Green wood carving is the art of whittling freshly cut wood, or wood which still has the moisture in it, with sharp hand tools. Freshly cut wood is softer and easier to carve, which means it can be worked fairly easily with hand tools that you can carry in your backpack. Its softness also means it’s ideal for beginners. If you work green wood with sharp tools you can create a lovely smooth faceted finish without having to use sandpaper, which gives the finished piece a great handmade look.
Green wood carving has long been associated with mental and physical development and wellbeing. In the late 19th century, the revolutionary educator Otto Salomon used it as a key component of his ‘sloyd’ or ‘handicraft’ education movement in Finland.
Salomon thought that most classroom-based learning in elementary schools was boring, too theoretical and did very little for a child’s personal development. The constant memorising and regurgitation of facts meant that children ultimately grew disdainful of education and misbehaved.
To counter this he devised a syllabus of crafts, which encouraged students to learn increasingly challenging forms of woodwork, starting with carving. He believed handicraft education was just as important as physical education, and that a child with no training in manual dexterity was only half educated. He laid out the potential benefits of his system in the following 10 points:
1. To instil a taste for and an appreciation of work in general.
2. To create a respect for hard, honest, physical labour.
3. To develop independence and self-reliance.
4. To provide training in the habits of order, accuracy, cleanliness and neatness.
5. To train the eye to see accurately and to appreciate the sense of beauty in form.
6. To develop the sense of touch and to give general dexterity to the hands.
7. To inculcate the habits of attention, industry, perseverance and patience.
8. To promote the development of the body's physical powers.
9. To acquire dexterity in the use of tools.
10. To execute precise work and to produce useful products.
Many practitioners of green wood carving report that it helps them relax. It’s also a great way to combine a love of nature with a love of making things. It forces you to get out in the woods is a great thing to learn to do it you’re into camping and hiking.
One of the tough things about starting out as a green woodworker is finding the right wood, which is why we include three lovely wood blanks in our kits. But once you get started, looking for materials to carve become one of the most fun aspects of green wood work, and the course includes full instructions on how to find and prepare your own wood.
This course is taught by the marvellous and let’s face it - rather attractive - Will St Clair. Will has spent years living at the Woodland Makers Workshop in Herefordshire where he teaches green woodworking full time. The workshop is set in Brook House Woods and all the wood the we ship in our kits is harvested sustainably on site. Will used to be an actor (which is why he’s so marvellous on camera!). As well as spoons and bowls, he also makes wonderful furniture.