Today I finally got to use my birthday gift from 2019; a Kuksa carving experience. It was my first real attempt at any green woodworking, although I did make a mallet on a bushcraft and survival course early 2019 but I think every green woodworker would want to punch me if I suggested my mallet was "wood work".
It was with a company called Greenwood Days and I went on their Kuksa Carving course. It was brilliant. You get completely lost in your work, it's almost like meditation as it clears your mind while you focus on one thing.
Greenwood Days is run by Pete who gave us an introduction to the location. Great fella who had complete respect from our instructor who commented on Pete's work ethic and support for getting these courses and instructors together.
Our instructor for the day was Paul Adamson, he led a very well structured course, full of knowledge, hints, tips and experience. When chatting to Paul you can understand why he does what he does. At one point he was whistling bird songs and the imitation was superb, he also whistled the Antiques Roadshow theme tune quite a bit so I'm assuming he's into his antiques too :). His work is beautiful and after finishing the day course you understand the craftsmanship that goes into each piece. He seemed like the type of bloke you just want around your camp fire, drinking some grog, listening and learning about how and why he does what he does, especially if you're like me and have a love for crafts but are very much a noob and at the very early stages of your own journey.
What is a Kuksa?
For those of you, like me up until recently, who don't know what a Kuksa is, it's basically a carved wooden cup. The name "Kuksa" is actually the Finnish name for them. Kuksa's have been used for many years throughout Northern Europe and North America and various countries have different names for them, for instance Sweden will call them "Kåsa", in the UK and USA they can be called "noggins".
My Kuksa Carving
OK, so I know you're eager to see mine now, especially when you see those awesome Kuksa's above that Paul actually made. On the day, Paul will give you short demos before you get going on each main section of the carving process. To start off with, you're given a block of wood, in my case it was a lovely piece of Alder, but Kuksa's can be made from different types and tend to be carved from tree burls (knotted wooden growths on trees), I believe Birch trees offer a good wood for Kuksa's too. On the piece of wood is an outline of the Kuksa shape. On my first image below, it shows what I've already chipped away at some of the outside wood using a small axe and a push knife.
Then after another demo we start to cut away around the handle.
Then we worked on gouging out the bowl of the cup. Once you get to the stage of gouging out the wood using the swan necked gouge and you get used to the tool, it's such a satisfying move and transition through the action of carving out the wood. I could've spent all day just carving out the bowl.
We then removed the rest of the excess wood around the handle and at the back end of the bottom of the cup. Paul then showed us some of the knife grips for carving and left us alone to try to hone and shape our cup.
By the end of the day this was the Kuksa I carved myself.
Enjoyable is an understatement. I'm really excited to have my first coffee in my Kuksa but I still need to refine it a little until I'm completely happy and then I need to oil it and leave it to dry naturally. If you follow me on Instagram then I'm sure I'll be posting a picture and shouting from the roof tops about it.
Kuksa Carving Gift Experiences
If you or someone you know would like to try your hand at Kuksa carving, seriously check out Greenwood Days, they are based in Derby and well worth the visit. If you can't travel that far then I suggest you order Paul Adamson's book "A Guide To Hand Carved Wooden Cups".