On until the 17th November 2014, the Red Cross has opened a pop-up in the heart of Covent Garden – nestled among the donated stock from fashion and high street brands is one of our London Plane Serving Boards. Please see their site for more info.
This Sunday the 10th August sees the first Makers Monthly event, on Clarence Mews E5.
We’re opening up our yard in Hackney Central – we’ll be open to the public for shopping, coffee, music and food!
Held every month from now on, you’ll be able to have a look around the collection of bustling workshops and creative spaces that sit together at 18-20 Clarence Mews – there are several small creative brands based here, ranging from wooden homewares to fashion and furniture, from leatherwork to picture framing.
Just a five minute walk from Hackney Central and ten minutes from Chatsworth Road, come down and see what’s happening at one of the creative centres of Hackney’s designer/maker industry.
The gates will be open from 11-6, and we hope to see you there!
The doors are open, we’re proud to announce we now have a showroom!
Our old workshop has been transformed into a place where people can pop down for a cup of tea, a place to buy directly from us and also a place for us to escape the dust and noise of the main workshop!
Alongside our regular range of boards and products, there will be one-offs and bespoke pieces, as well as products made by other local craftsmen and women including a leather worker and ceramicist.
We’ll also be on hand to discuss any bespoke projects – whether boards, spoons or hanging racks for a cafe or restaurant, or a more personal gift – just come along with your ideas and we’ll see what we can come up with.
Our “by appointment only” showroom is open whenever we’re around the workshop/yard; generally 9 till 5 Monday to Friday – the best thing to do is drop us line if you’d like to come down and give us an excuse to put the kettle on!
Rob Penn, lover of bikes and woodlands (you may have seen his cycling and woodland shows on the BBC) approached us recently with some pieces of a beautiful Ash tree that he’d felled in his woods by the Welsh border. If you’ve seen his BBC4 series Tales from the Wild Wood, you may remember him felling a couple of large Ash trees, then attempting to find a use and suitable home for the hardwood they had yielded.
Rob had told us he was writing a book that details all of the practical uses and benefits that a tree such as the ash can yield (working title of Touch Wood – the story of the ash tree, it is out in 2015, published by Penguin) – and he proposed that we make some boards and spoons. Being big fans of wood – and Sascha also of bikes – we immediately loved the idea.
In the spring, Sascha went down to pay him a visit and pick up the timber; have a chat, enjoy the peace and quiet, and discuss trees and bikes.
He came back with some rough pieces of ash and we set about the transformation. Such a lovely timber to work with, ash has a certain creaminess to it; a steady and regular grain, its also surprisingly hard.
We managed to yield 7 boards and 5 spoons from these pieces – as with our usual approach to board-making, almost nothing was wasted; the boards took on varied shapes to maximise the material we had.
Once rough cut, the shaping and sanding begins – after many hours we ended up with these gleaming beauties!
We’ve been inspired to work more with this favourite of British hardwoods – a future Hampson Woods Ash range? You never know!
If you’d like to know more about Rob and what he does, please look him up on Twitter (he tweets avidly!) or see more of him here;
A Note on Woodland Management
In Tales from the Wild Wood, once the ash was down, Rob brought an artistic turner, a commercial turner and a furniture maker out to have a look. Of those three, all were happy to take some off his hands – yet on a regular basis the commercial turner imported from abroad, and it was only the smaller-scale artisans who always bought British. The commercial turner just couldn’t afford to.
Sadly, woodland management in this country has been long ignored, and it is only lately that we are starting to plant and manage properly again. As a result, much of the timber used in this country is imported from europe and beyond, its provenance often unknown; sometimes its environmental certification dubious.
When sourcing timbers, we’ve found English Oak, for example, hard to find and often twice the price – we are almost always offered french oak, much more readily available. The difference in size between countries plays a big part, so too the clear-felling of the UK’s forest during WW1; but it is largely due to France’s consistent management of their hardwood forests, an old and patient approach that we sadly let slip – and which takes several generations to re-instate.
Thankfully there are people like Rob bringing this to our attention, and there are woodland managers all over the country doing justice to the beautiful hardwoods we have out there for our use. If the momentum continues, the future of British woodland could well be looking brighter!
Many people have asked over time how best to care for their board, so we thought best to lay out our recommendations in detail. (There are also some good pointers on our FAQs page.)
1. How best to wash my board?
It’s fine to wash your board with soap and water. We advise you avoid dishwashers – and never soak it!
Depending on the particular board, the high heat that dishwashers kick out are likely to warp it. (It’s very unlikely the board will split as you may have found with other “joined” boards – our boards are made from one piece of timber.) The whole dishwashing process is a bit harsh (and probably a little over the top) for a natural piece of timber.
Soaking the boards will likely warp them (to a certain degree, wood will act like a sponge), and will perhaps discolour them.
So please wipe or scrub, with warm water and a mild soap. And allow to dry thoroughly in a rack or by hanging on a hook.
Very rarely, a small amount of colour will seep from certain boards. This is a natural tannin from within the wood (trees produce tannins to aid their growth and as a predatory precaution). This has only been brought to our attention once, and will stop happening after a few uses and washes. We advise to keep off any best linen while the board is drying!
2. My board went fuzzy after I wet it. Why?
We finish our boards with only olive oil. Many boards out there rely on petroleum-based sealants to finish their boards; we would rather stay as natural as we can, and so avoid these.
(We are however, currently developing our own natural finish that seals more efficiently than olive oil…..watch this space!)
So, the natural fibres will “fur up” on contact with moisture, creating a slight fuzziness where the board has absorbed moisture (this can also occur in a particularly damp environment). Don’t worry at this point, because we finish them to such a smooth condition that they won’t fuzz up too much. Additionally, any furring can be buffed back to a smooth state – you can do this using very fine sandpaper (240 grit or above), or a simple nylon scourer.
Timbers with a wider grain will likely show the greatest change in texture – London Plane generally has a very tight grain so will feel more fuzzy than anything else – British Elm, with its wider grain, will probably take on a bit more character and fur up a little more (this we feel, complements their rustic look and feel).
3. Should I re-apply olive oil?
Yes. You’ll see the result is very satisfying – the board is nourished and its natural colour re-invigorated.
Pour a little bit of oil (olive, rapeseed, vegetable etc) into the centre of the board and rub in, making sure there is no excess remaining. Wipe off and you’re good to go, your board as gleaming and as good as new!
4. Will the board be damaged if I cut on it?
Only to the extent that it will become marked – we encourage people to not be too precious with their board, because although very beautiful, they are very hard-wearing and will last a lifetime….. And scratches add character!
Another way to approach this is to chop on one side, and serve on the other.
5. Will certain foods stain my board?
Yes. As you might expect, some foods will leave a lasting impression – beetroot, (sometimes) strawberries, red meat juices. Depending on how you see it, these stains can add to the board’s character, and will soon blend in. Alternatively, avoid cutting such foods on your board, and always wash off immediately after use.
6. How long will my board last for?
All being well, it’ll last a very long time. There are no joints to come apart, and no real weak points; so if looked after, will last long enough to hand down to another generation. Along with the character it has picked up over the years.
We are very careful as we produce these boards, but it is sometimes impossible to know if a natural crack will appear several years along the line. If one does, just send your board back to us and you’ll soon have a new one.
Please email us firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any further questions, and happy chopping/serving!