Trug Making and Coppicing Wood

Mar 21 2018 0 Comments

Posted by Gaston Monge-Grassi  27th of April 2018
During my last visit to Oamaru I had the pleasure to meet Bill Blair from "Coppice Crafts". His workshop looks like it was taken from a story book. All I wanted before I left Oamaru, was to put Bill into my pocket and take him and the whole workshop to my place in Brightwater.
Bill have worked as a traditional wood craftsman since 1997. He uses traditional hand tools such as draw knives and side axes to produce useful items such as trug baskets, wooden hay rakes, wooden pitch forks and much more.
If you ever visit Oamaru, please make time to see Bill, his shop and his work!!! You will not regret. 
To find him, drive through Waterfront road in Oamaru, down to the Penguin Colony. Just look for the Little red shed. Give him a call before you come around to make sure he is in the shop.
How to make Trugs?

A Sussex trug is a wooden basket. It is made from a handle and rim of coppiced sweet chestnut wood which is hand-cleft then shaved using a drawknife. The body of the trug is made of five or seven thin boards of cricket bat willow, also hand-shaved with a drawknife. They may have originated in Sussex because of the abundance of chestnut coppice and willows found on the marshes. Nails or pins used are usually copper, to avoid rust.

Shapes and sizes became standardised, the most well-known shape being the "common or garden" trug ranging in volume from one pint to a bushel. However, there is a diverse range of traditional trugs from garden and oval trugs to the more specialised "large log" and "walking stick" trugs.

What exactly is a coppice?
A coppice is a plantation of underwood and young trees grown for periodical cutting.

The Whitestone woods (a coppice near Weston in North Otago) provides Blair with some of the timber he uses. Whitestone woods is a traditional British style plantation of Oak, Ash, Elm and Lime. These species can produce large quantities of wood in rotations as short as only seven years.

When most European and North American broad leaf trees are cut just above the ground line (far from being detrimental to the tree) the tree has renewed vigour, and from the trunk and root stock vigourous shoots are thrown up. These shoots can be harvested on a large scale and in a sustainable way at various stages of growth depending on their intended use. Coppice harvesting in this fashion has been carried out many hundreds of years.

The size of the timber depends upon the time of harvest and the variety of tree.
In this way a range of timber is produced from whippy and slender shoots through to the most sturdy of poles.
Have a great weekend.

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