Tools of the trade
The tools that I use have been the basis of wood working for millennia.
My most used device is the shaving horse, a simple wooden vice that allows one to sit down on the job. A sharp draw knife is the main tool used for shaping wooden components (such as rake handles and heads). Spokeshaves are useful for finishing off. Most of my wood is worked on while green or only slightly seasoned and larger logs are split with a maul and wedges. These split billets can be shaped with a side axe or sawn to shape with hand saws. I avoid the use of power tools to make the workshop a more pleasant place to be. Green wood has the advantage of being softer to work than seasoned wood as well as producing little dust.
Outside the workshop the pole lathe is set up. This ancient device is operated simply with the power of a springy pole and a human foot and is a safe and gentle way to turn wood.
Saplings are split with the aid of a iron froe and a splitting frame called a brake.
A wooden steam box steams the wood to soften it so it bends easily to make rake hoops, forks and planking for trugs. Linseed oil and bees wax are applied to wooden products for non-toxic and pleasant smelling finishes.
What exactly is a Coppice
A coppice is a plantation of underwood and young trees grown for periodical cutting.
The Whitestone woods (a coppice near Weston in North Otago) provides me with some of the timber that I use. Whitestone woods is a traditional British style plantation of Oak, Ash, Elm and Lime. These species can produce large quantities of wood in rotations as short as only seven years.
When most European and North American broad leaf trees are cut just above the ground line (far from being detrimental to the tree) the tree has renewed vigour, and from the trunk and root stock vigourous shoots are thrown up. These shoots can be harvested on a large scale and in a sustainable way at various stages of growth depending on their intended use. Coppice harvesting in this fashion has been carried out many hundreds of years.
The size of the timber depends upon the time of harvest and the variety of tree. In this way a range of timber is produced from whippy and slender shoots through to the most sturdy of poles.
Ethic and the Arts and Crafts movement
My workshop is an attempt to be intelligently selective in the use of technologies which are empowering, sustainable and creative; not destructive, anti-democratic and self-defeating.
One of the great thinkers and activists of 19th century Europe was William Morris. He confronted many of the problems caused by the industrial revolution and the dehumanising of work. He was pivotal in the establishment of the Arts and Crafts movement which attempted to bring art and enjoyment back into production.
To Morris, art included the whole man-made environment. It is this kind of philosophy that many of us are promoting as part of the vision for Oamaru and as part of the development of it as an historic Victorian town