Founded in 1995 by myself, traditional woodland craft and green woodworking craftsman Maurice Pyle.
The whole 'WOODSMITH' thing started more than 25 years ago when I first came across green woodworking. Having worked within youth training, personal development and outdoor education for a number of years it was whilst working within environmental education for Gateshead’s Education Department that I first discovered the joys of working with green, freshly harvested wood using a few simple hand tools to create simple usable items of great beauty from natural materials. It all made perfect joyful sense!
Early on, whilst working self-employed in the woods of north east England, I offered a small selection of green woodworking courses supplying Morris billhooks to students desperatly needing a good billhook for coppicing.
Every opportunity was taken to learn the wide ranging skills needed to earn a living from working in the woods and making products from harvested material. A lot was learnt by trial and error, plenty of practice of course and working with iconic craftsmen such as Coppice Merchant Bill Hogarth. The early woodcraft courses organised for the local community in Gateshead were very well received and seemed like an excellent vehicle to get people of all backgrounds involved with woodlands and woodcraft. The mission was on!
I get a real buzz from passing on the skills and joy of working greenwood to others and also in the early days recruited other well known woodland craftsmen such as Bill Hogarth, swill basket maker Owen Jones, and in 2002 Swedish craftsman Wille Sundqvist ran both a spoons and bowl making course at my first workshop in Co Durham.
WOODSMITH has since grown into a nationally respected woodcraft school, now based in a large and airey workshop at Northumberland College's Kirkley Hall Farm. offering in-depth courses on a wide range of green woodworking subjects.
Since 2006, in addition to woodcraft courses, WOODSMITH has supplied some of the finest specialist green woodworking tools, often hand-made, books and devices from around the world, carefully selected on the basis of extensive practical experience. Many of these tools available in the Woodsmith's Store are used on WOODSMITH courses.
Conventional woodland work and traditional woodcraft have been the backbone and mainstays of the business, including woodland contracting for the Woodland Trust and local authorities, commercial charcoal and firewood production, and the teaching of woodcraft for the Great North Forest and Houghall College in Durham. Also, all manner of one-off projects from riven oak fencing for the National Trusts Lindisfarne Castle and English Heritage's Belsay Estate to large-scale rustic features in school grounds.
In 2007 Maurice and Claire purchased an idylic wooden house and woodland in an astonishingly beautiful valley in the mountains of eastern Norway, a base from which old nordic culture, mainly from a woodcraft perspective but also in terms of farming, food, forestry and wildlife could be experienced.
Scandinavian culture and values are something we immediately connected with and 1 - 2 week long courses have been run successfully at 'Sorli', Oversjodalen every August since 2008.
Maurice is one of the original trustees who established the Bill Hogarth Memorial Apprenticeship Trust (BHMAT) in 2000, is the regional contact for the Association of Pole Lathe Turners (APT), a member of The Carpenters' Fellowship and the Trade and Tools History Society (TATHS).
Founder and Managing Director - WOODSMITH