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Guest Blog: Chris Goodman, Assynt Woods

I’m having to restrain myself. My cup’s been sitting in a bag with some wood shavings for 5 days now, slowly drying, and I just want to get it out and admire it. Then fill it with gin and tonic or maybe coffee (if it’s a bit early in the day) and use it. But it needs another week or so to dry slowly so that it doesn’t crack and split which it might do if I stick it by the stove or in the sun to speed up the drying process. And having spent 5hrs carving it I really don’t want it to split.

Wooden Tom is a good friend as well as a bit of an inspiration for me. A wood carver based in Aviemore, Tom makes a living making wooden spoons, cups, birch bark pots and more as well as sharing his knowledge, passion and tools with others keen to have a go. Cups seem to be his forte though and he’s brought a selection of his own with him including a mug with a skull carved onto it and a cocktail glass too.

Some of Tom’s creations © Chris Goodman

Tom’s told me that he needs 4 large Cairngorm birch trees a year to make all the items he sells as well as for all the courses he runs with some left over to go on the stove at home too. I think it might take more than 4 of your average Assynt sized birch trees a year to make a living but I’m hoping that it will be possible for me to earn a living as a full-time wood carver here having gone full-time self-employed at the New Year. And seeing how Tom teaches cup carving is really useful for me as I’m in the process of getting enough tools and work benches together to teach similar courses myself.

Wood to cup; the beginning of the process © Chris Goodman

Also on the course are a good mix of folk from Assynt and Coigach so this is definitely a useful skills sharing day for the area. Tom’s brought a couple of discs of wood with him and these will be split into quarters to get 4 cups from each. What would have been a couple of bits of firewood burnt in an evening will now become 6 cups, a few off cuts and plenty of wood shavings. Another way to look at it is that those two logs can be up-valued in a few hours into a couple of hundred pounds worth of beautiful hand carved woodland craft items.

Wood for 6 cups © Chris Goodman

I think it might take a few attempts before our cups are as finely carved as Tom’s and ready for the shop window but after 5hrs of splitting, sawing, axing, drilling and gouging there are 6 vestibules ready for our favourite tipples. I just need to wait another week or so before I can finally use it.

To find out more about Wooden Tom visit https://woodentom.com/

Cups created in the session by participants © Chris Goodman

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