Exeter Woodcarvers

Monday 9 July 2018

The club owes its existence to carving evening classes run by Les Jewel, a brilliant carver and teacher. He gave up the classes when, in his 80s, he tired of the growing paperwork. A few of the class members carried on meeting informally and in February 2004 Exeter Woodcarvers was formed. At the time, the nearest clubs were in Bristol and Penzance! Fortunately the situation is much better now.

Running the club

We meet every Tuesday evening from 7-9pm in a local hall, the Deepway Centre in Exminster, to carve, enjoy talks, demonstrations, and the odd cup of tea. Members comprise of around 30 carvers with a wide range of ages and experience. Everyone comments on what a friendly lot we are and how we share ideas and advice. Socially, we have occasional pub meals, a summer barbecue and a Christmas party to round off the year, where we also make a club donation to two charities.

Our Secretary, John Patterson, keeps everyone well informed with newsletters and emails. He also maintains a club photo library of members and their work, which is useful for shows, too. We have a fledgling website which we hope to improve radically very soon. The Lord Mayor of Exeter kindly gave us permission to incorporate the City coat-of-arms in our club badge and this is proudly embroidered on our shirts and other apparel.

We have managed to keep club subscriptions steady at £20 per year plus £2 every Tuesday session, thanks to our hardworking treasurer, Ray Wilson. She has managed to fund a gradual development of resources like gouges, Workmates, sharpening equipment, display equipment, gazebos and a small stock of lime (Tilia vulgaris). Our main expenses though are the hire of the hall and insurance to cover us against Civil and Public Liability. We think this is essential and the club would not run without it.

New members

We welcome new members and having built up a reasonable stock of club equipment, novices are carving within 30 minutes of arrival and are ably supported by Stan Herbert and other experienced members. We ask them to do a relief carving of leaves to cover

the basic methods and safety.

Then we have a range of suggestions for second projects. Fortunately, Stan has a large stock of carving books which he generously makes available to the club. It's a real help to all of us.


We have had talks and demonstrations from Ian Edwards, Michael Painter, Henry Phillips, Anthony Griffiths and Mandy Staple whose recent pyrography session was terrific, as well as from other carvers in the region and club members with particular expertise. Topics have included carving heads, lettering, relief carving, making clay maquettes, walking sticks, sharpening and finishing. Occasionally, we have had weekend workshops, too. Each September we have a brief safety talk to keep the 'old lags' on their toes and wise-up the new members. So far it seems to work well. I've also produced handouts on safety and finishing; more are to follow on sharpening and workbench adaptations.

Shows and events

This year, we have decided to have carving themes to encourage everyone to try something new, as well as adding to our displays. The first theme was 'fruit and veg' – successfully completed for the Yandles Spring Show. Our new theme is 'birds and bees' for display later in the year. It's up to each person to interpret it, so I'm looking forward to seeing what turns up! Our members have many other creative interests, so after our AGM, everyone is invited to bring in examples of their work. This year we had beautiful calligraphy, paintings and drawings, photographs, a restored motor bike, woodturning, embroidery, knitting, pyrography, poetry, story-telling and more.

An important part of the club is attending shows through the spring and summer to spread the word about carving and to generate new members. We

meet great people and always pick up new tips ourselves.

Over the years, we have improved our displays and handouts, but in the end it always depends on members contributing their carvings and they don't let us down! Our main shows are Yandles, the Devon County Show, the Axe Vale Festival, Woodbury Woodturners Annual Show and Plymtree Village Show. We have won awards on a number of occasions. We have also displayed at Honiton Show, the Heavy Horse Show and Escot Country Fair.

We often have invitations from other shows and try to help when we can.