February 2010


Here is part two of the drinking bowls, this part covers the roughing out with an axe.

First something about the tool I’m going to be using.
The axe I’m using as a Gransfors Bruks woodcarving axe. The two differences between a regular bushcraft type axe (picture top right) and a the carving axe,  is that the shape of the head and the curve of the handle differ.

The woodcarving axe has a much broader head, with a curved cutting edge that goes on above the head’s eye. This enables you to carve with the axe. Essentially, you can use the axe more as a knife than as an axe. The handle is much more curved, making it go parallel to the cutting edge on the parts where you hold it. When carving, you often grab the axe right under its head. To do this, there is space between the beard and the handle to put your fingers. When you grab the axe under its head you have finer control, when you grab the axe from the throat of the handle you will have more force.

If you want to know more about axes there is a free axebook available on the Gransfors Bruks website.

Lets make a cup.

After making the holes in the wood, I separate the three bowls from each other using a saw.

The next step is to make the rough shape of the ear. Picture two shows the wood with my pencil scketches of the future ear. The bottom two lines are cut with a saw. That makes it easier for me to come in with the axe, and hit the two top vertical lines and the piece of wood comes right off. I leave the ear quite thick to avoid splitting when shaping it later.

Shaping with an axe.

Now I shape the bowl carving with the axe. Chopping is only needed where the ear connects to the cup. Although a faster method of removing wood, chopping leaves many marks on the bowl that can be difficult to erase with the knife. So I prefer to axe-carve as much as possible.  Slowly I shape the bowl until the walls have a thickness of 4-5 mm. As you can see it looks pretty rough at this stage.

Making the ear and shaping with the knife

Next step is making the ear. I dig it out with a small curved gouge. Make the hole bigger with a knife, and shape it with the axe and then the knife. In the end it should look a bit like the last picture.
It is still not quite ready. In the next step, I will smooth out the inside of the bowl using a spoon or crook knife. The outside I smooth out with a regular knife.
The drying will take a while because it has to be done slowly. Afterwards I finish it of with linseed oil. But that will be on the next post…

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I’am busy making some wooden cups. They are inspired by Sami Guksi’s or kuksa’s but also by turned wooden bowls, called masers made by Robin Wood. Traditionally a kuksa has a handle with a hole to put your finger trough, the once I’ve made before don’t. I don’t know yet how these are going to turn out. In the picture below you can see some cups that I’m finishing.

The difficulty of making cups is in two things first the thickness of the wall, I’m aiming for 4-7 mm. It is hard to make the wall nice and equal, I sometimes leave the walls and especially the bottom to thick. The second difficulty is the drying process. Unlike a spoon, a cup has a bigger diameter and crosses more growth rings of the wood. Drying results in much more tension in the wood and therefore there is a good chance of cracks. Drying these cups has to be done extremely slowly.

First I have to find a log with at least a 250mm diameter, I split it in half and remove the bark. While removing the bark I check for irregularities like knots and cracks, depending on the location I use it as a feature in the cup handle, but sometimes I have to discard a log. Then I take out all the core wood, this would cause the cup to split when drying. The process of debarking, splitting and taking out the core wood is done with an axe. Then I even things up with a plane.

I draw the rough shape of the cup essentially, a circle on, the log and start taking out the surplus wood from the sides, again using an axe. In this case the wood is very nice oak and it has no irregularities. So I can make 3 cups from the same log at once. I drill a large hole in the middle with a d 30mm auger. This will speed up the hollowing significantly.

I hollow out the cup using a large curved gouge, then a smaller one and eventually a spoon knife. I try to make the hole already round and nice, because it is easy to hold the cup in a vice now, but later in the process I have to hold it in my hands and it will make it harder to use strength.

For now I have to stop carving not because of the process I could continue but I have a family, the trick is to not let the wood dry out too fast. Which is not a very big problem because it is freezing, but I still have to put it in a plastic bag so it remains wet.

Later I will continue with the carving of the wood, during that time I keep the cup in a plastic bag, slowly opening it to let more moist out, thus drying the wood. This drying takes around a month. When the wood is all dried you can start smoothing the surface. Wet wood will not give you a smooth surface.
Part two will be about the carving with a knife.

Past week I’ve been working on this leather project. Altough not my first leather piece, I’ve made knife sheaths and some small bags, but nothing of this scale.

The bag is made out of something we call “tuigleer” in Dutch, it is cow leather that would be used to make straps and saddles, it is around 4mm thick and extremely sturdy and tough. I used strong greased cotton thread.

It is meant to be the valentine gift for Mariana.

Obviously when you are doing this for the first time you are going to make some a lot of mistakes and it has been very instructive. I’ve experienced the things that you will not learn from a book. I know now that the next bag I’m going to make is going to take me 1/4 of the time and is going to require a lot less swearing. I think this one took me around 40 hours, maybe even more.

I think the three most important things I’ve learned from this project are.

  1. Make a full layout drawing of the bag and all its parts including the holes for the stitches.
  2. Decide how and where to put  the magnet clasp beforehand.
  3. Us “something” like a thimble to protect your hands while stitching. Really do so, I’m serious.

With all its little imperfections and mistakes I’m still pleased with the result.

I would like to know a little more about the craft so I’m looking for a good book about leather working. If any body knows a good website or book I would really like to hear of it.

And here is the flat pack image of the parts.