Handmade of Wood's News

News and Announcements from Handmade of Wood

All written material: Copyright Ian Tompsett 2010-2016

Portable Teaware

posted 30 Sep 2011, 11:34 by Ian Tompsett

I really like Craig Wisner's post in this discussion on the BPL forum. He's a potter and makes ceramic kuksas because he says:

"Whatever happened to style, to handmade goods, to enjoying a good cup of coffee, not in some old soda can, but in your favorite mug?"

I heartily agree!

Although, I have to say I have a certain fondness for tin cups as well, there's a certain nostalgia there for me.

In any case, if I'm in the wood making some fine tea with my portable brewing kit then I take along a small ceramic tea bowl as well, it's just me and the tea and nothing gets in the way! I tend to use my kuksa for stronger black, oolong and puerh teas. As it happens my favourite tea at the moment is Clipper English Breakfast. Nice and simple.

What carving knife?

posted 19 Sep 2011, 03:57 by Ian Tompsett   [ updated 19 Sep 2011, 04:14 ]

Michael recently wrote to me to ask what knife he should use in order to start woodcarving as a beginner. Here is what he said and my reply follows:

"Hello there,

My name is Michael and I am from Transylvania. 
I have recently decided to start wood carving as an after work activity. Browsing the web for information a couple of days ago I found your site and in it I found out that you began to carve using an Opinel knife.
So, please tell me what size of Opinel should I buy, being a beginner above 20 years old?

Thank you in advance for your answer.

With respect,


Hi Michael, I do not recommend using an Opinel for carving, for that you should get something small and sharp with a fixed blade, such as a Mora 120 knife, or something made by Svante Djarve for example.

I noted the Opinel as the knife I first owned which was of any use to me, but I soon grew out of it when I wanted to work with wood properly. An Opinel is more of a utility pocket knife, it's also handy for camp cooking, mushrooming and so on.

It is potentially dangerous to use a folding knife for more serious work as the blade could fold on your fingers. Also, the pliability of the blade  and its movement against the handle don't inspire confidence. 

For confident cutting, a blade with a single bevelled edge is the best; though some swear by a convex profile to a blade, it is more difficult to get into as your carving is only as good as your knife is sharp, and sharpening a convex profile is trickier than a single bevel.

In fact, the most important aspect of wood carving is learning to look after your knife or other tool's edge, so take the time to learn about it before working on anything too difficult. Sharpening, honing and stropping the edge should become a part of your routine.

Please also visit this section for more information (but do bear in mind that my necessarily limited experience is not a complete knowledge of woodcarving): 


Let me know how it goes!

Kuksa from burr wood

posted 27 Aug 2010, 11:44 by Ian Tompsett

If we look very closely everything is unique, but it's with burr wood, much like with a fingerprint or the flowing shapes of pearl, that the chaotic nature of the grain makes this is very obvious. What I like most about burr wood though is the complete freedom from the grain to make any shapes I like, which could be very weak for kuksa made from normal growth wood

2 stages of a kuksa

posted 18 Aug 2010, 05:19 by Ian Tompsett

I usually use green burr wood for carving, but occasionally I have no choice in the matter and find the wood already cut, in which case I leave it to dry before beginning work on it. Here are two such pieces of seasoned Birch burr wood, which is much tougher to carve than it is green.

Making a Kuksa sweat

posted 14 Jun 2010, 06:24 by Ian Tompsett   [ updated 14 Jun 2010, 13:26 ]

When I make each new kuksa, it has to be tested before I put it up for sale. The test is simple, but the most tortuous one for wood - ignoring the hearth in your living room - especially where water-tightness is concerned. If I did not conduct this test I would not be satisfied, and could not sell the kuksa. It is the point when I find out if I have made mistakes not just in the carving, but in the drying process.

The pitfall
Making a kuksa is a multi-stage process because they are carved from green wood, either burl or straight-grained wood. The straight-grained wood is harder to manage, one of the reasons for the higher value of the burl wood for kuksa-making, as any quick drying will produce grand canyons in the  now not-so-beautiful kuksa. Burl wood is not without problems, as for one it sometimes will contain some straight grain formations, but with all curly burl the 'eyes' in the wood can sometimes travel all the way through the walls, especially if they are thin. If they dry too fast, the eyes open, and then in use your kuksa cries!

Salt and Shavings
In avoiding this problem we use salt to help slow the drying of the work piece; my method is to do most of the carving of a green burl in a day, then boil it in salt water in the evening for about 2 hours. I then place the work piece in a cardboard box filled with its own shavings, put the lid back on but leaving a gap, and leave it to dry for about a week. This allows the shape of the unfinished kuksa to normalise, thus allowing me to finish its fashioning in the knowledge that it will remain that shape. The shavings are of such vital importance during the making of a kuksa that I include them as packaging on its final journey to the customer. You can either keep them or use them as a handy fire-lighter.

Torture Test
When the kuksa has finished drying, first for a week, at which time it is carved to near-completion, then for another few days, after which it is tool-finished, it will stop moving around and will contain the least moisture. This is when I can at last perform the test:-

boiling water is poured into the kuksa:

now, it literally sweats:
...not water, but the wax finish, which nicely conditions your hands as well as the kuksa.

Thankfully, this time the kuksa is sound, and ready for the shop.

Thanks for reading.

Axe Handle Replacement

posted 16 Apr 2010, 15:51 by Ian Tompsett   [ updated 16 Apr 2010, 16:55 ]

A few weeks ago I got around to the task of replacing the old, badly fitted axe handle with a new one of Ash wood. It has been made to fit the hand more securely in several grips, with a broad foot made where the branch forked, producing a really strong and natural shape. It is also longer than the previous one; I prefer this because not only is it more versatile than a short-handled hatchet, but is also much safer, as the cutting edge works further from the body.

This was the original handle, which appears to have been re-wedged at some point in its life:

Here are a few pictures of the new one:

1. The finished article. The handle has been left without a finish to give better grip. You will also notice that it is longer than the previous handle, and there are two reasons for this: firstly it allows more grips and thus more versatile use; secondly and perhaps most importantly it places the working edge further from the body and so reduces the risk of injury:

2. Close up of the old and well-used axe head:

3. Fore-shortened profile of the new handle shape:

4.The foot of the axe handle has been made where the branch forked, which provides a naturally strong widening of the handle at this point to reduce the possibility of losing control of the tool:

5. Here you can see the grip of the handle in closer detail:

6. Here you can see where the original metal wedge holds the new ash-wood wedge in place:

7. A close up of the re-profiled edge on the axe, which was once rusted over and utterly blunt:

Thanks for having a look. If you have any questions please ask away.

Visitors: Leave me a message!

posted 28 Mar 2010, 12:34 by Ian Tompsett   [ updated 7 Apr 2010, 13:46 ]

I've now added a Guest book to the website, so there is another way to get in touch. You may already choose from
or e-mail.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Ian from Handmade of Wood.

Guest Book

Christmas Kuksas

posted 23 Dec 2009, 14:14 by Ian Tompsett

The run up to Christmas has been very busy, so unfortunately I haven't had time to put everything I've made up on the website or even make as much as I would have liked to, but these are my plans for the New Year! 

I've like to show you a couple of Kuksas I've made for people this Yule. These have already gone but I will make more very much like them after this winter's holiday. 

Thanks for reading and Hezké Vánoce!

Apple wood weekend: the ladle and the spoon

posted 16 Nov 2009, 14:51 by Ian Tompsett   [ updated 4 Dec 2009, 12:58 ]

Last weekend I finished a wood shelter made from cheap wooden pallets from a neighbour, they were going to be burnt (they aren't made like the once were so lose their value on delivery), and some corrugated tin for the roof. This meant that I could return to that old abandoned orchard I found and collect the wood I pruned a few weeks ago, as I now had a place to put it back home.

Naturally I was quite excited to have new wood around, so I got straight to work on some new Apple wood carvings: an extra large serving spoon and a ladle. I'm afraid I forgot to document the progress on the ladle and didn't do too well with the spoon either, but here are some pictures to illustrate:

1. The billet is cut from a branch that was rubbing 
against another, so it made for a nice bowl shape to start me off. First job was removing the dead wood:

3. Work has begun on shaping the shoulders:

5. This is all I'll do with the axe, it's getting dark here:

7. Back view showing the gloriously textured sapwood:

9. Last one, showing the back of the spoon with some refinements and preservation of the continuous sapwood:
2. Lovely contrast between the heart- and sapwood: 

4. The back of the billet:

6. Side view:

8. Mono-source incandescent light isn't great to carve by, but it won't be finished this weekend as it's green. I've just started work on the bowl:

Day in the Woods

posted 7 Nov 2009, 06:38 by Ian Tompsett   [ updated 8 Nov 2009, 08:25 ]

Last weekend I had the chance to try a fire-lighting method I haven't practised in a while, and also the chance to teach it to others. It was a natural opportunity to use the Kuksa I've made for myself and friends there with me. Below are a few pictures to tell the story a little better:

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