Sheffield’s floods help make medieval bowls

The floods in Sheffield last year have lead to the environment agency looking at the management of riverside trees along the river Don. One of the problems was that fallen trees washed downstream and blocked bridges creating dams. Now there is a program of cutting the riverside trees, many of which are alder a timber which has little commercial value today but which was one of the most commonly used timbers for bowls in medieval and saxon/viking times.

I make a lot of replicas of medieval and viking bowls to sell to historical re-enactors as well as museums and the biggest market of the year where they all go to source new kit is in 3 weeks time at Coventry. Any bowls I turn this week I can just about get dried and finished for the market so I collected some of the freshly felled Alder yesterday and started working it today. Here is a trailer load of alder poles, the orange/red colour is caused by the sap oxidising, when freshly cut the wood is white but minutes later it stains this colour.

The most common shape of vessel in the medieval period was a simple deep bowl, 6-8″ diameter like this one excavated in London.

And here are some of the replicas I turned today, one of the nice things about having sourced this small diameter wood is that they will warp in a very pleasant way as they dry, they will dip down at the sides and go slightly oval giving them a sort of boat shaped profile, just like the originals.

6 Responses to Sheffield’s floods help make medieval bowls

  1. TREEWRIGHT February 25, 2008 at 11:43 pm #

    You lucky *** ! I love alder and hardly ever manage to get any.What’s willow like for bowls? – I guess the tools have to be razor.I think our blogs are really interesting compared to all the others I’ve seen.

  2. Robin Wood February 27, 2008 at 6:10 pm #

    Problem is Robin by the looks of the comments left I ma the only person that reads yours and you are the only person that reads mine…glad you enjoy it anyway. I actually find it quit interesting writing, its quite nice when something nice happens at work to think yes I’ll put that on the blog sometime.

  3. miss rika February 28, 2008 at 4:28 pm #

    Be fair to your readers:) Neither of you have been on Blogger for very long. And you share an unfortunately obscure skill. There are those of us that will simply pore over all the pictures and movies on your blogs and not be able to say anything intelligent about them.Also, since both of you host pictures/videos someplace, post your blog links in the blurbs. It wouldn’t hurt for that theatre company to give you some free publicity, either, Robin–a link on the website (I notice they haven’t put anything up) or blurb on the programme. If you want to get more business online, you might try tapping the handwork craze online–knitters, crochet-ers & spinners would probably be in the market for needles, spindles, and bobbins if you ever tire of making spoons in the winter.

  4. Robin Wood February 28, 2008 at 8:05 pm #

    Thanks for that Rika, good to know someone else is reading and enjoying too, and I am always interested to hear what anyone thinks of the work whether they are turners, woodware users or just someone passing by in cyberspace who passed an interesting few minutes. In some ways its a bit like my workshop which is alongside a busy footpath, quite a few folk stop and watch and chat for a minute or two before heading off up the way.

  5. TREEWRIGHT February 29, 2008 at 5:14 am #

    I think there are more viewers than you think Rob.You can download a “hit” counter on your blogsite but when I looked it was too complicated for my little brain.

  6. miss rika March 2, 2008 at 5:09 pm #

    I use something called “SiteMeter”, which provides code you can add to your blog under the “HTML” option for “Add a New Feature” if you customise you blog. There’s others out there, but if you like I’m happy to help.