Wednesday, October 5

Stories of bridges and spoons

I don't seem to have time to post much these days - I'm very tied up with local issues including a campaign to try and get a massive local development redesigned - but I'm still here and I'm still busy doing new and exciting things.

The craft side of my life has not been neglected even though my knitting is rather in the doldrums - I spent last weekend learning the ancient craft of spoon carving and I have to say I did not expect it to be so physically demanding! I had a romantic vision of some gentle whittling with a small knife on some nice soft wood. In fact much of the shaping and initial creation of the spoon is done using an axe - in my case a rather small axe since the full-sized one quickly tired my arm out. It takes a lot of concentration (firstly to hit the wood in the right place) and effort (repetitive movements can be very tiring) and when it's using muscles that don't normally get much of a workout, it's even more exhausting.

Just six of us were on the course in Great Bourton village hall, taught by local woodworker Martin Damen. In fact there were only five of us most of the time, after one of our number got over-excited in the first few minutes and gave himself a nasty cut on the hand from the very sharp knife we were working with.

Starting off with logs of alder and beech we sawed off a chunk which we then cleaved into two pieces using the axe and a mallet.
Martin taught us safe techniques for use of the axe, the straight knife and the bowl knife (a hooked knife used for shaping the spoon bowl) and then led us through the process of making a butter knife (this only uses the axe and the straight knife) and then a spoon the following day.

I was very proud of how my spoon and knife turned out, and am looking forward to using them. We came away with a straight knife each so if I decide to take it up as a hobby, that's one less thing I'll have to buy. But I am not sure where I would be able to get wood from to carve, and the need to have an axe and chopping block would also make it fairly difficult to take up as a sporadic hobby.

This week I was very privileged to get the opportunity to visit the Forth Railway Bridge, including the very top of one of the main trusses. It was a thrilling experience - not least the opportunity to examine this beautiful structure up close. It was a long and cold walk out along the access gantry to the middle of the bridge, and a rather shaky trip in the rack and pinion lift to the top of the tower, but it was all worth it when I got there.

Added later: another pic of the bridge since you can't really get the full glory in the picture above!


Felicity Ford said...

The bridge! The spoons! This might be my favourite blog-post title yet: "Stories of bridges and spoons"


Your wood-carving is amazing; it is like you have a natural gift for the carving of wood. I love the spoon and think you should definitely find a chopping block in order to chop future wood on.

knit nurse said...

Thanks. I might write a song with that title, it certainly has a ring to it!

colleen said...

That spoon is superb. What an inspiration and a craft much more exciting than most. As for the bridge, well, I think I might have fainted...