Jeff Ballantyne here, I just thought I'd introduce myself to any new followers and say hello to my friends!
For those who don't know who I am or what I'm about, I am a green woodworker here in Ontario, Canada. The past 2 years my business has expanded to newer products such as carving knives and hook knives.
One of my purposes with my business has been to teach the business side of things. To me this is very important because it boils down to peoples lives when it comes to understanding business. Understanding basic business principles can mean an extra $1000 per month to help out with bills or it could even replace a crummy job, or a job you may have lost. So with all that said, that is my genuine motivation with my e-book. I am glad to be able to offer the option for those seeking to earn some money with the skills they already have. If you want to learn more about this click the link below, otherwise continue reading for some craft thoughts!
Lets talk craft!
I I feel like I am currently going through one of these seasons of personal growth, where everything seems to be this new challenge. I keep forgetting why things might be so challenging, but I'm sure having a new baby is adding to the things on my plate haha.
I do my best to embrace situations in life that encourage personal growth because I love the confidence that follows. Its hard for me to really articulate this but that confidence leaks into many areas of life (which is good and important) not just your craft.
One new challenge I accepted this year was making some knives. I found a way to explore the blacksmithing world without breaking the bank and also motivating the crap out of myself, by selling my carving tools! I couldn't even carve a spoon until I made my own hook knife. Yep, it was a little bit much, and I burned myself out one week lol. But I learned a lot of the basics. I figured it was a good way to motivate myself and throw a good challenge my way.
So what I did was bought some firebrick from the hardware store and a tiger torch for my BBQ propane tank. I arranged the bricks in my wood stove in my shop and the tiger torch helped the little chamber I made get hot enough for some basic blacksmithing. The steel I was playing with was steel from an old car spring, and some 01 tool steel. The one thing I was doing wrong the whole time was searching for the best steel for knives. I felt like I was asking the wrong question, when I should have asked "How to make steel good for a knife".
That might be a less confusing path to slowly understanding a bit about steel.
I am currently carving with a knife made from a recycled brown bed frame and I am not convinced at all that any other knife is going to make me happier. As an avid knife user, I was noticing a lot of subtle wear and tear characteristics with a few different steels. How dirty they are when you sharpen, what grits / compounds you need to use for a quick efficient sharpening. I am not trying to insult any knife makers here, just stating some observations.
After this year I am seeing things I need to change for next year. I am seeing why other craftsman spend a lot of time teaching. I am currently 29 years old and I've already done the jobs that basically kill the body and leave you with issues, so I need to think a little differently next year. Although somedays I feel like a machine, I am not and when the dust settles the realistic thought of "How long can I work like this for?" comes up. I don't mean I am going to quit doing what I do, but I think I need to teach more. I am one of these people that gets excited to figure things out, whether its a woodworking challenge, personal life challenge or business challenge, and I'm sure a lot of the information I have stored inside me is valuable to some folks, so I need to learn to teach effectively.
Now that I've been more efficient on the pole lathe, I think I can do some basic courses in regards to the pole lathe, certainly spoon carving, kuksa carving, and maybe a basic knife making course which I think would be quite fun for a lot of people. And of course the business side of things.
Christmas is coming up my fellow craftsman.. Right now there isn't a ton of time for fun stuff because a bulk of us are going to earn most of our yearly income up until christmas. If you want to get on board for this, I share all I know on selling your craft in my book. It might seem like an investment, but perhaps in an investment you can't afford not to make.
Well, I am planning on going through my craft journal and adding that all into my book. I've been trying to take a lot of notes about everything and I plan on adding those a few times year to my every updating book.
I should get back to work! I just wanted to try to update you all a bit!
If anything I say or do encourages you let me know, that encourages me and these days a little encouragement is good!
-Jeff @ Noblewoodcraft
Carving kuksa's has been a very interesting journey for me, and I've been waiting for the right time to share my journey.
Carving wooden cups has really forced me to understand wood in a way which I wouldn't have had to understand otherwise. If you want to see wood warp and crack, and see how different wood types hold liquid.
I am slowly getting into teaching in my shop, so I really need to learn how to teach a little bit better, so this is me sharing and practicing to share!
To begin with, I would generally discourage people from getting all excited and diving right into carving a kuksa, or a finnish style carved wooden cup.
There is a lot to understand before this becomes a good experience rather than a discouraging wood carving experience.
When I first became interested in carving a wooden cup, all I had in my mind was the shape of a cup that would be common in the kitchen. a tall and deep type mug that would hold 10-12oz. After making some carved cups and turned vessels it was clear to see that wood just doesn't really like that shape. A common grain direction is for the wood to run from the end of the handle to the front of the bowl. What this means as far as the structure of the wood is that the front of the bowl of the cup is all end grain. If you use the wrong wood for a cup, the liquid can leak through the pores. Also, this makes a weak point in the cup.
One design of a kuksa that almost seemed coined was this point at the front of the cup. I have a few of my own observations regarding the function and purpose. In the photo below we see some cups with almost like a spout, although this doesn't seem to be the purpose for the most part. My first observation about this part of the cup was that it might add strength, and it was easier to carve. As I carve I put a lot of emphasis on the blank, and there can be a natural shape that the axe likes to carve. I found that carving the end grain with the axe can be slightly stressful on the cup, and leaving this ship keel type point was natural to carve and could add some strength with a nice visual appeal.
I have a video below on the subject, I might just be repeating a lot of things I've already talked about but feel free to watch!
Another interesting aspect of the design that I've commonly seen is this round cup shape.
On my kuksa carving journey I found how crucial an even wall thickness can be be. Generally as a beginner carver I think you'll carve a cup with a thick bottomed bowl and thin walls. As the cup is drying, or being used this can cause a lot of stress on the cup and most likely / potentially leave you with a cracked cup.
So this kuksa below has a very nice simple shape which I really like. Its clean and functional and thats what matters most to me.
Notice how thin the walls of the cup are. They might be 3/16" thick, and it looks like it might almost have a round bottom. Definitely not a cup you'd sit at your table and sip from in my opinion (Not that you can't do this). I think this cup would feel great in the hands to hold, and it would sit great in the grass, dirt or snow with its round bottom.
Another observation from this Kuksa here and with many others is the grain. A first thought might be that a kuksa was carved from figured wood because it looks nice, but the way I currently see it, is that it is for function. One piece of literature regarding kuksa carving is that a burl is the only type of wood to carve a kuksa from that wont crack. I don't see it so black and white like that, but it certainly makes sense that a burl or figured wood kuksa would have more strength when there is little end grain present. I would definitely be difficult to be in production mode carving burls or figured wood, but its an interesting observation.
Here we have a commonly seen kuksa shape but what interests me is the painting inside.
I haven't tested painting the inside of the cup too much, but my theory would be that its to prevent the wood from absorbing too much moisture while in use to put as little stress on the cup as possible. I am sure that someone out there has a ton of information about why exactly this cup would have been painted, but I am observing it as a purely functional point of view. Creating a layer between the wood and the drink! We have oil's which we like to use now, and I hope to write about some of my conclusions as far as working with greenwood and oiling goes but that wont be today!
I am fascinated by the kuksa below. My observations are how oval the bowl is, and how undercut the back of the cup is. It seems very narrow towards the front of the bowl which is very interesting to me. It seems like quite a difficult shape to carve, and it almost seems computer generated! Note the burl used and how thin the walls of the cup are.
Below were looking at a kuksa with a design I find to be very functional. The cuts beside the handle actually make a cup with this type of handle very comfortable to hold. It provides a great grip.
In the kuksa below I implemented that design element, and I find it makes it quite comfortable to hold.
I think this concludes most of my kuksa design observations and inspirations! As I carve, I really try to find my inspiration from the roots. My own ideas may come through, but my main purpose is to carve a very clean object, and have it as functional as possible with all things considered. I hope that my observations help you with carving your own kuksa's! be sure to snoop around my YouTube channel as I have more videos.
Check out my Youtube Channel here!
-Jeff @ Lotsofwoods.com
What's a production carvers favorite wood to carve?I get asked a fair bit,
What is your favorite wood to carve?
My answer is quite simple..
When carving full time, many things come into play when choosing what type of wood to carve, much more than choosing a wood type because of the grain or beauty.
It's been interesting carving full time, because I have never got into the hobby carving mindset.
I don't really know what its like to relax, sit back and just carve a spoon.. I am sure it is great though, as many get hooked!
Production carving is about efficiency, can you carve that wood all day and being able to keep up with the demand.
Is there enough of it close by?
A full time carver back in the day would have had to heavily consider these things. You can only carve so many spoons in a day, so it has to be fairly easy to carve, and there has to be a very good supply of it locally, and it has to be functional.
I believe that traditional woodcraft that we love was about functionality over the grain in the newly finished piece.
At the moment,
I don't really have a favorite wood to carve.. I am currently going through some White birch, and some Cherry.. The cherry looks nice, but the tree that I have will not split at all with the froe resulting in a lot of loss of material and frustration. The grain is also curly making the carving process much longer.
I also have been going through a White Birch tree which is sometimes easy to carve, and sometimes gives me a headache..
There is a bad growth ring about 2/3 from the pith to the bark towards the trunk that doesn't hold very well, then on one side the grain was curly (which looks nice but slows down carving). For the most part, I can get the most amount of product from that Birch tree, and as a production carver this is ideal..
The perfect wood for me would be Straight grained white birch, now I just need to find a years worth of spoons in tree form!
I'm not sure about you, but my hands can only carve so much in a day...Will it be curly maple? Or green birch.
Hopefully this little bit of insight helps you out!
Now whats your favorite wood to carve?
-Jeff @ Lotsofwoods.com
Ever think about making your craft a great source of income?
Learn more here -- > http://www.sellingyourcraft.com/
What is good exposure? One thing I have heard among fellow crafters is that if they are at a show, and give out a lot of cards that this is good exposure.
I heard it again on the weekend, and at the moment I can't even remember who I was talking to, a vendor or a customer, but I just ended up blurting out
"Giving away cards is not good exposure, Selling product is good exposure!"
Giving away cards costs money! For the amount of people that take them and actually get in contact me, it is a bad investment!
At a show, there are many vendors, and people have their polite responses, including...
"I have your card!"
"I'll be back!"
None of those responses mean anything to me anymore, but I consider it a small bonus if someone actually comes back to make a purchase.
Good exposure is people buying your product!
Plain and simple.
What do you think is better, some people gathered, and they have a card of yours, but no product, or people gathered and someone is excited about your product and is showing off your product!
So imagine some people together with your card, but no product. In that group, they will be pretty honest about why they didn't buy from you. Otherwise they would have an item of yours would they not?
It could be the cost, but it could be that you didn't "Woo" them enough. Almost everyone has credit cards so theres no "I have no cash" excuse anymore.
If you are a crafter making beautiful things, and your not making sales with your business, your doing something wrong, or just not doing something.
I would encourage you not to make other excuses, like there is no money out there, or people aren't buying crafts anymore.
Some vendors make $15,000 - $75,000 at a show. I hope that rattles your thinking a little bit. It did for me, and I stopped making excuses!
So, today what are your going to do.
I know if I let my talents waste away I would regret that for the rest of my life.
I have everything I know in my newest e-book, and what is also included is my time personally if you need it. There are no automated responses, only real ones from me.
It's $97 and that may seem like alot, but it should be actually very easy to make once your business is fine tuned. Like in a quarter of a day type thing. Then after its paid off, you can send me a thank-you note because its taken me a lot of time and going through a lot of long crappy days to learn what I've learned! To be uneducated and do the same thing over and over expecting a different response can be costing you thousands.
Have a great and productive day everyone!
Selling your craft : Getting to your first $10,000 month.
I have been selling my wood products for a very full 2 years and have quickly found ways to increase earnings without putting all my eggs into one basket. With the purchase of the book, you will get all future updates as well as personal contact with me, whether its by email or by phone. I care about your success!
So grab the book here https://gumroad.com/l/MswPt
I've had pole lathe fever for quite a while, and I figured if I was going to make a pole lathe, I might as well document it and throw it up on the YouTube channel.
There is so much I've learned since building it, and I will have to do some updated reviews on a few things.
But this video should give you some confidence to build your own one day hopefully.
I hope you all enjoy!
P.s. Be sure to subscribe to my YouTube channel if you haven't yet!
Sometimes people look at my carving and say "You must be very patient!"
When I look at this guys carving, I think the same thing.
I don't even know what kind of tools you need to carve something like this!
Check this out!
I'm fortunate enough to be fairly close by to the Canadian canoe museum here in Peterborough, Ontario. After talking with a veteran canoe builder here in ontario, there is apparently a contagious bug you can get that isn't easy to get rid of. I think I may have caught it. I've been scouting out for materials and looking forward to the thaw!
The heavy interest sparked recently in the birch bark canoe craft. My first glance at the craft would probably have been from the blog posts by Jarrod Stone-Dahl and Robin Wood as they build one together last summer (You can click on the links to visit their websites and should easily be able to find the posts) just so fascinated in the fact that you can walk into the bush and come out with a boat that will stick around for years and years if taken care of.
At first glance it looked rather complicated, but fascinating.
Enough blabbler. Check out this gallery of some old wooden boats. I tried to get a few shots of some interesting details and joinery. I did my best to keep everything in focus, but I think its almost time for some new glasses!
Below the gallery I've included a YouTube video I found very inspirational. Be sure to check it out.
If you want a little more inspiration, check out this video!
Thanks for stopping by, and well see ya around!
-Jeff @ Lotsofwoods.com
As a spoon carver, much of my inspiration has come from other spoon carvers.
I've spent plenty of time admiring others workmanship and their designs, not knowing where they were inspired from. For the serious carver, it not only pays to test your own products, but it pays to get out and see some ancient wooden spoons, bowls and cups. As I will attempt to replicate some of these designs, I know that these designs could have been worked on for hundreds of years. The purposes may change, eating styles may have evolved, but there are some lovely designs that are so pleasing to the eye.
I have held many in high regard for their carved wooden spoons or cups and bowls as their designs seemed so unique, well thought out and finished beautifully.
I still do feel this way about great carvers, but after enough researching, I found that many of these designs were heavily inspired by ancient woodworking. Wherever it may have originated from, it is just so cool knowing that a true master woodworkers skills were passed on without the aid of the internet and copies of books, but through apprenticeships and word of mouth. Many ancient groups of people had ways of carving wooden spoons, wooden bowls or Kuksa's in a way that is so pleasing to the eye, but functional. Hundreds of years of testing can be trusted in the designs you might see. I have so many questions in regards to why a handle might be this long, or why a bowl shaped like this or that, but in time I'll find out.
This article is mainly to provide you with inspiration as a spoon carver.
Although a few of these spoons are made from horn, the flow of the design is very elegant and pleasing to the eye. With the right crook, these designs can be replicated with strength in the wood grain.
I want apologize for the quality of the pictures. The light was so dark, and I was with a heard of 15 family members and including kids which makes things a little more difficult!
So have a gander and be inspired to get out the carving tools!
Need some carving tools? I have a growing list of links to popular spoon carving tools to get you started. Check out my Tools of the trade page afterwards
It's been some time now that I've been carving Kuksa's and trying to get that one design that I really love, and I think now I've found that perfect Kuksa.
To me, finding a great kuksa design has been very challenging. What we are talking about is a wooden cup. It's almost like re-inventing the wheel.
One thing I need to consider while designing a Kuksa is that every aspect of the design can be carved by my tools. What I mean is, that each tool will nicely make a certain cut. My Mora hook knife will make a certain radius very nice and if its too tight it wont cut the same, and my Nic Westermann twca cam will make a certain sized bowl very nicely. Learning the limits of my tools is important to me for coming up with a great design.
At 10oz these cups are the perfect all purpose drinking vessel. The perfect coffee cup, or the perfect soup bowl. This Kuksa will serve any purpose on all your outdoor trips. The perfect Bushcraft cup.
The right notch carved at the right place looks great. So simple, but very effective at making a bold statement in your Kuksa design.
Here we see a beautiful contrast of a tooled finish and tool marks from the lathe.
The handle is small but surprisingly comfortable in the hands.
So heres a vlog I made up today sharing as much as I could think of regarding carving applewood. Carving Apple wood is a bit of love hate for me.
Its tiring, the grain is frustrating, but its tough as nails and beautiful once finished.
It also finishes well.
Anyways I wont spoil the video for you. Take a look and let me know what you think in the comments below!