Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Potato Mashers and Porridge Spurtles - doing it the old fashioned way

These wooden potato mashers and porridge spurtles were commissioned by an elderly Scottish chap looking to give presents to his family. I made 7 of each as requested.

The design of the potato masher was described to me, and luckily I managed to see a nice example (no touching allowed mind you), in the Welsh Museum of Rural Life just before I started to make them. The green wood I used was fresh maple, some lovely green tinged cherry, and a whiter cherry. I turned a variety of handle shapes and mashing ends as the wood allowed on the pole lathe. All are approximately 18" tall. The mashing ends are about 3" diameter.

They would probably also be useful for tenderizing your nearest and dearest in the kitchen. (Joke)

The design of the porridge spurtle was a copy of his own that he'd used for the last 40 years. He made porridge every day, or every other day, letting it rest - I can't remember which. His own spurtle had worn down 1" shorter than it should have been, and so his hand was getting too close to the cooking pot.

The practical feature of this design is that the ball rests comfortably above your hand, as if holding a pen. He also insisted that the ends should taper. I made a variety of designs as the wood dictated. Five were turned from pear wood and another three from cherry.

One of the pear spurtles had a peculiar kink at the top when it dried out, since the thin point above the ball sat on a knot. I had meant to keep this one for myself but somehow he ended up getting a bonus spurtle. Lucky old him!

Everything was burnished with greenwood shavings from the lathe and oiled with culinary linseed oil a few times. I was very pleased with the finished work.

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Contemporary coppice workshops

I'm very excited to have a place on these workshops, it should be a great start to the year!

An exciting new series of workshops and talks in February 2012 bringing together coppice workers, green woodworkers and designers to create some new ‘contemporary coppice products’.

This event in Cumbria is organised by Grizedale Arts and is led by award-winning artist Charlie Whinney who will offer his unique steam-bending skills to attendees of the practical workshop. 
There are four ways to be involved:
1.                   1 day Conference - Saturday 18th February 10am-5pm at Blackwell Arts and Craft’s house in Windermere, Cumbria. With talks by Kathy Haslam, curator at Blackwell on the politics of the Arts and Crafts Movement, Ray Leigh on Gordon Russell and the Utility Scheme and key note speech by the renowned designer Michael Marriott.

2.                   4 day Practical workshop – Friday 17th to Tuesday 21st February. There is a limited number of spaces available – if you are want to make an interesting career out of using  coppice or green wood this will be invaluable.  You will spend time alongside award-winning product designers including Michael Marriott and renowned local coppice workers including Owen Jones and Matt Turley.  You will also no doubt learn a lot about steam-bending, different making techniques, and a chance to share skills and ideas with other makers and designers.

3.                   Visit  or after the event.  The new designs will be made available online, and we will also put up photos and videos of how we got on.  Also if you have any photos of interesting uses of coppice or particularly beautiful green woodwork please send me your photos ASAP as they will be really helpful and we can share them online.

4.                   2 day Practical workshop  - Saturday 25th and Sunday 26th February. A weekend workshop on Brantwood Estate in Coniston, from the cutting of coppice wood to finished product.

Visit for more information.