The dark side of the spatula

I lost/mislaid my Coleman lamp and now it gets dark in the woods towards 4pm (and we’re in the gloomy “no sun” months).  I found a storm lantern, but it just doesn’t cut the mustard.  Seems somehow to make it darker (as they seem to say in novels) perhaps it’s a dark lantern.

A dark lantern

It’s certainly too dark to read, but nevertheless, my breakfast reading is:

Scan 1Very interesting book.  Works over a very wide definition of craft including medicine, cooking, cello playing, glassblowing, programming to name just a few. It considers the craftsman, machines and their rise, the workshop (e.g that of Stradivari) , the workshop system, including apprenticeships, and gets deeper and deeper into issues such as material consciousness and the hand.  I thoroughly recommend it.

Coincidentally, I’ve been repeat making spatulas (or spatulae as I would like to think in Latin) like Owen Jones makes 10 an hour of:


Master’s left, my first poor effort right.

I’ve done quite a few now, and even sold some!  Today’s …

IMG_0420Changed species from (English) sycamore to some kind of willow that I mistakenly took for alder.  The two with the narrowest handles are the sycamore ones. I carved them in the dark last Thursday.  This is what they looked like raw:

IMG_0416I’d missed putting the chamfer at the top of the handle on the bottom one.  But otherwise they look kind of OK.  Having thought about this a bit, I realised that I am working in the dark anyway when I cut down the blade/handle transition in the shave horse …

IMG_0418I just can’t see the curve from above, so I must be beginning to do it by feel.  Then on Saturday morning I read this in “The Craftsman” .. he is discussing learning the craft of glassblowing,

The problem, she came to understand, lay in dwelling in that moment of “being as a thing”*.  To work better, she discovered, she needed to anticipate what the material would become in its next, as-yet non-existent, stage of evolution.  Her instructor called this simply “staying on track”.

*Previously explained thus “We have become the thing on which we are working.”

Simple huh?  Read the book, Richard Sennett explains it well, and not in a long boring drawn-out kind of way either like some Utube phart.

Anyway, I’ve not just been making spatulae.  I’ve a course coming up teaching a carved bowl.  Thought I’d better brush up as I’ve not made one in a while.  Took loads of tools with me, and forgot the blummin’ adze.  So I used gouges instead – what an happy accident.  Changed the inside of the bowl completely, nice and deep and one has steep sides and a flat bottom.  I guess I could do it with the adze too, but it would take some practice.

IMG_0412 IMG_0398

PS, the Coleman lamp has turned up over the weekend and it gave great light this evening, especially after I’d pumped it up properly.

Safety mortising

I have always rather struggled with making mortices. Tenons are less of a problem.  Getting the waste out of the mortice hole and avoiding bruising the shoulders was always a challenge. Having made a couple of handfuls of M&T joints on the joined stool following P Folansbee Esq’s advice, I have more confidence in setting out and bashing away at the chisel, and now I can produce a reasonably sharp mortice chisel.  However, I have refined my own technique a little.  Following an expensive break out of the side of a stool leg mortice I now cramp the sides to avoid accidents.

SAMSUNG CSCLooks a little industrial I realise, but essentially the wooden screw cramp is holding the sides of the stool leg in its grip.  Because the leg is pentagonal (more later) I need a V-block (thanks David) in the cramp as well.  Then one holdfast is pinning the cramp to the bench.  Just to make sure everything is good and solid I have another holdfast pinning down the leg itself. (Blimey!  That chisel edge looks rather close to the holdfast – Ed).

Now then (as we like to say in Yorkshire), the softener under the second holdfast comes in very handy as a sacrificial fulcrum for the chisel, thus saving the edge of the mortice.

SAMSUNG CSCThis gives me leave to get some muscle into the mallet and extract large amounts of waste in one go and speed the whole process up.

SAMSUNG CSCOK that’s actually the top end of the mortice which is not seen as it will be inside the joint.  I now also appreciate how important it is to start off using the chisel with the bevel facing the ends of the mortice, makes levering out the waste much easier, and then using the flat side when approaching the shoulders and then turning it round again to lever out the waste at the ends, so the fulcrum is the top end of the bevel which is down in the hole, not at the shoulder.

I have also filed a mark on the chisel at 1 and 3/8ths for 1 and 1/4 inch tenons.  This makes getting the correct depth much easier.

SAMSUNG CSCSeems to work.

SAMSUNG CSCIt was quite a worry working out what the shape of the legs should be for a joined three-legger.  I did lots of drawing on charcoal bags and test leg end grain, but finally reverted to schoolboy geometry, or what I remembered of it.

SAMSUNG CSCThe angle of the nose is very off-putting when starting from square timber and using one only of the square corners.  I have about 2 weeks to finish this stool for a competition, but at the end of today I have all the aprons fitting properly  and the top nearly done, and the rails ready for making the second tenons.  Phew.

It was Harlow Carr‘s Taste of Autumn last weekend, which was a really good event, lots of visitors and fine weather (apart from a little rain on the Saturday morning, which we won’t mention).

Owen Jones MBE was there making his beautiful and very practical swill baskets.  I must say his shelter is very enviable for its small size (mind you he doesn’t have to accommodate a flippin’ pole lathe).

SAMSUNG CSCWe were also delightfully entertained by the Barrow Band singing their hearts out about fruit and veg.

SAMSUNG CSCIt was a grand taste of Autumn (even tastier if I can get the Shitake inoculated log to bear fruit).