Sylva Spoon

green woodworking

Is This Woodworking A Religion To You?

Thomas Bartlett2 Comments

If you read my last post you'll know that I recently moved house. Yesterday we had our neighbours over to meet the chickens.

How did that birch get in there?!

How did that birch get in there?!

Our neighbours, Mike and Dawn, are a retired couple and have been extremely generous in helping us with the remodel of our house. Mike has a great basement woodshop, with tables saws, bandsaws, lathes and other power tools. 

I happened to be working in my woodshop when they came over. My woodshop doesn't even have electricity at the moment. But I was happily carving away in the sunlight filtering through the door. I showed Mike some of the more common tools I use, and some of the things I make.

My workshop

My workshop

He spotted my pole lathe bed (yet to be set up in its new home) and I explained what it was and how it worked. He looked a little surprised by it all and asked me the question that is the title of this post:

"So, is this woodworking a kind of religion to you?"

I kind of laughed it off and gave some non-committal answer, but the question stuck with me. Especially since it was coming from a fellow woodworker. Is my shunning of power tools some sort of fundamentalism? Am I following a system of belief laid down centuries ago, continuing it's rituals, myths and beliefs? If so, that sure starts to sound like a religion. 

This morning, still thinking about that question, I saw an Instagram post by Jarrod Stone Dahl.  

When I first read his caption I thought the language he used supported the idea of green woodworking as a religion:

"It really helps me to align with my feelings of how important craft is to to us, humans. Craft may just be the universal language that ties us to together and to this earth."
"This shines a light on my path."

But our kind of woodworking is not a religion. It doesn't try to relate humanity to some mystical higher power. We don't have a spiritual leader. We certainly haven't fought any wars over our beliefs (although that sand/don't sand debate did get pretty heated). 

Green woodworking as it currently exists is the shared values of knowledge, belief, thoughts, customs, ideas and habits. It is a complex of network of practices, accumulated knowledge and ideas transmitted through social interaction. 

It isn't a religion. It's a culture.

As Jarrod says, it's #thenewwoodculture



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. 

Tool-roll: Mora (Frost) 106 Carving Knife

Tom BartlettComment

Probably the best wood working knife out there at this price. 

From the Frost (Mora) website:

Our woodcarving knives are well known and appreciated precision tools that are used by wood carvers in Nusnäs, for example. This is where one of Sweden’s most recognized national symbols – the Dala Horse – is carved.
Woodcarving knive with a thin, tapered blade of laminated steel. Oiled birchwood handle. Plastic sheath.Blade Thickness:2,7mmBlade Length:82 mmTotal Length:188mm

The Mora 106 is a brilliant woodworking knife, whether you’re a seasoned veteran or just beginning. The first thing that I think makes the 106 great is that it’s a cheap knife, but is top quality. The laminated steel blade takes a razor’s edge without a great deal of effort, and holds it. The barrel shaped birch handle, whilst plain, is comfortable to hold in a variety of grips.

The shape of the blade is really what makes it a winner for me. It tapers to a thin point, great for delicate curves or kolrossing. The stick tang goes all the way through the handle, allowing you to make bigger, more powerful cuts. I prefer this longer, thinner blade to the Mora 120 (another great woodcarving knife from Mora at a similar price).

The plastic sheath supplied with the knife is cheap and cheerful, protecting the edge but with no real style or grace. If the knife isn’t pushed solidly enough into the plastic sheath it can fall out. If the knife if wedged in too tightly, just trying to pull it straight out can be dangerous when the sheath suddenly releases its grasp. A much safer way is to twist the handle, jiggling it as you gently pull it out.

The birch handle is symmetrical, which means you can’t tell where the edge of the blade is by just gripping the handle. If you’re paying attention to what you’re doing, this shouldn’t poise a problem. However I have rested my thumb on the edge of the blade by accident on a couple of occasions. However, the handle is easily customized.

The 106 blades are also available without a handle, allowing you to make your own. 

106 blade fitted into an oak handle I made myself.

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.