I was at Blists Hill Victorian Town for the 4 days of the Jubilee Holiday.
I love it there , because as well as huge , and responsive crowds for my 3 shows a day, I get to dress up in my ( slightly off) period ~Costume:
Yes I was as tired as i look .. picture was at the end of day 4 ( which were preceded by 5 days of schools shows ..so I was pooped !)
But I digress.
The other joy of Blists Hill is the folk I get to meet who work at the Living Museum , in the various shops and houses and workplaces.
My Meandering around the site , tin mug of tea in hand , telling all the passers-by the time of the next Punch Show , took me into the woodcarvers workshop this time ( a place I had not discovered before ) .
In there was a smashing bloke called Malcolm who was part way through batch building a few small rocking horses . Even though I told him I don't carve my puppet heads in any kind of conventional way -ie; with chisels - he was very keen to show me the different scoops and cuts his razor sharp set could achieve ..and also how different woods react to the same chisel etc.
It was wonderful stuff and ( almost ) left me yearning for a smart row of differently shaped sharp chisels hanging up in my workshop ....a bit like Cobalt Blue has . The only chisel I own is very old and truly blunt : I keep it to open paint tins with.
Sanity prevailed and I resolved to stick with my bandsaw and profile sander.
Malcolm asked what I made my figures from ?..I said just Pine , or sometimes pine reinforced with a plywood profile down the middle .
He said "Oh no ..you want to try out this stuff !" , then he very kindly gave me two big chunks of wood to take home and try out...
One was a genuine off-cut of something he called 'Tulip wood" ? ( But only an 'off-cut' by his definition , in that it had a knot in the centre ...but by using the wood around the knot carefully there is enough wood for four or five heads !- so in my book it was far from being an off cut ).
And the other wood he gave me, he cut from a huge thick plank .. . it was a generous block : enough for two heads - and it turned out to be jelutong.
I was really touched , what a nice guesture.
I actually have a head sized block of jelutong already ...Mark Poulton was equally generous in giving it to me about 3 years back when I visited his workshop at his house.
But I have shied away from daring to use it , because I assumed it was very costly , and partly as I imagined I would probably have to scour the Country to find a supplier for it if I found that I developed a taste for using it.
I convinced myself any wood merchant keeping it in stock would be so far away that the additional courier / postal costs would make this expensive wood even dearer ....so I sort of decided not to develop a taste for it by leaving it sat unused on its shelf ( probably maturing well for carving no doubt).
Up till now I had only seen little blocks of Jelutong on Geoff Felix's bench or at Mark Poultons ...in both places they were already cut into head sized nuggets , and offered for me to look at and handle with a reverence and awe befitting an equal sized chunk of pure Aztec Gold.
However Malcolms piece of jelutong was about 8 foot long , six inches wide and 4 inches deep --- practically a floor joist ! He picked it up and whizzed it through his bandsaw to cut me a chunk with all the casual ease of a delicatessen worker in Tescos cutting off a bit of the cheapest House Cheddar ...
So I figured this Holy Grail of all Woods , must be available to buy somewhere.
2 minutes on the Internet produced Sykes Timber , which must be all of 17 miles from my front door .
Dunno why I didn't look before.
A helpful chap on the phone there let me know that they had plenty of Jelutong , and also Lime ...not quite as light he said but just as good for puppet heads.
I think I will have to invest in some of each ( the smallest sized bit they can cut from stock presumably - as yes its not cheap ...but nor is it as dear as I had feared )
But still I digress ...the real point of this post was the GLUE
Malcolm was making the rocker parts for the horses by glueing together arcs cut from matchwood, or possibly pine.
They were drying on a bench ..not clamped or cramped together as I had expected , and with what looked like yellowish expanding wall-insulating foam oozing out from between the slices.
No G-Clamps ..just the parts pressed together with this frothy foam holding them together.
Was it expanding foam ? It looked so much like that , that I was dumb enough to ask him if that was actually what it was.
He said no , but like that foam it was resin based.
It looked like regular PVA wood glue , but then the natural moisture in the timber caused a reaction in the glue that caused it to 'foam up' and cure.
And it cured fast ...30 minutes to full strength.
Useful I thought, if you should wake up in the morning with a yen to carve a head , but have not glued two or three bits of pine board together to make ahead sized lump ( mind you now Ive properly been awakened to Jelutong I might not need to do so much of that kind of thing ).
It comes from toolstation , is just under £10 for a bottle , and it also comes in a five minute super fast set version ( same price)
I just wondered if anyone else used the stuff, and could say if it was suitable for puppet heads ?
..I guess if it does for rocking horses , then punch figures should be no problem ?