Heal’s unplugged & the talented Mr Cox

Feb 14, 2014 | english hardwoods, Grown in Britain, round timber, woodland management, woodland products

Friday is  probably my favourite day of the week. I try to celebrate it inhouse with cake of some description, but last Friday cake was not to be.

Instead, I got a special pass to leave the South Downs behind me and travel cross country to Kent to go coppicing.

I’ve had offers to go coppicing before believe it or not, and I’ve forfeited these generous invites in favour of a hard day’s graft infront of a backlit screen. Well this time the invite was to spend the day unplugged amongst fellow desk dwellers so I said ‘Yes’ for once.

The occasion was a Heal’s initiated escape to the woods

Heal's building Tottenham Court Road

with Victoria, Cameron and the team behind Discover: The Modern Craft Market (a temporary craft market for designer-makers at Heal’s Tottenham Court Road store) and host for the day was one of Heal’s very own designer-makers, the talented Mr Sebastian Cox.

Seb cox furniture

A furniture maker who combines a design & fine furniture training with hands on experience of coppice & woodland work producing pieces in a very particular, very refined flavour of ‘sustainable’.

Along for the coppice capers with the Heal’s gang were some brave, wellington-booted souls

Cameron leads the way to the woods

including our favourite Grown in Britain/BRE timber brain Ed Suttie  and award winning environment journalist Sarah Lonsdale who both went deep to harvest their coppice

Heal's day 09

‘The Man’ from Benchmark with the skills to make fire as well as fine furniture Sean Sutcliffe

Sean Sutcliffe at the sharp end of bonfire creation

Living Etc’s acting Editor Neil McLennan, who turned out to have spoonmaking inclinations and made himself at home on the shavehorse

Neil McLennan on the shave horse making a spoon

the lovely, smiley  Laura Vinden from Homes & Gardens who knows how to stay unblemished by the outdoors despite wielding a billhook & bowsaw with gusto

The gang at spoon school with laura amazingly unblemished by the outdoor experience

Blazing blogger Katie Tregidden of Confessions of a Design Geek brought some much-needed colour to the occasion. A woman who really knows how to stand out in the woods!

Katie Treggidden stood out in the woods

In addition were writress Laura Snoad, the Sunday Times own Claudia Baillie, self-confessed woodsmith Nadeige Pyndiah & designer maker David Steiner.

That’s quite a party!

So, Seb tried his best to put us to work. He gathered us all together in his Kent woodland, laid out tools (bill hooks & bow saws), pointed us at trees saying “coppice!”.

Neil, Victoria & Cameron listen attentively

That’s not exactly how it was, but rather refreshingly, he didn’t do alot of textbook talking, preferring to tutor us in situ, bill hook in hand, perspiration on brow.

chainsaw, toolbags, billhooks and lunch!

So we all tried our hand (with various degrees of success) at using a bowsaw to cut the coppice down to manageable lengths (after the chainsaw had done the lions share) and then cleaning up the yield with a billhook.

And we really did it!

Not that the results are going to be 100% useable mind you.

But it does seem Seb has a knack of utilising the irregular material, traditionally seen as unusable so hopefully he won’t look too disdainfully on our efforts. He seems to do much more incorporating than discarding which is refreshing, speaking as someone who sees alot of wood go up in smoke!!! (not saying that’s not got it’s uses but still… )

We all go down to the woods with Seb Cox & Heal's

So, working in Seb’s wood cleaning hazel rods with a billhook it quickly became apparent how satisfying it could be to produce genuinely useful material (even us with our limited amount of skill) in a matter of hours that could really make a lamp or a chair or a desk frame or something.

But not without some strenuous excercise of course, and the aches and pains that go with it (hashtag arnica ointment !!) but that’s more information than you need on that subject…

At midday Brogan (also on tutor duty) delivered a delicious lunch (courtesy of domestic goddess Nanna Cox!) to a stump in the midst of the coppice as the sun started to show itself.

Seb & Brogan gather us round for spoon school

Lunch came and went to quickly (SO good!) and then we had, what was possibly the highlight of the day, Spoonmaking School! Where we were shown how a little lump of wood become’s a smaller bit of wood, and then a spoon.

Seb then handed over the spoke shaves and hook knives for everyone to try their hand at spoonmaking.

The talented Mr Cox Seb shows us how to split spoon blanks Seb Cox 7 Heal's day coppicing seb splits wood for a spoon blank The gang at spoon school with laura amazingly unblemished by the outdoor experience it goes a little something like this

This was such a thrill and really got us thoroughly over excited!

Suddenly the prospect of actually making a useful item (with varying degrees of beauty, I think we’d all agree) straight out of the woods must have struck some primeval chord and the woodland became hushed except for the hypnotic sound of scraping tools on greenwood.

the spoon blank in the making

Which I thoroughly recommend everyone (that’s You) try at home (with a bit of schooling first of course) because it’s so relaxing! Like knitting…

All you need is a bit of greenwood (it’s so soft and easy to shape) and a couple of different knife blades to shape it with. I shall defintiely heed my own advice and get some tools.

Then I’m going out to raid the firewood pile…

Spoons for Christmas everyone!

More Info

Feel the need to have a day in the woods with Seb & his team? Well don’t just stand there, ask him!

Robin Wood’s spoonmaking recommendations http://www.robin-wood.co.uk/wood-craft-blog/2013/01/29/best-spoon-carving-knife-hook-knife/

Youtube’s spooncarving offerings

Heal’s  Modern Craft Market – open until the 16th of February

The National Coppice Federation

The Crafts Council – the Raw Craft exhibition with the fab Christmas Table

Forestry Commission about coppices google search.. there’s just so much information to choose from!

Coppice course at Plumpton & Sparsholt

Coppice products we sell

As always, thanks for reading you lovely people.
Now go and hug a coppiced tree!