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Tapping into Nature: Woodland Artisan Courses

Guest Blog from our course leader Chris on the recent Birch Sap course. As I slowly get to know other wood carvers around the country I’m becoming aware that everyone has their speciality – some people make spoons, others cups, some people make incredibly intricate wooden jewellery while others build houses out of logs. This has got me wondering what my speciality is within the world of wood working. At present I make spoons, cooking utensils, cups, bowls, furniture, pendants, tool handles and charcoal while I heat my wooden home by burning wood and also spend time in woodlands foraging for nuts, fruits and edible fungi. I feel that I’m a real generalist incorporating lots of tree related products into my daily life. And maybe that’s my speciality – making a living from trees and the wider woodland that they form, using them to provide a financial income as well as for heat and shelter and for some of the food that helps me survive. Collecting birch sap is another piece of this jigsaw as it serves as a healthy

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Wooden Tom’s Spoon Carving Photos

On the 10th of October, Wooden Tom returned to hold another popular spoon carving course. Unfortunately I couldn’t be there myself (Missed another spoon carving session! One day I will get to have a go!), but Tom sent us these lovely pictures that I would like to share with you all. Enjoy.

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Woodland Artisan: Cup Carving in June

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

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Willow Cord: Woodland Artisan Course

Guest blog by Chris Goodman, Course Leader I use timber from trees all the time, whether it’s for building and diy jobs, making spoons or as firewood – it’s an incredible material which lends itself to all sorts of uses. But recently I’m becoming more and more interested in how we can use some of the other parts of trees and I’m increasingly aware that there’s a whole heap of uses for a tree’s protective outer layer – it’s bark. Today we were using the bark from willow to make cord – a tough string or thin rope. During the Spring and Summer when the sap is rising the bark will peel off the stem of willow very readily to provide long fibrous material. Boiled with some ash from the fire for an hour the resulting brown strips of willow have good properties of strength and flexibility. The strips can then be twisted and woven or plaited into cord which is surprisingly strong. And once you’ve made some cord there’s a whole new world of opportunity for what to use

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Baskets, Baskets, Baskets!

The latest Woodland Artisan Course was a 2 day willow weaving course with the wonderful Willow Weaving Expert Tim Palmer. Tim had previously taught a course for us and we just had to have him back for another! We had a nice mix in the group of beginners and those that had been on Tim’s courses before. The newcomers to weaving were aiming for a simple woven basket, where as the others were tasked with a challenge of a larger with more difficult techniques. Stages for basket weaving: Weave a round base with thin ‘weavers’ around thicker supporting willow (known as slath). Then add in the stakes around to form the structure for the sides when turned upwards. A weave called Waling is then used to strengthen the base and make the whole basket more rigid. The sides can be woven in several different ways such as Randing, Slewing, Pairing, Reverse Pairing, Fitching, Herringbone and Zig-zag. Once the basket is near the desired height another band of waling is completed before the slath are used to create the border for

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Creating a Highland Cup

The latest course from our Woodland Artisan project was cup carving. Wooden Tom was back to hold another great course, this time using axes, chisels Gouges and knives to carve a Highland cup based on one found in Ardgour on the West Coast created nearly 2000 years ago. We started with a Silver Birch log that requires cutting and splitting to ‘cup size’ and then carving into a finished product. One cup on the day was made from Pine, creating a beautifully stripy cup. Each course attendee got a quarter or half of the original log and, using a guide, the cup shape was marked onto the wood and excess was removed with an axe. Once a rough outline was created the bowl could start being carved – outside first and then the inside using gauges. The lip and handle of the cups were carved last with gauges and knives. Participants each took their cup home which then can be carved with a knife once the green wood has dried. Unfortunately, the winter evenings drew in too quick for us

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Woodland Artisan – Birch Bark Pots

Last weekend we ran a course on making birch bark pots with the fantastic Wooden Tom. It was a fantastic day, and everyone was pleased with their creations! Thank you all that came and Tom for his expert wood skills to guide us. How were they made? The lid and base are made from a block of pine cut into two and carved. Birch bark is the curled around the base and nailed together. Pine roots are used to stitch the bark together and the handle is carved and attached to the top. Everyone could design theirs how they wanted, and the natural material added to everyone’s being individual. The Woodland Artisan project has lots of opportunities to join courses such as this across the year. Keep an eye on our website or Facebook for the latest course updates.  

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Strained Wire Fencing Course

6 local people braved the wind at Clachtoll to complete a fencing course last month. It was organised by CALL and Assynt Learning with funding from the Coastal Communities Fund and Caplich Community Benefit Fund. The participants learned all aspects of strained wire fencing and successfully erected a 50m fence.    

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Mud Glorious Mud!

Little Assynt Tree Nursery played host to a soil fertility course last month, organised with Assynt Learning. Rural Skills Tutor Peter Holmes introduced the 9 participants to the delights of soil. Everyone had the chance to get hands on with soil texturing and measuring pH of their own soil samples. They also learned the importance of soil structure and how to improve and maintain nutrients levels to help increase yields of fruit and vegetables. The course was funded by the Caplich Community Benefit Fund.

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Assynt Learning Autumn Training

It is with great pleasure that Coigach – Assynt Living Landscape has been able to collaborate with Assynt Learning, supporting the education centre through sharing resources, to bring the following training.  Please click on the link for further details   BE ENTERPRISING, Information Session for Enterprise Programme: WEDNESDAY 19th OCTOBER, 4.30pm to 6.30pm, Assynt Leisure Centre Creating and maintaining a fertile, productive, healthy soil: TUESDAY 25th OCTOBER, 10am to 4.30pm, TREE NURSERY AT LITTLE ASSYNT Introduction to Strained Wire Fencing: WEDNESDAY 26th OCTOBER, 9.30am to 5pm, CLACHTOLL  

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