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.

Can you make me a …..

One of the most rewarding parts of my job is when I get a request like this, which I find when I come into work:


New on old

What could be better than giving new life to old tools.  The finished ones on the left are 50 years old I’m told, they had no handles when they arrived.  They will make a good set when completed.

I was at Harlow Carr RHS garden at Harrowgate (as we wickedly insist on calling Harrogate in Bolton Abbey) last weekend.  Lovely garden, a handful of other craftspeople and an apple and fungi display and identification service amongst other stuff that it’s hard to get to see when I’m working.

However, I did get plenty of opportunity to chat with my neighbour at the show, Owen Jones MBE.  What a good chap he is.  Showed me how to cut his spatulas with the drawknife.  He takes 6 minutes.  His at left, my first poor effort at right.  I’ll be working on this.




The white stuff

OK, more snow, so it looks like a day in the newly tidied garage where I should have enough room to put up the horse and shave some birch spatulas and rough out some bowl blanks.
There are some compensations for all the disruptions, like garden birds:

Great excitement as a pair of Bullfinches turned up at the feeder (hope they leave the apple buds alone)

I suppose I’ll be eating my tiffin, left over from last night’s curry feast, at home today instead of in Strid, the snow is still falling.

We had my brother and sister in law for dinner – they were drinking the wine, not us, honest! It is Lent you know.

OK as soon as the bread comes out of the oven I’m off into the icebox, aka the garage.