Last summer I wrote a post about building a Japanese tool chest, to take some tools with me while traveling. Over the last year I’ve done a lot of green woodworking. I’ve learned a lot about wood and the tools that are needed to turn that wood into things. I’ve carved a bunch of spoons, some oak spatulas, I’ve made a couple of oak benches, and a bunch of other stuff. I’ve bought and made quite a few new tools as well. This summer we planned to go to the German Eifel to stay in a log cabin in the woods for two weeks, and I came prepared. So, a year after I made the Japanese tool chest, here is my essential green woodworking kit in that chest.

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Elm is underrated and underused. I really like the stuff. It’s cheap, does not split, and is quite durable in use. I picked up a board of quarter sawn Dutch elm a while back, which turned out to be perfect for cutting boards. Because it is quarter sawn, the wood is very straight and stable. With a Janka hardness of about 850 lbf, it’s about as hard as bigleaf or red maple.

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Why would you buy finishes for wood? Really, they are expensive, and often contain all kinds of (petro-)chemicals of which you’re not aware when reading the label. The law requires labels of food and drinks to tell us what goes in there, because we consume those things. There is no such requirement for finishes, even though much of that stuff ends up in our systems too. In the past, I’ve posted about making your own paint, waterproofing wax and furniture wax. I’ve been experimenting with making my own food safe finish for spoons, cutting boards and bowls as well. I used a mixture of walnut oil, orange oil and beeswax for a while. I liked it: it was easy to apply and it smelled good. The walnut oil hydrated the wood and gave it a lovely sheen, the orange oil acted as a solvent and helped the wax to penetrate into the wood and dry quickly and the beeswax made it water repellent. It was easy to buff out nice and shiny and there was little need to reapply the wax over time. I thought I could do better though.

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Some time ago, I visited an old sawmill, “de Zwaluw”. It lies in Burdaard, a small village in the north of Friesland. If you’ve ever heard of it, chances are it’s because the famous Frysian ice skating tour, the “Elfstedentocht”, passes through the village twice. The sawmill is wind-powered and run by a team of volunteers. They saw all kinds of local wood, mostly for renovation purposes. They gave me a couple of lovely walnut boards (about 10 meters in total), that were too warped and cracked to be used for carpentry or large furniture. They have stunning figure and colour. This serving board is the first “test board” I made, to see how it reacts to scraping and planing. I was really pleasantly surprised by the quality of the wood. This piece has a bit of discolouration on one corner.

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This blog post is long overdue. I carved the spoons below over the last couple of months. As you can see, I’ve been experimenting with different types of wood and different shapes. Most of them are finished with a homemade wax, a mixture of walnut oil, beeswax and a bit of orange oil. They were all finished with a bit of sanding. The 5 eurocent coin is about 20 mm in diameter.

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This is my second knife. I didn’t really take pictures of the making process. A lot of it’s the same as with my first knife. Some of it’s new, but I just forgot to take pictures… The knife is based on a Polar Whittler 80 blank, which I ordered from Nordell Knives. I paid about E12,50 for it. The handle is made out of some kind of mystery wood. It’s from a tree that stood in my parent’s neighbour’s yard. It was actually more of a large shrub then a tree. It had no leaves to identify it by (winter) and a smooth bark. I can generally identify most trees, but I have no idea what this was. The wood has a lovely grain, especially quartersawn (or cleft) and it’s quite hard. The pommel and ferrule are made of buffalo horn. The tang goes all the way through the handle, and is riveted to brass cap at the end. The tang is also glued in the handle with the cutler’s resin I used for the first knife. The handle is finished with hand rubbed shellac.

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