Thursday, 15 April 2010

Bodger's Relish

9th April 2010
Many sounds can be heard in the woods, but by far, my favourite is that of laughter. Uproarious, bellowing, tummy stitching giggles, caused by a rolling joke (or in this case a pure fantasy). You never know what you will find if you go into the woods today... or what people will be talking about..

Let me tell you about my first attempts at making a Spatula. It was modeled on a very nice paddle shaped stirrer in the Clissett Wood kitchen. It has an unfussy but attractive short turned handle and a wide oval flat. A nice design. My first attempt to copy this was back in April 2008.

When you start greenwood working you make all the obvious mistakes, and this had the lot... My spatula was wide, had a good short handle, but an unfortunately wedged shaped flat, too thick at the neck end and pointed to a fine tip at the other to render it pretty much unserviceable for kitchen use. In all seriousness this was my best attempt at the time, and being cook thought it would be rather nice to scatter lovingly carved treen around the kitchen for all to enjoy.

As I entered the kitchen that evening with my Spatula to hand, it was promptly labelled a Spanking Paddle by the male populous of that group, back in 2008. Some imaginings of the cook (ie. me), doling out quiche (not quickies) and discipline in equal portions were bandied about, to which I don't think I've ever regained a true sense of authority or composure when handling a spatula.

Now, to get back to last weekend. Those of you (YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE) who have been VERY BAD are about to be delivered up to the internet with all your sordid little fantasies... Ahh the joys of blogging ;-) This group, (with only the tiniest bit of encouragement from me) latched onto the greenwood spanking paddle idea with such gusto that it was Christened 'The Spankula'.

Greenwood fetish items for kitchen discipline I dare say have not been entered into the Bodgers Ball treen competition before. I have drawn the plan of the design of the Spankula 100. One side carved in the wood it reads STIR ME, the other side SPANK ME.

I attempted to make a prototype and got as far as placing it on the lathe, but unfortunately my workshop time ran out. I have instead, an unfinished (but handled) lump of Silver birch with protruding splinters should anyone feel the need to take matters in hand. Although it was a valid attempt at a prototype, the surface area I felt, would not surfice.

Further sketches and designs were put forward over the weekend including the Spankula 3000 model (patent pending) with drilled holes for greater velocity.   BAD BODGERS pay 10p per spank in the shower hut. (Honesty box provided (minimum purchase £5)...(health and safety rules apply)). Please form an orderly queue...when the bell rings.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Clissett Wood new Facebook Group

I've created a Facebook group for all the volunteers, owners, friends, course students and aspiring bodgers to keep in touch and share photos with each other online > Clissett Wood Facebook Group

Monday, 5 April 2010

Designers head to the chopping block...

A full and furious week of thinking and making was going on at Clissett Wood these last 6 days. Starting with a nervous group of Designers wondering what they'd actually let themselves in for. They swapped the glamourous shiny studio lights of London for the leaf-strewn wintery mud tracks of a Herefordshire woodland, rustic and as natural as can be.

Not everyone had met each other before the course, and only Chris Eckersley had previous bodging experience at Clissett. Guarded design ideas slowly came forward as the days progressed and most notably for me, more people than I'd ever seen before, came into the kitchen while I was cooking to draw up sketches and measure angles on detailed plans. A flurry of chair leg and spindle making ensued as the designers came to grips with the realities of using a shave horse, pole lathe, cleaving break and workshop hand tools for the first time. A lot of designers may be good at drawing up a concept, sketch or basic prototype, but not always used to making the finished article themselves. Nearly all would have experienced something new here.

A few of the group had large projects in terms of days available, in particular Gareth Neal with his Windsor style bench. Other designers had more hoops and steam bending than our usual courses require and Gudrun had at least 3 late nights in the workshop. Ohh, these demanding designers! These late night sessions involved amongst other activities, head torches on the that really wise? I couldn't even see to eat my food most evenings.

Camping it up were Gareth Neal, William Warren and Carl Clerkin, until something happened in the wood mid-week (which I won't go into here) which meant Carl had to leave the woods in a hurry for a bath... It might have been the monsters, something in the wood shed perhaps, or foxy (our burning mascot) that spooked him. Needless to say, those not camping missed out on the rain, rain and more rain, stumbling around in the dark and sliding out of the woodland huts in the mornings trying to light a fire for a cuppa.

Carl Clerkin standing on his chairback. (
Work progressed steadily throughout the week, but always with the looming sensation of the Sunday afternoon deadline. This was when the reporter from Crafts Magazine (read part 1 here) would return to see how things were going, a photographer to take 'finished' photographs and of course the removal van to take away the finished chairs for the Milan Furniture Fair, just next week. I'm really quite glad I didn't have any deadlines apart from the 11am tea break, and 1pm lunch to make.

A large part of being a designer as I have personally experienced is about hitting deadlines. Since doing less commercial design work myself and more making, I've found it really helps to allow some headspace in order to think about things a bit more. Having 2 or 3 more days at the start for the designers to absorb their surroundings, relax and play with the materials might have been quite beneficial for them. It might  have meant they would have possibly tried different ways of working and created even more interesting work. None of them decided to do freeform work for example and work intuitively from the shapes found in the trees. I think they might have missed a trick here. All of the designers worked on the lathe, nothing wrong with that in itself, but, machined parts can be made virtually anywhere. Having a resource with infinite shapes and combinations such as can be found in the trees is what is really amazing about being a greenwood worker for me.

As it was they were really getting straight into the making...all the chairs were finished however, with Gareth working right up to the wire. Slightly odd having a photographer and reporter wandering around the workshop all day I thought. A peculiar young chap from London doing a Phd about 'amateur crafts' also turned up to see what we were doing too...'Amateur crafts' actually means hobbies to us lay people...we told him he was in the wrong place! He had misunderstood the term bodging and thought he was coming to see a course about how to 'make do and fix things together'. No, that's not what it's about. Anyway, here are some of the highs and lows of the week...

Me to Carl after 3 days on the pole lathe ... "Are you still scratching on that stick?"

Gareth day 5 happily rounding spindles, declares that he loves the tenon cutters. He then proceeds to snap off the end of his long stretcher after getting it stuck in the tenon cutter...Gudrun says, "you'll have to get back on the lathe"...Gareth with eyes bulging and hair fraying, yells (with wobbly voice), "I'm not going back on the lathe, I don't want to go back on the lathe" (insert a bit of jumping up and down here)... Gareth later declares that he no longer loves the tenon cutters.

Amos (despite not having many components) has so much to do on the last day it all seems a bit impossible. Looking like things are eventually coming together, he realises his chair seat is splitting down  the middle. This piece was the best Herefordshire elm Gudrun had in stock too which was a very unnerving moment for her I think. The glue, syringe and straps came out. What a shame that was after Amos spent a whole evening shaping that seat.

In a mildly embarrasing alcohol induced moment at the Green Dragon pub I offer to show the group some bodgers dances we've made up at Clissett Wood previously...I will post diagrams of said dances on this blog eventually including the two button dance.

The 'Shhh shhh' not of the lathe but of the sandpaper can be heard throughout the workshop despite those designers being told it's not necessary. They are not oiling their seats either, despite being advised to do so in order to protect the end grain. Will that be a wise decision under the hot lights of Milan?

The campers on night one decide to cook pizza...the oven isn't hot enough and the pizza sits there sadly in the oven uncooked until the oven is relit for another hour and then wow, a very nice pizza with a crispy ash base after 10pm.

Carl to me after 4 days on the pole lathe ... "Are you still scratching on that stick?

Dave produces a predrilled seat mid week. I have to say this was a big cheat. We don't use electric tools at Clissett normally and he thought it was going to be too much like hard work. Booo!

Crys of "Bodgers....bodgers..." in a football chant kind of way can be heard ringing around the workshop from Carl thoughout the week.

Me to Chris on the last day ... "it's much better than your last chair".

Will, Gareth and myself wonder if Rory has been making hazel wands in his spare time?

Carl is a cheese and jam man...he cooks up halloumi cheese and fried eggs for breakfast. Yummy.

Finished group photo. More photos on view on the Clissett Wood facebook group. It was a pleasure to cook for you all this week!

STOP PRESS : Video footage of the week here.
(Never has so much sandpaper been used in greenwoodworking...hey's not necessary!)

And since then, the Crafts Magazine (May 2010 issue) article about the Designers week is available here.