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……the Bodgers Ball 2015 that is. Every year hundreds of Greenwood workers get together in a field somewhere in the UK to share skills, catch up with old friends, meet new ones, compete, try out new ideas and to generally have a ball! This year we were invited to the heart of Sherwood Forest by the East Midlands and Derbyshire local groups of the Bodgers. Here is a quick romp through some photos of the ball as I saw it.

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I took my steamer to demonstrate steam bending a traditional English scythe snathe. Full steam up as Graham inspects the washing machine drum stove with the old petrol tank boiler mounted on top.

DSCF2882      Just as well I came fully equipped. It wasn’t long before friends moved in with lathe, shave horse and steamer all in use.DSCF2880

Sean Hellman didn’t bring a lathe and had to make do with mine to turn an egg for the egg and spoon race. He didn’t bring his chisels either – is that an axe he’s turning the egg with? DSCF2881   First time for everything, who needs chisels on a pole lathe for turning an egg. Not Sean!DSCF2892With the egg turned and a spoon carved the teams finished the race three legged. Crazy competition it could only be at a bodgers ball.

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Merlin from Somerset brought along a good selection of cross cut saws. Almost as fine as the Series 3 they are sitting on. Merlin is turning into a fine saw doctor especially with the big greenwood raker teeth on the crosscuts and if your saw could do with some TLC you can contact him in the West Country via the Cherrywood Project near Bath.

DSCF2887Power tools are banned for the duration of the Ball (not just for the insurance it’s also the ethos of the event) and the cross cut saws made quick work of any sawing needed as well allowing people to have a go.

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Moving up a step from the Landrovers Simon Damant came very well equipped with his ex fire brigade 4WD Bedford MJ. We were grateful for the stove when it poured down on the Friday night, though the various concoctions of calvados, distilled mead and blackcurrent vodka may have been partly responsible. Simon – you really must get some steps to stop me falling out of the truck next time!

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Fully equipped with a portable forge as well and some bags of charcoal to run the hearth.

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Simon gave a demonstration making a rams head hook and also took part in the half hour challenge where competitors have 30 minutes to make something saleable.

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Richard Roods emporium is becoming a firm favourite at the ball and it’s a rare event where I go home with less than I brought with me.

DSCF2856  This year was no exception as Richard had been putting aside knackered old English scythes for me all year. Avoiding lugging this lot back calls for desparate measures!DSCF2923-001

What’s all this then? Heretic?  Have I given up on the English Scythe? No, not at all. I just want the ironwork, the eye bolts, scythe rings, nibs and one or two of the blades for rebuilding onto my newly made snathes – the woodwork and especially the livestock (woodworm) are not welcome. Although this fire is mainly for effect I did burn up two snathes in steaming the new snathe which seems quite appropriate to me as the old is used to help make the new.

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Steve and Nigel hijacked my steamer to steam some rings of chestnut. Will they reveal what they are planning to do with them?

DSCF2927The climax of the weekend are the half hour challenge and the log to leg races on the Sunday afternoon. Simon and Kate joined me and we came a creditable third in the team log to leg race and I was very pleased to come third in the individual log to leg race. That just left cutting the cake and suddenly and far far too soon it was the end of another fine bodgers ball. Just another 360 days to go until the next one. But the Somerset Scythe Festival is a lot closer – only 4 weeks away. No rest  for the even slightly naughty around here…..

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I always enjoy the Bodgers Ball and this year, hosted by Simon Damant at Wimpole Hall, was definitely not going to be an exception. I went up early to help with the preparations.  There is a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes in an attempt to make the Ball seem an effortless affair as 500 greenwood workers from all around the country and a fair few from around the world converge on an empty field for a fun weekend with all things woody.

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As I was running about trying to help out I didn’t take the best of photographs so this is a quick tour through some of the lesser known aspects of the Ball. Well, ok, perhaps it won’t be quite so quick! But I digress – With the field still empty Simon was able to use his horse John to move some of the logs around the site – these are for use with the Hewing demonstrations.

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The weather in May can be very changeable and we caught the wind being on a flat East Anglian field – the evenings were cold but my old washing machine drum cooking fire cum stove provided both heat and warmth.

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and, as if by magic, the Bodgers Ball suddenly appeared with an empty field transformed into a busy throng of woodworkers of every description doing their thing.

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The Saturday of the Ball is filled with demonstrations and workshops. The theme for this year’s ball was Agricultural tools and implements reflecting Home Farm, the working farm at Wimpole which is an original Victorian model farm. Julian from the Weald and Downland museum brought up plenty of the museum’s own cider – and while he was there we got him to hew one of the Elm logs dragged out by John the horse, into a beam.

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While I’m on the subject of the theme for the Ball – here are some of the entries into the themed item section of the craft competition this year. The maltsters shovel caught my eye – as did the massive 6ft buck rake, which I think was certainly worthy of winning (though unaccountably it didn’t) and is quite possibly the first Ash steamed buck rake made for many a decade?

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Richard Woodland demonstrated some simple leatherworking. There wasn’t enough time for any masterful saddlery, but he did show us how to convert a leather belt bought in a charity shop for a pound or two into a range of useful tool sheaths and covers.

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Exhausting all that demonstrating. Luckily it wasn’t a long weight until the bar opened…….

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with excellent local real ales from Buntingford Brewery near Royston only a few miles from the site. The Twitchell and Britannia went down very well (as did the 92 Squadron, Highwayman, Hurricane and Full Tilt!). Thanks to Steve the Brewer for teaching me some of the arcane arts of the cellar master.

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That’s the drink taken care of, but what about a spot of food! If you don’t like your food still squirming – then look away now, ooops – too late sorry.  Three local lambs (or were they Hoggett’s) were roasted slowly over a wood fire.

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And where is a butcher when you need one? In this case right where he’s needed, Justin is behind the charcoal bbq’s of the Threshing Restaurant cooking excellent bacon and eggs for breakfast. Now if we can just stop him telling that story again………..

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ably assisted by Olga (who it must be said can pat her head and rub her tummy at the same time) and Jess.

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Fed and watered it’s back to more demonstrations – Damien Goodburn turned up to show some work he’s been doing on reconstructions of ancient wooden shovels, paddles and (bakers) peels. This one is a peel, though apparently that’s largely because a flaw in the shaft makes it unsuitable as paddle.

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Good to see Paul Hayden with this years model of Polelathe – the current fashion being a short sporty pole/arm with a natty looking wooden spring underslung along the bed to give the pole more response.

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Richard Rood brought a long a vast collection of bygones for sale. This lovely plane would do well as a round of ‘What’s my Tool?’ – I almost avoided spending any money – and then Richard’s collection of old scythes prooved tooooo tempting. And there was all my money gone.. again.

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After all the demonstrating, the AGM, the competitions, tool auction, the races, and so many people to meet and catch up with suddenly, as if by magic, the shopkeeper appeared and the field emptied again. It really is a fantastic bunch of talented people, who, just by coming together make the Ball happen – as if by magic. Thank you to everyone who helped make it happen – you know who you are!  A strange feeling of anticlimax. That’s the ball over for another year. Where will we be next year?

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The second weekend in May is the Annual Bodgers Ball when members of the Association of Polelathe Turners & Greenwood Workers gather somewhere in a field for the Annual General Meeting. When I turned up early on Thursday Morning the weather was non too auspicious. That’s an understatement – it was terrible. The clouds down on the ground, raining all day in galeforce winds. You couldn’t see one side of the field from the other, you know what I mean – typical British camping holiday weather! Great weather for a weekend event in a field in West Dorset.

Luckily for us as if by magic the weather cleared and the sun blazed down on the site revealing the West Dorset Countryside and the sea at Charmouth only a couple of miles away between the rolling hills.  Although you couldn’t drive onto the site on Friday morning by the afternoon it was drying rapidly enough for everyone to set up camp.

A fine array of shelters, lathes, greenwood working demonstrations and activities filled the site which for this year included the large beechwood just behind the main field.

The Ball is an opportunity to meet up with friends not seen since the previous season and to catch up on events – though it always seems to flash past and there is never enough time to meet, see and do all the things I planned. Sean Hellman gave a great worskhop on sharpening with stones. If you missed his workshop there is some great information on his blog – but make sure you’ve got some time to appreciate it, it’s a great source of valuable information – here a link to a stone article to get you started – Natural Stones on Seans Blog

It was good to meet up with Barnaby (aka Barn the Spoon) the maestro of itinerant spoon carving. Though for this ball Barn went upmarket with a friend, old series IIa Landrover Safari and awning to make the most of the blazing sunshine.

Hard work, great conversation late into the evening at the pub constructed on the site with local Lyme Regis ales (great beer) and Cider from Dai Saltmarsh at Five Penny Farm led inevitably to the morning after. You’ll have heard of the 4 Yorkshiremen sketch, but may not know it was actually 1 Yorkshireman and three from Shropshire. Here they are in action, Bob, Neil, Tony and Richard – casting aspersions on all and sundry around the fire on a sunny but chilly morning whilst awaiting the kettle to boil (again).

The pub for the event was an old stone shed at the edge of the field cleaned out and fitted with woodburner, bar and local beer. Did anyone take a photo of the Pub, particularly the pub sign as I managed not to?

Robin Tuppen from Royal Sussex Trugs joined us at the ball for the first time with his apprentice and it was great to see his work. I particularly liked the steamer based upon a solid iron monster of an old army stove and a wood and leather steam chamber.

It does take all sorts. We had polelathes, bungee lathes, treadle lathes and I don’t think this one actually has a name. No pole and it works on a flywheel system which provides plenty of inertia for turning bowls and plates. I know – lets just call it a lathe.  The tools are scraping with a burr rather than cutting like a knife – one of the tools is actually a file squared off at the end and then rotated as the burr wears to present a new surface. Very interesting approach and great to see so many ‘rules’ being broken at once!

Since we were in Beechwood the logs for the log-to-leg race were from local beech. For a few years now we’ve been spoilt with exceptionally straight and knot free Ash for the racing so I think it made a good contrast to be using the local Beech.

Not an easy task to split the wood into clefts as James discovered when the froe bounced off the end. Even the wedge didn’t want to go in – at that point we renamed the event the ‘Bouncing Beech Ball’.

In the half hour challenge greenwood workers make a product of their choice. Somehow, despite being busy all day Ben Orford got his lathe setup and made a great baby rattle for the challenge.

West Dorset is a long trek from Yorkshire and Richard Law didn’t bring his lathe – but that didn’t stop him from entering the half hour challenge with some hand tools. Good man! They look great, but what is it you are making Richard?

I didn’t get any photos of the log to leg races as I found myself competing in both events. At the last minute I failed to argue my way out of the team event and then had to do it all again for the individual race. The times were a lot slower with the Beechwood, but despite my shavehorse breaking in the individual event I still finished.

It seemed only minutes after the last race finished that I looked up and the field was empty again. The clouds were back and rain in the offing.  Was it all a dream? It almost seems like it. But it’s a dream I will remember for a long while, so thank you everyone who came trusting in the weather and particularly the organiser Dai Saltmarsh and the owners of the site who allowed us to use it, it was a pleasure to work with you. Great place, great people and an amazing event – it’s going to be a hard act to follow, but we always do. We don’t yet know  where we will be next year, but we’ll sort that out in the next few months so stay tuned if you fancy coming to the ball next year!

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This post should have been titled ‘Going to the Ball’ but somehow time vanished and I am just back from a long weekend at the 21st Anniversary Bodgers Ball. I will be posting more photos once I have recovered from the setting up, the weekend and the long drive back today.

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I meant to post before I left for the Boders Ball on Thursay, but time suddenly became in very short supply.  I did make it to the ball along with about 250 other woody folks. I’m still sorting out the aftermath and will post more in the next day or two.

I certainly had a great time at the ball, hard work, but immensely enjoyable. For the first time I took part in the individual log-to-leg race (thanks to Ben Orford for the tips and encouragement) and almost came last. And on the Saturday night we had a lot of homebrewed entertainment in more ways than one, I’m told I may even have played a bit of guitar and sung the odd song.

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I’m posting these pictures of our chairmaking competition earlier this year partly as I’ve spent the week almost entirely working with chainsaws and partly so I can link them to a greenwood photo thread on the bodgers ask’n’answer forum which you can find here – bodgers ask’n’anwser greenwood photos. In May pole lathe turners and greenwood workers get together for the annual Bodgers Ball. This year well over 200 of us descended upon a field just outside Horton-cum-Studley in Oxfordshire. It’s hard to believe it now but the weather was sweltering which helped a magic weekend full of demonstrations, workshops and competitions. From axe-throwing to chair seating and fire-lighting there was plenty for all,interests and having been attending for only 3 years I can say it is a very, very welcoming crowd. New this year was a chair making competition and the Sussex group entered a team almost entirely devoid of chair making experience. Just as well really, because if we’d known more about it we probably would have chosen discretion.

I missed the beginning of the competition because I was busy visiting the second hand tools store run by a charity, tools for self reliance , who ship useful tools to Africa and sell many in the UK that are not appropriate, thereby raising money to support the charity and also supporting greenwood workers in the UK by keeping these tools in use.

Once I extracted myself from the tool stall we fought with an odd assortment of twisted Yew, Sycamore, Hazel and some ash – of which a well reknowned chair maker was heard to say ‘ I wouldn’t even call it firewood’.

There was plenty of expert advice. The back of the chair came together really well and lulled us into a false sense of security as all of the joints fitted tightly.

Our team comprised Dave, John (the brummy bodger), Barry, Frank, myself and Mike. As Mike was also on the PA and another member of the team wisely decided to become a spectator we substituted Rich and Christopher (who came over from Germany for the Ball).

I certainly learnt a lot from the experience, trial fitting joints and not borrowing drill and tenon cutter from different people being good examples. For those who might be wondering how chair legs fit into chairs so well, John is holding one of the legs onto the shave horse whilst Frank uses the tenon cutter in a brace to size the end of the leg.

After 5 hours, or was it 6? Memory fails me, we almost had a chair, nay twas a throne…fit for….. falling apart again, in our case.

As we put the finishing touches to it, time ran out and despite pushing our luck as far as we could we had to leave it unfinished.

When last heard of the self flat packing throne was with Barry who was still trying to find the allen key and somebody to translate the Swedish instructions.

I am off to the Weald and Downland Museums Autumn Show this weekend so 2 days of pole lathe turning are in order to recover from a week of chainsawing.

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