I’m still here…

I know it’s been a few days since my last post, but things have been busy, and besides,  I’m tired. Three years of virtual seven day weeks are taking their toll.

I have a student on a nine day course at the moment…for both our benefits the days are spread out…and Trevor is doing very well indeed. In fairness to him, he has turned for a while already, but wanted a re-fresher and then a few pointers to progress. We began where all things should do…at the the start, and ironed out a few problems that years of turning alone can instill. Once this stage was overcome we seem to have made great headway. I don’t like to post here about students…it seems an imposition…but when I said I was thinking of doing so Trevor didn’t seem to mind.

On Friday we covered some hollowforming, and worked in green sycamore from the recent felling. It was as interesting for me as I hope it was for Trevor. It still seems bizarre to me that I cal learn as much from tutoring as (hopefully) the student does, but that’s how it seems to work. Trevor is a very careful turner, considered and thoughtful, and after a day of listening to my droning he completed a small hollowform in sycamore with an acacia cap. As the entry hole was only 40mm, and hollowforming hasn’t comprised a great deal of his output in the past, he managed worryingly well.

 (apologies for the poor photo…it doesn’t do the form justice)30102009121

Very green wood…

Through an unusual series of events I’ve been given access to the old walled garden and environs at Somerleyton, a large and attractive estate in Suffolk. (Edited due a slip of the county…sorry Billy!)  The plan is to utilise the space for greenwoodwork events, craft fairs, woodturning, and, with a friend, willow work ranging from planting and care, to final use. The possibilities are exciting.

The walled garden forms part of the Old Rectory, and the current resident, a Somerleyton family member, is very keen to see the space used for all manner of things.

Whilst a friend is repairing buildings, old stables, and getting the groundwork done to repair the retaining wall by planting what will become a living wall of willow and hazel, I was tasked with removing a number of self-seeded maple, sycamore, and alder that were blocking light from the area of the new wall…willow and hazel cannot grow in the dark. The vigerous sycamore was also causing a problem for a gorgeous Oak in the centre of the plot…so it had to come out.

I should have been doing something else today, but plans change, and so I went over to Somerleyton to remove what I could before the weather set in nasty. The lady of house lamented the growth of the awful sycamore, and said she was glad to see it removed. I told her it wasn’t awful, but could be lovely wood when turned. She didn’t seem convinced. So upon returning to unload a van full of straight-section sycamore I quickly mounted a section and turned a quick natural-edged vase. This will hopefully show her how attractive the wood can be.

I get a great deal of pleasure from turning wood so quickly after felling. I don’t know why. It just gives me a buzz. It’s nothing earth shattering, but a good use of what would otherwise have ended up you-know-where…


All it has to do now is dry out, and then it can be sanded to a finish and oiled…I hope she likes it!

Man Flu…

Apparently it’s Man Flu…not swine, bird, or any other animal-based flu, but Man. And it’s been with me for a week now. Yesterday I had a student in so couldn’t just curl up in bed and be miserable with a good book. And to top it all the dust extractor had an off-day too. Turned it on and it blew out all the dust collected since its last empty. Not very good for my student…who was thankfully very understanding…but my nose has been so blocked it’s filtering to 1 micron I think. Anyway, I stripped it…the extractor, not my nose… and it was a faulty filter core seal. And my student ended the day with a stunning piece of work which I was actually quite jealous of. No pics…man flu causes the memory to fail, don’t you know.

Busy day today, lots to do and no energy or inclination to to do any of it. Oh well, that’s the life of the self employed.

Back to basics…

I had an hour to kill yesterday afternoon and was milling about doing not a lot when I spotted a lovely straight branch of Oak in the pile. About 3″ in diameter, very dry, and straight, I thought I’d turn a few weed pots for the shelves…cheap and cheerful is useful to have at this time of year, and I’m very low on C&C as these things tend not to interest me much.

So I turned a conventional weed pot in minutes. Not very exciting. And then I thought I’d try hollowing one out…properly hollowing it. I wanted to retain all the bark as it was so solid.  With the branch held in the C jaws  a 6mm spigot was turned on one end: 1mm for parting off, 3mm for gluing in, and 2mm for holding. The interior was hollowed being careful not to pierce the bark at low spots. The spigot was glued in and clamped with the tailstock (aligning the grain carefully). The bottle was then re-chucked on the small spigot and the neck turned and drilled out. The interior neck was flared slightly, and a matching stopper turned from another piece of oak. Sealed with waterproof, food safe sealer. Job done. And they look great and will be nice for olive oil.


And then I had ten minutes before I made the school run so I made a quick coffee bowl in lightly olive ash…


It’s nice to just turn simple objects once in a while. There’s something about them that appeals to me. Simple, clean, purposeful, easy to make, and something I can use every day. These probably won’t see the shelves as I’ll keep them for my own use, but I enjoyed making them.

Lunch & fire wood…

The temperature has dropped over the last few days; sun scarce, the winds are up and mean, and the log burner has had its first burn of the season. Brrr. It’s odd that the cold always has me craving soup and bread, but it does. So lunch today was pea & ham soup served in the only way fit for a turner…


In a self-made bowl, with a hand-craved spoon, on a “table” of wood. (And I’ll hold my hands up to being a tad retrograde here…so no emails please…

Yesterday, Monday, was a quiet day, just as it usually is at the centre. Only two of us were working, myself and John, the stained glass man. John wanted to cut some firewood for his log burner, so, it being so quiet we decided to do it there and then. I’d thrown a couple of very badly degraded sycamore logs into his pile, and eventually we got round to cutting them.

In the typical fashion of a turner I regretted having parted with the wood as soon as I saw the spalting and colour in the logs. So I stole a few pieces back and went to play.

The wood was very degraded, and in truth you’d have probably not bothered under usual circumstances, but the colour (which the photographs don’t do justice to) was lovely, and after half a litre of sealer a finish was possible.

Suspecting that the wood was probably relatively stable, and wanting to combine a rusty object I’d been toying with for days, I decided on a purely decorative set of  bowl(ish) objects.

As I was turning (minimal turning was actually involved) i kept thinking of all the lovely wood which must get burnt every day, and that kind of waste makes me see red…so I added red to the reclaimed firewood…any excuse!

All three are different shapes, and the colouring (hopefully) marries them together. But they didn’t “feel” right somehow. After looking at them for a while I realised that they shouldn’t all sit on the same level. So I collected the waste from the bandsaw table and cut two natural-faced stands, ebonised them, and the quartet looked much better…

I know some will consider them as still being only fit for firewood, but I am pleased with the results…and the wood was saved from the fire once again…John will be a little colder, but I’m happier, and he can wear a thicker sweater…

reclaimed quartet

A sad start to the day…

I started the day by collecting wood from our friend who sadly parted company with us recently. His widow had asked me to, and despite the invitation it still felt somehow wrong to be collecting another turners’ wood. Especially one for whom I had a lot of time and respect.

He really was a turners turner, and hoarded everything! Most of the wood I collected was in the nature of  “I don’t know what I’ll do with that piece, but I’ll think of something one day”, which is great for me because I love pieces like that. I’ll enjoy turning it all in the knowledge that Gerald will be looking on saying…”Now I wouldn’t have done that with it!”…

Turners are all alike under the skin. His widow told that she’d once said to him, “how long do you think you’re going to live? You’ll never turn all this wood!”  And we do collect so much more than we can turn, worried that we might need it, might find a use for it, might have inspiration, might stumble on an idea that requires just that piece of cherry or box, and more worried that if we don’t take it, somebody will just burn it.

Sadly, some of Gerald’s wood is destined for the fire, too long tucked away with too many worms, but a lot will be used and will hopefully be cherished by somebody.

I’d far rather he would have turned it him self, but failing that I’ll try to turn it in his memory.

…some blanks in particular brought a lump to the throat…I remember when I first moved to Suffolk, and was a novice turner, Gerald, ever supportive, gave me some huge chunks of wood. I turned them green and they were awful! truly awful. Gerald wasn’t so impetuous with his though. Today I found some that he’d cut into short boards and left to season. Now the wood looks great and ready to turn.

The wood is Tree of Heaven.

Even for a non-believer that brought a lump.