Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Green woodworking with the Leura Bodger

We were fortunate to meet Roy Davi, the Leura Bodger, and spend some time watching him ply his craft when we visited Hazelcombe Farm last year.

Bodging is a traditional woodturning craft in which unseasoned (green) wood is used to make chair legs and other cylindrical parts of chairs. According to Wikipedia the term 'bodger' referred to highly skilled itinerant wood-turners who worked in the beech woods of the Chiltern Hills near the furniture making town of High Wycombe. The chair legs were completed on site, out in the woods and then sold to furniture factories to be made into chairs.

A bodger's equipment was easy to set up in situ and consisted primarily of:

A saw and an axe to cut the wood into rough pieces for use with the spokeshave and shavehorse

Wood cut on chopping block with axe

A spokeshave-like drawknife to  roughly round the edges of the wood while it is held in the drawhorse. The wood is cut along the grain while held in place on the drawhorse using pressure from the feet.

Once the wood has been roughly rounded, it's ready for turning on the polelathe. A variety of chisels are used to shape the wood as the lathe is turning using a foot pedal. 

Wood set in place and ready for turning

sauerkraut masher taking shape
Almost completed sauerkraut masher

honey drizzler being turned

Watching Roy efficiently turn out sauerkraut mashers, honey drizzlers and spoons on the polelathe you'd think it was easy-peasy.  I'm here to tell you it's not!  To get the hang of it and be able to make something even approaching professional looking would take a lot of practice.

Here are some more of Roy's wares:


Roy kindly let me have a go at turning some wood. I used the drawknife and shavehorse to roughly shape a bit of wood, and then tried my hand at turning it on the polelathe. 

It was a lot of fun. Holding the chisel at the right angle to the wood as it was turning on the polelathe was a challenge.  I'd get it working for a bit ...and then make a gouge in the wood. Needless to say it took me a long time to get the wood even to approach smoothness as I was turning it.  Roy was a very encouraging and patient teacher.  I did start to get the hang of it - sort of.  At any rate, I kept the piece of wood I worked on, even though I didn't have the time to get it completely smooth.

The experience was both engrossing and relaxing, no whine of machine noise - just me pumping the pedal with my foot, being outside in the fresh air and concentrating on working on the wood. I'm not a technophobe but I'm not all that keen on using noisy power tools so this was a great way to get into a slower, quieter way of woodworking.

If you are ever near Leura in the Blue Mountains of NSW, Roy runs day and weekend workshops where you can learn the traditional craft and make something for yourself in the process. Roy's on Facebook at And for lots of discussion around all things bodging see

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