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.

Carving Day

This  is a post I should have done a while ago. Richard and I don't often get the opportunity to get together to do some carving, but during each school holiday we always make an effort to meet up. Last half term we got together at Richard's and decided to do some spoon carving. We thought it would be good to both have a go at the same type of spoon and so we tried to copy one of Richards favourite users, which is actually a copy of one that I bought from a market in Turkey.

It was a nice sunny day; perfect for an afternoon carving. Unfortunately the piece of Maple that I was using was awful and very knotty. It probably should have been abandoned, but I persevered anyway. 

Richard spent some time trying out my Twca Cam and I had a go with his spoon board (I'll post more about them soon).

Unfortunately, during the day, Richard managed to sit on the spoon he was copying and broke it. His copy will have to be his new favourite.

Friday, 29 May 2015

Natural Sharpening Stones

I made a box for this little sharpening stone the other day as a gift for Richard. I often pick up nice natural sharpening stones from car boot sales and whenever I see a nice user made box, the chances are there'll be a nice stone inside. I thought it would be nice to make this for Richard as I have a similar sized stone that used to belong to one of my other brothers Adrian. Adrian died when I was only one year old, so as well as being a nice Belgian Blue natural stone, it has some sentimental value attached to it.

Adrian's stone
The box I made for Richard is made from Elm and I think the stone might be a Charnley Forest. I made sure it was a stone that he could use with water as the idea was that this would be a portable stone that he could carry around with him on little carving trips. In that case you don't want an oily stone messing everything up, but also you don't want to have to carry oil around with you (I keep a small supply of water with me at all times in my mouth).

I went to a boot sale on Monday and scored the biggest natural stone I've ever seen for the grand sum of £2.50. It's another Charnley Forest stone and will last several lifetimes.

This is the complete opposite of the small pocket stones and weighs like a brick.

Friday, 1 May 2015


I've been experimenting recently with making turned kuksas. A kuksa is a wooden cup made by the Sami people of Sweden and Finland. I think kuksa is the Finnish word for them and in Sweden they are known as kasa. I've also seen them referred to by different names. Traditionally they are carved, but I have seen them turned before so I thought I'd give it a go. To be honest it is more difficult than I thought it would be. You have to get the shape of the bottom half just right so that you're carving loads of the handle area away to get the right shape.

I've tried four now. One of them was a complete failure so I took it off of the lathe and started carving it instead. I didn't get very far and then I gave it to Richard to finish. He may post it on here later.

The first is the smallest one. It's ok, but it doesn't have the continuous curve from top to base that I am working towards. The second two are better, but I don't feel that I'm quite there yet as i had to do too much carving to get them right.

I've fitted two of them out with Sami style toggles so that they can be worn on your belt. Perfect for camping cups. I've had quite a bit of interest in these so I better get making.

Alexander Yerks in the US makes some lovely carved kuksas. Check out his website here.

Monday, 16 March 2015

OWC Spring Spoon Moot - UPDATE....

Just a quick one to confirm details for Saturday's little get together. So it's Saturday 21st March, starting from about 2 o'clock pm. It's going to be a fairly informal type of event - come along whenever is convenient, leave whenever you want. Bring some tools or don't; bring some wood or don't; bring some work to show or don't. Come if you are a seasoned carver; come if you're a beginner; come if you haven't actually started carving yet and just have a passing interest. Come along and chat, share tips, ask questions - give answers. Ju and I will be carving, join in or don't - does that sound casual enough?

We'll be at my house, in Leicester. It's number 21 - postcode LE2 9TP.

It would be great to meet you so pop along and join in the fun!