Learning axe & knife skills for spoon carving

Spoon carving course
I spent the weekend at RHS Garden Harlow Carr in Yorkshire teaching a spoon carving course to six lovely folk.

My courses always focus on teaching carving skills and we build these up at the same time as making wooden spoons. Everyone goes home with spoons to show off and use but, more importantly they learn techniques and confidence to continue using carving axes and carving knives after the course.

We start by splitting a log and then axing out a spoon shape. I’m always impressed by how quickly people improve in their confidence and accuracy with the axes. Safety is key, brilliant demonstrations of safe hand positions here.
Spoon carving axework Spoon carving workshop Learning to axe a wooden spoon

Then we start to carve using the straight and hooked knives. I want spoon carving to be an accessible hobby so I select the best tools to reflect this which work well and are within people’s budget. We work through different knife grips, all the time refining the spoon as we go. Check out that beautiful long shaving that Alison is making as she carves long, clean facets on the handle, easy to do with good technique.
Spoon carving knife grip Spoon carving Frost knife Spoon carving hook knife

This was a two day course which means we can look more deeply at the skills and work on more carving complicated eating spoons as well. Here are Callum‘s spoons, great shapes and finish.
Learn to carve spoons

If you’d like to learn to carve wooden spoons, check out my other course dates. I am planning some workshops in Manchester for 2017, subscribe to my newsletter to be first to hear about dates.

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A happy customer

Nothing makes me happier than to make craft and then hear from its new owner.
I recently sent one of my ash splint wall baskets to Marc in Germany who was kind enough to send me this lovely message:

Dear Steve,
I would like to let you know that your package arrived today. The basket even exceeds my expectations. Love it!
I really appreciate your personal note and, of course, the cute little spoon.
What could be better than buying beautiful items and thus at the same time supporting an independent maker.
Keep up the great work!
A happy customer

I have lots of craft of my own that I’ve bought from other makers and reminds me of them or the story of acquiring it when I use them. The pleasure they bring in this way is more that just from having beautiful, well-made items, it’s a connection between people.

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Spoon carving straight from the tree

This weekend I had a lovely day in Lancashire teaching spoon carving to a group of friends. As I got set up, our hosts David & Melanie explained that they’d just had a cherry tree felled on their property. There were several clean lengths so I suggested we use that timber for the course to add a personal touch to the work.
Spoon carving wood Cherry is a great choice for carving wooden spoon and our pieces split beautifully with the froe, giving lots of billets ready for axing.
Splitting wood with froe for spoons

Some spoon carving courses start with a pre-prepared blank bandsawn from a plank but I think this misses out a lot of what it is about. Learning how to use an axe to carve is a really valuable skill and, under tuition, my students rapidly gain confidence and accuracy so they can quickly shape wood. It also means they have gone through the whole process from the raw material and can carry on their new hobby using green wood sourced from the garden, parks department or local woodland.
Spoon carving with axe Axing wooden spoons

Then on to carving with the straight and hooked Swedish Mora knives. We practised four different carving techniques, using them at the same time to quickly refine the spoon. I have altered my process this year which I was pleased to see gave improved results in the finished spoons.
Spoon carving course Using a hooked knife

I know lots of brilliant female woodworkers but unfortunately it often still seems to be thought of as a male occupation so it was great to have so many women on the course. I loved the contrast of the painted nails, sharp tools and natural materials.
Hollowing a spoon bowl Axing a wooden spoon

We had time for carving some decorative finials on the end of the handles and the only hard part was knowing when to stop!
Spoon carving Carving spoon finials

A fun day with lots of chat, laughter and a delicious lunch. I was very impressed with their spoons, particularly for their elegant shapes and smooth, unsanded finish.
Carved greenwood spoons

If you would like to learn to carve spoons straight from the tree, I will be teaching several other courses this year, have a look at my courses page for dates. If you have a group and would like me to come and teach a similar day for you, please send me an email for details: stevetomlin8[at]gmail.com

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Ash splint wall baskets

ash splint wall baskets
These wall baskets are one of my favourite to make. They’re based on baskets which the Shaker communities made to store tall candles in and they’re still useful for that same reason. They make a sylish, contemporary decoration in their own right and ideal for storing all kinds of things around the house: stationery, earbuds and usb cables, makeup, scarves and anything else you want to keep tidy yet accessible.

This pair of baskets demonstrate why I don’t use forms to shape my baskets but shape them instead by eye and experience. Though they’re definitely a pair, each basket has it’s own shape and character which makes it unique and special.
ash splint wall baskets

For these two I also wanted to show you the variation of hanger placement. With the hanger inside the basket hangs flat to the wall while with the hanger on the outside, the basket tips very slightly forward. Each variation gives a different detail in the rim lashing too. I can’t decide which I like most.
ash splint wall baskets

Each basket is made from English pounded ash and measures 8″ wide x 4.5″ deep x 7″ tall to the rim, approx. P&P is £4.50

ash splint wall basket
Ash splint wall basket, outside hanger.
ash splint wall basket
Ash splint wall basket, inside hanger.
£80 Small Buy Now Button
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Making an ash splint pack basket

Ash splint pack basket
This week I’ve been working on a new ash splint pack basket commission and took a few photos along the way to show the process.

The weaving is a very simple over-one, under-one weave – all the emphasis is on matching the weight of the weavers and altering the tension to create the correct shape.
ash splint basket weaving

As the weaving continues, I let it dry and pack down the weavers. As it dries, the ash splint shrinks so without this packing, the weave would be loose and weak.
ash splint basket making

Once the desired height is reached, I trim the uprights and split them so they can be turned down and tucked into the weavers to lock them in place.
ash splint basket making

Here is the shape I want, a full-bellied basket with a tight base and short straight section up to the rim, all achieved by changing the tension in the weaving.
ash splint basketry

The next stage is to carve and steam bend a wooden grab handle for the top of the basket. With small pieces like this, I heat them over a pan with a cloth to hold the heat on the wood and then bend it around a simple wooden former.
Steaming wood for bending steam bent ash basket handle

An inner and outer rim are fitted and the handle notched into the inner rim. With long, thin splints, I lash the rims and handle tightly in place.
lashing an ash splint basket rim

Finally, leather carry straps are attached along with a pair of splint ‘feet’ which protect the leather when the basket is on the ground. I’m proud to use UK-made leather and brass buckles which set off the ash splint beautifully.
Ash splint pack basket

Strong and lightweight, ash splint is a beautiful material which makes elegant and stylish baskets. My pack baskets are individually made to order and are priced at £425. If you are interested in discussing a commission, please email me for more details stevetomlin8[at]gmail.com
As well as pack baskets, I currently have a few other ash splint baskets for sale.

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Ash splint baskets for sale

ost of my ash splint baskets are made to order, particularly the large pack baskets but I currently have the following baskets for sale. P&P is just £4.50.
My baskets are individually handmade from pounded english ash making each one unique. If you are interested in commissioning a basket, please email me stevetomlin8[at]gmail.com.

Ash splint basket, hazel rim with bark on, steambent ash wood handle.
6″ to rim, round opening 7″x7″
Ash splint basket, hazel rim with bark on, steambent ash wood handle.
6″ to rim, oval opening 6.5″x4.5″
Ash splint basket, steambent ash wood handle.
6.5″ to rim, round opening 8″x8″
£90Small Buy Now Button
Ash splint shopping basket.
10.5″ to rim, opening 16.5″x9.5″
Ash splint wall basket, steambent ash hanger.
7″ to rim, opening 7″x4.5″
Ash splint table basket, steambent ash ear handles.
4″ to rim, opening 12″x12″
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Greenwood and scythe course dates 2017

Happy new year to you all! It’s the time of year when the holidays are over and we start to think about the year ahead. It’s always nice to have some plans in the diary and activities to look forward to.

In 2017, why not come and spend a day with me and other lovely people on one of my short craft courses? It’s a great break from the busyness of normal life and you’ll come away refreshed and with new skills to enjoy long after the day.
"Learn Learn to scythe course group 2017

Learn to Scythe

The Austrian scythe is a lightweight, efficient tool for managing all kinds vegetation from gardens and orchards to meadows and riverbanks. Sustainable, fun and quiet, my courses cover everything you need to know to safely set up, sharpen, mow and maintain your scythe.


Spoon carving Spoon carving course 2017

Spoon carving

Carving wooden spoons from green wood has become a massive hobby over the last 5 years or so with people from all walks of life discovering its pleasures. I’ve been carving and teaching for over 15 years including every year at Spoonfest and love to pass on these skills.
A one day course will give you an introduction to the skills of carving with an axe and knives while the two day courses allow us time to develop those skills and look at the craft in more depth.

Fan bird carving course 2017 Fan bird carving 2017

Fan bird carving

A beautiful, delicate bird carved and folded from a single piece of wood. I’m one of the few professional makers of these in the UK; on this one day course I’ll teach you my special techniques to make them for yourself.

Ash splint basket course 2017 Ash splint basketry course 2017

Ash splint basket making

Thanks for all the love and interest in my ash splint baskets, particularly in response to the two backpack baskets I made just before Christmas. I am currently working out the details and planning to start teaching this year. Please keep following the blog or sign up to my newsletter to receive updates.

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Ash splint pack baskets

Ash splint pack basket
I’m incredibly pleased with this pair of ash splint pack baskets which I’ve just finished making. I love the full, bellied shape and the size of them is ideal carrying all your essentials without being too big or cumbersome. The ash comes from Cartmel in Cumbria and is pounded into splints before being graded, cut to thickness and scraped smooth. A steamed ash handle on top of the basket allows you to easily pick up the basket with one hand.
ash splint pack basket ash splint backpack
Each basket is finished with top quality leather straps from Clayton’s tannery in Chesterfield and solid brass buckles from the Abbey Foundry in Walsall, UK.

The pack basket measures 18″ tall to the rim and is 14″ wide at the belly. They are made to order, please contact me at stevetomlin8[at]gmail.com for more information or to place an order.

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Kendal Pop-up Shop

Kendal pop-up shop
I’m really excited to be displaying my work this week in a pop-up shop in Kendal town centre. I’m there from Monday 5th to Saturday 10th December, 11-6pm each day. The shop is at 28c Finkle St, opposite Beales.

I’ve been working on my stock and have new wooden spoons, carved salad bowls, as well as a collection of ash splint baskets.

Kendal pop-up shop

There’ll of course be wooden spoons galore and my fan birds which make beautiful, unique Christmas gifts and decorations. As well as a chance to pick up some presents, you’ll also be able to see me working as I’ll be demonstrating my crafts in the shop throughout the week. Look forward to seeing you there.
Fan bird Christmas decorations

Handcarved wooden spoons

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Scything grass & oats in Scotland

Learn to scythe group Scotland

I definitely saw both sides of the weather while teaching a couple of scything courses in Caithness in Scotland for the Bumblebee Conservation Trust last week. We started out with high winds and heavy rain but a group of hardy volunteers and crofters turned up and scythed in high spirits and full waterproofs. Then, just a few days later the second group were enjoying beautiful late summer sunshine as we used Austrian scythes to mow a Scottish wildflower meadow which is home to the great yellow bumblebee.

scything a wildflower meadow in Scotland Austrian scythes in Scotland

One of the most important aspects of these courses is the opportunity for students to try peening a scythe using the jig, a good indoor job.
peening an Austrian scythe scythe peening jigs

On the final day we got word that a nearby vintage tractor event was taking place with some oats being cut. We picked up our scythes, made our way over and gave an impromptu demonstration to a large crowd of interested farmers. Of course we were asked to cut the part of the field where the ground was wet so the reaper binder couldn’t get to and the oats hadn’t been weeded. A local farmer even commented that what we’d cut ‘would have been nearly impossible for the machine to manage’. Not bad for a group that only learned to scythe the day before.
cutting oats with a scythe in Scotland

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