This period between Christmas and new year is a time for playing with things that I would not have time for at other times. Whilst I have been experimenting with bowlcarving over the last months I have been primarily working in a Scandinavian/European tradition both tools and designs. I have always very much admired the work of the native cultures of the Pacific Northwest and decided it was time I explored those designs, tools and techniques. For years I have coveted the crook knives made by Gregg Blomberg of kestrel tools. I remember seeing a stand with these at one of the first woodworking shows I demonstrated at in about 1995 but they were way out of my budget at the time. Then a couple of years ago when the dollar was very weak I contacted Gregg, he is in semi retirement but still making some tools though at that time he could not accept payment from the UK. Finally this year I managed to order some tools and they arrived just before Christmas so I have been experimenting with them.

To begin with as with any new tool they feel awkward, I keep thinking I would work better and faster with the Scandinavian and home forged tools I am familiar with. I often see students try a new tool only briefly before returning to the tool they know, so now I hear my own comments in my head, and force myself to master these new tools before judging them alongside the ones I know.
These tools are used in a very different way to most European hook knives in that you hold them palm up instead of palm down. I have been working with Eastern Woodlands style mocotaugan crook knives for a while and they too are used palm up but always drawing towards the body. These tools work best when pushing away with a twist of the wrist and once mastered they are very fast and effective especially for texturing and finiashing the outside of a bowl.

Having worked over a scandinavian style bowl I carved one which is inspired by North West Coast traditional styles. The form is loosely based on a raven design ladle. When fully dry the head and eye will be painted with the traditional red and black colours typical of Haida carvings.

I would highly recommend anyone who is not familiar with the work of the native cultures of the Pacific North West taking a little time to see some of the original works of one of the worlds premier woodworking cultures. Putting “Haida bowl” into google image search is a good start.

And here is Gregg’s Kestrel Tool webpage