To get hold of my Spoons please visit my Shop at 260 Hackney Rd London.









Sunday, 14 November 2010

Tips for Spooners

Recently i've done a few orders of spoons, which is something i rarely do as i normally just make what i like and then street sell them. i have spent a huge amount of time trying out different spoon designs but i am now keen to get more into production work. The wood i now reside in and will do for the winter at least has much over stood hazel coppice and i have started making spoons out of it, i have found it to be a very good wood for spoons and the one i currently use to eat is Hazel it's in a Wille Sundquist style (Swedish spoon guru). i have tried most native woods and consider hazel as good as any for spoons. Anyway for the production spoons i made some templates so as to speed up the process and the top tip is to use the 2 litre plastic milk bottles for templates, these are obviously readily available can be cut up with scissors and will live much longer than cardboard ones, the bonus is that like cardboard they flex, i saw up the hazel into 7 " blanks  about 5 mm oversize then axe a crank into it making sure to leave the top surface clean and all but finished i then put the template on the top and draw round the profile, cutting into the neck of the spoon accuratley is the biggest time saver when carving spoons, also getting the top surface perfect before moving onto knife is important. i shall post some photos of the templates and the spoons directly.

Bike

It would be wrong of me to pretend i haven't always slightly resented cyclists, the self righteous ones on the high tech machines with two wheels. You know the ones that don't stop at traffic lights, don't wear reflective clothing at night and cycle on the pavement whenever is convenient for them. But it wasn't until this last summer that my apparent dislike of cyclists really manifested itself. Ok so maybe i'm exaggerating a bit but i wish they would get over themselves, the bicycles have worn ankle braking tracks along vast sways of our canal tow paths, and i'm sick of being pushed off the path by fast moving cyclists. Of course legally as a walker it is my right of way but i am far too polite to stand my ground and tell them where to stick it. Whilst at Robin Wood 's workshop at the start of the Pennine way on several occasions cyclists would whizz past at such a rate that if they had hit an elderly walker or child they would have caused serious damage and none of them seemed to stop to close the gate behind them. And i know they are no evil like the combustion engine powered four! wheel versions that whizz about the country killing everyone and destroying our planet. But i think it's time to stop praising them so much, yeah they're good in cities where there is a cycle path, but it's a shame they ravage the countryside too. Having aired my views to Rob his eyebrows were raised a little but he carefully explained the benefits of the bicycle when it was first invented, freeing thousands of people to freely move at least three times as far as they had been able to previously by walking. The impact the bicycle had on those that could not afford horses/cars must have been massive, and i think this has changed my view on the whole and that maybe cycling is a very good thing. I imagine if the bicycles were made by hand with hand forged steel that had been smelted by hand they would not be so freely available.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

King for The Day (article i wrote for Big Issue)

well sorry this is a lazy way of doing a blog!

I wake up and give the queen a massive kiss she has morning breath but thats okay cos I love her. I must admit it feels weird being king and Im not sure I agree with it entirely but thats all very complicated and Ill just go with it for now.
Yesterday before I was king I was a travelling spooner, hiking and hitching about the place sleeping in woods carving spoons and peddling them on the streets of Great Britain. I am lucky that I enjoy my lifestyle very much, being completely in love with wood and woodlands and almost too obsessed with spoons peddling is for definitely for me. I have all the kit I need to be comfortable in the woods. But when Im in towns and cities I notice a distinct lack of public toilets and if you can find one it has silly handwashing machines with no drinking water taps. As king I would create many more public toilets with a lot more readily available sources of drinking water, I guess tax payers have their own water and toilets at home. Id also like there to be more footpaths and less barbed wire.
One of the real blessings of peddling is that I get to meet many lovely people on my travels and I get to see old friends now and then, but I do miss Spoon Club. When I lived in a static caravan I used to have Spoon Club on Saturdays, it was open house and everyone knew that they could come round whenever and carve spoons. Wed all just sit around whittling wood whilst chatting and drinking tea and coffee. Those that could afford it would bring along some sausages and there was always plenty frying away for everyone. As King I would do a massive spoon club probably in one of my forests everyone could come and Id make sure there were plenty of tools for people to take home so they could carry on spoon clubs all over the place. Imagine if everyone had a spoon carved for them by someone that cared about them, I really like that idea.

Living Woods Magazine

This is an article i wrote for Living Woods Magazine it didn't make it, not entirely sure why.

The word Spoon has it’s origins in the old Norse word “sponn” which means chip or splinter of wood, so when we talk about wooden spoons we are really just talking about spoons. I make my living from carving spoons using hand tools to shape green wood pruned from trees. As a pedlar i travel around selling my wares; i also carve for bed and board. My makers mark is a lower case “b”- i like it because turned on it’s side it looks like a spoon. i have only just started signing my spoons I like putting my name to them and i like the fact that i am a person and not a machine.
I read somewhere that to rely on your local environment is to respect it and care for it, i think this is the same for people too, which would seem ironic if you view my life on the road as an attempt to escape this interdependency. It is not an escape, being self employed as a pedlar i feel a much closer relationship to the environment and the people i serve, than any job i’ve ever had. I have been employed in customer services for a multinational before and i didn’t feel like a cog - part of a big machine i felt like a bit of grit that had been added to the machine to slow it down and reduce what the customer could get for their money. Now i peddle spoons it feels like magic when i turn a bit of wood into a cup of coffee. There have been days when i have had no money at all and if i wanted a coffee or some food i carved a spoon and sold it.
Wood is my livelihood and is also where i live, i have a very close relationship to all parts of my business, i sleep and eat where i gather my raw materials, i am in charge of manufacturing and
marketing and sales. My shop is my little silk hanky and my cardboard sign, and if i am grumpy the spoons sell more slowly. I seem to be able to sell all the spoons i can make, but sometimes it can be difficult to persuade someone that the spoon i just took an hour to make is worth the £7 i am asking for it when they can buy one from tesco for 7op, there are days when you don’t want to hear “how much?!” but then i guess that is how i feel when i see poncy “artisans” valuing there crafts so highly, when often there has been little skill in their making. All these things are subjective but it’s hard to find reasons why i should earn any more an hour than anyone else working hard.
There are of course lots of reasons to buy a hand carved wooden spoon, i much prefer to eat with a wooden spoon, the feel of a wooden spoon in your hand and mouth and scraping the bottom of a bowl is infinitely more preferable to that of a metal one (better still if it’s a wooden bowl). To me the look of a wooden spoon is also much more attractive than a mass produced stainless steel one. When you buy a stainless steel mass produced metal spoon you are unlikely to know which country the spoon was made in let alone in which factory and by whom, and to take it further where did the steel come from? what conditions did those who work in the mine endure? When you buy a spoon from me you can know i enjoyed making it, how could you ever know whether those involved in making the metal spoon enjoyed their part in it?
This summer my main focus is on peddling spoons in towns and cities rather than just going from one festival to another preaching to the converted greenies, I will however, be at the Green man festival and the APF show.

Friday, 5 November 2010

nutmeg


i always carry nutmeg with me, it is widely known as the best of all the spices and for good reason. Nutmeg can be bought as whole nuts as in the first picture. The red stuff in the picture directly above is called mace it's the aril of the seed and is sold separately. You get a lot of flavour from that little nut and it will last you a lot time, i tend to just take micro shavings off the nut with one of my carving knives, i'll have to try get a photo of one i've used because when it's cut off rather than grated you get to see the beautiful grain it has. i add nutmeg to my museli which i normally have with hot water (carrying milk is a hassle  and it goes off), but it goes well with most meat dishes and a cheese sauce without it is just a waste of time. being a hard nut it travels well, i normally just have one in my pocket.

Bags

Plastic bags are pretty useful for carrying stuff, i keep my loose leaf tea and my museli in separate plastic bags. i'm not sure what natural options i have to be honest, i spose i could use some kind of skrink pot or birch bark container both of which are fun to make and look great on a shelf, but niether are anywhere near as practical as a plastic bag for putting in a back pack. Wrapping things in dock leaves works well for some things when available, and my friend Paul Wylde showed me these amazing leaves that are like cling film in as much as they kind of self adhere and make nice little packagesl, i'll have to ask him what they were called. i've heard Ray Mears uses leather pouches with ziplock plastic bags inside them (an expensive option). i've found ziplock bags made from sheet plastic split along their welded seams, which i guess is why Ray uses a leather pouch to protect it. I just double bag stuff and tie a quick release knot in the top half this provides a good water proof container for free. Like the drinks bottles plastic bags were originally made in separate parts, this created weaknesses where the handle joined the bag. Sten Gustaf Thulin's one piece design with integral handles (the type photographed above) creates a simple, strong bag with a high load carrying capacity. It is manufactured by folding, welding and die-cutting a flat tube of plastic.
here's the sheath as promised the photo was provided by Richard Dyson (apt), the Sheath was made by Rob Exon from veg tan leather, he soaked it and then using a clever jig held it in place on the blade which was rust protected with cling film. there's a hole in the handle for the string to go through, i just do it up with a slipped shoelace knot (one loop still in tact). i had it loose in my pack for six months and never worried it would come off and all my stuff would be lacerated. If you want a more secure shoe lace knot give this a go http://www.fieggen.com/shoelace/secureknot.htm.