Tag Archives: sheffield wildlife trust
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Rules

27 Jan

Hernia

I’m not going to pretend that shifting two solid beech carpenters benches all the way from my studio to the beautifully restored old school that is the Grenoside Reading room was not a complete pain in the lower back.

But it was worth it to provide a decent stable work surface for the students, young and old, who joined my basic letter carving course on Sunday 26th January. The event was part of a Sheffield Wildlife Project in association with the Working Woodland Trust to encourage community understanding of the importance of Grenoside Woods for their own and the landscapes sustainability.

All 18 participants went away with a hard wood plaque with their own, or those of a significant other’s names – carved crisply with the aid of a small sweep chisel and a few gouges.

Max, Merlin, their dad Nigel and Sarah all had a good go with some decent off-cuts of Sapele, ash, sycamore, elm and cherry acting as a substrate. I have developed a method using shadow printed letters (120 pt plus) glued to the wooden plaque with aerosol glue – the students carve straight through the letters; a very simple method yielding a high success rate.

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When I was eleven my old woodwork teacher allowed me to use the very best tools in his collection, knowing that he could trust me to treat them with reverence. I think this can only be instilled if a teacher is generous with knowledge and the tools of knowledge. Novices may damage the edge of  a chisel, but it can always be resharpened. Students will not learn the respect and patience needed to achieve skill unless they are allowed to make their own mistakes.

Having said that when one young student (not pictured) started playing around with a mallet and waving a chisel around – un-chastised by the accompanying parent – I said this:

“I am not a teacher, and I play by very different rules. If you want to discover my rules please carry on messing about”

He stopped and carved his name rather well.

 

Special thanks to Sarah Sidgwick of SWT for organising the day.

Fell

2 Dec

I felt pretty lousy yesterday having spent a week in limbo with my wife moving house, moving workshop and setting up in Sheffield. So it was a pleasant and restorative Sunday 1st of December spent in the fresh air of Grenoside woods. Glorious winter sunshine found us amongst the Scott’s pine, self-set birch trees, oak trees, bracken and heather at the invitation of the excellent Sheffield Wildlife Trust, the Working Woodlands Trust and a handful of doughty Sheffielders – we joined together to gather winter fuel and build a cord to store and dry wood for fuel.

A cord is literally a stack of wood 8 feet long by 4 feet deep by 4 feet high. About a ton in weight – an ancient standard used by woodsmen of the past and present to calculate value of wood fuel (cord wood). Nowadays a cord of high value hard wood logs (like ash) will set you back about £150 in the USA it is cheaper at a dollar equivalent. The rise in cost is directly linked to the rising popularity of solid fuel burners. Three years ago you couldn’t give the stuff away.

On the day we used both modern methods (chainsaw, felling lever and timber tongs) and traditional methods (bow saw, bill hook and axe) to put down selected trees for the benefit of the woodland, to generate some winter fuel and stimulate the interest of the community.

I persuaded Fay, an Ecologist by profession, and a keen environmentalist in her spare time to ‘have a go’ with my small felling axe. Here she is putting down a self-set birch tree for cord wood.

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She overcame her initial slight reluctance to swinging the axe at a tree after I told her a story about my mother. My mum (a single parent) used to say “I can do any bloody job as well as any man. I was a wood chopper and a grave digger in a Japanese prisoner of war camp from the age of 12 to 16 in Sumatra. That is how I earned a bit of extra food for my family, so don’t bloody well tell me how to put a shelf up Henk!” That was me told.

I have always admired women with a steel core in their back bone; I guess this comes from being brought up by such a tough, uncompromising parent. So I really enjoyed watching Sarah, of the Sheffield Wildlife Trust make short work of a Scott’s pine with her Stihl 260 chainsaw, and Fay, fell and sned up a birch tree with my axe.

Fell means many things:

From the old French ‘fel’ meant cruel, fierce or vicious: in Latin fello is the root of fellon or villain as in Macbeth’s ‘one fell swoop’. Faelan or fyllan from Mercian or Saxon means to cause to fall. Think of Lizzie Borden who, according to the nursery rhyme, took an axe and gave her mother 40 whacks. A nursery rhyme based upon a true story of the Sunday school teacher accused of killing her mother and father at their home in Fall River, Massachusetts, in 1892. Not that I have ever been tempted to copy her actions of course…..

Mr. Osborne has been wielding his metaphorical axe to the detriment of local government, charitable institutions and the general public for the past few years. He and the government he represents is our modern day fellon. It is good to see the real thing put to good use in the hands of people giving up their free time for the sake of their woodland and community.

They say a woman’s work is never done, all fellons should remember who wields the axe and ultimately who tends the hearth.