I had a brilliant weekend teaching spooncarving to students on the Coppice Association’s ‘Weekend in the Woods’. Six courses all taking place over the same weekend makes a fantastic atmosphere with lots of folk busily making and sharing ideas.
When I teach spoon carving, I want people to go home with more than just a spoon; my aim is that they learn techniques so they can continue carving after the course and have a better understanding of safe and effective use of the axe and knives. To this end we spent a lot of time practising different knife grips on lengths of hazel rod and building up muscle memory into the hands. I’m really careful to make sure everyone’s hands are in just the right position when they practise, sometimes just a slight change can make a big difference. I’ve learnt that a good guiding principle is ‘when you change to a new grip, check before you start cutting to see where everything is in relation to the knife’ which helps avoid accidents.
All this work is pretty intensive on the hands so I included a session on hand stretches and we joined Mike Carswell’s group for a warm up session with exercises specifically for the arms and hands.
As the weekend progresses we build up skills and make tent pegs and butter spreaders to learn the techniques of using the axe and straight knife first. By Sunday everyone is keen to start a spoon and with the skills they’ve built up, the work goes much easier. There were lots of questions about designing, using different woods and the order in which to work which I’ve learned my own answers to over the years of carving and by talking with other makers; it’s great to pass it on to a new set of students and hopefully I’ll see some of them at Spoonfest in August.
The NW Coppice Association are a lively bunch so with so many of us all gathered together on saturday night, there had to be some games after the day’s work. Events in the ‘Coppice Olympics’ including Egg & Wooden Spoon Hurdle race, Tape Measure Extension and Leaf Putting – something for the Bodger’s Ball in the future perhaps?