The Joy of Carving

The following post was written by Senior Assistant Mark Booton:

I am, if I’m being entirely honest, not a natural when it comes to carving. It is one of those Bushcraft skills which I need to work on. The fact that I find it challenging strengthens rather than diminishes my will to improve, and also heightens the enjoyment and satisfaction I feel when I carve something that I can be proud of.

I put down my knife and finish sanding my second Kuksa, a traditional wooden cup crafted by the Sami people of northern Scandinavia (my first attempt didn’t quite turn out as planned – my wife now very kindly refers to it as the ‘olive dish’!). I can remember the pride with which I took home my first carved spoon after attending the Fundamental Bushcraft course back in 2010. The fact that the spoon was not very good (misshapen and not symmetrical!) didn’t matter. I had toiled over it, sweated and bled (a little!), and eventually after several hours of sawing, carving and last-minute sanding produced something that, for all intents and purposes, resembled an eating implement… okay then, a spoon!

A traditional Swedish Kuksa cup

A Kuksa cup carved by Woodlore Senior Assistant Mark Booton

Since then I have had many more attempts at carving spoons, not all of them successful. I have been frustrated by the odd one splitting or not turning out quite as good as I had first envisaged. I have been inspired by watching and learning from my more experienced Woodlore colleagues who are always on hand to give guidance and constructive feedback (and, to be truthful, I have felt the occasional pang of jealousy from the apparent ease and skill they demonstrate in carving beautiful things). I realise that, like me, they too have embarked on a journey; one which no doubt has had the odd carving setback along the way, but, despite this, they have chosen to persist and improve in this skill. I too am going to endeavour to do this and am looking forward to expanding my knowledge and skill further by attending future Woodlore courses. Both the Camp Craft course and the Carving Master Class with Ray offer fantastic opportunities to learn more about working with wood.

This simple act of carving or cutting something tangible out of wood to me represents all which I love about Bushcraft. It requires patience, mindfulness, knowledge and skill. There are no shortcuts, no one else can do it for you, and if you persevere you will be rewarded. Carving may well be my biggest challenge in Bushcraft; navigation, tracking or fire lighting may be yours, but the more challenging the journey the more rewarding it can ultimately be.

– Mark Booton, Senior Assistant

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