Wednesday, 4 March 2009

The artful bodger

I have had the most brilliant weekend. My husband (Transition House) arranged for us to spend 2.5 days with Mike Abbott - master of green woodworking ( It was fantastic.

Transition Housewife making a stool leg using a shaving horse and draw-knifeI have never worked with green wood before, it was so much fun and, unlike working with seasoned wood, it was peaceful, gentle and not dry!! I'll explain (Skip this paragraph if you know about green wood!!). Green wood is wood from trees that has recently been felled. It has not been dried (seasoned) and so it still wet. because it is still "green" we could work on it with tools and machines that didn't need any electricity. The process of making things out of the wood didn't dry our hands, it didn't create dust (so no need for face masks and goggles) and there was very little chance of getting splinters. What's more, because no heavy machinery was involved, we could hold conversations whilst getting on with the work. I say "work", - we made a load of useful things.

Stool made from green woodUnder the expert and skilled guidance of Mike, we made a fabulous stool, froe handle, club, maul (huge great club for whacking onto axes into logs), and a shaving horse. We both got to have a go at using a load of different tools including (my favourite) a pole lathe.

We even had time to see the wood that Mike gets all his timber from (and runs his courses from in the Summer).

Hanging from the stoolProbably the most impressive thing about the whole green woodworking malarky for me was Mike's technique for joining the mortice and tenon joints in the stool. Basically it all revolved around the fact that the wood will dry as times goes by. Therefore you have to make allowances for the shrinkage. If the mortice (hole) is made slightly smaller than the tenon, the tenon should never come loose. Certainly, when we had cramped one side of the stool together my husband was able to hang from it and the joints didn't budge one millimetre.

So now we have a shaving horse and draw-knife, so if I can find a source of good ash, I should be able to make a matching stool. If I find a suitably long and straight piece of ash I will definitely make a pole lathe and then I feel that I will be on the right course to be a proper bodger (someone who works with green wood). The question is, how long and how much practice will it take before I am the artful bodger? I'll definitely need to finish reading Mike's books, Living Wood and Green Woodwork, (that he signed for me) first.

We stayed, by the way, at a fab B&B called the Old Cow Shed. Richard and Helen were great hosts and I would totally recommend it if you are ever near Bromyard in Herefordshire.


  1. Hi,
    Followed you from The Rubbish Diet, and I'm enjoying a good browse :-)
    I've made a bag from plarn - it felt really good to make something from "rubbish"

    I'd love to have a go at any kind of woodworking. I love your stool. :-)

  2. Hi Sam,

    Glad you made it over! Plarn - I'm still collecting plastic bags, but hope to have something made soon.

    Thanks for the comment about the stool. It was great fun to make.

  3. The stool is very impressive. I remember watching one of the Grand Designs programmes when a house was build of green oak. It was lovely and I was envious.

  4. Hi Margaret,

    We can't take any credit for the design of the stool as we copied one that Mike had already made. But thanks anyway.

    I saw that Grand designs episode too, it was a lovely house.


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