Sylva Spoon



Tom BartlettComment
I opened up a cherry log. It really useful to make a couple of wooden wedges before starting the split. The wedges help split the log, and won't damage the axe if they come into contact.

I split the log into ten sections, ready to be turned into ten cooking spoons. 

By the end of the morning I had ten spoons roughed out. 

I used my adze to help speed up hollowing he bowls out. 

The twca cam also quickly removes wood from the bowl, and I find it easier to get a smooth finish.

I've got five pretty much finished, with a few minor refinements still needed. I am really surprised with the variation in colour between the spoons, especially as they're all from the same log. 

London's Carving Workshops

Tom Bartlett1 Comment
I recently held a couple of carving workshops in London. One near Old Street and another in Victoria Park. Both of them were great fun and they kind of surprised me with how eager people were to learn crafts.

Both of the workshops were a part of Keep Britain Tidy's Waste less, Live more Week. The week was themed 'Be Resourceful' with daily challenges. The first challenge was 'Make it' and that was where my workshops came in.

While I spend most of my time making spoons, butter spreaders are a better project to start with as they only need a knife and are less complicated objects to make.

I split billets of cherry ready for the event.

I also brought along some thin sticks for people to practice the various cuts with. 

For the workshop in Old Street, I took bookings and the seven spaces available filled up very quickly. 

Very impressed by some of the work they were able to produce in the short time available to them.

The Victoria Park workshop was slightly different. There's a patch of land currently being turned into an outdoor classroom/community garden. I was there to help encourage people to get involved in that project. 

I was set up next to one of the park's entrances and sat there whittling away to get peoples interest. 

Over the course of about three hours I had seven people take part in some carving. Three of them were children, whose behaviour and attention to instruction I was very impressed with. 

It did feel a little strange to be in east London handing out knives to people! Fortunately we didn't have any accidents, just several happy folk who now know a little more about woodwork!

The workshops in Victoria Park might become a regular, monthly event, so if you live near there, let me know and I'll send you the details of the next workshop once the details have been sorted out. 

Butter Spreaders

Tom BartlettComment
When I'm not carving things or out in the woods, I'm usually found in an office in London working on Eco-Schools for the charity Keep Britain Tidy. Each year in September Keep Britain Tidy has a Waste Less Live More week. Last year the theme for the week was food and food waste. This year the week is running from 22 - 28 September and the theme is 'Be Resourceful'
To encourage people to be resourceful and to raise awareness that what's good for the environment is good for us, I decided to teach people how to carve wooden butter spreaders, a nice introduction to green woodworking. 

In preparation for the workshops I thought I'd give myself a bit of a refresher, as it's been a while since I've done spreaders. I had a nice round of cherry left over from the bits of wood I hauled away from Spoonfest

Using an axe and a wooden club I split the round in half, and half again, until I had eight pieces of wood to work with.

I sketched out a rough design on them. I made each one was slightly different to experiment with the design a little. I went back and forth between using the axe to rough them out and solely using a knife. Some of the pieces of wood benefited from being split again, especially if I was just using the knife. 

I ended up with 11 spreaders. It didn't take too long to make these. It was good to do them as it highlighted which knife grips would be the most beneficial to use, the areas where learners might have trouble and how thick to split the blanks.

I'll be running a couple of workshops in London (one near Old Street Station and one in Tower Hamlet's Victoria Park). If you're part of an organisation in London or south Essex and are interested in receiving one of these workshops as part of the Waste Less Live More week, please get in touch (

Charcoal Marking (part 2)

Tom BartlettComment
Last week at the Essex Wildlife Trust's Pound Wood I helped load and light the charcoal kiln. In the evening I went back and switched around the chimneys and vents. On Wednesday morning the kiln was shut down (all the vents blocked off) and it was left to sit for a week.

Charcoal I helped produce, from cutting to cooking.

We opened it up on Tuesday morning and the wood has gone from this:

To this:

We started picking out the charcoal and loading it into bags. I was amazed at how the wood had in one way changed so much, but in other ways, remained remarkably the same. I could tell which branches were silver birch and which were hornbeam. 

While bagging the charcoal we had to break up the larger pieces. This was to help fit them in the bags and to make sure they had been turned to charcoal all the way through, and had not just become 'brown ends'. The wood that had fully converted broke easily and the sounds of it had a glass-like quality to it. 

Brown ends set aside in the kiln lid, to be used as fuel for the next burn.
Once we couldn't easily reach down into the kiln we tipped it over and continued to hand-fill bags. Apparently using shovels left the bags dirty, which customers don't appreciate. 

The bags are all filled with the larger pieces, labelled and put on the tractor trailer ready for delivery.

We filled about 70 bags with barbecue charcoal.

Once we'd picked out all the larger pieces, we moved on to sieving out the smallest pieces to fill 'top-up' charcoal bags, which are labelled as having smaller pieces of charcoal in them, intended for "topping up a barbecue at a suitable pause in the cooking"

The first stage of sieving
Pouring the pieces into a funnel to tip into bags

Once all the remaining charcoal has been through the above mesh, it's sieved twice more, once to collect remaining small 'top-up' pieces, then the remains from the top-ups are sieved to be used as horticultural charcoal. It's all a very efficient process, with nothing from the kiln going to waste. 

Sieving out the remaining small pieces of charcoal

Sieving to separate the horticultural charcoal from the remaining dust and debris.

Hewing Out A Beech Bowl

Tom Bartlett1 Comment
I brought home a large beech log from Spoonfest, with the intention of making some bowls from it. So after a particularly hectic week, here's the first of hopefully several bowls this log will provide.

It's a lot of fun working on a bigger project like this. I do however want to make sure I have it ready for drying by the end of the weekend, as I already have about three bowls that have dried before I've got them to where I wanted to get them. They've all been sitting untouched for a while now. Should probably get round to finishing them soon!

Here's what I managed to get done today. Hopefully I can show you the (almost) finished product tomorrow.
Took a while to saw through

Looks great on the inside

I was surprised at how easily it split.
I used the left half, the right half has a large knot on the outside

Learnt this technique of drawing an oval from David Fisher's video.

Hewing out with my Hans Karlsson adze

The inside all roughed out. 

I used a Hans Karlsson gouge to remove the adze marks. 

Using a Svante Djarv little Viking axe to rough out the outside.

After about 4 hours work I decided to stop here. More tomorrow!