Large straight Oak, and dreaded pine

It’s Monday again, so it’s a day away from the workshop today, but today it’ll be with a difference; I get to do one of my favourite things…buy wood!

I sculptor friend…of the chainsaw variety…has some very large straight sections of Oak I need for a commission, so I’m off to choose and collect. I may be tempted by some burr whilst I’m there. Who could resist?

I also need to look at some of the dreaded pine for planking into barn cladding. Nasty stuff full of resin and knots.

Last week will go into the “weird” list. Several odd jobs came in. Signs of an odd nature, a weird hanging thing, a stick for an Irish Drum, and a “Jesus” sign. Well, it all helps to keep the nose above the proverbial.

Slow post week…

I’ve not been much in the mood for blogging this last week or so. Students, commissions, other related commitments, and the sun, all have played their part in making this a tiring week. And this isn’t a complaint, just an explanation.

It’s actually been a good week all in all. A gallery owner from London, on a weekend break in Suffolk, called in and took some pieces for his gallery. As his gallery had previously only stocked sculpture and paintings, this is an exciting event for me. Maybe woodturning is beginning to be viewed in a different light? Clearly one gallery owner has the vision to expand the common conceptions of what should be found in a “traditional” gallery.

So if all goes well my work will be found here on a regular basis.

An interesting development on the “big debate” front…the same debate has reared its head elsewhere, and now rages unbidden in another area of related interest. And new heads to an old question do not seem to be offering any new ideas or thoughts. Perhaps there aren’t any?

A Norfolk turner did email with a suggestion which I’m looking in to. It’s a tongue-in-cheek suggestion, but would at least provide an answer! More later on this.

Can You Help A Woodturner Reach His Target?

Plymouth Woodturner Donald Munro is doing a sponsored Cycle Ride from Lands End to John O’Groats in aid of the British Heart Foundation. You can sponsor him on

Let’s see if Woodturners can make his epic ride worthwhile…come on folks let’s support him if we can. And if you click for Gift Aid it’ll cost the Governement money too! How often can you MAKE them spend money on something other than themselves?

Odds & Bobs Again…

I’ve been busy since before Easter week, and so posts have been missing.

A regular Student, Trevor, brought some very nice Masur Birch logs with him for a hollowing course. It’s worrying when a student wishes to use their own-supplied wood for a course in deep hollowing, especially when it’s expensive . Having lost a few hollow forms over the years it’s no surprise when one goes, but a piece of green sycamore is an easier loss than an expensive imported log. But, the student gets to make the choice. So off we went.

Two logs were roughed and shaped, and both (thankfully) survived to end up as stunning hollowform vessels. Here’s a picture of the first…and I suspect not the last hollowform he’ll produce.


Today I spent the day between another student, and making signs in Oak. I have a love/hate relationship with signs. Part of me hates them, and another part enjoys being paid for them. I made two today, both with carving on them, and both from English Oak, my favourite wood for gate and house signs, and both a little different from the usual pyrographed signs. One has no text or pyrography, just a carved shell in relief, and one a “cute toad” (customer’s words) which was a nightmare. I’ve never carved a Toad before. Cute or otherwise. But it made a change, and at least the carving tools got some use.

Where your passions lead you…

My very first, and remaining, passion was, and therefore is, books. I read voraciously, and must have read in (almost) every genre over forty-odd years. First book, foisted on me with the instruction to “read it and I’ll ask you about it later” was The Hobbit. I loved it, and if you can forget the foisting and stern instruction, it was the first book I ever read of my own volition. I began a life-long trend.

First choices were, perhaps understandably, “stories”. Soon came novels, then books in a genre, and latterly factual, historical, travel, and biographies (within a strict field…or genre). But along the way there have been countless books read because they covered a particular, and often short-lived, interest of the moment.

It became the “what I do” scenario…get interested…search for everything on the subject…buy,borrow, steal as many of the list as possible and ingest them like food.

Woodturning brought a whole new category of books into the vast collection. But there was a glaring problem; they were quite specifically about woodturning. They were, are, books about woodturning, for woodturners, by woodturners. This is all well and good when you are new to the craft, it serves to illustrate not only technique and common practice, but serve as sources of inspiration…”I’ll have a go at one of those”, but what was there beyond these books? In truth precious little. The books of Tony Boase, perhaps, expand a little, and add vast interest by giving snapshots of the lives and practices of the turners in the public eye…and a couple not so publicly prominent. So you reach a point where there seems nothing left to read, nothing on a wider plain, nothing broader in stroke and intention. So what next?

Well next was nothing actually. I still searched and collected missing books, and read and enjoyed them as they arrived, but that’s as far as it went. And then…

And then as interest in the wider questions grew, another avenue of possibilities opened up.

Quite some time ago I had read somewhere, I forget where, about a book which sounded interesting, but a quick search proved fruitless, and so I forgot it for a while. But to a book-lover a lost book is like a drug, and the title will pop into mind every so often. The title of this book did just that only last week. So I did another search…and there it was! Brand new, slightly soiled (or so it claimed), and at a bargain price. Happy days. Book ordered.

And then, of all the coincidences, into my email folder pops a scanned copy of the first pages! I won’t name the sender in case the copyright holder is reading! But I thanked him and he knows I appreciated it. But I couldn’t bring myself to actually read the PDF version, knowing the hard copy was on its way. Well it arrived this morning…and I’ve read the introduction and first chapter, and it was well worth the wait.

It’s available on Amazon, and if you wish to expand your understanding of what we do, why we do it, what it is and why, I can only suggest it will be well worth the £10 or so…the first chapter alone is worth the money. And I can’t wait to read the others.

Bored, bored, bored…

That was my rather juvenile frame of mind today. I was bored. There are jobs I need to start, but only having Saturday, it’s the AWGB AGM tomorrow, I didn’t want to start anything I couldn’t complete in a day…result? Bored!

I couldn’t think of anything to do for a long time. Swept up. Made coffee. Roughed out a large spoon in green Ash. Bored again.

And then I spotted a very large spalted beech blank that Fred had given me. Oh well, another bowl then. Simple, quick, stress-free, and fills the time. So off we go…

And then it occurred to me that I have a favourite bowl shape. I suppose I should have been aware of this already, but oddly I wasn’t. But more often than not my bowls seem to end up the same shape. I seem to prefer a traditional “bowl” shape. Not ogee’d, not straight flared, but…well, bowl shaped. A continuous gentle curve from rim to foot.

Now this may seem a simple shape, but it really isn’t. It’s difficult to make a nice curve. And I suppose that’s why I like them…they’re a challenge every time. Put an ogee in and it can be a range of shapes withing the base description. Put a flare in and the angle can change time and again. But a continuous curve is a continuous curve. And the slightest flat, or change in direction, and the curve is lost. And for me, so is the bowl.

So what’s in a shape? And what’s your favourite shape for a bowl?