Saturday, 28 August 2010

The Lady Spoon

The template after battening the waste away.
I have manged to get some Cherry wood from a very old tree that had to be cut to keep it safe. I have been using the wood for some time. Originally I carved a wooden serving spoon for my home.  My son who when visiting asked where I had bought the spoon, I remarked that I had made the spoon.  He then asked me if I would make him one, I said that I would.  Some weeks later I got a round to actually carving the serving spoon, he collected it next time he arrived home.  My daughter came to stop some months later and made the same comment about the serving guess what I have made another spoon from Cherry wood.  This time I thought that I would document the making of the Spoon and post on the Blog.  I general terms I nearly always carve into green wood. Though this latest carving the wood had seasoned, flaky in places.

The outer shape carved and the start of the bowl using Mora Frost & Spoon Caving Knifes.
 The spoons are hand carved using a Mora Frost Knife and Mora Spoon Carving Knife.  I was taught to carve by a very good friend of mine Gary Wale.  We served together back in the day. "He says that he created a monster when he first learnt me to carve"

Once the bowl inner is carved start forming the outer shape of the spoon.
 My first effort was a small wooden spoon.  I have course gone onto learn to carve wood spirit faces etc as posted in earlier blogs. Any way here in picture form is the making of a Serving Spoon out of Cherry Wood.  The only thing that I had never tried before was carving a small simple design.  I quite like the affect that this gives to the spoon.

The complete roughing out stage completed.
I used to sand my work by hand but it just got to time consuming not too mention hard on the hands.  So I know rough out using a electric sander and finish off by hand.  It reduces the time in half but does not compromise on finish.

Sanded down and simple design carved using a Flextool.

The rear side of the nearly completed spoon.


Finished spoon rear view.

Once the sanding has been completed I always finish spoons that are going to be used for cooking/eating with Walnut Oil.  A lot of people use Olive Oil this can go rancid over time. To keep the wooden spoons in good order you can wash them as you do anything else that you have used for cooking.  However, you must if you want the spoon to keep well and long re-oil with Walnut oil then put it away.

I hope that you have found my little tale about how "The Lady Spoon" was created interesting, she is know off to a new home.

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Micro Carving Wood Tools

In the post "Strange Beginning's" I outlined how I started to learn to carve Wood Spirit faces.  In this short Blog I would like to talk about some of the tools that I  use, sharpening methods, books, sites and people that have helped me. I am still learning but have just about mastered the spirit face which was my goal. But we all strive to be better so the learning continues.  I do not intend to go into too much depth about the tools.  As other more experienced carvers will do that on other sites that are on my blog.  When you wander around the Blog sites that I visit you will see a man called Dave Brock. It was his inspiration and simple approach to learning to carve spirit faces that set the ball rolling for me. If you want to learn how to carve a simple wood spirit face please follow the link.

How to Carve a Simple Wood Spirit Face Pt1

There are three parts to "Carving a Simple Spirit Face".

Here are some of the books that I have bought or been given that have assisted me so far:

Tom Wolfe
Lora S Irish

Lora S Irish

Any way lets look at some of the tools that I use when carving into the shafts of potential walking sticks.  The most important tool is the humble Swiss Army knife.  I only use the small blade which I have been informed from a reliable source is made from Surgical steel? All I know is that I can get a razor edge on the blade, it always resharpens very easily too.

I have tended to stick to one make of tool that being "Flexcut" I find the tools good value for money, well made and ultra sharp.  They also always re-sharpen very well.  I have only purchased my tools from one supplier  Classic Hand Tools. See link below:

Classic Hand Tools

I can say from my experience that they give first class service to there customers. Delivery has always been very quick next day in fact.  I would recommend them to anyone looking to buy Micro hand tools for the first time.

I can put the tools into three groups:

V Tools




Well there you have the tools that I currently use to carve my faces.  One of the most important things about carving that I have learnt is to keep the tools sharp. The problem is that you get so engrossed in your carving that you forget to keep sharpening.  Its only when you are struggling or applying more power to the cut strokes that you begin to realise that the edge is getting dull. STOP.  Re-sharpen the tool. This is the point when you will cut your self..........applying to much pressure trying to get into awkward positions to apply the cut. I never bothered wearing a glove on the non carving hand when I first started carving!!! but let me tell you that when one of those razor sharp gouges slips it ain't comfortable!!!!!! I always wear a glove now. I always keep plasters in my carving box.  When ever you use a knife or sharp tool always have some first aid cover close by.  
When I have finished a carving I generally sharpen the tools that I have used.  I find that I always want to get straight on with carving next time, to have to stop to re-sharpen slows me up and potentially I don't give the tools the time they deserve.  If  I cannot or do not feel like sharpening after the work, I will not carve until I have sharpened the tools.  I set a period a side especially for sharpening.  You will always then dedicate yourself to the honing of the tool ensuring that the edge you have is at its best.  Actually I find it quite therapeutic honing the tools!!!  The V tools & Gouges have special faces and shapes to them, you would not be able to sharpen on a simple stone or leather.  Flexcut make a very simple but effective block that has all the profiles on that you will require to sharpen there tools.
I use this tool all the time although the photo may not show it.  It is simple just load the face that you want to use with the grinding paste and away you go.  I also sharpen my Bushcraft knifes a lot and wanted some thing to strop the knifes on so I made a simple little leather strop board.

This is made from half a cheap bread board about 11/2 cm thick.  I then popped into my local charity shop to find an old leather belt. Cut the belt to fit the size of the board, then epoxy glued the belt to the board.  You can see the board that I made with the grinding paste on.

I then turned it over and did the same again, this side never gets paste.  It is used as just a leather strop. Cost minimal works like a dream.
I never use a wet or oil stone to sharpen the tools.  Never let your tools dull so much that you have to resort to basic sharpening. Most of the time spent carving is matched by time sharpening so its important that you learn.

I hope that you have found this short article interesting.
Carving is fun but can be potentially very dangerous. Please if you have never used a knife or sharp tool before seek advice from someone who has and learn the do's and dont's before starting.  I sought advice please do the same. It only takes one cut in the wrong place to spell disaster. 



Thursday, 12 August 2010

Berry Nice.

Well, on my travels wandering around the woods today I could not believe the amount of Blackberry's and other fruits that are ripening. It seems to me that it has been a bumper year for the old Blackberry.  Though not all the fruit is completely ripe as yet, but I am thinking that the old fashioned pie will be on the table. Of course you can make alcoholic drinks with the berry. A recipe:


4lbs of Blackberries (Brambles), 12 oz of cane sugar and a bottle of Whisky (I use the cheapest I can find that's 40% or more) make in same way as Sloe gin, wait until the Whisky has gone dark red and bottle until Christmas! strain the whole lot before you bottle! 

I have found a nice little Raspberry bush on my travels! I believe it to be wild as it is in the most out the way spot.  That said it may have been planted / dumped years ago? either way the fruit is lovely.  When I first found the bush earlier in the year it had just a few raspberry's that had ripened.  I duly took them and ate them all up.  I forgot all about them until today I thought I would pay the secret berry bush a visit.  On arriving I had missed all the one single remaining berry which I duly photographed.

The Elderberry has not quite ripened in all cases and is still a bit green yet.  Though ones that I did spot which had ripened, the birds had had a small feast on them.  I spotted a lovely little Wren today, not quick enough with the camera though, I digress.  You can use both flower and Berry from the Elder to make drinks with, I am  beginning to sound like a man with a problem.... However, here are a couple of recipes for you to have ago at if you wish.

ELDER FLOWER CORDIAL (non alcoholic)

25 Flower heads, 2 oz Citric acid, 3lb sugar. 2 1/2 pints cold BOILED water. 2 dessert spoons lemon juice. A wine demijohn is fine or 3 litre plastic cider bottle. Put water in container, add sugar, acid and lemon juice shake to dissolve. Take a pair of scissors and cut out and discard the main stems of Elder flowers leaving the small stems and flowers, add them to bottle. Shake a couple times a day for two days. Strain off the flowers using a plastic sieve. Can be drunk right away. Store cordial in fridge (Will safely keep for 2/3 months). 


2½ lb elderberries  
Campden tablets  
2¾ or 3 lb sugar  
Wine yeast  
    Strip the elderberries from the stalks and wash well.  
    Put into a fermenting bin and crush. Pour on 4 pints of water. Add 1 campden tablet, crushed and dissolved in a little warm water.  
    Boil half of the sugar in 2 pints of water for 2 or 3 minutes and, when cool, mix into the pulp.  
    Add the yeast and nutrient and cover and allow to ferment for 5 days, stirring daily.  
    Strain and press and return to a clean fermenting bin.  
    Boil the rest of the sugar in 1 pint of water for 2 or 3 minutes and, when cool, add to the rest.  
    Cover again and leave for 3 or 4 days.  
    Pour carefully into a gallon jar, leaving as much deposit behind as possible.  
    Fill up the jar with cooled, boiled water to where the neck begins.  
    Fit a fementation lock and leave until fermentation has finished.  
    Rack, as necessary, and add 1 Campden tablet after the first racking.    
    Syphon into bottles.
    Makes 1 gallon of wine.
    Although a berry it might not strike you as one that you would normally eat.  You have to process the meat before you can eat the Hawthorn Berry (Haw).  They are still quite green and will not be ripe for some time when they are bright red. Yes you are getting the hang of things its another recipe for alcohol.... We have berry's here the Haws are the green ones.  If you look in the bottom right of the picture there are a couple of haws ripening.

     One of my favourite winter tipples is Sloe alcohol most people like sloe Gin, me included.  However, my favourite Sloe recipe is Sloe Whisky.  There seems to again be a bumper crop of Sloe's this year and although still quite a way from ripening or picking.  I found some that are ripening not well enough to taste. Even at the height of the picking season late Sept through to Dec they can dry the most wettest mouth up, bitter. That said they make great drinks and the Sloes can be recycled for other types of drinks. We made last year Sloe Gin, Whisky, Sherry and Cider not too keen on the cider though.


    Here is a repeat of the very simple sloe gin recipe - but with approx weights added.

    For one empty 1 litre bottle:
    1) add approx 400g sloes (to occupy about half the bottle). Remember to cut or prick the sloes before bottling.
    2) add approx 150g ordinary white sugar (this is about a wine goblet in volume).
    3) top-up with gin (about 500ml).

    If you leave a small space for air in the neck of the bottle you'll find mixing the contents, to dissolve the sugar, easier! Just turn the bottle occasionally for the first few days, whenever you're passing. Then leave in a cool cupboard for a few months (still with the occasional mixing of the contents).

    Quantities and times etc are NOT critical!

    I also found a lovely Rowan (Mountain Ash) today full loaded with Berry's. I went to take a photo and the camera was full, unlucky.  I also have a wine recipe for Rowan if you would like it? just drop me a line I will forward it too you.  Talking about fruit as we are I was fortunate to also discover a a couple of Wild Damson trees today the fruit however seemed not quite ripe yet.  However, I will return to sample the fruit of the tree.

    As with all things before touching or eating ensure you clearly recognise what it is!!! never take chances.  The recipes that are shown above are for you guidance.  I take no responsibility for your actions....after you have made and drank it.

    Well I hope that you have found this article of interest.  The next Blog will hopefully be about Wood Carving tools.

    Friday, 6 August 2010

    Gelert Solo Tent Pt 1- Garden Review.

    The tent arrived yesterday with the weather set fair for today it seemed an appropriate time to do the Garden Review.

    To give you some idea of how small the solo is packaged I thought I would choose something that most people could relate too...Cheers.  It really is a small lightweight tent. You would have no issue packing this in any daysack / rucksack/ floatation bag etc.

    The Solo once unpacked comes with inner sewn in ground sheet with mosquito net sides tied with two rather flimsy pieces of material. Flysheet with two air vents one at either end. Two sets of black fibreglass shock corded poles one large and one small housed in a small bag. Pegs and bag.  Also an emergency repair kit with flysheet material and glue in its own little bag.

    The carrying bag also contains some basic instruction about how to erect the tent and safety matters this is all sewn in to the bag so you will not lose the information nice touch.

    The tent pitches inner first all the sewing was in good order with good depth to the bucket type sewn in groundsheet.  Good full length zips both vertically and horizontally to allow side access to the inner sanctum the zips all had day glow yellow para cord attached to them.  At each end in the middle and top of the inner are two sleeves too accommodate the shock corded fibreglass poles which slide through.  At either side and bottom of the inner are pegging out points and brass eyelets to accept the fibreglass poles.

    The head end of the Solo with fiberglass pole.

    Foot end

    Once the inner is pegged out then the poles can be pushed through and the alloy ends located into the brass eyes. The inner is then erected.  I had no problems erecting the inner all was simple and straight forward.  It was clear to see that in the Summer months or warm climates it would be a good mosi tent, just the inner.

     Once the inner is completly erected then you can put over the flysheet. Several elasticated are pegging downs points are located on the flysheet. At either end of the flysheet there are ventilation flaps.  These are also the guide line pegging out points 4 in total.  The guides are made of  dayglow paracord and the adjusters are reflective at night. All are well made and sturdy.  However once the flysheet has been placed over and pegged out here comes a bit of a niggly bit on the inside of the flysheet are two sewn on tags.  two at the head end & two at the foot.  
    Sewn tyes that need tying to the poles!!

    You are then to tye the tags around the fibreglass poles.  It is awkward and actually even when tied tight they move which allows the flysheet to move around slightly. Definitely an issue in high winds.  Maybe the next time it will become easier? It is an area that I will pay attention too on the field test.

    I did like the side opening of the tent.  However, due too the tight inner size of the tent even not out in the field it is clear that a right hand side / front opening zip sleeping bag would be preferable (Oops mines a left).

    Once the whole tent was erected and pegged out the detailed matter of assessing the space inside the inner tent was explored. I am 5'9 and got into the tent just about right. Anyone much over that sort of height will be suffering for room. It did seem a tiny bit claustrophobic but i will get used to it.  There is a tiny bit of room for perhaps a daysack in the tiny porch. The side entrance can be rolled up and secured by 2 toggle and loops at the top of the tent. A set of clothes as a pillow will just about complete the space in the tent.

    One thing that stood out was the large gap between the bottom of the flysheet and the ground.  The flysheet was well pulled down by the elasticated cord but the gap pretty much remained the same. This may well be an issue in high winds something else to watch out for during the field test.

    Given some advice that we should carry out a garden hose assessment we did so.  We gave the flysheet a thourgh soaking.  The water beaded and cleared the tent well. There was no water ingress to the inner and no leaks from the seals.  Ii should bead well it is new and states it has been tested on the tent sheet.

    The packing away of tent was the complete reverse and took very little time to collapse.  The only thing that I would say is that it took longer to try and get the tent and its component parts into the small tent bag (quite difficult but you will get quicker over time).

    In conclusion.
    I was pleasantly surprised with the lightness and ease of erection of the tent (15mins approx) but the tying of those fiddly tyes was the downside.  The Gelert Solo is not advertised as a high altitude expedition tent, but a weekender.  There a couple of areas that I will be interested to see perform in the field as outlined above.  First impressions are good.  A good product at a very sensible price £22.93p.  A good alternative to the basha. The field reviews will follow in time watch this space.

    Update 12 December 2011.
    I tested the tent some time ago but never got around to writing a report. I have to say that the tent performed really well on a miserable wet and windy weekend. The points that I outlined in the Garden review in most cases were not issues.

    The tying of the tent to the poles was not an issue and the flysheet stayed were it was supposed too. I think that was just me fingers and thumbs for a first time put up.

    The issue of the large gap underneath the bottom of the flysheet and ground did for me cause an issue the wind really got under that gap and gave a really cold draft when sleeping.

    There was absolutely no room inside the tent for anything other than yourself, sleeping bag and a small pillow of clothes but I sort of knew that. I am 5,9 tall and was just a snug fit. You will have to leave everything else out. I think the tent would suit perhaps more a canoe type outings where you can store the remainder of your kit away.

    In final summing up:
    Great tent for the price, very small for the sack, not all season maybe 3 at a push, low level. If you understand its limitations its great value for money. The overriding question would I buy one again yes. Thanks for reading.

    Thursday, 5 August 2010

    Gelert Solo Tent

    I have just decided that I am getting a little to old for the Tarp / Basha in the Autumn. So I have purchased a cheap lightweight one man tent the Gelert Solo. I made the choice of tent on a few simple requirements.

    1. The amount of use the tent would get.
    I like to go into the woods throughout the year with a potential for anything up to 10 visits in the wet periods.

    2. Value for money.
    Ten visits a year is not that excessive and in the right weather I would still like to Tarp or Basha up. So it needed to be cheap but sturdy. Based on many reviews that I have read about the Gelert Solo it seemed to fit the bill completely. We will see.

    3. Size & and weight.
    I was amazed at the tiny size of the tent when it arrived today no bigger than a mans forearm with about 1.5 kg total weight.

    I have decided to complete a small review of the Gelert Tent in two stages. Firstly a simple breakout and set up of the tent at home. Followed by an in the field review probably of two or more field trips dependant on weather. The first review with pictures will follow shortly.

    On an aside the name of the company Gelert is an interesting one please see below for some information.

    Gelert by Charles Burton Barber (1845–1894)

    For more information about the meaning of the name Gelert please follow the Wiki link. It is worth a read.

    Watch this space for the review.

    Wednesday, 4 August 2010

    A Strange Beginning.

    Many years ago I started to collect wood shafts for walking sticks and indeed went onto make a few sticks. Due to change of work and location I stopped collecting and making sticks. Last year after wandering in the woods, I thought that it would be nice to make a few walking sticks for friends so I again started to gather and collect shafts. It takes anywhere from 6 months to 2 years for wood shafts to season, a year for each inch diameter of the wood. Whilst surfing the Internet I came across various pictures of Wood Spirit Carvings on walking sticks mainly in the USA. I decided that it might be worth trying to learn to carve a wood spirit face for some of the potential shafts seasoning away. The thought of actually learning to carve what appears to be such a complex task was quite daunting. The only experience I had was that of Viking carving green wood for spoons taught to me by a friend. I started with dropping onto a couple of websites,watched videos and read various books. I then decided which tools I would require splashed out on some micro carving hand tools, and my faithful Swiss army knife blade. Anyway the practicing continues. I found it easiest to carve into fairly thick 2.5 inch diameter 6 inch long wood pieces to start with. I am now 8 /9 months into the learning and although I still have a lot to learn the carvings are getting better by the stick. Despite my doubts about my carvings I thought that I would have a crack at a small carving of a wood spirit in a 1.2 inch diameter shafts. It went well since that time I have carved several sticks.

    Given two away to a friend who liked the first one so much he wanted another.

    Another friend had a stick and asked me to carve a spirit into the stick he was delighted.
    I am about to give another carved walking stick to another friend. I
    like carving into semi green wood it carves really well. The down side is that there is potential for the stick to split or crack, however none to date have done so as I use a sealer. The walking sticks have know become secondary to the carving to such an extent that I may well be going to try and sell a few sticks that I have carved. To ensure that the sticks are seasoned I shall buy in some shafts this year while my own hoard cure over the winter. I will keep you all posted on the progress of my carving.

    Its strange it seems a natural progression to move onto carving but I
    do not understand why.

    These are a few of my latest carvings into walking sticks. I have some way to go yet but keep learning every time I carve. The eyes on the sticks are simple eyes with out to much detail. The diameter of the shafts dictate the type of eyes I carve. I have learnt to carve eyes correctly, but I like the demonic look of the simple eye on the wood spirit.....What do you think?

    I am tempted to change the title of the BLOG......but unsure of what. It needs to be something more in keeping with Woodland Walks, Bushcraft, Outdoor Life, Walking sticks and Carving? they all blend into one. Or maybe it will stay as The Woodland Way..