Kingston University Biodiversity Action Group

29-11-2014: woodland workshop at Kingston Hill

If you go down to the woods today you might be in for a bit of a surprise…
At the end of a fun day

Having checked the weather religiously all week in anticipation of the workshop the clear skies and sunshine was a welcome sight for the woodland workshop being run at Kingston Hill.

7.5 hours earlier
The work shop was being run by Mark Lloyd an outdoor woodcraft teacher with the help of his brother Bruce who may be familiar to many of you as he used to work at KU :)

On the way to the work area, Mark told us about the different types of trees that are used in green woodcraft and how the type of tree can dictate how the wood is used, as some wood can give off toxic chemicals as they are being seasoned, so we wouldn't want to use them to make spoons!

As this was the third workshop being run at Kingston Hill, we wanted to try a little something different from some of the things we had made in the past including spoons, so this time we made mallets and bullroarers.

The mallets that we were making were made from just three pieces of wood – the bit for the mallet head, the handle and to hold it all together, a small wedge. 

After taking us through the health and safety of each tool and showing us how to do each stage, we worked in pairs to first created the hole in the mallet head which we would fit our handle to.

Following this we had to find a section of chestnut which was just a bit bigger than the hole allowing us to whittle it down to the right size. We then made the wedges and hammered them in to hold everything together. 

Once we had created our mallets it was time for some well-earned lunch.

The technique used to whittle down the wedges to the right shape was then used to create the bullroarers.

If, like me, you hadn’t heard of bullroarers before now, they are a simple piece of wood shaped and spun to create noise - this Wiki link has a good summary on how they work and different cultures that have used them in history.

whittling the day away with Tom showing us how to do the right knot before Claire and Julia start spinning their roarers
Once complete we all had a turn trying to get them to roar – some were more successful than others but we all managed to get a little bit of sound out :)

We had a great surprise at the end of the day when we had some time to do some pewter casting – creating our moulds from cuttlefish bones which were sourced from Marks family beach combing. 

Using the end of spoons, nails and even something that looked like an ancient dentist drill devise, we created different shapes and watched as Mark poured in melted pewter into the moulds.

Julia's sail boat takes shape
A little fish straight out of the mould

A lot of filing and and polishing to finish them off
After they were sufficiently cooled, they were turned out and shaped and polished to create small pewter mementoes of the day.

As we were leaving we grabbed a shot of the sunset reflecting off of this stand of mushrooms growing out of one of our logs, so to end this blog on a little photo challenge for you, if you can guess the species of this mushroom -post it in the comments below.

We're at Kingston Hill this Saturday removing invasive rhododendron. If you are free from 10-3 and can help on the day, email me for details.


  1. Sulphur Tuft; Hypholoma fasciculare?

  2. That does sound like the name that Mark mentioned, any other takers? :)