Friday, 25 February 2011

Chainsaw mill

Finally got my chainsaw mill up and running this week, got the saw a couple of weeks ago and its been sat there taunting me whilst I waited for the mill to arrive. I decided to buy one made by a small engineering firm based in Wales, mostly to save myself the extra money it would have cost to get a Granberg mk III, which is what I have used previously. It is not the best quality piece of equipment I've ever used, maybe three times as heavy as the Granberg and had to be altered slightly before I could even use it, due to some dodgy welding and bent metal! fortunately it was only a minor alteration and it was soon ready to go.
I had a lump of ash up the field that has been sat for about 5 years, Been meaning to do something with it for ages, so thought that I would make myself a rustic bench, although ash is not very weather proof I didn't want to waste my oak on my first go!

I cut the board to length and then split it with wedges following a natural crack in the wood, this would provide the seat and backrest to the bench, then the off cuts became the 'legs' of the bench, with the boards notched into them and held in place with seasoned oak pegs.  
Then I set about smoothing all the edges, especially the ones that had been split, This was done with draw knife and push knife, The timber is surprisingly wet considering the log has been sat for 5 years, although wood doesn't dry out much when its left in the round, so this may split and deform as it drys out. Only time will tell, still its only a prototype and once its stained will no doubt end up in my mums garden!

I'm quite pleased with how it came out, and all told probably took me about 4-5 hours to make, which isn't to bad for a first attempt, although its not the finest craftsmanship, especially as the chainsaw played quite a major part!

Don't think I'll get a chance to do any more milling for a few weeks, as I start a job next week that should last 3 weeks or so, as well as 3 days dead wooding in sherwood forest, and most of my weekends are occupied as well, still can't complain, it's always good to be busy.

Thursday, 17 February 2011

My first bowl

I decided to treat myself this week by buying myself a Hans Karlsson gauge adze. Although a bit extravagant (over £100) I had come to the conclusion that I was better off spending more and ensuring I get a quality item. I was not disappointed, the adze has an unmistakable quality to it that you could never get from a mass produced tool.

I'd wanted to buy one for some time, having made various things out of wood; spoons, tools handles coffee tables etc... I'd never really considered rustic bowls until I came across Robin Woods blog and the bowl carving courses he runs. So firstly I knocked myself up a bowl carving bench (designs on Robin Woods blog) A relatively simple design but very effective, as with most wood work half the battle is positioning and clamping of the work.  

A split log is placed in the clamp and held in place with opposing wedges, enabling the bowl to be hollowed out with the adze in a safe manner, with no movement in the blank at all. the bowl is hollowed out first as this is the point when it needs to be most secure, once the inside has been carved out the outside of the bowl can then be worked on, first with the axe, then push knife.
This one didn't come out as planed, so I tried another with the blank facing split end up, I'm quite please with it so far, although it needs a bit more work to finish it effectively, not sure what tool I should be using to finish the inside, maybe a curved gauge with a large sweep? always another tool to buy....

As I said, still not finished, no prizes for guessing the species

Monday, 14 February 2011

Interesting trees

Today I took down several interesting trees, the first was a dead Robinia (Robinia pseudoacacia) Quite a large tree leaning out over the garden, not especially difficult to take down, think we had it on the deck by half 9. There was nothing particularly remarkable about this tree, that was until I started spiking up and notice that there were a couple of largish burrs on the trunk. This was something that I haven't seen on a robinia before (or not noticed) and once we were ringing the trunk up I couldn't resist taking a couple of them, either for me to carve into a bowl, or for my brother to turn on his power lathe.

Robinia burrs

The second tree to come down was a small yew (taxus baccata) Again this was a nothing tree that took minutes to take down, was a shame really as there was nothing really wrong with the tree, the customer just didn't like it, had it of been my job I would have tried to pursued her to keep it! but thats the trouble with being a sub contractor, its not really your place to say.

The  third tree was one that was plainly obvious why it had to come down, it growing against and old stone wall, full of dead wood and absolutely choked out with ivy and honey suckle (a tree climbers nightmare!) this one was also a yew, but a lot bigger with some nice sized lumps of wood in. I managed to nab one of these before it all got cut up and chucked in a heap!

This will get planked into boards once I get my chainsaw mill up and running, as I am currently waiting for delivery of a Stihl 880 and an alaskan saw mill, so that I can make futher use of all the wood that ends up back at the farm. Either for creating turning blanks, or boards to be used when making rustic furnature, floor boards or...well the possibilities are endless!  

Got another yew tree to climb tomorrow, only this one isn't coming down, just being reduced.   

Sunday, 13 February 2011

A night in a yurt

I went to see a good friend of mine last night, who happens to live in a yurt! He has managed to achieve something many people spend there whole lives dreaming about; living in the woods. He is what is most easily referred to as a 'social forester' in that he takes groups of kids out into the woods and teaches them woodland skills, in an attempt to broaden their horizons, more often than not these are 'troubled kids' who have not had the best of upbringings and in turn struggle with society. My friend makes a huge difference to their lives, even if its only in one session a week. Many of them have never set foot in the woods, never sat round a campfire, never whittled a stick (often just turning a big stick into a slightly smaller pointier stick!) This is something I struggled to comprehend as my whole childhood I spent playing outside in the countryside and woodlands that surround the farm on which i was brought up. But I had to remind myself that growing up in an inner city school is a world away from my upbringing, even if these kids wanted to play in a woodland, where would they start? how could they get there? So what these programs offer them is a chance to experience the kind of thing that I have always taken for granted.

Its interesting to think how much the environment you were raised in affects the person you become, if I were raised in an inner city would I have the passion for trees and woodlands that I do today? how much of a different person would I be?

Whilst there I got to have a look at a Gransfors Carving axe and I've got to say I was instantly taken with it. previously I have been using some old axes that I re handled to do all of my carving, mostly because of funds and the fact that i quite like making things with tools that I have made.

Some of the tools I have re handle/restored, the middle hatchet is what I currently used for carving
Although now I have felt the quality of the Gransfors I think it will definitely be making its way into my arsenal of tools!

Thursday, 10 February 2011


Working as an arborist I get access to all kinds of different species of wood, in shapes and forms that may not be available to your average wood worker/carver, for example here is an Alder burr jewellery dish that i made for my girlfriend for her birthday
This was quite difficult to carve as I have yet to buy an adze, so it was all hollowed out with a tiny gauge! 
Also because of the fact that it is burr wood the grain is going in every direction, making it very difficult to work, I was pleased with the end result though as the colors are amazing, finishing it with walnut oil to avoid darkening the wood to much.