Wood which is worked when freshly cut or ‘green’ is easier to split, turn and carve than wood that is dry or seasoned.
Green woodworking has been practised for thousands of years in the making of baskets, hurdles, simple furniture, buildings, tools and other products. Although many of these uses have been partially replaced by other materials, there is an active craft industry and many hobby woodworkers use green wood, both for traditional and new products and uses. Their skills and the ability to find markets for their produce are vital for the maintenance of coppices, which produce their raw material.
As well as the traditional hurdle makers and other craftsmen, in recent years a new generation of coppice and green wood workers has emerged, who are actively extending the craft. The interest in garden design has increased the demand for all sorts of garden products, sculptures and other items. Together with the increase in demand for home-grown barbecue fuel (Chapter 10 – Firewood and charcoal), and the development of ways of using wood ‘in the round’ for building , this combines to make the future somewhat brighter for traditionally managed woodlands.
Some green woodworking, such as the making of hurdles, is usually done in the woodland itself, with the raw material at hand. Most other products can also be made in the wood, with the aid of simple tools and gripping devices which act like an extra pair of hands. The full time worker will erect a simple shelter in which to work. Turnery, carving and other crafts which require smaller amounts of raw material can easily be done at home or in a workshop.
One of the great attractions to green woodworking is that, with a few simple cutting tools, you can make wooden tools, blocks, grips, brakes, lathes and other devices from the raw material of the coppice. With these tools and devices, you can then make a wide range of products. A skilled green woodworker can walk into the wood carrying a few simple hand tools, and emerge carrying a hurdle, a chair or some other beautiful and useful object!
In addition to the tools described in Chapter 4 – Safety, equipment and organisation, more specialist tools including drawknives, spokeshaves, twybils and tools for turning are used. For details, see Tabor (2000) or Abbott (1989).