When scythes go bad

The scythe season is rapidly approaching and I hope I’ll see you on one of my Learn to Scythe courses where you’ll learn to set up, sharpen and mow for the maximum effectiveness and enjoyment.

One of the trickiest things to learn when you start is to slide the scythe blade on the ground, keeping contact with the earth all the time. Lifting the blade requires extra effort and means you’ll not get a neat cut. If you’ve been on one of my courses, you’ll know that we spend a lot time learning to ‘Keep it on the ground!’

Here are a few folk who could do with some help, I could have posted many, many more. If you have a friend who swings their scythe like Poldark. maybe send them this post. Please don’t copy their technique.

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Ash splint basket making film – My father’s tools

This is a very beautiful film about Stephen Jerome from the Mi’gmaq First Nation community of Gesgapegiag in the province of Quebec, Canada. The short film shows Stephen harvest a tree and convert it into a rib basket using simple tools.

I learned a lot from watching this and seeing techniques similar and different to my own. If you’d like to learn about ash splint basket making, I will be teaching courses during 2018. Visit my craft courses page or sign up to my newsletter for updates.

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Ash splint basket course in Cornwall

Ash splint basket course UK

I have been invited down by my friend Tim of Yurtworks to teach an ash splint basket making workshop in Cornwall on 17th -18th March 2018. I met Tim when I lived in the SW and am really looking forward to being back down there and teaching ash splint basketry again. We’ll be pounding splints from some local ash from Tim’s coppice so it will be an exciting workshop to see how that compares with my usual timber.

During the weekend you’ll learn all the process to source and prepare weaving splints from UK ash and weave a simple fruit basket.
More details of the course and how to book are on the Yurtworks website http://www.yurtworks.co.uk/courses/basketmaking.htm

Pounding ash splints for baskets in the UK Ash splint basket course UK Ash splint basket making UK

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Spoon carving workshop Manchester

Spoon carving course Manchester 2018

Thursday 19th April 2018 10:00 – 4:30  £90 inc materials.
Email me stevetomlin8[at]gmail.com for more details or book your place here.

I’m really excited to be running my first spoon carving course in Manchester this spring. Take a day off work and learn how to carve wooden spoons from local timber using axe and knives. The course is suitable for beginners or those with carving experience looking to expand their skills and understanding of wood working.

The Edge Theatre is a fantastic venue in the heart of Chorlton, South Manchester.

Spoon carving workshop Manchester 2018 Learn spoon carving Manchester 2018 Learn spoon carving Manchester


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Ancient cereals corn dolly

Harvest neck corn dolly

I love when craft brings different people and skills together and this harvest queen neck dolly which I just received represents two of my favourite people.

I met Helen Moran at Beamish museum back in 2012 where she was demonstrating making corn dollies. During our chat she mentioned that her ambition was to weave with spelt wheat which she had heard was particularly nice but very difficult to acquire.

Cue John Letts who I know through the scythe world and grows ancient varieties of cereals, including spelt, on his farm in Oxford. I chatted with him about the possibility of supplying some straw and buttered him up with a lovely border fan corn dolly woven by Helen.

Eventually, Helen made the epic trip from her home in Northumberland down to Oxford and came home with bundles of cereals which John had carefully hand-harvested for her.

The harvest neck is a traditional corn dolly linked to the last sheaf of the harvest and linked to many beliefs and customs. For me, it represents new friendships and shared crafts.

Harvest neck corn dolly Harvest neck corn dolly

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Handmade Christmas turtle dove decorations

Gorgeous wooden bird decorations handmade by Steve Tomlin Crafts

These new, tiny fan bird decorations are perfectly proportioned to hang on your Christmas tree this season. Each one is individually handmade, carved from a single piece of wood.

Either hang them individually amongst your baubles and tinsel or make your own mobile and watch them spin and glide together.

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New hay rake tine cutter

I’ve been making wooden hay rakes for several years now. To make the rake teeth, called ‘tines’, a cleft ash billet is knocked through a sharpened steel tube called a tine cutter. As the wood is split from a larger log, the fibres run along the tine intact making each one very strong.
Hay rake tine cutter

Recently I’ve been thinking about my rakes and that I would like to have a tine cutter to make slightly smaller  tines. While I was at Beamish Museum the other day, I mentioned this to Bill who was helping on another stall. The very next day he turned up and gave me a perfect new tine cutter which he’d made the evening before. The generosity of makers never fails to amaze me.

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Spill plane

wood splill plane
During the summer I picked up an unusual little plane at a show and gave it a first trial this week.

All planes make shavings but with a spill plane, it is the shavings which are the product rather than the piece of wood being planed. The shaving, or ‘spill’ was used to transfer a flame, for example from a fire to light a candle before the age of matches. This model produces beautiful, tightly curled spirals which I think would also look fantastic as part of a flower arrangement.

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Scything a wildflower meadow for beekeeping

Scythes in a wildflower meadow for beekeeping
I love honey and am fascinated by the lives of bees but have always been slightly put off keeping them by the amount of intervention that conventional beekeeping entails. So it was fascinating to meet the Lune Valley Community Beekeepers and talk to them about their ‘natural beekeeping’ while teaching them how to scythe.
Scythes in a wildflower meadow for beekeeping

The group have taken on a site where they plan to build a resource centre and, in the meantime have planted a fantastic wildflower meadow with a mix of annual and perennial species.
Scythes in a wildflower meadow for beekeeping Scythes in a wildflower meadow for beekeeping

The meadow has been left until the end of the season to provide as much forage for the bees but was still a riot of colour. It was now time to cut the long meadow grass and I was happy to show them how to mow it using Austrian scythes.
Scythes in a wildflower meadow for beekeeping Scythes in a wildflower meadow for beekeeping

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Scythes in Manchester stained glass

Scythes in Manchester
I moved to Manchester earlier this year. Lots of people wondered why I would be so mad as to relocate from the Lake District to the city. There’s lots of reasons but one of them is the excitement of bringing what are seen as rural skills and activities into an urban environment and introducing city dwellers to craft work.

This week I was at the Home cafe in Didsbury, part of Emmanuel Church when my eye caught a familiar shape in one of the stained glass windows. It’s lovely to know there are already scythes here.
Scythes in Manchester

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