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Teaching woodcarving to individuals and small groups at their homes or at my beautiful studio in Bristol

Individual Tuition

As well as giving tuition to larger groups and at schools, I really enjoy teaching individuals and small groups in my own workshop. It’s great to see what people choose to make when given the timber and tools and a chance to have a go.

teaching woodcarving in Bristol

They also get the chance to learn with a qualified and insured tutor who is one of the most experienced carvers currently working in the area. I am experienced in and can teach all kinds of carving, large or small scale.

Woodcarving tuition in BristolLearners can use a wide variety of my own tools; from tiny gouges, through knives and axes to power tools. I try to give the important information that allows someone to be able to buy and maintain their own tools and continue carving at home.

If you have a woodcarving idea, I can probably help you to make it.

 

 

 

Will Barsley spent two days learning with me in 2013. He is now studying woodcarving at the City and Guilds College in London and writing about carving in publications and on his blog. Will has thanked me for the tuition that started him on his career, saying:

‘Thank you so much for today and last week for that matter. 
Have really enjoyed the lessons and is so nice to have the opportunity to work with all your tools. ‘

‘you were my first tutor and really helped stoke the fire of my interest in becoming a wood carver.’

Will Barsley wood carving

 

teaching woodcarving for a stag do

Teaching carving for a stag do

For those who may not know what a ‘stag do’ is, it is a tradition in Britain for a man who is about to be married to get together with his friends (usually, but not always, male) and have a party. The ‘hen do’ is the woman’s equivalent. They are often marked by a lot of drinking!

As a twist on the usual festivities, one group came to my studio to learn to how to carve. Two people learned how to use axes, knives, drawknives and other green woodworking tools to make spoons.

stag do woodworking

The others learned how to carve relief carvings in oak using a variety of traditional tools.

woodcarving

I thought that it was a really nice idea, getting together to learn new skills with friends at this time. Everyone seemed very happy with the work that they produced too. If this idea appeals to you, feel free to get in touch.

green man

green woodworking course bristol

Carving, green and general woodworking classes

I have over twenty two years of carving experience and have been teaching woodworking classes to people of all ages for over ten of them. It feels great to share my passion for and knowledge of the subject with others. I have experience in teaching not only woodcarving, but also the specialist skills needed to work with unseasoned ‘green’ wood as well as more general carpentry and joinery techniques.

The picture above shows one of several green woodworking courses that I ran at Boiling Wells in Bristol, in partnership with St Werburghs City farm and with funding from the Radcliffe Trust.

 

green woodworking and carving in Bristol

 

Nowadys, I often teach one-off days rather than courses, for groups of six to eight people at a time. Learners will be taught so much in the day that it is frequently enough!

Unlike some other tutors, I don’t just teach what is needed to make a particular object. Instead, lessons focus on what tools to buy, where to get them, how to use them safely and efficiently and how to keep them sharp, if necessary. That way, if a student wants to continue after the session, they have all the knowledge and skills to do so in whichever direction they choose. Get in touch if you’d like more information.

 

Bristol woodworking classes

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

Wooden sign for a school

Signs for Schools and Community Groups

I’ve carved signs for schools and community groups all over the country. Most are made from oak but if you would like to use another kind of timber, I’d be more than happy to advise on its suitability for whatever purpose you have in mind. I also have the relevant checks in place to come and install it, if you wish.

Esther Rantzen plaque

Signs can be finished with wax (if destined to be installed indoors), varnish or finishing oils. I can tell you more about the best one to use for a particular project when you contact me. For more information, please feel free to get in touch.

Carved wooden signs for community groups

carved wooden memorial

Memorial Plaques

Memorial carvings have been some of the most touching ones that I have produced. Making a piece to remember somebody who is no longer with us is obviously not always a happy thing, but seeing how moved their friends and family are by it can be very rewarding as well.  This plaque was installed in a school in Bristol to remember a former pupil who loved nature and I felt quite lucky that his mum and his friends were there to see it installed.

 

carved wooden memorial

 

Sometimes, the piece of wood to be used is supplied and it can be an unusual shape, which many computer-controlled engraving machines wouldn’t be able to deal with. For me, it’s just an interesting challenge. One example would be this oak ball, which was to be used as the stopper on a carafe.

 

carved lettering on a wooden ball

 

I’m also frequently asked to provide inscriptions on the work of other makers. The very talented furniture maker Sue Darlison needed a carving on one of her stunning benches and asked me if I could do it. I was more than happy to. The name and the inspiration for the design came from the lovely smile of the person who was being remembered.

 

Sue darlison furniture maker

Bridget's Smile by Sue Darlison

 

Carved Inscription on wooden object

Carved Inscriptions on Unusual Objects

Hand-carved inscriptions on unusual objects

 

I love a challenge! Sometimes people need inscriptions to be carved onto unusual objects and irregular surfaces, which many engraving machines would not be able to deal with. This oak ball was destined to be the stopper for a carafe.

 

carved lettering on a wooden ball

 

I carve lettering using traditional carving gouges and chisels or, sometimes, a small multitool. The multitool is like a handheld drill that drives differently-shaped cutters. Although it is a power tool, the delicacy and precision that it is capable of reminds me of traditional hand tools.

 

Dremel multitool used to carve an inscription

 

If you have a project that you would like done but aren’t even sure if it’s possible, please contact me.

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’.

Dragon castle whittling

Dragon and Castle

This detailed small sculpture shows a dragon lying around a small hill with a castle built onto it. There are towers, steps and even a waterfall. It was carved from strongly scented Camphor Laurel wood, which was used in China to make map cases and storage for clothes as it repels moths.

In Australia, the introduced tree is now quite invasive. This piece of timber was found in a firewood pile at a youth hostel in Byron Bay, New South Wales. I was working as a woodchopper for a place to stay – perhaps my ideal job at the time!

 

Wooden dragon sculpture

 

I started carving it while in Australia and continued working on and off on the sculpture for quite a while after returning to the UK.

 

camphor laurel wood carving

carved wooden bowl

Carved Wooden Bowls with Inscriptions

These bowls, like a lot of my earlier work, were made from found wood. The textured and smooth surfaces are wonderful to touch and the bowls themselves become robust containers for the stories which they acquire; from initially finding the wood to the places which the pieces travel to after being finished.

 

fern worthy forest bowl inscription

 

This charred, textured and scraped bowl was made from beech wood, which had come from a tree that grew high up on the wild and rugged plateau of Dartmoor.

 

carved wooden bowls

 

When I picked up the timber, left over from tree felling operations, this is what I could see:

 

Fernworthy forest dartmoor

 

The second carved bowl has charcoal on the rim which has been solidified using resins. The piece of wood came from a large arts complex and squat in Berlin called ‘Kunsthaus Tacheles‘.

 

Kunsthaus Tacheles Berlin 2004

 

I found it, already charred, in a long-dead fire on the snowy ground outside the building. I have heard that since then, the squat has been forcibly closed down. If you don’t read German, the inscription says:

‘Tacheles is an old Jewish word which means to make things clear, that is to get to the point’

 

Tacheles carved wooden bowl

 

When beginning to make these sculptures in 2004, I was studying the work of the artist Richard Long, who can condense the tale of a walk of a thousand miles into a picture of a spiral which traces the path. Short pieces of text are carved onto each bowl, telling a little about where the wood came from, so hopefully beginning the process of holding tales which these bowls were made for.

 

carved wooden bowl

 

The following cherry wood bowl was made for the fifth wedding anniversary of two friends in 2009. The blackened outside was made, like the bowl above, by scorching the bowl with a blowtorch.

 

carved cherry wood bowl
In Britain, wooden gifts are traditionally given to celebrate the fifth anniversary. The quotation carved onto the bowl is from William Blake’s The Marriage of Heaven and Hell:

‘What is now proved was once only imagined’

 

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