18th Sept 2021 – Members Work during Covid

Only 7 members made it back to the first Saturday meeting for ages, but they brought an amazing variety of work.     If you did not manage to come on the day and would like to see the work and probably more, make a note in your diary to come to the Christmas party when all will be on show.

John Adamson’s Daily Journey’s – work in progress














John Adamson’s Star carving











Mick Illesley’s Escaping Sardines and Crazy Chess Board









Some rejects from a clients commission to carve 40 Tree Sculptures









Mick Illsley Tribute to Fred Astaire




















Glynnis Cruice’s giant Ivy Leaf















Martin Haigh Elephants and a Polar Bear












Stuart Hood and an Alpine climber













More of Stuart’s work
















Evolution and Extinction of Trees

Have you ever wondered about all the different types of trees, their heights, shapes, wood, and shape and colour of their leaves .   NO?   Neither had I.   My current breakfast time reading is  “In Our Time”: A companion to the Radio 4 series by Melvyn Bragg.    It is a transcript of the BBC Radio 4 program of the same name.  There were 4 programs, therefore chapters, on Darwin’s theory of evolution.   This started me thinking and Googling about the evolution of trees.

The very first plants on land were tiny. This was about 470 million years ago. Then around 350 million years ago, many different kinds of small plants started evolving into trees. The world’s first trees, cladoxylopsids, at up to 12 meters tall, these spindly species were topped by a clump of erect branches vaguely resembling modern palm trees and lived a whopping 393 million to 372 million years ago.














An artist’s impression of a stand of cladoxylopsida trees, which formed Earth’s first forests, from the Science Mag. 

The trees are particularly important, because they formed the first forests and as now played a key role in absorbing carbon dioxide and adding oxygen to the atmosphere, affecting the climate and influencing conditions that fostered the emergence of other life forms.   The cladoxylopsids reproduced by spores, which need moisture to enable sperms to move to the egg, so they could only survive in marsh like conditions.

About 360 million years ago seeds were developed.   This enabled plants to colonize non-wet land, and form soil that that slows down erosion. The first seed producing plants gradually evolved into trees with seeds vast forests. One of the first kinds of large trees was Archaeopteris    This was a fern but resembled modern conifers.   It had woody strength built in rings to support weight and height, protective bark, and extra wood at the base of the branch to prevent breakage.   They made up 90% of the forests during the late Devonian which accelerated the increase of oxygen They were also the first long lived perennial plants





















Archaeopteris from Wikopedia

Over time, measured in 100s of million years, other plants developed tree like forms.    Unlike the human evolution that is traced back to a single African ancestor, there is no one mother tree from which all trees developed.

Let’s look at the development of oaks.   The following has been taken from the Genetic Literacy Project

Over the course of some 56 million years, oaks evolved from a single undifferentiated population into the roughly 435 species found today on five continents, but not Africa Australia and Antartica.

For decades scientists could only speculate about much of the evolutionary history of oaks because of gaps in their fossil record and limitations of DNA. But recent advances in genome sequencing and analysis have allowed a detailed picture of the origin, diversification and dispersal of oaks. It is a remarkable evolutionary success story.

This diagram shows the evolution from the “Mother” Genus Quercus into 2 subgenera Cerris and Quercus, and then into 8  Sections.   The 435 Species are shared between the 8 Sections.














The distribution of oaks across the world is patchy, in part due to their need for certain soil and climatic conditions.   However, while the oaks were evolving, the original supercontinent split up and tectonic plates drifted apart isolating populations of plants and animals that developed differently.

Now we are faced with the possible extinction of 30% of the world’s trees.  The State of the World’s Trees report said that the clearance for farming – both crops and livestock – and logging, are by far the biggest threats to trees, but added that climate change was also “having a clearly measurable impact”.

The study looked at the risks to 58,497 tree species worldwide and found that 30% (17,500) are threatened with extinction, with a further 7% listed as “possibly threatened”.      Some of the threatened tree species have always been fairly limited in numbers and distribution.    The report identifies trees at particular risk of extinction:

  • Large tropical trees known as dipterocarps that are being lost due to the expansion of palm oil plantations
  • Oak trees lost to farming and development in parts of Mexico, Chile and Argentina
  • Ebony and rosewood trees being felled for timber in Madagascar
  • Magnolia trees at threat from unsustainable plant collecting
  • Trees such as ash that are dying from pests and diseases in the UK and North America





















Church Carvings, a talk by Richard Colbran


At our 16th Nov 2019 meeting Richard gave a talk and slide presentation about Church Carvings and how they originated. Information about creatures from faraway lands was passed on by travellers in the form of verbal descriptions sometimes enhanced by a sketch.
Monks compiled these drawings into books known as bestiaries, which illustrated strange creatures both real and imaginary, but nearly all inaccurate.
Carvers used this information for their work in churches and cathedrals, as well as biblical scenes and moral stories often based on village life. Heraldry was also frequently commissioned by the wealthy patrons of the church.
Many pictures of their work in the form of gargoyles, grotesques, misericords, bench-ends and arm-rests were shown, as well as a few of his own carvings in the same tradition.

New Members Carving Journeys

Back in June 20, 2019, four of our newish members were very brave and told us how they came to join the club and how they were progressing with their carving experience.    They were all quite different from each other.   Nico Pantelides gives new members and introduction to carving, explaining the use and sharpening of tools, and setting fairly standard “first carving” projects.  I was expecting that our speakers would all be at roughly the same stage, but NO.

Brian Grove had a walking stick that needed shortening, so he asked around.  He was put in touch with a club member and saw his work, got interested and joined us.   He has now gone into industrial type of production of carved hedgehogs for his grandchildren.  His next project is a howling wolf .  He stressed the helpfulness and friendliness of the club members.  They are always willing to chat and offer advice

Brian Grove’s work













Glynnis Cruice discovered the club at Towneley Hall in 2011.   She had to be convinced that women carved but was assured they did.  A couple of years latter, when she retired, she joined and has tackled some ambitious work.   Her next project is a chess set.  I have

started to carve a set several times and have always been disillusioned by the number of pawns.  I wish her luck.  She appreciates the members help and friendliness.

Glynnis Cruice’s work

Glynnis Cruice’s next project

Glynnis Gruice Love spoon













Martin Haigh is self taught and came to carving as an extension of his marquetry work and is working towards a collage using a marquetry background with carvings of animals in front.  He has stuck veneer to the back of some of his carvings to increase their sturdiness and prevent them breaking along the short grain.

Martin Haigh’s work









Mike Illsley trained as an architect and has brought those skills to the designing of carvings.  His first work was a rocking horse, unusually he did not use a kit or published design, but worked with the wood he had.    He played around with the idea of spilt paint and other stuff.    Has made lots of sardine coming out of a tin sculptures, and has progressed to carving a very realistic bison.   His next project is wooden neck tie, and shirt.

Mike Illesey and his rocking horse

Mick Illsey portable paint pot accident sculpture

Mike Illesey’s work








David Kershaw Model Maker

Back in May 19, 2019 we had a visit from David Kershaw.     David  has always loved makings and uses wood, brass, plastic and electronics in his work.    There seems to be various levels of accomplishment in the model making world.  From bought plastic kits ready to be painted, through models made from scratch ( all the parts made by hand), to museum standard models that are too good to be played with in case they got damaged.  David placed himself in the middle of the range, making some things from scratch, buying in other peoples failures from E Bay, but not achieving museum standard of finish.The Gun Carriage was made from scratch.   He had made a jig to ensure that all the wheels were the same size, and that the axel was in the middle. A brass tire was added to hide the method of manufacture.   To a chainsaw carver this seems very fiddly work, but he manages all his work on a small table, whereas my workshop extends the whole of the basement and is still crowded.David showed us two boats.  The Fire boat was an E Bay wreck which needed to be stripped of paint, have certain repairs , and some parts made from scratch.  The other boat he is making to plans and he described the problems of this sort of work.  It is so easy to get the keel out of line, as the glued on pieces may exert strong forces pulling the whole boat slightly out of shape.  He will sail these boats in Heywood with the Mutual Model Boat Society from 9.30 to 12 on Sundays.  He says he prefers boats to airplanes as planes crash more frequently .    A trick of the trade He used a curtain ring as a Lifebuoy!!














David has a web site that shows the process of building a boat www.perkasa.co.uk














The gun carriage was built from scratch.  A kit would have cost  30, would not have a solid brass cannon, and would not have been half as much fun to make.

Amber, Jet, Jade, and Ivory. Talk by Gill Smith (member)

Gill Illustrated her talk with slides and souvenirs from her holidays.













Amber is a fossilised tree resin that is easy cut by hand or with a flexible shaft tool.  Usually a rich yellow but can be red or blue.  If it happens to have an insect trapped in it, then the value rockets.  We were shown some photographs of the amber rooms in St Petersburg where whole rooms are covered in carved amber.   Warning – There is fake amber on the market.

Jet  is fossilised Monkey Puzzle tree, rather like coal.  It has been used for jewellery since Roman times, became very popular in Queen Victoria’s reign, and has come back into fashion through the Goth movement.   It is illegal to mine it, but it can be picked up (if you are very lucky) from the beach after storms.   It is soft but brittle and takes a high shine.

Jade comes in various colours green, lavender, red, yellow, white and black.  It is very hard and can only be shaped with abrasives.   It has been carved in China from the Neolithic Period (c. 3000-2000 b.c.e) onward.   In early times the abrasive used was sand which can be worked into the jade with a wood or copper tool, now diamond tipped tools are used. ? We were shown a carved ball with more balls inside, and Nick Pantildes explained how this was done .













Ivory from elephants is now a restricted material, so most examples date from before the laws about sale of ivory were enacted.   Ivory can also be obtained from  walrus, and mammoths.  There is also false ivory which is a resin based material.  One interesting fact was that elephants are evolving, and tusks are getting smaller because the gene pool for the larger tusked elephants has been reduced by poaching.

Marvin Elliot Woodcarver

Mick Illsley has recently been to Arran on holiday and met Marvin Elliot in his workshop.  The members who managed to Zoom on Thursday 29th July, heard all about it,   The offer of free chisels and the handing over of a large lump of lime on the promise that Mick will send him a picture of what he carved from it.

The Voice of Arran  did an article about him in May 2016

“Our Arran Artist for this month is Marvin Elliott. Marvin’s wood carvings and sculptures are a familiar sight around Arran (think of the Corrie seal!), and are also to be seen much further afield these days. The Voice caught up with Marvin in his well-known workshop in Corrie.

Marvin trained as a Land Surveyor in the Army and continued to work in that role after leaving the military. He was surveying for a pipeline in Iran when he had a stroke that left his left arm weakened. He moved to Orkney “as a hippy drop-out”, and one day noticed a woodcarving competition in a magazine he was idly leafing through. He entered and much to his surprise he won. A church in England saw his winning entry and commissioned him to carve a Madonna and Child for them in 1980. His first thought was “I can’t do that!” but he had a go and the remarkable result can be seen in the photograph below. This led to several more Church commissions, and before long his work was in demand all over Britain.

After ten years on Orkney Marvin was commissioned to make a series of animal sculptures for Arran Aromatics, just then opening in Brodick. Coming to Arran to work on the project, he found that he very much liked it here and has been here ever since.

Marvin says that the process is all important in the making of these works. The outward appearance, seemingly so spontaneous, is often, paradoxically, the end result of a long and laborious process and emerges over time from the natural form of the wood.

These days three-quarters of Marvin’s work is commissioned, and he has an order book that is pretty full for the next six months. He also has smaller pieces for sale in his workshop that are popular with visitors and tourists.”

I found some photographs by Guy Carpenter taken for Gullwing Photography   see below

Marvin Elliot Drawings

Marvin Elliot’s work


Marvin Elliot with some work

Marvin Elliot with some Bog Oak


Carved Scotty Dog

Figure carving

Walking Stick Making -Nick Pantelidies, John Adamson, Stewart Hood

Today I visited Hebden Bridge’s food market, and bought a buffalo horn from the dog food stall that usually has some antlers being sold as dog chews.   There was a new line in today – Buffalo Horn.    It was only £3.79 and it felt just right as a walking stick handle, so I bought it.    I will have to look up how to work it, so watch this space.   By chance the next post to be dug out of the archives was on walking stick making.   How apposite was that.













Back in April 2019, three members showed us the way that they have made walking sticks.   These were sticks meant to be used rather than show pieces made to the exacting standards of the British Stickmakers Guild.    Nick showed us the proper way of making stick!!   A potential stick should be collected in Jan or Feb, allowed to dry out bit so that shrinkage has happened, straightened whilst there is still some moisture in the stick, and a handle attached.   There are lots of designs for stick handles in magazines, but do check that the illustrated handle is the right size for your stick.  The stick can be made from such odd things as Brussels sprouts  stems and bamboo.    The joint of the handle to the stick needs to be strong.   Nick recommended a quarter inch hole in handle and stick, and a threaded bar.   Adrian Carter suggested using a washer that fits the diameter of the stick, to help find the centre of the stick when drilling.  Make sure that the handle meets the stick without a gap, and that they meet smoothly.   Use Araldite glue or similar, only glue rod into the handle first, and protect the outer surface from excess glue with some masking tape.  Drill a small hole at the bottom of the hole that will hold the threaded bar in the stick, to allow the excess glue to escape.  The stick needs a ferrule of some sort and can be finished with whatever you have.

John Adamson showed us another way, he collects his sticks ready made from the hedgerow, and uses them without any straightening.   It is just a matter of being there at the right time ( a minute before the other chap), and having your eye in for sticks.  It helps to go somewhere that is likely to have plenty of sticks.  His favourite place is besides a railway line where some ash trees were clear felled some years ago.   For a ferrule he uses shot gun cartridges.  If he finds a wonderful stick handle that needs a stick, he fixes it on to a commercially available metal walking pole.  These have the advantage that they can be collapsed down and fit into a suitcase.







Stewart Hood showed us some of his wonderfully carved walking poles. May be a bit too heavy for actual use but a good talking point





Sean Dyche portrait in 5.5 hours by John Adamson (member)

 Sean Dyche portrait in 5.5 hours by John Adamson (member)

John had been asked to carve a portrait of Sean Dyche, manager of Burnley Football Club, on a tight budget.  The wood was a standing tree stump in a pub yard.  Photographs of Sean Dyche with his mouth shut are rare.  John managed to get a front view, but the side view had an open mouth.  It took some juggling to get the two photos printed to the same size.







The carving was started with a chain saw and continued with some very large chisels , gouges, and a mallet made from a crown green bowling ball,  that John keeps just for large chain saw work









The finished work was given a red beard and eye brows by another artist.









John had taken photographs of each stage of the work so members could see the whole process








To see more details of the carving process look at the step by step description on John’s website

Woodcarving Tools

For some time I have been carving some quite intricate figures.   My normal tools don’t quite get to all the places I need them to go, so I have repurposed some metal engraving tools.    In the process I have looked at repurposing turning gouges and searched the internet for inspiration.    I came across this site which claims to show 13 Different Types Of Wood Carving Chisels & Gouges- Woodcarving Tools. I thought that I should share it with those of you that have not been able to carve for the last 18 months and may have forgotten what the tools look like and are used for.

Article copied from the Woodworking Trade website

We usually consider chisels under two main categories. The first category includes chisels for general use (click here to see our list of woodworking chisels). The second type of tool comes under the category of wood carving which will talk about below.

Anyone who is into wood carving will have a vast collection of wood carving chisels. To the uninitiated, the number of wood carving chisels that you can get can be mind-boggling. Indeed, considering the scope of creating a collection of these tools, the sky is the limit! In this article, we cover the different types of wood carving chisels that you need, if you want to have a complete setup for wood carving.

Wood carving chisels further diversify into chisels and gouges. While the blade of a woodcarving chisel has a straight edge, that of a wood carving gouge has a curved edge. It enables the tool to “gouge” out the wood to create different shapes.












Different Types of Wood Carving Chisels

As we mentioned earlier, the wood carving chisel has a flat blade. However, unlike a regular woodworking chisel, a wood carving chisel has an angle on both sides. A gouge, on the other hand, has a curved blade called a “sweep.” We express the extent of the curvature of the sweep in terms of a number, which identifies a particular size of the gouge. So, let’s take a closer look at the different types of wood carving chisels:

Wood Carving Straight Chisel












As we said earlier, a wood carving chisel is, specifically, a carving tool with a flat blade. Wood carving chisels differ from ordinary woodworking chisels in that they have a bevel on both sides of the blade rather than a flat back. The standard chisels have a square cutting edge, but the length of the blade may vary.

Skew Chisel









This chisel has a blade skewed at an angle, typically 45°. You will find this chisel useful during wood turning operations. Plane, make different shaped cuts with the skew chisel or use it to make dovetail cuts. You get these chisels in various sizes from 1/8” to 1½”.

Fishtail Chisel








The shaft of a fishtail chisel is thin at the base, and it tapers out in the shape of a fish’s tail towards the cutting edge. You get the advantage of this tool due to its thin shaft, which allows you to cut deep without much interference. Also, you get better visibility while working in tight spaces, due to the thin shaft.

Spoon Gouge








As the name suggests, the spoon gouge assumes the shape of a spoon. You use a spoon gouge to scoop wood out of tight or confined spaces. You can get into spaces that would be otherwise inaccessible with any other tools. Spoon gouges come in different shapes and configurations. Here are some of the common variations:

Spoon Gouge (Right Corner)

This gouge has a cutting edge, which angles itself skewed to the opposite side. It positions itself in such a way that you can remove wood from tight right-hand corners.

Spoon Gouge (Left Corner)

You can remove wood from tight left-hand corners with this type of spoon gouge. The left corner spoon gouge allows you to get into tight corners, concavities, and curves like the right corner spoon gouge, only in the other direction.

Spoon Gouge (Front Bent)








If you need to remove wood from awkward spots, concavities, and curves but don’t need to bend the tool much, then a front bent spoon gouge will do the job. This type of spoon gouge bends in such a way that you get the cutting edge on the convex side of the bend.

Spoon Gouge (Back Bent)

Here is another spoon gouge which enables you to work on concavities and curves like other spoon gouges. However, this spoon gouge bends in such a way that you will find the cutting edge on the concave side of the bend.












The “V” gouge belongs to a group of carving tools that we call “parting tools.” This tool helps us to cut a workpiece from the main block of wood while doing woodturning. The “V” gouge finds a prominent place in carving grooves, letter-work, and outlining, thanks to its distinctive profile. The commonest angles that we get are 60°, 70°, and 90°, although you can get other sizes as well.

Fishtail Gouge










Similar to the fishtail chisel, the fishtail gouge also has a thin edge that flares into a fishtail-shaped blade. The only difference here is the curved blade, which helps us to remove wood from tight spaces in a broad curve.

Dog Leg Chisel










The dog leg chisel has a straight edge with an offset blade to form the profile of a dog’s extended back leg. Due to the double angle of the blade, we can use this chisel to get into awkward, hard-to-reach places and tight corners.

Straight “U” Gouge

We consider the “U” gouge to be the workhorse of wood carving. The “U” shaped cutting edge of this chisel may vary in radius. As we mentioned above, the “sweep” of a chisel, corresponds to the radius of the blade’s curvature. So, we get “U” gouges of different sweeps. You can scoop out wood with your hand or by using a mallet. The shape of the scooped-out wood will correspond to the shape of the “U” gouge.









By now, you should be better informed about the different types of wood carving chisels that we can use. You may be an artist, or you may create carvings for commercial use. Whatever the case, it is vital that you have a complete set of wood carving chisels to perform each task.

Knowing the purpose of each wood carving chisel or gouge and how to use it is crucial to becoming successful in the skilled job of wood carving. We hope that the information provided here will help you in carrying out this skillful activity to the best of your abilities!