Champagne flute

The first of Roger Day's innovations for green woodworkers. A champagne flute.

We mentioned a couple of posts ago that the Surrey and Sussex Coppice Group have given Roger Day the job of devising innovative products for green woodworkers and coppice workers. He’s going to be writing about this in the next issue of Living Woods. His first product is a carved and bored champagne flute. Roger uses a stock knife (not a lathe) to shape the champagne flute and a reamer for hollowing. See more of his amazing work, including remarkable sculpture, at rogerday.eu. He’s is working on other innovations for green woodworkers which could open up interesting new markets for their work at shows and demos etc…

Sorby ProEdge with new knife jig

Robert Sorby, who are best known for their turning tools, have launched a jig to go on their ProEdge linisher for sharpening knives. This might prove valuable for green woodworkers, especially those working with axes, adzes, knives, froes and drawknives. We’ll be getting hold of a model to test very soon, and will report back in the mag.

Great news to hear that the Surrey and Sussex Coppice Group (coppicegroup.org.uk) now have a committee member with the sole remit of coming up with ‘innovations’. Roger Day has already devised some clever new products, we’re told, and there will be more details in the next issue of Living Woods. This is hugely important as it shows green woodworking, woodland crafts and coppicing to be progressive. In the same light we were excited to hear from Robin Fawcett that he’s now making dice from green wood, either on a pole lathe or by shaving. Hopefully we’ll feature them soon, or you can visit his blog at treewright.blogspot.com.

Larch disease

Forestry Commission image of ramorum disease in Japanese larch, recently found in Argyll

The ramorum disease (as it seems now to be being named), is spreading across Britain in Japanese larch, having recently been found in Argyll, Scotland. Previous outbreaks had been identified in Devon and Wales. So far only 1.25ha are having to be felled on the Craignish Peninsula, to stop the spread of the disease. Elsewhere the Forestry Commission have halted felling so that any outbreaks can be left to reveal themselves when the new shoots arrive in springtime. Western Scotland is likely to suffer because the pathogen, Phytophthora ramorum likes the wetter climate, and is also linked to rhododendron, which are common in that region.

The disease can lead to needle wilt and to bleeding canker. If notice any unhealthy larch, make sure you report them to a local FC officer asap. This is a growing problem, especially as larch is considered one of Britain’s finest species for building. For the moment only Japanese larch appears to be suffering from the disease, and not hybrid nor European, but there is no room for complacency.

Forestry sell off

There will be an article in the next issue of Living Woods commenting on the possible sell-off of state forests. Mike Abbott questions resistance to the idea, and wonders if the private sector might be in a better position to use the country’s woodlands more imaginatively. This comes at the same time as an outbreak of disease in Japanese larch has been found in Scotland. One wonder is the private sector is suited to the job of managing a forest asset having to cope with terrible threats from disease. More info in the next Living Woods, out at the end of December.

Good Work

I’ve been reading John Brown’s essay, Good Work, which we are looking to publish alongside a selection of his columns from Good Woodworking. As the editor of Popular Woodworking, Chris Schwarz said to me the other day, John was probably ahead of his time, and his passion for hand tools and hand skills now feels prophetic. We will bring more news of any possible book asap.


On Friday 12th February BBC2 will be broadcasting the first in the MasterCrafts series, with the initial episode focusing on green woodworking and chairmaking. Three candidates spent six weeks learning how to work with green wood at Guy Mallinson’s woodland workshop in Dorset. They each then had to make a chair, which were judged by our own Mike Abbott. We’ll have interviews with all three and with Guy Mallinson in the next issue of Living Woods.

We don’t know which of the three green woodworkers, Charlie Hooper, Sarah Charlton or Tom Vaughan wins the first BBC2 Mastercrafts episode, which will be broadcast on Friday 12th February. Each one was trained by Guy Mallinson, and then had to make a chair, which Mike Abbott judged.

Because we don’t know which has won, and we go to press very soon with the next issue, on Wednesday Living Woods is going to hurtle round Britain to interview and photograph the trio. Find out more on Nick Gibbs’s Wood Blog (nickgibbs.wordpress.com).

We heard today that the National Forest has felled the oak tree that’s to be used as material for their One Oak project this summer, but sadly there weren’t any interesting elbow pieces to make a chair. We had planned to mimic a chair shown in Bill Cotton’s new book, Scottish Vernacular Furniture.

The time is also approaching for the annual Poplar Challenge at the National Forest Wood Fair on Bank Holiday at the end of August. This year I plan to make a pool table for children, so at least if we don’t win again people will have had fun with our entry. So far our recycling bin and magazine display stand have been beaten by a model house and a model crib! We’re attending the show this year, just in case that helps our cause. We’re not competitive or anything!!!!

On Sunday Living Woods was at the Hampshire Green Fair, at the Sustainability Centre near East Meon, basking in the sunshine. Indeed at 3.15pm we signed up our 1000th subscriber, which after only four issues is something of a shock.

Every county should have a fair like this. Full of music, creativity and good humour (not to mention beer and cider) it is frequented by friendly visitors and there’s a lovely feeling of shared purpose.

We met many friends, but spent a fair amount of time chatting to Gerwyn Lewis, one of the founders of the Green Wood Centre near Telford. Gerwyn’s daughter Mary is one of the organisers of the Green Fair, living there in a yurt with her partner and their lovely little bairn, Holly, who was resplendent in knitted dungies, made by Katherine McNidder, who is currently volunteering at the Sustainability Centre.

Gerwyn now runs one-on-one courses from his home, in a purpose-made workshop near Telford. He’s promised to teach me how to make a Shaker box in a day.

Gerwyn is a versatile man, and especially good company, and has recently made some remarkable cabins at the Green Wood Centre. He was telling me how he wants to make more sheds/huts, and I was explaining how the author, Bill (Bernard) Cotton (famous for The English Regional Chair) had recently introduced me to a book called Fishing Huts of Britain.

I’ve known about Bill’s books for ages, but didn’t realise he now lives in the street behind my youngest daughter Sasha’s school. Bill wants to make a hut from green oak on the stretch of the river Coln near us, and rang me for advice on locating a local supplier of wood. I went round to his house to chat about the project, and discovered he’s just published a new book called Scottish Vernacular Furniture. And on it goes! I should obviously write this blog more frequently and in less depth!!!!!

Latest issue

Contact us if you'd like a copy of the latest issue of Living Woods.

Contact us if you'd like a copy of the latest issue of Living Woods.

The latest issue of Living Woods has just gone to press, and it will be out at the end of the week. We’ve been advertising Living Woods in Permaculture magazine recently, and have been receiving some fascinating responses from readers.

I spoke to one, who will remain nameless, who is planning a way out of his conventional career and aims to set up with his partner in a self-sufficient style. They wisely set themselves a Five Year Plan two years ago, and have been saving hard to free themselves of a mortgage and the trappings that lock most of us on the treadmill. I hope they succeed, and will stay in touch to watch their progress.

Over in France, Stuart Anderson has already made that leap. They run a permaculture operation in Brittany, and have a blog at permacultureinbrittany.blogspot.com. There’s a great photo of them trying out their local baker’s mobilette on a recent blog. Stuart and (I think) Gabrielle run a gite there (brittanycountrygite.com). They’re not far from Le Shack, so when things get too hard there, I’ll have to visit for some R&R.

The website for their gite features a page about their woods. It is headed with a quote from Nelson Henderson, a WW1 soldier, Irish pioneer in Canada, farmer and father: “The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit.”