Friday, February 28, 2014

The first "Introduction to Green Woodworking" Workshop!

What a delight! On Sunday Feb 9th I ran the first "Intro to Green Woodworking" Workshop at Earthwise in Subiaco. Fantastic. My trip to the USA last year was all about this - to increase my skills and experience in this exciting area so that I could then better share the joys of green woodworking with others here in Western Australia. This workshop, the first of many I hope, was the result of 3 years of dreaming, reading, learning, upskilling and preparation. A truly joyous day!
Carving spoons from green wood is a wonderfully relaxing activity.
We spent the day under the big mulberry tree at Earthwise. A very nice and appropriate location.

Why no green wood tradition here in Australia?
In North America and Europe, there is a long tradition in green woodworking going back many centuries. However here in Australia there appears to be very little tradition in green woodwork in our European history. Here in the early days of the Western Australian colony, roofing shingles were hewn from sheoak and jarrah trees, and railway sleepers were hewn from jarrah trees... Was it the hardness of the native timbers? Was it the fact that the first European colonists arrived as the industrial revolution was in full swing in Britain? Was it the lack of a peasantry on the land? Was it the lack of long cold winters? I'd like to understand the dynamic behind the apparent lack of green woodworking tradition and history here in Western Australia. Maybe some readers out there may be able to shed some light on this matter for me...
Damon uses a hewing hatchet to clean up his gnarly piece of timber.
Shaving horses.
In the preparation for this workshop, I had made 6 shaving horses. Three of these were in the English Bodger style, and three in the traditional "Dumbhead" style. These were all fabricated from dry wood, not green wood, as I was using up timber I had in my stocks and with limited time for the task. It was predominantly recycled packing crate pine from the Northern Hemisphere which was used, plus a few sticks pulled from my timber racks. For example, the legs were taken from a pile of Campaign Chair rail blanks that I have had set aside for about 20 years! Mostly Sheoak but some WA Peppermint as well.
The English Bodger model shavehorse. 
The legs on all the shavehorses have tapered tenons on the end which go into tapered holes. A tap with the mallet locks them in, and a tap with the mallet the other way knocks the legs out to aid storage when not in use. Six shave horses can take up a lot of space!
The Fabricated Dumb-Head model shavehorse.
Parked under the big mulberry tree, using a shavehorse was very relaxing...
Surena carefully shapes her Macadamia spoon handle with a drawknife.

The shave horse has great holding power. Sam shapes his spoon handle.
Obtaining the timber for the workshop.
In preparation for the workshop, I had been collecting an array of timber pieces for a couple of months. Lots of this would be experimental, as I am keen to find which are the best timbers to use which are freely available from parks and gardens here in Perth - especially from residential gardens. I had gathered up spoon sized pieces of wood including: Macadamia, Japanese Pepper, WA Peppermint, Cotoneaster, and Eucalyptus Caesia.
Trees and houses are removed from blocks in house demolitions for "urban infill".
Jacaranda tree being pulled down. Huge Lillypillys behind are next... 
Then I found there was a house around the corner from me being demolished by an excavator. (Such a waste of all that dry jarrah in the building's structure, but that's another story...)  
I spoke to the excavator driver and asked if the trees on the block were to be removed as well. He responded by saying that the whole block was to be cleared. I expressed interest in wood from the trunks of the trees on the block: Jacaranda, Cape Lilac, Bauhenia, and a type of Lillypilly. The result of my request? Two ute loads of log sections from these trees - a small proportion of the timber in the huge trees. Nice that the driver was pleased that the wood was to be used! Otherwise all of the trees including the stumps end up carted away in trucks along with the demolished house and outbuildings. A couple of cartons had sealed the deal.
The first of the two ute loads of timber from the demolished trees. 
The second ute load of log sections from the demolition.
Part of the smorgasbord of timber for the workshop.
In addition , some months ago I had obtained a large section of Sheoak log from a saw mill. I had commenced breaking it down long ago, but had left the timber under a tarp on the front lawn at home all this time. It was destined to go to the workshop long before the ute loads of timber from the demolition site!
Breaking down one of the two Sheoak log sections... many months ago.
I certainly had more wood now than I needed for the workshop!

Getting started - the workshop begins!
With all the participants assembled under the big Mulberry Tree at Earthwise, I began by welcoming the bods to this first of many green woodworking workshops. A personally very exciting occasion for me, as this was the culmination of 3 years of dreaming and preparation. I showed a bunch of green wood spoons that I had made, contrasting this with seasoned wood spoons, which I had learned to make 20 years previously. Next it was a quick explanation about basic tree anatomy. Outer Bark, Inner Bark, Cambium Layer, Sapwood, Heartwood, Pith, Medullary Rays, how trees grow, how we utilise the properties of timber, etc. 
After I had demonstrated the use of a froe and beetle to split open a section of timber ready to make a spoon, I went through some basic stuff around the use of a drawer knife on a shave horse, and then we looked at safe knife use. 

Time then for the gang to choose a piece of wood and start to have a play!    

There was plenty of wood to choose from!
Jacksie hews out a spoon blank beside part of the pile.
While the wood available had potential to do so much more than spoon making, everyone worked on spoons on the day. This would partly be due to the fact that I only had spoons as demo pieces. Next workshop we will make stools or something with legs I reckon.
I look forward to offering a future workshop down the track where we will make Joynt Stools. Thanks for the inspiration Peter Follansbee! Meanwhile, we will work up to that by playing around making a growing range of other things with green wood first...

Graeme gets into using the drawer knife. Such a wonderful tool!
The Hatchet Work.
Unfortunately I didn't get any pics of the first step - the riving (splitting) the log sections apart with beetle and froe. Once the blanks have been formed in this manner, the next step is to hew the shape and remove the waste using hewing hatchets. I have a variety of hatchets, from the very fancy Gransfors Brux Carving Hatchet to some nice old broad hatchets I brought back from the USA, to garden variety hatchets which have be re-ground to create quite acceptable hewing tools. Whatever type it is, the key to a hatchet's performance is really in the bevel grinding more than the honing of the edge. Being razor sharp of course is pretty important!
The participants were encouraged to try out as many of the hatchets as they liked.

The Catoneaster proved to be the unfriendliest wood on the day - very interlocking grain!
The idea with the hatchet work is to use the tool to efficiently and accurately remove as much of the waste as possible. This applies to spoon making too.

Sue gets in the swing of the hatchet work.
The knife work.
The hatchet work looks dangerous, but it is the knife work which can most easily inflict the damage! There are a number of different knife strokes/techniques used in spoon carving. Each of these are controlled cuts, making them safe. That's the theory. However when starting on the journey, it is easy to nick yourself as you gain experience and develop the techniques! We went through a good few band-aids during the day.
Sue does a straight-armed "power cut" to remove waste with a Sloyd knife. 
Levering actions with the thumbs and fingers are safe, controlled, and effective. 
It's a very relaxing thing, carving spoons with knives!

Spot the bandaids in the dappled light of the mulberry tree. 
A good start to our Green Woodworking journey.
While no spoons were totally completed on the day (a couple were starting to be dried in the microwave ready for their final clean-up), it was a great introduction to the joys of messing about with green wood. Thanks to all the participants who took part in this experiment.

Ian contemplates the spoon he was making... 
Special thanks to Ian for bringing along some additional tools. He had a froe, draw knives, some carving knives, a fantastic Austrian bearded broad axe (very nice!) and more. His previous experience, his gear, and buckets of enthusiasm were an asset on the day! Thanks Ian.
We had a great day together messing about under the mulberry tree.
Keep an eye out for more green woodworking opportunities. This was just the start of a whole new direction for Joy of Wood activities. Wood recycling has always been an important part of the message - packing crates, pallets, other timber rescued from the waste stream. We use recycled wood for all of the other workshops we run. This new territory opens up the potential for the recycling of garden trees which would otherwise be chipped for mulch or would just be discarded into landfill.

It is a sad fact that too many trees are being removed from our city. Better that the timber is utilised, value added, rather than just getting tossed. The challenge now is to try out so many different trees for their properties and use potential!

I invite you to join us on this exciting journey...

Have Green Wood, will have a great time crafting stuff!

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