.

Friday, 4 March 2011

A week in the life of

When I first started woodturning I had a distant thought of one day turning full time for a living. Now turning full time I look back and realise how different it is compared to how I thought it would be. I have to say it is much more interesting and enjoyable than I had hoped..

I could never have realise the vast array of skills that would be required in just turning a piece of wood.

So I thought I would share with you a typical week showing what exactly I do from day to day.

Well I have to start somewhere so I guess the beginning is the best place.

Well I have the lathe ready so now I need some wood. For me I have always had an issue in using exotic imported wood in any large quantities. Much we can be sure is plantation grown and indeed help feed the workers that farm it. But for me the carbon footprint needed to ship it all around the world is something that I try to reduce as much as I can.

Yes I do use small amounts of exotic timber known to come from sustainable or plantation sources, but I have a passion for our native UK timbers. To me they are some of the most beautiful woods in the world. The fact that I can farm it locally, knowing it comes from a reliable source and requires only the minimum amount of carbon dioxide spewed from my vehicle to collect for me makes native timber the best option for my work.

Some years ago I was contacted by a local saw mill in relation to visiting and seeing what woods they mill.

Unfortunately there are not many small mills around these days. So I went along to Hazelbury Bryan Timber yard, Sturminster Newton, Dorset. A traditional timber yard that farms wood from local estates and woodlands. The ethos of the company is to help re-establish our UK woodlands and to provide an excellent source of wood at a reasonable price.

On top of sourcing wood from timber yards we can source from friends and people locally.

So what do we look for and how do we use it.

Firstly when attending a timber yard there are two types of wood we can source. Wood left in the round such as small trunks and wood that is milled from larger stock.

We can ask the miller to cut boards of various thickness's through the trunk or quarter sawn. Quarter sawn being the most stable but it is also provides the most interesting visible grain structure.

Through out this thread are some pictures of my visit to the timber yard showing various boards and timber in the round, how I have had some silver birch slabbed and also boards selected.

Silver birch being milled through and through.

The slab milled

How it started

A selection of pre milled boards selected.

The firewood pile can offer some quality stock, especially if you get to it before being logged. Often the cost is a few pounds for a car load.

One of the reasons I love going to the yard. You can really get in touch with nature and the very beginning of the bowl or hollow form that will be made from your find. This for me is important as it gives me great satisfaction to see the whole process from the log to the end item.

Next I will show how I process the woods to be used on the lathe.