Running away to the wood(working course)

It’s not easy being green

I scouts honor promised myself more adventures at the start this year.  And that is pretty much how it came to be this last weekend I found myself on the Introduction to green woodworking course run by the very lovely and award winning craftsman Peter Lanyon and helped by apprentice Lou Lou.

Woodworking set up picture
Devon Green wood centre, Devon

The group of eight were a lovely bunch of like minded people – everyone seemed instantly at ease with one another.   Bar a few, most people had little to no experience of working with green wood.  This was highly comforting as I had apprehensions about my woodworking practical skills.  Once thinking myself handy (obviously delusional) I tried to make a table under my own volition. 

The table in question was passable to look at. But you couldn’t put anything on it or even step close as any vibration underfoot the table would veer off in the opposite direction at an alarming angle. It was a comedy clown table.  Granted I followed no instructions and made it up as I went along but that experience didn’t fill me with an awful lot of confidence.

Woodwork in progress

People on shave shorses using draw knives
L-R Daniel and Alex rocking the shave horse

Despite the table gate incident I had been hankering to do the woodwork course for the longest time. Trees feature in one way or another in a lot of my jewellery.  I have read a lot about how they are thought to have familial connection with one another and sophisticated underground networks similar to the human brain. 

I don’t know much about the nature of wood on a practical level though.  It felt like such a mysterious process, to take the raw material of a coppiced piece of wood and turn it into a piece of handmade furniture.  

All the tools…

Japanese saw
Me and the Japanese saw

The day begins with a froe.  An L shaped axe which cleaves the wood apart and then an axe to roughly hew down the wood further to shape the legs. Then onto the shave horses with draw knives and later, spoke shaves, onto jigsaws (the sharp power tool kind) to make the seat, chisel, tenon drills and my personal favorite the Japanese saw which reminded me of a massive oversize jewellers saw.

Throughout the whole day Peter was not only incredibly knowledgeable and amicable, he was also extremely patient and amazingly unflappable given the number of alarmingly sharp instruments we were welding at any given moment in time.

By the end of day one we had all made a top and legs.  Incredibly by day two we all had our very own quirky individual stools or tables. 

Woodwork group
L-R Daniel, Jack, Andrew, Nick, Alex, Linz, Vince, me

The nature of wood

When you work with green wood, it is the wood that is the master of design, where it goes you follow.  You work with the grain and every movement is made with that always kept in mind.   If there is a bend in the wood, well, you have to go with it, if the grain changes you change direction. It is a very different way of working to my own – turned on its head almost.

Into the wood

This is definitely something I am going to continue doing for myself – the thought of being able to sit outside and work a piece of wood on an early evening or weekend, part of slow making and antidote to a hectic day or week is much to much an appealing thought to put down.  This will be ‘play’ for me.

Peter Lanyons beautiful furniture and details of all the woodworking courses can be found at

To watch a video of Peter at work click here.

When life gives you lemons… (gratitude and other lessons)

This is my ‘When life gives you lemons’ stool.  I made an oval lemon asymmetric shaped top made from Wych Elm which has the most beautiful brown/red colours uncovered by the process of using a Travisher which textures wood and apparently helps make those concave bum bits (that’s the technical term) on chairs or stools.

Wych Elm was traditionally used for coffin making among other things which made me laugh – it seemed so fitting for the Lemon stool and a reminder to remember things could always be much worse!

Stool         Stool top





Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *