Duration: One Day 9am until 4.30pm
at Martin Damen - Maker of Hand-carved Spoons & Bowls
About the Course
Learn from a professional spoon carver the basic knife skills necessary to safely engage in the traditional leisure activity of whittling. This traditional hobby requires only a single sharp knife and readily available wood.
The course is held in Martin’s workshop at Honeysuckle Cottage; a former nail maker’s cottage the oldest part dating back to about 1640.
Despite being run in a relaxed manner, the course still emphasizes the teaching of safe and efficient skills.
You will start by learning how to use a straight carving knife safely and effectively before making a range of small projects using the skills learned. During the course knife and wood selection will be discussed and students will be taught the essential skill of knife sharpening.
Summary of Skills Taught
• Knife carving techniques.
• Knife selection.
• Wood; its selection, storage and properties.
• Knife sharpening.
Please visit the website using the link above to check on course dates and availability
Martin Damen is a traditional green woodworker. He started traditional woodworking, or greenwood working, 14 years ago while at university as a mature student in Aberystwyth. Initially, he focused on making rustic furniture and field items such as cleft ash hurdles. Although Martin still turns items on a traditional foot-powered pole lathe, since about 2004 he has specialised in hand-carving spoons, bowls and platters.
There are two characteristics that apply to all the work that he produces: firstly, he follows traditional practice in using wood that that has been locally sourced, most from within 5 miles of the workshop; secondly, only traditional tools and skills are used. Typically a small number of tools are required and emphasis is placed on their effective use and an appreciation of the material being worked.
While Martin’s approach is not suitable for modern mass production, each item is unique. His aim is to produce something that is functional and a pleasure to look at, handle and use every day. In doing so, Martin endeavours to use the natural characteristics and features of the wood.
Keen to promote the appreciation and practice of traditional crafts, Martin gives regular demonstrations, including at Art in Action.
If booking with a CraftCourses voucher for part or all of the course fee, please fill in the contact form above. Your voucher code must be provided at the point of booking.
What's included in the price?
• Tuition covering:
o Knife carving techniques.
o Knife selection.
o Knife sharpening.
o Wood; its selection, storage and properties.
o Making a number of projects.
• All tools and wood provided.
• Wood to take home.
• Course notes.
• Homemade lunch.
• Tea, coffee and biscuits.
The whittling course was held in a little cottage in the pretty Village of Great Barton. And it had the envy of all men - a man shed/studio. Martin greeted the four of us with coffee and tea and a display of handmade spoons, his speciality, plus a collection of completed whittling projects to inspire us to bigger things.
The morning started with a display of the knives available to a Whittler. He also demonstrated the do’s and don’ts when handling knives. Each equipped with a very sharp knife and a sack full of one-inch diameter hazel sticks we then practiced several knife and material hold techniques to achieve the bulk removal of material, pairing, controlled chest cuts and thumb pairing. Recognising the safety aspects of each and the avoidance self-induced wounds.
Our morning project was to make a butter knife. This was performed in stages with Martin starting to create this item, we then followed stage by stage using the holds we had been shown. With four people in the class it was possible for Martin to give individual advice and encouragement as the project progressed.
A lunch of soup and Martin’s home-made bread was consumed swift and lively.
The afternoon session started with the talk on the type of wood that could be used for whittling and where it can be found. We then proceeded to project number two, a fork, with more confidence.
Martin has a very relaxed way in imparting information and very inspiring with his skills. The day was wound up with a demonstration of sharpening a Mora 120 knife.
Where did the day go? Very enjoyable, I thoroughly recommend this course. I have spent the last couple of days reworking each project piece so that they now resemble what they were supposed to be and loved every minute.
Ron Eden - - #24560
A great beginner course that teaches you the health and safety aspects of handling really sharp knives, this is so important plus sharpening your tools. Also wood types and where to sustainably source the materials, you then finish with a few projects that will impress your friends. Add a great homemade lunch, and an excellent day was had by all.
Richard Cummins - - #24535
Had a fantastic day. Have dabbled with whittling a bit in the past, but as a Guide leader, wanted to gain some additional skills to enable Guides to have a go more safely and to give them some further ideas. This course was perfect, teaching us about different knife options, a variety of skills and a good selection of projects to take home - a carefully selected choice of projects giving us the skills to apply to further projects. Martin was really helpful, and a small group of 4 enables us to get the most from his tuition. Course was perfectly pitched for my requirements. Lovely lunch and beautiful location and view across the Cherwell Valley made the day. Thank you Martin, can’t wait to get my knife out.
Angela Gumbley - - #24515
Spent a great day learning the basics of whittling. The course is well paced and very informative. We learnt about wood selection which was really helpful, as was the lesson on sharpening. The group was small - only 4 of us, which meant Martin could correct our technique as we went along and he was always on hand to help. An added bonus was a delicious homemade lunch! All in all, we were made to feel very welcome and Martin teaches in a relaxed, friendly atmosphere. We learnt a lot during the day and will hopefully be returning at some point for the spoon carving lessons.
Lib J - - #21229
Just attended Martin’s Whittling and knife skills course which was brilliant. Just 4 of us so we all had a good amount of Martin’s time and he steered the activities so that we all got something out of it even though we were naturally at different levels of existing experience. The chatting as we worked brought out a lot of useful information about wood and how to work with it. I particularly benefited from seeing knives he used (and have bought one of these from a website he recommended as it is better than the one’s I have battled with at home). The instruction on sharpening was good - it is something I have not been able to get write before.
Well worth the money
Will Organ - - #21205
Spent an excellent day with Martin learning the basics of whittling and I can not recommend him enough. His courses are well structured, full of useful information and just at the right pace. I would certainly consider attending another course!
Richard M - - #18606
Martin is a fantastic teacher and my friend and I had a great time on the course. The projects were interesting and Martin recommended a number of resources for finding future projects to make. Highly recommended course.
Guy Preston - - #17786
Having been given a gift voucher for this course, I found it both informative and excellent practice.
Martin's instruction was clear and concise, covering safety, knife selection & sharpening and basic knife technique with a good choice of practice projects using these skills. a very good introduction to the craft of whittling
Peter Threadgold - - #17766
Martin covered all of the skills and techniques needed to begin whittling and produce a couple of pieces to take home. The course covers health and safety, recommendations and advice on knife selection, knife sharpening and of course, you get to make things! Martin is very encouraging and helpful, offering lots of advice to the beginner and the day was fun, informative and relaxing. He also provides a lovely (home made) lunch and plenty of tea, coffee etc. A fantastic day with a really nice bloke!
John Doré - - #16565
I was given a voucher for a whittling course as a birthday present and what a find it was managing to get on Martins course.
The day was filled with helpful information, advice and hands on whittling, it was great to have something made by your own hands to take home.
I would thoroughly recommend this course and tutor to anyone interested in learning a wood craft.
Got the bug now and also moving on to spoon making soon.
Ian - - #16187
I thoroughly enjoyed the day with Martin. His skills, lifestyle and traditional values are a tonic to what usually fills my mind. When I got back I told my wife that was the best present she ever bought for me – and meant it. I waited a while for my own knife to be delivered by the supplier, but since it did I have enjoyed focusing on the world in my hand instead of the world out there. Highly therapeutic. Getting started is the tough thing with anything new, but I have to say this is a pleasure so far.
simon graveling - - #16184
I have long been interested in traditional crafts and enjoy trying new workshops in the hope of one day finding something I can be good at! This course was given as a birthday present from my family and I was very excited at the prospect of bringing home something I had made myself at the end of the day.
There were only four of us on the course, which meant Martin could give us all the attention we needed, both to keep us safe from sharp tools and to guide us in the craft. He is a very patient tutor and a very knowledgeable woodman. He also serves a delicious homemade lunch (eaten with his own carved spoons!)!
Martin was generous with both his hospitality and his tuition and I had such a creatively fun day!
I would definitely recommend this course and hope to return to do the spoon carving, Thank you Martin.
Karen Hayhoe - - #16163
Was given a voucher for the course as an anniversary present from my wife, and had the best day ever!
Martin's teaching style is excellent--beginning with safety, on to techniques, with discussions of wood choice, sharpening and style, all done with warmth and humour and under the watchful eye of a master craftsman. I would recommend this course to anyone who has the slightest inkling to take up whittling.
I enjoyed this day with 3 other friendly gents on the course, and the lunch was fabulous.
Well Done Martin! See you in a couple of months for the spoon carving weekend.
Tom McGrath - - #14224
Saturday 31st of March. A significant day in my life!!! I attended a whittling course with Martin Damen; if you want to whittle he's your man. Inspired instruction, your every action is observed, monitored, and corrected as needed to achieve your personal skill. No matter what your level of competence now, at the end of the day you will be inspired to pick up a knife and WHITTLE!!
The lunch is good too.
Roy Ingamells - - #14076
A fascinating and thoroughly enjoyable day. Martin's relaxed teaching was a joy and I can now confidently tackle more projects.
The Spoon Carving course has been added to my birthday list and I shall tackle the clearing of my shed with renewed enthusiasm so I can have my very own whittling corner.
Richard Philp - - #11862
Fantastic day. Lots packed in to the day but it is well structured with great tuition and a small group so plenty of individual attention. We finished the day with a great sense of accomplishment and with the basic skills to practice at home and continue improving. Hospitality equalled the teaching with fabulous homemade lunch. Highly recommended.
Hannah - - #11861
This is such a brilliant course, I can't recommend it enough.
Wood whittling is something I've always wanted to try and as a total beginner I was quite nervous. Martin is such a brilliant (and patient!) teacher and by the end of the day I couldn't believe what he'd helped us create. Being in a small group is so useful as you get lots of one-on-one time with Martin.
I left feeling so positive and ready to try some new projects. I'll definitely be booking again in the new year to progress my skills even further!
Thanks so much again Martin, it was just brilliant.
Gabrielle - - #10701
Great course - just 4 of us so very personal. Everything provided in a friendly and welcoming atmosphere. Plenty of breaks for tea / coffee, great lunch all homemade. Results from the day far exceed my expectations - would highly recommend
Matthew - - #10270
I had a great course last weekend 27/28 May.
Thank you Martin for your warm welcome, patient teaching, hospitality and generosity of time.
It was good to come back with such detailed notes, knife, a finished spoon and some wood. I am inspired to keep carving!
It was a perfect setting in Martin's workshop and a lovely group, so thanks too to my fellow three students.
Sarah - - #9235
I attended Martin's Spoon carving course on the weekend of the 18/19 March '17.
This course is highly recommended, whether you are a complete novice or have some experience. Martin is an excellent tutor, with a calm and patient style. The workshop is a very tranquil space with stunning views over the surrounding countryside.
The course covers, Health and Safety, tool selection care and use, sharpening,wood types to use and those to avoid,and finishing.
The teaching starts with basic knife cuts on Hazel sticks, moving on to axe work and the making of the first project, a butter spreader. The second day is devoted to making a spoon, which introduces the crook knife.
I came away happy to work on my own, in safety, with Knife and Axe and more importantly enthusiasm.
An excellent set of course notes is provided.
Finally, the lunches are excellent!
Thank you Martin.
Paul - - #8365
Landed a place on Martin's course 12th March - was exceptionally impressed with his approach to tutoring safe knife handling and the cuts used to remove material & achieve the desired form. The day is well structured with enough pauses to let the lessons bed in & your hands recover between the core skills & project pieces. Throughout the day you are observed & guided with quick warnings whenever you stray into doing anything remotely risky and helpful pointers to get you working in the safest/most effective way come thick & fast.
Lunch being part of the package was known to me before going, but, what a lunch!! (not the stale sandwiches & canned desserts you'd normally expect - Martin served us a very good, wholesome and home cooked lunch topped off with delicious cake)
I'd strongly recommend the whittling & knife-skills course to absolute beginners as well as those that are comfortable with knife-work & looking to hone their technique... Personally, I'm already looking at dates to see when I can return to attend the longer course that covers spoon-carving!
Mac - - #8253
This is a great introduction to knife work. Martin covers all the safety aspects of the key cuts and you have a chance to practice them. We then moved on to little projects to consolidate our knowledge. Throughout the day Martin carefully monitors your work and will stop you if you are unsafe, getting you back on track. He also makes a mean boiled fruit cake. I would thoroughly recommend this course to anyone interested in woodwork.
Elizabeth Bond - - #8199
Many thanks to Martin for a wonderful day teaching us the art of whittling, his patience and demonstrating the techniques with a knife were the key to our first effort results of 3 items. All issues of safety were well covered. Lovely lunch. I have found a new hobby. Strongly recommend the course.
Paul - - #8155
Had a fantastic day learning and producing some fun articles on Martin's course. My father and my two sons all thoroughly enjoyed it. It was very hard to fault any part of Martin's course, approach or friendliness. If you have an interest in this and want to learn the basics including correct techniques - so important to safely handling the very sharp knives involved - then I really can't recommend this course enough. We made a butter knife, fork and a fully working whistle over the day. The course included a nice lunch including getting in some gluten free options which was appreciated. Thanks Martin - a great day.
Ian - - #8150
Me and my wife went for a course at Martins beautiful house. Specially the kitchen is a special place which breathes history. A warm welcome by a friendly man. Lots of stories by a man who knows his skills. Not only his whittling, but also his cooking is great. Got me interested in something I never thought about. We really enjoyed our stay at Martins course, and we warmly recommend this course to anyone who likes working with his hands and is interested in crafts.
Ed and Jolanda.
Ed Kroon - - #7784
I spent the whole day with my 12-year-old grandson at Martin's workshop and enjoyed it very much. My grandson said all the way home that he had a wonderful time (and I think he would really like to come again). Martin was very clear in his explanations and gently showed Justin how to work and what not to do (eg leave his knife without a cover) which was really helpful. The soup at lunch was delicious too.
Sarah Eley - - #7756
Great course, really enjoyable day!
Juliet Hartis - - #6128
Really enjoyed the course I found it interesting and enjoyable from start to finish. Martins relaxed and welcoming attitude sets you at ease from the moment you arrive. After going over the basics you are soon engrossed in whittling your own little project and the time flies by. Martin explains everything in detail and is happy to go over anything you can't quite get the hang off, which in my case was much appreciated. With only four people on the course it all adds up to a relaxed and friendly atmosphere.
Andy Daniels - - #6126
I booked this day course well in advance as it is understandably very popular. Martins friendly yet professional approach was perfect. The small class size meant you had his full attention. All the relevant skills and safety aspects are explained and then each stage put into practice I felt confident to continue in this very pleasant hobby or pastime on my own. The location is charming lunch very tasty in a lovely relaxed atmosphere Highly recommend. Thanks Martin
Tracey - - #6125
What a lovely day. The course is very hands on and practical from the start and everything it promised to be. If I have learnt a fraction of Martin's skill and knowledge it was well worth it. Being a small group is ideal, very relaxed and friendly. The cup of tea on arrival was just what was needed and the homemade lunch is another of Martin's talents. I now have knife and book and am setting up my sharpening kit so will shortly be ready to safely go. An excellant course which I thoroughly recommend . 27.09.15
Lesley - - #3441
Martin is a welcoming and thoughtful host for a fab day of relaxing whittling! Everything is taken care of and Martin shares his experience and knowledge with enthusiasm and humour, learned so much and really looking forward to trying out the techniques and projects ourselves.
Many thanks Martin from Pat and Di, 23.08.15
Patc - - #3228
Definitely worth going on this course. Very enjoyable and I learnt a lot of useful info about different knives, techniques and sharpening.
Martin's an excellent teacher, clearly knows his stuff and happy to answer any questions you've got.
The homemade lunch was great and Martin was kind enough to check if there was anything I didn't eat beforehand.
All in all, a great day and highly recommended.
Tip: if you do wear a jumper, make sure it's not one that absorbs wood chips!
Ross Hayward - - #3201
Recently attended this course on the 24th may. A great day and a lot of fun. It was my first experience in whittling and I will be sure to be continuing it as a cherished hobby. Martin was great at explaining everything and because of the small group I felt comfortable enough to ask him to repeat information I didn't fully understand. I am a vegan so martin was great to accommodate me by providing a delicious home made soup and bread. I would Highly recommend this course to anyone looking to gain all the knowledge you need to go off and confidently start whittling yourself.
Peter Taylor - - #2702
This was a really excellent course and I can happily recommend it to anyone with an interest in working with wood. It covered everything I needed: what tools could be used; where to get them how to use them; how to maintain them and how to work safely. In this practical course we learned and practiced a variety of skills which meant that we are now able to work safely on our own.
We were also intrigued and inspired to learn from a skilled and creative craftsman about ideas, values and attitudes that are important. This too enables us to carry on pursuing our own ideas and making unique things which have a personal significance.
The course is really well thought through and at all levels seeks to ensure that we can learn what we need to carry on in the future. For instance, we were able to see and use a variety of tools and Martin made sure that he always presented examples of tools which were simple and inexpensive as well as those that more specialised and expensive. By the following day I had ordered and made a simple kit which will serve me for the foreseeable future, or at least until Christmas present time. It is also helpful to know that Martin’s website will continue to provide information and advice which is informed and reliable.
The course fully met my expectations and the stated objectives. But it was also a really enjoyable experience with a friendly, cheerful, hospitable and professional master craftsman. It has already enabled me to make a variety of greenwood pieces and I anticipate spending many days in the future working quietly and calmly with a sharp knife and interesting pieces of wood.
Dan China - - #2411
Course dates are flexible; please get in touch for the next available date.
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