Saturday, 15 October 2016

Car Boot Axe

Last week I picked up this little axe/hatchet from a car boot sale for £1. I often see rusty old axe heads or neglected/abused axes and I'm a bit of a sucker for them, especially as I only pay £2 - 50p for them and they are usually good, old steel. This one was a bit different to my usual findings though. Normally what I see are yankee pattern, Kent pattern and the occasional Rhineland pattern heads, this is something different altogether.

When I picked it up the first thing I noticed was the handle, which was more like what I would expect on a lump hammer. Then I realised how chunky the head was. It reminded me of my Roselli axe. The Roselli axe is a great all rounder (I did a review of it here), but it excels at splitting (for an axe its size).

When I started putting an edge back on this new axe find I noticed something strange about the grind. The beard section was a much thinner grind than the heel, which is really quite thick. I haven't measured the angles yet, but there is quite a difference. I also noticed that the handle is offset similar to what you would expect on a right handed side axe.

This has got me thinking that either these two features (differential grind and offset handle) are deliberate features, that would make this more than just a kindling splitter, or it was poorly made and hafted. It would seem strange to me to have an offset handle on anything other than a carving axe, but the obtuse angle of the grind is not my idea of an ideal carving axe. I guess I'll just have to get it sharp and give it a go.

Sunday, 17 April 2016

What is your relationship with your spoon?

To most people this would sound like something of a strange, if not silly, question. To the growing number of bodgers, whittlers and green-woodworkers, those with an interest in spoon carving, the question would no doubt be answered somewhat differently to most. But even for those wooden spoon aficionados it is still a question worthy of consideration.

I find it curious that spoons and the other utensils with which we eat are so little considered; indeed they are something that on the whole we take for granted, reaching blindly into the cutlery draw when required and drawing out whichever knife, fork or spoon first comes to hand.

We use cutlery in this way several times each day without once giving the knives forks and spoons we are utilising any thought, let alone a second thought. And yet the role they play in facilitating our eating - arguably the most essential of life sustaining activities  - belies the indifference with which most people view them.

When you examine the application of a spoon or fork in the abstract, considering the fact that a spoon is the interface between the food on your plate and your mouth; that it will not only be pushed into your food but then placed repeatedly into your mouth, coming in repeated contact with your lips and tongue, it brings the importance of spoons into much sharper focus. Let's face it, there are not that many things that we place regularly into our mouths, and if there were such an instrument to be thus employed we would want to scrutinise it fairly closely. And yet, do we employ such an approach with our eating implements? Really, there are not many things that have such a role of daily importance.

Sadly, I have come across much evidence that many, if not most people do not consider this aspect of their meal. I have eaten at various friends' houses or in restaurants where I have been left to question the choice of cutlery - heavy, ill-balanced, gaudy, badly designed. With far more thought having been given to the form than the function cutlery becomes an ornament upon a dining table rather than a tool with a job to perform, and whilst I would not suggest that cutlery should not be well designed and decorative should it be at the expense of function?

So what am I trying to say? Pay more attention and give more thought to the things you put in your mouth?

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

The Greenwood Guild

Last month I went with some friends to visit the Green Wood Guild in Stepney East London. The Green Wood Guild was set up about two years ago by Barn (the spoon) Carder and runs regular courses and workshops. They've produced this lovely video, which will do a much better job than me of explaining what they're about.

I encouraged the wives of some of my friends to buy them one of the Guild's whittling gift boxes for Christmas. The gift box included a Mora 106 carving knife and a voucher for their whittling introduction course. We used this as an excuse to have a boy's weekend in London and spent a couple of hours whittling at their workshop in Stepney City farm.

Doing a bit of chip carving on the train

The course was a nice introduction to working with a knife as instructor Tom taught us some different   grips to use whilst carving a spatula. There was a really nice atmosphere and everyone had a great time. I would definitely recommend checking out their website, they offer a very enjoyable alternative to anyone spending a day out in London. They also run some longer courses (day and weekend) and for those that live a bit closer they do evening classes. 

Jeff demonstrates the chest lever grip
Vince demonstrates the thumb push

Jamie demonstrates the shoulder push grip

Dave demonstrates the pull the knife towards you without stabbing yourself in the chest  grip

Nick acts weird

Some of the woodenware on display

The finished article

Monday, 7 December 2015

New Website

I've been working on putting together some kind of online shop for a while now, and I've found it really frustrating. Making things out of wood is much easier. I've had a few enquiries about sales over the last few weeks, so I thought I'd better just bite the bullet and go live with it. I'm sure this will just be the start of several versions, but with everything else I've learned as I've got, so why would this be any different?

Anyway, here's the link if you want to take a look: Holt & Heath Handmade

Saturday, 31 October 2015

Mike Abbott Shave Horse

I'm getting ready to begin my first journey into chair making, but first I needed to build a new shave horse. I made my first shave horse a while back out of a salvaged plank of wood and some branches from some nearby woods. Richard and I each made one together and I thought I'd done a post on it about four years ago, but obviously not. Anyway here's a picture of Richard on his.

It did the job, but has lived outside and been used more as a Star Wars speeder bike for my boys than as a shave horse. Consequently it now looks like this.

I would love to make one out of a split log of a species suitable to live outside, something like Sweet Chestnut, but unfortunately I don't have access to that kind of wood. In his book Going With the Grain, Mike Abbott gives instructions for building a shavehorse out of  2"x4" timbers that can be bought at a DIY store.  The instructions are really easy to follow and once you have all of the wood cut to size, it's just like building flat pack furniture.

So here is the finished article. I would put more pictures on and explain things in more detail, but I don't think it would be fair on Mike. Just buy his book. It's full of photos and is very easy to follow. I challenge you to read it and not want to build chairs.

The wonky seat is intentional and serves a purpose, I promise.

In hindsight there are a couple of things I would say by way of advice to anyone making one like this. Firstly, choose your wood carefully. Mine is slightly twisted and though I don't think it will have any effect in use, it bugs me. Secondly, When boring the holes in the platform, if possible do both sides together either with a long auger bit or before assembly with them clamped together. Finally, if at all possible use the turbo coach screws recommended by Mike with a hex driver in a drill, they're incredibly fast. I didn't have a suitable hex driver to begin with and so I did most of it by hand. It was much slower and caused blisters.

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Basket Weaving

Basket by Rachel Evans
Things have gone pretty dark over here for a while, so our apologies for that. I'm going to make more of an effort now to keep things up and running. One of the first things I want to write about is the basketry course we did at the beginning of the summer with Rachel Evans. Six of us went along and we all had a great time. Rachel was very good at dealing with us, and she explained everything so clearly, including the information we would need to continue with the craft at home.

We all made a simple round basket and Ruth even managed to put a handle on hers. This is Rachel's beginners course, but she also does more advanced courses or will tailor the time to your needs. Laura organised the whole affair as a Christmas present for me, but basketry is something that she has been interested in ever since we met and long before I started making things myself. I really hope that we can get some materials and do it again ourselves at home as it would be nice for us to be involved in a craft that we can do together.

How it all starts

Richard wanted to make a tall basket, so he had to go outside to get his side stakes in.
The raw materials

Laura working at top speed
Eden got really upset when Rachel told him his bottom was too flat

The finished baskets
Another of Rachel's baskets
And another

Thursday, 9 July 2015


I've been wanting to have a go at turning some plates for ages, so when I recently got hold of a Birch log that was suitably big, I thought that it was about time to give it a try.

I'm really pleased with the result, but the process made me think that it's probably about time I got myself a chainsaw. I've been putting this off for some time as I find them to be noisy, smelly and quite frankly, scary, but it would save me a lot of time preparing the wood for mounting on the lathe and would also allow me to be more wood efficient, especially, I think, with preparing plates.

I've been using these plates for all of my meals now and I'm definitely converted. There's something special about eating off of wood and you don't get the clanking and scraping noises that you get with regular plates. This first batch are going to be keepers, but i hope to have some for sale soon.

You can buy wooden plates from Owen Thomas and Robin Wood if they have them in stock.