Paul Adamson is a woodland craft expert, creating all kinds of products from wood. He also teaches others about everything outdoors; from survival skills and fire making to foraging and ethno botany. In this interview, we talk to Paul about how he got into woodland crafts in the first place, and how it has changed his life into a journey of ever expanding knowledge of the outdoors and nature.
Where is your favourite outdoor place and why?
It’s a small section of woodland near to where I live, that is very similar to one I played in as a kid. So many reasons why. Mainly because I normally get it to myself and I can practice most outdoor skills such as tracking, plant identification with practical uses such as wild food, medicine and craft projects. I also like to cook outdoors and keep the fire-lighting practice sharp.
What inspired you to spend your time working in the outdoors? What benefits do you find in working with nature?
I spent the first five years of work after school in an engineering factory mainly working shifts and being pushed into a role that I hadn’t planned on. One day I had had enough of being inside, sleep deprived and I watched a programme about tree surgery. The pay was the same once trained up and it looked so much more fun, so I gave a months notice and went on to study Arboriculture which led onto Bushcraft. I’ve never looked back and the last twenty years have led onto some wonderful opportunities. The first few of which were just a rush of exciting jobs, people and places.
After a while though I decided to fill in the rest of the knowledge needed for spending time in nature, and attended a Bushcraft course with the company “Woodlore” owned by Ray Mears. This empowering week led onto the further study of nature which keeps me feeling positive, interested in learning and passing on knowledge to others through courses.
What inspired you to start woodworking?
When I was Six, a good teacher showed me how to make a model narrow boat out of wood and then how to decorate it with paints. A few years later another brilliant teacher did the same with a bird box. I loved it and instantly got into the “flow”. Just doing something and being totally absorbed into it. It was something I just took to. Then after many pointy sticks I discovered wooden spoon carving. Then it got silly.
We love your Kuksas! What first inspired you to make these and why have you chosen the Kuksa as your main woodworking project?
Thanks! I saw a few online around 15 years ago, so I thought I’d give making one a go as a few others had started to do in the UK. Like them, I had similar issues with the difficulty in physically making them, and then the disappointment in quite dramatic splits occurring in the final cup during its first brew. Apparently your not supposed to cry over spilt milk, but leaking coffee after all that hard work is worth shedding a tear over. An obsession then developed and as I overcame all the problems folks wanted to know this information. I make Kuksas because they are difficult and to see the look of relief on a students face when they have made one in a day and they finally know all the answers is priceless.
How long does it usually take for you to create a Kuksa from piece of wood to final product?
Depending on the number of tea breaks, biscuits, the products size, decoration and life’s other pressures… around 3-8 hours.
What are your must have tools when Kuksa making?
An axe around 500-800 gram in weight with a bevel suitable for carving. Have a go at restoring an old one. Pfeil wood carving gouge 8/25 and baton. A specialist bent gouge or spoon knife, for cleaning the base inside and getting the curves just right.
And lastly a Mora 106 woodcarving knife and a push knife.
What advice would you give to someone who is interested in learning how to create kuksas or start up in woodworking?
Learn good safe techniques first and develop a steady deliberate pace.
If you’re doing this without direct tuition, then at least get a good book, watch a craftsperson at a country show demonstrating and ask them questions. There are some good videos online from reputable persons with comments that have been answered with common sense.
I suggest starting by making some tent pegs, butter knives and simple spoons then aim for the kuksas.
Most importantly, have fun and enjoy that brew when it finally arrives… cradled in wood.