Internet connectivity…the paths you’re led along…

A few days ago I read a post on Yaakov’s blog, A New Breed of Woodworker, and posted a comment. The post stayed with me – it was about people coming to woodworking (as a trade) late in life and the loss of the family woodworking business where children follow in the footsteps of an artisan parent.

On Wednesday I picked up a hardback book in a discount bookshop and read the dust wrapper blurb. Oh! There in print was the sense of Yaakov’s post and my own subsequent comment. Odd.

I haven’t read fiction for a long time – having become weary with the “write-one-it-sells-so-write-another-dozen-in-the-same-line” state of much modern fiction, and getting tired of reading worthy books which seem to have been written simply to ensure a Booker nomination…Zadie Smith take a bow. Anyway…so for a long time I’ve read history, biography (of a certain type), obviously woody books, books on Englishness (don’t ask), and mainly travel/journey/life change books. Hundreds and hundreds of them going back several hundred years. Why do I mention this?

Because in a sense this book I was looking at, Utopian Dreams, was a kind of travel book. A journey. An exploration of an idea. So I bought it.

I came to read it today, and, is my habit I googled the author, Tobias Jones to get a feel for the writer before I began reading. And here’s where the internet begins to look like the glue that holds everything together…

Tobias Jones also wrote a book called The Dark Heart of Italy, right up my street…so it’s on my look-for-list already. He is also a journalist and writes for (amongst others) the Observer, where he has been writing about his year-old venture, namely  the purchase one year ago of  a 10-acre wood in Somerset to create a retreat for people seeking “a calm place to reflect”.

Okay, so the links are tenuous, at best they relate to travel writing, which interests me, woodland, which also interests me, the purchase of a woodland with the specific purpose of doing something different with his life, which also interests me (or would if he wrote a book about it. No bets on the outcome of this one!), but then…

An old article from the Guardian (here) details the first guest at the retreat…a chap by the name of Barn.

Now some of you may know, or know of, Barn. He is a travelling spoon maker who trained with Mike Abbott and now walks (mostly) around the country with an offical Peddlar’s Licence, making and selling spoons with the desire to share his love of greenwood craft, to show children (especially) that knives can be used for making useful and beautiful objects rather than violence and mayhem.  Barn also recently stayed with Robin Wood for a while, and any number of other Woodys you may know. And Barn is…in the most real sense…an artisan. And the whole thing began on a Blog called…Artisan’s Call!

Full circle!

Now you know why I thought the whole thing was worthy of a blog post. I’ll let you know about the book once I’ve finished it.

You can follow Barn here…http://barnthespoon.blogspot.com/m

Dreidel boxes…revisited…

I’ve had a number of email asking about Dreidel. I have posted on Dreidel before, but thought I’d answer the questions here once again…

The Dreidel Box: a short history

Throughout history the Jews have been persecuted, and many times they have been forced to cease the teaching of their faith. Refusing to abandon their faith, many Jews continued to study the Torah in secret. Legend has it that at the time the dreidel was marked with Hebrew letters symbolizing stories of the Torah. It actually became a coded way of studying the ancient scriptures.

The dreidel is a symbol of ingenuity and perseverance in the face of great oppression. In Israel the final letter on the dreidel “shin” is replaced by the Hebrew letter “pey” which changes the phrase “a great miracle happened there” to “a great miracle happened here”. Today the dreidel continues to teach young and old alike. It is also used to play a much-loved game, played amongst family and friends each year during the Hanukkah season (anytime between late November to late December in the Gregorian calendar) to remind us of the power of faith.

My Dreidel are made without the Hebrew script, and intended to be used as toys, decorative boxes, or celebratory gifts to be kept and cherished, but I think they retain something of their rich history and cultural significance, and are bought by people of almost every faith, and all seem to be moved by the story of the dreidel. A version in the traditional style is also available to order.

Here is a dreidel I made which was inspired by Eli Avisera after I met him in 2009…

I make a lot of  Dreidel, and enjoy making them.  They make a great project for woodturners, offering opportunities to improve a number of skills whilst producing an object which will have universal appeal. Children love them because they are essentially spinning tops, and adults love them for the same reason,  and because they have “history”. And if you have friends of the Jewish faith then they will make a wonderful gift with real significance.

For those interested in how I make them, I’ll post a project work through on the additional pages…see link above…

I hope this answers the questions posed and inspires you to have a go at making your own dreidel.

Nearly there…

It’s been somewhat chilly at Riverside House…

Shot through the gallery window this morning…

As usual I’ll be working right up to Christmas Eve, and then a few days off to spend with family…

I may (or may not) do a round up of the year before January 1st…but can’t promise too much in the way of blogging between now and then and certainly not afterwards into the new year.

A happy holidays to all my readers. Be happy and safe.

Woodturning on TV…

Kirstie’s Homemade featured woodturning on TV last night. She went along to a school in St Albans to make a few things for the programme. It could have been a boost for woodturning, and she could have had as much fun making an object in wood at a lathe as she has had with other projects and crafts she has tried in the series…but she didn’t. “It’s for boys” she claimed after her experience. It isn’t.

The shame of it is that I was aproached by the production company earlier in the year to be the woodturner who takes Kirstie through her experience. And then the production company decided to “take a different approach”. A missed opportunity for everyone in my opinion.

Scrapers used in an improper manner for spindle work, decorator’s sandpaper, a nasty catch due to improper tool use, and a sad looking object at the end of it.

There are those who no doubt think that any TV exposure is good exposure, but I’d say otherwise. But of course the production company are not concerned with showing the various crafts in the best light, only in producing a TV program, but surely as evangelists for craft you’d have thought they could have taken a few steps to ensure that the craft was shown in a better manner?

The progam is interesting for me in another sense…the antique expert is one of my trade customers and it’s odd seeing him on the TV rather than running around with odd bits of furniture to be restored. He always needs it tomorrow and then takes months to collect it.

Great Value Power Tools…

My little 12v Makita is on its last legs…battery fade and a dodgy motor. Not too bad when you think how much I’ve used it over the past three years. But I needed a cheap replacement quickly. I quick search of eBay located one at much less than the other sellers…and then I noticed that the company was in Lowestoft, which is quite close to Beccles, so I popped in today and found it’s part of a local company which also has a department store, Godfreys, in the town.

The power tools are incredibly well priced and the service is excellent…so if you’re in need of a new power tool try:

http://www.buyaparcel.com

They also have record power spares which may be of use to some readers.

Snow…

Once again I have a sense of de ja vu…haven’t we been in this “snow chaos” situation before? If I could be bothered I’d look back through old posts to find a blog entry…I know there’s one there somewhere. We really are a hopeless nation of dry-footed ill-prepared gallumphs. Especially the one who drove his landrover into me on Monday morning.

So…snow…and cold. It’s been about two degrees in the workshop in the mornings, but soon warms up (a little) with a good fire.

I’ve turned a few hollow forms over the last week or so. The first in ages and ages. I like hollowforms, and enjoy the challenge they always present (will I go through the side or not?), but find little interest from the public. The problem is that they have no appreciation of the difficulties involved in making one, and if you babble on about them they seem to think it’s just a hard sell.

One of the hollows ended up on the fire…couldn’t settle to like it. Another is sitting on a shelf until I can decide if I like it. And this one, only just finished, is likely to go the same way. 21″ tall and 6 1/4″ wide it was quite challenging to turn. Wall thickness is about 4mm…but again this is a pointless attribute from a potential customer’s point of view. In fact, I’ve often thought they’d be as happy with a solid form as a hollowed one. The main body is ash and the top is yew. No colour. No texture. Just wood, sealer, and wax.

Otherwise all’s about the same. I’ve not been in the mood to blog recently…not much to say that I can, or will, say. Several things getting my back up which I am resisting getting embroiled in. And I am dog tired. Woodturningblog may be in its last days as I am considering closing it for the new year. I am not sure if it serves any purpose and am reluctant to continue if I’m honest.  I’m not seeking affirmations, so please don’t. It’s just a statement of possible intention.

From a snowy cobwebcrafts…ttfn…