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Living on a canal boat means that my workshop is difficult to maintain because it is outside in all weathers, all the time.

I am limited for space whilst working on a towpath that can be just a few feet wide. After mooring for two weeks in one place, I then have to pack up my equipment and move along the canal, leaving only a pile of wood shavings that my fellow boaters can use as kindling.

Locally Beech trees are prolific on the chalk downland in Wiltshire, so it is the tree that I tend to use most frequently. It turns wooden bowls beautifully, and is a strong, stable wood with which to create traditional wares, a process once known as 'Treen' ('of a tree').

The wood I source is from maintained coppiced woodland, which is normally 'mellowing' in the environment for up to 18 months. I use only choice pieces. For the production of wooden bowls I don't use any power tools except for cutting logs to size. I will then split the log into proportions and then manually axe the wood into the blank shape of the bowl.

I turn on a traditional style foot powered lathe that I constructed - an ancient type of mechanical advantage - and I carve with tools that I make myself on a forge. The work is then seasoned and left to dry for a few weeks depending on the size of the object. I soak the finished pieces with olive oil, which not only protects them but also keeps them safe for use in the kitchen.

The bowls I make are fashioned into all shapes and sizes, and I also make some historical copies. I use any off-cuts from the logs to whittle other objects such as ladles, spoons, whistles and other wooden carvings. The rest is normally firewood and kindling to keep me warm over the winter, ensuring there is very little waste.
 

 

 

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                                                                                                                                                                                    all contents nick riley - 2014