Toxicity in Yew…

This is one of the most common search terms that bring people to the blog, and one that continues to cause heated debate across the woodworking world. As many will know already, I have tried to get a definitive answer to the question…and failed. A reader commented on his own experience of yew sensitivity some time ago, and he has just commented with a worrying update…I’ll copy it here, but the original thread can be read here: https://woodturningblog.wordpress.com/2009/11/10/is-yew-wood-toxic/

Paul Jackson commented on Is Yew wood toxic…

Regarding my previous post on 25th April 2011. I have not turned any yew for nearly a year now after my last incident. One of the symptoms that I sufferered was that the vision in my right eye became blurred for a day or so afterwards and the wrinkles around my eye seemed to be deeper than usual.

I recently decided to do some whittling about ten days ago. I chose a small piece of yew to work with as I reasoned that I would not be producing dust, only shavings and would therefore be ok. The next day the blurred vision reappeared and has been like that since. It has been about 10 days now and I have just returened from my optician.

Having had a good examination I have now been referred to the hospital and I have an appointment about 2 months away!! I have just phoned the doctor to explain that I suspect TAXINE poisening is the cause and that I can hardly see out of the eye. I was told that the doctor will phone me back today. The symptoms this time are the same as last time only more so. Perhaps I rubbed my eye whilst carving. I will keep you all posted on the outcome.

2011 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Syndey Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 29,000 times in 2011. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 11 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Hand Made…

I’ve not had much time to blog over the last week; it’s been a busy one. A demo on Monday evening had to be prepared for, and most of the week was either production turning or preparing for an event at the weekend. The event was organised by a friend, and she did a fantastic job especially as it was her first event. The venue was a restored barn on the Benacre estate…

I’d made a new shelf system out of some boards that were unsuitable for much else, but due to putting my back out whilst unpacking on Saturday morning I seem to have lacked concentration whilst taking a phone shot and missed it out!…

The event was very well supported, but my main seller was earring stands! Oh well. A few contacts were made, and a change is as good as a rest. (If so, why are fairs so exhausting?)

During the week I had a couple of odd commissions. One was to develop a range if high-end wood lids for these cosmetic bottles and jars…

I’m not convinced they can be hand turned for a viable cost, but I’ve been asked to do a trial, so I will.

I was also asked to turn some spindles, with an acorn in the middle, out of very burred oak!

They should be fun.

I had to take the day off today as my back in causing a great deal of pain, and standing at the lathe wasn’t a sensible option. I took the opportunity to go and look for some new books, and found I’d read EVERYTHING on the shelves of the section I was looking in. Bumbags. Browsing around I found a new book on an apparently trendy theme…Hand Made…

It’s an attractively produced book, and during a flick through I was pleased to find quite a  hand turned objects displayed – some by Ray Key, others unattributed. This is a theme I’ve noticed a lot recently; hand-made. There’s a TV series with Kirsty Allsop on hand made, and a new series in production with Alan Titmarsh. There is also the V&A exhibition , in conjunction with BBC4 on the same subject.

So is this reflective of a genuine renaissance for hand-made? Or is it simply a media driven series of events? I’ve noticed that a few craft, art, and woody bloggers are anticipating that it is a kind of publicly driven ground swell, a reaction to big business and a hankering after “the good old days” and “real” values and a desire to “get close to the maker” rather than feed the ever burgeoning drive to mass market consumerism. Do we really see this happening in any broad sense? I can’t.

I have no doubt that there are those that do enjoy the connection made when the consumer buys a hand-made object from the maker, and genuinely hope that their numbers are rising, but I do not foresee a mass move in this direction. Hand made usually brings with it a cost premium, and in these particularly difficult financial times I cannot see a mass move to a more expensive option despite the media drive which seems to be driving it. But maybe it will make a small difference? And in the nature of what we (the hand makers) do, and the manner in which we make our living, this small difference across the wider spending spectrum will result in a significant difference on an individual level? We can but hope.

Whatever the outcome, it’s good news overall. Anything that awakens public awareness of the hand-made is a good thing, so long may the media attention reign. The last few years have to have been the worst for decades for making a living from what you produce yourself by hand, and many have gone under, diversified to “proper” jobs, and I’m sure there will be many makers eagerly stepping up production in anticipation of the prophesied rise of the maker.

We’ll see.

Just found out…

that I have an article published in Living Woods magazine. That’s nice. And boy do they work fast! The article was written ages ago and somehow got lost in the quagmire of files at the publisher. Nick only asked a couple of weeks ago if it was still okay to publish. I’d expected it to be months before it went in. I suppose some people work hard and get quick results.

I bet you can’t guess which is mine from the list…

It’s a superb magazine with lots of interest to anybody with a love of wood in all its forms. The subscription link in the image is dead. This one is active… Living Woods Subscription

Hand powered lathe and yet more holly…

I was looking for an image and came across a set from March that I forgot to post.

A friend brought me a hand powered lathe (just to look at, sadly). The lathe is called The Vershoyle Mandrel, and is a hand-powered woodturning lathe. He had tried a number of times to “get it going” but never managed. So on with a piece of wood and away we go…

Whilst certainly difficult to get used to – cranking with th what left hand and turning with the short tools in the right – it was achievable. And what a lovely solid machine. Everything glides and moves as if new, and quite a speed is possible – but no digital readout I’m sad to say…

It’s a lovely thing and I loved playing with it for a while. My friend did offer to leave it with me for a while but I was feaful of not wanting to give it back.

I’ve been playing with the Holly and have part finished three different small objects – the open form, and small hollow, and a small bowl. Each has been pyro’d and verdigris’d, and they will now sit and wait for inspiration as to where to go next with them. (Don’t say “the fire”!)…

If they’re thin enough and VERY regular it seems I can get away with wet to finished.

More Holly…

Ellis commented that he was surprised about the behaviour of the Holly, and I suppose that’s an understandable position. My experience with green Holly here in the UK has always been the same…it behaves badly.

This is a small finned pot that is turned with the intention of the fins warping into waves. But perhaps not this much…

Never mind though. They burn slow and hot…

Greenwood moving…

On March 31st I posted on an oak bowl I turned from green Oak. I looked at it today, only five days later, and was staggered by the movement. No splits, or even the sign of a split. But move it did. Although it hasn’t warped in the way I’d hoped it would.

So how oval is it?

260mm one way, and 285mm the other! Now that’s a movement.

Whilst looking for the manual for the lathe inverter today I found a small round of padauk in the filing cabinet…and no, it wasn’t filed under “P”. I thought I’d make a quick box to add to the box stock.

It wasn’t a very big piece, and so options were limited, but I thought it would still make a nice little box…

Nice shape, nice grain alignment, nice simple ebony finial…

Good colour and finish…

Nice interior, and a nice ebony button inside to match the finial top (both hiding a screw hole that was in the blank)…

And if I wasn’t so blind that I’d missed the hairline crack it would have been a nice box!

Bumbags (:

But the day was saved by the last coat of finish on the burr elm vase from last week…