Brad Quarless Bowl Carver

This talk was given on 20th May 2017

Brad’s talk was described as “Bowl carving not turning” although his Google entry says ” Bespoke organic furniture and wood sculpture”, and I see his work as the most exciting “Commercial wood sculptor” we have seen for years.  He uses both hand and power tools to produce  a sculpturally interesting, wide range of products including unique furniture, chairs, and kitchen items.  See his web site on   His uncle was a miner who whittled and father was a carver of items for churches who took him into the workshops.  He has had a journey in wood from woodyard to finished wood from childhood.  The architecture of wrecked boats, driftwood and found wood inspire his work.


There was an interesting display of tools, all were quick, some for heavy wood removal and others for a smooth finish.   We were impressed but the costs were too high for amateurs as we would not make enough use of them.   Brad says the tools had to earn their keep and there seemed to be a garage full of tools that had failed to live up to his standards.   I did by one of the tools and occasionally use it to remove junks of wood that are too awkward for a bandsaw or chainsaw, and too much to carve away by hand

Brad sources his wood direct driftwood from the shore, farmers fields, and from tree surgeons ( it helps to have a cousin in the business) and dries it out before he can work on it.  Above is a 2 inch thick slab of cherry which is destined to be a garden sculpture. The carving process starts with heavy power tools exploring the natural holes, and cracks to eliminate the weakness they might introduce to the finished work.  He listens to the wood, is guided by the wood, allows the wood to tell him what to do, and does not attempt force his ideas on to the wood.  The holes make viewing points to encourage the public to explore, see more of the surroundings, and share his enthusiasm for wood and sculpture.

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This huge piece of burr wood was really heavy and as we had begun to expect the vice could hold a ton of wood.  Brad is working on the inside with an angle grinder and a carbide cutter to cut out the inside of the bowl.   He would normally take out much of the interior with a chain saw, but was concerned that the wood might contain a void as it was not as heavy as the bulk suggested. A slower approach was necessary

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This is the bread and butter side of Brads business.  A shallow bowl in  sapele, roughed out with the angle grinder and then smoothed to a silky finish using a Kirjes Sanding & Polishing System tool.   There is a rubber ball inside the specially shaped sanding sleeve which eliminates the tendency for the sander to leave groves in the work.  With these tools, brad can carve a bowl in 15 minutes, and sell them at a competitive price.   The bowl would be finished with 70%medical beeswax mixed with 30% medical mineral oil, which makes it suitable for serving food

This is one of several slices of a ash tree that had rotted in the middle and will make exciting sculptures.

Brad brought in a selection of books that have informed his work

Exploration in Wood by Tim Stead, With the grain by Tim Stead. Decorative woodwork by A.W.P. Kettles, Creative wood sculpture by G Bentham, Red, Black, Other by David Nash, Makepeace by J Myerson


We all met outside Rochdale Town Hall which is an impressive building constructed in 1873.   The inside was equally impressive.   It had a look of a Siena church with stripes of red and white, large granite pillars, and a marvellous tiled floor.   The building costs had over run the budget by 6 times and the recent repairs had cost more than estimated.  We were shown exactly where the money had run out originally and currently.  We, of course,  were more interested in the carvings

The Lion rampant was carved all over the place but there were dragons too, but less of them now as some had been stolen.


There were lots of heads acting as corbels for the arches over doors , and many as this one had lost part of the nose


The carved furniture was marvellous.


In what had been built as the Music room , now the Mayor’s parlour there were carvings of musicians


We all enjoyed the tour of the building and would recommend everyone to book themselves on a tour.

Mark Hopkins – Furniture Restoration

Mark gave us as good a talk as he did last time he came.   This is a piece that Mark made from scratch for a show in Exeter, where it won 3rd prize. Each surface has been covered with veneer.  The main sheet of veneer is soaked, glued to the surface with animal glue, pushed down until flat, and left to set for an hour or so.  The shape of the inlay veneers are cut from the main veneer and the lifted out.  At this stage the glue is amenable.  The soaked inlays are fitted into position and pushed down until flat


Mark is demonstrating how the veneer is pushed down with a veneer hammer.  As the veneer has already expanded during the soaking, it is important to push the veneer flat from the edges towards the middle so that no extra expansion occurs.  The veneers are then sanded using 120, 240, and 400 grit paper, care being taken that the veneer is not all sanded away.  A coating of coloured stopping is applied to fill in any holes.  This is sanded and then 3 coats of Sand and Sealer are applied with a sanding between.

Mark uses traditional French Polishing techniques.  Small amount of polish and a dab of linseed oil is applied , it is one of those occasions when less is more, as it is easy to take off the polish by having to much oil or polish on the rubber.

Mark showed us a range of veneers bought from Ebay and local suppliers.   Here he is showing us a pack of walnut veneer that had been destined for Rolls Royce.   It seem that one has to buy when the veneer is available, as when you want it, there is none to be found

Mark recommended

Restoration Materials for polish, stains etc.

Nantwich Veneers

H. E. Savill for brass fixings

Martin & Co for historically accurate knobs and hinges

Scrollsaw work

Paul Metcalfe and his friend Martin from Red Rose Woodturners gave us a very interesting and informative talk on using a scrollsaw.

Paul Metcalfe at work  

Martin at work

They brought examples of their work for us to see.  Solid models and some cut into puzzles.

Examples of Scroll workExamples of Scroll work

Patterns are easily available on the web and Paul recommended These are free but a donation can be made to Help for Heroes.
Their “bible” for all their work is “The New Scroll Saw Handbook by Patrick Spierman published by Sterling Publishing Co. Inc. New York

Here are some of the hundred of tips that they gave us:
Hardwood is better than softwood;
Use only the best plywood (5mm) for smoother edges. They get theirs from C&W Berry Ltd Leyland Preston
The thinner the wood the smaller the blade especially if there are tight turns.
Check that the blade is at 90 degrees to the wood, and tension is tight but with a little give.
Bare wood with a drawing on can be used but they recommended using tape which apparently gives the blade lubrication.

Martin demonstrated cutting an eagle’s head out of 1/4″ maple wood.   First he used spray mount glue to stick the pattern to the wood and then covered it with sellotape before cutting it with blade number 2 or 3.   On the other hand Paul liked using Frog Tape (he used the green colour.) He covered the wood with Frog Tape then spray mounted the pattern on top.   His demo was of a name plate (SHED) made in pine from an old bed. On the photo you can see the result of tilting the resting plate at 3.5  degrees and always cutting in an anticlockwise direction.    This allows the cut out to be pushed upwards. If you cut clockwise the letter will be pushed down. (Spot the mistake in the photo where he made the centre of the letter D by cutting in the wrong direction.)

Scroll saw workScroll saw work

They used a Hegna Machine costing about £350 but also favoured the dearer Excalibur.    They make delicate items with these. If any of our
members only want one for roughing out before carving then a cheaper model will do.   Having heard this, I went home to get out my scrollsaw from Aldi costing £25 to give it a go! Watch this space.
Report by Gillian Smith

This report was written by Gill in 2016, and I been watching the space and have not seen any scroll work

Carving on turned work


The April 2016 workshop meeting was led by Adrian Carter.

As well as being a member of the Lancashire & Cheshire Woodcarvers, Adrian is a experienced woodturner and member of the West Pennine Woodturners group.

Adrian demonstrated turning a variety of items that can then be finished or embellished with woodcarving techniques, these included, fruit and bowls and platter.

The Session was then finished by Brian demonstrating a method for producing napkin rings, that can then be decoratively carved, and Nick who talked about two pieces he brought in that combine turning and carving in their design.


In memory of Danny

Danny was a popular member of the club, always happy, friendly and willing to help with anything that needed doing.   He passed away at a far too young age.   The club is carving three “In Memory” boards for the family, to be carved by club members.

John Adamson, a member who has done more lettering than most (see website had agreed to show he would tackle the work.   His is not the only way, or necessarily the best but the way he has found works for him.      He produces computer designed lettering to the right size.    In the case of Popples Close Farm the letters where twice as tall as normal, as the client wanted a clearly visible sign which was not too wide.

.Popplles Close Farm



It is difficult to carve in a position so that all the audience can see, so we had the work filmed and projected.  The computer print out is fixed to the board with photo mounting in a spray can.    The letters are carved through the paper.     Each letter starts with a vertical cut in the centre of the letter.   This should not be as deep as the final letter, as it is a “stop” cut to prevent the wood splitting when the side cuts are made.    The straight lines are easier and John has a set of chisels in various that he keeps just for lettering, so that they are sharp and the cutting edge square to the blade.     Curved parts of letters are more of a problem and John uses a flexicut chisel with a very rounded cutting edge, i.e. without sharp corners to the cutting edge.    A normal gouge would cut into the sides of the letter and spool the carving.

Filming of the event


John has produced one of the boards so that members can see what they are aiming forIn Memory of Danny

17th Century New England carving

From a meeting in March 2016

17 century carving

We watched a DVD on New England 17 Century carving by Peter Follansby. This was a bit controversial, as at previous meetings, when this had been suggested members had stayed away.  The DVD was very clear and introduced a subject that we are unlikely to get a speaker for in this country.  The laying out and carving were simple and much done by eye.  It seems from later experiments that the eye and the hand had to have considerable experience of the processes involved for them to be done with such ease.

17 century carving 2

The work was carved on green oak that Peter split direct from the log rather than sawn.  The outside was allowed to dry but the inside was green.   This apparently gave a crisp edge to the cuts, but an easy ride for the gouge / chisel through the wood.  The curves were scribed with  a compass with a sharpened metal metal points on each leg.  Only 6 tools were used. Most work was done with a V tool.  This looked easy, but a skill that must a have taken lots of practice. The straight lines were scribed using a try square.  Any other elements relied on that eye again.

17 century carving 3

The little ) ( marks were made with two cuts of a gouge, again by eye.   It seemed that it did not matter what you did as long as you repeated the action in similar places in each pattern.   So a “mistake”, in that it was not what you originally intended, does not matter as long as you made the same “mistake” on each repetition of the pattern.  This felt wrong, but as long as you have not told anyone what it was going to look like, it does not matter.  In all it was a refreshing change to our current practice


A Sculptor’s Progress by John Adamson

John’s work has been described as ODD, PECULIAR and QUIRKY, from admirers of his carving.

John Adamson
John has been producing various styles of sculpture for 60 years, since the age of 8 or 9. Having been surrounded by tools and wood in his pattern maker’s father’s workshop, but not allowed to touch. He made his own tools fashioned out of worn down clog iron heels made into knives.
Preferring to work with “found” wood, rotten wood and odd shaped cut off logs, he then branched out from that point.
As a child/teenager the book which he consulted was “Whittling and Woodcarving” from his local library and his first production was a leaf. Also as a teenager he learned to view what he wanted to “see’ from slide shows. Always carrying his sketch book and pencil he watched people on public transport and portrayed them for later use. Even now he always carries his sketch book and a Flexcut 6 Tool Carving Jack for drawing or whittling whenever he has a free moment.
Whilst attending a woodworking group he started with woodworking tools to produce an Otter. He enjoyed this style of work and wanted to advance further by joining a sculpture class where his unusual approach to sculpture was developed. He worked in different mediums such as wood, clay and aluminium producing abstract designs.
A discarded circular pub table top offered a beautiful wall plaque to show a furrowed field in a landscape with trees then stretching out to the horizon.


Plate Plaque - JA
As a mature student in his mid-fifties John attended university at which time he went on a 6 month exchange student programmein America. He found most woodcarving surrounded the theme of Christmas with decorations for trees and Father Christmas designs.


Using plaster moulds he sculpted faces and put different expressions on them during carving.









From finding wood he used the branches to provide inspiration for the designs. From laying a parquet floor there were several small square pieces left over, which he referred to his sketch book and produced a mosaic of heads which he fashioned together in a grid pattern.

As he got more adventurous he bought a chainsaw, attended a training course at Myerscough College and started to gain experience in tree sculpture, which many of his designs are still present.

The Globe Theatre approached the British Woodcarvers Association of whom John was a member and asked for a medieval group of people dancing.










John found a rotten piece of wood with a hole in the middle and produced a ring of dancers holding hands. He called it The Grand Chain.








He does not use glass paper to finish any carvings preferring a rustic appearance.

By this time John was not working and so developed a website and started to advertise his tree sculpture work which has proven to be productive.

In his mature years he has decided to scale down his work from 12 feet high tree sculptures for risk of injury and now talks and demonstrates his art.

Whilst staying in Orkney last year he attended a stonemason carving course, which has given him his enthusiasm for lettering.


So after more than 60 years The Sculpture’s Progress continues. See the websites below for further information.

Carving Picnic Tables in Padiham in 2012

The friends of the Memorial Park, Padiham asked us to carve something from nature on the ends of some new picnic tables

Lets hope that we get such lovely weather in 2021 and that we can meet up like this again soon.













Barry Bates – Green Wood Carver


Barry is a minimalist.


All his work is carried out on this bench.   It breaks down into 3 legs and a top for transport.   The metal bar bent like a shepherds crook is a very effective clamp to hold wood on the bench top. He does have more tools than shown here, but not more than wood fit into one medium size work box.
Axe and block
With this minimum he showed us how to carve various types of spoons.   Apparently traditional spoons differ from country to country. ? It was suggested that the differing diets may have caused the difference in design

Barry in action

Here Barry is roughing out a spoon. and the blur in picture is due to the speed that the axe head was moving.

Barry with an British spoon.  The final shape is created with very sharp knives.    He spends more time than I do to achieve a higher degree of sharpness.     It involves rubbing the knife with reducing grits of wet and dry and a final buff on a strop.

Contact on