Friday, 11 May 2018

Kuksa carving course.



I've just set up a Picatic event where you can buy a ticket for a two day Kuksa carving course with me, Jon Mac, here in the Shire, rural Devon.

You'll find details HERE!


Two day Kuksa carving course with Jon Mac, a leading exponent of spoon and Kuksa carving. Camping and carving in beautiful rural Devon.

A two day course with Jon Mac at a beautiful rural location in Torbryan, Devon. Jon will teach you how to carve a Kuksa (wooden drinking cup) from green Birch, using traditional camp or bushcraft tools, namely Axe, straight knife and hook knife. The first day will involve Axe work, blanking out the Kuksa, and hooking out the bowl, the second day will revolve around hooking out the bowl and balancing out the overall shape. Jon will supply all tools needed, bring your own if you wish. You can camp at the site or you can find your own local accommodation. It is permissible to arrive on the Friday night to set camp for the course start on Saturday morning. Toilet available at the house.
Course requirement.
Prior knowledge of Axe use is preferred.
If you have no previous experience, watch out for my future spooncarving courses.

Kit list.
Warm and waterproof clothing.
Own camping equipment if choosing to camp. 
Tent/ground sheet/kip mat/sleeping bag.
Cooking equipment/food and toiletries for the weekend.
I'll see you when you get here.
Jon Mac.

Thursday, 15 February 2018

Sharpening a kuksa carving hook knife.

A very quick post showing a technique for keeping your trusty hook knife in good sharp working order.
You need two things, both shown in the video below.
The first is a flat strop, good quality leather glued to a flat board.
A dowel strop, leather glued or tied around a suitable diameter dowel.
Add to this some polishing compound or chrome cleaner applied to the leather.
In the case of chrome cleaner please let it dry before use.
That's about all.
Earlier in this blog you'll find a tutorial about how to sharpen a hook with stones, but you don't really need this.
Practice the technique shown in the video and your hook knife should cut like a laser...

Sunday, 28 January 2018

Long distance charity bike ride ( Canada-Mexico )


My great friend Sarah is undertaking a journey of a lifetime to raise money for 
Rape Crisis Tyneside and Northumberland.
She's planning a cycle tour from Canada down to Mexico.
I promised Sarah that I would help by spreading the word in the hope that some of you might be able to pop a few pounds/dollars in her coffers.
As you know, I was a keen cycle racer in my youth and can only admire Sarahs tenacity.

Sarah is a keen spoon carver, I sat with her some years ago to get her on the right track and we've been friends ever since.



I'm a bike mechanic who loves carving spoons, climbing, circus skills, and of course, cycling. I also volunteer at Rape Crisis Tyneside and Northumberland (RCTN), a charity that blows my mind with the amazing work they do and how many people they support.


I'm going to cycle from Canada to Mexico to raise £5000 for RCTN. That's over 3000 km in a month! I've never cycled that far before, so it's going to be a challenge. I'll be sharing my journey as I go, from bike build, training and kit selection, to what's happening as I ride. 

I need your support in two ways: 

1) Donations, anything you can give is amazing and makes a massive difference 
2) Social media shares. Please chat about what I'm doing, like and share my FB page or Instagram and twitter, the more people know what I'm doing, the more likely we will meet the target

All money raised will go direct to RCTN: don't worry, you're not paying for my trip!


Thursday, 25 January 2018

My first Kuksa...

I haven't been able to write for a while, I seem to have a bit of a block trying to transfer thought into the written word. I suspect the dull winter has some influence over this.
I've had a busy year showing, demonstrating and teaching.
It's been fabulous and I'd like to thank Frances and Barrie at the Scottish Crannog and Roger at Wildernessgathering especially, for their support and faith in this old folk artist.

I've been on the tools over winter and have run a few experiments regarding stabilisation of Kuksa.
It's all working out well which has allowed me to produce more Kuksa without their associated issues.
I'm very pleased and will pass on my experience at courses during the year.

I am still limiting myself to three basic tools for my work, plus a wee 3mm gouge for making holes, so my output is slow, but steady.
Each kuksa I make can be replicated in the forest with the tools one uses for camp.

As you know, my work is available to purchase, simply contact me through my email and I'll send clear photographs of available work.
I have Kuksa ready to ship.
I have no spoons ready at the moment, everything on my spoons for sale page has a sold designation at the moment.


It's a beautiful sunny morning here in the shire and I've decided to share something with you.
I'd like to show you a peep at my first piece of carving alongside my latest piece. 
I've been on this journey for approximately 10 years now and have learned during my process, and I'm still learning.
From early days I decided to limit my tooling, this was a decision based on being able to travel and produce art.
So my first piece was carved using Axe and knife only, I used my knife to slice and chisel.
This first piece taught me a lot as my wood choice was wrong. 
I chose a piece of very old hard oak.
A hook knife would have been useful, still, when you go down the 'self taught' route you can't expect to arrive at accomplished overnight.
So here it is, a first, a photograph depicting 10 years of journey without taking a lesson.


The left hand kuksa was finished yesterday, it's birch with carved facial details and some gold leaf to add a twinkle to your Cognac.
The right hand kuksa is Oak with straight sides.
I'm glad I made it as it catapulted me toward the work I produce today.


I'm going to leave this blog post as it is and get back to finishing off my latest work.
I'd like to thank all of you for your comments and patience over the years.
I will be at the Crannog Centre in the summer both demonstrating and teaching, I'll pop course dates and prices up when I know more. I'll also be at the Wilderness Gathering with my wonderfull wife Sarah, who will bring along her wool dyeing hokus-pokus for those who wish to know how.


Happy New Year.

Monday, 31 July 2017

Scottish Crannog Centre

The Celts are Coming! 

Plus one.
I'll be up at the wonderfull Scottish Crannog Centre on the weekend of the 5th - 6th August demonstrating spoon and Kuksa carving using three Nordic style tools.

Saturday 5th and Sunday 6th August 2017

The Summer event not to be missed is The Celts are Coming! The Centre's first living history extravaganza on 5th and 6th August will be held at the Forestry Commission picnic site at Dalerb, Kenmore and at the Scottish Crannog Centre.

Brimming with fascinating and unique activities for all ages and featuring artisans showcasing prehistoric crafts!

A unique, interactive prehistoric extravaganza!

Discover the Iron Age at our spectacular Celts are Coming! Living History Fair and Iron Age Artisan Village.

With something for all the family, join us to find out how our ancestors made the most of their surroundings in this unique and interactive event.

Taking place on Saturday 5th and Sunday 6th August at the Forestry Commission's lochside picnic site at Dalerb, Kenmore and at The Scottish Crannog Centre, South Loch Tay Road, Kenmore.
The event commences at 10.30 a.m. and runs to 4.30 p.m. both days.

Purchase Tickets in Advance Here
Take the Iron Age Trail between The Scottish Crannog Centre and Dalerb!

With every combi-ticket which provides entry to both venues, collect your free Explorer PastPort.

Fill your 'PastPort' with a sticker from each activity station (you will need a minimum of 4 from each venue). When you collect all 8 stickers, you will be awarded your Celts are Coming! Explorer Certificate.

This award is the first level in Scotland's Heritage Heroes Programme for families and young people.
What's on at Dalerb!

Expert craftsmen and women will be assembling from far and wide to demonstrate dynamic Iron and Bronze Age crafts and skills at the Dalerb site.

Wow-Factor activities include: Bronze-Sword-Making; Smelting Iron in a Clay Furnace; Hide-Scraping and Tanning; Leather-working; Building and Firing Clay-Pots; Textile Crafts rendering rich colours from native plants; Prehistoric Cooking; Celtic Garden Display; Basketry and more!

The Iron Smelting Furnace in action!

* We're waiting for news of more artisan workers who might join us so please check back regularly for updates!
For The Children!
Dress like a Celt and be transported into the Iron Age!

Wee-Enactors Tent!

Full of Iron Age activities and fun for little Loch-Dwellers!

Would you be able to catch your next meal?

Try your hand at archery and spear-throwing!

Fishing or Trading?

Paddle into the Iron Age in our unique dug-out canoes!

Are you the Champion?

We're looking for an Iron Age hero in our IRON AGE GAMES!

See how you fare running in the Loch; test your strength in the Tug-O-WaterWar and reveal your talent for Trout-Tossing!

List of Demonstrators at Dalerb!

Bronze Craft: Master prehistoric sword-maker

Potter and experimental archaeologist

Iron-Worker and bladesmith; Prehistoric furnace and forging

Hide-Tanning specialist

Prehistoric and historic cooking demonstrations

Prehistoric and historic blacksmithing

Celtic and Nordic Leatherwork: demonstrations and sales

Textiles, Dyeing, Weaving and Re-enactment

Pro Natura Breadalbane
Celtic Garden; Horticulturalist; Plants/Herbs for sale

Food and Refreshments!


You will work up an appetite wandering our Artisan Village around the Lochside and a Wild Boar Roll might just do the trick! The delicious, mouth-watering aroma will lead you instinctively to the Hog Roast where we've made it easy for you to purchase your meal rather than having to hunt for it!

Teas, coffees, soft drinks together with sandwiches and snacks will be for sale too if you need an accompaniement or alternative to the Wild Boar Rolls!

Additional Information for Dalerb!

INFORMATION STATION: Find out more about Archaeology, Living History, Ancient Crafts and Opportunities to Volunteer at The Scottish Crannog Centre.

The VisitScotland Coo-Visors together with their Highland Coo-Van will be on site to provide information about the most amazing destination in the world - Scotland!




DOGS: Well-behaved dogs are allowed at the Dalerb site provided they are on leads at all times

DISABLED ACCESS: Dalerb is wheelchair accessible but over grass and soft ground - please check weather conditions

CREDIT CARDS: Credit cards cannot be accepted at the Dalerb site - sorry.

WEATHER: We are in Scotland so let's face it, we can have all weather-fronts in just one day! Please ensure you have waterproofs and sturdy footwear with you - layers are always recommended.

FORWARD PLAN - BRING EXTRA CLOTHING: If you are coming along to take part in some of the activities you will get wet! It's essential therefore to bring some additional clothing and footwear to change into.

Buy your Tickets On-Line!

Purchase your tickets on-line in advance to avoid queuing! Please note that we are unable to process credit/debit card payments at Dalerb.

Why not make a day of it and save by buying combination tickets for both Dalerb and The Scottish Crannog Centre representing a great discount!
Purchase Tickets in Advance Here

What's on at The Scottish Crannog Centre!

Ever seen 2,500 year-old cut marks in wood?

Visit our exhibition to see some of the original 2,500 year-old artefacts recovered from Oakbank Crannog in Loch Tay.

Take a moment in the atmospheric Crannog and imagine life in the Iron Age

Sit beside a cozy log-fire and drift back 2,500 years in time.

Watch our expert guides, then have a go yourself!

Demonstrations of ancient crafts and technologies followed by hands-on interaction: Wood-turning; Stone-Drilling and Pecking; Drop-Spinning; Grain-Grinding and the Magical Fire-making by friction!

Dress like a Celt and really get into the spirit of life on the Loch!

We have Iron Age style cloaks, tunics and hats to help you step back 2,500 years.

Our ancestors also knew that there was nothing quite like the smell of freshly baked bread!

Clay oven bread-baking demonstrations and tasters.

Hands-on Tin-Casting and Jewellery-making!

Watch our guide melt tin over an open-fire and pour it into a mould you have made.

Wood-working demonstrations using replica Iron Age tools!

The Loch-dwellers had to make their own tools to build their homes - watch how it's done!

Spin a yarn or weave a tangled web! Try our giant Knitting Nancy; Rope-Plait toss and more in our textiles shelter!

Life on the Crannog meant you had to make everything yourself - including rope, mesh and clothing.

Additional Information for The Scottish Crannog Centre Site!

DOGS: We're really sorry but dogs are not permitted into the Scottish Crannog Centre site but we do have a lovely Doggy-Creche just outside our entrance where your four-legged pal can sit and wait for you. Water, shade and lots of photo opportunities guaranteed!

KIOSK-CAFE: - Serving coffee, teas, nibbles and 'themed' soft drinks. Enjoy your drink sitting on tree trunks crafted into chairs and tables in our outdoor cafe shelter - completely different from the modern coffee experience!

PARKING: Parking for visitors is available opposite the Centre in Taymouth Marina car park.

GIFTSHOP: Stocked with fantastic gifts for everyone. Plus, for those of you who made fire, dont forget your 'I Made Fire at the Scottish Crannog Centre' mug as a permanent reminder!

DISABILITIES: We welcome all visitors to the Centre, however, we are unable to get mobility scooters out onto the Crannog Roundhouse due to the nature of its construction - sorry. Push-along wheelchairs can be taken out to the house providing they are pulled backwards. We do not recommend those with spinal injuries attempt to go out to the Roundhouse. Our staff are very happy to help when possible so please ask when arriving at the Centre. The on-shore site is a combination of gravel, decking and wood-chip.

We've tried hard to think of everything you might need to know about the event but if you have a question we haven't covered here, please email at or call +44(0)1887 830583.

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Kuksa carving and a quick update.

I thought it was about time I put down the Axe and camera and sat in front of the keyboard to give you a brief update on what is going on in the world of Mac.
It's been a long and sometimes difficult year with plenty of ups and downs.
This time last year I was preparing to teach classes at various places in the North of these fair Isles after cancelling my annual appearance at the Wilderness Gathering.
On my return I had a chat with with Roger Harrington and he has popped me back on the list,  I'll be demonstrating spoon carving techniques along with my great chum Terry Longhurst at the Bush Farm Bison Centre. West Knoyle. Wiltshire. In August.
We also came home to discover the folk we were renting from had been far from truthful in some matters and we had to find a new home.
We have moved into a splendid little cottage in the Shire, for the first time in many years we no longer live on Dartmoor, but have instead become close neighbours to the big old granite lump.

Since the move I have had various meetings with various companies who are interested in producing my MiniMac carving knife design, with some success.
I'm hoping to move production soon as problems developed with our supply line and I am looking forward to the New Year when hopefully they will be made available on a large scale, manufactured from 52100 and at a reasonable affordable price point. The New Year is a way off, and I'm determined to make it happen.

I have finally convinced WorkshopHeaven to produce and stock my Bushcraft Auger set and I will post a tutorial on it when I've finished a large batch of Kuksa I'm working on.


I have also procured a plot of land in the village where I can teach a spot of carving, although I've recently been busy carving and have yet to put aside time for any teaching.

I have spent the last year working on my spoons on the whole, I put down Kuksa carving to give myself time to think about what direction I wanted to head with it.
I have had folk ask for Kuksa in some of my old styles, but somehow I felt uncomfortable in doing this as I needed to step forward in my personal process.
So once I'd thought enough about it, a year, I headed off into the woods with my wife Sarah to collect some suitable green Birch.
Our little car wouldn't make it into the middle of the wood so it was on with the Bergan and off we went with Axe and saw to attend to a recent wind blown Birch.
You'll see a photo of me below snedding a branch from the crown. 
I'm Axing on the opposite side of the trunk, I'm always aware of where the Axe head is heading.

glut.wood-splittingjon mac.small-forest-axe

spoon-carving. sawing-wood

I have made myself a comfortable place to carve in one of the old pig sheds near our home.
Clearing it out and installing a wood-burning stove was good fun, and so it was to the new Pig Sty Workshop that I headed with my haul of green birch.



The process of carving my next evolution is similar to the actions I went through with my older pieces, only this time I managed to compress the form into an altogether smaller piece of timber
both in length and height.


Yes, it looks a mess, but I have been away and lots of thoughts where flowing through my mind, after making ten of these I now know where to go.
I usually get the Axe work done and dusted as quickly as possible as I just can't wait to get the knife out and find the eventual form of the piece, the curves and straights that form my folk art.
This time I actually sketched out part of the design.
Most unusual on my part.


With obligatory changes along the way...


I like to bring the carving indoors for the final finishing.
It can of course be accomplished in the forest, however, these days I need a bright light.
A good head torch is the way forward for a fireside carve, along with good spectacles.


As you may know I limit myself to carving folk art with three tools usually found at camp.
Axe, knife and hook.
Well on this project I had to include a tiny 3mm gauge which I used to let the Dragon mouth in.
The timber is still too green to drill, the resultant hole will simply fur up.
I could have used a hot nail applied carefully, but decided against that course of action.
The 3mm gauge was cheap as chips to buy.


So, over the course of a couple of days I arrive at a place where the big carving stops and the detail begins.


 I find the next step nerve-wracking as a mistake here can lead to swearing and a vow to never again pick up an Axe....
The mouth is finished and the gauge is put away.
So it's out with the pencil and a good strop on the point of the pointy knife.
Shallow 'V' cuts are needed, gently applied.


A bit of colour and some Tung oil to finish and here we have the first of many Devon Dragons.






I'd like to take this opportunity to thank my customers both knife and carving.
If you like what you see and want to purchase a Dragon Kuksa drop me an email.



Wednesday, 21 December 2016

MaChris spoon carving/kuksa carving knife available now.