Five years ago I got an email from a 23 year old chap asking if I take on apprentices, he had been playing with woodturning from the age of 12 and done A level design and a degree but wanted to work without the dust and machinery.

“Like many people, who i’m sure email you far to often, i want your help, i would like you to say “sure come up to Derbyshire, i’ll pay you a small wage and teach you everything i know” but i know that won’t be happening.”

It was a young “Barn the Spoon.” note the lower case “i” Barn is a very humble chap but quite remarkable, he now signs his spoons with a lower case “b”.

My reply was as usual “No, sorry” but suggested he try Mike Abbott who runs lots of courses and often has helpers volunteer with him, then he could try the journeyman thing traveling and learning from others to broaden his experience.

Well 5 years later we ran into each other again and Barn has spent a couple of years volunteering with Mike, spent the summer traveling, meeting lots of other woodworkers, making spoons for his keep and ended the summer with 2 weeks helping me out on our Autumn spooncarving courses and with building a bridge. I think we both learnt a lot and we had a great time.

Barn hollows his spoons with a long handled large Svante Djarve hook, he jams the handle in his knee and pivots the spoon like this.

I know a lot of folk see old photos of folk using long handled hooks, put a long handle on, but end up not really using the leverage. I did the same myself many years ago then in 1998 Stuart King and I visited Romanian spoon carver Ion Contantin and I saw how the long handled knives could be used. This is the cut, the fingers of the left hand act as a pivot point and you can see from the pile of shavings how efficiently it works.

I learnt a cut from Barn which he uses on the back of his spoons, a lovely pivoting cut that gives a single sweeping curved cut around the back of the bowl.

It worked particularly well with the long handled, straight ground Frosts 120 knife which is Barns favourite (though he was quite taken with the longer 106s I use)

So for anyone else out there thinking of an apprenticeship in crafts, think what you have to offer the craftsperson. Barn was great at asking what he could do to help and happy with anything from washing up to mowing the lawn to sweeping up, carting wood about and dashing home for the things I had forgotten. He gives a lot in a humble helpful way without being intrusive or getting under your feet when you’re busy. He is also a very intelligent, thoughtful person and it was great fun having him around. What better way to finish than with a pic of our lunch at Grindleford Station cafe, pints of tea and egg chips and mushy peas, sheer indulgence after a hard mornings work. Thanks Barn.

Author Robin Wood

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