My partner brought me an old axe head that she’d liberated from work and in true style I threw it in a tool box and forgot all about it. Finding it recently I thought it would make a good project. I used a piece of Willow for the handle, I’m sure that it not suitable at all but I wanted to practice cutting the shape and that was the only wood available.
I roughed out a blank on the shave horse with the draw knife then drew round an existing handle to get the shape. I then went back to the draw knife and roughed out the rest. The straight grain of the Willow was a great help. Other than some sanding to get a smooth finish it was all done on the shave horse with the draw knife.
With it being green wood, I then brought it in and placed it by the fire for a few days to dry it out. Next I cut a little notch in the top to take the wedge. With a little work with a knife I managed to get the shaft to fit into the head of the axe. (this was harder than it looked as the hole was irregular shape) I then drove an seasoned Oak wedge into the grove.
I was pleased with the shape of the handle but felt I made a bit of a mess with the wedge, I’d not cut the notch long enough I don’t think and the split did not seem central. A few weeks later the handle came loose, this time I used a larger wedge and that seems to have done the trick but I’m not trusting it yet!!
Every kitchen has a wooden spoon but it’s great to have one that you’ve carved yourself. When practicing anything I like to end up with, or at least work towards, making a practical item. I think it’s better to have an idea of what you’d like rather than just whittling away until you end up with a tooth pick.
Yesterday I had a go at turning the spoon blank on the pole lathe, which if it goes right leaves you with two blanks. I got the idea from Mike Abbott’s Green Woodworking book.
you start by cleaving the log though the pith and then rounding it off on the shave horse.
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Next you turn a spoon shape on the lathe and remember to -as I forgot- leave a stub at the end to avoid the mark made by the metal centres.
Then the scary bit cleaving the blank into two. Be brave.
Then you have to carve out the bowl using a spoon carving knife.
Here are some that I’ve carved free hand.
Here’s some more photo’s from my week in Strid woods at Bolton Abbey under the tuition of Richard Law, the current bodger in residence. Mornings were spent collecting the logs produced from the coppicing and stacking them close to the rides or back at the workshop where they are sorted into three different piles. One for fire wood, large logs but which are too knotty for turing, one for straight grained which is ideal for cleaving and turning and the smaller logs are stacked ready for a charcoal burn later in the year.
It’s such an amazing environment, as I stop to give my legs a rest I smell the ash wood smoke from the kelly kettle, I look across to the river watching dippers jump in and out looking for lunch. A deer walks casually through the trees, only briefly glancing in my direction, I feel part of something but more importantly I feel I belong.
The Mallet has an Ash handle, Elm head and the wedge is made from Oak. I’ve left the wedge proud for now to allow for shrinkage and will cut it off later.