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Midlands Woodworking and Power Tool Show – Newark

I will be packing the van today and heading off to Newark for this show, open on Friday and Saturday. I will have unprecedented stock of blades!  Have now finished the shaping and  Heat treat on these adzes and got edges on them late last night so hopefully can make and fit some handles over the course of the show, these are prototypes and will not be for sale, but if I get them up and running you are welcome to have a go.



National Botanical Garden of Wales

I will be at the Woodcraft Weekend   –  it is not a big show but one of the first that I did when I made the transition to toolmaking, and have found it to be very friendly and welcoming, has good memories for me. That first time I went we were put in a marquee and in the middle of January it didn’t look too promising, but I was next to a group of stickmakers and they tried and then bought many of my blades. In the process we left lots of shavings on the carpet which the cleaners had a tough time removing. So next year we were delighted to be moved to the main glass house which is a fabulous place to spend the weekend, warm and bright even when it snows- which it has a few times.  Will be there again this weekend, making some handles for some axes that I made as prototypes in the run up to Christmas. I have a good amount of stock and will be selling all that is unsold on my site at 9pm on the 16th. I realise that as demand for my blades has far exceeded my ability to supply this method of selling is not really working for many customers, so changes are going to be made. More about that in my next post after I have this show finished; as ever I set a high target for the stock I wanted for this show and the last couple of weeks have involved long hours at the forge, but all the blades are finished, the van is packed and ready to go.


The site has been quieter than usual this month as I have earmarked all stock for Harrogate show , to the untrained eye my site must look quiet all the time, I often get emails asking if I have ceased trading as everything is out of stock. The situation is that all stock I put on sells out within a matter of hours, the wait list is, as ever the key to catching these brief windows of opportunity. All stock left unsold after the show, and I expect there to be a lot will go up on my site on Monday  21st at 1pm. I did a similar thing after Westonbirt show earlier in the year and the site crashed under amount of traffic as I was halfway through uploading the different items of stock; this time I will close the site, upload all the stock and then re-open it hopefully on the dot of 1pm. I will be restocking again before Christmas but will be off to London for a marathon 4 days of courses at the Greenwood Guild in early December so this might be the last chance for the Festive season for my customers across the Atlantic.

Bizarrely I had a film company phone up this week asking me to forge some ice tongs and carving tools, but the deadlines were impossible as I was committed to attending this show. I did fleeting wonder what bevel angles and temper would be appropriate for ice though.

However if you can get to Harrogate I would strongly advise it; I enjoy this show immensely and find the atmosphere great. It is indoors and electricity is everywhere and I am glad of that, at this time of year an outdoors show could be miserable, instead I will be warm and illuminated.  I have yet to meet a green woodworker that doesn’t use some sort of electrically powered tool for their sharpening and all the manufacturers will be there and you can see various machines running, many will let you have a go on them.  And of course there are other carvers and turners  demonstrating and lots of high quality hand tools old and new.

My stall will be well stocked, on the Friday at least. I will even have a few axes-  They are ground now and it is amazing the difference that is makes, the interplay between a forged finish and a crisp shiny bevel is fabulous.


And lots of smaller blades.


At the show I will also be doing some demos, handling an axe and also explaining how I sharpen my curved blades; Alex Yerks shot some footage of this at Westonbirt earlier in the year so a video is definitely on its way, I just need to finish off the audio.



A quick post to let you know that I will be attending Treefest at Westonbirt this weekend and Bank holiday.  I really enjoy this show and it is such as shame that it is the last one. On a positive note between a couple of days teaching axe forging  I have been stockpiling blades and have good supplies of all my stock items from the site and even a few axes, but if you are hoping to get one of those then I wouldn’t leave it until the Monday. Any unsold stock will be listed on the site when I get back on Tuesday 30th.

I always demonstrate at Westonbirt and this year is no different, will be forging axes and adzes. The big news, just confirmed is that I will have a Celebrity Guest Striker- Alex Yerks from the US. Its very odd, we have been in contact for years through Facebook, and I nearly managed to visit when I was in the States last year, but it fell through. This year he came over to the UK for spoonfest but his schedule was too tight to come down to Wales. Then is turned out that he was going to be In Amsterdam whilst we where on holiday in the Netherlands so we met up. mryerks

Then it turns out he is back in the UK, so we finally get to forge an axe together. Its going to be a great weekend, come over and say hello!

Treefest at Westonbirt


Summer Plans



This Spring I decided to have a quieter summer, a chance to spend more time with my Family, so no bookings were taken for any of my usual Summer shows, and it felt good to know I wouldn’t be spending the next few months on the road.  Then an email from the States arrived inviting me to Maine to teach a course and put on an axe making demonstration at Lie Nielsen Toolworks. I went over with my daughter Jenn for the first two weeks in July. I would have put a blog post up about this but when we got home we promptly lost the memory card with all our photos on. We realised that a lot of  what I had done had been duplicated, I forged an axe with Roy Underhill and images of that popped up all over the internet, but there were a lot of images that I thought would never been seen again so I was so pleased when the card finally turned up a few days ago.

Two Georges

I spent most of my time working in this shop when I was at Lie Nielsen- these two guys, referred to by everyone as the Georges were great, George Stevens on the right and Old  (!) George on the left. This was the prototyping workshop, not production and was filled with wonderful old machines, lots of cast iron, hand cranks and exposed pulleys and gears. They were extremely welcoming and helpful, I was concerned as to how they would respond to me turning up and making lots of noise and mess in their workshop. Old George helped me with some cutting and welding and at first was a bit bemused by my seeming inability to measure anything – ‘ I need 10, or 12 at about…. this long ( wave of my hands)’ but after a week took in in his stride.




Another slightly stilted photo of me, this time with Peter Galbert, behind us is the smoking detritus of a Lobster bake, lobsters and clams steamed in seaweed over charcoal. A fabulous evening at the open house put on by Tom Lie Nielsen, more about that in another post. It was so informative meeting Peter, we talked tools and bevel angles and immediately clicked; it was great to speak to someone with the same mindset as to how tools work. When I finally got back into my workshop I applied some of the theory that he had described in the use of his Travisher to a Drawknifelike design I have been toying with for the last two years, I had to re-vist my A- Level physics and draw out forces diagrams but all was clear and a couple of bends with the Oxy Propane torch and the tool was transformed. And yet it flies directly in the face of what we discussed about Drawknife theory in Maine! I got a copy of his book Chairmaker’s Notebook and I highly recommend it, doubt I will ever make a chair, but now want to.


A couple of weeks after we returned I had another email from Deneb at  Lie Nielsen. They needed, at pretty short notice, tooling for courses that Peter Follansbee and Jogge Sundqvist were teaching. These orders will take a lot of time, but it seemed churlish to refuse, I have met Jogge a few times and know that he uses my tools, and Peter has been very vocal in his praise for my work and was keen to have my gouges, twca cams and adzes for his bowl carving course, all these tools are handled. I make all my handles from green wood and it has been nice to spend some time in my workshop with clean hands.



I have a good stock pile of straight green ash and although it would be quicker to buy in copy lathe turned handles that is not the way I want to work. It also gives me a chance to use my tools in a production setting which tells me a lot about edge holding and handle design and comfort. By chance I had lent most of my tools to a friend and the only axe I had was the one pictured, it was kept really for historical reasons as my designs have moved on from this early example, but I was really pleased to get re acquainted with it.  I would normally let them dry naturally before a final fit and finish, but time is extremely short and currently the micro wave is working at hard as I type this; every two minutes the machine pings and my youngest shouts out ‘Dad! Dinners ready!’ in a few weeks she might tire of this joke, but currently it is still fresh.


Dinners Ready


In light of this and other commitments I have- A course at Barns, a run of three shows in September and a Family holiday squeezed in I have taken the decision to shut my online shop for a while, it is no secret that I have difficulty keeping up with stock at the best of times but having a completely empty shop or turning up to shows with no stock to sell makes no sense at all.  I have, I suppose technically left it open so you can view what is on it but have reduced the stock levels to zero, I did also put all the prices to zero to make it obvious that no purchase could be made but the site then said ‘ This item is free!’ so I reset everything to £999 as a further deterrent to people trying to make a purchase.  On a positive note not having the shop open has brought home to us just how much time is spent packing and answering emails. Hopefully I plan on using this time to put up some more blog posts:  My trip to the States, some thoughts on my current working practices and ethics, and plans for the future, including axes and adzes.

Harrogate Power Tool Show.

A few photos from the Harrogate Power Tool Show, it is a show I enjoy immensely. It often seems that Greenwood workers view power tool users with suspicion and vice versa and I don’t deny I get great pleasure from wheeling large logs into the event then spending three days reducing them to bowls with only hand tools. I was next to a CNC carving stand, you scan or program your design into a Laptool and the software drives a mill that does the carving for you. However there is never any hint of animosity or friction and I had a fantastic time, my only regret was that I did the three days by myself and didn’t have time to go around the show properly, not many photos either. Here is the poplar bowl I roughed out over the three days.


When I cut scalloped the ends of the bowl with an axe I was amazed to find the the chipping came away almost intact despite it being endgrain, here is a section.

ultimate woodchip

Generally though all the work was done with adzes, I used a two handed one for the roughing it was surprisingly quick to do this way, and I had time to put a handle on a lighter adze that was then used for finer shaping although the finishing cuts will be done after it has dried. The one in the picture is a bit of a beast at 1.3kg ; I use much heavier hammers but for an adze this seems to be right at the limit of what I can use comfortably single handed.

I also had time to finish off and fit the handles on a set of Gouges that I have been wanting to make for a while, hopefully they will prove strong enough to be struck, although increasingly I am being won over by adzes, I can’t imaging using gouges to remove large quantities of material any more.

Ibbc gouges

And finally, on the first day, before I had started the Sales director from the Robert Sorby stand came over, and said that I should really watch these great videos on carving that he has seen on you tube, apparently there is a guy in America that carves bowls and cups just with handtools, Alexander Yerks, it is a small world.

International Bowl Carving Conference ’14

A few weeks back I invited a few friends over to carve some bowls from the large poplar that I currently have access to,  I had forged some tools that needed handling and then testing. We started with this log, it had the potential to give a bowl of 22″ across.

Big tools


The first cut revealed some very interesting looking figuring.



This was then split and a circle drawn on; we made circular bowls, however on reflection I think one reason to carve rather than turn a bowl is the freedom to make a shape other than round.



We shaped the inside first, the weight of the blanks made clamping unnecessary, Steve had brought an specially ground axe that he used to great effect for both the inside and outside of he bowls, the technique at first seemed odd, as he was trying to break chips away; this looked like he was miss hitting and as I spend a lot of time in my forge trying to ensure accurate square strokes I have to say I found it slightly disturbing despite it being obviously effective. The clincher to my absolute condemnation of this technique is that the workshop is still sullied despite three sessions to clear up the chips he fired far and wide so effectively.

I put a longer handle on my heaviest adze head and this proved pretty effective at both the inside and outside of the bowl.



Obligatory fruit shot.




We also went trophy hunting.

Trophy hunters


Steve put a larger handle on his GB adze, I tidied up the bevels a bit on my linisher.




I didn’t get much bowl carving done, but did manage to fine tune these adzes.


So a great few days; I learnt a massive amount just watching; found out some very interesting things about adzes- which will be the subject of my next blog post. Didn’t have the time to try out the big axes, but the week after I did set aside the time to carve a large (round!) bowl,  it is now drying and I will be forging and trying out new tools to finish the inside. Anja Sunberg sent me some images of Swedish style scorps that look intriguing, or maybe some specially shaped gouges, if I can justify the time, both.

Yandles spring show and Lie-Nielsen

Yandles was as ever a great show; a  unique atmosphere, I enjoy the fact that it is not aimed at green woodworking; there are a few of us demonstrating but the power tools are definitely king here; however we draw a good crowd, and find ourselves made very welcome. I am increasingly finding more in common with other branches of woodworking, the idea that there is conflict between different disciplines of woodworking is a shame, I really enjoy seeing different ways of working wood.

Rob and I set to work forging the first axe of the year. Rob was not impressed with my new sledge and stuck with last years model.


The show was also a  chance to  meet up with old friends including the guys from the The Japanese tool study group; had the chance to adjust a plane for then, I am a big fan of tools than can be fixed with the gentle application of a hammer. Demonstrating just a few yards away was Deneb Puchalski from Lie-Nielsen Toolworks; was very interesting listening to his take on sharpening; a mix of diamond and traditional waterstones were his preferred method. Deneb ordered an Axe from me over 6 months ago now and like many people has had to wait whilst I work through the list; however the chance presented itself for him to have a hand in making  his own axe.  Rob stepped aside for the last stage and Deneb struck for me.


You can see that Deneb opted for the new, shorter sledge also the lower anvil is a mixed success; better for the striker but it does leave me a bit bent over. In the workshop a high anvil and a pallet on the strikers side balances things out much better.

We also had a chance to sort out the final tweaks to an order of spoon carving sets that Lie Nielson have placed  for the courses Peter Follansbee is teaching for them in May. I just had time to get the sets ready and sent out to them.



I am very proud to have worked with them on this and other orders; it is fantastic to supply such a prestigious company. Although they are used to much larger quantities than I am able to supply they understand very well my productions methods and are keen for me not to compromise quality for quantity. However the range of my tools that they would like to stock is ever growing,  I am in the process of signing another 6 year lease on my workshop, some changes will soon be made which should help me to expand production in the future.


New Season of shows – Yandles Spring show

First demonstration of the year at Yandles Spring show this Friday and Saturday. I am amazed at how far I have come, this show last year was the first time I had forged an axe in front of a crowd, it took the entire day,  hopefully we should be a bit more fluent this weekend! I have made a few tweaks that should help things along further:

New season preparations 1


Firstly I have been trialling a different sledge hammer design, virtually everyone that has used my larger sledges has ended up with bruised hands, it puzzled me at first as I have never encountered bruising when using single handed hammers. Working by myself I have had very little experience with sledges; eventually it struck me that mostly my strikers were holding the sledge with their hands far apart:

New season preparations 2

This is understandable, the hammer is heavy and there is more control and accuracy when holding like this; however when a (single)  hand hammer rebounds the head goes up but the centre of rotation is in the palm of the hand so little shock is transmitted to the hand through the handle. With the hold shown above the the centre of rotation is between both hands, so when the head rebounds the hand nearest the head receives a big shock from the handle in the web between thumb and forefinger.   The back hand doesn’t suffer in the same way as the handle is moving away from the hand at this point.  New season preparations 3

If you look at the new sledge, the handle is so short that it feels more natural to have both hands together, the centre of rotation is between both hands, but as they are so close to this point the shock is reduced to almost nothing. It looks odd but has worked well in the workshop. However I think it will look a bit like a toy in the hands of Rob, my regular striker at shows, I will find out his verdict in a couple of days!  This is of course a compromise, the bigger sledges will hit harder but really need to be held with hands together to reduce the shock, with practice this is possible but it is difficult to do this accurately, when I am teaching courses the shorter style of hammer looks to be the way forward.

The second thing I have done is to reduce the height of my anvil block, in the workshop during courses I have been putting a pallet down but  it seemed sensible to have a dedicated axe forging block. I moved both of the steel bands down and we marked out for the cut. The Oak had many splits in it that had filled with  forge scale over the last decade, the chainsaw was blunted in seconds but we eventually managed to cut around 4″ off it.  I used a  chisel I made around 15 years ago to bevel the edges on the block; the edge held very well considering the rough time it had. This set me thinking, with the knowledge I have now all the heat treatment was wrong; the blade was laminated but I didn’t follow the rigorous thermal cycling I now use to relax the steel after the stresses of forgewelding, I quenched at the wrong temperature, too cool, although this was judged by eye, the quench medium was wrong, water  rather than oil and finally I tempered at the wrong temperature 100 degrees centigrade, boilling water. I have heard it stated that this steel should be tempered at 250c  when used on wood.

Yet despite all this the edge holds up well; this wasn’t all  just accident I had found by trail and error that this recipe worked . What I think happened was this: As I was relatively inexperienced at forging I finished the blade relatively tentatively at a series of low heats, this mimicked the thermal cycling that I now do. I had the hardening temperature too low, but quenching in water gives a more aggressive quench so this sort of balanced out, if I had quenched in water at the correct temperature the blade would have cracked or at  least warped. The resulting quench didn’t give a very hard blade so lower tempering temperature was needed. I would still do things differently now but you can learn a lot more from trial and error, I would recommend this route rather than reading up obsessively on Heat Treatment.

Just after taking this photo I was asked to run a course making spoon blades with handtools and no complicated heat treatment, not my usual thing but I made one as a test piece; this was the result, everything done by eye or hand and I managed to replicate the edge geometry that I find so important in my production blades. It was a pleasant experience, filing and forging is much more rewarding than grinding.

Filed blade 2


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