Norman McLaren and Keith Salad – Speak on Wood

Thanks to Gill Smith for this report

Keith spoke of many aspects of his life including his time with the General Post Office and Telecom when he was responsible for the buying of large pine trunks which would be used for telegraph posts. At first they came from Russia and quality control was done in this country. Many were rejected so a decision was made to send him to the source to avoid the cost of transporting spoilt trunks. This meant many trips to Finland. Even after that there was a long process of drying out and preserving the poles before they were fit for purpose.

In his spare time Keith likes to write poetry and he closed his talk by reciting the poem Three Ha’pence a Foot. The poem tells of an argument between Noah wanting to buy wood for his Ark from Sam Oswaldthwaite a timber merchant from Bury.  Click to see The lyrics and Stanley Holloway’s recitation

Norman and Keith (in a hat)














Norman has always been creative and has a great deal of experience working with wood doing woodturning and woodcraft. He showed us many of his small projects, most of which he uses for fundraising,  One larger project was producing a train out of Whisky barrels. The train is now being used as a flower display on the very large roundabout in Rawtenstall opposite the library.

Rawtenstall Train






Show of members work during Covid restrictions

Some 18 members shared a Jacobs Join meal and viewed some of the work carved during lockdown.   There were poems, jokes, conjuring tricks and music after the meal so that it felt like an old time family Christmas ( before TV)  Below are some of the work on display.

Stewart Hoods work
















Nick Pantelides












Mick Illsley











Nick Pantelides suggested project




















Samples of first carvings by Nick Pantelides













Club Projects around Burnley – A talk by Richard Colbran

On the 2oth November, Richard took some of of us who have been in the club a long time down memory lane, and gave newer members an insight into what great work had been done.

The first few images were of the owl carved by Richard from and for positioning in a Cedar of Lebanon in Towneley Park, which after some 20 years in the open, is as. good as when it was installed, and a talking point for visitors.















We moved on to Padiham where John Adamson carved two dancers out of condemned willow trees.     They stood some 12 ft tall in the garden by the bridge.   Sadley they have disappeared.   Don’t know why but willow does not resist rot.

Padiham Dancers


















Then on to another of John’s projects – a group of children from a rather rotten beech tree stump in Thompson Park.   The centre of the tree had rotted away and despite Richard’s attempts to keep them together they too have disappeared,

Group of Children in Thompson Park

Children’s carving with Richard’s paint effects
















Club members have supplied carvings on marker posts for Brun Valley Trail, Small Holdings Trail, and decorated picnic tables at various locations.


Marker Post Carving

Marker post carving in position











Picnic table decoration












Paul Slater carved the lettering for the Offshoots garden in Towneley Park


Lettering for Offshoots carved by Paul Slater





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














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