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Playground musical instruments

Musical Instruments for a Playground

St Werburghs Community Centre in Bristol have been redeveloping a car park as a play area and asked if I could make some ‘sensory structures’ for the area – which gave the chance to make musical instruments!

playground musical instruments

Researching how to make and tune them was a fascinating process. It was made a little trickier as I wanted to use reclaimed timbers to make some of the wooden parts. The larger companies around my workshop sometimes get deliveries of timber on bearers made from offcuts of sapele wood – a tree that grows in tropical Africa. Although many are reused by those companies when stacking timber for storage, it seemed a real shame to waste any of the used bearers by burning or throwing them away, especially as sapele is a great timber to use for xylophone bars. I’m very glad to have found a better use for the wood.

Playground xylophone made from reclaimed timbers

The beautiful locally-grown larch posts holding up the instruments were provided by Tom and the team at Roundwood Design.

The four instruments are:

A set of four tuned metallophone bars, made from discarded ends of scaffold pole. The limited space between the existing planters meant that the instruments could only be  a certain width. I also made the beaters to play the bars, using golf balls on aluminium rods.

met allophone made from reclaimed scaffold pole for playgrounds

A tuned xylophone was probably the most difficult thing to get right; especially as there is a certain amount of wastage when using reclaimed materials due to imperfections and damage in the wood. I’m very happy with how it turned out and would like to explore the idea further, perhaps by carving the bars into interesting shapes.

Xylophone for playground

The next instrument was made using stainless steel threaded bars and washers. The washers slide down the bars, making a sound a bit like a rain stick. It’s strangely fascinating to watch them as they move downwards, glittering in the sun.

Playground instruments play area

The final instrument is something I call ‘rattle poles’. These were turned from the sapele bearers, with a stick to play them that was also turned using reclaimed timber from a bearer.

wooden play instrument

Woodturning to make instruments

The two vertical sticks were the largest turned wooden items that I’ve produced so far. It gave me a chance to get my vintage Myford ML8 lathe fired up, which was great fun.

Woodturning on a Myford ML8 lathe

I think that the finished turned sticks look beautiful, especially against the rustic larch poles.

wooden sticks to play

It’s a lovely thought that these musical instruments will provide fun for children and their parents for many years to come. What do they sound like, you may be asking? There’s a Youtube video which will show you.

carved wooden rabbit

Making the Jackie Collins Inspirational Woman of the Year Award: 2016 – 2018

This award is presented every year by the cancer charity Penny Brohn UK. For the last three years, I have been honoured to be asked to carve each one. All of them are different in design and a lot of effort is put into making each one special to the person receiving it.

In 2018, Jacqueline Gold was presented with the award. She is the boss of the Ann Summers chain of high street shops, which sell lingerie and other products to spice up people’s love lives. Her award references one of the company’s most famous products, which has a rabbit theme…

wooden rabbit bx

The wood used came from the Ashton Court estate in Bristol and the carving also has a small box included in the design, as the Trust wanted the award to be functional in some way.

carved wooden rabbit box

Here’s a photo of Jacqueline Gold receiving her award in May 2018. The image was supplied by Penny Brohn UK and is credited to Andre Regini.

Jacqueline Gold receiving the Jackie Collins woman of the Year award 2018

In 2017, the recipient was the perfume designer Jo Malone. Her new line of fragrances uses the scent of pomelo as its keynote and so I came up with some designs based around the leaves and flowers of pomelos.

Penny Brohn UK Jackie Collins Inspirational Woman of the Year award to Jo Malone

There were a few considerations that influenced the design of the award. Jo is a practical person, so it needed to be a useful object. It also had to be created from a piece of cedar from the grounds of the Trust’s headquarters, which I already had left over after making the award for the previous year.

Penny brohn uk award

The piece was also going to be engraved with an inscription suggested by Jo’s personal assistant: Passion, Resilience and Creativity.

A bowl was the perfect, practical item to make. Pomelo leaves are quite distinctive; they have a second pair of leaf lobes coming out from the stalk (or petiole) and so that was worked into the design. Most of the bowl was carved using power tools, as the cedar seemed easier to work with when using them.

carving a wooden bowl

I was very happy with the finished bowl, as were the people at Penny Brohn UK.

Jo Malone award

Apparently Jo also really liked the bowl and now has it on her desk. Here’s a photo from the ceremony, kindly supplied by Penny Brohn UK and used with permission:

Jo Malone

The first recipient in 2016 was Nina Barough, who founded the walks against cancer which have raised millions to fund research into fighting the disease. Her award reflects Nina’s love of flowers and it was carved from cedar that originally grew in the grounds of the Penny Brohn UK HQ. The piece also had to be carefully designed, to account for changes in the timber as it seasoned.

Penny Brohn UK award

Here is a photo, again with kind permission of Penny Brohn UK, of Nina (on the left) receiving the award:

Nina Barough

I feel very proud that these inspiring people each have one of my sculptures.

 

Wood carving of dog

A carved wooden portrait of your pet

A truly personal gift; for someone else, for yourself or even for your favourite pet companion.

 

Carved portrait of a pet cat in wood

 

I normally carve portraits by hand from a good-quality photograph onto an oak plaque, then finish it with either wax (for use indoors), varnish or finishing oil. If you would prefer another kind of wood or even a carving onto something else, such as an object that your pet likes, get in touch and we can chat about what you have in mind.

 

wood carving portrait cat

 

I can carve an image of any kind of animal and, even though I can’t know them as well as you do, it will be a lovely reminder of them for you.

 

carving of gun dog

Carving of oak leaf in wood to say thanks

Gifts: wood engraving and carvings that say ‘Thank you’

Quite a few carvings that I have made were for a particularly lovely reason: to say thanks. Sometimes they were for people who were leaving a job or other role, sometimes they were just for valued friends.

 

scouts sign carved in wood

 

Sometimes, I’m asked to carve inscriptions on unusual objects which are to be given as gifts. Perhaps the most out-of-the-ordinary was this garden fork. Unlike many computer-controlled engraving machines, I can carve directly onto irregular and curved surfaces so there was no problem making it and then painting the image. In fact, it was a fun challenge to undertake!

 

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Carved Inscription on wooden object

 

Some people also want me to make gifts out of timber from trees that have had to be cut down. This plaque was carved out of wood from a much-loved cedar tree, for someone who was retiring from their job. I had to carefully cut up and join pieces of the timber in a very particular way, to ensure that the sculpture would last well indoors. It didn’t only require carving skills but also a good knowledge of joinery and how different timbers move as they season.

 

cedar wood carving

 

Some projects need a bit less letter cutting and a bit more artistic design, as with this plaque that was given to someone who was moving away from Bristol after many years living in the city. He loved the place and this illustration shows the ‘Matthew’ (a replica of John Cabot’s famous ship, which the recipient used to volunteer on) sailing under the Clifton Suspension Bridge, heading towards the Avon Gorge and then out towards the sea. Do you recognise the poem? It is the first two lines of ‘Sea Fever’ by John Masefield.

 

Carving of a ship

Hand carved wooden sign

Carved signs for Homes and for Businesses

Whether it’s a new wooden house or business sign or a thank you gift for someone who is retiring, I can make it. I don’t just carve signs though; many businesses have used my services before, as well as other organisations such as community groups and charities, to commission one-off gifts and promotional items.

Signs are usually carved from oak that has come from sustainable forestry and finished with varnish, wax (for indoor use) or finishing oil, depending on which you prefer. I can also carve and paint any design that you would like to accompany the text and am able to carve using a large range of different fonts and styles. If you would like more information about what designs, timbers and finishes are suitable for the project that you have in mind, contact me to have a chat about it.

 

Carved thank you gifts for businesses

 

I can also make carvings from special pieces of timber, such as well-loved trees that have been cut down. The sunflower carving above was made using cedar from a tree that originally grew in the grounds of the headquarters for the cancer charity Penny Brohn UK. It came to me as an unseasoned log that had to be cut up and carefully joined to form the panel. When making it, the design had to account for any movement in the wood during seasoning.

 

Carving for Penny Brohn UK

 

This oak carving was made for a pub in Shropshire. The ‘Jack of Corra’ is a kind of old drinking vessel, and the spelling of ‘immemorial’ is exactly as the client wanted it.

 

Hand carved wooden pub sign

 

The carving was from a design supplied by the customer and was carved in very low relief, as it was to be installed on a bar and so would be vulnerable to potential knocks.

If you have a particular picture that you’d like on your sign, I can carve and paint that too. This house sign includes a portrait of their cat:

 

Carved portrait of a pet cat in wood

 

…and if you are wondering what the writing in Greek on the house sign with the carved and painted hibiscus flower means, it translates as ‘House of flowers’.

ceramic stamps

Carved Stamps for Pottery

These boxwood stamps were made for a very experienced professional ceramicist named Steve Carter of St Werburghs Pottery. He has been extremely impressed with them. They are very durable, not too absorbent and do not stick to the clay. Steve says that he prefers them to any other clay stamp that he has used.

 

ceramic stamps

 

Some stamps were made for an open day at the Botany Arts Studios in Bristol. Cups were produced by Steve to serve mulled wine in. The text on the stamp is based on the Botany’s window sign.

 

botany arts studios stamp

 

These two stamps were made in February 2010. The one on the right is for garlic storage pots, the one on the left for general use. The goose motif comes from a legend about St. Werburgh, a Saxon woman after whom both the area of Bristol and therefore Steve’s pottery (which is situated there) are named. She is supposed to have resurrected a favourite goose (called Grayking) which her steward had eaten.

 

ceramic stamps for st werburghs pottery

ceramic stamp

carved Opinel knife handle

Carved Knife Handles

This knife handle was carved for a commission in 2011. The buyer gave me his own designs and I carved them onto the beechwood handle of a number 10 Opinel lock knife. The handle is 10.5 cm (41/4″) long. As this was the type of knife with which I learnt to carve, it ws very exciting for me and the whole carving was done using my own Opinel, which is also shown here.

 

Carved Opinel knife handle

 

The knife at the top is the carved commission. It’s easy to see on this image how much metal had been sharpened off the blade of my knife over the previous 21 years- both blades would have once been the same size.

 

carving an Opinel knife handle

 

The blade of the knife to be carved was extended and wrapped in thick card, to give more to hold on to when working. Work in progress can be seen below.

 

carving with an Opinel knife

 

…and here are two images of the completed handle, finished with a very light sanding and then linseed oil…

 

Beautiful carved Opinel handle

Un couteau Opinel sculpté

 

Here’s another, which was carved for a commission a couple of months later. The knife is an oak-handled EKA. The client drew a (very good) representation of his idea for me to carve, which includes his son’s initials, the sun and the moon.

 

carved oak knife handle

 

carved EKA knife handle

 

The next knife handle was carved in New South Wales, Australia way back in 1997. It was made for a very talented Spanish leatherworker named Guille. In exchange for me carving a walnut-handled knife that belonged to him, he made a pouch for my carving knife (shown below). He loved Celtic designs and so the knife has a celtic-style dog’s head on the pommel, with eyes made from inlaid reindeer antler beads.

 

Celtic knife pouch

 

I still have the beautiful pouch that he made for me to this day but after leaving Byron Bay I never met Guille again.

Here are two images of his knife:

 

carved celtic knife handle

dogheadknife2

 

If you are interested in these then you might also like a more recent commission to carve a pagan ceremonial knife handle from oak, which is discussed in a separate post.

 

DSCN0508

Friday Tembo sculpture repair

Repairing an ‘Ebony’ Sculpture by Friday Tembo

In January 2009, I was offered a commission to repair a sculpture by the late Zambian sculptor, Friday Tembo. The piece was carved from African Ironwood timber that had been darkened to look like ebony. Unfortunately, it had been accidentally knocked from a mantelpiece and had broken into several fragments.

Friday Tembo was one of Zambia’s top sculptors, who exhibited internationally. He was a personal friend of the owners and had given them the carving himself. It therefore had great sentimental value, particularly as he had since passed away.

It was a real privilege to be given the opportunity of repairing and restoring this strange, beautiful and interesting work. It represents a shaman in the process of transforming between the shape of a man and that of a fish.

 

repairing an ebony sculpture by Friday Tembo

 

This is how the sculpture was given to me. The small bag holds fragments which had been knocked from the fins.

 

Repairing Friday Tembo sculpture

 

Below are shown these same breaks after being repaired, retextured and then finished using the original methods that Friday Tembo would have used.

 

Ebony sculpture repair Bristol

 

The break shown below had to be reinforced with an internal metal rod to strengthen it.

 

ebony sculpture repair

 

The repaired sculpture, waiting in a friend’s workshop for collection by the client. The tools give an idea of the size of the piece.

 

Ebony sculpture by Friday Tembo

wooden rabbit carving

Sign for Rock Meadows Housing Development

This cedar log was carved as a sign for Rock Meadow, a housing development of affordable housing in the Forest of Dean, in Gloucestershire. It shows animals and plants found in the local area, including orchids, wild daffodils, a shrew, rabbits and dormice.

 

Rock Meadow housing sign

 

There are also carved rocks on it, reflecting the name of the development. The bottom of the log, below the band of carved ‘rocks’, was uncarved except for slots as it was to be sunk into a concrete base when fitted on site. Cedar is a durable timber, so the sign will hopefully last for a while outdoors.

 

carved cedar log

 

How many animals and plants can you spot in the photos?

 

carved cedar sign for housing development

 

 

‘Woodlands for all’ project 2008

This project (with limited time and budget to complete it) was carved during May 2008 for the ‘Forest of Avon Trust‘, an organisation in Bristol that seek to promote the use of local woodlands in environmentally sustainable ways.

Four posts were sited at Jubilee Stone Wood near Backwell, on the edge of the Mendip Hills. Four others were fixed in at West Tanpit Wood, near Lower Failand and across the Avon gorge from Bristol. All eight posts were shallow-relief carved using long-lasting sweet chestnut logs, with designs chosen by young people and people with special needs from the area.

West Tanpit Wood

These posts stand a bit over 5 feet (1.5m) tall and mark a short circular route through the woods. If walking in early summer, the woods suddenly turn from being carpeted with the white flowers of wild garlic to the deep blue of native British bluebells – very beautiful indeed.

 

West Tanpit woods

 

A bird called a Dipper (which can sometimes be seen running about in the stream next to this post)

carved wooden dipper bird

 

Bluebells and Bumble bee

bluebells and bumble bee

 

Fern by a stream (before leaving the workshop)

wooden carved fern leaf

 

Oak leaves, acorns and a logpile, symbolising the two halves of the wood- native deciduous trees and commercial softwood plantation.

 

carved marker post

 

Jubilee Stone Wood

 

Jubilee Stone wood

 

Early Purple Orchid with Silver Washed Fritillary butterfly

carved orchid and butterfly

 

Robin singing on Ivy (before leaving the workshop)

carved robin and ivy

 

Sunset over Nailsea- the view next to this post

jubilee stone wood post