Green Oak Bench Project

Peter Lanyon's green oak bench

Artist Peter Lanyon worked with 9 volunteers to help build a large green oak bench over the course of 7 days between March and May 2017. Volunteers worked outside on the beautiful Sharpham Estate with traditional wood-working tools under the expert tuition of Peter.

At the end of the 7 days the group helped install the bench at a beautiful spot for all to enjoy, along the Carriage Drive between Sharpham House and Totnes. There was a celebration at the end of the project.

About Peter Lanyon

Peter’s work brings together the skills, tools and technology of the fine furniture maker, and fuses this with ancient ‘bodging’ traditions of working unseasoned timber, where nothing is straight, or predictable.  Peter Lanyon and a green oak bench

He likes to combine green (unseasoned) wood with modern materials and furniture techniques to bring something fresh and new to the world of bespoke furniture.

He works principally with locally coppiced wood, and fallen trees.  Split along the natural line of the grain, this produces fluid curves, which are then shaved by hand to produce organic furniture and lighting. 

His philosophy is one of minimum intervention - imposing as little as possible on the materials, leaving the gentle curves as nature intended.   

He trained initially at Rycotewood College in Oxfordshire, and later completed an MA in Furniture Design with distinction at Bucks College, High Wycombe.

Teaching is something he has long been passionate about. Peter runs green wood furniture courses for both adults and children, and community projects for those wishing to make something special for their local environs. He works throughout the South West, and from his beautiful workshop on the South Devon coast.

Green oak - as part of Peter Lanyon's bench project

Each day ran from 10am to 4pm, all under the expert tuition of Peter Lanyon – Sharpham provided refreshments and a simple lunch. A reasonable level of fitness and strength was required for this project, particularly for the first two days. 

For more information on each session please click on the Schedule tab above.

To register your interest as a volunteer on similar projects in future please contact Maya on [email protected] or call 01803 731802.

We also run weekly volunteers' sessions on the Sharpham Estate throughout the year.

Click here to find out more about volunteering at Sharpham

Click here to find out more about our Discovering Sharpham project

Each day ran from 10am to 4pm, all under the expert tuition of Peter Lanyon – we provided refreshments and a simple lunch. A reasonable level of fitness and strength was required for this project, particularly for the first two days. We asked all volunteers to wear sensible clothes and sturdy footwear for working outdoors. 

Days 1 and 2: Thursday 2 and Friday 3 March 

Using techniques similar to the Viking longboat builders, volunteers cleaved a giant oak by hand using simple tools - froes, beetles (giant wooden sledge hammers) gluts (wooden wedges), wedges and axes. The group was working in the Great Wood on the Sharpham Estate, before the components were moved to the Woodland Quarry site for the remainder of the sessions.  

Day 3: Friday 10 March

This week the group carried out an assessment and initial shaping of individual uprights using axes and draw knives.  Taking a lead from the wood, volunteers learnt to use the tools to follow the line of the grain, gradually turning the rough-hen pieces into smooth, tactile bench components.  

Day 4: Friday 17 March

The group made further refinements to the components using drawknives and spoke shaves, and smooth the seat planks. 

Day 5: Friday 24 March

This week volunteers worked on the composition of the bench - deciding on lengths and positions of uprights, size of holes, etc. 

Day 6 and 7: Thursday 20 and Friday 21 April

On day 6 you the group worked on the final cleaning up and assembly of components.  The bench was then transported to its final resting place on the carriage drive and installed on day 7 for the celebration! 

The group met Peter Lanyon at 10am on the morning of each session in the South Wing section of Sharpham House (pictured right). 

There is car parking near to the venue - click here for information about getting to us.


This is for volunteers and costs nothing.

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