The first greenwood woodworking project I completed was making a neolithic-style bow. I attended a course in Siccaridge Woods in Gloucestershire. These ancient woodlands are a wonderful setting to spend some time getting in touch with nature. The course involved felling an ash tree and working the log into staves using nothing more than a small forest axe and a sheath knife. For two weekends, a group of us ended up with sore hands, a bow, and an appreciation of how hard our ancestors had to work for anything. I loved the experience.
My family and I then move to Cambridgeshire. During this time, I went on a stool-making course where it took me two days to turn four stool legs on a spindle lathe and drill holes into a slab seat for a rather wonky stool. This was the real start of a passion for working with greenwood. My initial ambition was to progress towards making green wood furniture following Mike Abbott’s plans in his book “Going with the Grain.” But things didn’t go according to plan! I’m like a magpie looking for the next shiny object, and I didn’t immediately start furniture making.
Turning wooden bowls became an obsession
Jim, a Wimpole Bodger’s group member, introduced me to bowl turning. And it stuck. Seven years later, I consider myself quite a reasonable greenwood bowl turner. So whilst my original goal was to make furniture, I have focused on turning green wood bowls. It’s only recently that I started making chairs and other furniture.
Greenwood woodworking tools of the trade
I use a traditional pole-lathe to turn my bowls, which has been by bodgers used for centuries. Its origins are lost to history, but there is evidence of its use by the Vikings. However, the pole-lathe is not commonly used today and is normally used by hobbyists interested in traditional crafts. Personally, I like the rustic feel of the pole-lathe. It is portable and can be used pretty much anywhere.
By pushing a foot-operated treadle up and down, I move a rope or cord that spins the item towards me; I then apply a hook tool to remove wood and create the finished article. In my case, these are the bowls you can find in my shop.
Using a pole-lathe is physical, and no matter how I spin it (pun intended) I am sure there will come a time when I will need to consider alternative tools. Until then, I am enjoying working and learning on this wonderful tool.