Sharpening wood tools

Led by Meelis Kihulane

An olden-day woodworker only had an ordinary granite rock from beside the field, a somewhat more efficient sandstone or a Gotland grindstone purchased from the coastal merchants for sharpening his axe, knife, planer blade and the odd few chisels. Today we can in addition to an abundant selection of handicraft tools also buy various sharpening tools. From the ordinary whetstone to diamond paste and from a simple emery grinding wheel to complex sharpening devices. A skill for using a tool is equivalent to the skill for sharpening that tool – true master craftsmen sharpen their tools themselves!
The sharpening workshop will introduce us to different sharpening tools: sandpapers, whetstones, pastes, table-top grinding wheels, sharpening devices. We shall learn to sharpen an axe, a knife, a chisel and the blade of a hand planer. We shall also talk about the maintenance of tools and what to take into account if you wish to repair an old rusty or badly damaged tool blade.
Meelis has been restoring furniture for more than 20 years and has taught folk woodwork at the Olustvere School of Service and Rural Economics. For the past seven years, his everyday activities have been focused on promoting and teaching Estonian folk woodwork skills and making wooden items using old handicraft techniques. Several woodwork exhibitions have been complied under Meelis’s instruction.
Carving Belarus-type spoons

Led by Vladimir Chikvin

The earliest archaeological Belarus-type spoon find dates from the 11th century. Both village and city folk used wooden spoons until metal spoons became more widely available. Large wooden spoons intended for cooking are still used today. Spoons were made by carpenters and cabinet-makers and ordinary peasants. There are distinct regional differences between spoons from Western and Eastern Belarus. In Western Belarus, the spoon-making tradition was consistent until the 1960s.
The Soviet era system of collective farms stunted village people’s interest toward handicraft and only a few master craftsmen carried on the trade. Thanks to enthusiasts, interest in the almost vanished tradition is now being rekindled. Due to the scarcity of experts who know the regional traditions, training courses play an important role. The Belarus traditions are complemented by the skills of their closest neighbours – the external shape and the patterns of the spoons may differ, but the making techniques are mostly the same.
It is not difficult to carve an item that can be called a wooden spoon, but it is important to understand that the spoon has gone through a very long intricate path of evolution and distinct regional differences in form have developed. The aim of the course is to teach the specifics of the form and material of wooden spoons as well as the technology of making the spoons. Regional differences and the evolution of the specific form of the spoon will be explained.
The Belarus master Vladimir Chikvin learned to weave juniper baskets from his parents. A whittling skill acquired at an early age inspired Vladimir to take up wood engraving. He has himself made metal tools necessary for woodwork. Since 1975, he has focused on figural wood engraving, mainly carving animal and human figures out of wood. He carved his first wooden spoon 40 years ago out of pear wood. Vladimir learnt independently, studying old spoons and later asking advice from old master craftsmen. He collects old wooden spoons. He has taught national folk handicraft at university level and taken part in international projects related to handicraft. Vladimir has been awarded the lifelong status of a master Belarus folk craftsman.
Bent-wood boxes

Led by Meelis Kihulane

People have been making various containers of stitched bent wood strips or thin wooden boards since antiquity all over Europe. The main items made that way which were used in Estonia included boxes and hampers for storing foodstuff and clothing, as well as sifters, sieves and side hampers used in households.
Making a bent-wood item provides diverse opportunities to better learn to know the material. The work process of making items of bent wood also includes the use of different techniques, thereby offering a chance to learn several techniques while making one item. Due to the technical complexity, making items from bent wood by hand is now the domain of only a few odd master craftsmen.
In the workshop, we shall take a look at different bent-wood items which have been used in Estonia, and compare those to similar items from neighbouring countries. We shall make a bent-wood box and decorate it by charring or cutting. The workshop will introduce various materials used for stitching the containers (roots, boards split off by wedges, feathers, bast).
Meelis has been restoring furniture for more than 20 years and has taught folk woodwork at the Olustvere School of Service and Rural Economics. For the past seven years, his everyday activities have been focused on promoting and teaching Estonian folk woodwork skills and making wooden items using old handicraft techniques. Several woodwork exhibitions have been complied under Meelis’s instruction.
Forgotten folk instruments

Led by Allan Jürgens

Folk instruments and music have been an integral part of culture since time immemorial and have passed into the present. But there are a number of instruments all over the world that have ceded their place to modern items. This is the case in folk music as well. Folk instruments such as the fiddle, accordion, bagpipes and psaltery (kannel) are common, but there are many instruments that have largely been forgotten. Many of these old-fashioned instruments can be found in nature – in tree bark leaves, stalks and plants. Who would believe that dandelion stems can be made into a rudimentary bagpipe or flower blossoms can reproduce birdsong. Walking through nature, at every step we encounter potential instruments that people have played for millennia.
The shepherd’s horn is believed to have been used for more than 5,000 years in these parts. It had practical uses as well as entertainment and magical functions When herding fell out of use in animal husbandry in the last century, the horns also faded away. Can such instruments play a useful role in modern agriculture? Maybe not, but the call of the horn does speak to us in a way that words can’t manage.
This workshop focuses on the shepherd’s horn. We will study various types of this instrument, make one, and also play it. We will also take a walk through the forest and examine what types of sound we can coax out of nature.
Allan studied folk woodworking at Olustvere, and has been involved in music since he was a child, with musical instruments becoming his object of interest. His final thesis was on the topic of shepherd’s horns. He has made dozens of the horns and other instruments, taught workshops and introduced instruments of the peoples of the world at schools. The world of sounds is endless and Allan is a humble student. A shared passion is a double joy!
Estonian-style birch bark satchels

Led by Andres Rattasepp and Imbi Rattasepp

The selection of items woven from birch bark has been extremely wide in Northern Europe where these have been traditionally made – from simple toys to shoes and satchels. In Estonia, birch bark weaving techniques have mainly been used in the north-eastern and south-eastern part of the country, but elementary bark working skills were probably among the skillset of every Estonian farm owner.
A satchel is a pouch closed with a flap, woven from birch bark strips and worn in Estonia mostly with a strap across a shoulder. Satchels were known to have been actively used at least from the middle of the 19th century until the beginning of the 20th century. Satchels were mainly used by farmers and shepherds for carrying daily provisions, as well as by fishermen and the Avinurme woodworking masters when going to fairs. Upon going to a fair, provisions for several days had to fit into a larger satchel. A fishing satchel was allegedly waterproof and could hold up to 16 kg of fish.
People made satchels themselves, but could also buy them from fairs, mainly from the Avinurme satchel makers. Unfortunately, the tradition of passing on the skill of satchel making from father to son and from master to apprentice has disappeared and restoring it required thorough research from Andres.
The workshop will take a look at different types of satchels, gathering and storing material, and preparing it for work. We shall make an Estonian-style satchel. Previous weaving skills are a bonus.
Andres acquired higher education as a teacher of art and drawing and worked as a basic school handicraft teacher for 10 years. Increasing interest towards traditional handicraft inspired Andres to obtain a master’s degree in heritage technology at the University of Tartu Viljandi Culture Academy. His master’s thesis was titled ‘Estonian Birch Bark Satchels: Characteristics, Weaving Techniques and Possible Modern-day Uses’. Andres has conducted various handicraft courses for both children and adults and his activities in the area of Estonian folk culture have been highly recognized. Andres is on the National Professional Qualifications Committee and the Board of the Craft Union.
Imbi studied folk woodworking at Olustvere, and has been assisting Andres in workshops since 2010.
Weaving basket from wood splints

Led by Enno Vissel

A wood splint is a thin long split wood strip. In Eastern Europe (including in Estonia), baskets made of pine wood splints were more common, while in Central Europe and Scandinavia baskets were made from the wood of broadleaved trees. A splint basket is more durable than a basket made of planning chips.
Making wood splint baskets has predominantly the work of master craftsmen in Estonia and such baskets have been sold at fairs. At home, people used to make wood splint baskets mainly in Võru County and at Alutaguse, where the use of wood splint baskets was more common and wood splints were used for making all kinds of baskets, e.g. berry baskets, cradles, satchel baskets. Elsewhere in Estonia wood splint baskets were mainly used for wool and yarn, while more ordinary baskets woven from twigs or roots were used for other purposes. The use of wood splint baskets decreased notably at the beginning of the 20th century, as wool carding at home diminished due to the creation of wool factories.
By now, Estonia only has a few master craftsmen left who learned their trade as a native technology.
In the workshop, we shall prepare material for weaving a wood splint basket, and then weave a wood splint basket.
Enno Vissel is one of the few currently active master craftsmen of wood splint baskets. He started making wood splint baskets when he was six years old, learning from his father. Enno mostly makes baskets in winter, as firstly, the wood for splints should be brought from the forest in winter, and secondly, there is too much else to do during other seasons. The master has said that on some winters he has made as many as 120 baskets. Today Enno has been making baskets for more than 60 years and his sharp eye still finds quickly the best tree for splints in the forest.
Enno Vissel
Wild basket making

Led by Margus Rebane

Baskets have been important for hunting, gathering and agriculture for millennia – a simple, handy means for collecting, carrying and storing produce and nature’s wild bounty. The basket-weaving tradition endures in Estonia. So far, no detailed research has been conducted as to the current state of basket weaving, but there are believed to be about 15 – 25 people who are actively engaged in weaving baskets. Basket-weaving skills have survived more broadly thanks to the existence of people well-versed in folkways, local trainings and the possibility of learning this old art elsewhere in the world.
Basket weavers could be divided into two groups on the basis of material use. First of all, those who use wicker from willow trees grown in plantation. The second category is those who use local materials – bird-cherry tree, conifer roots, juniper, dogwood, hazel, wild willow species. The material is harvested from the natural environment (forest, clear-cuts, coastal meadows, city parks and so on).
In this workshop, we will be weaving berry/mushroom baskets from local materials such as the aforementioned conifer roots, spruce boughs, bird-cherry, and willow. Ideally, we will venture out into the forest, knife on belt, and come back with a basket.
Margus Rebane learned basket weaving from his grandfather Johannes Eamets. He made his first baskets at the age of about 13 under Johannes’s guidance. Being a farmer, Johannes made baskets for everyday needs of rural life – potatoes and root vegetables, and for foraging for berries and fungi. And all of the materials were derived from local nature – roadsides, forests and clear-cuts. The main tree species used by the grandfather were bird-cherry, hazel and willow.
Margus has now been making baskets for 35 years, and he’s been a teacher for 15 years of that time, holding courses and workshops all over Estonia. He is a mentor of the Estonian Folk Art and Craft Union in the field of basket weaving.
The day begins in the Estonian National Museum. Under the guidance of camp workshop leaders, the participants can learn about objects from the museum’s wood depositories that are connected to the workshops’ topics. Due to the tight programme, the agenda does not include a visit to the permanent exhibitions of the National Museum – participants can take arrange that themselves before or after the camp, if they wish.
After studying the wooden objects, there will be a presentation dedicated to Ants Viires, which will include a discussion of the contribution Viires made to the preservation of Estonian folk woodworking.
After the visit to Tartu, the programme will take the participants to the Sangaste Castle and arboretum. Participants can enjoy a guided tour of the largest and most diverse arboretum in Estonia. Count von Berg, who created the arboretum, wanted to determine whether there are trees anywhere in the world that would grow better in Livonia than domestic trees. The arboretum includes species of trees from Europe, Southern Europe, Siberia, North America and Estonia. In its heyday, the park boasted nearly 500 different species of trees and bushes. The day will end with a brief tour of the Sangaste Castle where we will also have dinner.
Edible woodland plants

Led by Tiia Trolla

We’ll take a walk in the forest with Tiia Trolla, where she will introduce both plants which can be eaten and plants which a sensible person would not put in their mouth. On the forest walk, we shall learn about medicinal herbs and their medicinal properties. We’ll also pick plants for making dinner.
Tiia Trolla has studied gardening and landscape construction at the Räpina School of Horticulture and graduated from the Estonian University of Life Sciences in the area of nature tourism. Tiia primarily considers herself a gardener and has been engaged in gardening pretty much all her life – as a child with her mother in their garden, and later in her own garden. Her main activity is growing spices and medicinal herbs. Working as a nature guide in Karula National Park, she is very familiar with natural edible plants and has conducted study trips on that topic all over Estonia.
Saunas and sauna whisks

Led by Toomas Kalve and Epp Margna

Estonians consider themselves as sauna people. The smoke saunas in historical Võru County and sauna customs are particularly well-known. Heating a smoke sauna is a ritual in itself, easily taking half a day. In a sauna, people washed, treated the sick, gave birth to children, and washed their dead. Smoke has a cleansing effect that kills harmful microorganisms. A smoke sauna cleans both body and mind. After the sauna, people say thanks to those who built the sauna, heated the sauna and fetched the water. A sauna combines the power of the elements – sauna-goers throw water on hot rocks, whip themselves with birch whisks, and cool themselves in cold water or snow. In the workshop, we will learn about sauna customs as well as how to heat a smoke sauna and make sauna whisks.
Epp Margna is a freelance artist who is fascinated by heritage and nature. Epp has launched a project to study smoke saunas, which will record the current status of that old traditional sauna type. She has written Mi uma savvusann (My Own Smoke Sauna), a book about smoke saunas in Võru County. Toomas Kalve is a freelance photographer. Both are sauna practitioners and have studied sauna customs.
Using horses for work

Led by people from Parmu ecovillage

The tradition of doing various household works by hand and with a horse has been kept alive in some Estonian rural places until nowadays. The horse doesn’t need fossil fuels nor spare parts, you can get in close contact with the animal. Working with horses also means reducing noise. In Parmu Eco-Village, noise-free woodwork days have been arranged,  where horses were used for taking logs out from the forest.       In case of good weather we will be working with hay. In case of bad weather there will be other activities related to horses, such as harnessing a horse and riding a horse cart.
Mowing with a scythe

Led by Toomas Kalve

Cutting grass with a scythe is one of the traditional work techniques rather seldom used nowadays. People no longer cut large areas with a scythe or stock up on winter feed for animals manually, because working with machines is faster. Only a few households use a scythe for mowing smaller areas and maintaining the surroundings of buildings. The advantages of a scythe include the lack of noise, the low maintenance costs, one’s own choice of work rhythm and the width of the cut and the fact that it spares small animals living in hay. Today, using a scythe is a conscious choice and can be learnt in order to properly enjoy cutting grass.
Forest survival skills

Led by Kristjan Prii and Päivi-Pääsu Kreutzwald-Prii

None of us is immune to getting lost in an unknown forest. For that reason, it’s good to learn or refresh one’s knowledge of basic survival skills and know people’s basic needs in a natural environment. The practical part of the workshop will cover fire-starting and purification of water using available means. As the group activity, a lean-to will be constructed, which can be used for maximum comfort in an emergency.
Päivi-Pääsu and Kristjan live in harmony with heritage and nature. They provide training on how to survive in the forest to both children and adults and put these skills to use themselves whenever they can.