Green Woodwork refers to the practice of working with unseasoned wood. There is a long tradition of such working, which is often done outdoors in a woodland with freshly cut wood and without using power tools of any sort. It is therefore an ideal activity to do in your own or a friend’s woodland. Timber used is usually a by-product of woodland management. Coppiced timber in its green state is easier to cut, shape and turn than is seasoned wood.
The green woodworker will use processes developed over hundreds of years, such as splitting or “cleaving” with wedges, trimming with an axe, and shaping with a draw knife. Once timber is suitably dimensioned it can be shaped using a chisel and pole lathe.
A pole lathe is a lathe which is foot-powered by the operator. Using a long, flexible pole as a spring and pedalling to turn the lathe, the craftsman can very effectively turn the wood that he/she is working on. Long chisels of different shapes are used to shape and smooth the wood. Favourite items made this way are chairs, stools, rolling pins, handles for tools, and even toys (such as babies’ rattles).
There are many short courses you can go on to learn how to do green woodwork. As well as being fun, these courses are usually set in woodlands, either camping or staying in a nearby bed and breakfast, and you end up with something to take home to demonstrate your new-found skill.
One of the best courses we have come across is operated in Gloucestershire by Paul Hodgson. Details of his green woodwork courses run with Cotswold Woodland Crafts are at greenmanworkshop.co.uk. He is running courses in September, October and November 2007. A typical cost is only £90 for the two days. Paul works with Graham Saunders and Bob Field and they are all members of the Association of Pole Lathe Turners.
Does anyone know of any other green woodwork courses in other parts of the country?