When over 100 different exhibitors and craftsmen and women gathered at the Weald & Downland Open Air Museum for The Wood Show, there was a wealth of homegrown talent and crafts on display: Stick makers, pole lathe turners, trug makers, timber framers, longbows, carvers, tree surgeons, wood turners, tree nurseries and forestry companies – along with a wealth of wonderful hand-made furniture.
Director and co-founder of Woodland Heritage, Lewis Scott said, “We are all about showing the diversity of things made of wood, about local skills and crafts and supporting the home grown resource that our woodlands provide”.
A fantastic display of furniture by the Worshipful Company of Furniture Makers was set out in the imposing ‘Gridshell’ building nearby. Visitors could not fail to be impressed by the high standards of workmanship and innovation of these young craftspeople.
Many craftsmen from across the South East and further afield were on show. From wandering around and chatting with demonstrators and exhibitors, one thing that stood out was that this was not simply a matter of selling their wares. Many of these people are deeply passionate about what they do and why they do it.
Cornish WH member Tino Rawnsley had been woodworking all his life in various forms before pulling all his skills together to set up Rawnsley Woodland Products in the Wadebridge area. He experimented with a whole range of woodland income streams in an attempt to make the local woods in his part of Cornwall yield a sustainable income. “When I started, Cornwall had no infrastructure to support and supply local timber businesses. I had to do it all myself from felling the trees, to making the chairs and every process in between.” Tino sees it as a battle for hearts and minds – “My furniture and chairs are there to tell the story. They are a lead into what woods are about and where things come from. We need to change perceptions about what we buy, what we live in and how all of that impacts upon the world around us.”
The Association of Pole Lathe Turners were out in force with 8 pole lathes set up for demonstration, together with a fine range of chairs, stools and other treadle-made turnery on show. The APT are famous for their Log-to-Leg races, where pole lathe turners compete against each other. Starting with a log of fresh green ash, they have to split two billets out of it, shape them up on the shave horse and then turn a matching pair of Windsor chair legs as fast as possible. Ben Orford and Olvin Smith tied for first place in 8 minutes 45 seconds!
Seeing craftsmen and women at work – actually seeing how something is made, constructed and put together – is surely a valuable educational tool in bringing about this understanding of the link between trees and the timber we all so readily use.
The Wood Show was a fine of example of a glorious summers day and an education about trees, timber, wood and craftsmanship all rolled into one.
The Worshipful Company of Furniture Makers