A Review by Jon Cree, Director of the Forest School Association

FSA endorsed trainer and lifetime woodworker/whittler has produced a book that should be on every Forest School practitioners and Forest Schooler’s shelf/stump! – especially those just starting on their Forest School journey.   It is easy to follow for folks of ages – from 7 to 77 (even if the reading age is not applicable the pictures say it all).  There have been many books published which include tool work with children and young people in the woods, but this one is one of the most comprehensive, useful and applicable I have read to date.  It is very well presented in a clear and yet earthy way with plenty of photos showing the stages of ‘making’, some valuable techniques with different hand tools and species of wood good for whittling.  The downside is that it does have a coffee table ‘feel’ to it rather than ‘manual’, it does cover these two genres!  It is therefore slightly large to take into the woods.  However, it is very easy on the eye and has Richards’ lovely clear way of explaining how to work with tools and stages for a number of whittling projects.

The tools section is extremely useful from a point of view of basic health and safety considerations and techniques for easy ways to work with a tools.  Tools include various saws, secateurs, drills and a variety of knives.  What I like most is the way Richard helps people feel comfortable and ‘feel’ the wood and tool through the pages and that there is no one way to whittle – it is all down to thoughtful and common-sense practice.  He has many tips on making whittling comfortable and effective.

One of the key aspects is looking at the material and environment of the whittling space.  There is a comprehensive section on tree types and techniques which allow a safe and effective experience.  He also has a section on how to sharpen knives.  The projects section takes the reader through some creative whittling and will give many ideas on how to release the creative potential of tool and wood…from making a musical instrument through to miniature furniture and adornments.  It will, in the end, encourage people to ‘play’ in a safe way with wood to release each of our own creative channels and have a mindful, meditative yet extremely fulfilling way of connecting with our hands, trees, and place.

This will make a great present for any forest schooler or practitioner….thanks Rich for a much needed accessible text on working with tools in woodland and forest school education and play. The book can be obtained from www.thegmcgroup.com or www.richardirvine.co.uk

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