Archive for March, 2011

thank you Martin

March 30, 2011

My lettercarving mentor Martin Wenham recently retired from teaching  short courses at West Dean. He has contributed a huge amount to keeping lettercarving in wood alive as a craft. I suggested to another of his students that we mark the occasion with a joint project. Ole proposed that we each do a 70mm cube – formed, finished and carved in any way we choose.
I chose Scottish oak, which I have “ebonised”.   The quotation is one that I have been waiting a long time to use                                        LABORARE EST ORARE     work is prayer

Ebonising is an old process that involves putting wire wool (or any unfinished steel eg cut nails) into vinegar for about a week and then painting the fluid onto the bare oak, which fairly quickly turns a dense blue/black.  Works best with European oak which has a higher tannin content.  Be careful not to put a lid on the jar as hydrogen is given off which could cause a build up of pressure.  Neutralise with household ammonia.       Digital photography seems to remove the slight  lustre that you get with  an oil finish.  I also waxed the piece (after photography).


Work completed in February and March

March 12, 2011

I was commissioned by the Rev. Andrew Patterson at Portobello Old Parish Church to make a wooden cross carved with the word “love”, to be hung in their reorganised entrance hall.   I like the way that the shape chosen can be interpreted in different ways. The pear/sycamore banding suggests a garment and the cross could be seen as a person with open welcoming arms, with the “o” of love situated at the heart. The letterform is Carolingian uncial.   The cross needed to be hung 4″ out from the wall in front of an existing stone plaque and to leave space for a curtain. This presented an interesting challenge.


In the late 70’s I moved to Scotland from a community near Cambridge to join another community near  Castle Douglas.  The Haughton family, assisted by lots of friends and visitors were building Scotland’s largest log house in a beautiful setting with beautiful views of Galloway’s rolling hills.  I was very much attracted to becoming part of this exciting building project.

A couple of years after the completion of the building in the mid 80’s, Samye Ling took over the running of the project and this year Benet Haughton asked me to design a plaque to commemorate the family’s involvement which I did with Benet’s involvement.   Iwas very pleased to receive this comment –

“a perfect mix of the ordered way Algy (as I remember him) worked, the gentle underlying structure of the community (meals always on time etc) with the bright colours of the hopes and joys of that place”

Edinburgh Genbukan

I seem to be discovering all the things that really interest me in my 50’s and 60’s.    Last year I started learning the Japanese martial art iai-do ( based around the use of the sword),  something that has interested me for over 30 years.    Because of a knee injury I always thought it would be too difficult to practice, however I was very pleased to discover that the first four kata performed from the kneeling seiza position can also be done as standing kata.

After discussion with our sensei and advice regarding the calligraphy from a Japanese iai-do student, I carved a plaque for the dojo incorporating our mon and the kanji for Genbukan.   The quarter sawn oak is ebonised and EDINBURGH GENBUKAN is painted.