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Wood carving at Nantillio Woods

Bodmin Way Youth Club was invited by Bodmin Keep to try their hand at carving wood at Footsteps of Discovery.

If you’d gone down to the woods today you’d have seen young people enjoying the freedom and safety of the woodland environment.

The trees we walked between were planted between 1964 and 1968 making them over 50 years old.

“How much does that tree weigh?” someone asked. Leon, our guide, asked us to guess the weight of the minibus we arrived in. He had to tell us it weighs about 3 tonnes whereas the sitka spruce pine tree weighs 5.5 tonnes! It’s very tall too.

Leon is one of the ex-military instructors delivering activities on a ten-acre purpose-built sit at Nantillio Woods.

One young person started to name all the trees. Leon pointed at a tree and told us it was called “The granny” as it’s the oldest tree; it was not felled during the 1960s plantation.

“Why were the logs we saw at the entrance numbered?” someone asked. One of the young people answered this one, saying the number gives the tree’s diameter; they were correct.

Leon heard some youth club members tapping out a rhythm we’d practised at the picnic last Sunday, so he led us in an impromptu musical performance!

Next it was Leon’s turn to ask us a question. “What is a knife?” he said.

It’s sharp, you cut things with it, it’s used for cutting. Leon agreed with our definitions and said one thing it is not, is a weapon; rather it is a tool for cutting things.

Leon explained the use of every part of a knife, from tip, curve/belly, blade/sharp edge, spine/blunt side, choia, tang, finger guide, grip/handle and butt. For safety it’s kept in a scabbard (or a sheath if it’s a soft material such as leather).

You must be 18 to buy a knife. The law dictates when knives can be carried, for example, a 3-inch blade can be carried as long as it is being used for duties at work.”

Batons of wood were created with a knife and log (used as a hammer) to split a thin piece of branch. For this, a flat area is to be used, to give it a stable and solid surface. Safety instructions included: Carve out away from you. Never carve so you are pushing down over your leg, inner leg or towards yourself. Always cut away, push away from yourself and keep fingers well back.

The thin line of tree pith is removed by cutting the log into thinner batons.

To make the baton smooth, you carve from halfway up, below your fingers that hold the wood at the top and shave down.

A cross was drawn at the top of the baton and carved out.

What was Leon carving? We couldn’t tell. We started to run out of time. We watched him rapidly and expertly carve and then scorch the head of a nail with a blowtorch to give two marks for eyes. He carved …. a fabulous owl.

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