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Wednesday 12 September 2018

The Binaural Diaries visit the woodyard - field recording the sounds of woodworking

The Binaural Diaries is a project run by Ollie Hall. He records sounds and publishes them online. It started as a way of collecting interesting samples for music but has developed into more of a sound diary: 'binaural' refers to two microphones recording sounds which are transmitted separately to the two ears of the listener.

field recording sounds

I chose a few sounds that woodworkers might know but those who don't work with wood may not be aware of. The recordings are of: a sharp woodcarving gouge cutting through seasoned lime wood, detail carving in oak, a side axe cutting larch wood, a drawknife in use on larch and wood being cleaved using a froe and mallet. There was also the chance to talk very briefly about what I was doing in each recording.

It's interesting to think about what you do from a completely different viewpoint. I realised that many of the sounds made in woodworking were things that had previously been taken for granted but which added to the whole process. There is a real satisfaction gained from hearing a tool cut cleanly and some sounds indicate when a change needs to be made (for example, cutting from a different direction as the grain pattern changes). 

Spoon carving at Boiling Wells in Bristol, with the Boiling Wellness group

In July, I got the welcome chance to return to Boiling Wells in St Werburghs to teach spoon carving. 

After four and a half years working there, funding cuts meant that I was made redundant in 2014. I had been back a couple of times to teach since then and it is always good to see the place develop and grow.

This time, I was spoon carving with the 'Boiling wellness' group. It was great to be back in the nature reserve, carving wood with enthusiastic volunteers. We had a lot of fun and everyone got the chance to try a range of woodworking tools, some of which they might not have come across otherwise.

Doing spoon carving sessions with groups is always interesting as people come up with such a range of designs and styles when given the chance to do so. Once they had got the hang of using the tools safely, there was plenty of room for creativity to come out; working with the grain patterns in the wood for example. I hope that people have had the chance to finish their spoons with the techniques we discussed and that they all enjoyed the day as much as I did!